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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 6:24 PM

NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Penguins-Leafs lineups

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 6:10 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Murray and Dumba to join forces along blue line

KELOWNA, B.C. -- It appears as though Ryan Murray and Mathew Dumba, two of the most talked-about defensive prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, will pair up in the first period of the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday at Prospera Place.

"That will be a pretty deadly pair, that's for sure," Team Cherry goalie Matthew Murray told NHL.com.

Perhaps it won't be the first time, either, that Murray and Dumba pair up along the blue line in an All-Star type setting. Both players, who worked together exclusively during Wednesday's morning skate for Team Cherry, are looking forward to the opportunity.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 5:56 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Recchi brings out the bling

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Mark Recchi said he doesn't know much about coaching, but he certainly knows how to inspire the next generation of NHL stars.

Recchi, who is coaching Team Cherry here at the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, brought his three Stanley Cup rings into the locker room before the skills contest last night. The players clearly were impressed with the championship jewelry Recchi earned with the 1991 Penguins, the 2006 Hurricanes and 2011 Bruins.

"What a sight that was," center Brendan Gaunce told NHL.com. "Each of those rings takes up your whole finger. I thought the ring I won as a ninth-grader playing football in the Metro Bowl was pretty big, but that had one stone and those Stanley Cup rings had something like 25 stones … I've never seen anything like it."
 
"They looked like they weighed 30 pounds each," added defenseman Ryan Murray.

"They were pretty good," Recchi told NHL.com. "They quietly got up real quick. I just put them in the middle of the room. They could do what they want with it. It was good."

Everything's been good for Recchi since he ended his 22-year career following last June's Cup win. When he hasn't been home with his wife and children, he's done TV work for the NHL Network, skated in the alumni game at the 2012 Winter Classic, and spent time with the junior team he co-owns, the Kamloops Blazers.

"It's been great," he said. "I haven't done much. I still watch games every night, look at stats every day. Other than that, it's been really good. Just taking a break, getting away from it a little bit, playing with my kids and hanging out. The good thing about it is I don't have to be in a hurry."

As he dabbles in everything to figure out what's next, he figured coaching would be something new to try.

"Bruce Hamilton (Kelowna owner/GM) asked me if I was interested and I said absolutely," said Recchi. "I have no idea how to coach, but I've been around it enough. There's not a lot that goes into it. (Kelowna coach Ryan) Huska has been great. He's really the one leading the charge. I'm just trying to push pucks around and have fun with the guys."

Recchi also talked to my colleague Mike G. Morreale about the changes in junior players and the draft from his younger days, the advice he's been giving his players and which players have impressed him the most -- including which defenseman reminded him of a certain Hall of Famer. You won't want to miss that story when it goes up a little later today.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 5:27 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Hockey Hall of Famer Jim Gregory honored

Kelowna, BC -- The Canadian Hockey League on Tuesday announced that Hockey Hall of Famer Jim Gregory will be recognized annually at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game with Player of the Game awards that will be named in his honor.

The announcement was made by CHL President David Branch on Tuesday evening at a special reception hosted by the CHL for those scouts attending the Top Prospects Game this week.

"The CHL and the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game has benefited from the support of builders such as Jim Gregory," Branch said in a statement released by the CHL. "Mr. Gregory's contributions to this event and to our game are countless and it is only fitting that he be recognized annually in an event that features future NHL greats."

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 4:33 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Long trip worth it for Fox

KELOWNA, B.C. -- The host city for the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game isn't the most accessible place in western Canada, but for Erie Otters forward Dane Fox, any travel difficulties were well worth it.

Fox was one of the final players added to the roster, leaving him little time to book his travel arrangements.

"I got home from a road trip to Sudbury at 7 in the morning Sunday, and then 7 that night, Sunday, Mr. (Sherry) Bassin (GM) called me and said he got the call," Fox told NHL.com. "We had three hours to book the flight and I was off the next morning."

Fox's adventure started at noon ET on Monday with an hour-long flight from Erie, Pa., to Detroit. Then it was a five-hour flight to Seattle, followed by a 90-minute flight to Vancouver. After a 2.5-hour layover, he had one final hour-long flight to Kelowna. He said he checked into his hotel at 12:30 a.m. PT -- in all, a 15.5-hour day of travel.

However, Fox said he'd do it all over again just to have this experience.

"I'd do anything to be here," he said "That was just one little rough patch in the road that I got over. It's an honor to be here."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 4:26 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Hamilton a happy host

Kelowna Rockets' best players

KELOWNA, B.C. -- One of the most striking features of Prospera Place is the giant murals painted on the wall across from the locker rooms of some of the best players to skate for the Kelowna Rockets.

And the list is an impressive one -- Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn and Jamie Benn are among some of the players depicted in their Rockets uniform, and features some of the hardware they've won over the years, both with the Rockets and in the NHL.

"The precedent to get put up there is you have to win a gold medal or a Stanley Cup or a Memorial Cup … or win a World Junior gold medal," Kelowna owner/GM Bruce Hamilton told NHL.com.

Keith's mural features him with a gold medal around his neck and the Stanley Cup next to him. Weber's portrait has him holding the Memorial Cup over his head. Myers and Benn both have World Junior gold medals around their necks.

The murals were Hamilton's idea and started not long after the team moved into Prospera Place.

"We're in this building for 11 (years) now," said Hamilton. "I thought that was a good thing for us, to start to recognize the players that have been here. I think it's really neat when we have training camp and all the young guys are here and they see those guys. And when the visiting teams come in, they walk by them and see who's played here, too. And those guys that are on the wall, they come by and take a look."

Hamilton has owned the team since 1995, when it was in Tacoma, Wash., and organized the move to Kelowna. Since the move the franchise has hosted a Memorial Cup, games in the Subway Super Series and other big events. The Top Prospects Game, though, is something Hamilton says he has been looking forward to hosting for quite a while.

"It's very special for me personally," he said. "I've wanted to have this, I've bid on it. Each time it was going to be in Eastern Canada and we had to sell them on that we can do it here, we did it with the Memorial Cup. This thing, we'll do whatever it takes to make it work. The travel is not near as bad as everyone thinks it is to get in here. The NHL people here are stunning. There's in excess of 250 NHL scouts here, from what I'm told. I'm thrilled. Our city loves this stuff and our season-ticket holders deserve it, so that's why we do it."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 4:08 PM

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

Ducks' Blake out another game, Benn back for Stars

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Jason Blake will miss at least one more game for the Anaheim Ducks.

Blake did not participate in the team’s morning skate Wednesday and coach Bruce Boudreau said he is still recovering from a foot injury that kept him out Tuesday night.

“It’s lingering,” Boudreau said. “It’s still there. Unless there’s a miracle, he’s not going to be on the ice tonight.”

The red-hot Ducks kept rolling without the veteran Blake. They put hard-forechecking winger Matt Beleskey in Blake’s spot beside young center Nick Bonino and the veteran Andrew Cogliano.

Cogliano recorded his first hat trick Tuesday and Bonino has ably filled the third-line center role.
Boudreau likes Bonino and his line as a whole.

“Especially, on the road, (they) end up playing against the other team’s top line,” Boudreau said. “When you can be responsible defensively in your own zone, that’s so important. And that’s what I’ve thought. (Bonino) doesn’t get caught too often as the third guy high he gets back in the zone. He’s got a good stick. He reads the play well and anticipates really well.”

Kyle Palmieri was recalled from Syracuse in case Blake is out longer than expected.

Benn returns: Jamie Benn played in the All-Star game but Wednesday night marks his official return from emergency appendectomy surgery.

Benn said he recovered fully just before the break and he wasn’t necessarily curious to see how the first game will go.

“Not curious – just excited,” Benn said. “I’m ready to go – two big points on the line. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the ice with the guys.”

Benn won the accuracy shooting portion of the Skills Competition. Asked if that tells him anything more about his game, he joked, “If I’m standing in the slot by myself, not moving, I guess I should shoot more.”

Dallas healthy: Wednesday night represents the first time since Oct.29 that Dallas is fielding a full lineup with no one on injured reserve or listed as injured.

Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said it comes at a good time as their schedule picks up in February.

“Certainly being healthy is what you need going into a heavy month like this,” Gulutzan said. “You’d hate to be all banged up heading into 16 games in 29 days. Health is a factor that contributes to your confidence and your overall group performance. We’re lucky to be healthy coming into it.”
Boudreau on Benn: Boudreau had the line of the day when he talked about seeing Benn with the Texas Stars when they played the Hershey Bears in the 2010 Calder Cup Finals and how much Benn has blossomed.

“I think he’s one of the finest young players in the League that nobody knows about,” Boudreau said. “If this kid was in Toronto, they’d be making statues of him.”

Smith-Pelly skating: Anaheim winger Devante Smith-Pelly skated with the club for the first time since he broke his foot in the World Junior Championship.

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Toby Petersen - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Philip Larsen - Alex Goligoski

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

DUCKS

Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Niklas Hagman - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Mark Bell - Rod Pelley - George Parros

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Lubomir Visnovsky - Luca Sbisa
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

My favorite moments from All-Star Weekend

Every year the All-Star Game gives us tons of great moments and the 2012 NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place was no different. A number of memories stick out in my mind, but these are the things that I'll take with me after All-Star Weekend in Ottawa.

The Alfie Lovefest: This was the best part of the weekend to me. The building was really unbelievable for Daniel Alfredsson. The standing ovation he received after he scored his first goal with 17,000 people on their feet was amazing, all weekend long he was treated so well when he stepped on the ice, and you could just see that the city is in love with him and it honors him. I know it was an All-Star Game, and it was an NHL event, but it really turned into the Daniel Alfredsson show, and he deserves it. He's been there a long time, he's been a great professional and he's been a great ambassador of our League around the world, so I don't think it bothered anyone that it turned into his show.

Tim Thomas gets No. 4: We sat down with Timmy and he let us know that he's won the last three All-Star games and he was going to play the third period in this one so he could win four. No one had ever done that before, so late in the game Timmy was only concerned with winning, even as Alfredsson's teammates tried to set him up for a hat trick in the third period. Two was enough for Alfredsson as far as Timmy was concerned. He was going to win that game and he was going to be the goalie of record four straight years.

Chara's warm welcome: Zdeno Chara learned to be a pro in Ottawa. He became a professional, he became a good player and he generally learned his craft in Ottawa and the people responded to him very well. I guarantee everybody in Ottawa wishes they still had Chara on that team, and I think he was a little apprehensive about coming back in such a high-profile role, but he was really excited about the good ovation and the good hand he got when he was announced. He may have left Ottawa, but that's part of the business, and he never badmouthed Ottawa or said it was a terrible place. Everything that came out of his mouth was about how much he loved playing there and how much he enjoyed his time in Ottawa. It was a case of handling the situation properly and at the end of the day there were no hard feelings for either side, and this weekend showed it.

The Hardest Shot:
This was really the best part of the skills competition. It's my favorite event to begin with, but when you see a record being set, that's always special, and we saw three shots break the old record in one night. It's really become the marquee event of the night with Chara and Shea Weber, and everyone's waiting to see if the record's going to get broken every year. Obviously the next step is if it's going to break 110 next year, but that was a great moment when Chara hit 108.8. It was a good, fun moment, and I think everyone will remember seeing the hardest slap shot ever taken. In addition, we were all surprised Alfie was in the hardest shot contest, too. I think most people thought high 90s would be a good showing for him since he's not known as a guy with a big shot. For him to go over 100 multiple times was pretty impressive.

The beauty of Ottawa:
Ottawa was great last weekend. It's a beautiful city and all of the scenic visuals along the Rideau Canal with the winter snow falling was very picturesque. The parliament buildings were all lit up, all the events were packed, the parties were all busy. You really have to give Ottawa an A+ for the job the city did.

Players showing their personality:
The players were a lot of fun all weekend. Marian Gaborik, in particular, for the first time really opened up and you could see his personality a little bit. He and (Henrik) Lundqvist battling back and forth on the ice and Gaborik eventually getting the hat trick was also great. Scott Hartnell's #HartnellDown campaign, when he would donate $1,000 every time he fell or scored a goal was great. Joffrey Lupul was great. There were a lot of guys having fun, and we've got to do more of that. When people see our athletes and meet our athletes and get to know our athletes, they fall in love with our athletes.

Skills on display: I also loved the skills relay on Saturday night with one-timers and pinpoint passing. That was the one drill that was what hockey players do. That's how you practice. You practice going through pylons. You practice carrying pucks through other pucks. You practice saucer passes. I thought it was a really great teaching tool for how hockey players learn their skills.

Overall, Ottawa was a great host this year and I think it gave Columbus a lot of ideas for 2013. That was one of the best parts of the weekend, too, to finally get some positive news for Columbus, which has had a tough year. Maybe this could be the start of a new period for the Jackets when they host the All-Star Game next January.

They'll just have to keep in mind that this season Ottawa gave them quite a bit to live up to.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 2:39 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Team Orr lineup

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Coach Pat Quinn is putting Team Orr through its practice session right now. Here's a look at how their lineup could look when they hit the ice tonight for the Top Prospects Game (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet):

Raphael Bussieres - Radek Faksa - Scott Kosmachuk
Andreas Athanasiou - Lukas Sutter - Tanner Pearson
Tomas Hyka - Mikhail Grigorenko - Chandler Stephenson
Branden Troock - Colton Sissons - Francis Beauvillier

Griffin Reinhart - Derrick Pouliot
Matthew Finn - Adam Pelech
Gianluca Curcuruto - Dalton Thrower

Francois Tremblay and Chris Driedger each will play half the game in net.

In case you missed it earlier, here's the lineup Team Cherry could put on the ice tonight.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 2:29 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

More Prospect injuries?

KELOWNA, B.C. -- The run of injuries to top players leading into the 2012 CHL/NHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Game didn't end just because the two-day event has started.

Windsor Spitfires defenseman Nick Ebert, who was supposed to play for Team Cherry tonight, is questionable due to a stomach bug. After winning the hardest-shot contest at the skills competition last night, he woke up this morning feeling ill, and did not practice. His status for the game is in question.

Also, Kitchener Rangers center Radek Faksa, who won the breakaway challenge last night, is questionable for tonight's game due to a leg injury. He was kicked in the calf during the 3-on-3 portion of the skills contest, but he's on the ice for Team Orr's practice. We'll update his status when we can.

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

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday