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Posted On Friday, 10.07.2011 / 6:40 AM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - The Kings of Europe

Kopitar looks forward to Swedish homecoming

It's been six seasons since Anze Kopitar played in Sweden, but he still has fond memories of his time in Sweden and is looking at Friday night's 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere game against the New York Rangers as a homecoming of sorts.

Kopitar played two seasons with Sodertalje, a Swedish Elite club located about an hour south of here. He has made countless trips to Stockholm with Sodertalje. He even played several games in the Globe Arena, site of Friday night's game.

"I played a few games here that I remember well," he told NHL.com after Friday's morning skate at the Globe.

He is also excited to have some family and friends in the building. Slovenia is several hours away, but his grandparents and his girlfriend have made the trip. His parents, though, are back in Los Angeles and will watch the game on TV.

There will also be a contingent from the Sodertalje organization at Friday's game

"Not a whole lot of guys," Koptar said. "The organization has changed. It's been a few years since i played there, but I will have a few guys coming in."

After traversing much of North America during the preseason and then having extended training camp and an exhibition game in Hamburg, Kopitar is ready to start the regular season.

"It's time," he said.

He knows the Kings are expected to be better than the club that finished No. 7 in the Western Conference last season and was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. He believes the Kings are better, but wants to see his assumption challenged by the pressure of the regular season.

"It seems that way that we've gotten a lot better over the summer," Kopitar said "It's tough to see guys go, but I guess you have to give up something to get something. It's nice to see those guys come in and obviously they are hungry. There's a lot of experience in that group. It's definitely going to help us experience-wise."



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Posted On Friday, 10.07.2011 / 12:55 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live-Blogging NHL Opening Night With Dave Lozo

Opening night live-blog, part 2: the early games

It's been a while since we have had ourselves had a live-blog. How have you been? Nice summer? Mine was OK. Want to compare vacation photos? Yeah, me neither. I'd rather just watch some hockey tonight and make snarky comments about players while I'm on my couch and nowhere near a locker room. It's safe, warm, and if I have a beer while watching a game at home, I get way less stares than when I'm doing keg stands on press row.

We've got three games tonight -- Canadiens-Leafs and Flyers-Bruins at 7, then Penguins-Canucks at 10. Before all that, NHL Network is having a four-hour (!) pre-game extravaganza starring Kevin Weekes and ... I'm not sure, really. As long as you have Weekes, everything else doesn't matter, right? But everyone will be in Boston for the banner raising, which I imagine will be a swell time of fun and happiness for people at TD Garden.

The Canadiens and Leafs game should be interesting. This may surprise people, but hockey is wildly popular in Canada, and the Canadiens and Leafs have a lot of fans who take things very seriously. I'm picking the Canadiens to reach the Cup Final and the Leafs and to make the playoffs, so in my mind, this is a heck of a matchup. I don't so much care what you think of it, but you should watch so you can at least following along with my jokes. I'm a joke maker.

Then at 10, Pens-Canucks. Fun. Sidney Crosby isn't back, but Evgeni Malkin is. The Canucks have waited about three months for a chance to wash the taste of losing to the Bruins out of their mouth, and the Penguins are the Listerine in this metaphor. It's a potential Cup Final preview on opening night. You can't ask for much more than that. Well, you can ask, but this is all you're getting. Man, you're greedy.

So here we go:

12:54 -- Well, that shootout lacked drama. Two calm saves for Fleury, two goals by Letang and Malkin where Luongo wound up on his stomach. Pens win 4-3, I'm going to sleep, take good care.

12:48 -- We are through OT and headed to a shootout. Daniel Sedin nearly won it in the first minute, but Fleury held his post on a tricky move from behind the net by Sedin.

12:37 --
Cody Hodgson beats Fleury, but it goes through the goalie's legs and just wide. With 75 seconds left, it looks like OT is inevitable.

12:34 -- We're still tied at 3, but Jordan Staal just left the ice and went to the locker room. Could be an injury, could be equipment. Stay tuned.

12:17 -- Henrik with just a sick pass to Daniel, who goes high glove to tie it. It was so sick that doctors would've given that pass a week to live. That's how sick it was.

12:15 -- Third period has gotten going at Rogers, but my Internet isn't getting wonky, like Paris Hilton's eye. I had a great thing before I wrote, but the site timed out. Oh well. 3-2 Pens in the third!

11:47 -- Keith Ballard has pulled the Canucks to within a goal as the second period winds down. Fleury had no chance as the Sedins get the assists.

11:19 -- I wrote this funny entry after Cooke scored his second of the game, a shorthanded goal, but there was an error message and it got erased. So this is all you get.

10:55 -- One period done, and it's 2-1 Pens. Definitely the most fun game of the night so far. It looked like the Canucks tied on a shot that Fleury gloved but the momentum of the shot took his trapper into the net. However, video replays were inconclusive. It looked like it crossed the line completely to me, but "it looked like" isn't conclusive. As in, it looked like I was going to become a professional baseball player, but replays showed conclusively I wasn't that good.

10:48 -- Maxim Lapierre keeps this game's theme going, as he slides the puck from behind the goal line and banks it off Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net. Good lord. This is a goaltending clinic. You know, the part of the clinic where you show goalies what not to do on shots from behind the goal line.

10:42 -- Matt Cooke, kind of like Michelle Branch, is everywhere to me. He draws the penalty on the first goal, scores the power-play goal on the next PP. And the beauty is he's on my NHL.com fantasy team. And that's why I drafted him. Power play goals. Right. Sure. 2-0 Pens.

10:35 -- As I weep for men everywhere while I watch a Weight Watches for men ad, the Pens are going on a power play after Jannik Hansen hit Zbynek Michalek from behind. Let's see if Luongo can defend the bank shot.

10:25 -- It took about 5 minutes for the James Neal to get his first goal and Roberto Luongo to let up a goal from behind the goal line. Neal banked it off the goaltender on the power play after Matt Cooke drew -- yes, drew -- a penalty. I don't think anyone will be pumping Lu's tires after that one.

10:17 -- At long last, the Pens and Canucks are under way. I'm glad this game is on by itself. I think it'll be the best one of the night.

9:59 -- The Flyers are going to hang on after the Bruins nearly tie it on a power play, but Kimmo Timonen made a stick save with a gaping net. Bryzgalov was great, the Bruins were asleep at the wheel for about a period, and it was enough to cost them the opener. Pens-Canucks is just a few minutes away, which will be nice because focusing on two games is hard. I know, I know. I'm a true hero, finding a way to watch two hockey games at once.

9:45 -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are the best team in the NHL. Leafs 2, Canadiens 0. Reimer held the fort in the first period and it seemed to deflate the Canadiens, who looked pretty awful the final two periods. My apologies now to Habs fans for picking them to come out of the East.

9:28 -- The Bruins have a little more energy in the third, but it appears that Cup hangover has settled in immediately. Missed passes, offsides, no one is skating. Meanwhile, the Leafs are settling in and are less than 10 minutes from having the most points in the NHL. Good for you, Toronto.

9:17 --
Phaneuf unleashed an absolute one-time bomb over the shoulder of Price that makes it 2-0. It all started with a turnover by Subban in the neutral zone and ended after Kessel teed up Phaneuf. Lot of time left and the Leafs are giving away power plays.

9:05 -- The Bruins get a couple of PP chances late in the second period, but the Flyers are the ones that get all the scoring chances. They are through two in Boston and the champs are still down 2-1. On the bright side, the third period in Toronto is starting. I love when games sync up like this.

8:50 -- The Leafs take a 1-0 lead to the locker room after two periods. They had a lengthy 5-on-3 to close the period, but they seemed interested in skating around the neutral zone and not shooting. I thought they did an excellent job of killing off their power play. The addition of David Steckel is paying immediate dividends.

8:41 -- So both games are happening at the same time right now, and I've got no volume on the Versus game. I'm listening to the CBC guys. Chara just shoved Giroux face-first into the boards, and it looked like a case of OH MY GOD CHARA IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN THAT GUY WHO IS QUICK AND JUMPED IN FRONT OF CHARA. Alas, Chara has gotten a penalty for that. In Toronto, the Leafs are dominating the second period. They've got a goal, a post, and Kessel hit something on a 2-on-1 when it looked like he opened up the net with an nifty move. I can't wait till these games are over so I can start being overly judgmental about these teams.

8:25 -- The Leafs are suddenly buzzing in the second period, taking the play to Montreal. Sources tell me Ron Wilson didn't say a word, he just tweeted things like, "Thinking about murdering someone on the bench. They have their backs to me, so they'll never see it coming." Twitter, there's nothing it can't do.

8:14 -- Matthew Lombardi, who missed all but two games of last season because of a concussion problem, scores a shorty to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead. That's a nice story. He could win the Masterton.

8:09 -- The Flyers just tied it on a beauty of a goal by Claude Giroux, then Jakub Voracek gives them the lead like 4 seconds later. Zdeno Chara was on the ice for both goals, although Giroux utterly undressed him on the first one. Both goals come in the final minute. I'm sure passing the Cup around before the game had nothing to do with it.

7:52 --
Brad Marchand has scored the first goal of the season. The Bruins have been clicking, while the Flyers have looked mostly like a team full of new players getting to know each other. It's all Montreal in Toronto, but no one has scored. It's tied at 0-0 after one period with the Habs starting the second period on a power play.

7:35 -- Anthem being sung in Boston. Leafs can't get out of their own zone in Toronto. Jaromir Jagr just turned 42.
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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 10:59 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PIT-VAN - 17:57 of the first period

In the Pittsburgh/Vancouver game at 17:57 of the first period, video replay conclusively determined that the puck shot by Daniel Sedin did not entirely cross the goalline. The overhead angle was used to support the call on the ice by referee Brad Watson.

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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 10:58 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

Get the scoop from Toronto

You have arrived at the Situation Room Blog -- the place you want to be every night of the 2011-12 season.

Starting tonight, NHL.com reports instantly from inside the League's Hockey Operations situation room in Toronto, where Hockey Ops reviews and decides disputed goals.

Plus, find out the "why" behind those calls. You get the NHL's official ruling first -- here at the Situation Room Blog.
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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 7:27 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - 2011 NHL Face-Off Blog

Canadiens and Leafs kick off another season

TORONTO - The sounds of bagpipes filling the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night was a sure sign another National Hockey League season was getting under way.

The 48th Highlanders kicked off the pregame ceremonies prior to the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the rival Montreal Canadiens -- just as they have at every Leafs opener since 1931.

With the Canadiens and Leafs meeting for the 709th time since 1917, the sense of tradition was that much more poignant. But the focus was shifted toward the present as the members of this 95th edition of the Maple Leafs franchise were introduced to the sellout crowd.

Unfortunately for that crowd, it had to salute one of the team's biggest offseason acquisitions wearing a suit instead of a uniform as Tim Connolly was unable to play due to an upper-body injury suffered in training camp.

After the players were introduced, culminating in a big ovation for team captain Dion Phaneuf, the Canadiens were invited out onto the ice and were roundly booed by the fans -- the visitors took a minute or two to actually emerge, further drawing the ire of the fans.

However, the crowd -- featuring a healthy sprinkling of Canadiens jerseys -- united to sing the national anthem with no accompaniment as a giant Canadian flag was unfurled and passed from fan to fan behind the player benches.

Hockey Night in Canada indeed.

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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 6:48 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 NHL Face-Off Blog

Winnipeg fans ready to rock

WINNIPEG -- Crowds have flocked to The Forks, Winnipeg's downtown gathering spot along the banks of the Red River.

The 2011 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off is the draw for the crowd, estimated to be anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 fans, ready to mark the start of the 2011-12 NHL season -- and the return to the NHL to Winnipeg after a 15-year absence. The Jets play their first game against Montreal on Sunday.

Windy but sunny and unseasonably warm weather is providing a further lure to Winnipeggers ready to mark the city's return to the NHL via the Winnipeg Jets. The NHL Network, Canadian Tire, EA Sports, Molson Canadian, Reebok, Scotiabank, Visa and XM all have booths on site.

Also providing entertainment is local band Inward Eye. Later in the evening, platinum-selling rock band Three Days Grace will play before Bachman & Turner cap the evening.

Fans will also have a chance to meet Jets captain Andrew Ladd and teammates Zach Bogosian, Tanner Glass and Mark Stuart, along with CBC host George Stroumboulopoulos. Tonight's Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs game is set to air on giant video boards.
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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 5:56 PM

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

Going 'undercover' to pick surprise playoff teams

NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes will be blogging for NHL.com throughout the 2011-12 season. Look for "Weekes on the Web" video and text blog entries Tuesday through Friday on NHL.com home page. You can also find an archive of Weekes on the Web here.

For my Opening Day blog, I went deep to name my "undercover" teams in each conference as the puck is about to drop on the regular season:

Eastern Conference

Buffalo is my undercover candidate in the Eastern Conference. Oh sure, you say, they spent all that money. But it is more than the money that new owner Terry Pegula has spent. I like the way this team was built this summer.

It is a high skills team that is good at transition, skating the puck or passing the puck out of the defensive zone. This team has a high level of hockey sense, especially adding Christian Ehrhoff to the blue line.

I think the Sabres still need a legitimate power forward to compete for a Cup, but they are more gritty now. There will be a willingness among the Sabres to play a physical game, particularly in the playoffs. When I talk about "gritty," I mean that willingness. There is not a lot of room on the ice to make plays in the postseason. That's why you see bottom-six forwards often succeed and raise their visibility among fans. Those third- and fourth-line guys are accustomed to making plays in traffic. Buffalo will be good in that respect this season.

And listen, Ryan Miller is the best in the business as a goalie. One important factor is he has a proven backup this season to keep him more rested for the playoff grind. Jhonas Enroth played some big games down the stretch for Buffalo last season. I like his game a lot.

The Sabres won't be undercover by April.

Western Conference

In the West, I'm going further off the grid. I like what St. Louis has assembled. They are my undercover team in the Western Conference. They have a ton of skill among the top-six forwards. Chris Stewart is going to be a star in this League; he will score 40 to 45 goals this year.

Add all-star David Backes and the Blues have a double threat at power forward. That will be a nightmare for opposing teams. I honestly think that was a big reason why Boston beat Vancouver for the Cup. The Canucks struggled to handle Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic on the same line. Add Jason Arnott for the Blues and those are some big bodies.

I like Alex Pietrangelo a lot. He is another player who is going to be a big star. St. Louis can make some big noise in the playoffs if Halak plays the way in goal that he did for Montreal during the 2009 postseason. If Halak plays that well, the Blues will be a scary team that no one in the West will want to face.
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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 4:38 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 NHL Face-Off Blog

Noel to do some scouting tonight

WINNIPEG -- Avoiding the opening night of NHL competition might be difficult in Winnipeg on Thursday evening.

The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will be play before a national audience on CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada." The Canadiens will visit the Jets on Sunday in Winnipeg's first NHL regular-season game since 1996.

Fans in Winnipeg will be able to watch the game on big screens at The Forks as part of the 2011 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off on Thursday.

Jets coach Claude Noel was asked whether he would sit down with a bag of popcorn and take in the Canadiens-Maple Leafs game. Noel did not coach in the League last season, so the telecast will provide him with an early scouting report on his club's first opponent.

"I don't know about popcorn," Noel said, "but I'll watch the game tonight. Montreal, we play them, so we'll get a glimpse of what we'll be up against and go from there."

Replies from a number of Jets players varied as to whether, and how much, of Thursday's Montreal-Toronto contest they will sample.

Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec plans to take in the game at home. A quiet night at home might be the last calm that Pavelec is able to experience until Monday morning.

"(I'm) really excited," Pavelec said of Sunday's game. "It's going to be huge. It's going to be a really exciting night for us."

Still, Noel, Pavelec and the rest of the Jets all agreed that Sunday can't arrive quick enough.

"I can't wait for the season to start," Noel said.
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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 4:33 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 NHL Face-Off Blog

Jets add MacLean to roster

WINNIPEG -- Hockey figures from all across the League are converging upon Winnipeg this weekend, and the Winnipeg Jets will have an addition to the roster, as well.

The Jets claimed left wing Brett MacLean on waivers Thursday morning from the Phoenix Coyotes. The Jets anticipate that the 22-year-old MacLean will arrive in Winnipeg on Thursday evening.

MacLean, who also can play right wing, was a 2007 second-round selection by the Coyotes. He scored 23 goals in 51 games with the AHL San Antonio Rampage, while also scoring 2 goals in 13 NHL games with the Coyotes.

"He is someone that our scouts have identified as maybe a guy who can break into the NHL on a full-time basis," Winnipeg General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told media. "In this case, an opportunity to see what MacLean brings to our organization. Maybe he gives a little more depth in the organization."

To clear room on the Winnipeg roster, the Jets sent right wing Patrice Cormier to their American Hockey League affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps.

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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 4:29 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 NHL Face-Off Blog

Cheveldayoff understands team's importance for city

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff’s opportunities to reflect have been limited this summer.

Hired by the Jets on June 8, the former Chicago Blackhawks assistant general manager has spent his summer orchestrating the mammoth task of relocating an NHL club, reshaping its roster, hiring a new coaching staff and, of course, handling the many off-ice chores that come with moving from Chicago.

But Cheveldayoff took a moment Thursday to soak in the all-hockey environment that is Winnipeg this weekend, including its being the centerpiece of the 2011 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off.

"All of the players here are enjoying the opportunity for change," Cheveldayoff said of his club's start in a new home. "They're embracing the enthusiasm in the building and the community. I think that like anyone, they're just excited to get started. It's a long journey, and this will be the first step for all of them."

Taking a long-term view while handling his club's day-to-day affairs does not afford Cheveldayoff the luxury of attaching additional significance to his club's season-opener Sunday against the Canadiens (4 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC, RDS).

"I don't look at this game differently than I'm going to look at any game coming up," Cheveldayoff said. "As a manager, you look at the short-term ... but you also have to look at the long-term situation and see what plays itself out."

Still, even the all-business Cheveldayoff could not help but absorb the excitement in the city surrounding the Jets.

"(I am) very excited," he said. "Excited for the community, the Chipman family, for guys like (assistant GM) Craig Heisinger, who stuck in there for so long. For the city of Winnipeg, it's going to be a very special day."
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It's such a privilege to be one of these 80 great players to do this milestone, and it doesn't get better than this doing it where I started. It means a lot to me. A big thanks goes to all the players tonight who helped me to achieve that and also all the players through my career.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after scoring his 1,000th career point on Thursday night in Ottawa
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