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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 11:56 PM

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

2 periods down, Orr leads 1-0

KELOWNA, B.C. -- There was a bit of everything in the second period, including the game's only goal.

Team Orr's Griffin Reinhart picked up a puck in the left circle and fired a wrister that found a tiny gap between the goal post and Brandon Whitney's blocker at 2:46 of the period.

The other highlight of the period was the game's first fight. Team Cherry's Thomas Wilson decked Orr's Lukas Sutter with a big hit not long after Sutter left the penalty box. Sutter's teammate Dalton Thrower -- perfect name for this occasion -- jumped to his friend and teammate's defense and engaged Wilson in a spirited fight. At 6-foot-3.5 and 203 pounds, Wilson had the size advantage on the 5-11.5, 189-pound Thrower, but it was a long, even battle.

Not only are Sutter and Thrower teammates here, they're also teammates and close friends on the Saskatoon Blades.

Also notable in the period were a pair of penalty kills by Team Orr. Not only did they shut down Team Cherry's man-advantage opportunities, they barely allowed them any scoring chances.

We'll be back with more after the game.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 10:59 PM

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

Scoreless after one period

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Most of the top players for the 2012 NHL Draft are defensemen, so it shouldn't be a surprise that a defensive battle has broken out here at the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

Team Cherry leads Team Orr in shots, 10-9, but neither team created much in the way of offensive chances, thanks to tight checking by both teams.

While there hasn't been much offense, there's been more than a few nice, hard hits. Team Cherry forward Thomas Wilson and Team Orr defenseman Gianluca Curcuruto took turns throwing big hits on each other early in the first, and Team Orr's Lukas Sutter did a nice job agitating a few players on Team Cherry.

The only penalty of the period came with 13 seconds left, as Team Orr captain Colten Sissons -- also captain of the host Kelowna Rockets -- was sent off for tripping, so the second period will start with Team Cherry on a power play for 1:47.

We'll be back with more following the second period.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 9:48 PM

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

Official lineups for Top Prospects Game

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Coaches Pat Quinn and Mark Recchi have submitted their lineup cards for tonight's Top Prospects Game (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet), and they include full line combinations.

They're not much different than what the teams used at practice this morning, with one exception -- Windsor defenseman Nick Ebert will play for Team Cherry. He was sick with a stomach bug last night and into today and skipped the morning practice.

Here are the full lineups for each team:

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

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

Chris Driedger starts in goal, with Francois Tremblay to play the second half of the game.

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

Brett Kulak - Damon Severson
Ryan Murray - Mathew Dumba
Dillon Fournier - Nick Ebert

Brandon Whitney starts in goal, with Matthew Murray to play the second half of the game.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 5:56 PM

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

Recchi brings out the bling

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Mark Recchi said he doesn't know much about coaching, but he certainly knows how to inspire the next generation of NHL stars.

Recchi, who is coaching Team Cherry here at the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, brought his three Stanley Cup rings into the locker room before the skills contest last night. The players clearly were impressed with the championship jewelry Recchi earned with the 1991 Penguins, the 2006 Hurricanes and 2011 Bruins.

"What a sight that was," center Brendan Gaunce told NHL.com. "Each of those rings takes up your whole finger. I thought the ring I won as a ninth-grader playing football in the Metro Bowl was pretty big, but that had one stone and those Stanley Cup rings had something like 25 stones … I've never seen anything like it."
 
"They looked like they weighed 30 pounds each," added defenseman Ryan Murray.

"They were pretty good," Recchi told NHL.com. "They quietly got up real quick. I just put them in the middle of the room. They could do what they want with it. It was good."

Everything's been good for Recchi since he ended his 22-year career following last June's Cup win. When he hasn't been home with his wife and children, he's done TV work for the NHL Network, skated in the alumni game at the 2012 Winter Classic, and spent time with the junior team he co-owns, the Kamloops Blazers.

"It's been great," he said. "I haven't done much. I still watch games every night, look at stats every day. Other than that, it's been really good. Just taking a break, getting away from it a little bit, playing with my kids and hanging out. The good thing about it is I don't have to be in a hurry."

As he dabbles in everything to figure out what's next, he figured coaching would be something new to try.

"Bruce Hamilton (Kelowna owner/GM) asked me if I was interested and I said absolutely," said Recchi. "I have no idea how to coach, but I've been around it enough. There's not a lot that goes into it. (Kelowna coach Ryan) Huska has been great. He's really the one leading the charge. I'm just trying to push pucks around and have fun with the guys."

Recchi also talked to my colleague Mike G. Morreale about the changes in junior players and the draft from his younger days, the advice he's been giving his players and which players have impressed him the most -- including which defenseman reminded him of a certain Hall of Famer. You won't want to miss that story when it goes up a little later today.

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

I don't think it's really truly going to sink in until we drop the puck, to be honest. I know there's going to be a lot of smoke and mirrors with the media attention and all that. We came [Monday] and it was sort of a light day to get things organized. We just want to focus in on the business aspect, the game itself. That's what we're preparing to do. Get these next couple of days out of the way and it's game on.

— Lightning captain Steven Stamkos on playing in his first Stanley Cup Final