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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 11:58 AM

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

Recent thrashing by Bruins fresh in Devils' minds

NEWARK, N.J. -- Not enough time has passed for the Devils to forget about the 6-1 thrashing the Bruins laid on them here at Prudential Center on Jan. 4. The fact that New Jersey has won five of six since that beating means something heading into Thursday's showdown against Boston, but not enough to change the feeling that this game in front of them is a huge test and so important.

"We saw where the bar was for the best team in the League the last time we played these guys, and we didn't measure up," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "We have another opportunity two weeks later to see if we can get there. I think we can get to that level, but it's going to take a team effort to do that."

Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was beaten six times on 27 shots the last time these teams met. He'll be back in net Thursday to try to exact some revenge, but it's really about what happens in front of Brodeur that will make the difference.

The Devils had no jump the last time they played the Bruins, and they were beaten to every loose puck and lost just about every physical battle. The Bruins were relentless, too. They took a 3-1 lead into the third period, and then got goals from Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Shawn Thornton before the final buzzer rang.

"You've got to be physical and you've got to work hard," Brodeur said of how the Devils can beat the Bruins. "You've got to win battles along the boards and in the faceoff circles, all the little battles all over the ice. If you can't battle with them, it's going to be tough to win the hockey game."

The Devils feel they'll be able to match that battle level Thursday. They learned the hard way what happens when they don't.

"We were doing well at the time we met them, and we kind of hit a wall there," Brodeur said. "I think we came back and did well on our side, and now we have another chance to see how we measure up. Hopefully we've learned from how we played. They played a good game against us, but we didn't feel we competed to the level that they brought to us. We'll try to change that tonight, that's for sure."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 11:54 AM

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

Devils get Henrique back in lineup against Bruins

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils rookie center Adam Henrique will return to the lineup Thursday night against the Bruins after missing the last two games with a groin injury. Henrique will be back in his customary spot between left wing Zach Parise and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk on the Devils' top line.

"It felt good this morning, so I'm excited to get back in and play," Henrique said after participating in New Jersey's optional morning skate.

Henrique suffered the injury during the Devils 2-1 overtime win at Edmonton last week. He said Wednesday after practicing for the first time that he was definitely thinking about the injury throughout the entire practice session.

However, he said Thursday morning that won't be the case against the Bruins.

"The first practice back is a little different, but I'll be ready to go tonight," Henrique said.

Mattias Tedenby will be a healthy scratch and Martin Brodeur will get the start in net against the Bruins, who beat the Devils at Prudential Center, 6-1, on Jan. 4.

Here is the Devils projected lineup, or at least the one that was written on the white board inside the team's dressing room:

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Steven Zalewski - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Brad Mills - Cam Janssen

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

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

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Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 4:30 PM

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

Suter leaves game, doubtful to face Rangers

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Nashville All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter left Monday's game at Nassau Coliseum after the first period and did not return due to an upper-body injury. Predators coach Barry Trotz said following the team's 3-1 win over the Islanders that Suter is "doubtful" for Tuesday's game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"It's going to be day-to-day," Trotz said without elaborating on the specific nature of the injury. "If you want a questionable or doubtful, he's probably doubtful."

Trotz said Suter got "nicked up" Saturday against Philadelphia, and "strained it a little bit" in the first period Monday. Suter, who played 10 shifts totaling 7:04 of ice time, was questionable prior to Monday's game, but after taking warm-ups he told Trotz that he was good to go.

However, Trotz, who said it was Suter's call to play, decided to dress seven defensemen just in case. He went with ex-Islander Jack Hillen, who wound up playing 16 shifts totaling 13:27 of ice time.

"With guys like Sutes and Webs (Shea Weber), top players in the League, you don't really replace them, everybody just has to pick up more of the load and try to get it done together," Trotz said.

The good news for the Predators is they had a 3-0 lead after the first period on goals from Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk and David Legwand.

"At least he played the first period," Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said of Suter. "Hopefully we don't miss him more than this game because he's such a big piece of this team."

The Islanders had only six shots on goal in the first period, but with Suter out they managed 19 in the second and another 12 in the third.

"You miss Sutes back there, but we came out early and wanted to get the lead, and that's what we did," Legwand said. "We have to manage the game a little bit better in the second. That's a big thing for us, game management."

It's possible they'll have to manage an entire game without Suter on Tuesday.

"We're going to get tested by the Rangers," Trotz said.

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Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 11:25 AM

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

Islanders give Poulin the nod against Predators

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin will get his second start of the season Monday afternoon against the Nashville Predators.

Poulin, who was recently named the Player of the Week in the American Hockey League, made 26 saves in a 3-2 loss against Dallas on Dec. 15 after being recalled on an emergency basis that same day. He was sent back to Bridgeport the following day, but was again recalled last Monday on an emergency basis and has been practicing with the club.

"Sitting with our coaches and goalie coach we thought this would be the right time to give him a start," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "I think he's a little bit more confident. Kevin has always been one of those guys that has a swagger to him, he has the right attitude and he wants to be the guy. His play after training camp, going to Bridgeport, getting the time, he's got a little bit more confidence. Hopefully he goes out there and gives us a chance."

Poulin will likely remain the backup to Evgeni Nabokov for the foreseeable future. Al Montoya remains out with a concussion and Rick DiPietro might be sidelined for the season after undergoing sports hernia surgery.

Poulin went 4-2-1 with a .924 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average in 10 appearances last season.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 3:47 PM

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

Wideman surprised by ASG selection

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Dennis Wideman picked up his phone Thursday afternoon, heard the voice on the other end, and figured he was wrong.

"I didn't know what was going on, but in my experience when the GM calls you it's usually not good news," Wideman said smiling.

This time it wasn't. This time, it was Washington general manager George McPhee calling Wideman to tell him he had been selected to play in his first career NHL All-Star Game.

Wideman was among 10 defensemen picked on Thursday to join fan vote favorites Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, which will be played Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

To say Wideman was surprised at McPhee's news is an understatement.

"I got the call from George, and you guys all know, you've talked to George, he's pretty even keeled and when he called me I was like, 'Oh man, where am I going now?' " Wideman said. "It was good. I was pretty excited -- a little caught off guard, but excited about it."

Wideman earned his spot in the All-Star Game with strong offensive numbers in the first half. He has eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points in 41 games, including 16 points in his last 17 games.

He'll join five-time All-Star Alex Ovechkin as the Capitals representatives in Ottawa.

"I think it's going to be an experience," Wideman said. "Obviously guys that have been there eight, nine, 10 times they might want a break, but for me and guys that are getting picked for their first time it's really exciting to get a chance to go and see what it's all about. I've been watching it on TV for years, so it should be exciting."

Wideman isn't quite sure what he'll be asked to do in the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 28, but he has his own ideas of what he'll be good at.

"I'm hoping that we don't all have to do skills and I'm one of the ones that doesn't have to do it," he said. "I'm not even sure what all of them are, but hopefully I can just hold a camera and take some pictures."

Wideman said he will have to cancel a planned trip home in order to go to Ottawa, but he's happy to do it. He also said he will have some family there, but who remains to be seen.

"I'm not even sure how it all works, how many tickets you get," he said.

He's looking forward to figuring it out soon.

"It's something that at some point in your career you hope you get a chance to do," Wideman said of playing in an All-Star Game, "and I was lucky enough this year to get the opportunity."

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 10:27 AM

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

Backstrom, Green still missing for Caps

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals put center Nicklas Backstrom on injured reserve Wednesday morning and offered no timetable for his return other than to say he can be activated at any point.

Backstrom, who watched practice from the bench while wearing a red hoodie, has missed the last two games since taking a flagrant elbow to the head from Calgary forward Rene Bourque in last Tuesday's game against Calgary. Bourque was suspended for five games for the infraction.

"We're being cautious with him still," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He's not feeling 100 percent, so we're being careful."

The Capitals will also again be without defenseman Mike Green when they face Pittsburgh on Wednesday at Verizon Center. Green re-injured his groin this past Saturday at San Jose and missed the game at Los Angeles on Monday.

Green previously missed 23 straight games after initially injuring his groin Nov. 11 at New Jersey. The game against San Jose was his first one back, but he played only nine shifts totaling 7:11 before having to leave. He was seen walking with a noticeable limp when he arrived at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Wednesday morning.

"He's getting strength. He needs more strength," Hunter said. "Once he gets enough strength he'll be good. It's one of those things where it won't be long term, but it just takes time to build that up a little bit more."

Washington used Backstrom's roster spot to call up defenseman Tomas Kundratek from Hershey of the AHL. Kundratek will make his season debut Wednesday against Pittsburgh. He will be paired with Roman Hamrlik.

John Erskine and Jeff Schultz will be the Capitals' healthy scratches on defense.

"He's been playing well down there so we thought we'd give him the chance up here to see what he can do and get a look at him," Hunter said. "I've seen him play once. He's a good skater and he moves the puck. So, we're anxious to take a look at him at this level. We like his mobility, that he can skate, and when you're playing well down there you get to come up here and play."

Tomas Vokoun will make his seventh straight start. He gave up four goals on 27 shots and was pulled after two periods in Monday's 5-2 loss at Los Angeles, but Hunter said the Capitals played poorly in front of Vokoun and didn't give him a chance.

"He's a veteran," Hunter said. "He'll be ready to go."

Here are Washington's projected forward lines and defense pairings based off of the morning skate:

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

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Tomas Kundratek

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 1:02 PM

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

Bruins set for busy stretch up to All-Star break

NEWARK, N.J. -- Between their 4-2 loss to Dallas on New Year's Eve and Wednesday's game against the Devils, the Bruins have had a chance to have several quality days of hard, workmanlike practices. Boston coach Claude Julien knows how important those days will be with the Bruins starting a stretch of three games in four days and 12 games in 20 days before the All-Star break.

"It's not going to get any easier for us from here on in," Julien said Wednesday morning. "We recognize that as a group, and it's going to be a good challenge for us as a group."

Julien is happy with the approach of his players, too, especially because he knows how easy it could be for them to look forward to Saturday's Stanley Cup Final rematch against Vancouver at TD Garden.

"The Vancouver game at the end of the week will be a rematch, but I think our guys are really looking at one game at a time and seeing that this game is the one we have to have our focus on," Julien said. "Where probably on the outside everybody is looking forward to that Saturday game against Vancouver, we haven't talked about it in the dressing room and I haven't heard players mention it. Our focus is living in the moment."

The moment brings them to their second of four games against the Devils this season. The Bruins beat the Devils, 4-3, in Boston on Nov. 15. At the time it was their sixth of 10 straight victories to start November, but Julien remembers how difficult a win it was to get.

It took Benoit Pouliot scoring with 3:01 left in the third period for the Bruins to finally put the Devils away. New Jersey had fought back from deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 in the third period.

"They've got a reputation of being a hard team to play against, and every night it's that same challenge of battling through their defensive system, and also they're a team that has good size," Julien said. "They're a heavy team, they're strong on the puck and you look at their games, how they win battles along the boards, protect the puck and strip guys of the puck -- it's because of the heavy game they play. We have to be aware of that."
Here are the the Bruins' projected lines and defense pairs:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas, who was in net for the win over New Jersey in November, will get the start. He's backed up by Tuukka Rask.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 11:50 AM

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

Kovalchuk, Hedberg have small WJC wager

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils goalie Johan Hedberg and star forward Ilya Kovalchuk have more riding on Thursday's World Junior Championship gold-medal game between Sweden and Russia than just national pride.

"Just a small cash bet, not much," Hedberg told NHL.com. "It's just more for bragging rights."

Hedberg, who is from Leksand, Sweden, said he and Kovalchuk made their bet upon arrival at Prudential Center Wednesday morning. The Russians beat Canada 6-5 on Tuesday while Sweden beat Finland 3-2 in a shootout to advance to the gold-medal game.

Russia is looking for its second straight World Juniors gold while Sweden hasn't won it since 1981.

"We're going to stand by our boys," Hedberg said. "It was pretty much a sure thing that there would be some kind of a bet on a game like that. Kovy is not the guy to back down."

Hedberg said there hasn't been any trash talking as of yet.

"Absolutely not, but Kovy is great because he has a lot of knowledge about the Russians and he takes interest in the young guys, to see who is coming up," Hedberg said. "And obviously I have an interest in the Swedes."

Hedberg and Kovalchuk will not be watching the game together. Hedberg said he'll be with his fellow countrymen, Henrik Tallinder, Jacob Josefsen, Mattias Tedenby and Adam Larsson, who, by the way, is old enough to play in the World Juniors but is instead going through a successful rookie season with the Devils.

"The Swedes are going to watch it together," he said. "We were at Jacob's (Josefsen) apartment (Tuesday) and we watched it. It was exciting. It felt like it was coming. If they kept doing what they were doing they were going to get rewarded sooner or later, and they did. I really like them. I like the way they play and I like their fighting spirit."

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 10:36 AM

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

Zajac, Volchenkov out for Devils against Bruins

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils will be without both center Travis Zajac and defenseman Anton Volchenkov for Wednesday's game against Boston (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network).

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said that Volchenkov, who missed Monday's game in Ottawa with a lower-body injury, "is still resting his leg." He added that Zajac, who missed the first 30 games of the season after having surgery on his left Achilles tendon in August, is experiencing soreness and is day-to-day.

Zajac has played in every game since making his season debut against Dallas on Dec. 16, but he has been given the occasional day off to rest. He did not take part in Tuesday's optional practice either.

"He has a little soreness and we won't take any chances," Lamoriello said. "We have spoken to the doctors. There is nothing structurally wrong. He's OK, but we're going to rest him and he'll be day to day."

Lamoriello said the doctors told him that Zajac would likely experience soreness after returning to the ice. He said it's similar to what Zach Parise went through after his surgery last year to repair a torn ACL.

"This is normal," Lamoriello said. "Anybody with these types of injuries, there's going to be soreness. It's part of rehabilitation. We actually waited a week more than we had to when the doctor released him, but we're going to take every precaution possible."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said that Tim Sestito will go into the lineup and Ryan Carter will move up into Zajac's spot to center the third line between David Clarkson and Mattias Tedenby.

"We were mentally prepared and warned that there was going to be some bumps in the road here," DeBoer said. "Obviously a real significant injury and he was coming back at the front end of the time period they had allotted for it, so I'm not concerned about it. We'll just keep moving forward."

Lamoriello also confirmed that defenseman Andy Greene (fractured foot) is out of his cast and in a walking boot, but is still a few weeks away from playing.

Here are the Devils projected forward lines and defense pairs for Wednesday's game against Boston:

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

Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Matt Taormina - Kurtis Foster

Martin Brodeur will make his fourth straight start, backed up by Johan Hedberg.

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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 1:21 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Hartnell credits Jagr/Giroux with making him better

Scott Hartnell said Sunday that Flyers leading scorer Claude Giroux deserves credit for helping him become a harder worker off the ice this season.

"He's our hardest-working player, and I think that says a lot to the teammates and even young kids growing up that want to have someone to look at," Hartnell said of Giroux, who has 45 points this season as the center between Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. "My dad always told me to be the hardest-working player every time you're on the ice, and he definitely is. Playing with him this year, it rubs off on me. I've taken care of myself better, done more in the gym, stayed after practice a little bit longer to do things. It's been incredible for me and every player watching the game. He's just a great player to emulate."

Hartnell, though, also gave credit to Jagr for the success of the Flyers top line. The trio has combined for 46 goals and 64 assists this season, including 17 goals and 17 assists for Hartnell.

"At first it was like, 'Holy man, this guy is on our team.' Then it was like, 'Oh my gosh, this guy is on our line.' I'm still shocked by it," Hartnell said of Jagr. "He wants to be the best player that's ever played and he makes me practice better and makes 'G' practice better. He wants to score goals all the time. We try to be the best line on the ice every night. It's been awesome for my career. I'm just blessed to be with them right now."

Speaking of Jagr, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said the 39-year-old veteran had no clue who Giroux was before he got to the Flyers.

"He had been out of the League for three years so he didn't know who he was, but I think he knows him now and he's happy to be playing with him," Holmgren said. "You're talking about high-end offensive players, and the more you have playing together the more success you can have. Those two guys think the game at a different level."

Hartnell has been the beneficiary.
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Quote of the Day

I love you. I think we [climbed] as high as we possibly can.

— Sergei Fedorov to former Red Wings teammate Nicklas Lidstrom after each was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 on Monday