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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:40 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry gives his thanks

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:15 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Sid's amazing return and who needs to step up

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

There are a lot of guys making a lot of money in the NHL. One of them once again started to earn every penny of his salary on Monday night, but there are others that I believe just aren't pulling their weight. It's all below in this week's blog entry:

What's clicking?

We absolutely have to talk about Sidney Crosby and the much, much, much anticipated return of No. 87 to the Penguins lineup.

It was well worth the wait.

Nobody knew what we were going to get from him, and I think everybody was astounded by the level of play that Sidney showed against the Islanders.

If there was any question, any doubt who the best player in the world was before, I don't think there should be now after Sidney Crosby dominated from start to finish in his first game back in more than 10 months. To be out for more than 10 months and stay dedicated to his conditioning and dedicated to his recovery, and to come back with that confidence and in that good of shape is a remarkable feat.

I loved the way the Pittsburgh fans embraced him. The emotion and the adrenaline in that building was as good as I've ever seen it in Pittsburgh, and that's a team that has won multiple Stanley Cups. That building was electric as any time I have ever seen it in Pittsburgh, and that shows me how much the fans love hockey in that city. 
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:08 PM

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

Wings tell Smith not to pack bags just yet

DETROIT -- Brendan Smith was excited as he talked about his recent debut as an NHL defenseman, which happened during the Detroit Red Wings' recent four-game road trip to the West coast.

Smith, 22, was so pumped up that he didn't even seem to mind getting sent back to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League following Detroit's practice on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. He hurriedly packed his hockey bag for the short drive to the West part of Michigan and talked about how thrilling it was to make his debut in front of his parents and older brother Rory -- all of whom caught a cross-country flight the morning of his first game, against the San Jose Sharks.

It's just that, unbeknownst to him, Smith's demotion to Grand Rapids wasn't a sure thing in the mind of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock -- who noticed Smith's bag all packed up in the locker room and yelled over to him to unpack it.

Babcock said Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart is dealing with an undisclosed injury and will be a game-time decision after warm-ups, which means Smith might be back in the lineup on Wednesday night despite the return of defenseman Ian White, whose broken cheekbaone prompted Smith's promotion in the first place.

"I'm very pleased with my first three games and there's a lot of things I've learned," Smith said. "A lot of the things the coaches have told me are about how to make the quick play. The biggest thing is that in Grand Rapids I can kind of get away with carrying the puck a little bit more, just because of my skill level and stuff, but it's a lot harder to do it in the NHL. I'm going to have to make that earlier pass and not get into bad habits in Grand Rapids."

Smith also had to sit out five NHL games at the start of this season because of a hit in the preseason on Chicago Blackhawks rookie Ben Smith. Brendan Smith said he wasn't trying to make a malicious hit or target Ben Smith's head, but his shoulder did clip the Blackhawks forward's head and sent him to the ice.

The next day, Brendan Smith sent a text to Ben Smith to explain what happened -- which Ben Smith received and texted back that it was just a hockey play. Since then, both have now played with their respective teams.

Brendan Smith said, if anything, he's learned that he needs to make sure he gets full body contact shoulder-to-shoulder on any future plays like that one, in which Ben Smith toe-dragged the puck to the middle of the ice as Brendan Smith came at him across the ice.

He's also ready to put that play completely behind him and concentrate on the future -- which for the short-term probably includes at least one more game with the Wings, who sent down forward Fabian Brunnstrom on Tuesday to make room to keep Smith.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:02 PM

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

White rejoins Wings after heroic -- but costly -- effort

DETROIT -- The last time he was seen in action for the Detroit Red Wings, defenseman Ian White was diving across the crease to make a remarkable save to keep his team ahead by a goal in the third period of a tight game against the Dallas Stars.

That was 11 days and four games ago -- and that save was made with his face. The puck, shot by Jamie Benn from point-blank range with Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard sprawled on the other side of the net, hit White in the cheek.

It gashed his skin and also broke his cheekbone, causing him to miss the Wings' recent four-game road trip to the West coast. He returned to the ice for practice on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, skated with the team in the morning skate on Wednesday and plans to play on Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames -- wearing a full plastic facial shield.

"It was a point shot," White said, recalling the play for reporters after Tuesday's practice. "Benn tipped it. The rebound was lying there. Howie was down and out, so they had a tap-in. I tried to block it with anything but my face, but it got me right in the cheek."

It also caused a cut that took 13 stitches to sew up, not to mention a post-game trip to the hospital for further evaluation. And it could've been even worse. White wasn't wearing a visor, but was asked if the experience made him consider wearing one for the rest of his career after he's done with the full shield.

"I'll have to think about it," he said. "I'll wear it for at least the rest of the season. Who knows if it would have even stopped the puck? I dodged a bullet. (I’m) fortunate not to miss that many games."

Howard also felt fortunate to have a teammate willing to go to such lengths to keep a puck out of the net. In fact, the Wings goalie has said he'll definitely pick up a dinner tab for White at some point this season. He would've done it on this past road trip, but White couldn't make the trip.

"I thought I could even play a little bit sooner, (but) I just couldn't fly when you have the sinus and the pressure or something like that," White said. "It doesn't really hurt at all."

White said he will be able to fly with the team on Thursday evening, Thanksgiving night, as Detroit heads East for a one-game trip to play the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Black Friday.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:00 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flames, Red Wings

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena:

FLAMES
Alex Tanguay - Mikael Backlund - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Rene Bourque
Paul Byron - Roman Horak - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Brendan Morrison / Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Scott Hannan - Mark Giordano
Jay Bouwmeester - Chris Butler
Derek Smith - TJ Brodie

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson

RED WINGS
Todd Bertuzzi - Pavel Datsyuk - Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Danny Cleary
Jiri Hudler - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart / Brendan Smith
Jonathan Ericsson - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 11:56 AM

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

DeBoer pleased with early returns from Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he's happy with the identity of his team at the quarter mark of the season.
 
If that's the case, he should be ecstatic in a couple weeks when top-line center Travis Zajac makes his anticipated return from an offseason injury that has sidelined him all year.
 
According to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, Zajac skated on his own on Tuesday and Wednesday in New Jersey and could begin practicing with the team in as many as two weeks.
 
"I wanted him at Thanksgiving," DeBoer laughed when asked if having Zajac back in the lineup would be a nice Christmas gift.
 
"Still, it was nice to see him [Tuesday]. I got a chance to sit and talk to him, and he's excited and in a great place mentally. The light is at the end of the tunnel. It's good that he's around the team and practicing … good for the guys to see him. He's a key piece here, obviously."
 
DeBoer should have defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the lineup for Wednesday's matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Volchenkov sported several stitches on his upper lip after having to leave Monday's loss to the Florida Panthers following a hit to the face from the Panthers Shawn Matthias.
 
The Devils recalled center Tim Sestito from their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany on Wednesday and the 27-year-old forward will be inserted into the lineup against the Blue Jackets. It will be Sestito's 2011-12 debut with the Devils.
 
"I'm more comfortable now," Sestito told NHL.com. "I've been up and down a few times and it's an opportunity you have to take advantage of … help your team. As long as you're playing hard, hopefully good things happen."
 
Sestito was skating on the fourth line with Mattias Tedenby and Cam Janssen during the team's morning skate.
 
"I'm hoping he can provide some energy," DeBoer said of Sestito. "We're coming off a five-game road trip and I think that moving guys in and out on the third and fourth lines gives us a spark at different times. This is one of those times."
 
After sitting out as a healthy scratch against the Panthers, wing Nick Palmieri (3 goals, 6 points, minus-5 rating) will also be re-inserted into Wednesday's lineup.
 
Here were the line combinations for the Devils during morning warmups:
 
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Nick Palmieri - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Mattias Tedenby - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen
 
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov
 
Martin Brodeur will make his fourth straight start between the pipes.
 
"It's always nice to roll them over [and get right back in net following a loss]," Brodeur told NHL.com. "That's how you go through your ups and downs; you can deal with it a little easier."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 11:52 AM

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

Pens follow up Crosby debut by facing Blues

PITTSBURGH -- Now, it's on to Game 2 of Sidney Crosby's comeback for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
The Penguins begin a stretch of three games in four days by playing the St. Louis Blues, who are 4-1-2 since former Stanley Cup-winning coach Ken Hitchcock was hired -- including a 3-2 loss at home to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. The Penguins remain at home Friday to play the Ottawa Senators, and then travel to Montreal on Saturday night.
 
Not surprisingly, given the Penguins' 5-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday, there are no lineup changes:
 
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams
 
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
 
Marc-Andre Fleury will be back in net after recording his second shutout of the season and the 21st of his career. Fleury is 7-1 at Consol Energy Center this season and is 2-2 with a 2.63 goals-against average in four career games against the Blues.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 10:44 AM

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

Devils have encouraging news on Zajac

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac, who hasn't played a game this season after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon during the offseason, skated on his own on Tuesday and Wednesday in New Jersey and could begin practicing with the team in two weeks.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello spoke to the media during his team's morning skate at Prudential Center to provide the media with an update on center Zajac.
 
