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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 12:09 PM

By Matt Dumba -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Matt Dumba draft blog

Dumba looking forward to going to Camp

Matt Dumba is a defenseman for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. The 5-foot-11.75, 183-pound defenseman was named WHL Rookie of the Year after scoring 15 goals and adding 11 assists in 62 games. He also had a tournament-high 12 points -- all assists -- to help Canada Pacific win the bronze medal at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. This summer, he played for Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament and also took part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Dumba has offered to maintain a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hi everyone. First let's update you with what's going on with our team. We had a great road trip to British Columbia, picking up nine of a possible 10 points. But then we came back and we've lost our last five, and that's been a slip in our team. I'm not sure what happened; it's just we kind of found a rhythm on the road trip, being in the same routine. We got back and faced some circumstances with injuries and things like that that shook up our lineup a bit. We had some losses and got away from some of the things we were doing on the road trip.

Personally I had a pretty good month. I was working hard and just doing lot of the little things right. I was pretty happy with my game. I had a goal and an assist in Victoria, and 2 assists in Lethbridge. I have 18 points in 23 games now, but I don't really like to focus on those points there. Or really pay attention to all that. For me to be playing my best game, it's not going to include points, but when it does, it's a good feeling to know I'm contributing. Some games I know I'm playing the best games I have and it's little things I'm doing on the ice -- my D zone is tight, I'm gapping up on guys and really focusing on those little things. It's like when I saw on TSN, Brent Sutter was talking about Jarome Iginla's game, and Jarome didn't have any points, but Sutter said that's what he's looking for from Jarome.

This week also was great because I got invited to Hockey Canada's camp for the 2012 World Junior Championship. It was pretty awesome when I got the call from coach Ryan Huska. He said he was calling behalf of Team Canada and wanted to congratulate me and said he'd see me in a few weeks. I didn't have any words for it. I told my family first and then he said keep it quiet until they release it on Monday. I was keeping my mouth shut until then. It's a feeling that I've been working so hard to get to this point, yet I know it's just one step closer and I know I have lots of steps to take and lots of hard work to do. I'm willing to do anything to make it on this team. I'm pretty excited for the opportunity I have.

It's huge, but I know it's just an invitation right now and no real guarantee to anything. I've still got to go out there and work my hardest and compete and find that higher level I know I have to play at that level.

Talk to you more next month.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 9:59 AM

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

Ducks' Ryan responds to rumors

Most NHL players claim not to pay attention to what gets said or written about in the media.

Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, however, appears to be the exception to that rule. The center of recent trade speculation, Ryan told Eric Stephens of the Orange County (Calif.) Register that he's heard all about it, and said at this point being traded wouldn't be a shocker.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Ryan said Tuesday. "That's all I'll say about that."

The Ducks have lost five straight and 16 of their past 18 to fall to 14th in the Western Conference and 29th in the League heading into Wednesday's game against the Montreal Canadiens. Speculation has been rampant that some kind of change -- a player trade, a coaching change -- is imminent.

In regards to Ryan, however, Ducks General Manager Bob Murray told the newspaper, "At any time if we get offered a deal on any player that makes this team better, we would have to take a long, hard look at that."

However, Ryan told the newspaper he isn't looking to leave Anaheim.

"In a perfect world, you get drafted and you stay with a team for your career and you win (Stanley) Cups," he said. "At the same time, it's the business side of things that all comes back to. If they feel like it's got to be the right move for the team, then I'd certainly welcome it.

"If they feel like the Ducks are going to get better and I'm going to get a chance to play somewhere else, I guess I would. But I'm certainly not thinking about it day in and day out."

Sportsnet has reported the Ducks are shopping Ryan, while the New York Post has reported the New York Rangers are among a number of teams to show serious interest in Ryan.

It's no surprise multiple teams would be calling on Ryan if the Ducks were to make him available. A 24-year-old right wing taken with the second pick of the 2005 Entry Draft, he's scored at least 31 goals in three straight seasons, and scored a career-best 71 points last season. In 23 games this season, he's third on the team with 7 goals.

Ryan told the newspaper he's spoken with Murray in regard to the rumors, but said he never received any indication that he hasn't been or wouldn't be shopped. 

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 2:17 AM

By Eric Lipschutz -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Is Coyotes' Smith the real deal?

Mike Smith is turning doubters into believers one win at a time.  The Coyotes' goalie made 24 stops for his 12th win of the season Tuesday night as Phoenix defeated Chicago, 4-1.

Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 12-4-3
GAA: 2.13 | SVP: 0.935
The always dangerous Blackhawks, winners of two in a row heading into Tuesday's contest, couldn't get anything going offensively against Smith until finally breaking through against him until Patrick Sharp scored in the final minute of regulation. Smith improved his record to a stellar 12-4-3 on the season while boasting an impressive .935 save percentage.

Few could have predicted this kind of success for Smith, who the Coyotes signed on July 1 of this year to replace Ilya Bryzgalov after the latter signed with Philadelphia. But to this point, Smith has outplayed Bryzgalov and many of the other more marquee goalies across the League. If you were shrewd enough, or more likely lucky enough to draft Smith or perhaps scoop him up off the waiver wire in shallower leagues, you are certain to be one happy fantasy GM.

The question facing all Smith owners now is, can he keep up his surprisingly hot play?  At 29 years old, Smith has never played more than 42 games in a season. But it is possible Smith has found a home in the desert. Smith seems to be a strong fit in Dave Tippett's system and might be finally ready to prove he is capable locking down a No.1 goalie job in the NHL and on your fantasy squad. Even if you are convinced that Smith is the real deal and won't come crashing down to Earth, don't be afraid to sell high on him if the right opportunity should present itself. Goalies can always command a pretty penny on the trade market and Smith's value might never be higher.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 2:14 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Kane's versatility elevates value

Evander Kane's slow start is history, and Tuesday night is more proof that this 20-year-old has taken his versatility to new heights.

With two goals, a plus-2 rating, seven shots on goal and three hits in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, Kane (12 G, 6 A, plus-1, 23 PIM, 4 PPP, 89 SOG, 58 hits) provided more reinforcement behind the claim that he's among the most well-rounded fantasy players in the game. Winnipeg's rising star brushed off a five-game scoreless streak to start the season, and is currently seventh in the League in goals and fifth in shots. His output in hits can also carry a fantasy team's production in that category.

Owned in only 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Kane has blossomed in Claude Noel's system after initial impressions this season indicated that he could be in for a down year. After posting a 19-goal, 24-point, 82-shot, 154-hit campaign in 2010-11, this left winger is on pace to shatter those numbers and put together an incredibly well-rounded season. What's more, he has proved, through 23 games, to be the crown jewel of the Winnipeg Jets' organization moving forward -- which gives him tremendous long-term keeper value.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 1:40 AM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Smith has been quietly Sens-ational

There are enough Ottawa Senators to choose from when it comes to picking capable fantasy players. That'll happen when names like Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and Sergei Gonchar are on the roster.

Zack Smith ought to join that list.

Smith is quietly having a reliable campaign for fantasy owners. The best way to break him down is to say that he does a little bit of everything, which is a compliment in the world of fantasy hockey.

Through 24 games, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound center has six goals, seven assists, 13 points, a plus-6 rating, 34 PIMs and 41 shots on net. If you're in need for depth, Smith can be a solid option.

Although he's been held pointless for three games twice this season, Smith has otherwise been consistent. Particularly of late, as the 23-year-old has points in four of his last seven games. In that span, Smith has two multi-point nights.

As you seek depth and complimentary options on your fantasy squad, keep Smith on your radar and benefit steadily along the way.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 9:54 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PIT @ NYR - 17:35 of the Second Period

At 17:35 of the second period in the Rangers/Penguins game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke highsticked the puck and it went off Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and then off Rangers defenseman Michael Sauer and into the net.  According to rule 80.3 "when an attacking player causes the puck to enter the opponent's goal by contacting the puck above the height of the crossbar, either directly or deflected off any player or official, the goal shall not be allowed. The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick."  No Goal Pittsburgh

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:50 PM

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

Pacioretty: I made bad decision

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Montreal Canadiens begin a three-game West Coast trip as a team in transition.

The three-game suspension to Max Pacioretty, announced Monday, and the uncertainty surrounding defenseman Andrei Markov, who is extremely close to returning from a year-long injury, have left the club searching for answers as it prepares for Wednesday's game against a struggling Anaheim team.

With Pacioretty out for the entire road trip due to his hit to the head of Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang in Saturday's game, the Canadiens called up top prospect Louis Leblanc to play forward.

Leblanc, a center, is expected to make his NHL debut Wednesday against Anaheim. The No. 18 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Leblanc is ranked as the club's top prospect by The Hockey News. He has four goals and 10 points with a minus-7 rating in 14 games with Hamilton of the American Hockey League. 

"He's a player that has good vision, is good without the puck," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said after Tuesday's practice. "Unfortunately he missed training camp this year, but he's a young player that we feel has a good upside and good potential."

However, Leblanc will not slide right into Pacioretty's spot. There will have to be some line juggling against the Ducks.

The changes could include Andrei Kostitsyn on a line with Tomas Plekanec, who has been playing with Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, while Pacioretty had success on a line with Erik Cole and David Desharnais

"We got to try and find some solution to get (offense)," Martin said. "We probably need more from our top guys."

Pacioretty spoke with reporters for the first time since the suspension was handed down.

The forward admitted it was "tough to agree" with the decision by NHL Senior Vice President Brendan Shanahan.

Pacioretty delivered an open-ice hit to Letang after the Pittsburgh defender put a shot on goal in Montreal's zone in the third period Saturday. No penalty was called. Letang suffered a broken nose but returned to the game and scored the winning goal in overtime.

"If you look at the situation, me and Letang made eye contact," Pacioretty said. "I think that's what gave me the green light to try and hit him. I felt he put himself in a vulnerable position."

Asked if the incident will alter his style, Pacioretty said, "I'm going to be completely honest: I've been scared to hit people out there. A lot of times you're going in on the forecheck and the defenseman turns his back to you. Things of that nature happen. It's a fast game and injuries are going to happen. That's why it's tough out there, especially for someone who's expected to finish their hits.

"The blame's still on me. I made a bad decision. Down the road, I'm definitely not going to make that decision when someone comes through the middle. But I don't see why I should give him a free pass to come through our zone like that and get a free shot on net."

Martin reiterated Tuesday that "I'm disappointed with the decision, but I accept it and move forward. We have three games on this trip and they're important."

Markov update: The Canadiens will also soon face decisions on defense as Markov nears readiness to play again. Martin said Tuesday that he didn't know if Markov would play during Montreal's three-game trip through California. 

"I don't know if there will be a possibility or not," Martin said. "It's something that's going to be left up to him, but I think that it's good that he's practicing." 

Markov has not played in more than a year. He re-injured his surgically repaired right knee in a collision with Eric Staal on Nov. 13, 2010, and had a second reconstructive surgery the following month. In Tuesday's practice, Markov again played the point with P.K. Subban during power-play drills. 

"He's getting closer, but I don't know when he'll be back," Martin said. "I think it's good for him to be involved in intense practice this week."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:20 PM

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

Letang, Michalek out for Penguins

NEW YORK -- The Penguins will be without two of their top-four defensemen tonight at Madison Square Garden as both Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek are heading back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. Both players were with the Penguins at the morning skate.

Pittsburgh recalled defensemen Alexandre Picard and Robert Bortuzzo from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Both are expected to play as the Penguins have only six defensemen remaining in New York.

Letang suffered a broken nose when Montreal forward Max Pacioretty hit him Saturday. Pacioretty was suspended for three games by the NHL on Monday for an illegal hit to the head.

Michalek missed 10 straight games from Oct. 29 - Nov. 19 because of a broken finger, but he has played in the last four. The nature of his injury has not been disclosed.

Picard played six games with the Penguins earlier this month, averaging 12:41 of ice time and picking up a plus-4 rating. Bortuzzo made his NHL debut with the Penguins at Los Angeles on Nov. 5. He was scoreless and had a minor penalty in 10:38 of ice time.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:14 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hometown kid Johansen set to face Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Columbus rookie Ryan Johansen is right at home in Vancouver, but the 19-year-old will have a new vantage point Tuesday against the Canucks team he grew up cheering.

Johansen, who returned to his nearby hometown of Port Moody to watch his younger brother play hockey and eat with family on Monday night, was a spectator at Rogers Arena as recently as Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Now the fourth pick in the 2010 NHL Draft will be counted on to slow down a Vancouver team finding its groove again.

"For a kid like that to be able to come home, he's pretty excited, he'll have lots of family in the building, and hopefully it's a big night," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. "It took him a while to get the feel of the NHL and what it takes to play every night, but he's been dangerous. He's shown a lot of the skill for the size that he has, and an ability to score some big goals. It would be nice to see him get rewarded in front of the home crowd."

It hasn't necessarily been an easy transition for Johansen, who was scratched four times during a miserable October in Columbus. But shortly after shifting from center to right wing while Jeff Carter was out, Johansen scored the winning goal in the Blue Jackets' first three victories, and now has 5 goals, 10 points and a team-best plus-4 rating.

"There was a lot on his plate early on, especially playing center in the National Hockey League. As an 18-year-old, there was a lot to grasp," Arniel said after practice Monday. "The switch to right wing seemed to make him really comfortable and all of the sudden we started to see the offense and the big power forward we were hoping for."

Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they will face a goaltender that also benefitted from some tough Arniel love early in his career. Canucks backup Cory Schneider, who will make his sixth-straight start Tuesday and is coming off NHL Second Star honors for his play last week, credits Arniel for giving him a "kick" during his rookie AHL season.

"I'd like to kick him right now," Arniel joked.

Ironically, Schneider faces Curtis Sanford, his playing partner when the Canucks' AHL affiliate went to the Calder Cup Finals in 2009. It's a scenario few would envisioned a few weeks ago, when Schneider was still the backup to Roberto Luongo, Sanford was hurt and the Blue Jackets' third-stringer, and Arniel was listening to regular speculation about his job being in jeopardy while Columbus struggled. Even if they didn’t see Tuesday's matchup coming, Arniel and Sanford both foresaw success for Schneider.

"Everybody envisioned he was going to be a good NHL goaltender," Arniel said. "He's a guy that’s very driven and very confident, a big goalie that's also very athletic."

Size isn't on Sanford's size, but that hasn't kept the 5-foot-10 goaltender from getting back to the NHL three seasons -- and several serious injuries -- after his last game with Vancouver. With a 3-1-2 record, 1.39 goals-against average and .947 save percentage during six-straight starts, the popular journeyman has made the most of this unexpected opportunity, sparking a Columbus turnaround.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 5:12 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blue Jackets expected lineup

VANCOUVER -- Derick Brassard gets back into the Columbus Blue Jackets' lineup for just the third time in the last nine games after being a regular scratch, with Cody Bass coming out. Coach Scott Arniel pledged to get the sixth pick from the 2006 NHL Draft more ice time, but it won't be easy on the fourth line.

Vinny Prospal - Jeff Carter - Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger - Mark Letestu - Ryan Johansen
Antoine Vermette - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Derick Brassard - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Grant Clitsome

Curtis Sanford, who backed up Roberto Luongo in Vancouver for two years, will make his seventh straight start while Steve Mason, recently cleared to return after suffering a concussion in from a shot off the mask in practice, is at least backing up again.

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