Tuesday, December 30, 2008

G Juha Metsola makes 17 saves en route to a 5-1 win for Finland over Latvia at the World Juniors

Finland goaltender Juha Metsola stopped 17 shots tonight in a 5-1 win over Latvia in the 5th day of action at the World Juniors. Goaltender Harri Sateri, a 2008 San Jose draft pick, had started in net for Finland's first two games, both losses. Metsola is currently enjoying another strong season for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League; his .908 save percentage is tied for 7th in the league. Finland was also paced by a 1st period goal by Nestori Lahde. Finland will take on Slovakia tomorrow at 6:30 PM ET as preliminary round action continues.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Evgeni Dadonov's 3-point night helps Russia breeze past Finland 5-2 in the 3rd day of World Juniors play

Florida Panthers 2007 draft pick Evgeni Dadonov scored a goal and added 2 assists in a 5-2 win tonight over Finland. In fact, the line of Evgeni Dadonov, Nikita Klyukin and Dmitri Klopov combined for 9 points in tonight's relative easy win. Nearly halfway through the first period, Evgeni raced to the puck near the half wall and then fired a wrist-shot top shelf over the outstretched glove of Finnish netminder Harri Sateri, which at the time, gave Russia a 2-1 lead (Russia never looked back from there).

Dadonov currently plays for Traktor Chelyabinsk in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, now his third season with the team. This is also the 2nd consecutive year Dadonov has represented Russia in the World Juniors. While he failed to record a point in last year's World Juniors, Dadonov already has notched 4 points (G, 3 A) in 2 games. Russia, who dominated Latvia 4-1 on Friday (the opening day of World Juniors action), will take on Slovakia on Tuesday.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

David Rundblad scores as Sweden rolls over Finland 3-1 in the World Juniors opener

Defenseman David Rundblad beat Finnish goaltender Harri Sateri for a 1st period goal, which proved to be the game-winner in a 3-1 victorylast night in the opening game of the 2009 World Junior Championships. Rundblad currently plays for Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League. where he has tallied 6 assists to go along with a +5 rating. Rundblad is eligible for the 2009 NHL Draft and has been projected as a first round pick. Up next for Sweden is Slovakia on Sunday night at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ilya Kovalchuk surpasses the 500-point mark with a two-assist night

Congratulations to PuckAgency client Ilya Kovalchuk, who with his two-assists in a 4-2 Atlanta win over the Islanders last night, now has 501 points (in 500 games) in his NHL career! Also of note is that Ilya is currently 11th among forwards in ice time per game (21:28). Kovy and the Thrashers will now enjoy the NHL's two-day Christmas and then return to action Friday night at home vs. the Hurricanes.

Kovalchuk assists on game-winning and game-clinching goals

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Uniondale, N.Y. — Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t score a goal to celebrate his 500th NHL game. He did just about everything else.

Kovalchuk assisted on the game-winning and game-clinching goals Tuesday night in the Thrashers’ 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders. That gave him his 500th and 501st NHL points.

He also carried the puck all over the ice, blocked three shots and put four shots on net.

“It’s always good when we win,” Kovalchuk said when asked about achieving the scoring and games-played landmarks. “It’s a pretty good moment, but I hope it’s way more points in front of me and way more wins.

“I want to get more playoff experience. Hopefully, we’re going to be better, and I can get 500 games in the playoffs.”

Not everything is perfect in Kovalchuk’s world. His team heads to the Christmas break 13th in the Eastern Conference standings, and he went a sixth consecutive game without scoring a goal, matching his longest goal-less streak in five years.

Bryan Little filled the breach Tuesday night with a pair of goals, both on rebounds. His off-balance backhander following a Kovalchuk slap shot from the point broke a 2-2 tie 7:42 into the final period.

“It’s awesome,” Little said of sharing the power play with Kovalchuk. “I was pretty excited when I got drafted here, because he was someone I liked to watch on TV. He’s a great player. He’s just so skilled. Every day it’s a treat just to watch him.”

Kovalchuk’s other assist came when he passed to Colby Armstrong for an empty-net goal. Kovalchuk might have been able to beat a defender and score himself, but he chose the sure play to Armstrong. It was Armstrong’s fifth goal in as many games.

Kovalchuk has 11 goals, tied for third on the team behind Slava Kozlov’s 15 and Little’s 14. On his current pace, Kovalchuk would score 27 goals this season, the fewest in his career.

“When we’re losing and you don’t find the back of the net, that’s disappointing me a lot,” he said. “When you’re winning, you don’t care.”

Unfortunately for Kovalchuk and his teammates, they have only one more game against the Islanders. The Thrashers are 3-0 against the Islanders this season; that’s a quarter of Atlanta’s 12 victories.

The Islanders are winless in their last 10 games. The Thrashers have won three of their last five games but badly needed a victory Tuesday after a miserable showing Monday night in a 6-2 loss to Toronto.

Mathieu Schneider scored the first Atlanta goal on a shot from the point. Little made it 2-0 with a second-effort follow shot. The play began with Ron Hainsey’s shot from the point; Kozlov and White touched the puck before it reached Little.

White’s assist gave him the Thrashers’ longest scoring streak this season, seven games.

Tuesday night, though, the focus was on Kovalchuk, who’s still only 25, though in his seventh NHL season. He’s under contract with the Thrashers through 2009-10. He leads the franchise in career games played, goals (265), assists (236) and points.

“He’s a great player, and he’s going to score a lot more,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, it’s a lot more as an Atlanta Thrasher, his whole career’s spent here.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nikolai Khabibulin's stellar goaltending a major reason the Blackhawks are among the NHL's elite

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is making quite a case to be on the ice for the 2009 NHL All-Star game in Montreal. Entering today's action, Nik's .922 save percentage is good for 9th in the league and as Daily Herald beat writer Tim Sassone points out, the Blackhawks would be in major trouble had any team chosen to claim Khabibulin off of waivers prior to the start of the regular season. Khabibulin recently returned from a "lower-body" injury on December 12th and hasn't missed a beat, having won his last three starts (victories over Colorado, Edmonton and Calgary). Chicago has a long Christmas breek before returning home to face Philadelphia on Friday night.

Time to give Khabibulin his due

by Tim Sassone on Sat, 12/20/2008 - 02:14

CALGARY - Where would the Blackhawks be if another team had claimed Nikolai Khabibulin on waivers back in training camp?

They probably wouldn't be 17-6-7 today and the talk of the NHL.

Khabibulin has been nothing short of sensational for the Hawks, and he was just that again Friday night in the 3-2 overtime win over the Flames. As he has done most of the year, Khabibulin kept the Hawks in the game long enough for the offense to do its thing.
Khabibulin has lost once in regulation, his record now at 10-1-4. Once.

As we walked out of the Saddledome Friday night into the unbearable Alberta cold, Chris Kuc of the Tribune mentioned how Khabibulin should be going to the All-Star Game, and he is absolutely right.

All week the talk has been of Patrick Kane taking over the lead among Western Conference forwards in fan voting. Kane is an all-star, no doubt, but so is Khabibulin.

I know some of you posters out there still think the Hawks should trade Khabibulin to free salary cap space in order to acquire a top-six forward.

Sorry, no way can you trade Khabibulin now. Goaltending is the strength of this team and what GM Dale Tallon needs to do is ride Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet all the way to the finish line.

Khabibulin is a Stanley Cup-winning goalie. That's right, I said it. Stanley Cup. Can the Hawks win it? Who's to say they can't. Carolina did. Anaheim did. Khabibulin's Lightning did. It's certainly possible at this point.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just another day at the office for Pekka; Rinne silences Islanders

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne continued his outstanding play, stopping all 23 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders last night. Rinne, technically considered a rookie, improved his record to 7-1 to go along with a 2.31 GAA and .912 save percentage. Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz will be forced to go back to Rinne in the net when Nashville travels to Florida on Tuesday night.

December 21, 2008
Preds keep up defensive effort

Rinne completes his third shutout in last five games

By Jessica Bliss

A game against the defensively defective New York Islanders wasn't enough to turn the Predators' offensive struggles around, but getting a win Saturday helped to forget the scoring woes for a moment.

Nashville winger Vern Fiddler scored the game's only goal in the first period and gave the Predators a 1-0 win over the Islanders in front of 16,457 fans at Sommet Center.

It was the second consecutive game in which Fiddler collected the team's only goal and marked the fifth time in the last seven games that the Predators had been held to a single score.

"As long as we're winning there is less frustration," Predators Coach Barry Trotz said.

Backup goaltender Pekka Rinne kept Nashville on top, turning away all 23 shots and collecting his third shutout in his last five appearances.

It was a much-needed goaltending performance for a team that has scored just 84 goals (2.6 per game) this season. That total ties the Predators with Minnesota for the fewest goals in the Western Conference.

The Islanders have let in a league-high 120 goals this season (3.6 per game), and have lost nine consecutive games.

"Peks (Rinne) kept us in there every second of the way," said Predators Captain Jason Arnott, who skated in his 1,000th career game Saturday. "We are struggling on the goal department right now, but we are finding ways to win and that's what we have to do right now."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ufa's Alex Radulov leads KHL All-Star Game voting

December 15, 2008

By John Glennon

Russian star: After one week of fan voting for the inaugural Continental Hockey League all-star game, wayward Predators forward Alexander Radulov leads all players with 16,060 votes.

Radulov has posted 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 34 games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, the eighth-best total in the KHL.

The KHL all-star game will be played outdoors Jan. 10 in Moscow's Red Square .

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Lasse Kukkonen making his presence felt

Flyers defenseman Lasse Kukkonen played another strong game last night in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders in Philadelphia. Kukkonen, one of the top defenseman in Finland before he made the jump to the NHL, has returned to the lineup following an injury to defenseman Matt Carle and has impressed Flyers head coach John Stevens with his poised play with the puck. The Flyers are home for the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.

Posted on Wed, Dec. 10, 2008

Kukkonen strengthens his case

Sam Carchidi

Thrust into the lineup because of a back injury to Matt Carle, Lasse Kukkonen has given a strong account of himself on the third defensive pairing.

"He's been tremendous," coach John Stevens said before last night's game against the Islanders.

"He seems to create offensive opportunities for our team, and he doesn't get [many] scoring-chances-against when he's on the ice."

Kukkonen, 27, played in his fourth straight game last night and was paired with Luca Sbisa early in the contest. He had been a healthy scratch in 11 of the first 22 games.

"He pushes the pace in practice every day and has great enthusiasm," Stevens said. "He kind of sets the example for the guys who are out of your lineup - that if you do the extra work and stay ready, you can come in and be a good player."

Sitting out so often "is tough mentally, but at the same time, there are so many things in this business that you can't control," Kukkonen said. "You can't control your ice time or whether you're going to play or not. All you can do is try to be ready and try to be in shape."

Kukkonen is a lame duck of sorts. Having already cleared waivers, he probably will be sent to the Phantoms when Carle and Randy Jones (hip) return from injuries. Both could be in the lineup by Tuesday.

"Those things pop in your mind once in a while, but you have to put it behind you," Kukkonen said. "If something happens, it happens. I just try to do my job when I get my chance."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lethbridge G Juha Metsola stops 37 shots in a 4-3 OT win over Medicine Hat

Lethbridge goaltender Juha Metsola saved 37 of 40 shots last night as the Hurricanes won their 7th game in a row. Metsola is now tied for 5th in save percentage (.909) and 9th in goals-against-average (2.69) in the WHL. Juha and the Hurricanes take on Kamloops tonight at the Enmax Centre.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pekka Rinne records his second shutout in a week

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped all 32 shots he faced last night in a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Wild, and improved his record to 6-0. This was Rinne's second shutout in his last three starts. Goaltender Dan Ellis was initially slated to start, but was scratched due to a injury during practice. Pekka answered the call and has now save 81 of the last 83 shots he has faced; his 2 shutouts are tied for 3rd in the NHL. Rinne will get his 4th consecutive start in net when the Predators travel to St. Louis Tuesday night.

Preds' Rinne just cares about wins

David Boclair, dboclair@nashvillecitypaper.com

Pekka Rinne is a bottom-line kind of goalie.

The Nashville Predators’ 6-foot-5 rookie measures his success by one statistic – wins. In that regard, he has been perfect this season.

“That’s the biggest stat for me – wins,” Rinne said. “Obviously, it doesn’t hurt me to get a couple of wins. That means I might get a few more games.

“That’s the only goal for the whole team – to get the ‘W.’”

Rinne made just 19 saves in defeating Colorado, his fewest in a victory this season. He also never let the Avalanche score a go-ahead goal, which was decidedly different than some of his previous performances.

Rinne’s first career shutout, Monday at Buffalo, earned him the right to play against Colorado. He also defeated Atlanta 4-3 on Nov. 28 – another game in which the Predators never trailed – and thus has been in the nets for the team’s last three victories.

Prior to this season the 2004 eighth-round draft choice had appeared in a just three NHL games total and had a 1-1 record.

“I’ve played a few games now in a row and things start to feel pretty normal,” he said. “I’m kind of getting used to NHL speed and NHL skill level and stuff like that.”

“Between (Rinne) and (Ellis) I think our goaltending is lining up very well,” Trotz said. “The ratio is really good right now – Ellis is getting probably two-thirds of the games. That sets us up real well for from now hopefully until the end of the season.”

“Pekka does what he does,” Trotz said. “He seals the ice. He’s a big body. He’s got great instincts and reflexes and more than anything it’s confidence for a goaltender. When they feel good about themselves they move well and they’ve got flow."

“Now that he’s got a couple games under his belt and he has some success he feels good about himself.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pekka Rinne does it again, stops 19 shots vs. Colorado, remains undefeated

Pekka Rinne improved his record to 5-0, while helping Nashville 3-2 win in Colorado last night. Rinne's career record is now 6-1 to go along with a career GAA of 2.63 and career SV% of .903. Nashville will be hardpressed not to put Pekka back in the net on Saturday night when the Predators battle the Wild.

December 5, 2008

By John Glennon

Undefeated: Goalie Pekka Rinne improved to 5-0 this season by stopping 19 of 21 Colorado shots. Rinne was actually pulled from two games this season after surrendering a flurry of early goals, but Nashville rallies in those games meant Rinne didn't suffer the losses.

"The biggest stat for me is the wins,'' Rinne said.

"I've played a few games now and I am getting used to the NHL speed and skill level.''

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pekka Rinne to start his second consecutive game tomorrow night vs. Colorado

Nashville's Pekka Rinne will start tomorrow night in goal when the Predators take on the Colorado Avalanche. Rinne currently has a 2.78 goals-against average and .898 save percentage and was the NHL's First Star for Monday night's action.

December 3, 2008, 2:15pm

Rinne to start for Predators against Avalanche

By John Glennon

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne will make his third start in four games when Nashville plays host to Colorado on Thursday.

Dan Ellis had been scheduled to start, but the Predators have an informal rule about sticking with a goaltender who has produced a shutout. Rinne earned his first NHL shutout on Monday, stopping 30 shots in a 2-0 win over Buffalo.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Alexander Radulov's two goals lead 1st place Ufa over Spartak Moscow

Alexander Radulov scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season in Ufa's 5-1 win over Spartak Moscow last night. Radulov is currently tied for 11th in the KHL in points (28) and tied for 7th in +/- (+19). Ufa leads the KHL in points with 71, having won 21 out of 30 games and nearly doubling their opponents in the process (118 GF, 60 GA). Ufa will host Spartak Moscow in the 2nd half of a home and home.

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne earns first career NHL shutout

Congratulations to PuckAgency client Pekka Rinne on his first career NHL shutout!

Rinne stopped 30 saves en route to a 2-0 win in Buffalo last night. Pekka, from Kempele, Finland, was making only his 6th start of the season (and appearing in his 9th career NHL game) and improved his record to 4-0. Rinne, who appeared in the 2007-08 AHL All-Star game for the Milwaukee Admirals, is signed with Nashville through the 2009-10 season. The Predators take on the red-hot Colorado Avalanche Thursday night at the Sommet Center.

December 2, 2008

By John Glennon

Picking Pekka: Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made the most of his second start in three games, posting 30 saves and registering the first shutout of his career.

Rinne was in the net for a 4-3 overtime victory Friday, while Dan Ellis suffered a 6-2 loss to Minnesota on Saturday. But Predators Coach Barry Trotz said the choice of Rinne on Monday was more related to the schedule than anything else.

Trotz wants Ellis well-rested when the Predators on Thursday begin a stretch of seven straight — and 14 of 16 — Western Conference games.

"Ellie is going to see a lot of the nets upcoming, so from that standpoint, it was good to get Pekka in the nets and give him some work,'' Trotz said. "It was a really good game from Pekka. He made couple (of) big, timely saves when we needed it.''

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lethbridge goalie Juha Metsola stops 31 shots vs. Red Deer for his 3rd shutout of the season

Lethbridge goaltender Juha Metsola stopped all 31 shots in a 3-0 win over Red Deer on Saturday night. Metsola is currently in his second season for the Hurricanes, currently ranks 12th in the WHL with a .906 save percentage and his 3 shutouts are tied for the league lead. Last year, Metsola led the Hurricanes to the WHL finals with stellar postseason play. Metosla and the 'Canes take on the Brandon Wheat Kings Friday night at the Emmax Centre in Lethbridge.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Alexei Morozov's 5 goals lead Ak Bars Kazan over Barys Astana

Alexei Morozov scored 5 goals in Ak Bars Kazan's 7-0 win over Barys Astana tonight. Morozov, who has led the Russian Super League (now known as the KHL, or Continental Hockey League) in scoring two of the previous three seasons, has now moved into a tie for 2nd in scoring in the KHL with 35 points (20 G, 15 A) in only 20 games. In May, Alexei was a key member of Russia's Gold-Medal winning team at the 2008 World Championships in Quebec., where he scored 5 goals in 8 games. During his days in the NHL, Morozov was given the nickname "The Devil Killer," for his success against the New Jersey Devils and Martin Brodeur in particular. Ak Bars Kazan hits the road to take on St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Khabibulin makes 38 saves, makes the highlight reel in a 2-1 shootout loss to Boston last night

November 13, 2008, 1:46 pm

The Morning Skate: Oooooh Khabibulin!

By Stu Hackel

There was another great goalie duel in Chicago, where Nikolai Khabibulin continues to rehabilitate his game and make life difficult for the Blackhawk capologists. Khabi and the Bruins’ Tim Thomas battled it out to a 1-1 tie as well, with the B’s snagging the bonus point in the post-game skills competition. Khabi was great in OT, as Boston outshot Chicago, 8-1, and it seemed every Boston shot was a great scoring chance, including these two…

…and it’s too bad we can’t give you the Blackhawks’ TV call on this one, not that Jack Edwards on Boston TV isn’t appreciative of Khabi’s stop, but Pat Foley, marveling at that second glove save on Marc Savard, could only manage to utter at the straining top of his vocal register, “Oooooohhh Khabibulin!” and say no more.

Savard even came over and gave the goalie a tap on the pads.

See video here: http://blackhawks.nhl.tv/team/console.jsp?hlg=20082009,2,226&event=CHI689

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Alexei Cherepanov, you will forever be in our hearts

When I received the word from one of my associates in Russia telling me that Alexei Cherepanov had passed away, I was absolutely devastated. This happened to be the most horrifying piece of news I have ever received. I was literally stunned, I felt like I was going to faint.

Having said that, I want to make it known that Alexei Cherepanov, despite our sizable age difference, was one of my best friends, one of the people closest to me. After all that happened, there was no doubt in my mind, even for a second, that I had to make this long trip to his burial city of Omsk, to visit his family and friends, and pay a tribute to his life.

Although three weeks have passed since this horrible tragedy occurred, Alexei is still alive to me; I can still hear the “adorable” tone of his voice. He had a very soft and gentle way of communicating with people and that aspect of his personality is what I admired most about Alexei. I went with Jay Grossman to Omsk and we got together with Alexei’s family, his father, his teammates and close friends. The most difficult part of the trip was attending the ceremony where Alexei was laid to rest. The burial site could best be described by a mountain of fresh flowers and very somber messages scattered all around.

After attending this ceremony, I told myself that I will do anything in my power to help prevent a tragedy similar to that of Alexei’s from happening. I will gladly join his father and the rest of his family in their efforts to open a foundation in Alexei’s memory. Alexei, your life provided us with nothing but great memories. You will forever be in our hearts.

-Ilya Moliver

Friday, October 10, 2008

PuckAgency client Brian Leetch to be inducted into US Hockey Hall of Fame tonight in Denver

Tonight will be very special for former New York Rangers defensemen Brian Leetch, as he will be inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame tonight in Denver. Leetch, along with Mike Richter, Brett Hull and Cammi Granato, will be given one of hockey's greatest honors. All four inductees were also honored last night prior to the Colorado Avalanche's home-opener versus Boston, which was one of 4 games on opening night of the North American portion of the NHL schedule. PuckAgency sends its congratulations to Brian, who will go down as one of the best defensemen in NHL history.

Hall class of 2008 in a class all its own

By Terry Frei
The Denver Post

Article Last Updated: 10/08/2008 06:12:44 PM MDT

At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, a young Cammi Granato watched with great interest as she attended the opening ceremony at McMahon Stadium.

I was there, too, sitting in the stands. Mainly, I remember that I rarely have been that cold in my entire life as pigeons flew, Gordon Lightfoot and k.d. lang sang, children danced and 12-year-old figure skater Robyn Perry lit the Olympic flame.

Somewhere in those seats, as winger Tony Granato, defenseman Brian Leetch, goalie Mike Richter and their U.S. hockey teammates were back at the Olympic Village preparing for a game that night against Austria, Cammi Granato turned to her mother, Natalie.

"I was saying to my mom . . . 'I want to be an Olympian, and I want to represent the USA, and how can I do it?' " Cammi recalled. "There was no women's hockey, and I'm a 15-year-old kid thinking I can conquer the world."

She said that she next asked her mother, "Can I play for the men's team?"

The answer: She didn't have to.

Cammi Granato played in the women's program at Providence College, a Dominican- run university that was ahead of its time, then was ecstatic when women's hockey was added to the Olympic program for the 1998 Games in Japan, where she won the first of her two gold medals.

"The biggest change for hockey I noticed was when we returned from Nagano in '98, because all of a sudden our sport had credibility," Cammi said. "If we carried a hockey bag into the arena, people didn't look at us funny, and there was now a respect to our sport. It's been growing steadily since then."

It wasn't scripted, but the weird intersection of circumstances will be obvious Friday night when Cammi Granato, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and Brett Hull are inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame at the University of Denver's Magness Arena.

The four-person class also will be introduced and saluted at the Avalanche's regular-season opener tonight against Boston at the Pepsi Center.

The Hall of Fame Museum is in Eveleth, Minn., but USA Hockey — based in Colorado Springs — last year took over the Hall of Fame voting and induction dinner. The U.S. Hall membership has a pronounced NHL flavor, and that's still true with the induction class this year, especially considering that Cammi Granato's brother was a longtime NHL player and now is a coach; and her husband, Ray Ferraro, played 19 seasons in the league.

Leetch, one of the prototypes for the modern hybrid defenseman, and Richter were longtime teammates with the New York Rangers, including on the 1994 Stanley Cup champions. Adding to the degrees of separation, Tony Granato was Richter's roommate at the University of Wisconsin and also spent the outset of his NHL career with the Rangers.

"Having my teammate for so many years, Mike Richter, go in at the same time is going to be a lot of fun. It always was a pleasure to play in front of him in net for both teams," Leetch said.

"And certainly Cammi, I've been following her, because of my relationship with her brother, since she was at Providence College in the '90s. To have her go in at the same time and to be able to watch her kind of lead the way with women's hockey in the U.S. and follow that up with the gold at Nagano and continue being such an ambassador, it's a great honor, and I look forward to a fun (induction) weekend."

Richter, born and raised in Pennsylvania, had 301 wins in his Rangers career, which ended prematurely because of concussion problems.

"It's flattering to be put in this position to go in, but particularly with this class," Richter said.

Hull, born in Canada, essentially is an adopted member of the USA Hockey program, but legitimately so because his father, Bobby, played so long with the Blackhawks and Brett was an unproven young player the USA program first invited him to play for the Americans at the 1986 World Championships, after his sophomore season at Minnesota- Duluth.

"Just having them show the faith in me, that they wanted me part of the program, was all I needed," said Hull, now the co-general manager of the Dallas Stars. "I've never forgotten that, and I never will."

After that, Hull was a regular on U.S. national teams with Richter and Leetch, including at the Olympics, and on the championship team in the 1996 World Cup.

It's a class with a lot of it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Jersey Devils defenseman Anssi Salmela to make NHL debut on Friday night

New Jersey Devils blueliner Anssi Salmela will be paired with Colin White when he makes his NHL debut on Friday night at the Rock versus the New York Islanders. Salmela made the team out of training camp, which even he was not expecting to do. However, Salmela impressed head coach Brent Sutter so much, that he Sutter was left with no choice. "If we thought he wasn't capable of playing here regularly, development would be the right thing for him because it's his first year over here," Sutter said. Every day he's gotten better. He's adjusted to a lot of things here very quickly."

The Newark Star-Ledger's Devils beat writer, Rich Chere provides some interesting information regarding Salmela's debut.

Anssi Salmela ready to reach the Finnish line

by Rich Chere
Tuesday October 07, 2008, 9:32 AM

Jukka Porvari was the first. Anssi Salmela is poised to be the latest.

When Salmela makes his Devils debut as early as Friday night against the Islanders, he will become the 10th Finnish-born player in Devils history. Porvari made his debut on April 14, 1982, against the Montreal Canadiens. That was the fifth game in Devils history and was played in the Meadowlands.

Tapio Levo, who played more games for the Devils that 1982-83 season, made his debut Oct. 16 in Pittsburgh. Both Porvari and Levo had played for the Colorado Rockies the previous season.

Here's a closer look at the Devils and their Finnish-born players:

Tim Blomqvist (20 games 1986-87) no goals, two assists

Hannu Kamppuri (13 games 1984-85) goalie was 0-1-1

Tapio Levo (73 games 1982-83) seven goals, 40 assists

Olli Malmivaara (two games 2007-08) no points

Janne Ojanen (98 games 1988-89 to 1992-93) 21 goals, 23 assists

Tuomas Pihlman (15 games 2003-04 to 2006-07) one goal, one assist

Jukka Porvari (eight games 1982-83) one goal, three assists

Reijo Ruotsalainen (31 games 1989-90) two goals, five assists

Esa Tikkanen (nine games 1995-96) no goals, two assists

The information was provided by Devils senior VP of communications Mike Levine.

Monday, October 6, 2008

G Juha Metsola's 39 saves lead Lethbridge over Swift Current

Lethbridge goaltender Juha Metsola stopped 39 shots in last night's 5-2 win over Swift Current, improving his record to 5-2 with a 2.40 GAA and .928 (10th in the WHL) save percentage. Metsola has picked up exactly where he left off last season, having already posted two shutouts on the season. Metsola had 33 saves the night before in a 7-3 victory over Kelowna.

Last year with Lethbridge, won CHL Goaltender of the Week twice in the 2nd half of the season and led the Hurricanes to the WHL finals. Metsola is eligible for the 2009 NHL Draft and will be a goalie to keep an eye on for the future.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Devils' Salmela continues to impress

Finnish import Anssi Salmela recorded his first goal of the pre-season last night in a 3-0 victory over the Islanders. Salmela scored with the Devils up 2-0 and a little less than six minutes remaining in the game. The Devils' coaching staff has been impressed with the Nokia, Finland native, and have rewarded him with consistent ice time in his four games. Through four pre-season games, Salmela has averaged over 17 minutes per game while managing seven shots on goal. Salmela has exhibited versatility, showing the ability to be physical and also play point on the power play. After last night's game, New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur praised Salmela, "He's pretty slick out there. He's not a huge guy (5-11, 195), but he's pretty physical and sees the ice real well. He turns on a dime. It's amazing. The quick move he made when he got the puck kind of threw the defenseman off. He's got a decent shot. He just overpowered the goalie."

With only two pre-season games remaining, Salmela appears to have the inside track on a roster spot. The Devils open the regular season on Friday, October 10 at home vs. the New York Islanders.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Omsk's Alexei Cherepanov nets game-winner in 4-3 win over Torpedo Novgorod

New York Rangers 2007 1st Round draft choice Alexei Cherepanov scored the game-winning goal today in the 3rd period of Omsk's 4-3 win over Torpedo Novgorod. Alexei is off to a great start this season (his 3rd with Omsk), already having scored 6 goals, which is good for 2nd on the team (behind Jaromir Jagr's KHL-leading 10). In 2006-07, Cherepanov set the rookie goal-scoring record in the then Russian Super League with 18 goals, breaking the record previously held by Pavel Bure. Cherepanov will look to improve on his early-season success when Omsk, who has won six straight games, takes on Atlant Mytischi at home on Friday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Jersey Devils D Anssi Salmela draws praise in his North American debut

When you are vying to make the team, you need to stand out from your competition. That's exactly what New Jersey Devils defenseman Anssi Salmela did last night in his pre-season debut against the New York Rangers. Anssi logged 17:42 of ice time and delivered 5 hits in last night's game, while also seeing some time at the point on the power play, and was impressive, making quick decisions. New Jersey's blueline already consists of seven defenseman on one-way contracts, so the task ahead is a tough one for Salmela, who led all SM-Liiga defenseman in goals in 2007-08. Last night's effort moved him much closer to that goal of being on New Jersey's opening night roster. With five of six defensemen already pencilled in, there is only one remaining spot on the Devils' blueline.


Salmela impresses Sutter

I'll have to admit I was wrong because everyone else seemed to be impressed with Anssi Salmela's play in the Devils' 3-2 preseason win over the Rangers tonight.

Most notable among those impressed was Devils coach Brent Sutter.

"I thought he played well," Sutter said. "He was involved in the game. He made some good decision with the puck. He made some good decisions on the blue line when he had the puck in the offensive zone. He knew how to get pucks through to the net. He played well. When he was in situations to finish checks he didn't take himself out of position to finish a check and yet he was assertive in doing so."

Sutter was not aware that Salmela played a physical game.

"I found out tonight it was," he said. "I had never seen him play before. He played well."

Salmela said the hits, he delivered a hip check on Brandon Dubinsky in front of the Devils' bench 2:49 into the game, helped him get into the flow.

"If you can play with the puck and get a couple of hits, it helps you get in the game, so I tried to get a couple of hits at the start of the game," he said.

Salmela was satisfied with his performance.

"It was OK, I thought," he said. "I got to play a little bit on the point on the power play, so that helped to get into the game."

Salmela said his knee, which kept him out of most of the team's developmental camp in July, has not bothered him so far in training camp.

"It's good," he said. "Sometimes it's a little sore, but it's OK right now."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Johan Gustafsson named best goaltender at 2008 TV-Pucken

Farjestad goaltender Johan Gustafsson was named the best goaltender at the TV-Pucken tournament, which concluded yesterday. TV-Pucken is Sweden's national tournament for players under 17; the tournament consists of 24 teams. Johan finished 7th in save percentage (.930) and 9th in goals against average (2.25) in the tournament for Team Västmanland. Johan is currently the #3 rated Swedish prospect for the 2010 NHL Draft, according to Hockey's Future. The Koping, Sweden native will join Farjestad within the month.

Friday, September 19, 2008

News & Observer Interview with Carolina Hurricanes Defenseman Anton Babchuk

Three questions: Anton Babchuk

Defenseman Anton Babchuk is back with the Hurricanes after playing last season for Avangard Omsk in the Russian Superliga, signing a one-year, $1 million contract.

During the 2006-2007 season, Babchuk was briefly suspended by the Hurricanes when he refused an assignment with the AHL's Albany River Rats. He relented and reported to Albany, and was later recalled by the Canes. But after the season, the Kiev native left for Omsk.

Here's what Babchuk had to say this week.

Q: When you left for Russia, did you ever envision a return to the Canes?

A: "I always hoped I'd get another chance to play here. I felt if I played well over there, I'd get the chance. And it's happened and I'm excited abut it."

Q: Was it tempting to just stay in the Russia and continue to play?

A: "I played in Omsk. It's kind of funny. (Former Canes goalie) John Grahame goes to that team and I go here. We kind of switched.

"When the season was over, the Omsk team gave me an offer for even more cash money than here. But like I said, I wanted to play in the NHL, in the best league against the best players."

Q: Do you feel your game changed noticeably during the year away?

A: "I think I improved. Last year, I played with the first unit, in all situations — PP (power play), PK (penalty kill), got a lot of ice time. I played all the games in the season and the playoffs. So I think my game is improved since the last time I was here.

"When you get older and more mature, you know how to handle it better when a bad game happens. It's just one game, it's a long season. You have good games, have bad games. As you get older and older, you know how to get away from (a bad game) and make sure your game gets better and better."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Danny Markov's 1st goal of the season leads Dynamo Moscow over Torpedo on Wednesday night

Dynamo Moscow defenseman Danny Markov scored his first goal of the season, a powerplay goal at the 13:38 mark of the 3rd period, in yesterday's 4-1 win over Torpedo. Markov, who was offered a contract by the Los Angeles Kings prior to the start of the KHL season, recently signed a 3-year contract with Dynamo Moscow and has played well early on, playing roughly 18 minutes per contest and notching 2 points in 7 games. Danny's re-signing with Dynamo solidifies a blueline that already features former New York Ranger and New Jersey Devil Karel Rachunek as well as 15-year NHL veteran Alexei Zhitnik. Dynamo is currently tied for the 2nd most points in the KHL with 15 and will face Atlant Mytischi tomorrow on the road.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

CSKA's Sergei Shirokov leading his team in scoring

Sergei Shirokov has began the KHL season on fire, entering today's game against Vityaz Chekov with a team-leading 3 goals, 5 points and a +4 plus/minus rating. A 5'10", 175 lb winger, Shirokov was a 6th Round draft pick by Vancouver in 2006 and has developed nicely playing in Russia; this is his fifth season playing for CSKA. Shirokov notched his 4th goal of the season today in a 4-1 road victory over Vityaz to improve CSKA's record to 3-1-1. Due to the lack of an IIHF Transfer Agreement, Vancouver retains the rights to Shirokov, who is currently ranked among Vancouver's top 10 prospects by The Hockey News.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Alex Svitov's two goals lead Omsk over Magnitogorsk

Yesterday, in front of his hometown crowd, Avangard Omsk's Alex Svitov scored his first two goals of the season and added an assist in a 6-0 rout of Metallurg Magnitogorsk, the 2006-07 Russian Super League champion. A former NHL first round draft pick (2001), Svitov, an Omsk native, is the team's captain (as he was last year). In 2007-08, Svitov scored 10 goals while racking up 140 penalty minutes, which was among league leaders. Svitov, well-known for his physical and agitating play, is in the second year of a three-year contract with Omsk.

September 10, 2008, 10:11 am

European Roundup: Jagr vs. the Euro Champions

By Jeff Z. Klein

Only one game in the “Top 7″ European leagues, and it’s a momentous one: Avangard-Magnitka — a showdown in Omsk between Jaromir Jagr, Pavel Rosa, Alexei Cherepanov and co. for the home side, and the reigning European champions as the visitors.

Avangard 6-0 Metallurg Mg. Euh, well … seems Magnitogorsk were a little off today. The Hawks got two goals from Aleksandr Svitov and one from Jagr himself — his first of the season.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Alexei Morozov off to a great start as Ak Bars Kazan remains unbeaten

Ak Bars Kazan forward Alexei Morozov has gotten off to a sizzling start in the KHL. Through only 3 games, Morozov already has 5 goals and 2 assists. On top of that, Kazan has won it's first 3 games. The former Pittsburgh Penguin has led Kazan in goals and points in 4 consecutive seasons, twice topping the 30-goal mark. On Thursday, Morozov and Kazan face Dynamo Moscow on home ice in an attempt to remain unbeaten. Dynamo was shutout 1-0 by Amur on Friday.

September 7, 2008, 7:31 pm

European Roundup: Who Can Stop Morozov and Ak Bars?

BY Jeff Z. Klein

Ak Bars 3-2 Barys. The Kazakhs hang in bravely, but at 59:26 Alexei Morozov — who else? — scores the winner

Thursday, September 4, 2008

KHL kicks off inaugural season with Jagr-Morozov match up

Much has been made about the formation of Russia's new league, the KHL (Continental Hockey League) because of it's contentions with and it's desire to rival the NHL. While NHL training camps open in two weeks, the KHL's inaugural season began on Tuesday with five games, three of which went to overtime. Most notable, Alex Radulov set up former Anaheim Duck Oleg Tverdovsky for a goal in his debut with Ufa in a 4-1 win over Yaroslavl.

Wednesday's games were highlighted by the marquee matchup of Jaromir Jagr's Avangard Omsk vs. Alexei Morozov's Ak Bars Kazan. Morozov helped his team edge Omsk with two third period powerplay goals in a 4-2 win. Now with a great deal of former NHL players and unsigned draft choices in the KHL, this will certainly be a league that people will keep an eye on. We’ll see if the Continental Hockey League can live up to the hype it has generated.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Joni Karjalainen scores game-winner in 2nd day of Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament

Congratulations to Joni Karjlainen for scoring the game-winning goal today in Finland's 6-5 win over the US Under-18 Select team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic! Karjalainen scored with just over a minute remaining in regulation, shortly after Steven Whitney tied the score at 5, to improve Finland to 2-0 in tournament play. Finland takes on Russia tomorrow at 9:30 AM ET. Karjalainen currently plays for HIFK Helsinki and is eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brian Leetch elected into U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

Congratulations to PuckAgency client Brian Leetch, who along with Cammi Granato and Brett Hull, will be formally inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on October 10th at the University of Denver! Brian announced his retirement from the game in May 2007.

Aug 12, 2008, 11:36 AM EDT


U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2008 unveiled

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Cammi Granato, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Mike Richter will be enshrined into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame as the Class of 2008 it was announced today by USA Hockey. The quartet will be formally inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Denver at an induction dinner set for 7 p.m. (MT) on Friday, Oct. 10, at Magness Arena on the campus of the University of Denver. The following evening -- Sat., Oct. 11 -- the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game will take place in the same venue, when the University of Denver men's ice hockey team takes on the University of Notre Dame at 7:07 p.m.

"The Class of 2008 is one of the most accomplished groups that’s ever been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame," said Ron DeGregorio, president of USA Hockey. "It is indeed with great pleasure that we welcome them to the group of hockey immortals in our country."

In 18 NHL seasons, Brian Leetch was an 11-time All-Star, won two Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman, captured a Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup Playoff MVP and was the Calder Trophy winner as the league's top rookie. He is one of only five blueliners in NHL history to record more than 100 points in a season and one of seven to accumulate more than 1,000 points in his career (247-781--1028).

In his rookie season with the New York Rangers (1988-89), who drafted him ninth overall in 1986, Leetch put up 23 goals and 48 assists to capture the Calder Trophy. Three years later, in 1991-92, Leetch tallied a career-best 102 points, including a team record 80 assists, to capture the Norris Trophy for the first time. In 1993-94, the Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in more than 50 years. He led the way as the top scorer in the post season and was the first ever American-born player to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

Internationally, Leetch is one of just 10 American men's ice hockey players to have competed in the Olympic Winter Games three or more times, as he played for Team USA in 1988, 1998 and 2002. He also represented the United States at three IIHF World Junior Championships (1985-87), two IIHF Men's World Championships (1987, 1989), one Canada Cup (1991) and twice in the World Cup of Hockey (1996, 2004).Leetch played one season (1986-87) of college hockey at Boston College and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sport-Express Interview with Alexei Cherepanov

Source: Sport-Express
August 6, 2008, 8:32 AM

Alexei Cherepanov could not contain his joy while speaking with a Sport-Express correspondent after netting his hat trick against HK-36 Skalica:

-- To be honest, I never thought I would get a hat trick today. Without my linemates, I never would have achieved this. -

- Viewers were hoping to see Jagr be the one scoring, but you were the hero today.

-- Jaromir set up several goals. -

- Your line was the best in the game. What may explain this understanding you have?

-- This is the third year Sasha Popov, Anton Kuryanov, and I are playing together. Over this time, everyone has to explore each other's style of game, and hence we develop such an understanding. As for other lines, they are new and kids need more time.

-- You will not be surprised that you play on the first line, and Jagr - on the second?

-- The coach determines the lines. Maybe, this is a tactical idea? In general, during pre-season it may well be one thing, and in the regular season - another. However, to be honest, I do not care what line I play on. My main goal is to play hard and give everything I can to the team.

-- Last season, you repeatedly said that Jagr was your idol, and dreamed of playing with him one day. Today, your dream come true… -

- You can not even imagine what emotions I feel. A dream is a dream, but at the same time, I even could not imagine that we would play together for the Omsk club!

-- Maybe now you're waiting for the moment to play with him at one point? -- I believe that is possible! I hope to score on some dream passes from Jagr.

-- Have you been able to get his autograph? -- Not yet, but the entire season is yet to come. -- Do you talk to him often?

-- Yeah, sometimes I ask about the NHL. Jaromir knows that I had an invitation from the NHL, and once said: "You want to play in the NHL - train more." After these words I began to work even harder. By the way, after each workout Jaromir stays with me: we look at video and he tells me what still needs work. So he is really one of my coaches.

-- They say that your departure for NHL has been postponed largely because of the fact that Jagr came to Avangard…

-- My contract with Avangard operates for another year, so that meant I was staying anyway. But when found out that my idol will be joining me in Omsk, I basically stopped thinking about that.

-- Do you think Avangard will be able to win a championship?

-- We have an excellent team, and we all will try to make sure that the team has achieved the highest result possible. Jagr's arrival should also give us youngsters even more confidence. Watch Jaromir and learn.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

NY Rangers' 1st Round pick Alexei Cherepanov kicks off 2008-09 preseason with a hat trick

In the build-up to the 2008 Bashkortostan President's Cup, much of the hype has been focused around the scheduled clash between star imports Jaromir Jagr and Alexander Radulov. These players are without a doubt the two biggest names that the Continental Hockey League has been able to attract for its inaugural 2008-09 season. This prestigious tournament is the first opportunity fans will have to see the pair square off outside of an NHL rink. However, with the star-studded clash days away, Jagr's teammate Alexei Cherepanov is the player who has managed to grab the spotlight.

The Bashkortostan tournament is an annual pre-season tournament held in Russia. This year, the six teams participating are Jagr and Cherepanov's Avangard Omsk, Radulov's Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL sides Traktor Chelyabinsk, Spartak Moscow, and Metallurg Magnitogorsk, as well as Slovakian club HK-36 Skalica. The opening game of the tournament had Avangard Omsk facing HK-36 Skalica. Omsk came out victorious, as expected, to the tune of a 6-3 score, but it was future NY Ranger Cherepanov and not former Ranger Jagr that powered the Russian side to the win. While Jagr managed two assists, his young teammate lit up the scoreboard on his way to a hat trick.

Cherepanov opened the game's scoring exactly 3 minutes in, before adding what turned out to be the game-winning goal in the middle of the 2nd period, and capping off his day with the team's final tally in the 3rd period. Cherepanov, still one of the world's best prospects at age 19, is aiming to have his best season yet, as a key force in Avangard Omsk's attack. The future looks very bright for the Rangers' 2007 1st-round draft pick.

August 5, 2008, 2:38 pm
The Morning Skate
By Stu Hackel

The prestigious Bashkortostan President’s Cup pre-season tournament has begun and a future Ranger upstaged a former Ranger in the opening game. Top Rangers draft choice of ‘07 Alexei Cherepanov notched a hat trick for Avangard Omsk while teammate Jaromir Jagr had to settle for a pair of assists on goals by his Czech linemates Pavel Rosa and Jakub Klepis as Omsk downed the Slovakian club HK-36 Skalica 6-3 in the tournament’s opening game.

Monday, August 4, 2008

AllHockey.Ru Interview with Dynamo Moscow D Danny Markov

Danny Markov: It's easier for us in Russia, here is our home

July 29, 2008, 10:49 PM

Author: Diana Ozimova, specifically for AllHockey.Ru

I have the honour to speak with one of the leading Dynamo Moscow players, and one of the best in Russian hockey in general, Daniil Markov. Despite his authoritative status, Danny was easy to contact. We had a positive conversation.

-- Daniil, last fall, why did you decide to return to Russia, becoming a player for Dynamo?

-- Negotiations, which I had with several teams, were also civilized, and I was satisfied with everything! But I knew that Dynamo was a good organization.

-- Recently, many Russian players in the NHL returned to Russia. Why in your opinion they are motivated to make such decisions?

-- Russia ... America ... America is still for us Russians, a foreign country, and regardless, you still see yourself as a foreigner. Here is your home, here is your birthplace, parents, family, children. Here is your native land. In Russia it is easier for us in many respects, and in domestic terms, too.

-- You played almost a full season for Dynamo, what you can say about Russian hockey in general, whether or not it is changing?

-- Yes, it varies, ranging from its organization even to the smallest details. In Russia hockey there is progression, and it is changing in a positive direction. I believe it will work out in the right way.

-- What is your attitude to the changes in our hockey as it pertains to KHL rules on fighting?

-- I can say one thing, that if the league permits fights, it should be with the same concept as in the NHL. More precisely, there are certain players, so-called fighters ("tough guys"), which account for a large amount of the fighting among themselves. For example, Georges Laraque goes after guys his size, and does not pound on regular players. This can help to lead a team at the right time. Each team has a fighter. I do not see anything wrong in that. Tough guys also have to act according to certain rules. Each team can have any number of such fighters here. Hockey is not chess, so I am fine with them.

-- This summer, Dynamo was strengthened by several acquisitions. Will the team would be able to claim the first Gagarin Cup?

-- Of course, Dynamo brought in very good players, and that helped strengthen the team. This will affect the club and the overall game plan. We now have a club full of talented players, which can definitely win the championship.

-- The KHL recently had one of its biggest signings - Jaromir Jagr became a player for Avangard Omsk. What does this mean for you?

-- Honestly for me it has little meaning. Jagr already played in Russia. The press gives too much attention to this, and this is already happened once. Open a newspaper, go on the Internet and everywhere is "JAGR, JAGR, JAGR." Of course, when those players are joining the Russian league, it raises our level of hockey. And for young children, it is what they have to learn from. He is still a great player, and has been for many years.

-- Do you think the KHL should go with smaller ice surfaces? How will that affect the development of our hockey?

-- Yes, I believe that it should. In my opinion, our hockey, moving into smaller rinks, will be more spectacular and more intense. And there will be more dynamic play. Some believe that we may lose our style of hockey, where the Russian style of play has lots of passing. But with anything like this, if you can play, then you can play at any venue. All this will make the game 2 times faster, more dynamic, and more interesting for the viewer. But this is my personal opinion.
-- For the first time in many years Russia managed to win the IIHF World Championships, and did so by beating Canada, the host country. What was the biggest factor in achieving this victory?

-- Actually, it was my dream come true! Winning in the final of the World Championship against the Canadians in their territory. The main factor was that we had a very good team chemistry. We all know who does what. It was a good, healthy atmosphere in the team. We played as a team and nobody cared who played more or less. From all these efforts, it was the ultimate team victory. Many did not believe in us, but we showed character, and each of us contributed something to winning the Gold.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Interview with Nashville G Pekka Rinne

TheNeilShow: One On One with Nashville Goaltender Pekka Rinne

Monday, July 28 2008

In my debut interview for HockeyPrimeTime.com, I sit down with Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne to talk some hockey.

Neil Bristow - You made your NHL debut Dec.15th 2005. Can you share with us a little of what that was like? What was going through your mind at that time?

Pekka Rinne - It was something that I had always been dreaming of. At that time both Tomas Vokoun and Chris Mason were hurt and I got the call. Everything happened pretty fast and I didn`t have time to stress about the game, we won the game and it was just amazing experience I'll remember for rest of my life.

Neil Bristow -You played with Karpat Oulu (FNL)before coming over to North America. Is playing goalie over here different than in Finland? If so, why? And did you have to make adjustments to your game at all?

Pekka Rinne - The game is little different in Finland mostly because of the bigger ice surface.Players have more time to use their skills. In North America game is more north-south style of play. That`s why I had to change my game more aggressive to challenge the shooter and cut down the angles. I really like the North American style of game.

Neil Bristow - What are some of your goals this year coming in to Camp in Nashville?

Pekka Rinne - My goal is to have a good summer and strong training camp and make the team. Also prove that I can play in NHL and that I belong there.

Neil Bristow - What is your biggest moment so far in your career and why?

Pekka Rinne - When I played in Finland we won two championships in a row 2004 and 2005. It was pretty special cause I played for my hometown team in front of my family and friends. Other great moment was when we made it to Calder Cup finals with Milwaukee on 2006. We had a great team but unfortunately we came short and Hershey won the Cup.

Neil Bristow - With players like Jaromir Jagr going over to play in the Kontinental league in Russia for the same money they would make in the NHL, the Russianleague has stated in the past, that they will pay NHL-like salaries for players in their league. Do you see this becoming a realistic problem for the NHL, losing great European talent to Russia?

Pekka Rinne - Maybe in the future, but I don't think it's a problem right now. NHL is such a respected league around the world that every kid in Europe wants to play in NHL someday.

Neil Bristow -Who did you look up to growing up, goaltender wise?

Pekka Rinne - My cousin used to play goalie growing up and he had a big influence on me. He is the biggest reason why I started to play goalie. In NHL I used watch Patrick Roy and John Vanbiesbrouck play when growing up.

Neil Bristow - Who is one player that you have faced before, that you wouldn't want coming in on you in a shootout? And why?

Pekka Rinne -I haven't been involved in single one shootout in NHL, but in AHL I think Darren Haydar is a player that I don`t like to face too many times. I played with him in Milwaukee '06-'07 and you would think that I know his moves, but he's just so smart and skilled player that he reads goalies and forces them to make the first move.

Neil Bristow - The NHL is once again starting the season over in Europe this year with the Lightning and Rangers battling in Prague and the Sens and Pens in Stockholm. What are your thoughts on NHL teams starting a long season over there with all the travel and scheduling? Are you in favour of that?

Pekka Rinne - As a European and knowing European hockey fans I think it's great thing that they are able to see and watch their favorite players and teams. Also it`s a good way to showcase the whole NHL and it`s unbelieveble players. And also for players I think it`s nice to see some new countries and cities. Obviously the schedule is hard but there's more gain than harm, teams playing in Europe.

Neil Bristow - What NHL city that you haven’t visited yet are you most looking forward to playing in? And why?

Pekka Rinne - Beside Nashville I haven`t visited too many NHL cities, but I really like all Canadian NHL cities because hockey is just so big in Canada. I have to say it`s a privilege to play for Nashville organization we have such a great fans and hockey is getting bigger in South.

Neil Bristow - NHL has thrown around the idea of maybe shrinking the NHL nets or maybe altering goaltender’s equipment. What are your thoughts and ideas on that topic?

Pekka Rinne - It's a topic that everybody has different opinion. I think that if people decide to change the size of the nets, would be a mistake. All the records and games played before would lose their meaning and new era of hockey would begin. But I'm fine with altering goalie gear as long as it's safe for goalies.

Neil Bristow - Have you had any embarrassing on- ice moments in your career so far? If so, could you share a story with our readers?

Pekka Rinne - There's couple moments that I try to forget. This one happened when playing in Finland. We played against Ilves Tampere and were leading 3-2, there was only 3 seconds left in the game and I started almost celebrating when somebody just threw the puck to net and it went in off my skate and at the same time buzzer went off. We ended up losing the game in overtime. It was the final game of the regular season and we would have finished first if we would have won that game. I wasn't happy tell you that much. Luckily we were able to win the Finnish Championship that year so I could laugh about it with the guys afterwards.

Neil Bristow - If you had the power to make changes in the NHL game, would you change anything? If so what would you change?

Pekka Rinne - I think NHL have done a great job with some changes in the game last few years. It has made the game faster and more interesting for the fans and also for the players. I don't have any new suggestions, I just try to work on things that I can control. Thanks!!

Until next time, I’m Neil Bristow for hockeyprimetime.com.

Neil Bristow
HPT Radio Correspondent

Thursday, July 3, 2008

D Anton Babchuk signs with Carolina after one-year hiatus

Just as it has in the past, the opening of the NHL free agency period produced a flurry of big signings. On the day, over $300 million were committed to player contracts. In a move that flew under the radar early in the day, one of those many millions was committed to defenseman Anton Babchuk by the Carolina Hurricanes.

His signing ($1 million for 1 year) marks his return to the organization with which he won a Stanley Cup in 2006. Though the team won a championship in his first season in Carolina, his relationship with the Hurricanes turned a little ugly the following season. To begin the 2006-07 season, the Hurricanes assigned Babchuk to their AHL affiliate in Albany. When he refused to report, he was suspended for violating team rules.

Babchuk ended up playing 52 games with the Hurricanes that season, and after eventually accepting a demotion, played an additional 9 games in the AHL. That season Babchuk posted a career-high 12 assists, 14 points, and 30 penalty minutes.
Avangard Omsk of the Russian Super League was his destination for the 2007-08 season. Babchuk, a 1st round pick of the Blackhawks in 2002, had a strong season for Omsk. He amassed 9 goals and 15 assists while playing in all 57 regular season games. However, as an elite athlete, Babchuk still had a burning desire to return to the NHL, to play in the best league in the world.

The signing of the 6’5”, 215 lb. Babchuk is just one move the Hurricanes have taken to re-tool their often criticized defense for the 2008-09 season. With the loss of Bret Hedican and Glen Wesley to free agency, Carolina has also brought in Josef Melichar, returning to the NHL from time in Europe, and Joni Pitkanen, acquired from the Oilers in a trade for Erik Cole. The Hurricanes will look to Babchuk to be a steadying force on the blueline, as well as to contribute offensively by jump-starting the attack and manning the point on the power play.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Red Wings' Mikael Samuelsson hoists Stanley Cup, joins elusive Triple Gold Club

Detroit Red Wings right wing Mikael Samuelsson capped off a strong playoff performance by assisting on Valtteri Filppula's second period goal in last night's Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, bringing the Cup back to Hockeytown for the 4th time in the last 11 years. Samuelsson scored 5 goals, added 8 assists and was +8 during Detroit'z run, including a two-goal performance in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals against his former team. "Sammy" also had a two-goal game in Game 4 of Detroit's series-clinching win over Colorado. Samuelsson played on a line with Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula throughout the playoffs and was a significant part of the team's second power-play unit, which was lauded earlier in the finals by head coach Mike Babcock. With last night's win, Mikael joined the elite Triple Gold Club.

Triple Gold Club expands to 22
Zetterberg, Kronwall and Samuelsson do it in only two years.


PITTSBURGH – With Detroit’s Stanley Cup victory, the Triple Gold Club expanded with three new members – Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, and Mikael Samuelsson. The three Swedes were the fastest of the 22 players to complete the triple (Olympic gold, World Championship gold, and Stanley Cup).

The three out of a total of seven Swedish players on the 2008 Red Wings’ Stanley Cup team built their Triple Gold Club platform just two years ago. In 2006, they were part of Sweden’s Tre Kronor when it became the first team in hockey history to win the Olympic gold (Turin) and the World Championship (Riga) in the same year. They are now the first players who have achieved their Triple Gold Club merits entirely in the 21st century.

Zetterberg, Kronwall, and Samuelsson were among the eight Swedish players that year who were on both the Olympic as well as on the World Championship team. As a result, the Swedish Triple Gold Club contingent is now nine players strong.

By comparison, Soviet and Russian stalwart defenceman Vyacheslav Fetisov had to wait 19 years between his first title (1978 World Championship) and the year he finally reached the triple, in 1997 after winning his first of two Stanley Cups with Detroit.

Other examples: It took Jaromir Jagr 14 years, Joe Sakic 12 and Nicklas Lidstrom 15 years to win all three titles.

The Triple Gold Club now consists of nine Swedish players, six Russians, five Canadians and two Czechs. Out of the 22 players, 12 are forwards and 10 are defenceman. The club still has yet to welcome its first goaltender.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

D Anssi Salmela signs with New Jersey

The New Jersey Devils made news last Friday by signing undrafted free agent defenseman Anssi Salmela to a one year entry-level contract. The 23-year old blueliner most recently played for Team Finland in the 2008 IIHF World Championships, where he logged 15.23 minutes per game and finished with a +3 rating. Salmela also made a splash by fighting current St. Louis Blues forward David Backes at the end of Finland's May 11th game against the US. Salmela drew interest from several NHL clubs after a strong 2007-08 season in which he led all SM-Liiga defensemen in goals (16) and played for the National Team. Anssi, known for having an edge to his game, should figure to compete in 2008-09 for one of the top six spots in New Jersey's lineup.

Monday, May 19, 2008

2008 IIHF World Championships Finals: Kovalchuk leads Russia to its first Gold medal in 15 years

What a finish! In one of most memorable games in the World Championships’ 100-year history, Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a power play 2:42 into overtime as Russia defeated host Canada 5-4 to capture its first IIHF World Championship title since 1993 before a ruckus crowd of 13,338 at the Pepsi Colisee in Quebec. With Canadian winger Rick Nash in the penalty box for delay of game for shooting the puck out of play over Russia’s bench, an unmarked “Kovy” waltzed in from the blue line to the top of the slot and ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of 2006 Vezina Trophy winner Cam Ward for the dramatic victory. (watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NmywCGifSg). The play developed on a nifty feed from the re-born Sergei Fedorov, who pulled up on the right wing just inside Canada’s blue line, circled, and found a shockingly wide open Kovalchuk entering the zone. Fedorov and Alexander Ovechkin drew the assists on Kovy’s “golden goal”.

Kovalchuk, who sat out Russia’s semifinal matchup against Sweden due to an automatic one-game suspension, also provided the heroics for Russia in regulation, as he tied the game 4-4 on a wrist shot with 5:14 remaining in the third period. The clutch goals were Kovalchuk’s first two of the tournament to go along with six assists.

Russia displayed great resolve in winning its first gold in fifteen years. After Alexander Semin staked the visitors to a 1-0 lead just 1:24 into the first period with his first of two goals on the night, Canada pulled ahead 3-1 after twenty minutes on two goals by Minnesota Wild defenseman Brent Burns, sandwiched around a Chris Kunitz tally. Burns’ second came on a 5 on 3 advantage, as he powered a one-timer past Evgeni Nabokov to give Canada a two-goal cushion entering the intermission. Russia, appearing a bit unsettled in its first championship game since 2002, took four penalties in the opening frame, including a Vatali Proshkin double-minor for high sticking, and as a result were out shot 15-5.

After regrouping during the first intermission and beginning the second period on its first power play, Semin put the visitors within one with his sixth goal of the tournament. The Washington Capitals rising star, the 13th overall pick in the 2002 Entry Draft, would end up leading all Russians in scoring with 13 points. Canada regained its two goal lead on Dany Heatley’s Championships leading twelfth goal. Heatley was named the MVP and top forward of the tournament after the game. The score remained 4-2 through 40 minutes of play, despite Russia out shooting Canada 12-8 in the second.

In the third period and overtime, Russia continued to dominate play. After shifts of sustained pressure in the Canadian zone, Alexander Tereshchenko finally broke through for the visitors, beating Ward five-hole from the slot to cut the home team’s lead in half. Then it was Kovalchuk’s time, and gold was Russia’s at last.

You can watch the Russian team's celebration as well as an interview with Ilya Kovalchuk's mother here - http://youtube.com/watch?v=IFI_OogUnD8.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

2008 IIHF World Championships Semifinals: Russia vs. Finland Recap

For the first time since 2002, Russia is one victory away from snapping its 15-year World Championship drought. With a dominating 4-0 defeat of Finland Friday afternoon at the 2008 IIHF World Championship semi-finals, along with Canada’s 5-4 victory over Sweden, Russia will face-off against its long time foe on Sunday at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City at 1:00 p.m. to play for its first World Championship title since 1993. Through Russia’s first six periods of medal round play, it has outscored the opposition 10-0. But this Russian team, featuring a blend of NHL stars along with Russian Super League standouts, will not be satisfied to leave Quebec without a championship.

Contributing greatly to Russia’s likelihood of capturing gold is that Sergei Fedorov is playing like it's 1993. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer opened the scoring 13:41 into the first with his 5th goal and team-leading 10th point of the tournament. Fedorov has been united with Capitals teammates Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin on a line, all of whom have registered 10 points entering Sunday’s match.

The prolific Ak-Bars Kazan trio of Alexei Morozov, Danis Zaripov and Sergei Zinoviev generated Russia’s next two goals. Morozov and Zaripov, who ranked 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in RSL scoring during the 2007-2008 campaign, each scored a goal, with Zinoviev notching assists on both. Zaripov beat Finland goalie Niklas Backstrom 3:44 into the 2nd period, and Morozov whipped Backstrom five-hole through a screen from the right-circle with just under 9 minutes to play in the third to give Russia an insurmountable 3-0 lead. (watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxni9sm_cNA). Morozov’s marker was his 5th of the tournament. Maxim Sushinsky, who was 5th in RSL scoring this past season, ensured the coveted Russia-Canada Final with an empty-netter with approximately two minutes remaining in the game.

Russia rides a very hot Evgeni Nabokov into the Final. The 2007-2008 Vezina Trophy finalist has stopped all 45 shots he has faced in the quarter and semi-finals, but will need to elevate his game to defeat Canada on Sunday. Canada’s attack is spearheaded by Dany Heatley, who leads the Championships with 11 goals and 18 points. However, boosting Russia’s prospects of returning home with gold is the return of Heatley’s former Atlanta Thrashers teammate, sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk served an automatic one-game suspension against Finland. A full complement of players gives Russia a tremendous opportunity to end its 15-year itch.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

2008 IIHF World Championships Quarterfinals: Russia vs. Switzerland Recap

Russia advanced to the semi-finals of the 2008 IIHF World Championships on Wednesday night with a 6-0 pounding of Switzerland, but still suffered a tremendous loss. As a result of being assessed his second game misconduct of the tournament, star winger Ilya Kovalchuk has been automatically suspended for Russia’s semi-final matchup against Finland Friday afternoon, per IIHF rules. Kovalchuk, known for his competitive play as well as his world-class offensive capabilities, all of which made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, was whistled for the misconduct after a hit on Switzerland’s Julien Vauclair. No. 71’s presence will be difficult to overcome for Russia against the tight-checking Finns, as Kovalchuk is a constant scoring threat of whom the opposition must always be aware and creates ample space for his teammates. Kovalchuk is currently tied for the team-lead with 6 assists.

The Russian attack struck early and often against the porous Swiss, scoring goals on three of their first four shots against Swiss netminder Martin Gerber. Maxim Afinogenov paced Russia with two goals in only 7:20 of ice time, while Konstantin Korneyev, Denis Grebeshkov, Danis Zaripov and Alexei Tereshchenko each registered two assists.

Gerber was yanked at the 6:50 mark of the second period after yielding five goals on the first fourteen shots he faced. He was replaced by Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who fared far better, allowing only an Alexander Ovechkin goal at 18:07 of the second period. For Ovechkin, it was his team-leading sixth goal of the tournament. In the other crease, Evgeni Nabokov stopped all 22 shots he faced to record a shutout.

At 1:00 p.m on Friday, Russia faces off against scrappy Finland, which defeated the United States 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday on Sami Lepisto’s first goal of the Championships. Finland is led by Mikko Koivu and Teemu Selanne up front, and also boast the Finnish Elite League’s leading goal scorer among defensemen in Anssi Salmela. An already difficult matchup becomes an even larger task without Kovalchuk.