Devils Keep Their Trust in Lou Lamoriello

Once again, Garden State hockey fans were saying, “Leave it to Lou!”

That is the annual feeling as boss Lou Lamoriello invariably makes the most of what he has. And that is even though he didn’t get to make his first choice until No. 30 came up.

Despite the fact that he had to wait until the end of the first round, Larrupin’ Lou came through. For starters, his man turned out to be one with excellent bloodlines. Forward John Quenneville is the second cousin to Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.

Better still, the young Quenneville exudes excellent hockey sense combined with a mature skill set. This earmarks as an eventual Top-6 forward.

Granted, John must hone some aspects of his game to sharpness; namely his skating and stride. But that will come in time.

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Rangers Hunt For Late-Round Bargains In 2014 Draft

The Rangers, who didn’t get a pick until the second round, addressed their goaltending needs in the future. But before we get to that, let’s not forget that the Ranger Nation cannot complain about the club’s march to the Stanley Cup Final.

However, if there is one area that needs stocking — at least short-term — it is offense. In that regard, the Rangers will rely on trades and free agent signings from here to opening night.

When it comes to the long-term, eventually there will be a need to replace Henrik Lundqvist. And while the club has a winner in Cam Talbot, as the Montreal Canadiens discovered, it’s good to have a backup for the backup.

The fact that the Rangers did not get a pick until the 59th overall selection should not in the least cause any concern. Consider how well they have done over the years when picking from the third round and thereafter:

Ryan Callahan, 127th, ’04; Carl Hagelin, 168th, ’07; Dale Weise, 111th, ’08.

Slats knows from experience that there’s always gold to be found in the late round picks. Exhibit A is King Henrik and exhibit B is Hagelin, who is on his way to becoming a regular 20-goal scorer.

As for goalies Brandon Halverson (59th overall) and Igor Shesterkin (118th overall), they follow promising goalie MacKenzie Skapski, who was drafted last year from the Kootenay Ice.

Most interesting are the bloodlines of lower Ranger picks such as Ryan Mantha (104th overall) and Tyler Nanne (142th overall).

Mantha’s uncle is Moe Mantha Jr, who played 656 career NHL games with the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota North Stars and Philadelphia Flyers.

Nanne’s grandfather is U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Lou Nanne, who played 10 seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and served as the team’s general manager for another 13 seasons.

 

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Sabres Re-Stock With Loaded Draft

In a Draft such as this, there is virtually no difference between the first and second overall pick. That’s why the Buffalo Sabres – in the long run – could very well have the best of the bunch. Center Sam Reinhart comes from splendid hockey stock, and it showed when scouts evaluated the native of North Vancouver, British Columbia.

“I have been prepared for it for a long time,” explained Sam about his lofty position. “I have certainly visualized myself in this uniform and I’m just thrilled and ecstatic to make an impact there and go to Buffalo for the first time.”

As for Reinhart’s talent, a scout puts it this way: “He’s so smart that it makes up for his weaknesses. He takes away space and uses his angles. He’s a good enough skater, deadly on the power play and his linemates get five or six chances a game because of him.”

Really, it’s a matter of when he cracks the Sabres’ roster, not whether he will make The Show. Some long-time observers believe that Sam’s sense and smarts are reminiscent of his father Paul, a splendid NHL performer.

Buffalo general manager Tim Murray didn’t stop there. One of the most highly regarded evaluators of young players in the industry, Murray’s choices were invariably on target.

The second day saw him add even more talent with eight more prospects. The most notable names include forwards Brendan Lemieux and Eric Cornel, defenseman Brycen Martin and goaltender Jonas Johansson.

Buffalo’s GM, remembering defeats from multiple Cup-winner Claude Lemieux, selected his son Brendan , a left winger who played for the Barrie Colts. Lemieux the younger was considered a potential first-rounder, but he was more than happy to be the first player taken on the second day of the Draft.

“Things have a way of working out. I think it could be a blessing in disguise that I had to wait it out,” he said. “I am proud to be picked with the first pick in the second round. I am just going to use it as fuel now.”

Augmenting high-end forward talent is the No. 1 priority, and the team got an emphatic start on that front by drafting both Cornel and Karabacek in the second round, in addition to Lemieux.

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2014 NHL Draft Sidebar

 

@StanFischler

How did the Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Sabres do in the 2014 Draft?

After intense consultation with my associate, Adrian Szkolar, we have come up with the following thumbnail scouting report.

And if you’re looking for any losers among this quartet – hot tip — look elsewhere.

ISLANDERS:

Garth Snow emerged with two high-end wingers on the first day, Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang. Each has high-end creativity, offensive skill sets and scoring abilities.

These attributes will be a major boost for a team that already boasts dynamism as symbolized by captain John Tavares. As usually is the case with Major Junior players, each will need more time to develop physically. Then again, Dal Colle and Ho-Sang could be potential linemates for Tavares down the road.

As an added fillip, Ho-Sang oozes personality to go with his talent. All signs indicate that he will be a headline-grabber for what he says as well as for the goals he scores.

DEVILS:

Once again, Garden State hockey fans were saying, “Leave it to Lou!”

That is the annual feeling as boss Lou Lamoriello invariably makes the most of what he has. And that is even though he didn’t get to make his first choice until No. 30 came up.

Despite the fact that he had to wait until the end of the first round, Larrupin’ Lou came through. For starters, his man turned out to be one with excellent bloodlines. Forward John Quenneville is the second cousin to Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.

Better still, the young Quenneville exudes excellent hockey sense combined with a mature skill set. This earmarks as an eventual Top-6 forward.

Granted, John must hone some aspects of his game to sharpness; namely his skating and stride. But that will come in time.

SABRES:

In a Draft such as this, there is virtually no difference between the first and second overall pick. That’s why Buffalo – in the long run – could very well have the best of the bunch. Center Sam Reinhart comes from splendid hockey stock, and it showed when scouts evaluated the native of North Vancouver, British Columbia.

“He does so many things well,” observes one bird dog.

Really, it’s a matter of when he cracks the Sabres’ roster, not whether he will make The Show. Some long-time observers believe that Sam’s sense and smarts are reminiscent of his father Paul, a splendid NHL performer.

Buffalo general manager Tim Murray didn’t stop there. One of the most highly regarded evaluators of young players in the industry, Murray’s choices were invariably on target.

The second day saw him re-stock the prospect cupboard with eight more prospects. The most notable names include forwardsBrendan Lemieux and Eric Cornel, defenseman Brycen Martin and goaltender Jonas Johansson.

RANGERS:

The fact that the Rangers did not get a pick until the 59th overall selection should not in the least cause any concern. Consider how well they have done over the years when picking from the third round and thereafter:

Ryan Callahan, 127th, ’04; Carl Hagelin, 168th, ’07; Dale Weise, 111th, ’08.

As for goalies Brandon Halverson (59th overall) and Igor Shesterkin (118th overall), they follow promising goalie MacKenzie Skapski, who was drafted last year from the Kootenay Ice.

Most interesting are the bloodlines of lower Ranger picks such as Ryan Mantha (104th overall) and Tyler Nanne (142th overall).

Mantha’s uncle is Moe Mantha Jr, who played 656 career NHL games with the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota North Stars and Philadelphia Flyers.

Nanne’s grandfather is U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Lou Nanne, who played 10 seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and served as the team’s general manager for another 13 seasons.

POSTSCRIPT:

What would an Entry Draft be without a Sutter being chosen?

Sure enough, the Islanders – picking 200th overall – went for Lukas Sutter. He is the son of Rich Sutter and a member of the famous Sutter hockey family.

Rich was drafted 10th overall in 1982 by Pittsburgh and went on to play 874 NHL games with seven teams. His dad and five of his uncles (Brent, Brian, Darryl, Duane and Ron) combined for 3,000 points in just under 5,000 NHL games.

More recently, four of his cousins have been drafted: Brody (193rd overall in 2011 by Carolina), Brandon (11th overall in 2007 by Carolina), Brett (179th overall in 2005 by Calgary) and Shaun (102nd overall by Calgary).

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Caught In The Draft – Sabres, Islanders, Devils And Rangers Get Some Hot Stuff

 

@StanFischler

They call it a Draft, but plenty of hot stuff took place over the weekend as 30 NHL teams attempted to better themselves via the Kiddie Korps.

Not surprisingly, keen activity involved the Sabres, Islanders, Devils and Rangers on various levels. Each of the quartet – depending on plucking location and individual club needs – did OK for itself.

Then again, when you make a double take, Buffalo and the Nassaumen could very well have struck gold in the opening round.

The Sabres snagged center Sam Reinhart second overall. And, in case you haven’t heard, Sam is the son of ex-NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart and brother of excellent prospects, forward Max and backliner Griffin.

“I have been prepared for it for a long time,” explained Sam about his lofty position. “I have certainly visualized myself in this uniform and I’m just thrilled and ecstatic to make an impact there and go to Buffalo for the first time.”

As for Reinhart’s talent, a scout puts it this way: “He’s so smart that it makes up for his weaknesses. He takes away space and uses his angles. He’s a good enough skater, deadly on the power play and his linemates get five or six chances a game because of him.”

Meanwhile, Islanders GM Garth Snow – picking fifth overall — followed the gospel of The Games’ bible, The Hockey News, which recommended left winger Michael Dal Colle for that slot.

If you’re wondering what the bird dogs think of the Isles’ pick, check this comment: “I don’t want to say he flies under the radar, but sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” says one scout. “He played for a team [Oshawa Generals] I didn’t think highly of, and he put tons of points on the board.”

As for the Blueshirts, who didn’t get a pick until their second round, 59th overall selection, future goaltending needs were addressed. But before we get to that, let’s not forget that the Ranger Nation cannot complain about the club’s march to the Stanley Cup Final.

However, if there is one area that needs stocking — at least short-term — it is offense. In that regard, the Rangers will rely on trades and free agent signings from here to opening night.

When it comes to the long-term, eventually there will be a need to replace Henrik Lundqvist. And while the club has a winner in Cam Talbot, as the Montreal Canadiens discovered, it’s good to have a backup for the backup.

Two long-range possibilities, both plucked in Philly, are goalies Brandon Halverson (Sault Ste Marie), Sather’s first pick during the second round, 59th overall, and Igor Shesterkin (Spartak Moscow), taken in the fourth round, 118th overall.

Slats knows from experience that there’s always gold to be found in the late round picks. Exhibit A is King Henrik and exhibit B isCarl Hagelin, who is on his way to becoming a regular 20-goal scorer.

Like Sather, Lamoriello must reinforce his scoring arsenal — with special emphasis on shootout specialists — but that could come from the Draft. Quenneville, their first selection, should bring plenty of skill and creativity once he makes the line-up.

Long-term, a goalie to eventually back-up Cory Schneider is a must, although Keith Kinkaid looms as Schneider’s reliever, unless training camp proves different.

Looking into the distance, the Devils have Marty’s son, Anthony Brodeur, who already has one year of junior hockey under his belt.

Lamoriello is unfazed by late picks as proven by the success of Henrique, one of New Jersey’s best forwards.

In terms of sheer drama, the Islanders took center stage. One of the most compelling moments leading up to the Draft was whether or not Snow would keep his fifth overall pick at the expense of losing a better prospect next year.

That would be when they’d have to hand over their first-rounder to Buffalo as a result of the Thomas Vanek deal. At the end of the day, however, he ended up keeping the pick and using it on Dal Colle.

“Mike is another building block in what is an important off-season for our organization,” Snow asserts. “We’re excited to see Mike develop into another key piece on our team.”

“He has top-end offensive skill paired with two-way instincts and hockey sense. All in all, Dal Colle is an asset we’re thrilled to add to our roster.”

There were no complaints about Snow’s choice on his first pick, but there were questions raised after he traded up for another first rounder (28th overall) and called the name of Joshua Ho-Sang. The Windsor Spitfires right wing has become somewhat controversial to some critics because he is confident in himself and speaks his mind.

However, The Hockey News enthuses over this product of Thornhill, Ontario.

“If you’re looking at pure talent,” the Bible of hockey reports, “few in this draft have more than Ho-Sang.”

Snow was meticulous in having his scouting staff do its homework on Ho-Sang. The group interviewed him twice prior to the Draft, and remains confident that the lad’s attitude concerns have been overblown by some media types.

“I care that we win,” Snow insists. “We get the players who we feel can help us win a championship, and we don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

Meanwhile, looking north, the Sabres are filled with vitality under GM Tim Murray, who made some arresting choices, starting with his No. 1 pick. He knew that he needed help in forward and in goal. Cody Hodgson and Zemgus Girgensons comprise a nice duo of centers to build around.

The Sabres must also replace long-time stopper Ryan Miller. While Matt Hackett shows promise, getting more cover for him would be a plus. Jonas Johansson, a Swedish goalie taken in the third round, should be the remedy.

Murray came back in the second round with a trio of forwards, including a name familiar to all hockey fans – Lemieux.

Buffalo’s GM, remembering defeats from multiple Cup-winner Claude Lemieux, selected his son Brendan Lemieux, a left winger who played for the Barrie Colts. Brendan was considered a potential first-rounder, but he was more than happy to be the first player taken on the second day of the Draft.

 “Things have a way of working out. I think it could be a blessing in disguise that I had to wait it out,” he said. “I am proud to be picked with the first pick in the second round. I am just going to use it as fuel now.”

Augmenting high-end forward talent is the No. 1 priority, and the team got an emphatic start on that front by drafting both Eric Cornel and Vaclav Karabacek in the second round, in addition to Lemieux.

The Sabres have a strong history of hits after the first two rounds, including the likes of Andrej Sekera and Nathan Gerbe.

So, who can be called the winner? Obviously, there won’t be an answer – at the earliest – for another two years. But this much is certain; we have just had a very closely-competed run for the Top-10.

“This was close competition for head of the class honors,” concludes The Hockey News Senior Editor Brian Costello. “It was nothing like the Sidney Crosby or John Tavares loser sweepstakes of past years.”

No matter; it sure was fun!

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Isles Go For High-End Talent During 2014 Draft

 

@StanFischler

Garth Snow emerged with two high-end wingers on the first day, Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang. Each has high-end creativity, offensive skill sets and scoring abilities.

Snow – picking fifth overall — followed the gospel of The Games’ bible, The Hockey News, which recommended Dal Colle, a left winger, for that slot.

If you’re wondering what the bird dogs think of the Isles’ pick, check this comment: “I don’t want to say he flies under the radar, but sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” says one scout. “He played for a team [Oshawa Generals] I didn’t think highly of, and he put tons of points on the board.”

What’s Dal Colle’s scouting report on himself?

“My favorite player is [Evgeni] Malkin. But I think a similar style to me would be Jeff Carter.”

There were no complaints about Snow’s choice on his first pick, but there were questions raised after he traded up for another first rounder (28th overall) and called the name of Ho-Sang. The Windsor Spitfires right wing has become somewhat controversial to some critics because he is confident in himself and speaks his mind.

However, The Hockey News enthuses over this product of Thornhill, Ontario.

“If you’re looking at pure talent,” the Bible of hockey reports, “few in this draft have more than Ho-Sang.”

Snow was meticulous in having his scouting staff do its homework on Ho-Sang. The group interviewed him twice prior to the Draft, and remains confident that the lad’s attitude concerns have been overblown by some media types.

“I care that we win,” Snow insists. “We get the players who we feel can help us win a championship, and we don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

These attributes will be a major boost for a team that already boasts dynamism as symbolized by captain John Tavares. As usually is the case with Major Junior players, each will need more time to develop physically. Then again, Dal Colle and Ho-Sang could be potential linemates for Tavares down the road.

As an added fillip, Ho-Sang oozes personality to go with his talent. All signs indicate that he will be a headline-grabber for what he says as well as for the goals he scores.

 

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Notable Rangers Draft Picks

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NBA Growth May Allow Knicks To Max Out Melo

Phil Jackson hasn’t been coy when it comes to discussing Carmelo Anthony’s impending free agency, but I thought something he said Thursday night regarding the finances of re-signing Melo should not go overlooked. In fact, it came off as a pretty strong statement intended to clarify some revisionist history about Melo taking less than his max contract that has been perpetuated for public consumption.

“He’s the one that opened that up, that it wasn’t about the money,” Jackson said. “So I challenged him on that, because I wanted our fans to see that he’s a team player, that he was going to do what’s best for this team to get ahead farther and faster.”

It’s true, well before Jackson’s arrival, Carmelo responded to a reporter’s question about taking less money to help the team’s ability to sign free agents by saying he would if it would help.

“As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern,” Melo said during All-Star Weekend. “My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level.”

Phil Jackson talks about the Knicks' situation with Carmelo Anthony and how the star forward's impending free agency affects the team's offseason plans.

But since then, the suggestion has been that Jackson has been trying to convince Melo to take less, which has motivated other teams (Chicago, Dallas and Houston) to make moves to clear modest salary space to offer to him.

By CBA rules, no team in the league can offer Melo as much as the Knicks can. They can pay him a full maximum contract of five years and $129 million, while other teams can only offer a maximum of four years and $96 million. Jackson spoke with confidence that money won’t be an issue and, more importantly, that it won’t hurt the Knicks cap situation as much as people might think if he does re-sign for the max (or something close to it).

“I think there are going to be things that are going to be happening in the near future in the NBA that’s going to grow this league,” Jackson said of the salary cap, which is tied to league revenue. “And I think, monetarily, it’s going to end up being not an issue for us to do that.”

So the max contract isn’t off the table, it seems. But Jackson will, at least, appeal to Melo with a plan for a future with added cap space.

“The perception is that we want Carmelo,” Jackson said. “As interested in saying he’s competitive and wants to be on a competitive team. And also being able to demonstrate that, if push comes to shove, in a situation where he may have to take a little bit less if we’re more competitive to bring in another player to help.”

The Knicks expect to have enough cap space in 2015 to attract major free agents (and can also acquire potential free agents via trade before the February trade deadline). And while this summer, it would be a long-shot to clear enough space to make a major move, Jackson would not entirely rule it out.

“We have many handicaps, obviously, with our salary cap being what it is,” he said. “But, you know, there’s always a possibility. We’re not going to rule ourselves out of any gambit that could put us in the chance to really do something special.”

 

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Assessing The Assets Of Draft Night

Phil Jackson set up his office at the MSG Training Center in a strategic place; some distance from the locker room and training area, but with a one-way window that looked into the gym. It was from there the new Knicks president began his observation.

His presence is formidable, so people tend to be on their best behavior in his presence. The window, however, offered him the ability to see without the filter of awareness.

And what he saw motivated the first significant roster move of his tenure.

“We had to change some of the chemistry of this team,” Jackson said. “To do that, we felt it important to bring in some new personnel and start with some character guys we feel can carry us forward.”

Knicks President Phil Jackson explains the reasoning behind the team's six-player deal with Dallas and what it means for the franchise heading into the offseason.

Coincidentally, Tyson Chandler was supposed to be a character guy, but from the end of the 2012-13 season through this past season, Chandler seemed noticeably detached and didn’t hide his displeasure with the defensive system, and the offensive game plan. By the end of the season, it had become abundantly clear that he was ready to move on.

Jackson accommodated by sending him back to Dallas, where he won a championship in 2011, along with embattled point guard Raymond Felton, for a package that included Jose Calderon, Sam Dalembert, rookie Shane Larkin and journeyman Wayne Ellington, plus two second round picks.

We’ll get into the veteran players in a moment, but let’s first focus on the draft picks, because there is some significance in them when it comes to this “culture change” Jackson has begun to orchestrate. Oh and let’s also keep in mind the greater value in stockpiling assets.

Only 24 hours prior to the NBA Draft on Thursday, the Knicks didn’t have any picks to make. Their first-rounder went to Denver (and later to Orlando) in the Carmelo Anthony trade, which stings a little more considering that Melo has since opted out of his contract to become a free agent.

(See when you trade a future first for a superstar, you do so believing that the star will lead you to Top-10 finishes, which render the picks relatively expendable. Worst case scenario is that the star wants to leave the same year you could really use that lottery pick to rebuild.)

When the Draft concluded, Jackson and the Knicks produced two new assets to the franchise.

Jackson said he and his scouting staff had “earmarked some players” in the Draft “that will give us some of the things we’re looking for: Activity, competitiveness [and] guys who get after the ball.” This accurately describes their two picks – Cleanthony Early of Wichita State at No. 34 and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Giannis’ older brother) of the D-League at No. 51.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo talks about his brother Thanasis being selected by the Knicks in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Both are athletically aggressive players who have NBA bodies and physical tools. Early has some offensive upside, though scouts say his shooting touch is streaky. Antetokounmpo is very raw offensively, but has already shown tremendous defensive potential in the D-League this season, especially in transition.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo shares his thoughts on being drafted by the Knicks in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft and describes what type of player he'll be for his new team.

Later on Thursday night, the Knicks went on to purchase the 57th overall selection, made by the Indiana Pacers, who selected 6-foot-10 forward Louis Labeyrie of France.

The Knicks will have an interesting Summer League roster this year, which is something we haven’t been able to say in a while. Consider the potential to see All-Rookie selection Tim Hardaway Jr., Larkin, Early, Antetokounmpo, Toure Murry and Jeremy Tyler on the roster in Las Vegas next month.

Larkin fits a role that I’ve been saying is a necessity for this team for years: A change-of-pace backup point guard. There were some reports that the Knicks may use Larkin as an asset, but Jackson spoke as if he had plans for him.

As Jackson said, Larkin “really didn’t have a chance last year” in Dallas because of a broken foot injury he suffered just before Summer League, plus he played behind veterans Calderon and Devin Harris. Jackson called Larkin, son of former Major League Baseball All-Star Barry Larkin, a “highly thought of young player who changes the speed on the floor. We think he’s going to be effective doing that. He’s kind of a change-of-pace guard.”

People I’ve talked to say it’s reasonable to project Larkin to be most effective in a JJ Barea/Norris Cole role for the Knicks.

Calderon would move into the starting point guard role and Jackson noted that the veteran from Spain “organizes a team quite well,” and pointed to his ability to push the pace and shoot threes. The biggest concern, of course, is that the point guard position has become the most difficult to defend in the NBA and Calderon, at 32, may be athletically over-matched against the likes of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Damian Lillard and the like. So is this where Iman Shumpert has to emerge on a consistent basis?

Jackson admitted perimeter defense remains an area of great concern. “That’s something we’ve missed here the last couple of years: The ability to stop the ball,” he said.

Something else you’ve heard a lot about from myself and Wally Szczerbiak on our Knicks postgame shows on MSG Network.

By trading away the team’s defensive anchor in Chandler, it would seem the Knicks’ defense becomes an even greater issue for Jackson to address. Dalembert provides similar length and shot-blocking, but he’s no Tyson Chandler. Still, he is much more affordable and does have a just partial guarantee salary that could allow the Knicks some payroll flexibility should they need it in free agency.

But, again, let’s not overlook the value in collecting assets. Picks, prospects and expiring contracts are all critical pieces in completing any all-star caliber player. So with his moves on Draft night, was Phil Jackson building for the long-term future, or the immediate future?

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Test Your Spike Lee Knowledge

 

 

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