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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 8:25 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

TBL @ NYR - 8:09 of the Second Period

At 8:09 of the second period in the Lightning/Rangers game, the situation room initiated a review to determine if John Mitchell's shot during a scrum in front of the Lightning net crossed the goal line. Video replay upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck never crossed the goal line. No Goal New York.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 8:01 PM

By Derek Mori -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Mori: Back in the Final at Gretzky Fantasy Camp

Derek Mori has been attending Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp since 2006, when his wife sprung the trip on him as a 40th birthday gift. He is here for a seventh straight year and has agreed to blog his experiences for NHL.com.

Derek, who lives in Oakville, Ont., with his wife, Anita, and twin boys, says he's certainly not an ex-pro, but he's not a beginner either. He's been on the team that has won the Gretzky Fantasy Camp Cup four out of the six years he's been here, and he intends to do it again.

Read on to learn more about Derek's experience and what No. 99's camp is all about:


LAS VEGAS --
Two games down, two wins in the book, and a clear path to the Gretzky Cup Final. I've won the title here at this camp four out of the six years I've been here, and it's nice to know I'm going to have a shot for a fifth title this year.

Eddie Mio, the goalie on my team and one of our two ex-pros, absolutely stood on his head today. He was the first star in both games.

Marty McSorley, the other ex-pro on my team, is great to play with because he knows a lot of the technical stuff dealing with systems, where you're supposed to be, what responsibilities each player has. Although he's a fighter, he's got some great hockey awareness.

While on the bench Marty is a serious guy, but very much a team guy. He is telling guys all the time what to do and reminding them of their assignments. Even though you know, he'll remind you that, 'Hey, that guy there, that's your guy.' Marty is playing 'D' and after he comes off he'll tell people things that they could be doing or should be doing.

That's great because when you're playing men's pickup hockey, people don't say that stuff. Guys don't want to do that because it gets other guys angry. But, this is coming from a pro. These guys are trained elite athletes and it's engrained in them that when the puck goes here, they have to stand there and do this. They're trained like that and it's good to hear about it from them.

As for me, I did pretty well. Not only did we win both games, I got a goal in the first game. Wayne actually set me up on a 2-on-1 and then he rode his stick like Tiger Williams after I scored. The guys all got a good laugh out of that.

Wayne is just as excited as everyone else. He doesn't want to score, but he has fun setting guys up. He still has the hands and the vision.

The pace overall was a lot faster. In fact, every year it's getting faster. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and slower and the other guys coming here are younger and faster, but the pace was quick today and I was sucking some wind.

Twenty years ago it would be no problem, but now I'm just exhausted.

Our first game was against a team that included Jeremy Roenick, Brian Leetch and Grant Fuhr. We beat them 8-4, but I was talking to Fuhr and he told me that he had some work done on his knees recently. He said, 'I'm not going down, I don't care.'

The second game was tight and we barely squeaked it out. Guy Carbonneau and Denis Savard played for the other team and Curtis Joseph went in net for the second half of the game.

I hadn't met Carbonneau until breakfast this morning. He was sitting by himself and I was like, "Hey, come on over here and sit with us." Hey, he's a rookie here, gotta help him out. We were chit-chatting about hockey, and that's really what this is all about.

It's all hockey all the time here, and there is more to be played Friday.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 7:18 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Leetch praises McDonagh, Rangers consistency

LAS VEGAS -- Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch is impressed with all of the Rangers young defenseman, and he even went as far as saying that he sees some of himself when he watches Michael Del Zotto read the play and work hard to get up the ice.

However, the guy Leetch is most impressed with is Ryan McDonagh, the second-year blue-liner that the Rangers acquired from Montreal in the deal that sent Scott Gomez north of the border.

"I love him, yeah," Leetch told NHL.com Thursday from the Bellagio. "I look at him as one of the best skaters that I've seen. Del Zotto and (Marc) Staal and (Dan) Girardi, they're all very good skaters, but you can tell when they're skating full speed. They're working to get there and working to get into position, but with McDonagh's pivots and those just a couple of strides -- just a tremendous, tremendous skater."

Leetch wasn't done talking about McDonagh's skating.

"The way he can move side to side, and the power in those strides, stands out to me," he said later in the interview. "It looks different than I've seen."

The Rangers are also looking different than Leetch has seen in quite a while. He credited the team's ability to win despite not always playing its best as a reason why it is first in the Eastern Conference with 71 points heading into Thursday.

"I haven't seen them play where everybody is firing on all cylinders, and yet they continue to get points," Leetch said. "They're very consistent in their work ethic. They continue to stick with it and stick with it and find ways to get points. They're able to flatline their effort at a very high mark, but they may not have reached their highest yet. I haven't seen them play a complete game with things going right for everyone, but they just keep riding and rolling along."

A big reason for that is Henrik Lundqvist, who Leetch called "the most important guy to come into that organization since Mark Messier."

"People say he's playing better than he ever has," Leetch said. "I think he's played like this from his first year after the lockout right on through.

"What I was worried about is having a great goaltender like Lundqvist burn through his prime years without being able to build around him," he added. "I was nervous that they were not going to stick with the youth, patchwork around them, and maybe hit it for one year. But, they've stuck with those guys. That's the way to do it, and I think that breeds a lot of that team mentality, when those young players are coming up together and they have those same experiences off the ice together. That works well in their favor."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 5:14 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Gretzky has some sleeper teams to watch out for

LAS VEGAS -- Wayne Gretzky has his eye on Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis, but he doesn't think anybody that is focusing on the playoff race should skip past Nashville.

The Predators are Gretzky's sleeper team in the Western Conference.

"I like how they're playing," Gretzky told NHL.com Thursday from the Bellagio. "I think their goalie is playing as good as anybody in hockey right now. Hopefully the organization can keep that group together and I think they can give it a legitimate run."

As for his sleeper team in the Eastern Conference, Gretzky, who finished his career in New York, decided to cross the river for his pick.

"I like the way Marty Brodeur has bounced back," he said. "I think he's playing as well as he ever did lately. I like their team. I think New Jersey could be a tough opponent for whoever gets them in the playoffs."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 4:08 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames prospects excited for AHL clash in Calgary

CALGARY -- Skating on the ice at Scotiabank Saddledome is nothing new for Paul Byron.

Doing so in an Abbotsford Heat jersey is.

Returning to the Stampede City as a member of the Flames’ AHL affiliate, Byron will skate alongside his Heat teammates against the Oklahoma City Barons in a home game – of sorts – in Calgary. It will be the lone game Abbotsford plays in the Flames’ rink this season.

“It feels good to be back,” said Byron. “I’ve played a few games here.”

Eighteen, to be exact, and Byron isn’t the only Abbotsford skater able to make that claim. He is one of nine Heat players to be recalled by Calgary at some point this season and see time in the NHL with the Flames. Four currently remain with the parent club.
 
Opportunities within the Calgary organization have never been made more readily available than this year. Often criticized in the past for the lack of promotion the club has done within the organization, the argument certainly no longer holds merit.

And it’s made for a more motivated player pool for the Flames to draw from.

“It helps everyone on the team,” Byron said. “Everyone is motivated. Everyone knows they could be the guy to get called up. We’ve had a ton of guys come up and down this year. We’ve got (four) guys that started the year with our team up there now. It’s a great motivator in the room.”

Heat coach Troy Ward has had the unenviable task of trying to play without some of his best players largely in part to frequent callups by the Flames. He’s not the least bit offended, though. In fact, he’s pleased by it.

“Here’s what you’re proud of for me, the management team in Calgary made a statement to these guys, if you do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll get rewarded,” Ward said. “I’ve been in a lot of organizations – that’s not always the case. The organization has stuck behind its word.”

No truer are Ward’s words than in the likes of TJ Brodie, who has become a mainstay on the Flames blueline. Brodie, averaging 16:53 in ice time, has 11 points in 40 games and has likely left Abbotsford in the rear view permanently.

Another example is Krys Kolanos, who missed 22 months of hockey while battling injury. On a minor-league deal to start the season with Abottsford, Kolanos was signed and promptly promoted last week by the Flames after recording 40 points in 34 games with the Heat this season.

“We’ve had some young guys like a Brodie that started with us that probably will never come back,” Ward said. “At the same time we’ve had Kolanos, who hadn’t played in (22) months, earn himself a contract. They’ve had both ends of the extreme. The management team up above with Jay and company has managed it that way and it’s a rewarding system.”

Don’t think the players in Abbotsford haven’t noticed the reward, either.
 
“Anyone can get a call at any given time,” said Ryan Howse, the Flames third pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “It’s encouraging for everyone. You’ve got guys coming up and staying up for a while. Just to see the movement this year is something special and says a lot about our team and even our coaching staff. Everyone has done a good job preparing our guys.”

For Akim Aliu, the thought is extra enticing. Bouncing around in the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets organizations after being drafted in 2007, Aliu is thrilled at what he sees with the Flames after being acquired by the club 10 days ago.

“This is one of the best places in the league to be right now as a young guy,” Aliu said. “There’s been a lot of opportunity with guys coming up, and not just for a short period of time. Guys have stuck around for a bit.”

For players like Aliu, Howse and Ben Walter who haven’t got the call yet, the game in Calgary is much like an introduction on what to expect. Sharing the same facility as the Flames and getting the opportunity to play in front of the ‘C of Red’ has Heat hopefuls thrilled.

“Everyone is pretty excited,” Walter said. “It’s a great opportunity for all of us. This is our parent team and we get to play in their building in front of their fans.”

Howse certainly agrees with his teammate.

“It’s going to be really exciting,” Howse said. “The environment and dressing over here and using the weight room and playing in front of (Flames) fans, you’re going to have that energy. There’s going to be a lot of excitement.”

And excitement is building around the opportunity to one day achieve the dream of reaching the NHL – as a member of the Calgary Flames.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 3:42 PM

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

Staal close, but Pens lose Kennedy for 4-6 weeks

PITTSBURGH -- Just when the Pittsburgh Penguins are getting one of their key players back from an extended layoff, they must deal with yet another injury to a frontline forward.
 
With center Jordan Staal expected back as early as Saturday following a five-week layoff with a left knee injury, forward Tyler Kennedy is going on the shelf for the second time this season. Kennedy has a high ankle sprain that is expected to sideline him for 4-to-6 weeks, coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday.
 
"After a week we'll have a better idea of what the time frame looks like exactly, as it calms down and as he rehabs," Bylsma said following an off-day practice at Consol Energy Center.
 
Kennedy was hurt late in a 5-2 loss at New Jersey on Sunday and was held out of a 3-2 shootout loss to Montreal on Tuesday. He has 6 goals and 22 points in 42 games following his breakout 2010-11 season in which he had 21 goals and 45 points in 80 games.
 
Kennedy also had a concussion that kept him out for 11 games from Oct. 15-Nov. 11.
 
Another injury? It's a familiar scenario for a high-profile team that still has no idea when superstar center Sidney Crosby will play again as he mends from a second lengthy layoff with concussion-like symptoms.
 
Fourteen Penguins players have missed at least seven games each with injuries, including their top three centers (Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Staal) and their top four defensemen (Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek).
 
The injuries, especially Crosby's, appear to be exacting a toll on a team that spent much of the first two-plus months of the season in the overall Eastern Conference lead.
 
They recently ran off an eight-game winning streak, but the Penguins (30-19-5) have dropped into sixth place in the conference standings while going 14-12-1 since Crosby last played on Dec. 5. They began the season 10-3-3. Crosby has missed all but eight of the Penguins' 54 games as he deals with a concussion-like symptoms that also kept him out of their final 41 games and the playoffs last season.
 
Crosby skated Thursday before practice with injured teammate Arron Asham (concussion), but his return is not imminent. He practiced one day in Montreal earlier this week, but has not yet been cleared for full-contact practice.
 
With the Penguins about to play their next three and six of their next eight at home, where they are 15-7-2, they are eager to welcome back Staal. A proven shutdown defender who is frequently matched against an opponent's top line, Staal scored a goal in three consecutive games just before he was hurt last month.
 
Staal was on pace for his best career season, with 15 goals and 6 assists in 34 games, before spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during a knee-to-knee hit with former teammate Mike Rupp of the Rangers on Jan. 6.
 
The Penguins received yet another scare when Staal required stitches after being struck in the face by an errant stick during practice Thursday, but Bylsma said, "He'll be fine."
 
Last season, Staal was ready to return after missing the first month of the season with a lacerated foot only to break a hand during practice, forcing him to miss another two months.
 
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 3:25 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings' Sutter expects different look from Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Kings coach Darryl Sutter began watching tape of the Dec. 1 game between Los Angeles and the Florida Panthers to get ready for the rematch Thursday at the BankAtlantic Center, but it didn’t take him long to realize it was useless.

“When I started doing it,” Sutter said Thursday morning in the midst of a six-game road trip, “I said, you know what, this is not going to serve much.”

The logo will be the same, but it’s a much different Florida team that the Kings will face this time. Eight players who will be in the lineup for the Panthers on Thursday night didn’t play in that 2-1 Kings victory in December, a list headed by leading scorer Kris Versteeg.

Versteeg was out after taking an elbow in the face two nights earlier in Carolina, and it was one of only two games he has missed all season.

But he’ll be there Thursday night playing between linemates Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss, and it’s a trio that has earned the respect of Sutter.

“The big thing with these guys and I know them good enough, their big line is the best line we’ve played on the trip,” Sutter said. “When you break it down, center-left-right, it’s the best line we’ve played. From an individual standpoint we’ve probably played guys you think are more top players than they are, but this is the first time we’ve played a line that when they’re spread out ... they’re a 50-goal line already. In this league, that’s pretty significant. And when you’ve got (Brian) Campbell at almost 40 points and you’ve got Jason (Garrison) with 13 goals, you’ve got your hands full. That’s how I look at it.”

Along with Versteeg, the other Panthers players who will suit up Thursday night after not playing in the Dec. 1 game are forwards Mikael Samuelsson, Marcel Goc, Krys Barch, Matt Bradley and John Madden, along with defensemen Keaton Ellerby and Tyson Strachan.

Four of the eight players who played on Dec. 1 but won’t be playing Thursday night are injured and the other four are in the minors.

Even though he wants a different outcome, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen gladly would take a similar effort from his team than what he got against the Kings two months ago.

Florida outshot Los Angeles 42-26 in that game, but lost on goals by Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown and strong goaltending by Jonathan Quick.

“I thought that was one of our strongest games,” Dineen said. “We played a very well-rounded game and we ended up with no points. Sometimes you walk out of those losses and you go, that was a hard-fought game and it doesn’t end up in your favor. That’s the kind of hockey we’re looking to get back to.”
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 3:06 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Flames, Coyotes

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena:

FLAMES
Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Michael Cammalleri - Blair Jones - Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma - Michael Backlund - Krys Kolanos
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie - Cory Sarich

Leland Irving
Miikka Kiprusoff

After collecting the 300th win of his career against his former team last night in San Jose, Kiprusoff is expected to take the night off and Irving will get the start against the Coyotes. Calgary will play the Coyotes four times in the final third of the season and the teams are side-by-side in the standings. The winner of the series could have a lot to do with who has the best chance at a playoff spot. The Flames dress only 12 forwards with ex-Coyote Lee Stempniak (ankle) and Curtis Glencoss (knee) both out indefinitely.

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Mikkel Boedker
Taylor Pyatt - Kyle Chipchura - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
Derek Morris - Michal Rozsival

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

The Coyotes are looking for a their fourth win in six days after Tuesday 4-1 win in Dallas. The six points in four days allowed the Coyotes to leap past three teams and move back into the playoff picture. The line of Whitney, Hanzal and Vrbata has produced 8 goals and 22 points in the last six games. The Coyotes are missing only defenseman David Schlemko, who is out for the season following foot surgery.


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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Tocchet talks Flyers and the urge to coach again

LAS VEGAS -- Rick Tocchet, now a part-time analyst for Flyers games on Comcast SportsNet, has been impressed with how his former team has persevered despite not having Chris Pronger since mid-November. However, Tocchet also told NHL.com Thursday morning that now, more than ever, the Flyers need Ilya Bryzgalov to step up and start living up to the expectations that he carried with him to Philadelphia.

"The young guys have played beyond expectations. Jagr has also played very well for them this season," Tocchet said from the Bellagio on Thursday. "They've got guys playing beyond the expectations that they thought they'd be at, but the guy that really is probably the most important guy that hasn't is Bryzgalov."

Tocchet said a big reason why the Flyers are still in the hunt for the Atlantic Division title and the top seed in the Eastern Conference is because of their team chemistry.

"You take (Shea) Weber, (Kris) Letang or other big-time defensemen away from their teams, it's going to be a chink in the armor," he said. "But, the (Flyers) team chemistry this year is at an all-time high, and sometimes team chemistry can overcome a big loss. But, listen, having Chris Pronger in a seven-game series is pretty special to have. It's a significant loss."

Tocchet is enjoying his job as a part-time analyst in Philadelphia because it allows him to spend more time at home in Pittsburgh with his 12-year-old son than he did when he was coaching in Tampa. However, he said Thursday that the itch is still there for him to coach in the NHL, and he'd like to scratch it soon.

"I've had a couple of calls for assistant coaching interviews, but it would have to be the right situation," Tocchet said. "You'd like to get a real solid chance with something really solid. If that happens, who knows? Listen, you get a taste for being a head coach you want to be a head coach. But, sometimes to get back in the game, you might have to be an assistant."

Tocchet admitted he still has a sour taste in his mouth from how it ended with the Lightning. He was not re-hired by GM Steve Yzerman after the team missed the playoffs in 2010 for the third straight season, and second under Tocchet.

"I could do full-time TV, but right now I do it part-time and that's really good," Tocchet said. "But, there is still that itch I'd like to scratch. You get a sour taste in your mouth from before, but part of it is a learning process, too. It's a good time to learn."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings not frustrated, but hope for more scoring

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Los Angeles Kings will enter Thursday night in seventh place in the Western Conference standings when they face the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center. It’s not all that bad considering the Kings are dead last in the entire League in goals.

“At the end of the day, right now we’re in a playoff spot,” said captain Dustin Brown. “Regardless of our scoring, that’s all that really matters for this team. Do we want to get better at our scoring? Yeah. I think a lot of guys are frustrated in here with the type of scoring, or lack thereof, that we have with this team.

“At the end of the day we’re capable of winning games 1-0 and 2-1 because of the way we play defense. Again, we’ve got to find ways to score more goals but we’re also capable of winning games without scoring many.”

That’s precisely what happened when the Kings faced the Panthers on Dec. 1 at Staples Center. That night, Los Angeles was able to pull out a 2-1 victory despite being outshot 42-26.

The Kings, who will be playing the fourth game in a season-long six-game road trip Thursday night, are coming off a 3-1 victory at Tampa Bay. It was only the 19th time in 54 games this season that Los Angeles had scored more than two goals.

“Hockey is a funny game,” Brown said. “It’s a confidence thing. If you look around at the numbers of the guys in this room, they’re probably having statistically one of their worst years. I’ve never been on a team where you see it happen to such a big number of big guys that are having down years.”

The two biggest disappointments in terms of goal-scoring this season have been second-line wingers Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll.

Penner scored at least 23 goals four of the last five seasons but has only five goals in 42 games so far. Stoll has five goals in 54 games after finishing with 20 last season.

The center on that line is Mike Richards, who will be playing in his 500th NHL game Thursday night. The former Flyers captain, who scored 11 goals in 13 games in November and December but has only one tally in his last 19 outings, says the victory at Tampa Bay was a good example of how the Kings can have success without putting up big numbers.

“We’re not going to be a team that just throws our sticks on the ice and gets two or three,” Richards said. “We’ve got to go out there and earn it. But at the same time, we’ve got to make the other team work hard and get pressure by our checking and how hard we work. We know our identity. Obviously we’d like to score more goals. Everyone does. But our biggest focus is keeping the puck out of the net and then moving forward.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Kings when they face Florida on Thursday night:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter
Kyle Clifford - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Jack Johnson - Willie Mitchell
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Quote of the Day

You don't see many. The [Drew] Doughtys, the [P.K.] Subbans, those are guys that create offense from the back and then on top of that ability, the size that he has. In the West you play against some pretty big players, and being able to clear the crease and contain the [Ryan] Getzlafs and the [Corey] Perrys and [Anze] Kopitars and players like that, we're excited about him going back there.

— Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Brent Burns returning back to defense