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Posted On Thursday, 01.02.2014 / 2:16 PM

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

Wild place Konopka on waivers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With goaltender Josh Harding under the weather and the Minnesota Wild in need of a roster spot for an extra goalie, the Wild placed forward Zenon Konopka on waivers Thursday prior to the team's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

A gritty fourth-liner who excels in the faceoff circle, Konopka has one goal and one assist in 36 games. He's in the final season of a two-year contract and is making $925,000 this season.

Konopka leads the Wild with 55 penalty minutes and his 65.7-percent faceoff success rate is the best in the NHL among players to take at least 200 faceoffs.

Should Konopka clear waivers, the Wild would have the option of assigning him to the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. Coach Mike Yeo said he hasn't thought that far ahead, however.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 1:08 PM

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

Blues' Backes improving, but won't face Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- St. Louis Blues captain David Backes will miss his second consecutive game Tuesday when the Blues play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

A native of Minneapolis who played college hockey 90 minutes south of the Twin Cities at Minnesota State, Backes missed two games earlier this month with a concussion. He was injured Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks, missing a portion of the third period in a game the Blues won 5-4 in a shootout. The two injuries are not believed to be related.

Backes will miss his fourth game of the season Tuesday after missing only three games in his previous six seasons. He skated at the Blues' practice Monday and again Tuesday during their morning skate, but coach Ken Hitchcock said he will give him more time.

"Not going to play tonight, not ready to go," Hitchcock said. "He's feeling better and better, but he's not able to play. We're just not prepared to risk it right now."


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Posted On Sunday, 12.29.2013 / 1:47 PM

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

Islanders, Wild greet familiar faces

ST. PAUL, Minn.Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter and New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck will each get a crack at his former team for the first time Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild sent a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft (No. 70) and Clutterbuck to New York in a trade for Niederreiter during the draft this summer.

Clutterbuck, a fan favorite in Minnesota, was routinely among the NHL leaders in hits during his time with the Wild, racking up 1,457 of them and scoring 110 points in six seasons. He has four goals and two assists in 33 games with New York and his 120 hits are No. 11 in the League, despite the fact he missed six games with an injury.

“All of our players are well aware of what he can bring,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “He does very well, even when he’s not hitting on the ice. Even when that’s not a threat, the players on the ice think it’s a threat. We’ve got to be ready to execute, but certainly you have to make sure you have your head up.”

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.17.2013 / 1:31 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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.

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Posted On Monday, 12.16.2013 / 8:55 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."


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Posted On Monday, 12.16.2013 / 8:13 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."


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Posted On Sunday, 12.15.2013 / 10:30 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."


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Posted On Sunday, 12.15.2013 / 9:02 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."


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Posted On Thursday, 12.05.2013 / 2:36 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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.

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Posted On Monday, 12.02.2013 / 2:24 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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."

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Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins