Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist eager to get started, expecting big things with Brad Richards this year

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With training camp approaching and everyone’s hopes around the NHL being high, it’s no surprise that one of those places where the expectations have grown is New York City. The Rangers were able to get two of their established young stars in Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky locked into deals to keep them around for a few more years.

Oh yeah, they signed the biggest free agent star on the market in Brad Richards. With Richards on board now to give Marian Gaborik someone to feed him pucks so he can try to score 40+ goals once again, things are exciting once again for the Rangers heading into this season and the one guy who’s most excited is Henrik Lundqvist.

Lundqvist spoke with Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record about his thoughts going into this season, one built on a disappointing performance in the first round of the playoffs last year and Lundqvist is excited to start.

“Last year, we were a pretty solid team,” said Lundqvist, who will be among the Rangers touring several New York City Fire Department houses today and greeting family members affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at a reception at the World Trade Center site. “Now, with Brad, we have a little more edge to the team, there’s more skill here in the lineup.”

As for the expectations on the team, Lundqvist welcomes the added pressure.

They do so knowing a repeat of last season’s first-round playoff ouster will now be considered a bitter disappointment, not a building season.

“We should have higher expectations than last year,” Lundqvist said. “I think we’re a better team now than last year.”

The pressure is always high to succeed in New York and Lundqvist has always been the guy to do his job and carry the Rangers as far as they could go. Now he’s got a pair of All-Star caliber offensive stars and a lot of solid younger players dotting the lineup with a host of role playing forwards and a defensive unit that’s strong, the Rangers will be a tough team to deal with. It won’t be easy though. The Rangers division, the Atlantic, is shaping up to be the toughest in the NHL.

With Pittsburgh already there and Philadelphia always being a tough team, the Devils and Islanders figure to be stronger as well and also challenge for the playoffs. The Rangers will face all of those teams the most this year and all of those points are going to be hard earned. Lundqvist and the rest of the team are going to have to be at their best to be able to make the postseason. At the very least with Lundqvist in goal, the Rangers are already at an advantage against most teams. Having an all-world caliber goalie is a nice luxury to have.

Modano, Ciccarelli, Roenick and Savard highlight Minnesota-Chicago alumni rosters

Mike Modano
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There’ll be no shortage of star power on display on Feb. 20, when alumni from the Wild, Blackhawks and North Stars do battle at TCF Bank Stadium.

On Tuesday, the NHL unveiled the rosters for the Stadium Series outdoor game — one day prior to the tilt between Chicago and Minnesota, a slew of ex-NHLers will compete for bragging rights, including Mike Modano, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick and Denis Savard, to name a few.

The full rosters:

North Stars/Wild

Fred Barrett, Don Beaupre, Brian Bellows, Brad Bombardir, Neal Broten, Andrew Brunette, Jack Carlson, Jon Casey, Dino Ciccarelli, Curt Giles, Craig Hartsburg, Darby Hendrickson, Antti Laaksonen, Reed Larson, Dennis Maruk, Brad Maxwell, Giles Meloche, Mike Modano, Richard Park, Steve Payne, Willi Plett, Gordie Roberts, Brian Rolston, Bobby Smith, Wes Walz, Tom Younghans.


Adrian Aucoin, Murray Bannerman, Chris Chelios, Dave Christian, Denis Cyr, Eric Daze, Reggie Kerr, Steve Konroyd, Jerry Korab, Cliff Koroll, Dave Mackey, Peter Marsh, Jamal Mayers, Grant Mulvey, Troy Murray, Brian Noonan, Jack O’Callahan, Jeremy Roenick, Phil Russell, Denis Savard, Reid Simpson, Brent Sopel, Jimmy Waite.

The North Stars/Wild will be coached by Lou Nanne, Mike Ramsey and Tom Reid. Tony Esposito and Pat Foley will man the Blackhawks bench.

Veteran NHLer Moss signs in Swiss league

David Moss
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Another journeyman has been forced to find work overseas.

David Moss, who had four goals as 12 points in 60 games for Arizona last season, has signed with EHC Biel of Switzerland’s National League A, the club announced on Tuesday.

Moss, 33, is a veteran of over 500 games, split between the Coyotes and Calgary Flames. He nearly landed in Switzerland last season, reportedly agreeing to a deal before utilizing his one-week out clause to catch on in Arizona.

After playing out his one-year, $800K deal, Moss failed to land a contract in free agency and eventually signed a PTO with Milwaukee, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators.


Chara isn’t satisfied with Bruins’ recent success

Zdeno Chara
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The Boston Bruins didn’t get off to a great start in October or November, but in both instances, they were able to turn things around in the back half of the month.

Right now, everything seems to be going right for Boston, but if you think they’re satisfied with their current five-game winning streak, guess again.

“We did some things well, and we did some things that we need to improve, keep working on and keep getting better,” captain Zdeno Chara told CSN New England. “ It’s nice to win games, and it’s nice to be getting points. But I think we also want to improve our play systems-wise, and be better in certain areas.”

A big reason for their success comes from their improvement on special teams, specifically on the penalty kill.

Boston still has the 27th ranked penalty killing unit in the league, but they’ve killed 15 of their opposition’s last 16 power plays during their recent winning streak.

They’re power play is clicking at a mind-boggling 32.5 percent, which is tops in the NHL this season.

The Bruins will get their first crack at former GM Peter Chiarelli’s new team when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

Does Columbus have a fitness problem?

John Tortorella

Interesting note from the Dispatch this morning regarding Monday’s Blue Jackets practice, in which head coach John Tortorella put his players through some rigorous skating drills.

Especially interesting, given what Scott Hartnell had to say.

“You can tell by the way we practiced today that [Tortorella] wants us in better shape so we’re not fading at the end of games,” he explained.

Fitness, or lack thereof, has been a recurring issue in Columbus this season.

In late October, Tortorella called out All-Star center Ryan Johansen for being out of shape — coincidentally, Johansen was “singled out” for extra skating on Monday — and, in a recent conversation with NHL.com, Torts again brought up the team’s conditioning problems.

“I think it’s a team with a number of different mental and physical bad habits that we’re trying to turn into good habits to where it becomes an instinct, but we’re a ways away,” he explained. “These are mental habits that have nothing to do with X’s and O’s.

“It’s a pretty young team, and quite honestly it’s about what it is to be a pro and doing the little things.”

So, does Columbus have a fitness problem?

It’s hard to say.

Back in October, GM Jarmo Kekalainen told the Dispatch all players passed their training camp conditioning tests and, when asked, said “I don’t think anybody can say we’re out of shape.”

But it stands to reason one of Kekalainen’s objectives in making the coaching change from Todd Richards to Tortorella was to light a fire under the team, and get them back to playing “Blue Jackets hockey” — the hard-working, hustle-filled style with a decided lunch bucket approach.

And in order to play that brand of hockey, the team has to be in shape.