Top 5

Kyle Clifford

Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford is known for taking — and receiving — some of the most punishing checks in the NHL. He lists teammates Dustin Brown and Matt Greene among the hardest hitters in the game. Who are his hardest-hitting opponents?



  1. Ryane Clowe

  2. Milan Lucic

  3. Niklas Kronwall

  4. Cal Clutterbuck

  5. Alexander Ovechkin



NHL Confidential

Mike RichardsLake of the Woods, known more as a remote wildlife habitat straddling Minnesota and Canada, is also a summer favorite of Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards. The former Flyers captain has become an avid wakeboarder/wakesurfer at the lake when he's not on the ice. "It’s starting to" catch on, Richards said. "It’s relaxing to get out there with all your friends and spend a day on the lake."

JP

NHL power rankings, in 30 words or less.

Less is more.

There is power in brevity.

Check out these 30-words-or-less power rankings to kick off the NHL season in rapid fashion:

1. Chicago

2013-2014: 46-21-15, 107 pts., 3rd Central, 5th West

Brad Richards finally gives the Blackhawks a solid number two center behind Jonathan Toews. Now can this loaded squad’s defense, starting with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, step up its game?

2. Los Angeles

46-28-8, 100 pts., 3rd Pacific, 6th West

The champs continue to improve with a maturing, physical roster and a healthy Johnathan Quick in net. Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik provide an awesome offensive combo and matchup nightmare.

3. Anaheim

54-20-8, 116 pts., 1st Pacific, 1st West

The Ducks will miss their legendary veterans, but remain loaded up front. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and newcomer Ryan Kesler spark an offense supported by emerging depth and up-and-coming goaltending.

4. St. Louis

52-23-7, 111 pts., 2nd Central, 3rd West

Regular season success and early playoff exits are the Blues’ trademark. The David Backes-led core should score more. Can Jake Allen or Brian Elliott anchor St. Louis’ postseason run?

5. Boston

54-19-9, 117 pts., 1st Atlantic, 1st East

The Bruins will miss Jarome Iginla, but have enough quality young talent replacing him. Goaltender Tuukka Rask remains the focal point, but as Zdeno Chara ages other defensemen must emerge.

6. Pittsburgh

51-24-7, 109 pts., 1st Metropolitan, 2nd East

The Penguins discarded skill and overpriced defensemen. The gritty character remodel is better built for playoff success, but can Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury carry the postseason load?

7. Colorado

52-22-8, 112 pts., 1st Central, 2nd West

A blossoming young squad added useful veterans like Jarome Iginla, Danny Briere and Brad Stuart. Nathan McKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog form a terrific core opposite a suspect defense.

8. New York Rangers

45-31-6, 96 pts., 2nd Metropolitan, 5th East

King Henrik Lundqvist can carry the Rangers, which lost a few parts this off-season putting more weight on Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle’s shoulders. Youth movement could step in.

9. Dallas

40-31-11, 91 pts., 5th Central, 8th West

Stars should shine offensively, with the likes of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. Blue line remains weak but developing, while goaltending is average but injury prone.

10. San Jose

51-22-9, 111 pts., 2nd Pacific, 4th West

Off-season captaincy turmoil isn’t a likely harbinger for success; 2015 sadly could be curtains for Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and goaltender Antti Niemi on this talented but aging squad.

11. Tampa Bay

46-27-9, 101 pts., 2nd Atlantic, 3rd East

New-look Lightning ahead of schedule thanks to blossoming youngsters and star Steven Stamkos. Often overlooked Ben Bishop has solidified the net for this Eastern contender for years to come.

12. Montreal

46-28-8, 100 pts., 3rd Atlantic, 4th East

Surprising Eastern Conference finalists ready for next step thanks to awe-inspiring stars P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty and goaltender Carey Price. But is there enough veteran leadership to support Montreal’s weapons?

13. Columbus

43-32-7, 93 pts., 4th Metropolitan, 7th East

The youthful Blue Jackets were a nice surprise in 2013-14, but endured an ugly off-season with up-and-coming star Ryan Johansen. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky carries this rising squad with lofty ambitions.

14. Minnesota

43-27-12, 98 pts., 4th Central, 7th West

Minnesota must figure out its goaltending mess or face the prospect of wasting Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s prime years. Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu and others finally are providing support.

15. Philadelphia

42-30-10, 94 pts., 3rd Metropolitan, 6th East

An injury wiped out Claude Giroux’s preseason, getting Philadelphia off on the wrong foot. GM Ron Hextall is making the squad younger; goalie Steve Mason must build on a strong 2013-14.

16. Detroit

39-28-15, 93 pts., 4th Atlantic, 8th East

Detroit continues to supplement an ascending young nucleus with aging stars from its glory days. Beyond Niklas Kronwall, however, the defense is far too weak for any sustained success.

17. Toronto

38-36-8, 84 pts., 6th Atlantic, 12th East

Despite a new front office direction, Toronto’s tied to old-school coach Randy Carlyle. A bolstered defense, plus talented forwards Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, means the Leafs could surprise.

18. Nashville

38-32-12, 88 pts., 6th Central, 10th West

James Neal, coach Peter Laviolette and fresh blood at center lead a remodeled Predators squad. Shea Weber remains the cornerstone, but Nashville’s playoff return requires a healthy Pekka Rinne.

19. Arizona

37-30-15, 89 pts., 4th Pacific, 9th West

The franchise is more stable, and Oliver Ekman-Larssen, Keith Yandle and Mike Smith are nice building blocks. The Coyotes need depth and consistency on offense to rebound from 2013-14.

20. Washington

38-30-14, 90 pts., 5th Metropolitan, 9th East

The stuck-in-neutral Capitals are trying a regime change, attempting to get the most out of Alex Ovechkin. An overhauled blue line will decide success or failure in 2015.

21. Vancouver

36-35-11, 83 pts., 5th Pacific, 12th West

The aging Canucks collapsed with former coach John Tortorella. The grass won’t be much greener with new additions Ryan Miller in goal, and Radim Vrbata and Nick Bonino up front.

22. New York Islanders

34-37-11, 79 pts., 8th Metropolitan, 14th East

The Islanders’ last year in the suburbs may prove praise-worthy. Awesome offensive talent, like John Tavares, is matched with capable goaltending (Jaroslav Halak). That could pay dividends.

23. Ottawa

37-31-14, 88 pts., 5th Atlantic, 10th East

Without casted-away star Jason Spezza, Ottawa suddenly is short on big offensive names besides defenseman Erik Karlsson. Goaltending is solid, depth is underrated and the Sens may surprise.

24. New Jersey

35-29-18, 88 pts., 6th Metropolitan, 11th East

Life without Martin Brodeur frees the Devils to finally move forward. Goaltender Cory Schneider is peaking, but fading veterans Jaromir Jagr and Michael Cammalleri are the weak offensive focal points.

25. Florida

29-45-8, 66 pts., 7th Atlantic, 15th East

Expensive free agent acquisitions like Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland should create marginal improvement for Florida. However, backstop Roberto Luongo’s play will determine if the Panthers succeed or bottom out.

26. Edmonton

29-44-9, 67 pts., 7th Pacific, 14th West

The pressure cooker is boiling for the talent-laden Oilers. Youngsters Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins must take the next step for improving Edmonton, but the defense and goaltending are still iffy.

27. Buffalo

21-51-10, 52 pts., 8th Atlantic, 16th East

With patience, the developing Sabres could be one of the NHL’s best teams long-term. Now picks galore like Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko should improve this shoddy roster.

28. Calgary

35-40-7, 77 pts., 6th Pacific, 13th West

Growing Flames have plenty of pains yet to endure. Acquiring pieces like goaltender Jonas Hiller and developing players like center Sean Monahan is finally spurring optimism in Calgary.

29. Winnipeg

37-35-10, 84 pts., 7th Central, 11th West

Winnipeg is at least a year-plus away from contending in NHL’s toughest division. This might be the make-or-break year for Evander Kane and the club’s other stars.

30. Carolina

36-35-11, 83 pts., 7th Metropolitan, 13th East

Injury trouble for leader Jordan Staal and goaltender Cam Ward set this formerly growing franchise back. New GM Ron Francis must rebuild and start over, despite an impatient fan base.

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