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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 4:51 PM

NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry meets the GEICO Gecko

Barry and the GEICO Gecko

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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 3:07 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Blue Jackets, Coyotes

Columbus' Todd Richards will coach his first home game tonight when the Phoenix Coyotes invade Nationwide Arena.

"It's exciting to be at home and play a home game in front of your family and friends," Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. "But honestly…when the game gets going, you lose where you're at. You're focused on the game. When the game starts, you're just looking at the ice. You kind of block everything else out -- the crowd, the noise. You really zero in."

One of the things the crowd could make noise for is the return of defenseman Rostislav Klesla, who was the first draft pick in Blue Jackets history. The fourth pick of the 2000 Entry Draft, Klesla played parts of 10 seasons in Columbus before being traded to Phoenix last season. The Blue Jackets have announced they will play a video tribute to Klesla during the game.

Here are the likely lineups for the teams. The Coyotes, who lost in Detroit last night, opted against skating this morning:

BLUE JACKETS

Vinny Prospal - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Ryan Johansen - Antoine Vermette - Tomas Kubalik
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Dane Byers - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot - John Moore
Aaron Johnson - David Savard

Curtis Sanford will start in goal, with Steve Mason the backup.

COYOTES
Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Ray Whitney - Kyle Chipchura - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Gilbert Brule - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Boyd Gordon - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - Michal Rozsival

Jason LaBarbera will start in goal, with Mike Smith the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 3:00 PM

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

Day after big hit, Kopitar says he's feeling OK

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar said he is OK after he was knocked out of Thursday night's game by Dallas captain Brenden Morrow.

Kopitar spoke briefly to a few reporters after the team's off-ice workout on Friday morning and said he felt good.

Would he have skated if the Kings practiced?

"I feel good so I don't see a reason why not," Kopitar said. "The bottom line is I feel good. I don't have any issues."

Kopitar was sent crashing into the end boards in a spectacular shoulder hit by Morrow with about eight minutes remaining in the third period. He was prone on the ice before he left on his own power although he appeared to favor a shoulder.

The Kings later announced it as an upper-body injury. Kopitar indicated that he was put in a quiet room but that it was all precautionary.

Asked if he thought Kopitar would play on Saturday in Calgary, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said, "Assuming we had practice today, he would practice. That's the way I look at it."

Kopitar, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury last March, was thankful to come out of it unharmed.

"It could have been worse, for sure," Kopitar said. "It's something I have to put behind me."
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 2:06 PM

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

Panthers wary of injury-riddled Penguins

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will face a reeling and wounded Pittsburgh team Friday night at the BankAtlantic Center, but they're not about to take the Penguins lightly.

Pittsburgh comes into the game on a six-game losing streak and without the services of stars Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang.

When asked about facing a struggling Pittsburgh team, Dineen quickly replied, "It's a dangerous team, too. I have a lot of respect (for them). I coached against Danny Bylsma in the American League and watched how his team played so well last year under similar circumstances. They are definitely a little bit wounded, but that's an animal you always beware of."

That sentiment was echoed by Panthers center Stephen Weiss.

"Even a team like that, as good as they are, when injuries creep up to those type of players, it's tough to sustain that and they've had to do it for almost two years now," Weiss said. "It's starting to catch up a little bit, but that's a good hockey club. They play so well as a team, their systems. They're having a tough time putting it in, but they don't give up much a game. So we'll have to be ready."

For the Panthers, the game represents an opportunity to solidify their hold on first place in the Southeast Division and build off one of their most impressive victories of the season.

After going 0-1-1 on a trip to face the Rangers and Devils, the Panthers came home Monday night and handed the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks a 2-1 defeat.

"We felt that was a really important game against the Canucks, one of the top teams in the League, a Stanley Cup finalist last year," Dineen said. "That was a really important game and in review I think (we were) very strong from the goaltending on out."

Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009, but the team the Panthers will face Friday night will look vastly different. The biggest reason, of course, is that the Penguins will be without Crosby.

"Certainly it's different when he's not in the lineup," Weiss said. "You come to the rink with a bit of a smile on your face when he's not playing because he's that good, but that team has a lot of weapons. Just the way they play as a unit is tough enough, so we'll have to be ready. With them losing a few in a row, they'll be even a little bit more ready to go, so it'll be a good hockey game."
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 1:48 PM

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

Blue Jackets place Carter on IR

The Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday placed center Jeff Carter on injured reserve.

Carter suffered a shoulder injury Jan. 8 in a 7-4 loss to Anaheim.

The 27-year-old Carter has 10 goals, including a team-leading five on the power-play, and 17 points in just 30 games with the Blue Jackets this season. It's the second major injury Carter has suffered this season -- he broke his foot in mid-October and missed a month.

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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 1:44 PM

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

Theodore skates, but Clemmensen to start vs. Pens

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Goalie Jose Theodore took part in Florida's morning skate Friday, but he will not dress when the Panthers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

This will be the fourth consecutive game Theodore has missed since sustaining a knee injury in a 3-2 victory over Montreal on New Year's Eve.

Veteran Scott Clemmensen, who is coming off a strong performance in Monday's 2-1 victory over Vancouver, will be in net against Pittsburgh, with recent AHL call-up Brian Foster again serving as his backup.

Theodore could be ready to return Monday night when the Panthers face Boston before heading out for three road games in four nights.

The Panthers also could be close to getting three of their four injured forwards back in the lineup.

Jack Skille (shoulder), Sean Bergenheim (groin) and Scottie Upshall (lower body) all took part in Friday's morning skate, albeit wearing non-contact jerseys.

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Dustin Jeffrey - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Matt Cooke - Richard Park
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams - Arron Asham

Brooks Orpik - Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen - Ben Lovejoy
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Kopecky - John Madden - Mikael Samuelsson
Marcel Goc - Shawn Matthias - Michal Repik
Krystofer Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

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

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 1:28 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No sophomore slump for All-Star pick Couture

WINNIPEG -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan will have company in Ottawa later this month.

Sharks center Logan Couture, a former standout with the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's,will join McLellan for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star game in Ottawa on Jan. 29.

Couture's 18 goals lead all Sharks scorers this season, and he celebrated his ticket to Ottawa with a game-winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets in a 2-0 win on Thursday night. Couture set a franchise record last season for goals by a rookie with 32. On a roster packed with veteran stars like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, it is Couture who will be en route to Ottawa.

"I still find it hard to believe that he is as young as he is," McLellan said of his 22-year-old star. "Give him credit for establishing himself in the National Hockey League and maintaining it."

Couture's nomination to the event comes two days after McLellan cinched his trip to Ottawa by virtue of the Sharks having owned the Western Conference’s best points percentage as of Jan. 9.

"There's nobody in our room debating whether Logan Couture is an All-Star, not one bit," McLellan said. "He deserves to go to that game, and he will represent our organization, and even more importantly, our city."
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 1:22 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Noel waiting to see how Jets respond to adversity

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets have officially hit turbulence.

Just 1-4-0 to start 2012, the Jets followed up a third-period collapse on Tuesday night in Boston with a 2-0 home loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. With eight of their next 10 games on the road, a club with just six wins in 21 road games this season faces a difficult path over the next month that will determine whether it is a legitimate playoff contender. Last season's second-half collapse doomed a promising start by their predecessors, the Atlanta Thrashers, and that memory remains fresh in the Winnipeg dressing room this season.

"Certainly we've hit a bump in the road now," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "This is going to be interesting to see how we do. It will be a good task for us, a good test for us, because we're going to face adversity straight-square in the face.

"For me, it's going to be more about dealing with the morale of the team now," Noel continued. "The team isn't going to be feeling very good. It's one of the issues that we're going to have to deal with."

Injuries to defensemen Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien have left the Winnipeg blue line struggling to generate much in the way of offense. The Jets will also be attempting to save their season against elite competition that is digging in for the Eastern Conference race, and Noel is all too aware of that reality.

"What happens at the 40-game mark is that you can see the teams with experience, they have winning experience, and our team doesn't have that experience," Noel said. "Somehow we have to find a way to get ourselves over the hump and re-energize and re-charge ourselves. It's a tough task."
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 12:33 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Kulak to replace Koekkoek at Top Prospects

Vancouver Giants defenseman Brett Kulak, ranked No. 67 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, will replace injured Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna later this month.

Koekkoek suffered a shoulder injury midway through the third period of a 6-3 loss to the Windsor Spitfires on Nov. 27 after being hit along the boards while reaching for the puck. He's scheduled to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery on Jan. 20.

In 26 games his season, Koekkoek, who is No. 17 on Central Scouting's list of North American skaters, has 5 goals and 18 points with 17 penalty minutes.

Kulak, a 6-foot-0.25, 174-pound native of Stony Plain, Alta., is in his second season with the Western Hockey League's Giants. He has 4 goals, 11 points and a plus-22 rating in 42 games for Vancouver this season. Kulak will replace Koekkoek on Team Cherry at the Top Prospects Game, scheduled Feb. 1 in Kelowna.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 12:29 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lineups for Maple Leafs, Sabres

Here is what the rosters likely will look like when the Sabres and Maple Leafs play tonight in snowy Buffalo. The Sabres skated today at First Niagara Center, and had Derek Roy back in the lineup after the center sat out the last two games with an upper-body injury.

The Maple Leafs opted to stay at their hotel rather than venture to the arena to skate.

MAPLE LEAFS

Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Nazem Kadri
Darryl Boyce - David Steckel - Mike Brown

Keith Aulie - Dion Phaneuf
Mike Komisarek - Cody Franson
Carl Gunnarsson - Luke Schenn

Jonas Gustavsson will be back in net for a fifth straight game, with James Reimer the backup.

SABRES
Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Luke Adam - Ville Leino - Brad Boyes
Cody McCormick - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Brayden McNabb - Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Ryan Miller likely will start in net, with Jhonas Enroth the backup.

Matt Ellis likely will be a healthy scratch.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Quote of the Day

I've been so fortunate, blessed, to play a long time with some great players and be on power plays, play in some great cities and stuff. It's been fun.

— Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla on tying Dino Ciccarelli for 46th place on the NHL's all-time list with his 1,200th career point after their win vs. the Predators on Friday