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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 11:16 AM

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

Kevin Weekes gives his midseason Vezina contenders

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 10:27 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Backstrom, Green still missing for Caps

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals put center Nicklas Backstrom on injured reserve Wednesday morning and offered no timetable for his return other than to say he can be activated at any point.

Backstrom, who watched practice from the bench while wearing a red hoodie, has missed the last two games since taking a flagrant elbow to the head from Calgary forward Rene Bourque in last Tuesday's game against Calgary. Bourque was suspended for five games for the infraction.

"We're being cautious with him still," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He's not feeling 100 percent, so we're being careful."

The Capitals will also again be without defenseman Mike Green when they face Pittsburgh on Wednesday at Verizon Center. Green re-injured his groin this past Saturday at San Jose and missed the game at Los Angeles on Monday.

Green previously missed 23 straight games after initially injuring his groin Nov. 11 at New Jersey. The game against San Jose was his first one back, but he played only nine shifts totaling 7:11 before having to leave. He was seen walking with a noticeable limp when he arrived at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Wednesday morning.

"He's getting strength. He needs more strength," Hunter said. "Once he gets enough strength he'll be good. It's one of those things where it won't be long term, but it just takes time to build that up a little bit more."

Washington used Backstrom's roster spot to call up defenseman Tomas Kundratek from Hershey of the AHL. Kundratek will make his season debut Wednesday against Pittsburgh. He will be paired with Roman Hamrlik.

John Erskine and Jeff Schultz will be the Capitals' healthy scratches on defense.

"He's been playing well down there so we thought we'd give him the chance up here to see what he can do and get a look at him," Hunter said. "I've seen him play once. He's a good skater and he moves the puck. So, we're anxious to take a look at him at this level. We like his mobility, that he can skate, and when you're playing well down there you get to come up here and play."

Tomas Vokoun will make his seventh straight start. He gave up four goals on 27 shots and was pulled after two periods in Monday's 5-2 loss at Los Angeles, but Hunter said the Capitals played poorly in front of Vokoun and didn't give him a chance.

"He's a veteran," Hunter said. "He'll be ready to go."

Here are Washington's projected forward lines and defense pairings based off of the morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Alexander Semin
Troy Brouwer - Brooks Laich - Mike Knuble
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Mathieu Perreault - Jay Beagle

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Tomas Kundratek

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Alex Galchenyuk -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Alex Galchenyuk draft blog

Galchenyuk hits major milestone in recovery

Alex Galchenyuk is a forward for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot, 198-pound forward was born in Milwaukee but is of Russian decent -- his father, Alexander, spent five of his 22 professional seasons playing in the U.S. Alex was the first pick of the 2010 OHL draft, and last season had 31 goals and 52 assists in 68 games. He had 2 goals and an assist in five games for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and returned to take part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Despite suffering a major knee injury that could end his season before it really starts, Galchenyuk has offered to maintain a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hey everybody. Hope all of you had a good time over the holidays.

I have some exciting news this month -- I went out on the ice! It was Dec. 19th, and it only was for about 10 minutes, but it still felt great. It made me feel like I am getting closer and closer to recovery.

The second time was Dec. 31, and of course the second time around I felt more comfortable on the ice. I was still taking it very easy, but I went out there and took a few good shots. I guess all my upper-body workouts are paying off. So that was a very exciting way for me to start the New Year.

Therapy in London is going well. I can do mostly everything now, and we decided to reduce it to two times a week. I'm visiting Dr. Vargo's office daily for additional physiotherapy and massages. I've started swimming and I'm doing squats and lunges. My legs are getting bigger and stronger and I still focus on my upper body and core, too. Also, daily cardio is in my routine now, so I can get in shape faster. If in the beginning it was mostly therapy and a little workout, now I've started working out almost at full strength. My doctor says that hopefully closer to the end of this month I will officially be allowed to skate. I'm pretty pumped about that.

Christmas and New Year's was fun with my family, but I didn't really take any time off during the holidays this year. I don't want to lose any time. Our family also celebrated Russian Christmas which is Jan. 6-7.

I watched most of the World Junior Championship. It was a very intense competition and a lot of exciting games. Although I enjoyed watching, I admit I wasn't that crazy over it because it's hard to just watch and not be able to participate. I'm very happy for my buddies from Team Russia, "Jambo" (Nail Yakupov) and "Dino" (Artem Sergeev) for winning the silver medal. Also for Filip Forsberg and Sebastian Collberg from Team Sweden. I had a chance to play with both of them on one line when we played for Europe Selects and both are great players. I'm especially happy for Ludvig Rensfeldt, my teammate from Sarnia, for winning the gold. It was a great level of hockey.

I also loved watching all the episodes of the HBO "24/7" series with the Rangers and Flyers, and as always it was one of the best shows of the year. It's always interesting to get that inside scoop on all of the players.

Hopefully when I check in this time next month I’ll finally be skating with my team.  Talk to you guys soon!

And thanks to all the people supporting me on Twitter at @AGally94 -- it means a lot.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 10:14 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

VAN @ TBL - 19:00 of the Third Period

At 19:00 of the third period in the Canucks/Lightning game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Martin St Louis' pass deflected off Ryan Malone's right skate and into the net in a legal fashion. 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."  Good Goal Tampa Bay.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 9:01 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

STL @ MTL - 12:43 of the Second Period

At 12:43 of the second period in the Blues/Canadiens game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Erik Cole's shot did not cross the goal line.  No Goal Montreal.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 8:16 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ PIT - 5:43 of the Second Period

At 5:43 of the second period in the Senators/Penguins game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Colin Greening's shot went off Milan Michalek's right skate and into the net. 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."  Good Goal Ottawa.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 7:33 PM

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

Surging Sens blueliner Karlsson an unexpected scratch

PITTSBURGH — Erik Karlsson, the leading scorer among NHL defensemen, was unexpectedly scratched for the Ottawa Senators' game against the Penguins on Tuesday night because of an upper-body injury.
 
Karlsson went through the morning skate without incident, and also took part in the pregame warm-ups, only to be scratched just before game time. He was replaced by Matt Carkner, who was scheduled to be scratched.
 
The 21-year-old Karlsson has 6 goals and 35 assists for 41 points in 43 games and is on pace to become only the fifth defenseman to produced 70 points in a season since the 2004-05 lockout. He also has 86 points since the start of the 2010-11 season, one more than Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom.
 
Karlsson is coming off one of his best games of the season. He had a goal and an assist and was a plus-5 as the Senators rallied from two goals down in the third period to beat Philadelphia 6-4 on Sunday.
 
Karlsson went into Tuesday's games with an 8-point lead over Brian Campbell of Florida in the scoring race for defensemen.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:51 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Frolik hopes for offensive spark from shift to center

CHICAGO - The speed is still there and Michael Frolik often uses it defensively while backchecking and putting a halt to opposing attacks.

It's the other end of the rink that has given Frolik some trouble, both this season for the Chicago Blackhawks and in his four-year career as a whole. Frolik has scored five goals and added six assists while playing in 40 games this season, but he has yet to turn that impressive speed and skill combination into a full-on explosion of offense.

Now that star forward Patrick Sharp will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury, Frolik's role will change - at least initially. After playing the wing for most of this season, Frolik will likely play center on the second line to start Tuesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8:30 p.m. ET) at the United Center.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had rookie Ben Smith on the left wing of Frolik's line and star Marian Hossa on the right side.

"I played here last year a few games at center and it's just a different mind-set a little bit," said Frolik, who was acquired last year in a trade that sent former Hawks speedster Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. "It's more responsibility down low and for sure it's a good opportunity. We'll see how it goes tonight. Hopefully it's going to be good."

Moving to the middle is going to be a little tougher than playing the wing, too. Frolik will have some faceoff and defensive coverage duties to handle that he didn't have to worry about while playing wing.

"It's more work, but I don't mind it," Frolik said. "You're kind of more (involved in) the game and you get the puck more. You're in the middle, so you get more pucks. I don't really mind it."

Of course, what's not to mind when playing with Hossa - Chicago's leading scorer with 44 points?

Frolik and Hossa are also Slovakian countrymen, so they should also connect verbally on the ice.

"He's one of the best in the League and it's a great opportunity to play with him," Frolik said. "We can talk to each other, too -- same language. It's kind of good. It's great to play with him for sure."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:50 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Switch to center could jumpstart Chicago's Frolik

CHICAGO – The speed is still there and Michael Frolik often uses it defensively while backchecking and putting a halt to opposing attacks.

It’s the other end of the rink that has given Frolik some trouble, both this year for the Chicago Blackhawks and in his four-year career as a whole. Frolik has scored five goals and added six assists while playing in 40 games this season, but he has yet to turn that impressive speed and skill combination into a full-on explosion of offense.

Now that star forward Patrick Sharp will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury, Frolik’s role will change – at least initially. After playing the wing for most of this season, Frolik will likely center the second line to start Tuesday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8:30 p.m.) at the United Center.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had rookie Ben Smith on the left wing of Frolik’s line and star Marian Hossa on the right side.

“I played here last year a few games at center and it’s just a different mind-set a little bit,” said Frolik, who was acquired last year in a trade that sent former Hawks speedster Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. “It’s more responsibility down low and for sure it’s a good opportunity. We’ll see how it goes tonight. Hopefully it’s going to be good.”

It’s going to be a little tougher than playing the wing, too. Frolik will have some faceoff and defensive coverage duties to handle that he didn’t have to worry about while playing wing.

“It’s more work, but I don’t mind it,” Frolik said. “You’re kind of more (involved in) the game and you get the puck more. You’re in the middle, so you get more pucks. I don’t really mind it.”

Of course, what’s not to mind when playing with Hossa – Chicago’s leading scorer with 44 points?

“He’s one of the best in the League and it’s a great opportunity to play with him,” Frolik said. “We can talk to each other, too – same language. It’s kind of good. It’s great to play with him for sure.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:44 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Chicago's Smith hopes low-key approach helps him stick

CHICAGO – Add another rookie face to the locker room of the Chicago Blackhawks, only the latest one is already familiar with the Windy City.

Forward Ben Smith was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Monday afternoon to take the roster spot of star forward Patrick Sharp – who was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury that happened Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Smith was impressive in a call-up at the end of last season and even wound up scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 of a memorable first-round playoff loss to the Vancouver Canucks. He was thought to have an inside track on a roster spot to start this season in Chicago, but was injured in a pre-season game and sent back to Rockford to start out.

He was then recalled earlier this season and scored one goal in seven games before being sent back to Rockford once again to work more on his offensive game. Thanks to the Sharp injury, he’s back and hoping to make a good impression yet again.

“You always learn a little bit every time you’re up here, and for me maybe (I was) feeling a bit too much of the pressure (during the first call-up) and not taking it day by day, as I’ve done in the past,” Smith said. “You learn every time you’re here. I can learn from that experience, as I can learn from the experience last year. I’m just hoping for a good day.”

His approach to the game and practices, however, wasn’t the biggest issue that prompted Smith to be sent back to the minors this year. It was his patience with the puck, which Hawks coach Joel Quenneville and Chicago’s management wanted him to hone more.

“He’s always got a good attitude,” Quenneville said. “That’s what you’ve got to love about Benny. He’s a driven kid who wants to play up here and we saw what he’s capable of last year. He had a real good start to camp and a tough ending. Last time up here it looked like he was catching up to himself. We envisioned him to be here this year and I love watching him practice. He was flying out there (during Tuesday’s skate), so he’s excited about getting back here.”

He’s also breathing a little easier this time and keeping his focus more narrowly focused on playing his own style.

“Just try not to feel so much of the pressure and enjoy being here,” Smith said of his approach this time around. “I’m having fun every day and working hard – just doing what I do. That’s something I will try and do this time around.”
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Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins