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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 6:26 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Stralman set to make Rangers' debut

SUNRISE, Fla. — Anton Stralman will make his New York Rangers debut Wednesday night against the Florida Panthers.

The 25-year-old Swedish defenseman has been a healthy scratch since signing with the Rangers on Nov. 5. Coach John Tortorella is hoping Stralman can help a power play that is tied for 28th in the League.

"He needs to get in sooner or later, see what he is," Tortorella said. "I thought he moved the puck well on our power play yesterday (at practice). We'll see if he can help us a little bit there."

Tortorella said Jeff Woywitka will be scratched to make room for Stralman.

Stralman spent the last two seasons with Columbus. He led all Blue Jackets defensemen with 34 points two seasons ago and had 18 points in 51 games in 2010-11.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 5:18 PM

By Eric Lipschutz - Staff Writer / - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: How will Semin respond to benching?

Alexander Semin is expected to be back in the Washington lineup Wednesday as the Capitals host the Winnipeg Jets.  Semin was a surprise healthy scratch Monday in the Caps win over the Coyotes.  Both Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and Semin owners will be eager to see how the enormously talented but notoriously inconsistent winger responds to the benching.
After a one game benching, Alexander Semin is expected to return to the Washington lineup Wednesday and both Capitals fans and his fantasy owners are eager to see how he will respond. (Photo: Mitchell Layton/NHLI)
In his latest aggressive coaching tactic, Boudreau decided to sit Semin in an attempt to send a message to his underperforming Russian star.  Semin possesses the type of scoring touch about which most NHL players only dream.  He has had one 40 and two 30-plus goal seasons in Washington, but his explosive skill is often subdued by frequent injuries and a mercurial scoring touch.

So far, Semin looks in need of a Boudreau wake-up call more than ever.  On top of instances of undisciplined play, Semin's production has been middling at best with nearly a quarter of the season gone.  In 18 games this year, Semin is averaging only 2.3 shots per game for a total of four goals. He still has not cracked the double-digit mark in points, with only nine so far. That is a far cry from what many fantasy GMs expected from a 27-year-old entering what should be the prime of his career.

Which Semin takes the ice Wednesday against Winnipeg is anybody's guess.  He will likely need a few big-effort games to prove to Boudreau that he is deserving of playing the minutes necessary to be a fantasy force.  If Semin does put a hot streak together off his benching, it could be a great incentive to try and sell high on him.  While it’s probably unrealistic to think that one healthy scratch will be enough to correct years of maddeningly inconsistent play from Semin, if you strike when the iron is hottest you should be able to offload Semin in exchange for good value. By marketing him to your league as the attacking force he can sometimes be, you will be able to discard him well before his next cold spell inevitably arrives.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 4:55 PM

By Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Varlamov back in net for Avalanche

DENVER – Semyon Varlamov will be back in goal for the Colorado Avalanche and Cory Schneider will remain in goal for the Vancouver Canucks tonight when the teams meet at Pepsi Center.

Varlamov, who is in a 0-5-1 slump, will make his first start since Nov. 15 when he faced 33 shots in the Avalanche’s 6-3 loss in Pittsburgh. He hasn’t won since Oct. 30, a 3-2 home win against Los Angeles, and served as the backup to Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the past three games.

Schneider will make his third start in a row as Roberto Luongo recovers from the upper-body injury he suffered Nov. 13 in the Canucks’ 4-1 win against the New York Islanders. Luongo took part in the optional pregame skate this morning and is expected to start Friday against Phoenix in the second game of the Canucks’ three-game road trip.

Schneider is coming off a 28-save performance Sunday in the Canucks’ 2-1 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators. He’s posted a 3-4-0 record with a 2.52 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

Defenseman Keith Ballard (back spasms) and left wing Mason Raymond (vertebrae compression fracture) are close to returning, but they won’t play against Colorado.

After getting off to a hot start, Varlamov has allowed 20 goals during his six-game winless streak. He permitted seven goals in one game, six in another and was replaced by Giguere early in the second period of a 5-2 loss in Detroit on Nov. 8 after giving up three goals on 16 shots.

The Canucks have dominated the Avalanche in recent games, posting a 5-0-1 record against them last season and a 6-1-2 mark in the past nine games in Denver.

“They have a lot of high-end skill and they’re tough on the back end and they have good goaltending,” Avalanche center Paul Stastny said this morning. “They have depth everywhere and they’re a good special-teams team.”

The Canucks are especially potent on the power play. They lead the NHL with a 26.7 percent success rate and have connected for 10 goals on 24 man advantages (41.7 percent) in the past seven games.

The Avalanche has the second-best power play (25.7 percent) but probably will be without defenseman Erik Johnson, who is nursing a groin ailment, to play the point.

Colorado has lost four of the past five games overall and seven of 10 home games this season.

“I don’t think we’re playing as bad as our record indicates,” defenseman Shane O’Brien said. “At the same time, our record is what our record is. We still have six games left on this homestand, which is huge for us. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us. You don’t want to make excuses, but the hockey gods maybe haven’t been on our side; we’ve had some bad bounces. But at the same time, you create your own bounces with hard work.”
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 4:28 PM

By Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Canucks, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center:


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Chris Higgins
Manny Malhotra - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Aaron Volpatti - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Kevin Bieksa - Dan Hamhuis
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Andrew Alberts - Aaron Rome

Cory Schneider will start in goal with Roberto Luongo as the backup.


Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Milan Hejduk
Joakim Lindstrom - Paul Stastny - Chuck Kobasew
David Jones - Ryan O'Reilly - Daniel Winnik
TJ Galiardi - Jay McClement - Kevin Porter

Kyle Quincey - Shane O'Brien
Jan Hejda - Matt Hunwick
Ryan Wilson - Ryan O'Byrne

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the backup.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:46 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Upper-body injury continues to sideline Goc

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Panthers center Marcel Goc will miss his fourth consecutive game Wednesday night with what has been listed as an upper-body injury, and he might be out for a little while longer.

Coach Kevin Dineen addressed Goc's status after the Panthers' optional morning skate and said the injury was a result of Goc taking a hit to the head in a game at Dallas Nov. 15.

Dineen, however, stopped short of calling the injury a concussion.

"We're just in that precautionary stage before we make any kind of statement on exactly what the injury is," he said. "I had a really good talk with him today and he’s making strides in the right direction.

"He took a pretty good shot. I don't like playing this game where I'm trying to stickhandle around what exactly an injury is, but sometimes I have to get a definitive answer from my medical group before I make any kind of a public statement on that."

Goc, signed as a free agent from Nashville on July 1, has 2 goals in 17 games, but has been a key member of the penalty-killing unit and also has been asked to take a lot of key faceoffs in the defensive zone.

Dineen did not give a timetable for Goc’s return.

"Everybody has different reactions to injuries and his are consistent with us giving us some time to make sure that he's all right," Dineen said.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Panthers looking to get other lines going

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida's top line of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann has produced big numbers all season, but now the Panthers are looking for more offensive contributions from their other lines.

That's why there might be different line combinations Wednesday night when the Panthers face the New York Rangers.

In the Panthers' last two games -- 3-2 and 4-3 victories over Pittsburgh and New Jersey, respectively -- the top line accounted for six of the seven goals. The other was scored by defenseman Brian Campbell on a feed from Versteeg.

Versteeg (11), Fleischmann (9) and Weiss (8) have combined for 28 goals on the season, but no other forward has more than three.

Injuries have been a factor up front, as the Panthers had to recently recall three players from the AHL -- Tim Kennedy, Evgenii Dadonov and Michal Repik.

"I'm always tweaking things and that's a blessing and a curse," Dineen said after the Panthers' optional morning skate Wednesday. "You're searching for chemistry. If I see it a snapshot of some chemistry, that's something I certainly am going to try to encourage and stay with.

"I'm fairly patient when it comes to that, and obviously with Michal Repik and Tim Kennedy and Dads in the lineup, it's changed our dynamic a little bit and it's important that you really engage those players and make them feel a part of it. That's what we're trying to do."

Dineen didn't dismiss the possibility of breaking up his top line at some point to try to generate more balanced offensive production.

"Obviously, we haven't tweaked Weisser's line and that's always maybe even tempting to say, let's put somebody on there to get them going," Dineen said. "We'll see where we go with that."

Dineen said Wednesday morning he hadn't decided whether Jose Theodore or Jacob Markstrom would be in net against the Rangers.

Theodore has started the last three games and played well, but Dineen said he was intrigued by the idea of Markstrom going against fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist.

"You know what, Swede vs. Swede is very enticing (vs.) going with the hot hand, it makes for a tough decision for a coach," Dineen said. "I'll probably wait until the last minute to make that call."
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:38 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Rangers, Panthers

Here's how the lines could look for tonight's game between the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center:

Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Sean Avery - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Brandon Prust - Erik Christensen - Andre Deveaux

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

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Tomas Kopecky - Evgenii Dadonov
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Tim Kennedy - Michal Repik

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

Jose Theodore
Jacob Markstrom
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:32 PM

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

Arniel sees better battle from Blue Jackets

NEWARK, N.J. -- Columbus Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel points to his team's ability to battle away from the puck that has made a world of difference over the last week.
The coach spoke to the media following his team's brisk workout at Prudential Center on Wednesday in preparation for the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET).
"Our work away from the puck has gotten so much better," Arniel said. "A majority of the game is played between the two dots, from one end of the rink to the other, and the teams that work the hardest through those areas, whether you have the puck or don't have the puck, are the ones who have success. Our play without the puck through those areas has been so much better the last four games. It has allowed us to create turnovers, eliminate odd-man rushes and eliminate second and third chances off shots coming wide."
The Blue Jackets enter Wednesday's game riding a season-high two game winning streak and they're just hoping to keep it going against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who sports a 6-2-2 record with a 2.17 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 10 career games against Columbus.
"During our slump, we had some practices where we went back to the basics and did a lot of drills without the puck, focusing on where we needed to be on the ice and setting ourselves up for offense," Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen told "He's been emphasizing that and we've been executing that on the ice. It just goes to show that if you're good without the puck, it creates a lot more offensive chances for you."
While the rookie Johansen hasn't scored in four games, his work ethic as the team's second-line wing hasn't gone unnoticed.
"It's tough for young guys to jump into this League and play against full grown men right out of junior," Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash told "Ryan got off to a slow start … I think it was an eye opener as to how fast it was. Lately, he's been one of our more dominant players. He's got all the tools, the size, speed and skill, and he's really come on these last couple of weeks and that's positive to see."
For Nash, who has 1 goal and 3 points in back-to-back victories, the season has certainly been tough. But he's optimistic that the team is beginning to turn the corner.
"I think there have already been two halves to our season," he said. "The first half, we couldn't squeak out wins, couldn't find ways to win. Now we're in the half where, over the last five games, we've been really good … guys have been on the same page. I really think we're turning the corner. We have a lot of healthy bodies now and that's made a difference."
Nash agreed that the team's play away from the puck has also led to success.
"When you watch video of Boston and San Jose, their work away from the puck is great," Nash said. "They always come back hard and stop in their zone; earlier in the season, we were getting away from that and trying to get a bit too offensive, but last five games we've been pretty solid."
Goalie Curtis Sanford will make his fourth straight start in net. In four games this season, the 32-year-old Sanford is 2-0-1 with a 1.46 GAA and .943 save percentage. In two career appearances against the Devils, he is 0-1-0 with a 3.57 GAA.
"Right now, I'm feeling good about my game," Sanford told "Guys are playing well in front of me. It's important for me to stay square and be aggressive on my shot."
Here are the probable lines for the Blue Jackets against the Devils:
Vinny Prospal - Jeff Carter - Rick Nash
RJ Umberger - Mark Letestu - Ryan Johansen
Samuel Pahlsson - Antoine Vermette - Derek Dorsett
Cody Bass - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Grant Clitsome
Goalie Curtis Sanford earns the start and Allen York will serve as backup.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:24 PM

By Alan Robinson - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Bylsma wants players to enjoy their Thanksgiving

PITTSBURGH -- To paraphrase Hall of Fame announcer Mike Lange, the turkey will be on the Pittsburgh Penguins' tables on Thanksgiving.
While some coaches caution their American-born players about overindulging during their holiday feast, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma's recommendation to his players will be to enjoy themselves.
The Penguins are playing on the days before and after the holiday -- they meet the Blues on Wednesday and the Senators on Friday -- during a stretch in which they play three games in four days and four in six days. With such a workload, Bylsma obviously feels that a few extra calories probably won't hurt.
The Penguins plan to practice Thursday at Consol Energy Center, but will be sent home in time to watch Bylsma's beloved Detroit Lions play their annual Thanksgiving home game, against the unbeaten Green Bay Packers.
"I'm going to tell them to eat. I'm going to be eating," Bylsma said. "That's what I’m doing. We'll probably have a practice in the morning, but I'm going to tell them to eat, sleep it off and watch the Lions and the Packers play."
In case any players already had some holiday treats at home, Bylsma didn't plan to deliver his message until after the Blues' game.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:22 PM

By Alan Robinson - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Penguins to reward 25-millionth fan

PITTSBURGH -- A Pittsburgh Penguins fan attending Wednesday night's home game against the St. Louis Blues will discover that 25 million is his or her lucky number.

The Penguins plan to honor the 25-millionth fan to attend one of their home games by giving away a road trip to a Penguins game and a Sidney Crosby autographed jersey. Bar code technology will be used to determine when the fan has entered Consol Energy Center.
The fan will be notified during the first period and recognized during the second period.

Counting regular season and playoff games, the Penguins have drawn 24,983,853 spectators at home since they joined the NHL in 1967. They have attracted 22,733,362 for regular season games and 2,250,491 for playoff games.

The Blues game will be the Penguins' 220th consecutive home sellout, a streak that began at the now-closed Civic Arena, formerly known as Mellon Arena, and continued when they moved into Consol at the start of the 2010-11 season.
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