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At the Rink blog
Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 1:52 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Report: New deal for Hedman

TSN is reporting the Tampa Bay Lightning will announce a contract extension for third-year defenseman Victor Hedman today.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, it will be a five-year deal valued at about $4 million per season.

The second pick of the 2009 Entry Draft, Hedman has 2 goals and a minus-5 rating in 20 games, and he's second on the team in average ice time per game at 22:55.

Hedman's numbers might be down a bit this season, but he posted a career-best 26 points last season, and had 6 points in 18 playoff games while playing more than 22 minutes per game and emerging as a top-pairing defense.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 12:44 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Lightning, Red Wings

DETROIT -- Here is how the lineups could look for tonight's game between the Detroit Red Wings and visiting Tampa Bay Lightning. The game marks the return to Detroit of Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman.

LIGHTNING
Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis - Brett Connolly
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Ryan Shannon
Dana Tyrell - Nate Thompson - Adam Hall

Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson will get the start in net, with Mathieu Garon serving as the backup.

Forward Steve Downie likely will re-enter the lineup and play on the third line after missing the last three games due to an upper-body injury, but it's unclear who he will replace.

RED WINGS

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Fabian Brunnstrom - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Jakub Kindl - Brad Stuart

Jimmy Howard will get his 16th straight start in net, while Ty Conklin will be on the bench as the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 9:59 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ducks' Ryan responds to rumors

Most NHL players claim not to pay attention to what gets said or written about in the media.

Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, however, appears to be the exception to that rule. The center of recent trade speculation, Ryan told Eric Stephens of the Orange County (Calif.) Register that he's heard all about it, and said at this point being traded wouldn't be a shocker.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Ryan said Tuesday. "That's all I'll say about that."

The Ducks have lost five straight and 16 of their past 18 to fall to 14th in the Western Conference and 29th in the League heading into Wednesday's game against the Montreal Canadiens. Speculation has been rampant that some kind of change -- a player trade, a coaching change -- is imminent.

In regards to Ryan, however, Ducks General Manager Bob Murray told the newspaper, "At any time if we get offered a deal on any player that makes this team better, we would have to take a long, hard look at that."

However, Ryan told the newspaper he isn't looking to leave Anaheim.

"In a perfect world, you get drafted and you stay with a team for your career and you win (Stanley) Cups," he said. "At the same time, it's the business side of things that all comes back to. If they feel like it's got to be the right move for the team, then I'd certainly welcome it.

"If they feel like the Ducks are going to get better and I'm going to get a chance to play somewhere else, I guess I would. But I'm certainly not thinking about it day in and day out."

Sportsnet has reported the Ducks are shopping Ryan, while the New York Post has reported the New York Rangers are among a number of teams to show serious interest in Ryan.

It's no surprise multiple teams would be calling on Ryan if the Ducks were to make him available. A 24-year-old right wing taken with the second pick of the 2005 Entry Draft, he's scored at least 31 goals in three straight seasons, and scored a career-best 71 points last season. In 23 games this season, he's third on the team with 7 goals.

Ryan told the newspaper he's spoken with Murray in regard to the rumors, but said he never received any indication that he hasn't been or wouldn't be shopped. 

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:50 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Pacioretty: I made bad decision

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Montreal Canadiens begin a three-game West Coast trip as a team in transition.

The three-game suspension to Max Pacioretty, announced Monday, and the uncertainty surrounding defenseman Andrei Markov, who is extremely close to returning from a year-long injury, have left the club searching for answers as it prepares for Wednesday's game against a struggling Anaheim team.

With Pacioretty out for the entire road trip due to his hit to the head of Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang in Saturday's game, the Canadiens called up top prospect Louis Leblanc to play forward.

Leblanc, a center, is expected to make his NHL debut Wednesday against Anaheim. The No. 18 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Leblanc is ranked as the club's top prospect by The Hockey News. He has four goals and 10 points with a minus-7 rating in 14 games with Hamilton of the American Hockey League. 

"He's a player that has good vision, is good without the puck," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said after Tuesday's practice. "Unfortunately he missed training camp this year, but he's a young player that we feel has a good upside and good potential."

However, Leblanc will not slide right into Pacioretty's spot. There will have to be some line juggling against the Ducks.

The changes could include Andrei Kostitsyn on a line with Tomas Plekanec, who has been playing with Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, while Pacioretty had success on a line with Erik Cole and David Desharnais

"We got to try and find some solution to get (offense)," Martin said. "We probably need more from our top guys."

Pacioretty spoke with reporters for the first time since the suspension was handed down.

The forward admitted it was "tough to agree" with the decision by NHL Senior Vice President Brendan Shanahan.

Pacioretty delivered an open-ice hit to Letang after the Pittsburgh defender put a shot on goal in Montreal's zone in the third period Saturday. No penalty was called. Letang suffered a broken nose but returned to the game and scored the winning goal in overtime.

"If you look at the situation, me and Letang made eye contact," Pacioretty said. "I think that's what gave me the green light to try and hit him. I felt he put himself in a vulnerable position."

Asked if the incident will alter his style, Pacioretty said, "I'm going to be completely honest: I've been scared to hit people out there. A lot of times you're going in on the forecheck and the defenseman turns his back to you. Things of that nature happen. It's a fast game and injuries are going to happen. That's why it's tough out there, especially for someone who's expected to finish their hits.

"The blame's still on me. I made a bad decision. Down the road, I'm definitely not going to make that decision when someone comes through the middle. But I don't see why I should give him a free pass to come through our zone like that and get a free shot on net."

Martin reiterated Tuesday that "I'm disappointed with the decision, but I accept it and move forward. We have three games on this trip and they're important."

Markov update: The Canadiens will also soon face decisions on defense as Markov nears readiness to play again. Martin said Tuesday that he didn't know if Markov would play during Montreal's three-game trip through California. 

"I don't know if there will be a possibility or not," Martin said. "It's something that's going to be left up to him, but I think that it's good that he's practicing." 

Markov has not played in more than a year. He re-injured his surgically repaired right knee in a collision with Eric Staal on Nov. 13, 2010, and had a second reconstructive surgery the following month. In Tuesday's practice, Markov again played the point with P.K. Subban during power-play drills. 

"He's getting closer, but I don't know when he'll be back," Martin said. "I think it's good for him to be involved in intense practice this week."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:20 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Letang, Michalek out for Penguins

NEW YORK -- The Penguins will be without two of their top-four defensemen tonight at Madison Square Garden as both Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek are heading back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. Both players were with the Penguins at the morning skate.

Pittsburgh recalled defensemen Alexandre Picard and Robert Bortuzzo from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Both are expected to play as the Penguins have only six defensemen remaining in New York.

Letang suffered a broken nose when Montreal forward Max Pacioretty hit him Saturday. Pacioretty was suspended for three games by the NHL on Monday for an illegal hit to the head.

Michalek missed 10 straight games from Oct. 29 - Nov. 19 because of a broken finger, but he has played in the last four. The nature of his injury has not been disclosed.

Picard played six games with the Penguins earlier this month, averaging 12:41 of ice time and picking up a plus-4 rating. Bortuzzo made his NHL debut with the Penguins at Los Angeles on Nov. 5. He was scoreless and had a minor penalty in 10:38 of ice time.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:14 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hometown kid Johansen set to face Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Columbus rookie Ryan Johansen is right at home in Vancouver, but the 19-year-old will have a new vantage point Tuesday against the Canucks team he grew up cheering.

Johansen, who returned to his nearby hometown of Port Moody to watch his younger brother play hockey and eat with family on Monday night, was a spectator at Rogers Arena as recently as Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Now the fourth pick in the 2010 NHL Draft will be counted on to slow down a Vancouver team finding its groove again.

"For a kid like that to be able to come home, he's pretty excited, he'll have lots of family in the building, and hopefully it's a big night," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. "It took him a while to get the feel of the NHL and what it takes to play every night, but he's been dangerous. He's shown a lot of the skill for the size that he has, and an ability to score some big goals. It would be nice to see him get rewarded in front of the home crowd."

It hasn't necessarily been an easy transition for Johansen, who was scratched four times during a miserable October in Columbus. But shortly after shifting from center to right wing while Jeff Carter was out, Johansen scored the winning goal in the Blue Jackets' first three victories, and now has 5 goals, 10 points and a team-best plus-4 rating.

"There was a lot on his plate early on, especially playing center in the National Hockey League. As an 18-year-old, there was a lot to grasp," Arniel said after practice Monday. "The switch to right wing seemed to make him really comfortable and all of the sudden we started to see the offense and the big power forward we were hoping for."

Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they will face a goaltender that also benefitted from some tough Arniel love early in his career. Canucks backup Cory Schneider, who will make his sixth-straight start Tuesday and is coming off NHL Second Star honors for his play last week, credits Arniel for giving him a "kick" during his rookie AHL season.

"I'd like to kick him right now," Arniel joked.

Ironically, Schneider faces Curtis Sanford, his playing partner when the Canucks' AHL affiliate went to the Calder Cup Finals in 2009. It's a scenario few would envisioned a few weeks ago, when Schneider was still the backup to Roberto Luongo, Sanford was hurt and the Blue Jackets' third-stringer, and Arniel was listening to regular speculation about his job being in jeopardy while Columbus struggled. Even if they didn’t see Tuesday's matchup coming, Arniel and Sanford both foresaw success for Schneider.

"Everybody envisioned he was going to be a good NHL goaltender," Arniel said. "He's a guy that’s very driven and very confident, a big goalie that's also very athletic."

Size isn't on Sanford's size, but that hasn't kept the 5-foot-10 goaltender from getting back to the NHL three seasons -- and several serious injuries -- after his last game with Vancouver. With a 3-1-2 record, 1.39 goals-against average and .947 save percentage during six-straight starts, the popular journeyman has made the most of this unexpected opportunity, sparking a Columbus turnaround.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:12 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blue Jackets expected lineup

VANCOUVER -- Derick Brassard gets back into the Columbus Blue Jackets' lineup for just the third time in the last nine games after being a regular scratch, with Cody Bass coming out. Coach Scott Arniel pledged to get the sixth pick from the 2006 NHL Draft more ice time, but it won't be easy on the fourth line.

Vinny Prospal - Jeff Carter - Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger - Mark Letestu - Ryan Johansen
Antoine Vermette - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Derick Brassard - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Grant Clitsome

Curtis Sanford, who backed up Roberto Luongo in Vancouver for two years, will make his seventh straight start while Steve Mason, recently cleared to return after suffering a concussion in from a shot off the mask in practice, is at least backing up again.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 3:22 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Turris working his way back

CHICAGO – He's not ready to rejoin the Phoenix Coyotes active lineup just yet, but Kyle Turris probably isn't far off from after recently signing with the team.

Turris, a restricted free agent, would have missed the entire 2011-12 season if he didn't reach an agreement on a new contract before Dec. 1, and at one point asked the Coyotes to trade him. Instead, they inked him to a new two-year deal, and all that's left to do now is get the 22-year old center -- taken by Phoenix with the third pick of the 2007 Entry Draft -- ready for games.

"He's come in in great shape," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, who got another look at Turris during this morning's skate in Chicago. "So far in practices he looks very good. He plays the game fast, his skill level and everything looks to be right in sync."

Turris still might need a conditioning stint with Portland in the American Hockey League, but that hasn't been determined yet. For now, he's with the Coyotes for practices but not games.

"We'll see where it goes for the next couple of days here and whether he has to go play a couple days in Portland  or whether we keep him up here," Tippett said. "That final decision hasn't been made yet, but the bright spot is he has come in and you can tell he has put a lot of
work in to get himself ready, so that's a real positive for us."

Just getting Turris back in the fold is a positive, almost akin to making a trade to get a solid player without having to give up anything in return.

"You're adding a good player," Tippett said of Turris, who had 11 goals and 14 assists in 65 games last season. "Sometimes the business part of the game comes into play and that was the case, but you're adding a player that can come in and I think can make an impact on our team."

Turris also appears to have added some muscle to his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame, which Tippett thinks will help him improve even more in the middle.

"The other side of that (contract dispute) is he's a player that has worked on his strength and maturity and that extra month might have done him some good," Tippett said. "Time will tell on that, but he looks fit and looks strong and rested, ready to play."

As for his teammates understanding his situation after the contentious negotiations sometimes became public, Coyotes captain Shane Doan said it's not an issue.

"It's one of those things that you understand it's a business and the way that it goes and that obviously there are going to be times where, business-wise, you're going to try to take advantage of the way the system is set up," Doan said. "When it's set up in your favor, yeah, you should definitely use it. Other times, maybe not."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 3:16 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Now it's Hunter's task to dole out Caps' minutes

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin hasn't averaged less than 21 minutes per game of ice time in his career ... until this season.

One of Bruce Boudreau's edicts for the Washington Capitals this campaign was to play his star players less during the regular season to take advantage of the team's depth and keep everyone fresh. Well, Boudreau is no longer the coach of the Capitals.

Dale Hunter is, and he is now in charge of rationing minutes for a deep and talented (yet struggling) squad.

"Minutes are always judged by how well you play that game -- always that game," Hunter said. "It is a reward system here with ice time. If you deserve more, you're going to get more. Definitely, I like playing my star players, but it is one of those things where if the team is going right and everybody is firing on all cylinders, I'll roll four lines."

Hunter's previous job was coaching the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. While he typically had one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the OHL, that is a league that is notorious for having the best players see upwards of 30 minutes of ice time.

How Hunter doles out minutes in the coming days and weeks will be worth monitoring. At the beginning of the season, Boudreau's plan seemed sound -- keep the big guns fresh for the games that matter in the postseason. But those big guns have not performed, and it is possible the reduction of ice time has played a role.

As for other changes to watch for, Hunter said there will be a few. The forward lines were not different Monday during his first practice, but he did move people around when working on the power play Tuesday morning.

Nicklas Backstrom, who leads the team with 18 assists and 25 points, was not on the top PP unit. Rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov, he of the four career NHL games, was.

The top unit included Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble up front with Brooks Laich and Orlov on the points. The second unit included Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and either Jason Chimera or Troy Brouwer up front with John Carlson and Dennis Wideman on the points.

One of the staples of a Boudreau-run power play was typically either two left-handed shots up front or two righties -- it appears the top unit for Hunter's first game will include three right-handed shots.

"It is a fine line," Hunter said. "I changed a few things, but you can't make drastic changes because you have no time to practice it."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 3:09 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Blackhawks, Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Here's how the lineups might look for Chicago and Phoenix in tonight's game at the United Center:

BLACKHAWKS
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Sharp
Daniel Carcillo - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Andrew Brunette - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Bryan Bickell - Marcus Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Steve Montador - Sami Lepisto

Corey Crawford will get the start in net, with Ray Emery the backup.

Sean O'Donnell or John Scott also could draw in on defense, possibly in place of Lepisto.

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Kyle Chipchura - Patrick O'Sullivan

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - David Schlemko

Mike Smith will get the start in net for Phoenix, with Jason LaBarbera the backup.

Cal O'Reilly could see time in the middle in the fourth line in place of Chipchura.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares