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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."

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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."

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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.

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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

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 9:03 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at Hall of Fame inductions

Nieuwendyk earns his rightful place in Hall

TORONTO -- Joe Nieuwendyk was eligible for the Hall of Fame last year. He didn't make it, but it doesn't matter anymore.

Nieuwendyk, the great two-sport athlete from Whitby, Ont., is now a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hey, the guy did score over 500 goals, register over 1,200 points and win the Stanley Cup in three different decades with three different teams.

Oh, and he was also a heck of a lacrosse player.

Nieuwendyk started his speech by adjusting the microphones. He talked about being blessed in his life because he has so many wonderful people who are responsible for him getting into the hall of fame.

"It simply has been humbling," Nieuwendyk said.

Nieuwendyk rehashed the crossing emotions he was having after receiving his call from the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee in June.

"I was packing to go on a trip to Calgary to pay my last respects to the most caring and kind man I ever had the privilege of meeting in hockey, Harley Hotchkiss," he said. "As I was flying out there I had time to reflect on my own life and all that was important. After seeing so many familiar faces and Harley's wonderful family, it made me realized that tonight is all about friends and teammates."

He thanked his parents, Gord and the late Joanne, who made sacrifices for their four kids -- Rick, Gil, Wendy and Joe.

Joanne died of cancer in 1996, but her passion stays inside of Nieuwendyk. He recalled the time after the Flames won the Cup in Montreal in 1989, when after the game Joanne grabbed Joe's hockey stick and started directly traffic in the streets so the team bus could get through.

"Mom was the nurturer and No. 1 supporter. She was always the hockey mom that led the cheers. I miss her everyday and I know she's proud tonight."

Nieuwendyk had a lot to say about his best friend and former teammate, Gary Roberts, who he grew up with in Whitby, Ont. They played against one another when they were five years old and eventually became teammates.

"When I played my first game with the Flames, Gary was by his side. Twenty years later when I laced 'em up for the final time as a Florida Panther, he was again by my side. He truly is a remarkable person and a terrific friend. I always knew throughout my career that he had my back. He always knew I had his back, too, unless Marty McSorley was chasing him around the ice. In those cases he was on his own."

Nieuwendyk said that he called his parents every night for a month after he went to Cornell because he wanted to come home. He was happy that they made him stick it out in Ithaca, N.Y.

"My dad told me to stick with it and I'm glad that he did because it was there I had an experience that far exceeded anything I could have imagined. Those truly were some of the best years of my life."

After Nieuwendyk played his final game at Cornell, he was with his teamamtes scrounging for money so they could get a pizza. The next night he was in New York City going out to dinner with Lanny McDonald as a member of the Calgary Flames.

"I truly learned what the term, 'Kid, you're in for the full share' meant," he said. "My life in the National Hockey League started."

Nieuwendyk talked at length about Cliff Fletcher, the GM in Calgary who drafted him and then served as his mentor when he decided to start a managerial career.

He thanked McDonald for being his teammate and friend.

"The greatest lesson I received winning the Cup at the age of 22 was to see what it meant to you and some of our wonderful veteran players," he said to McDonald during the speech.

Nieuwendyk thanked Bob Gainey and Tom Hicks for bringing him to Dallas "at a stage of my career where I was asked to provide some of that guidance."

He went on to thank the Devils and Lou Lamoriello, the Maple Leafs for fulfilling his childhood dream of wearing the blue and white, and the Florida Panthers.

"I thank you all for the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the greatest game in the world," he said.

Nieuwendyk then talked about his family, including his wife Tina, who he called "the backbone of our family." He had this to say to his three children: "You all have big dreams. Work hard and follow your dreams, and know that your mom and dad will be there every step of the way to support you just like my mom and dad were."

He nearly broke into tears. Nieuwendyk also had this to say for his son, Jackson.

"My children didn't have an opportunity to see their dad play too much, but this is special to me because hopefully I'll gain some credibility with my son and he'll listen to me when I tell him how to win a faceoff."

Finally, Nieuwendyk closed an emotional speech with this:

"Many people are responsible for me being here tonight. Two things I have realized -- One, five minutes is not enough time to properly thank all of you. And, second, there are simply no words to express how grateful I am to have each and every one of you in my life. Thank you."

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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 8:10 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at Hall of Fame inductions

Mark Howe delivers heartwarming speech

TORONTO -- For years he has been known as Gordie's son, Mark. Can we please now refer to him Mark Howe, Gordie's son.

Mark Howe has lived his entire life in the shadow of his famous father, but now that they share a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame, it's time that Mark gets his just due for being a legend just like his old man.

Howe, a finalist for the Norris Trophy three times in the 1980s, was the first of the four inductees to get enshrined into the Hall tonight.

Howe, dressed to the nines in a tuxedo with a sharp looking bow-tie and vest combination, held his plaque up with Hockey Hall of Fame Chairman Bill Hay and then strode to the podium. He put on his dark-rimmed glasses, pulled out his speech and started to read.

Howe told NHL.com on Sunday that normally when he gives a speech or talks in public, he doesn't read, he just talks from the heart. Tonight he wanted to read just to make sure he didn't forget anything.

Howe opened his speech with a message to the hockey world about the victims of the tragic Lokomotiv plane crash in September, in which he lost his dear friend and former defense partner, Brad McCrimmon.

"I hope the victims of this terrible tragedy receive full compensation for their losses, which is not the case at this time," Howe said. "I find this morally upsetting. The families have lost their loved ones, they do not have to suffer financially as well. The hockey world should do all it can to make it right."

Mark then recognized Maureen McCrimmon, Brad's widow, who was in the crowd.
"It makes my evening complete," he said.

After thanking several people that had an influence on his career, his development as a hockey player and his overall life, he talked about going to Philadelphia in 1982.

"From the beginning it was as if I was born to be a Flyer," he said. "Although I wanted to slash him a few times, I want to thank Mike Keenan for helping me to raise my bar."

He also mentioned some of his old teamamtes, including McCrimmon, Glen Cochrane and Kjell Samuelsson.
"The orange and black will be a part of me forever," he said.

He then moved on to thanking the Illitch family and Jim Devellano for bringing him to Detroit to fulfill a dream of playing for his dad's old team.

Mark then had a touching moment when he thanked his ex-wife, Ginger.

"Although I have been separated for a number of years now, I would be remised not to thank Ginger for bringing the three kids into his world and the commitment she made to them as a mother."

He moved on to his siblings, Kathy, Murray and Marty. He had some extra special words for Marty.
"Marty is so much a part of this evening. You looked out for me, protected me. You're my big brother and my best friend."

Mark talked about his three kids and said he knows how they feel tonight "because I watched my father be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972. The three of you are the most important people in my life. I am so proud to be your father. I love you all very, very much."

He talked about his mother, the late Colleen Howe, and said how he wished she could be here tonight. He thanked her for everything, including teaching him how to be the son of Gordie Howe.

"I guess there is one person left to thank in this building," he then said, referring to his dad. "I'm not going to thank you for being my linemate for six years and I'm not going to thank you for elbowing the guy who may have taken a dirty shot at me. I'm not going to thank you for being the greatest hockey player ever. I want to thank you for being the husband, father and grandfather you are. You are the role model that led my life. I'm so proud to call you my dad."

Mark told a story that after he retired Gordie said he wished just for one game he would have worn his No. 9 Red Wings jersey. He never got the chance in a game, but he honored that request tonight, pulling the red No. 9 sweater over his tuxedo with pride.

"Dad, I love you," he said. "Thank you."

Howe exited the stage. Next up is Ed Belfour.

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