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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:57 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Projected Lineup: Hurricanes at Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are going to be short-handed when they begin defense of their Southeast Division title Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Six regulars from last year’s team will be missing, the latest casualty being wing Kris Versteeg. He sustained a lower-body injury in practice Friday and left the morning skate early Saturday.

Taking Versteeg’s place on the top line with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann will be Mike Santorelli, who was placed on waivers Friday.

Also out for Florida are forwards Sean Bergenheim and Marcel Goc as well as defensemen Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and Mike Weaver. All are dealing with injuries, except for Kulikov, who just rejoined the team after signing a new contract.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:45 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Veteran Stars eager to end playoff drought

DALLAS -- After trading Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro this offseason, there are just four current members of the Dallas Stars who were with the club the last time they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2008, when Dallas finished fifth in the Western Conference and reached the conference finals.

The group consists of defenseman Trevor Daley, forward Loui Eriksson, captain Brenden Morrow and veteran blueliner Stephane Robidas. Since losing to the Detroit Red Wings in six games in the 2008 Western Conference Finals, Dallas has missed the playoffs four straight seasons and it's a trend this group would not like to see continue this year, the franchise’s 20th in Dallas.

“It’s been a long time, obviously too long. The time’s now to get it done,” Daley said. “There’s no excuses this year. We’ve got a good group and this should be a playoff team.”

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:43 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

New-look Hurricanes ready to make amends

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Carolina Hurricanes will begin this season exactly where they ended the last one, but they're confident they're a lot better than the team that last played at the BB&T Center.

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2011-12, the Hurricanes made a couple of significant moves in the offseason, most notably the acquisition via trade of center Jordan Staal and the signing of free-agent wing Alexander Semin.

The 4-1 loss against the Florida Panthers on April 7 left Carolina in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings, last in the Southeast Division.

The Hurricanes watched the Panthers celebrate clinching the division title that night, and Saturday night they'll watch a banner go up before the new season begins.

Carolina captain Eric Staal said that will just add even more motivation to a new season already filled with it.

"For the guys that we here, no question," he said. "They're the team that took our division last year and that's something that we want to make sure that we achieve this year. We want to turn the tables and we want it to be the other way around next time. We're ready to go."

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Kulikov out for Panthers vs. Hurricanes

SUNRISE, Fla. — Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov rejoined the Florida Panthers after signing a two-year contract Thursday. But he will not be in the lineup for Saturday’s season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes.

After passing his physical on Friday, Kulikov took part in Saturday’s morning skate and at one point had a one-on-one conversation with coach Kevin Dineen.

“You’ve got to look at a guy, where he’s at and if he’s going to help you,” Dineen said. “Frankly, it’s disappointing he’s not ready to play.”

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:30 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Report: Gomez meeting with Sharks

Just days after being placed on waivers and subsequently bought out of his contract by the Montreal Canadiens, veteran center Scott Gomez reportedly is meeting with the San Jose Sharks this weekend.

After scoring twice in 38 games last season, Gomez's tumultuous time in Montreal came to an end, leaving the 2000 Calder Trophy winner a free agent. According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, a number of teams have since inquired about Gomez, including the Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils, where Gomez started his career. After the Carolina Hurricanes were rumored to be looking at the 33-year-old center, the Raleigh News & Observer reported that they are not interested.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Kovalev ready to make Panthers debut

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The beginning of the NHL season is significant to every player, but for different reasons.

For Alex Kovalev, the Florida Panthers opener against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night represents the chance to be back in the NHL after being away in 2011-12.

The 39-year-old, who played 22 games in the Kontinental Hockey League last season, earned a contract with the Panthers this week after being invited to camp on a tryout basis.

"I'm just happy overall to be back on the ice, back in the big league and have a chance to play in the NHL again," Kovalev said.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:25 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Projected Lineups: Coyotes at Stars

DALLAS -- Here are the projected lineups for Saturday night’s game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

COYOTES

Steve Sullivan-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata

Mikkel Boedkker-Matthew Lombardi-Shane Doan

Lauri Korpikoski-Antoine Vermette-David Moss

Paul Bissonnette-Boyd Gordon-Kyle Chipchura

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Zybnek Michalek

Keith Yandle-Derek Morris

Rotislav Klesla-David Schlemko

Mike Smith

Jason LaBarbera

Injuries: Raffi Torres (suspension).

Scratches: Alex Bolduc, David Rundblad.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:21 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Rangers' Nash ready for Broadway run

BOSTON – The years of trying to raise his team to prominence in Columbus are long over.

So are the months, or more, of dealing with trade rumors that seemed to follow him wherever the Blue Jackets went.

Now it’s time for Rick Nash, six months after he was dealt out of Columbus, to make his debut with the New York Rangers. Nash and his new club open the 2012-13 season Saturday night at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins.

“It’ll be a lot of emotion, a lot of excitement, a lot of nerves,” Nash said after the Rangers’ morning skate. “It’s obviously taken longer because of the lockout. But I think the biggest feeling will be excitement, getting the excitement going and playing my first one as a Ranger.”

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:17 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Toews to play for Blackhawks despite the flu

LOS ANGELES -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will play Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings despite missing practice Friday with the flu.

"He's playing," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's ready to go."

Quenneville said he will have to keep an eye on Toews to make sure he doesn't need extra rest during the game, but he's hopeful that won't be an issue.

"We use him in all situations so we'll keep an eye on his minutes and gauge how he's feeling," Quenneville said. "I think if he gets fatigued a little bit we'll cut back, but hopefully he's ready to go his regular workload.

"Plus, I think he's beyond it, too," he added. "The game takes over. I think everybody has targeted today's game, everybody is excited."

Toews had 57 points in 59 games last season. He missed the last 22 games with of the season with a concussion, but he returned for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and played in all six games against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Toews has 16 points in 18 career regular-season games against the Kings.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:15 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Another Bourque, Hamilton to debut in Boston

BOSTON – Ray Bourque skated in a franchise-record 1,518 NHL games for the Boston Bruins during his Hall of Fame career.

When the Bruins open the 2013 season Saturday night against the New York Rangers at TD Garden, the legend’s son Chris should have just 1,517 to catch up to his pop.

The younger Bourque, with 33 NHL games over three seasons on his resume entering this season, joined the Bruins in a trade last summer. He earned a roster spot during Boston’s one-week training camp and should open the game against the Rangers on a line with center Chris Kelly and right winger Rich Peverley.

Bourque previously played one NHL regular-season game in the Garden – when he was with Pittsburgh in 2010.

“It was great obviously coming back playing in front of friends and family. It’s different when you’re the road team, you don’t to spend too much time around the city. It was a good experience. But I’m happy I’m on this side now,” he said after the Bruins’ morning skate.

Bourque anticipates at least 30-40 friends and family, from both the Boston area and Montreal, will be in the building using tickets he and his family secured. There should be plenty other people he knows on hand as well -- he grew up in Boston and attended Boston University for one season.

It’s been a long time since his earliest days hanging out with the Bruins.

“I grew up in this locker room here and the one that was in the building right next door that’s not here anymore,” he said. “So just skating on the ice before the team. Not wanting to get off but getting kicked off before practice, but coming in here and running around, probably pissing off all the trainers and that sort of stuff.”

Bourque and rookie Dougie Hamilton are set to make their debuts with the Bruins. Adam McQuaid, who underwent offseason surgery to treat a blood clot, has been medically cleared to play, according to coach Claude Julien.

Here’s the Bruins projected lineup:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin

Chris Bourque - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk

Dennis Seidenberg - Dougie Hamilton

Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

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Quote of the Day

He's able to play now, we just want to see other guys. We know what he can do.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on not rushing Steven Stamkos onto the ice