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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 11:26 AM

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

Rink not only place where work is being done

PHILADELPHIA -- While NHL Senior Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig oversees the rink build, Senior Vice President of Events Don Renzulli is keeping an eye on all the other work going on in the transformation of Citizens Bank Park from baseball stadium to outdoor hockey wonderland.

"As long as the weather stays with us, we'll be in pretty good shape," Renzulli told NHL.com earlier this morning. "A lot has been done the last two days. We're on schedule as far as the things that are going on the field."

Among them are the elevated broadcast platforms where NBC and CBC will broadcast the game, as well as an entertainment stage in left field. The host chalets for NBC and CBC have been built in near the right field wall, with the roofs and windows finally installed.

Renzulli said approval from the city for the 1,500 temporary seats installed in center field should come tomorrow, and other temporary seating installed around the ballpark has been finished. Signage and other décor is starting to be hung in Ashburn Alley, the ballpark's signature outfield concourse.

"Things are going relatively smooth," said Renzulli. "Once the rink is up, the transformation is really the core. They're starting to put some banners up in the alley right now. Once that goes up, it starts to transform the whole place."

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


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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 10:09 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Russia earns 6-3 exhibition win over Team USA

Nail Yakupov, who is projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick at the 2012 Draft, had a goal and one assist and Andrei Vasilevski made 34 saves as the Russian National Junior Team scored a 6-3 exhibition victory over Team USA on Tuesday in Red Deer, Alta., in preparation for the 2012 World Junior Championship later this month.

          Nail Yakupov, Team Russia
Russia, the defending WJC gold medalist, also received a pair of goals by Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning) and one apiece from Ignat Zemchenko and Viktor Antipin. Ivan Telegin (Winnipeg Jets) dished out three assists in the victory. Vasilevski, who plays for Tolpar Ufa in the MHL and is eligible for the 2012 Draft, made 17 of 18 saves in the second period when the U.S. held the territorial advantage. Yakupov, who plays for the Sarnia Sting, is NHL Central Scouting's top-rated player from the Ontario Hockey League.

Coach Valeri Bragin kept the top 2012 draft-eligible player from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec Remparts), and Yevgeni Kuznetsov (Washington Capitals) out of the lineup as healthy scratches for the Russians, who went 2 for 4 on the power play. Team USA finished 0 for 6 with the man advantage.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 10:02 AM

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

Putting together the puzzle

The Winter Classic ice crew puts together the first set of rink boards on Wednesday morning. (Photo: NHL.com)
PHILADELPHIA -- When NHL Senior Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig talked yesterday about the arrival and installation of the rink boards, he called it putting together a puzzle.

Well, that puzzle was taken out of its box this morning, and the pieces are distributed all around the rink being built here in the middle of Citizens Bank Park for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

While the last of the ice trays were being laid down in one end zone, the first of the boards were being put together -- one of the corner sections.

We'll find out from Craig a little later just how much of the boards will be installed today.

It also looks like the connectors for the coolant that will keep the rink bed cold are being laid in today, along with some insulation. That means the hoses carrying the glycol coolant can't be far behind. Craig said there will need to be some testing done to make sure everything is running right, but it looks like more progress is being made.

It also looks like windows have been installed in host chalets built for NBC and CBC studio teams. I'm sure they'll like that when Jan. 2 rolls around. And there's even work being done in the press box here at the ballpark, in order to accommodate the large influx of media that will arrive to cover the game.

We'll have more in a while, after our daily briefing with Craig.

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

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 1:58 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Time is now to act on Giroux

Reports state that Claude Giroux could return to the Philadelphia Flyers' lineup on Wednesday. For his fantasy owners, this should be enough of a cue to take action.

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 39
SOG: 81 | +/-: 7
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Giroux has made "positive strides," which is a reason in itself for fantasy owners to remove him from Injured Reserve immediately and make room on their rosters. When dealing with Giroux (concussion) who is tied for the League lead in points, despite missing his team's last four games, the reward outweighs the risk.

Even if Giroux does not end up playing Wednesday against the Dallas Stars, it's simply a more logical move to have him in your lineup. Wednesday is only a six-game night, so your team doesn't have to worry about losing production from elsewhere as you would by benching a healthy player on a 13-game night. If you elect to leave one of the game's most potent point-producers in the IR slot of your lineup, you could potentially miss out on an impactful performance.  A recent example was Taylor Hall's two-goal night upon his return from injury on Dec. 15 against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Plus, taking a casual approach and waiting another day or two could cost your team precious goals or assists during a shortened fantasy week. Since there are no NHL games scheduled for Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, any points that Giroux provides could go a long way in helping you win your matchup this week.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 5:01 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Report: Giroux to return for Flyers on Wednesday?

Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux could return to the lineup Wednesday against the Dallas Stars.

NHL.COM FANTASY SPIN

Time is now to act on Giroux

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Staff Writer
Reports state that Claude Giroux could return to the Philadelphia Flyers' lineup on Wednesday.  For his fantasy owners, this should be enough of a cue to take action.  READ FULL STORY ›

Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com wrote Tuesday that Giroux’s return from a concussion is “not 100 percent certain,” there were plenty of signs to suggest he could be back for Philadelphia after missing the past four games.

Giroux is tied for the League lead with 39 points, but hasn’t played since teammate Wayne Simmonds accidently kneed him in the back of the head during a game Dec. 10 against Tampa Bay.

“I don’t know [about playing Wednesday],” Giroux told Panaccio. “If you see me in warm-ups, that means I’m going to play.”

Added coach Peter Laviolette: “These decisions are way further than me with regard to whether a player is healthy and ready. That’s why we have a staff in place and conversations through the trainer, general manager, the doctors and everyone else.”

General manager Paul Holmgren also said Giroux has made “positive strides” and is now day-to-day in a statement about the injury.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 4:11 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Matchup: Blackhawks at Penguins

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 4:02 PM

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

Rain, rain, go away

PHILADELPHIA -- A steady drizzle fell on Dan Craig and his crew for most of today, but that didn't stop them from getting a good amount of the ice pans installed on the main rink the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will skate on when the puck is dropped for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

It was far from a downpour, but the rain was irritating enough that it slowed things down more than NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig would have liked.

"It's slowed the guys up a bit, (but) we're doing all right," he told NHL.com. "Even if you're doing a home project, the last thing you want is to be outside in the rain. What you prefer is to stay dry. That's the main thing, keeping the guys healthy and safe out there."

The forecast for tomorrow from weather.com calls for a 70-percent chance of rain, but with a temperature of 58 degrees. As we all know, however, the weather remains the most unpredictable part of the Winter Classic experience.

"I saw one (report) that said a little rain-slash-snow mixture," Craig said, "which would not be good for us."

However, over the long term between now and the puck drop for the Winter Classic, Craig remains confident weather won't cause too much of a problem.

"I don't see anything between now and the Classic that's any major concern to what we have going on," he said.

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

 

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:58 PM

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

Boards coming next

PHILADELPHIA -- While the rink being built here at Citizens Bank Park for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic right now looks like a giant rectangle laid out in the middle of the infield, tomorrow will see a sight familiar to all hockey fans -- the boards are going in.

NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig told NHL.com that first thing tomorrow morning, the rink boards will be off-loaded, carried into position and anchored to the rink floor. That's when this will go from looking like a construction site to an actual hockey rink.

And then will come the coolant, moving us one step closer to making ice.

"Once the board system is on and everything is secure, we fill the system up and then we'll pressure-test it," Craig said. "We'll circulate (the coolant), make sure everything is full, get all the air out of the system. At that point we'll see where we are, what Mother Nature does for us, if we're going to bring hoses up."

Craig anticipates the boards going on first thing tomorrow morning. You can watch them get laid in on NHL.com's live webcam, plus we'll have all the details right here at this blog, so follow along.

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


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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:24 PM

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

Mario Lemieux skates again -- but only for fun

PITTSBURGH -- Yes, that really was Mario Lemieux showing off his fast hands and deft shooting touch on the Consol Energy Center ice on Tuesday.
 
No, it had nothing to do with his Pittsburgh Penguins' extended run of injuries. No. 66 isn't planning yet another comeback.
 
Lemieux was among a half-dozen former NHL players who took part in an informal afternoon game with Penguins staff members, including coach Dan Bylsma and assistant coaches Tony Granato and Todd Reirden. The contests are part of the game-day routine whenever the Penguins are in Pittsburgh.
 
Having Lemieux and players such as Mark Recchi, Bryan Trottier, Phil Bourque, Jay Caufield and Marc Bergevin participate was an added attraction. Lemieux, Recchi and Trottier have a combined 1,791 NHL goals -- each scored more than 500 -- and 4,681 points.

Bourque, one of the team's radio announcers, played with Lemieux on the Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992. Regardless, he still gets a thrill from playing alongside the 46-year-old Lemieux, even in an informal setting.
 
"Every once in a while he does something that makes you remember it wasn't long ago that he was doing it for the Penguins," Bourque told the team's website. "Everybody takes it up a notch and pays attention because if you blink, you might miss something special that he does out there. It's just good to see him out there."
 
Lemieux, the Penguins' co-owner, retired for the second and final time at age 40 in 2006 -- seven years after acquiring the team.
 
Earlier this week, the alumni players took part in a "Skate With the Greats" event at the Penguins' temporary outdoor rink, Penguins Pond, on Pittsburgh's South Side.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:20 PM

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

Neuvirth in net for offensively-struggling Capitals

WASHINGTON -- Mike Knuble will skate in his 1,000th career game Tuesday night when the Washington Capitals play host to the Nashville Predators at Verizon Center.

The Capitals will honor Knuble prior to the opening faceoff and all Caps players will wear jerseys with the No.22 in warmups. The jerseys will later be auctioned off for charity.

“I didn’t really know that until I was on Twitter last night,” Knuble said of his teammates plan to sport his jersey number. “I saw it on Twitter … I know my wife has been up to things behind the scenes a little bit so you just roll with what happens. I think that’s very nice. It’s a great chance to play this game in Washington as a Capital. I’m very happy with that and it will be flattering when you see the guys on the ice.”

Knuble has scored at least 20 goals in eight straight seasons – a streak that could come to an end in April. Through 31 games this season, Knuble has three goals and nine points while skating primarily on Washington’s fourth line.

While Knuble’s offensive numbers may be down, he expects to have an extra jump in his step tonight with plenty of friends and family taking in game No. 1,000.

“It’s a fun day, just try to enjoy the day,” Knuble said. “There’s still a game to play and I guess there will be some talk and fun before the game, but once the puck drops the game is on and you move on. Tomorrow I anticipate waking up and everything [will be] back to normal but today is a fun day and it’s a day you should enjoy as a player.”

The Predators enter play Tuesday having won seven of 10 games and five straight overall. Their last 10 games have also all been decided by one goal.

The Capitals are 4-5-0 since Dale Hunter took over as coach Nov. 28, but continue to struggle offensively. Washington has scored just once in each of its last three games.

Michal Neuvirth is expected to make his third straight start for the Caps, while backup Anders Lindback gets the nod for Nashville.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinBrooks LaichTroy Brouwer
Marcus JohanssonNicklas BackstromAlexander Semin
Jason ChimeraBrooks LaichJoel Ward
Matt HendricksMathieu PerreaultMike Knuble

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson
John ErskineDennis Wideman
Dmitry OrlovRoman Hamrlik

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

PREDATORS

Martin EratDavid LegwandCraig Smith
Sergei KostitsynMike FisherPatric Hornqvist
Colin WilsonNick SpalingJordin Tootoo
Matt HalischukBlake GeoffrionJerred Smithson

Ryan SuterShea Weber
Francis Bouillon – Jonathan Blum
Jack HillenRoman Josi

Anders Lindback
Pekka Rinne
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Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential