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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Friday, 12.23.2011 / 1:24 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps start Neuvirth, get Erskine back in lineup

NEWARK, N.J. -- Michal Neuvirth will be making his fourth straight start in the Capitals net and looking his first two-game winning streak of the season. Tomas Vokoun hasn't played since Dec. 13 against Philadelphia, when he was pulled after allowing four goals on 21 shots through two periods.

Defenseman John Erskine will also return to the Capitals lineup after sitting out Tuesday's 4-1 win over Nashville.

Here is how the entire lineup should look at the start of Friday night's game against the Devils:

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Mathieu Perreault - Mike Knuble

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Dennis Wideman
John Erskine - Dmitry Orlov

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

POSTED ON Friday, 12.23.2011 / 11:48 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Elias returns to Devils' lineup after illness

NEWARK, N.J. -- Patrik Elias will return to the Devils lineup Friday after missing Tuesday's game with an illness. David Clarkson, who sat out practice Thursday with an illness, will also play.

However, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson is in Sweden attending his grandmother's funeral and Henrik Tallinder will miss his fourth straight game with back spasms.

Here is how the Devils lines and defense pairings will look in front of Martin Brodeur:

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Tim Sestito - Ryan Carter - Cam Janssen

Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster
Alexander Urbom - Matt Taormina

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

POSTED ON Friday, 12.23.2011 / 11:40 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Brodeur continues search for consistency

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils goalie Martin Brodeur will continue his search for consistency Friday night against the Capitals as he's expected to make his third consecutive start.

Brodeur said Friday morning that he's still trying to find a rhythm this season and it's been more difficult than he expected because he's not playing both games in back-to-back situations and he also sat out six games in October with an injury.

The Devils have played six sets of back-to-backs and 24 games in total since Brodeur returned from his early-season injury. He's started 17 times and is 8-8 with a 3.09 goals-against average.

"I thought it would be easy to take the break and be more rested and that would be a better thing, but it's been tricky," said Brodeur, who will also be looking to snap his personal five-game losing streak to the Capitals. "Practice is more important for me now, where before it was games, games, games. Now practice becomes games for me."

Brodeur also said practice has become harder for him this season because he doesn't have to conserve as much energy as he had to in years past.

"It's that balance I need to have between games and practices that I'm not used to," he said. "That's what I'm going through right now, but slowly I'll get to the same level as far as playing games."

He should as long as he stays healthy.

The Devils will have 48 games remaining after the holiday break, but only seven more sets of back-to-backs. Brodeur could conceivably get somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 more starts, which would put him either at or close to 60 games played. That's right around the number the Devils were looking for from their future Hall of Fame goalie this season considering he is only five and half months shy of his 40th birthday.

"Marty's reputation prior to me coming here was this guy is one of the hardest-working guys in practice, and I've seen exactly that," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "I've seen a guy who comes to work everyday, cares about his game, is willing to put in in extra work when things aren't going right. It turns around for guys like that. It may not turn around today or the next day, but if you consistency do that you reap the rewards of that and he has entire career. I don't expect that to change.

"We need him healthy and fresh the second half. That's critical."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 12:48 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bickel set to make NHL debut for Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Rangers' defense corps is battered with Steve Eminger (separated shoulder) joining Mike Sauer (concussion) and Marc Staal (post-concussion symptoms) on injured reserve. Jeff Woywitka is also going to be a game-time decision due to an injured left ankle.

However, Stu Bickel isn't complaining because the latest injury to Eminger means he'll be making his NHL debut Tuesday night against New Jersey.

Bickel, 25, was recalled on an emergency basis after Eminger suffered his injury in Phoenix over the weekend. Bickel was with the Rangers throughout training camp andwas among the final cuts, but he impressed coach John Tortorella during camp, and the scouting reports on him from the coaches with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL have all been positive.

"You have to go about it the same as any other game and play the same way," Bickel said of making his NHL debut. "I pride myself on defense, playing a defense-first game and a physical game. I don't think I'll have too much trouble fitting into the systems here."

Tortorella said Bickel understands the concepts of the Rangers' system both because he learned it during training camp and because they play the same way in Connecticut. However, there is still the issue of nerves that he'll inevitably feel before his first NHL game.

"That position is the toughest position and we're certainly going to try to help him just to calm himself down to make simple plays until he gets his feet wet," Tortorella said. "There are some little things (with the system) that we went over with him (Monday) and we will (Tuesday) morning that comes into play quite a bit with how we play defense. But we don't want to fill his mind with a bunch of thoughts. We want him to go play, and we'll help him along the way."

Tim Erixon was also recalled on an emergency basis, but he'll have to wait until closer to game time to find out if he'll get in the lineup because it's all related to how Woywitka's left foot feels. Woywitka said he felt good during the morning skate, but now he has to go to the trainers room and get some ice on it and walk around to see if the pain returns.

He said he had no strength to skate Monday, but he could move around pretty well Tuesday morning.

"We'll see what it's like before the game and then we'll decide," Woywitka said. "Today I felt more movement in it. Now we'll rest it and see what the prognosis is. I'm happy with the way it has come along."

With Woywitka's status up in the air, the Rangers defense pairings for Tuesday night are not set. However, Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal and here is what their forward lines should look like with Sean Avery and Erik Christensen as the scratches:

Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko - Mike Rupp - Brandon Prust
Carl Hagelin - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 12:18 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

DeBoer introduced to Devils-Rangers rivalry

NEWARK, N.J. -- Peter DeBoer will get his first taste of the Devils-Rangers rivalry Tuesday night, and New Jersey's first-year coach said he's feeling pressure on the home front to win the game.

"I've got two boys that are 11 and 9 and watch this HBO series like a religion, so the last thing they want to see is their dad lose on national TV," DeBoer said Tuesday morning at Prudential Center. "It's one thing to lose somewhere else, but I've got some personal pressure on me that way."

Other than the pressure from his kids, DeBoer expressed excitement over being in a rivalry such as this one with the Devils and Rangers.

"Not a day goes by where I don't get a pat on the back and a, 'Good luck, except against the Rangers,'" he said. "That's the great part about it. If you can't get up for this game, then you don't have a pulse."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 11:30 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Elias, Tallinder out as Devils face Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed that Patrik Elias and Henrik Tallinder both won't play Tuesday night against the Rangers at Prudential Center. Elias is home sick and Tallinder will miss his third straight game with back spasms that cropped up as he was stretching prior to last Friday's game against Dallas.

Travis Zajac will bump up to center the second line between Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora. Tim Sestito will get into the lineup and play on the fourth line between Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen.

Zajac made his season debut Friday after rehabbing from Achilles surgery in August. He also play against Saturday in Montreal and has averaged 15:28 of ice time in the two games, but will likely see that number rise against the Rangers.

"A couple of days off was good and I feel ready to go again (Tuesday)," Zajac said. "We want to take it day-by-day still for the next little while, but for now I feel great. I'm ready to play wherever I'm needed and whatever situation they need me to play in."

Zajac still doesn't think he'll play upwards of 19 or 20 minutes yet.

"We have enough guys that can play in enough situations," he told NHL.com. "I don't think they'll throw me into 19 minutes, or even 18, just yet."

DeBoer, though, said the Devils may not have a choice.

"Obviously it's a little sooner than we anticipated and probably more ice than we anticipated," DeBoer said. "We're asking a lot of him, so we'll have to monitor him and make sure he's OK."

DeBoer said Tallinder is getting better, but he's not quite ready to go just yet. Matt Taormina will play in his second straight game.

The Devils' lines and defense pairings should look like this for the start of Tuesday's game:

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen

Matt Taormina - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur will start in net. Johan Hedberg will be the backup.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

POSTED ON Monday, 12.19.2011 / 5:25 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Ice guru Craig meets the media

PHILADELPHIA -- It was show-and-tell time for Dan Craig, the NHL's resident ice-making guru.

During the general media availability at 3:30 Monday afternoon, Craig ran over and grabbed one of the four-inch pipes that he will use to connect the floor of the auxiliary rink to the refrigeration truck parked outside Citizens Bank Park. He picked it up and began explaining how it connects to the floor and how the pipe eventually connects to the truck outside.

"We hook the (aluminum panels) onto these hoses," Craig said, pointing out the hoses attached to the pipe. "There's a quick connect here and the glycol, which is simple antifreeze, gets pumped into the aluminum panel, which is a quick, fast-freezing element. The whole set up will take about 300 panels, and these are 30 feet long by 30 inches wide. We'll push 1,500 gallons of glycol in per minute from the truck down into the floor."

Craig had the assembled media amazed. It was one of those, "Wait a minute, you don't just spray water and it freezes" moments.

It definitely is not, and that's why Craig pulled out one of the pipes to demonstrate.

Other than the show-and-tell, Craig offered some positive updates for how the first day of the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic buildout was going. He said everything is on schedule and going according to plan.

The plan for Tuesday is further set-up and the goal is to be spraying water by Thursday night. He said it'll happen at night because the sun goes down and the temperatures dip into the 30s, and those are ideal conditions for ice making.

"We might as well use the benefit of being down into the 30s or high 40s to make a good sheet of ice," Craig said. "So, if you go onto the (NHL.com) webcam, you won't see a whole lot of work going on during the day. A lot of it will happen at night with security lightning because that's the best time for us to work."

Once Craig was finished with his demonstration and update, he started fielding some questions. A television reporter asked him about the challenges he faces here at Citizens Bank Park compared to other outside venues.

"I don't know yet. I really don't," Craig said. "It's one of those things you have to be in here for a couple of days. This morning it was very calm, very nice, and now we have the wind picking up, and it's approximately gametime for us. That's one of the things I watch, is to really see what transitions here between noon and 4, what happens in the region and how it affects us here. If you get up to the truck you don't feel the wind, but down here you feel the wind. It's elements like that that we have to play with and work with."

The goal, Craig said, is to have an inch of ice built by Dec. 26 so they can start painting white Dec. 27. He wants to have the lines and logos painted on the 28th and then build more ice so the entire sheet is ready before the scheduled media skate on Dec. 30.

Craig was asked if it's important that the ice gets skated on prior to the actual game being played on Jan. 2.

"Definitely, definitely," he said. "It doesn't matter where you are or what facility you're in, you always try to make sure it's chewed up a little bit so we can let it heal itself and get the bottom back together. Density on a sheet of ice is the No. 1 thing we deal with."

With no further questions, Craig's first general media session was over. He walked away smiling as he went to tackle his next task.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

POSTED ON Monday, 12.19.2011 / 12:05 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Ballpark presents unique challenge for piping

PHILADELPHIA -- If you're at Citizens Bank Park for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2 and you happen to be walking in Ashburn Alley you may find yourself standing directly under the piping that runs to the rink.

Due to the layout of the ballpark, the only way to get the piping that pumps glycol (the fluid that is used to freeze the rink) from the refrigeration truck parked outside the stadium to the rink on the field is to send it up and down on scaffolding. Part of that scaffolding is constructed above the concourse area in Ashburn Alley beyond the right-field fence.

Workers are expected to begin running the piping Monday.

The piping will start at the refrigeration truck on Hartranft Street and will be run up through a 4x4 window that leads into an indoor play area. It will run through the entire play area and out a smaller window into the concourse area.

However, that's where it will get raised to fly on the 28-foot height to go above the actual field. It will then run down a scaffolding ramp, underneath the temporary bleachers that have been erected in center field, and finally down onto the field.

The piping will run on armored decking that is already laid down in between center field and right field, and finally will get attached to junction boxes that are themselves attached to the sub-floor of the rink. The glycol circulates and freezes the water that will eventually be sprayed onto the floor to create the playing surface for the Flyers and Rangers.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

POSTED ON Monday, 12.19.2011 / 10:50 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Refrigeration truck kept on ice in bid for parking spot

PHILADELPHIA -- The NHL's famous refrigeration truck had to wait this morning before driver Jim Fraser could finally put it in park on Hartranft Street beyond right field at Citizens Bank Park.

Why? Well, a gray Ford Escape with New Jersey license plates was parked in the spot reserved for the truck.

Nobody is quite sure who the Ford Escape belonged to or why it was parked illegally in that spot, but people around the ballpark were saying it had been there since early in the morning. Even better is that when the police ran the license plates, the car came up as unregistered.

Some of the workers here for the Winter Classic buildout were joking that they should just get fork lifts to haul the Escape out of the spot, but NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig, always thinking on his feet, said that could be a problem, especially if the fork lifts ripped up the bottom of the SUV.
POSTED ON Friday, 12.16.2011 / 2:13 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stars sticking with Bachman in net

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Stars are not going to shy away from what is working, so Richard Bachman will be back between the pipes Friday night at Prudential Center.

Bachman will be making his fourth straight start. He's 3-0 with a 0.90 goals-against average and .970 save percentage. He beat the Islanders, 3-2, Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum by making 25 saves. He also stopped all 34 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, and was good on 26 of 27 shots in a win against Los Angeles last weekend.

According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, the Stars lineup is still in flux because Niklas Grossman has a sore elbow and coach Glen Gulutzan could decide to play seven defenseman to be certain.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday