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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 11:52 AM

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

Stefan Matteau opts for QMJHL instead of UND

Stefan Matteau, who currently leads the Under-18 National Team Development Program in scoring, has decided to play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League next season instead of suiting up for the University of North Dakota.

Matteau's father, a 13-year NHL veteran, was hired as an assistant coach for Blainville-Boisbriand prior to the start of the 2011-12 campaign. The Quebec team acquired Stefan's rights on Jan. 7 via a trade. While he signed his letter of intent in November, it didn't keep him from exploring other options, particularly when it included having an opportunity to play for his father.

Matteau, who models his game after Eric and Jordan Staal, used his Twitter account on Tuesday morning to announce his decision.

"My decision is final," he wrote.

Matteau, who turns 18 on Feb. 23, was one of four players from the U.S. U18 Team to be ranked by NHL Central Scouting among the top 30 skaters eligible for the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh in June.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 10:26 AM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Facing Rangers just another test for Senators

NEW YORK -- The Ottawa Senators could look at Thursday night's game against the New York Rangers, who lead the NHL in points with 58 points, as a chance to see how they match up with the best team in the League.

Instead, the streaking Senators are looking at the bigger picture.

The Senators are coming off a 5-1 win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. It marked the start of a stretch of nine of 10 away from Scotiabank Place. That rough road swing includes stops in Toronto, San Jose and Boston.

"This trip is a measuring stick for us," Ottawa's Jason Spezza said. "This is a real tough trip, and we're just trying to be real short-sighted with how we approach it, because it can be a real daunting task if you look at the big picture. It's definitely a big game for us, but we're kind of using the whole trip as the test."

Ottawa is 8-1-2 in its last 11 games, which happen to coincide with the arrival of Kyle Turris in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes. He has 1 goal and 7 assists in that stretch.

The plan against the Rangers is a familiar one -- disrupt the vision of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy through the first half of the season.

"We know they're going to come out hard," Spezza said. "Torts has them playing a real fast-paced game. We try to play a similar style. Just be patient. We'll get chances and Hank will make saves, but you have to stick with it and try to get a lot of traffic around him -- be relentless around the net. Really bear down on your good opportunities. He's such a good goaltender that he's not going to give you too many free ones."

Senators coach Paul MacLean admits the Rangers will be a challenge for his team, which is one of the few to win in Madison Square Garden as a visitor this season -- the Rangers are 12-3-2 on home ice and suffered a 5-4 shootout loss to Ottawa in their home opener in late October.

"They're the best team in the League," MacLean said. "Their goalie's played real well. Their team play has been good. It's going to be a real test for us. Like every night, it's a test of our consistency to see if we can come back and do it again. "

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo


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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 12:10 AM

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

Fantasy Spin: Kovy lighting the lamp for Devils

Whether he's on your fantasy team or not, it's likely that you've run into the dominant play of New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk.

That's because he's done nothing but dazzle of late.

Kovalchuk is riding a four-game point and goal scoring streak.

What's more, he has collected two points in each of his past four outings. In that same span, the Russian star has thrown at least six shots toward the cage.

In short: he's been brilliant.

But his stellar play has been there for much of the season. Through 38 games, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger has 17 goals to go along with 21 assists and ranks eighth in the NHL with 159 shots.

With players like Zach Parise and youngster Adam Henrique around to complement his dynamic play--not to mention other more than capable players like Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora--Kovalchuk could see his game elevate to even a higher level for most of the second half of the season.

As the Devils continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings, keep an eye out for No.-17 and his impact in your fantasy leagues.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 7:06 PM - At the Rink blog

Habs' Gionta out indefinitely after biceps surgery

Montreal captain Brian Gionta had successful surgery Wednesday to repair a tear in his right biceps, and the Canadiens say he'll be out indefinitely.

Gionta left in the third period of Tuesday's 3-0 loss to St. Louis at the Bell Centre with what the team called an upper-body injury. He had the surgery less than 24 hours later in Montreal.

Tuesday was Gionta's second game back from a groin injury that cost him 11 games, and as he went to the locker room television cameras caught him throwing his stick out of frustration.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:58 PM

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

Roenick: Handing out some midseason hardware

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick usually offers his sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League, but with this being midseason week in the NHL, J.R. decided to hand out some hardware.

Everybody has their own list, so I thought I'd give you mine. Here are my midseason picks for the six big trophies in the NHL:

Calder Trophy

It's not a big secret that it's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers.

It still amazes me that Edmonton thought about sending him back to juniors. He's dazzled with his ability to handle the National Hockey League, and he seems way older and more mature than his age would suggest. Boy, oh boy, does he have a bright future, and he definitely gets the early nod for rookie of the year because of the amazing pace with which he has started his career.

Norris Trophy

This is a real close one for me. The two guys I believe are right there are on teams that aren't at the top of the League, but they're good teams and they're going to be in the playoffs.

The first guy is Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.

Brian Campbell
Defense - FLA
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 33
SOG: 67 | +/-: 2
Karlsson has been fantastic all season. He has been consistently strong offensively and defensively. He's been excellent, especially on the power play. On a team that has struggled through parts of the year, Karlsson has not really had many low points. He's been a model of consistency, which is both impressive and totally necessary in Ottawa.

Nipping at Karlsson's heals, and people may think I'm crazy for this, is Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers.

There's not much hype or attention down in Florida, but the Panthers quietly had a fantastic first half of the season and Dale Tallon bringing Campbell there is a big reason why. He has enhanced the Panthers' overall production. His coast-to-coast rushes have been exciting to watch. He's a defenseman that can control the game. And he seems to be having a lot of fun.

Right now for the Norris it's a push between Karlsson and Campbell. It's still up in the air.

Vezina Trophy

This has to go to Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, but this is a close one. In fact, because of Lundqvist, Tim Thomas and Brian Elliott, I think this is going to be as close a Vezina race as we've seen in the last decade.

The goalies this year have just been phenomenal, but Lundqvist has allowed the Rangers to not only become the No. 1 team in the League, but he has allowed them to win games this year regardless of whether the forwards score goals. That is a pretty impressive feat.

Thomas is again defying the laws of age and continuing the highest level of play, but he did have a tough start at the beginning of the year so I'm going to give Lundqvist the nod because of his consistency night in and night out.

Jack Adams Award

This is going to a guy that didn't even start the year as a coach. It's Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues.

Hitch has done something that not many people have the ability to do, which is go into a team that is struggling, a team that couldn't win any games, that was battling with its confidence, and totally turn it around. In fact, I think the term total remodel is an understatement for what Hitchcock has accomplished in St. Louis. Their structure, their system, and their overall attitude and desire to win -- it's all different. This team believes it can win every single night and works hard every single night.

I feel bad for any team that has to play the Blues in the first round of the playoffs because they seem to be on a roll and playing like warriors.

Selke Trophy

Joe Pavelski
Right Wing - SJS
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 30
SOG: 121 | +/-: 13
This is always a tough one, but I'm putting someone down here that will surprise a lot of people. It's Joe Pavelski from the San Jose Sharks.

Todd McLellan trusts this guy in every aspect of the game. He puts him on the power play. He puts him on the penalty kill. He starts him in overtime. He uses him in the shootout. Pavelski is so smart in his defensive play, but he doesn't get any credit out there in San Jose because of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. Pavelski is, without question, a guy that should be getting attention for being one of the best defensive forwards in the League that can also play offensively. It's a lot like Ryan Kesler was last year. He's just a great player.

A close second would be Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. He's such a good penalty killer and he's so smart defensively with his positioning that he makes the Selke race close, but I still like Pavelski by a hair.

Hart Trophy

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 18 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 48
SOG: 103 | +/-: 5
The big one is an easy one. Hands down the most exciting player for me to watch this year all the way around the boards has been Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.

His toughness, grit, goal-scoring, playmaking, work ethic and importance to the team have all been such important elements for the Flyers this season. He's really benefited from Jaromir Jagr being there, learning from a veteran, but Giroux's confidence seems to be off-the-charts high right now. Some of the moves he makes, the timing of them, the timing of his goals, show he's a big time player that rises to the occasion. And I love his mentality. He plays the game with a lot of grit, an edge, and he's in the perfect place in Philly because the people there can appreciate his game.

He has been by far the most valuable to his team.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:55 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Carcillo may need surgery; Kruger improving

CHICAGO -- Following his team's optional practice on Wednesday, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said that Daniel Carcillo might undergo surgery to repair what appeared to be a lower-body injury that happened on Jan. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers.

Carcillo was hurt delivering a hit to Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert behind the Edmonton goal, which was penalized and resulted in a seven-game suspension for the gritty Blackhawks forward -- of which he’s already served four games.

Asked on Wednesday to update Carcillo's health status, Quenneville said: “No update. With Danny there’s a chance he might need surgery.”

Quenneville was then asked whether the surgery might end Carcillo's season if he has it.

"Well, we'll see," Quenneville said. "Whether it's at the discussion stages or where we're at (with it), but it's still out there."

The suspension is Carcillo's third served this season, including a two-game carryover for an incident with an official during last season's playoffs when he was a Philadelphia Flyer plus a second two-game penalty for an illegal hit from behind against Carolina's Joni Pitkanen.

Carcillo also suffered an upper-body injury believed to be related to concussion symptoms in a game on Dec. 14 against the Minnesota Wild that kept him out for six games.

In other Blackhawks-related injury news, rookie center Marcus Kruger continues to make progress in his recovery from what's believed to be a concussion. Kruger, who had been centering the second line between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa before he got hurt, has missed seven straight games.

Sharp has since been injured (upper body/wrist), but Quenneville said Kruger is getting close to returning to play in games. He's been skating on his own and in team-related drills for almost a week.

"I don't think we're looking at (Thursday against the Wild), but maybe more toward the weekend," Quenneville said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:07 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst / - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Midseason awards to five deserving figures

We've reached the halfway point of the 2011-12 NHL season, so it's time to dish out some midseason hardware to five deserving figures.

Erik Karlsson
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 41
SOG: 152 | +/-: 7
Norris Trophy
Erik Karlsson, Senators
-- The expectations were low in Ottawa, but Karlsson's play has them in the top eight in the Eastern Conference. He plays a high-risk, high-reward style that's been reaping rewards all season. He has 8 more points than any defenseman and is plus-7 on a team that's a minus-4 in goal differential. His play can take your breath away. He's a patient skater with great hockey sense. His nerves of steel have served him well.

Hart Trophy
Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks
-- On a loaded offensive team, there are guys with more talent -- Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa -- but the most consistent player is Toews. He can play in any situation. You don't have to worry about him bringing his best effort or taking a night off. He's the league leader in faceoffs (61.5). You need a penalty killed? Fine. You need a goal? Fine. You need someone to defend or hit? Fine. He does it every night and the matchup doesn't matter.

Vezina Trophy
Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
-- This one isn't easy to pick. There are a lot of quality candidates -- Tim Thomas, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott. This is the best start to Lundqvist's career, but I like his overall game. He's more aggressive. His catching glove is a lot better, he's catching more pucks than ever before. I like the maturity I've seen from him. He's referring to his teammates a lot more in interviews. He's talking about other guys and what they're doing in front of him. It's a sign of maturity. The downside of having to do it on your own is no matter how sick Henrik is, just look at Dominik Hasek, the greatest goalie of all-time, and he couldn't win by himself. When Lundqvist took the podium after the Winter Classic, he talked about the plays his teammates made. This is a whole new level this year.

Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 47
SOG: 145 | +/-: 6
Rocket Richard Trophy
Steven Stamkos, Lightning
-- This season, he's shown it doesn't matter who's on his line. He can score in many different ways. You hear people talk about Steven Stamkos, and people always want to talk about his one-timers. This season, I bet only a handful came off that one-timer. That's a key for me. It doesn't matter if he's playing with Martin St. Louis or Vincent Lecavalier or neither of them. He's become a guy who scores goals from anywhere. He has speed and the motivation to keep himself where he is.

Jack Adams
John Tortorella, Rangers
-- The Rangers have reflected his personality. The team is playing a more honest game, and it's not about superstars as much anymore. It's not about one guy -- it's about the collective. More importantly it's also about the style of play -- they play harder. Marian Gaborik is playing harder. He's scoring in different ways and not poaching for breakaways. He's driving the net, and it's one of the indicators of a more honest game, a game with more effort. Block a slot of shot. They have an identity. They're a four-line team with a lot of guys playing hard every night. It gives them a chance to win.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Matt Cubeta - Staff Writer / - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: It's time to pick up Ryan Ellis

Ryan Ellis was drafted in four percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues coming into the 2011-12 season at an average draft position of 162nd overall -- among the players taken right around him were Daniel Alfredsson, Marc Staal, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Carle. If you were one of the few people that selected him, your friends probably questioned the pick; they probably even questioned who Ryan Ellis was.

While you probably thought your pick of Ellis was a sneaky sleeper pick, you were surely devastated when the Predators decided to have the young defenseman start the season in the AHL. In fact, it seems you were all so devastated that nearly everyone ended up sending Ellis back to the waiver pool in their fantasy leagues (and rightfully so -- it's hard to sacrifice a roster spot for a player that's not even playing in the NHL).

The time has come for you to go back into the waiver wire pool and get Ellis on your team immediately. He's available in 94 percent of leagues, but that number is going to rise extremely fast based on his recent play.

Ryan Ellis
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 4
SOG: 10 | +/-: 2
Ellis made his Nashville debut on Dec. 26 against the Red Wings -- he was held pointless with a minus-one rating, two penalty minutes and three shots on goal while receiving 18:13 of ice time. Ellis struggled out of the gate with no points in his first four NHL games, but in his last two, he started to show his true talent.

On Jan. 7, Ellis recorded his first NHL points with a goal and an assist (both on the power play) and then followed that performance up with a power play goal, an even-strength assist, a plus-two rating and two shots on goal against the Avalanche on Tuesday.

Ellis is currently seeing more then three minutes of power play ice time per game, where he is known to be most lethal, and it wouldn't shock us if he ended up scoring over 10 goals from this point on. Prior to his call-up, Ellis had posted four goals and 17 points in 26 games for Nashville's AHL affiliate, but his OHL season from last year shows what you need to know about his offensive potential: 24 goals, 101 points, 61 PIMs, plus-24 in 58 contests.

The 11th pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, Ellis could end up being one of the top point-producing defenseman in the NHL for years to come, and now is your chance to pounce on him in the free-agent pool. He's certainly worth stashing on your bench at the very least, but you'd be wise to find a spot for him in your starting lineup, as he seems to be proving his call-up will be a permanent situation for the Predators. There is an outside chance Nashville decides to send him down, but based on his recent play, we tend to think he's here's to stay.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 11:58 AM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Senators' Karlsson absent from practice

NEW YORK -- Erik Karlsson, the NHL's leading scorer among defensemen, was not on the ice Wednesday for Ottawa Senators practice at Chelsea Piers.

Karlsson tweaked an upper-body injury before Tuesday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and did not play after taking part in the pre-game warmups.

The Senators' next game is Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Karlsson led all vote getters for this year's Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, which will take place in Ottawa.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 11:16 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst / - Weekes on the Web

Kevin Weekes gives his midseason Vezina contenders

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Quote of the Day

I don't have a crystal ball. Predicting is a real complicated thing. If we stay healthy, have enough depth and get the good goaltending we think we're going to have, you can go all the way. But a lot of things have to happen. There's going to be a lot of teams that think the same thing. Everyone made deals. We're all are optimistic about where we'll end up.

— Rangers general manager Glen Sather after being asked if he's constructed a team that can win the Stanley Cup before their 4-1 win against the Predators on Monday
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