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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:38 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kesler has new mates after old line 'disintegrated'

MONTREAL -- Ryan Kesler looked to his left and looked to his right Thursday morning, and was left wondering what happened.

What he saw was Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen on his wings at the Vancouver Canucks' morning skate, two brand new faces just two games after Kesler's regular line had a breakout game.

Kesler, Chris Higgins and newcomer David Booth had exploded for a combined nine points in a 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. But Higgins missed the next game Tuesday night against Colorado with a staph infection in his foot, leaving Hansen to fill the void.

Then Booth took a knee-on-knee hit from Avalanche defenseman Kevin Porter, spraining the MCL in his knee, an injury that will cost him four to six weeks.

So, for the Canucks' game against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, Raymond will grab Booth's spot, and Kesler has himself a brand-new line.

"(My line) disintegrated," Kesler joked Thursday morning.

"To lose both my wingers, it's kind of a shock to me," he added later. "One game we put up nine points together, and the next game I don't have my two wingers."

While Higgins is not expected to miss an extended period of time -- coach Alain Vigneault said once the cut on his foot heals enough to allow him to put his skate on, he should play -- Booth's absence is especially sad for a player who looked to be finally finding the form that made him a one-time 30-goal scorer with the Florida Panthers.

His career was derailed Oct. 24, 2009, when he absorbed a monster hit from Mike Richards, then a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. He came back later that season, but struggled to find his game until he was ultimately traded by the Panthers to the Canucks in October.

Since being put on Kesler's line with Higgins on Nov. 25, Booth had 3 goals and 2 assists in five games when he was injured.

"He was playing well for us, David," Kesler said. "He was one of those guys where it was his first time being traded, it was probably a shock for him. He really started to turn it on, playing the hockey he probably wanted to be playing. He was producing, our line was producing."

Moving Jansen and Raymond up to the second line has ripple effects down the rest of the Canucks' lineup, with rookie Bill Sweatt making his NHL debut on a line with Maxim Lapierre and Cody Hodgson while defenseman Andrew Alberts will be playing on left wing on the fourth line with Dale Weise and Manny Malhotra.

"Those are two big parts of our team and two guys who were playing well for us," Kesler said. "So those are two big shoes to fill, but it gives guys opportunities, so hopefully they can seize that."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:33 PM

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

Homecoming tonight for Michigan native Connor

DETROIT – It will be a homecoming game of sorts for Chris Conner on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena, when the forward from Westland, Mich., suits up for the hometown Detroit Red Wings.

Conner, 27, signed with the Wings as an unrestricted free agent this summer and didn’t initially make the team out of training camp. He started the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League and got recalled to make his Detroit debut Dec. 2 at Buffalo.

After playing during the Wings’ recent three-game road trip, Conner will now make his home debut against the Phoenix Cotes on Thursday night – though he’s not entirely sure how many friends and family will be in the stands.

“You’re always watching (the Wings) on TV when you’re younger,” Conner said of being a Wings fan as a kid. “Right now, I’m just trying to do whatever I can with my speed to help out on the forecheck and be responsible in my own zone.”

Conner has now played parts of six seasons in the NHL – including 60 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. Overall, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has liked the effort he’s seen out of Conner on the third line since his call up.

“I thought he’s played hard for us,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think our team was as good the last two games since we lost (Valtteri Filppula to a cut shin), so those third and fourth line guys didn’t get to be as important as they should have been and didn’t get the minutes they probably deserved at times. He’s just got to continue to be good, tenacious, hard on the penalty kill and do what he can to help us.”
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:29 PM

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

Filppula returns after leg laceration

DETROIT -- Valtteri Filppula will suit up for the Detroit Red Wings at left wing on the second line Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Filppula missed Detroit’s previous game Tuesday night in St. Louis with a deep laceration on his lower right shin that happened in a loss at Colorado last weekend – when a skate blade caught his skin just below the shin pad and above the boot.

Had he ever been cut in a similar fashion?

“Not like this,” Filppula said after going through the morning skate Thursday. “This one’s deep. I got cut last season a little the same way but it wasn’t as bad. It’s not a fun spot to have it happen, right on the (skate boot), but it shouldn’t take too long (to heal). It could’ve been a lot worse. I might’ve had to rest much longer.”

Filppula couldn’t go through an entire morning skate at full speed on Tuesday, which is why he missed the game against the St. Louis Blues. On Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, he said it felt good enough to get up to a faster speed during drills.

“I felt a lot better,” said Filppula, who has 8 goals and 21 points. “It just freshly happened, so it’s not good yet. But it’s a lot better than it was last time.”

Filppula is also wearing Kevlar socks to protect the wound and says he will wear them from now on, even after the cut heals.

“It felt fine,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever wore it, but it felt pretty good. I noticed no difference, so I might as well keep it. That’s how we learn, right? Something has to happen first.”
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:25 PM

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

Potential lineups for Flyers, Penguins

PHILADELPHIA -- Here is what the lineups could look like tonight when the Flyers host the Penguins tonight (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers, after winning last night in Buffalo, did not have a skate today, but it's likely they go with the same lineup they used in their 4-3 overtime win against the Sabres.

The Penguins lineup obviously will be different from Monday since Sidney Crosby will be sidelined the next two games. Forward Richard Park and defenseman Deryk Engelland are game-time decisions.

Here's what the teams likely will go with tonight:

FLYERS
Jaromir Jagr - Claude Giroux - Scott Hartnell
Matt Read - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Harry Zolnierczyk

Braydon Coburn - Kimmo Timonen
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bourdon
Andrej Meszaros - Kevin Marshall

It's unclear who could start in goal tonight. Ilya Bryzgalov played last night in Buffalo and has solid career numbers against the Pens (2-1-1, 1.73 GAA, .942 save percentage, one shutout in four games), but Sergei Bobrovsky was very good against the Penguins last season, going 3-1-1 with a 2.17 GAA and .926 save percentage, including a win in his first NHL start the night the Pens opened Consol Energy Center.

PENGUINS
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Pascal Dupuis
Arron Asham - Craig Adams - Steve MacIntyre

Paul Martin - Simon Despres
Matt Niskanen - Brooks Orpik
Robert Bortuzzo - Alexandre Picard

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal, with Brent Johnson backing him up. Johnson did not skate this morning, as coach Dan Bylsma said Johnson was sick, but Bylsma said he expects Johnson to be ready by game time.

MacIntyre has been on injured reserve since Nov. 30, but Bylsma said if the forward feels healthy, he'll be activated in time to play tonight. If MacIntyre and Park can't go, Bylsma said a forward will be recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Engelland sat out Monday's game with a lower-body injury but skated this morning, and Bylsma said if the blueliner feels up to it, he'll play. There was no indication of who would sit out if Engelland did play.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:17 PM

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

Pens ready to face Jagr, Talbot

PHILADELPHIA -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma followed along with all the media reports during the summer that had Jaromir Jagr poised to return to the team he spent the first 11 seasons of his NHL career with, including a pair of Stanley Cup-winning campaigns.

Bylsma said he could imagine seeing Jagr back in a Penguins uniform, and even went as far as coming up with potential line combinations.

"Of course," said Bylsma of his fantasy lineups. "You fit him in where he would fit in, what players he would play with. We certainly did that."

Those hopes, however, were dashed July 1, when Jagr opted to sign a one-year contract with the cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers.

Bylsma’s first glimpse at what might have been comes Thursday, when his Penguins face the Flyers (7 p.m., NHLN-US) here at Wells Fargo Center.

The Penguins coach, however, wasn't the only player hoping Jagr would bring his prodigious talent back to the franchise that selected him with the fifth pick of the 1990 Entry Draft.

"It looked like for a couple days there, if you believe what everyone was saying in the press, it was a done deal," Craig Adams said of Jagr's return to Pittsburgh. "For sure I thought OK, what's it going to be like with him on our team. Obviously he's still a world-class player. Obviously that would have helped."

Not that the Penguins have needed much help -- they arrive for the game Thursday leading the Eastern Conference with 36 points, one more than Jagr and the Flyers.

"It's fine the way things worked out," Adams said. "We're really happy with the group we have here. We believe we have a great team."

While none of the current Penguins played with Jagr during his time in Pittsburgh -- which ended in a 2001 trade to the Washington Capitals -- there is another former Penguin with the Flyers that this current group of Pittsburgh players knows quite well.

Maxime Talbot spent his first six NHL seasons with the Penguins, and had been a part of the organization since the 2004-05 season, when he and current Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury were teammates with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League. He also was teammates in the minors with Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang.

Talbot's oversized personality and blue-collar work ethic made him a big fan favorite in Pittsburgh, as did the two goals he scored in the Pens' win in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.

"He's a good friend of ours," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. "He's playing some good hockey. We'll have to make sure we play well against him. It'll be interesting to see him out there, for sure."

Craig Adams said it would be a bigger game for Talbot than it would for anyone on the Penguins' side.

"It's bigger for him because he knows everyone over here," Adams said. "And he's just one guy over there."

Talbot has been a nice addition in Philadelphia, with seven goals and 13 points in 26 games, numbers which nearly match the eight goals and 21 points in he had in 82 games last season.

"He's playing some good hockey," said Dupuis. "It'll be different a little bit to see him on the other side. But we see one guy on the other side, he knows everybody on our side. It'll be a different game for him than us."

Talbot's former teammates said they'll know just what to expect when they see him hop over the boards.

"We know how he is," Dupuis said. "Max is going to be Max."

"I can't imagine what he would say," added Adams. "He's pretty harmless."

While those statements were made with smiles on their faces, Adams said all the friendships get put on the backburner once the puck drops.

"All those things go out the window once the game starts," he said. "He'll be trying to win and we'll be doing the same."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:14 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avalanche await word on Porter's availability

CALGARY -- Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco isn't sure if he'll have forward Kevin Porter at his disposal tonight against the Calgary Flames.

Porter is scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL later today concerning a kneeing infraction on David Booth in Tuesday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks.

"The hearing is set for today so I'll know more after the hearing," Sacco said.

The Avalanche coach does know he will be without both Ryan Wilson and Paul Stastny tonight. Wilson suffered a head injury against Vancouver while a torso injury will keep Stastny out.

"Both players will be out of the lineup tonight," Sacco said. "They're still day-to-day right now."

That's bad news for the Avalanche, who have lost eight consecutive games to the Flames dating back to Oct. 28, 2010.

The team will turn to Jean-Sebastien Giguere in hopes of stopping that skid. Giguere has a 4-3-0 record this season with a 1.81 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage.

"We have back-to-back games coming up here tonight and tomorrow in Edmonton," Sacco said. "My plan all along was to make sure Jiggy got in one of those games and decided he's played well against these guys. We'll give him another crack at them."

AVALANCHE
TJ Galiardi - Matt Duchene - Brandon Yip
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - Kevin Porter - David Jones

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

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov


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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 2:03 PM

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

Slight headache, but no concussion this time for Sid

PHILADELPHIA -- For the Pittsburgh Penguins, it must have felt a rerun of a television show.

Once again, media members were asking them how they would cope without Sidney Crosby in the lineup.

The Pittsburgh captain will miss a game here Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) and Saturday against the New York Islanders as a precaution after Crosby took a few hard hits Monday against the Boston Bruins.

It was Crosby's eighth game back after missing more than 10 months with a concussion from January.

The most obvious incident Monday was a third-period collision with teammate Chris Kunitz, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said it wasn't any one particular play that forced Crosby back to the sideline.

"Not a one-time incident in the game," said Bylsma following the Penguins morning skate at Wells Fargo Center. "He took a couple hits in the game and didn't feel 100-percent after the game. That was an indication. He went and saw Dr. (Micky) Collins the next day. His ImPACT test was exactly what it was when he returned to play. Dr. Collins said there's no indication of a concussion at this point in time."

Crosby practiced with the team Wednesday, but Bylsma said that's when the decision was made to bench Crosby for the next two games as a precaution.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:45 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Despite losses, Boucher likes his team's play

NEW YORK -- The potential loss of Martin St. Louis for Thursday night's game against the Rangers aside, and Lightning coach Guy Boucher feels like his slumping team is turning a corner.

St. Louis took a puck in the face during Thursday's morning skate and went to the hospital for further evaluation. He will likely be out of the lineup for Thursday's game.

This comes on the heels of a 5-1 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, Tampa's fifth-straight defeat. Subtract that loss -- which came after the team got to their hotel at 4 a.m. after losing the night before -- and Boucher likes what he has seen.

"With the way we've been playing, except for last game, yes, definitely," Boucher said. "We have a team that needs to win 2-1 and 1-0 and 3-2 at best. Right now,  we're having a hard time with injuries and finding which guys are going to click. We’ve had more scoring chances in the last eight games than we had in our best games last year. Stamkos has missed seven open nets the last five games. I don't think I've ever seen him do that. But when it's going this way, it's going that way."

Defenseman Pavel Kubina and forward Nate Thompson won't be in the lineup Thursday night. With St. Louis' availability in jeopardy as well, the team will likely recall a forward. But Boucher said there's a possibility he will use seven defensemen and 11 forwards; but there were still too many unknowns when he spoke after the morning skate.

Mathieu Garon was the first goaltender off the ice and will likely start. Dwayne Roloson will serve as the backup.

Line combinations and line rushes went out the window with St. Louis' injury. Now, Boucher probably won't determine in his lineup until right before game time.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:42 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Breakthrough performance keeps Morrison in lineup

CALGARY -- When Brendan Morrison was inserted onto the Flames' top line in place of flu-stricken forward Curtis Glencross Tuesday, all coach Brent Sutter wanted was for the veteran to come in and play a role.

That role turned out to be scoring two goals and adding a pair of assists in a wild 7-6 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Though it's earned him another start in the lineup -- his first back-to-back games since Nov. 23-25 -- Morrison knows he doesn't need another four-point outing to stay in the lineup.

"I've been around long enough that the odds are that's not going to happen," Morrison said. "If we can find other ways to contribute, whether it is to win faceoffs or create chances for my linemates, it doesn't matter as long as we win games."

Though he found chemistry on the wing with Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla against Carolina, Morrison will move back to center between Alex Tanguay and Rene Bourque tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

With Glencross back in the lineup, rookie Roman Horak will sit.

Sutter hopes it will be a learning experience for the 20-year-old, who has 2 goals and 9 points in 25 games this season.

"Roman's a young player, and like all young players there's certain things in his game he needs to continue to work on and maybe slipped a little and we want to get it back where he needs to," Sutter said. "There are a couple things I want him to watch tonight and see the game. It's good for young players to do -- to watch the game and get a different perspective, a different view on it."

FLAMES

Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay - Brendan Morrison - Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
T.J. Brodie - Scott Hannan
Derek Smith - Joe Piskula

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving

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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:40 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks ravaged by injuries as they face Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Vancouver Canucks arrive in Montreal for their matchup with the Canadiens tonight a battered bunch.

Two-thirds of their second line is out with injury, with David Booth slated to miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL and Chris Higgins day-to-day with a staph infection in his foot.

As a result, Bill Sweatt, the 38th pick in the 2007 Entry Draft and a former Colorado College standout, will make his NHL debut against the Canadiens on the third line with Maxim Lapierre and Cody Hodgson.

Roberto Luongo gets the start in his hometown, where he hasn't won in his last three starts over three years. His last win in Montreal dates back to a shutout during the 2006-07 season, when Luongo spent the previous night in a local hospital after taking a shot in the throat in practice before beating the Habs 4-0.

Ironically enough, Luongo had to leave his last game after taking a shot in the throat as well, but the Canadiens are hoping history doesn't repeat itself. Overall, Luongo is 3-6-4 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .923 save percentage playing in his hometown. 

For Montreal, defenseman Yannick Weber will be a healthy scratch to make room for Frederic St-Denis. Weber was benched for the second half of the Canadiens 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus on Tuesday after he allowed R.J. Umberger to skate unfettered to the Montreal net and score the go-ahead goal on Carey Price.

Weber's main role is to help the power play with his booming shot, but he hasn't been very effective in that role lately and was taken off the first unit, making his defensive errors all the more glaring.

Price gets the start in goal to face the team he cheered for growing up in Anahim Lake, B.C.

Here are the likely lineups for the game:

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Jannik Hansen
Bill Sweatt - Maxim Lapierre - Cody Hodgson
Dale Weise - Manny Malhotra - Andrew Alberts

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Aaron Rome - Keith Ballard

CANADIENS

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Andrei Kostitsyn - Lars Eller - Travis Moen
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Louis Leblanc

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Hal Gill - Frederic St-Denis
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Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday