Posted On Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 3:25 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Couturier still waiting on call

MONTREAL -- Philadelphia Flyers rookie Sean Couturier has come home to play his first game in his native Quebec, and he's hoping it won't be his final NHL game of the season.

Couturier will play his ninth game tonight (7 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS), against the Montreal Canadiens, which means his next one will trigger the first year of his entry-level contract.

But Couturier insists that decision is the problem of Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren, and not his.

"I'm still waiting to hear," said Couturier, the eighth pick in the 2011 Entry Draft. "I'm trying to look at it one game at a time, one day at a time, and we'll see what happens."

With the Flyers' next game coming tomorrow at home to the Winnipeg Jets, Holmgren will have to make his decision sometime between the end of the game against the Canadiens and puck drop the next night.

"I don't think they'll base their decision on one game," Couturier said when asked if he felt added pressure because of the circumstances. "I don't know, we'll see what happens."

Coach Peter Laviolette would not shed any light on what Holmgren may be thinking, but there's no denying Couturier quickly has become an important cog on his team. He plays on the top penalty-kill unit with Maxime Talbot and has become a go-to player defensively.

"He's done a good job," Laviolette said. "He came in touted as a smart player defensively, and he's been as good in the defensive zone as he's been in the offensive zone. We put him in situations early on, 5-on-4, 5-on-3, out against other team's top players back in training camp to see how he'd respond, and he's done everything we've asked him to do and he's done it well. Regular season, we've just continued on with that. He's been a nice addition."

Talbot said Couturier reminds him of another 18-year-old high draft pick he played with who made the jump to the NHL right out of junior hockey by excelling in a defensive role.

"Sean Couturier makes me think of Jordan Staal when he arrived with the Penguins," Talbot said. "He's very mature defensively and in his understanding of the game. I think that's the biggest adjustment when you make the jump from junior to the NHL, to understand the game and be smart. He has those qualities."

Couturier is showing improvement in one area where a junior-age player tends to struggle, and that's in the faceoff circle. It's an important skill for a penalty killer to have, and he's clearly getting the hang of it. Through his first five games, Couturier was winning just 34.6 percent of his draws; however, over his past three games, he's won 50 per cent of his faceoffs.

"It's really hard," Couturier said of that particular skill. "My first games I was in the 30s, but you learn to know the players and how strong they are and you learn some tricks the more you play."

Couturier not only will have friends and family in the Bell Centre stands tonight, but his coach with the Drummondvile Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Dominic Ricard, will be watching his star player perform.

The two haven't spoken since Couturier's adventure with the Flyers began.

"I think he's happy for me and proud of the Voltigeurs organization," Couturier said. "Their goal is to develop players and coaches. In the past few years I'd say they’ve done a good job."

So good, Couturier is hoping, that the Voltigeurs will have to add another name to their NHL alumni list as soon as Thursday afternoon.
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Posted On Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 1:11 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Flyers, Canadiens

MONTREAL – The Philadelphia Flyers will be playing their first game since captain Chris Pronger went down with an eye injury Monday when they take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS).

It's unclear how the Flyers' defense will compensate for Pronger's absence, and the pairings listed below can best be described as an educated guess. Still, coach Peter Laviolette said he will have "six good defensemen" in uniform and was confident his team can make up for
Pronger's loss.

The Flyers' forward lines also are a bit of an educated guess seeing as Laviolette did not do line rushes this morning.

For the Canadiens, leading scorer Max Pacioretty was expected to miss the game with torn ligaments in his wrist, but he was on the ice shooting pucks with his teammates, and coach Jacques Martin termed his status as a game-time decision. If he does play, Aaron Palushaj would be scratched.

Travis Moen - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Michael Cammalleri - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Andrei Kostitsyn - Lars Eller - Aaron Palushaj
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Michael Blunden

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Jaroslav Spacek - Yannick Weber

Carey Price will start in goal, with Peter Budaj the backup.

Besides the Pacioretty/Palushaj decision, defenseman Alexei Emelin will be a healthy scratch.

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek
Andreas Nodl - Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Meszaros
Matt Carle - Andreas Lilja
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Walker

Ilya Bryzgalov will be back in net, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup.

Forward Jody Shelley likely will be a healthy scratch.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Monday, 10.24.2011 / 12:14 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Canadiens, Panthers

MONTREAL -- The Canadiens appear ready to welcome back Jaroslav Spacek, who has missed five games with a suspected rib injury. They are also incorporating newly-acquired center Petteri Nokelainen into the lineup on the fourth line, while Sunday call-up Michael Blunden plays beside him.

The Panthers are also incorporating a new player into the lineup as Marco Strum -- acquired Saturday in the trade that sent David Booth to Vancouver -- had his first skate with his new teammates. However, the other piece of that trade, Mikael Samuelsson, did not skate. Samuelsson is still in Vancouver, recovering from a groin injury, and it's not known when he will join his new team. Mike Santorelli will make his season debut Monday after recovering from a shoulder injury.

Here are the lines from Monday morning's skate:

Michael Cammalleri - Tomas PlekanecBrian Gionta
Travis Moen - Lars EllerAndrei Kostitsyn
Max Pacioretty - David DesharnaisErik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Petteri NokelainenMichael Blunden

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Jaroslav Spacek - Yannick Weber

Peter Budaj makes his Montreal debut as the starting goalie, with Carey Price backing him up.

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Scottie Upshall - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley
Tim Kennedy - Shawn Matthias - Matt Bradley

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

Jacob Markstrom left the ice first, suggesting he will start in favor of Jose Theodore, though coach Kevin Dineen termed it a game-time decision.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 2:25 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Key centers could be missing for Leafs, Habs

The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will both have a significant hole in their respective lineups in their Original Six showdown tonight at the Bell Centre.

For the Canadiens, coach Jacques Martin announced that center Scott Gomez will be gone for at least a week with an upper-body injury.

Gomez left a 3-1 loss Thursday night in Pittsburgh in the first period, attempted to come back on the ice and quickly left again. He had an MRI on Friday, but Martin said it is unclear exactly how long he will be missing.

For the Maple Leafs, coach Ron Wilson said center Tyler Bozak is a game-time decision after he stopped a Johnny Boychuk slap shot with his foot in a 6-2 loss Thursday night to the Bruins in Boston. Bozak came out for the morning skate but left quickly, clearly limping on his way to the dressing room.

Wilson said Clarke MacArthur is also a game-time decision with an undisclosed injury, but he took part in the entire skate this morning and looks as though he should be able to play after missing the game in Boston.

If Bozak can't go, local boy Matthew Lombardi will take his spot on a line between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, the two most productive forwards in Leafs lineup.

"We'll see what happens with the lineup tonight, there are still some decisions to be made," Lombardi said. "I don't want to start talking about it and then it doesn't happen. But I'll be ready to play wherever. We all have to be ready after a tough game last game."

The Canadiens loss of Gomez provides an opportunity for young centers David Desharnais and Lars Eller to take on a more significant role. That's especially true of Eller, a natural center who has always been more comfortable in the middle but who has been stuck on a wing since
his return from shoulder surgery Oct. 13.

"It's sad to see (Gomez) is out, we'll miss him," Eller said. "But it's a big opportunity for me."

Eller will center a line with Andrei Kostitsyn and Travis Moen while Desharnais will play between Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole.

Of course, that is subject to change considering Martin used around 25 different line combinations in Pittsburgh as he looks for a way to solve his team's offensive woes.
The Canadiens have scored just 13 goals in six games, with five of those goals coming in one shot in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

The line juggling is a reflection of that lack of offense, but the Canadiens players insist it doesn't bother them even though it would obviously be preferable to give combinations some time to develop chemistry.

"Last game was unique that way, I'll admit it was different," said Michael Cammalleri, who returned to action in Pittsburgh after missing three games with a deep cut on his leg. "But Jacques had a lot of things to juggle, he didn't know how my knee would react and then we lost (Gomez). As a player, the big focus is to not focus on that because I can't control that. I think as an older player I've learned to do that, but it may be a little harder for a younger guy."

Lombardi is not the only member of the Maple Leafs who will be making a homecoming tonight as former Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek will be back in the lineup for Toronto after being a healthy scratch against Boston. He will take the spot of Cody Franson, who was a
minus-3 against the Bruins.

"It's big on a couple of levels for him," said fellow defenseman Luke Schenn. "First of all he used to play here, and he always gets a mixed reaction whenever he comes here. But also, well, all the defensemen want to play well, but I think he really wants to make an imprint on our lineup."

Wilson said he wanted Komisarek to gain some perspective by watching a game from the press box and expects him to come in and play a simple game. But he was clear that lineup decisions on his crowded blue line will be performance-based.

"This is a meritocracy," he said. "If you're playing well, you play."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 12:39 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Canadiens, Maple Leafs

The Canadiens held an optional skate this morning, but these are the lines from Friday's practice:

Michael Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Andrei Kostitsyn - Lars Eller - Travis Moen
Marthieu Darche - Andreas Engqvist - Aaron Palushaj
Injured: Scott Gomez

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Alexei Emelin - Yannick Weber
Injured: Jaroslav Spacek

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

Toronto Maple Leafs

Joffrey Lupul - Matthew Lombardi - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur (game-time decision but probable) - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Nazem Kadri - David Steckel - Matt Frattin
Jay Rosehill - Philippe Dupuis - Mike Brown
Injured: Tim Connolly, Tyler Bozak (game-time decision)

Carl Gunnarson - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn
John-Michael Liles - Mike Komisarek
Scratched: Cody Franson

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson
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Posted On Tuesday, 10.18.2011 / 1:48 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Lot of similarities between Sabres, Canadiens

When the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres meet at the Bell Centre tonight, it might seem like they're looking into a mirror when they stare at the opposing bench.

Except for one major difference -- their respective positions in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Sabres (3-1-0) may be looking down at the Canadiens (1-2-1) at the moment, but it is quite remarkable to see how similarly the two teams are built.

Both had a major influx of new talent over the course of one offseason, both lack a true scoring superstar but have enough depth up front to roll three offensive lines, both have seemingly emphasized speed over size in their forward groups, both have a young, stud defenseman that eats up a lot of minutes, and both count on a world-class goaltender.

"They're a little like us in a sense," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. 'They've got some new pieces, they have an (Erik) Cole who's trying to fit in, they're trying to figure out how to utilize some pieces. They've given up more goals than we've seen in the past, but they have good team speed. They've got some guys from the back end that can join and make some plays. So we have to be aware of certain plays and certain individuals."

The Canadiens have a good deal more urgency about them than the Sabres do, and with good reason. Neither goaltender Carey Price nor defenseman P.K. Subban has gotten off to a strong start to the season, and they've both taken some heat lately for the team's pedestrian record to date.

Meanwhile, the Canadiens' special teams -- normally a strength -- has faltered to the tune of a 20th place ranking for the power play and 23rd on the penalty kill.

And Buffalo is the strongest test the Canadiens have faced so far this season, being their first opponent who qualified for last season's playoffs. But a struggling team has Ruff leery of what the Sabres will face tonight.

"I've read some stuff where they need a better performance out of certain individuals, and I think the pride factor for them at home is going to be a big deal," he said. "We don't want to play like we did in our last home game (a 4-3 loss to Carolina), and I'm sure they don't want to play the way they did their last home game. I think we're going to see a different team."

The Sabres entered the season with heightened expectations after bringing in Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino through free agency and acquiring Robyn Regehr in a trade with the Calgary Flames. Add those players to the acquisition of Brad Boyes at the trade deadline last season and the early-season emergence of rookie center Luke Adam, and the city of Buffalo is buzzing about their Sabres' chances for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

External expectations are one thing; living up to them on the ice is another. Through the early going, the Sabres are doing just that.

"So far I've liked our attitude, but we still have a long way to go," goaltender Ryan Miller said. "But that is also encouraging because I think we have a whole other level of hockey we can play with some attention to detail and getting to know each other a little better with our lines and our (defense) pairings. I think that's a good thing."

And likely a scary thing for the rest of the Eastern Conference.
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Posted On Tuesday, 10.18.2011 / 1:12 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Montreal's Markov out until at least November

Montreal Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin confirmed Tuesday that injured defenseman Andrei Markov's return to action prior to the end of the month is "out of the question."

Markov is recovering from a second operation to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a span of seven months. He first tore the ligament in Game 1 of the second round of the 2009 playoffs, and then tore it again seven games into his comeback on Nov. 13, 2010.

Renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews performed the most recent surgery, Dec. 8, 2010 in Florida.

Markov traveled to Florida on Oct. 9 to visit with Andrews and remains there, with Martin saying he should spend another week training under his surgeon's watchful eye before returning to Montreal.

"He just needs to build the strength in his leg," Martin said.

Martin said Tuesday that the team is following the doctor's suggestions and that
recovery from a second surgery on the same knee takes longer than the first recovery.

The absence of Markov, combined with injuries to Jaroslav Spacek and Chris Campoli, is part of the reason the Canadiens have started 1-2-1.
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Posted On Tuesday, 10.18.2011 / 11:58 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sabres, Canadiens

Here is what the lineups could look like for the Sabres and Canadiens when they meet tonight in Montreal.

Lars Eller - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Travis Moen - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Andrei Kostitsyn
Mathieu Darche - Andreas Engqvist - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Alexei Emelin - Yannick Weber

Carey Price will start in goal, with Peter Budaj the backup.

Thomas Vanek - Luke Adam - Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Tyler Ennis - Ville Leino - Brad Boyes
Cody McCormick - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Robyn Regehr - Tyler Myers
Jordan Leopold - Christian Ehrhoff
Andrej Sekera - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Forward Matt Ellis and defenseman Mike Weber will be healthy scratches.

Ryan Miller will start in goal, with Jhonas Enroth the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

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Posted On Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 2:41 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Milestone night on tap for Price, Kiprusoff

The starting goalies at both ends of the ice will be looking to reach significant milestones when the Montreal Canadiens host the Calgary Flames in their home opener Thursday.

For the Flames, Miikka Kiprusoff will be taking his second shot at passing Mike Vernon to become the franchise leader in wins. They're tied with 262.

"That’s an individual accomplishment that really is a reflection of a team, the team he had in front of him, but also the fact he's a very good goaltender," said Flames coach Brent Sutter. "The one thing is he's constant; he's been very consistent for the most part in how he prepares and everything he does. He's a true professional."

Though getting the record for Kiprusoff is important, the Flames simply are looking to win a game at this point after starting the season with two losses where they allowed five goals in each game.

"We're definitely still upbeat in this room," said captain Jarome Iginla. "But at the same time, we know we need to play better."

At the other end of the ice, the Canadiens' Carey Price will be looking to become the seventh-youngest goalie in League history to reach 100 career wins.

Should Price get the win Thursday he will have done it at age 24 years, 58 days old. That would leave him behind Harry Lumley, Tom Barrasso, Terry Sawchuk, Grant Fuhr and Patrick Roy, all of whom registered their 100th win at the age of 23 or younger.

Former Canadien Jocelyn Thibault was 24 years, 32 days old when he got his 100th win to slide into sixth on the list, while Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was 24 years, 91 days old when he hit the milestone.

Fleury will fall to eighth on the list at some point, unless it takes Price more than a month to get another win.

"It's cool to be able to get to 100, but I'd like to get a couple of hundred more," Price said after practice Wednesday. "It shows how many good teams I've played on because you don't win if you're not on a good team."
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Posted On Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 1:02 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Canadiens, Flames

Here are the lines for tonight's game between the Canadiens and Flames tonight in Montreal, based on this morning practices.

Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Travis Moen - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - David Desharnais - Andrei Kostitsyn
Lars Eller - Andreas Engqvist - Aaron Palushaj

Hal Gill - P.K. Subban
Josh Gorges - Raphael Diaz
Alexei Emelin - Yannick Weber

Carey Price will start in goal, with Peter Budaj backing him up.

Injured and sitting out tonight are forwards Michael Cammalleri and Ryan White, and defensemen Chris Campoli, Jaroslav Spacek and Andrei Markov

Alex Tanguay - David Moss - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Lee Stempniak
Tim Jackman - Roman Horak - Rene Bourque
Niklas Hagman - Matt Stajan - Tom Kostopoulos

Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Derek Smith - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff will start in goal, with Henrik Karlsson serving as the backup.

Forwards Brendan Morrison and Mikael Backlund are injured and will not play. Healthy but sitting out are forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and defenseman Anton Babchuk
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Quote of the Day

The last time I did it was 1994 and surprise, 20 years later it’s still working. I don’t do it very much, though. I don’t think I had it. I’m kind of surprised. It was probably because I went to church before the game.

Panthers veteran forward Jaromir Jagr on the move that produced his second goal in a 4-2 victory against the Senators on Sunday
AMP No Bull Moment of the Week