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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 10:18 AM

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

More Eyes on the Ice

PHILADELPHIA -- NHL Facilities Operations Supervisor Don Moffatt was on his way back to Citizens Bank Park shortly before 9 a.m. this morning, a mere eight hours after he left the ballpark.

Moffatt, who was heading to the NHL staff shuttle, told NHL.com the crew was able to create almost an inch of ice before leaving the park after midnight. He seemed pleased with how well the night shift went and said he already had spoken to NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig, who arrived at the park just after 6 a.m. to start the day shift.

Moffatt said the goal this morning is to try to get between an eighth of an inch and a quarter of an inch of ice on the surface before rain is expected to arrive around 11 a.m., but Craig told NHL.com later that with the rain coming there is no need to spray any more water.

So, instead he had members of the crew installing more cables for the Eye on the Ice technology.

Eye on the Ice -- long cables with temperature sensors on the end -- provides real-time information on the ice surface to Craig and his staff and allows them to make any necessary adjustments. In addition to the two sensors installed this morning, there are two others frozen to the ice trays on the rink floor.

Moffatt said having the two measurements gives the crew a much better idea of how the floor is running in relation to what the refrigeration truck is pumping.

NHL.com will have more on Eye on the Ice later, including a video with Craig explaining it in detail.

Craig and his staff could have some challenges to tackle depending on the type of rain that falls on Philadelphia.

It's expected to be a warm rain, but if it's the light, misty kind, then they'll be able to freeze it and, as Moffatt said, Mother Nature would have done their job for them. However, if it's a heavy, warm rain with large droplets, freezing it could be difficult and it could create some run-off, which may lead to some melting on the edges.

That would mean the crew would have to do more slushing. Slushing is a process by which they take snow from neighboring Wells Fargo Center, haul it to Citizens Bank Park, and pack clumps of it into the edges of the rink to fill the gap of roughly three quarters of an inch between the boards and the ice surface.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 5:09 PM

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

Warmest place to sit for Winter Classic

PHILADELPHIA -- Fire up the benches, it's cold outside.

Once again the player benches at the NHL Winter Classic will have the option to be heated, and Monday afternoon the connection was completed.

A 10-inch aluminum pipe was attached to a kerosene heater called Dyna-Glo Pro, which is stationed behind each bench. Since player benches actually consist of two benches put together, the pipe runs between them and then off to run underneath each seating area.

The heat actually runs from the kerosene heater through an eight-inch pipe that is inside the 10-inch pipe. The eight-inch pipe provides insulation so the outside layer of the 10-inch pipe isn't too hot to touch. It's called a double-insulator pipe.

Once the kerosene heater gets fired up, the benches can get hot quick, and the players don't always like it that way. In Buffalo, the players opted to have the heaters moved back away from the benches. The further the kerosene heater gets from the bench the less heat it delivers to the bench.

The benches the NHL will use this year came from the Buffalo Bills. The NFL team purchased new benches and offered its old ones to the League for use at its outdoor events.

These benches even provide an area for the players to heat their feet. There are 10 spots on each bench for the players to rest their feet. Of course, at any given time during 5-on-5 play there are 14 players on the bench, and since they shift around quite a bit, especially with on-the-fly line changes, odds are the players won't even realize they can heat their feet at the same time as their bottoms.

What's also interesting is the pipe that connects the heater to the benches runs high in between the perch for the coaches behind the bench. So, if Peter Laviolette or John Tortorella want to move up and down the bench to talk to their forwards and defensemen, they better watch their step because it'll be easy for them to trip over the pipe.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 3:45 PM

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

Working holiday for Craig and his crew

PHILADELPHIA -- For the second straight Christmas, Dan Craig and several members of his crew spent the holiday together, building ice for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

It hardly was a bother to them.

"You know what? It was quite relaxing," Toronto native Garrett Mills said. "During the day there are still some people around the stadium, but once the sun went down we stayed out here, got a little glare off the Phillies sign above the scoreboard, and that's when you really noticed it because all you heard was the water hitting the ice. It was a surreal experience when you figure out where you are, what you're doing and how lucky you are to have the opportunity to be doing it."

Chicago native Pat Finch, who has been on Craig's crew since the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in 2009, said the best part about staying in Philadelphia was how much work they were able to accomplish without any distractions.

"We weren't killing ourselves and we got our stuff done," Finch said. "We made the best of a bad situation."

Not everyone on the crew stayed in town, but those who did only spent a few hours at the ballpark in the morning and again in the late afternoon into the early evening. It was far different than last year in Pittsburgh, when they had two sets of six crew members rotating on 12-hour shifts.

This year they were able to go out for a Christmas dinner. Last year they had it in the ballpark during a quick shift break.

"It is peaceful and it is nice, but at 2 or 3 in the morning it's not all that great, so it was nice to take advantage of it here," said Minnesota native Jake Fernholz. "There was no pressure here. We got ourselves in a good spot where we didn't have to kill ourselves to make sure everything was ready to rock when everybody else got in."

Of course, it did come at a price.

"Essentially no pressure, and yet we had to stay through Christmas to make sure the work got done," Fernholz said. "So, there is a double-edged sword there."

Mills said he countered that by celebrating Christmas with his family a week early. Finch said he'll do Christmas with his family when he gets home.

"It's tough when you tell them you won't be able to make it home for Christmas, but this is like a second family," Finch said. "The people we were with here, if I couldn't be with my family I'd rather be with them. We laughed, had some good dinners and it was really good."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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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

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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

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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."

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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

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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


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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


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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

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