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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 4:33 PM

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

Long trip worth it for Fox

KELOWNA, B.C. -- The host city for the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game isn't the most accessible place in western Canada, but for Erie Otters forward Dane Fox, any travel difficulties were well worth it.

Fox was one of the final players added to the roster, leaving him little time to book his travel arrangements.

"I got home from a road trip to Sudbury at 7 in the morning Sunday, and then 7 that night, Sunday, Mr. (Sherry) Bassin (GM) called me and said he got the call," Fox told NHL.com. "We had three hours to book the flight and I was off the next morning."

Fox's adventure started at noon ET on Monday with an hour-long flight from Erie, Pa., to Detroit. Then it was a five-hour flight to Seattle, followed by a 90-minute flight to Vancouver. After a 2.5-hour layover, he had one final hour-long flight to Kelowna. He said he checked into his hotel at 12:30 a.m. PT -- in all, a 15.5-hour day of travel.

However, Fox said he'd do it all over again just to have this experience.

"I'd do anything to be here," he said "That was just one little rough patch in the road that I got over. It's an honor to be here."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 4:26 PM

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

Hamilton a happy host

Kelowna Rockets' best players

KELOWNA, B.C. -- One of the most striking features of Prospera Place is the giant murals painted on the wall across from the locker rooms of some of the best players to skate for the Kelowna Rockets.

And the list is an impressive one -- Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn and Jamie Benn are among some of the players depicted in their Rockets uniform, and features some of the hardware they've won over the years, both with the Rockets and in the NHL.

"The precedent to get put up there is you have to win a gold medal or a Stanley Cup or a Memorial Cup … or win a World Junior gold medal," Kelowna owner/GM Bruce Hamilton told NHL.com.

Keith's mural features him with a gold medal around his neck and the Stanley Cup next to him. Weber's portrait has him holding the Memorial Cup over his head. Myers and Benn both have World Junior gold medals around their necks.

The murals were Hamilton's idea and started not long after the team moved into Prospera Place.

"We're in this building for 11 (years) now," said Hamilton. "I thought that was a good thing for us, to start to recognize the players that have been here. I think it's really neat when we have training camp and all the young guys are here and they see those guys. And when the visiting teams come in, they walk by them and see who's played here, too. And those guys that are on the wall, they come by and take a look."

Hamilton has owned the team since 1995, when it was in Tacoma, Wash., and organized the move to Kelowna. Since the move the franchise has hosted a Memorial Cup, games in the Subway Super Series and other big events. The Top Prospects Game, though, is something Hamilton says he has been looking forward to hosting for quite a while.

"It's very special for me personally," he said. "I've wanted to have this, I've bid on it. Each time it was going to be in Eastern Canada and we had to sell them on that we can do it here, we did it with the Memorial Cup. This thing, we'll do whatever it takes to make it work. The travel is not near as bad as everyone thinks it is to get in here. The NHL people here are stunning. There's in excess of 250 NHL scouts here, from what I'm told. I'm thrilled. Our city loves this stuff and our season-ticket holders deserve it, so that's why we do it."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 2:39 PM

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

Team Orr lineup

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Coach Pat Quinn is putting Team Orr through its practice session right now. Here's a look at how their lineup could look when they hit the ice tonight for the Top Prospects Game (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet):

Raphael Bussieres - Radek Faksa - Scott Kosmachuk
Andreas Athanasiou - Lukas Sutter - Tanner Pearson
Tomas Hyka - Mikhail Grigorenko - Chandler Stephenson
Branden Troock - Colton Sissons - Francis Beauvillier

Griffin Reinhart - Derrick Pouliot
Matthew Finn - Adam Pelech
Gianluca Curcuruto - Dalton Thrower

Francois Tremblay and Chris Driedger each will play half the game in net.

In case you missed it earlier, here's the lineup Team Cherry could put on the ice tonight.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 2:29 PM

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

More Prospect injuries?

KELOWNA, B.C. -- The run of injuries to top players leading into the 2012 CHL/NHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Game didn't end just because the two-day event has started.

Windsor Spitfires defenseman Nick Ebert, who was supposed to play for Team Cherry tonight, is questionable due to a stomach bug. After winning the hardest-shot contest at the skills competition last night, he woke up this morning feeling ill, and did not practice. His status for the game is in question.

Also, Kitchener Rangers center Radek Faksa, who won the breakaway challenge last night, is questionable for tonight's game due to a leg injury. He was kicked in the calf during the 3-on-3 portion of the skills contest, but he's on the ice for Team Orr's practice. We'll update his status when we can.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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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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Quote of the Day

I've got a lot of experience and there's a lot of young guys. It's even making me excited a little more. It's kind of a new life. At my age, I feel like I know a lot of things what to do, but I just cannot do it anymore. It's a lot easier to tell them what to do because they've still got the legs and hands to do it. I just know things, but I cannot do them anymore.

— Jaromir Jagr after making his Panthers debut in a win against the Sabres on Saturday