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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 1:53 PM

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

Voracek eager to face former team

PHILADELPHIA -- Jakub Voracek said he had three great seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the ending certainly left a sour taste in his mouth. So the Flyers forward certainly has had this game circled on his calendar for quite a while.

"I'd be lying if I said no," he said. "I was pretty excited for this game since the season started. It's going to be a great game. Hope it's going to end for us well. … It's another NHL game for me and I'm going to try to do my best as always, hopefully help the team win, and show them (the Blue Jackets) they made a mistake."

The Jackets picked Voracek with the seventh pick of the 2007 Entry Draft, and in three seasons in Columbus he averaged 13 goals and 45 points per campaign.

Last season, though, he endured the worst stretch of his hockey life, picking up just one point in his final 16 games.

"It was the worst time in my life, in my NHL career," Voracek said. "Even if it's a tough stretch, in 16 games, if you're playing on the first or second line, you still got to be able to get more than one secondary assist, somehow. You've got to get it. It's impossible to not have it. It was a really bad time, nothing went in. We didn't play well as a team and I didn't play well as a player."

It got worst at his season-ending exit interview, when Voracek's conditioning was criticized publicly by coach Scott Arniel.

"The biggest thing that is holding him back is his conditioning," Arniel told the Columbus Dispatch that day. "I think this guy can be an elite player in this League if he gets himself in shape."

Voracek still is bothered by the comments, more because they were made publicly.

"I don't think it's right to talk about it in the papers," he said. "It is what it is, it's what he said. I disagree with him. I went to the World Championship last year and I felt great the whole tournament, which was almost the end of May. It was a long season for me as well, and physically I felt great. Sometimes it doesn't mean if you play bad that you're out of shape."

Voraceck now says he's moved beyond what was said, and spent time on the bench this morning talking to former teammates.

"It is what it is," he said. "It's behind me and I have totally new NHL life."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 1:18 PM

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

Pronger skates, return date unknown




PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Pronger took part in his first full morning skate since injuring his eye Oct. 24, and said the biggest issue for him is getting his conditioning back where it needs to be.

"It's a process," he said following practice this morning at Wells Fargo Center. "When you don't do anything for a week, you lose a little bit, your timing. Really you're just trying to do drills to get that back, get your conditioning back."

Pronger also is adjusting to wearing a visor for the first time in his NHL career. He said he did wear one in juniors, but he played his last junior game in May 1993.

He said he hadn't had too much of an issue with the visor so far, but said he really wouldn't know how it might affect him until he gets into a game.

"I haven't really done much out there, contact-wise, to really tell," Pronger said. "I haven't played in a game so I can't really tell you. I haven't done anything other than skate. It hasn't fogged up because I haven't been doing much.

"It is clear, so I can see through it. But there is that lip (at the bottom), and you're used to not really having to look, it's right there. It is a bit of an adjustment. Sometimes it's something you have to do and you just get used to it."

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Friday that the vision in Pronger's right eye has returned to pre-injury level. Pronger said he still is taking things slowly.

"I have to keep seeing how I do after each day," Pronger said. "I've been slowly doing more and more every day. See how my head responds."

Pronger isn't ready to circle a return date, but after tonight, the Flyers don't play again until Wednesday in Tampa Bay, which certainly works in his favor as far as limiting the number of games he misses.

"I'll get a couple good practices and try to crank it up and see how I feel," he said.

He's missed five games (it'll become six tonight), and Pronger said one of the things he's noticed is a lack of consistency and a missing killer instinct. He cited Thursday's loss to New Jersey, when the Flyers blew two leads en route to a 4-3 shootout loss, as an example.

"I think the biggest thing is consistency," he said. "We have to play 60 minutes of hockey to be successful. Taking periods off, shifts off, all the rest of that costs you games, and has in the past this year, and previous years I've been here. We have to figure out how to play 60 minutes and make sure when you get teams down like we did the other night, 2-0, you put on the gas and put our foot on the throat, closing games out. It's a learning process and something we need to learn early on in the season to make sure as the season goes on we get better at that."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 11.04.2011 / 11:21 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

A few more OHL players to watch

There are certainly more than seven players NHL scouts are keeping an eye on from the OHL for the 2012 NHL Draft. NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards, who specializes in OHL prospects, and Central Scouting goaltending guru Al Jensen have been keeping close tabs on a few other top prospects.

Dylan Blujus, D, Brampton -- In his second OHL season, the 6-2.75, 193-pound blueliner is developing into a star.

After totaling 26 points and a minus-14 rating in 67 games this season, Blujus has 10 points in his first 15 games, and is a plus-9.

"He's getting better every time I see him," said Edwards. "He's a real solid guy, and every viewing I've had he's gotten better. He's starting to show real good decision-making and puck movement. … His playmaking is good, his play in his own end. He's being used in a top-two role with Brampton, on the power-play and penalty-killing units."

Edwards also has been impressed not just by Blujus' shot, but his accuracy with it.

"He's got a real good shot and it hits the net," said Edwards. "He's getting it on net, making the goalie make a save," unlike another player he recently watched, who he said, "took eight shots and missed the net on all eight."

Trevor Carrick, D, Mississauga St. Michael's -- He hasn't produced much offensively yet, but the 6-1.5, 172-pound blueliner is earning attention for his smart play on the ice.

"He's a very poised guy," said Edwards. "He's got good mobility, and he picks it apart on the back end with good outlet passes. At times you look at him and he might be high-risk, but he makes it work. He's a real smart, heady type of defenseman."

Edwards said in the games he's seen Carrick play, it's been a slow build to his game.

"Early in the game he's on the third defense pair, in the first period he takes a regular shift," said Edwards, "but by the end of the night he's logging all the ice and playing against the other team's top line. He's a really reliable guy. Not many mistakes."

Michael Clarke, C, Windsor -- The 5-11.25, 184-pound center is tied for the lead among all first-year OHL players with 8 goals, but it's his work ethic that has impressed scouts.

"He's going to get his goals by going to the net and knocking in rebounds," said Edwards. "I'm not sure you'll see him go end-to-end and dangle people. He's going to get his points in setting up plays, scoring dirty goals, ugly goals."

Edwards said Clarke reminds him of a top player from last year's draft, Blue Jackets second-round pick Boone Jenner.

"He'll do anything you have to do to win," said Edwards. "He's great in the faceoff circle, he's a great competitor, he'll block shots. He's used in all situations, he's on the second line, killing penalties. He might be a little better skater than Jenner was. … This guy is a competitor. So far from what I've seen, he might be best competitor in the draft."

Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville -- The hard-working forward is scoring at a near point-per-game clip this season and is showing improved skill in the offensive zone.

But like Clarke, it's Gaunce's work ethic that is earning positive reviews from scouts.

"He's a hard-working, up-and-down guy," said Edwards. "On the power play he really handled it well, creating good scoring chances. Five-on-five he's also solid. He'll get involved and win battles for pucks. He's tough. He'll separate guys from the puck and knock people down. To go along with his good skill set, he can be a pretty dangerous player."

Matthew Murray, G, Sault Ste. Marie -- The 6-4 netminder is tied for third in the OHL with nine wins, to go with a 3.29 goals-against average and .891 save percentage.

Jensen told NHL.com what impresses him most is Murray's technical skill.

"He's got that NHL presence of a goalie," said Jensen. "He just looks like a goalie in there. He's big, his net coverage is very good, he's very controlled in the net. He plays the bulk of the games and is very consistent. His technical part of the game is very good. He's very controlled in his movements. He gives himself a chance to stop the puck because he's always in the proper position. He doesn't have to come all the way out all the time. He plays mostly in the paint because he covers all the holes."

Jake Paterson, G, Saginaw -- Jensen said the three times he's seen Patterson in action, "all three were 'A' games."

The numbers the 6-1.5, 183-pound goalie has posted so far -- 5-6-0, 3.95 GAA, .893 save percentage -- don't look all that great, but Saginaw is ninth in the 10-team Western Conference and has allowed the second-most goals in the league.

"He's got a great feel for the game," said Jensen. "He challenges when he has to, he battles, he's quick, he's strong, he's smart. … He's given his team a chance to win every night.

"I like his size in there. He's got great quickness and a great glove hand. He moves very well technically. He really reads the play well."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 7:15 PM

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

Flyers' van Riemsdyk, Devils' Andy Greene to sit

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers will be without forward James van Riemsdyk tonight. He was a late scratch after taking warmups.

Van Riemsdyk appeared to injure his knee Wednesday night on a hit into the boards by Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr. Van Riemsdyk told reporters in Buffalo that he felt fine, but apparently things changed since then.

Van Riemsdyk's absence means Jody Shelley will play.

Devils defenseman Andy Greene also will sit out tonight. According to Tom Gulitti of The (Bergen) Record, Greene doesn't have any serious injury, just some bumps and bruises that could use a night off on the back end of back-to-back games. Mark Fraser will play in his absence.

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Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 5:38 PM

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

Voracek feeling fine after head-butt incident

PHILADELPHIA -- A night after being head butted by Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta, Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said he felt fine, and didn't even know exactly what happened until he saw the replay this morning.

Today it was announced Kaleta was suspended four games for the incident.

"I didn't even know he hit me with his head," Voracek said. "I felt something hit and when I saw it on the replay this morning, I found out he head butted me."
 
At 4:58 of the first period, with a group of players battling along the boards -- among them Voracek and Kaleta -- the Sabres forward drove his head into Voracek's face.

"I was battling for the puck and I felt something hit me," Voracek said. "He made a few steps back and hit me with his head. The way the League looks at those things right now, it was possible he gets suspended."

Voracek refused to say if he thought it was intentional or not.

"It's hard to say," Voracek said. "He's got to know if he did it on purpose or not. I can't go into his head."

Voracek also was asked about Saturday's visit by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team that traded him to Philadelphia in June.

"It's going to be very exciting," he said. "But we have a big game tonight and I have to re-focus on tonight. Tomorrow we'll worry about Saturday."

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

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Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 5:15 PM

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

Battle of the backups in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA -- The New Jersey Devils confirmed Johan Hedberg would start in net, and Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette confirmed a few minutes ago that Sergei Bobrovsky would start in goal for the Flyers.

With both teams having played their No. 1 goalies last night, there's no real surprise with these decisions.

In 20 (19 starts) against the Flyers, Hedberg has a career record of 7-10-1 with a 3.03 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. Last season, he went 3-3-0 against Philadelphia, including a 26-save effort in a 3-1 Devils win Jan. 11, his last start in Philadelphia.

Bobrovsky started just once against the Devils, stopping 23 of 26 shots Dec. 4, 2010, in a 5-3 victory in Philadelphia.

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









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Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 3:50 PM

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

Briere could draw back in for Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers center Danny Briere has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, and as of this morning, his status for tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils remained in doubt.

Well, the doubt might have just left town, along with center Ben Holmstrom.

The Flyers announced Holmstrom, a center called up from AHL Adirondack to play last night in Buffalo due to injuries to Briere and fellow center Matt Read, has been returned to the AHL. With Read not scheduled to return from his upper-body injury until Saturday at the earliest, that opens a spot for Briere to return to the lineup.

Nothing is set until coach Peter Laviolette writes out his lineup -- and the Flyers are carrying an extra forward in Harry Zolnierczyk -- but the guess is it's Briere who goes back in. How the rest of the lineup looks outside the Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr - Scott Hartnell line, however is anyone's guess.

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






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Posted On Wednesday, 11.02.2011 / 11:55 AM

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

Injuries mean new look for Flyers

We had the Sabres lines a bit earlier, and here's a look at the lineup the Flyers could put on the ice tonight in Buffalo (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN2).

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Andreas Nodl - Maxime Talbot - Wayne Simmonds
Jody Shelley - Ben Holmstrom - Zac Rinaldo

Braydon Coburn - Kimmo Timonen
Matt Carle - Erik Gustafsson
Andrej Meszaros - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal, with Sergei Bobrovsky backing him up.

It's almost a completely new look for the Flyers up front, as Danny Briere and Matt Read will be out with upper-body injuries.

The only line that remains the same is the top line, and why not? Jagr was Third Star of the Week with 5 goals in four games, and Giroux is tied for second in the League with 15 points.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.02.2011 / 11:14 AM

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

Leino on top line part of potential Sabres lineup

Here is what the Buffalo Sabres' lineup could look like tonight when the host the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m., Versus, TSN2).

Thomas Vanek - Ville Leino - Jason Pominville
Luke Adam - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta
Cody McCormick - Matt Ellis - Brad Boyes

Robyn Regehr - Mike Weber
Andrej Sekera - Tyler Myers
Jordan Leopold - Christian Ehrhoff

Ryan Miller will start in goal, with Jhonas Enroth backing him up.

The big change for the Sabres comes on the top two lines, where Leino gets the chance to play between Vanek and Pominville, while Adam switches to the second line. The rookies skated at left wing with Roy in the middle Tuesday, but they could flip-flop for the game.

On defense, Weber will make his season debut tonight, playing alongside Regeher. Weber's insertion into the lineup makes Marc-Andre Gragnani a healthy scratch.

With injuries sidelining Flyers forwards Danny Briere and Matt Read tonight, it'll be interesting to see how the Flyers' lines shape up when they skate later this morning.

For more information on the game, check out the preview here.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 1:36 PM

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

Nyquist to start on second line for Wings

The big news from Detroit's morning skate was rookie Gustav Nyquist skating on the second line in place of Jiri Hudler, who will be a healthy scratch tonight against the Wild. He's also likely to see time on the second power-play unit.

"When you're in a situation like we're in when you haven't scored much in four games (four goals) ... you can continue to go the way you're going or you can change things," coach told reporters after today's morning skate. "We moved our lines around a little bit. There's nothing wrong with our last two games, but we're not winning."

Also sitting out tonight will be forward Cory Emmerton and defenseman Mike Commodore.
 
Here's what tonight's lineup likely will look like:

Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Tomas Holmstrom
Gustav Nyquist - Johan Franzen - Todd Bertuzzi
Danny Cleary - Valtteri Filppula - Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Patrick Eaves

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

Jimmy Howard will start in goal, with Ty Conklin backing him up

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

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery