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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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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:14 PM

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

Suspended Bourque relieved Seabrook is OK

Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque will have more time than he anticipated to think about his hit on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Bourque was handed down a two-game suspension by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's disciplinarian, for his hit from behind on Seabrook at 15:25 of the first period of Calgary's 4-2 loss in Chicago on Sunday.

He received a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play.

"I thought I'd get a fine or a game, but two a little harsh, maybe," Bourque said a day after the ruling.

The Flames forward is more relieved that Seabrook, a former teammate, escaped without serious injury.

"The important thing for me is that Seebs is all right and he knows I didn't mean to hurt him," said Bourque, who will forfeit $36,036.04 to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. "I played with the guy for four years, so I felt pretty bad. I went and talked to him during the third period to make sure he was alright and say sorry and he accepted my apology."

Both Bourque and Flames general manager Jay Feaster had hoped the league would show leniency given the circumstances surrounding the hit.

"Honestly, I thought the ref was a big part of it, especially right before I hit him," Bourque said. "He does get tangled up and he does turn towards the boards. I thought that would have a bigger role in the decision and unfortunately it didn't."

"While we respectfully disagree with the League's interpretation of the hit, we nonetheless recognize that Brendan Shanahan has issued his ruling and both the Flames and Rene Bourque will abide by his decision," Feaster said in a statement.

The suspension, coupled with an injury to center Matt Stajan, has forced coach Brent Sutter to juggle his lines.

"It is what it is," Sutter said. "We live by the League's ruling. We can't do anything about it and we'll accept it."

Ultimately, Bourque will have to stomach Shanahan’s suspension.

"It's tough for them to make decisions," he said. "Shanny made it clear he wasn't happy with it and he thought it was a dangerous hit. I tried not to argue with him, just explain my process and my thoughts about it, and obviously we didn't come to an agreement there."

Calgary will be without Bourque for Tuesday's contest against the Minnesota Wild and Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings. He is eligible to return Friday when Calgary travels to Vancouver to take on the Canucks in the first of a seven-game road trip for the Flames.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 2:36 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Doan hoping for family reunion against Ellerby, Cats

SUNRISE, Fla. — Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan is hoping for a little family reunion Tuesday night, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get his wish.

Doan’s cousin is Florida Panthers defenseman Keaton Ellerby, but Ellerby has been a healthy scratch for nine of the last 11 games. The only two times Ellerby played during that span came when 2010 first-round pick Erik Gudbranson was sidelined with a charley horse.

Doan’s mother, Bernice, is the sister of Ellerby’s father, Calvin. Doan said the two families are close — Calvin Ellerby was the pastor who married Shane Doan and his wife Andrea.

The 10th pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Ellerby is a smooth skater with good potential but he has found himself as the seventh defenseman on the Panthers this year.

The Coyotes’ flight from Phoenix landed too late Monday night for Doan and Ellerby to get together, although they did speak by phone.

“I’m a huge fan of his,” Doan said. “I think he’s a great player and a really good kid. I wish him all the best. He’s an unbelievable skater and he’ll play in the league for a long time when he really gets his opportunity.

“Hopefully, I get the chance to play against him tonight and get the chance to run into him a couple of times.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 2:25 PM

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

Islanders look to keep up recent road success

WINNIPEG -- The New York Islanders continue their three-game road swing tonight in Winnipeg.

The Islanders (10-14-6) have struggled away from home and have the fewest road points in the Eastern Conference. But a 2-1 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild ended a four-game winless streak, and all four of the Islanders' road wins this season have come over their previous six games away from home. The Islanders have scored first in each of those past six road games.

The Islanders welcomed back injured defenseman Andy MacDonald against Minnesota, but still have a long list of injured players. Veteran forwards Jay Pandolfo (foot) and Brian Rolston (concussion) are out, as are defensemen Mark Eaton (knee) and Steve Staios (concussion) and goaltender Rick DiPietro (groin).

"We know the situation we're in," coach Jack Capuano said. "It's going to take 60 minutes, shift-by-shift."

Travis Hamonic, a native of nearby St. Malo, Man. expects to have nearly 100 family members and friends in attendance to see his Winnipeg debut.

Al Montoya is expected to start for the Islanders after holding the Wild to one goal in Saturday’s win.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Islanders.

ISLANDERS

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
David Ullstrom - Josh Bailey - Tim Wallace
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Nino Niederreiter
 
Mark Streit - Milan Jurcina
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Dylan Reese - Mike Mottau

Al Montoya
Evgeni Nabokov
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 2:23 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Good pals Tippett, Dineen to meet as NHL coaches

SUNRISE, Fla. — When Dave Tippett was asked to provide a good Kevin Dineen story Tuesday, he just laughed. And then he added, “All the dirt on Kev you couldn’t print.”

Tippett and Dineen shared a lot of good memories as teammates on the Canadian Olympic team and then with the Hartford Whalers.

Tuesday night they’ll be facing each other as NHL head coaches for the first time when Tippett’s Phoenix Coyotes face Dineen’s Florida Panthers.

“To watch how his career has evolved — he’s moved into the upper echelon of coaching in games played and in wins — is not surprising at all because he was always one step ahead of the game,” Dineen said. “A very well tought-of player and a very well-rounded player – he was always maybe looked at as a defensive guy, but he scored some huge goals for us back in the day in the Whaler green.”

Tippett, in his third season with the Coyotes, ranks second in coaching victories since the start of the 2002-03 season behind only Detroit’s Mike Babcock.

Dineen, meanwhile, is off to a great start in his first season behind the bench with the Panthers.

“He’s done a very good job,” said Tippett, who was in Dineen’s wedding. “I don’t say that just because he’s a good friend of mine. You see how hard their team competes, you see that they have some structure – they’re finding ways to win close games. Those are all the earmarks of a guy that’s doing a good job as coach. They’ve got a lot of new faces, they’ve got a lot of people that he had to bond very quickly and it looks like things are going well for him.”

Tippett said Dineen should merit Hall of Fame consideration for his work as a player. And he said Dineen’s teams play just like their coach.

“You knew, even his teams in the minors, they were going to compete hard, they were going to be teams that were well prepared,” Tippett said. “Kevin was a guy that never left anything in the dressing room. When he went on the ice, it was to play hard and you can see his team, that’s the way they compete.”

For Dineen, facing a good friend is nothing new. He went through the same thing on Nov. 3 when the Panthers played host to the Chicago Blackhawks and Coach Joel Quenneville, who happened to be his best man.

Dineen can only hope for a better result this time — the Panthers lost to Chicago, 3-2, in a shootout.

For Tippett, he’s hoping his team can rebound from a tough 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Saturday when Brad Richards scored with one-tenth of a second left in regulation.

“That story is getting a little old there; it seems like every coach in this League was in my wedding,” Dineen said. “I’ve got lots of brothers that are out there and I’ve got a lot of great friends that have been extremely fortunate to make a living in this game.

“It’s nice when they’re in the other conference. We play them once this year. I was certainly disappointed to see how (Tippett’s) last game ended. I think that makes for a much tougher game for us when you have a team that’s going to be as grumpy as they are coming in to play tonight. We’ll have our hands full with that team.”
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Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players