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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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Posted On Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 8:11 PM

By Jason Spezza -  Special to / - Jason Spezza's 2012 Tim Horton's All-Star blog

Spezza: Fantastic finish to All-Star Weekend

As part of All-Access All Things All-Star coverage on this weekend in Ottawa, Senators forward Jason Spezza will be blogging his thoughts and experiences as one of the player hosts of All-Star Weekend. Here's his final entry, detailing an unbelievable Sunday, including his one-goal, one-assist, minus-5 showing in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place:

It was a perfect weekend and the result is irrelevant. It was a perfect celebration of the weekend. All of us being together and getting to come and play the game and see the crowd react to Daniel Alfredsson. I got a goal and Milo scored. It was fun to be a part of. I thought the crowd was phenomenal and it would have been nice to get Alfie a hat trick. We were all passing him the puck, believe me. I'm not even thinking about the fact that I was a minus-5. That's gone. It's already gone; I'll never mention it again. It was just a great, great way to cap of a special weekend.

I may play another five years, another 10 years, and I may never have another chance to play an All-Star Game in my home city. It's something that is really special. To play it with three teammates made it more special because we could be together all weekend and do things together all weekend.  It helps that the three of us are really good friends. We're not just teammates, we're really good friends. Like Alf said during his press conference, it hasn't really settled in yet. We're living in the moment and enjoying it and hoping we can use this as springboard into the second half.

I think the city was the star of the event. The way the city stepped up, the events, the Fan Fair, how organized everything was. To a man, if you ask any player in the dressing room, they had a great time. It was really accessible for their families to do stuff. The League and the Senators did an awesome job of running a first-class event and I don't think you will find too many people leaving being disappointed. It was a great thing for Ottawa.

I had my daughter in the dressing room after the game. She might be a little young and never remember any of it, but I wanted to make sure we would have some great pictures. I told my dad I wanted to have her in the room right away because it is one of those moments that you don't know if it is going to happen again and family is really important to me. She has no idea what is going on right now, but she will in a couple of years and I think they will be good memories to look back on.

We're ready to go for the second half. This is just icing on the cake. The real stuff starts now. We play the game for real. It's nice to be recognized as individuals, but we play the game to win. You play for team and you play for your teammates. We feel like we have a good team here in Ottawa. To be honest, this has been an amazing weekend and I'll enjoy it tonight, but I can't wait to get back to work tomorrow.

I'm pretty tired, so we'll see if I shut it down early. I want to see everybody before they leave town because I don't think they will be back for a little while. We'll probably have some alone time after this. My grandparents are here, aunts and uncles, so we'll see family tonight and then definitely have a good sleep.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 6:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov makes successful return to Sarnia lineup

Nail Yakupov appeared comfortable and confident in his return to the ice for the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting in three games this weekend.

The Russian right wing, ranked No. 1 according to NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, finished with one goal, two points and a minus-2 rating in his first bit of game action with the Sting since Dec. 17.

Yakupov, who missed the previous nine games for the Sting, suffered a knee injury in the gold medal game at the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary, Alta. He scored his 22nd goal of the season en route to being named the game's second star in a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa 67's in Ottawa on Friday.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 5:23 PM

By Bob Condor - Editor-in-Chief / - 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend blog

Plenty of nerves for band Lifehouse at All-Star Game

When the NHL called, the Canadian bass guitarist Bryce Soderberg answered for his top-hits band Lifehouse. The band played at the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Pre-Game Celebration before Sunday's game pitting Team Alfredsson and Team Chara.

"It's the NHL, we had to come," said Soderberg, explaining the band has been working on its newest album in Los Angeles. "I told the guys we had to do it."

Soderberg grew up in British Columbia like every kid, he said: "Born with a hockey stick and skates." He is a staunch Vancouver Canucks fan ("it's great to see the Sedins both here; I am wondering why Roberto Luongo isn't an All-Star) but his best friend in hockey is recently retired Dallas Stars center Mike Modano.

"We met at a concert in Dallas," said Soderberg. "He is a fan of the band and I became a fan of his. We keep in touch."

Soderberg's enthusiasm for the Canucks has rubbed off on lead singer and guitarist Jason Wade.

"I have become a Vancouver fan," said Wade. "It makes sense, since I grew up in Port Orchard, Wash."

Wade said the group's new album requires "turning the brain off and not thinking about anything." Wade and his band members talked to before their 75-minute gig in Ottawa's downtown convention center.

Hours later, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard was talking about "knots in his stomach" during player introductions. In similar fashion, Wade talked about still feeling nervous before performing too.

"If you stop being nervous, you stop caring," said Wade. "We'll be like that with this band."
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Posted On Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 12:28 AM

By Sean Couturier -  Special to / - Sean Couturier's 2012 Tim Horton's All-Star blog

Couturier savors first All-Star experience

As part of All-Access All Things All-Star coverage on this weekend in Ottawa, Philadelphia Flyers rookie Sean Couturier will be blogging his thoughts and experiences:

My first participation in the NHL's All-Star weekend is essentially a thing of the past, and I had a great time.

On Sunday, the players selected as All-Stars by the fans and the League will take part on the game, offering our fans some fast and exciting action. After that, our little break will be over. We will get back to the task of playing our seasons in the hopes of finishing as high up the standings as possible, but no one will simply give it to us.

After I took part in the Breakaway Challenge, I joked around with reporters that I didn't sleep all night trying to come up with the dekes I would use. But really, after the great meal I had with my Flyers teammates and our families last night, sleeping was definitely not a problem.

Honestly, I only thought about what I would do a few minutes before stepping on the ice, and the rest just came to me.

We laugh when we talk about these events because we do it only so we can entertain the fans --  there's nothing really at stake. But I must admit I was pretty nervous when I was the first one up.

On my first two moves I did exactly what I wanted to do. One of them was a move I saw in junior so I just wanted to add a little something to it, and that's what I came up with. I was pretty happy with it.

But when I came up for my third shot and Carey Price had his back turned on me, I honestly didn't know what to do. But in any case, I admit that I didn't really know what to do on that shot in any case.

The two players I thought were the most impressive in the breakaways were Patrick Kane and Kris Letang. Kane really put on a show! He showed a lot of imagination to come up with those moves. Letang had some nice dangles as well.

So that ends my All-Star Weekend, at least on the ice. I still have a NHL party to attend Saturday night, and that should be fun.

But the players better not party too hard -- there's a game tomorrow!

Thanks for reading my thoughts over the past few days, I really enjoyed doing it.
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Quote of the Day

I definitely think going back down helped me, I had a lot of confidence down there, I played a lot of minutes and I think that helped me a lot. With the 37 games up here, that gave me experience as well. I know what it takes to play in the NHL and now it's time for me to show that I'm capable of being a full-time NHL player.

— Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl on finishing the 2014-15 season in juniors after playing 37 games with Edmonton to begin the season