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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 1:49 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Maple Leafs, Devils

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs did not skate this morning, so it is not certain what their lineup will look like, but it's unlikely they'll change much from Monday's game against the New York Rangers.

One notable absence likely will be forward Mikhail Grabovski, whose girlfriend went into labor yesterday.

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Matt Frattin
Joey Crabb - Joe Colborne - Nikolai Kulemin
Jay Rosehill - David Steckel - Philippe Dupuis

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
James Reimer will start in goal, with Jonas Gustavsson the backup.

Ilya Kovalchuk - Zack Parise - Adam Henrique
Mattias Tedenby - Patrik Elias - Petr Sykora
Dainius Zubrus - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Nick Palmieri

Andy Greene - Anton Volchenkov
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur will start in goal, with Johan Hedberg the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 1:21 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Likely lineups for Red Wings, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the likely lineups for the Blues and Red Wings when they meet tonight in St. Louis (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN2):

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

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak
Brian Elliott, who beat the Red Wings 2-1 here Nov. 15, starts tonight in goal for the Blues. Jaroslav Halak will be the backup tonight and start Thursday against Anaheim.

Defenseman Ian Cole and forwards Evgeny Grachev and Ryan Reaves will be healthy scratches. Grachev (eye) was activated from injured reserve Tuesday.

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Danny Cleary - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Chris Conner - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Jakub Kindl - Brad Stuart

Jimmy Howard returns in goal after serving as the backup Sunday -- his first game off in 18 games. Ty Conklin, who stopped 32 shots in Sunday's loss, will be the backup.

Defenseman Mike Commodore is a healthy scratch.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 11:53 AM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Potential lineup for Devils

Here is what the New Jersey Devils' forward group could look like when they take the ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Mattias Tedenby - Patrik Elias - Petr Sykora
Dainius Zubrus - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton/Rod Pelley - Tim Sestito - Nick Palmieri

The Devils have seven healthy defensemen, so it's unclear who might sit out tonight.

The expectation is Martin Brodeur will start in goal for the first time since allowing three goals on four shots and getting pulled 8:17 into Friday's game against Minnesota.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 11:36 AM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - At the Rink blog

Moulson still savoring four-goal night

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Three days after the biggest game of his NHL career, New York Islanders forward Matt Moulson was still all smiles.

"It was a lot of fun -- one of those games where everything seemed to bounce my way," Moulson said after Tuesday's morning skate before the Islanders' game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "My linemates obviously made some unbelievable plays as well."

Moulson became the first player this season to score four in a game when he did it Saturday night in Dallas, helping the Islanders beat the Stars 5-4. Linemates John Tavares and PA Parenteau each had three assists.

The 28-year-old said he had a sense after his second goal in the first period that Saturday could be a special night.

"After the second one -- I'm still trying to figure out how it bounced like it did, right to me for the open net," he said. "After that, I said 'maybe things are bouncing my way tonight.'"

The big night gave Moulson six goals in three games, earning him the NHL's First Star of the Week -- and giving him bragging rights over his brother-in-law, Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick, who earned the Third Star.

"I told him bronze is all right," Moulson said with a laugh.

On a more serious note, he said the honor was a testament to his linemates.

"They've been playing great," he said. "All the goals I got during the week were a result of some pretty great plays by them."

Said Tavares: "It's a pretty great honor. He deserves it. [In Dallas] Mollie was right in the right spots, finding those loose pucks -- and he's not going to miss those too often."



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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 11:24 AM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - At the Rink blog

Isles juggle combinations as injury bug bites

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Al Montoya will be back in goal for the New York Islanders on Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. But the injuries that came home with the Islanders along with three wins and a shootout loss on their four-game road trip will force some shuffling in front of him.

Forwards Michael Grabner (groin) and Nino Niederreiter (concussion), both of whom were injured in Saturday's 5-4 win at Dallas, are out tonight. So is defenseman Andrew MacDonald, whose injured leg kept him out of games at Chicago and Dallas and will sideline him for at least another two weeks.

Rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin is up from AHL Bridgeport to back up Montoya after Rick DiPietro left Saturday’s game after two periods with a groin injury. The Isles' third veteran goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov, is still recovering from a groin injury sustained on Nov. 17. He has resumed skating, and Isles coach Jack Capuano said the team will know more tomorrow.

"Andrew will be out an extended period, and Nino is still going through all the phases with the concussion," Capuano said after the optional morning skate. "Grabs is definitely out. He's day-to-day. He didn't skate this morning."

Capuano isn't sure exactly who will play with whom.

"We're throwing it around a little bit," he said. "We'll probably move [Brian] Rolston up to start the game with Kyle [Okposo] and Frans [Nielsen]."

The Islanders called up forward Tim Wallace from Bridgeport. He'll dress along with center Michael Haley, a healthy scratch for the past three games. Defenseman Dylan Reese, called up to replace McDonald over the weekend, will also play.

The Islanders are back at the Nassau Coliseum after going 3-0-1 on a four-game trip that included wins in New Jersey, Buffalo and Dallas plus a shootout loss in Chicago.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 9:46 AM

By Ryan Murray -  Special to / - Ryan Murray draft blog

Murray discusses return to ice; invite to Canada camp

Ryan Murray is a defenseman for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. The 6-foot, 182-pound native of Saskatchewan was recently invited to participate in Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp, Dec. 10-14, 2011 at the WinSport Canada Athletic & Ice Complex in Calgary.  Despite being sidelined by an ankle injury since Oct. 19, Murray will continue to provide a monthly blog for that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hi all. The good news is I've been skating again and participating in some drills with the team. It feels pretty good, but it is still not game ready. It's tough to say when I will return, so I'm just taking things day by day right now. It's been tough to sit out for so long, especially with a nagging injury that you're trying to recover from. It feels pretty good right now though. I still need to get it a little bit stronger, but it's definitely been nice to get out on the ice and skate with the boys. It's just good to be able to get out there and do something because doing nothing but riding the bike and lifting weights every day was starting to get old.

I'm confident that I'll be ready for the World Junior camp, and I'm excited to get to Calgary to compete for a spot. My expectations this year are to definitely make the team. I think it would be a lot of fun to play in that tournament, especially since it is in held in Canada.

It's just such a huge tournament, and everybody in Canada watches it. I don't know many people who don't. It's a pretty big deal to everybody, and so many people in Canada really care about the National Junior Team. I always watched as a kid and always wanted to be there. It would be so great to go there and play with the best players in Canada.

It was definitely hard last year, going to the selection camp as a 17-year-old, being so close and then not making it. It's definitely been in the back of my mind since then to go back and work as hard as I possibly could to make the team this year.

Whenever you take the 40 best players in Canada, you're going to have a lot of good players and a bunch of guys who deserve to make the team. I know quite a few of the guys on the roster, especially after going to the selection camp last year and getting to meet a bunch of them. I guess one of the guys I know the best is Jaden Schwartz from Colorado College. I've known him for a long time. We used to go to school together and I'd go to his house every day for lunch.

Obviously it will be a really tough camp. Guys are giving it all they've got out there, and there's a great deal of intensity on the ice. The games are always tough with so many good players and so much skill out there on the ice at one time. I'm really excited to get out there and give it my best shot.

Since my injury, I haven't really been following the progress of other top prospects. It is very strange with a lot of prospects getting injured this year. Let's just hope that things get better for the rest of the season for the draft class of 2012.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 9:00 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Barry Melrose's all-time Tiny Team

Earlier this week, I gave you my greatest team of big men of all-time. Now it's time to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and check out the tiny team. A lot of you will notice that I have a few players missing like Dino Ciccarelli and Martin St. Louis. I thought of Dino and Marty, and they probably would have been the next guys on the team, but on the numbers my forwards have them beat. For the sake of Ciccarelli and St. Louis, I'll just say they were too tall to make the team.

Here's my greatest team of little guys in NHL history.

Gump Worsley, G -- Worsley was 5-foot-7, one of the most famous goaltenders in history, and he had one of the greatest nicknames in the history of the game. How many of us have pretended to be Gump Worsley playing in the backyard? He's one of the great characters of our sport, and he had some of the greatest lines. When he played for the Rangers someone asked him which defense in the League scared him the most and Gump turned and said, "My own." That's the type of guy he was. Again, though, he was a great goaltender. His numbers are fantastic. When there were six teams he was always one of the six No. 1 goaltenders in the NHL and he was just a great personality.

Curt Giles, D -- Curt was 5-8 and he was on those good Minnesota North Stars teams that went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1981 and again in 1991, and he played a lot of minutes. He was a defensive defenseman, but he was very physical for his size. It was amazing to think that a 5-8 defenseman at that time -- that was a real tough era in the NHL, and he was certainly able to hold his own despite being that small.

Lars-Erik Sjoberg, D -- I played with this guy in Winnipeg. He's 5-8 and I know a lot of people won't know him because he only played one year in the NHL, but if you look at the history of Swedish hockey or the WHA, where he played for a number of years, he was always one of the best defensemen. He was one of the stars of the Swedish national teams that went to the Olympics in those years. He played the power play and was gritty and that was a tough time in hockey. It was a physical time and a nasty time and Sjoberg played against everybody and played very well. I caught him at the end of his career, but he was a great teammate and a very underrated hockey player.

Marcel Dionne, F -- He was 5-8, but he also had over 700 goals and is probably the greatest player never to win the Stanley Cup. He was part of the Triple Crown line in Los Angeles, which was arguably the best line in the NHL for a period of time, he was very quick and he was a shorter guy but he was square. He had immense power in his legs like Sidney Crosby. He was a great skater and very tough to play against if you were a defenseman. People probably don't give him the respect he deserves because he played in Los Angeles and didn't have a lot of playoff success, but this is one of the great players to ever play in our sport.

Yvan Cournoyer, F -- "The Roadrunner" was 5-7 and was a captain for a few years of those great Montreal teams. After Beliveau left and Henri Richard left he was the guy. There aren't many captains of the Montreal Canadiens. He scored over 400 goals and was one of the fastest skaters ever to play the game. He played in the '72 series and he played with a straight stick, which allowed him to use his backhand as effectively as his forehand. He was one of the last guys in the League to do it that way and he was great when he was doing it that way.

Theo Fleury, F -- Theo, at 5-6, is the shortest player on my team. I was coaching Medicine Hat the first time I saw Theo Fleury and he was a menace up in Moose Jaw, and I could not believe it the first time I saw him play. Our team was real good in Medicine Hat, we won the Memorial Cup, and that night Fleury scored a hat trick against us. The guy was unbelievable. He was so fast, so brave, and an unbelievable competitor. I just loved watching him play. I didn't like coaching against him, but he was one of my favorite guys to watch. We all remember when he scored that playoff goal in overtime and slid down the ice on his knees and fist-pumped at the world. He was an unbelievable, emotional player who played with a lot of heart and character, so he makes up my tiny line.
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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 6:35 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Infection sidelines Canucks’ Higgins

VANCOUVER -- Chris Higgins isn't expected to play Tuesday against Colorado because of a possible foot infection.

Higgins was fine talking to the media after scoring the winning goal and setting up two others in Sunday’s 5-1 win against Calgary; but, according to coach Alain Vigneault, the winger woke up with a swollen foot.

Higgins, who missed six games with a Staph infection last season while he was still with the Florida Panthers, was going to see an infection specialist, Vigneault said, adding he didn't expect Higgins to play again the Avalanche based on how his foot looked Monday morning.

"Chris came in this morning and his foot was all swollen up. According to what he is telling us, he had the same thing happen to him last year in Florida," Vigneault said. "They initially thought it was a skate bite and then they thought it was a spider bite and then they finally figured out it was a Staph infection. Hopefully with their experience in the past they can get this under control real quick."

Chris Higgins
Left Wing - VAN
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 17
SOG: 62 | +/-: 2
Higgins said last season that they never did figure out what caused his last infection.

"I got a big zit on my foot, it was disgusting," Higgins said shortly after arriving in Vancouver in a trade. "I've never seen anything like it, it just came out of nowhere and I guess it was pretty dangerous. They tried a couple of different antibiotics, didn't work right away, and then after the third or fourth one it worked.

"It was scary because it came out of nowhere and my foot was like five times the size of normal in hours -- from a dot to totally blown up."

Higgins was offered a variety of possibilities for why he suffered the infection, but was surprised it happened to him given how frequently he cleans his gear.

"I washed my equipment more than anybody else I've ever seen, even before I got the Staph infection. I was it two or three times a week and there are guys that never wash it," he said last season. "It's scary that something like that can happen. I felt something weird and then after the game I took my boot off and it swelled up in two hours."

Without Higgins, who has 8 goals and 17 points in 26 games, the Canucks recalled Victor Oreskovich from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

But judging from practice, Danish speedster Jannik Hansen, who also scored Sunday, is more likely to takes his spot on the "American Express Line" with Ryan Kesler and David Booth.

Manny Malhotra likely moves back up to the third line with Cody Hodgson and Mason Raymond, who is another candidate to play with Kesler and Booth in his second game since returning from a broken back. Oreskovich will take the fourth-line spot left open by Aaron Volpatti’s torn labrum, which requires surgery.
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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 5:16 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Turris reacclimating to life with Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Kyle Turris got a rude welcome back to the NHL in his second game back after an extended absence on a contract holdout to start the season.

During Saturday's 4-2 loss at home to the Philadelphia Flyers, the 22-year old center got hit in the mouth by a puck after it was shot at Coyotes goalie Mike Smith -- who deflected it right into Turris' lip.

He got nine stitches and played a little more than 12 minutes in the game, but said he's OK and will likely be in the lineup as the fourth-line center on Monday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was Turris' second game back after the holdout and he said he's feeling good otherwise.

Turris didn't need a conditioning stint in the minors to get his game legs back because he worked hard during the hold out to stay in shape.

"I'm definitely getting more comfortable and getting my legs under me," said Turris, who hasn't scored a point yet. "I definitely felt like I was in shape. I knew it would take a couple practices to get my timing back, but I felt pretty good coming in and I'm just looking to get going again."

He's also excited to be back in an NHL locker room and back on the ice for games.

"It's tough watching," said Turris, whose return bumped gritty center Kyle Chipchura from the lineup. "It feels good to be back, just getting back on the ice and playing the game I love. Eventually I want to work my way up and get to be a top guy that is a go-to guy."

The third pick in the 2007 NHL Draft started to show glimpses of what he can do during last season's playoffs, when he scored a goal and added a pair of assists in the Coyotes' four-game loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

The goal now is to build off that experience and develop as a player.

"Playing in The Joe for the playoffs, and the octopus on the ice was pretty neat and something I learned a lot from," Turris said. "I won't forget that experience for a long time."
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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 5:14 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Streaky Vrbata has been red-hot for Coyotes

CHICAGO -- After a slow start scoring goals this season, Phoenix Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata has been red hot at finding the back of the net.

He leads the team with 12 goals and is tied for the points lead with 22, but 11 of those goals have come in the past 16 games. He's also got a stat line of 11-8-19 in his past 17 games heading into Monday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center -- where he scored a goal and added an assist on Nov. 29 in a 4-1 win.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has urged Vrbata to shoot the puck more in the past, but it's more than just firing shots that’s working for the 30-year old Vrbata.

"Shooting more is one thing, but (Vrbata is) shooting to score more," Tippett said. "He's a guy that finds lots of shots, but when he's on top of his game he's got a little extra oomph to shoot to score. He finds opportunities. When they're going in for him, it seems like he's got that little extra zip on it. When the puck's not going in, it just doesn't have that same pop."

The problem is getting that "pop" to show up more consistently off Vrbata's stick.

"He goes in stretches," Tippett said. "He's a bit of a streaky guy. Like all goal scorers, sometimes the puck goes in for you and sometimes it doesn't. When he's on, he can be pretty good."

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