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Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - At the Rink blog

Parise's focus on ice, would like to stay in New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils captain Zach Parise is close with Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, and he got a good laugh during the All-Star break when he learned Suter's comments about not wanting to negotiate a new contract prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline became big news.

Parise, though, is smart enough to realize he's in the same position as Suter, since both are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and thus could be subject to trade rumors.

Parise told on Tuesday that he'd like to remain in New Jersey and he's willing to begin negotiations on a new contract, but he doesn't expect Devils GM Lou Lamoriello to initiate talks during the season.

The only time under the current CBA that Lamoriello has signed one of the Devils' potential unrestricted free agents during the season was back in January of 2006 when he got Martin Brodeur to sign a six-year, $31.2 million extension.

"I know that Lou has always been the type to not do it (negotiate contracts) during the season because it's going to be a distraction, and I understand that," said Parise, who avoided arbitration this past summer by signing a one-year, $6 million contract on July 29. "It can be stressful, which it already is without having any talks. So, I just know that that's the way they've done it around here."

Parise said he understands his name could come up in trade rumors between now and the trade deadline, but he's hopeful that if the Devils remain in the race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference he won't have to worry about any of the rumors coming true. He added that he's not worried about the potential for rumors because there's so much going on with the team, the season and the playoff chase to keep his focus.

"That's people's jobs, to try to make rumors and say this could happen or this could happen," Parise said. "Really only here (in the dressing room) and people in the office know what is going on, so I don't pay attention to the rumors. I know just from working with Lou, unless it comes out of his mouth I don't believe anything when it is a rumor with our team because everything is so in-house and closed doors.

"Sometimes it's out of your hands, but hopefully we'll be in the mix and we won't have to have that conversation."

Parise admitted that the possibility of getting to July 1 without a new contract is something he thinks about.

"But I think there is a lot of time from when the season ends, even if you go to the Cup Final," he said. "There is time once the season ends to worry about that, but who knows. Something could happen tomorrow. I don't really know right now.

"We just haven't gotten to that point yet."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:14 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - At the Rink blog

No easing in to stretch run as Devils face Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- Zach Parise got to go home to Minnesota over the All-Star break to work on some of the planning for his summer wedding. He hopefully got a lot of it done, because for the foreseeable future his focus is going to be squarely on the Devils' playoff chase.

It resumes Tuesday night against the New York Rangers at Prudential Center. Martin Brodeur will get the start against Rangers' backup Martin Biron.

"I don't think the intensity part is going to be missing," Parise said after the Devils brief morning skate. "When you come back from a long layoff games can be sloppy, there's no question, and sometimes you have that feeling out first period. But I think it helps that we're playing these guys. These games bring out the best in both teams."

Asked if the Rangers were the perfect first opponent for the Devils coming out of the long break, coach Pete DeBoer said "absolutely."

"For us, listen, they're all intense and we can't take anyone lightly, but obviously the rivalry with the Rangers and where they're at, it definitely makes the motivating speech the coach has to use a lot shorter than on a normal night," DeBoer said.

New Jersey got some good news Tuesday morning when defenseman Andy Greene said he was good to go for the first time since Dec. 6, when he broke his left foot.

DeBoer hinted that he maybe would have preferred to keep Greene sidelined one more game due to the fact that he had only one practice with the team (Monday). But since the Devils are also missing Henrik Tallinder (blood clot), Travis Zajac (sore Achilles) and Adam Henrique (sore groin), DeBoer said they didn't have the luxury to keep Greene out another game once he was cleared to play.

Steve Bernier, who was called up Sunday from AHL Albany, will make his Devils debut on the third line.

"(Greene's) been skating for a week, his conditioning will be good, but he hasn't been in the battles, been bumped, and done those things yet," DeBoer said. "So I'm sure there is going to be some adjustment coming back into that, but other than that I don't have any (reservations)."

The Devils need Greene and all the healthy bodies they can get. They come out of the break in eighth place in the Eastern Conference due to a games-played tiebreaker over the ninth-place Maple Leafs.

Eleven of their last 34 games will come against the three teams ahead of them in the Atlantic Division standings, including five against the Rangers.

"That's 10 points right there, and we need every point we can get right now," Parise said of the games against the Rangers. "We know how well they're playing, but if we want to find ourselves in the top eight at the end of the season these games are going to be really important against the Rangers."

Here were the Devils' lines and D pairs that were listed on the whiteboard inside the team's dressing room Tuesday morning:

Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Zach Parise - Dainius Zubrus - Ilya Kovalchuk
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - Steve Bernier
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Brad Mills

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:10 PM

By Alan Robinson - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Penguins resume play looking to extend streak

PITTSBURGH -- NHL players enthusiastically await the All-Star break, a much-welcomed respite from the grind and travel of a long season and a chance to enjoy some midwinter time with family and friends, often in warm weather.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, however, their week-long break between games came during a seven-game winning streak they will take into the front end of a home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
Players generally prefer to keep playing when they're on a roll. The streak is the Penguins' longest since they won 12 in a row last season.
Get away from it all during a week-long break, or keep the momentum going by continuing to play? It's a tough choice.
"It's yet to be seen. We'll see how it goes tonight," defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "I think the break helps everyone in the long run. It's a tough season and we played a lot of games (four in six days) before the break and everyone was feeling a little tired, not just physically but mentally. To get some time off for a few days, just forget about hockey, I think it helps you."
Welcoming the break was goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (26-12-2), who will start Tuesday during his 23rd consecutive appearance -- 21 of them starts. Coach Dan Bylsma said backup Brent Johnson, who has won only once since Oct. 18, will play at least 20 percent of the time in the 32 games that remain after Tuesday.
"It was nice to relax, get some sleep and get re-energized," Fleury said. "Ready to go."
The Penguins and Maple Leafs play again Wednesday night in Toronto, the first of four sets of back-to-back games for Pittsburgh in three weeks, a scenario that should give Johnson more playing time. The Penguins have another set this weekend, meeting Boston on Saturday and New Jersey on Sunday.
"It's two big games for us coming out of the break," Bylsma said.
Fleury already has played in 42 games, with 33 remaining in the regular season. His career high is 67 games, a figure he has reached twice previously. Fleury said there is no set number of games that he prefers to play.
Bylsma said the coaching staff sketches out a goaltender schedule at the start of each month and rarely alters it. However, Fleury got some extra time recently because of the way the Penguins were playing and because the break was upcoming.
With Arron Asham (concussion) still out, the Penguins recalled forward Colin McDonald from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. McDonald played in the AHL All-Star Game in Atlantic City on Monday night and did not make it to Consol Energy Center in time for the morning skate.
McDonald has 12 goals and a career-high 26 assists in 41 games at Wilkes-Barre. He was a plus-1 in two games for Pittsburgh earlier this season.
McDonald's addition is the only change in the Penguins' line combinations since they last played a week ago, beating St. Louis 3-2 in a shootout on Jan. 24.
The Penguins' probable lineup:
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Dustin Jeffrey - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Richard Park - Matt Cooke
Colin McDonald - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:08 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - At the Rink blog

Devils get Greene back from broken foot

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils are getting defenseman Andy Greene back in time to get him up to speed for the sprint to the finish line of the 2011-12 regular season.

Greene, who missed the last 22 games due to a broken left foot, will be in the lineup Tuesday night against the Rangers at Prudential Center. He hasn't played since Dec. 6.

"There's no better game to get right back into it," said Greene, who has 9 assists and is averaging 18:24 of ice time in 23 games this season. "It's going to be an exciting game (against the Rangers), some playoff-type action. Pretty much all the games from here on out are, but this one being the Rangers will obviously have more intensity and it means a little bit more."

Greene didn't practice with the Devils until Monday, but said he spent the All-Star break skating with a few of his teammates. He feels he's in game shape, but he knows that he'll have to focus on keeping things simple Tuesday night because he still has to get his timing back.

"I think we're going to probably have to manage his ice time," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "We'll see how he is. A lot of times these guys come back in this situation and the first game on adrenaline they're really good and then they hit the wall a day or two down the road, so it may be something we might have to watch as the week goes on. I expect him to be fine (Tuesday night)."

DeBoer said he still isn't sure who Greene will play with to start the game, but he was listed next to Mark Fayne on the whiteboard inside the Devils' dressing room.

"After a few shifts I think I'll be back up to speed," Greene said, "but I have to keep it simple and try not to get caught in bad situations."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:45 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Live Blog: at CHL Top Prospects Game

Prospects to undergo tough on-ice testing

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Long before those top players from the Canadian Hockey League will hear their names at the NHL Entry Draft, they'll undergo a series of on- and off-ice tests that will provide scouts and general managers an instant user profile of each player.

On Tuesday morning, those 2012 draft-eligible stars of the CHL will be put through those tests at Prospera Place, home to Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets.

The on-ice component, which will have 70 individual measurements extracted from 14 on-ice tests that break each player's game down into the essentials of skating, puck handling and reaction time, will be conducted by a representative from Next Testing. Next Testing, a provider of testing and reporting services for understanding athletic performance, has served as the testing provider for the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game since 2008.
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Posted On Monday, 01.30.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Ryan Murray -  Special to / - Ryan Murray draft blog

Murray excited for Top Prospects Game

Defenseman Ryan Murray is captain of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League. The 6-foot, 182-pound native of Saskatchewan was recently named captain for Team Cherry at the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna, B.C. He recently won a bronze medal playing for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Despite the busy schedule, Murray continues to provide a monthly blog for that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hi everyone!

  Ryan Murray (Credit: Christopher Mast)
First of all, I'm really looking forward at having the chance in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. It is going to be a lot of fun and a great opportunity for myself as well as other players in the CHL to showcase themselves. It is going to be an intense game, like it always is, and I think that will make it even more fun.

They haven't told me what skill I am going to do yet, so I'm getting a little bit nervous for that. I did the passing into the six nets at the NHL RDO camp in August, and that was pretty tough. I would like to have another crack at that one. I think that is the one that I would be best at, since I consider passing one of the key elements to my game.
It was a pretty eventful month for me. The World Junior Championship was an amazing experience. Hockey Canada took great care of us for the entire month, and there was a great group of guys on that team.

The fans [in Edmonton and Calgary] were absolutely incredible, I have never seen anything like it. You couldn't hear yourself think sometimes during those games. There are not enough good things that I can say about the experience, and playing at home was extremely special.

The game against Russia for me isn't one to forget, but one to remember. It was one of the biggest hockey lessons I have learned in my life. Three pucks deflected in off me, and one bounced off my skate right to a Russia player wide open in the slot. It was the hardest thing to overcome in my career. I learned that no matter how bad things get, I have to move on from them and can't dwell on the past. It was great that we could regroup as a team after that game and come home with a bronze medal ... something that was very important to all of us. The medal is now in my room, and will probably get put in a frame later on.
Here in Everett, we have had a tough season. The first half was full of injuries and inconsistencies and we never could get rolling. The second half so far has been much better, as we are all learning what it takes for us to be successful and the effort that success demands. With all of our first year players, I think a lot of them are beginning to realize how you need to play every single night in order for our team to be successful. We are currently in a hunt for the playoffs with 4 teams, and it is going to be a very exciting second half.
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Posted On Monday, 01.30.2012 / 12:55 PM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Flames acquire Aliu from Jets for Negrin

The Winnipeg Jets announced Monday they have traded forward Akim Aliu to the Calgary Flames for defenseman John Negrin.

Akiu, born in Okene, Nigeria, has 4 goals, 1 assist and 12 penalty minutes in 13 games this season with the Abbotsford Heat while on loan from the Jets. The 22-year-old was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2007 Entry Draft.
Negrin, 22, has played in 26 games with the Heat this season, earning 1 assist and 12 penalty minutes. He started the season in nine games with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL, recording 1 goal, 6 points and 10 penalty minutes. The Vancouver, BC, native has played in three career NHL games with the Flames with 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes. He was originally drafted by Calgary in the third round of the 2007 Entry Draft.
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Posted On Monday, 01.30.2012 / 12:44 PM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Hurricanes sign Gleason to four-year extension

The Carolina Hurricanes announced Monday they have signed defenseman Tim Gleason to a four-year, $16 million contract extension.

The deal will pay Gleason $3.5 million in 2012-13, $4.5 million in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and $3.5 million in 2015-16.
"We thank Tim for choosing to stay with the Hurricanes long term," GM Jim Rutherford said in a statement released by the team. "He is one of our core players, someone who brings character and leadership to our locker room, along with being a key piece on the ice. This is a very important signing for our team going forward."
Gleason, 29, is in his eighth NHL season and sixth with the Hurricanes, and currently leads all Hurricanes defensemen in hits (87), plus/minus (plus-2) and total minutes played (1,063). He ranks second among Carolina blueliners in assists (13) and penalty minutes (44), and third in points (14), skating in all 51 games for the team this season.
Originally acquired from the Los Angeles Kings along with Eric Belanger in exchange for Oleg Tverdovsky and Jack Johnson, Gleason has totaled 13 goals, 86 points and 416 penalty minutes in 401 games with the Hurricanes. The Clawson, MI, native has led Carolina defensemen in hits each of the past four seasons (2007-08 to 2010-11), ranking fifth among NHL defensemen in hits last season.

A first-round selection of the Ottawa Senators in the 2001 Entry Draft, the 6-foot, 217-pound Gleason played his 500th NHL game on Nov. 27 at Ottawa, and has totaled 15 goals, 114 points and 514 penalty minutes in 526 career NHL games with Los Angeles and Carolina. 
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Posted On Monday, 01.30.2012 / 9:10 AM

By Scott Donahue -  Special to / - Making of a Royal

Royals assistant coach talks incredible rally

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, assistant coach Scott Donahue discusses the anatomy of his team's incredible 7-7 tie with Shattuck-St. Mary's in the third game of the Shattuck-St. Mary's Showcase in Faribault, Minn., earlier this season. With coaches Pat LaFontaine and Steve Webb unable to work the bench for the game, Donahue filled in as head coach. It would turn out to be the most memorable hockey game he's ever been associated with as the Long Island Royals rallied from 6-0 and 7-5 deficits in the third period to earn a 7-7 tie against the host school.
In the locker room prior to the game I told the boys that Shattuck was going to come out flying. I told them to remember the 3-0 lead they built in the first game of the tournament where we had to come back to forge a 5-5 tie. So, I felt it important to remind the players to really come out strong.
[Head coach] Pat [LaFontaine] had an opportunity to watch his nephew at Minnesota State and asked that I step in behind the bench for this game. Sure enough, we got down 3-0 in the first period and Pat was sending me a text message, wanting to know what the score was. I text him the score and he said we had to find a way to pull it out and make it competitive.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 8:51 PM

By Dan Girardi -  Special to / - Dan Girardi's 2012 Tim Hortons All-Star blog

Girardi: 'It was a lot of fun'

As part of All-Access All Things All-Star coverage on this weekend in Ottawa, New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi will be blogging his thoughts and experiences. Here's his final entry about participating in his first All-Star Game:

For a second there, I thought I had a goal in an All-Star Game.

I took a pass from Milan Michalek and let a shot go. I knew it hit something on the way to the net, but I wasn't sure at first. But when Jason Spezza came over to me to celebrate and had a sheepish, apologetic look on his face, I knew it wasn't going to be my goal. I was just laughing about it with him. It would've been cool to get a goal, but to pick a point in an All-Star Game is pretty cool too.

To be in an All-Star Game as a defensive defenseman, it was unbelievable. Going from the draft to a really busy media day to skills yesterday, and the game today, it was a lot of fun. The game was the best part of the weekend. Playing with all these guys, that was the highlight. Having my family here to see me play, that was special too.

I only got about 3 minutes of ice time during the second period. Torts said he wasn't going to play me if he was my coach, but I think it was more about the fact some guys were taking some really long shifts. I didn't care. I just went out there, played my shift, and I was happy. When my turn came up again, I just wanted to do my best. We weren't worried about getting ice time or anything like that. It was complete and total fun.

I have to rush out really quick tonight, because the family and I are flying home to New York. My wife and son are coming back with some other family who are staying over with us. I had a great time this weekend.
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Quote of the Day

It was a different game in the past, that's for sure. It's not exactly what I was expecting but I think the experience paid off for a lot of our guys that realized what it takes in a Game 7. Realistically the effort we put forward, we might not even had to put 60 [minutes], but we just couldn't get a couple bounces to go our way and we just kept pushing.

— Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby on Washington's play in Game 7 vs. the Islanders