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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 3:10 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Coyotes, Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Here are how the lineups could look tonight when the Los Angeles Kings host the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center:

COYOTES
Lauri Korpikoski - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Mikkel Boedker
Raffi Torres - Cal O'Reilly - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
David Schlemko - Rostislav Klesla
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival

Jason LaBarbera
Mike Smith

KINGS

Brad Richardson - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 2:42 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Renzulli keeping things on track

PHILADELPHIA -- Seated in his temporary office here at Citizens Bank Park on Monday morning, NHL Senior Vice President of Events Don Renzulli said he isn't letting the excitement of what will happen in just seven days affect him.

With just a week remaining until they drop the puck for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, Renzulli is more focused on keeping the train on the tracks.

"Excitement? No," he told NHL.com. "Part of this is just being able to maintain and keep the build going and make sure you get everything done. The excitement comes when you start to bring people into the ballpark and they start to at least see what's going on and what it took to get there."

What they'll start seeing over the next few days will be pretty impressive.

The biggest attraction will be the Spectator Plaza, which will be constructed on Citizens Bank Way, adjacent to the stadium. With crews arriving from holiday break today, work will start tomorrow despite the rain being forecast for the Philadelphia region.

Renzulli said 10 different sponsors will have interactive areas for fans, with the centerpiece being Molson Hockey House.

"It's a scaled-down version of what they did at the (2010 Winter) Olympics, similar to what they did at (NHL) Faceoff in Winnipeg this year," Renzulli said. "Which is really a kind of a sports bar. … It's a big bar, but they integrate other things in the tent."

There also will be a giant video board, NHL Network will be broadcasting from the plaza, and there will be live music, including a performance by The Zoo, winner of MTV's Ultimate Cover Band contest.

"We do a lot of photo ops outside," Renzulli said. "They'll have a lot of branding of the game. It's not much different than what we've had in the past. There's food and beverages, there'll be sampling of the products of our sponsors. Then it's just a tailgate party."

Work also will continue on turning the inside of the baseball stadium into an outdoor hockey wonderland, from hanging signs and installing décor on field walls and gates, and much more.

The work will continue over the next few days, and besides tomorrow's rain, the forecast looks pretty good right through the game on Jan. 2.

"It's not much different than we've been seeing all along," Renzulli said. "It's mid-to-upper 20s and 30s at night and up into the mid-to-upper 40s during the day. Slight chance of rain or snow shower on the 31st, but with temperatures in the mid-to-low 40s I don't really see that becoming snow. If it does, it's not going to stick. Winds are pretty constant between five and 20 (mph) throughout that time, it just depends on when. Right now they're calling on game-day as mostly cloudy, chance for light rain or snow showers late. So I would anticipate we're not going to see much (precipitation) during the game. Highs in the mid-to-upper 40s, lows in the low 30s, it's overcast, won't have the sun to contend with. Might be a little bit warmer for the fans than it has been at other games, (but) you deal with it."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 2:40 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blue Jackets use break to clear their heads

CHICAGO -- The three-day Christmas break was an opportunity for the Columbus Blue Jackets to mentally unplug from hockey. They've dropped four in a row, five of the last six and held leads of 4-1 and 5-2 in their last game against the Nashville Predators before losing 6-5.

The Jackets held a longer skate than normal on Monday at the United Center and had a lengthy on-ice talk from coach Scott Arniel -- who wants his team to basically hit the reset button on the rest of the season, which still has 48 games left in it.

"It was a chance to get away and clear our brains a little bit," Arniel said of the three-day break. "We can't dwell on what's happened and we've got to move forward. We've seen some of those ugly games happen, but we have to take responsibility for it and we have to find a way the next time we're in that position to get a better result."

Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford was in goal for that gut-wrenching loss to the Predators, but is having some ongoing issues with back spasms, meaning Steve Mason likely gets the nod against Chicago.
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 2:38 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kruger, Carcillo participate in morning skate

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forwards Marcus Kruger and Daniel Carcillo -- who are both coming back from suspected concussions -- participated in Monday's morning skate. Kruger missed the forward lines portion of the skate, but was termed "likely" to play by coach Joel Quenneville. Carcillo skated on the second line, but was ruled out until he gets a few more practices.

"Both looked better and it was nice to see them on the ice," Quenneville said. "Krugs is likely to play tonight and Danny is out. (Carcillo) hasn't been on the ice for 10 days with us, so get back and get some conditioning and get feeling better."

After Quenneville said that about Kruger, however, the Hawks recalled center Brandon Pirri from Rockford of the American Hockey League. Pirri played for Kruger against the Canadiens and centered the second line between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, so he could find himself in that role or a different one on Monday night.

Kruger said was just good for him to get back on the ice so quickly after taking a high hit that knocked him out of the game against Pittsburgh last week. Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland was also assessed a three-game suspension for the hit, which left Kruger a little "shaken" on the bench.

Quenneville said that he had to call for Kruger to go onto the ice a couple of times in the second period of that game and Kruger wasn't able to go.

"It was just to make sure not to do something stupid," Kruger said. "I felt better pretty quick there, so I'm glad to be back."

Carcillo didn't care to comment about his injury, which appeared to happen when he got hit in the head with an elbow against the Minnesota Wild. He's just hoping to get back on the ice for a game as soon as possible.

"When you're injured, you're injured and you're out of the lineup," Carcillo said. "It doesn't matter what it is. I'm going to get a few skates in over the next few days."
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 2:32 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blackhawks stick with Crawford vs. Blue Jackets

CHICAGO -- The victory that goalie Corey Crawford collected in the Chicago Blackhawks' last game prior to a four-day Christmas break did more than just boost his lagging confidence.

It also earned him a second straight start in net for the Hawks on Monday night at the United Center, when the Columbus Blue Jackets (9-21-4) make a visit to the Windy City. Prior to beating Montreal on Dec. 21, Crawford -- the unquestioned starter coming into the season -- had sat out six straight games behind veteran backup Ray Emery.

Now he'll get right back in between the pipes to try and build off it that game.

"I'm just going to worry about tonight," Crawford said following Chicago's morning skate at the United Center. "I'm just going to take it shot by shot and go from there."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville liked that approach from Crawford in the previous game and hopes to see more of it on Monday night.

"Coming off a great game, I thought it was just a matter of time before we got him back in the net," Quenneville said of Crawford. "We've got a lot of confidence in his ability and he earned the back-to-back starts based on his last game. We want him playing."

Crawford has gone through his share of struggles this season, after seizing the starting job as a rookie a year ago. He came into this season as the Hawks' unquestioned starter, but Emery's play has caused some to wonder who's the starter and who's the backup -- or if the Hawks (22-9-4) are even approaching it that way.

Quenneville sounds like he wants to see Crawford reassert himself as the starter, but at the same time can't be displeased with what he's getting out of Emery -- who won five straight games before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We had a lot of confidence in him when we started the season and that hasn't changed at all," Quenneville said of Crawford. "It's just that Ray, all of a sudden, gave us something to think about -- but we want Corey playing."
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 2:26 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Columbus Blue Jackets at United Center:

BLUE JACKETS
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - RJ Umberger
Vinny Prospal - Jeff Carter - Mark Letestu
Antoine Vermette - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Derek MacKenzie - Ryan Johansen - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Grant Clitsome

Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

BLACKHAWKS
Andrew Brunette - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Viktor Stalberg
John Scott - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

Note: The Blackgawks recalled center Brandon Pirri from the minors on Monday afternoon and he could slot right into the lineup, most likely on the second line at center in place of Marcus Kruger (upper-body injury). Kruger was ruled "likely" to play by Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, but Pirri was recalled after that assessment.
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 1:12 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Staal cleared for contact, closer to return

NEW YORK -- Marc Staal jumped another hurdle Monday in his slow and steady recovery from a concussion that has kept him out all season. He was cleared for contact and took part in battle drills as the Rangers prepared to face the Islanders on Monday night.

Staal won't be in the lineup against the Islanders, but he's closer to playing than he has been since he was shut down during training camp in September. He's dealt with lingering concussion symptoms caused by a hit from brother Eric Staal of the Hurricanes in February.

The 24-year-old defenseman said he still needs to improve his conditioning in order to play 25 minutes per night like he has in the past. The Rangers' next three games after Monday are all on the road -- at Washington on Wednesday, at Florida on Friday, then in Philadelphia on Jan. 2 for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.

Staal didn't rule out playing in the Winter Classic before he was cleared for contact, but said he wouldn't rush back just to play in the game unless he was 100 percent healthy.

The loss of Staal hasn't hurt the Rangers' defense, which ranks third in the NHL at 2.09 goals allowed per game. The Rangers have also played without Michael Sauer (concussion) for three weeks and recently lost Steve Eminger for two months with a separated shoulder.
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 1:10 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wrist injury to sideline Oshie for two games

ST. LOUIS -- Just when the St. Louis Blues were on the cusp of getting close to a full roster, they take another injury hit.

Winger T.J. Oshie will miss tonight's game against Dallas and Tuesday night's game at Detroit with a left wrist injury.

Oshie, who is tied for the team lead in points (23) with Alex Steen, came onto the ice late for today's morning skate but did minor stickwork and not much else.

The injury is the opposite to the wrist Oshie jammed in a game at Minnesota on Nov. 19.

"Osh has a sore wrist and we've opted to get him to as close as to 100 percent as we can," Hitchcock said. "We've opted to keep him out for these two games and put him in against Nashville (Friday). Rather than just keep monitoring it and getting it halfway decent. This way, we get it close to 100 percent."

The injury will not require surgery, according to Hitchcock, and the team is hopeful rest will do the trick.

"It's a ligament issue, but it's significant enough where we're getting to where it's just 80 percent," Hitchcock said. "We have a chance now with days off before and then the days off now, we have a chance to get it close to 95 or 100 (percent) and that will allow him to stay in the lineup long-term. We've opted to do that and take the bullet right now.

"It's on the other wrist now, but it's the exact same injury. It's hard to play when you don't have two hands. The other one's fine and this one's aggravated. Rather than go through what we did on the other one, we've opted to take these two games and sit him."

The Blues have recalled forward Adam Cracknell from the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL and he will be in the lineup tonight against the Stars.
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 12:42 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues, Stars

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lines for tonight's game between the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars at Scottrade Center:

BLUES
Alex Steen - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Evgeny Grachev - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Matt D'Agostini
Adam Cracknell- Scott Nichol - Jamie Langenbrunner

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

RW T.J. Oshie (wrist) will miss the next two games. Coach Ken Hitchcock said it's nothing that will require surgery and he expects Oshie to return Friday vs. Nashville. The team has recalled LW Adam Cracknell from AHL Peoria and he will play. Scratches include D Ian Cole and RW Ryan Reaves, the latter of whom has a bit of an issue with his ribs. Players on injured reserve include LW Andy McDonald (concussion), D Kent Huskins (ankle), RW B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) and C Vladimir Sobotka (ankle).

STARS
Loui Eriksson - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Philip Larsen - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Sheldon Souray - Adam Pardy
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Alex Goligoski - Mark Fistric

Richard Bachman
Andrew Raycroft

Scratches based on the Stars' last game would include C Toby Petersen and C Jake Dowell. Injured players include D Stephane Robidas (foot), G Kari Lehtonen (groin) and RW Tomas Vincour (MCL). Lehtonen, who's been out since late November, is expected to return to the lineup Thursday. The Stars did not travel to St. Louis until today.
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 12:34 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild welcome Koivu back to lineup vs. Avs

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's pretty safe to say the Christmas break came at a good time for the Minnesota Wild.

With captain Mikko Koivu ailing and the team having lost six straight games, three days off offered the Wild a unique opportunity to forget about their losing streak and get some of their firepower back heading into tonight's game against Northwest Division rival Colorado.

And while Minnesota is still without three valuable forwards, the big news from Xcel Energy Center this morning is the return of Koivu to the Wild lineup after missing the last five games due to a lower-body injury.

"No matter how we were playing, it's huge for us," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "In every aspect of our game, and how we play it, he's the leader.

"More importantly, in just the attitude we want to bring to the rink and that fighting spirit that's made us so successful. He's the leader in that as well."

Yeo was less willing to discuss the six-game losing skid the Wild are currently on, focusing instead on what's ahead. After a loss in Winnipeg on Dec. 13, Minnesota suffered a pair of shootout losses at home to Chicago and the New York Islanders. Koivu was lost on the last shift of overtime against the Blackhawks. Minnesota then looked lost on a three-game division road trip to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton last week. Over that six-game streak, the Wild have scored just seven goals.

"I want to put that behind us," Yeo said. "We said what we needed to say after that one and we talked about it. We know what happened before the break. … But we had the break. It came at the perfect time. Now, it's all about moving forward."

Wild forward Dany Heatley said it was good to leave hockey behind for a couple of days in order to recharge the batteries and let the minor bumps and bruises heal.

"Obviously with the way that last road trip went, it was good to get away for a couple days," Heatley said.

In terms of a game plan for tonight, Yeo said the key for both teams will be getting a fast start, especially after a layoff.

"How quick can you get your game going?" Yeo said. "It doesn't seem like much, but in three days, things can slip rather quickly."

For Minnesota, limiting the red-hot Avalanche power play is something Yeo said the Wild will focus on. They can do that, he said, by limiting Colorado's puck possession. Ranked sixth in the League at just a shade over 20 percent, Colorado will attempt to take advantage of a Minnesota penalty kill ranked eighth.

The Avs will be at a distinct disadvantage from a travel perspective, as the team is en route to Minnesota this morning and will not even arrive at Xcel Energy Center until the afternoon. Normally, teams travel to a city the day before a game, but because of the NHL's rules on holiday travel, the Avalanche did not leave Denver until 9:30 a.m. Central Time -- less than eight hours before tonight's 5 p.m. faceoff.

Needless to say, Colorado did not skate this morning and hasn't been on the ice since Friday when it defeated Tampa Bay 2-1 in overtime at the Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche have won four in a row overall, and set a franchise record Friday by winning their eighth straight home game. But that success has not translated on the road, where Colorado has lost nine in a row, including a 1-0 loss at Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 17.

The last road victory for the Avs came before Halloween, Oct. 22, in a shootout at Chicago. Their last win on the road in regulation was Oct. 13 at Ottawa, which was their sixth consecutive win on the road to start the season.

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Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season