Cross Checks: jonas hiller



ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After starting three different goalies in three straight games, Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau decided to alleviate any suspense on Sunday.

The kid stays in, obviously, after a 28-save shutout.

"Well, I kind of believe that it's not a difficult decision," Boudreau said with a smile. "I'm not going to try to play that game. He came in. He played great. He's going to go again."

Boudreau said he told John Gibson on Friday night that he was the starter for Game 4, and told a disappointed Jonas Hiller the news on Saturday morning.

While his face could not hide his disappointment Sunday, to Hiller’s credit he said he was willing to accept whatever is good for the team, that he just wants to be supportive of his teammates.

Prodded Sunday to find out why he made the decision to start a rookie without NHL playoff experience, Boudreau was asked about playing in the AHL in the mid-1980s when his club was upset by a 19-year-old goalie in the playoffs.

"We lost to Patrick Roy that year," Boudreau said. "And then we've also done the same thing coming out of juniors to Carey Price in the American League (2007 AHL playoffs), where he beat us in the championship. You know young kids can do it. They just come up and they're ready. And those two that I just mentioned obviously were very special goalies. I think, and I don't want to hype him too much, this is what they've been talking about him for the last three years."

The Price-Gibson comparisons have already begun, in large part because both are so calm and cool.

"Nothing seems to bother him and that was the thing I first saw with Carey Price," Boudreau said. "In that [AHL] series, you couldn't faze him. He'd just move and make all the saves look easy. Consequently he's gone on to be one of the best."

Ducks' injuries


Boudreau said center Mathieu Perreault (lower-body injury) would be a game-time decision Monday night. But Boudreau said injured winger Matt Beleskey and injured goalie Frederik Andersen would sit. Both players suffered lower-body injuries in Game 3 and did not play in Game 4.

Kings look to rebound


Meanwhile, out at the Kings' training facility in El Segundo on Sunday, a veteran team looked to recharge after dropping two straight.

Head coach Darryl Sutter had some fun, too.

"Yeah, I’m not rattled. I’m just thankful I’m alive today. I’m fortunate to pull through after the devastating loss [Saturday] night," Sutter said before pulling a M.A.S.H. reference out of his repertoire. "Radar and Hawkeye had to get me up to come here today."

Point taken. This is a team that has seen it all, won a Cup two years ago, went to the conference finals last year and erased a 3-0 series deficit to San Jose in the first round this year.

Losing two straight to rival Anaheim is not going to rattle this playoff-savvy group.

"It’s the best-of-three. Nothing wrong with that," veteran center Jarret Stoll told reporters Sunday. "They’re a great team. They had the best record in the West, No. 1 seed, whatever they were. So they’re a good team. We know that. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We can say that. It’s a series now. A good, positive day today. We came in and the boys were in good spirits. Get ready to win a road game."

Rapid Reaction: Ducks 5, Stars 4 OT

April, 27, 2014
Apr 27
10:25
PM ET

DALLAS -- The Anaheim Ducks are moving on to the second round of the playoffs after coming back to beat the Dallas Stars in Game 6 in Dallas on Sunday, 5-4.

How it happened: The Stars scored three goals in the first period to take control early. Dallas scored its first power play goal since Game 2 and Ryan Garbutt's goal with 59 seconds left in the period gave the Stars a two-goal cushion. For the second straight game in Dallas, Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen watched the end from the bench. He was pulled midway through the second period (he was pulled in the third period of Game 4 in Dallas) and replaced by Jonas Hiller for the remainder of the game. Daley's second goal of the game, at 10:33 of the second period, put the Stars up by two goals for the second time. It stayed that way until Nick Bonino scored with Hiller on the bench in favor of an extra skater with 2:10 left in the game. Anaheim pulled Hiller again in the final minute and off a huge scrum in front of the Stars' net, goalie Kari Lehtonen lost his stick and moments later lost sight of the puck. Devante Smith-Pelly found it just outside the crease and floated it top shelf to tie the score with 22 seconds left.

What it means: Anaheim wins the series, 4-2, scoring three unanswered goals to do it. They went through a goalie change, seemingly little momentum and a loud road and found a way to get it done. It also avoids any thoughts of last season, when they lost to Detroit in Game 6 and then fell at home in Game 7 in the first round.

Players of the game: Jonas Hiller and Nick Bonino. He came in midway through the second period and didn't let anything by him. Despite a bunch of scoring chances and play going on in front of him, Hiller kept the Ducks within range and they used some late third-period heroics to get the game to OT. Without Hiller's steady play in substitute duty, the Ducks aren't in the game to win it in overtime. Bonino scored the third goal of the game to get the Ducks within one and then deposited the game-winner in overtime.

Stat of the game: Three goals were scored in the final five minutes of the game by the Ducks to win it. The Ducks were relentless down the stretch. They pulled the goalie twice to score the tying goals and then Anaheim got the one shot it needed to win the series.

What's next: Anaheim moves on to the second round and awaits the winner of the San Jose-Los Angeles series. The Sharks and Kings played Game 6 on Monday.
From the official NHL release:

TAVARES, HILLER AND LUNDQVIST NAMED NHL ‘THREE STARS’ OF THE WEEK


NEW YORK (Jan. 13, 2014) – New York Islanders center John Tavares, Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Jan. 12.

FIRST STAR – JOHN TAVARES, C, NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Tavares led all skaters with four goals (tied), six assists and 10 points to power the Islanders (18-22-7, 43 points) to a season-high four consecutive victories. He began the week by recording his second career five-point game (3-2—5), including his fifth career hat trick, in a 7-3 win over the Dallas Stars Jan. 6. Tavares followed that up by posting three assists in a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 7, becoming the first Islander in 24 years to collect eight or more points over a two-day span (Pat LaFontaine: 3-6—9, Jan. 10-11, 1990). After being held off the scoresheet in a 2-1 overtime triumph against the Colorado Avalanche Jan.
10, Tavares capped the week by registering 1-1—2, including the game-winning goal with 1:24 remaining in regulation, in a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars Jan. 12, stretching the Islanders’ road winning streak to seven games. The 23-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native is tied for second in the NHL with 56 points (21-35—56) in 46 games this season, including
8-10—18 in his last nine outings.

SECOND STAR – JONAS HILLER, G, ANAHEIM DUCKS

Hiller posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.67 goals-against average, .941 save percentage and one shutout to help the League-leading Ducks (35-8-5,
75 points) pick up four victories, becoming the fifth team in NHL history to win 17 or more games over an 18-game span. He made 30 saves in a 5-2 triumph over the Boston Bruins Jan. 7 and 28 saves in a 5-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes Jan. 11. Hiller (22 saves) then recorded his 19th career shutout and third of the season in a 1-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings Jan. 12. With the trio of victories, Hiller extended his club-record and career-best winning streak to 14 games (dating to Dec. 6), tied for the second-longest single-season streak in NHL history and three short of the all-time record (Boston’s Gilles Gilbert: Dec. 26, 1975-Feb. 29, 1976). The 31-year-old Felben Wellhausen, Switzerland, native has appeared in 32 games this season, compiling a 23-4-4 record with a 2.34 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

THIRD STAR – HENRIK LUNDQVIST, G, NEW YORK RANGERS

Lundqvist went 3-0-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .943 save percentage to carry the Rangers (24-20-3, 51 points) into third place in the Metropolitan Division. He made 36 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Jan. 6. Lundqvist followed that up with 35 saves in a
3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Jan. 8 and 24 saves in a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars Jan. 10. He capped the week by making 37 stops in a
4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 12, his eighth game this season with 30 or more saves. The 31-year-old Are, Sweden, native has appeared in
35 games in 2013-14, posting a 15-16-3 record with a 2.68 goals-against average, .910 save percentage and two shutouts, including a 5-1-1 mark in his last seven outings.
From the NHL's official release:

KANE, CROSBY AND HILLER NAMED NHL ‘THREE STARS’ FOR DECEMBER


NEW YORK (Jan. 3, 2014) – Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the month of December.

FIRST STAR – PATRICK KANE, RW, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Kane earned “First Star” honors for the second consecutive month after posting a League-leading 16 assists, 23 points (tied) and +14 rating, helping the Blackhawks earn points in 11 of 14 games (8-3-3) to maintain first place in the Central Division (28-7-8, 64 points). He recorded at least one point in 13 of 14 outings, stretching his career-long point streak to 14 games (8-17—25) before being held off the scoresheet in the final contest of 2013. It marked Kane’s second such stretch of 10 or more games this season (8-9—17 during 12-game point streak Nov. 3-27). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first player to record multiple point streaks of 10 or more games in the same season since 2005-06, when Jaromir Jagr posted a pair of 12-game streaks. The 25-year-old Buffalo native and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner has played in 43 games this season, ranking in the top five in the NHL in goals (3rd: 23), points (2nd:
53), power-play goals (3rd: 9) and game-winning goals (t-2nd: 6).

SECOND STAR – SIDNEY CROSBY, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Crosby tied Kane for the League lead in points (23), tallying nine goals and 14 assists to power the Penguins (29-12-1, 59 points) to 11 victories in 14 games and the top spot in the Eastern Conference despite a series of injuries to key personnel. He registered at least one point in 13 of 14 outings, beginning the month with a 10-game point streak (7-11—18) before being held off the scoresheet Dec. 23 versus the Ottawa Senators.
Crosby also posted seven multi-point performances, including a trio of three-point efforts: Dec. 5 versus the San Jose Sharks (0-3—3), Dec. 21 against the Calgary Flames (1-2—3) and Dec. 29 at the Columbus Blue Jackets (1-2—3). The 26-year-old Cole Harbour, N.S., native leads the NHL with 59 points in 42 games this season while also ranking in the top five in goals
(t-4th: 22) and assists (2nd: 37).

THIRD STAR – JONAS HILLER, G, ANAHEIM DUCKS

Hiller posted a 9-0-1 record with a 1.96 goals-against average and .929 save percentage to help the Ducks (29-8-5, 63 points) go 11-1-1 and move into the top spot in the Pacific Division. He allowed two or fewer goals in nine of 10 appearances, highlighted by a season-high, 49-save performance Dec. 3 versus the Los Angeles Kings. Hiller closed the month with nine consecutive victories, a personal high, and is undefeated in regulation in 11 straight dating to Nov. 30. He also started eight contests during the team’s franchise-record, 10-game winning streak Dec. 6-28 and recorded his 150th NHL victory Dec. 28 versus the Phoenix Coyotes (23 saves). The 31-year-old Felben Wellhausen, Switzerland, native has played in 27 games this season, compiling an 18-4-4 record with a 2.42 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and two shutouts.
Star netminder Pekka Rinne (hip) is scheduled to have an MRI in the next 10 days, which may be the tipping point as to whether the Predators act on a trade for another goalie.

If the news is good, perhaps they hold tight given the recent play of 22-year-old rookie Marek Mazanec (three straight wins entering the weekend). But if they get news that Rinne will be out even longer, word is the Preds may have to return some phone calls. Heck, even if they get good news, Rinne is still out for at least a few more weeks, so I wonder if they don’t act on a trade anyway.

As reported last week, the Preds and Ducks have talked about Jonas Hiller, and Nashville GM David Poile has spoken to other teams as well.

The Ducks are loaded in goal throughout the organization. Frederik Andersen proved earlier this season he was ready for prime time by going 6-1-0 with a .943 save percentage during a call-up while Viktor Fasth was injured. Meanwhile, 20-year-old American stud John Gibson entered the weekend with a 1.99 GAA and .940 save percentage in the AHL. So whether it’s through making a move with Nashville or not, a goalie logjam in Anaheim needs addressing at some point over the next year. But since the Ducks announced Saturday that Fasth will be out another three-to-four weeks, one assumes any trade talks involving Hiller are on hold.

Michal Neuvirth's name has been bandied about this season, as the Czech netminder is perhaps open to a trade so he can push for a No. 1 job elsewhere after losing out in Washington to Braden Holtby. But what I’m hearing is that GM George McPhee has no intention to move him this season unless it’s a deal that knocks him over (think top-four defenseman, at least). The Caps like their one-two depth in goal and don’t want to mess with it.

FRONT-OFFICE COMPENSATION


Once again, there is growing support among some NHL team executives to bring back compensation when front-office personnel leave for promotions on other teams.

I wrote about this in March 2012, and the subject is once again gaining steam among a group of GMs and other team execs.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman abolished the practice of compensation for teams losing front-office personnel in the wake of Peter Chiarelli’s controversial promotion from the assistant general manager of the Senators to GM in Boston in the spring of 2006. The two teams quarreled over the proper compensation.

Starting with the 2006-07 season, there was no longer any compensation. If you allowed someone to accept a promotion elsewhere, so be it; you got nothing in return.

But there is once again a push to revisit that.

For years, Brian Burke (now president of hockey operations in Calgary) has pushed the league on this, and other GMs such as Ray Shero, Ken Holland and David Poile have voiced their support on the issue.

Is it fair for the Penguins to lose Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo to Minnesota and get nothing in return? Same goes for the Red Wings, who put GMs in Tampa (Steve Yzerman) and Dallas (Jim Nill) and a head coach in San Jose (Todd McLellan) but got nothing back?

As one Eastern Conference team executive told ESPN.com on Friday, if you’re spending years developing front-office or coaching personnel, you should be compensated for their loss, just like you would when trading a player that you’ve developed.

For example, if the Buffalo Sabres soon snatch an assistant GM from another team and make him their new GM, shouldn’t that team get a draft pick or something in return?

Seems fair to me.

In an email exchange Friday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com that the league’s "position on the subject has not changed."

Still, expect these team execs to continue to bring it up with the NHL head office in an effort to get Bettman to change his mind on the matter.

HAVLAT’S FUTURE
It’s going to be intriguing to see how things roll out in San Jose concerning the future of 32-year-old winger Martin Havlat.

GM Doug Wilson came out in the local newspaper this week and talked about Havlat having to earn his ice time on a team loaded with forwards.

The veteran GM is certainly right, when you’re talking about a team that can dress the likes of Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, Tommy Wingels (who scored twice Thursday night), Tyler Kennedy and rookie Matthew Nieto. And don’t forget at some point this season Raffi Torres will return from injury.

It’s a crowded group.

Havlat’s agent, Allan Walsh, hit Twitter in the wake of a report linking his client to trade rumors to remind everyone of the most important thing: Havlat has a full no-movement clause.

Which is to say he isn’t going anywhere unless he wakes up one day and feels like a change of scenery. Right now, Havlat is happy in San Jose, Walsh said.

The question now: How long will he remain happy if his ice time and role remain limited?

He was a healthy scratch last week, played on the fourth line last weekend in Chicago then got put back on Pavelski's third line Thursday night in a 5-1 win over Tampa, playing 16:08 but not registering a point.

He has one goal and one assist in nine games entering the weekend.

Even if Havlat has a change of heart and gives Wilson the green light to shop around, the fact that he has another year on his deal paying him $6 million in salary next season ($5 million cap hit) is a bit of an anchor given how banged up the winger has been the past few seasons, which has limited his effectiveness.

Mind you, as we saw with the Kris Versteeg deal where Florida ate half of his remaining contract, there are devices in the new collective bargaining agreement that allow San Jose to be creative if ever the Havlat camp decided it’s time to explore the market.

This is probably as healthy as he's been in a year, so perhaps the next few weeks will show us the Havlat of old which much pique the interest of other teams.

Also, there is no doubt Havlat is mindful of the fact that, regardless of his diminished role with the Sharks, he’s on a team that has a serious shot at winning a Cup, something he’s never done in his career.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Wilson and Walsh have had a close relationship over the years.

Wilson, by the way, has a history of treating players well in these situations. When veteran center Michal Handzus looked for a change of scenery last season, Wilson dropped him in Chicago, where the Slovak center picked up a Cup ring. Thank you very much.
NEWARK, N.J. -- It certainly didn’t take long for freshly minted UFA Vincent Lecavalier to get some attention around the league.

While the 33-year-old center technically can’t sign with anyone other than the Tampa Bay Lightning until July 5, league rules allow his camp to talk to other teams until then. And that process started in a hurry.

"We have been reached out to by a number of teams, easily a dozen or more," Kent Hughes, Lecavalier’s agent, told ESPN.com Friday afternoon. "This is the beginning of the process in trying to understand the various situations and trying to narrow it down."

It was still way too early, Hughes said, to declare any potential front-runners. The process will need some time before that becomes clear.

But it’s an important time for the Lecavalier camp. The ability to speak to teams right away gives him a leg up on regular UFAs, who have to wait until the July 3-4 window. Hughes will want to get a lot of the legwork done before getting ready to sign his client to a new team July 5.

In the meantime, Lecavalier is organizing his thoughts right now, trying to figure out what markets would best suit him, etc.

During a media call Thursday, Lecavalier mentioned the Detroit Red Wings as a team he liked growing up (along with the Montreal Canadiens). Well, the feeling is apparently mutual. A source Friday said that the Wings have interest in Lecavalier, although certainly not at any cost. It’s going to have to make sense both in salary and term. And the Wings know they won’t be alone in a courtship of Lecavalier.

Pending UFA Stephen Weiss is another potential option for the second-line center job in Detroit, but there will be lots of competition for his services as well.

The Wings are not approaching their buying season with any kind of desperation. They feel they’re in good shape. They’ve got youth coming up, their AHL team just won the Calder Cup, and they’re not going to go out of their way to overspend in free agency for the sake of it.

And if they can’t find a center in free agency or via trade, they can always put Henrik Zetterberg in the No. 2 slot, separating him from Pavel Datsyuk.

This is all pending the expectation that Valtteri Filppula is headed to market. The pending UFA forward is not close to a new deal with Detroit, and while the Wings and his agent were slated to speak again this weekend, odds of a new deal don’t seem great.

And that is why guys like Lecavalier and Weiss could be options in free agency.

Keep an eye on former Detroit assistant GM Jim Nill, by the way. I hear the new Dallas Stars GM also would like to add a veteran forward, and Lecavalier and Weiss are on his radar. He could be competing with his old pal Ken Holland for some of the same players.

The Stars have the long view of wanting to key on drafting and development, but in the short term they also want to shore up the roster with a few more veterans in order to contend for the playoffs next season. They already began that process by trading for and signing defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

Elsewhere


• In the wake of my report Thursday night that the Kris Letang camp had rejected a $56 million, eight-year offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins, both sides were mostly quiet Friday.

Penguins GM Ray Shero declined to comment on the situation when reached by ESPN.com Friday. His quiet demeanor leads you to believe that perhaps he has begun to look at the trade market on Letang. Mind you, it’s also expected that Shero and Hughes, who is also Letang’s agent, would speak this weekend at some point to see where they can take this after so far failing to find the right number for an extension.

“Our goal remains to see if there’s a deal that can be worked out,” Hughes told ESPN.com Friday afternoon.

• I’m not surprised the New York Rangers decided to not buy out Brad Richards. With a new coach in place, it behooves the Blueshirts to see if Alain Vigneault can get Richards back on track. (Vigneault and Richards met for a 90-minute chat recently.) Richards has been working out with Martin St. Louis in Connecticut lately, and in speaking to him the other day, Richards sounded like a man hell bent on proving to people he’s still an elite player.

This was the right call by the Rangers. Besides, if Richards doesn’t bounce back, the Rangers can use their last compliance buyout on him next summer.

• Hearing that goalie Jonas Hiller could be available for the right price. He’s got one more year on his contract at $4.5 million, so this is the time to move him for maximum value. From talking to sources around the league, the sense is that the Anaheim Ducks are not really shopping Hiller, but given their depth in goal -- 19-year-old John Gibson is a highly rated prospect, plus Viktor Fasth proved himself this past season -- a good offer on Hiller would probably make the team think, at the very least.

• The Ottawa Senators got great news Friday with captain Daniel Alfredsson informing them he’d be returning for another season. And they got the news in a timely fashion, before the offseason really got going.

“He brings to the table not only talent, but the intangibles are just as important for the most part: leadership, character, the willingness to work with young players,” veteran Sens GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com Friday afternoon. “It’s nice to hear that he wants to play. Now it’s just a matter of getting a contract done with him.”

Well, there is that. Alfredsson will be UFA July 5. His agent, J.P. Barry of CAA Sports, was slated to speak with Murray later Friday to get the ball rolling in talks.

It’s funny. Most people view this as a formality given that Alfredsson has never played anywhere else. Thing is, even at his age, Alfredsson was third in team scoring this past season with 26 points (10-16) in 47 games, albeit on an injury-ravaged team. He’s not going to sign for peanuts, is what I’m saying.

• The Senators, by the way, would like to move up in the draft from their current 17th overall spot. Murray has made a few calls to see if there’s any possibility of ending up in the 5-10 range.

• The Carolina Hurricanes are taking calls on the No. 5 overall pick and are willing to move down for the right price. The Canes are on the lookout for a top-four blueliner this offseason.

• Bill Zito, agent for star goalie Tuukka Rask, expects to meet with Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli on Saturday here during draft weekend. Rask, of course, is an RFA July 5 and is going to rake it in.

• Perhaps a hint of what’s to come for Thomas Vanek? The Buffalo Sabres have yet to approach his camp with any word of a contract extension. With one year left on his deal, either you sign the player this summer or trade him. Makes no sense to let him enter next season on an expiring deal and have the asset diminish in value.

And I leave you with some food for thought:

One thing to look for over the next week, according to one NHL player agent: If talks break down between pending UFAs and their respective teams, the possibility exists of a sign-and-trade to take advantage of the CBA rule that allows teams to sign their free agents to eight-year deals, whereas players can get only seven years on the open market.

Both the player and team would have a potential gain. The former team could get more value in a trade if the player is signed, and the player gets an extra year in term with his new team.

Watch: Ducks' Hiller satisfied with Game 1 win

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
8:44
PM ET
Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller talks with ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance about the Ducks' 3-1 win over the Red Wings.

Morning jam: Steen scores a rare shortie

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
1:09
PM ET
Blues 2, Kings 1 F/OT (Blues lead 1-0)
* Alexander Steen (STL): 4th player since 1990 with postseason short-handed goal in OT (Source: Elias Sports Bureau)
* Alexander Steen (STL): 2nd career OT goal (1st in postseason)
* Alexander Steen (STL): scored both goals in game (didn't have a multi-goal game this season)
* STL: snap 8-game losing streak vs LA dating back to last season (reg. season and postseason)
* Justin Williams (LA): scored game-tying goal with 32 seconds left in game
* LA: was 4-0 in OT in last year's postseason
* LA: 1st defending champ to lose 1st postseason game in OT since Red Wings on April 10, 2003
FROM ELIAS:
Shorthanded Goals In Overtime
Stanley Cup Playoffs Since 1990
Team
Tue. Alexander Steen Blues
2006 Fernando Pisani Oilers
2006 Jason Pominville Sabres
1990 Tony Granato Kings

Ducks 3, Red Wings 1 (Ducks lead series 1-0)
* Teemu Selanne (ANA): 42nd career playoff goal (7th among active players); 11th career GW playoff goal (T-6th most among active players)
* Ducks: 2-4 on power play (led Western Conference in power-play pct during regular season)
* Jonas Hiller (ANA): 21 saves on 22 shots (fewest shots faced, fewest saves in a playoff game in his career)
* Red Wings: lost playoff opener for 2nd straight year (lost in 5 games in 1st round last year)
FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: Teemu Selanne broke a 1-1 tie with a power play goal early in the third period and the Ducks went on to take a 3-1 victory over the Red Wings in Game One. The 42-year-old Selanne became the second-oldest player ever to score a game-winning goal in the NHL playoffs; Mark Recchi was 43 when he was credited with the game-winning goal in the Bruins’ 8-1 victory over the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago. (Recchi scored early in the second period of that game, making the score 2-0, and was credited with the game-winning goal in a game in which Boston had a 5-0 lead at the time that Vancouver scored in the third period.)

Blackhawks 2, Wild 1 (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)
* Bryan Bickell (CHI): game-winning goal in OT (2nd career OT goal in postseason, has 0 career in regular season)
* Marian Hossa (CHI): 37th career playoff goal (tied for 100th most all-time with Wendel Clark, Simon Gagne and Larry Murphy)
* Blackhawks: 1st series lead since winning Stanley Cup in 2010
* Cal Clutterbuck (MIN): 1st career playoff goal
FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: The Blackhawks defeated the Wild, 2-1, in their playoff opener, when Bryan Bickell scored 16:35 into overtime. Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville was behind the bench in a Stanley Cup game for the 140th time in his career, while Minnesota’s Mike Yeo was coaching in his first NHL postseason game. The 139-game difference in playoff experience between the two head coaches is the largest in an NHL postseason series since the 2002 Stanley Cup Final, when Detroit’s Scotty Bowman (348 games of playoff experience entering the series) faced Carolina’s Paul Maurice (30 games); Bowman and the Red Wings won that series in five games.

ANAHEIM -- Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau remained coy on his starting goalie before Game 1 against the Red Wings.

“It’s a toss-up between them,” he said Tuesday morning.

But Jonas Hiller was the first goalie off the ice at the Ducks morning skate, an indication he’s the starter. After practice, he confirmed that he’s been told he’s the starting goalie Tuesday night.

“I’m excited about it and definitely looking forward to tonight,” Hiller said. “I was hoping having the experience, going through playoffs and having played over here a little longer would work out in [my] favor.”

Hiller played 13 games for the Ducks in the 2009 playoffs and led the postseason with a .943 save percentage, including two shutouts. Viktor Fasth had the better regular season statistically, sharing time with Hiller and finishing the regular season an impressive 15-6-2 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in his first NHL season.

But Boudreau conceded that playoff experience plays a factor in a decision like this. Hiller will have a capable backup ready to seize ice time if he struggles, which doesn’t change a thing from the regular season.

“Every time I played, I tried to play as good as possible,” Hiller said. “Viktor made it tough to play better than him.”

DeKeyser ready for postseason debut


Mike Babcock continued to praise the play of rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who was playing college hockey at Western Michigan earlier this season before signing with the Red Wings in late March.

He’ll make his postseason debut against the Ducks and has given every indication that’s he’s ready for it.

“I watched him a ton obviously over two years, was very excited when we got him, but I had no idea he could do this,” Babcock said. “I don’t consider him a college kid. He looks like a Red Wing to me.”

DeKeyser said a couple of his teammates prepped him on what to expect in the postseason -- faster pace, more physical play, every detail analyzed. Others might be surprised by his success, but he said his expectations were high when he signed, and they included the expectation that he would be a contributor in the postseason.

“I try to set high goals for myself. I wasn’t going to be happy coming in and playing one or two games,” he told ESPN The Magazine. “I wanted to exceed that, come in here and have as big an impact as I could.”

Morning jam: Ducks hit 20 wins faster

March, 15, 2013
3/15/13
10:24
AM ET
Ducks 2, Stars 1 (SO)
* Jonas Hiller (ANA): 1st win vs Stars last 2 seasons (0-6-0 entering Thursday)
* Ducks: won 5 straight games (allowed just 4 total goals)
* Ducks: 6-1-2 in last 9 ROAD games
* Stars: lost 3 straight games
FROM ELIAS: The Ducks improved their record to 20–3–3 in 26 games this season with a 2–1 shootout win at Dallas on Thursday. It took the Ducks exactly twice as many games (52) to notch their 20th win last season (20–24–8).

Blues 3, Coyotes 0
* Blues: 3-1-0 past 4 at home, allowing 8G
* Chris Stewart (Blues): 3G, 4A vs PHX this season
* Jake Allen (Blues): 24 saves, 1st career shutout
* Coyotes: 1-4-1 past 6 on road, 2/23 on PP
FROM ELIAS: Jake Allen is only the second goaltender born in New Brunswick ever to record a shutout in an NHL game. Roland Melanson, who had six shutouts in his 11-season career, was the first.

Jets 3, Rangers 1
* Jets: 2-0 vs Rangers this season; 4-0-1 in last 5 games overall
* Rangers: lost 3 of last 4 games
* Antti Miettinen (Jets): 1st goal since March 31, 2012
* Ondrej Pavelec (Jets): 28 saves; won 2 straight games

Wild 5, Avalanche 3
* Mikko Koivu (MIN): 2 goals (1st multi-goal game since Nov. 2011)
* Ryan Suter (MIN): ties career high with 3 assists
* Matt Cullen (MIN): 2 assists (3-game assist streak)
* Wild: 6-1-1 in last 8 HOME games
* Avalanche: 0-5-3 in last 8 ROAD games

Penguins 3, Maple Leafs 1
* Penguins: won 7 straight games (longest active streak in NHL)
* Pascal Dupuis (Penguins): 2 goals in 3rd (13); 6 goals in last 5 games
* Sidney Crosby: 2 Assists; 16 points during 7-game winning streak
* Maple Leafs: season-high 4-game losing streak
FROM ELIAS: The Penguins are the first team in NHL history to win consecutive regular-season games in regulation time after trailing while being shut out entering the third period in each game.

Islanders 2, Lightning 0
* Islanders: 4-1-2 past 7 games, 13/21 on PK
* Islanders: 3-1-0 past 4 road games
* Evgeni Nabokov (Islanders): 18 saves, 2nd shutout of the season; 54 career shutouts
* Lightning: 2-8-0 past 10 games, scoring 3 or fewer goals in 9 of the games

Blackhawks 2, Blue Jackets 1 (SO)
* Blackhawks: 4-0-0 vs CBJ this season; won 11 straight vs Blue Jackets, longest current winning streak for any NHL team against a specific opponent
* Blackhawks: won 7 of last 8 road games
* Blue Jackets: 9-game point streak

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 2
* Alex Ovechkin (Capitals): 10th goal this season (700th career point; 3rd fewest games to reach 700th career point among active players)
* Capitals: snap 3-game losing streak
* Capitals: 6-2-0 this season when Ovechkin scores a goal
* Hurricanes: 1st regulation loss when scoring first this season

Fewest Games to Reach 700th Career Point, Active NHL Players
G
1999-00 Teemu Selanne 541
1997-98 Jaromir Jagr 557
2012-13 Alex Ovechkin 579
>>Source: Elias Sports Bureau

Bruins 4, Panthers 1
* Bruins: won 3 straight and 5 of last 6 at home
* Patrice Bergeron (Bruins): 2 Goals (8); 1st multi-goal game since Feb. 25, 2012 at Senators
* Claude Julien (Bruins): 246th win as Bruins head coach (passes Milt Schmidt for 2nd most in franchise history)
* Panthers: lost 5 straight and 8 of last 9 (1-6-2)

Canucks 7, Predators 4
* Canucks: end 5-game streak scoring 2 or fewer goals
* Henrik Sedin (VAN): Goal (7), assist; 11 Pts (5 G) in last 9 games
* Roberto Luongo (VAN): 4 goals allowed on 33 SOG; most goals allowed in win since Oct. 29, 2011 vs Capitals
* Predators: 1-6-1 in last 8 road games

Sharks 4, Kings 3
* Sharks: won 5 straight at home vs Kings
* Logan Couture (Sharks): 2 goals, 1 assist; 5th career 3-point game
* Dustin Brown (Kings): 2 goals; has 5 goals in last 3 games

The Anaheim Ducks have been able to do no wrong this season, a 19-3-3 record worthy of more national attention had it not been for Chicago’s historic start.

Now, though, we’ll find out more about these surprising and impressive Ducks.

Goalie Viktor Fasth, injured during a morning skate Tuesday, is out with an upper-body injury and it’s not clear for how long.

He has been a big part of Anaheim’s start.

The Ducks also will have to live without star winger Corey Perry for a bit as well.

The big news from Tuesday night’s 2-1 win in Minnesota was the ejection from the game of the former Hart Trophy winner after his five-minute major for interference on Wild winger Jason Zucker.

I love the way Perry plays: he combines all-world offensive talent with a nasty edge, plays the game hard and doesn’t take shortcuts.

But that hit on Zucker had some red flags when it comes to the NHL’s desire to curb head hits: the principal point of contact was the head, and to me the hit was late.

Perry has a phone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Wednesday afternoon, which suggests he can’t get any more than five games as per CBA rules.

Perry explained his viewpoint on the hit with Ducks beat writer Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register in this postgame video.

The key point I thought Perry tried to make is that he didn’t change his trajectory looking for that hit and that’s certainly something Shanahan looks for.

But to me, anyway, it’s a hit that’s worth three or four games.

Perry’s only other NHL suspension was in January 2009, when Colin Campbell gave him four games for an elbow to the head of Flyers star Claude Giroux.

All of this comes at a time when there’s tremendous pressure on Perry off the ice to make a decision on his future. After the Ducks signed linemate Ryan Getzlaf to an eight-year, $66 million extension Friday, the spotlight fell solely and squarely on Perry now to see if he’ll sign over the next few weeks with the Ducks or decide he wants to go to market this summer. All of which will put Anaheim in a tough, tough position in terms of whether it trades him before April 3 or deals with his situation after the season.

A GM from another team suggested to me recently that perhaps the Ducks should keep Perry, even if he doesn’t sign before April 3 and then try to do a sign-and-trade in the offseason in order to recoup value from the asset.

The lure for Perry and his agents at Newport, the GM said, is that under terms of the new CBA, you can get eight years maximum on a deal with your own team but only seven years if you leave to sign elsewhere; hence the appeal of the sign-and-trade. The idea being that the Ducks would allow Newport to talk to any team it wants, in effect advancing its own free agency.

Food for thought.

For now, though, this is the first real bit of adversity this season for a Ducks team that probably will have to play the next week without both Perry and Fasth.

At least it appears Jonas Hiller has found his game. Anaheim’s No. 1 netminder from the past few years, who saw Fasth challenge him for the top job this season, was outstanding Tuesday night in stopping 30 shots in Minnesota. He’s now 6-0-1 in his past seven starts with a .931 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average.

So, the silver lining here appears to be that Hiller is ready to assume No. 1 duties again.
From the official NHL release:

HILLER, WHEELER AND SPEZZA NAMED NHL 'THREE STARS' OF THE WEEK


NEW YORK (February 20, 2012) – Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler and Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza have been named the NHL's 'Three Stars' for the week ending Feb. 19.


FIRST STAR – JONAS HILLER, G, ANAHEIM DUCKS


Hiller posted a 3-0-1 record, 0.98 goals-against average, .961 save percentage and one shutout as the Ducks continued their playoff push by earning seven of eight points on the road. Hiller began the week making 17 saves in a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild Feb. 14 and stopping 25 shots the following night in a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. He recorded 25 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils Feb. 17 and recorded his 14th career NHL shutout as Anaheim defeated the Florida Panthers 2-0, Feb. 19. Hiller improved his season record to 22-19-10 with a
2.62 goals-against average, .910 save percentage and three shutouts in 53 appearances. Having trailed the #8 seed in the Western Conference by 20 points on Jan. 6, the Ducks enter the final stage of their eight-game road trip within five points of the West's final playoff position.


SECOND STAR – BLAKE WHEELER, RW, WINNIPEG JETS


Wheeler tallied a League-leading eight points (one goal, seven
assists) as the Jets won three of four games and pulled even in points with the #8-seed Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.
Wheeler recorded one assist in a 4-3 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild Feb. 16, notched one goal and two assists in a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins Feb. 17 and recorded four assists in a 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche Feb. 19. Playing in his fourth NHL season, the 25-year-old native of Robbinsdale, Minn., leads the Jets in scoring with 46 points (11 goals,
35 assists), surpassing his single-season career highs in assists and points.


THIRD STAR –JASON SPEZZA, C, OTTAWA SENATORS


Spezza recorded seven points (three goals, four assists) as the Senators swept a pair of games in the state of Florida and climbed to seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. Spezza tallied three goals and one assist in a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Feb. 14 and notched three assists the following night in a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers. The nine-year NHL veteran has appeared in each of Ottawa's 60 games this season, ranking sixth in the League in scoring with 63 points
(25 goals, 38 assists).

Craig Custance of ESPN The Magazine and Insider and ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, fresh off a snowy weekend in Ottawa, are back and ready to handle the hot topics. Here we go!

CUSTANCE: Hello, Pierre! What a weekend, eh? Great time at the All-Star Game in Ottawa, where the city and its fans put on a heck of a show. Lots of passion for hockey in that city led to great moments, including multiple standing ovations for Daniel Alfredsson. Busy weekend, too, with off-ice news surrounding Tim Thomas, Ryan Suter and Sidney Crosby. But thankfully, we're playing hockey real games again Tuesday night. Thirteen games in all on tap, and there are plenty of big ones to look at.

I wrote about it in my Insider blog, but Tuesday night's schedule kicks off some important games for franchises that aren't clearly identified as buyers or sellers before the trade deadline. The Lightning host the Capitals and entered the break on a four-game win streak. They must keep winning if they want to stay in the playoff hunt.

"We're not in the position we want to be in, we're out of the playoffs looking in," Lightning star Steven Stamkos said when we chatted over the weekend. "We don't want our team broken up because of where we are in the standings."

The Capitals have been awful on the road this season and are still without key players Alex Ovechkin (suspension), Mike Green (injured groin) and Nicklas Backstrom (concussion), making this a very winnable must-win game for Tampa. You think it's too late for the Lightning to make a run?

LEBRUN: Yes, I do believe it’s too little, too late for the Bolts. Not only are they nine points out, but they’ve also got four teams to climb over to sit in the eighth spot. Three-point games in this league just make the math incredibly difficult for teams to make up that gap in the final two and a half months. You saw massive second-half runs by New Jersey, Toronto and Calgary last season, but they all fell short. According to Sportsclubstats.com, Tampa has a 5.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. So at some point, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will have to begin selling. One player who could be of real use to a playoff-bound club is center Dominic Moore, whose two-way play is a welcome addition. He was effective for Montreal in the spring of 2010 and for Tampa in last year’s playoffs. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent July 1 and would be a good rental pickup.

CUSTANCE: Agreed. He's the ultimate rental pickup for a contender. You don't have to give up the farm, but he can win you games in the postseason.

"Those are the type of players who help you win in the playoffs," Stamkos said. "He has the experience, he's been deep in the playoffs before."

Moore had four goals during Montreal's run to the conference finals in 2010 and came up even bigger for Tampa last season, registering 11 points in 18 playoff games for the Lightning. Tampa's third line of Moore, Sean Bergenheim and Steve Downie was a big reason the Lightning got out of the first round against the Penguins, with Moore setting up Bergenheim twice with no-look passes. It was fun to watch, but I agree, chances are we won't see a repeat performance out of the Lightning.

The Ducks are another streaking team that still hopes to have a chance of staying in the playoff race. The Ducks' odds are even higher playing in the West, and they travel to Phoenix for a big game Tuesday against the Coyotes, who are one of a large group of teams fighting for that No. 8 spot. What the Ducks have that the Lightning don't is goaltending. Jonas Hiller seems to have found his game, and January has been his best month of the season. In January, he is 6-2-1 with a .942 save percentage. As you know, Bruce Boudreau has guided a team on an unlikely run to make the playoffs before.

LEBRUN: I feel for Ducks GM Bob Murray. Where was this level of play two months ago when the season was still salvageable? I just can’t see the Ducks bridging that gap. All this run is doing is ruining Anaheim’s draft pick for June. Unless Anaheim somehow gets back into the race, the Ducks will be sellers come the trade deadline. One name to keep an eye on is veteran blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky. He’s got another year left on his deal past this season at a $5.6 million cap hit -- maybe too rich for most teams -- however, his actual salary next season drops to $3 million. He remains an effective power-play quarterback. Another player possibly on the move from the Ducks is veteran winger Jason Blake, who is slated for unrestricted free agency July 1. He’s had a resurgence of late and could be a good spark-plug addition for a playoff-bound team.

CUSTANCE: If it makes Ducks fans feel better, they're still 28th in the league, so the Fail for Nail [Yakupov] campaign isn't quite dead yet. Problem is, there's too much pride and talent on that team compared to some of the others at the bottom of the standings.

A couple of other things to watch Tuesday: A huge test for the Senators, who entered the break on a three-game losing streak. They were one of the biggest surprises of the first half of the season, and here comes a big test for them in the second. They travel to Boston to take on the Bruins, who have dominated the Senators lately, winning six consecutive against Ottawa.

I also have to mention Detroit visit to Calgary on Tuesday night, because the Flames plan to honor the late Brad McCrimmon, who had a huge impact on both franchises. During warm-ups, Calgary will wear jerseys with McCrimmon's name and number on the back. Players will wear a logo honoring McCrimmon on their helmets as well. Should be a special night for a special person.

LEBRUN: Kudos to the Flames organization for doing that. That’s a beautiful gesture. Of course, once the puck drops, this is a big game for the Flames, who begin the stretch run three points out of a playoff spot in a race with Minnesota, Colorado, Dallas and Phoenix all vying for that eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. The Flames have played the most road games (28) of any team in the West, so a friendlier schedule over the final two and a half months should help their chances.

Enjoy the action tonight, Craig.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If the Honda Center was made entirely of wood, one figures Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle and GM Bob Murray might spend their entire time these days knocking on every inch of the building.

Ducks
ESPN.com Illustration

And holding their breath, too.

For if there's an overriding factor that will help shape the success of their NHL season, and one that's completely out of their control, it's the health of No. 1 goalie Jonas Hiller.

"Arguably, before he got injured last year, he was an MVP candidate because he carried our team through November and December," Murray told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "If he's healthy, I think that puts us in the running for a playoff spot. And all indications right now is that he's fine. He's not in the trainer's room. He's going about his business."

The Swiss netminder was going about his business last season, turning in a brilliant first half that saw him selected as the only goalie from the Western Conference to make the All-Star Game. His name was routinely on most people's Vezina lists. Then, out of nowhere, vertigo-like symptoms annihilated his second half, limiting him to three appearances.

"It was a tough stretch at the end of last year," Hiller told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Just mentally ... nobody could really tell you what caused the whole thing or how long it would take. It was really a tough second half last season. I'm glad to be feeling better and being able to play again."

The concern, of course, for Hiller and the Ducks is, since no one quite knows how he got the condition to begin with, it might return. But so far so good at camp, and there have been no symptoms since June.

"Hopefully it was a one-time thing," Hiller said. "But I can't worry about it. I'm just happy I feel better. I feel good on the ice."

Hiller is going through his normal routine so far at camp, although the Ducks are keeping a closer eye on him than usual. It's a concern the Ducks can't ignore. Carlyle couldn't help but think about it all summer.

[+] EnlargeJonas Hiller
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty ImagesJonas Hiller says he has not had any vertigo-like symptoms since June.

"In reality, you can't do anything other than worry," Carlyle said Tuesday. "You worry about it and then you try to deal with the 'if.' There's Plan A and Plan B. Obviously when a player missed the amount of time he missed ... we talked about monitoring the situation more in depth, and that's what is taking place right now. It'll all be about what the player has to say. If he says he's 100 percent ready, when it's time to go, he'll play."

And five days in, camp has gone as planned.

"Yeah, I've been skating normally with the team," Hiller said. "It hasn't been an issue. I also skated before camp at home [in Switzerland] for quite a while, which gave me confidence, allowed me to feel the puck again and get the timing right."

Hiller first returned to the ice at Francois Allaire's Swiss goalie camp in mid-July. That was a big test.

"That was pretty good for me because I already felt better than I did when I left Anaheim after the season," Hiller said. "That gave me confidence. And from the second week of August, I skated with the team in Bern, and that was good. Every day that went by, I started feeling better and feeling right again."

The real test, of course, still awaits.

"Those first preseason games will be a test," said Hiller, who wasn't in the lineup for Tuesday night's preseason opener at the Honda Center.

The expectation is he might make his preseason debut sometime this weekend when the Ducks have three games in three days.

"Games are different than practice," Hiller said. "I have to figure out how that's going to go, but I'm confident, I feel good on the ice and in practice, and hopefully the same will be the case in the games."

Only the Ducks' season is riding on it.

Three weeks from now the doors will open on NHL training camps with physicals and the first on-ice sessions. Will some of the game's biggest stars and emerging young players be ready to go? Here's a look at some names that may or may not be ready to begin that journey.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Every day there seems to be a new rumor about Crosby's status for training camp, his ability to be ready for the season opener on Oct. 6 or whether he should retire completely. Bottom line for all the speculators and diviners of the truth is that no one knows where Crosby will be in three weeks or beyond. General manager Ray Shero told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson Thursday Crosby is waiting for results from concussion specialists he saw in Georgia and Michigan, and they will make a plan moving forward. Shero did say Crosby has been on the ice this week in Nova Scotia and continues to work out. Crosby is expected to be in Pittsburgh when camp starts, Shero told the paper, but who knows if he will be on the ice. The only thing that is certain is that no one who's writing or speculating about Crosby has any real idea about the star center's future regardless of how definitive reports may have sounded.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago star's surgically repaired wrist may not be healing at exactly the rate that the team had hoped, as Kane told a Toronto radio station recently he wasn't sure about being ready for the start of camp. Kane did say he was optimistic he'd be ready when the season starts. The Blackhawks will be looking to avoid the tepid start to last season that saw them scrambling to make the playoffs on the final day of the regular season then bowing out to top seed Vancouver in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Having a healthy Kane, who was second on the Hawks with 27 goals and 73 points this past season, will be crucial to getting the Hawks back to contender status.

Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers

The man who most folks expect to be named the captain of the Flyers is still recovering from offseason back surgery and a wrist injury that limited his effectiveness during the playoffs last spring. Pronger told reporters earlier in August that he was behind schedule in his rehab from both the back and hand injuries and wasn't sure about his availability for training camp. But GM Paul Holmgren, speaking to reporters Thursday after introducing new netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, remained confident that Pronger would be ready when the Flyers open the season against the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Oct. 6, even if he isn't ready for the start of camp.

[+] EnlargeDrew Doughty
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireDrew Doughty and his representatives haven't talked to the Kings in almost a month.

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

No, the former Norris Trophy nominee isn't injured, but his availability for the start of the Kings' training camp remains uncertain, thanks to a stalemate in contract talks. Doughty and his representatives haven't talked to the Kings in almost a month and the blue-chip defenseman will not attend camp until a contract is signed, agent Don Meehan told ESPN.com.

Ryan Whitney, Edmonton Oilers

Much of the offseason discussion about the Oilers has focused on winger Taylor Hall and his recovery from an ankle injury that cut short his rookie season. Hall appears to be fine and ready to roll. But the bigger issue for an Oilers team hoping to make a surprise jump into the Western Conference playoff fray is the rehabilitation of Ryan Whitney from an ankle injury that derailed a breakout year for the big defenseman. Whitney had 27 points in 35 games for the Oilers at the time of his injury, and head coach Tom Renney told ESPN.com this week Whitney is their best blueliner and emerging into an important leader for the young Oilers. Whitney said in an interview that he had a minor setback in his recovery a couple of weeks ago but has no doubt he can return to the level of play he delivered a year ago.

"I know I can be the type of player I was in the first half of last year," Whitney said.

Matt Taormina, New Jersey Devils

Lots of turnover in New Jersey, where new coach Pete DeBoer will be evaluating a handful of young defenders to make the Devils' opening-night roster. Among those candidates will be Taormina, who made the Devils out of camp a year ago but was lost to two non-displaced fractures to his ankle in mid-November. The former Providence College player whose puck-moving skills will be important to a rebuilding Devils team underwent surgery in January but took part in the team's prospect camp in July and should be ready to go when the Devils open camp.

Peter Mueller, Colorado Avalanche

Most observers give the Avs little chance of making the playoffs this season, but if they're going to surprise, it'll likely be with the help of a healthy Peter Mueller. Acquired from Phoenix at the 2010 trade deadline, Mueller made an immediate impact with 20 points in 15 games before missing the rest of the season with a concussion. He then missed all of the 2010-11 season after suffering another concussion in the team's first exhibition game. He told Adrian Dater of the Denver Post he's excited to put the concussion issues behind him. Mueller is expected to take team physicals on Sept. 16 and hit the ice the following day.

David Perron, St. Louis Blues

Speaking of the specter of concussions that continues to hover over the NHL, the Blues announced earlier this month that David Perron, who missed the rest of the season after being clipped by San Jose's Joe Thornton in early November, will not be ready for the start of training camp. Further, GM Doug Armstrong told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they were not counting on Perron for the start of the regular season, even though he was making some progress in his rehabilitation. Armstrong confirmed by email Friday that there has been no change to those plans.

Matthew Lombardi, Toronto Maple Leafs

The skilled center played in just two games for the Nashville Predators last season, and the risk that concussion issues would persist were enough for the dollar-conscious Preds to move Lombardi and his $3.5 million price tag for the next two seasons to the Leafs. GM Brian Burke told ESPN.com Friday it's too early to tell whether Lombardi will be ready for camp, although he said clearance to take part in camp workouts is a "distinct possibility." Likewise, the potential for Lombardi to join the Leafs for the start of the season is a distinct possibility, Burke wrote in an email.

Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks' netminder was enjoying a breakout year before suffering vertigo after All-Star weekend last January. He told reporters recently that those symptoms have disappeared and he is expecting to be ready to go for the Ducks' training camp. His progress will be key to helping the Ducks return to the playoffs. Hiller won 26 games for the Ducks and boasted an impressive .924 save percentage in spite of the fact he appeared in just three games after the All-Star break.

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