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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:53 PM

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

Pens impressed by Giroux

PHILADELPHIA -- Claude Giroux's emergence as an NHL star might be traced to the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Giroux, in his first playoff action, led the Flyers in scoring with 5 points in the six-game series won by the Penguins.

Since then, Giroux has blossomed into an All-Star and current League scoring leader, with his 4-point game last night in Buffalo giving him 36 points, one ahead of Toronto's Phil Kessel.

"He's a talented, talented guy," said Pens forward Craig Adams. "We saw a little bit of that two years ago. You're like, 'Who is this guy?' Now everyone knows who he is. I watched the very end of that game last night and he put it away. He looks confident, he's got a lot of skill. We're going to have to do a good job against him tonight."

Pascal Dupuis said Giroux was mentioned prominently in the Pens' scouting report on the Flyers.

"He's another highly skilled player," said Dupuis. "He skates well, he's really good with the puck. He's making the right plays right now, playing some good hockey. We'll try to keep an eye on him all the time.

"Obviously he's a player to watch and we'll be playing him tight."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:50 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hitch: 'Partnership' important for new coach, players

ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau go back together to their days of coaching in the International Hockey League, Hitchcock at Kalamazoo and Boudreau with Fort Wayne. They first crossed paths in 1994, and now both are entrenched with new teams after filling jobs that became open after the Blues and Ducks each fired their coaches that started the season.

The transition has been good for Hitchcock, whose team is 9-2-3 since taking over the Blues Nov. 6. Boudreau, who was fired from his post in Washington Nov. 27 but quickly found a job in Anaheim a few days later, is 1-1-1.

With Boudreau still in the early stages of getting acclimated with his players and staff, Hitchcock offered up words of advice to make the transition smooth.

"The partnership that lead the group is really important," Hitchcock said. "I was lucky. I never knew David Backes from anything. I really relied on (Jason) Arnott and (Jamie) Langenbrunner, but Backes already had a grip on the team and then we forged a partnership to build, and I think that's what you have to do.

"You can't build relationships with players overnight, but if you can build a relationship with your captain and get that comfortable, I think you can see that with (Boudreau) and (Ryan) Getzlaf, (Corey) Perry, (Teemu) Selanne and those guys. He's talking about those guys every day. ... I always say if you can coach five or six and instruct 25, you're going to do good. He's coaching those five or six and that's what we have to do to get it changed quick."

Boudreau said he's following a similar pattern of opening lines of communication with his leaders.

"We've sat down and talked," Boudreau said. "We've had individual meetings with them and collectively. ... Trying to find out where they're at and give them my philosophies and to see if it fits in with what we're going to do.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to everybody individually because it's happened so quick. But I will get that when we get home. There's about eight guys left that I haven't talked to. I'll talk to them just to try and get to know everybody on a personal basis."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:48 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues, Ducks

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the St. Louis Blues face the Anaheim Ducks at the Scottrade Center:

BLUES
Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Vladimir Sobotka - Jamie Langenbrunner
Chris Porter / Ryan Reaves - Jason Arnott - Scott Nichol

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal tonight; Brian Elliott will back up.

Either Porter or Reaves will be a healthy scratch along with defenseman Ian Cole. The Blues are also without injured players Andy McDonald (concussion), B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) and Kent Huskins (ankle).

DUCKS
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Niklas Hagman - Andrew Cogliano - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jean-Francois Jacques - Maxime Macenauer - George Parros

Cam Fowler - Francois Beauchemin
Toni Lydman - Luca Sbisa
Sheldon Brookbank - Kurtis Foster

Jonas Hiller is the likely starter, although there was an outside chance Dan Ellis, coming off a groin strain injury, could see his first game action since Nov. 25.

Scratches are expected to be winger Andrew Gordon, center Nick Bonino and defenseman Nate Guenin. The team is without injured defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (finger), forward Jason Blake (wrist) and defenseman Matt Smaby (thumb).
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:38 PM

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

Kesler has new mates after old line 'disintegrated'

MONTREAL -- Ryan Kesler looked to his left and looked to his right Thursday morning, and was left wondering what happened.

What he saw was Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen on his wings at the Vancouver Canucks' morning skate, two brand new faces just two games after Kesler's regular line had a breakout game.

Kesler, Chris Higgins and newcomer David Booth had exploded for a combined nine points in a 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. But Higgins missed the next game Tuesday night against Colorado with a staph infection in his foot, leaving Hansen to fill the void.

Then Booth took a knee-on-knee hit from Avalanche defenseman Kevin Porter, spraining the MCL in his knee, an injury that will cost him four to six weeks.

So, for the Canucks' game against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, Raymond will grab Booth's spot, and Kesler has himself a brand-new line.

"(My line) disintegrated," Kesler joked Thursday morning.

"To lose both my wingers, it's kind of a shock to me," he added later. "One game we put up nine points together, and the next game I don't have my two wingers."

While Higgins is not expected to miss an extended period of time -- coach Alain Vigneault said once the cut on his foot heals enough to allow him to put his skate on, he should play -- Booth's absence is especially sad for a player who looked to be finally finding the form that made him a one-time 30-goal scorer with the Florida Panthers.

His career was derailed Oct. 24, 2009, when he absorbed a monster hit from Mike Richards, then a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. He came back later that season, but struggled to find his game until he was ultimately traded by the Panthers to the Canucks in October.

Since being put on Kesler's line with Higgins on Nov. 25, Booth had 3 goals and 2 assists in five games when he was injured.

"He was playing well for us, David," Kesler said. "He was one of those guys where it was his first time being traded, it was probably a shock for him. He really started to turn it on, playing the hockey he probably wanted to be playing. He was producing, our line was producing."

Moving Jansen and Raymond up to the second line has ripple effects down the rest of the Canucks' lineup, with rookie Bill Sweatt making his NHL debut on a line with Maxim Lapierre and Cody Hodgson while defenseman Andrew Alberts will be playing on left wing on the fourth line with Dale Weise and Manny Malhotra.

"Those are two big parts of our team and two guys who were playing well for us," Kesler said. "So those are two big shoes to fill, but it gives guys opportunities, so hopefully they can seize that."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:33 PM

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

Homecoming tonight for Michigan native Connor

DETROIT – It will be a homecoming game of sorts for Chris Conner on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena, when the forward from Westland, Mich., suits up for the hometown Detroit Red Wings.

Conner, 27, signed with the Wings as an unrestricted free agent this summer and didn’t initially make the team out of training camp. He started the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League and got recalled to make his Detroit debut Dec. 2 at Buffalo.

After playing during the Wings’ recent three-game road trip, Conner will now make his home debut against the Phoenix Cotes on Thursday night – though he’s not entirely sure how many friends and family will be in the stands.

“You’re always watching (the Wings) on TV when you’re younger,” Conner said of being a Wings fan as a kid. “Right now, I’m just trying to do whatever I can with my speed to help out on the forecheck and be responsible in my own zone.”

Conner has now played parts of six seasons in the NHL – including 60 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. Overall, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has liked the effort he’s seen out of Conner on the third line since his call up.

“I thought he’s played hard for us,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think our team was as good the last two games since we lost (Valtteri Filppula to a cut shin), so those third and fourth line guys didn’t get to be as important as they should have been and didn’t get the minutes they probably deserved at times. He’s just got to continue to be good, tenacious, hard on the penalty kill and do what he can to help us.”
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:29 PM

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

Filppula returns after leg laceration

DETROIT -- Valtteri Filppula will suit up for the Detroit Red Wings at left wing on the second line Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Filppula missed Detroit’s previous game Tuesday night in St. Louis with a deep laceration on his lower right shin that happened in a loss at Colorado last weekend – when a skate blade caught his skin just below the shin pad and above the boot.

Had he ever been cut in a similar fashion?

“Not like this,” Filppula said after going through the morning skate Thursday. “This one’s deep. I got cut last season a little the same way but it wasn’t as bad. It’s not a fun spot to have it happen, right on the (skate boot), but it shouldn’t take too long (to heal). It could’ve been a lot worse. I might’ve had to rest much longer.”

Filppula couldn’t go through an entire morning skate at full speed on Tuesday, which is why he missed the game against the St. Louis Blues. On Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, he said it felt good enough to get up to a faster speed during drills.

“I felt a lot better,” said Filppula, who has 8 goals and 21 points. “It just freshly happened, so it’s not good yet. But it’s a lot better than it was last time.”

Filppula is also wearing Kevlar socks to protect the wound and says he will wear them from now on, even after the cut heals.

“It felt fine,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever wore it, but it felt pretty good. I noticed no difference, so I might as well keep it. That’s how we learn, right? Something has to happen first.”
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:25 PM

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

Potential lineups for Flyers, Penguins

PHILADELPHIA -- Here is what the lineups could look like tonight when the Flyers host the Penguins tonight (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers, after winning last night in Buffalo, did not have a skate today, but it's likely they go with the same lineup they used in their 4-3 overtime win against the Sabres.

The Penguins lineup obviously will be different from Monday since Sidney Crosby will be sidelined the next two games. Forward Richard Park and defenseman Deryk Engelland are game-time decisions.

Here's what the teams likely will go with tonight:

FLYERS
Jaromir Jagr - Claude Giroux - Scott Hartnell
Matt Read - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Harry Zolnierczyk

Braydon Coburn - Kimmo Timonen
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bourdon
Andrej Meszaros - Kevin Marshall

It's unclear who could start in goal tonight. Ilya Bryzgalov played last night in Buffalo and has solid career numbers against the Pens (2-1-1, 1.73 GAA, .942 save percentage, one shutout in four games), but Sergei Bobrovsky was very good against the Penguins last season, going 3-1-1 with a 2.17 GAA and .926 save percentage, including a win in his first NHL start the night the Pens opened Consol Energy Center.

PENGUINS
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Pascal Dupuis
Arron Asham - Craig Adams - Steve MacIntyre

Paul Martin - Simon Despres
Matt Niskanen - Brooks Orpik
Robert Bortuzzo - Alexandre Picard

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal, with Brent Johnson backing him up. Johnson did not skate this morning, as coach Dan Bylsma said Johnson was sick, but Bylsma said he expects Johnson to be ready by game time.

MacIntyre has been on injured reserve since Nov. 30, but Bylsma said if the forward feels healthy, he'll be activated in time to play tonight. If MacIntyre and Park can't go, Bylsma said a forward will be recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Engelland sat out Monday's game with a lower-body injury but skated this morning, and Bylsma said if the blueliner feels up to it, he'll play. There was no indication of who would sit out if Engelland did play.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:17 PM

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

Pens ready to face Jagr, Talbot

PHILADELPHIA -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma followed along with all the media reports during the summer that had Jaromir Jagr poised to return to the team he spent the first 11 seasons of his NHL career with, including a pair of Stanley Cup-winning campaigns.

Bylsma said he could imagine seeing Jagr back in a Penguins uniform, and even went as far as coming up with potential line combinations.

"Of course," said Bylsma of his fantasy lineups. "You fit him in where he would fit in, what players he would play with. We certainly did that."

Those hopes, however, were dashed July 1, when Jagr opted to sign a one-year contract with the cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers.

Bylsma’s first glimpse at what might have been comes Thursday, when his Penguins face the Flyers (7 p.m., NHLN-US) here at Wells Fargo Center.

The Penguins coach, however, wasn't the only player hoping Jagr would bring his prodigious talent back to the franchise that selected him with the fifth pick of the 1990 Entry Draft.

"It looked like for a couple days there, if you believe what everyone was saying in the press, it was a done deal," Craig Adams said of Jagr's return to Pittsburgh. "For sure I thought OK, what's it going to be like with him on our team. Obviously he's still a world-class player. Obviously that would have helped."

Not that the Penguins have needed much help -- they arrive for the game Thursday leading the Eastern Conference with 36 points, one more than Jagr and the Flyers.

"It's fine the way things worked out," Adams said. "We're really happy with the group we have here. We believe we have a great team."

While none of the current Penguins played with Jagr during his time in Pittsburgh -- which ended in a 2001 trade to the Washington Capitals -- there is another former Penguin with the Flyers that this current group of Pittsburgh players knows quite well.

Maxime Talbot spent his first six NHL seasons with the Penguins, and had been a part of the organization since the 2004-05 season, when he and current Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury were teammates with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League. He also was teammates in the minors with Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang.

Talbot's oversized personality and blue-collar work ethic made him a big fan favorite in Pittsburgh, as did the two goals he scored in the Pens' win in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.

"He's a good friend of ours," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. "He's playing some good hockey. We'll have to make sure we play well against him. It'll be interesting to see him out there, for sure."

Craig Adams said it would be a bigger game for Talbot than it would for anyone on the Penguins' side.

"It's bigger for him because he knows everyone over here," Adams said. "And he's just one guy over there."

Talbot has been a nice addition in Philadelphia, with seven goals and 13 points in 26 games, numbers which nearly match the eight goals and 21 points in he had in 82 games last season.

"He's playing some good hockey," said Dupuis. "It'll be different a little bit to see him on the other side. But we see one guy on the other side, he knows everybody on our side. It'll be a different game for him than us."

Talbot's former teammates said they'll know just what to expect when they see him hop over the boards.

"We know how he is," Dupuis said. "Max is going to be Max."

"I can't imagine what he would say," added Adams. "He's pretty harmless."

While those statements were made with smiles on their faces, Adams said all the friendships get put on the backburner once the puck drops.

"All those things go out the window once the game starts," he said. "He'll be trying to win and we'll be doing the same."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:14 PM

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

Avalanche await word on Porter's availability

CALGARY -- Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco isn't sure if he'll have forward Kevin Porter at his disposal tonight against the Calgary Flames.

Porter is scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL later today concerning a kneeing infraction on David Booth in Tuesday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks.

"The hearing is set for today so I'll know more after the hearing," Sacco said.

The Avalanche coach does know he will be without both Ryan Wilson and Paul Stastny tonight. Wilson suffered a head injury against Vancouver while a torso injury will keep Stastny out.

"Both players will be out of the lineup tonight," Sacco said. "They're still day-to-day right now."

That's bad news for the Avalanche, who have lost eight consecutive games to the Flames dating back to Oct. 28, 2010.

The team will turn to Jean-Sebastien Giguere in hopes of stopping that skid. Giguere has a 4-3-0 record this season with a 1.81 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage.

"We have back-to-back games coming up here tonight and tomorrow in Edmonton," Sacco said. "My plan all along was to make sure Jiggy got in one of those games and decided he's played well against these guys. We'll give him another crack at them."

AVALANCHE
TJ Galiardi - Matt Duchene - Brandon Yip
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - Kevin Porter - David Jones

Kyle Quincey - Shane O'Brien
Erik Johnson - Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov


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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:03 PM

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

Slight headache, but no concussion this time for Sid

PHILADELPHIA -- For the Pittsburgh Penguins, it must have felt a rerun of a television show.

Once again, media members were asking them how they would cope without Sidney Crosby in the lineup.

The Pittsburgh captain will miss a game here Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) and Saturday against the New York Islanders as a precaution after Crosby took a few hard hits Monday against the Boston Bruins.

It was Crosby's eighth game back after missing more than 10 months with a concussion from January.

The most obvious incident Monday was a third-period collision with teammate Chris Kunitz, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said it wasn't any one particular play that forced Crosby back to the sideline.

"Not a one-time incident in the game," said Bylsma following the Penguins morning skate at Wells Fargo Center. "He took a couple hits in the game and didn't feel 100-percent after the game. That was an indication. He went and saw Dr. (Micky) Collins the next day. His ImPACT test was exactly what it was when he returned to play. Dr. Collins said there's no indication of a concussion at this point in time."

Crosby practiced with the team Wednesday, but Bylsma said that's when the decision was made to bench Crosby for the next two games as a precaution.
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Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff