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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 2:31 PM

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

Madden has something to prove with Panthers

NEW YORK -- If John Madden had it his way, he wouldn't have waited until the season was nearly halfway over before signing with an NHL team.

"I thought I'd be playing at the beginning of the year, to be honest with you," said the 38-year-old Madden, who signed Wednesday for the rest of the season with the Florida Panthers. "I feel I have something to prove. I still feel I can still play the game. I've got a little fire in my belly again for being looked over another time."

One look at Madden's resume can explain his surprise about being unable to find a contract this summer.

The native of Toronto spent his first 10 seasons in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, where he compiled two Stanley Cup victories and a Selke Trophy. He spent the 2009-10 season with the Chicago Blackhawks where he lifted the Stanley Cup for the third time. The checking center had 12 goals and 13 assists in 76 games with the Minnesota Wild last season, but was unable to find a home this season.

Injuries were taking their toll on the Southeast Division-leading Panthers, who believed he was a good fit because of his experience and ability to kill penalties. Stephen Weiss has been trying to find a balance between centering the team's top line and working on the penalty kill, and the addition of Madden will relieve Weiss of some of those defensive duties.

Madden said he had been keeping tabs on the Panthers because Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Brian Campbell, his teammates during the Blackhawks' championship season of 2010, were playing in Florida. After a while, Madden said he was blown away by the success the Panthers were having.

"I started watching and, wow," Madden said. "They're really playing well. It's fun to watch. I played with a few other guys here (Jose Theodore in Minnesota, Scott Clemmensen in New Jersey), and they've got some great young players here. It's been fun to watch so far."

Madden won't be in the lineup when the Panthers face the Rangers on Thursday night, but he's hoping to make his season debut Friday in New Jersey against the team that gave him his start in the NHL.

"Just to have Madds in general, it's going to help our hockey club," Weiss said. "That'll be great. Just from playing against him, I know how he good he is on draws and killing penalties and good defensively."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Dennis Ryan -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Leafs, Jets battle for top-eight spot at ACC

TORONTO – The matchup tonight at Air Canada Centre sets up as an important one in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs are tied for 9th place with 43 points and identical 19-15-5 records. The winner will jump back into the top eight and could finish the night as high as sixth in the standings. Jonas Gustavsson and Chris Mason will be between the pipes.

The Leafs are coming off an impressive 7-3 home win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, and could build some momentum with nine of their next 10 games at the ACC.
 
Captain Dion Phaneuf, fresh off the news of his election to the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, emphasized the importance of consistency in the tight playoff race.
 
 “The main thing that our team wants to concentrate on is staying even keel and playing our game, day after day, night after night," Phaneuf said. “Whether you’re in or you’re out you’ve got to win hockey games to either keep pace or move up, that’s our focus and we’re going to keep doing that.”

The Jets had an impressive run in December with a 10-3-1 mark, capitalizing on a schedule which featured 12 home games, but could not continue that success on the road Wednesday night in Montreal. The Canadiens spanked the Jets 7-3 in the first game of a four-game road trip that will see Winnipeg take on each member of the Northeast Divison.
 
Jets captain Andrew Ladd spoke about his club rebounding from the tough loss.

“We looked at the tape this morning and some of the things we need to be a lot better at,” Ladd said.  “Our play away from the puck (needs to improve). We need to get the puck back quicker and obviously (we had) a couple turnovers that we don’t need.”

Jets center Bryan Little, out since Dec. 17th with a foot injury, skated with the team for the second straight day but is not expected to play tonight.

On the injury front for the Leafs, coach Ron Wilson revealed that defenseman John-Michael Liles is dealing with bronchitis along with the effects of a concussion from Dec. 22nd. Only when the bronchitis subsides will the team be able to assess Liles’ status.

Here are the projected lineups:

JETS

Blake Wheeler - Tim Stapleton - Evander Kane
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Eric Fehr - Alexander Burmistrov - Chris Thorburn
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Ron Hainsey
Johnny Oduya - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones

Chris Mason
Ondrej Pavelec

MAPLE LEAFS

Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Nazem Kadri
Darryl Boyce - David Steckel - Matt Frattin

Keith Aulie - Dion Phaneuf
Carl Gunnarsson - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson
 
Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer
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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 12:50 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected Calgary lineup for Thursday's game

BOSTON – The chance to complete their seven-game road trip with a .500 record lies in the balance tonight.

So the Calgary Flames needed to regroup in the midst of their morning skate after things started to get sloppy.

Head coach Brent Sutter interrupted his team’s skate at the TD Garden, where they’ll face the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, for a lengthy team chat, before allowing his players to resume their activities. It’s rare for any coach to insert his speech in the middle of a skate.

“We have a game to play tonight. So that’s what it’s about,” said Sutter, whose team is 2-3-1 on its current trip. “We don’t want to be missing because we’re not at the standards we need to be.”

Calgary center Rene Bourque begins his five-game suspension Thursday night, so Raitis Ivanans is scheduled to get into the lineup. Leland Irving was the first Flames goaltender off the ice, which indicates he’ll probably get the start.

Here are the Flames’ projected forward lines and D pairs as per the morning skate:

Forwards

Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Paul Byron-Roman Horak-Tim Jackman
Tom Kostopoulos-Brendan Morrison-Raitis Ivanans

Defenseman

Chris Butler-Jay Bouwmeester
Scott Hannan-Anton Babchuk
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich

Goalies

Leland Irving
Miikka Kiprusoff
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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 12:43 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Weber welcomed back into Preds lineup

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After 13 days and four games, Nashville defenseman Shea Weber will return to the lineup Thursday when the Predators host Dallas, the team against which Weber suffered his concussion on Dec. 23.

Ironically, Nashville went 3-1 without Weber, who was a Norris Trophy finalist last season and is having a Norris-caliber season in 2011-12. Weber still ranks third in the League in points among defensemen with 29 in 35 games. He also is a team-leading plus-14 and averages 26:20 in time on ice per game (fifth in the NHL) for the Predators, who entered Thursday seventh in the Western Conference.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said that Weber was cleared Wednesday afternoon.

“It’ll be good,” Weber said. “Obviously, the guys have been playing really well, so hopefully I can fit back in and keep it going.”

Trotz was excited about having his franchise defenseman back.

He would boost any team, not only us,” Trotz said. “Trust me. He’s one of those elite defensemen that you don’t really replace. He’s excited to be back.”

Weber said he has had concussions in the past but that he was unsure how many. The injuries have become a hot-button issue not only in hockey, with long absences by some of the game’s top players, including Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and the New York RangersMarc Staal, but also in other contact sports such as football.

Weber said he felt fortunate that he was only out for as short a time span as he was.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously seeing the length of some of these concussions, it’s scary,” Weber said. “I’m excited to be back.”

While it was not a lengthy time by most standards, Weber said it did not seem that way.

“It’s been, obviously, up and down just like everyone talks about,” he said of the rehab. “It’s a long process – it seemed like a long time, it was fairly quick – but just one step at a time, one day at a time.”

The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Weber has advanced to the League’s elite at his position with a physical game. He said the injury would not change how he plays.
“Everything’s fine, obviously,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been cleared to play if it’s not, so it’s going to be. I’m sure I’ll try to get into it early and I’m definitely not going to change the way I play.”

Weber suffered the concussion in a late-game hit with Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric that was not penalized. Both Trotz and Weber said the team would not seek retribution.

The Stars already lead the season series 1-0 and sit only three points behind Nashville with a game in hand so the game has consequence in the standings.

“We need two points,” Weber said. “They’re a very good team. We have to play better than the last time we played against Dallas, so I think we’ll be ready.”
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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 12:38 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Lightning, Senators

KANATA, Ont. – Here are the projected starting lineups for Thursday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators square off at Scotiabank Place:

SENATORS

Milan MichalekJason SpezzaColin Greening
Erik CondraKyle TurrisDaniel Alfredsson
Nick FolignoZack SmithBobby Butler
Kaspars DaugavinsZenon KonopkaChris Neil

Jared CowenSergei Gonchar
Filip KubaErik Karlsson
Brian LeeMatt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

Chris Phillips (concussion) worked out Wednesday, rode the bike Thursday morning and will take a neuro test Thursday evening. He could potentially return to the lineup as early as the weekend.

LIGHTNING

Martin St. LouisSteven StamkosSteve Downie
Dominic MooreVincent LecavalierJT Wyman
Tom PyattNate ThompsonTeddy Purcell
Dana TyrellBlair JonesAdam Hall

Eric BrewerPavel Kubina
Brett ClarkMatt Gilroy
Marc-Andre BergeronBruno Gervais

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

Ryan Malone, who experienced an upper-body injury at practice Monday, remains day-to-day and is out against Ottawa.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 12:29 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Fatigue not expected to be an issue for Bruins

BOSTON – The Bruins will play the second half of a back-to-back set of games tonight at TD Garden.
               
But weariness shouldn’t be an issue against Calgary because coach Claude Julien was able to spread out his team’s ice time in a 6-1 victory at New Jersey on Wednesday night.

No Bruins forward played more than the 17:20 logged by Rich Peverley, and Dennis Seidenberg led the defense corps in ice time with just 22:33.
               
“I think that was one of the things I tried to do in the third period when we scored that fourth goal and seemed to have control of the game, I really tried to spread out the ice time and keep us as fresh as possible for tonight,” said Julien, who gave his players this morning off. “That’s the reality of things. You’ve got a team waiting for you at home and you’ve got to play a back-to-back game. We’ve done it before. It’s throughout the whole league, every team plays back-to-back games. And you’ve just got to look at the situation and make the best of it. And we’re fortunate that we had a good enough cushion last night that we were able to do it.”

After Tim Thomas made 30 saves against the Devils, expect Tuukka Rask to get the start against Calgary.
               
Here is the projected lineup for tonight:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas
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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 9:00 AM

By Jacob Trouba -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Jacob Trouba draft blog

Jacob Trouba checks in from WJC

Jacob Trouba is a defenseman for the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program of the United States Hockey League. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound native of Rochester, Mich., was the youngest player on the U.S. National Junior Team roster in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta. While the U.S. team finished seventh at the World Junior Championship, Trouba was regarded as one of the team's steadiest blueliners. Following the team's 2-1 victory over Switzerland in its final game of the relegation round, Trouba completed his January blog entry for NHL.com.

Hi everyone. Coming to you from the press room at the Saddledome where we just finished our final game of the World Junior Championship.

The World Junior Championship was definitely a great tournament. I was coming in here as a younger guy and didn't really know what to expect. I just wanted to blend in at first and get to know what I was doing and get to know where I was going. Once I got the hang of it, I discovered that it's still hockey no matter who you're playing or with. You're still playing the same way, so it wasn't that big of a change.

Once I figured that out, it really helped me. Being with this team and these guys really helped me out. They took me under their wing and it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life and something I'll use for next year. [Jarred] Tinordi and [Jon] Merrill really helped me and it wasn't so much asking them things but just by watching them and how they do things. I kind of did what they did because they are solid defenders.

We have big expectations for next year and we'll come back stronger and win a gold medal.

There were some games that I started off slow, but I felt I played pretty well for the most part. I've done what my role is on the team. Entering camp, I felt like USA Hockey needed a physical defenseman and that's kind of what I wanted to focus on mentally and physically because [Jon] Merrill, [Jarred] Tinordi and [Adam] Clendening could do the offensive side, that's what they're good at. I was keying on being physical but during the tournament, I got comfortable doing other things, so that really helped.

Our game against Canada [a 3-2 loss on New Year's Eve] was a real fun one to play in. If you can't get up for that, quit hockey!

During the Canada game, I felt good and felt confident out there, making plays when I could. I thought I held my own and it was a good game. We fought hard to the end which was good, but still didn't come out with the win. Before the game, coach Dean Blais told us that even though we were out of the medal round, we were still playing for our country and that's something many people in our position want to do. So we had to take pride in it no matter if we were playing the last-place game or the gold medal game. We're still representing something, so that's who we needed to play for.

Finally, I just wanted to say how honored it was to be playing in the game that goalie Jack Campbell would earn the record for most wins by an American goalie at the World Junior Championship. Jack is the nicest guy you'd ever meet. He deserves that mark. He'll come out after every period and thank the defensemen. He's such a great guy and I'm really proud I was in that [2-1 victory over Switzerland] because he really deserved that."

You can follow me on twitter at: @jacobtrouba, and stay up on the U18 NTDP and our road to the U18 World Championship. Thanks for reading and check back next month.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 9:42 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BOS @ NJD - 4:50 of the Third Period

At 4:50 of the third period in the Bruins/Devils game,  video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck was struck below the height of the crossbar by Boston's David Krejci. Good goal Boston.

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 Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 9:30 PM

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

Still in awe over Winter Classic

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. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

It's been a few days since the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but I'm still in awe over the entire event. Plus, the problems that the Buffalo Sabres have been having all season are still mystifying to me. Read on to find out more of my thoughts on both:

What's clicking?

I've done a lot of cool things in my lifetime and have been involved with a lot of really neat events, including All-Star games, the Olympics and the Stanley Cup Final, but the Winter Classic was one of the coolest things I've ever done. The best thing I've ever done was go to the Vancouver Olympics, but last weekend's Winter Classic was one of the most fun and best-run events I've seen in a long time.

My hat goes off to the NHL for putting on a first-class event. My hat goes off to the Rangers and Flyers for the support they gave the Winter Classic. And, I certainly tip my hat to the fans that came out, all 45,000 for the alumni game and the 47,000 for the big game. That just goes to show you how supportive these fans are in both of these cities.

The buildup to the even was spectacular, too.

For both teams to open up and allow HBO's cameras to go inside and get up close and personal not only in the locker rooms, but on the buses, on the planes, in the hotel rooms and in their homes was just phenomenal. Those are forbidden territories to media, but the coaches and the teams allowed that to happen and by doing so allowed people to get up front with the National Hockey League and its players from their living rooms.

Getting to play in the alumni game was tremendous. To be in the same locker room with Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke, Mark Howe, Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi, Rick Tocchet -- it was a true treat. To be on the ice with 45,000 people watching, I can't remember being in an environment that took my breath away, and that really took my breath away. It's the only way I can describe it.

Seeing the amount of sweaters that were worn out there, it was inspiring.

Again, the NHL really succeeded in pulling off another great celebration of the game. The Winter Classic is a huge hit and a huge bonus for the NHL and its fans.

What's missing?

I remain perplexed by the struggles of the Buffalo Sabres. I really just don't get it. I don't understand why this team has struggled to win consistently. They have solid, strong forwards, good defenseman and in my opinion a guy who should be one of the best goalies in the NHL in Ryan Miller, but it's not working.

What is wrong with Miller, both physically and mentally? He just doesn't seem to be the same guy I'm used to watching. He's letting in a lot of shots that in past years he would have stopped. He seems to be struggling in the crease with his positioning. I think he's battling a confidence issue right now, and I don't know why it has been going on for so long.

Maybe it's because Ryan Miller got married in the offseason and his wife lives in L.A., so there is that separation. But, that's personal stuff that you have to deal with, that you have to put aside and forget about when you're on the ice.

Lindy Ruff is a good coach, but for some reason the guys and him just aren't connecting with the work aspect that needs to be done. They're struggling to win the games they do win, and they're not beating teams they should beat.

They barely beat Edmonton on Tuesday because the Oilers came out and totally dominated them in the work aspect. That leads me to wonder why the Sabres aren't working hard enough for Ruff.

They do deserve some benefit of the doubt because their injuries have been immense, and now Christian Ehrhoff is out as well. They have used 33 different players in the lineup and they have lost 173 man-games to injury. It is hard for the coach to find any cohesiveness with all those injuries because he is forever mismatching combinations, so you can't get into any kind of groove.

But there is still the work ethic problem and the issues that Miller seems to be having.

Let's hope that Buffalo can get everybody healthy, working hard, and clicking so they put together the push to the playoffs that those fans deserve. It is a really good fan base and it's always good to see the Sabres battling come playoff time.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 8:05 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BOS @ NJD - 8:15 of the First Period

At 8:15 of the first period in the Bruins / Devils game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Andrew Ference's shot deflected off Gregory Campbell's skate and into the net in a legal fashion. Good goal Boston.

According to rule 49.2 "A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal."

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Quote of the Day

The old saying in hockey is 'weather the storm.' I put the notion in their heads that we don't want to weather the storm, we want to push just as hard and matched their work ethic. I thought our guys exceeded that in the first period.

— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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