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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 6:37 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blues are all smiles as they prepare for Jets

WINNIPEG -- The St. Louis Blues landed in Winnipeg early on Friday morning feeling good about themselves.

The Blues (37-17-7) earned a 3-2 shootout win on the road against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night in a bounce-back effort after a tough home loss to the Boston Bruins a night earlier. The win leaves St. Louis 7-3-0 in its past 10 games.

"To come back and get two points off a back-to-back was really impressive for us," coach Ken Hitchcock said after the Blues practiced at the MTS Centre on Friday afternoon in preparation for Saturday's matinee against the Winnipeg Jets.

Leaving previous efforts in the past, be they wins or losses, has been strength for the Blues this season, Hitchcock explained. The veteran coach attributes the club's ability to recover and refocus on a strong veteran core that includes Jason Arnott, Barret Jackman and Jamie Langenbrunner.

"I think the young guys have responded," Hitchcock said of the role that the veteran leadership plays inside the St. Louis dressing room.

"We're different from a lot of teams in that our skill base is all young," Hitchcock said. "It's a young core. We're asking a lot of 22- and 23-year-old players to carry the day emotionally and physically. So, it has been trying at times for them, and the veteran guys have really helped those guys stabilize."

Now the Blues find themselves in Winnipeg to begin the Western Canada leg of a six-game trip. The MTS Centre has quickly become one of the most difficult buildings for visiting clubs. With the Jets entrenched in the heart of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Hitchcock expects an imposing environment for his club.

"They've got a great feel in the building," Hitchcock said of the Jets, who have won 19 of their 31 home dates this season. "We've got to find a way to pull the crowd out of the building if we can. It's going to be hard to do, but I think the teams that have a little bit of success here quiet the crowd down."

"One way that you can to do that is to make them play defense," Hitchcock continued. "We're going to come with a heavy, hard forecheck and see where we go."

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 5:06 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Quincey says remarks about Avs 'came out wrong'

DETROIT -- During his first media session in the Detroit Red Wings' locker room on Thursday morning, newly-acquired defenseman Kyle Quincey sounded an awful lot like he was ripping his former team, the Colorado Avalanche, which traded him as part of a three-team deal that also involved the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings.

Quincey said a lot of Colorado's players "had their bags packed" and were waiting to get dealt like he did -- and were probably upset they weren't part of a package deal with him. About 24 hours later, the 26-year old Quincey was asked about the comments, especially since the Avs are coming into Detroit to play the Red Wings on Saturday night.

"That was taken out of context and I didn't mean any of that," Quincey said. "It wasn't all in Colorado, it was the whole League. Everyone until Monday at [3 p.m.] is pretty anxious. That goes for everybody, not just Colorado. Everybody in the League. I don't want to put any of my former teammates in hot soup. I regret saying the stuff that I did, but it wasn't towards them."

He then had some glowing remarks for two-plus years spent with the Avs.

"Colorado is an unbelievable place to play," Quincey said. "I had a great time there. I love it there. I bought a house there and that's my home now. So, the last thing I want to do is get them upset with me."

Quincey said he hadn't been contacted by any of his former teammates about the comments, but it does give a new twist to Saturday's matchup at Joe Louis Arena.

"I haven't talked to any of them at all, but they know me and they know that I'm not a negative person at all … so they know that I didn't mean that at all," said Quincey, who scored a goal in first game after the trade that returned him to the team that drafted him in 2003. "Obviously, being [in Colorado] for three years and how much I liked that organization and what they did for me, I have nothing but positive things to say and those things came out wrong."

Is the former Avs defenseman looking forward to facing his old teammates so quicky?

"It's going to be weird," Quincey said after Friday's practice. "I remember the first time I came back here [to Joe Louis Arena], I was squeezing the stick pretty hard. I think the biggest challenge is going to be going back to Pepsi Center, but I'm looking forward to it."

As for that first game back in a Red Wings uniform since leaving via the waivers process in 2008, it was kind of a roller coaster for Quincey. He put the Vancouver Canucks on the power play with a pair of minor penalties in the second period, then scored a goal early in the third for a 2-1 lead before finding himself on the ice when Daniel Sedin sent it to overtime with just 15.4 seconds left in regulation.

"The second period with the two penalties, I'd like to have those back," Quincey said. "They were weak penalties, not very good penalties by myself, and I wanted to get that back … and scoring that goal was just an unbelievable feeling. I was hoping that it was going to be the game-winner, but you have to give [Vancouver] credit. They're a great team. They played well going down the stretch and they didn’t give up. They did the same exact thing to us two weeks ago in Colorado and I was like, 'This is déjà vu.'"
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 3:21 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blues' Russell sent home with concussion-like symptoms

The St. Louis Blues may be dealing with yet another concussion after defenseman Kris Russell was sent home following a 3-2 shootout win Thursday at Nashville to be evaluated for concussion-like symptoms.

Russell may have been injured on a play where he may have taken an elbow to the head from the Predators' Colin Wilson after being stripped from behind with the puck with 12 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blues, who completed the first leg of a six-game trip that takes them to Winnipeg on Saturday, have recalled defenseman Ian Cole from Peoria.

Russell, who has already missed nine games earlier this season with a groin injury, has three goals and three assists in 36 games with the Blues.

If Russell in fact has a concussion, he would be the the sixth player to have dealt with a concussion since the start of the season, joining David Perron, Andy McDonald, Carlo Colaiacovo, Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini. Perron's absence carried over from a concussion last season.

Cole would be making another trip back to St. Louis on recall this season. He has a goal and six points in 18 games for the Blues this season and nine points in 44 career games.

The team is likely to reinsert Kent Huskins into the lineup against the Jets on Saturday but coach Ken Hitchcock likes Cole and could use him at times for the remainder of the trip.
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 2:14 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Winning now imperative for Capitals, Canadiens

WASHINGTON -- Two teams in desperate need of a win meet tonight at Verizon Center as the Washington Capitals host the Montreal Canadiens.

The Capitals have lost three straight and six of seven overall; the Canadiens have lost two straight and four of five overall.

Washington has dropped four points behind the Southeast Division leading Winnipeg Jets, while Montreal enters play tonight in the Eastern Conference basement.

"We just have to win," said Caps captain Alex Ovechkin, who is expected to play tonight after missing Wednesday's game in Ottawa with a lower-body injury.

"We have to play better offensively, defensively, and our goaltending has to be better. We can't point to one guy. All guys on the ice and on the bench have to be ready 100 percent, especially in this situation. We can't give up."

The Capitals have hurt themselves of late thanks in part to slow starts. Washington has allowed the first goal in six straight games, fallen behind 2-0 in three straight games, and trailed 4-0 in the past two games.

"It's imperative that we get a win tonight," said Capitals forward Troy Brouwer. "We're just keying in on our start now. That's what's been killing us. On that last [four-game] road trip we got outscored 7-0 in the first period, so that has to change if we want to have success coming down the stretch here."

Not only have the Capitals fallen behind early, but in most cases they have struggled to come back. In the last six games -- covering 360 minutes of hockey -- the Caps have led for just 6 minutes and 33 seconds.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, are coming off a 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars and have not scored against the Capitals in more than 216 minutes.

Washington has blanked the Canadiens in three straight games dating to last season (oddly enough with three different starting goalies), and in four of their last six meetings overall.

Michal Neuvirth (6-9-3) will start for the Caps while Carey Price (22-22-9) goes for Montreal. Neuvirth made 31 saves in a 3-0 win in Montreal on Jan. 18. He will be making his first start at Verizon Center since Dec. 20.

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Marcus Johansson - Mike Knuble
Jay Beagle - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Lars Eller - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Ryan White - Scott Gomez - Rene Bourque
Petteri Nokelainen - Louis Leblanc - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Raphael Diaz - Alexei Emelin
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Yannick Weber

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

Notes: Mathieu Darche remains sidelined with flu. … One of Nokelainen, Leblanc or Palushaj will likely sit as Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth is expected to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Markov skates, still hopes to play this season

WASHINGTON -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov skated with his teammates this morning for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Dec. 5.

Markov has not played since Nov. 13, 2010, but says he hopes to return to the Canadiens lineup before the end of this season.

"That's my goal," said Markov, who has yet to take part in contact drills. "I can't tell you exactly the time and the date [for a return], but I try to push and feel better every day."

Markov's return to practice is a sliver of good news for a Canadiens team that has lost two straight and four of five overall to drop to last place in the Eastern Conference.

This morning's skate came ahead of Montreal's game tonight against the Washington Capitals.

"It feels great. It was a long time that I didn't play or practice with the team, so I feel good and I'm happy to be back with the team," Markov said.

Markov, who signed a three year contract with the Canadiens last summer, has played just seven games since the start of the 2010-11 season. His absence has been most noticeable on Montreal's power play, which ranks 29th in the NHL at 13.8 percent.

With Markov quarterbacking the Canadiens' power play for parts of five seasons from 2005-2010, Montreal finished among the top five in power play efficiency four times.

"It's not easy," Markov said of watching the Canadiens struggle just to stay in playoff contention. "Especially with our team, with the history and our fans and with [the media] putting pressure on us, it's not easy but we have to find a way to be better as a team, as a group and hopefully we're going to play better tonight and the rest of the games."

Markov underwent knee surgery in Dec. 2010 and was close to returning to the Montreal lineup in late November when he accompanied the team to California. The 33-year-old suffered a setback, though, requiring another operation.

With the Canadiens eight points out of a playoff position, both Markov and the organization are taking every precaution to assure that when he does return to the lineup he'll be there to stay.

"It's a tough recovery for me," he said. "I don't want to play just one game and have another injury or another surgery. I want to continue to play all of next season and feel healthy.

"I think that both sides understand. Nobody is pushing me to be back too early. They're giving me time to recover and to be 100 percent. The hockey rule is that if you step on the ice you have to give 100 percent every night so I don’t want to play at 75-percent, I want to give my best every night."

Markov is expected to remain with the Canadiens as they head south for games Monday and Wednesday against Florida and Tampa Bay.

"I think it's a step in the right direction, it's part of the process," Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "The next thing we can look forward is a little bit of contact -- we don't have a timetable for it -- so we're just going to proceed forward everyday, and as he feels good we're going to get to that point where he can take a little more on and be more physical."


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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 1:02 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sens call up Lehner, to start Auld on Saturday

The Ottawa Senators on Friday recalled goaltender Robin Lehner from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators on an emergency basis. He is being recalled to replace an injured Craig Anderson, who suffered a serious cut on his pinky finger in a Wednesday night kitchen accident.

Alex Auld, Anderson's backup, will play Saturday night against the Bruins. Auld is 2-3-2 this season with a 3.28 goals-against average and .883 save percentage.

The injury to Anderson, who will be out at least a week, couldn't have come at a worse time for the Senators, who are battling for Stanley Cup Playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.

"I look at it as an opportunity, I don't see it as pressure," Auld told the team's website Friday.

Lehner, 20, has a record of 8-16-1 with a 3.38 goals-against-average and .905 save percentage through 27 games with the B-Sens this season. A native of Goteborg, Sweden, Lehner has played once for Ottawa this season, stopping 23 shots in a 3-2 victory against Toronto on Oct. 30.

In 2010-11, Lehner was awarded the American Hockey League’s Jack Butterfield Trophy as playoff most valuable player, helping the B-Sens capture their first Calder Cup. In nine career NHL games, he has a 2-4-1 record with a 3.29 goals-against-average and .892 save percentage.
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 12:42 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

DeBoer happy to see Booth performing once again

NEWARK, N.J. -- Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault gave his players a deserved morning off on Friday after scoring a dramatic shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings less than 24 hours earlier.
 
The Canucks will arrive at Prudential Center a little after 4 p.m. ET to prepare for their intriguing tussle with the surging New Jersey Devils.
 
The victory at Joe Louis Arena gave the Canucks an NHL-best 21-10-2 mark on the road -- the team finished as the League's best road team last season (27-10-4). On top of that, Vancouver is 7-2-1 in the last 10 contests away from home and have scored more road goals (107) and more road power-play goals (29) than any other team in the NHL.
 
At the center of that offensive assault, of course, are Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who have combined for 41 goals and 88 assists this season on the team's top line. Henrik leads the club with 66 points and Daniel is tops with 28 goals.
 
In addition to the Sedin twins, however, Devils coach Peter DeBoer can also point to the production coming from a player he knows very well, right wing David Booth. Booth, who was acquired by Vancouver from Florida, DeBoer's former team, on Oct. 11, has collected 11 goals and 22 points in 34 games with the Canucks. He has played on a line with Mason Raymond and center Ryan Kesler.
 
The 27-year-old Booth couldn't catch a break in 2009-10 after watching his point totals increase during his first three years in the League. One of the scariest images of that season was Booth absorbing a crushing open-ice hit from Philadelphia captain Mike Richards in October 2009, and being carried off the ice on a stretcher with a concussion that would cost him 45 games and any hope of earning a roster spot on the U.S. Olympic Team heading to Vancouver.
 
"David is a great kid," DeBoer said. "He was heading towards a great career and then had that hit and it really set him back. He missed a ton of hockey."

He'd return to the lineup and suffer a second concussion in March, falling victim to another open-ice hit from Canadiens defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, officially ending his season.
 
DeBoer, who is ecstatic to see Booth having such success in Vancouver, said he may have erred in his decision to bring Booth back into the lineup so soon after his head injury.
 
"Looking back, I probably asked and expected too much out of him coming off the injury that he was coming off, and he didn't have the year he wanted to," DeBoer said. "When you look at the guys coming off those types of concussions around the League, very few of them don't take at least a year to recover, so I think when I watch him now, I see the David Booth of the pre-injury and that's good to see."
 
Booth seemed to make up for lost time last season, connecting for 23 goals and 40 points while averaging just over 19 minutes a game. He led the club with a whopping 280 shots. In 41 games this season, he has 11 goals and 23 points.
 
Here's what the Canucks lineup might look like against the Devils on Friday:
 
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxime Lapierre - Dale Weise
 
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Aaron Rome - Christopher Tanev
 
Cory Schneider (13-5-0, 2.25 goals-against average, .928 save percentage) is scheduled to make his first start in three games with Roberto Luongo serving as backup.

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 11:54 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Devils get Foster, Carter back against Canucks

NEWARK, N.J. -- As if New Jersey Devils fans needed additional good news these days, on top of a successful climb up the Eastern Conference standings in recent weeks, the team is also regaining its health.
 
In the midst of a 9-1-1 run since the All-Star break, which has catapulted the team from eighth to fourth in the Eastern Conference, the Devils will have defenseman Kurtis Foster, who missed the last two games with back stiffness, and forward Ryan Carter (eight games, right hand fracture) back in the lineup against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday at Prudential Center.
 
Coach Peter DeBoer, who confirmed the return of the players after his team's practice, also noted that defenseman Adam Larsson will miss his 10th straight game with a bruised lower back. Larsson skated with the team the last two practices, but DeBoer wants the rookie at 100 percent before re-inserting him in the lineup.
 
"[Larsson] has had one full contact practice with the team in three weeks, so we want to make sure we do the right thing," DeBoer said.
 
Both Foster, who will begin the game alongside Matt Taormina, and Carter, who opens on left wing with center Jacob Josefson and right wing Peter Harrold, are looking forward to their return.
 
"I'm ready to get back in there and play a big game against the Canucks, who play a well-rounded game; the Sedins are top players in the game," Foster said. "We have to make sure it's a difficult game for them."
 
Carter, notified by DeBoer that he'd be in the lineup on Friday morning, said you can only watch from the sideline for so long before getting that itch to return to the lineup.
 
"It's that time of the year that's crunch time," Carter said. "I just want to keep it simple. You don't want to go out and try to win it yourself, so I'll just work my way into it and go from there."
 
The timing is impeccable as the Canucks, the League's top team on the road, are coming off an emotional 4-3 shootout decision over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. The victory ended Detroit's NHL-record home winning streak at 23 games.
 
"This is a great test for us to see how we match," DeBoer said. "The Sedins seem to know where each is on the ice. They almost invite contact and say, 'Come on out here and try and hit us.' Then they expose areas behind you better than anyone in the League … they're fantastic at that. So while you want to take away their time and space, you have to be aware they are dangerous in those situations if you get a little bit reckless."
 
Henrik Sedin leads the team with 66 points, including 53 assists. He holds a three point lead on twin brother, Daniel, who owns a team-leading 28 goals.
 
Here is how the Devils will likely line up on Friday:
 
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Dainius Zubrus - Steve Bernier
Ryan Carter - Jacob Josefson - Peter Harrold
 
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Matt Taormina - Kurtis Foster
 
Martin Brodeur will make his fifth straight start and Johan Hedberg will serve as backup.

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 11:49 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ovechkin says he's a go for Montreal game

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin is expected to play Friday night when the Washington Capitals host the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center.

Ovechkin missed Wednesday night's 5-2 loss against the Ottawa Senators due to a lower-body injury and did not practice Thursday.

The Capitals’ captain skated briefly on his own this morning in shorts and a T-shirt before taking part in the first 15 minutes of the team skate.

Shortly after coming off the ice, Ovechkin confirmed that he will be in the lineup against Montreal.
 
"We just tried a couple of days ago skating and I didn't feel well," Ovechkin said. "Last night I didn't feel well but today I feel normal."

The Capitals have lost three straight games and six of seven overall to fall four points behind the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets.

"It was frustrating, especially in this period of time in the season," Ovechkin said of missing Wednesday's game in Ottawa. "I was in a situation where I couldn't help my teammates and I couldn't help the team to win, so it was kind of bad feelings, but it is what it is and right now I feel normal and I'm ready to go."

Michal Neuvirth is expected to start in goal for the Capitals while John Erskine and Roman Hamrlik will likely be healthy scratches for the second straight game.

Neuvirth earned a 3-0 shutout at the Bell Centre, Jan. 18.
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 11:10 AM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild, Stars

DALLAS -- Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

WILD
Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Devin Setoguchi
Darroll Powe - Matt Cullen - Nick Johnson
Cal Clutterbuck - Erik Christensen - Chad Rau
Matt Kassian - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Nick Schultz - Nate Prosser
Greg Zanon - Marek Zidlicky

Niklas Backstrom
Matt Hackett

Scratches:  Justin Falk

Injuries: Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), Josh Harding (lower body), Mikko Koivu (undisclosed), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Mike Lundin (lower body),  Jarod Palmer (concussion), Clayton Stoner (leg)

Notes: The Wild beat the Panthers 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday night in South Florida. Minnesota has just three wins in their last 10 games but has won two in a row. These teams last met in Dallas on Feb. 4 and it was the Stars who came away with a 2-1 win in a shootout. Minnesota had taken the first meeting of the year, on Jan. 24 in the Twin Cities, by a 5-2 margin. Heatley had 2 assists against Florida and now has 14 points over his last 13 games. Coach Mike Yeo might go with the rookie Hackett in goal tonight. He is 2-0-0 thus far with one shutout and a goals-against-average of 0.85.

STARS
Lou Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Steve Ott - Tom Wandell - Tomas Vincour
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Toby Petersen - Ryan Garbutt - Adam Burish

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley - Mark Fistric
Philip Larsen - Sheldon Souray

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Scratches: Matt Fraser, Adam Pardy

Injuries: Jamie Benn (knee), Jake Dowell (finger), Brenden Morrow (upper body)

Notes: The Stars head into tonight’s game riding a two-game winning streak after road wins at Montreal on Tuesday (3-0) and Chicago on Thursday (3-1). Dallas is 0-9-2 this season in the second game of a back-to-back.  GM Joe Nieuwendyk said during a Thursday interview with a local sports radio station that 2012 All-Star Jamie Benn is doubtful for tonight's game. Benn didn't skate prior to Thursday's game in Chicago, and due to tonight's game being a back-to-back, there was no skate on Friday morning. Tonight's game begins a three-game homestand for the Stars and concludes a stretch where Dallas played in a different building each night for 11 straight games. Ribeiro, who had 2 assists in Thursday's win over the Blackhawks, is currently on a five-game point streak.
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Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery