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Posted On Thursday, 02.06.2014 / 1:38 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - Road to Sochi blog

Canada coach Babcock thrilled to have St. Louis

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who will play for the United States team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, summed up pretty well the news that Martin St. Louis would replace Steven Stamkos on the Canadian squad.

"They replace a great player with another great player," Howard said after the Red Wings' morning skate in preparation for their game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. "It's as simple as that."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was more directly affected by the change because he'll be the head coach for the Canadian team.

"I feel bad for [Stamkos]," Babcock said. "He's one of the best players in the NHL. I love watching him play. High-powered kid. He's really learning how to play the game 200 feet. He would have been a real asset.

"In saying that, St. Louis has had a great year. He's had four great years since the last Olympics. It was really hard decisions when we were picking the team. He goes in as a group of one of 14 and then he's got to carve out whatever he can carve for himself, just like the rest of the guys. We're thrilled to have him. He's a great person. He competes hard. He's ultra-competitive and we want him to bring that."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.06.2014 / 1:32 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red Wings' Datsyuk to get pre-Olympic tuneup

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk declared himself ready to go after the morning skate Thursday and will make his return to the lineup against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.

Datsyuk, out the past 14 games with a knee injury, will play for the first time since the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year's Day. Datsyuk will skate on a line with Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson.

"Sooner or later, I needed to start," Datsyuk said. "I waited enough. We'll see what happens tonight."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.04.2014 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Maple Leafs' Clarkson ready to hit reset button again

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Between suspensions and injuries, David Clarkson's first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs has been something of a nightmare. He's hoping things finally start heading in a positive direction when he returns to the lineup Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.

Clarkson, who signed a seven-year contract with the Maple Leafs during the summer after spending his first seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils, missed the past eight games because of an elbow injury. He missed the first 10 games of the regular season after being suspended for his part in a preseason altercation involving the Buffalo Sabres, later had a two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka and missed another game because of a foot injury.

Clarkson said after the morning skate Tuesday he was hoping to be able to hit the reset button on his season.

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Posted On Friday, 01.24.2014 / 1:34 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche get Tanguay back; Panthers minus Barkov

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Veteran forward Alex Tanguay will be back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 2 when the Colorado Avalanche face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center Friday. But there will be no second matchup this season between the first and second selections in the 2013 NHL Draft because Panthers center Aleksander Barkov is out with a lower-body injury.

Barkov was injured in the first period of Florida's 4-3 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night and didn't return to the game. He didn't practice on Thursday and wasn't on the ice for the morning skate Friday.

Interim head coach Peter Horachek said Barkov would be evaluated on a daily basis and no decision had been made yet on whether to take him on a four-game road trip that begins Sunday with a game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Barkov, the No. 2 pick last June, leads the Panthers with 24 points and had played in every game this season.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Stalock to start for Sharks; Huberdeau back in place

SUNRISE, Fla. -- San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Stalock will get a rare start Thursday against the Florida Panthers.

Stalock, a fourth-round pick (No. 112) in the 2005 NHL Draft who made his first NHL start Oct. 27, will make his seventh start of the season but only his second in the past 12 games.

Antti Niemi gave up three goals in the past three games, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan said it was part of a plan to keep his goalie fresh for the playoffs, particularly with Niemi competing for Finland in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Stalock allowed two goals on 35 shots in his previous start, a 3-2 shootout victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 5.

Stalock will be going against veteran Tim Thomas, who will make his seventh consecutive start in net for the Panthers. Thomas hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of his past four starts.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 2:09 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Streaking Islanders to play Panthers without Hamonic

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The New York Islanders will try to extend a couple of impressive streaks Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, but they will have to do so without the services of defenseman Travis Hamonic.

Hamonic, who is second on the Islanders in ice time at 24:57 per game, will miss his first game of the season. Coach Jack Capuano said Hamonic was day to day with an upper-body injury that kept him out for the third period of a 4-2 victory against the Dallas Stars on Sunday.

The Islanders already are without defensemen Radek Martinek, who has missed the past 21 games due to back spasms, and Lubomir Visnovsky, who hasn't played since Oct. 19 because of a concussion.

Matt Carkner, a healthy scratch the past two games, will move into the lineup to replace Hamonic.

"Losing a guy that's played 25 minutes, that's a huge loss for our hockey team," Capuano said. "We're going to have to make some adjustments as the game goes on, there's no question."

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Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 1:50 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers coach Horachek faces old boss, friend

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Barry Trotz and Peter Horachek reminisced about their nine years working together with the Nashville Predators when they went to dinner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Friday night.

It's all business Saturday, though, when the Predators face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center and Trotz goes up against his former right-hand man for the first time.

"Obviously we didn't share any secrets," said Trotz, the only coach the Predators have had since they joined the NHL in 1998. "That's taboo. It was the first time I got to see Peter since he left the organization. I would do the same if it was vice versa or he was coming to Nashville. We just caught up on old times."

Horachek was an assistant on Trotz's staff for the past nine seasons, serving as associate coach the last two.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 1:02 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Jovanovski erases doubts, excited for return

SUNRISE, Fla. — Ed Jovanovski admitted Saturday morning there were several times during the past several months when he wondered whether he would ever play another NHL game.

His perseverance has paid off, and the Florida Panthers captain is set to make his season debut Saturday against the Nashville Predators at BB&T Center.

"I'm excited, for sure," Jovanovski said after the Panthers' morning skate. "It's been a long while. For me, there's been a lot of days where it beats up on you, but it's all worth it for having the opportunity to play a game again."

Jovanovski will be playing his first game after having hip resurfacing surgery April 5. He played six games last season, none after March 16.

The veteran defenseman first was injured Jan. 29 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and missed 22 games. He came back for the one game in March against the New York Islanders, but his return lasted less than two periods.

"For the most part, I remained positive throughout this whole process, listened to the doctors, listened to our trainers," Jovanovski said. "I was on a pretty good program to get to where I am today. Hopefully all that hard work and all the listening that I had hopefully is going to pay off for me."

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Posted On Saturday, 12.28.2013 / 1:22 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Zetterberg, Abdelkader back in Red Wings lineup

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Just like the Detroit Red Wings' first visit to BB&T Center on Dec. 10, they will have one of their star players back in the lineup Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.

Center Henrik Zetterberg will be in action for the first time since Dec. 1 after missing 11 games because of a back injury.

"I'm glad to be back playing," Zetterberg said. "It's been a while. Just to come back and play with the boys, it's going to be fun."

The Red Wings also are expected to have forward Justin Abdelkader back after he missed five games because of a concussion.

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Posted On Monday, 12.23.2013 / 7:31 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Gudbranson has surgery; Petrovic recalled

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson will be out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his orbital bone Monday.

Gudbranson sustained the injury during a 5-2 loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night, though he never left the game. He played 18:12 against the Jets and was on the ice when the final buzzer sounded.

A timetable for his return will be announced in the near future. A complete recovery is expected.

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Quote of the Day

I don't have a crystal ball. Predicting is a real complicated thing. If we stay healthy, have enough depth and get the good goaltending we think we're going to have, you can go all the way. But a lot of things have to happen. There's going to be a lot of teams that think the same thing. Everyone made deals. We're all are optimistic about where we'll end up.

— Rangers general manager Glen Sather after being asked if he's constructed a team that can win the Stanley Cup before their 4-1 win against the Predators on Monday
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