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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 9:18 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov returns after seven-game absence

After sitting out the previous seven games with a sore back, Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup on Sunday and was one major pain in the neck for the Peterborough Petes.

Yakupov chipped in with a goal and two assists to help lead the Sting to a 4-2 victory over the Petes in an Ontario Hockey League matchup at the RBC Centre in Sarnia. It was just the contribution the Sting needed in snapping a two-game losing streak and improving to 18-9-1-4 on the season.

"He's a very special player," Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu told Dave Borody of sarniasting.com. "Star players have that knack of being game breakers and changing the momentum of the game. He came back today and had three points. Not bad for a guy who missed the past two weeks."

Yakupov, who was named the game's second star, is projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick at the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh on June 22. Despite missing nearly two weeks, Yakupov would score the first of four Sarnia Sting goals in second period.

He leads the team with 19 goals, 11 power-play goals, 49 points and a plus-17 rating in 24 matches. Last year, Yakupov led his team and all OHL rookies in scoring with 101 points, including 49 goals, in 65 games.

There's a good chance Yakupov will be selected for the Russian National Junior Team that will play in the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary beginning Dec. 26. The Russians are the defending WJC gold medalist.

According to NHL Central Scouting, Yakupov's agent, Igor Larionov has advised Russian coach Valeri Bragin that Yakupov will travel to the team's camp in Calgary on Dec. 18. Russia will have two exhibition games prior to the start of the tournament -- on Dec. 20 against Team USA in Red Deer and Dec. 22 against Czech Republic in Lethbridge.

Earlier this season, Yakupov's linemate and fellow Russian countryman, Alex Galchenyuk, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and underwent surgery. He is still at least four months away from returning to the lineup. Galchenyuk suffered his injury on Sept. 16 in a preseason game against the Windsor Spitfires.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 6:41 PM

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

Emery gets the start, but no 'controversy' in Chicago

CHICAGO – Is there a goalie controversy brewing in the Windy City?

Not the way Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville sees it. He's starting veteran Ray Emery over starter Corey Crawford for the second straight game tonight against the Sharks – and for the third time in the past four games – but the term "controversy" doesn't compute in his mind.

"It's a nice situation," Quenneville said. "Ray's played well in there and gets a chance to keep going in the net. So, we'll keep making decisions based on their play. But I think it's a good situation. We've got both guys playing well and some nights the decisions are tough."

As for Crawford, who allowed three goals on 16 shots in his last start last week, has a 3.00 goals-against average and an. 896 save percentage – both lagging from what he did as a rookie last year. Quenneville said that sitting out and working in practices could help him turn it back around.

"I think he's been fine," Quenneville said. "He's been working on his game and I think that he's just waiting for his chance to get back in the net. His approach has been fine. We'll measure more of that when he gets back in, but he's been fine."

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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 6:38 PM

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

Irwin could make NHL debut for Sharks

CHICAGO – San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he still considers injured defenseman Douglas Murray day-to-day with an injury that's believed to involve his hand or wrist, but he was still placed on the injured reserve list today.

The Sharks also called up 23-year old defense prospect Matt Irwin from the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League to take Murray's roster spot. Irwin is more of an offensive defenseman who's done pretty well on the power play for Worcester – thanks to a hard shot that he's not afraid to use.

McLellan wasn't tipping his hand about whether Irwin would be in the lineup tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Sharks have only scored one goal in their last 26 power plays – so there's probably a chance he will make his NHL debut.

"He'll take warm-up and we'll see where we are after that," McLellan said. "He could play in that (power play) situation. He's an offensive guy. He's had a (great) year down there. He's been seeing the ice pretty well and deserves the opportunity to come up."

Aside from Murray, defenseman Jim Vandermeer has also missed two games with an undisclosed upper body injury and McLellan hinted there could be another defensemen who might not be able to play.

"There's potentially some question marks, yeah," McLellan said. "When you play back to back, you get bumps and bruises, so we'll see."

McLellan isn't afraid to start goalie Antti Niemi in back-to-back games, however. Niemi started on Saturday night at St. Louis, losing a tough 1-0 game by allowing one power-play goal, and will be back in goal on Sunday against his old team.

"His last two starts he's faced under 20 shots," McLellan said. "He wasn't overly tested in the last two games and we played him a lot down the stretch last year. There should be no reason for him to not perform well tonight."
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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 5:43 PM

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

Christensen to replace Avery in Rangers' lineup

NEW YORK -- Sean Avery will not be in the lineup Sunday night as the Rangers play host to the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden.

Erik Christensen, a healthy scratch since Nov. 23, will replace Avery in the lineup.

"I don't think Sean's been dead-on," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Having said that, he hasn't had a bunch of ice time. I'm just having problems finding ice for him. I have other guys that are filling the areas and doing the things that I need done. I'm a little concerned about shootouts. We've struggled a little bit there."

Avery is averaging less than 6 minutes per game in the Rangers' last four games. Christensen is one of the best in the NHL at shootouts, and the Rangers are just 1-3 this season in the breakaway contest.

Before the season, Tortorella awarded the final roster spot to Christensen and sent Avery to the AHL. The coach said he felt Avery wasn't one of the team's best forwards, but that changed at the end of October. Avery was placed on re-entry waivers and rejoined the team on Nov. 1. The Rangers are 12-2-1 since Avery rejoined the team.
Avery has 3 goals in 15 games, but has fallen out of favor yet again with Tortorella.

"Sean played some good games for us when he came up," Tortorella said. "I think it's leveled off. But I'm trying to be fair to him also. I haven't put him on the ice, and it's awful difficult to play that way. But I have other players doing the things I need done in other situations that Sean just isn't getting involved in. I want to give Erik another chance and also, the shootout."

When asked what Tortorella wants from Christensen now that he's back in the lineup, he gave the answer he always gives about the streaky 27-year-old.

"Consistency," Tortorella said. "Whenever that question's asked, that's the first word. He's done his work as far as being out of the lineup. He works hard. You can see he shows signs of his talent, his skill. But again, it's a shift here or a shift there. We're hoping that he becomes more consistent."

Christensen is expected to see more ice time than Avery has received lately and will be part of the second power-play unit. He has a goal and 3 assists in 14 games.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 1:45 PM

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

Potential lineups for San Jose-Chicago

CHICAGO -- The play of second-year starting goalie Corey Crawford has been a concern lately for Chicago. Crawford is expected to be on the bench for the second straight game Sunday while Ray Emery gets the start. Crawford is 12-7-2, but has a 3.00 goals-against average and .893 save percentage, which are both considerably worse than what he posted last season after taking over for Marty Turco.

This will also be the second meeting between two of the Western Conference's top teams. The Sharks took the first one 1-0 on Nov. 23 in San Jose -- a game the Blackhawks felt was stolen by Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who started every playoff game in Chicago's 2010 Stanley Cup championship run.

Niemi started on Friday night in St. Louis and it's unclear whether McLellan will start him against Chicago Sunday. Here's a look at what the lineups might look like on Sunday night for the Hawks and Sharks:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Martin Havlat
Brad Winchester-Michal Hanzus-Jamie McGinn
Frazer McLaren-Andrew Desjardins-Torrey Mitchell

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Dan Boyle
Jason Demers-Brent Burns
Colin White-Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi started on Saturday night and took the hard-luck 1-0 loss, so Greiss might get the call. Niemi backstopped the Hawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup, though, so odds are he will be in net at the United Center. Forward Andrew Murray was a healthy scratch on Saturday night in St. Louis and could re-enter the lineup on either the third or fourth line. Defensemen Douglas Murray (hand/wrist) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) are both questionable after missing the game against the Blues.


BLACKHAWKS

Viktor Stalberg-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ben Smith-Dave Bolland-Michael Frolik
Daniel Carcillo-Jamal Mayers-Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Steve Montador Sami Lepisto

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford

Lepisto started on Thursday against the New York Islanders but was a healthy scratch for eight straight games before that. Veteran Sean O'Donnell could draw back into the lineup on Sunday with Montador or Hawks coach Joel Quenneville may opt to start 6-foot-8 defenseman John Scott, who hasn't played since Nov. 26 against the Los Angeles Kings.
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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 1:34 PM

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

Penalty kill looking crucial for Hawks, Shark Sunday

CHICAGO -- The United Center wasn't real busy on Sunday morning.

The host Chicago Blackhawks opted not to skate and the visiting San Jose Sharks only had a handful of players slated to go through drills before Sunday night's game (7 p.m. ET, NHL Network-CA, CSN-CA, WGN) -- after dropping a hard-hitting 1-0 game in St. Louis Saturday night.

The Sharks, who were without defensemen Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer because of injuries, continued to struggle on the power play, going 0-for-6 with the man advantage. The Sharks have just one power-play goal in their last 26 attempts.

San Jose actually drew two early power plays against the Blues, but weren't able to convert. Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who made some adjustments to the power play in the Blues game, said he will address some issues on the man-advantage in a quick team meeting on Sunday.

"We can be as fancy as we want, but if the puck never goes anywhere near the net, you get nothing out of it," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News' David Pollak. "Like any power play, when it's not going well, we'll talk about simplifying. We'll talk about shooting the puck. We'll talk about crashing the net and getting it back."

San Jose (15-10-1) also has one of the lowest-ranked penalty kill percentages in the League at 74.4 percent (17 goals allowed in 95 attempts) -- and that number is up thanks to killing off four of five Blues' power plays at Scottrade Center Saturday.

Chicago's penalty kill isn't much better. It's ranked 27th just one spot ahead of San Jose. The Hawks' power play, however, is ninth in the NHL and clicking at 19.4 percent (21 of 108).
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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 2:16 AM

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

Fantasy Spin: Elliott emerging as dominant goaltender



While he was not viewed as a fantasy difference-maker coming into the season, Brian Elliott has become the hottest commodity on the goaltending market.

Elliott (12-2-0, 1.45, .947, 4 SO) tied Jonathan Quick for the League lead in shutouts on Saturday as the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks 1-0 on Saturday night. With just two losses on the season, Elliott is proving to be much more than a temporary addition to a fantasy lineup. His ownership in Yahoo! leagues has escalated from 55 to 75 percent over the last three weeks, as Elliott has proved to be the most complete goaltender in the League this season.

Leading the League in both goals-against-average and save percentage, this 26-year-old has allowed more than two goals only once in 15 outings. Coach Ken Hitchcock -- who is 11-2-3 since taking over for Davis Payne in St. Louis -- has given each of his goaltenders eight starts apiece under the new regime. While both Elliott (7-1-0) and Jaroslav Halak (4-1-3) have risen to the occasion in that span, Elliott's body of work this season is the most impressive in the League by far.

While it's not likely that St. Louis will continue its unconscious stretch, Elliott is taking steps toward earning the No. 1 goaltending role with the Blues. Hitchcock will likely continue to utilize both of his options while both are playing well, but Elliott's value should not be underestimated. He has simply separated himself from the "add/drop" discussion, and will likely be fixated in fantasy lineups around the world over the next several days -- if he hasn't been already.
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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 2:11 AM

By Deborah Francisco -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Iginla picking up steam for Flames



When Jarome Iginla heats up, there’s no stopping the 6-foot-1, 210-pound right wing. Calgary's captain has scored at least 30 goals in each of his last 10 seasons and the recent roll he’s been on could help him make it 11.

In 29 games this season, Iginla has 11 goals and 10 assists, but a majority of those 21 points have been earned since the start of December. So far this month, Iginla has notched four goals and nine points in just five games. Prior to this streak, Iginla seemed to be struggling to score consistently just notching a point here and there save for a three-point game on Nov. 3. The good news for fantasy owners, though, is that history is in Iginla’s favor.

Iginla scored a point in every game in last December except for one. That’s a point in 13 out of 14 games. Not too shabby for a 34-year-old playing on one of the oldest teams in the NHL.

With two goals against the Oilers on Saturday night, Iginla finishes the fantasy week with two goals, five assists, a plus- 4 rating, two PIMs, 2 power-play goals, 1 game winning goal and an impressive 18 shots. Iginla is an elite player who is stepping up his game yet again.
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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 8:28 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

ANA @ NSH - 4:41 of the First Period



At 4:41 of the first period in the Ducks/Predators game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Nashville forward Colin Wilson kicked the puck with his right skate into the net.  According to rule 49.2 "A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net." In addition, video replay reviewed to see if Colin Wilson touched the puck with his stick on the way into the net and replay was inconclusive as to whether he did.  On-ice call stands, No Goal Nashville.
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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 5:41 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Adjusting the game plan

PHILADELPHIA -- The last time the Flyers and Lightning met, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette employed a stall tactic against Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 forecheck. When Tampa stuck to its system and didn't aggressively forecheck, the Flyers' defensemen sat back in their zone and waited, nearly motionless, until referees blew the play dead.


The Flyers' plan drew considerable reaction from around the hockey community, but in discussing how he would handle the Lightning's 1-3-1 on Friday, he made a joke, saying, "Typically we don’t like to announce our game plan for the opponent to the newspaper, but we might sit there for four or five minutes at a time. We might."


Speaking before tonight's game, however, Laviolette was a bit more serious, and wasn't ready to commit to any plan for countering the Lightning.

"I guess I've got to see how the game goes," he said. "It seems on the tape that they were sending the first man a little bit more, pressing a little bit more. … I'm not sure how the game will play out."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season