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Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 11:20 AM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Spectator Plaza adds ambience to Winter Classic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Toronto native Neil McNeil picked up his son at a New Year's Eve party at 2:30 Wednesday morning and immediately hit the road to make the roughly five-hour drive to Michigan Stadium, anxiously awaiting the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic to watch their Toronto Maple Leafs face the Detroit Red Wings.

Little did McNeil know when he secured his tickets that the scene would be as picturesque as it was Wednesday morning, between the live music and the fan experience at Spectator Plaza, along with a light snowfall. It truly is a winter wonderland.

McNeil, who dressed appropriately and topped his outfit with a referee's bathrobe, is spending the morning simply absorbing it all. The Spectator Plaza footprint included beer and food vendors, live music and various hockey-related games.

"This is perfect," said McNeil, who works for a couple of hockey rinks in Toronto. "We were prepared for the worst, but walking around today, it's very comfortable. If this is the worst it gets, it's going to be an amazing day. Little bit of flurries, but not enough to shovel the ice too much. It really lends to the ambience. We've heard about games in the past where they were worried about the ice being soft, [but] that won't be the case today."

Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 8:15 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Domi enjoying retirement, start of son's career

DETROIT -- Tie Domi was a fan favorite during his playing days, when he racked up 3,515 penalty minutes in 1,020 NHL games.

Nearly eight years have passed since the 44-year-old played in the NHL, and Domi has moved on. Instead of dwelling on how much he misses the old days, he's turned his attention to his family. And while he won't be playing, Domi could find himself back in NHL rinks soon. Only this time, he'll be watching his son.

Domi is the father of 18-year-old Max Domi, who was a first-round selection (No. 12) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2013 NHL Draft. The 5-foot-9 center is in his third season with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League, where he has 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) in 30 games this season.

Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 7:30 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Nieuwendyk has fun in Alumni Showdown

DETROIT -- Joe Nieuwendyk hasn't played in an NHL game since the 2006-07 season, but he was able to get the competitive juices flowing Tuesday.

Nieuwendyk represented the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second game of the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park, where the Leafs rallied from a 5-1 deficit before suffering a 6-5 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The 47-year-old was one of many Hall of Fame players to take the ice in the second game.

Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 7:23 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

McCabe's scoring touch extends a magical day

DETROIT -- Bryan McCabe hadn't scored a goal in a competitive game since he played for the New York Rangers during the 2010-11 season, his last in the NHL.

But on Tuesday, his goal with two seconds remaining sent the second game of the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park past regulation.

The Alumni Showdown was a big part of the festivities this week that will be capped by the 2014 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, which the Maple Leafs and Red Wings will play Wednesday in front of what is expected to be a record crowd at Michigan Stadium.

Posted On Sunday, 12.29.2013 / 6:51 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Islanders' Okposo in mix for U.S. Olympic roster spot

As a team, the New York Islanders have not been able to build off what they accomplished last season, when they qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007.

But right wing Kyle Okposo continues to make strides, so much so that the Minnesota native is meriting serious consideration to be named later this week to the United States roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Skating on the top line alongside Thomas Vanek and John Tavares, the 25-year-old ranks second on the Islanders with 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 39 games. He had 24 points (four goals) in 48 games last season.

Okposo's 34 points have him in the top five among American skaters this season.

"It's in the back of your mind, obviously," Okposo said of making the Olympic team, which will be named immediately following the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday. "World Junior tournament is going on right now, so I've been following that a little bit. You think about the international competition a little bit, but I'm here with the Islanders, and I'm still going to keep playing well."

Posted On Saturday, 12.28.2013 / 3:00 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Devils captain Salvador returns from injury

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- After more than two months, the New Jersey Devils are expected to have their captain back in the lineup Saturday night.

Bryce Salvador, who injured his foot during a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 22, skated Saturday morning and will return when the Devils face the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

"It's been a while, so I'm excited to get back at it and just be back playing," Salvador said.

Posted On Saturday, 12.28.2013 / 3:00 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Islanders' Tavares out with lower-body injury

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- John Tavares' streak of 246 consecutive games played will come to an end Saturday night.

A lower-body injury will force the New York Islanders captain to sit out against the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and Islanders coach Jack Capuano didn't want to discuss it in great detail.

The Islanders are listing Tavares as day-to-day. Capuano said the injury wasn't sustained during a 3-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, but rather something that's been lingering.

"I'm concerned, obviously," Capuano said Saturday morning. "You know what Johnny is to our hockey club. He's not only our leader, but obviously his play speaks for itself. But at this particular time, he's not ready to go. We're not going to put him in a situation where he can further hurt himself.

"You just be cautious with it, and hopefully he'll feel better tomorrow."

Posted On Tuesday, 10.29.2013 / 12:12 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Hagelin, Talbot eager to help Rangers get win

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Carl Hagelin is tired of watching. He's ready to help the New York Rangers get out of their early-season funk.

The speedy forward was forced to watch the first 10 games, working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery. But there's a strong chance he'll be in the lineup when the Rangers (3-7-0) face the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday night.

"All I've heard is that everyone that was on the ice is going to take the warmup, and then go from there," said Hagelin, who participated in the optional skate at the Coliseum on Tuesday morning. "I'm just going to prepare myself to play and then if I play, I'll play."

Posted On Tuesday, 10.29.2013 / 12:00 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Capuano confident Islanders defensemen can improve

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- There is no doubt Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic make up the New York Islanders' top defensive pairing. They play the most minutes each night and consistently go up against the opposition's top forwards.

But they can't do it alone. That's why the Islanders, who were sloppy in a 5-2 loss on home ice to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, need more from their other four defensemen -- on both ends of the ice -- if they're going to be a force in the Metropolitan Division.

"Those guys are going to play top minutes, none different than [Ryan] McDonagh and [Dan] Girardi," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of MacDonald and Hamonic, who will receive top minutes again Tuesday night against the New York Rangers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

"We just collectively back there have to play better. Guys are giving us what they have, [but] we're making mistakes that they see, they know and I've got the confidence in them that it's going to get better. But for us to be successful, we have to have better decisions with the puck on our stick. Our gaps have got to be better, our sticks have got to be better, we've got to defend harder. We've gone through this. I have the confidence they're going to rebound."

Posted On Tuesday, 10.22.2013 / 12:30 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Islanders' Donovan ready to make most of his chance

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The last thing Matt Donovan wants is to see one of his teammates get injured.

However, when New York Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky sustained a concussion during a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, Donovan knew it was going to provide him with an opportunity to get back into the lineup and show what he can do.

Donovan will get that chance Tuesday when the Islanders host the Vancouver Canucks at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

"Lubo [Visnovsky] is very offensive, he runs that first power play," Donovan said. "I'm going to get my chance to show what I can do offensively. Hopefully I can play well tonight."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Andrew MacDonald will receive the first crack at replacing Visnovsky on the team's top power-play unit but also said Donovan is expected to get playing time during the man-advantage too. Donovan has one goal, one assist and a plus-2 rating in five games this season.

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Quote of the Day

He is, in my opinion, one of the best defensemen in the NHL and continuing to grow. I think his game, from an offensive standpoint, he continues to drive our offense... I think there's still tremendous upside for Oliver.

— Coyotes GM Don Maloney on defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson