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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.
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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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Posted On Friday, 12.16.2011 / 2:07 PM

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

Parise finally feeling like himself after injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- Zach Parise is finally starting to feel like himself again. It took the Devils captain roughly 21 games this season, but his production is on the rise and his mental state is as strong as ever.

"Finally I'm starting to feel really good, which is kind of refreshing," Parise told NHL.com Friday morning. "Things are starting to come together a little bit."

Parise has points in eight of the last nine games, including four goals and eight assists for 12 points. He had his first three-point game of the season this past Monday in Tampa Bay and added another goal in Florida on Tuesday, helping the Devils sweep the road trip.

Parise had only six goals and five assists for 11 points in the first 21 games this season. He sat out all but one game over the final five and a half months of last season with a knee injury.

"The legs have always felt good, always been there, but I think it took a lot longer than I expected to just finally get back," Parise said. "Mentally was the hardest part. It got frustrating sometimes making some not so good plays out there. I don't know, all of a sudden you relax and everything starts to slow down. That's kind of what happened."

Parise also said it helps that he's back playing on the left wing. Devils coach Pete DeBoer experimented with him at center earlier in the season, but Adam Henrique has come in and contributed in a way that has allowed Parise to move over to the left side. Henrique, who has 23 points in 27 games, is the center on the top line with Ilya Kovalchuk on the right side.

Kovalchuk, by the way, has 10 points on five goals and five assists in the last nine games.

"You know what helps, too, is our line is playing really well," Parise said. "That makes a big difference right now."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Friday, 12.16.2011 / 11:59 AM

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

Devils' DeBoer wants to ease Zajac back in

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Pete DeBoer said the plan Friday against the Dallas Stars at least is to try to ease center Travis Zajac back in so he has the proper time to get re-acclimated to the NHL game both with his timing and speed.

DeBoer, though, admitted easing an all-around asset like Zajac back into the mix might prove to be difficult because he is a guy with a history of playing in every situation.

"He's a tough guy not to play because he does so many things well, but especially being in a back-to-back situation we're going to really try to monitor that," DeBoer said, referring to the Devils game Saturday in Montreal. "Travis is a hard guy not to play, so we'll see what exactly easing him in means. I know it won't be 20 minutes."

DeBoer laughed when a reporter suggested 19 minutes would be about right, but it may not be so farfetched considering Zajac averaged 19:46 of ice time last season, including 2:34 on the power play and 2:05 on the penalty kill. He also averaged more than 20 minutes per game in 2009-10 and nearly 19 minutes in 2008-09.

However, Zajac hasn't played in a game since April and he's coming off a four-month rehab after undergoing surgery to repair his torn left Achilles tendon on Aug. 18. The doctors initially told Zajac he'd be out anywhere between four-to-five months, and because he never had a setback he was able to come in on the short side.

"I didn't push myself right at the beginning," Zajac said. "I slowly built up stamina and strength and stability, and it's helped me to get further along faster."

Zajac will start Friday night as the third-line center between wings David Clarkson and Mattias Tedenby.

"I think we're going to have a lot of energy," Zajac said. "[Tedenby] plays with a lot of speed, [Clarkson] is physical and he's having a great season, so he's playing with a lot of confidence right now. Hopefully those guys help me out and I can eventually get to where I need to be contributing both offensively and defensively."

Zajac will have to wait an extra hour before he finally makes his season debut as Scott Niedermayer's jersey number retirement ceremony will push the start time back to 8 p.m. He said that won't change his mindset.

"I'll be nervous, a little anxious I think," Zajac said. "I'll be ready to go as soon as I get here I'm sure. I'm definitely excited to get out there and play with these guys again."

Zajac's teammates feel the same way.

"With how well Adam (Henrique) is playing, all of a sudden we're pretty deep at center," captain Zach Parise told NHL.com. "When he (Zajac) went out and then Jake (Jacob Josefsen), everyone thought center depth was going to be a big problem for us. It's good because he plays every situation -- even strength, 5-on-3, 3-on-5, everywhere else -- so once he gets comfortable and back into game speed it'll be really important for us to have him back."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Friday, 12.16.2011 / 11:04 AM

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

Devils ready The Rock for Niedermayer Night

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils have dressed up Prudential Center in a fashionable way for Scott Niedermayer Night that includes a ceremony to raise the ex-defenseman's No. 27 to the rafters.

Giant pictures of Niedermayer at various stages of his Devils career are hanging from the ceiling. His No. 27 is painted into the ice behind both of the nets. A large draping that reads '27 Niedermayer 27' is hanging from the broadcast booth at the top of the lower bowl. The same sign is stuck on the boards by the penalty boxes.

Niedermayer is expected to have between 50-60 family members and friends, including several ex-teammates, in attendance for his jersey retirement ceremony. Three of his former teammates (Martin Brodeur, Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias) still play for the Devils, though Brodeur will be the backup Friday night for Johan Hedberg.

The Devils have even handed out special media credentials for the evening.

Former Devils television play-by-play broadcaster Mike Emrick is here to serve as the master of ceremonies. Niedermayer and Devils GM Lou Lamoriello will meet the media at noon.

However, the Devils also have a game Friday against the Stars, who are looking for a sweep of the tri-state area. They beat the Rangers, 1-0, on Tuesday and won at the Islanders, 2-1, Thursday night.

Travis Zajac will make his season debut for the Devils. He underwent surgery on his left Achilles tendon on Aug. 18. Judging from the morning skate, Zajac will center the Devils third line between Mattias Tedenby and David Clarkson.

Here are the rest of the lines and defense pairings for New Jersey:

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

Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Bryce Salvador - Kurtis Foster
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne

It appears that Tim Sestito, Alex Urbom and Matt Taormina will be the scratches. And, again, Hedberg gets the start in net.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 1:05 PM

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

Campoli scratched for Canadiens

NEWARK, N.J. -- Montreal defenseman Chris Campoli said Friday he has been cleared to play and was hoping to be in the lineup Saturday afternoon against the Devils. Canadiens coach Jacques Martin had other ideas, because Campoli is scratched.

Tomas Kaberle, who the Habs acquired Friday, will be in the lineup and paired with rookie Alexei Emelin. Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban are starting together, leaving Raphael Diaz and Hal Gill as the Canadiens’ remaining pair.

That leaves no room for Campoli, who hasn't played since injuring his hamstring in the first game of the season.

Carey Price is starting in net for the Canadiens.

Here's the lineup for Montreal:

Michael Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Louis Leblanc
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Travis Moen - Lars Eller - Andrei Kostitsyn
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Yannick Weber
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Raphael Diaz - Hal Gill
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 11:18 AM

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

Devils look to Albany for defensive reinforcements

NEWARK, N.J. -- With Anton Volchenkov (hand) and Andy Greene (toe) sidelined, the Devils will go with two recent call-ups as their third defensive pair for their game this afternoon against Montreal at Prudential Center.

Matt Taormina and Alex Urbom were both recalled from Albany of the AHL on Friday and will be making their season debuts against the Canadiens. They were paired together in Albany and Devils coach Pete DeBoer said that played into his decision to keep them together today.

"I think the reports out of Albany have been very good on both guys," DeBoer said. "They've both played (NHL) games before so it's not their first time in the NHL."

Taormina has four goals, eight assists and a plus-two rating in 23 games with Albany this season. He also played 17 games with the Devils last season and had three goals and two assists before missing time with a left ankle injury in mid-November. He needed surgery to repair two non-displaced fractures and was out for the rest of the season.

Urbom, who is still only 20 years old, played in eight games with the Devils last season and had a goal. He had one goal and five assists along with a plus-six rating in 21 games with Albany this season.

"They've been in this situation before and they've handled it well before," DeBoer said. "We're excited to stick them in."

DeBoer could have gone with Mark Fraser, who has played in four games this season without a point, but he wanted to go with a faster lineup to match the Canadiens speed.

"They come at you in waves and they can all skate," he said. "We felt this was our best lineup for who we're playing."

While Greene is on injured reserve and could be out a month, Volchenkov is listed as day-to-day. He has not been ruled out for the game Monday in Tampa Bay.

"Too early to tell," He said. "We classify him as day to day. We'll see how he is tomorrow."

Here are the Devils lines and defense pairings:

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Nick Palmieri

Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Matt Taormina - Alex Urbom

Martin Brodeur is starting in net.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Thursday, 12.01.2011 / 1:26 PM

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

Penguins won't hide Despres in rookie's NHL debut

WASHINGTON -- Head injuries to defensemen Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek have opened the door for Penguins 2009 first-round pick Simon Despres to make his NHL debut Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) against the Capitals here at Verizon Center.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma confirmed that Despres, the 30th pick of the 2009 Entry Draft who was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Thursday, will be in the lineup against the Caps. Despres will start the game paired with fellow rookie Robert Bortuzzo, but Bylsma doesn't plan to hide him.

"He is slated to play on the second (power-play) unit and sometimes that is not a whole ton of time on the power play, but he is slated to be out there on the power play," Bylsma said. "He has played 10 or 11 games in exhibition and he's played minutes. I know he's more than capable of playing in a lot of different situations, playing a lot of defense, being able to go back for pucks and make plays. He's had two months of being a professional and developing, and I'm fully confident he can be in a lot of different situations tonight."

Despres, 20, has 3 goals and 4 assists along with a plus-3 rating in 22 games as a rookie this season for the AHL Penguins. All three of his goals were game-winners and his 7 points are tied for the team lead among defensemen.

"A little nervous, but very excited," Despres told NHL.com Thursday morning when asked about his emotions. "It is what I have dreamed all my life. I'm just going to try to do my best to help the team."

Despres said he is familiar with the Penguins-Capitals rivalry because he's been watching it on TV since he was a kid. He said it will be special to play against Ovechkin.

Bylsma sounded as if he's ready to give the kid that chance, even though Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland will draw most of the even-strength ice time against Ovechkin.

"This is an opportunity with this game and the next game for Simon to show what he can do, and I think it's going to be more than just playing 10 minutes of hockey," Bylsma said. "He can be in a lot of different situations."

Orpik said he would be happy to give advice to Despres and Bortuzzo about playing against Ovechkin, but he doesn't want to fill their heads with minutia.

"I don't think you ever want to bombard them with stuff like that because then they go into the game thinking too much," he said. "You want them to just go out there and just concentrate on playing, let their instincts and natural ability take over. But with a guy like Ovechkin, I'm sure they have watched him on TV and seen enough of him. There are little things you can tell them about stick position, but you just want them to have a clear mind going into their first game."

That shouldn't be a problem for Despres.

"I will just try to take it one day at a time, play hockey, have some fun and enjoy it," he said. "That's all I can do really."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Thursday, 12.01.2011 / 11:00 AM

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

Pens' prospect Despres could make NHL debut

WASHINGTON -- Injuries to defensemen Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek have opened the door for former Penguins' No. 1 draft pick Simon Despres to potentially make his NHL debut Thursday night against the Capitals here at Verizon Center.

Despres, the No. 30 pick in 2009, was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday, and since Alexandre Picard was sent down, the Penguins still have only six defensemen here to play. The Penguins have not taken their morning skate yet so there is no confirmation on the lineup, but unless coach Dan Bylsma wants to dress only five blueliners (not likely), Despres will be in the lineup.

Despres, 20, has 3 goals and 4 assists along with a plus-3 rating in 22 games as a rookie this season for WBS. All three of his goals were game-winning goals and his 7 points are tied for the team lead among defensemen.

Here are the forward lines for the Penguins at the team's morning skate.

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams

Coach Dan Bylsma rotated the defense pairings throughout the skate.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:20 PM

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

Letang, Michalek out for Penguins

NEW YORK -- The Penguins will be without two of their top-four defensemen tonight at Madison Square Garden as both Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek are heading back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. Both players were with the Penguins at the morning skate.

Pittsburgh recalled defensemen Alexandre Picard and Robert Bortuzzo from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Both are expected to play as the Penguins have only six defensemen remaining in New York.

Letang suffered a broken nose when Montreal forward Max Pacioretty hit him Saturday. Pacioretty was suspended for three games by the NHL on Monday for an illegal hit to the head.

Michalek missed 10 straight games from Oct. 29 - Nov. 19 because of a broken finger, but he has played in the last four. The nature of his injury has not been disclosed.

Picard played six games with the Penguins earlier this month, averaging 12:41 of ice time and picking up a plus-4 rating. Bortuzzo made his NHL debut with the Penguins at Los Angeles on Nov. 5. He was scoreless and had a minor penalty in 10:38 of ice time.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Quote of the Day

I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.

— Jordan Eberle on taking his game and the Edmonton Oilers to the next level