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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 1:27 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Missing graduation no problem for Jankowski

PITTSBURGH -- As recently as a week ago, Mark Jankowski was struggling to figure out what he should do.

But when he was taken the Calgary Flames with the 21st pick at the NHL Draft on Friday night, the tall center from Stanstead College in Quebec knew he’d made the right call to skip his high school graduation ceremony and attend the first round of the draft

"I think I made the right decision," a beaming Jankowski said while wearing a Flames jersey. "I only made my decision about a week ago, and right up until that day I was flip flopping every day."

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Posted On Friday, 06.01.2012 / 5:12 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Physical testing can reveal strength of character

TORONTO -- While NHL scouts, general managers and strength coaches are focused on the physical attributes of the prospects taking part in the fitness testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine, at times there are other traits that come shining through during the exercise.

Ottawa Senators director of player personnel Pierre Dorion shared one such instance of that occurring, and it involves a player that now has become part of the NHL's elite.

In 2006, Dorion and current Senators assistant GM Tim Murray were working for the New York Rangers when they were eyeing a slender forward prospect preparing for the bench press test.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.30.2012 / 7:07 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Senators’ Dorion feels quality of draft class is miscast

There has been some talk that the class of 2012 for the NHL Draft is not as strong as it’s been in other years.

Nonsense, says Ottawa Senators director of player personnel Pierre Dorion.

"I think it’s a good draft class,” Dorion told NHL.com on Wednesday at the NHL Scouting Combine. “At the top, like every draft, there are some good players. I think sometimes because there’s a better quality of defensemen than forwards, people tend to say that it’s not as good of a draft class because you don’t see the offensive production.”

Indeed, eight of the top 12 North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking are defensemen, while nine of the top 18 European skaters play on the blue line.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 2:15 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Canadiens

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens facing each other on the final day of the season has become somewhat of a tradition, with the game Saturday between the Original Six rivals marking the fifth time in six years they have finished the season against each other.

But for this matchup to be this insignificant is something that is relatively new.

The Canadiens enter the game with no chance of climbing out of the Eastern Conference cellar, but a regulation loss coupled with an Edmonton Oilers win would mean the Habs finish 29th in the League standings instead of 28th - a drop that would represent a 4.6 percent boost in Montreal's chances of landing the top pick in June's NHL Draft, from 14.2 to 18.8 per cent.

The Maple Leafs, however, could potentially jump up from 26th to 24th overall with a victory and losses of any kind by Anaheim and Minnesota. That kind of a move would drop Toronto's chances of winning the lottery from 8.1 to 4.7 percent. On the other hand, a Toronto regulation loss and a New York Islanders win would drop the Leafs to 27th overall, improving their odds in the draft lottery to 10.7 percent.

But don't tell that to Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who represented the opinions of both dressing rooms very well in response to a question regarding draft position.

"That's for other people to talk about, that's not for coaches," Carlyle said. "We've stated before and we'll continue to live by those statements that if we ever sold to our players that we're coming here to tank a hockey game and give up the two points, the credibility of your program has gone out the window. That's not what we're about, that's not the fabric we're made of and we don't want our players to ever think that's a possibility for us."

Here are the potential lineups for both teams Saturday night:

MAPLE LEAFS

Matt Frattin - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Matthew Lombardi
Tim Connolly - David Steckel - Joey Crabb
Jay Rosehill - Colby Armstrong - Mike Brown

Dion Phaneuf - Mike Komisarek
John-Michael Liles - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Ben Scrivens
Jonas Gustavsson

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Louis Leblanc
Blake Geoffrion - Lars Eller - Michael Blunden
Aaron Palushaj - Gabriel Dumont - Brad Staubitz

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Andrei Markov - Frederic St-Denis

Peter Budaj
Robert Mayer
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:25 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers hit home stretch trying to wrap up division

MONTREAL -- The Florida Panthers understand they are in the driver's seat, but they can't help themselves from looking in the rearview mirror from time to time.

While the Panthers prepare to face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre tonight riding a 5-1-3 stretch in their last nine games, they are acutely aware of just how hot the Washington Capitals have become and how precarious their own hold on the Southeast Division lead is entering the final stretch of the season.

"It's hard not to (notice)," veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski said of the Capitals' 6-2-2 surge. "We know (Alex) Ovechkin's going crazy right now. But we can control what we can control. We have a three-point lead on them, we're not the ones chasing. So we control what happens to us."

The Panthers have not played significant games this late in the season in years, but securing the franchise's first playoff berth since 2000 is not yet in the bag. The Panthers have a three-point lead on the Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres -- who face each other in Washington tonight -- with a game in hand on both teams.

Still, there's a definite sense of anticipation brewing among the players, coaches and the fans of South Florida.

"Well, seven games (left in the regular season) equals a playoff series, so we still have work to do," coach Kevin Dineen said. "But now that we're in the final stretch, it's exciting. … It's an exciting time to be a Florida Panthers player and fan right now."

A big reason for the Panthers' solid play of late has been goaltender Jose Theodore, who arrives in his hometown riding a 4-1-3 stretch with a .947 save percentage over that span.

"I'd say he's been our team MVP at this juncture," said veteran center John Madden. "We have this belt we give out (for the player of the game), and we can't go three games without him winning it."

However, as great as Theodore's been, he has a poor history against his former team with a 2-2-1 record, 4.62 goals-against average and .861 save percentage in six career games against the Canadiens.

"His record against his previous team, for a guy with his experience, is probably one of the smaller factors," said Dineen, who would not confirm the starting goaltender for the game.

Backup Scott Clemmensen, who left the ice first at the morning skate, is 5-0-0 with a 1.65 GAA and .942 save percentage against the Canadiens in six career starts. It would be surprising if he didn't get the call for this one.

On the Canadiens' side, there is very little to play for other than being spoilers for playoff clubs and auditioning for jobs next season, as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention after Saturday night's 4-1 loss in Philadelphia.

Head coach Randy Cunneyworth confirmed Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Habs.

Here are tonight’s expected lineups:

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Kopecky
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Jerred Smithson - Marco Sturm

Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Mike Weaver - Dmitry Kulikov
Erik Gudbranson - Ed Jovanovski

Scott Clemmensen
Jose Theodore

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Louis Leblanc - Tomas Plekanec - Rene Bourque
Mike Blunden - Lars Eller - Ryan White
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Frederic St-Denis - Chris Campoli

Carey Price
Peter Budaj
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Senators bolstered by returns of Anderson, Spezza

Craig Anderson and Jason Spezza will return to the Ottawa Senators' lineup Friday night when they face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

Anderson will start his first game since Feb. 22 after a sliced right hand cost him 12 games, while Spezza is coming off a one-game absence due to the flu.

When asked how he was feeling Friday morning, Spezza responded, "I'm going to be playing tonight, so I'm a little bit better."

A little bit?

"Yup."

The Senators enter the game on a two-game losing streak and with just one win in their previous five games, and they are suddenly just three points up on the eight-place Washington Capitals.

Ottawa has a 2-2-1 record against the last-place Canadiens this season, and they face a very difficult test Saturday at home against the powerhouse Penguins.

"It's a big weekend for us and we want to get it off on the right foot," Spezza said. "We need to pick up points wherever we can."

Anderson will face Carey Price in goal, and the Canadiens will be without the injured Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle, Travis Moen, Mathieu Darche and Brian Gionta.

Here are the expected lineups for the game:

SENATORS

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer - Zenon Konopka - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Lars Eller
Mike Blunden - Ryan White - Louis Leblanc
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Chris Campoli - Yannick Weber
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 12:00 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canadiens, Islanders battle to avoid East's basement

MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens welcome the New York Islanders to Bell Centre tonight in what amounts to a battle for last place in the Eastern Conference.

The Islanders (28-32-11) enter the game in 15th place in the conference, one point behind the Canadiens (28-32-12), who have played one more game.

Montreal is on a bit of a hot streak of late with a 3-0-2 record in its last five games after a 2-1 overtime loss Friday night in Ottawa. The Islanders, on the other hand, have been in free fall with a 0-3-2 record in their last five games and just two wins in their past 10.

The Canadiens did not skate Saturday morning, so it is unknown if defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Andrei Markov will be able to play after both missed Friday night with upper-body injuries. Kaberle had missed Montreal’s previous game to attend the birth of his son, while coach Randy Cunneyworth had expressed reservations about playing Markov on back-to-back nights so soon after his long-awaited return from knee surgery before he was declared out in Ottawa.

Scott Gomez remains out with a suspected concussion.

The Islanders will be missing defenseman Steve Staios, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Here are the expected lineups for tonight:

ISLANDERS

Matt MoulsonJohn TavaresKyle Okposo
Josh BaileyFrans NielsenPA Parenteau
Michael GrabnerCasey CizikasDavid Ullstrom
Nido Niederreiter – Marty ReasonerMatt Martin

Mark StreitDylan Reese
Travis HamonicAndrew MacDonald
Milan JurcinaMark Eaton

Al Montoya

CANADIENS

Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisErik Cole
Rene BourqueTomas PlekanecRyan White
Mike BlundenLars EllerLouis Leblanc
Brad StaubitzPetteri Nokelainen
 
Josh GorgesP.K. Subban
Andrei MarkovAlexei Emelin
Tomas KaberleChris Campoli
Yannick Weber
 
Peter Budaj
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Surprising Senators can equal Bruins' point total

The Ottawa Senators have a chance to accomplish something Wednesday few people outside the team itself thought possible coming into training camp -- they can grab a share of the Northeast Division lead in March.

While technically the Senators would still be second to the Boston Bruins if they manage to beat the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre, Ottawa would be level on points with a victory.

"Obviously it would be a nice thing to accomplish and we really want to win this game," said Erik Karlsson, the runaway points leader among NHL defensemen who has 10 goals and 11 assists in his last 13 games. "It's not only to catch Boston, but just to keep winning games."

Ottawa's pace has slowed somewhat since losing goaltender Craig Anderson to a cut on his hand, going 4-3-1 in his absence. While Anderson has gotten back on the ice a couple of times, coach Paul MacLean says there is still no timetable for his return.

Still, the fact that the stretch is considered a dip speaks volumes about the performance of a team many picked to finish near the bottom of the conference standings, which is where their opponents Wednesday currently sit.

"We were in their exact position last year," Karlsson said of the Canadiens. "So we know how it feels and we know how we felt. We didn't want to lose any games."

Captain Daniel Alfredsson said the environment created by MacLean from day one was markedly different from last season under Cory Clouston. A heavy emphasis on skating and conditioning in training camp quickly carried over into the regular season, where the team understood how hard it needed to work in order to play MacLean's system.

"We're skating better than we have the last three or four years," Alfredsson said. "(MacLean) has done a great job of making guys accountable, but doing it in a way that's fun, too."

When told the change in atmosphere in the Senators dressing room is striking from last year, Alfredsson quipped, "Ya think?"

But he also conceded that the lack of expectations allowed this Senators team to find its identity without added pressure, something Alfredsson has experienced before on some of the powerhouse Ottawa teams he's played for over his brilliant career.

"It's a lot easier to live up to no expectations than big expectations," he said. "We just took the attitude that we'll prove everyone wrong."

It's safe to say the Senators have already done that, and should they be able to climb into a tie with Boston tonight it would only be another big accomplishment.

The Senators will be facing a Canadiens team that will be missing Tomas Kaberle and Scott Gomez.

Kaberle's wife Julia was expecting the couple's first child Wednesday and he's been excused from playing as a result. It will be the sixth member of the Canadiens to have a baby during this season after Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri (since traded to the Flames), Hal Gill (traded to Nashville), Travis Moen and Alexei Emelin.

Defenseman Frederic St-Denis was called up from Hamilton and is expected to dress against Ottawa.

Gomez is out with what is widely believed to be a concussion after he was hit from behind Monday by Buffalo's Tyler Myers -- a hit that earned the Sabres defenseman a three-game suspension. Coach Randy Cunneyworth would only concede that Gomez is out with an upper-body injury.

Here are the expected lines for the game:

SENATORS
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Ben Bishop
 
CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Ryan White
Blake Geoffrion - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Chris Campoli - Yannick Weber
Frederic St-Denis

Carey Price
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 3:36 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Markov activated, could play for Habs

The Montreal Canadiens announced Saturday that Andrei Markov has been taken off injured reserve and is available for their game Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Markov has not played since Nov. 13, 2010, and he has played just seven games since the start of the 2010-11 season after suffering consecutive tears of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Markov will participate in the warm-up skate with his teammates prior to the game and a decision on whether he will dress or not will be made afterwards.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:22 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Geoffrion honoring family's Habs history

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens will attempt to avoid their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Minnesota Wild tonight.

With the playoffs highly unlikely -- and everyone on the team seemingly resigned to that fact -- things like halting a five-game losing streak or improving their League-worst .333 winning percentage on home ice (11-14-8) are what the Canadiens players are focusing on for motivation.

"You play for pride and the logo on the front of your jersey," center Lars Eller said. "That means a lot. So you have to keep that in mind."

Someone who will be feeling a great sense of pride tonight is newcomer Blake Geoffrion, who will play his second game in a Canadiens uniform, but his first at home.

Geoffrion is wearing No. 57 to honor two members of his family who are legends in the Canadiens organization -- his grandfather, Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion (No. 5) and his great-grandfather, Howie Morenz (No. 7).

Another new Canadiens addition has a bit of extra motivation as well, as Brad Staubitz will face the team that placed him on waivers on Feb. 27.

"I really hope I can get my first goal of the year," Staubitz said with a smile.

He last scored a goal April 10, 2011, a span of 44 games. Although he'd probably settle for an assist -- his last point of any kind came on that goal. Better known for physical play, his 90 penalty minutes are the most on the Canadiens.

His former Wild teammates expressed regret that Staubitz was no longer with them, but they have little doubt that should he be called upon to fill play that extra-physical role Thursday, there will be no hesitation.

"I know what a great pro he is, so he's going to go out and play his game and do his job," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We expect him to play a very hard game, but having said that I'm sure he'd rather have that role and that responsibility against a team he's not as close with."

Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth would not tip his hand as to who will be in his lineup for the game, though he did suggest he would go with seven defensemen once again.

The matchup in goal will pit Carey Price against Niklas Backstrom.

We had the likely Wild lineup earlier; here’s the most likely Canadiens lineup:

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Ryan White - Tomas Plekanec - Blake Geoffrion
Aaron Palushaj - Lars Eller - Rene Bourque
Scott Gomez - Brad Staubitz
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Yannick Weber

With Price starting in goal, Peter Budaj will be the backup.
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Quote of the Day

It's a date that's been circled on my calendar, so it's kind of nice to have it here and get it over with (Thursday). This is a little bit of the closing of the book on the move. That's kind of how I'm looking at it.

— Stars forward Jason Spezza on returning to Ottawa for the first time to face the Senators