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Posted On Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 12:51 PM

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

After lift from old team, Ponikarovsky to make Devils debut

NEWARK, N.J. -- Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky traveled  with his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on Friday, in order to get acquainted with his new mates Saturday, the New Jersey Devils.
Ponikarovsky, who was acquired by the Devils from the Hurricanes in exchange for minor-league defenseman Joe Sova and a 2012 fourth-round draft pick on Friday night, is eager and excited to get started. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Ponikarovsky will make his Devils debut against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at Prudential Center on the team's third line with David Clarkson and center Jacob Josefson.
"I'm excited to be here," Ponikarovsky said. "This team is battling for a playoff spot and it's always nice to be in a scrum like that. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to play here and do my best."
Coach Peter DeBoer is hoping Ponikarovsky will add some scoring depth.
"I think Lou [Lamoriello] and I have talked over the last couple of months, and I think he saw an opportunity to get a guy that can give us depth on third line … a veteran NHL presence who makes us deeper and bigger, and hopefully better," DeBoer said. "He'll play with Josefson and Clarkie. We've liked out first two lines. There's been chemistry there, so I think the upgrade was to try to get three lines that can score on a regular basis."
Ponikarovsky, 31, had seven goals and 15 points in 49 games for Carolina this season. He was scoreless in 15:20 of ice time in a 3-0 win Friday against Washington. He got word of the trade immediately following the victory against the Capitals.
"I got the news after finishing the game, got on the plane and got here and then got some sleep," Ponikarovsky said. "I was here [Friday] night because [Carolina] had to fly to New York anyway since we were playing the Islanders. I just got off plane and came here."
Was he surprised by the trade?
"It's part of the job," he said. "You play for one team one day, and then everything changes, so you just basically pack up [and] go wherever they send you. Carolina was in a position to trade some players and I was a free agent after the season, so maybe I was a target. But those things happen and you just move on and go and play as best you can for the other team."
Ponikarovsky is a four-time 20-goal scorer, most recently in 2009-10, but had just five goals and 15 points with the Los Angeles Kings last season. He signed with Carolina this summer as a free agent.
"Along with adding size and strength, Ponikarovsky also has the ability to play all three forward positions," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "He's a left shot and he's going to help our third line. We just have to get our third and fourth line straightened out and this is one step towards it."
In 603 regular-season games, Ponikarovsky has 128 goals, 296 points and 397 penalty minutes. He also has three goals and 10 points in 38 playoff games.
"I'm not thinking about [playing time] right now … I'm just taking it day-by-day and we'll go from there," Ponikarovsky said. "I learned a little about the system [on Saturday] and I'm going out there and bringing what I can. My size, shots and everything else … I'll bring my A-game. I'm never going to say I'm going to score 30 goals, but I'll play the system and be accountable."
DeBoer doesn't doubt that Ponikarovsky will play determined and hard.
"He's played with good coaches over the years," DeBoer said. "There were minor details he went over with [assistant coach] Dave Barr this morning that maybe we do differently than other teams.
"But you can never have enough size," he added. "We want to be a big, strong, hard team to play against and that's the identity we want to play with and he fits that. You can never have enough big bodies, especially come playoff time."
The deal comes one day after the 'Canes sent Jon Matsumoto and Mattias Lindstrom to Florida for Evgeni Dadonov and AJ Jenks in a four-forward swap. Ponikarovsky, who will wear jersey No. 12, is on a one-year contract for $1.5 million.
Lamoriello assigned right wing Mattias Tedenby to the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany. DeBoer said his fourth line against the Flyers will have Brad Mills centering Eric Boulton and Ryan Carter. Steven Zalewski, who has played seven games with the Devils this season, will be a healthy scratch.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will start Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes against the Devils. Bryzgalov is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in three career appearances against New Jersey.
Here are the projected lineups for a Saturday afternoon game between the Devils and Flyers at Prudential Center:
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Brad Mills - Ryan Carter
Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Matt Taormina - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster.
Martin Brodeur will get the start in goal; Johan Hedberg will serve as backup.
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Max Talbot - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
Jody Shelley - Bryaden Schenn - Harry Zolnierczyk
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Matt Carle
Erik Gustafsson - Andrej Meszaros
Ilya Bryzgalov gets the start in goal; Sergei Bobrovsky will serve as backup.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 1:11 PM

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

Players to watch at USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

There's no question power-forward Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints will be one player on the radar of NHL scouts and general managers during the inaugural USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game scheduled Tuesday at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Mich.

For more on the big Latvian, who is ranked No. 12 among North American skaters according to NHL Central Scouting's midterm report, click here.

The USHL Top Prospects game will include 40 of the league's top young players. In addition Girgensons, there's Matthew DeBlouw of the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Robert Baillargeon of the Indian Ice, goalie Jon Gillies of Indiana and defensemen Jordan Schmaltz of the Green Bay Gamblers, Mike Matheson of Dubuque and Brian Cooper of the Fargo Force.

Here's a capsule look at a few other players considered to be first or second-round material when the NHL Draft is staged at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22-23.
Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 4:36 PM

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

Grigorenko could return to lineup on Tuesday

Top draft prospect Mikhail Grigorenko, who has missed the last four games for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League while recuperating from an ankle injury suffered at the 2012 World Junior Championship, is expected to make his anticipated return on Tuesday.

Remparts head coach Patrick Roy told local reporters that Grigorenko, who is ranked No. 2 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's midterm report, "seems fine."

"The goal has always been that he'll make his comeback [Jan. 24] in Chicoutimi," Roy said. Quebec has two more games on the schedule before meeting the Sagueneens on Jan. 24.

Grigorenko suffered his injury playing for silver medal-winning Team Russia at the WJC. During the second period of an eventual 14-0 victory over Latvia in the preliminary round, Grigorenko collided with Latvian defender Arturs Salija at the Russian blueline -- sending him to the ice in pain. He'd miss one game and finish the tournament with 2 goals, 5 points and a plus-2 rating in six appearances.

Despite not playing a period of hockey for the Remparts upon returning from the WJC, Grigorenko still stands 11th in scoring in the league with 58 points (25 goals) in 36 games.

Once he returns to the lineup, the 6-foot-3 1/4, 200-pound center will certainly command the attention of NHL scouts and general managers.

According to NHL Director of Central Scouting, Dan Marr, Grigorenko is not too far behind No. 1-ranked Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting in terms of natural talent. At the time of Central Scouting's midterm release, Marr told that Yakupov and Grigorenko were 1-A and 1-B in his mind.

"Right now, Yakupov has shown, with the level that he's played, that he does have the ability to make a difference in the game," Marr told at the time. "That's not saying that Grigorenko doesn't make a difference. Grigorenko controls the play, can dictate how the game is played when he's on the ice. But, right now, the consensus was Yakupov has the potential to be a difference-maker in a game. He can just turn a game around in a couple of shifts; he's that dynamic a player."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 5:45 PM

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

Mason to start for Jets vs. Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel will ride the hot hand between the pipes when his club pays a visit to Prudential Center to face the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

Chris Mason, who made 25 saves in a 2-0 victory against the Senators in Ottawa on Monday, will get a second straight start against the Devils less than 24 hours later. It will be Mason's third career start against New Jersey (1-1-0, 2.93 goals-against average, .902 save percentage).

"He's played great all year and he's been hot lately," Jets captain Andrew Ladd told "He feels confident in net and we feel confident in having him back there so it's great to see. He's one of those guys who works so hard every day and is just a consummate professional so to see him get this opportunity is fun for us to be a part of."

Winnipeg is 0-6-0 this season when playing the second game of back-to-backs, so Mason will certainly have his work cut out for him. For the season, Mason is 6-3-0 with a 1.99 GAA and .923 save percentage in 12 appearances. It marks the first time this season he'll get back-to-back starts.

"For me, Mason has played well," Noel said. "Why wouldn't I give him back-to-back starts? He's earned the right. Our job as coaches is to try and help players get better and succeed and it's a tough task for him. He's played one of every four or five games, and he has an opportunity to feed off of [Monday night's] win and play well. We're trying to help him and that's why he's getting the start."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 12:02 PM

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

Henrique still out; Devils recall Josefson, Mills

NEWARK, N.J. -- Rookie center Adam Henrique will miss his second straight game for the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday when the club opens a six-game home stand against the Winnipeg Jets at Prudential Center.
Henrique, who returned to the ice for a 20-minute skate Monday morning to test a groin injury that kept him out of the Devils 2-1 win over Winnipeg on Saturday, wasn't a participant at Tuesday's skate but did skate on his own prior to the team practice.
The Devils recalled centers Jacob Josefson and Brad Mills from their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany on Tuesday morning and both players will be in the lineup against the Jets. Josefson, who has missed 37 games with a broken right clavicle suffered Oct. 21 against the San Jose Sharks, played two games in Albany, producing 1 goal and two penalty minutes.
"[Devils general manager] Lou [Lamoriello] saw Josefson in Albany and reports out of there were all good," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Out of necessity, sometimes you have to move guys in maybe sooner than you want to. But he's healthy and we think he can help us."
In five games with the Devils this season, Josefson has 1 assist and a plus-1 rating. He'll open Tuesday's game centering left wing Ryan Carter and right wing Mattias Tedenby.
"We'll start it that way," DeBoer said. "It gives us some flexibility up the middle. I want him to get out there and feel good about himself. A lot like when Travis [Zajac] first game back from his injury. This will be a slow build to where he needs to get to, and we have to be prepared for that."
Zajac, meanwhile, is sidelined through the All-Star break with an Achilles problem.
"He's back here resting and he'll shut it down for two weeks; then I believe he'll see the doctor and go from there," DeBoer said. "Hopefully, then he'll get the green light to go again."
DeBoer said Henrique, who is second among rookies in scoring with 34 points (13 goals), could return to the lineup on Thursday against the Boston Bruins.
"[Henrique] is getting better and feeling better every day," DeBoer said. "I think if tonight was a playoff game, you might see him in the lineup. But I think we're looking long-term at this, and he'll skate [Wednesday] and practice with us as long as he keeps progressing the way he is."
With Henrique out, Dainius Zubrus will again center the top line between Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Petr Sykora, who sat out Monday's practice for some "rest," was back on the ice Tuesday alongside Patrik Elias and David Clarkson.
Martin Brodeur will start in goal for the Devils. The Jets, coming off a 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday, didn't practice on Tuesday. Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get the start in goal for the Jets, although Chris Mason is coming off a 25-save shutout.
Here are the projected lineups for Tuesday night's game between the Jets and Devils at Prudential Center:
Zach Parise - Dainius Zubrus - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Jacob Josefson - Mattias Tedenby
Eric Boulton - Steven Zalewski - Brad Mills
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster
Martin Brodeur gets the start; Johan Hedberg will serve as backup.
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Alexander Burmistrov
Antti Miettinen - Tim Stapleton - Eric Fehr
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tobias Enstrom - Ron Hainsey
Johnny Oduya - Mark Flood
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones
Ondrej Pavelec is the expected starter; Chris Mason to serve as backup.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 12:33 PM

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

Kulak to replace Koekkoek at Top Prospects

Vancouver Giants defenseman Brett Kulak, ranked No. 67 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, will replace injured Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna later this month.

Koekkoek suffered a shoulder injury midway through the third period of a 6-3 loss to the Windsor Spitfires on Nov. 27 after being hit along the boards while reaching for the puck. He's scheduled to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery on Jan. 20.

In 26 games his season, Koekkoek, who is No. 17 on Central Scouting's list of North American skaters, has 5 goals and 18 points with 17 penalty minutes.

Kulak, a 6-foot-0.25, 174-pound native of Stony Plain, Alta., is in his second season with the Western Hockey League's Giants. He has 4 goals, 11 points and a plus-22 rating in 42 games for Vancouver this season. Kulak will replace Koekkoek on Team Cherry at the Top Prospects Game, scheduled Feb. 1 in Kelowna.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 12:04 PM

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

Kitchener's Matia Marcantuoni suffers injury

Kitchener Rangers forward Matia Marcantuoni, who was ranked No. 42 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's midterm report, will be sidelined indefinitely after suffering an upper body injury in a victory over the Erie Otters on Jan. 7.

"He's dealing with injury problems right now which may cost him the rest of this year," Kitchener coach and general manager Steve Spott told "We'll know more this week."

The injury shouldn't affect Marcantuoni's draft status -- he is projected to be selected in the second or third round. It remains to be seen whether or not Marcantuoni will attend the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, scheduled Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Kelowna, as a spectator.

Marcantuoni was invited to the Top Prospects Game along with Kitchener teammate and No. 4-ranked North American, Radek Faksa. Both players were placed on Team Orr.
Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 11:52 AM

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

Stefan Matteau opts for QMJHL instead of UND

Stefan Matteau, who currently leads the Under-18 National Team Development Program in scoring, has decided to play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League next season instead of suiting up for the University of North Dakota.

Matteau's father, a 13-year NHL veteran, was hired as an assistant coach for Blainville-Boisbriand prior to the start of the 2011-12 campaign. The Quebec team acquired Stefan's rights on Jan. 7 via a trade. While he signed his letter of intent in November, it didn't keep him from exploring other options, particularly when it included having an opportunity to play for his father.

Matteau, who models his game after Eric and Jordan Staal, used his Twitter account on Tuesday morning to announce his decision.

"My decision is final," he wrote.

Matteau, who turns 18 on Feb. 23, was one of four players from the U.S. U18 Team to be ranked by NHL Central Scouting among the top 30 skaters eligible for the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh in June.

Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 8:00 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Russia and Sweden ready for golden matchup

CALGARY -- The Swedish National Junior Team has visions of celebrating its first World Junior Championship in 31 years.

In order for that to happen, the club will have to dethrone the defending champion Russia in Thursday's gold-medal match at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Russian coach Valeri Bragin, in a somewhat surprising move, will start Andrei Makarov between the pipes against the Swedes. Andrei Vasilevski had started all the big games for the Russians, but was pulled with less than five minutes remaining in Tuesday's semifinal round match with Canada after allowing four quick third-period goals.

Makarov entered the game cold and proceeded to stop all seven shots he faced in a 6-5 victory.

Not surprisingly, Sweden's Johan Gustafsson gets the nod in goal.

Here are the lineups:


G: Andrei Makarov
Apalkov-Kosov-Barbashev (Sergeyev-Arzamastsev)
Yakupov-Khokhlachev-Kuznetsov (Antipin-Ozhiganov)
Gusev-Kucherov-Grigorenko (Zheldakov-Nesterov)
Kulikov-Zemchenko-Telegin (Naumenkov)


G: Johan Gustafsson
Larsson-Sundstrom-Friberg (Klefbom-Brodin)
Boyce Rotevall-Nordstrom-Thorell (Granberg-Nemeth)
Karlsson-Zibanejad-Rakell (Backman-Claesson)
Collberg-Forsberg-Rask-Rensfeldt (Klinberg)

Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 5:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Canada beats Finland, 4-0

CALGARY -- Mark Visentin saved his best for last at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

In what would be his final appearance in a game for the Canadian National Junior Team on Thursday in the bronze medal contest against Team Finland, Visentin made several highlight-reel stops on the way to a 27-save shutout to lead Canada to a 4-0 victory.

In what arguably can be considered the best save of the entire tournament, Visentin somehow snared an attempt by Joonas Donskoi at the right post by reaching behind his back to keep the puck from crossing the goal line. The stop was showed well over 10 times on the center ice scoreboard and, each time, fans applauded while offering up plenty of "Oooo's and Ahhh's".

Quinton Howden scored a pair of goals and Tanner Pearson and Mark Scheifele once for Team Canada.   

In the first, Pearson converted a perfect feed from Scheifele to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Just 5:35 into the second Pearson returned the favor, dishing to Scheifele in the slot for a 2-0 advantage. Howden would score a power-play with just 30.7 seconds left in the second to extend the lead to 3-0. Howden converted a feed from Mark Stone with just 2:25 left in the game to close out the scoring.

Finland starting goalie Sami Aittokallio, who has played wonderfully in this tournament, was inadvertently run into by Howden with 9:41 left in the second. The goalie remained down for a few minutes before regaining his senses. He finished with 40 saves.

Canada goalie Mark Visentin, making his first start since Dec. 29 when he made 24 saves in a 10-2 victory over Denmark, has turned aside 18 shots through 40 minutes. Visentin denied Teemu Pulkkinen on a penalty shot with 2:11 left in the second after being whistled for throwing his stick in an attempt to block an original shot. Pulkkinen faked a slap shot and skated in, only to be stopped by Visentin's left pad. The goalie then slapped the puck out of his crease to the delight of the locals.

Pearson, in prime position in the slot, one-timed a perfect pass from Barrie Colts teammate Scheifele from the right circle with his team on the power-play at the 9:08 mark to give the Canadians the early lead. Canada isn't playing in the gold medal game for the first time since 2001, which is also the last time the country earned bronze.

Visentin had a solid opening 20 minutes, turning aside seven shots, including a shorthanded breakaway attempt by playmaker Markus Granlund with just 4:13 remaining in the period.

The Canadians received a bit of a scare in the period when defenseman Dougie Hamilton was struck in the ankle following a shot by Finland's Miro Aaltonen. Hamilton slowly returned to the bench but eventually returned to the ice for his regular shift alongside Brandon Gormley.

The Finns couldn't convert a 2-on-1 in the final minute of the period. Joonas Donskoi and Teemu Pulkkinen broke in but Donskoi failed to release his shot from deep in the left circle.

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He's, believe it or not, actually one of my favorite guys, and I've ended up trading him twice. I appreciate what he's done. He was one year away from being an unrestricted free agent, and I felt with this opportunity, that it was a chance that we were able to get somebody for him in Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening.

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