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Posted On Tuesday, 12.17.2013 / 1:31 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Canucks' Luongo hoping for Xcel exorcism vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In his first career start against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center in 2000,Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, then a member of the Florida Panthers, backstopped his team to a 0-0 tie.

But to say it's been a struggle for him in this building since would be an understatement. His career numbers at the X: 3-9-2 with a 3.92 goals-against average and a .873 save percentage (those numbers include the 0-0 tie). Luongo has been pulled in each of his past three starts here. It got so bad over the final years with Alain Vigneault behind the bench that he refused to start Luongo in St. Paul.

But with a new coach comes new confidence as Luongo will face the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 19, 2010.

Posted On Monday, 12.16.2013 / 8:55 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - USA Selection Camp Blog

Lucia, Motzko working together again

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the United States gathers this week at Mariucci Arena for its World Junior Championships Selection Camp, it will bring together players from all backgrounds and locations from around the country.

It will also bring together longtime friends on the bench, where head coach Don Lucia and assistant coach Bob Motzko will be on the same staff for the first time since 2005. Motzko worked under Lucia at the University of Minnesota for four seasons and the two captured national championships in 2002 and 2003. The 2002 title was Minnesota's first since the Herb Brooks-led 1979 team.

"It's good to be back, working around Don again," Motzko said. "It must mean he liked me when we worked together if he wanted me to come back with him.

"It was a big thing for Don and his career to coach this team, we call it a 'Bucket List' thing. For him to ask me, I was honored and I feel very privileged to do it."

Posted On Monday, 12.16.2013 / 8:13 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - USA Selection Camp Blog

Samuelsson aims to show he belongs on U.S. roster

MINNEAPOLIS -- Without players like Johnny Gaudreau, Alex Galchenyuk and J.T. Miller leading the way offensively for the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championships this year, it will be up to a number of players to help pick up the scoring slack if the U.S. is going to repeat as champions for the first time.

Top-end offensive talent is not expected to be a hallmark of this year' team, but there are players at this week's U.S. selection camp with a scoring pedigree.

One such player is forward Henrik Samuelsson, a 2012 first round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes and current Edmonton Oil King of the Western Hockey League. With 29 players currently on the preliminary roster, a number expected to decrease by as many as five or six players after an exhibition game Tuesday at Minnesota State, Samuelsson said he needs to show U.S. coach Don Lucia and general manager Jim Johannson that he can be counted on to help lead the way offensively.

"I can score goals, I can make plays and my defensive game has gotten a lot better," Samuelsson said. "I can score big goals too."

Posted On Sunday, 12.15.2013 / 10:30 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - USA Selection Camp Blog

Zach Stepan healthy, ready for camp

MINNEAPOLIS -- Zach Stepan, who is at the United States National Junior Team selection camp this week, is fully healthy for the camp that got underway Sunday evening at Mariucci Arena.

Stepan, a freshman at Minnesota State University, was injured in Game 2 of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series Saturday against the University of Alabama-Huntsville in Huntsville, Ala.

With the Mavericks leading 2-1 late in the third period, Stepan was hit high and from behind into the boards behind the UAH net. Stepan lay on the ice for several moments before being brought back to the locker room.

Stepan did not return to the bench over the final minutes, a move he said was precautionary.

"I'm fine," Stepan said. "They just wanted to make sure everything was intact, and it was, so we're good to go."

Posted On Sunday, 12.15.2013 / 9:02 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - USA Selection Camp Blog

Lucia takes break from Minnesota to coach U.S. team

MINNEAPOLIS -- With the United States National Junior Team selection camp officially underway, coach Don Lucia has handed over the keys of the one of the top-ranked collegiate hockey program to his assistant coaches.

With Lucia occupied by this week's camp and the World Junior Championship beginning Dec. 26, the University of Minnesota men's hockey team -- ranked No. 2 in the country -- has been left in the capable hands of assistant coaches Mike Guentzel and Grant Potulny.

"We came back from Michigan State [Dec. 8] and I told the guys, 'I'm turning it over to Coach Guentzel now,'" Lucia said. "[Minnesota] had a couple days of light practice, but I didn't even go on the ice. I just tried to stay away from the office as much as I could."

Posted On Thursday, 12.05.2013 / 2:36 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks, Wild shuffle lineups

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild have each made adjustments to their lineups in advance of their game Thursday at Xcel Energy Center (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

For the Blackhawks, Andrew Shaw and Michal Handzus did not make the trip to Minnesota and are unavailable Thursday. Handzus is sick and will miss his second consecutive game. Shaw sustained an upper-body injury when he was checked hard into the boards late in Chicago's game Tuesday against the Dallas Stars.

Each is considered day-to-day and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said each could return to the lineup as soon as Friday when Chicago plays the Anaheim Ducks at United Center.

The Blackhawks also reassigned center Brandon Pirri to the Rockford Ice Hogs of the American Hockey League. Pirri had six goals and five assists in 24 games with Chicago, but Quenneville said Pirri needs to work on his game in the defensive end.

Posted On Monday, 12.02.2013 / 2:24 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Back spasms sideline Flyers' Lecavalier vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Philadelphia Flyers will be without leading goal-scorer Vincent Lecavalier on Monday against the Minnesota Wild. The veteran has back spasms which began during the third period of the Flyers' 3-2 shootout win Saturday at the Nashville Predators.

Lecavalier, who leads the Flyers with nine goals, finished the game Saturday and scored the deciding goal in the shootout. But with four games left on their road trip, the team thought it best to give Lecavalier the night off. Brayden Schenn is expected to take over Lecavalier's second-line center spot.

"We're losing a very good centerman," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "Brayden Schenn has played a lot of center and it's a good opportunity for him to slide in there. He's played center pretty well his whole life."

Posted On Sunday, 11.17.2013 / 1:57 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Dumba in for Wild against Jets

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba is back in the lineup Sunday when the Wild face the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center.

Dumba hasn’t played since Nov. 9 against the Carolina Hurricanes — the only game this month in which he's played — but the Wild were impressed with the Dumba-Clayton Stoner pairing in preseason matchups against the Jets.

“He’s played well against these guys,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “I just want to see him continue to evolve, continue to grow. He’s in here for a reason and I want to see his strengths come out in the game."

Posted On Friday, 11.15.2013 / 2:27 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers move on without Versteeg

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Change has been afoot with the Florida Panthers. Last week it was replacing their entire coaching staff. Then late Thursday Florida traded forward Kris Versteeg and minor-league forward Philippe Lefebvre to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for prospects Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon had hinted changes could be coming to the roster earlier in the week after coach Kevin Dineen and his staff were let go. His team snapped a nine-game winless skid Tuesday with a 3-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks, but has sandwiched three losing streaks between their four wins this season.

The Panthers will try and put together their first winning streak of the season Friday against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Versteeg was off to a slow start with two goals with five assists in 18 games. He also was a minus-9 and hadn't scored a goal in 11 games, making him expendable for a team that appears ready to get younger.

Posted On Wednesday, 11.13.2013 / 12:54 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild give Backstrom start against Maple Leafs

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With Josh Harding feeling ill Tuesday evening, the Minnesota Wild will go with Niklas Backstrom in goal when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN).

Harding, who leads the NHL with a 1.22 goals-against average and is second with a .947 save percentage, was not present for the team's optional morning skate Wednesday, but will back up Backstrom in the game.

"Harding was feeling a little under the weather [Tuesday] night, so we kept him off [Wednesday] and went with the one goalie rather than go through the motions and have an average skate," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I'd rather give the players the option of doing what they need to do to get ready."

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That's today's game. That's one of the things you have to deal with when you're a championship team. Guys are going to earn more money based on their performance and what they've achieved, [and] deservedly so. [Saad] falls into that category.

— Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Brandon Saad, who was traded by Chicago to the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason