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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 1:16 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning captain Lecavalier set to return

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will get their captain, Vincent Lecavalier, back in the lineup on Thursday when they visit the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
 
Lecavalier has missed the previous 18 games with a fractured right hand sustained Feb. 18 against the Capitals when he was hit by a puck. Lecavalier actually announced his return via his Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon.
 
"I'm ready to play and happy that it's six games," Lecavalier said. "It wouldn't have mattered if it were six games, one game or three games. To me, when you're ready to come back, you come back and these guys have been working so hard the last month. I wanted to come and play and have some fun and play the game and try to finish strong."
 
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said Lecavalier's minutes will be monitored, but he expects the big center to provide some extra energy to the lineup.
 
"My minutes won't be limited as a result of the injury more than the fact I've been away for five weeks," Lecavalier said. "We'll keep the shifts short and simple, but I'll be ready. I've worked out hard and I feel good."
 
Additionally, center Nate Thompson will miss his seventh straight game with upper-body injury. Boucher will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen for Thursday's contest.
 
Despite the lost time, Lecavalier has 21 goals, 46 points in 58 games while averaging 19:04 of ice time. He's second on the team with five game-winning goals and also second with 505 faceoff wins -- five behind Steven Stamkos.
 
Tampa Bay is a longshot to qualify for the playoffs. The team is nine points behind eighth-seeded Buffalo in the Eastern Conference standings.
 
Here are the projected lineups for the Lightning:
 
Teddy Purcell - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Brett Connolly
JT Wyman - Tom Pyatt - Tim Wallace
Trevor Smith - Adam Hall
 
Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Brian Lee
Keith Aulie - Brendan Mikkelson
Bruno Gervais
 
Dwayne Roloson
Sebastien Caron
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 11:58 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Devils get shot-blocker Volchenkov back in lineup

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will have a key cog back in the lineup on Thursday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Prudential Center, with the return of defenseman Anton Volchenkov.
 
The (Bergen) Record reported on Wednesday that Volchenkov did skate on his own Wednesday morning after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. Coach Peter DeBoer informed the media that there was a chance he could return to the lineup.
 
The return of Volchenkov is huge for the Devils, who currently stand sixth in the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of seventh-seeded Ottawa.
 
Volchenkov, who has 2 goals, including a game-winner, 11 points and a minus-3 rating, leads the team with 166 hits and 120 blocked shots while averaging 18:02 of ice time. During the team's morning skate on Thursday, Volchenkov was paired with Peter Harrold.
 
"He's one of the better D-men on our team and it's kind of good for me to play with him because he's a good stay-at-home defenseman who takes care of his own end … it's comfortable back there with him," Harrold said. "I played a little with him the last stint up, but it's a comfort level with all the defensemen. Everyone here talks a lot and everyone knows what's going on, so they make the transition pretty seamless."
 
Meanwhile, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson will sit out his second straight game as a healthy scratch. Larsson was forced to leave a game against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 2 with 5:58 remaining in the third period after being hit hard by defenseman P.K. Subban.
 
The rookie Swede would produce just 2 assists and a minus-1 rating over the next 16 games before coach Peter DeBoer had seen enough, listing him as a healthy scratch for the first time this season in a victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.
 
"We had a good conversation prior to the Chicago game about my reasons for doing what I was doing and he understood," DeBoer said. "We had an assistant coach sit with him during the Chicago game and kind of watch the play and point out things we felt would help him when he got back in and be more successful."
 
For the season, Larsson, drafted fourth by the Devils last June, has 2 goals, 18 points and a minus-7 rating. He ranks third on the team with 44 giveaways but also has 93 hits and 67 blocked shots while averaging 20:44 of ice time.
 
"There's lots of communication going there, but it's not a daily conversation for me," DeBoer said. "This time of year, we've got a lot of bigger things on our plate and Adam Larsson is a huge part of this organization going forward. But he's not the focal point; the focal point is our team and how we're playing."
 
DeBoer inserted Harrold, who was called up from the American Hockey League on Monday, into the lineup in Larsson's absence on Tuesday. He responded with two blocked shots in 19:06 of ice time.
 
There are several players looking to snap out of unusual offensive slumps, including Patrik Elias, who has 1 goal in his last eight games. Zach Parise has 3 goals in his last 13 games, David Clarkson is in the midst of a season-long nine-game goal drought and rookie Adam Henrique has 1 goal in his last 20 contests. DeBoer will have Travis Zajac centering Parise and Kovalchuk to begin the game to see if he can generate more offense.
 
Here are the possible line combinations for the Devils:
 
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Jacob Josefson - Steve Bernier
 
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 3:28 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lecavalier tweets he's 'happy to get back in lineup'

It appears Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier has declared himself ready for game action after missing over a month with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand.

Lecavalier, who has been practicing with the team this week, announced via his Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon that he is "happy to get back in lineup tomorrow" when the Lightning travel to Newark, N.J., to face the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Lecavalier, who last played on Feb. 18, has missed the last 18 games. For the season, Lecavalier has 21 goals and 46 points in 58 games for the Lightning. He has scored 372 goals and 839 points in 992 career games spanning 14 seasons.
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Blackhawks' Shaw offers insight and evaluations

To those prospects passed over in previous drafts -- listen up!

There is hope. Just ask Chicago rookie forward Andrew Shaw, who was passed over in the 2009 and 2010 NHL drafts before the Blackhawks finally tabbed him in the fifth round (No. 139) last June.

He's currently playing big minutes in many situations alongside David Bolland and Bryan Bickell and has quietly become one of the most liked players in the Blackhawks locker room.

"It was a little disappointing not being drafted those first two years, but I had no pressure on me after that and went out there and had fun and stuck with my game," Shaw told NHL.com. "Chicago liked what they saw and decided to draft me. At prospect camp, I had everything to prove so I just went out there and gave it my all and they came back with an AHL contract. I didn't want to play in the Ontario Hockey League anymore and knew, if I did my best, there may be a shot."

The Blackhawks signed Shaw to a three-year contract on Jan. 3. At the time, his 12 goals and 21 points ranked third for the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. His 80 penalty minutes ranked second.

"He's been good for us in a lot of ways; we appreciate the way he competes," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Offensively, he's got a nice set of hands and he gets rewarded for going into the high traffic areas. He finds ways to get around the puck through positioning or with his hands. He's getting some assignments against top lines and his line (with center Dave Bolland and left wing Bryan Bickell) has been effective."

Shaw posted a career-high 54 points, including 22 goals, in 66 games last season for the eventual Ontario Hockey League champion Owen Sound Attack. He ranked 11th in the league with 135 penalty minutes and was honored at the end of the season as the OHL's Hardest Working Player.

NHL.com recently asked Shaw to evaluate two former teammates in Owen Sound considered to be top prospects for the 2012 Draft -- forwards Gemel Smith and Jarrod Maidens.

"Gemel is a great prospect; he has a lot of skill and he's quick," Shaw said. "He plays with a lot of energy and he plays tough … he plays big and is tough. I actually looked up to him and he was always all over me about how he got more points than me last year."

And Maidens:

"He knows the game, has great vision and is always finding the puck," Shaw said. "He has great dishes and he can find the back of the net, like he did in Game 7 [against Mississauga] last year."

Maidens led Owen Sound in rookie scoring with 21 points in 2010-11. He also recorded 6 goals and 10 points in the 2011 playoffs, helping lead the Attack to the OHL championship. He scored the overtime game-winner against Mississauga in Game 7 of the championship round.

Shaw also had some advice for those players who are draft eligible, but who might not be selected come June.

"Just have fun and keep playing the game and don't let it get you down," Shaw said. "My buddy Mike Halmo [from Owen Sound] never got much publicity last year, but it was great to see him sign a contract with the New York Islanders. I called him the day I found out. I think it made it easier for him knowing I was playing in the NHL because it made him realize there was a spot for players like me and him."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 1:00 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

NHL Central Scouting prepares for final meetings

NHL Central Scouting is ready to roll in Toronto this weekend to determine its final rankings of the top draft-eligible players on the board this June at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

On Saturday, the pro scouts will have a go at it to determine this year's final list of the top 210 draft-eligible skaters and 30 goalies from North America for the 2012 Entry Draft.

NHL.com will also be present for the opening three days of the meetings, providing exclusive coverage. The scouts will no doubt be in heated debate, unveiling the pros and cons of every player from all the major junior leagues throughout North America.

Discussions will heat up almost immediately on Saturday morning as the scouts debate over who should receive the No. 1 overall placement among North American skaters. The top four candidates expected to vie for that position will be Sarnia's Nail Yakupov, Quebec's Mikhail Grigorenko, Everett's Ryan Murray and Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk, who just recently returned to the lineup after undergoing knee surgery in October.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Montador returns, Toews skating

NEWARK, N.J. -- Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews continues to skate back in Chicago as part of his recovery from a concussion, but has not yet been cleared for contact. He'll miss his 17th straight game when the Blackhawks play the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday at Prudential Center.
 
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville also said defenseman Steve Montador will return to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 7 after sitting out the last 22 games with a concussion. The 32-year-old Montador has 5 goals and 9 assists in 51 games this season. Center Brendan Morrison, who has no points and a minus-3 rating in his last two games, will be a healthy scratch as the Hawks will play with seven defensemen and 11 forwards. 
 
Here are the probable line combinations for the Blackhawks:
 
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Dave Bolland - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Michael Frolik
 
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Sean O'Donnell - Dylan Olsen
Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Carter Hutton
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:37 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hawks' Shaw showing teams what they missed

NEWARK, N.J. -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw knows he won't be in the running for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie at the end of the season.
 
And he's fine with that. But to teammates, his coach and general manager, the 20-year-old Shaw has provided the type of energy and enthusiasm required of any player.
 
"If you look at him right now, there's not much to him, but when he steps on the ice, he's always noticeable," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp told NHL.com. "The other team knows he's there and he goes in the tough areas, takes hits and is smart and confident. His enthusiasm has really helped our locker room."
 
Teammate Patrick Kane agrees.
 
"He just brings a lot of enthusiasm, excitement and energy," Kane told NHL.com. "He's fun to have around the locker room … he's a young kid, and I think when you watch him on the ice, he may be the smallest player out there but he plays like he's one of the biggest.
 
"He's in front on the power play, scores a lot of goals from in front of the net by tipping pucks and using his body. He's a huge part of the team right now."
 
Shaw was passed over in the 2009 and 2010 NHL drafts before the Blackhawks finally selected him in the fifth round (No. 139) last June. He enters Tuesday's game on a five-game point-scoring streak, during which he's totaled 4 goals, 8 points and a plus-5 rating.
 
"It was a little disappointing not being drafted those first two years, but I had no pressure on me after that and went out there and had fun and stuck with my game," Shaw told NHL.com. "Chicago liked what they saw and decided to draft me. At prospect camp I had everything to prove so I just went out there and gave it my all and they came back with an AHL contract. I didn't want to play in the Ontario Hockey League anymore and knew if I did my best, there may be a shot."
 
The Blackhawks signed Shaw to a three-year contract Jan. 3. At the time, his 12 goals and 21 points ranked third for the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. His 80 penalty minutes ranked second.
 
"It's amazing," Chicago Vice President/GM Stan Bowman told the team's website. "He wasn't even on an NHL contract until around Christmastime. He was in the American Hockey League on an AHL deal, and we decided to switch him over. He played really well in Rockford the first few months and we thought we might want to utilize him in the second half of the year.
 
"In order to do that, you have to be on an NHL contract. So we converted his deal to an NHL deal, and here we are. He's got 11 goals in around 30 games and he's been a real difference-maker."
 
Shaw has 11 goals, including two game-winners, 19 points, 31 penalty minutes and 67 hits in 31 games. The loss of forward Daniel Carcillo, who had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left knee Jan. 17, has made Shaw a valuable asset for coach Joel Quenneville.
 
"He's been good for us in a lot of ways; we appreciate the way he competes," Quenneville said. "Offensively, he's got a nice set of hands and he gets rewarded for going into the high-traffic areas. He finds ways to get around the puck through positioning or with his hands. He's getting some assignments against top lines and his line (with center Dave Bolland and left wing Bryan Bickell) has been effective."
 
Shaw posted a career-high 54 points, including 22 goals, in 66 games last season for the eventual Ontario Hockey League champion Owen Sound Attack. He ranked 11th in the league with 135 penalty minutes and was honored at the end of the season as the OHL's Hardest Working Player. 
 
Shaw led all players at the 2011 Memorial Cup with 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in four games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 12:00 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Devils make rookie blueliner Larsson healthy scratch

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in his NHL career, New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman Adam Larsson will be listed as a healthy scratch.
 
Devils coach Peter DeBoer has opted to give Larsson, the fourth pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, a breather and will replace him in the lineup with recent call-up Peter Harrold.
 
"He's a young guy and it doesn't hurt to sit up and watch and take a step back sometimes," DeBoer said. "I think, since he's come back from his injury, he's had a few bumps in the road and struggled with some consistency. We've talked to him about that. It's getting to the point in the year here where it will benefit him to sit and watch for a night."
 
The Devils enter Tuesday's contest against the Chicago Blackhawks at Prudential Center having lost five of their last seven games (2-4-1). The club would not only like to clinch a playoff berth as quickly as possible, but start playing the brand of hockey that enabled it to reach this point in the first place. New Jersey has allowed an un-Devil-like 18 goals in its last five games.
 
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who will get his third straight start between the pipes, is 0-3-1 in his last four starts and 1-4-1 in his last six. The future Hall of Fame goalie, who on Monday celebrated the 20th anniversary of his NHL debut on March 26, 1992, in a victory over the Boston Bruins at Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, feels Larsson can only benefit from watching.
 
"He's here for a long time and this is just a bump in the road in his progress," Brodeur said. "It happens with young guys a lot, especially when expectations are high. The depth of our defense has been challenged a little bit with Henrik Tallinder out and (Anton Volchenkov). That makes it tough on younger players with regard to how to deal with it. The games pick up this time of year … the intensity, the drive of teams you play against is higher and you have to step up, and that's one of the hardest things to do as a young player."
 
Larsson missed 10 games in February with a bruised lower back after taking a check from Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. In 64 games with the Devils -- he also missed two games for personal reasons -- Larsson has 2 goals, 18 points and a minus-7 rating.
 
"You can't hide a defenseman, just like you can't hide a goalie," Brodeur said. "That's because defense is where you get exposed the most. For him, it's a matter of working hard. He'll be here a long time and he'll be back in the lineup sooner than people think. But right now, he has to realize he needs to step up a little bit, and that's fine.
 
"To be honest, I didn't really see anything that the coaches might have saw (with regard to his play). I thought he was playing alright, but they felt he needed that break."
 
DeBoer wants to see Larsson fresh and confident entering the postseason.
 
"You don't get to this stage by just jumping in … you go through a progression, and the progression when he came back from injury was to try and let him fight through some of the inconsistencies," DeBoer said. "But at some point, you have to take a different approach and that's where we're at. He handled it well in our conversation, and I'm confident he'll bounce back."
 
Harrold, who was recalled from the Devils American Hockey League affiliate in Albany on Monday, will skate with Matt Taormina to start the game. In five games with the Devils this season, Harrold has no points and a minus-1 rating. He last played with the club on Feb. 24 in a loss to Vancouver.
 
Following their contest with the Blackhawks, the Devils will have three more home games, including Thursday's clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and two on the road. The club currently sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, has six games remaining and requires a total of six points to officially clinch a playoff spot.
Defenseman Anton Volchenkov did not practice for a second straight day and will likely miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
 
While the Devils lose their leading hitter and shot blocker in Volchenkov, center Travis Zajac returned to the lineup on Sunday. Zajac, playing his first game since Jan. 2, notched one assist in his team's 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He centered Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexei Ponikarovsky against the Penguins, but was working with Kovalchuk and rookie Adam Henrique during the team's full practice session on Monday.
 
It will mark the first time this season that Henrique will skate on wing.
 
"It'll be a little change for him playing wing, but he's a smart player and he'll figure it out quick," Zajac said.
 
The only trio that remained intact from Sunday was Patrik Elias centering Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus. Nine players decided to rest the legs during Tuesday's optional skate, including Kovalchuk, Dainius Zubrus, Petr Sykora, Elias, Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, David Clarkson and Marek Zidlicky.
 
Here are the possible line combinations for the Devils:
 
Adam Henrique - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Ryan Carter - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Matt Taormina - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg


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Posted On Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 10:44 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

NHL players offer advice for top 2012 draft prospects

There are sure to be several top prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft seeking advice from players who went through the wars and are now reaping the benefits.

Forwards Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers, Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers and Ryan O'Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche are three such players.

All three recently spoke to NHL.com and provided a few words of wisdom for those players hoping to hear their names at this year's draft to be held June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Couturier, who was selected eighth overall by the Flyers last June, recommends that players just continue doing what they do best.   

"I think they just need to remain who they are, not try and do anything extra special and just play the game the right way," Couturier told NHL.com. "Scouts have been following you for a while, so there's no need to change. Just be yourself."

Couturier is a solid example in perseverance. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound forward dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings in April, 2011, and then was chosen No. 8 by the Flyers. Hard work and solid two-way play, a quality that was certainly evident in his game for Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, have enabled him to become a key cog for this year's team in Philadelphia.

With regard to the NHL Combine, Couturier smiled before issuing the following:

"Be in shape … be ready."

Stepan was drafted in the second round (No. 51) by the Rangers in 2008.

"The best advice that I got from people around me was going into the draft in a positive frame of mind," Stepan told NHL.com. "Don't expect anything. It's a big deal to get drafted, but once you get drafted that's when the work begins. You never really know what's going to happen at the draft so don't really expect anything.

"Other than the first round, it's kind of a scramble. I was projected to go third, fourth or fifth round and then went in the second, so just go with the flow and enjoy it."

While Stepan did conduct 26 interviews in the opening few days of the Combine, he never underwent the physical portion of the week-long event since he wanted to attend graduation ceremonies at Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep in Minnesota.

"I lucked out big time," Stepan said.

O'Reilly, drafted in the second round (No. 33) by the Avalanche in 2009, recalls his draft year as if it were yesterday.

"I think when you look at it, kids maybe focus too much on the off-ice perspective and while it is an important thing, if you care about the on-ice enough, those things off the ice will come naturally," O'Reilly told NHL.com.

He laughed when reminded of the impressive showing he had at the 2009 Combine -- his 18 reps at 150 pounds on the bench press tied for the most among the 94 players who tested.

"You want to do that extra stuff but need to remember you've never really arrived … you're always trying to get somewhere better and always have to keep a beginner's mind. No matter what the situation, go out and do it and learn and get better and never be satisfied," O'Reilly said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 1:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineup for Panthers

Here is the projected lineup the Panthers will put on the ice Tuesday when they face the Philadelphia Flyers:
 
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Marco Sturm
 
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Erik Gudbranson - Ed Jovanovski
 
Jose Theodore, who is 4-0-1 in his last five games, will get the start in net for the Panthers; Scott Clemmensen will serve as the backup.
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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic