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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 8:55 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Canada off to fast start vs. Denmark

EDMONTON -- Team Canada has no intention of taking its foot off the gas in preliminary-round action at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

Quinton Howden, Brett Connolly, Mark Stone and Ryan Strome scored goals and the unbeaten Canadians outshot Denmark 19-3 in the first period on the way to opening a 4-0 lead on Thursday at Rexall Place.

Stone's goal 16:05 was his team-leading fifth goal of the tournament. The line of Jonathan Huberdeau-Stone-Strome clicked for four points in the first -- two goals and two assists.

Canadian starter goalie Mark Visentin needed to make just three saves. Denmark goalie Sebastian Feuk stopped 15 shots.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 6:45 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Alumni game to be a Clarke family affair

VOORHEES, N.J. -- At the Philadelphia Flyers' practice rink, there's a balcony off the general manager's office that allows him to observe his players in action.

For years as GM of the Flyers, Bob Clarke occupied that spot. Yesterday, it was his daughter, Jodi -- who works for the team as a receptionist -- watching from that same spot.

When asked what it was like to watch her father -- a Hockey Hall of Famer, three-time Hart Trophy winner and two-time Stanley Cup champion -- back in action, she had a unique reply.

"Funny," she told NHL.com, then started laughing. "When he started skating a month ago, it was slow and very methodical. But now that they're all back together, you see a little more jump in their step and they seem to be reliving their youth and having a ball."

Clarke was joined by a few former teammates, including Bill Barber, Reggie Leach and Bernie Parent, for a skate this morning here at Virtua Flyers Skate Zone.

Also on the ice was Peter, Bob's 12-year-old grandson. For mom Jodi, that was really what she wanted to see.

"Him and my dad in the last year do pretty much everything together," said Jodi. "When he was littler it was harder, but now they're buddies. My dad is taking him to the family skate, he's taking him to the Alumni Game. Peter will probably be on the bench. He just wants to experience everything with my little guy and I love that. My daughter, she likes it but she's more interested in shopping with Grandma than she is watching Grandpa do anything. I'm very excited for my son."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 5:36 PM

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

Wings place Holmstrom on IR, recall Nyquist

DETROIT -- An injury to third-line center Darren Helm that occurred during Thursday's practice forced the Detroit Red Wings to make a couple of roster moves a day before playing the rival Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

Detroit placed injured forward Tomas Holmstrom (groin) on the injured reserve list on Thursday afternoon and recalled Gustav Nyquist from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League to take Helm's spot in the lineup.

Helm is expected to miss at least two games recovering from a groin injury that happened on Thursday, while Holmstrom said he won't be back for Friday's game in the Windy City or Saturday night's game at Joe Louis Arena against the St. Louis Blues.

"It's getting better," Holmstrom told reporters in Detroit on Thursday. "Hopefully I can play in Dallas (on Jan. 3). That's my goal. Still, when I do certain motions it's sharp pain, kind of. I've just got to find the right level to do workouts and see when I can step on the ice. Hopefully I can step on the ice on New Year's and feel it out, and then we'll know more where it is."

Holmstrom was hurt late in the second period on Dec. 26 in a game at Nashville.

"I got run into the boards," he said. "My body went one way and my foot the other way. Something popped, kind of."

Nyquist made his NHL debut with Detroit on Nov. 1 against the Minnesota Wild and didn't record a goal or assist in 11:07 on the ice. Nyquist, 22, was Detroit's fourth round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft before going to play collegiately at the University of Maine -- where he was twice nominated for the prestigious Hobey Baker award.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Nyquist -- who hails from Halmsted, Sweden -- is the leading scorer for Grand Rapids with 9 goals and 21 assists in his first full AHL season.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 4:46 PM

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

Varlamov starts, Quincey, Kobasew back for Colorado

DENVER -- Defenseman Kyle Quincey, left wing Chuck Kobasew and goalie Semyon Varlamov will be back in the Colorado Avalanche lineup for tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Pepsi Center.

Quincey, the Avalanche's top-scoring defenseman with 3 goals and 14 assists in 32 games, was a healthy scratch for the previous four games after missing two with a groin injury. Kobasew has missed eight games with a head injury and Varlamov's only appearance in the previous six games came in Monday’s 4-2 win in Minnesota.

Quincey was replaced by Matt Hunwick after getting hurt Dec. 15 in San Jose and remained out of the lineup because coach Joe Sacco didn't want to make changes during a five-game winning streak that ended Tuesday with a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg.

Quincey will replace Hunwick as rookie Stefan Elliott's partner, and Kobasew will replace rookie Brad Malone on the third line with Jay McClement and TJ Galiardi.

"It was extremely frustrating (not to play), but I tried to look at the positives," Quincey said after this morning's skate. "It was a good time to get your legs back and fresh. It's almost at the halfway point (of the season) and I feel like I'm starting over again. It was like a little mini-training camp for me. I got back in the gym and had 10 great workouts. I'm fresh. I feel like it's my first game of the year again. It's a long season, a grind, and I guess I was fortunate to have a little vacation there."

Quincey didn't feel quite the same as last season when he missed the final 55 games to recover from a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Avalanche only won six of the last 36 games and finished 29th in the NHL standings.

"I can go back to last year and how (bad) the feeling was," he said. "The biggest thing was not being able to help the team when they needed it the most. I don't want to say it seemed like they didn't need me (this time), but we were winning and everything was good around here. The boys were happy and it wasn't anything like last year, when it was pretty depressing."

The Avalanche won eight home games in a row before Tuesday's loss and have won five of their past six games overall and six of eight to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race.

Tonight's game is especially important because the Avalanche open a four-game road trip on New Year's Eve in Anaheim and will play nine of 12 games in January on the road.

"We need to regroup," Sacco said. "We talked about a month ago about our team improving our home record, and certainly that's something that we did. This is a big game against a conference opponent. A team that plays a style that Phoenix does, you want to make sure you start the game on time and it's always nice to get a lead and give yourself a better chance to win. They play a very structured game and we have to be diligent with the puck and when we get our opportunities to make sure we get second and third efforts on the net."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 4:44 PM

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

Banged-up Coyotes try to continue success in Denver

DENVER -- The Phoenix Coyotes didn't skate this morning after playing Wednesday night at home, where they lost 2-1 in overtime to Boston. Like their opponents tonight, the Colorado Avalanche, the Coyotes have lost a number of players to injuries, including goalie Mike Smith (groin) and center Martin Hanzal (head).

The Coyotes are in 11th place in the West with 40 points, one point behind eighth-place Dallas. The Avalanche are in 12th place with 39 points.

The Coyotes have won the last three meetings with the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center by the combined score of 11-3. Phoenix defeated Colorado 4-1 on Nov. 2.

Jason LaBarbera has started four consecutive games in goal for the Coyotes, and made 27 saves against the Bruins on Wednesday. He's gone 2-5 against Colorado in eight previous appearances with a shutout, a 3.23 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.

With Smith out, the Coyotes recalled Curtis McElhinney on Monday from the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League. McElhinney owns a 2-1 career record against the Avalanche with one shutout, a 2.67 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

A four-year NHL veteran, McElhinney played four years at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He played for Calgary, Anaheim and Ottawa before signing with Phoenix as a free agent on July 4. McElhinney went 9-11 with Portland this season with a 2.95 average and .910 save percentage.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 4:42 PM

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

Wilson nearing return for Avalanche

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson will miss his 11th consecutive game since getting hit from behind by Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre in a Dec. 6 game, but he skated for the third day in a row and is hopeful of playing next week. Wilson went face first into the glass, suffered a cut lip and blurred vision that lasted for a couple of days.

The Avalanche weren't pleased that Lapierre wasn't penalized or suspended.

"Any time you get your head run like that, you have to get a rest and let your brain heal," Wilson said. "It would have been nice for the team to get a power play there, but I guess the refs thought it wasn't that bad of a hit. Maybe they didn’t see my head go right into the glass, but I felt it pretty good."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 4:25 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Sweden's Friberg channels 'Tiger' for goal celebration

Tiger Williams was the first.
 
Max Friberg has now become the latest.
 
The Swedish sensation revived the scoring celebration of the former NHL enforcer, taking to riding his stick in Williams-esque fashion after scoring what looked like the game clincher in the shootout in a 4-3 victory over Switzerland Wednesday night in Calgary.
 
“It was just something that came up in my mind,” Friberg said. “It was nothing against the other team. I was very impressed by their game. I was just happy and I had no teammates to celebrate, so I had to do something.”
 
Switzerland responded with a shootout goal of its own before Sebastian Collberg iced the game for Sweden.
 
Friberg admitted the idea for the celebration, which drew a chorus of boos from the crowd, came from time spent on the Internet.
 
“I watch a lot of video clips on YouTube so I’d seen it a couple times,” Friberg said. “I thought they would like it but they booed instead.”
 
Though he never saw Friberg’s post-goal performance, Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg defended his player’s actions.
 
“I didn’t see it actually,” Ronnberg said. “I heard they were booing, I thought it was because they missed the shot. He’s a humble kid. I don’t think he did it to humiliate somebody or offend somebody.”

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:52 PM

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

Hawks again make Kane 'center' of attention

CHICAGO -- Once again, Patrick Kane is heading back to the middle of the ice as a center for the Chicago Blackhawks.

After starting the season at center of the second line for the first six weeks of the season, Kane was moved back to his regular spot at right wing on the top line next to Hawks captain Jonathan Toews around the beginning of December.

Now, he's back centering the second line as Chicago prepares to face the rival Detroit Red Wings on Friday night at the United Center for the first of six meetings this season. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville actually made the switch for the third period of Wednesday's 2-0 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings and carried it over into Thursday's practice -- where Kane centered Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Sharp.

"The last two times I've gone to center, it seems like we've had a little bit more balance," Kane said. "Once in Pittsburgh and once last night. We've had some good periods and some pressure in their end and some chances. I guess maybe they want to start out that way and see where it goes."

Kane isn't upset about the move at all.

"I'm excited," he said. "It's always fun to play with new linemates and new combinations. Sharp has been playing great and so has Stalberg, so I'm playing with two pretty confident guys right now."

Kane, however, is searching for a bit of confidence after going through a bit of a down period for him. Since Nov. 16, he’s scored just 2 goals to go with 11 assists and has 9 goals and 25 assists for the season.

On Wednesday against the Kings, he was stonewalled on three shots by Jonathan Quick, but had three others blocked and missed the net five times -- which is a number that jumps off the stat sheet because of Kane's usual accuracy. He's also been playing with strep throat the past two games, however, which has sapped some of his energy.

Quenneville liked what he saw from Kane at center against Los Angeles, though – especially being able to better dictate matchups with the last line change on home ice. He’ll have that advantage against Detroit on Friday, too.

"I noticed last night that he seems to have the puck a little bit more (at center)," Quenneville said. "It seems like we have more threats on both lines with him in the middle right now and I think that's part of it."

Kane agreed.

"At center you're always moving, you're always low and you're always supporting not only the forwards but the defensemen, as well," he said. "You are an out for the D-men a lot of times to give you the puck and skate up the ice. I have no problem with that. It's one of the strengths of my game is having the puck and making plays."

In other Hawks-related news, rookie center Marcus Kruger won't play against Detroit even though he continues to improve from an upper-body injury that's suspected to be concussion-related. That's another big reason for Kane being moved back to center -- which is a role that's been played by prospect Brandon Pirri the previous three games.
 
Chicago sent Pirri back to Rockford of the American Hockey League on Wednesday and recalled 6-foot-6, 221-pound forward prospect Jimmy Hayes to take his spot. Hayes, who has scored 5 goals and tallied 13 assists in Rockford this season, will likely make his NHL debut slotting into the right wing slot of the fourth line.

Veteran forward Andrew Brunette will also likely be on that fourth line after vacating the left wing spot on the top line -- which will probably be filled by the return to action of forward Daniel Carcillo, who has missed the past six games with a suspected concussion.

Defenseman Steve Montador missed Thursday's practice with an undisclosed injury that also kept him out of practice on Tuesday and for Wednesday's morning skate. Montador, a staple of the Hawks' third defense pairing, did play against the Kings on Wednesday and logged 15:31 of ice time.

He hasn't been ruled out for Friday's game against Detroit -- which will play Chicago without the services of fourth-line power forward Tomas Holmstrom (groin).
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:24 PM

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

Projected lineups for Coyotes, Avalanche

These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski - Andy Miele - Radim Vrbata
Raffi Torres - Cal O'Reilly - Mikkel Boedker
Taylor Pyatt - Kyle Chipchura - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - David Schlemko

Curtis McElhinney
Jason LaBarbera

Injuries: C Boyd Gordon (lower body), C Martin Hanzal (head) and G Mike Smith (groin) are out. D Adrian Aucoin (lower body) is day to day.

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

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

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Injuries: RW David Jones (groin), LW Peter Mueller (head), C Mark Olver (head) and D Ryan Wilson (head) are out.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:14 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Koivu 'doubtful' to return for Ducks tonight

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It appears that the Anaheim Ducks will have to wait longer to get one of their top two-way players and faceoff men back.

Saku Koivu was thought to be closer to returning from a groin injury but he might need a few more days. Anaheim hosts Vancouver on Thursday night.

"Did you see him staying out there and doing extra skating?" Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau asked reporters after the morning skate.

"He's doubtful for tonight."

If Koivu can't go, Nick Bonino will likely resume Koivu's place as the second line center between Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne.

Bonino is among the younger players that Boudreau wanted to evaluate. He has only 4 points in 41 career NHL games, but those 41 games have been spread out in stints.

"We're putting him in a position to get success as far as playing with Bobby and Teemu," Boudreau said.

"And I thought he played really well (Monday) in San Jose. He set up some really good opportunities. I think a lot of that stuff comes with a little bit of confidence and the opportunity that he's getting a chance to play."

Big test: Anaheim is trying to win consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 16-17, and the challenge doesn’t get much bigger than Vancouver. The Ducks beat the Canucks, 4-3, on Nov. 11, but a lot has changed.

"When they got (Ryan) Kesler going really well, it adds a new dimension to their game," Boudreau said. "And (Roberto) Luongo going really well -- he definitely didn't look like the goalie that Washington faced in October."

Luongo is 9-2-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average in December after he backstopped a 3-2 overtime win against San Jose on Wednesday night.

Vancouver, which did not practice Thursday, is expected to start Cory Schneider in goal. But Boudreau acknowledged that the Canucks look much different overall than when he saw them on Oct. 29 as Washington coach.

"It looks like, when they get out there, they feel they can score every time," Boudreau said. "Their penalty killing, when needed, shuts teams down … when you have that combination and kind of confidence, you can come into a building and dictate the way you want to play. They look like they've got all that confidence."

Beleskey thriving:
Anaheim winger Matt Beleskey seems to be thriving under Boudreau.

The winger has all five of his points this season under the new coach. Beleskey briefly played with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry earlier in his career, but he’s been used on the third line with Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon.

"For the last few games, he's been playing harder and competing harder," Boudreau said. "And when you compete harder, you get opportunity. And he's getting opportunities to score, he's getting chances and he's checking. And he's getting involved. He's gotten in two fights, I think, in the last five or six games. When you get involved and you get engaged in the game then opportunities will come."

Blake closer:
Anaheim winger Jason Blake has been skating with the club and could be ahead of schedule on his projected mid-January return from a severe laceration of his left wrist, suffered Oct.14 when San Jose's Brent Burns accidentally stepped on him.
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Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild