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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 4:22 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Report: Skinner back at Canes' practice

Nearly a month after suffering a concussion that has cost him 10 games so far, Carolina forward Jeff Skinner was back at practice today in a yellow no-contact jersey, according to reports.

The 2011 Calder Trophy-winner was having an impressive sophomore season for the Hurricanes with 12 goals and 12 assists in 30 games before being placed on injured reserve. Skinner last appeared for the Canes in their 5-3 win in Edmonton on Dec. 7, the first NHL victory for head coach Kirk Muller. Skinner had a goal in the game.

The Hurricanes maintain that there is no timetable for the 19-year-old's return.

At the time of his concussion, Skinner was leading Carolina in scoring for the season. With 24 points, he was on pace to better his impressive rookie totals of 31 goals and 32 assists from the 2010-11 season.
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 3:58 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Mike Richards adjusting to life on the wing

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One the main benefits of acquiring Mike Richards for the Los Angeles Kings was that it would make them one of the deepest teams in the NHL down the middle.

L.A. can boast Richards, Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll centering its top three lines.

But it has veered from that script.

Not only is Richards no longer playing center, he's paired with Kopitar on the top line with Dustin Brown. Coach Darryl Sutter put Richards at left wing last Saturday and is expected to stick with it for Monday's game against the Colorado Avalanche.

Richards played wing during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The only drawback is that L.A. doesn't get to use Richards as much on faceoffs.

"The biggest thing for adjustment is being at the right place on the ice," Richards said. "Right from the beginning I was over-thinking things, and when you do that you're a second late. But as the game went on, I felt more comfortable up there. I wasn't (over) thinking, I was just reacting."

Richards said playing wing wasn't broached upon his trade to L.A.

"To me, it doesn't matter where I play," he said. "Obviously I'm comfortable at center, but … it just takes a little bit to get your positioning on the ice. A couple of plays happened in (Saturday's) game where it was a lot different with the board battles, but you get used it after a period, two periods max."

Voynov out: Defenseman Slava Voynov will miss tonight's game after he got "banged up" in each of the previous two games, Sutter said.

Alec Martinez is expected to take his place. Martinez has been a scratch in all six games under Sutter.

Gagne (non) update:
Simon Gagne might see a doctor on Monday night, Sutter said, but there is otherwise not update.

Sutter confirmed for the first time Monday that Gagne has a concussion. Monday marked one week since Gagne suffered the injury, against Phoenix.

"He's got a concussion," Sutter said. "There's progress. It's not really a daily thing."

Los Angeles is prepared for Gagne to be out for an extended period. Gagne is believed to have suffered three concussions in a five-month span in the 2007-08 season.

"Players like Gagne who have had an issue with it, it becomes even more of an issue," Sutter said. "There's no way of telling. I really do think one of the worst things you can do is keep asking about it. It's a negative. A lot of it is just feeling better about yourself, and then you feel better."

Richards-Gretzky connection: Richards had an indirect tie to the Kings as a kid because his mother, Irene, was a big Wayne Gretzky fan during the Gretzky era in L.A.

"When he broke (one of Gordie Howe's records), she actually woke me up, and my brothers, and we got up and actually watched the rest of the game," Richards said.
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 3:54 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Avalanche, Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Here are how the lines could look for tonight's game between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center:

AVALANCHE
TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - Daniel Winnik
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Chuck Kobasew - Jay McClement - David Jones
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

KINGS
Mike Richards - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Alec Martinez
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 3:46 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Swiss safe after win over Denmark

CALGARY -- The Swiss are safe.

After edging Denmark 4-3 in overtime at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday, Switzerland has avoided relegation and can finish no lower than eighth at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

After winning a faceoff in Denmark's end, Tanner Richard buried a rebound off of Dario Trutmann's shot from the point behind Denmark goalie Sebastian Feuk with just 1:33 remaining in the extra period to lift Switzerland to victory, clinching its appearance in the 2013 World Juniors in Russia.

"For sure it's a relief," Richard said. "It's a lot of pressure because we're representing our country. It's for the guys next year, too. We have a young team and we all want to be in the A division next year. It's just great for our country."

The overtime loss gives Denmark their first ever points at the tournament. Nicklas Jensen, who had two goals in the losing effort, found little comfort in the fact.

"Obviously it's great to get a point for us," Jensen said. "Right now we're kind of disappointed. I thought we could've won the game in regulation time. We're not too happy with the score. We could've done better."

With a win over the United States on Wednesday, Switzerland will finish seventh. It's a game Richard said his Swiss can get up for.

"For sure, we can," he said. "We were quite disappointed when we blew the game against Slovakia. We wanted to be top-six. Now our goal is to finish seventh."

Cedric Schneuwly, Alessio Bertaggia and Gregory Hofmann also scored for Switzerland. Jensen's pair and a single goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand composed Denmark's offense.

Denmark opened the scoring in the first period when Oliver Bjorkstrand converted a 3-on-1 opportunity just 1:10 into the game.

Schneuwly countered just 35 seconds later for the Swiss, banging in a rebound from Sven Andrighetto's original offering. Switzerland went up 2-1 just two minutes later when Bertaggia beat Feuk over the blocker from the slot.

Denmark tied it before the period was out with the first of Jensen's two goals. On the power play, Jensen's point shot beat Swiss goalie Tim Wolf over the glove.

The teams traded goals in the second, with Jensen answering Hofmann's shorthanded penalty shot goal.

The loss pushes the Danes to the brink of relegation. Denmark would need a Team USA victory over Latvia on Tuesday, coupled by their own win over Latvia on Wednesday, to avoid demotion to Division I.

"We just have to take the positives from this game and our hard work and bring it against Latvia and not think too much about the past," Jensen said.
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 3:42 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live from the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

Victorino a very interested observer

PHILADELPHIA -- Growing up in Hawaii, Shane Victorino can be forgiven for not being the biggest hockey expert in the world. That doesn't mean the Philadelphia Phillies' centerfielder isn't having a blast watching the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers skating in a rink built on his field.

"I think it looks great," Victorino said of the rink. "I wish they could do it every year here. This is something that not only is it great for the Phillies, but for the city, it brings a lot of excitement. What better rivalry than this? Both these teams, they're in first place. I'm excited to see it tonight."

Victorino said he has tried skating once before, at a rink in Oahu -- the only one in Hawaii.

"I tried it as a kid, but wasn't very successful," he said. "I tried to run, not push off. That sport didn't last long for Shane."

Victorino made a fine choice by sticking with baseball. Now in his eighth season (seventh with the Phillies), he has won three Gold Gloves, played in two All-Star Games, and won a World Series with the Phils in 2008.

He said the ballpark certainly looks a bit different than he's used to, including the 1,500 temporary seats installed in his position for the game.

"I liked how it looked (with the seats), but it didn't shorten the ballpark," he said. "Those seats in center field, I like that. It's pretty neat to have those seats, but I like the park the way it is."

One other difference was the color of the attire the fans were wearing.

"I'm used to walking out there and seeing everybody in red," he said. "But seeing everybody in orange, it's great. I think it's awesome. It's definitely a red ballpark, but today it's orange."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK



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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Kruger out, Hayes in for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger will miss a third straight game with an upper-body injury when Chicago hosts the Edmonton Oilers tonight at the United Center, which means rookie Jimmy Hayes will get his second start.

Defenseman Steve Montador (upper body) also will miss the game, as Sami Lepisto and John Scott will start as Chicago's third defense pair.

Edmonton is pulling a bit of a surprise by starting Devan Dubnyk in goal after he took a 4-1 loss Saturday against the New York Islanders -- which was the Oilers' third straight defeat on this four-game road trip.

Ben Eager also likely will start for Edmonton, despite two roughing calls plus a 10-minute unsportsmanlike-conduct call in the Islanders game -- which led to a pair of New York power-play goals. Meanwhile, Oilers coach Tom Renney hinted after this morning's skate that he might switch his top two lines to mirror what they were when Edmonton beat the Hawks 9-2 on Nov. 19 at Rexall Place.

If so, that means veteran Ryan Smyth might get put with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall on the top line, with Jordan Eberle moving to the second line with Shawn Horcoff and Sam Gagner.

Here's a look at how the Blackhawks and Oilers may line up tonight:

OILERS
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Ryan Smyth
Jordan Eberle - Shawn Horcoff - Sam Gagner
Ales Hemsky - Eric Belanger - Ryan Jones
Ben Eager - Anton Lander - Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid - Tom Gilbert
Theo Peckham - Jeff Petry
Colten Teubert - Corey Potter

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal, with Nikolai Khabibulin the backup

BLACKHAWKS
Daniel Carcillo - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Patrick Kane - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Jimmy Hayes

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford will start in goal, with Ray Emery the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Hawks motivated by earlier drubbing by Oilers

CHICAGO -- The last time they saw the Edmonton Oilers, the Chicago Blackhawks were in Rexall Place down 9-2 and the crowd was chanting for a 10th goal to be put on the board late in the third.

It was called a "humiliating" loss by Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville afterward and his players agreed. Since that game, it's been a different story for both teams. The Hawks have gone 12-4-1 and surged to the top of the League standings, while the Oilers are 7-17-1 in their past 25 games.

Monday night's game Edmonton at the United Center appears to be a prime opportunity for Chicago to exact some revenge for that earlier drubbing and the Hawks aren't exactly downplaying it.

"We certainly should use it as motivation," forward Jamal Mayers said after Monday's morning skate. "Obviously they took it to us in every facet of the game and we've got a chance to redeem ourselves tonight and get a victory -- and that's our focus."

Speaking of focus, the blowout loss to the Oilers actually helped the Hawks to regain theirs during a tough road swing through Western Canada and California. Just about everything was wrong about their game on Nov. 19 in Edmonton, but they quickly rebounded and haven't looked back --until now.

"I think it maybe just helped us realize some of our issues and some of our problems as a team that we needed to rectify," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "When you're kind of cruising along, sometimes your talent and skill maybe takes over a little bit, even if you're not playing the right way and doing the right things. That will only get you so far, so maybe it was a wake-up call for us, that maybe we needed to change a few things and play harder and better for each other if we wanted to keep winning. It was a choice we made and you've seen a difference since then. So, it's time to put our team game to use tonight."

Don't mistake that for bravado or prediction of a win, however.

"We're not going to make any promises or do any trash talking," Toews said. "It's just all about how we play tonight and how we show up and prepare for this one."

The Oilers, meanwhile, know it's going to be a challenge.

"Good for us," Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. "Let's go right to the acid test. If we're going to grow up and be a competitive team, we have to take responsibility for our performances when they're good and bad. We had a strong game against these guys the last time we saw them. We know they're way better than a seven-goal spread, at least that, so we're going to have to bring our 'A' game from top to bottom tonight."

That means not trying to be too complex offensively and trying to once again tilt the ice in their favor by getting the puck behind the Chicago defense and forechecking effectively all game.

"It's just one of those things where we played them well last game and we're going to have to try and repeat that exact same game," Oilers forward Ryan Jones said. "That was one of the more simple games we've played all year. We did a great job of getting pucks deep and shooting and getting traffic to the net. That's kind of what we've been taking about what we need in our game all year."
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Mike Rupp -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Rupp's 2012 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic blog

As puck drop nears, Rupp savors second time around

Rangers forward Mike Rupp is about to play in his second straight Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Rupp suited up for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field last year, and is in the lineup Monday for the New York Rangers.

Rupp agreed to offer up his opinions in blog form leading up to the main event. This is his pregame blog entry.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Winter Classic is big, huge in fact; but as a player getting ready for the game you have to treat the entire day as normal as possible. You know it's different and way bigger than just another game, but you have to keep on your same eating and resting schedule or else you'll throw yourself totally off.

That's what I've been trying to do today. Of course it's different with my family being with me on the road, but they understand I have a job to do.

Again, you know it's big, but when you're in the locker room, or clubhouse here, it feels the same. The guys are all doing their normal game-day routines. It isn't until you come out onto the field that you feel it and you see it. That's when you really notice the difference.

Having played in last year's Winter Classic with the Penguins I now have a greater appreciation for the entire event. A year ago I remember being a ball of nerves before the game, worried so much about focusing on just what was around me and the game, that I probably didn't absorb the atmosphere as much as I would have wanted.

Today I'm not like that. I'm trying to treat it normally, but the excitement is high for puck drop because this is just awesome. Being out here in front of the dugout now, watching the kids playing on the auxiliary rink that's made to look like a pond, that's what it is all about.

Yes this is a big rivalry game and an important two points on the line, but it's about celebrating the game of hockey and celebrating it outdoors. Driving in here on the team bus you could see the parking lot that seems to go on forever here just filled with people tailgating and playing street hockey. That is just awesome.

There aren't too many guys that get to a chance to play in one of these, and after today I'll be fortunate enough to play in two.
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live from the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

Legendary performer LaBelle ready for anthem first

PHILADELPHIA -- In her long, legendary career, Patti LaBelle has played some of the most famous venues around the world.
 
But in a career that spans more than 50 years, the legendary performer will have a career-first Monday. LaBelle, a Philadelphia native, will sing the National Anthem in her hometown for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
 
"It means that you're grown up," LaBelle told NHL.com. "I'm a grown-up woman."
 
LaBelle has won two Grammy awards, sold out buildings and won acclaim as an actress, author and chef, but she said even she's not sure what it's going to be like when she walks out in front of more than 47,000 people here at Citizens Bank Park.
 
"It's very unique," she said. "It's freezing out there. I've never, ever sung in weather like this."
 
LaBelle said she's not the biggest hockey fan in the world, but there's no doubt which team she'll be rooting for Monday.
 
"I'm not a hockey fan," she said, "but I know about the Flyers and they're great."
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 12:35 PM

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

Projected lineups for Senators, Devils

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for Monday night’s game between the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place:

SENATORS

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

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

Lee dresses for the third straight game while Matt Carkner is a healthy scratch.

DEVILS
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrick Elias - Dainus Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Cam Janssen

Bryce SalvadorAdam Larsson
Henrik TallinderMark Fayne
Matt TaorminaKurtis Foster

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

Boulton will enter the lineup on Monday, while Tim Sestito sits as a healthy scratch. Anton Volchenkov did not practice, but did ride the stationary bike. He is out against the Sens, and Taormina will take his place.
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Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday