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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 11:15 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

MIN @ EDM - 14:51 of the Second Period

At 14:51 of the second period in the Wild/Oilers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck went off Edmonton goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin's stick and deflected off Minnesota forward Kyle Brodziak's arm and into the net. Good Goal Minnesota.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 10:43 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Schneider gets another start; Raymond ready for Canucks

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has been loath to tinker with a winning lineup, but after watching his team get outshot 48-34 in Tuesday's win against Columbus he's willing to make changes.

But those changes won't include the goaltender -- not after Vigneault labeled Cory Schneider the best player on the ice in a 4-1 victory against the Blue Jackets. So it was no surprise to hear Schneider will make a seventh straight start - his fifth while playing ahead of a healthy Roberto Luongo -- against visiting Nashville on Thursday, even if Luongo is already tiring of the topic.

"I know this is a big story but I don't want to keep addressing it every day," Luongo said after practice Wednesday. "I appreciate the appetite for it, but I'm a team guy, I'm behind Cory, we're winning games, all is good. I'll be ready to go when it's my turn and that's the bottom line. It's all about the team. It's not about me. … I know you guys have a lot of interest but it's not something we want to be talking about every day. We've got two great goalies here. We both can play. We're both No.1s."

Vigneault, who insisted Luongo is his No. 1 goalie a day earlier, actually called him 1A and Schneider 1B on Wednesday, but with Schneider No. 1 in the entire NHL over the last five games while stopping 164 of 168 shots, it's hard to argue with his decision. Still, the coach understands it could become a testy one for the incumbent.

"I understand how unpleasant it could become," Vigneault said, "But at the end of the day he's a professional, it's part of his responsibilities. Knowing him, he wants to win, team is winning right now and I'm sure when we need him he's going to be ready."

While the goalie remains the same, the players in front of Schneider will change.

Mason Raymond will play his first since breaking his back in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Raymond, who was cleared for contact more than a week ago and told the coaches he was ready to return Saturday, will debut on the third line alongside Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen. Judging from practice Wednesday, Manny Malhotra drops to the fourth line and Aaron Volpatti heads for the press box as a healthy scratch.

The speedy Raymond spent most of the past two seasons on the second line, scoring 25 goals in 82 games two years ago and 15 in 70 last season. But he hasn't played since June 13, when an awkward hit from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk left him with broken vertebrae in his back, and in a body brace for two months, giving him a new perspective on a game he wasn't sure he'd play again. Being patient with his comeback is part of it.

"It's a little like starting from scratch," he said. "I just went from Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs to Game 25 of the regular season. It's going to be different. Once I get into the game I will feel more comfortable. But is that going to take some time to get back to game shape and game mode? Yeah, but I'm very pleased with the process."

The defense may also change, with Sami Salo skipping practice after tweaking his groin Tuesday and leaving in the third period. He will be reevaluated Thursday, with Aaron Rome most likely to come back into the lineup after three games if Salo can't play.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 6:04 PM

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

Weekes: Burke adjusted in retooling Maple Leafs

When Brian Burke first came onto the scene in Toronto, he pledged to build a tough team, one that would be able to stand up to anyone physically. That plan didn't work out, however, as the Leafs have yet to taste the postseason with Burke as GM.

This year, things have been different.

There's no unnecessary roller derby on the ice. When Burke first got to Toronto, it was all about truculence. What is this, UFC? This isn't 1974 hockey. The good thing about it is he recognized he was wrong and adjusted. I give him credit. He couldn't put a UFC team together and win. Having a bunch of bruisers who couldn't play the game wasn't helping in the standings.

So Burke made adjustments. He went out and got players with high hockey sense. One of the reasons why the Leafs are scoring more is they think game better. From the top to bottom, the Leafs are vastly improved in the hockey smarts department.

The No. 1 guy to key on is Dion Phaneuf. It's not that he didn't have hockey smarts before, because he had some nice years in Calgary. But he also had some bad ones. To me, what happened, maybe Dion started reading his press clippings. He started to play with a nastier edge that he thought he needed.

In Toronto, his biggest adjustment is he's not running out of position to make plays or to hit someone. That keeps him in better position to defend and attack. His timing is better and his reads are better, and that is having a huge impact on his game and the Leafs' game.

I think the D as a whole is vastly improved and far smarter. I love the move to get John-Michael Liles and I love Jake Gardiner. Their ability to transition the puck is excellent. I love the way the Leafs' defenders have gone from running and chasing to make hits to having D to move the puck. They're making better choices in the O-zone. They're getting shots through, more passes down low and not backing off the blue line like they did in the past. That's been one of the biggest improvements.

Burke has made adjustments from physical to finesse.

Another guy who deserves a ton of credit is Joffrey Lupul. Everyone thought when Burke acquired him, it was just a salary dump. The good thing for him is he didn't pay attention to all that and maybe didn't know how close he was to having his career end. All the working out he's done to get back in shape has made a major difference. I talked to him a couple times before the season and came away very impressed. His mind was in the right place and he's been awesome this season because of it.

Phil Kessel is leading the League in goals, and if you're not watching him, you probably assume it's all off the rush like it has been in the past. I've seen at least six or seven goals this season when he's been down around the net, battling for loose pucks in heavy traffic. He's made adjustments, too.

With James Reimer out, the Leafs' goalies have also found a way to get it done.

I know it's been tough for The Monster, but he's come a long way. I think the expectations were unrealistic for Jonas Gustavsson. The Leafs definitely overvalued him, but so did a lot of teams who were fighting for his services. But I give him credit for starting to find his game at the NHL level. The main thing for him is he's become mentally stronger, but I think he needs to be stronger in the gym. He's just a long, tall, lanky frame. You need to be in shape to bounce back after hard practices and tough games, and there's room to grow in that area. But he's stayed mentally strong during this stretch.

With Ben Scrivens, it's a good situation for him and for the Leafs. To be able to go from the ECHL to the show, it's a good thing. He has made a nice impression. I had a chance to meet him, too. He had a good head on his shoulders.

I think the Leafs can play with anybody. I know Boston has owned them, but the Leafs have a shot tonight. I think the biggest thing for the Leafs is to find that sweet spot in terms of balancing the offense and defense.

By and large, I love the Leafs' transformation.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 5:04 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick weighs in on recent coaching changes

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday.

In the wake of the decisions made in Washington and Carolina earlier this week, I have decided to change up the format of my blog for this week. Instead of giving you my opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League, I wanted to give you my opinions on the moves made by Capitals GM George McPhee and Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford.

Let's first start this thing off by saying I don't think anybody was surprised by the firing of Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice. But I do think they were the byproduct of separate issues in that one team is talented enough but wasn't responding, and the other just doesn't have enough talent to be able to respond.

Here's what I mean:

Dale Hunter for Bruce Boudreau

Boudreau did a wonderful job in Washington. He was the fastest coach in the modern era to reach 200 wins. He really seemed to have a good rapport with the players and had the Capitals looking like one of the top teams in the League.

So, no, I don't know why the players stopped responding to Boudreau, but ultimately it started with Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin -- two of the most talented guys not only on their team, but in the League. For example, when Ovechkin was sat by Boudreau against Anaheim and followed that up by muttering some unflattering words about his coach, I think it was obvious then that something bad was starting to brew in Washington.

McPhee said that his players stopped responding to Boudreau, so they had to make a coaching change. One thing you never like to hear about is players not responding to the coach. That's just a total lack of respect toward a coach and toward the job he's trying to do to win games and ultimately a Stanley Cup.

But McPhee and the Capitals had to make this change. They couldn't keep wallowing in mediocrity, and worse yet, accepting it. If they continue to lose and have Ovechkin go pointless for games at a time, they're going to find themselves battling for a playoff spot come April.

Yes, I do think this was a necessary desperation move by McPhee to try to salvage the season early and spark some life and attention into his players. And bringing in a very hard-nosed, disciplinarian-style coach in Hunter seems to be a good fit.

The players have to look at themselves for why Boudreau got fired, and Hunter will make them do just that.

He was one of the fiercest competitors that I ever played against. It seemed like he wanted to eat me every time I was on the ice against him. He was always one of those awe-inspiring players. And he played like he looked -- hard, in your face, and always with either black eyes or cuts with blood on his face.

I'm sure he's going to be able to coach the same way he played. He is going to demand hard work and respect from his players.

Kirk Muller for Paul Maurice

Maurice fell victim to not being able to have the team to compete every single night. He didn't have enough horses to compete for a playoff spot.

Carolina let Erik Cole walk to Montreal. Cory Stillman retired. Joe Corvo was traded. And GM Jim Rutherford didn't bring anybody in of substance that was going to replace those players and help Maurice get this team to a higher level.

But again, just like Ovechkin in Washington, another star player in Eric Staal is having a very tough year and that did not help.

However, by no means do I think Staal's struggles have anything to do with Maurice. Staal is battling a confidence problem right now that he has to work his way out of himself. He seems to be too much on the outside and not going into those real heavy octane areas to score goals. Maurice couldn't make him do that and Muller won't be able to either.

That said, hopefully Muller does a good job with this limited team because unfortunately Rutherford did not put enough into place during the offseason.

It'll also be interesting to see how Muller deals with NHL players as a head coach considering he doesn't have much head coaching experience. He was a head coach in Milwaukee earlier this season, but that's it.

He is a tactical, smart and very easygoing coach, a great people person always with a smile on his face. His message to the boys will be something like, "Let's go have fun first, and if we're having fun and working hard we're going to win."

I'm curious to see if Carolina can have fun and win hockey games under Kirk Muller, just as I am to see if Washington can get back into contention under Dale Hunter.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:57 PM

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

Babcock likes Howard as an iron man

DETROIT -- Jimmy Howard will start in net for the 16th straight game and 20th time in 23 games when the Red Wings face the Lightning tonight (7:30 p.m., Versus, TSN2).

Backup Ty Conklin hasn’t started since Oct. 25, when the Wings lost on the road to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the second loss of what turned out to be a six-game winless skid. Babcock doesn't seem all that concerned about Howard getting burned out with so much action so soon in the season, though.

In fact, when asked about it after Wednesday's skate at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings coach sounded just a little sarcastic about his decision.

"What I did is, I kind of went through the League's stats and I saw all these goalies playing around 19 games (total) and I noticed Howie had played 19, so I thought he was playing good so … keep playing him," Babcock said. "Eventually, Conks is going to get an opportunity to play. Howie's going good. We like what he's doing. We think he's a young guy and he can play a lot."

Aside from letting in four goals in 39 minutes in a loss to the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 17, Howard has been solid-to-great through his streak of starts.

"He's earned the right over time to be a good goaltender in the League," Babcock said. "He spent a lot of time in the minors, he's worked on his fitness, the mental side of his game seems to have really come and he just seems to be a good goaltender in the League. We get excellent goaltending right now -- as good as we've had since I've been here, for sure."
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:52 PM

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

Brunnstrom ready to make an impact

DETROIT -- Fabian Brunnstrom is getting pretty familiar with the two-hour drive that separates Detroit and Grand Rapids, Mich.

That’s because the 26-year old Detroit Red Wings forward already has shuttled back and forth between the NHL and AHL Griffins three times in November while trying to find a regular spot with the Wings.

Tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m., Versus, TSN2), Brunnstrom will get another crack at playing in Detroit when he fills in at left wing on the third line, with center Darren Helm and Danny Cleary at right wing.

"It's going to be fun to play and I'm looking forward to the game," said Brunnstrom, who has 1 assist and a minus-2 rating in four NHL games this season. "I knew I probably picked the hardest forward lineup to break into (as a free agent), so I knew it was going to be hard. At the same time, I'm right where I want to be on this team. Now it's just taking the next step to get into the lineup (more often)."

Someone who will be watching eagerly is Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who would like to see Brunnstrom tap into the skill set that made him a highly sought after free agent from Sweden in 2008.

After becoming just the third player in NHL history to record a hat trick in his NHL debut, Brunnstrom went on to have a solid first season in Dallas before seeing his production slide to the point where he played most of last season in the minors.

 Now Brunnstrom has another opportunity to show what he can do in the NHL.

"If you make good on that opportunity, you keep getting it and if you don't … eventually it slips away on you," Babcock said. "He's been in the League before. Actually he was a YouTube sensation or something like that. We were all recruiting him. Now he's back and he's earned his way to play on a team -- and now he's got to find a way to play every day on the team."

It also sounds like Brunnstrom might be at a crossroads moment in his career, according to Babcock.

"He's at the stage of his life where he's got to grab hold and find a way to not just have the puck, but get it to the net and get it to the scoring areas, to be hard out there," he said of Brunnstrom. "If he does that, then he has a chance to be a real good player. The ball's in his court. I'm looking forward to watching."

Making the situation even more interesting is that Brunnstrom's wife is pregnant and could go into labor at any moment.

"I would think that it doesn't affect me, but maybe it does some anyway,” Brunnstrom said after Detroit’s morning skate on Wednesday, prior to playing the Tampa Bay Lightning at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night. “It’s a big thing in life, so I don’t know. I’m just trying to focus on the game when I’m here and when I go home I’ll focus on that.”

As for shuttling back and forth between Grand Rapids and Detroit so often – he’s been sent down and recalled three times each in just the month of November – Brunnstrom said he understands that it’s all just part of what he signed on for with the talent-laden Red Wings.

“It’s a tough lineup to get into (in Detroit), but it’s good to play some games (in Grand Rapids),” Brunnstrom said. “It’s a lot of miles on the car, though, driving back and forth.”
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:49 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Raymond to return, Schneider staying in net

VANCOUVER -- Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has been loathe to tinker with a winning lineup, but after watching his team get outshot 48-34 in Tuesday's win, he's willing to make changes.

They won't include the goaltender. Not after Vigneault labeled Cory Schneider the best player on the ice in a 4-1 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. But while Schneider makes his seventh-straight start -- and fifth ahead of a healthy Roberto Luongo -- Thursday against visiting Nashville, but the forward lines get a significant addition.

Mason Raymond will play his first since breaking vertebrae on an awkward hit by Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Raymond, who was cleared for contact more than a week ago and told the coaches he was ready to return Saturday, will debut on the third line, alongside Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen. The speedy winger spent most of the past two seasons on the second line, scoring 25 goals in 82 games two seasons ago and 15 in 70 last season.

The defense also may change, with Sami Salo skipping practice after tweaking his groin Tuesday and leaving the win in the third period. He will be re-evaluated Thursday.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:28 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Canadiens, Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Here's what the lineups likely will look like when the Canadiens and Ducks hit the ice in the Honda Center tonight.

The Ducks will have a new top line trio, with Matt Beleskey sliding into Bobby Ryan's spot.

The big news for the Canadiens will be the NHL debut of 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc, who will start on the third line.

Andrei Kostitsyn - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Michael Cammalleri - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Travis Moen - Louis Leblanc - Lars Eller
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Yannick Weber

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Alexei Emelin - Frederic St-Denis

Peter Budaj will start in goal, with Carey Price spending the night as the backup.

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Bobby Ryan - Ben Maxwell - Niklas Hagman
Andrew Gordon - Maxime Macenauer - Devante Smith-Pelly

Cam Fowler - Toni Lydman
Francois Beauchemin - Luca Sbisa
Sheldon Brookbank - Nate Guenin

Jonas Hiller will start in goal, with Jeff Deslauriers serving as the backup. Regular backup Dan Ellis will miss about a week, according to coach Randy Carlyle, due to a sore groin.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:22 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Anaheim breaks up top line

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It's not too surprising that Anaheim broke up its top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry given its offensive struggles.

Matt Beleskey takes Ryan's place at left wing, as Ryan drops to the third line, with Ben Maxwell and Niklas Hagman.

Coach Randy Carlyle indicated that it's just an experiment for now.

"We still think that (Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry) group is going to have to play together for an extended period of time," Carlyle said. "Because you make a change for one game or two games, there's nothing etched in stone. We're trying to stimulate, spark, kick, coddle, pat on the back, whatever you have to do to get your hockey club to play to a higher level."

Beleskey played with Getzlaf and Perry a couple of seasons ago and the group had chemistry.

"With those two guys, it makes the game a little easier," Beleskey said. "For me, I've just got to create space for them. Go to the net and get in the way of people to open up lanes for them. Hopefully that helps them have a little more time with the puck."

In other Ducks news, Ryan told the Orange County Register he wouldn't be surprised if he was traded.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:16 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Leblanc to make NHL debut for Canadiens

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There will be one new face and a different overall look for the Montreal Canadiens tonight against the Anaheim Ducks.

Rookie Louis Leblanc will make his NHL debut, centering the Habs' third line, flanked by Travis Moen and Lars Eller. Yannick Weber will move back to the fourth line, with Petteri Nokelainen and Mathieu Darche, while Frederic St-Denis goes in on defense.

Andrei Markov did not participate in practice because it was a "therapy day," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said.

Peter Budaj will get the start in goal tonight, with Carey Price expected to start at San Jose on Thursday.

Leblanc, who didn't arrive in time for practice Tuesday, was given jersey No. 71 and skated with his new teammates for the first time Wednesday.

He didn't have time to be nervous -- yet.

"I'll try the pre-game nap," Leblanc said. "The emotions are starting to kick in now. I'm just going to go in there and have fun."

Asked if it might be easier making his debut on the road, where the spotlight isn't as intense, Leblanc said, "Maybe it's a good thing, but it's a hockey game and I'm just going to go out there and have fun tonight."

Moen said he was excited to play with the 20-year-old Leblanc.

"We'll try to calm him down a bit," Moen said. "Playing with me and (Eller), just make the simple play. We're the type of players where you chip the pucks deep, we'll go get them. We'll try and get him his first goal."
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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres