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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 1:55 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Kuznetsov turns in dominating performance

The Russians knew their captain was good.

But nine points good?

Yevgeni Kuznetsov, the only returning player from Russia’s gold medal-winning squad last year, came within one point of Peter Forsberg’s all-time tournament record of 10 against Japan at the 1993 World Junior Championship with his performance Thursday night -- much to the awe and delight of his teammates.

“It was like ‘Are you kidding me, what are you doing?” Nail Yakupov said after the game. “He’s amazing, you know? He did everything today. He’s a great player. It’s his second World Juniors and he plays in the KHL. He plays like an NHL player.”

After being held off the scoresheet through the first 20 minutes by Latvia, Kuznetsov exploded, recording points on six straight Russian goals before adding three more points – including his hat trick goal -- in the third period.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 1:52 PM

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

Campbell gets pivotal start for Team USA vs. Czechs

EDMONTON - If the U.S. National Junior Team seeks to remain in contention for a gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship, a victory over the feisty Czech Republic is in order on Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET at Rexall Place.

That being the case, U.S. coach Dean Blais will have Jack Campbell back between the pipes with so much at stake. If the U.S. falls to the Czech Republic in regulation, and should Finland defeat Denmark in regulation on Friday night, the Americans would be destined for the relegation round regardless of the outcome of its New Year's Eve clash against rival Canada.

If the United States defeats the Czech Republic, however, it would not only remain in medal contention, but in a position to capture first place in Group B so long as the Czech Republic avoids a regulation loss to Finland and Team USA defeats Canada.

Campbell is certainly no stranger to the big international stage, particularly under the tutelage of Blais.



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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 1:03 PM

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

Weaver earned his new contract

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Defenseman Mike Weaver was standing in the Florida Panthers dressing room Friday morning when teammate Kris Versteeg snuck up behind him and rubbed shaving cream all over his face.

"We did it! We did it!" Versteeg shouted before walking away laughing.

It was Versteeg's way of congratulating Weaver for signing a two-year contract extension, which was announced Friday morning.

The 33-year-old Weaver is in his second season with the Panthers after playing for four different teams in his first eight NHL seasons.

Weaver has been a dependable defenseman for the Panthers the last two seasons and a member of the first penalty-killing unit.

"Mike Weaver is one of those character players that is widely respected around the League," said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. "He was a guy last year that I used as an example for some of my players in the American league how to play defense. His character as a player is not always going to show up on the score sheet, but he's one of those guys that goes out and consistently does a good job for us. He plays against other teams' top lines. Not only does he play against them, but that's a role he really relishes.

"That's a very strong signing for the Florida Panthers and really bodes well for both him and us. It's a win-win situation for the next couple of years."

For Weaver, the extension is a nice reward for a career spent overcoming obstacles -- starting with his lack of size, as he's listed at just 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds.

After playing four years at Michigan State, he signed with the Atlanta Thrashers, but never appeared in more than 40 games in his three seasons with the team.

He then spent two seasons with Los Angeles, another with Vancouver and two with St. Louis before the Panthers signed him in August 2010.

"I just look one game at a time, one season at a time," Weaver said. "I've worked my butt off ever since I turned pro to get in a situation I'm able to feel comfortable in. It's nice to be here in Florida, for sure.

"When we agreed on the contract, it's amazing looking back what I've gone through to this point."

Weaver has no goals and 9 assists this season, but offense never has been his forte. He has 6 goals in 458 NHL games and only three since the start of the 2007-08 season.

Weaver, however, is a terrific defensive defenseman. He rarely gets caught out of position or beat 1-on-1, plus he's second on the team behind Jason Garrison with 62 blocked shots.

With the offensive success of fellow Panthers blueliners Brian Campbell, Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov, as well as the presence of five-time All-Star Ed Jovanovski and rookie Erik Gudbranson, the third pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, it's easy to overlook Weaver.

And that's just the way he likes it.

"As long as I'm out of the paper, I'm fine," Weaver said. "That's the way I look at it. My game is most valuable to the current organization that I'm in. A lot of GMs or scouts come to the game, I really become unnoticed out there. That's my game -- keep it simple and not be in the limelight."

His teammates, though, know he valuable he is.

"It's good for him that he stays here," said Kulikov, who has been partnered with Weaver this season. "He brings a good attitude to the team and he brings a lot of hard work. He's a hard-working guy and he's good defensively."
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 12:30 PM

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

Panthers' Weiss to be a game-time decision

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss took part in the morning skate, but coach Kevin Dineen wasn't ready to say afterward that Weiss would be back against the New York Rangers tonight.

Weiss has missed the last two games -- an 8-0 loss at Boston last Friday night and a 5-3 victory against Toronto Tuesday -- because of an upper-body injury.

"He had a good day," Dineen said. "I hope he can play tonight. We're going to give him the afternoon and probably dress an extra forward for warm-up and make a final decision post-warm-up whether he's physically able to play or not."

Weiss was among seven forwards who missed the Toronto game. None of the other six -- Marco Sturm, Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, Jack Skille, Scottie Upshall and Marcel Goc -- are expected to play tonight or tomorrow against Montreal.

At the morning skate, Weiss centered a line with Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky. He has played all season with Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann on a line that's been among the most productive in the League.

Versteeg and Fleischmann were split up during Weiss' absence; Fleischmann skated with Shawn Matthias and Matt Bradley.

Dineen wasn't ready after the morning skate to make any declarations about his lines.

"I'm not one to play cagey, but we're going to make a lot of decisions after warm-up," he said. "A lot of dominoes will either fall or come into place depending on the health of our team. At this point, it's almost hourly. We'll see where we're at post-warm-up."

Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers, and the Rangers, who did not skate this morning:

RANGERS
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell
Ruslan Fedotenko - Mike Rupp - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Jeff Woywitka - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal, with Martin Biron the backup.

PANTHERS
Tomas Kopecky - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Fleischmann - Shawn Matthias - Matt Bradley
Tim Kennedy - Mike Santorelli - Michal Repik
Krys Barch - Mark Cullen - Bill Thomas

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore will start in goal, with Scott Clemmensen the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 12:29 PM

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

Wisniewski goes down with broken ankle

The Columbus Blue Jackets suffered a major blow Thursday night as defenseman James Wisniewski suffered an fractured left ankle in the second period.

Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson tweeted Friday that after seeing Dr. Larry Watson, Columbus' team physician, Wisniewski will not require surgery and will be out six weeks.

Wisniewski suffered the injury when he blocked Mike Ribeiro's shot at the 7:38 mark of the second period.

Wisniewski signed a six-year, $33 million contract during the summer, but sat out the first eight games of the season due to suspension. He has 17 points and a minus-18 rating in 29 games.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 12:18 PM

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

Reports: Rangers waive Avery again

New York Ranger forward Sean Avery is reportedly back on the waiver wire, just as he was prior to the start of the 2011-12 season.

According to a tweet from ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang, the Rangers waived Avery on Friday. TSN's Bob McKenzie confirmed the move on his Twitter account.

Avery hasn't played since Dec. 10, a total of nine straight games, and has played in only 15 games since he was recalled from Connecticut of the American Hockey League in early November. He has three goals, a plus-2 rating and 21 penalty minutes.

Avery was among the Rangers final cuts prior to their season-opener in Stockholm against Los Angeles. He cleared waivers and was assigned to Connecticut, but he was later recalled by the Rangers on Nov. 1. Avery had to clear re-entry waivers in order to return to the club.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 12:08 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Senators-Isles Projected lineups

KANATA, Ont. – Here are the projected lineups for Thursday night’s game between the Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators. The Sens participated in a full practice, while the Flames, coming off a 3-1 loss to the Islanders on Long Island on Thursday, held an optional skate.

SENATORS

Milan MichalekJason SpezzaColin Greening
Erik CondraKyle TurrisDaniel Alfredsson
Nick FolignoZack SmithBobby Butler
Zenon KonopkaChris NeilKaspars Daugavins

Jared CowenErik Karlsson
Chris PhillipsSergei Gonchar
Brian LeeFilip Kuba

Alex Auld
Craig Anderson

Coach Paul MacLean offered no update on Peter Regin (shoulder) but said that Jesse Winchester (concussion) could return to the ice as soon as Friday if his workout goes well today.

FLAMES

Curtis GlencrossOlli JokinenJarome Iginla
Rene BourqueMikael BacklundLee Stempniak
Paul ByronRoman HorakBlake Comeau
Tom KostopoulosBrendan MorrisonTim Jackman

Jay BouwmeesterChris Butler
Scott HannanAnton Babchuk
TJ BrodieCory Sarich

Leland Irving
Miikka Kiprusoff

According to Roger Millions of Rogers Sportsnet, Anton Babchuk (hand) will return to the lineup Friday, replacing Derek Smith, who suffered a lower-body injury on Thursday night.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 11:14 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Taking a twirl

PHILADELPHIA -- The first skates touched the Citizens Bank Park ice shortly after 10 a.m. Friday morning. They were tied onto Dan Craig's feet.

Craig, rightfully so, was the first person to skate on the rink he and his crew have been creating here for nearly two weeks. He skated along the boards and kept his eyes down, looking at the ice around the edges.

Not long after Craig got on the ice, several members of the crew and some NHL staffers joined him and started taking some twirls. The sun is shining, but right now shadows are covering roughly a third of the ice.

HBO had its cameras rolling on the entire thing.

We'll have more later, including a video report from the ice.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 10:47 AM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wings, Hawks renew heated rivalry

CHICAGO -- Friday night’s game at the United Center (8:30 p.m.) will be the first of six meetings between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, who find themselves at or near the top of the Western Conference standings.

The Wings come to the Windy City off an exciting 3-2 come-from-behind victory against another Central Division rival, the St. Louis Blues, on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit, however, has just a 9-10-0 record on the road this season and will be facing a team in the Blackhawks that have only dropped one game in regulation at home in the month of December.

That was a tough 2-0 loss at the United Center to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday – a game in which goalies on both teams dominated the highlights. The Hawks’ offense will have to solve another top goalie in Jimmy Howard on Friday night.

The Blackhawks will get gritty forward Daniel Carcillo back from an upper-body injury that kept him out for six games, while rookie center Marcus Kruger will miss a second straight game with an upper-body injury believed to be related to a concussion.

Hawks defenseman Steve Montador missed practices on Tuesday and Thursday, but played against the Kings on Wednesday and hasn’t been ruled out for Friday night’s game against the Wings prior to the morning skate.

The Red Wings will be without two regulars in its lineup, as Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm are both sidelined with groin injuries. They will be replaced by rookie center Gustav Nyquist and rookie forward Joakim Andersson -- a pair of talented Swedish youngsters.

Here’s a look at how both teams may line up on Friday night:

RED WINGS
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller-Justin Abdelkader-Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyquist-Cory Emmerton-Joakim Andersson

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

BLACKHAWKS
Daniel Carcillo - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Viktor Stalberg - Patrick Kane - Patrick Sharp
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Jimmy Hayes

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Nicklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 2:21 AM

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

Fantasy Spin: Wheeler emerges as distributor for Jets

The wheels keep turning in the right direction for the Winnipeg Jets, and Blake Wheeler's consistency is a major reason why.

Blake Wheeler
Right Wing - WPG
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 27
SOG: 79 | +/-: 11
Wheeler extended his point streak to four games by assisting on Evander Kane's overtime winner as Winnipeg blanked the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 on Thursday night at a raucous MTS Centre. With Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little again out of the lineup for the Jets, Little continues to shine as a distributor alongside Kane on Winnipeg's top line. The 25-year-old notched his team-high 22nd assist of the season and also leads the club with a plus-11 rating.

At the forefront of Claude Noel's offensive system, Wheeler is certainly emerging as a breakout fantasy asset. While he is far off the goal-scoring pace of his career-best rookie campaign (21 goals), Wheeler is among the League leaders in helpers and quietly one of the most impactful players in Winnipeg's lineup. Wheeler (owned in 24 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) has played in all 37 games for the Jets and even touches on categories such as hits (52), power-play points (5) and shots on goal (79).

With the Jets suddenly in the thick of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference as December comes to a close, Wheeler may not be available much longer in deep fantasy leagues. Thus, the time is now to catch on to Manitoba's hottest fantasy hockey commodity.
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