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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 3:58 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Irving gets second start, Bourque back for Flames

Here's how the Calgary Flames' lineup could look tonight against the Vancouver Canucks:

Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Rene Bourque - Roman Horak - Paul Byron
Tim Jackman - Brendan Morrison - Tom Kostopoulos

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Derek Smith - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Leland Irving is expected to make just his second career NHL start while Miikka Kiprusoff gets a rare night off after playing three games in the last five days. Irving wasn't talking to reporters, another sign of his preparation to play.

The Flames held a sparsely attended, coach-free morning skate in Vancouver after a 3-2 win in Detroit the night before, so roster adjustments are somewhat uncertain, including the status of Alex Tanguay, who was a surprise scratch against the Red Wings.

There's no question, though, that they'll find a spot for Rene Bourque, who returns from a two-game suspension for his hit on Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook during a game Sunday.

Bourque, who could return on the third line despite being tied for second on the team with 11 goals this season, is trying not to change anything about his game.

"A little early vacation, but I'm ready," Bourque said. "It's only been a few games, so I am not really worried about losing a step. … I've moved on from it. Obviously it wasn't the cleanest hit, and I still feel bad about it, but what can I do now? I've just got to make sure it doesn't happen again and worry about getting myself ready to play tonight."

Especially against a Canucks team that has won five straight against Calgary, including two straight by 5-1 scores, and is 10-0-2 in the last 12 against the Flames.

"We have to believe before the puck drops we have a chance to win and we've just got to compete," Bourque said. "Everybody has to play with an edge and with emotion."

That shouldn't be a problem for Irving, who was drafted by the Flames with the 26th pick in Vancouver in 2006, and has played the last three seasons for their AHL affiliate down the road in suburban Abbotsford. Even his call-up is because regular backup Henrik Karlsson sprained his knee in a game in Vancouver Dec. 4. No wonder some teammates thought it was a homecoming for their 23-year-old rookie despite being born in Alberta.

"I'm sure he's pretty excited to be playing in his home province, and I think everyone knows how big the game is for him," forward Blake Comeau said of Irving, who played well before losing his first NHL start 3-2 in a shootout in Florida a week earlier.

"He never gives up on pucks," Bourque said. "He made a lot of big saves against Florida off second and third chances. He's really well-positioned in net and he's a competitor, he never gives up and plays hard in practice, and we have confidence in him."



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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 3:56 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Status of Edler, Ballard uncertain for Canucks

Here's how the Vancouver Canucks' lineup could look for tonight's game against the Calgary Flames:

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Chris Higgins
Manny Malhotra - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Dale Weise - Maxim Lapierre - Andrew Ebbett

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Andrew Alberts - Alexander Sulzer

Roberto Luongo, 7-0-1 in his six starts since coming back from injury, is in goal for a fourth-straight game, with Cory Schneider backing up.

The Canucks will start the same forward lineup that scored four times -- one from each of the first three lines and another shorthanded -- in a 4-2 win over Detroit on Wednesday, with Ebbett back on the fourth line again after missing the previous six weeks with a broken foot, and temporary fill in Mark Mancari sent back down to the AHL.

The uncertainty comes on the back end, where Edler, who scored the shorthander early in the third period but missed the end of that win over Detroit because of back spasms, said he was ready to return after taking the morning skate -- only to have coach Alain Vigneault declare him a game-time decision. Keith Ballard also skated after missing the last two games with back spasms, and while he declared himself a game-time decision, Vigneault said he was ready to return, but wouldn't say if he will.

"We've got a couple of decisions on our back end," Vigneault said. "Pleasantly surprised how Alex Edler came in today, skated this morning and felt all right. Once we know about Alex then we'll be better suited to tell you who will be in lineup and who won't be."

If Edler can't play, Ballard will take his spot in the top-4 alongside Sami Salo. If Edler plays, the top-four stays intact and the question is who comes out of the bottom pairing to make room for Ballard, who has struggled there with Alberts on the right side and played his best with Aaron Rome, who is out since breaking a thumb Saturday in Toronto.






 



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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 3:42 PM

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

More than slush being done

PHILADELPHIA -- Workers spent the day installing a viewing stage around the rink, giving it a more elevated look. The entrance for the Zamboni was finished -- the doors were installed and the ramp for its path onto the ice was built. The platforms for the NBC and CBC broadcast crew were finished in short center field. And just now, the player benches were brought out and sent into place.

And since this is a Flyers-Rangers game, maybe one of the most important aspects of the rink was built -- the penalty boxes.

If all goes to plan, the next addition to the rink will be water, and when everyone returns from the holiday weekend, we might see some ice on the rink.

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




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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 3:38 PM

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

Eye on the Ice an important tool for Craig

PHILADELPHIA -- While the big story of the day is the slush that's being laid down in the gaps under the boards and between the ice panels, another item made its way onto the Winter Classic rink surface.

Two thin cables were laid on opposite ends of the ice, each with a small temperature gauge at the end of it. Called Eye on the Ice, the gauges relay vital, real-time information to NHL Senior Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig.

"(Eye on the Ice) is a monitoring system we have that will tell us the temperature on the panels themselves," Craig told NHL.com. "Once we build an inch of ice we'll put another cable in which will give us the temperature an inch off the panel, and then I'll walk around with an a hand-held infrared gun for temperature. It gives us all three parameters of what it is in the ice surface."

Eye on the Ice is important for Craig, who can monitor the rink surface 24 hours a day, either from on-site or a remote location. With that information, Craig or his crew can adjust the temperature on the panels and create the perfect situation for making ice.

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

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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 2:20 PM

By Emily Kaplan -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Players impressed by '24/7' -- and agree Bryz a star

NEW YORK -- Most of the talk at Madison Square Garden this afternoon is focused on what's at stake in tonight's game.

A regulation win by the Rangers and they would take an Atlantic Division lead into the two-day holiday break. The loser of the game will take a chip on its shoulder to the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

But it's hard not to ignore the elephant in the room -- or rather, the big, clunky cameras. After the morning skates, both the Flyers and Rangers were asked their opinions of the HBO crews following them around and the first two episodes of 24/7.

"I think a few guys have watched it here and there," Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk said. "But we've been on the road each time, one time in Western Canada, so it hasn't been an option to watch it."

Van Riemsdyk said he hasn't seen an episode, but plans on catching up later when he has time. He has received feedback, though.

"I heard Bryz is the star of the show," van Riesmdyk said, smiling as goalie Ilya Bryzgalov walked by his locker. "That's been the overwhelming critiques on the show that I've gotten."

Bryzgalov, who usually doesn't talk to reporters on game days, didn't comment. However, he did tell reporters he was stopped in New York yesterday by fans who recognized him from the show.

Rangers forward Erik Christensen hasn't watched yet, either. He doesn't have HBO at home and figures he'll catch up on the show later. But Christensen has heard rumblings in the locker room "every now and then about what has gone on."

"But mostly everyone's just talking about Bryzgalov," Christensen said. "And how funny he was."

Flyers forward Scott Hartnell, meanwhile, has seen snippets of the first two episodes -- and he's impressed with what he saw.

"It's incredible what they do and all the footage they take all day long and how they piece it together," Hartnell said. "It's really neat."

His teammate, Jaromir Jagr, agrees that the show is a unique inside perspective from inside the locker room. Jagr isn't particularly fond of the cameras following him all the time -- "When I was 20, I probably did. But I'm 40 and I like my privacy," he said -- however, he understands that it's part of the business. Jagr said he hasn't watched the show yet, but likes the concept.

"Let the fans know what type of players [we] are, what [we're] doing before the game, what [we're] doing during the off days," Jagr said. "It's good for hockey."
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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 2:04 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins, Jets

WINNIPEG -- Here are the projected lines and pairings for Pittsburgh and Winnipeg.

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham
Jason Williams - Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams
 
Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Zbynek Michalek - Paul Martin
Simon Despres - Ben Lovejoy
 
Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

JETS
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen
Eric Fehr - Tim Stapleton - Chris Thorburn

Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Ron Hainsey - Johnny Oduya

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 1:24 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps start Neuvirth, get Erskine back in lineup

NEWARK, N.J. -- Michal Neuvirth will be making his fourth straight start in the Capitals net and looking his first two-game winning streak of the season. Tomas Vokoun hasn't played since Dec. 13 against Philadelphia, when he was pulled after allowing four goals on 21 shots through two periods.

Defenseman John Erskine will also return to the Capitals lineup after sitting out Tuesday's 4-1 win over Nashville.

Here is how the entire lineup should look at the start of Friday night's game against the Devils:

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Mathieu Perreault - Mike Knuble

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Dennis Wideman
John Erskine - Dmitry Orlov

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 1:10 PM

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

Rangers continuing to excel in back-to-back sets

NEW YORK -- Brian Boyle was asked Friday morning if the Rangers tried to conserve energy Thursday night against the Islanders with the Philadelphia Flyers on the schedule 24 hours later.

Any chance he wanted to keep a little something extra in the tank for the Eastern Conference showdown at Madison Square Garden?

"There may be a couple guys who are good enough to do that," Boyle said, "but I'm certainly not one of them."

Whatever the Rangers are doing to find success in back-to-backs, it's working with lethal efficiency.

The Rangers are 4-0-1 in the first game of back-to-back sets this season, and are 3-0-1 in the second game. Since 2009-10, they are 24-8-3 in the second game of back-to-back sets, with a 12-3-1 mark at MSG and 12-5-2 on the road over the span.

Rangers coach John Tortorella has talked about the pride the team takes in winning the second half of back-to-backs because of the punishing training camp the team goes through in September. To hear Boyle talk about this game against the Flyers, Tortorella's mentality sounds as though it's seeping into the brains of his players.

"Each game presents a new opportunity and you don't want to throw any points away," Boyle said. "Two points now are just as important as two points in March. We know it's going to be physical. We know it's just a matter of taking care of what we need to take care of, getting the job done. When it's time to go home, you go home. When it's time to go back to the rink, you go to work again."

If the Rangers win in regulation tonight, they'll take over first place in the Atlantic Division and potentially the Eastern Conference. Boyle said it would be a nice feat heading into the two-day Christmas break, but the team isn't checking the standings daily in the hopes of being on top in December.

"It's a nice thing," Boyle said. "You worked hard and you've done pretty well. But we don't pay too much attention to it. We worry about winning games. To get on top, that's an accomplishment a little bit. It's what we can control now. Being on top, that's big. That's not our ultimate goal. There's still work to be done."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 12:48 PM

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

Bruised hand sidelines Briere vs. Rangers

NEW YORK -- Just when you think the Philadelphia Flyers can't suffer another injury to one of their key players, Danny Briere joins the list of the walking wounded.

Briere, who has 10 goals and 25 points this season, will not be in the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers due to a bruised hand he suffered during Wednesday's game against the Dallas Stars. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren announced Friday that the speedy forward is day-to-day.

Besides Briere, the Flyers are without captain Chris Pronger for the rest of the season due to a concussion. Forwards Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn are out with concussions. Defenseman Andreas Lilja just returned from an ankle injury in the Flyers' previous game against the Stars, as did center Claude Giroux, who had missed four games with a concussion before returning with a four-point night.

For Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, it's just business as usual.

"The injuries, they're not something that we can control. They happen," Laviolette said. "We've said this before. They continue to happen. But I really like the team we're putting on the ice tonight. I think we go out there and express ourselves and the way we play the game and make up for the people that aren't there by getting strong performances out of others. While we wish we had a full lineup, everybody wishes that."

Briere has been centering the Flyers' second line with James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers didn't do line rushes during their morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, but it's likely that rookie Matt Read will move up from the third line to take Briere's place.

The 25-year-old Read has played well enough to be in the Calder Trophy discussion. He has 11 goals and 9 assists in 30 games with 17:23 of ice time per game. That last number will likely be on the rise tonight, which is something his teammates don't mind at all.

"He's played center before," Scott Hartnell said of Read. "He's good defensively, good down low, battles hard. I think he'll jump in there and do well."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 12:06 PM

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

Bruins get Lucic back, but Peverley to sit

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins will get one forward back for tonight's game against Florida, while another will sit the game out at the TD Garden.

Milan Lucic will be back from his one-game suspension, which he served Monday against Montreal. Rich Peverley, who's nursing an undisclosed injury, will miss the game. Coach Claude Julien said the Bruins are hoping having a full week off (Peverley hasn’t skated since Monday's game) will allow Peverley to be ready for the team's next game Wednesday in Phoenix.

Lucic, who was suspended for his hit from behind on Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo, should provide the Bruins with a boost of offensive support and physicality. Despite the suspension, he plans to play the game the way he usually does.

"I can't change my game," he said. "I play with a lot of emotion and I do everything I can to keep it safe and follow the guidelines of the new hitting protocol and all that type of stuff. So obviously, a big part of my game is being physical and creating emotion. And I can't lose that, that's for sure."

The Panthers didn't have a skate today after getting in late last night in the aftermath of their overtime loss in Ottawa. Kevin Dineen will update on his team's injury status, including that of star forward Stephen Weiss, prior to game time. Florida is expected to call up Mark Cullen to replace Weiss in the lineup

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

BRUINS
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Zach Hamill
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

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

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Tomas Kopecky - Kris Versteeg
Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley
Tim Kennedy - Bill Thomas - Evgenii Dadonov
Krystofer Barch - Mark Cullen - Michal Repik

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Keaton Ellerby - Ed Jovanovski

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen

 

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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres