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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 11:33 AM

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

Melrose joins CISCO NHL Live via Telepresence

Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 11:25 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Rangers deal Christensen, pick to Wild for Wellman

The New York Rangers, who have been carrying 14 forwards since the All-Star break, cleared some room Friday by dealing Erik Christensen and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2013 to the Minnesota Wild for forward Casey Wellman.

The 24-year-old Wellman, who has 2 goals and 5 assists in 14 games this season, was assigned to the AHL's Connecticut Whale.

Before shedding Christensen's $925,000 salary, the Rangers could add about $5.5 million in cap hits at the Feb. 27 trade deadline, according to capgeek.com. That number is sure to go up slightly with this transaction.

Christensen had fallen out of favor with the Rangers after winning a roster spot out of training camp over fellow forward Sean Avery. The 28-year-old never seized the opportunity, netting just 1 goal and 4 assists in 20 games. He hasn't played since Dec. 17.

Christensen accepting a two-week conditioning stint with the Whale in mid-January. He had 2 goals and an assist in five games with the Whale, but had been a healthy scratch since he was recalled Jan. 24.

The Wild are Christensen's fifth team in seven seasons.

Christensen's strength has always been in shootouts. In his career, he is 24-for-46 in the post-overtime tiebreaker. The Wild, who rank 28th in the NHL in offense at 2.26 goals per game, are 5-5 in the shootout this season. Christensen has 62 goals and 94 assists in 358 career games, but confidence has always been an issue for the Edmonton native.

Christensen was claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, but he never found consistency with the Rangers. In 132 games as a Ranger, he had 20 goals and 38 assists.

"I probably frustrate him more than anyone else on this team," Christensen told NHL.com during last year's playoffs about his dealings with Tortorella. "He's definitely given me an opportunity. I come up here and didn't know what to expect. He's definitely got a people kind of side to him. He's not the guy everyone sees on the bench. He'll talk to you. You'll see him laughing and joking with the guys. It's been a lot of fun playing for him."

The 6-foot, 173-pound Wellman has 4 goals and 9 assists in 41 career games over parts of three seasons.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 1:43 AM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Gagner Opens eyes With record night

Oh, what a night!

That's what fantasy owners must be thinking after the show Sam Gagner put on Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Edmonton Oilers forward scored four goals - yes, four - and added four assists - yes, four - to book-end an eight-point outing against one of the Western Conference's more elite clubs.

To go along with the offensive explosion, Gagner skated away with a plus-6 rating and threw another six shots on the cage.

Sam Gagner
Center - EDM
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 30
SOG: 86 | +/-: 2
Not many outings will top this record-tying game for the crafty forward, but he is in the midst of a productive stretch. In the past four games, the 22-year-old has 10 points and 10 shots. This small segment of production came after a drought to forget for the former first-round pick of the Oilers.

Coming into the game againt the Blackhawks, Gagner hadn't scored a goal in 11 games and prior to the stretch of points in three of four games, he hadn't collected a point in six games.

Whether or not the 5-foot-11 forward's monster performance will prove to be a springboard to bigger and better things in the second half of the season remains to be seen. But regardless of the totals during the season, any player capable of putting up an eight-point effort is worthy of fantasy consideration.

Currently owned in 7 percent of standard Yahoo! leagues, Gagner - a dual-eligibility player - could be had and could be a sleeper as the season progresses.
Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 10:05 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Higgins a late scratch for Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Canucks forward Chris Higgins was a surprise late scratch Thursday against Detroit with what a team official called an “illness.”

There was no word if it was related to the Staph infection that caused Higgins to miss five games over two separate absences earlier this season. The second-line left winger, who has 10 goals and 26 points in 45 games, missed two games in early December after his foot swelled up suddenly overnight, and three more late that month when the symptoms returned.

Higgins, who was one of Vancouver's better forwards in October and November, struggled after returning from the second infection, failing to record a point in his first six games, and going without a goal through all 11 games in January. Both he and head coach Alain Vigneault, who was expected to update Higgins' status after Thursday’s game, said at the time that the gritty winger struggled with his energy levels as a result of medication he was taking. Higgins also missed six games with a Staph infection last season while with the Florida Panthers.

The Canucks are only carrying 12 forwards on the roster, and without enough time to call one up from the American Hockey League, were forced to dress extra defenseman Andrew Alberts, who has skated as a forward a few times already this season.
Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 8:34 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

MTL @ NJD - 13:43 of the Second Period



At 13:43 of the second period in the Canadiens/Devils game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Ilya Kovalchuk's shot deflected off David Clarkson's leg and into the net.  According to rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed." Good Goal New Jersey.
Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 8:07 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

MTL @ NJD - :52 of the Second Period



At :52 of the second period in the Canadiens/Devils game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Ilya Kovalchuk's shot did not completely cross the goal line. No Goal New Jersey.
Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 7:15 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Detroit's Howard gets practice off, but not game

VANCOUVER -- Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard leads the NHL in wins with 31.

Yet his 43 games played ranks only sixth.

Still, with an increasing tendency League-wide to use a goalie tandem – and Howard on pace to play an exhausting 69-game schedule – the Red Wings’ stopper knows the importance of taking time off. So there was little protest when head coach Mike Babcock ordered both Howard and fellow All-Star Pavel Datsyuk to not only miss Wednesday’s practice in Vancouver, but to stay away from the rink entirely.

“Pavel and I just went and walked round Vancouver, it was nice,” Howard, 27, said after Thursday’s morning skate.
“I feel good. I don’t feel tired at all. Mike is really good giving us days off. He realizes it's key sometimes to pull back on the reigns rather than being out there going, going, going. We always get an ample amount of days off.”

Howard is seventh with a .925 save percentage, and fifth with a 2.01 goals-against average, well ahead of veteran backup Ty Conklin, who is just 3-5-0 with a 3.20 and .896. But Conklin has won two of his last three starts, and could see more time down the stretch. If not, Howard is ready to keep taking breaks on off days, then playing the next.

“I’m young,” he said with a smile.
Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 7:01 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hodgson looks to build on Rookie of Month honor

VANCOUVER -- Canucks center Cody Hodgson said all the right things about being named the NHL Rookie of the Month for January, crediting his linemates – despite the fact both are struggling – and the team, despite an inconsistent month overall.

Hodgson did his best to deflect any praise after a team-high six goals and 10 points in 11 games in January despite averaging less than 13 minutes of ice time. But associate coach Rick Bowness thinks it’s just the start of a long run for the promising 21-year-old.

“I always knew he had the hands, the creativity. Now there is the confidence to use it,” Bowness said before Thursday’s game against Detroit. “He’s holding the puck, looking to make plays and putting the puck in the right spot. That comes with experience and having success. He’s worked very hard on his game, always one of the last guys off the ice, always out there working on his puck skills. He’ll continue to grow and get better.”

Hodgson is fourth in rookie scoring with 30 points despite playing around five minutes less per game than the three guys ahead of him. And he’s second in goals with 14, a total that includes one game- and one shootout-winning goal in the two games prior his appearance at the All-Star Game, and the tying goal against Chicago on Tuesday.

It hasn't seemed to matter that wingers Mason Raymond, with one goal in 12 games, and Jannik Hansen, with none in six, are struggling. Hodgson was quick to point out both are drawing attention and backing down defenses with their speed, but Bowness wants more.

“We’d like to see a little more finishing the chances but it will come,” he said. “The chemistry of the line isn’t quite where we want it to be. Sometimes a line just needs a little time to become a true line and not three individuals playing together.”

If the others are struggling, it hasn’t hurt Hodgson’s confidence.

“I feel more and more comfortable every game and every day, just fitting in with the team and having fun,” said Hodgson, who was picked 10th overall in the 2008 Entry Draft but lost an entire season of development to a back injury two years ago.

“Confidence is a huge part of the game and might be underestimated by a lot of people, but in the hockey community everyone knows if you don’t have confidence in can be tough to play the game,” Hodgson said. “It’s been a good month I’ve had a lot of fun and things are going well with the team. Hopefully I have an even better month in February.”
Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 6:10 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Budding rivalry for Canucks and Red Wings?

VANCOUVER -- The Red Wings and Canucks typically play exceptional, entertaining games.

With two of the League's top teams loaded with skill and eager to control the puck, there has rarely been a shortage in fast-paced hockey full of quality scoring chances and great saves, and Thursday's meeting between No. 1 and 2 in the Western Conference promises more of the same.

“It's always fun to play the good teams,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

That was again the case when they last met on Dec. 21, but the tone changed after Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall caught Vancouver center Ryan Kesler with his head down. The thunderous open-ice check -- deemed legal both on the ice and by those in charge of supplementary discipline -- added an edge to the rest of the game, starting with Kesler trying to fight Kronwall right after getting up.

Kesler ended up with the only penalty, but the Canucks scored a crucial insurance goal shorthanded after Jannik Hansen wiped out Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard on a partial breakaway. Howard responded by popping up and chasing down a celebrating Hansen, and perhaps a real rivalry was born.

"It's almost become a little bit of a rivalry, really, a lot of emotions out there," Kronwall said, adding he hadn't thought about potential carry over from his hit. "Any time we play Vancouver we know it's going to be a physical game. A lot of times it's more of a playoff character game really, not a lot of room and hard fought."

That last game finished with a knee-on-knee collision between Kesler and Henrik Zetterberg. Afterwards Kesler called out Kronwall for not backing up his hit with a fight, and Howard sounded off about the lack of protection from crease crashers.

"This game is all about emotion and it got a little bit of the best of me last time," Howard said. "It always is (a great game) whenever we play them. Both teams play similar, both want possession of the puck and both make it hard on the opposing goalie and D. Whenever we play here they are always crashing the net and got guys trying to take my sightlines away but it's on me to try and find it out there and not lose sight of the puck."

Kesler, whose job includes doing just that on the Canucks' power play, didn't have much to say on the Kronwall hit now, and expects a spirited but clean game.

"I completely forgot about it until you brought it up again, so that's how much it's on my mind right now," Kesler said of the hit. "I think you expect a hard-fought game, you expect two teams to battle hard and battle clean, that's what you're going to see."

As for Babcock, he couldn't even figure out what the fuss was about.

"I didn't know the game was chippy last time until some of the guys told me about the articles. There was a hit and the guy reacted, that happens in the NHL a lot -- so what?" he said.

Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 5:35 PM

NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Caps make pair of minor deals

The Washington Capitals acquired defenseman Kevin Marshall from the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday in exchange for right wing Matt Ford. They also acquired center Mike Carman from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Danny Richmond.

Both players will report to the Caps' AHL team, the Hershey Bears.

Marshall, 22, had two goals, three assists and 55 penalty minutes in 32 games this season with the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL. The Boucherville, Que., native made his NHL debut on Nov. 21 against Carolina and has appeared in 10 NHL games, all with the Flyers, collecting eight penalty minutes. He has seven goals, 21 assists and 255 PIM in 185 career AHL games.

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound defenseman was originally drafted by Philadelphia in the second round (No. 41) of the 2007 NHL Draft.

Carman, 23, had three goals, three assists and 10 PIM in 28 games this season with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL. The native of Apple Valley, Minn., has 14 goals, 11 assists and 79 penalty minutes in 107 career AHL games and was a three-time member of Team USA at the World Junior Championship from 2006-08. He was originally taken by Colorado in the third round (No. 81) in the 2006 draft.

Ford, 27, had 10 goals and 18 assists in 39 games with Hershey this season while Richmond tallied four assists in 24 games with Hershey.

Ford appeared in 76 games with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters last season, where he scored a career-high 26 goals and added 16 assists for a career-high 42 points. He has 50 goals and 50 assists for 100 points in 190 career AHL games with Hershey, Lake Erie and the Hartford Wolf Pack, and will be assigned to Adirondack.

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Quote of the Day

That's today's game. That's one of the things you have to deal with when you're a championship team. Guys are going to earn more money based on their performance and what they've achieved, [and] deservedly so. [Saad] falls into that category.

— Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Brandon Saad, who was traded by Chicago to the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason