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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 11:52 AM

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

Pens follow up Crosby debut by facing Blues

PITTSBURGH -- Now, it's on to Game 2 of Sidney Crosby's comeback for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
The Penguins begin a stretch of three games in four days by playing the St. Louis Blues, who are 4-1-2 since former Stanley Cup-winning coach Ken Hitchcock was hired -- including a 3-2 loss at home to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. The Penguins remain at home Friday to play the Ottawa Senators, and then travel to Montreal on Saturday night.
 
Not surprisingly, given the Penguins' 5-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday, there are no lineup changes:
 
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams
 
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
 
Marc-Andre Fleury will be back in net after recording his second shutout of the season and the 21st of his career. Fleury is 7-1 at Consol Energy Center this season and is 2-2 with a 2.63 goals-against average in four career games against the Blues.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 10:44 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Devils have encouraging news on Zajac

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac, who hasn't played a game this season after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon during the offseason, skated on his own on Tuesday and Wednesday in New Jersey and could begin practicing with the team in two weeks.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello spoke to the media during his team's morning skate at Prudential Center to provide the media with an update on center Zajac.
 
"Travis has been released by the doctors and is in town and skated [Tuesday and Wednesday] and will continue to do that for the next week and a half to two weeks," Lamoriello said. "If everything is on schedule as it has been, he'll start practicing with the team in two weeks. Everything to this point has been exactly the way the doctors predicted it would be, and it feels good, but he's certainly not there yet. It'll take conditioning off and on the ice before he can return to practice."
 
The Devils recalled center Tim Sestito from their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany on Wednesday.
 
"Tim has played well in Albany so we've called him up to take a better look at him," Lamoriello said.
 
Defenseman Anton Volchenkov (facial laceration) and forward Ilya Kovalchuk were also on the ice for the Devils during the team's morning session in preparation for the Wednesday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 2:19 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Eberle flying under the radar

When fantasy owners think of recent first-round picks of the Edmonton Oilers taking the fantasy world by storm, they usually have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (drafted 1st overall in 2011) and Taylor Hall (1st in 2010) in mind.

But with all due respect to those dazzling young point-producers, there is an often forgotten member of the Oilers' fantasy crop of forwards -- Jordan Eberle. The former 22nd overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft churned out his seventh multi-point outing in 21 games this season on Tuesday, and is in the midst of a scorching stretch that has elevated his value to new heights.

Jordan Eberle
Right Wing - EDM
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 21
SOG: 44 | +/-: 1
Coming off a 18-goal, 25-assist rookie campaign, Eberle (7 G, 14 A, plus-1, 6 PPP, 6 PIM, 44 SOG, 15 hits) is on pace to shatter those numbers as surprising Oilers have seemingly put their stretch of last-place finishes to rest. Nugent-Hopkins (8 G, 14 A, plus-3, 11 PPP, 6 PIM, 44 SOG, 11 hits) and Hall (6 G, 10 A, even rating, 8 PPP, 12 PIM, 57 SOG, 20 hits) had a pair of assists apiece on Tuesday and are both machines on the man advantage. But Eberle is up to speed with his peers in nearly every category, including power-play points, proving he is just as likely to continue his breakout season.

His three-point (2 G, 1 A) performance Tuesday night -- despite a difficult road environment in Nashville -- truly showcased his creativity with the puck and also his knack for finding his teammates in stride. Eberle has compiled four goals and six assists in his last five games, but is still only owned in 60 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. This 21-year-old's caliber of production should no longer be undervalued, as it mirrors his frequent linemates, Hall and RNH.

All three of these fantasy assets are bound to have their ups and downs as the season wears on, but their frequent outbursts of high-flying point production have made it crystal clear that they are on the fast track to stardom in this League.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:43 AM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Richards wearing crown for Kings

High expectations were thrust upon Mike Richards since his trade to the Los Angeles Kings from the Philadelphia Flyers this past offseason. Justifiably so, too, as he has been an impact players since coming into the League in 2005-06.

However, until recently, the two-time 30-plus goal scorer has been in la la land in Los Angeles.

Mike Richards
Center - LAK
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 18
SOG: 54 | +/-: 4
In his first 14 games with the Kings, Richards scored only two goals. Not exactly the kind of production most fantasy owners envisioned when they rushed to draft him.

Whatever worries you may have had ought to be brushed away, as it appears that the Richards you've grown accustomed to seeing is back.

The 26-year-old center has collected five goals in his past four games and has points in six of his past seven games. That's not all. Richards has thrown 24 shots on the cage during his recent hot streak and hasn't been a minus player, either. If you're inclined to think fluke as it related to his recent stats, then merely rely on precedence.

Not only does he have two 30-plus goal seasons on his resume, as mentioned, Richards has amassed at least 62 points in four straight seasons. Moreover, he's hasn't finished with less than 184 shots since 2007-08. Whatever the scoring category, the former first-round selection has delivered and has been a fantasy stud.

Richards appears to be feeling very comfortable in a Kings sweater these days and you will be feeling just as comfortable with your fantasy team if you're able to snag him.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:00 AM

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

Weekes: Young Oilers are getting the message

The game Saturday night between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers is a great example of what a young, talented team can do if it isn't in awe of its competition.

The Blackhawks rolled into Edmonton as the League's best team. They were coming off a bad loss to the Calgary Flames the night before, so all signs pointed toward a deep, complete, experienced team rolling through the Oilers. After all, the Blackhawks had just beaten the Oilers 6-3 in Chicago six days earlier.

The Oilers weren't showing any reason to think they'd be able to withstand the Blackhawks attack. Their blue line was decimated, with Cam Barker, Andy Sutton, Corey Potter and Ryan Whitney out with injuries.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 7:29 PM

By Eric Lipschutz -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Turris could be an option long term

Kyle Turris officially ended his season long holdout on Tuesday by re-signing with the Coyotes. Turris agreed to a two-year deal with the club.

To this point, the highly-touted Turris -- Phoenix selected him with the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft -- has had a tough time living up to his high billing. Since being drafted, Turris has only appeared in 131 NHL games and totaled just 19 career goals and 46 points. His lengthy holdout will only add to the obstacles he must overcome to reach his potential. 

Though Kyle Turris may not warrant much fantasy attention right now, his talent makes him worth keeping an eye on. (Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI)
Though his NHL career has been somewhat rocky to this point, there is no denying Turris posses plenty of talent, specifically the ability to put the puck in the net. The 22 year-old showed significant improvement last season with the Coyotes notching new career highs in games played (65), goals (11), assists (14) and points (25). 

Upon his return, Turris does not warrant much if any fantasy attention, at least for the time being. There is little doubt he will be plenty rusty and playing minimal minutes after missing training camp and the first 19 games of the regular season. Also, the fact that Turris is only center eligible, the deepest position in fantasy hockey, does not help his worth either.

Though he may not have much immediate value the undeniable potential Turris posses makes him a player worth keeping an eye on over the next couple of months, however. The Coyotes are not exactly a high-octane offensive unit, so if Turris can quickly shake the cobwebs while continuing to develop his game, Phoenix would likely to be eager to reward him with top six forward minutes as well as time on the power play. 

With the heart of the winter right around the corner injuries will inevitably begin to pile up and could coincide with the time Turris really begins to hit his stride. Going forward, as the waiver wire continues to increasingly dry up, Turris could be the kind of pick up that helps bolster your roster depth for a playoff push, particularly if your team is in need of scoring. 
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 6:54 PM

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

Blues put Colaiacovo on IR

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues on Tuesday placed defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo on injured reserve, retroactive to Nov. 18.

Colaiacovo has a left hamstring strain that he initially injured in the first period of Thursday's 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.

Colaiacovo, who has a goal and six points in 13 games this season, is eligible to come off injured reserve on Friday. Earlier in the day, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Colaiacovo, who missed five games earlier this season with a concussion, is feeling better and the team is hopeful he can get back on the ice by the end of the week.

The Blues recalled defenseman Cade Fairchild from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. The 22-year-old Fairchild is the team's fourth-round pick (No. 96) in the 2007 NHL Draft. He will be available for Tuesday night's home game against the Los Angeles Kings.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:50 PM

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

Hitchcock, Murray go back a long way together

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues' Ken Hitchcock and the Los Angeles Kings' Terry Murray have seen a few NHL games in their time.

When the Blues (10-7-2) host the Kings (10-7-3) at 6:30 p.m. CT tonight (Versus, KMOX 1120-AM), it will be the 1,048th game for Hitchcock and 1,004th game for Murray. The two are the oldest coaches in the NHL (Hitchcock is 59, Murray is 61) and the two friends go back a long way together.

"We go back way into the (International Hockey League) for crying out loud," Murray joked this morning. "He was coaching Kalamazoo where we spent some time together."

Murray, whose Kings beat the Blues 5-0 on Oct. 18, is glad to see his friend back in the game.

"I'm real happy for him. He's a real quality guy," Murray said of Hitchcock. "He's a real good coach, obviously. He's got a lot of games under his belt and had some great success, a Stanley Cup winner in Dallas.

"He waited for his time. He stays involved in the game when he was out ... probably running coaching clinics someplace, working with some people, some teams on the ice helping out there. He loves the game. I like to see a lifelong coach get back in."

When the Blues and Kings drop the puck, Hitchcock said look for a game of wits between two crafty guys behind the bench.

"Pretty snarly," Hitchcock said when asked to describe the Kings. "It'll be an interesting game; two coaches who know each other very well, are good friends, have the same belief system with the way the game has to be played.

"I would say this would be a game with not a lot of room. You're going to have to fight for your space and it isn't going to come easy. If both teams are on the mark, you'll see a helluva hockey game. We've coached against each other and with each other for a long time. Not much changes."

Added Murray: "That's so true in the game today. The way teams are structured on their checking part of the game. Everybody's relentless. There's a lot of dot-to-board battling going on. You've got to really fight for your space in front of the net now. The spacing that everybody shows defensively and offensively for puck support is getting tighter. There has to be a lot of dig-in attitude here tonight, for sure."

------------

Murray was asked how he would assess the first quarter of his team's season, considering they opened in Europe and on the east coast for two games.

The Kings played their home opener against the Blues on Oct. 18.

"I like where we are," Murray said. "Starting off with the trip over to Europe, I thought it was a very demanding start to the schedule. To come back with a couple more games on the east coast, we got through that.

"With all of the scheduling that we've had, especially the week before going over to Europe, then going overseas and regrouping and coming back, we got through the first quarter of the season in pretty good shape."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:46 PM

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

Blues tightening up at even strength

ST. LOUIS -- After the month of October, where they surrendered 20 goals in 11 games playing 5-on-5 hockey, the Blues have really buckled down in the month of November.

Through eight games, the Blues have surrendered only four goals playing 5-on-5, including three in six games with Hitchcock as coach.

"I think they bought into the checking part of hockey," Hitchcock said of his players. "They were already partly bought-in, and we just kind of continued the program.

"If they buy into it, the harder they check, the more they score and then they see results. I think what happened was we came out checking hard and scored because of it. The buy-in was a little bit easier."

Playing with a sense of urgency each and every shift seems to have paid dividends.

"I think we keep our shifts short," center Scott Nichol said. "I don't think we really over-extend ourselves. When you over-extend yourself and get tired, your game starts slowing down and you don't react quite as quick.

"All year long, we've done a good job of staying fresh and rolling our lines."

Added captain David Backes: "When you're playing at that high rate changing lines over quick, it's tough to play against when the guy against you is going 100 miles an hour. Even when we're making mistakes, we're making them at full speed so we can recover and get back above the puck. Other guys are bailing guys out when mistakes are made. It's a good recipe."

------------

Blues winger David Perron was cleared for full contact drills and has participated in five days now without the no-contact red jersey. Perron, out since Nov. 4, 2010 (concussion), has been involved in two days of hard practices where contact has been evident with no ill effects.

"It's hard when your player comes to full contact that he's not ready to play, but then you see endurance stuff," Hitchcock said. "He's getting closer from an endurance standpoint, and that's encouraging.

"I think for us, for him to be able to go through every day and then not have any repercussions the next day ... our focus is all on the next day. How does he feel the next day? He's had all the hockey soreness stuff and all the areas that you like with no repercussions at all. For us, that's good news.

"The next step is when does it slow down in his head? The tempo we practiced with the last two days, he had to keep up with it. I think the first day was a struggle for him, and yesterday was a lot better. We're getting closer. Now is just a matter of taking the next step. Taking the leap of faith and say it's time to go. He's the only guy that's going to know that. He's going to have to tell us when he thinks he's ready to go."

------------

Blues winger T.J. Oshie, who sat out the last two practices with a sore wrist, has been deemed good to go by Hitchcock. But there is still no news as far as winger Andy McDonald (concussion) is concerned.

"I haven't seen Mac at all," Hitchcock said. "I don't really have a comment on it because I haven't even seen him here in person here. ... He's not able to participate yet."

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (hamstring) will miss his third straight game but Hitchcock said there is progress.

"He feels better," Hitchcock said. "We're hopeful that towards the end of the week he can get back on the ice. We'll go from there, but he feels better.

"We need him back in the lineup. That's an injury where you don't know until you get on the ice. It's a hamstring injury. It might be good in 24 hours and you just go from there or it might take a few days. He's made improvement and that's a good sign."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:42 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Kings

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the St. Louis Blues host the Los Angeles Kings at Scottrade Center:

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

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Alex Pietrangelo
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.

The Blues continue to play without Perron and Andy McDonald (concussion), winger B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (hamstring). Brett Sterling, recalled from Peoria Sunday, is a healthy scratch.

KINGS
Simon Gagne - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Andrei Loktionov - Mike Richards - Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford - Jarret Stoll - Trent Hunter
Ethan Moreau - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

Jack Johnson - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Rob Scuderi - Matt Greene

Jonathan Bernier will be in goal, making only his fourth start this season; Jonathan Quick will be the backup, as the Kings play in Dallas on Wednesday.

For the Kings, wingers Dustin Penner (hand) and Scott Parse (lower-body) along with defenseman Alec Martinez (upper-body) are on injured reserve. Centers Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis along with defenseman Davis Drewiske are healthy scratches.
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Quote of the Day

Right now I'm just happy to be back and get through this season and make sure I do my job. I've never had an issue with having to prove myself again and I'll try to do it again. We'll see where it takes me.

— Defenseman Torey Krug on signing with the Boston Bruins
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