"Travis has been released by the doctors and is in town and skated [Tuesday and Wednesday] and will continue to do that for the next week and a half to two weeks," Lamoriello said. "If everything is on schedule as it has been, he'll start practicing with the team in two weeks. Everything to this point has been exactly the way the doctors predicted it would be, and it feels good, but he's certainly not there yet. It'll take conditioning off and on the ice before he can return to practice."
 
The Devils recalled center Tim Sestito from their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany on Wednesday.
 
"Tim has played well in Albany so we've called him up to take a better look at him," Lamoriello said.
 
Defenseman Anton Volchenkov (facial laceration) and forward Ilya Kovalchuk were also on the ice for the Devils during the team's morning session in preparation for the Wednesday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 2:19 AM

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

Fantasy Spin: Eberle flying under the radar

When fantasy owners think of recent first-round picks of the Edmonton Oilers taking the fantasy world by storm, they usually have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (drafted 1st overall in 2011) and Taylor Hall (1st in 2010) in mind.

But with all due respect to those dazzling young point-producers, there is an often forgotten member of the Oilers' fantasy crop of forwards -- Jordan Eberle. The former 22nd overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft churned out his seventh multi-point outing in 21 games this season on Tuesday, and is in the midst of a scorching stretch that has elevated his value to new heights.

Jordan Eberle
Right Wing - EDM
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 21
SOG: 44 | +/-: 1
Coming off a 18-goal, 25-assist rookie campaign, Eberle (7 G, 14 A, plus-1, 6 PPP, 6 PIM, 44 SOG, 15 hits) is on pace to shatter those numbers as surprising Oilers have seemingly put their stretch of last-place finishes to rest. Nugent-Hopkins (8 G, 14 A, plus-3, 11 PPP, 6 PIM, 44 SOG, 11 hits) and Hall (6 G, 10 A, even rating, 8 PPP, 12 PIM, 57 SOG, 20 hits) had a pair of assists apiece on Tuesday and are both machines on the man advantage. But Eberle is up to speed with his peers in nearly every category, including power-play points, proving he is just as likely to continue his breakout season.

His three-point (2 G, 1 A) performance Tuesday night -- despite a difficult road environment in Nashville -- truly showcased his creativity with the puck and also his knack for finding his teammates in stride. Eberle has compiled four goals and six assists in his last five games, but is still only owned in 60 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. This 21-year-old's caliber of production should no longer be undervalued, as it mirrors his frequent linemates, Hall and RNH.

All three of these fantasy assets are bound to have their ups and downs as the season wears on, but their frequent outbursts of high-flying point production have made it crystal clear that they are on the fast track to stardom in this League.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:43 AM

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

Fantasy Spin: Richards wearing crown for Kings

High expectations were thrust upon Mike Richards since his trade to the Los Angeles Kings from the Philadelphia Flyers this past offseason. Justifiably so, too, as he has been an impact players since coming into the League in 2005-06.

However, until recently, the two-time 30-plus goal scorer has been in la la land in Los Angeles.

Mike Richards
Center - LAK
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 18
SOG: 54 | +/-: 4
In his first 14 games with the Kings, Richards scored only two goals. Not exactly the kind of production most fantasy owners envisioned when they rushed to draft him.

Whatever worries you may have had ought to be brushed away, as it appears that the Richards you've grown accustomed to seeing is back.

The 26-year-old center has collected five goals in his past four games and has points in six of his past seven games. That's not all. Richards has thrown 24 shots on the cage during his recent hot streak and hasn't been a minus player, either. If you're inclined to think fluke as it related to his recent stats, then merely rely on precedence.

Not only does he have two 30-plus goal seasons on his resume, as mentioned, Richards has amassed at least 62 points in four straight seasons. Moreover, he's hasn't finished with less than 184 shots since 2007-08. Whatever the scoring category, the former first-round selection has delivered and has been a fantasy stud.

Richards appears to be feeling very comfortable in a Kings sweater these days and you will be feeling just as comfortable with your fantasy team if you're able to snag him.
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— Islanders captain John Tavares after a 4-1 win against the Penguins tied the teams atop the Metropolitan Division standings
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