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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 11:46 AM

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

Lineup decisions looming for Blackhawks, Canadiens

CHICAGO – The Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks both opted not to have a morning skate at United Center before facing each other Wednesday night.

That means questions about the playing status of Chicago players will have to wait until Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville meets with the media Wednesday afternoon. The first will pertain to rookie center Marcus Kruger, who was hit hard by Derek Engelland early in the first period Tuesday night in Pittsburgh and didn’t return to the ice.

Quenneville said after the 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that Kruger was “OK,” but did not say whether he would be able to play against Montreal. Quenneville might also be asked about defenseman Brent Seabrook, who was seen skating slowly toward the Chicago bench late in the game Tuesday holding his arm. Seabrook also had to leave a game Sunday at United Center after a hit from behind by Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque drove his head into the boards.

Quenneville said that Seabrook leaving that game was mostly a precaution, as the star blueliner has had three undisclosed upper-body injuries in the past that are believed to have been concussions. Another question for Quenneville will likely be about who starts in net for the Hawks.

Ray Emery has started six straight games, including Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, but Quenneville said after the morning skate Tuesday that it was “very likely” Corey Crawford would start against the Canadiens – which would be his first start since being pulled from a Dec. 5 game against the Phoenix Coyotes.

As for Montreal, the biggest lineup questions are on the blue line. Recently-named head coach Randy Cunneyworth shuffled up his top defense pairings Monday against the Boston Bruins by putting Raphael Diaz with Josh Gorges and sliding P.K. Subban next to Hal Gill.

Subban and Gorges had been playing together since the start of the season in October, but Gill and formed a pair for most of last season. Cunneyworth also said that Peter Budaj will get the start in net instead of Carey Price.

Here’s a look at the projected lineups:

CANADIENS

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

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli

Peter Budaj
Carey Price

BLACKHAWKS

Andrew Brunette - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Sharp
Viktor Stalberg - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Jeremy Morin
John Scott - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

Note: If Kruger is able to play, the Blackhawks lines will likely change. Kruger left the loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins after one period, which forced Quenneville to move star forward Patrick Kane w back to center of the second line between Stalberg and Hossa. Brunette and Sharp were also moved to the top line with Toews, while rookie Jeremy Morin -- who started that game on the top line -- was bumped down to the third line with Bickell and Bolland. Imposing 6-foot-8 defenseman John Scott, who can play some wing on the fourth line when needed, could also find his name in the lineup again after standing up for Kruger by fighting -- and punishing -- Pittsburgh's Derek Engelland for the hit, which the Hawks took exception to, despite not being penalized.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 11:26 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Rink not only place where work is being done

PHILADELPHIA -- While NHL Senior Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig oversees the rink build, Senior Vice President of Events Don Renzulli is keeping an eye on all the other work going on in the transformation of Citizens Bank Park from baseball stadium to outdoor hockey wonderland.

"As long as the weather stays with us, we'll be in pretty good shape," Renzulli told NHL.com earlier this morning. "A lot has been done the last two days. We're on schedule as far as the things that are going on the field."

Among them are the elevated broadcast platforms where NBC and CBC will broadcast the game, as well as an entertainment stage in left field. The host chalets for NBC and CBC have been built in near the right field wall, with the roofs and windows finally installed.

Renzulli said approval from the city for the 1,500 temporary seats installed in center field should come tomorrow, and other temporary seating installed around the ballpark has been finished. Signage and other décor is starting to be hung in Ashburn Alley, the ballpark's signature outfield concourse.

"Things are going relatively smooth," said Renzulli. "Once the rink is up, the transformation is really the core. They're starting to put some banners up in the alley right now. Once that goes up, it starts to transform the whole place."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 10:09 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Russia earns 6-3 exhibition win over Team USA

Nail Yakupov, who is projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick at the 2012 Draft, had a goal and one assist and Andrei Vasilevski made 34 saves as the Russian National Junior Team scored a 6-3 exhibition victory over Team USA on Tuesday in Red Deer, Alta., in preparation for the 2012 World Junior Championship later this month.

          Nail Yakupov, Team Russia
Russia, the defending WJC gold medalist, also received a pair of goals by Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning) and one apiece from Ignat Zemchenko and Viktor Antipin. Ivan Telegin (Winnipeg Jets) dished out three assists in the victory. Vasilevski, who plays for Tolpar Ufa in the MHL and is eligible for the 2012 Draft, made 17 of 18 saves in the second period when the U.S. held the territorial advantage. Yakupov, who plays for the Sarnia Sting, is NHL Central Scouting's top-rated player from the Ontario Hockey League.

Coach Valeri Bragin kept the top 2012 draft-eligible player from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec Remparts), and Yevgeni Kuznetsov (Washington Capitals) out of the lineup as healthy scratches for the Russians, who went 2 for 4 on the power play. Team USA finished 0 for 6 with the man advantage.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 10:02 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Putting together the puzzle

The Winter Classic ice crew puts together the first set of rink boards on Wednesday morning. (Photo: NHL.com)
PHILADELPHIA -- When NHL Senior Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig talked yesterday about the arrival and installation of the rink boards, he called it putting together a puzzle.

Well, that puzzle was taken out of its box this morning, and the pieces are distributed all around the rink being built here in the middle of Citizens Bank Park for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

While the last of the ice trays were being laid down in one end zone, the first of the boards were being put together -- one of the corner sections.

We'll find out from Craig a little later just how much of the boards will be installed today.

It also looks like the connectors for the coolant that will keep the rink bed cold are being laid in today, along with some insulation. That means the hoses carrying the glycol coolant can't be far behind. Craig said there will need to be some testing done to make sure everything is running right, but it looks like more progress is being made.

It also looks like windows have been installed in host chalets built for NBC and CBC studio teams. I'm sure they'll like that when Jan. 2 rolls around. And there's even work being done in the press box here at the ballpark, in order to accommodate the large influx of media that will arrive to cover the game.

We'll have more in a while, after our daily briefing with Craig.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 1:58 AM

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

Fantasy Spin: Time is now to act on Giroux

Reports state that Claude Giroux could return to the Philadelphia Flyers' lineup on Wednesday. For his fantasy owners, this should be enough of a cue to take action.

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 39
SOG: 81 | +/-: 7
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Giroux has made "positive strides," which is a reason in itself for fantasy owners to remove him from Injured Reserve immediately and make room on their rosters. When dealing with Giroux (concussion) who is tied for the League lead in points, despite missing his team's last four games, the reward outweighs the risk.

Even if Giroux does not end up playing Wednesday against the Dallas Stars, it's simply a more logical move to have him in your lineup. Wednesday is only a six-game night, so your team doesn't have to worry about losing production from elsewhere as you would by benching a healthy player on a 13-game night. If you elect to leave one of the game's most potent point-producers in the IR slot of your lineup, you could potentially miss out on an impactful performance.  A recent example was Taylor Hall's two-goal night upon his return from injury on Dec. 15 against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Plus, taking a casual approach and waiting another day or two could cost your team precious goals or assists during a shortened fantasy week. Since there are no NHL games scheduled for Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, any points that Giroux provides could go a long way in helping you win your matchup this week.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 5:01 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Report: Giroux to return for Flyers on Wednesday?

Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux could return to the lineup Wednesday against the Dallas Stars.

NHL.COM FANTASY SPIN

Time is now to act on Giroux

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Staff Writer
Reports state that Claude Giroux could return to the Philadelphia Flyers' lineup on Wednesday.  For his fantasy owners, this should be enough of a cue to take action.  READ FULL STORY ›

Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com wrote Tuesday that Giroux’s return from a concussion is “not 100 percent certain,” there were plenty of signs to suggest he could be back for Philadelphia after missing the past four games.

Giroux is tied for the League lead with 39 points, but hasn’t played since teammate Wayne Simmonds accidently kneed him in the back of the head during a game Dec. 10 against Tampa Bay.

“I don’t know [about playing Wednesday],” Giroux told Panaccio. “If you see me in warm-ups, that means I’m going to play.”

Added coach Peter Laviolette: “These decisions are way further than me with regard to whether a player is healthy and ready. That’s why we have a staff in place and conversations through the trainer, general manager, the doctors and everyone else.”

General manager Paul Holmgren also said Giroux has made “positive strides” and is now day-to-day in a statement about the injury.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 4:11 PM

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

Melrose Matchup: Blackhawks at Penguins

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 4:02 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Rain, rain, go away

PHILADELPHIA -- A steady drizzle fell on Dan Craig and his crew for most of today, but that didn't stop them from getting a good amount of the ice pans installed on the main rink the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will skate on when the puck is dropped for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

It was far from a downpour, but the rain was irritating enough that it slowed things down more than NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig would have liked.

"It's slowed the guys up a bit, (but) we're doing all right," he told NHL.com. "Even if you're doing a home project, the last thing you want is to be outside in the rain. What you prefer is to stay dry. That's the main thing, keeping the guys healthy and safe out there."

The forecast for tomorrow from weather.com calls for a 70-percent chance of rain, but with a temperature of 58 degrees. As we all know, however, the weather remains the most unpredictable part of the Winter Classic experience.

"I saw one (report) that said a little rain-slash-snow mixture," Craig said, "which would not be good for us."

However, over the long term between now and the puck drop for the Winter Classic, Craig remains confident weather won't cause too much of a problem.

"I don't see anything between now and the Classic that's any major concern to what we have going on," he said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

 

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:58 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Boards coming next

PHILADELPHIA -- While the rink being built here at Citizens Bank Park for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic right now looks like a giant rectangle laid out in the middle of the infield, tomorrow will see a sight familiar to all hockey fans -- the boards are going in.

NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig told NHL.com that first thing tomorrow morning, the rink boards will be off-loaded, carried into position and anchored to the rink floor. That's when this will go from looking like a construction site to an actual hockey rink.

And then will come the coolant, moving us one step closer to making ice.

"Once the board system is on and everything is secure, we fill the system up and then we'll pressure-test it," Craig said. "We'll circulate (the coolant), make sure everything is full, get all the air out of the system. At that point we'll see where we are, what Mother Nature does for us, if we're going to bring hoses up."

Craig anticipates the boards going on first thing tomorrow morning. You can watch them get laid in on NHL.com's live webcam, plus we'll have all the details right here at this blog, so follow along.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:24 PM

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

Mario Lemieux skates again -- but only for fun

PITTSBURGH -- Yes, that really was Mario Lemieux showing off his fast hands and deft shooting touch on the Consol Energy Center ice on Tuesday.
 
No, it had nothing to do with his Pittsburgh Penguins' extended run of injuries. No. 66 isn't planning yet another comeback.
 
Lemieux was among a half-dozen former NHL players who took part in an informal afternoon game with Penguins staff members, including coach Dan Bylsma and assistant coaches Tony Granato and Todd Reirden. The contests are part of the game-day routine whenever the Penguins are in Pittsburgh.
 
Having Lemieux and players such as Mark Recchi, Bryan Trottier, Phil Bourque, Jay Caufield and Marc Bergevin participate was an added attraction. Lemieux, Recchi and Trottier have a combined 1,791 NHL goals -- each scored more than 500 -- and 4,681 points.

Bourque, one of the team's radio announcers, played with Lemieux on the Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992. Regardless, he still gets a thrill from playing alongside the 46-year-old Lemieux, even in an informal setting.
 
"Every once in a while he does something that makes you remember it wasn't long ago that he was doing it for the Penguins," Bourque told the team's website. "Everybody takes it up a notch and pays attention because if you blink, you might miss something special that he does out there. It's just good to see him out there."
 
Lemieux, the Penguins' co-owner, retired for the second and final time at age 40 in 2006 -- seven years after acquiring the team.
 
Earlier this week, the alumni players took part in a "Skate With the Greats" event at the Penguins' temporary outdoor rink, Penguins Pond, on Pittsburgh's South Side.
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Quote of the Day

The fans love it, and it looked like they were having fun. It was great to see this city [Columbus]. They had been waiting a couple years for this game. They did it right.

— Lightning captain Steven Stamkos after the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Sunday