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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:42 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Vokoun won't start in return to South Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Washington goalie Tomas Vokoun was happy to return to South Florida so he could see his wife and two daughters. But the trip will not include a start against his former team.

Instead, Coach Dale Hunter said Michal Neuvirth will get the call against Florida, the team for which Vokoun played for the last four seasons.

"Those are the decisions Coach makes," Vokoun said. "I'm a paid employee and I don't make those kind of decisions. I'm a hockey player, I'm paid to play games. When they tell me I'm playing, I'm playing. When they told me I'm not playing, I'm not playing."

Vokoun left his family behind when he signed a one-year contract as a free agent with Washington this summer because he wanted his kids to stay in their school.

He flew to South Florida ahead of his teammates and stayed at his house on Sunday night.

"Obviously for me it's special becasue my family is here," he said. "I get to see my kids and stay home a couple of days. Being away since September, it's really nice."

Vokoun faced the Panthers earlier this season when the teams met in Washington and stopped 20 shots in a 3-0 shutout victory.

Hunter also said after Monday's morning skate that defenseman Roman Hamrlik will miss a third consecutive game with a lower-body injury.

Left wing Alexander Semin, however, could be available after missing Saturday night's 3-2 overtime victory over Ottawa with a shoulder injury. Hunter said a final call on his lineup will be a game-time decision.
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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Capitals, Panthers

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers host the Washington Capitals at the BankAtlantic Center:

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Cody Eakin - Marcus Johansson - Mike Knuble
Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Mathieu Perreault

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
John Erskine - Dennis Wideman
Jeff Schultz - Dmitry Orlov

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Tomas Kopecky - Sean Bergenheim
Evgenii Dadnov - Tim Kennedy - Bracken Kearns

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:32 PM

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

Incident leads Jordan Staal to consider visor use

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal may have seen the light when it comes to wearing a protective visor.

Staal normally doesn't wear a visor, but he had one during the morning skate in advance of the Penguins' game against the Boston Bruins on Monday night. And the change may not be temporary.

Staal received an estimated seven to eight stitches under his left eye -- and a major scare -- when an attempted pass by Carolina's Tomas Kaberle deflected off Staal's stick, causing the puck to strike him flush in the face Saturday night. Staal, who was bleeding, left the ice following the third-period mishap and did not return to a game the Penguins held on to win 3-2.

Staal acknowledged the injury could have been much worse. He was fortunate that he saw what was happening and was aware the puck was traveling at a high rate of speed toward his eye.

"I was worried about getting (my eye) closed," Staal said. "Right away, I knew it was close. It's never a fun thing when it happens. It was unfortunate. I'm glad nothing worse came of it."

Staal planned to wear the visor Monday night and is weighing whether to keep one on his helmet fulltime.

"A lot of guys wear them. It's not a huge issue," Staal said. "I've just been used to having without, but maybe I'll get used to having one."
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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:10 PM

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

Thomas chases career-best 10th straight win

PITTSBURGH -- Goaltender Tim Thomas goes for a career-high 10th consecutive victory when the Boston Bruins -- the NHL's hottest team with a 13-0-1 record in its last 14 -- take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Monday night.
 
Thomas has enjoyed some success against the Penguins, going 7-4-4 with one shutout and a 2.74 goals-against average against them. The NHL's First Star for November, when he was 9-0 with a 1.76 GAA, Thomas hasn't lost since Oct. 27 against Montreal.
 
Thomas, as usual on a game day, did not speak to reporters following the morning skate.
 
Of course, a lot of goalies don't have much to say on a day they're opposing Sidney Crosby. For the record, Crosby -- who returned to the Penguins two weeks ago following a concussion layoff that lasted more than 10 months -- has 6 goals and 22 assists and is a plus-9 in 18 career games against Boston.
 
Coach Claude Julien did not reveal any anticipated lineup changes.
 
"It's exciting to be able to play a game like this, against a team that's extremely good and has Sidney back. A team that has earned a lot of respect around the League," Julien said. "For us, we've got to make it fun. It's not a situation where we've got to win at all costs. It's about going out there and competing and playing as good as you can, and having fun with it."
 
Apparently, that fun began about seven hours before the opening faceoff. Rushing to get to the team bus for the short ride back to the Bruins' hotel, rookie forward Tyler Seguin -- wearing shorts -- went from room to room in the dressing room, looking for a suit that linemate Brad Marchand had hidden.
 
The Bruins' likely lineup:
 
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
 
Thomas is 4-3 in Pittsburgh during his career. The backup goalie will be Tuukka Rask, who made 21 saves during a 4-1 win over Toronto on Saturday night. He is 4-0-1 in his last five starts.
 
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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:04 PM

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

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Rangers

NEW YORK -- With back-to-back games on the horizon for the Toronto Maple Leafs, coach Ron Wilson said he expects to use his fourth line more than usual against the Rangers on Monday night.

Backup Jonas Gustavsson, who handed the Rangers their only regulation loss at Madison Square Garden this season with a 28-save performance on Oct. 28, will start in goal. James Reimer will be in net when the Leafs host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Here's what Wilson will likely throw out onto the ice tonight:

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

Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn

Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer

Nothing will likely change with the Rangers, who have won five straight and 12 of 14.

Ruslan Fedotenko - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell
Sean Avery - Brandon Dubinsky - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Michael Sauer
Jeff Woywitka - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 12:56 PM

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

Rangers ready to welcome HBO cameras 24/7

NEW YORK -- The camera crews for HBO's "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic" have made brief appearances during the past month, but they will become fully immersed starting Monday as the Rangers host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden.

HBO's acclaimed documentary series will start compiling footage for the show's premiere, Dec. 14 at 10 p.m. ET. The cameras have been around the Rangers at times, and the players have said they'll adjust now that the cameras will be around full-time.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said he won't change anything he does and said he wants his players to enjoy the experience.

"I'm not worried about our guys," Tortorella said. "I think athletes are entertainers. I think they're going to enjoy it. But I also trust our guys that they know what we're doing here. They know what the big picture is here. I think we're letting people into our room and I think it's a good thing for the League. But it won't affect our team. I trust our players understand that.

"I want them to enjoy this. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them."

Will there be any tirades like the ones captured by HBO when Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was swearing at a record rate?

"Probably not," Tortorella said.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson was asked if he'd welcome cameras into his locker room the way the Rangers and Flyers are with HBO.

"It'd be HBO Canada, so I don't know," said Wilson, pointing out a Canadian franchise hasn't participated in a Winter Classic. "We wouldn't be involved in a situation like that because it is HBO and it's an NBC production, as well. I'd be interested to see if the CBC or TSN would be involved with something like that."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo



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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 12:42 PM

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

Leafs looking to improve against League's elite

NEW YORK -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are having a pretty good season. It could be an even better one if not for the Boston Bruins.

The Leafs are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points. But if not for four losses to the Boston Bruins, things would be looking even better in Toronto. Just a split in those games would have the Leafs in second place in the East and on the doorstep of the top spot in the League.

Finding ways to beat the NHL's top teams has been a problem for the Leafs -- of their 10 regulation losses this season, nine have come against teams with winning records. It won't get any easier Monday night when they have to face the New York Rangers, who have won 12 of 14 and boast the best winning percentage in the League.

If the beatings by the Bruins and losses to the League's top teams have had any effect on the Leafs' confidence, a win against the Rangers would give it a boost.

"It would be huge," center Tyler Bozak said. "We just have to get back to doing what we were doing on our road trip (3-1-0). It's obviously going to be a tough game in their building. They play well here and are on a little bit of a streak, so we're going to have to come and give it our all tonight to have a chance."

The Rangers are 7-1-1 at Madison Square Garden, but that regulation loss came to the Leafs on Oct. 27. The Rangers have caught fire since then, but that early-season win has the Leafs confident they can do it again.

"We beat them here already, so it's not like we feel we can't beat the Rangers," winger Joffrey Lupul said. "Right now, it's just two points for us for a team it looks like we'll be battling all year. As far as confidence goes, we're confident. It's not like we're coming in here thinking we can't beat these guys. We know we can."

The Leafs will attempt to use the same recipe they did in October -- get traffic in front of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and use their own Swedish goaltender, Jonas Gustavsson, who made 28 saves in the 4-2 victory.

"It's always fun to compete against the best, whether it's a goalie or a defenseman or forward," Gustavsson said of facing Lundqvist. "In the end, it's just the same thing. You don't focus on what he's doing. You try to stop as many shots as you can.

"I see every game as a new game. I don't like to look in the past. We know it's going to be a really tough challenge tonight. They have a good team and are playing well. But I'm sure we can match them. When we're playing good, we're a really tough team to beat. Hopefully we're going to show that tonight."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 12:36 PM

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

Projected lineups for Senators, Lightning

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for Monday night's game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place:

SENATORS

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Milan Michalek - Nick Foligno - Daniel Alfredsson
Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil

Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson
David Rundblad - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson will get the start, with Alex Auld serving as backup. Nikita Filatov is the healthy scratch. Filip Kuba, who sustained an upper body injury against the Jets on Nov. 29, skated by himself on Sunday morning. There is no timetable for his return.

LIGHTNING
Steve Downie - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Dana Tyrell - Nate Thompson - Ryan Shannon
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Brett Connolly

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Bruno Gervais
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson is expected to get the start, with Mathieu Garon backing him up. Gervais is in for Pavel Kubina, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 11:58 AM

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

Penguins' young defense gets test from Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins' depth is one of the organization's strengths. That depth will be severely tested Monday night against the streaking Boston Bruins in an Eastern Conference matchup of division-leading teams.
 
The Penguins (16-7-4), who are 5-1-1 since star Sidney Crosby returned, lead the Atlantic Division and the conference with 36 points. The Bruins (16-7-1) top the Northeast Division after going 13-0-1 in their previous 14.
 
"They've been at a high level, an elite level," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "The best in the League."
 
Three of the six Penguins defensemen expected to be in uniform were with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) only days ago: Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo and Alexandre Picard. Picard returned to the Penguins Monday after Kris Letang -- off to a fast start with 3 goals and 16 assists in 22 games -- was placed on the injured reserve list, backdated to Nov. 26.
 
Letang and Zbynek Michalek, who have concussions, did not take part in the morning skate. The Penguins also are without defenseman Deryk Engelland (lower body injury), who is listed as day-to-day. Forward Richard Park (lower body injury) also missed practice.
 
While their forwards are healthy -- Jordan Staal (cut below left eye) will play -- the Penguins will rely on a realigned defensive corps during their only home game in a two-week period. They went 3-1 on a just-concluded road trip, and will head off to play the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders later this week.
 
"Situations like we've been in, you can expect to see a lot of different pairings," Bylsma said. "Paul Martin with a lot of guys. Brooks Orpik with a lot of guys. Matt Niskanen with a lot of guys. If someone is playing well, you might play him more minutes."
 
The Penguins' expected lineup for the first of their four games against Boston this season:
 
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
 
Matt Niskanen - Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik - Simon Despres
Robert Bortuzzo - Alexandre Picard
 
Marc-Andre Fleury, tied for the NHL lead with 14 victories and 11-2-2 in his last 15 starts, will be in net. Backup goalie Brent Johnson won at Carolina 3-2 on Saturday, holding on even as the Hurricanes ended the game with a three-man advantage after pulling their goalie.
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Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 10:10 AM

By Pat LaFontaine -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Making of a Royal

Tough loss provides a teaching moment

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, Long Island Royals Under-16 National coach Pat LaFontaine recalls the team's play in the Bauer International Invite in Chicago, Ill., two weeks ago. The Bauer International is one of the largest amateur hockey tournaments in the world. After earning victories against the Toronto Eagles, Ice Jets Academy (Texas), Detroit Warriors, Indiana Ice and Team Wisconsin, the Royals suffered a 2-1 shootout loss to Honeybaked Hockey Club (Detroit) in the tournament semifinals. LaFontaine discusses that dramatic setback and his thoughts on coaching players in the shootout.

So Honeybaked and the Royals each were 5-0 and playing in the semifinal; it was a classic meeting. We prepared the kids to come out quick and try to dictate the game early because one goal or power-play chance could change the momentum in a short game. Really, when you get to the quarterfinal or semifinal round, the kids, mentally, know what's at stake.
 

You don't have to say too much and might just want to go over a few details. The kids actually played one of their better games in the quarterfinal against Illinois. They were hitting on all cylinders in that game, and once they're doing that, you don't have to do or say too much because they know what to do and what’s expected of them. As coaches, we just prepare them for the team we're facing.
 
We started Matt Atwell (Freeport, N.Y.) in net and we knew the Honeybaked goalie had been playing pretty strong, so it was one of those back-and-forth games. Nobody could get that little momentum swing for a goal. We got a few power plays, and had a 5-on-3, in fact. If we executed or capitalized on it, it would have changed the momentum and we probably would have won the game. Matt was making big saves for us and their goalie was making big saves. I felt our team had more quality chances and probably outplayed them for the most part, but in a game like that, when you get good goaltending, you must find a way to win and find a way to execute. We just weren't able to get that goal, and neither were they.
 
So here we go into an overtime game in a 0-0 tie. We play five minutes of 4-on-4, five minutes of 3-on-3, and then went to the shootout. We actually had a power-play to start the 4-on-4 and we had four or five shots, but their goalie made a couple of big saves when they needed them.
 
The 3-on-3 was even for five minutes, so after a 40-minute game, it's still 0-0. I told the kids that I was proud of them and no matter what happened, the guys played a heck of a game. But we wanted to win this thing and find a way to score goals in the shootout.
 
I asked the referee, since we were the home team, if we could have the choice of whether or not to shoot first. I really wanted to go first, but we couldn't. It's in the rulebook that the visiting team goes first. Most NHL teams like to go first to get that momentum, but despite the fact we were the home team, we didn't get that edge.
 
Entering the shootout, you kind of feel who is having a game or having chances and getting shots. I did almost put one of younger guys in there, but thought otherwise. Maybe further along he'll be ready. I just went with guys on the team who had been scoring for us. Sometimes you go with a hunch and sometimes a hot player. I went to the coaching staff and we had our lists and tweaked them a little. No matter what, we win and lose as a team and the game is based on momentum swings. At the end of the day, there are lots of opportunities over the course of a game.
 
So in the shootout, Matty Atwell tried to pokecheck the first player and just missed him; the skater made a nice move and scored. We were up next and Mike Marnell went in and made a nice move, but it was poke-checked off his stick.
 
The next Honeybaked player came down and made a similar move. Matt tried to poke check and the player put it upstairs so now we're down 2-0. You try and keep the kids positive. If we can get one, we'll have some momentum. Up next for us was Joey Fallon. He skated in and made a tremendous move; he's a right-handed player but made that (Pavel) Datsyuk move and I thought he was a little too tight but he still popped it in and the kids were fired up. 
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Quote of the Day

As a player, it's obviously a sad day, but to be on the ice with some of those guys and show our respect as both teams did around center ice, it's definitely a nice touch.

— Devils defenseman Damon Severson on the ceremony before game Saturday against the Senators in Ottawa
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