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Posted On Monday, 11.28.2011 / 3:22 PM

By Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Stars, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

Loui Eriksson - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Steve Ott - Mike Ribeiro - Tomas Vincour
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Krys Barch - Tom Wandell - Toby Peterson

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Adam Pardy
Mark Fistric - Philip Larsen

Andrew Raycroft will start in goal with Richard Bachman as the backup.


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

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

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the backup.

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Posted On Monday, 11.28.2011 / 1:39 PM

By Eric Lipschutz - Staff Writer / - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Will coaching change get Ovi going?

Will a coaching change in Washington be the thing to snap Alex Ovechkin out of his scoring slump?  Ovi's fantasy owners sure hope so. 
On Monday, the Capitals made the decision to dismiss coach Bruce Boudreau and replace him with Dale Hunter. In the past two seasons, Boudreau had his team shift to a more defensive style in the hopes of better equipping Washington for an extended playoff run into June. Unfortunately, while that approach never did yield the postseason results Boudreau had hoped for, it did appear to hold down the club's premiere offensive talents, none more so than the Capital's captain.
Though he has not performed up to expectations this season, a coaching change could be just the spark Alex Ovechkin needs to return to his dominant form. (Photo: Getty Images)
After a 50-goal campaign in 2009-10, Ovechkin scored a career low 32-goals in 2010-11. Though he seemed poised for a bounce-back year this season, the Russian superstar has only lit the lamp eight times in 22 games. Ovechkin had not scored a goal at home until this past Friday, and though he is one of the game's biggest impact players, he has been invisible out on the ice for stretches this season. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby has two goals and seven points in three games since his return to action, taking a clear edge over Ovechkin as the NHL's premiere fantasy player.
Though times have been tough, there is plenty of hope on the horizon for the Great Eight. A coaching change might be exactly what he needs to get his game going. The relationship between captain and coach appeared to have been strained at times this season, and a new face behind the bench could go a long way in helping Ovechkin regain his focus. 
The hiring of Hunter in Washington could have a far greater impact on the team's offensive output than your typical coaching shakeup. It is logical to assume the front office would like to see Hunter open up the offense and allow the Capital's impressive offensive talent to return to wreaking havoc on the rest of the League. Take note, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin owners.   
At just 26-years-old, there is no reason to doubt that the uber-talented Ovechkin could in a moment's notice return to his elite status as one of the top players in fantasy hockey. Could the coaching change be the the spark needed to get one of the NHL's most gifted scorers back on track? Only time will tell, but if you have any hopes of landing Ovechkin in your league now is the time to strike. An Ovi hot streak could be just around the corner so fantasy GMs would be wise to put together a package and see if they could land him for reasonable value. Even with his recent struggles, Ovechkin will surely come with a very high price tag but don't forget what No. 8 has done or more importantly what he is capable of doing still.
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Posted On Monday, 11.28.2011 / 12:31 PM

By Steve Webb -  Special to / - Making of a Royal

Webb recalls his minor hockey traveling days

In this week's "Making of a Royal" blog, head coach Pat LaFontaine and assistant coach Steve Webb discuss the team's travel habits for regular season and major national tournaments. Additionally, the parents of all the players for the Long Island Royals Under-16 Team must also log plenty of miles and hours driving their sons to games, practices and, most times, weekend tournaments. The team is currently 33-3 and ranked No. 2 in the nation.

Webb, born and raised in Peterborough (Ont.), recalled his traveling days in the minor hockey system in Peterborough and how different it is for those parents of the minor clubs in the United States.
I grew up in the Peterborough minor hockey system where it was mandatory every road game in the Peterborough Petes AAA system that you had to take a bus. The only thing parents needed to do was bring their kids to the bus stop. On the way back, we just needed to find a ride home, so it was less of a burden on the parents.
Also, a majority of the parents, from what I remember, were on the bus so that's when we really gelled as a team and came together. You were riding with everyone at that time. With the Long Island Royals, it's a different animal. There is no rule where buses are mandatory. The one time we did take a bus was last year when we flew into Toronto to go to Peterborough. The bus picked us up and drove us into Peterborough. That's the one time, but other than that, it's a lot of driving. Parents must find a way to pile kids into someone's car and get the kids up there for a weekend event or showcase. Parents can hopefully make it up for a Saturday and still see some games in quarters or semifinal rounds if we're still alive.
We've traveled to Washington, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Vermont and Connecticut for showcases. We've been to New Hampshire and also flew into Chicago as a group. Not every parent could make it because of the cost; don't forget you also have to arrange a room and that gets costly as well. We want to make sure the kids are being viewed and that they have the best opportunity to go on to the next level and have the scouts look at them.
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Posted On Monday, 11.28.2011 / 12:30 PM

By Nicholas Hutchison -  Special to / - Making of a Royal

When the going gets tough, Hutchison gets going

In this week's "Making of a Royal" player blog segment, center Nicholas Hutchison (6-foot-2, 168 pounds) tells how the Long Island Royals have helped him both on and off the ice. Royals assistant coach Steve Webb, who has watched Hutchison since he was 12, said the team's second-leading scorer has a great passion for the game and that when the game gets tougher and tighter, that's when he excels. "The more competitive the contest, the better Hutchison gets," Webb told

Hi everyone. This is my second year with the L.I. Royals. I previously played in Westchester with the Westchester Express and then, two years ago, came back here. Last year, we were '94 birth years, so we were underdogs. But this year we're like one of the top teams and everyone wants to beat us -- and that's a good thing.
I find that just hard work and effort, spending time in the weight room over the summer, have really helped me out this season. I like to play a physical game and be a physical player. I think I'm a good two-way center, who could control the game and make simple plays. After this season, I'm hoping I can play in the USHL. No team has my rights right now, but I was invited to main camp for the Indiana Ice, so hopefully I'll be able to play with them.
Right now, we're basically rolling three centers and four lines, but I play a lot with Michael Marnell and Adam Tracey. I'm the center on that line. I do a lot of faceoff work during the year and I like to set up a few plays even before we go out on the ice. I talk to the wingers and tell them where to go, so if I do win it forward, they go to the net and I can give it to them. I'm about 6-2, 168, so I like to throw the body around a lot.
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Posted On Monday, 11.28.2011 / 1:00 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

5 Ugliest Jerseys in NHL History

This was harder than I thought because there aren't a ton of bad jerseys, but there are a few. Here are what I came up with as my least favorite jerseys of all time.

Honorable Mention: New Jersey Devils 1982-1993 - Before we really get started, here's a jersey that I really wanted to put in this list: the Devils jerseys with the green and red "Christmas Tree" jerseys. That was a bad jersey. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but it was never the most wonderful time of the year for the Devils. That was a color combination that I think everyone was happy it left the NHL.

5. The Calgary Flames in 1980 - There was not a lot of imagination here and nothing very innovative -- just a "C" with some flames on it. The white ones were especially poor I thought, but for lack of imagination and creativity, I'll give the white Calgary flames jersey the nod at No. 5. I'm not a lover of Calgary's jerseys in general. I like them better now that they have black in them, but I've never been a lover of their jerseys.

4. The New York Rangers in 1978
- I hate that long stripe from one arm across the shoulder to the other arm. A lot of teams did this in the late 1970s -- including the Toronto Maple Leafs -- when I played for them. The Rangers had it with that square crest on the front. The Rangers had the stripe, Philly started the stripe, Toronto went to the stripe, Winnipeg went to the stripe, and I just never really liked it. I like the Rangers jersey when it just has Rangers across the front much better than the crest.

3. The Gold L.A. Kings jerseys - The purple and gold that they wore for a while they took because they had the same owners as the L.A. Lakers, and purple and gold just aren't hockey colors. They don't invoke fear and intimidation. I've never liked the L.A. Kings' purple and gold jerseys, but the gold jerseys with the gold socks and the gold pants were the worst. I just felt that was too much gold in any one area. Thank God they didn't bring those out when I was the coach there. It's good for basketball, but just not for hockey.

2. The Islanders Gorton's Fisherman - If this one's No. 2, it's hard to imagine that anything is worse than this. That was a jersey that scared kids. That was a bad crest. I'm so glad to have seen the Islanders get back to their original jerseys. They should never have changed. They won Stanley Cups with it, it was a nice jersey and to do that with the Gorton's Fisherman was just bad planning. I'm a traditional guy. If you're lucky enough to have tradition -- so few teams have it -- that should be something you go towards, not something you go away from. You don't see the Leafs or the Canadiens making major changes, and the Islanders, say what you want, are one of the great franchises in our game. They've won a number of Stanley Cups, so I think tradition is what they should be striving for -- not being gimmicky.

1. The Vancouver Canucks: Every jersey from 1978-1997 - It's not just one jersey. It's an era -- right from when they brought the "V" in to the goofy skate on the crest. That whole era is the worst collection of jerseys the NHL has ever seen. At first they had the Hockey Night in Canada jerseys with the stick through the TV screen, and now they're back to that with their alternate, but then they had so many jerseys that were ugly, from the "V" to the goofy skate. There is just no redeeming that group of jerseys.
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Posted On Sunday, 11.27.2011 / 2:05 PM

By Erin Nicks - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators and Hurricanes

Here are the projected lineups for Sunday’s game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Due to 5 p.m. start, both teams elected not to skate today.


Milan MichalekJason SpezzaColin Greening
Nick FolignoJesse WinchesterDaniel Alfredsson
Kaspars DaugavinsZack SmithErik Condra
Zenon KonopkaNikita FilatovBobby Butler

Jared CowenSergei Gonchar
Filip KubaErik Karlsson
Chris PhillipsDavid Rundblad

Craig Anderson will get the start, with Alex Auld serving as backup.

On Sunday morning, Nikita Filatov was recalled from Binghamton, while Stephane Da Costa was reassigned to the AHL club. Coach Paul MacLean confirmed that David Rundblad would be returning to the lineup, after sitting for the last five games. Brian Lee is the healthy scratch.

Chris Neil, who injured his ankle against the New York Rangers on Nov. 9, skated on his own for 20-30 minutes on Thursday. According to MacLean, there will be no timetable for his return until he practices with the team.


Jeff SkinnerEric StaalTuomo Ruutu
Alexei PonikarovskyJussi JokinenChad LaRose
Jiri TlustyBrandon Sutter – Pat Dwyer
Brett SutterTim BrentAnthony Stewart

Tomas KaberleDerek Joslin
Tim GleasonJustin Faulk
Bryan AllenJamie McBain

Cam Ward is expected to get the start, with Brian Boucher backing him up.

According to Carolina team writer Michael Smith, Jay Harrison, who sustained an upper body injury against Montreal on Wednesday, did not travel with the team. Joni Pitkanen, who injured his lower body against the Rangers on Nov. 11, is listed as probable. He will skate today and then decide if he is ready to go. If Pitkanen returns, expect him to replace Derek Joslin in the lineup.
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Posted On Sunday, 11.27.2011 / 11:49 AM

By David Kalan - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Stars put Lehtonen on injured reserve

The Dallas Stars took a significant hit Sunday when the team announced that starting goalie Kari Lehtonen had been placed on injured reserve after suffering a lower-body injury in Saturday night's 3-0 loss to the Coyotes.

Lehtonen, 28, currently leads the NHL in wins, going 13-4-1 this season with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. After winning eight games in the season's opening month, Lehtonen as named the NHL's Second Star of the Month for October. Behind Lehtonen's stellar play the Stars have been one of the pleasant surprises in the first quarter of the 2011-12 season and they are currently tied with Phoenix and San Jose for the most points in the Pacific Division.

With Lehtonen out, backup goalie and 11-year veteran Andrew Raycroft is expected to get the start Monday night when Dallas visits Colorado. Dallas did however call up goalie Richard Bachman from the AHL to fill the role of backup.

The Stars also recalled forward Francis Wathier Sunday.
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Posted On Sunday, 11.27.2011 / 12:00 AM

By Pete Jensen - Staff Writer / - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Lundqvist producing at elite level

With Pekka Rinne caught in a four-game winless skid, Henrik Lundqvist is quietly emerging as the League's top fantasy netminder. His performance on Saturday spoke for itself.

With the potent offense of the Philadelphia Flyers in town for a preview of the season's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, things got heated early and often. But Lundqvist's 29-save shutout gave the New York Rangers the last laugh in the latest chapter of their spirited rivalry with Philly.

Lundqvist (9-4-3, 2.05 GAA, .935 save percentage, 2 SO) has won seven of his last eight starts overall, and notched another masterful effort in a big game behind a suddenly stout Rangers defensive front -- even with Marc Staal (concussion-like symptoms) having missed all 20 games this season. The Rangers, who started the season slow, are only five points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins -- who sport the League's best record -- with four games in hand.

In short, the Rangers have become an elite team for a reason. And with all due respect to Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, Lundqvist has been the team's backbone through thick and thin. The Blueshirts have played the second fewest games in the League to date (20), but Lundqvist is still tied for ninth in the League in wins. He also sports the fourth-best save percentage and is among the leaders in shutouts.

If this dominant stretch of play is any indication, Lundqvist will start 60-plus games for the Rangers and make his fantasy owners proud in the process.
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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 8:19 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PIT @ MTL - 1:04 of the Second Period

At 1:04 of the second period in the Penguins/Canadiens game, video review determined that the puck was batted in off Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz glove and into the net. According to rule 67.6 "A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who bats or directs the puck with his hand into the net".  No Goal Pittsburgh.

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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 4:53 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Hitchcock doesn't expect emotional Columbus return

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When Ken Hitchcock goes back to Columbus on Sunday, don’t expect the 59-year-old to get all emotional and teary-eyed about it.

Maybe in another time and another place there would be mixed emotions, especially if it were his first job. But the veteran coach has been there, done that. This will be Hitchcock's third time going back to a place he once called his bench.

Hitchcock, who has coached in Dallas, Philadelphia, Columbus and now St. Louis, was with the Jackets for four seasons before being fired in 2010, the third time a franchise has relieved him of his duties.

"I've been out two years (in Columbus) doing work for them," Hitchcock said of the Columbus organization. "I've developed a friendship with obviously the American (Hockey) League guys and some of the business people there just for fun, getting to know other people in the business.

"If it was (a big deal), I'd tell you. It isn't. But it was hard in Dallas."

Yes, Hitchcock admitted that at one time, it was difficult, and that was when he was fired from his first NHL job with the Stars, for whom he had won a Stanley Cup with in 1999 and spent seven seasons with.

"I said to people it was tough for me going back to Dallas," Hitchcock said. "It was really hard because we were in on the design on some of the stuff in the building. We were in on the design of the locker rooms, coach's offices, training rooms, murals that are up there that are still there ... we were in everything. Mr. (Tom) Hicks (who owned the Stars at the time) included us in everything. So it was really hard for me to go back there. Very emotional."

But this will be just another game for Hitchcock, who is 6-1-2 since taking over the Blues after they fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6 following a 6-7 start.

The Blues went from 14th in the Western Conference at that time to sixth heading into Saturday's action, and they've done it by buying into a style that has seen Hitchcock win at all levels he's been at.

"When we do it, they have found value in puck management and checking," Hitchcock said. "They've found real value in managing the three lines on the ice and checking. They've seen through a lot of video how that can manage the game properly and create scoring chances.

"I think the toughest thing in this League is to convince the players that the harder they check, the more they score. I think that's where the players are getting a good feel for ... if I compete and check, then that's how I get the puck because just waiting for the game or waiting for the puck to come to you doesn't work in this league. Teams are too good."

In the initial aftershock of Payne being let go, it's natural for players to react in a favorable way, simply because they understand that it's now time to hold the players accountable after management serves notice by relieving a coach.

"Any time you get a shakeup like a coach getting fired, it sends a message through the whole team," said veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner, who played for Hitchcock in Dallas. "Things weren't going horribly here. We were right around .500 but still the message was sent we expect to be bigger and better. I think that was a wake-up call for everybody.

"Unfortunately, [Payne] pays the price for it, but I think the message was heard loud and clear."

And the Blues have responded to Hitchcock's demanding style of play with a smothering style that has yielded only 11 regulation/overtime goals in nine games. Although the power play still has work to do, the penalty kill is much improved and the five-on-five play has been spectacular, allowing only six goals in the nine games under Hitchcock.

"It's attention to detail, just doing the little things," said goalie Brian Elliott, who leads the league in goals-against average (1.34), save percentage (.951) and is tied for shutouts with three to go with a 9-1 record. "If you go around the room, that's what guys would say. It's being accountable and knowing why you're doing the things you do. He has a good way of explaining how and why you're doing things. When you know why you're doing it, then it helps a lot. Everybody can read off each other easily. It's simplifying our game and playing to our strengths and doing it for 60 minutes.

"He expects a lot out of you, but I think in the end, he enjoys being around the guys. It's nice to come in to see a smiling face every morning, someone you can go to with a question and you don't feel uncomfortable. He knows what he's talking about. He's been around the game so long. Anything you get out of him you can probably trust is the right thing."

Defenseman Kris Russell, who played for Hitchcock in Columbus and who will be making his return to Nationwide Arena for the first time since being traded to St. Louis Nov. 10, said of Hitchcock: "He brings structure, leadership. He's a guy that's been there. He's won a Cup obviously. He took a team in Columbus to the playoffs when they've never reached it. Those records speak for themselves.

"I'm sure he wants us to play as well as we can to get a win in there, but Hitch is a coach that is pretty even-keeled every game. He takes it one game at a time. You can't be too high, can't be too low in this league or you go for a ride."

The Blues are enjoying the ride they're on now, and as long as they can adhere to Hitchcock's message, they may just keep themselves in the thick of the rugged Western Conference race.

"For me, the controlling of the three lines ... when we do it well, we can play with and against anybody," Hitchcock said. "We did it for two periods and five minutes in Pittsburgh (on Wednesday) as well as we've ever done it since I've been here. We were really good. If we do those things, then we can beat anybody. That's where, to me, the buy-in has started. When your best players do it, then everybody else has to follow.

"It's not fun to play that way. It's a constant tug-of-war. The more success you have, the more they want to go back and play a different way. It's not easy playing that way. It's not easy at all. Not fun. It's very rewarding, but it's not fun. But when those guys buy in and play that way, we're very good."
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— Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien after a 3-2 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday to snap a three-game losing streak
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