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Posted On Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 2:50 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Ducks send Mara back to Habs

Anaheim had too many healthy defenseman; Montreal didn't have enough -- which makes Wednesday's  deal that send Paul Mara back to Montreal a good fit.

Mara had a goal and an assist for Anaheim but hadn't played since Jan. 18 and was the eighth or ninth defenseman on the roster. He goes back to a team he knows well -- Mara signed with the Ducks last summer after spending 2009-10 with the Canadiens, although he didn't play after late January due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.

With a shortage on the blue line due to injuries (Hall Gill and Jaroslav Spacek have been out with injuries, forcing the Habs to raid their AHL team in Hamilton), adding Mara at the cost of a fifth-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft should provide help on the blue line for the Canadiens while giving the Ducks the flexibility to add a forward as they head on a weekend trip to Minnesota and St. Louis.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 5:44 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Ottawa's Phillips staying put?

Weeks ago Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips was indentified by media members as one of the top targets at his position for this forthcoming trade deadline.

It looks like other GMs around the League hoping to acquire Phillips might have to look elsewhere for a veteran defensive defenseman. Phillips, a pending unrestricted free agent, told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun that he wants to stay with the Senators.

"I do [want to stay] and I know people will call me crazy for saying that," Phillips said. "But I think you need some veteran guys that have been around to help and guide the young guys coming in. I’m okay and would take on that responsibility."

Phillips is precisely the type of stay-at-home veteran that ends up on the wish list of several teams at this time of year. He hasn't had a great year, but his playoff experience and defensive sensibilities are coveted by contenders.

If he isn't willing to waive his no-trade clause, other options could include st. Louis' Eric Brewer, Edmonton's Jim Vandermeer and the Isladers' Radek Martinek. Toronto's Tomas Kaberle and possibly Florida's Bryan McCabe headline the group of UFA defensemen who are more known for their offensive production.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 4:30 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Heritage Classic merchandise available Thursday

Fans will be able to purchase Heritage Classic merchandise at Spectator Plaza outside McMahon Stadium starting Thursday.

The Official NHL Heritage Classic Merchandise Store will carry jerseys, headwear, souvenirs, gifts and novelty items and apparel, including women’s and children’s wear throughout the weekend. The retail location will be open to the public from noon-7 p.m. on Feb. 17; from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Feb. 18; from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20; and from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Feb. 21.

Retailers Canadian Tire, Champs Sports, Flames FanAttic, Hockey Experts, Jersey City Canada and Sport Chek have stocked the shelves of their Calgary stores with official NHL Heritage Classic merchandise. In addition, Adrenalin & Tuxedo Sports, Game On Sports, Premier Sports, Pro Hockey Life, Rexall Drug Stores, and Shoppers Drug Mart also are showcasing official NHL Heritage Classic gifts and novelty items in Calgary area locations.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 4:11 PM

By Brian Hunter -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Flames talk Heritage atmosphere

On the one hand, the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic will be the same as any other game out of 82 on the regular-season schedule in that the winner receives two points.

Otherwise, it's hard to compare playing inside a dome in front of around 20,000 fans to skating under the late afternoon and night sky, dealing with the elements with double that number of screaming bodies in the stands of what normally serves as a Canadian Football League stadium.

"Obviously it's going to be quite different, I'm sure," forward Niklas Hagman said. "I haven't played an outdoor game yet. The crowd is so much further away. It is great, but for sure it's going to be different. And it's going to be different for [Montreal], too, we've just got to make sure we're more ready and get the two points."

Forward Tim Jackman talked about inviting his parents out for the game and how he was happy Calgary's recent hot stretch has made for a better storyline to the Heritage.

"Things worked out that we're in a playoff hunt and it's going to be a more exciting game than if we would have kept playing the way we were playing early in the season," Jackman said.

There's also the opponent to consider. What better team to play in a game of this magnitude than the Canadiens, an Original Six team with one of the most storied histories in professional sports, one that includes an NHL-record 24 Stanley Cup championships.

"I think it's going to be a great atmosphere," defenseman Mark Giordano said. "It seems like any time you play Montreal or Toronto, one of those teams, there's an extra buzz in the crowd. So I think it'll be an exciting game. There's going to be a lot of fans, I think, from both sides. It's going to be an important game."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 3:31 PM

By Brian Hunter -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Flames ready for whatever the weather

The city of Calgary woke Wednesday morning to temperatures in the single digits Fahrenheit and a light, but persistent snow falling.
 
It was a marked contrast to the previous day, when the mercury got up into the mid-40s and provided almost balmy conditions for the work crews preparing the rink at McMahon Stadium for Sunday's 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
 
Currently, the forecast for game day calls for a temperature of 31 degrees (-1 Celsius) and partly cloudy skies, but the players know anything could happen between now and then and are bracing themselves for any kind of weather.
 
"You can't predict it -- every day it seems like the forecast is changing," defenseman Mark Giordano said. "I was watching a little bit about that Edmonton game [the 2003 Heritage Classic, when the temperature was -22 Fahrenheit], the guys were talking about it the other day. It was cold, but they got through it. I'm sure we'll be fine, once we get into the game."
 
The inaugural Winter Classic, held on New Year's Day in 2008 between the Sabres and Penguins, saw snow fall at Ralph Wilson Stadium, providing for a picturesque backdrop to a thrilling game won by Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby in a shootout.
 
All the same, Flames captain Jarome Iginla said snow would not be part of his ideal forecast for the Heritage Classic.
 
"I'd rather not a day like today," Iginla said with a laugh. "In a perfect world, plus-2 or 3 (Celsius), sunny ..."
 
A reporter interjected wouldn't the sun get in the players' eyes?
 
"We have tinted visors," Iginla said, noting that with a 4 p.m. Mountain Time start, the sun probably wouldn't be a factor beyond the first period.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 12:53 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Carolina's Ian White rumored to be on the block

The rumors swirling around the potential deal of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ian White are just that -- rumors. At least for now.

Sure, defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forward Erik Cole will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, but it appears Carolina GM Jim Rutherford is getting inquiries about another pending UFA, the 26-year-old White. White has 2 goals, 16 points and a minus-6 rating in 55 games in his first season with the Hurricanes.

White is in his fifth NHL season.

"Something is in the works and it's pending … if it happens it'll happen within the next 24 hours I guess," Carolina coach Paul Maurice told the media following his team's morning practice at Prudential Center in Newark on Wednesday. "If it doesn't, he's with our hockey team."

Rutherford, who told NHL.com last week that he isn't outwardly seeking to make a deal, is fielding offers. He just might not be too quick to pull the trigger.

"There are deals out there and if you just played in a fantasy league and wanted to be a fantasy GM, you could make great hockey deals," Rutherford said. "But you can't because you have to factor the money in. Somebody has got to pay the bills."

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 11:38 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Sens' Murray nowhere near done

Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly are gone, and Senators GM Bryan Murray indicated Tuesday night that more will follow those two out of Canada's capital city over the next 12 days.

"I've got two players gone. If you're going to try to retool the organization there have to be more than that go," Murray told reporters during his press conference to announce that Kelly had been traded to Boston for the Bruins' second-round pick in 2011. "There have to be doors open for other people. You can either do it or not do it. It's hard to do, but we're doing it. We're going to retool the budget, we're going to retool the organization and there are going to be some painful nights here."

There have been plenty already. Until recently the Senators have been barely competitive on most nights. They are 2-13-5 over their last 20 games and have fallen behind the Devils and Islanders into last place in the Eastern Conference. They're only three points better than the Edmonton Oilers.

"We've had such a dreadful year, such a disappointing year for what we thought we were going to be," Murray said. "This is the end result."

So, who is next to go? If you're paying attention you keep hearing that Chris Phillips, Jarkko Ruutu and Alex Kovalev are most definitely available. They're all in the final year of their contracts. Chris Neil is another name that has been mentioned. He has two years and $4 million left on his contract. Filip Kuba, who has one more year on his deal, could be had, too.

Murray said he has a list of guys that are untouchable, but he specifically mentioned only captain Daniel Alfredsson and All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson on Tuesday.

"I am not trying to trade everybody," Murray said. "I'm trying to move some other people, but it's certainly not a housecleaning by any means."

Nobody would blame him if it was.

He'd probably love to move Jason Spezza, who is making $7 million per season through 2015, but that doesn't seem likely. Sergei Gonchar, signed for two more years at a $5.5 million cap hit, would also appear untradeable because of his contract and age.

However, Murray clearly has been given the green light to blow up the team and start over. He said he has spoken to Colorado GM Greg Sherman and Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini about the difficulties of a rebuilding project, but is confident that it's the only way for the Senators to go right now.

He won't even speculate on how long it will take for the Senators to become a contender again.

"I'm hoping that we're competitive right away, but I'm not going to suggest that because it's the wrong thing for me to say," Murray said. "All I can tell you is we're going to try to put young people on some spots on the team, and we're going to try to encourage them to play hard every night and be a fun team to watch."

Who will be in that mix?

Well, Karlsson for sure, and probably goalie Robin Lehner as well. Defensive prospects Jared Cowen, David Rundblad and Patrick Wiercioch are on the come and should all have a shot to make the team out of camp next season. Ottawa doesn't have as much forward depth in its system, but Zack Smith and Bobby Butler are getting some NHL experience lately.

"I'm not going to pick the team tonight," Murray said. "We'll wait for that.

"With two first-round picks and two second-round picks we can do something to help this team by the fall. That's my main objective right now."

Who knows how many more picks and prospects he'll stockpile before 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 28?

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 11:09 AM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Morning Musings: Feb. 16

Here's a look at some of the chatter around the NHL as we countdown to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline. We'll try to do this most mornings between now and the deadline.

BOSTON BRUINS

If the Bruins did indeed have a puck-moving defenseman and a veteran center on their list of needs, then GM Peter Chiarelli might be almost done shopping. He acquired the center yesterday, picking up Chris Kelly for a second-round pick. There were also numerous reports about him being in talks with Toronto GM Brian Burke about Tomas Kaberle. Burke told a Boston radio station that he and Chiarelli are talking but didn't name players involved.

Kaberle has a no-trade clause, but his comments to reporters after the Leafs' win against Boston last night implied he'd waive it for a move to Beantown.

"I would think so," Kaberle said when asked if Boston was a good place to be if he does get traded. "Obviously they have a pretty good team, good goaltenders. I've played a lot of games against them and it is always tough and they're always tough to beat. We'll see what is going to happen."

Chiarelli says his management staff is tracking nine trade targets on defense. Kevin Paul DuPont of the Boston Globe believes that Kaberle is one, with Atlanta's Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian and Ottawa's Chris Philips also on the list. Kaberle makes a lot of sense for the Bruins, who are looking for an offensive-minded guy who can help the power play.

The compensation for Kaberle could be interesting. Paul Dupont writes a deal is "likely to include Boston’s own first-round pick in this year’s draft." There is little chance Toronto's first-rounder from the Phil Kessel deal would be involved, but Burke might not be willing to settle for a late first-round pick.

Boston still has a No. 2 in the 2011 draft, courtest of a trade with Minnesota for Chuck Kobasew two years ago. The Bruins, as detailed on this blog, are flush with high-end prospects.

Kelly cost the Bruins their own No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft. It was a high price to pay for a No. 3 center, but the Bruins have the assets and Kelly brings some much-needed depth and playoff experience. While Boston is loaded with talent at the position, Fluto Shinzawa points out why it was an area of need.

"Even before [Marc] Savard suffered his latest concussion, the Bruins had been dissatisfied with their performance up the middle," Shinzawa writes. "Bergeron has been carrying the offense between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Gregory Campbell has filled the club’s needs on the fourth line. But Savard hadn’t found his offensive tempo before his injury. [David] Krejci has been inconsistent all season. For the most part, [Tyler] Seguin has looked every bit the teenager he is. The team gave Blake Wheeler several looks at center, but he hasn’t given them the presence they’re seeking."

"In Kelly, the Bruins now have a veteran they’ll need if they are serious about a deep postseason run."

CAROLINA HURRICANES

The Hurricanes have shrugged off a slow start in the first half of the season to chase down Atlanta for the eighth spot on the Eastern Conference. Still, Carolina has to hold off both the Thrashers and the surging Buffalo Sabres, who are two points back and have two games in hand on the Hurricanes, if the Canes are going to return to the postseason after missing out last year.

Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer talked to team owner Peter Karmonos about the trade deadline. Karmonos told Alexander that GM Jim Rutherford has been authorized to add payroll if needed to help the club make the playoffs.

"Jim can do whatever he feels he needs to do to improve the team," Karmanos said. "We've worked together for 25 years, and he knows how I feel. Right now, the question would be who would you replace in our lineup? Another is, who's available? We're trying to figure all that out."

The Hurricanes have two established stars in Eric Staal and Cam Ward, and a host of young players moving into greater roles behind them. Carolina could probably use a veteran at both forward and defense to bolster the team's depth as crunch time nears. Rutherford has a track record of being willing to deal at this time of year, so don't be surprised to see the Hurricanes make an addition (or two) in the next two weeks.


DALLAS STARS

Yesterday it was the Colorado Avalanche as the "team in crisis" in the Western Conference. Today, it is the Dallas Stars. Dallas was one of the NHL's top stories of the season for a couple of months, forging a lead in the Pacific Division and challenging for the No. 2 seed in the West. Now, the Stars are without Brad Richards and have lost 8 of their past 10 games -- including a 4-1 defeat at last-place Edmonton last night.

"They didn’t lack in want-to, they lacked in composure," writes Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. "They were overwhelmed by the pressure of the situation. Needing points to stay in the playoff race, needing positive momentum heading into death trap games in Calgary and Vancouver, the Stars simply fell apart."

Dallas is now perilously close to being engulfed by the swarm of tightly-knit teams behind them. The Stars sit fifth in the West, which is really a four-way tie for the Nos. 4-7 spots. Eighth-place Calgary is two points back, and a postseason-less Spring is three points away.

For much of the first half of this season, Richards was the UFA trade bait rumor du jour. When Dallas established itself as a contender in the West, that speculation went away. If the Stars keep losing, expect it to return.

"If the Dallas Stars stay in free-fall they have to trade their UFA Brad Richards if his blow to head vs Jackets is minor, don't they?" writes Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson on Twitter.

Richards could very well become the Jay Bouwmeester of this year's trade deadline. Florida faced the "should they or shouldn't they" trade Bouwmeester decision two seasons ago, and the Stars as an organization face similar pros and cons about trading Richards.

Dallas is an organization that could greatly benefit from a playoff run, both in galvanizing the fan base and the financial windfall that comes from it. Florida desperately needed to make the playoffs, so the Panthers held on to Bouwmeester. Will the Stars do the same, or will they look to add assets for the future? Richards would be the best player on the market -- and there are several contenders who are almost certain to get into a bidding war for his services.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 9:00 AM

By Shane McColgan -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Shane McColgan draft blog

Prepping for the stretch run

Shane McColgan is a right wing for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. McColgan, the only U.S.-born player selected in the first round of the WHL's 2008 bantam draft, finished runner-up to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer Rebels) as the league's top rookie in 2009-10 after posting 25 goals and 69 points in 71 games. Through 50 games thisseason, he leads the team with 54 points, including 19 goals. The Manhattan Beach, Calif., native was rated No. 103 on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term release of North American skaters in January. A participant of the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp fueled by G Series in August, McColgan has offered to maintain a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.

Hi everyone. Thanks for checking in this month. We have a busy schedule the next four days with three big games. Two of our games are against Vancouver, which has 65 points (30 wins) in the B.C. Division. We're second with 63 points (31 wins). We're in Vancouver on Wednesday and then play Spokane (34 wins, 74 points) on Friday before hosting Vancouver on Saturday.

I went out to lunch with our coach (Kelowna's Ryan Huska) on Tuesday afternoon. It was a one-time thing. I think that Coach is just trying to be a little more positive with us and have a little fun. If he's having fun then there's a good attitude in the room and we feel like we can talk about anything when we're getting along with him. Every player, including myself, perform better on the ice when we're not worried about what he's thinking or what the assistant coaches are thinking. So I think it's good to do things like this … maybe we should do it a little more.

Personally, I was up and down last month (6 goals, 5 assists). But the last 17 games are really important to me and most important for the team since we're coming down to playoffs. I think I've done well so far. I battled through surgery at the start of the season but the main thing is I think I need to shoot the puck more. My 19 goals (this season) isn't bad, but I should be up to 25 by now. I just need to shoot the puck more and work hard and things will go my way.

As a team, we did alright in the month of January (8-5); losing is never fun but we battled back after going through some injuries a little bit here and some adversity. Every team goes through that but we have to battle and play as a team and whoever is on the ice must do their job. I think we're having fun with the game. We take ourselves serious but not too serious. The next three games are huge and we just need to play hard and do the little things right. No one is ever satisfied with their play, so you can always step up. We just have to keep winning and keep on that role.

I don't really look too much on the computer to get extra information about upcoming opponents. We have team meetings and before we leave for the game, we have pregame meetings in the morning and prepare for our opponent before our afternoon nap. We know who we're up against and how they might match up lines. It's important and you have to be ready. You have to know who you'll be facing, so I do make it a point to know the opponent and who I might be up against before a game.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 7:33 PM

By David Kalan -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

With Byfuglien signed, Dudley turns to the deadline

Dustin Byfuglien's contract extension with Atlanta could serve to be a major moment for a franchise that has struggled to be consistently competitive in its 12-year history. The Thrashers have made just one postseason appearance, a Southeast Division title in 2007, but his team on the playoff bubble this season, Thrashers GM Rick Dudley said Tuesday that he is looking to make a move.

While the team is searching for offense to bolster a potential playoff run, Dudley at admitted that despite his efforts, the search for the right move hasn't yielded any fruit just yet.

"I only know that I'm on the phone a lot," Dudley said. "It's not an easy time in history to do trades."

"You have to be patient enough to not do something that's going to harm the team in its long term while helping the team in its short term."
-- Thrashers GM Rick Dudley

The extension to Byfuglien means that Atlanta has its top defensive pair locked up for at least two more seasons, as Tobias Enstrom is under contract through the 2012-13 season. Add 2008 first round draft pick Zach Bogosian into the mix and Atlanta's future looks to be in good hands as far as the blue line is concerned, but the team could certainly use help at forward, both down the middle and on the wing.

While Byfuglien and Enstrom lead the team with 43 and 42 points respectively, left wing Andrew Ladd's 42 points are the highest total of any forward. Bryan Little and Evander Kane have the next most production with 33 points each.

Given Atlanta's tremendous cap space -- the Thrashers are projected to have just under $18 million between their payroll and the League's salary limit -- there is almost no cap-driven restriction on who the team can acquire both this season and in the future.

Still, Dudley reinforced the guiding principle for him that making any move isn't as important as making the right one.

"It's difficult because you're in a playoff hunt," Dudley said. "But you have to be patient enough to not do something that's going to harm the team in its long term while helping the team in its short term. Those are trades that they can be made and we hope that we will make one here, but they haven't jumped off the page just yet."
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Quote of the Day

Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season