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Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:51 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jagr returns to the lineup for Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers begin their march toward the playoffs in earnest Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets, and they'll have one of their top players back from injury.

The Flyers (29-14-5) are just three points behind the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers and begin a three-game homestand this week that continues Thursday night when the Nashville Predators visit.

Jaromir Jagr, who missed the Flyers' past two games because of a groin injury, will return to the Philadelphia lineup.

"It's always good to get guys back on the ice," coach Peter Laviolette said.

Jagr shooed away any notions that overtraining this past offseason would have caused his groin issues

"Compared to what we did in Russia, this is nothing for me," Jagr said, drawing laughs from the assembled media.

Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to start for the Flyers. Winnipeg has taken both games against the Flyers this season. The Jets rolled up nine goals when the clubs last met in Philadelphia -- a 9-8 loss for the Flyers.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Philadelphia:

FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Wayne Simmonds - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
Tom Sestito - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Jody Shelley - Brayden Schenn - Ben Holmstrom

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Matt Carle
Erik Gustafsson - Andrej Meszaros

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:44 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Top UFAs staying put as deadline nears?

The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away, but with the All-Star Break now in the past, the media attention will shifts toward a day that has become something of a holiday for fans of the sport and the League.

It may still be 28 days away, but some big names are already garnering headlines – although it is because of they may not be available at the Feb. 27 deadline, which falls at 3 p.m. ET. Two of the biggest names in the unrestricted free agent class of 2012 – the list everyone looks to for potential trade targets – are New Jersey forward Zach Parise and Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter.

Both guys are star players – the type of addition that could drastically improve a team’s chances of claiming the Stanley Cup. Both might also not be available in the next four weeks.

Marc Everson of the New York Post reported Tuesday that sources from around the League do not expect Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello to trade Parise before the deadline.

“Sources say inquiring general managers are getting the word Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is not dealing unrestricted free agent-to-be Zach Parise before the NHL’s Feb. 27 trade deadline,” Everson wrote. “Instead, it is thought if the Devils do not want to re-sign Parise in June, they’ll trade his rights to a team that wants an advance shot at negotiations before he becomes free July 1.”

Parise would likely be the top forward available – either in the coming weeks or in July. He would be a cornerstone player for any franchise, and those players don’t become available often. He is making $6 million this season and would likely receive a substantial raise on the open market.

New Jersey is currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and the Devils’ chances of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let along advancing deep into the postseason, would take a huge hit if Parise went elsewhere. Keeping him beyond this season could be tricky because of the more than $38 million in salary cap space already committed to only 12 players for next season (and that doesn’t include a goaltender Martin Brodeur, who is also a UFA).

If Parise would likely be the top forward available then Suter would almost certainly be the No. 1 defenseman on the market. He forms the best defense duo in the League with Shea Weber and would be the no-doubt No. 1 defenseman on at least 20 other clubs.

Like Parise, Suter may also not be available. He told NHL.com on Sunday he wants to help Nashville try to make a run in Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I want to focus on playing for Nashville,” Suter said. “We've got a good team and if we can add a couple of pieces here and there I think we have a legitimate chance of going to win the Stanley Cup.

"If we keep winning, we keep playing well, with the guys we have on the team and if we can add a couple of pieces, I think we can go far," Suter said. "It's (Poile's) call. It's his team and he can do what he wants with it, but I'd like to win this year."

Frank Seravelli of the Philadelphia Daily News reported Monday that League executives are thinking Suter will remain with the Predators in the coming weeks.

“The consensus among us is that Nashville will be hanging onto him, even if they know the odds are not in their favor of re-signing him,” one Eastern Conference general manager told Seravelli on condition of anonymity. “If he does decide to trade him, [Nashville general manager David] Poile has the market cornered. There are very few defensemen of Suter’s caliber in the League and Nashville has two of them.”


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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Leafs' Armstrong, Liles close, but not ready yet

PITTSBURGH -- Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson must make some lineup decisions very soon, perhaps as early as Wednesday.
 
But neither defenseman John-Michael Liles nor forward Colby Armstrong, both of whom are close to returning from injuries that have kept them out for more than a month, will play Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
 
Armstrong has been out since Dec. 19 with a concussion that he initially tried to hide from the team. He had played in only four games since returning from a 23-game layoff with a high ankle sprain. Liles, an excellent puck-moving defenseman, has been out since Dec. 22 with a neck injury and concussion-like symptoms.
 
The Maple Leafs emerge from the All-Star break ninth in the Eastern Conference with 55 points, but with plenty of opportunities to pick up ground in a hurry -- starting with the home-and-home series against Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Wednesday. Only 13 of their remaining 33 games are against teams currently below them in the standings.
 
The Penguins, winners of seven in a row, have 60 points.
 
"All the games are going to be important. It's really tight in the standings, every point is going to be huge for us, but I see every game as another game," goaltender Jonas Gustavsson said. "I don't put more focus on a game like this (Tuesday's). I always try to prepare myself 100 percent to win; you know every game is important."
 
Toronto won its final two games and three of its final four before the break, but Gustavsson said the week-long break from games arrived at a good time. Gustavsson has won seven of 10 starts while playing in all but one game since Jan. 3.
 
"I think it was good for me, as for everybody else, to get time to rest and get ready again," Gustavsson said. "I tried to think not so much about hockey -- I had some light workouts to stay in shape -- but other than that, I tried to keep my mind on other things."
 
Toronto won its only previous game against Pittsburgh, 4-3 on Oct. 29. The teams also play again in Pittsburgh on March 7.
 
The Maple Leafs' probable lineup:
 
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connolly - Nazem Kadri
Mike Brown - David Steckel - Joey Crabb
 
Dion Phaneuf - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson
Carl Gunnarsson - Mike Komisarek
 
Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:20 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rangers to ice usual lines, defense pairings

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Rangers are continuing to carry 14 healthy forwards, with Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski once again the healthy scratches for Tuesday night's game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Coach John Tortorella hasn't had much need to shuffle his forwards in and out of the lineup thanks to good health of late and success most of this season, but the Rangers play two straight games coming out of the All-Star break, so having Christensen and Wolski around will be key if a regular suffers an injury.

"There will be discussions. We just got back," Tortorella said. "We go back-to-back here. After these two games, we have three days. I'm sure there will be some discussions about what we want to do. I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I'm sure it's going to be discussed."

The Rangers will ice their usual lineup against the Devils, who have their lines posted here:

Carl Hagelin - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell
Brandon Prust - Artem Anisimov - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Stu Bickel

Martin Biron
Henrik Lundqvist

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning get Hedman back to face rival Capitals

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals get back to work Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and the work at hand for both teams is securing a playoff spot.

The Capitals, with 55 points, are tied for the top spot in the Southeast Division, but with several clubs nipping at their heels they are far from a lock for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is looking up at the pack, currently nine points away from it needs to be to qualify.

"I told the players that we need a rock climber's mentality," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "You don't want to look down and you don't want to look up. Looking up can be discouraging and looking down can be scary, so look at the rocks in front of us and the things in the past don't mean anything. Tonight is all about Washington."

That's more than enough, considering the Capitals are 21-3-1 in their last 25 regular-season meetings with Tampa Bay, including wins in both match-ups this season.

But the Lightning, riding a season-high four-game win streak, have reason for optimism since several of their injured players return to action on Tuesday. Tom Pyatt, Ryan Shannon, JT Wyman and, most importantly, Victor Hedman are expected to play. After missing 13 games with a concussion, Boucher cautioned that Hedman will have to work his way back to the level he played before the injury.

Hedman, however, had some different thoughts.

"It's been a while, but I'm 100 percent now," Hedman said. "I don't know how many minutes I'll get, but I hope it's about 30. I'll take the first shift and go from there. Today's a special day because I'm getting back to the game."

Both teams have had less than overwhelming success on the power play of late, with Washington going 1-for-16 and Tampa Bay chugging along at an anemic 5-for-54 with the extra man.

In the game prior to the All-Star break, Boucher used defensemen Brendan Mikkelson and Bruno Gervais on the point and indicated that he planned to continue that combo on the power play.

"They move quickly and they keep it simple," Boucher said. "They have accurate shots on net. I thought they played well. I liked the fact that Mikkelson is real mobile and he has a terrific shot. Gervais keeps things simple. Since we have injuries, we've been mixing it up. We've been trying everyone, basically, on power plays. We've got to find solutions."

Boucher was amused to see that Steven Stamkos won the All-Star shootout competition, especially in light of the fact that Stamkos has yet to connect on a shootout attempt during Boucher's tenure as the Lightning coach, going 0-for-3 this season and blanking last season.

"I don't know what to think," Boucher said. "He hasn't scored one for us this season yet and then he goes out there and wins the shootout contest. He hasn't scored last year, too. Guess he's putting pressure on me to put him out there. He hasn't scored a shootout goal for me in two seasons. I guess I'm the problem."

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

CAPITALS
Marcus Johansson - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Mike Knuble
Joel Rechlicz - Cody Eakin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - John Carlson
John Erskine - Dmitry Orlov

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Steven Stamkos - Steve Downie
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - JT Wyman
Nate Thompson - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Bruno Gervais - Matt Gilroy
Brendan Mikkelson

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:02 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Biron start breaks Lundqvist streak of facing Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in more than five years, Henrik Lundqvist won't be in net for the New York Rangers against the New Jersey Devils.

Backup Martin Biron will get the start for the Rangers against New Jersey's Martin Brodeur on Tuesday night at Prudential Center, snapping a string of 32 consecutive starts by Lundqvist against their cross-river rivals that dates to Dec. 17, 2006. Lundqvist participated in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game this past weekend in Ottawa.

"I thought about it yesterday when (coach John Tortorella) told me I wasn't playing today," said Lundqvist, who is third in the NHL in goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.937). "It's been a while since I watched a game against this team. It'll be different."

Biron was scheduled to start the Rangers' final game before the break last Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets, but he became ill following the team's morning practice and had to give way to Lundqvist.

With the Rangers playing Wednesday night in Buffalo, it made sense to let Biron get a start after the long layoff.

"You come back and have a back-to-back after the All-Star break, you kind of have an idea you're going to get one of the two, but I didn't know which one," Biron said. "I didn't care which one. I just wanted to get myself ready as soon as I got back. I was disappointed not being able to get a game before the break. Stuff like that happens. The very next day, you start feeling better, your mind is looking forward to the next game. The break was great, but you want to get going and play some games."

Biron has been the busiest backup the Rangers have had since Lundqvist became the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender in 2006-07. In 12 games (11 starts), Biron is 9-2-0 with a 1.88 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Lundqvist has owned the Devils during his career. He is 23-9-5 with a 1.82 GAA and .937 save percentage, but Tortorella had his mind made up long before Tuesday.

"I made this decision before the All-Star break," Tortorella said. "I wanted to make sure (Lundqvist) got two practices under his belt. I thought he was only going to take one, because I didn't think he was going to skate yesterday, but he wanted to. We talked about this prior to the All-Star break that we were going to go this way."

Lundqvist said he arrived at practice Monday because he assumed he'd be facing the Devils on Tuesday, but he understands the importance of getting an extra day of rest as the Rangers head down the homestretch.

"I'm so used to playing against this team that I thought I was playing," Lundqvist admitted. "I think it's good for me to get an extra day. I could feel yesterday that it's been a lot of hockey and talk about hockey this weekend. Just to sit on the bench today and relax a little bit is going to help me prepare for tomorrow."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Horton not yet ready to rejoin Bruins' lineup

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins will open the post-break portion of the schedule tonight at TD Garden with their lineup still missing a key component.

Nathan Horton, who suffered a concussion Jan. 22 in Philadelphia and missed Boston's last game before the All-Star break, will continue to sit out when the Bruins host the Ottawa Senators. Horton has been visiting the Garden for medical treatments, according to coach Claude Julien, and he'll be held off the ice another few days.

Horton's latest concussion comes eight months after the one he suffered in the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins are expected to start Rich Peverley in Horton's spot on the right wing of a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic.

"Well for now, that's the situation. You know, Richard Peverley did a great job, I think, in stepping in last year when Horts got hurt. I think what he brings is that speed ... he’s got good hands, good speed," Julien said after the morning skate at the Garden. "And even his game, I think he wants to be a little bit better than he has been lately. So, he'd like to elevate his game a little bit. If he does that I think he'll be a great guy to be in that position for now. But that's the decision that we think is the best one so far, and we'll certainly hope that it works. But if not, then we'll look at moving some other guys around."

Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said he doesn't expect any lineup changes from the group he used heading into the break. Defenseman Brian Lee continues to recover from a lower-body injury and could be back by the end of the week.

Craig Anderson is scheduled to start in net for Ottawa. He'll have started every Sens game in January. It's unknown whether the Bruins will turn to Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask.

Here are the projected lineups for tonight’s game:

BRUINS
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Zach Hamill
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Adam McQuaid - Steven Kampfer

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

SENATORS
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

 
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:36 PM

By Kurt Dusterberg -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Islanders turn to Poulin for start vs. Hurricanes

The New York Islanders will have American Hockey League callup Kevin Poulin between the pipes against the Carolina Hurricanes when the teams meet Tuesday night at the RBC Center. Poulin, who made 51 saves in Bridgeport's 6-2 win over Adirondack Friday night, is making his third start of the season for the Islanders.

Here's how the lineups for both sides are projected to look:

ISLANDERS
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Rhett Rakhshani
Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter - Tim Wallace

Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina
Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald

Kevin Poulin
Evgeni Nabokov

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Jussi Jokinen - Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash
Patrick Dwyer - Brandon Sutter - Andreas Nodl
Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Chad LaRose

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Derek Joslin - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Justin Peters

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 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 NHL.com 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 -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 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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Quote of the Day

That was something I've been dreaming of, something I've told myself before the third period I was going to do ... It was an amazing feeling. It's hard to describe. I didn't believe it went in at first but when I saw all the reaction and all the fans going crazy and my teammates going crazy, it's just an unbelievable feeling. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know whether to jump or just skate and do a Theo Fleury. I don't think I'm the same caliber player he is so I couldn't do it.

— Flames forward Mikael Backlund on scoring the overtime winner against the Ducks in Gm. 3