The Will Sports Group

The RIG 28 for January

Jan 2

Andreoff goal vs Oilers

Jan 4

Seguin goal vs Devils

Jan 5

Jan 6

Seguin goal vs Oilers

Jan 7

Jan 9

Preds Ink Matt Irwin to Two-Year Deal
Nashville Predators

Nashville, Tenn. (January 9, 2018) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Tuesday that the club has signed defenseman Matt Irwin to a two-year contract worth $650,000 in 2018-19 and $700,000 in 2019-20.

Irwin, 30 (11/29/87), has played 31 games in his second season with the Predators, tallying two goals and five assists for seven points. He recorded three points (2g-1a) in a six-game span from Nov. 3-14 and has two assists in his last three games. Last season, Irwin played in a career-high 74 games and was third on the Predators in plus-minus at +15. He had three goals and 11 assists for 14 points in the regular season and added two assists in 22 postseason games as Nashville reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

Never drafted, Irwin played two seasons at the University of Massachusetts from 2008-10, posting 42 points (14g-28a) in 67 NCAA games. Prior to jumping to the collegiate ranks, he spent three seasons with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers, being named Coastal Conference Defenseman of the Year and to the league All-Star Game in both 2007 and 2008.

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MURPHY FINDS PERFECT FIT IN IOWA
Tom Witosky
TheAHL.com

When Ryan Murphy learned late last June he had been traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Calgary Flames, he figured a change of scenery would probably be good for him.

After five lackluster seasons of going back and forth from Raleigh, North Carolina, to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes’ top draft choice in 2011 assumed that new surroundings would be helpful in getting him back to playing his kind of hockey.

“Looking back, I think I was a little spoiled when I came into the league, going straight up to Carolina,” the 24-year-old Aurora, Ontario, native said. “I lost the offensive flair that pretty much got me to be drafted so high.”

What Murphy didn’t anticipate was that in very short order, he would be a free agent without a team. The Flames front office, taking less than 24 hours to finalize the trade for Murphy and goalie Eddie Lack, bought out Murphy’s contract.

“It was a crazy day,” Murphy said. “I was traded to Calgary then bought out by Calgary and then I had a few teams that were interested me. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”

But sometimes disappointment turns into opportunity; the Minnesota Wild called the next day, looking for veteran defensive depth for its NHL and AHL teams, to determine if Murphy might be interested in signing a two-way contract.

“It was all out of the blue,” Murphy said. “There were a few teams interested in me; I was even ready to sign with one when we got the call from Minnesota. After I talked with (Minnesota general manager) Chuck Fletcher, it was a no-brainer.”

Derek Lalonde, Iowa’s head coach, agreed. Murphy was one of several key-veteran signings designed to bolster depth for the Minnesota Wild and improve Iowa’s chances to qualify for the AHL playoffs, all while playing in what is widely considered the most competitive division in the league.

Murphy’s signing has helped Iowa begin a push to qualify for the playoffs, but also provided Murphy with a chance to show his skills. During a recent nine-game run with Minnesota following the injury of top-4 defenseman Jared Spurgeon, Murphy scored one goal, had one assist and was a plus-5.

“We saw an opportunity to get a young veteran player with a lot of NHL experience who would help us down here and could help Minnesota if needed,” Lalonde said. “So far, that has worked out well for both teams.”

Lalonde attributed much of Murphy’s success to his willingness to buy in to the Wild’s approach. After a slow start with Iowa, Murphy has 14 points in 24 games and is a mainstay on the Iowa power play and penalty kill – both ranking in the AHL top 10 special team categories.

“He came in here and has become a really important part of the locker room,” Lalonde said. “That isn’t always the case, but with Ryan, it’s been a really good thing for him and us.”

Murphy said his move to the Wild has helped him revitalize his offensive game while developing a better approach to playing on the blue line.

“The knock on me coming up was always high-risk, high-reward,” he said. “I think I’ve narrowed the risk factor in my game. At a certain point, depending on the score and time, I will take a chance much like any player. But I have learned a lot about when it is the appropriate time to take those risks and when not to take them.”

Murphy gave a lot of credit to Iowa associate coach David Cunniff, who works with Iowa’s defensemen. Murphy said Cunniff impressed him because “he is always working on something. He is always giving you pointers or changing stuff up because it is more effective.

“He has told me that he wants me to make plays, but at the same time he wants me to be responsible,” Murphy added. “He has been keeping me in check but he does let me play.”

Murphy said the work with Cunniff made him more confident when he was called up to Minnesota to replace Spurgeon. Gone, he said, was a lot of the indecision that bothered him in the past. Even getting another shot with an NHL team didn’t seem so daunting.

“I was nervous, but I also felt like I had nothing to lose,” Murphy said. “When I was back in Carolina, I would go in too scared to make a mistake. If that happened, I’d be benched or scratched the next game. With the way this team plays, it’s been refreshing for me because the team’s style fits how I play.”

Murphy also attributed his good play to defenseman Jonas Brodin, with whom he was paired. He said Brodin “is easily the best defensive partner I’ve played with.

“He made it so easy for me,” Murphy said. “We didn’t even talk that much on the ice. We just played well off of each other.”

Murphy said his top goals are to improve his skills so he is ready to go back to Minnesota if the time comes. It’s also about helping Iowa get into the playoffs for the first time.

“We are only getting better,” he said. “Obviously, we will have games that won’t go our way. But, when you buy in, you are going to win. This is a good team.”

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Jan 10

Seguin named to 2018 NHL All-Star roster
Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin and defenseman John Klingberg were named to the 2018 NHL All-Star Game today. The 2018 All-Star Game and festivities will take place Jan. 27-28 at AMALIE Arena in Tampa, Fla.

Seguin, 25, has been selected to the NHL All-Star Game for the fifth time in his career (2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). The forward ranks eighth in the NHL with 21 goals (21-19=40) in 2017-18, marking the fifth consecutive season he’s reached the 20-goal plateau. In 43 games this season, he also leads the Stars in points (40) and goals (21), while ranking fourth in assists (19). The native of Brampton, Ont. is tied for fifth in the NHL and ranks first on the Stars with eight power play goals and ranks third in the NHL with 176 shots on goal this season.

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Chabot goal vs Maple Leafs

Jan 11

Jan 12

Jan 13

Un retour aux sources pour Laurent Dauphin
Guillaume Lepage
LNH.com

Laurent Dauphin sait ce qui l’attend.

Impliqué dans la transaction qui a fait passer Anthony Duclair des Coyotes de l’Arizona aux Blackhawks de Chicago, l’attaquant québécois effectue ces jours-ci un retour aux sources au sein de l’organisation qui l’a sélectionné en deuxième ronde (no 39) en 2013.

« Je vis bien ça, a-t-il dit au bout du fil. C’est toujours difficile de se faire échanger, mais je suis en terrain connu et je retrouve de bons amis alors la transition va être facile. »

Dauphin n’aura pas déserté l’Arizona très longtemps. Le directeur général des Coyotes John Chayka avait dû l’envoyer à Chicago au mois de juin dernier pour faire l’acquisition du vétéran défenseur Niklas Hjalmarsson.

Voilà qu’il a trouvé le moyen de le rapatrier cette semaine.

« Avec Laurent Dauphin, nous retrouvons un joueur que nous n’étions pas particulièrement heureux de perdre dans la transaction de Hjalmarsson, a déclaré Chayka à une station de radio de l’Arizona. Nous sommes contents de le retrouver parce que c’est encore un jeune espoir qui n’a toujours pas atteint son plein potentiel. »

Même s’il n’a pas encore eu d’indications claires quant aux plans des Coyotes à son égard, le Repentignois voit d’un bon oeil son retour avec les Roadrunners de Tucson dans la Ligue américaine. Il avait obtenu 17 buts et 11 aides en 38 rencontres là-bas, la saison dernière.

Avec le club-école des Blackhawks à Rockford, il a de son propre aveu eu de la difficulté à s’adapter et a été limité à quatre buts et 10 mentions d’aide en 33 matchs.

« Ç’a été des hauts et des bas (à Rockford), a-t-il expliqué. Je suis content d’avoir un nouveau départ. Ç’a été correct, mais je sais que je suis capable de faire mieux que ça.

« Je pense que c’est bon signe (que les Coyotes viennent me rechercher). Je vais me donner le plus possible à Tucson et espérer obtenir un rappel. »

Parce que le Repentignois, qui écoule la dernière année de son contrat de recrue, ne perd pas son objectif de vue : il veut obtenir une autre chance dans la LNH et tenter de s’y établir pour de bon.

Dauphin avait amorcé la dernière saison en Arizona et a récolté trois buts et une aide en 32 rencontres avec les Coyotes. Son dernier match dans la LNH remonte cependant au 19 janvier dernier.

« C’est sûr que c’est difficile par moments, a-t-il avoué. Mais je ne lâche pas. (Ce qu’il me manque) c’est de la constance. Je sais que je suis capable de bien faire les choses pour un ou deux matchs, maintenant c’est de le faire avec régularité. »

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Jan 14

Jan 15

Tyler Seguin goal vs Bruins

Barclay Goodrow goal vs Kings

Jan 17

Walleye forward Connor Crisp is perfect fit
Mark Monroe
The Blade

Versatile forward Connor Crisp perfectly fit the mold of the type of player Walleye coach Dan Watson sought out when he revamped his roster in pursuit of a deeper playoff push.

At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Crisp brings a physical presence combined with the quickness and ability to produce points. The 23-year-old was signed in the offseason along with several other big-bodied players that are more suited for the playoff grind.

Crisp has blended in nicely, leading Toledo in penalty minutes with 56, but he also ranks seventh on the team in scoring with 18 points. Last weekend, Crisp scored three goals and had an assist to help the Walleye sweep a three-game homestand.

“He plays physical and in your face,” Watson said. “Connor is a pure power forward with good size and speed. He plays the game the right way and he’s being rewarded for it.”

Crisp, who played for Brampton of the ECHL last season, said he wanted to sign with a team that could make a deep playoff run. He said after the Beast were eliminated in the North Division finals, he kept tabs on the Kelly Cup playoffs.

“I followed Toledo,” Crisp said of the Walleye’s run to the conference finals last season. “When I played [at the Huntington Center] when I was with Brampton, the fans here were unbelievable. Now I get to live it. That was a huge selling factor to me. I did some research and heard nothing but good things about the talent here.”

Crisp, who has scored nine goals and has nine assists in 29 games, said the team has physical force, but also offensive skill.

“These are bigger guys that will go in the corners. That has rubbed off on everybody,” Crisp said.

Crisp, an easy-going center, mugged for the camera during player intros prior to Sunday’s game. The native of Alliston, Ont., said he tries to stay loose.

“It’s still a game. I like having fun playing it,” Crisp said. “A lot of people look at this as just a job. That can be stressful. But it’s easy being around these guys. They’re all so upbeat and laughing. But we’re still competing hard and making each other better. We can dial it in and go out and win.”

Watson said Crisp is willing to “get dirty” with a flair for scoring goals in front of the net.

“I’d say power forward is a great way to describe how I play,” Crisp said. “I always had a way to find the net in juniors. But I also had 10 fights a year. “

Crisp said nearly all of his goals come in the high-percentage scoring zones between the hashes in front of the opposition’s net. The area between the faceoff circles and in the slot is one of the most fiercely defended on the ice.

“That’s where I get a lot of my goals — in that little house area,” Crisp said. “I watch the NHL a lot and you see even the all-star players like [Steven] Stamkos and [Sidney] Crosby score most of their goals in that little area. That’s where most of my goals and assists come from.”

Although he does not drop the gloves as much as he did in his junior days, he will fight when it’s deemed necessary. He racked up 139 penalty minutes one season with the Erie Otters in 2012-13, and also led the Sudbury Wolves with 120 the following year.

“The game has changed so much,” he said. “In juniors, you would go square up [for a fight] at center ice. That has left the game a bit. But I will stick up for my teammates against anyone. A huge part of the game is to instill fear in the other team. You want them to know they’re not going to take liberties on any of your players. I’m the first guy over [to fight].

“I still love that part of the game. I love to hear the crowd go nuts and the players tapping their sticks.”

On Sunday, Crisp was involved in a scrum in which he and Mike Borkowski stuck up for teammate Luke Esposito. Esposito, a 5-10 skilled forward who has shuffled back and forth from Toledo to the team’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, has played in only a dozen games for the Walleye. But both Borkowski and Crisp immediately went after Cincinnati’s Brandon McNally when he crushed Esposito into the boards after the whistle.

“That’s a good example of guys playing for each other,” said Crisp, who was issued a double minor roughing penalty and 10-minute misconduct infraction for continuing an altercation. “We’ve had guys up and down from Grand Rapids. But when they come down here, we have such a tight bond. It shows our character. We’re not afraid to jump in there for each other.”

The Walleye have won four in a row after the team had suffered back-to-back 3-0 shutouts to Fort Wayne and Cincinnati. All four of the wins came against Central Division foes as Toledo (24-10-3) expanded its cushion atop the division to five points over second-place Fort Wayne. Three of the five games were sellouts with crowds of more than 8,000.

“Home ice is always key,” Crisp said. “With the fan support, it’s much easier to get up for games. Playing in front of 8,000 every night is huge.”

The team now embarks on a five-game road trip with stops in Kansas City, Reading, and Brampton. The Walleye play three straight games at Kansas City this weekend. The team bus leaves Wednesday at 10 p.m. for the 10-plus-hour trip to Independence, Mo. Crisp, who is in his fourth full season as a pro, said he enjoys the lengthy road trips.

“Things get real fun from here,” Crisp said. “The bus trips are fun. We play cards and other games. It’s a luxury to have a sleeper bus. But that kind of sleep isn’t always so great.”

Crisp said his top moment thus far in hockey came in 2013 when he was selected in the third round of the 2013 NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens.

“It was a super nice surprise for me and my family,” Crisp said. “That day I was at a friend’s house having a barbeque and playing horseshoes. I got a call from my agent and it was so awesome, especially getting drafted by a team like Montreal, such a storied franchise.”

Crisp, who grew up a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, said he quickly changed allegiance.

“Our whole house had Maple Leafs [memorabilia],” he said. “That all changed to Canadiens [memorabilia] in about a day.”

Crisp has played in 63 AHL games. Over his pro career, has played in 135 career games played with 27 goals, 31 assists, and 249 penalty minutes. During his season with Brampton, Crisp tallied 14 goals and 19 assists for a total of 33 points in 43 games.

“Until the day comes when I hang up my skates, my goal is to play in the NHL,” he said. “To this day, I believe I have the talent and ability to play in the NHL. Everyone wants to get called up and reach that ultimate goal. But Toledo is such a great place to play. I want to be playing hockey here into June.”

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Jan 17

Jan 19

Chabot excited to stay with Senators
Craig Medaglia
Ottawa Senators

Sens general manager Pierre Dorion announced on TSN 1200 earlier today that Thomas Chabot has been told to find a place in Ottawa for the remainder of the season.

The 20-year-old defender received the good news following last night’s game against the St. Louis Blues where he was summoned to meet with assistant general manager Randy Lee. He was a little apprehensive about the meeting at first before hearing that he will spend the rest of the season in the NHL.

“Randy came to see me after the game and asked me to go for a walk down to Pierre Dorion’s office,” recalled Chabot. “To be really honest with you my first thought was that I was going back to Belleville (laughs).”

Chabot, who began the year with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, has appeared in 24 games for the Senators this season recording 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points over that span including his first career NHL goal on December 1st against the Islanders.

“I was pretty disappointed when I was sent down at the start of the season,” Chabot said. “When I got back here I had the chance to earn more and more ice-time so I tried to take advantage of that.”

His development hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coach either as Guy Boucher praised his young defenceman’s constantly improving play.

“What I like is that he hasn’t regressed,” said Boucher. “He hasn’t taken a step forward and then two back so that gives you the indication that his progression should continue.”

“A lot of the mistakes that you would see early on…you don’t see anymore,” the Sens head coach continued. “All the things that we’ve asked him to do he’s been improving at so the more games he plays, the better our team will be in the long run.”

During his stints with the Senators this season, Chabot has been living with teammate Derick Brassard who has helped the rookie adjust to life in the National Hockey League. With Chabot’s stay in Ottawa indefinitely extended, he may need to revisit their agreement.

“I’ve been staying with Derick so I guess we’ll have to talk about it but rent will probably be a little more expensive next month,” joked Chabot.

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Jan 20

Jan 22

Yakupov goal vs Maple Leafs

Jan 25

Chabot goal vs Bruins

Seguin goal vs Maple Leafs

Jan 26

Seguin embracing expanded role for Stars under Hitchcock
Mark Stepneski
NHL.com

Back in April, when just-hired Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said he wanted to turn Tyler Seguin into a true No. 1 center, the Stars forward was relishing the opportunity.

“It gets me giddy,” Seguin said back in April. “Since I’ve come to Dallas, I’ve wanted to be a No. 1 centerman and a two-way guy.”

That role as a No. 1 center meant Seguin would be counted on for more than just goals and points. He’d be a two-way guy. There’d be more responsibility, including the penalty kill, playing against the opposition’s top players, taking critical faceoffs, and playing at key times in the game at both ends of the ice.

“That’s what a [No. 1 center] does,” Hitchcock said.

Now, nine-and-a-half months later and more than halfway through the 2017-18 season, Seguin has become what Hitchcock envisioned. And for Seguin, the enthusiasm is still there.

“I’ve found a way for it to be fun,” Seguin said. “In the past, it’s been about goals or points, and this is the first year where I’ve shown my game has changed a bit, evolved. Sometimes it hurts the point production in a way, but it’s been putting my energy in other places.”

The offensive numbers are still there for Seguin, who has 43 points (23 goals, 20 assists) in 50 games and is tied for ninth in the NHL in goal scoring. And other numbers tell how his game has evolved. His ice time is up about two minutes per game this season over last, much of that coming from the added responsibility of penalty killing, a new role for him. He’s averaging 1:28 of penalty kill time per game and scored the first shorthanded goal of his hockey career.

“The penalty kill has been a huge difference in how I am playing in a game,” Seguin said. “Obviously, the minutes have been higher, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity.”

Seguin ranks 16th in the league in faceoffs taken and 14th in faceoff winning percentage. He’s already set a career-high in blocked shots with 27.

“I am thinking a lot more about defense, a lot more faceoffs, a lot more little things,” Seguin said. “I am judging my performance on those things rather than goals and assists. That’s been the biggest change for me, trying to put the work in before the skill.”

And the work has earned high praise from Hitchcock.

“He’s become a way more competitive player,” Hitchcock said. “His compete level at the puck, his attention to detail; he’s made huge strides as a 200-foot player. I always use that term, but when you ask a guy to go from killing no penalties to being a prime-time guy, you ask a guy to block shots, you ask a guy to be out there at the end of games, important minutes and then you ask him to play against top players; if you haven’t done it your whole life, it’s a big adjustment.

“He’s made those adjustments in half a season, which, to me, is terrific.”

One of the high points for Seguin this season was his performance at Boston on Jan. 12. His highlight reel goal to win the game in overtime, where he weaved his way through three Boston defenders and outwaited Boston goaltender Anton Khudobin before putting the puck into the net, drew a lot of the attention. But his overall game was outstanding.

Going head-to-head with Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, one of the game’s premier two-way centers, Seguin played 23:13, won 12 of 21 faceoffs and his line with Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov outscored the line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak 1-0 at five-on-five during the game. That’s pretty good when you consider the Bergeron line has dominated at five-on-five this season, outscoring opponents 22-4 during five-on-five play this season.

Again, more praise for Seguin from Hitchcock.

“He’s accountable in every situation. He’s matured. He’s a guy we don’t worry about anymore. Everybody talked about can you make him a [No. 1 center]? Well, quite frankly, he’s a one. He’s playing like a one,” Hitchcock said. “This is what you want in a No. 1 center, and he’s doing the job. He’s killing penalties, he’s out there taking key faceoffs, he’s quarterbacking the power play, he’s playing against the other team’s best players. To me, that’s what a one does, and that is exactly what he is doing.”

The Stars envisioned Seguin as a No. 1 center when they acquired him from Boston in 2013, but it didn’t always work out that way over the previous four seasons. Last season, for example, Seguin centered the top line for the first 13 games and about two-thirds of the time up to the All-Star break. After that, though, not so much as he played a lot of wing and was moved down the lineup at times.

But with the arrival of Hitchcock, a new opportunity and steps forward in Seguin’s overall game.

“I think it is an overall maturing of his game,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “He’s realizing – and this goes for a lot of the players on our team – they’re realizing that if you play the right way, you are still going to have success on the offensive side. Tyler is realizing that if I play well in my zone, if I play well in the neutral zone I might even get the puck more than I do the other times, and I am still going to get the same points. Maybe the points aren’t quite as high, but you are having success as a team. That’s what we want to do.”

It was a bit of a struggle at the start of the season, but the players have caught on and bought into what the coaches and management were preaching. And since Nov. 18, the Stars are 19-9-3, ranking fifth in the NHL in points, fifth in goals against (2.42) and sixth in goal scoring (3.23).

And Seguin has been doing his part at both ends of the ice and getting satisfaction from knowing that his contributions have expanded beyond goals and points.

“I’ve always known I could find ways,” Seguin said. “But I’ve always felt I’ve been the guy that if we’re looking for that goal, I am going to get that goal and, if I am not scoring, it’s a bad game. This year, I am still getting some goals, but it’s changed in the respect that the goal is about one faceoff, or the goal is a big kill or something like that. They are out of character things that I haven’t had as a part of my game in the past that Hitch has given me the opportunity for this year.”

An opportunity Seguin has run with this season.

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Jan 29

Jan 30

Savard goal vs Wild