Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 4:16 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Quenneville says 'D' is Hawks' biggest issue

CHICAGO -- After dropping four of their last six games, the trade speculation surrounding the Blackhawks has ramped up.

Coach Joel Quenneville was asked on Friday if he thinks the Hawks, as currently comprised, could make a serious run in the playoffs next spring. He sort of talked around it, but sounded like it could if things improved from a defensive perspective.

Chicago has scored 80 goals, which is the fourth-highest in the League before Friday's games, but the Hawks have also allowed 78 goals -- which is fifth-highest.

"I like our team," Quenneville said. "I like our team in a lot of ways. There's a lot of depth. There's a lot of options as far as guys can (who) play different positions with different guys. The offense is there. The area we can shore up is our attention to detail defensively. It's not just our defense. It's our mentality starting in the offensive zone. Finding that consistency now is something we'll be looking for."
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 4:16 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Kruger gets opportunity centering Hawks' second line

CHICAGO -- Marcus Kruger got cut on the last day of training camp for the Chicago Blackhawks and started the year in Rockford of the American Hockey League.

Now, the 21-year old Swedish rookie is being asked to play the middle on the Hawks' second line Friday night against the visiting New York Islanders -- between star forwards Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.

That's how quickly the 6-foot, 181-pound Kruger has shot up the organizational depth chart after making his debut late last season because of injuries to Sharp and center Dave Bolland.

"That was hard to get sent down, but I just tried to work hard and I got a chance to get back here," Kruger said after Friday's morning skate. "I wanted to prove that I could play here, so that's where my mindset was -- to work hard and get back right away."

The fact he did it so quickly is a testament to his mental fortitude, but also to adapting his style of play to the NHL rinks, which are smaller than in the Swedish Elite League, where Kruger played last season prior to his arrival in Chicago.

"I try to be in front of the net," he said. "More stuff happens around the net (in the NHL), so if you're there on every shift you're probably going to score more goals."

Kruger has scored just 2 goals to go with 5 assists in 24 games, but he's creating more scoring chances with his speed and skill -- which is probably a big reason he's getting this look on the second line that had previously been centered by star forward Patrick Kane.

On Thursday, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville moved Kane back to his more familiar role of right wing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg, which meant a golden opportunity for somebody else. Kruger was the guy, and he's understandably excited to play with Sharp and Hossa.

"Those are two great players, but I just need to play my game," he said. "Every game you get a chance, no matter what -- whether you're playing fourth line for five minutes or you're playing on the second line. I can't change what I'm doing just because I know those are good guys I have around me. I just need to play my game."

And if that doesn't work, Sharp said to make sure he finds No. 10 with the puck.

"That goes without question," Sharp said, laughing. "If he has a choice between Hossa and Sharp, he'd better go to the backhand and find Sharp."
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 3:56 PM

By Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Chris Stewart - Patrik Berglund - Matt D'Agostini
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Vladimir Sobotka - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak
Ian Cole - Alex Pietrangelo

Jaroslav Halak is expected to start in goal with Brian Elliott as the backup.

Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Kevin Porter - TJ Galiardi - Brandon Yip

Kyle Quincey - Shane O'Brien
Ryan Wilson - Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the backup.
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 3:05 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Ducks put big line back together

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- New Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau's first big adjustment was to put Bobby Ryan on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Former coach Randy Carlyle had moved Ryan to the third line to try and generate offense. But Boudreau drew from his experience as Washington coach when he played Anaheim.

"All I know is that when we played against them, they were great," Boudreau said of the trio. "They were always dominant. That's my memory of them. We get them back playing like that, and they should be, again, as a good as any individual line in the League."

Boudreau also is quite familiar with Selanne, who scorched Washington with 2 goals and 2 assists Nov. 1.

"(I'll) tell him to do it every night," Boudreau said. "Usually you get a little slower when you get older, but he was fast that night and Saku (Koivu) looked great that night, too. Let's hope that they can continue that."

Here's a look at how the Ducks' lineup could shape up tonight.

Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Niklas Hagman - Andrew Cogliano - Devante Smith-Pelly
Andrew Gordon - Maxime Macenauer - Ben Maxwell

Cam Fowler - Francois Beauchemin
Toni Lydman - Luca Sbisa
Nate Guenin - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller will start in goal, with Jeff Deslauriers backing him up.

Check here for a look at the potential Flyers' lineup.

For more on the game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 3:04 PM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Perron to play first game in 13 months Saturday

David Perron, who suffered a concussion against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 4, 2010, will play his first game since the collision with Joe Thornton on Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 23-year-old scored a goal in that game and has 53 goals and 78 assists in 235 career games.

"I'm itching to play, but at the same time, I want to make sure that I'm doing it the right way," Perron told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Perron will have missed 97 games.
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 3:00 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Boudreau trying to settle into new job

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Bruce Boudreau's remarkable journey over the past 48 hours came to a peaceful interlude after he fulfilled all his media obligations Thursday.

"Last night, when I left here at 6 o'clock, I went to bed," Boudreau said Friday after his first game-day skate as coach of the Anaheim Ducks. "It's been a long two days."

Boudreau didn't have much time to study his new team since he was hired as Anaheim coach late Wednesday. He will make his Ducks coaching debut Friday against Philadelphia in a new era for the club and Boudreau.

Asked how much of a crash course he's had to do on his new team, Boudreau said, "As crash a course as you can get.

"It's still a whirlwind. I'll be glad when it gets back to a little bit of normalcy -- for the players, too -- to get into that routine of what they'll be used to. It's probably a little bit a change from what they're used to. Whether that's good or bad, we'll see."

Boudreau said he has conducted three 1-on-1 meetings with players to get to know them better and begin that relationship.

"I think it's important to know what goes on in their life," Boudreau said. "If they've got two sick kids at home and they look really tired, it's not that they're out all night, it's maybe they're up all night because the kids are up all night. Little things like that help go a long way."

The Ducks appear to be in full-honeymoon mode with Boudreau. There was laughter and smiles in the locker room and a sense of renewed energy.

"He's very positive," Teemu Selanne said. "You can see he's really excited about the situation, and that's great … overall everything has been really good."

Tonight's game will be just six days after he coached his last game with Washington, the shortest turnaround in NHL history, according to the lias Sports Bureau. Boudreau acknowledged it's unusual.

"I went to the visitors' bench first," he said. "I'm not used to this. I'm sure it will happen in a hurry and I'll get used to it. But it doesn't happen very often."
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 2:51 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Montoya ready for homecoming game

CHICAGO -- If anyone knows what it's like during the National Anthem inside the United Center, it's New York Islanders goalie Al Montoya.

Montoya is from nearby Glenview, Ill., and grew up a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks -- whom he will face Friday at the "Madhouse on Madison," where he used to come watch games as a fan. This will be his first time playing in the NHL in his hometown, so Montoya understandably is pumped.

"This is awesome," he said Friday morning. "This is something I've been waiting for since I was a kid. I remember hearing about the Hawks, watching them play on TV, and the city's come a long way with hockey. It's definitely something special to be a part of tonight."

It's also a little pricey. At about $150 a pop, Montoya forked out a pretty penny for 25 friends and family members to attend the game -- plus he knows others who are coming on their own dime.

"This is unbelievable," Montoya said. "I grew up 20 minutes outside the city here in Glenview. This is something I always dreamed about."

He'll get the start for more than just a nice homecoming story, though. Montoya also has played well this season.

"I'm sure he'll be pumped up, but he's been solid for us and poised in the net," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of Montoya, who is 4-3-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in nine games. "Hopefully he'll have a good game. He might be a little light in the wallet, too."

Montoya was like a lot of young goalies in the Chicago area. He was a big fan of former Blackhawks goalie Ed Belfour.

"Oh yeah, Eddie the Eagle … I tried to mimic the way he worked out there, the way he played so hard," said Montoya. "They didn't always have the greatest teams here, but when he was here he was definitely an icon and somebody that I looked up to."

Being so familiar with how crazy things can get at the United Center, especially when the highly-skilled Hawks are flying around, Montoya knows just how good of a measuring stick his game could be.

"This will be our biggest test, no doubt," he said. "Coming into a building like this and they've lost a couple games (lately), they're going to be desperate. I feel strong. I'm confident. I know what I can do. It's just about going out there and playing my game and playing strong. The team's been playing well and buying into the system. We're growing and we've got to grow fast."

His own growth as a player has taken longer than some anticipated, but Montoya, taken by the New York Rangers with the sixth pick of the 2004 Entry Draft, said the experience in college, the minors and briefly with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009 made him better. He was traded to the Islanders last February and now feels like he's coming into his own in the League.

"I was one of those goalies who was active and did whatever you could do to stop the puck, even though maybe you weren't in the right position," the 26-year old Montoya said of his younger years. "I really honed my game over the first four years (in the minors), putting it all together. Everything happens for a reason and I'm a true believer of that. My goal was to make it to the NHL, no matter how I got here. That was my goal. Of course there's pressure, but I enjoy it. That's why you play goalie."
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 2:18 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Kane return to RW might not be only lineup change

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane's moving back to right wing on the top line is the biggest change for either team heading into tonight's game here at the United Center between the Blackhawks and New York Islanders, but both teams may have some other changes coming.

The Islanders might be without defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who appears to have been injured blocking a shot Tuesday in Buffalo with just six seconds left in New York’s 2-1 victory.

"That's the desperation that we're talking about and it was 5 on 5," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said at Friday's optional skate. "(Travis Hamonic), (Steve Staios) and MacDonald all blocked shots  in that game and obviously it hit Andrew in a tough spot, so right now, as of this
morning, he'll be a game-time decision tonight."

That means rookie defenseman Dylan Reese, called up Thursday from the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers on an emergency basis, might get in the lineup if MacDonald can't go. Reese was paired with Hamonic at Thursday’s practice, but according to Capuano the pairings could change if MacDonald is held out.

For the Blackhawks, it looks like rookie forward Ben Smith will get back into the lineup for the first time since Nov. 19. Smith centered the third line at the morning skate, playing between Bryan Bickell on the left and Michael Frolik on the right – but it's unclear who will come out of the lineup to make room for Smith.

The third line's usual center, Dave Bolland, missed Thursday's practice and Friday’s skate with an undisclosed injury, but is expected to play against the Islanders. Smith could replace Bickell, who has been slumping and didn't record a point in November.

"These guys are so good and just to be here and experience that and play with them, I'm definitely learning and improving every day," said Smith, who has played just two games since being recalled Nov. 17 from Rockford of the American Hockey League. "I'm just kind of being
patient and waiting for my chance to get in there and when I do get a chance, I need to take advantage of it and run with it."

Here’s how the lineups might look like for the Blackhawks and Islanders tonight:

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - P.A. Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
David Ullstrom - Josh Bailey - Brian Rolston
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Nino Niederreiter

Mart Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald/Dylan Reese - Travis Hamonic
Milan Jurcina - Mike Mottau

Al Montoya, who's from nearby Glenview, Ill., will start in goal with Rick DiPietro the backup.

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Ben Smith - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Daniel Carcillo - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Steve Montador - Sean O'Donnell

Corey Crawford will start in goal, with Ray Emery the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 1:58 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Woods added to Ducks' staff

The Anaheim Ducks filled out new coach Bruce Boudreau's staff today by hiring a familiar face.

Bob Woods, who was fired in Washington the same day Boudreau was let go, was hired today by the Ducks as an assistant coach. The Ducks also announced the hiring of Joe Piscotty as video coordinator.

Woods has worked with Boudreau in the NHL and AHL, working as an assistant on Boudreau's staff with the AHL Hershey Bears. When Boudreau was hired by the Caps, Woods replaced him in Hershey, and then joined Boudreau in Washington in June 2009.

Boudreau's other assistant is Brad Lauer.

A native of Huntington Beach, Calif., Piscotty had been a video scouting analyst with the Ducks prior to today's promotion.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 12:52 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Sabres' Miller returns to lineup

The Buffalo Sabres will have goalie Ryan Miller in uniform tonight when they host the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

Miller hasn't played since a collision with Boston's Milan Lucic during a Nov. 12 game left Miller with a concussion and whiplash, but Ruff said Miller passed a baseline test this morning and will be available.

However, Ruff did not say whether Miller or Jhonas Enroth would start in net tonight. The Sabres play in Nashville tomorrow, so it's likely that if Miller sits out tonight, he'll be in the lineup against the Predators.

The banged-up Sabres also will have forward Tyler Ennis in the lineup tonight. Ennis hasn't played since Oct. 22 due to an ankle injury.

"We need healthy players," said Ruff. "We had guys that filled in and did an adequate job. The quicker we get healthy the better we can be."

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

I loved being in the jerseys again and they worked some magic for us. It was weird in warm-ups, seeing No. 22 in that jersey and thinking he’s [Mike Gartner], and No. 8 reminds you of Danny Briere … every number had me thinking back to the guys who wore them and smiling.

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan on wearing Kachina-style throwback jerseys in a 3-2 victory against the Canucks on Thursday