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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 1:38 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Team Cherry on the ice

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Team Cherry coach Mark Recchi is putting his team through its game-day practice here at Prospera Place. Here's a look at the forward lines they're likely going to use:

Tim Bozon - Gemel Smith - Thomas Wilson
Daniil Zharkov - Brendan Gaunce - Andrew Ryan
Dane Fox - Scott Laughton - Dominik Volek
Coda Gordon - Mike Winther - Martin Frk

The defense pairings were mixed as Nick Ebert missed the practice. We'll find out later what happened to the winner of the hardest shot contest at last night's skills contest. Ebert, a native of Livingston, N.J., is the only U.S.-born player at the Top Prospects Game.

Ryan Murray and Matt Dumba saw time together, as did Brett Kulak and Damon Severson. Dillon Fournier also skated with Murray.

Matthew Murray and Brandon Whitney will split the game in net. We'll find out from coach Recchi in a bit who plays the first half of the game.

Check back later for the lines coach Pat Quinn puts together for Team Orr.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 7:23 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Russians on top

KELOWNA, B.C. -- At the 2004 Entry Draft, a pair of Russian forwards were taken with the top two picks for the first time ever -- Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

That could be repeated at the 2012 NHL Draft.

Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov and Quebec Remparts center Mikhail Grigorenko are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters, and are the frontrunners to hear their names called first in June.

That decision wasn't an easy one for Central Scouting.

"Right now, Yakupov has shown, with the level that he's played, that he does have the ability to make a difference in the game," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "That's not saying that Grigorenko doesn't make a difference. Grigorenko controls the play, can dictate how the game is played when he's on the ice. But, right now, the consensus was Yakupov has the potential to be a difference-maker in a game. He can just turn a game around in a couple of shifts; he's that dynamic a player."

Of Grigorenko, Marr said: "When Mikhail is on the ice, he controls the play and he's got deceptive speed for a 6-foot-3.25, 200-pound man.

Despite missing time with a knee injury suffered at the World Junior Championship, Yakupov has 22 goals and 33 assists in 29 games. He returned Friday from his injury and has a goal and an assist in three games. He opted against playing in the Top Prospects Game.

Grigorenko injured his ankle at the WJC, but has recovered to the point where he'll take part in Top Prospects. He has 64 points in 41 games, tied for ninth in the QMJHL in scoring. He also leads all first-year players in the league in goals (28), assists (36) and points. 

"It's really nice," Grigorenko said of him and Yakupov topping the rankings. "I'm really happy about this, two Russian guys are first and second. It's really nice."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 6:25 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Grigorenko feeling good

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Quebec Remparts star forward Mikhail Grigorenko said he's not quite 100-percent healed from the ankle injury he suffered last month during the World Junior Championship, but he's still here for the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

"Not 100 percent, maybe 80 percent, probably," he told NHL.com. "It's going the right direction, feeling good now."

Grigorenko injured his left ankle during Russia's preliminary-round game against Latvia, when he collided with Latvia defenseman Artus Salija.

"It was a bad first pass from my (defenseman) and I didn't see the guy who hit me," Grigorenko told NHL.com. "I saw him at like the last moment. I just went out from him and he pushed me and my leg was twisted."

Grigorenko missed one game, but played the rest of the way in helping Russia win the silver medal. He finished with 2 goals and 3 assists in six games, but felt he wasn't able to showcase his full skill set.

"I think I played well without the puck," he said. "I didn't want to score a goal or do something with the puck, just tried to play for my team, just stay in my zone and help my (defense). I think I did really well."

He has 3 goals and 3 assists in five games since returning from the injury. For the season, he has 28 goals and 36 assists in 41 games. He's tied for ninth in the QMJHL in scoring with 64 points, and he leads all first-year QMJHL players in goals, assists and points.

At No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft, Grigorenko is the top-rated skater taking part in tomorrow's Top Prospects Game (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet). He'll play for Team Orr, which will be coached by Pat Quinn.

He'll be taking part in the accuracy shooting competition tonight as part of the skills contest.

"I've never tried it," he said. "I hope I will be good at this. Yesterday I tried to shoot the puck and I missed the net."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 01.27.2012 / 10:51 AM

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

Turco signs with Austrian club

Former Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks goalies Marty Turco has signed with EC Salzburg in Austria for the remainder of the season.

The 36-year-old Turco previously had played for the club in December during the European Trophy Finals, posting a 1.95 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in three games to help Salzburg win the championship. He also played for Canada at the Spengler Cup, where he had a 1.38 GAA and .952 save percentage in two games.

Turco had been doing work as an analyst for the NHL Network this season.

A three-time NHL All-Star, Turco played nine seasons with the Stars and spent last season with the Blackhawks. His 273 wins are 35th all-time in NHL history, and in 538 games, he has a 2.35 GAA, .910 save percentage and 41 shutouts.

According to a report on TSN, Turco has an out-clause in his contract that would allow him to return to the NHL by Feb. 27.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 11:29 AM

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

Hawks place Toews on IR

The Chicago Blackhawks placed center Jonathon Toews on injured reserve this morning and have recalled forward Brandon Pirri from Rockford of the American Hockey League.

Toews left Saturday's game against the Nashville Predators in the second period due to an upper-body injury.

Toews is second in the League with 27 goals and second on the Hawks with 50 points. He was picked for his third All-Star Game earlier this month.

"You certainly miss his leadership and how important he is to our team," coach Joel Quenneville said Monday. "It changes the complexion of what our options are, but it's part of it. You get tested along the way. Everybody goes through it, top guys out, key guys. It's certainly going to test us.”

"Guys are going to have to step up and try to fill the void," added teammate Patrick Kane. "We have to make sure we're focused and worry about the task at hand. He plays in every situation, key player, a guy you definitely miss if he's out of the lineup. You can't replace a player like (Patrick) Sharp or Toews, but there are some guys who can step up, and they have. These are big opportunities for myself and a lot of guys here."

Taking Toews' place in the middle of the top line -- at least to start tonight's game against Nashville -- will be Dave Bolland.

"I don't want him to change how he plays," Quenneville said Monday. "He doesn't have to be Johnny or an offensive type of guy. Play to your strength."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 1:26 PM

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

Toews out Tuesday, could miss All-Star Game

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will miss Tuesday's game against the Nashville Predators, and his availability for this weekend's NHL All-Star Game also appears in question.

Toews left Saturday's game in Nashville with what the team is calling an upper-body injury during the second period of the Hawks' 5-2 loss.

In speaking with reporters, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said today there wasn't one particular hit that injured Toews. He added that Toews was "not likely" to take part in the All-Star Weekend festivities.

"We have some time off. Have some extra days there," Quenneville said. "Hopefully he gets some rest. We'll get a better assessment after (the All-Star break)."

The Chicago Tribune reported Toews had been slashed on the left hand by Florida's Erik Gudbranson during Friday's game against the Panthers, but there's no word if that injury is connected to Toews' current ailment.

Quenneville said Dave Bolland will move into Toews' top line spot for Tuesday's game. 

"I don't want him to change how he plays," said Quenneville. "He doesn't have to be Johnny or an offensive type of guy. Play to your strength, especially tomorrow, because it will be a tight game."

Patrick Kane, Toews' linemate, said the rest of the team will have to step up in Toews' absence.

"Guys are going to have to step up and try to fill the void," said Kane. "We have to make sure we're focused and worry about the task at hand. He plays in every situation, key player, a guy you definitely miss if he's out of the lineup. You can't replace a player like (Patrick) Sharp or Toews, but there are some guys who can step up, and they have. These are big opportunities for myself and a lot of guys here."

In other Blackhawks news, Patrick Sharp skated for the first time today in his recovery from a left wrist injury. It's anticipated he'll return sometime during the Hawks' road trip after the All-Star break.

Quenneville also noted Corey Crawford will start in goal Tuesday against the Predators.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:26 PM

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

Stars sign Goligoski to four-year extension

The Dallas Stars and defenseman Alex Goligoski agreed to terms Monday on a four-year, $18.4 million contract extension.

Goligoski is in the final season of a three-year, $5.5 million contract and would have been a restricted free agent after the season.

"We're very pleased that we were able to sign Alex to this extension," said Stars owner Tom Gaglardi. "We are committed to building a winner here in Dallas and that starts with re-signing your key players and maintaining a solid foundation for your roster."

Goligoski, 26, has 15 points in 34 games, and leads the team with an average of 22:34 of ice time per game. He had 15 points in 23 games after arriving in Dallas in a trade last season.

Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the 2004 Entry Draft, Goligoski has 33 goals and 120 points in 236 games with the Pens and Stars.

"Alex Goligoski is one of our core players and we are very pleased to get him under contract during the prime of his career," said Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "Alex is a character person and one of the anchors of our blue line. He's a big part of our hockey club."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 10:58 AM

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

Caps' Backstrom takes short turn on ice

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who hasn't played since being hit in the head by then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque during a game Jan. 3, skated for the first time today since Jan. 6.

According to the Washington Post, Backstrom skated for five minutes at the team's practice facility wearing warm-up clothes rather than his full equipment, and during his time on the ice he did nothing strenuous.

Backstrom took part in two practices in the three days after the Calgary game, but after a practice Jan. 6 in San Jose, Backstrom suffered a setback which kept him off the ice until this morning. There's still no timetable for his return.

Despite missing the last nine games, Backstrom still leads the Capitals with 42 points.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 01.22.2012 / 12:48 PM

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

Off-ice issues leave Flyers, Bruins lineups in question

PHILADELPHIA -- It's a quiet afternoon here at the Wells Fargo Center. Because of the early start to today's game, plus the fact that both teams played yesterday, there was little happening prior to puck drop.

How the team's rosters could look today also is in question. The Bruins could be without defenseman Andrew Ference, who was facing a disciplinary hearing early Sunday for his hit yesterday on the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh.

Meanwhile, the Flyers will be without two of their top-six forwards due to injuries suffered in yesterday's game in New Jersey. Jaromir Jagr played just four shifts totaling 3:16 before being forced out with a lower-body injury, while forward Danny Briere is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with a concussion following the game.

Also, the team could be without fourth-line forward Zac Rinaldo, who left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury.

The Flyers called up forwards Tom Sestito and Ben Holmstrom from AHL Adirondack to fill out the roster.

Briere is the sixth Flyer to miss time with a concussion, and the third to currently miss time, joining defenseman Chris Pronger and forward James van Riemsdyk.

Jagr's loss marks the third time this season he'll miss time with a lower-body injury, which Jagr has said is a groin issue. Yesterday, rookie Brayden Schenn moved into Jagr's top-line spot, alongside Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. Whether he stays there remains to be seen.

Also up in the air is the starting goalie for either team. Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 30 of 31 shots yesterday against New Jersey, and has started games on back-to-back days four times this season. However, he also was in goal the last time these teams met, allowing five goals on 20 shots in a 6-0 loss in Boston on Dec. 17. Lifetime against the Bruins, Bryzgalov is 5-2-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in eight games. Backup Sergei Bobrovsky is 0-1-0 with a 1.96 GAA and .938 save percentage in two games against Boston.

Tuukka Rask stopped 30 of 33 shots in yesterday's 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, meaning it's likely Tim Thomas starts today against the Flyers. In 16 games against the Flyers, Thomas is 11-3-2 with a 2.04 GAA, .939 save percentage and two shutouts. He stopped all 31 shots Philadelphia threw at him in that Dec. 17 game.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 4:58 PM

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

Ducks sign Beauchemin to three-year extension

The Anaheim Ducks have signed defenseman Francois Beauchemin to a three-year contract extension. Terms of the deal were not released, but the Orange County (Calif.) Register is reporting the deal to be worth a total of $10.5 million.

Beauchemin, 31, would have been an unrestricted free agent this summer.

With the Ducks sitting 13th in the Western Conference, 13 points behind eighth-place Colorado, it was thought Beauchemin would be an appealing candidate for a team looking for help on the blue line.

"Francois is a dedicated, versatile and hard-working defenseman who is committed to our organization," said Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. "We are extremely pleased to have him under contract for the next three years."

Beauchemin has 18 points in 41 games, and leads the team in ice time per game at 25:44. He also leads the team with 95 blocked shots and is third with 88 hits.

In eight seasons with the Canadiens, Blue Jackets, Ducks and Maple Leafs, Beauchemin has 151 points in 454 games. He was part of the Ducks' Stanley Cup winners in 2007, and after signing as a free agent with the Maple Leafs in July 2009 he was traded back to the Ducks on Feb. 9, 2011 for forward Joffrey Lupul and defenseman Jake Gardiner.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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