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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 8:36 PM

By Derek Mori -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Mori: Another Cup, another fantastic experience

Derek Mori has been attending Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp since 2006, when his wife sprung the trip on him as a 40th birthday gift. He is here for a seventh straight year and has agreed to blog his experiences for NHL.com.

Derek, who lives in Oakville, Ont. with his wife, Anita, and twin boys, says he's certainly not an ex-pro, but he's not a beginner either. He's been on the team that has won the Gretzky Fantasy Camp Cup four out of the six years he's been here, and he intends to do it again.

Read on to learn more about Derek's experience and what No. 99's camp is all about:


LAS VEGAS -- It's over, and I'll be heading back home with my fifth Gretzky Cup championship. This was a tight one, too.

My team, known as Team D all week, knocked off Team A by the slim 2-1 margin. Our team was coached by Glen Gretzky, Joe Lama and Marty McSorley while the opposing team was coached by Walter Gretzky and Charlie Henry.

It really could have gone either way, but I have to give credit to Marty for his pregame pep talk. He spoke about strategy, which I thought was extremely helpful for our cause. He also gave us sound, sage advice on the bench after our shifts.

Marty can coach. We were thrilled to have him behind our bench.

We played two periods and were down 1-0 after the first. But, I struck for our first goal in the second period to tie it up at 1-1. It came on a deflection.

The game-winner came off a scramble in front of the net. They pulled their goalie in the final minutes and put some serious pressure on us, but we shut them down and got to enjoy our celebration on the ice.

And, yes, it is very much like the Stanley Cup celebration, except Gary Bettman doesn't present our captain with the Gretzky Cup. Wayne is the one who presents the trophy to us and Joey Moss wore white gloves and carried the trophy onto the ice.

This win is my fifth, but it is particularly gratifying because there are many first-time campers on our team as well as one veteran, Chris Sealy, who has been coming here as long as I have and still hadn't won until this year. We kept telling him he was a jinx and nobody wanted him on their team, but we were thrilled to win this one for him and I was genuinely excited when I saw him raise the Cup over his head.

Everybody was already talking about coming back next year to defend the title. I'll take Chris on my team again. He's no jinx for me.

Tonight we have a Awards Ceremony and Banquet Dinner at the Bellagio. Everyone is pumped.

We head home Sunday and I have so many more stories to tell my family and buddies back home.

Until next year.

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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 5:30 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Howson, Gauthier take in Flyers-Rangers tilt

PHILADELPHIA -- There were two very interesting parties taking in the Flyers-Rangers game today at Wells Fargo Center.

Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier and Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson both were in attendance, with Howson spending extra time meeting with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

With the Feb. 27 trade deadline rapidly approaching, Howson said he enjoys the opportunity to talk to other GMs one-on-one rather than over the phone.

"You do it both ways, obviously," Howson told NHL.com. "But anytime you can get face-to-face with somebody and talk to them and have a little more time in a face-to-face encounter … I prefer it be face-to-face because I think you can get more out of it."

He wouldn't comment directly on any of his plans approaching the deadline, but said his roadmap runs well beyond what will happen between now and Feb. 27 – and he promised to be an active player in the trade market.

"We've determined what we want to do," he said. "I'm not going to disclose what we're going to do, but we certainly have a plan in place. We're working on it, we're talking to teams. We'll see … it's not just a pre-deadline plan. It's a plan leading up to the draft and leading into next season. We'll see what happens before the 27th and we expect to be active."

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

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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 2:51 PM

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

Kesler OK to play for Cancuks

The Vancouver Canucks will have forward Ryan Kesler in the lineup tonight against the division-rival Calgary Flames.

Kesler didn’t practice with the Canucks in Calgary yesterday, but confirmed his absence was a result of a maintenance day and not one of a more serious note.

“Good oil change,” Kesler said. “Topped up the fluids. It was a good day, a good rest day for me.”
 
Roberto Luongo, who backed up Cory Schneider in Vancouver’s 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild Thursday, will get the call between the pipes.

He’s looking forward to extending the Canucks’ winning streak at the Scotiabank Saddledome to six. The last time Vancouver lost in Calgary was Oct. 16, 2009, outscoring the Flames 24-9 during the span.

“It’s a fun building to play in for us,” Luongo said. “It’s a good rivalry with these guys and they always make for some good games. There isn’t one specific element I can say but guys enjoy playing here and we like the atmosphere in this building.”

Kesler agreed.

“We prepare really well for these guys,” Kesler said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game, a battle. I think that’s why we’re so successful. We know it’s going to be a hard-nosed game.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Canucks:

Daniel SedinHenrik SedinByron Bitz
David BoothRyan KeslerAlexandre Burrows
Mason RaymondManny MalhotraJannik Hansen
Maxim LapierreCody HodgsonMike Duco

Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Andrew AlbertsAaron Rome

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 2:28 PM

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

Flames' Jones out with broken ankle

Calgary Flames forward Blair Jones could only call it a bad break.

Blocking a shot while killing a penalty in Calgary’s 2-1 overtime loss against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night, Jones will miss significant time with an ankle fracture while the Flames are pushing for a playoff position.

“I had some x-rays done and it’s a broken ankle,” Jones said. “I don’t really know how long it’s going to take. It’s a tough break, especially at this time of the year. It’s an exciting time to play – pushing hard to get into the playoffs. It’s very frustrating. You kind of feel helpless.”

Jones knew immediately something was wrong after taking Ray Whitney’s slap shot off the foot.

“Sometimes when you block them it stings and you limp around but then the feeling comes back and you can manage to move around,” Jones said. “I couldn’t. I was leaning on my stick to try to stand up. I had no feeling in it. It was pretty bad.”

Calgary captain Jarome Iginla knows there is no downplaying the loss of Jones.

“It’s a big loss, there’s no question about that,” Iginla said. “We’ve ran into our share this year. We’ve found a way to hang in there and we’re going to have to keep doing that. It’s an opportunity for our younger guys.”

One of those younger guys is 20-year-old Roman Horak, recalled Friday to take Jones’ spot in the lineup as Calgary gets set to face the Vancouver Canucks. Horak has played 42 games with the Flames this season, recording two goals and nine points.

Horak, who actually played Thursday in the Scotiabank Saddledome as a member of the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, had a quick return to Calgary.

“It was crazy. We woke up at 5 in the morning (Friday) and flew to Abbotsford,” said Horak, who is now situated between Iginla and Michael Cammalleri in the dressing room. “When I finally got home I got the call and was told I was coming back.

“I’m excited, for sure. It’s always a big honor to get called up every time and I’m going to try to do my best on the ice.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Flames:

Alex TanguayOlli JokinenJarome Iginla
Michael CammalleriMikael BacklundBlake Comeau
Lance BoumaRoman HorakKrys Kolanos
Tom KostopoulosMatt StajanTim Jackman

Jay BouwmeesterChris Butler
Mark GiordanoScott Hannan
TJ BrodieCory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 1:49 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps' Backstrom feels he's improving, but return date unknown

ARLINGTON, Va. – Nicklas Backstrom spoke to local reporters Saturday for the first time since Jan.6, and while the Washington Capitals’ injured center says his condition is improving, there remains no timetable for his return.

Backstrom has been sidelined since Jan.3, when he took an elbow to the head from then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque. The 24-year-old will miss his 17th straight game Sunday when the Capitals visit the New York Rangers.

“It’s a long process but I’m getting better,” Backstrom said. “Obviously you want to be out there and playing with the team, but this is the situation now and you’ve got to deal with it.”

Backstrom told a Swedish newspaper last week that he was unsure when he might play again and that he hopes to be ready by the playoffs.

He said Saturday that he is working closely with head athletic trainer Greg Smith and trying to maintain his conditioning by riding a stationary bike. Skating he says, remains a challenge.

“Lately I’ve been doing the bike so I think I’m improving” he said. “The thing is, it takes time – but I’m on a good program now so hopefully I’ll get better soon.”

Backstrom has skated for just five minutes in the past 37 days – an attempt on Jan.23.

“I’m not 100-percent to skate now so we’ll see when it [will be] time to hit the ice [again],” he said. “Right now I’m taking it day-by-day.”

Despite missing the past 16 games, Backstrom is second on the Capitals with 42 points (13 goals; 29 assists), and he is second among Washington forwards averaging 19:10 TOI per game.

The Capitals are 7-6-3 since Backstrom’s injury and his absence has been particularly noteworthy on the Caps’ power play, which went 1-for-25 from Jan. 13-Feb.7.

One encouraging sign for the Capitals is Backstrom’s desire to be around his teammates.

After spending much of January recovering on his own, the past week saw Backstrom host a Super Bowl party for his teammates, attend home games at Verizon Center, and participate in the team’s annual Casino night/gala.  He is also travelling with the Caps for this weekend’s trip to New York.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 1:40 PM

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

McDonald could play soon for Blues, Russell out tonight

ST. LOUIS -- The way St. Louis Blues forward Andy McDonald was flying around the ice Friday at St. Louis Mills is nothing new. This has been a common theme for the past couple weeks.

What makes his impending return from a season-long concussion intriguing is the choice of words the 34-year-old used after the team's workout on Friday.

"I felt really good today and probably I feel like I'm ready to play," said McDonald, who's missed all but three games this season. "... I feel really good. I've been clear on the ice for a while now. I'm real close.

"Today it felt really good. I got to do some more line situations and it felt good. I'm looking forward to getting back in ... whenever that is."

"Whenever that is" is the question of the day that everyone would like to know.

McDonald won't play Saturday when the Blues entertain the Colorado Avalanche. However, there is a strong possibility that McDonald returns to the lineup Sunday night against the Sharks. If he is, he wasn't saying.

"I honestly don't know," McDonald said. "Obviously that's a decision to be made with the training staff, the doctors and obviously the coaching staff will have a say with that. I feel I'm real close. That's all I'm going to say.

"It's certainly not one person's call. Obviously they're listening to me and they want to make a decision that's going to be safe for me and my health. I'm in the same position. I don't want to put myself in a dangerous position. Everyone's going to kind of have a say, find out what's best for me and also what's best for the team. We'll see what it is."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who's called McDonald "the best player in practice" on a number of occasions, continues to wait on that knock on his office door.

"It's really up to Andy now," Hitchcock said. "When he's comfortable, I'm sure he's going to come knocking on our door and say, 'I'm ready to go,' but we haven't had that knock yet so he's a fifth-line player.

"With all the guys that were out today, we decided to put him with a line and just have him practice. I wouldn't read anything into it yet. I hope he's feeling good. We haven't really talked to him much. We'll see how he goes in the next few days."

McDonald was skating on the second line with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart on Friday. He participated in Saturday's optional workout as well.

"Adding Andy McDonald to your lineup's going to definitely boost your team," Stewart said. "He's a great player offensively. He's one of our big-time leaders. We've definitely been missing him and we can't wait for him to come back.

"You take Andy McDonald and Alex Steen and add them to our lineup and it's better than any trade or acquisition we can make. They're two great players and when they come back in our lineup, we'll be rolling on all cylinders and we'll be scary."

The St. Louis Blues will do some more player juggling when they face the Colorado Avalanche tonight. Defenseman Kris Russell will miss the game with the flu and the team has recalled defenseman Ian Cole to step in and play for Russell.

"We're going to get him a complete day off today and have him ready for tomorrow," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Russell. "Ian Cole is going to come in and play today and we'll see how our roster looks for tomorrow, but we're anticipating giving this full day off, Russ will be alright and be ready for tomorrow."

Defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) is not quite up to speed conditioning-wise yet and is unavailable. The Blues will also go into the weekend without center Jason Arnott (shoulder), winger Matt D'Agostini (concussion symptoms), forward Andy McDonald (concussion) and of course winger Alex Steen (concussion symptoms), who hasn't played since Dec. 27.

The last time the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche played was on Jan. 7, a 4-0 Blues beatdown in which they outshot the Avs 39-15 in a game that was arguably the Blues' most thorough game from start to finish.

"It's hard to judge it," Hitchcock said. "We played really well and they came off an emotional win in Chicago (the previous night). They had another emotional win last night (in overtime against Carolina in Denver). I think it's whichever team has the energy.

"We've got to guard against that first game back mentality, and they've got to guard against the euphoria of winning with one second or whatever was left in the hockey game. They've got to guard against that. It's two teams coming off of pretty big wins. One coming off the road and one coming in late, so this will be an interesting game to see who grabs momentum."
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 1:24 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Crosby skates before Pens' matinee in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH— The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t have a morning skate in advance of their afternoon game against the Winnipeg Jets, but Sidney Crosby did.
 
Crosby and forward Arron Asham (concussion) worked out at Consol Energy Center before the Penguins played the first of back-to-back weekend home games. They take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night.
 
This is becoming a familiar routine for Crosby, who hasn’t played since Dec. 5. He skates with conditioning coach Mike Kadar in advance of a Penguins practice or game as he tries to remain in shape while awaiting his return to playing status.
 
Crosby and Penguins general manager Ray Shero announced on Jan. 31, before the Penguins’ most recent home game before this weekend, that the sidelined star has a soft tissue injury in the top two vertebrae that could be contributing to his concussion-like symptoms.
 
Crosby is continuing to experience those symptoms but, as he receives treatment, both he and the Penguins are hopeful he can return later this season. There is no timetable for that return, and it depends on Crosby being symptom-free.
 
“I feel like I’m getting there,” Crosby said earlier this week. “I don’t know the timeframe. I wish I did.”
 
Crosby sat out the first six weeks of the regular season, and then had a pair of goals – both in his Nov. 21 comeback game against the Islanders – and 10 assists in eight games before the concussion-like symptoms returned following a Dec. 5 game against Boston. Crosby last went through a full practice two days later.
 
He skated with the Penguins in Montreal during a road trip that concluded Tuesday, but that was so he didn’t have to work out that day by himself. He has not yet been cleared for contact during practice.
 
The Penguins have played 87 games without Crosby the last two seasons – the same as Crosby’s number. They are 48-30-9 in those games, including a 25-17-4 record this season.
 
Pittsburgh did welcome back its other injured center, Jordan Staal, on Saturday. Staal played for the first time since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during a knee-to-knee hit with Mike Rupp of the Rangers on Jan. 6. The Penguins were 9-5-1 without Staal, who had 15 goals in 34 games before he left the lineup.
 
Asham, out since Jan. 15, appears to be getting close to returning as well.
 


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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 1:09 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lineups for Bruins, Predators

BOSTON – Two Vezina Trophy finalists from a season ago will square off today at TD Garden.
               
Tim Thomas gets the start for the Boston Bruins, while Pekka Rinne will do the same for the Nashville Predators. Both teams are coming off stretches that featured three losses in their last four games.
               
Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

Bruins

Milan Lucic - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - David Krejci - Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Predators

Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Yip - Craig Smith - Jordin Tootoo
Colin Wilson - Nick Spaling - Jerred Smithson

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Jack Hillen

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindbac
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Projected lineups for Avalanche, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Projected lineups for a Saturday night contest between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche from Scottrade Center:

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Evgeny Grachev - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Chris Porter - Vladimir Sobotka - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Alex Steen (concussion symptoms), Jason Arnott (shoulder) and Matt D'Agostini (concussion symptoms) are all out. Arnott was placed on injured reserve Friday, exactly one week after injuring his left shoulder against Los Angeles. Defenseman Kris Russell was sidelined with the flu but is expected to return Sunday night against San Jose. Cole was recalled Saturday morning from Peoria of the American Hockey League to fill Russell's spot on D.

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Peter Mueller
David Jones - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
TJ Galiardi - Jay McClement - Daniel Winnik
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Chuck Kobasew

Kyle Quincey - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Shane O'Brien - Tyson Barrie

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

The Avalanche did not skate Saturday morning and are projected to go with same lineup as Friday. Center Kevin Porter and defensemen Ryan Wilson and Matt Hunwick are expected to be healthy scratches. Matt Duchene (knee) is out indefinitely.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 12:12 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers seek elusive victory against rival Rangers

PHILADELPHIA -- It's been nearly a calendar year since the Philadelphia Flyers have recorded a victory against the New York Rangers -- Feb. 20, 2011, to be exact. And despite going six straight without a win (0-5-1) in that span, the Flyers remain confident they can snap that streak today when the teams meet for the fifth time this season.

"Even though they're a great team, I still believe we can beat them," Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr told reporters following practice Friday.

A big part of making that belief a reality is beating Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, which they've had trouble doing this season. Lundqvist has stopped 112 of 118 shots (.949 save percentage) in four games this season. And in 35 games against Philadelphia, he's 20-10-3 with a 2.60 goals-against average, .910 save percentage and four shutouts.

It doesn't hurt that the Rangers have the sixth-most blocked shots in the League.

"Against Lundqvist, it's all about traffic, and try to battle hard in front of the net," center Maxime Talbot said. "They don't give much. They play really tight defensively, so it's about putting the puck there and fight for rebounds, because he's probably the best goalie in the League this year."

"If he sees the puck, he's going to stop it," added center Claude Giroux.

The Flyers, however, are clinging to the fact that they were tied or ahead in the third period in the teams' last two meetings.

"We have to outwork them and outskate them," defenseman Andrej Meszaros said. "They're a good transition team and they can score off the rush, so we have to play (better) defense."

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