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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:07 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Midseason awards to five deserving figures

We've reached the halfway point of the 2011-12 NHL season, so it's time to dish out some midseason hardware to five deserving figures.

Erik Karlsson
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 41
SOG: 152 | +/-: 7
Norris Trophy
Erik Karlsson, Senators
-- The expectations were low in Ottawa, but Karlsson's play has them in the top eight in the Eastern Conference. He plays a high-risk, high-reward style that's been reaping rewards all season. He has 8 more points than any defenseman and is plus-7 on a team that's a minus-4 in goal differential. His play can take your breath away. He's a patient skater with great hockey sense. His nerves of steel have served him well.

Hart Trophy
Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks
-- On a loaded offensive team, there are guys with more talent -- Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa -- but the most consistent player is Toews. He can play in any situation. You don't have to worry about him bringing his best effort or taking a night off. He's the league leader in faceoffs (61.5). You need a penalty killed? Fine. You need a goal? Fine. You need someone to defend or hit? Fine. He does it every night and the matchup doesn't matter.

Vezina Trophy
Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
-- This one isn't easy to pick. There are a lot of quality candidates -- Tim Thomas, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott. This is the best start to Lundqvist's career, but I like his overall game. He's more aggressive. His catching glove is a lot better, he's catching more pucks than ever before. I like the maturity I've seen from him. He's referring to his teammates a lot more in interviews. He's talking about other guys and what they're doing in front of him. It's a sign of maturity. The downside of having to do it on your own is no matter how sick Henrik is, just look at Dominik Hasek, the greatest goalie of all-time, and he couldn't win by himself. When Lundqvist took the podium after the Winter Classic, he talked about the plays his teammates made. This is a whole new level this year.

Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 47
SOG: 145 | +/-: 6
Rocket Richard Trophy
Steven Stamkos, Lightning
-- This season, he's shown it doesn't matter who's on his line. He can score in many different ways. You hear people talk about Steven Stamkos, and people always want to talk about his one-timers. This season, I bet only a handful came off that one-timer. That's a key for me. It doesn't matter if he's playing with Martin St. Louis or Vincent Lecavalier or neither of them. He's become a guy who scores goals from anywhere. He has speed and the motivation to keep himself where he is.

Jack Adams
John Tortorella, Rangers
-- The Rangers have reflected his personality. The team is playing a more honest game, and it's not about superstars as much anymore. It's not about one guy -- it's about the collective. More importantly it's also about the style of play -- they play harder. Marian Gaborik is playing harder. He's scoring in different ways and not poaching for breakaways. He's driving the net, and it's one of the indicators of a more honest game, a game with more effort. Block a slot of shot. They have an identity. They're a four-line team with a lot of guys playing hard every night. It gives them a chance to win.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Matt Cubeta -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: It's time to pick up Ryan Ellis

Ryan Ellis was drafted in four percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues coming into the 2011-12 season at an average draft position of 162nd overall -- among the players taken right around him were Daniel Alfredsson, Marc Staal, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Carle. If you were one of the few people that selected him, your friends probably questioned the pick; they probably even questioned who Ryan Ellis was.

While you probably thought your pick of Ellis was a sneaky sleeper pick, you were surely devastated when the Predators decided to have the young defenseman start the season in the AHL. In fact, it seems you were all so devastated that nearly everyone ended up sending Ellis back to the waiver pool in their fantasy leagues (and rightfully so -- it's hard to sacrifice a roster spot for a player that's not even playing in the NHL).

The time has come for you to go back into the waiver wire pool and get Ellis on your team immediately. He's available in 94 percent of leagues, but that number is going to rise extremely fast based on his recent play.

Ryan Ellis
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 4
SOG: 10 | +/-: 2
Ellis made his Nashville debut on Dec. 26 against the Red Wings -- he was held pointless with a minus-one rating, two penalty minutes and three shots on goal while receiving 18:13 of ice time. Ellis struggled out of the gate with no points in his first four NHL games, but in his last two, he started to show his true talent.

On Jan. 7, Ellis recorded his first NHL points with a goal and an assist (both on the power play) and then followed that performance up with a power play goal, an even-strength assist, a plus-two rating and two shots on goal against the Avalanche on Tuesday.

Ellis is currently seeing more then three minutes of power play ice time per game, where he is known to be most lethal, and it wouldn't shock us if he ended up scoring over 10 goals from this point on. Prior to his call-up, Ellis had posted four goals and 17 points in 26 games for Nashville's AHL affiliate, but his OHL season from last year shows what you need to know about his offensive potential: 24 goals, 101 points, 61 PIMs, plus-24 in 58 contests.

The 11th pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, Ellis could end up being one of the top point-producing defenseman in the NHL for years to come, and now is your chance to pounce on him in the free-agent pool. He's certainly worth stashing on your bench at the very least, but you'd be wise to find a spot for him in your starting lineup, as he seems to be proving his call-up will be a permanent situation for the Predators. There is an outside chance Nashville decides to send him down, but based on his recent play, we tend to think he's here's to stay.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 11:58 AM

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

Senators' Karlsson absent from practice

NEW YORK -- Erik Karlsson, the NHL's leading scorer among defensemen, was not on the ice Wednesday for Ottawa Senators practice at Chelsea Piers.

Karlsson tweaked an upper-body injury before Tuesday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and did not play after taking part in the pre-game warmups.

The Senators' next game is Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Karlsson led all vote getters for this year's Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, which will take place in Ottawa.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 11:16 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Kevin Weekes gives his midseason Vezina contenders

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 10:27 AM

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

Backstrom, Green still missing for Caps

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals put center Nicklas Backstrom on injured reserve Wednesday morning and offered no timetable for his return other than to say he can be activated at any point.

Backstrom, who watched practice from the bench while wearing a red hoodie, has missed the last two games since taking a flagrant elbow to the head from Calgary forward Rene Bourque in last Tuesday's game against Calgary. Bourque was suspended for five games for the infraction.

"We're being cautious with him still," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He's not feeling 100 percent, so we're being careful."

The Capitals will also again be without defenseman Mike Green when they face Pittsburgh on Wednesday at Verizon Center. Green re-injured his groin this past Saturday at San Jose and missed the game at Los Angeles on Monday.

Green previously missed 23 straight games after initially injuring his groin Nov. 11 at New Jersey. The game against San Jose was his first one back, but he played only nine shifts totaling 7:11 before having to leave. He was seen walking with a noticeable limp when he arrived at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Wednesday morning.

"He's getting strength. He needs more strength," Hunter said. "Once he gets enough strength he'll be good. It's one of those things where it won't be long term, but it just takes time to build that up a little bit more."

Washington used Backstrom's roster spot to call up defenseman Tomas Kundratek from Hershey of the AHL. Kundratek will make his season debut Wednesday against Pittsburgh. He will be paired with Roman Hamrlik.

John Erskine and Jeff Schultz will be the Capitals' healthy scratches on defense.

"He's been playing well down there so we thought we'd give him the chance up here to see what he can do and get a look at him," Hunter said. "I've seen him play once. He's a good skater and he moves the puck. So, we're anxious to take a look at him at this level. We like his mobility, that he can skate, and when you're playing well down there you get to come up here and play."

Tomas Vokoun will make his seventh straight start. He gave up four goals on 27 shots and was pulled after two periods in Monday's 5-2 loss at Los Angeles, but Hunter said the Capitals played poorly in front of Vokoun and didn't give him a chance.

"He's a veteran," Hunter said. "He'll be ready to go."

Here are Washington's projected forward lines and defense pairings based off of the morning skate:

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

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Tomas Kundratek

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Alex Galchenyuk -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Alex Galchenyuk draft blog

Galchenyuk hits major milestone in recovery

Alex Galchenyuk is a forward for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot, 198-pound forward was born in Milwaukee but is of Russian decent -- his father, Alexander, spent five of his 22 professional seasons playing in the U.S. Alex was the first pick of the 2010 OHL draft, and last season had 31 goals and 52 assists in 68 games. He had 2 goals and an assist in five games for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and returned to take part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Despite suffering a major knee injury that could end his season before it really starts, Galchenyuk has offered to maintain a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hey everybody. Hope all of you had a good time over the holidays.

I have some exciting news this month -- I went out on the ice! It was Dec. 19th, and it only was for about 10 minutes, but it still felt great. It made me feel like I am getting closer and closer to recovery.

The second time was Dec. 31, and of course the second time around I felt more comfortable on the ice. I was still taking it very easy, but I went out there and took a few good shots. I guess all my upper-body workouts are paying off. So that was a very exciting way for me to start the New Year.

Therapy in London is going well. I can do mostly everything now, and we decided to reduce it to two times a week. I'm visiting Dr. Vargo's office daily for additional physiotherapy and massages. I've started swimming and I'm doing squats and lunges. My legs are getting bigger and stronger and I still focus on my upper body and core, too. Also, daily cardio is in my routine now, so I can get in shape faster. If in the beginning it was mostly therapy and a little workout, now I've started working out almost at full strength. My doctor says that hopefully closer to the end of this month I will officially be allowed to skate. I'm pretty pumped about that.

Christmas and New Year's was fun with my family, but I didn't really take any time off during the holidays this year. I don't want to lose any time. Our family also celebrated Russian Christmas which is Jan. 6-7.

I watched most of the World Junior Championship. It was a very intense competition and a lot of exciting games. Although I enjoyed watching, I admit I wasn't that crazy over it because it's hard to just watch and not be able to participate. I'm very happy for my buddies from Team Russia, "Jambo" (Nail Yakupov) and "Dino" (Artem Sergeev) for winning the silver medal. Also for Filip Forsberg and Sebastian Collberg from Team Sweden. I had a chance to play with both of them on one line when we played for Europe Selects and both are great players. I'm especially happy for Ludvig Rensfeldt, my teammate from Sarnia, for winning the gold. It was a great level of hockey.

I also loved watching all the episodes of the HBO "24/7" series with the Rangers and Flyers, and as always it was one of the best shows of the year. It's always interesting to get that inside scoop on all of the players.

Hopefully when I check in this time next month I’ll finally be skating with my team.  Talk to you guys soon!

And thanks to all the people supporting me on Twitter at @AGally94 -- it means a lot.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 10:14 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

VAN @ TBL - 19:00 of the Third Period

At 19:00 of the third period in the Canucks/Lightning game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Martin St Louis' pass deflected off Ryan Malone's right skate and into the net in a legal fashion. According to rule 49.2 "A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal."  Good Goal Tampa Bay.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 9:01 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

STL @ MTL - 12:43 of the Second Period

At 12:43 of the second period in the Blues/Canadiens game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Erik Cole's shot did not cross the goal line.  No Goal Montreal.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 8:16 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ PIT - 5:43 of the Second Period

At 5:43 of the second period in the Senators/Penguins game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Colin Greening's shot went off Milan Michalek's right skate and into the net. According to rule 49.2 "A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal."  Good Goal Ottawa.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 7:33 PM

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

Surging Sens blueliner Karlsson an unexpected scratch

PITTSBURGH — Erik Karlsson, the leading scorer among NHL defensemen, was unexpectedly scratched for the Ottawa Senators' game against the Penguins on Tuesday night because of an upper-body injury.
 
Karlsson went through the morning skate without incident, and also took part in the pregame warm-ups, only to be scratched just before game time. He was replaced by Matt Carkner, who was scheduled to be scratched.
 
The 21-year-old Karlsson has 6 goals and 35 assists for 41 points in 43 games and is on pace to become only the fifth defenseman to produced 70 points in a season since the 2004-05 lockout. He also has 86 points since the start of the 2010-11 season, one more than Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom.
 
Karlsson is coming off one of his best games of the season. He had a goal and an assist and was a plus-5 as the Senators rallied from two goals down in the third period to beat Philadelphia 6-4 on Sunday.
 
Karlsson went into Tuesday's games with an 8-point lead over Brian Campbell of Florida in the scoring race for defensemen.
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