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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 2:05 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rangers, Flyers don Winter Classic tuques for anthem

NEW YORK -- With the 2012 NHL Winter Classic a little more than a month away, the New York Rangers and Flyers will start the process of building animosity for the outdoor clash in Philadelphia with Saturday afternoon's tilt at Madison Square Garden.

But in a show of solidarity, both sides wore Winter Classic tuques during the national anthem before Saturday's game. Only the Flyers' Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds were willing to don the cap during pregame warmups. The tuques are available for purchase on shop.nhl.com.

The Flyers and Rangers will meet one more time before the outdoor battle at Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 2 at noon. Entering Saturday afternoon's game, the Rangers and Flyers were the top two teams in the Eastern Conference based on points percentage.


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Posted On Friday, 11.11.2011 / 12:56 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Eric Staal still dealing with questions about hit

NEW YORK -- Eric Staal faced another round questions about the hit on brother Marc last season, one that eventually led to a concussion that has sidelined the Rangers top defenseman for the first six weeks of this season.

Parked at his locker in the visiting dressing room at Madison Square Garden on Friday morning, the Carolina Hurricanes captain once again answered questions after a story broke earlier in the day that said Marc was going to see a concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu in Boston next week.

"I don't know the medical terminology and everything and that's his deal with the doctors," said Eric, whose Hurricanes will face the red-hot Rangers, winners of five straight, on Friday night.

The brothers spent time together the past couple days with the Hurricanes in town to face the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and no other games until Friday. Eric said he feels no guilt about the hit that didn't draw a penalty.

"No," Eric said when asked if the hit has weighed on his mind. "I've been talking with him the last couple days and all summer. There were a lot of steps that happened after that hit that probably put him in the position that he's in now. I don't think it's just that hit. It's not like I hit him and he's been done since that point. He played and came back. Now he's healing and on the right track to getting back."

Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice echoed that sentiment.

"It was a clean hit, and his brother came back and played," Maurice said. "To me, he's not the reason there's a concussion."

The hit took place during a game between the Hurricanes and Rangers on Feb. 22. Marc missed the next two games with a knee injury, but played in 15 of the Rangers' final 17 regular-season games and all five playoff games. Marc had setbacks during the summer with his workouts and was eventually shut down by the Rangers during training camp.

Eric said he's not sure if he should expect to face retribution from Marc's teammates Friday, but he'll just go out and play his game as he normally would.

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Posted On Friday, 11.11.2011 / 12:55 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lines for Hurricanes, Rangers

NEW YORK -- The Carolina Hurricanes shook up their lines at practice Thursday in the hopes of finding something that would end their three-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the New York Rangers have one sure thing line with Derek Stepan centering Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov, but coach John Tortorella was constantly shuffling his lines during Wednesday's win in Ottawa.

This is likely what the lines for each team will look like when the game starts Friday:

HURRICANES

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Eric Staal - Zach Boychuk
Tuomo Ruutu - Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen
Jiri Tlusty - Brandon Sutter - Chad LaRose
Zac Dalpe - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain
Bryan Allen - Tim Gleason
Tomas Kaberle - Jay Harrison

Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

RANGERS
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Brandon Prust
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery - Erik Christensen - Andre Deveaux

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Michael Sauer
Jeff Woywitka - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 6:16 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rangers add Stralman to blue line

NEW YORK -- The Rangers officially announced the signing of defenseman Anton Stralman on Saturday to a one-year, $900,000 contract. It was originally reported just minutes before the Rangers played the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, but the terms of the agreement weren't hammered out until now.

The Rangers had been playing with just six defensemen on the roster, so the signing of Stralman provides some much-needed depth. The 25-year-old has played 212 games over parts of four seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets. He was in camp with the New Jersey Devils on a try-out basis, but he was unable to make the team.

Full Transcript: Tortorella

New York -- When John Tortorella was asked about new defenseman Anton Stralman, he responded with the following:
 
"What does Stralman bring to the club?"
"Who?"
"Your new defenseman."
"No idea."
"Do you have any idea when he'll be available?"
"No idea."
"Any other news on Rupp?"
"Nope."
"Is he on IR?"
"I have no idea."
"How about Wolski's MRI from yesterday?"
"I have no idea."
"Let's try this one: Do you know what line Sean is going to start on?"
"No idea."
"What's your mom's birthday?"
"I have no idea."
Coach John Tortorella didn't offer any insight into what he expects from Stralman, saying "no idea" when asked what he'll bring to the team and when he'll be available.

Stralman spoke to the media after the Rangers' 5-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night about his plans for joining the team.

"I'm really excited," Stralman said. "Obviously, coming in here and getting to know the guys first, then get into the practices again and the game routines. It's been a while so it's going to take a little time here to get back into game shape, but I'm going to work hard to do it.

"I had a rough camp with the Devils so I've been practicing hard. It's different practicing with a Division 1 team (in Sweden) than the NHL, but I'm going to get back pretty quick on that."

The right-handed Stralman has the ability to provide offense from the blue line. In 73 games with the Blue Jackets two seasons ago -- the most he's played in one NHL season -- he had 6 goals and 28 assists, with 4 of the goals coming on the power play.

Stralman returned to his native Sweden after the Devils decided not to sign him, but he's back in New York.

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Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 12:30 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Selanne spent summer doubting whether he'd play

NEW YORK -- Teemu Selanne is the boy who cried retirement, professing every year since 2007 that it was his final season in the NHL.

But in the summer leading up to the 2011-12 season, Selanne said it's as close as he's come to hanging up the skates.

"It was more in my mind," Selanne said Thursday morning at Madison Square Garden, as the Ducks prepare to take on the Rangers. "I didn't want to come back and take a chance that I can't play anymore."

The doubts were most prevalent after Selanne had surgery on his left knee just days before his 41st birthday in July.

"I think the whole month of July, there was a lot of question marks. I wasn't sure if it was going to work out," Selanne said. "The good thing was I had plenty of time, so I didn't have to focus for about two months on that. I knew August would be very important. It took almost up to the end, before training camp. I felt I could get back and play this year. I'm very happy about that, because I was thinking throughout the summer that I want to play if I can."

Clearly, things have worked out just fine for Selanne and the Ducks.

The Finnish superstar leads the Ducks with 14 points on 5 goals and 9 assists in 12 games. His point total is good for sixth in the League, one year after Selanne defied expectations with 31 goals and 49 assists in 73 games.

As the calendar turns to November, those doubts that lingered during the summer are gone.

"I feel great," Selanne said. "I knew the first couple weeks might be a little tougher than normal, but right now I feel good. Being healthy gives you a chance to succeed, and you can't sacrifice in that area."

The Ducks have lost 5 of 6 and are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday that saw the Ducks give up a tying goal in the final minute and another in overtime, both to Nicklas Backstrom.

As they look to right the ship, here is what the Ducks' lines looked  like in practice Thursday morning:

Corey Perry - Ryan Getzlaf - Bobby Ryan
Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
George Parros - Maxime Macenauer - Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey - Brandon McMillan - Andrew Gordon

Cam Fowler - Francois Beauchemin
Lubomir Visnovsky - Toni Lydman
Luca Sbisa - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Dan Ellis

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.02.2011 / 12:59 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Gustavsson to stay in net for Leafs

NEWARK, N.J. -- James Reimer is ready to return, but it likely won't be until the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Columbus Blue Jackets tomorrow night.
 
Coach Ron Wilson said it once again will be Jonas Gustavsson between the pipes for tonight's game against the Devils (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN), marking his fifth straight start since Reimer suffered a whiplash injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 22.
 
Gustavsson is 2-2-0 with a .905 save percentage since Reimer went down. Of the 12 goals he's allowed over that span, six have come with the Leafs shorthanded. He's filled in admirably, but Reimer looks ready to come back soon.
 
"I'm expecting James to say he's fine," said Wilson, who spoke to the media while Reimer stayed on the ice here at Prudential Center. "He felt fine after practice yesterday and he felt good in the middle of practice (today).  Hopefully he'll be ready to be the backup (against New Jersey) and be ready to start tomorrow.
 
"That's the whole thing when a guy's got a minor injury, especially a goalie -- you don't want to fool around. The Monster (Gustavsson) has done a good job. His confidence is high."
 
No. 3 goaltender Ben Scrivens practiced Wednesday, so if Reimer feels any ill effects between the morning skate and the game, Scrivens will back-up Gustavsson.
 
Wilson said Joey Crabb would jump into the spot of Matt Frattin, who was sent down to the Marlies of the AHL on Tuesday. Defenseman Jake Gardiner is dealing with a sore foot and will be a game-time decision against the Devils.
 
We had the Devils' lineup earlier; here's what the Leafs lineup likely will look like:
 
Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Matthew Lombardi - Tyler Bozak - Joey Crabb
Mike Brown - David Steckel - Philippe Dupuis
 
Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
Luke Schenn - Jake Gardiner
John-Michael Liles - Mike Komisarek
 
Jonas Gustavsson will start in goal; James Reimer, if healthy, will be the backup. If Reimer can't go, Ben Scrivens will sit behind Gustavsson.

If Gardiner's foot injury prevents him from playing, Cody Franson would replace him.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
 
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.02.2011 / 12:05 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Parise back in familiar spot

NEWARK, N.J. -- Zach Parise's brief career as an NHL center appears to be over.
 
Forced into the role due to an offseason injury to Travis Zajac and one during the season to Jacob Josefson, the Devils moved Parise from left wing to center in an effort to generate offense.
 
It didn't have the desired effect.
 
The Devils were held to one goal on 24 shots against the Penguins on Oct. 22, one night after losing Josefson for 3-4 months due to a broken collarbone. In the three games that followed, coach Peter DeBoer had Parise center a line with Ilya Kovalchuk on the left wing.
 
The Devils went 1-2-0 in those games and scored just seven goals, so DeBoer decided to move Parise back to left wing for tonight's home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN).
 
Despite the team's struggles offensively -- they are tied for 28th in the League with an average of 2.00 goals per game -- DeBoer feels the Devils are on the verge of breaking out.
 
"We just have to continue what we're doing. I think they're going to come," DeBoer said. "We're not getting 15 shots a night. We're getting 30-plus. Kovalchuk had seven the other night (against Dallas). I believe they're going to come. We have to get a little grittier around the net."
 
After struggling at the position last season, DeBoer will try Kovalchuk at right wing tonight. Here are the rest of the Devils' projected lines:
 
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Cam Janssen - Brad Mills - Nick Palmieri
 
Henrik Tallinder - Adam Larsson
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov
 
Martin Brodeur will start in goal, with Johan Hedberg the backup.
 
For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

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Posted On Monday, 10.31.2011 / 5:22 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Tortorella looking forward to possible Avery return

NEW YORK -- Sean Avery could be back with the Rangers in time for Thursday's home game against the Anaheim Ducks, and coach John Tortorella can't wait to have him.

The Rangers put Avery on re-entry waivers Monday at noon, less than a month after he was banished to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL before the season. Avery will stay on waivers for 24 hours, giving every team in the League a chance to claim him. If he goes unclaimed, he'll replace the injured Michael Rupp, whose long-term health is in question due to a nagging knee injury, on the Rangers' fourth line.

"Rupper has a lot to do with this. We're concerned about that," Tortorella said. "This is the right decision. It's the right hockey decision now and it was the right hockey decision when we sent Sean down. That's where it's at."

Rupp met with doctors Monday at about 3 p.m., according to Tortorella, who had not received word of Rupp's prognosis when he spoke with the media at about 5 p.m.

Avery won't be available for Monday night's game vs. the Sharks, but it's likely he'll be on the minds of fans at Madison Square Garden.

In the home opener against the Maple Leafs, a banner hung at the Garden asking the Rangers to bring back Avery. In that game and in the next one against the Senators, chants of "We Want Avery" rang out at different points.

But the fan favorite fell out of favor with the Rangers. Avery's propensity for taking penalties began to outweigh his ability to draw them and create offense. Now that he's back, Tortorella wants Avery to once again attempt to toe the line.

"Sean's biggest strength are his legs. He's a terrific skater," Tortorella said. "A big part of his game is his forechecking and his play underneath the hashmarks. We want him to play to his strengths and also work on the other parts of the game away from the puck."

In two games with the Whale, Avery had 1 goal and 7 penalty minutes. He missed time to start the season due to a shoulder injury.

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Posted On Monday, 10.31.2011 / 12:34 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks shoot for six-game road sweep

NEW YORK -- After giving many of his veterans a day off following the Sharks' 3-2 overtime win against the Islanders on Saturday, coach Todd McLellan put his team through a full morning practice Monday at Madison Square Garden. McLellan is obviously pleased his team can complete its six-game road trip without a blemish with a win against the Rangers tonight, but he wants to see a better effort than the one he saw on Long Island.

"It was a good day for everybody," McLellan said of Sunday. "We had some of the lower-minute guys skate and they got their legs again, and some of our higher-minute guys got a day to rest. We have no excuses heading into tonight's game. We should be rested and have a little more juice than we did on the Island."

Asked the difference between finishing the road trip 6-0 and 5-1, McLellan gave the obvious answer.

"Two very important points," McLellan said. "You talk to Dallas or Chicago at the end of the year last year, and every point is important. Records and streaks and all that type of stuff don't matter."

McLellan said he'll make some decisions about the lineup in the afternoon, but here's what he'll likely use against the Rangers:

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Andrew Murray - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Jamie McGinn

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Douglas Murray - Dan Boyle
Colin White - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

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Posted On Saturday, 10.29.2011 / 1:19 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Tortorella splits Richards, Gaborik

After eight games together, it looks as though Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards will be playing on different lines for the time being.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said Saturday before his team faced the Ottawa Senators that one reason for the breakup is the fact both players want the puck on their stick, and putting them on different lines will alleviate that problem and perhaps help those struggling to score find their games.

There was no morning skate before this afternoon's 3 p.m. game at Madison Square Garden, so here are the lines Tortorella displayed at practice Friday.

Wojtek Wolski - Erik Christensen - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Derek Stepan - Artem Anisimov - Kris Newbury

Tortorella spoke at length Friday about not wanting to mix and match lines as heavily as he has in the early going, but with so many players struggling, he's had no choice. Dubinsky, Anisimov and Stepan, who combined for 63 goals last season, have yet to score to this season.

“The thing with our team right now is, it’s not one or two guys you need to get going," Tortorella said Friday. "It’s a team thing -- offensively, anyway. There are a number of people struggling. The way I look at it is, you have decisions to make. Do you keep on mixing them up and try to find a combination or do you go to a situation where you really think through prior experience with the player that they’d work together, do you go back to that and just work through it? Because this is a team thing. It’s not about getting one or two guys going. It’s really a team funk."

Michael Del Zotto (hip) will play, and the Rangers' D pairings will likely be the same as they were against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night. Henrik Lundqvist will be in net.

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Michael Sauer
Tim Erixon - Steve Eminger

The only news for Ottawa this afternoon is the team recalled goaltender Robin Lehner from Binghamton of the AHL to replace backup Alex Auld, who is out with an undisclosed injury from practice Friday. Craig Anderson will make the start as the Senators look to win their fifth straight game.

Here is what the Senators will throw out there this afternoon:

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Nick Foligno - Stephane Da Costa - Daniel Alfredsson
Erik Condra - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Jesse Winchester - Zenon Konopka - Kaspars Daugavins

David Rundblad - Chris Phillips
Sergei Gonchar - Jared Cowen
Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson

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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