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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 9:01 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

STL @ MTL - 12:43 of the Second Period

At 12:43 of the second period in the Blues/Canadiens game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Erik Cole's shot did not cross the goal line.  No Goal Montreal.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 8:16 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ PIT - 5:43 of the Second Period

At 5:43 of the second period in the Senators/Penguins game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Colin Greening's shot went off Milan Michalek's right skate and into the net. According to rule 49.2 "A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal."  Good Goal Ottawa.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 7:33 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Surging Sens blueliner Karlsson an unexpected scratch

PITTSBURGH — Erik Karlsson, the leading scorer among NHL defensemen, was unexpectedly scratched for the Ottawa Senators' game against the Penguins on Tuesday night because of an upper-body injury.
 
Karlsson went through the morning skate without incident, and also took part in the pregame warm-ups, only to be scratched just before game time. He was replaced by Matt Carkner, who was scheduled to be scratched.
 
The 21-year-old Karlsson has 6 goals and 35 assists for 41 points in 43 games and is on pace to become only the fifth defenseman to produced 70 points in a season since the 2004-05 lockout. He also has 86 points since the start of the 2010-11 season, one more than Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom.
 
Karlsson is coming off one of his best games of the season. He had a goal and an assist and was a plus-5 as the Senators rallied from two goals down in the third period to beat Philadelphia 6-4 on Sunday.
 
Karlsson went into Tuesday's games with an 8-point lead over Brian Campbell of Florida in the scoring race for defensemen.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:51 PM

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

Frolik hopes for offensive spark from shift to center

CHICAGO - The speed is still there and Michael Frolik often uses it defensively while backchecking and putting a halt to opposing attacks.

It's the other end of the rink that has given Frolik some trouble, both this season for the Chicago Blackhawks and in his four-year career as a whole. Frolik has scored five goals and added six assists while playing in 40 games this season, but he has yet to turn that impressive speed and skill combination into a full-on explosion of offense.

Now that star forward Patrick Sharp will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury, Frolik's role will change - at least initially. After playing the wing for most of this season, Frolik will likely play center on the second line to start Tuesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8:30 p.m. ET) at the United Center.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had rookie Ben Smith on the left wing of Frolik's line and star Marian Hossa on the right side.

"I played here last year a few games at center and it's just a different mind-set a little bit," said Frolik, who was acquired last year in a trade that sent former Hawks speedster Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. "It's more responsibility down low and for sure it's a good opportunity. We'll see how it goes tonight. Hopefully it's going to be good."

Moving to the middle is going to be a little tougher than playing the wing, too. Frolik will have some faceoff and defensive coverage duties to handle that he didn't have to worry about while playing wing.

"It's more work, but I don't mind it," Frolik said. "You're kind of more (involved in) the game and you get the puck more. You're in the middle, so you get more pucks. I don't really mind it."

Of course, what's not to mind when playing with Hossa - Chicago's leading scorer with 44 points?

Frolik and Hossa are also Slovakian countrymen, so they should also connect verbally on the ice.

"He's one of the best in the League and it's a great opportunity to play with him," Frolik said. "We can talk to each other, too -- same language. It's kind of good. It's great to play with him for sure."
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:50 PM

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

Switch to center could jumpstart Chicago's Frolik

CHICAGO – The speed is still there and Michael Frolik often uses it defensively while backchecking and putting a halt to opposing attacks.

It’s the other end of the rink that has given Frolik some trouble, both this year for the Chicago Blackhawks and in his four-year career as a whole. Frolik has scored five goals and added six assists while playing in 40 games this season, but he has yet to turn that impressive speed and skill combination into a full-on explosion of offense.

Now that star forward Patrick Sharp will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury, Frolik’s role will change – at least initially. After playing the wing for most of this season, Frolik will likely center the second line to start Tuesday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8:30 p.m.) at the United Center.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had rookie Ben Smith on the left wing of Frolik’s line and star Marian Hossa on the right side.

“I played here last year a few games at center and it’s just a different mind-set a little bit,” said Frolik, who was acquired last year in a trade that sent former Hawks speedster Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. “It’s more responsibility down low and for sure it’s a good opportunity. We’ll see how it goes tonight. Hopefully it’s going to be good.”

It’s going to be a little tougher than playing the wing, too. Frolik will have some faceoff and defensive coverage duties to handle that he didn’t have to worry about while playing wing.

“It’s more work, but I don’t mind it,” Frolik said. “You’re kind of more (involved in) the game and you get the puck more. You’re in the middle, so you get more pucks. I don’t really mind it.”

Of course, what’s not to mind when playing with Hossa – Chicago’s leading scorer with 44 points?

“He’s one of the best in the League and it’s a great opportunity to play with him,” Frolik said. “We can talk to each other, too – same language. It’s kind of good. It’s great to play with him for sure.”
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:44 PM

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

Chicago's Smith hopes low-key approach helps him stick

CHICAGO – Add another rookie face to the locker room of the Chicago Blackhawks, only the latest one is already familiar with the Windy City.

Forward Ben Smith was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Monday afternoon to take the roster spot of star forward Patrick Sharp – who was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury that happened Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Smith was impressive in a call-up at the end of last season and even wound up scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 of a memorable first-round playoff loss to the Vancouver Canucks. He was thought to have an inside track on a roster spot to start this season in Chicago, but was injured in a pre-season game and sent back to Rockford to start out.

He was then recalled earlier this season and scored one goal in seven games before being sent back to Rockford once again to work more on his offensive game. Thanks to the Sharp injury, he’s back and hoping to make a good impression yet again.

“You always learn a little bit every time you’re up here, and for me maybe (I was) feeling a bit too much of the pressure (during the first call-up) and not taking it day by day, as I’ve done in the past,” Smith said. “You learn every time you’re here. I can learn from that experience, as I can learn from the experience last year. I’m just hoping for a good day.”

His approach to the game and practices, however, wasn’t the biggest issue that prompted Smith to be sent back to the minors this year. It was his patience with the puck, which Hawks coach Joel Quenneville and Chicago’s management wanted him to hone more.

“He’s always got a good attitude,” Quenneville said. “That’s what you’ve got to love about Benny. He’s a driven kid who wants to play up here and we saw what he’s capable of last year. He had a real good start to camp and a tough ending. Last time up here it looked like he was catching up to himself. We envisioned him to be here this year and I love watching him practice. He was flying out there (during Tuesday’s skate), so he’s excited about getting back here.”

He’s also breathing a little easier this time and keeping his focus more narrowly focused on playing his own style.

“Just try not to feel so much of the pressure and enjoy being here,” Smith said of his approach this time around. “I’m having fun every day and working hard – just doing what I do. That’s something I will try and do this time around.”
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:00 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avs lose Johnson, O'Brien, but get Wilson back

DENVER -- Just when it looked like the Colorado Avalanche were starting to get healthy, their defense corps has taken a double hit with the losses of Erik Johnson to a hand injury and Shane O'Brien to a knee injury.

Neither will play tonight when the Avalanche faces the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center in the opener of a home-and-home series that resumes Thursday in Music City.

The good news for the Avalanche is that defenseman Ryan Wilson will play for the first time since he suffered a concussion in a Dec. 6 game in Vancouver. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Wilson was arguably the team's best defenseman when he was injured on a hit from behind by Maxim Lapierre that didn't result in a penalty or supplemental discipline.

"It's a great feeling," Wilson said this morning. "Coming to the rink all those days knowing that you're not playing, it gets to you. You're just waiting for this one moment to get back in the lineup. I felt good on the ice this morning and hopefully I can carry it into the game."

Wilson is a big hitter, but he's only been assessed 24 penalty minutes in 28 games. He's been a solid two-way defenseman with 1 goal, 13 assists and a plus-5 rating.

"He was playing physical and he was chipping in offensively, which is a bonus," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Things were just going well for him. I think it all stems from him being involved in the game physically. I think he's certainly established a reputation that when he's on the ice to have your head up. That's what we look for from Ryan, to make sure that he keeps the opposition on their toes and doing it with discipline and not crossing the line. He's been real good at judging that."

Wilson said he isn’t nervous about getting hit again. He suffered a facial cut and blurred vision that lasted a couple of days after his face slammed into the glass on Lapierre's hit.

"No, it happens," he said. "You play so many games and you're going to take a couple hits here and there. It's something that happened and I'm not thinking about it. I'm just going to go out there and play. I expect to get hit."

The Avalanche went 10-5 without Wilson and have won nine of the past 11 games, with both losses coming in the second game of a back-to-back situation.

"It was awesome," Wilson said. "It was great to watch the guys go out there and play so well. You want to get back in the lineup and help the team out, but when they're playing that good you feel like they might not need you at the time. It was good to get my rest and now hopefully I can help us continue."

Johnson and O'Brien were injured in Saturday's 4-0 loss in St. Louis. Johnson skated this morning and will accompany the team for Thursday's game in Nashville, but O'Brien will be sidelined for an indefinite period. Matt Hunwick, a healthy scratch the previous five games, will suit up tonight.

"It's unfortunate that we lost two guys that have been contributing, but that's why we have eight defensemen," Sacco said.

The Predators have had the Avalanche's number lately. They swept the four-game series last season by a combined score of 17-8 and have won five consecutive meetings between the teams.

Nashville is on a 10-4 roll and is seventh in the tightly-packed Western Conference with a 22-15-4 record and 48 points. Colorado is 10th with a 23-19-1 record and 47 points.

"They're a hard-working team and they skate well," Avalanche captain Milan Hejduk said. "Every year it seems like they make the playoffs. It's a tough team to play against. If we want to make the playoffs, we have to do well against them."

The Avalanche will only play three home games in January after playing 19 at the Pepsi Center in November and December.

"Maybe it's a little better than having a stretch of six or seven games in a row at home," Hejduk said. "When they're spread out, maybe you can get ready for it more because it's so unusual this month to play at home. We'll see."
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 4:56 PM

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

Richards empathizes with fired coach Arniel

CHICAGO -- A year ago, Todd Richards went through what recently-fired Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel is going through now.

He was fired as head coach of the Minnesota Wild and said it took quite a while to get past it personally. In fact, Richards compared it to going through a divorce.

"It's really hard," he said. "When you put so much into it and really, when you get to this stage at this level, you're putting everything into it -- from getting there and changing the locker room to setting up your office to setting up your routines and how you want things to work. So, you are putting everything into it. When you get let go, what's really being said is 'We're going to move forward and we believe in moving forward and you aren't the guy.' That's a tough pill to swallow."

Richards, one of Arniel's assistant coaches before being named the new Blue Jackets head coach on Monday, said he did have a chance to talk with Arniel and share his own experience being let go from Minnesota. That didn't make it any easier on either of them.

"That's why the last 24 hours have been really tough," Richards said. "Hopefully I was able to help him out a little bit just from what I went through. It takes time, too. It's not just one of those things that happens and within two weeks or a month you're over it. It doesn't happen that way. It's a divorce and it takes time to build other things up. Really what helps is when you get into another relationship, that you're able to start letting go of the previous relationship."

As for being a head coach again, Richards said it's apples and oranges compared to being an assistant.

"No comparison," he said after running the Columbus morning skate on Tuesday at the United Center. "Assistant coach to head coach … you're always going as a head coach. You've got responsibilities with (media), got responsibilities with players, with staff, assistant coaches, practice, lineups, power plays … you're always going and working. The previous year, when I got let go from Minnesota, it's pretty amazing how quickly I shut the mind off. Now it's trying to get that motor started up again."
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 4:44 PM

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

Brassard gets look centering Blue Jackets' top line

CHICAGO -- The initial changes that new Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards made for Tuesday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center are being called "tweaks" for now.

The bigger changes will filter out over time, especially once the current road-trip ends after Tuesday's game and the Blue Jackets head home for a four-game stint at Nationwide Arena.

However, one of those early "tweaks" could be a good opportunity for 24-year old center Derick Brassard, whom the Blue Jackets took with the sixth pick in the 2006 NHL Draft. He's being moved back to the top line with Vinny Prospal and Rick Nash, where he will keep filling in for injured star center Jeff Carter, who's day-to-day with a shoulder injury that happened in Sunday's game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Brassard filled in for Carter toward the end of the Blue Jackets' 7-4 loss to Anaheim.

"The last game we finished together and I'm looking forward to being with those two guys again," said Brassard, who has 5 goals and 7 assists with a minus-16 rating in 33 games. "They're elite players and we're probably going to face the (Jonathan Toews) line or (Hawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Keith Seabrook), so I'm just going to be ready to play my game and we'll be fine."

It's a good opportunity for the underperforming Brassard, who scored 17 goals and tallied 30 assists in 74 games last year. This season, former Columbus coach Scott Arniel butted heads with Brassard a little bit and bounced him around between different lines. Brassard also sat out as a healthy scratch several times and his agent publicly questioned Arniel's logic in doing so.

After Tuesday's morning skate, Brassard was offered the chance to share what his relationship with Arniel was, but wisely declined. Until Carter's injury, Brassard was most recently working on the fourth line in a checking role. Was it merely coincidental that his promotion to the top line came just a day after Arniel was fired?

"No idea," Brassard said. "(Arniel) tried me with (Nash) a couple of games this year, too. We'll see how it goes tonight and go from there."

Richards didn't exactly sound married to the change if things aren't going well for that line combination.

"He's been fine (on the fourth line)," Richards said. "We're starting the game with him (with Prospal and Nash). It doesn’t mean we'll finish the game with him there. That's all dependent on them."

In other words, if Brassard capitalizes on a good opportunity, he'll probably stay up in the top six -- possibly even when Carter returns. Richards pointed out how prime of an opportunity this is that's staring Brassard in the face.

"We've got to replace Jeff and as far as options go Brass is one of our … should be one of our most-skilled centermen up there," Richards said. "So it’s putting him in a position where he's playing with Vinny -- who's proven over his career that he's a finisher and a playmaker -- and also with a gamebreaker-type player like Rick. It's putting (Brassard) in a position where he should have success -- and we need him to have success."
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Predators, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

PREDATORS
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Matt Halischuk - Craig Smith - Jerred Smithson

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

AVALANCHE

TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Chuck Kobasew - Jay McClement - Daniel Winnik
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Ryan Wilson - Matt Hunwick
Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Injuries: LW Matt Duchene (knee), D Erik Johnson (hand), LW Peter Mueller (head) and D Shane O'Brien (knee) are out.
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I didn't think it would actually work, but it ended up working, so I'm thanking my lucky stars tonight.

— Columbus forward Nick Foligno on scoring the overtime goal after telling the Blue Jackets in the locker room that he would win the game