Chara, Karlsson and Weber are your Norris Trophy finalists

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A former winner, a former finalist and a first-time nominee comprise this year’s Norris Trophy candidate list.

Today, the NHL announced that Boston’s Zdeno Chara, Nashville’s Shea Weber and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson have been nominated for the James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the defensive player who demonstrates “the greatest all-round ability in the position.”

Onto the finalists…

Chara

The 35-year-old Slovak won his first and only Norris back in 2009, becoming just the third blueliner not named Nicklas Lidstrom to win the award since 2001 (the others were Scott Niedermayer and Duncan Keith.)

Chara put together another stellar campaign this year, finishing fourth among all defensemen in scoring (12G-40A-52PTS) while finishing plus-33, the third-best rating in the league. He averaged 25 minutes per game and was the anchor of a Boston penalty kill that finished 11th in the NHL (83.5 percent).

Weber

This is the second straight year Weber’s been named a Norris Trophy finalist — last year, he narrowly lost to Lidstrom (727 voting points to Lidstrom’s 736) but also broke new ground by finishing 25th in Hart Trophy voting.

This season, he’s been equally good. Weber tied for the NHL lead in defensemen goals (19) and was the only blueliner in the league to hit double digits in power play goals, with 10. He also posted a career-best plus-21 rating and averaged over 26 minutes of ice time — the fifth-most in the NHL.

Karlsson

This is the first Norris nomination for the 21-year-old Swede. Karlsson’s scoring exploits took the NHL by storm this year as his 78 points finished 11th among all scorers — he finished the year with more points than the likes of Marian Hossa, Joe Thornton, Marian Gaborik, Martin St. Louis and Jarome Iginla.

His scoring exploits also put their mark in history. His 78 points were the second-highest total by a defenseman since the lockout — Nicklas Lidstrom had 80 in 2005-06 — and Karlsson also set Ottawa franchise records for goals, assists and points in a season by a defenseman.

PHT Related

Poll: Who will win the 2012 Norris Trophy?

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.