REGINA, Sask. - The wind is whipping, the snow falling and it's minus-13 degrees fahrenheit here in the capital city of Saskatchewan. Woo-hoo!
No worries though. I have a parka, gloves and toque. I'm all set for the big scouting excursion. Not to mention plenty of coffee grinds, work boots and a Winter Classic scarf. Thermals, sweatshirts, some music and several maps. Also, I just want to make mention that I'm three blocks away from the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan and two miles away from Brandt Centre -- site of Wednesday's fifth game in the 2011 Subway Super Series featuring Team WHL against Team Russia.
Funny, I really can't remember the last time I actually heard wind howling this loudly outside my window. I do now.
On the first stop of our four-city Western Canadian scouting trip with NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards, the crew at NHL.com will take a glimpse of tomorrow's stars today. The Subway Super Series is currently tied, 2-2, following back-to-back wins by the Ontario Hockey League on Nov. 10 (10-7) and Nov. 14 (6-3), so it's all up to Team WHL.
"This is a great way for Hockey Canada to evaluate players in one setting," WHL assistant coach Ryan Huska said. "This is a big time evaluation for them and it's their opportunity to show that they deserve the invite come Christmas [for participation in the World Junior Championship], so it's important. We really do look at these games in regards to our invites to Christmas camp."
Don Hay, who is head coach for Team WHL and also the head man for the Canadian National Junior Team competing at the 2012 World Junior Championship, agrees.
"We've identified the players who have played well for their club teams in all three leagues and it gives them the opportunity to come out and compete with the best players of our league against international competition," Hay said. "You really get to see them in an environment that is very competitive."
The series concludes on Thursday at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw. We'll then travel to Swift Current before concluding our journey in Lethbridge on Friday.
In addition to checking a few top prospects eligible for the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh, including defenseman Matt Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels and forward Colton Sissons of the Kelowna Rockets, we'll be documenting the 'Life of a Scout' through the eyes of veteran Ontario Hockey League scout Chris Edwards.
Scouting is no easy task, particularly for a husband and father of two (Reagan, 3 weeks old, and Abby, 4 years old). We'll get to the bottom of what life is like on the road with one of the more respected individuals in the scouting fraternity. Edwards has spent the last 12 years travelling through more than his share of snow drifts in Ontario and Western Canada.
Over the next three days, we'll find out, among other things I'm sure, what he looks for in a player, how information is logged, his relationship with other scouts not employed by Central Scouting, if he ever played a practical joke on a fellow scout, life on the road and who might be the finest player he's ever scouted.
Stay tuned …
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
After skating with the team for the first time Wednesday since suffering a concussion late last month, is appears Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has the green light to make his return to the lineup on Friday at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
"I was happy with what I did, so I don't think it's an issue at all," Alfredsson told the team's website. "I'm just going to take it one day at a time and we'll go from there."
Alfredsson was injured Oct. 29 against the New York Rangers when he was hit by the Rangers' Wojtek Wolski. On Tuesday, he passed the required baseline test.
"Isn't that good news?" Senators head coach Paul MacLean said. "I can't wait until (Friday)."
The Senators have gone 1-3-1 without Alfredsson and slipped three points out of a playoff spot. For the season, Alfredsson has 4 goals and 7 points in 10 games. Of the Senators' 16 games this season, 11 have been decided by one goal, so having Alfredsson's veteran knowledge certainly will be a welcomed addition. The Senators have won six of those 11 one-goal contests.
"There is no explanation for it, or else we would have dealt with it," Maurice told the media following his team's practice at Prudential Center on Tuesday. "He's just trying to find chemistry with other people and he has taken that pressure of his offensive game completely to heart.
"I don't think it's the breakout game that will ultimately send him on his way, either. Eric competes as hard as he can away from the puck, and he'll always make sure that part of his game is good. The stats don't always tell you I was right, but his last six minuses had nothing to do with him."
Through 14 games this season, Staal has 3 goals, 5 points and a League-low minus-16 rating. He has been held pointless in five straight games, during which he has a minus-7 rating.
Staal was asked if last year's hit on his brother, Marc, had anything to do with his slow start.
"That has nothing to do with it," he said. "I don't know, I just haven't found a groove offensively yet. I think it's early, I've had a lot of looks and lot of opportunities and chances around the net but just haven't been hitting the back of the net. As far as (the hit) being on my mind going into every game, it's not even close. Hopefully I can stay with it, get things turned around and help us win some games."
Despite his offensive woes, forward Jeff Skinner still sees the relentless determination each and every practice.
"Every player goes through tough times, scoring droughts and slumps, and you can't really judge a player based on that," Skinner said. "Especially a guy like Eric, who dominates games and does so much more than put points on the board. He logs huge minutes (20:02 of ice time per game) against other team's top line and top defensive pair. He wins big faceoffs on the penalty kill and blocks shots and he's physical. He still brings all those things to the game, even though he's in sort of little slump. But that's what makes him a good leader."
Said Maurice: "Eric doesn't play a perimeter game and he pushed his offensive game to places he had a hard time recovering from early on this season … but he hasn't done that the last five or six games."
NEWARK, N.J. -- On Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes recalled center Zac Dalpe from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte. Left wing Drayson Bowman, who went scoreless in two games, was reassigned to the Checkers. Dalpe, 22, skated on a line with Tim Brent and Anthony Stewart on Tuesday in preparation for Carolina's meeting with the Devils.
"I've been looking for a place to get Derek into a game and was never overly down on Jamie's game," Maurice said. "(McBain) had a real rough night against Washington (in a 5-1 loss on Nov. 4) and that kind of the opened the door for Derek. But I've liked (McBain's) play overall. If Derek has gone in and really heated it up and had a great game (against Dallas on Sunday), we would probably be looking at someone else to scratch from the lineup."
Additionally, Maurice said that Jussi Jokinen, who will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury, could return to the lineup as early as Friday.
"He had good day (at practice on Tuesday)," Maurice said. "It was just a morning skate, but we were hoping he would have a good day and we'll give him a pretty good tug (Wednesday) and if all goes well, he'll practice with the team on Thursday with the idea of playing on Friday (against the Rangers)."
Here are the probable line combinations for the Hurricanes:
Kovalchuk, who pulled a leg muscle in the third period of last Thursday's 4-3 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, did participate in the team's morning skate on Tuesday after sitting out on Monday. He appeared to be comfortable in his brief 20-minute workout with the team on the ice. The veteran winger is optimistic he will return to the lineup on Friday against the Washington Capitals.
On Tuesday, Kovalchuk told reporters the injury was "getting better" and was "definitely going in the right direction."
"I feel much better now so another couple days … it's good that we have a couple days before back-to-back games (against Washington)," Kovalchuk said.
Following Tuesday's contest against the Hurricanes, the Devils are off two days before battling the Southeast Division-leading Capitals in a home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday.
Still, Devils coach Peter DeBoer would prefer to have Kovalchuk at full strength whenever he does decide to give it go once again. The fact the Devils pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory over the Winnipeg Jets without their star winger in the lineup on Saturday probably made Tuesday's decision to sit Kovalchuk a tad easier.
"Kovy is status quo but obviously getting better," DeBoer said. "The fact he's out there, but he's not going to play. Anytime you have an injury like this, it's tough to predict exactly how it's going to come along but he's made huge strides the last 3-to-4 days and if he continues to do that then I think he has a good chance at playing Friday."
It is worth noting, however, that Kovalchuk has a career best 67 points, including 33 goals, in 54 career games against Carolina.
"You have to be careful," Kovalchuk said. "With this kind of injury you want to be 100 percent sure. You don't want to reinjure yourself and sit for two weeks after that."
Additionally, defenseman Andy Greene will likely return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. DeBoer told the media following practice that Greene "looks like he'll be ready to go but we'll hold off until game time to make that decision."
"The strength has returned and that's the biggest reason why we'll give it a shot," Greene said. "It felt good at practice and we'll give it a go and hopefully I feel good (Wednesday)."
Forward Eric Boulton, who was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 21, has a non-displaced fracture of his hand; an injury suffered in a fight with San Jose's Douglas Murray. Defenseman Mark Fraser and forward Rod Pelley were placed on waivers on Monday, but each practiced with the team on Tuesday. Pelley will be in the lineup on Tuesday but Fraser will not assuming Greene returns.
Here are the probable line combinations for the Devils:
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After losing four games in a row, including his most recent outing when he was relieved in the first period, it's no wonder Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller hasn't exactly been in a great mood these days.
Miller, who was pulled after allowing three goals in less than seven minutes in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 2, was vividly upset with his recent play when asked about it during the Sabres morning skate on Monday at First Niagara Center.
"I don't want to be pulled out of a game. I want to, you know, I want to [expletive] win the game," Miller told John Vogl of the Buffalo News.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff opted to start Jhonas Enroth on Friday against the Calgary Flames (a 2-1 victory) and Saturday against the Ottawa Senators (a 3-2 shootout victory). It marked the first time since the 2006-07 season that a healthy Miller sat out consecutive games. Ruff wouldn't reveal his starter on Tuesday on home ice against the Winnipeg Jets.
"I'm here to win," Miller, winner of the 2010 Vezina Trophy, told reporters. "That's the emotion you get from me. If I'm discouraged, if I'm [ticked] off, that's just how it is. I want to win. I don't want to be out there getting scored on."
For the season, Miller is 4-5-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in nine appearances. Enroth is 4-0-0 with a 1.41 GAA and .950 save percentage in five games.
"I'm just trying to do everything that's in my control," Miller said. "You can't always control what happens in front of you or the coach's decision or anything. You just have to react to it. Goaltenders are judged on how they react, whether it's the puck going in or if they make the save or if they get pulled out of the game or if when they get put back in. It's all about how you react. I'm just trying to do my best to be ready to react in a way that helps this club."
A blockbuster trade was finalized in the United States Hockey League on Monday when the Sioux City Musketeers dealt highly touted defensive prospect Jordan Schmaltz to the Green Bay Gamblers as part of a six-player deal.
Schmaltz, committed to the University of North Dakota next fall, is regarded by many to be a first-round choice for the upcoming 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. Schmaltz finished his rookie season in the USHL last year as the highest scoring defenseman in the league with 44 points, including 13 goals, in 53 games.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Schmaltz has 3 goals and 6 points in nine games this season.
"He's got a good shot from the top of the point," NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "The thing is, I don't think he'll be drafted as a defensive guy -- he'll be drafted for his high-end offense."
In fact, many believe Schmaltz offers the type of offensive skills that made Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy (Carolina Hurricanes) so attractive last June.
Schmaltz of Verona, Wis., is currently in Langley, B.C., with Team USA for the 2011 World Junior A Challenge. Schmaltz is actually one of two returnees on the team, which captured a third straight World Junior A Challenge title in 2010. Team USA opens the tournament on Nov. 7 against Sweden.
Schmaltz was dealt to Green Bay in exchange for forward David Goodwin, defensemen Andy Ryan and Dan Molenaar and affiliate list player forward Jacob Montgomery. The Gamblers also acquired forward Peter Maric as compensation for an earlier trade involving forward Nikita Sirotkin.
Schmaltz, a member of the 2011 All-USHL First team and All-Rookie team, was also a member of the United States team that captured the gold medal in the 2010 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.
"The trade was made with mixed emotions," Green Bay coach Derek Lalonde told the team's website. "David, Andy and Dan our great people and were valuable players to our team. But at the same time you rarely have an opportunity to acquire a player the caliber of Jordan Schmaltz. He is a projected a first round NHL draft pick and will be a tremendous addition to our team."
Additionally, the Gamblers added Jordan's younger brother, forward Nick Schmaltz. Nick Schmaltz, a member of the Chicago Mission Under-16 Team, is one of the top players among the 1996 birth years.
According to the Gamblers website, Jordan Schmaltz is expected to make his Green Bay debut on Nov. 18 against the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program. The team is currently 8-3 in the Eastern Conference.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils weren’t the only team to skate at Prudential Center this morning hit hard by the injury bug.
The Winnipeg Jets were forced to call up yet another defenseman Friday -- Paul Postma -- to replace injured Randy Jones in the lineup. The 22-year-old had played in 10 games with the St. John's IceCaps this season, producing two goals and eight points. Postma played in his first and only NHL game last season with the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Jets are without four regulars along the blueline in Tobias Enstrom (broken collarbone), Mark Stuart (upper body), Ron Hainsey (upper body) and Jones (foot contusion). The club actually placed Enstrom on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 31. Additionally, Derek Meech (lower-body) won't be ready until after the Jets return home Nov. 10. The club is currently playing the fifth of a seven-game road swing (3-1-0).
"We have guys banged up so Paul was added to the roster," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said. "He'll play some power-play, but we just want him to defend, be responsible and move the puck … play simple. Sometimes it's easier to play at this level than the American League, and I've watched him on tape from last year. He looked OK. He was good in training camp and was disappointed to be sent back."
Postma, who will likely be paired with Johnny Oduya in his season debut Saturday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, is looking forward to making the most of this opportunity.
"I got the call (Friday) and it wasn't my first call up, so I've been there before so nerves aren't exactly what they used to be," Postma said. "But with all the injuries, I'm just glad I get a chance to play."
"He's going to play, he's on a roll," Noel said of Pavelec. "I won't hesitate playing him back-to-back (Saturday and Sunday) either. It's not an issue. I'd ride him right now with the way he is performing."
When asked if his team will play any differently knowing Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk will be sidelined by injury, Noel admitted that wouldn't be the case.
"(Kovalchuk's) a guy who can really break a game open," Noel said. "He's a guy you need to be aware of on the power play. We'll have to manage our game intelligently with the defense we have and spend as little time as we can in our zone … find ways to exploit their game. This is a game we feel we can win."
Here's what the projected lineup looks like for the Jets following their morning skate:
NEWARK, N.J. -- Despite an admirable effort, New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk wasn't able to finish the team's morning skate at Prudential Center and has ruled himself out of his team’s game Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.
Kovalchuk left halfway through the practice session and never returned.
"Every year it seems I miss one or two games … last year I miss because of different reasons but hopefully, this year, this will be the only game," Kovalchuk told reporters following practice.
Kovalchuk feels his replacement on the top line -- David Clarkson -- will be an admirable fill-in.
"Definitely, he's on fire right now, especially his backhand," Kovalchuk said with a grin.
Kovalchuk left a game Thursday in Philadelphia late in the third period after suffering a leg muscle pull late in regulation a 4-3 shootout win, forcing him to miss overtime and the shootout. Kovalchuk, who averages a team-leading 25:30 of ice time per game, is second on the team with nine points, including two goals, in 11 games this season.
"I talked to [Kovalchuk] this morning and he was feeling better, he wanted to skate," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "But we also know there's a lot of hockey left to be played so we don't want to push him into something that could lead to something longer and that's the situation.
"Just on the fact he was out there, felt better and wanted to skate tells me that I don't believe it's long term but I'm not a doctor either and I've been wrong on these things before."
DeBoer feels Clarkson, who has four goals and five points in 11 games this season, has earned an opportunity on the top line alongside center Adam Henrique and left wing Zach Parise
"Clarkie deserves to be there [on the top line]; he's scored two games in a row, had nine shots on net last game and he's had an outstanding start to the season," DeBoer said. "I'm a big believer in rewarding guys for their play and he's worked his way up to with Kovy out there's an opportunity there for him.
"Clarkie just can't start to think he's Kovy."
DeBoer will also be without the services of defenseman Andy Greene for a second consecutive game. Greene sat out Thursday with a lower-body injury. He did skate with the club Saturday, but will not be in the lineup.
"I don't think [Greene's] injury is a long-term thing; it's the same type of thing as Kovy," DeBoer said. "He was playing with it and it wasn't getting better so he needs to rest to get it better. He wasn't helping his cause or ours playing hurt the way he was."
Goalie Johan Hedberg, however, is in good health and will serve as Martin Brodeur's backup against the Jets. Hedberg complained of back pain following the victory Thursday. He told reporters that something "popped" in there in the third period.
"Hedberg really [seized] up after the game and he had trouble really walking out of the rink in Philadelphia so for him to come in [Saturday] and be back pretty much to 100 percent is really good news," DeBoer said.
Brodeur confirmed Friday that he would start against the Jets. While Brodeur did feel some discomfort in his right shoulder following Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Toronto (his first game since Oct. 13), the pain eventually subsided. The game against the Jets will be Brodeur's first appearance against a team from Winnipeg since Dec. 29, 1995 when the Devils suffered a 5-3 setback at the old Winnipeg Arena.
Brodeur sported a mark of 3-1-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average and one shutout against the original Jets. In 11 seasons against the Atlanta Thrashers, Brodeur was 22-8-8 with a 2.16 GAA and seven shutouts.
Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov, who many consider will be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22, was named the Ontario Hockey League's player of the month for October.
Yakupov led the league in scoring with 29 points in 13 games for Sarnia, including 11 goals and a league-leading 18 assists in October.
"Yakupov is a dynamic exciting player … he's one of the few players that you can say this guy is worth the price of admission," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "He can put on that type of a show, he's that skilled."
Yakupov, who began skating when he was 3-years-old in Nizhnekamsk, Russia, had a point in 12 of his 13 games in the month. He produced nine multi-point games and finished with the second highest plus-minus rating in the League (plus-13).
In the upcoming six-game 2011 Subway Super Series, featuring the top junior-aged players of the Canadian Hockey League against those from the Russian National Junior Team, Yakupov will represent his country against Team OHL on Nov. 10 in Ottawa.
"When you watch him, I don't think there's one singular player that you would say, 'Wow, that's a guy he could be just like,'" said NHL Network analyst Craig Button. "But his ability to maneuver out of traffic and out of the corners from tight areas reminds you a Pavel Datsyuk. When you watch him explode in his skating, he reminds you of Pavel Bure."
Yakupov was one of 36 top 2012 prospects on the ice for the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Etobicoke, Ont., in August. Yakupov (6-foot, 190 pounds), selected second by the Sting during the 2010 CHL import draft, had the fourth-highest total in the OHL and most by a first-year player when he struck for 101 points in 2010-11. He won the OHL's Rookie of the Year award and his point total, which included 49 goals, shattered Steven Stamkos' team record for a rookie (92 points in 2006-07).
Yakupov claimed OHL and CHL Player of the Week honors for the week ending Oct. 16 when he matched a career-high with 4 assists on Oct. 14 in a 7-2 win over the Saginaw Spirit. During a stretch of three straight games from Oct. 22-29, he scored 7 points in three games. Yakupov was also named the game's first star in a 7-2 win over the Sudbury Wolves after notching 2 goals and 2 assists on Oct. 1.
Yakupov, 18, currently leads the OHL in scoring with 34 points in 16 games with 12 goals and a league-high 22 assists. He's looking to become the first Russian-born player since Alex Ovechkin in 2004 to go first overall.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale