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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 2:51 PM

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

Richards ready for MSG's glare

NEW YORK -- Brad Richards has been thinking about making his Madison Square Garden debut as a Ranger since July 2, when he signed his nine-year, $60 million contract.

"It just seems like it took forever to get here," Richards said Wednesday.

Forever ends Thursday night, when Richards finally gets to say hello to his new fans by skating onto the Garden ice in a Rangers sweater. He admitted he'll be nervous.

"It'll remind me a little bit of my first game," Richards said. "It's my first time in this type of market with these type of fans. When you sign with a new team the first thing you want to do is get in the building and play in front of those fans, but that hasn't been the case. I'm excited. I'm sure I'll have butterflies. I can't wait to experience it. It'll be a great experience in my life, my career."

Rangers coach John Tortorella, who was with Richards in Tampa Bay, is also eager to see the team's new superstar make his Garden debut. It'll be the first time Richards will be in the spotlight of Broadway.

"He wants this challenge and everything that comes with the city," Tortorella said. "It's a great city, a great sports town. There are different pressures coming here. There is accountability that comes into play when you come into a big market like this. But that's why Brad Richards is Brad Richards. He wanted this, and that's why we want him."

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 2:33 PM

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

Gaborik helps Sauer show he's ready

NEW YORK -- Michael Sauer should be on the ice with his teammates when the New York Rangers play their home-opener Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Sauer missed the last five games with an injured right shoulder, but after taking part in the team's full practice today at the Garden, and even taking some inadvertent contact from Marian Gaborik, the top-four defenseman said he will be good to go against Toronto.

"Gabby closed me out and bumped me from the side, but it was good," Sauer said. "I don't think he was happy that I got the puck from him that time. I did and it felt good."

Sauer missed the second half of training camp after injuring his right shoulder in a preseason game at Philadelphia. He did not play in the Rangers' four preseason games in Europe, but returned to play both games in Stockholm.

However, in the first period of the Rangers' second game, Sauer was hit along the boards and re-injured his shoulder. He played the rest of the game against the Ducks, but said he couldn't lift his stick.

"The hit (in Sweden) re-did it to a greater degree," Sauer said. "It was one of those things where I got hit just right and I needed to take that time off again because I was back to square one."

Sauer traveled to Western Canada and started to get back to skating in Vancouver, but the Rangers didn't have any long, hard practices in which he could test his shoulder in contact situations.

However, he worked with trainer Jim Ramsay and was pretty sure he'd be OK to play Thursday before the Rangers practiced Wednesday. The hit he took from Gaborik gave him the re-assurance that everything seems just fine.

"It's hard to simulate something like that, but we've gotten it strong and I should be able to take that blow," Sauer said.

Rangers coach John Tortorella is eager to get Sauer back in the lineup because it'll help him position the rest of his defense the way he feels most comfortable.

Tortorella wouldn't divulge the defense pairs he will use Thursday, but it's possible Sauer will play with Steve Eminger on the second pair, behind Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. That means the likely third pair would be Michael Del Zotto with rookie Tim Erixon. In that case, Jeff Woywitka could be a healthy scratch.

"It puts some guys that we have slotted in areas that we didn't want to put them in back into areas that they can succeed in, or at least better try to succeed in," Tortorella said of getting Sauer back. "Michael came on strong last year. He was a surprise and turned into one of our top four. When you get one of your top four back, it certainly helps."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 12:50 PM

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

Rangers' Sauer says he'll play Thursday

Rangers defenseman Mike Sauer said after practice today that he will play his first regular-season North American game Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sauer has missed the last 5 games with a right shoulder injury. He first got hurt during training camp, and re-injured it against Anaheim in Stockholm.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 11:58 AM

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

No Rupp for Rangers

Forward Mike Rupp is not skating with the Rangers this morning at Madison Square Garden. He has been nursing a sore knee.

Without Rupp, here's how the lines looked at practice:

Ruslan Fedotenko - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Wojtek Wolski - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Erik Christensen - Artem Anisimov - Kris Newbury
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 1:46 PM

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

Crosby stays behind with Penguins on Long Island

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby did not make the trip to Long Island for Tuesday's game against the Islanders simply because he was not going to play so there was no reason for him to go on a one-game trip with his teammates. He remains back in Pittsburgh working through his rehab as he nears a return to the ice.
 
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma addressed Crosby's status Tuesday morning:
 
"He's still in the process of his rehab. While we'd all like to put a timetable on it, we haven't. It's not about missing games or projecting when that game might be, he has to still go through the process. He's progressing really well. You see him on the ice, his level of compete, speed and skill is great to watch, and we're still going through that process. I think everyone would like to know when game one is or what a timetable is, but we're still in the process of going through his rehab and that doesn't have a timetable on it."
 
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 12:57 PM

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

Potential lineup for Penguins

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Based on what we saw in the morning skate, we're going to speculate that Evgeni Malkin returns to the Penguins' lineup Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders. Coach Dan Bylsma said Malkin would be a game-time decision, but if the Russian superstar plays, it would be his first game since Oct. 13.

If we're right, this is what the Penguins lineup should look like against the Islanders:

Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Dustin Jeffrey - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Matt Cooke - Richard Park - Arron Asham

Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen - Ben Lovejoy

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal, and Brent Johnson will serve as the backup.
 
If Malkin doesn't play, look for Mark Letestu to get the call, which could shake up the rest of the lines as Jordan Staal might move up to center Neal and Sullivan.

Here's what the Islanders' lineup could look like, including Rick DiPietro's return to the lineup as Evgeni Nabokov's backup.

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

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 12:54 PM

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

Malkin a game-time decision

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Despite the fact that Evgeni Malkin skated with James Neal and Steve Sullivan during line rushes as well as on the Pittsburgh Penguins' first power-play unit, coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday morning that Malkin availability for tonight's game against the Islanders wouldn't be made until game time..

Malkin has missed the last five games and seven of the last eight with a sore knee -- the same the Russian superstar had surgically repaired last season.

Asked what could change between the morning skate and the time he has to submit his lineup for the game against the Islanders, Bylsma joked that he just wanted to have a secret over the media for six hours.

Bylsma, though, said strength and skating is not what is holding Malkin back. Then again, he wouldn't say if anything is holding him back.

"His strength is there," Bylsma said. "I think the skating that he's demonstrated this year is stronger than what we saw from him last year."

Bylsma did announce that Marc-Andre Fleury would be the Penguins' starting goaltender.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 11:23 AM

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

DiPietro to back up Nabokov vs. Penguins

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A full-bearded Rick DiPietro says he feels good and he's just trying to stay sharp as he waits his turn to get back in the New York Islanders net.

This is all good news for the Islanders because it was only two weeks ago that the oft-injured goalie suffered a concussion in practice, which could have made his first positive offseason of workouts in years irrelevant.

"Just keep fine tuning," said DiPietro, who will serve as Evgeni Nabokov's backup Tuesday night against the Penguins. "It's nice to be able to go out there now, skate and feel good."

DiPietro was Al Montoya's backup for the first two games of the season before suffering a concussion in practice on Oct. 12. He hasn't dressed in a game since.

"It's going to be good to be in that game atmosphere again, be in the locker room with the boys and have that excitement," DiPietro said of his role as the backup Tuesday. "It should be a good game."

If he's ready to back up, that obviously means he's ready to play, but DiPietro said he's not at all bummed that Islanders coach Jack Capuano chose to ride Evgeni Nabokov after his 29-save performance in a 4-2 loss at Florida on Saturday.

"You just work. You can only control a couple of things in life and how hard you work is one of them," DiPietro said. "The main thing for me being here now is to win, and it's an exciting time for this team and this organization. I just want us to win. I just want us to be successful and whatever way I can chip in and help, I'm going to do it."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 10:45 AM

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

Projected lineup for Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- This should be the Islanders lineup for Tuesday's game against Pittsburgh.
 
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Brian Rolston - Josh Bailey - Blake Comeau
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jay Pandolfo

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Mike Mottau

Evgeni Nabokov will start in net. Rick DiPietro will serve as the backup.
 
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said defenseman Milan Jurcina (groin) and forward Nino Niederreiter (groin) are getting close, but neither is ready to return to the lineup. Jurcina practiced with the team Monday, and Niederreiter could re-join his teammates in practice next week.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 10:36 AM

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

Islanders to start Nabokov against Penguins

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Evgeni Nabokov will start in net for the second straight game when the Islanders play the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum. Rick DiPietro will dress as the backup for the first time since suffering a concussion in practice on Oct. 12.

Nabokov made 29 saves in a 4-2 loss at Florida on Saturday night. He also made 29 saves in a 4-2 win over the Rangers on Oct. 15 to earn his first win as an Islander. Nabokov is 8-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .939 lifetime against the Penguins.

DiPietro served as the backup to Al Montoya for the first two games of the season, but suffered a concussion in practice on Oct. 12 when Brian Rolston's shot went off his mask.

"It's early in the season, but obviously with Nabby he's someone I didn't really know," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "He's a character guy, a great teammate and there's no question on a big stage, like we had here the other night against the Rangers, he played very well for us and he also gave us a chance to win the game down in Florida. I don't know where my expectations are, but he's certainly on his way to being that guy that I thought he was."

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I was in there icing my face as she was trying to push a baby out.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf on going to the hospital with a facial laceration while his wife was in labor following Game 1 on Wednesday