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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 8:27 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

DET @ TOR - 6:46 of the Second Period

At 6:46 of the second period in the Red Wings/Maple Leafs game, Pavel Datsyuk's shot was deflected by Todd Bertuzzi's stick, video review was inconclusive in determining whether the stick was above the cross bar. The referee's call on the ice stands. Good Goal Detroit.

According to Rule 60.5 "If the puck makes contact with the stick below the level of the crossbar and enters the goal, this goal shall be allowed".

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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 8:07 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Aucoin joins Coyotes' injury list

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Adrian Aucoin is enduring a rough month, much like his team.

Aucoin rejoined the Phoenix injury list after taking a deflected puck in the right eye during Thursday's loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He won't play when his former team, the New York Islanders, come to Jobing.com Arena.

Aucoin, who returned to the lineup just over a week ago after missing five games with a lower-body injury, left the ice in pain again when he took a puck deflected off the stick of Los Angeles' Mike Richards in the right eye in the first period. He left the ice and didn't return. The Coyotes lost 1-0 in overtime and enter Saturday with a 1-4-2 record in their last seven games

Derek Morris, who has been a healthy scratch for four straight games, will replace Aucoin in the lineup.

Aucoin joins centers Martin Hanzal (upper body) and Boyd Gordon (lower body) on the injury list. But the Coyotes will get one player back Saturday when another ex-Islander, Raffi Torres, returns from a two-game suspension for his Dec. 31 hit in Minnesota.

The Islanders lost 4-2 in Anaheim on Friday -- and also lost center Marty Reasoner, who suffered a broken right hand when he blocked a shot early in the second period and did not return.

The Coyotes play only their second home game since Christmas during a string that had them playing 10 of 13 games on the road. They head back out on Monday for another three-game Eastern trip -- they visit the New York Rangers, Detroit and Columbus. By next weekend, they will have played 26 of their first 46 games on the road.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 5:30 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks eager to face Ovechkin

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin got off to a slow start this season, but he'll take the ice Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks on a seven-game scoring streak with seven goals and four assists during that span.

While going up against Ovechkin will be a challenge, veteran Sharks defensemen Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle said they can't wait for the puck to drop.

"He's fun to play against," Murray said after the Sharks' morning skate. "He plays the game the right way. You always want to play against the top players. He's a physical player, and I enjoy that. It's like with a few other players around the League – big, physical forwards that I go up against.

"I wouldn't say there's hatred or anything like that. It's more of a, 'I got to shut him down and he's got to score a goal.' It's more fun than anything."

Added Boyle: "It's fun. I think I enjoy playing against the top guys. I've said that before. He sees matchups every night, so it's nothing new for him. He's playing real well right now. Hopefully we'll get the job done defensively."

San Jose coach Todd McLellan said that Ovechkin demands plenty of attention, but that the Sharks can't forget about the rest of the Caps.

"They have a number of superstars, and you can't zero in on one individual -- although he's the kingpin there. He's the guy that pulls the trigger and makes things happen," McLellan said.

Unfortunately for the Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom, their leading scorer, will miss Saturday night's game after getting elbowed in the head on Tuesday by Calgary's Rene Bourque.

The Capitals have won four straight games, and Ovechkin said getting off to a fast start will be a key for Washington to continue that streak against San Jose, especially at the Shark Tank, where the Capitals haven't won since Oct. 30, 1993.

"It's always nice to have a winning streak and you always want to continue what you're doing, but, again, it's a hard building for us to play," Ovechkin said. "We didn't win here for I don't know how many years. We just have to not think about it and play better than we've played."

Mitchell's back: Sharks winger Torrey Mitchell was a healthy scratch for the first time this season Thursday night against Columbus, but he'll be back on the third line against Washington.

"I talked to Torrey, and he gave me all the answers that I needed," McLellan said. "He told me what he thought his strengths were as a player and what his assets were, that he thought he needed to bring to the table on a nightly basis. It was a pretty simple conversation. I didn't even need to say anything. So you have to give him credit for a very good self evaluation. Sometimes players don't see it like that. Torrey saw it like that. He knew. He could feel it coming.

"His speed, his energy, his tenacity, the ability to turn over pucks. Every team has a couple of those players that are really quick, and they have to have an impact on the game. Torrey will have that and we know he'll be very good moving forward."

Mitchell has just 7 points – 4 goals and 3 assists – in 33 games this season.

Based on the line rushes during the Sharks' morning skate, fourth-line wing Andrew Murray will be out of the lineup, and Tommy Wingels will get a second straight start since being recalled from Worcester of the AHL.

Sheppard feeling good: James Sheppard said he has made "big gains" recently in his recovery from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2010-11 season and that he has set a March 1 target date for his return to action.

"It's hard to have set times and stuff like that, but it's time for me to set a goal and work hard to get that goal," Sheppard said. "There's no excuses anymore. We just kind of picked March 1st out. I'd say that's the latest. I want to be back as soon as I can, and I just know that I'll be there by then."

Sheppard, acquired by the Sharks from Minnesota on Aug. 7 for a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, skated with the full team for a second straight day Saturday.

"I felt good out there. When you have good days, you feel good to go on the ice the day after. Mike Potenza and I have been working hard, working really smart," he said of the Sharks' strength and conditioning coordinator. "We're doing things the right way, and we're making big gains. We're happy about that. To be on the ice and not have to think about my knee pain is huge. It's everything."



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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Backstrom out as precaution for Caps

SAN JOSE – The Washington Capitals will be without Nicklas Backstrom, their leading scorer, when they face San Jose on Saturday night at HP Pavilion, coach Dale Hunter said after his team’s morning skate.

Backstrom was elbowed in the head Tuesday by Calgary’s Rene Bourque. He practiced with the team on Friday in San Jose but was not on the ice Saturday.

Hunter said Backstrom has not suffered a setback.

“You just got to be careful. He feels good, but you still got to be careful with it,” Hunter said.

Backstrom leads the Capitals with 42 points – 13 goals and 29 assists. He’s tied for ninth in the NHL in points. As tough as it is for the Capitals to play without Backstrom, wing Mike Knuble said giving him more time to recover is the right move.

“We’ve all seen what happens when you put a guy in too early or if he’s not feeling right,” Knuble said. “It’s just potential for a lot more injury and potential for turning a mole hill into a mountain. Smart. Good idea. It’s January. It’s not like it’s a do-or-die game.”

Based on the Capitals’ line rushes Saturday morning, wing Alexander Semin will join Knuble on the second line with Marcus Johansson sliding over to center. Semin was absent Tuesday with an upper-body injury but is ready to return.

Backstrom has points in five straight games – a goal and seven assists. He has 18 power-play points, tied for third most in the NHL.

“It’s never good when you play without one of the best players on your team, but, again, it is what it is,” forward Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s a great game for different guys to step up and play our way without Nick.”

This is how the lineups could look Saturday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Washington Capitals at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick MarleauJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Ryane CloweLogan CoutureBenn Ferriero
Jamie McGinnMichal HandzusTorrey Mitchell
Brad WinchesterAndrew DesjardinsTommy Wingels

Dan BoyleMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason DemersBrent Burns
Douglas MurrayJustin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss   

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinBrooks LaichTroy Brouwer
Alexander Semin - Marcus JohanssonMike Knuble
Jason ChimeraJeff HalpernJoel Ward
Matt HendricksMathieu Perreault - Jay Beagle

Karl Azner – John Carlson
Roman HamrlikDennis Wideman
John ErskineMike Green

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 3:29 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Seven Up: Habs, Lightning could both dress extra d-man

MONTREAL – A traditional hockey lineup consists of 12 forwards, six defensemen and a goalie, but there are two teams facing off at Bell Centre tonight who see that template differently.

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher regularly used seven defensemen and 11 forwards last season on his way to the Eastern Conference final, while Montreal Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth rotated seven defensemen in a 7-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday.

Cunneyworth appeared to be leaning towards doing the same thing tonight against the Lightning even though the return of Brian Gionta to the lineup makes it somewhat unnecessary. Meanwhile, the only reason Boucher hasn’t used it more this season is because he simply hasn’t had enough healthy defensemen to do it.

That may change tonight as newly acquired defenseman Brendan Mikkelson is available to play.

“When you play with seven D it gets guys like Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis on the ice more often, and it also means you’re defensemen are playing fewer minutes,” Boucher said. “It’s something I’ve used in the past, actually I’ve used it almost every year except this one. But if that’s something we can do, it’s something I would look forward to.”

As for Cunneyworth, his decision to dress seven defensemen Wednesday meant Chris Campoli, Tomas Kaberle and Hal Gill essentially split the third-pairing minutes. It also meant right wing Erik Cole was double and sometimes triple-shifted, resulting in a career-high 27:04 of ice time.

While it would appear that is not a system that could be used on a long-term basis, Cunneyworth didn’t agree, particularly with Gionta being able to take some of those extra shifts from Cole on the right side.

“If the results are there, certainly,” Cunneyworth said when asked if the seven defenseman lineup was sustainable. “I think it creates pressure to perform (on defense). There’s some competition to play the right way, and I think that can be a good thing.”

Gill – who has played 22:35 combined over the past two games – received the fewest minutes among the seven defensemen Wednesday, and while he didn’t want to complain about it he wasn’t exactly thrilled with it either.

“I’d like to play the role the team needs me to play,” he said. “But obviously I’d like to play more.”

The Canadiens had some good news on the injury front as center Scott Gomez was back skating with his teammates for the first time since suffering a setback in his recovery from an upper-body injury about three weeks ago.

“He’s coming along,” Cunneyworth said. “He appears to be on the mend, so we’re upping the ante little.”

The Canadiens and Lightning enter the game tied in points at 37 apiece, with Tampa holding a game in hand. It makes the contest a four-point game between two playoff teams from last season who find themselves in a desperate fight to book a ticket to this spring’s edition.

Some may find it early to be using the term “desperate,” but the NHL’s goal scoring leader Steven Stamkos is not one of them.

“I don’t think it’s early, we’re halfway done here,” Stamkos said. “These are the game we have to win. You don’t win these games, there’s no race. You’re not even in the discussion for the playoffs. We have to show some desperation. We’re in the same boat as these guys, so it should be a good game tonight.”
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 3:21 PM

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

Jones has fresh start in Calgary

It’s been a crazy 24 hours for Blair Jones.

Woken up by a call from Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman indicated he’d been traded to the Flames on Friday, Jones was on a plane bound for Calgary just two hours later.

Twenty-four hours after that, Jones was skating in his first game day skate with the ‘Flaming C’ on his chest.

“It was kind of weird yesterday morning,” said Jones, who will make his Flames debut Saturday against Minnesota. “I was sleeping in and woke up, Stevie was calling me and that was that. I woke up a little foggy and was like, ‘Oh.’ I didn’t know what to say. He said Calgary would be in touch with me shortly and two hours later I was on a plane.”

Flames captain Jarome Iginla did his best to welcome Jones into the Calgary locker room.

“We all introduced ourselves, go over everything as quickly as you can and it’s game time,” Iginla said. “It’s definitely a little different transition being in the middle of the season.”

Even the climate is changing on Jones, but going from the heat of Florida to the bitter winter of Alberta hasn’t soured Jones. In fact, he’s welcoming the change.

“This is a bit of a different look than in Tampa,” said Jones, who was acquired in exchange for defenseman Brendan Mikkelson. “I’m definitely excited being back in Canada where hockey is the No. 1 game.”

With Tampa Bay sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference sporting a 17-19-3 record, Jones knew something was going to happen soon. He just didn’t realize it would involve him.

“I thought with the way things were going there something was probably going to happen sooner or later but you never think it might be you,” Jones said. “It’s part of the game and I’m excited to be in Calgary.”

Though it’s an entirely new organization, Jones isn’t tasked with a new coach. The Central Butte, Saskatchewan native played under Flames coach Brent Sutter for three seasons as a member of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels.

“He’s a big guy that was a good center iceman in junior hockey,” Sutter said of the team’s newest member. “He’s a big center iceman and we could use some size down the middle.”

That’s not all he brings, said Sutter, who faced Jones and the Lightning back on Dec. 15. Jones left an impression.

“When we played him in Tampa Bay here recently, the first five-to-10 minutes he had five big checks,” Sutter said. “He uses his size to his ability. It’s something we can use down the middle. He’s got good skills and good hands and a really good shot.”

He’s also got an opportunity.

With three forwards – David Moss, Matt Stajan and Alex Tanguay - on Calgary’s injured reserve list and Brendan Morrison out with an upper-body injury, Jones will get the chance to jump head-first into some playing time with Calgary.

“I’m excited,” Jones said. “Nervous too.”
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 3:13 PM

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

Wild lose Bouchard but welcome back Stoner

The Minnesota Wild will be without Pierre-Marc Bouchard as they look to right the ship Saturday night against the Flames in Calgary.

Bouchard suffered a lower-body injury in a 3-0 loss Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks.

“He’s not in, he’s going to be out today,” Wild coach Mike Yeo confirmed. “He’ll get re-evaluated when we get back to Minny.”

The loss is a big one for Minnesota. Bouchard sits fourth in team scoring with nine goals and 22 points this season.

Hoping to ease the pain of Bouchard’s absence is the return of defenseman Clayton Stoner, who was activated off injured reserve Friday and will be in the lineup against Calgary.

“The body is feeling good and I’m excited to get back up in the lineup,” Stoner said.

Stoner rejoins a Wild team that has won just once in its last 11 games after winning seven in a row.

“We’ve had a tough stretch where we’re not playing our best every night,” Stoner said. “If I can come in and be consistent and do whatever I can it’ll help the team.”

Though he’s been out of the lineup since Dec. 22, Stoner feels just as much a part of the losses as his teammates.

“It’s tough,” Stoner said. “You feel for them. You know what you’re going through. I still feel a part of it. Obviously it’d be nice if we won all those games but we didn’t and we’re just trying to build as a team.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Wild:

Dany HeatleyMikko KoivuDevin Setoguchi
Darroll PoweKyle BrodziakCal Clutterbuck
Casey WellmanMatt CullenNick Johnson
Colton GilliesWarren PetersBrad Staubitz

Marek ZidlickyNick Schultz
Jared SpurgeonMarco Scandella
Clayton StonerJustin Falk

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 3:05 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Leafs have reinforcements for battle with Wings

The Toronto Maple Leafs will have some new faces in the lineup Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings and will also have the services of their captain Dion Phaneuf, whose status was up in the air after being hit in the face with a puck Thursday against Winnipeg. 

“Nothing got broke, he didn’t lose any teeth, most hockey players I know would be back and Dion is no different.  We need Dion in the lineup, not just for leadership, he is easily our best defenseman.” said Toronto coach Ron Wilson after the morning skate. “When you are playing a team like Detroit, you want to make sure you have as many hands on deck as possible.”

Forward Mike Brown will return to the lineup for the first time since November 15th, while oft-injured Mike Komisarek is back on defense after missing 21 games with a broken arm.  He is expected to be partnered with Cody Franson.

“Unfortunately I have been in this position a few times where I have been hurt and had to battle back,” said Komisarek, who has played 127 games as Leaf in three seasons since signing as a free agent in the summer of 2009. “The good thing about this time was I had the opportunity to skate early on when I was recovering from the injury. Your first game back you always play really simple.”

While healthy bodies return for the Leafs, Detroit will remain without two key cogs in Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm because of groin injuries.  In their place are forwards, Gustav Nyquist, who recorded his first NHL point in the Wings’ last game Tuesday at Dallas and Chris Connor, who has three points in six games this season.  He last played on Dec. 13.

The Wings boast the second most home wins in the NHL but are below .500 on the road. 

“Why is that?” asked Detroit coach Mike Babcock rhetorically.  “If I had the answer we’d fix it. The bottom line is we think our game is getting better and continues to grow and so it has to continue to grow and tonight is a big part of that.”

Jimmy Howard, whose 24 wins leads the NHL, will aim for his 100th career victory tonight and relishes the opportunity to do so in front of a sell-out crowd in Toronto and with the large audience that comes with a nationally televised Saturday night game.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 2:49 PM

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

More key players out for Flames against Wild

CALGARY -- If getting beat  9-0 by the Boston Bruins on Thursday wasn’t enough, the Calgary Flames also lost two key contributors.

Both Scott Hannan and Brendan Morrison will not be in the lineup for Calgary as the Flames take on the Minnesota Wild in their first home game since Dec. 22.

“They’re both dealing with upper-body injuries,” coach Brent Sutter said. “They are going to need some time. How long each guy will be will determine by how quickly they heal. You take two guys out of your lineup, but it gives two other guys opportunities. It is just part of it. You can’t do anything about it.”

Lance Bouma and newly acquired Blair Jones will have the opportunity to step into the lineup. Bouma was recalled Saturday morning, while Jones was acquired Friday in exchange for defenseman Brendan Mikkelson. Defenseman Clay Wilson will also make his season debut on the blue line.

Hannan joins Mark Giordano (hamstring), Matt Stajan (ankle), David Moss (ankle), Derek Smith (lower body), Henrik Karlsson (knee) and Alex Tanguay (upper body) on the injured reserve list.

“It’s definitely difficult, we have some key guys out,” captain Jarome Iginla said. “Teams go through that. We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves or make excuses. We have to win games. We just keep moving forward. Teams go through things they can’t control and injuries at different times. Hopefully some of the guys will get back sooner than later.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Flames:

Curtis GlencrossOlli JokinenJarome Iginla
Lee StempniakMikael BacklundLance Bouma
Paul ByronBlair JonesBlake Comeau
Tom KostopoulosRoman HorakTim Jackman

Jay BouwmeesterChris Butler
T.J. Brodie – Anton Babchuk
Clay WilsonCory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 2:43 PM

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

Fleury to face idol Brodeur in milestone contest

PITTSBURGH— Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is only 27, yet he will play in his 400th career game when he opposes the New Jersey Devils and longtime idol Martin Brodeur at Consol Energy Center on Saturday night.
 
Brodeur, who respects what Fleury has done in a career that already is a lengthy one yet doesn’t appear to be close to being over, believes Fleury is reaching a major milestone.
 
“Won’t he get a leather jacket from the NHLPA?” Brodeur said following Saturday’s morning skate.
 
Fleury, who was in net for the Penguins’ third consecutive loss Friday, a 3-1 defeat to the first-place New York Rangers, probably would take a victory over Brodeur rather than a commemorative piece of clothing.
 
“I think he definitely is aware of who the other goaltender is when it’s Martin Brodeur,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He definitely gets a little charged up about playing against him.”
 
There are additional reasons, of course, for Fleury to want to play well.  The Penguins haven’t lost four consecutive games since they were 0-2-2 from Feb. 20-26, and they haven’t dropped four straight in regulation since a five-game slide from Dec. 27, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010.
 
There’s also this: If the Devils (22-16-2) beat the Penguins (21-1-4-4) for the second Saturday in a row – they won 3-1 at Prudential Center on New Year’s Eve – they will move past Pittsburgh and into third place in the Atlantic Division standings.
 
Only a month ago, on Dec. 8, the Penguins led the overall Eastern Conference standings, while the Devils weren’t n the top eight. Since then, New Jersey is 9-4-1 while Pittsburgh is 5-6.
 
The Devils are 0-3-1 in their last four trips to Pittsburgh and haven’t won there since Dec. 21, 2009. Pittsburgh took all three home games in the season series a year ago.
 
New Jersey forward Travis Zajac (Achilles’ tendon) and defenseman Anton Volchenkov (lower-body injury) did not make the trip to Pittsburgh. Volchenkov was placed on the injured reserve list to open up a roster spot for forward Nick Palmieri, who had 4 goals and 3 assists in 23 games earlier this season.
 
Brodeur, 3-1-1 in his last five starts, will be back in net after Johan Hedberg made 22 saves in beating Florida 5-2 on Friday night. Ilya Kovalchuk, who had two goals against the Panthers, scored on a penalty shot against Pittsburgh last weekend.
 
This will be the sixth set of back-to-back games for the Penguins and the ninth for the Devils. Pittsburgh is 6-4-1 overall in back-to-back games and 3-1-1 in the second half. New Jersey is 9-7-1 in back-to-back games and 5-3 in second games.
 
Both teams held optional practices at Consol Energy Center on Saturday, and here’s how they could line up Saturday night will feature the third of six meetings this season. They split the first two games. Pittsburgh will be without center Jordan Staal, who sustained an apparent left knee injury during a 3-1 loss to the Rangers on Friday night. Forward Arron Asham is expected to sit out again with a knee injury that occurred in New Jersey.
 
DEVILS

Zach PariseAdam HenriqueIlya Kovalchuk
Petr SykoraPatrik EliasDainius Zubrus
Tim SestitoSteven ZalewskiDavid Clarkson
Eric BoultonRyan CarterCam Janssen
 
Bryce SalvadorAdam Larsson
Mark FayneHenrik Tallinder
Kurtis FosterMatt Taormina
 
Brodeur is 43-25-5 with nine career shutouts against the Penguins. Hedberg will be the backup.
 
PENGUINS

Chris KunitzEvgeni MalkinJames Neal
Steve SullivanRichard ParkTyler Kennedy
Matt CookePascal DupuisCraig Adams
Steve MacIntyreJoe Vitale – Craig McDonald
 
Brooks OrpikMatt Niskanen
Paul MartinZbynek Michalek
Ben LovejoyDeryk Engelland
 
Fleury remains tied for second in the League with 19 wins. Backup Brent Johnson is expected to play next in one of the back-to-back games against Ottawa on Tuesday and at Washington on Wednesday.
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Quote of the Day

It's such a privilege to be one of these 80 great players to do this milestone, and it doesn't get better than this doing it where I started. It means a lot to me. A big thanks goes to all the players tonight who helped me to achieve that and also all the players through my career.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after scoring his 1,000th career point on Thursday night in Ottawa
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