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Posted On Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 2:34 PM

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

Couturier out with head injury


PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers’ injury troubles continue.
 
On Monday, the team learned that leading scorer Claude Giroux would be out indefinitely with a concussion. Three days later, it was announced that Flyers captain Chris Pronger was done for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs with severe post-concussion syndrome.
 
Rookie Sean Couturier became the third player to be sidelined by a head injury this week after being hit in the head by a puck Saturday afternoon against the Boston Bruins. Fellow rookie Brayden Schenn is also out with a concussion.
 
Couturier, the eighth-overall pick of the Flyers in the 2011 Draft, was helped off the ice with just 48.7 seconds remaining in the first period after being struck on the side of his head by a rising slapshot off the stick of teammate Kimmo Timonen.
 
The puck appeared to hit behind Couturier's left ear. Couturier does wear a shield, but he remained on the ice for several minutes before finally being helped off.
 
Prior to the opening faceoff in the second period, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced that Couturier would not return to the game "due to a head injury."
 
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Posted On Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 12:11 PM

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

Chara returns for Bruins after knee injury

PHILADELPHIA - Defenseman Zdeno Chara will return to the lineup Saturday after sitting out the previous two games with a knee injury when the Boston Bruins meet the Flyers here at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon.
 
"It felt good [Friday] in practice and there were no setbacks," Chara told the media about two hours before the opening faceoff. "You never really put a time frame on when you are going to be back [following an injury]. It depends on how you feel. It wouldn't matter who we were playing today … I'm not returning just because it's Philadelphia. I'd be playing no matter what; I just want to be playing."
 
Chara appeared to injure his left leg in a second-period collision Dec. 10 with Columbus Blue Jackets forward Antoine Vermette. The Bruins have won seven of their last nine games and are just two points behind the Flyers for top honors in the Eastern Conference.
 
The Bruins are 6-5-3 in the 14 regular-season games Chara has missed during his tenure in Boston. The Bruins captain has six goals, 19 points and a plus-18 rating in 2011-12.
 
Chara said it wasn't fun sitting and watching from the sidelines and is looking forward to helping his club continue its winning ways. Since launching a 10-game winning streak Nov. 1 with a 5-3 victory against Ottawa, the Bruins have gone 17-2-1.
 
"It's hard to really make comments on the games when you are not playing," Chara said. "It's like watching television … you don't see those plays develop and what's causing them or what's causing the breakdowns. We found a way to win and that's a positive, but also we need to be better.
 
"The games against the Flyers are always good. We're two physical teams so those are the kind of games that are always fun to play."
 
To make room for Chara in the lineup, the Bruins assigned defenseman Steven Kampfer to their American Hockey League affiliate in Providence on Friday night. In seven games with the Bruins this season, Kampfer has one assist and a plus-six rating.
 
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Posted On Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 12:51 PM

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

Murray and Pearson earn spots for Team Canada

It's interesting to note that two players eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft will play a part for Canadian National Junior Team coach Don Hay in the anticipated 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta., later this month.

             Tanner Pearson, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Not surprisingly, defenseman Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League will be looked upon to stabilize the back end. Meanwhile, forward Tanner Pearson of the Barrie Colts had really been ripping up the Ontario Hockey League prior to attending Canada's three-day selection camp. His inclusion on this team, particularly since he has quite the chemistry with Barrie teammate and Canada's likely top-line center Mark Scheifele, isn't a surprise either.

Both players on Thursday were also invited to participate in the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game scheduled Feb. 1 in Kelowna, B.C. Pearson will play for Team Orr and Murray will dress for Team Cherry.

"Tanner has made a steady improvement each season," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "This season he has broken out and has led the league in scoring almost from the start of the season."

Pearson leads the OHL with 66 points, including 26 goals and 40 assists, through 30 games with the Colts this campaign.

"He's become a skilled forward with lots of finish around the net," Edwards said. "He has very good hands and can handle the puck very well in traffic. He also has very good play-making ability and sees the ice and passes the puck as well as anyone. He is creative and highly skilled."

No wonder Hockey Canada's managerial team opted to keep the 6-foot, 198-pound Pearson.

Three other players considered to be blue chip prospects were sent home, including defensemen Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels (WHL), Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67's (OHL) and forward Philliip Di Giuseppe of the University of Michigan. Dumba is rated No. 3 according to NHL Central Scouting's preliminary WHL list. Ceci is rated No. 10 in the OHL and Di Giuseppe is the lone 'A Watch Player' in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Murray is the second member of the Silvertips to represent Canada at the World Juniors. Goaltender Leland Irving, currently in the Calgary Flames organization, was a member of Canada's gold-medal squad in 2007. He has three goals and 7 points in 11 games this season for Everett.

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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 9:18 PM

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

Yakupov returns after seven-game absence

After sitting out the previous seven games with a sore back, Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup on Sunday and was one major pain in the neck for the Peterborough Petes.

Yakupov chipped in with a goal and two assists to help lead the Sting to a 4-2 victory over the Petes in an Ontario Hockey League matchup at the RBC Centre in Sarnia. It was just the contribution the Sting needed in snapping a two-game losing streak and improving to 18-9-1-4 on the season.

"He's a very special player," Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu told Dave Borody of sarniasting.com. "Star players have that knack of being game breakers and changing the momentum of the game. He came back today and had three points. Not bad for a guy who missed the past two weeks."

Yakupov, who was named the game's second star, is projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick at the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh on June 22. Despite missing nearly two weeks, Yakupov would score the first of four Sarnia Sting goals in second period.

He leads the team with 19 goals, 11 power-play goals, 49 points and a plus-17 rating in 24 matches. Last year, Yakupov led his team and all OHL rookies in scoring with 101 points, including 49 goals, in 65 games.

There's a good chance Yakupov will be selected for the Russian National Junior Team that will play in the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary beginning Dec. 26. The Russians are the defending WJC gold medalist.

According to NHL Central Scouting, Yakupov's agent, Igor Larionov has advised Russian coach Valeri Bragin that Yakupov will travel to the team's camp in Calgary on Dec. 18. Russia will have two exhibition games prior to the start of the tournament -- on Dec. 20 against Team USA in Red Deer and Dec. 22 against Czech Republic in Lethbridge.

Earlier this season, Yakupov's linemate and fellow Russian countryman, Alex Galchenyuk, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and underwent surgery. He is still at least four months away from returning to the lineup. Galchenyuk suffered his injury on Sept. 16 in a preseason game against the Windsor Spitfires.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 12:28 PM

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

Martin Frk returns to lineup for Halifax Mooseheads

One of the top prospects eligible for the 2012 Draft, Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads, made his season debut on Friday against P.E.I. Rocket after sitting out the first 29 games with a concussion.

Frk, who hadn't played since suffering his head injury in August, was medically cleared to return to the lineup on Tuesday according to Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell.

Frk, who is rated No. 2 among skaters in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by NHL Central Scouting, had 22 goals and 50 points in 62 games as a QMJHL rookie last season and 4 goals and 2 assists in three pre-season games in August before his injury. His return wasn't memorable, however, as the Rocket came away with a 6-1 victory.

Frk didn't register a point but took two shots and even delivered one hit.

According to Willy Palov, who covers the Mooseheads for The Chronicle Herald, Frk played approximately 15-to-17 minutes and looked good for a skater who hadn't played in three months. Palov also felt Frk's timing wasn't quite "there" and he needed at least two periods to get his bearings. That's expected though. Read Palov's recap of Friday's game right here.

First-year coach Dominique Ducharme had his 18-year-old Czech Republic sniper on a line with Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Grenier on the team's top line to open the game. MacKinnon, a rookie center, would leave the game with an injury in the third period after suffering an apparent shoulder injury. He was scheduled to be re-examined on Saturday.

It remains to be seen if Frk will join the Czech Republic at the 2012 World Junior Championship. As the youngest player to represent the Czech Republic at the 2011 WJC, the 6-foot, 203-pound right wing led the team with 3 goals and 6 points in six games. Frk also competed in the 2010 and '11 Under-18 World Championships, tying for the team lead in scoring in 2010 (2 goals, 7 points) and in 2011 (4 assists, 5 points).

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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 12:44 PM

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

Recovering Zajac skates with team at practice

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils center Travis Zajac took another positive step in his road to recovery on Thursday when he skated for the first time this season in his usual red practice jersey with teammates at Prudential Center.
 
Zajac, who is recovering from Aug. 18 surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon, is at least two weeks away from making his return to the lineup. Still, teammates were sure glad to see No. 19 back on the ice, skating, stick-handling and snapping shots.
 
"We still know in the back of our minds that he still has a little while to go," Devils captain Zach Parise told NHL.com. "It'll probably be a couple more weeks until we see him in a game. But he's made good progress and has taken good steps. It looks like he's moving and skating really well out there. That's important and big for everyone to see.
 
"We'll welcome him back as soon as he can without rushing him, but we're excited to get him back. He's a big part of our team."
 
Zajac has 89 goals and 249 points in 408 career games with the Devils spanning five seasons.
 
"Everyone has kind of stressed that to me during the comeback, to not push it and be patient … you have to listen to your body and right now, I feel great on the ice," Zajac told reporters following Thursday's practice. "I've had a lot of trainers helping me here and getting me back in shape, making sure I'm ready to go. I don't suspect I'll have any doubts about coming back too soon."
 
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said ice time will be something he and his staff will monitor closely whenever Zajac does return to the lineup.
 
"We're aware with the significance of the injury and we've all been very well-versed by the doctors on the schedule and the time frame for him to come back," DeBoer said. "No one is deviating from that. I've talked with him about how, when he does come back, we're going to ease him in and I'm not going to throw him into 20 minutes a night. That's going to be my job; to make sure we don't overuse him early."
 
DeBoer admitted Zajac won't be given top-six minutes at the outset. Parise said Zajac approached him before practice on Wednesday and asked about his recovery from a knee injury that sidelined him 65 games last season.
 
"He asked me in practice, 'Was it this hard for you when you came back?' and I said, it is," Parise said. "You come back and are skating by yourself going right into practice mode when the team is 25 games in. You feel like you don't even belong on the ice; everything is so fast and that was hardest for me.
 
"Even the first 15 or 20 games, it's hard being out so long. As far as rushing back, there's no need. It's only December. There's still a lot of hockey left, so he can take that extra two weeks if needed. We can't afford for him to have a setback and then all of sudden he's gone until April."
 
In the absence of Zajac and fellow center Jacob Josefson (collarbone), Parise said rookie Adam Henrique has done a fine job. Henrique has connected for 6 goals and 18 points in 23 games.
 
"He's done a good job filling in and playing that position, playing a lot of minutes and on the penalty kill and power play," Parise said. "He's done a really good job but at the same time, Travis is on another level. He's been a great player in this League for a few years now and we'd welcome him back. But Adam has been doing really well; he's been a good surprise for us."
 
Zajac echoed those sentiments.
 
"Adam has been great and playing with confidence … the puck follows him and he's not afraid to make plays out there," he said. "He's pretty sound in all parts of the game and reliable defensively. He has poise with the puck and he definitely knows the game."
 
The Devils will be without defenseman Andy Greene on Thursday when they play host to the Ottawa Senators. Apparently, Greene re-aggravated a lower-body injury.
 
"Andy's got some bumps and bruises and we're going keep him out," DeBoer said. "It's a carry-over from other stuff and I'm not sure what we're really dealing with, whether it's the ankle or foot. We'll know more [Thursday afternoon] after an X-ray."
 
Mark Fraser will make his fourth appearance in the lineup in Greene's absence. Goalie Martin Brodeur will make his second straight start for New Jersey.

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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 12:40 PM

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

Projected lineups for Devils, Senators

NEWARK, N.J. -- Here are the probable line combinations for the Devils and Senators, who play tonight at Prudential Center:
 
DEVILS
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Mattias Tedenby - Patrik Elias - Petr Sykora
Dainius Zubrus - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Nick Palmieri
 
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fanye
Mark Fraser - Anton Volchenkov
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
 
Martin Brodeur will start, backed up by Johan Hedberg.
 
SENATORS
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Milan Michalek - Nick Foligno - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil
 
Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Brian Lee - David Rundblad
 
The Senators did not practice Thursday morning after flying in from Ottawa in the morning following a loss on home ice to the Washington Capitals. The only lineup change for the Senators comes in goal as Alex Auld will make his seventh appearance of the season and first start since Nov. 20 -- a 2-1 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Craig Anderson is the backup.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 2:34 PM

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

Subban named CHL goalie of the week

Top 2012 draft prospect Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League on Tuesday was named the Vaughn Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Week.

Subban, whose older brother is Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, earned the honor after posting a 3-0-0-0 record, including a shutout, with a 0.67 goals-against average and .978 save percentage for games ending Nov. 27.

Subban, who participated in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August, went 10-17-0 in 32 appearances and finished second among OHL rookie goalies with a 3.16 GAA and .900 save percentage in 2010-11.

Since being taken off injured reserve earlier this month, Subban is 9-3-0 with a 1.89 GAA and .938 save percentage in 12 starts. He has also posted two shutouts.

"Malcolm is very strong and has excellent net coverage," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He has exceptional flexibility and quickness, great strength in his leg pushes needed for lateral ability and recovery. He's got a quick glove hand and excellent work ethic. He'll always give himself a chance to stop the puck and is capable of making the big saves."

Subban, 17, began the week making 23 saves on Thursday as part of a 3-1 win over the Erie Otters. He followed that with his second shutout of the season on Friday stopping all 34 shots faced, including 19 in the second period, in a 6-0 triumph over the Guelph Storm. He then led the Bulls win their third straight game on Sunday with 30 saves in a 4-1 win over the Oshawa Generals.

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Posted On Friday, 11.25.2011 / 11:11 AM

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

Yakupov returns to lineup for Sarnia Sting

After missing his first game of the season due to injury five days earlier, top 2012 draft prospect Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup for the Sarnia Sting on Thursday in a 4-3 loss to the Barrie Colts.

Yakupov, who took a check to the head in the third period of last Friday's victory over the Saginaw Spirit, appeared to be his normal productive self when he connected for 2 goals and 3 points. But his club suffered their second loss in the last five games.

Despite the loss, Sarnia assistant coach Trevor Letowski told The Sarnia Observer after the game that "Yakky was one of our best guys tonight."

Yakupov woke up Saturday morning experiencing a headache and a sore back and was held out of the lineup that evening. At the time, Sarnia coach and general manager Jacques Beaulieu said he was taking a "wait and see" approach with regard to Yakupov's soreness.

Yakupov, who suffered his injury after taking a hit from Saginaw's Garret Ross early in the third period, is second in Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 46 points, including 18 goals in 23 games.

According to Sarnia's assistant general manager, Mark Glavin, Yakupov was on the ice Friday morning at practice. Glavin said he was sore but wasn't suffering from any major setbacks. Glavin also informed NHL.com that Yakupov "never had a concussion and was just pretty banged up and too sore to play" last Saturday.

Ross received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the infraction. The Sting will next play host to the Niagara IceDogs on Saturday.

Earlier this season, Yakupov's linemate and fellow Russian countryman, Alex Galchenyuk, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and underwent surgery. He is still at least four months away from returning to the lineup. Galchenyuk suffered his injury on Sept. 16 in a preseason game against the Windsor Spitfires.

The injuries to Yakupov and Galchenyuk certainly aren't isolated incidents this season in the Canadian Hockey League. There are several other top blue chip players watching from the stands. In the Western Hockey League, Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray (high ankle sprain), Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Griffin Reinhart (shoulder) and Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Morgan Rielly (season-ending knee surgery) have been shelved, although Murray resumed skated on Tuesday.

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Halifax Mooseheads right wing Martin Frk hasn't played a game this season due to a concussion.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:32 PM

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

Arniel sees better battle from Blue Jackets

NEWARK, N.J. -- Columbus Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel points to his team's ability to battle away from the puck that has made a world of difference over the last week.
 
The coach spoke to the media following his team's brisk workout at Prudential Center on Wednesday in preparation for the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET).
 
"Our work away from the puck has gotten so much better," Arniel said. "A majority of the game is played between the two dots, from one end of the rink to the other, and the teams that work the hardest through those areas, whether you have the puck or don't have the puck, are the ones who have success. Our play without the puck through those areas has been so much better the last four games. It has allowed us to create turnovers, eliminate odd-man rushes and eliminate second and third chances off shots coming wide."
 
The Blue Jackets enter Wednesday's game riding a season-high two game winning streak and they're just hoping to keep it going against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who sports a 6-2-2 record with a 2.17 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 10 career games against Columbus.
 
"During our slump, we had some practices where we went back to the basics and did a lot of drills without the puck, focusing on where we needed to be on the ice and setting ourselves up for offense," Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen told NHL.com. "He's been emphasizing that and we've been executing that on the ice. It just goes to show that if you're good without the puck, it creates a lot more offensive chances for you."
 
While the rookie Johansen hasn't scored in four games, his work ethic as the team's second-line wing hasn't gone unnoticed.
 
"It's tough for young guys to jump into this League and play against full grown men right out of junior," Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash told NHL.com. "Ryan got off to a slow start … I think it was an eye opener as to how fast it was. Lately, he's been one of our more dominant players. He's got all the tools, the size, speed and skill, and he's really come on these last couple of weeks and that's positive to see."
 
For Nash, who has 1 goal and 3 points in back-to-back victories, the season has certainly been tough. But he's optimistic that the team is beginning to turn the corner.
 
"I think there have already been two halves to our season," he said. "The first half, we couldn't squeak out wins, couldn't find ways to win. Now we're in the half where, over the last five games, we've been really good … guys have been on the same page. I really think we're turning the corner. We have a lot of healthy bodies now and that's made a difference."
 
Nash agreed that the team's play away from the puck has also led to success.
 
"When you watch video of Boston and San Jose, their work away from the puck is great," Nash said. "They always come back hard and stop in their zone; earlier in the season, we were getting away from that and trying to get a bit too offensive, but last five games we've been pretty solid."
 
Goalie Curtis Sanford will make his fourth straight start in net. In four games this season, the 32-year-old Sanford is 2-0-1 with a 1.46 GAA and .943 save percentage. In two career appearances against the Devils, he is 0-1-0 with a 3.57 GAA.
 
"Right now, I'm feeling good about my game," Sanford told NHL.com. "Guys are playing well in front of me. It's important for me to stay square and be aggressive on my shot."
 
Here are the probable lines for the Blue Jackets against the Devils:
 
Vinny Prospal - Jeff Carter - Rick Nash
RJ Umberger - Mark Letestu - Ryan Johansen
Samuel Pahlsson - Antoine Vermette - Derek Dorsett
Cody Bass - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll
 
Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Grant Clitsome
 
Goalie Curtis Sanford earns the start and Allen York will serve as backup.


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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres