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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 5:42 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Girgensons already hearing Nino comparisons

CALGARY - Latvian forward Zemgus Girgensons is well aware of the comparison he’s facing at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

Two years ago, a draft eligible Nino Niederreiter grabbed headlines as he pulled Switzerland to a fourth-place finish at the World Juniors, the country’s best finish since 1998. Some five months later, Niederreiter was chosen fifth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.

Now, many expect Girgensons to have the same breakthrough performance that Niederreiter put together two years prior.

“It puts big pressure on me but it’s not a big deal,” said Girgensons, who scored in Latvia’s 9-4 tournament-opening loss to Sweden Monday. “I’m just going to do my best, that’s it. I just don’t try to think about it that much and try to play my game and do my best and help the team to perform good.”

Niederreiter exploded for six goals and 10 points in seven games at the 2010 tournament en route to being named to the media’s all-star team.

Girgensons doesn’t have to match Niederreiter’s outburst at the World Juniors in order to be a high pick in the 2012 draft. In fact, he’s already well on his way to accomplishing the feat, according to NHL Central Scouting's Dave Gregory.

"Zemgus is someone who's going to push being a real high-end rank for us all year," said Gregory in November. "We saw him at the Research, Development and Orientation Camp and he was impressive there with arguably some of the best available draft-eligible kids.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 1:13 AM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Sweden's Larsson exits game against Latvia

Forward Johan Larsson left Sweden’s 9-4 victory over Latvia in the first period for what the team is calling a precautionary move.

The team isn’t concerned with their captain, who assisted on Max Friberg’s first goal before leaving the game with what the team is calling a contusion on his thigh.

“He had a hit on his thigh in the first period,” said team doctor Bjorn Sandstrom. “That’s why he didn’t play anymore. I don’t think it’s a dangerous injury. I’m not very worried about him.”

Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg wasn’t about to take a chance with Larsson on tournament's opening day.

“He got a small injury in the first but we don’t take any chances this early in the tournament,” coach Roger Ronnberg said.

The team is already playing without 2012 draft eligible forward Pontus Aberg, who was knocked out of the World Junior Championship before the tournament got underway.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.22.2011 / 2:23 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Red Wings starting Conklin against Flames

CALGARY -- Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard will get a rare night off as the Red Wings try to tackle the Flames in Calgary tonight.

In his place, Ty Conklin will draw into the crease for just his fifth start and sixth appearance this season.

"Jimmy's been playing so well, too, and it'll be nice to get in there and get some action," Conklin said.

Keeping focused while waiting for an opportunity to get back between the pipes has been the mandate in practice for Conklin, who hasn't played since a Dec. 4 loss against Colorado.

"Just trying to stay sharp in practice," he said. "When you don't get in there that often you want to make sure you take advantages of the opportunities you do get. It's always difficult. It's been my role for most of my career. That's just the way it is."

Outside of Conklin's start, the Red Wings are expected to ice a similar roster that dropped a 4-2 decision to the Vancouver Canucks last night.

RED WINGS

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Danny Cleary - Darren Helm - Drew Miller
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Jakub Kindl

Ty Conklin
Jimmy Howard
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Posted On Thursday, 12.22.2011 / 1:36 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames surprised to be without Tanguay

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames will be without winger Alex Tanguay tonight against the Detroit Red Wings, much to the surprise of coach Brent Sutter.

"I can't even pinpoint anything on it," said Sutter, who ruled out illness as the cause of Tanguay's absence. "I will say I was somewhat surprised after the game (against Minnesota). He's played some of his best hockey here in the last four games that he's played all year for us. I was quite surprised to see that he was out on a day-to-day basis."

The Flames have recalled Greg Nemisz from the Abbotsford Heat, who will skate with Roman Horak and Paul Byron. All three have spent time in the American Hockey League this season.

Tonight's game marks the second time Nemisz has been recalled in a span of two weeks. In his season debut, Nemisz was held pointless while playing 6:26. He hopes to show Sutter marked improvement.

"They just told me to go out and be myself and play hockey and not worry about systems too much," Nemisz said. "I feel like last game I was a little clouded and I didn't move fast enough. Tonight I'm just going to go play hockey and lay it all on the line."

Sutter was willing to cut Nemisz some slack on his earlier performance this season.

"In fairness to him that was a tough situation," Sutter said. "He had a 6 o'clock in the morning flight and it was a tough day of travel. He played the night before. It was three games in three days. It was a tough situation. No, he didn't have one of his better games or a game we'd like to see him play, but he gets that opportunity again now in a whole different set-up going into it. Hopefully it'll help him out and he can respond the right way."

Nemisz expects to take full advantage of his second opportunity, which will mark just his eighth career NHL game.

"It's good to get a second chance here," he said. "I just have to play my game with a little more energy than I did last time."

Calgary's projected lineup for tonight's game:

FLAMES
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Greg Nemisz - Roman Horak - Paul Byron
Tom Kostopoulos - Brendan Morrison - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Derek Smith - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:14 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Suspended Bourque relieved Seabrook is OK

Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque will have more time than he anticipated to think about his hit on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Bourque was handed down a two-game suspension by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's disciplinarian, for his hit from behind on Seabrook at 15:25 of the first period of Calgary's 4-2 loss in Chicago on Sunday.

He received a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play.

"I thought I'd get a fine or a game, but two a little harsh, maybe," Bourque said a day after the ruling.

The Flames forward is more relieved that Seabrook, a former teammate, escaped without serious injury.

"The important thing for me is that Seebs is all right and he knows I didn't mean to hurt him," said Bourque, who will forfeit $36,036.04 to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. "I played with the guy for four years, so I felt pretty bad. I went and talked to him during the third period to make sure he was alright and say sorry and he accepted my apology."

Both Bourque and Flames general manager Jay Feaster had hoped the league would show leniency given the circumstances surrounding the hit.

"Honestly, I thought the ref was a big part of it, especially right before I hit him," Bourque said. "He does get tangled up and he does turn towards the boards. I thought that would have a bigger role in the decision and unfortunately it didn't."

"While we respectfully disagree with the League's interpretation of the hit, we nonetheless recognize that Brendan Shanahan has issued his ruling and both the Flames and Rene Bourque will abide by his decision," Feaster said in a statement.

The suspension, coupled with an injury to center Matt Stajan, has forced coach Brent Sutter to juggle his lines.

"It is what it is," Sutter said. "We live by the League's ruling. We can't do anything about it and we'll accept it."

Ultimately, Bourque will have to stomach Shanahan’s suspension.

"It's tough for them to make decisions," he said. "Shanny made it clear he wasn't happy with it and he thought it was a dangerous hit. I tried not to argue with him, just explain my process and my thoughts about it, and obviously we didn't come to an agreement there."

Calgary will be without Bourque for Tuesday's contest against the Minnesota Wild and Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings. He is eligible to return Friday when Calgary travels to Vancouver to take on the Canucks in the first of a seven-game road trip for the Flames.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 2:16 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild get defensemen Falk, Zanon back

The Minnesota Wild will welcome a pair of defensemen back into the lineup tonight as they hope to end a four-game winless skid in Calgary.

Justin Falk will return to the lineup after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury, while Greg Zanon will draw back in on the blue line after being a healthy scratch for two of the last three games.

"Obviously, anytime you're out of the lineup for any reason, when you get your chance to get back in you give it your best to stay in the lineup,” Zanon said. "With the situation we have, losing a few in a row, it's important we get back to playing our game."

Much like the Flames, Minnesota is also winless in their last four contests but still sit second in the Western Conference behind the Chicago Blackhawks.

Winning or losing, Zanon just wants to play.

"You just want to get back in the lineup no matter what," he said. "If I can get back in and do something to help the team win, we're going to do whatever we can and turn it around tonight."

Zanon will play in front of Josh Harding, making his first appearance since Dec. 6.

Harding will play in place of Niklas Backstrom, who started in last night's 4-0 loss against the Vancouver Canucks. Harding is 1-4-1 lifetime against Calgary with a 2.64 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 1:46 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames shake up roster after injury, suspension

In the wake of an ankle injury to Matt Stajan and the two-game suspension of Rene Bourque, the Calgary Flames have shaken up their lineup for tonight's game against the Minnesota Wild.

Captain Jarome Iginla wasn't willing to use it as an excuse for his team coming off a winless four-game road trip.

"Every team deals with that," Iginla said. "Most teams you play, they usually have somebody, too, and the Wild look like they have people out. There's no time for excuses. Our job as guys in the lineup is to go out and do our best to win a game."

Coach Brent Sutter has reunited Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Mikael Backlund for tonight's game, a line that found success together late last season.

"I always enjoy playing with Tangs and Backs," Iginla said. "End of last year we had some success, so we'll try to draw on that, go over things that worked for you before. It helps having that familiarity."

In Bourque's absence, the Flames have recalled Paul Byron from the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL. Roman Horak, a healthy scratch in Sunday's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, will also draw back into the lineup.

The call-up marks Byron's second stint with the Flames this season. In six games with Calgary in November, Byron had 2 goals.

"I'm real excited to be here and hope I can keep the same pace I was at when I was sent down and provide a bit of energy," he said.

Projected lineups for tonight's game:

FLAMES

Alex Tanguay - Mikael Backlund - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Lee Stempniak
Blake Comeau - Roman Horak - Paul Byron
Tom Kostopoulos - Brendan Morrison - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Derek Smith - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving

WILD
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Matt Cullen - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Darroll Powe - Warren Peters - Jarod Palmer
Jed Ortmeyer - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Justin Falk
Marek Zidlicky - Clayton Stoner
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Greg Zanon

Josh Harding
Nicklas Backstrom

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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 3:51 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Oilers hope to end slide against rival Flames

The Edmonton Oilers are well aware of the success the Calgary Flames have had recently in the Battle of Alberta.

The Flames have won both games this season and haven’t dropped a contest to the Oilers since the opening night of the 2009-10 season.

Oilers coach Tom Renney hopes to remedy that tonight in Calgary.

“It seems every time we play these guys, with all due respect to the Flames, we have a tendency to beat ourselves,” Renney said. “If we eliminate that part of the process, I think we’ve got a shot of beating them tonight.”

The Oilers may do that with a more physical approach.

Darcy Hordichuk could draw back into the lineup for tonight’s Battle of Alberta in the place of finesse forward Magnus Paajarvi.

“I am going to make a game time decision on that,” Oilers coach Tom Renney said. “[Paajarvi] skated but he’ll also take the warm-up here and I’ll make a game-time decision on what I want to do there.”

The Oilers are coming off a 4-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche last night. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulan earned the win and could be in line for back-to-back starts 24 hours apart.

“Let’s wait on that one,” Renney said on his goaltending situation.

OILERS

Sam GagnerRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle
Ryan SmythShawn HorcoffAles Hemsky
Ben EagerEric BelangerRyan Jones
Darcy HordichukAnton Lander – Lenart Petrell

Ladislav SmidTom Gilbert
Ryan WhitneyJeff Petry
Theo PeckhamColten Teubert

Nikolai Khabibulan
Devan Dybnyk
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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 2:13 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flu causing problems for Calgary

For the second time in a week, the Calgary Flames with be without a key forward because of the flu.

Missing from practice Friday, Alex Tanguay was again absent from the ice during Calgary’s morning skate as they prepare to take on the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday in the Battle of Alberta.

In Tanguay’s absence, Calgary has recalled Greg Nemisz from the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League. Nemisz, who has six NHL games to his credit, is expected to skate alongside Brendan Morrison and Rene Bourque against the Oilers.

“They are both great players,” Nemisz said. “For me, I’m just going to have to provide some energy and go to the net for them.”

Morrison himself returned to the lineup earlier this week after Curtis Glencross was stricken by the flu. He had two goals and two assists in place of Glencross.

The expectations are a little different for the 21-year-old Nemisz.

“He’s been playing well in [Abbotsford] and we need him to carry it on it here,” coach Brent Sutter said. “Whether we use him on the wing or at center, we’ll see. A lot depends on where Alex is at tonight and whether he can play or not.”

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

FLAMES

Curtis GlencrossOlli JokinenJarome Iginla
Greg NemiszBrendan MorrisonRene Bourque
Blake ComeauMikael BacklundLee Stempniak
Tom KostopoulosMatt StajanTim Jackman

Scott Hannan – T.J. Brodie
Jay BouwmeesterChris Butler
Derek SmithJoe Piskula

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving

OILERS

Sam GagnerRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle
Ryan SmythShawn HorcoffAles Hemsky
Ben EagerEric BelangerRyan Jones
Magnus PaajarviAnton Lander – Lenart Petrell

Ladislav SmidTom Gilbert
Ryan WhitneyJeff Petry
Theo PeckhamColten Teubert

Nikolai Khabibulan
Devan Dybnyk
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:14 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avalanche await word on Porter's availability

CALGARY -- Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco isn't sure if he'll have forward Kevin Porter at his disposal tonight against the Calgary Flames.

Porter is scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL later today concerning a kneeing infraction on David Booth in Tuesday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks.

"The hearing is set for today so I'll know more after the hearing," Sacco said.

The Avalanche coach does know he will be without both Ryan Wilson and Paul Stastny tonight. Wilson suffered a head injury against Vancouver while a torso injury will keep Stastny out.

"Both players will be out of the lineup tonight," Sacco said. "They're still day-to-day right now."

That's bad news for the Avalanche, who have lost eight consecutive games to the Flames dating back to Oct. 28, 2010.

The team will turn to Jean-Sebastien Giguere in hopes of stopping that skid. Giguere has a 4-3-0 record this season with a 1.81 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage.

"We have back-to-back games coming up here tonight and tomorrow in Edmonton," Sacco said. "My plan all along was to make sure Jiggy got in one of those games and decided he's played well against these guys. We'll give him another crack at them."

AVALANCHE
TJ Galiardi - Matt Duchene - Brandon Yip
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - Kevin Porter - David Jones

Kyle Quincey - Shane O'Brien
Erik Johnson - Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov


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Quote of the Day

I don't care how big the goalies' equipment is, when you're taking a shot like Ovechkin took [Wednesday], it's going to go in.

— Former player Mike Bossy on Capitals' Alex Ovechkin being the fifth player in NHL history to score 30-plus goals in 10 straight seasons