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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 11:36 AM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bruins, Predators look for improved play

BOSTON – Two teams that have lost three of their last four games will meet this afternoon at TD Garden, as the Boston Bruins play host to the Nashville Predators.
               
Boston dropped its last outing, 6-0, at Buffalo on Wednesday. To a man, the Bruins know it’s not as bad, in general, as that score reflected. Now with just two home games left before a six-game road trip, the Bruins are looking forward to a better future.
               
“There’s some games like that,” said rookie forward Jordan Caron this morning. “There were a lot of little things that made it 6-0, and I think it’s going to happen during the season. We just have to bounce back.”
               
The Predators are 1-2-1 in their last four. In the three losses, they’ve allowed an uncharacteristic 11 goals. Nashville coach Barry Trotz, whose team ranks 12th with 2.58 goals allowed per game, knows that the Preds are only going to get better results once they improve their defensive play. They had won five in a row prior to their current slump.
               
“If we’re going to get back on track, we have to tighten things up [defensively],” said Trotz.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 1:50 AM

NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hunter prepared for return to Long Island

The Los Angeles Kings don't get to Long Island too often, but forward Trent Hunter knows every nook and cranny of the Nassau Coliseum.

He should. The Coliseum was Hunter's home for the first eight-plus seasons of his NHL career. He made his debut with the New York Islanders during the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was a Calder Trophy finalist two years later and scored 20 goals twice. But he was limited to 17 games last season by a torn knee ligament, and the Islanders traded him to New Jersey for Brian Rolston in late July.

The Devils bought out his contract four days later, leaving him without a place to play. But the Kings invited him to training camp and he earned a one-year contract.

The 31-year-old has two goals and five assists in 32 games as a fourth-liner for the Kings. He'll take the Coliseum ice for the first time in a visiting uniform when the Kings visit the Islanders on Saturday afternoon.

"Eight years, but in the organization my entire career, so I came and went in this building quite a few times," he told Kings Insider when asked about returning to the building he called home until this season.

Hunter was popular among teammates and fans, but said he was able to get past his disappointment at leaving the Isles fairly quickly -- and with no hard feelings.

"It is a business. It's obviously tough, because I was here a long time, and especially last year, with not playing much," he told Kings Insider. "It was tough. When you're hurt, you're around the guys and around the team, but you're not really. You're kind of on the outside looking in.

"Last year was definitely a tough year for me, but like I said, it's a business and everything happens for a reason."

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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 9:17 PM

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

Mori: One win to the title at another great 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 -- Once again this camp has exceeded my expectations.

Wayne really knows how to do it right. He improves it and makes sure the customers are happy. We definitely are.

They always want feedback from us, the campers, to know if people had a good time, what they enjoyed, because that plays into whether or not they have another one. Not everyone is always going to be happy, but we're all on holiday here, so you can't complain. We're on holiday, playing hockey, drinking beer, hanging out and we're in Vegas -- do I need to say more.

If I win another championship, it's like a cherry on top of a great trip.

And, you know what, I've got a chance. We won again today, and now we're 3-0 going into the Gretzky Cup Final on Saturday.

It was a tight one, though. We were tied and went to overtime. Guy Carbonneau and Denis Savard were on the team and they were good. I can't believe those guys were 0-2 against us.

We didn't play that well, but we worked on some small things for tomorrow because the pros don't play in the championship. We're all looking forward to it. It's a one game elimination now.

I didn't score today, but I came close in overtime. I was on the ice and my linemate scored, but if he didn't score I would have gotten it. It was a rebound goal, bang-bang, and I was right there to get it, too.

It's a great feeling to win and to get another opportunity to get another Cup, but what I'll take most out of this year's camp is the new friends I've made. There are a lot of first time guys here and guys here for only the second time that I have never had a chance to meet and get to know.

There is also a guy on our team that has been here for seven years and he's never won, so we're trying to win the Gretzky Cup for him. It's the Ray Bourque thing. We want to win it for ourselves, but we want to really win it for him, too.

Thursday night they had a party at Hyde Bar here at the Bellagio and, like every year, they managed to surprise us again. They always try to organize something that is fun and different, which is good because it keeps the energy going and the intrigue up.

Well, Thursday night they were raffling off NHL sweaters that were autographed by the former pros that are here. They put all of our names in the raffle and there were 20 sweaters available, so you had basically a one in three chance to get it.

I didn't get one. That's how good my luck has been here in Vegas. Then I went to play the tables afterwards and I didn't play very well either.

Tonight they've given everyone free time to do what we like, but I'll go up to the hospitality suite, hook up with some guys, go have dinner and probably go to a club. We'll go out in packs, but of course we've got to prepare ourselves for Saturday's big game.

Or, at least our goalie better.

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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 5:35 PM

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

Sacco expects high-tempo game between Avs, Canes

DENVER -- Two teams that have been hard-pressed to score goals face off tonight when the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes meet at the Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche broke through in a big way Tuesday with a 5-2 win against Chicago, but have scored two goals or fewer in 10 of their past 13 games and are averaging 2.4 goals per game overall.

"We had been struggling to score goals on a consistent basis, but we always talk about the process," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said this morning following his team's optional skate. "When you do good things during the course of the game -- if you do them consistently -- sooner or later the chances that you get are going to go in. That finally happened against Chicago. I thought we played a pretty complete game."

The Hurricanes, who are averaging 2.5 goals per game, have been held to two goals or fewer in seven of their past nine contests but have managed to post a 4-2-3 record in that stretch because of solid goaltending by Cam Ward and efficient penalty-killing.

But Sacco expects a high-paced game tonight, similar to the one his team played against the Blackhawks when the clubs combined for 60 shots and plenty of scoring chances.

"They're a fast team, they're a young team, and they play with energy," Sacco said of the Hurricanes. "It looks like they try to play a very aggressive game where they're chipping pucks in and trying to chase pucks down. It should make for a good game with a lot of pace and a lot of tempo, two young teams that like to push the pace and like to skate."

While the Avalanche remain in the Western Conference playoff hunt with 57 points -- three points behind eighth-place Phoenix -- the Hurricanes have 50 points and are a dozen points behind eighth-place Toronto in the East despite posting a 6-2-3 record since Jan. 12. Carolina has gone 12-12-6 since Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice as head coach on Nov. 28.

"They found themselves behind the eight-ball at the start of the year, but they're definitely playing much better now," Sacco said. "You've got two teams looking for points, so it should be a good game."

The Hurricanes will be bucking history tonight. The franchise has gone 0-7-2 in Denver since Feb. 9, 1996, when the Hartford Whalers defeated the Avalanche 3-2 in overtime at since-razed McNichols Sports Arena. It was the first season after the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado and were renamed the Avalanche.

Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was a first-round pick of the Whalers in 1995, will start against the Hurricanes, who are making their first appearance in Denver since Oct. 23, 2009. Giguere on Tuesday ended a personal four-game winless streak (0-3-1) in which he permitted a total of six goals but received little in the way of offensive support.

"If you look at the previous games, our problem was scoring goals," center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We had a good backcheck (against Chicago) with all the guys coming back and it created a lot of two-on-ones and odd-man rushes for us, and I think that's one reason why we did get our offense going. Our scoring definitely gained a little confidence from that. We're going to need that down the stretch. Having a game like that, even without any power plays, was a big thing for us and something to build on."

Sacco reunited struggling left wing David Jones with center Paul Stastny and right wing Milan Hejduk, and the line combined for 2 goals and 4 assists, with Jones collecting 2 goals and 1 assist.

"We played a lot together last year and we had some success," said Jones, who has 12 goals in 45 games after scoring a career-high 27 goals last season. "Those guys make it so easy to play with them. They're real good with the puck and they draw guys to them. They'll find you anywhere on the ice, so it's just a matter of being ready and being ready to shoot."
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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Reeling Blackhawks lose a pair of defensemen

SAN JOSE -- The Chicago Blackhawks, riding a six-game losing streak and a deep defensive slump, got some more bad news Friday morning.

Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson, two of the Blackhawks' top defensive players, were sent back to Chicago because of upper-body injuries and will miss Friday night's game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.

Montador, who was hurt in the second period Tuesday against Colorado, was placed on injured reserve. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson has been ruled out for Saturday's game at Phoenix.  Hjalmarsson had missed the previous two days of practice with what the Blackhawks said was the flu but, according to multiple reports, could actually be a concussion.

"Things changed," Quenneville said, offering no specifics.

Chicago recalled rookie defenseman Dylan Olsen from Rockford of the American Hockey League. He didn't arrive in time for Friday morning's skate, but he's expected to arrive in time for the game and will be in the lineup Friday night, Quenneville said. So will defenseman Sami Lepisto, who has been a healthy scratch the past 15 and 23 of the past 24 games.

"I think Sami can give us some defensive consistency," Quenneville said. "He's got some offense, as well, to back it up. I want him to play a sound game, kind of like our team game."

Quenneville offered no specific reason why Lepisto has played so seldom.

"When you've got eight 'D' sometimes you've got to make some tough decisions," he said. "Whether it's him or John Scott, they want to play. You've got to commend them for sticking with it and being part of it and being a good teammate when they've been watching other guys get more ice time or games that they'd love to get a part of it. I was telling Sami the other day, be patient, things can change quickly, and here he is."

Olsen, 21, made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks on Jan. 5 and played two games before being sent back down. He had four shots, five hits and one blocked shot in that stint. Chicago drafted him with the 28th pick in the 2009 Entry Draft. In 44 games with the IceHogs, he has 4 goals, 3 assists and 44 penalty minutes.

"I think when he played here prior, the two games he played, I thought he was real solid for us," Quenneville said. "Gave us some size. Had some good presence, played the right side for us, did some good things."

The news was much better for San Jose. Defenseman Dan Boyle, who missed Wednesday night's game and Thursday's practice because of the flu, skated Friday morning and expects to return to the lineup against Chicago.

"I feel better," Boyle said. "Obviously I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel better. Stomach flu kind of went through the whole household. My parents were here, they both had it. Both my daughters and my wife had it. Not sure what it was. Ran its course and hopefully back in there tonight."

With Boyle sidelined, the Sharks suffered a 4-3 loss to Calgary, which came on the heels of a 5-3 loss at Phoenix. The Sharks' No. 1 focus tonight will be to get their defense back on track against a Blackhawks team that beat them 4-3 on Jan. 15 at Chicago.

"We know they're a very dynamic offensive team, so we're going to have to look after our end, and usually when we do that good things happen," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "So take care of our end and we'll probably play in their end quite a bit."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he expects to see "a different look" from his team Friday night than it had against Calgary.

"We didn't have a lot of intensity or energy early in the game," he said. "We expect that to change, and we weren't very good defensively. Too loose, too many freebies, too many turnovers. If we're playing the way I believe we can, we'll fix those areas and we'll still be in for a tight game because they're a group that's trying to fix their own issues, and I'm sure they'll come out with a lot of fire early in the game, and we'll have to match that."

Despite having back-to-back rough games, Antti Niemi will be in goal to face his former team, McLellan said. Niemi, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup two seasons ago, is 4-2-1 against the Blackhawks with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.

"We think he's played well against them in the past," McLellan said of his decision to start Niemi. "He's due for a good game, and we believe in him."

Niemi certainly won't lack motivation when he takes the ice against a team that let him go in a salary cap move shortly after he won a Stanley Cup.

"You get motivated knowing who you're playing against," Niemi said. "Don't have to dig it from deep."

After losing six straight games and allowing 27 goals during that stretch, the Blackhawks should have motivation to spare, too. For the past two days, they've gone back to the basics, trying to get their defensive house in order.

"There's some little things we need to just remind ourselves of that are very important," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "When things are going well you don't have to think about it. You just go out and do it. Maybe the last couple games we've been thinking a little too much out on the ice and that's why we're making mistakes. It's good just to refresh our mind on what we need to do defensively and now we can go out there and play and it will be a little more natural."

Here's how the lineups could look Friday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Chicago Blackhawks at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Benn Ferriero - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - John McCarthy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

BLACKHAWKS
Michael Frolik - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Viktor Stalberg

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Sami Lepisto - Sean O'Donnell
Dylan Olsen - Nick Leddy

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

Crawford will start in goal for Chicago after backing up Ray Emery the previous two games. Crawford lost 1-0 to the Sharks and Niemi on Nov. 23, Chicago’s first game at HP Pavilion this season.

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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 4:36 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Mullet of the Week: Sam Gagner

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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 3:40 PM

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

Projected lineups for Hurricanes, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

HURRICANES
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Drayson Bowman - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Justin Peters

INJURIES: G Brian Boucher (lower body) and D Joni Pitkanen (concussion) are out.

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

Kyle Quincey - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Shane O'Brien - Tyson Barrie

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

INJURIES: LW Matt Duchene (knee) is out.
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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 3:05 PM

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

Gretzky talks respect in game, Crosby



LAS VEGAS -- Wayne Gretzky said Friday from the Bellagio that he believes the respect factor from player to player was lost for some time, but it is coming back into the game now and it's essential that it remains.

"As much as the League is trying to police itself, and I think they do as good a job as they can do, I think it was Sidney Crosby that said it's still up to the players to monitor themselves and understand that you can't just hit guys in the head," Gretzky said in a sitdown interview with the NHL Network.

"If a guy has his head down, yeah you've got to hit him, but you can also take your foot off the pedal a touch with that respect factor," Gretzky continued. "I think it's gotten way better the protection of each and every player. And, listen, the physical aspect of our game can never be taken out. That's what makes our game special. We need to keep that physical presence in our sport, but it can be done in a way when it's not crossing the line."

Gretzky said in his day that respect factor existed because players understood there was life outside of hockey.

"The players understood they had to do whatever it took to become a champion, become a winner, but the guy on the other side also had a wife, kids, a mom and dad," Gretzky said. "There was always that feeling that, 'OK, I can't really cross the line, this is as far as it can go.' For some reason we lost a little bit of that respect factor from the players point of view to each other. We're getting that back now."

Regarding Crosby, Gretzky called him the game's best player and said he's hopeful that No. 87 can soon put this part of his career in the rearview mirror.

"You don't replace the best player, and he's without question the best player in our game today and he has been for a few years," Gretzky said. "More important his importance to that franchise, to helping that team win, and for those fans to get to watch him play, because he is a special hockey player. Then you top that off with what he does as far as being the front guy for the game itself, the ambassador for our game, the people of Nova Scotia, the people of Canada -- you don't replace that.

"It's very disappointing that a player of that caliber is injured, and I hope when he does come back he comes back at the right time, where he does feel healthy and can put this part of his career in the rearview mirror and continue without having to face these setbacks."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 2:56 PM

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

Boudreau extols virtues of two ageless wonders

DETROIT -- Despite being 41, Teemu Selanne is leading the Anaheim Ducks in points with 18 goals and 32 assists and doesn't show any signs of slowing up despite his increasing age.

"He never has a bad day," said Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, who has now had some time to study Selanne up close after taking over on Nov. 30 as Ducks coach. "He's very receptive to when you're talking to him. He wants to play every night. He never wants to take a day off. Some nights he skates faster than others, but when he's on top of his game, he looks like he’s a 25-year old."

In that regard, Selanne is a lot like Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom -- who's also 41 and still the Wings' top defenseman.

"I'd like to know the water they drink and what they do in the offseason," Boudreau said. "They must keep themselves in incredible shape in the offseason. Their lifestyle must be great. But if Nick is anything like Teemu, the passion for the game is got to be up there with anybody's."

Passion, Boudreau said, is the No. 1 factor that allows guys like Selanne and Lidstrom to keep going at such a high clip.

"That's a big part of hockey," Boudreau said. "Sometimes when you get older, it gets difficult to wake up in the morning and drag yourself to the rink because your bones and your body are sore every day. And I never see [Selanne] come to the rink without a smile on his face. If Nick is the same way, then it's like they've both found the Fountain of Youth. Wish they'd share it with a couple of us older guys."

Having them both play in the same game on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena, facing each other once again with Detroit's 18-game home winning streak on the line, certainly gives the game an added appeal from a fan's perspective.

"[Selanne] is our leading scorer and Nick's the perennial all-star, anchor of their defense, anchor of their power play and I'd venture to guess that in the last minute of a game … if you're a Detroit Red Wing, who do you want on the ice whether you're winning or losing?" Boudreau said. "It's going to be Nick Lidstrom. They're right up there. Outside of Bobby Orr, nobody's won as many Norris Trophies when his career is up, as Nick Lidstrom. He's going to rank in the top three defensemen all-time in this League and Teemu's going to rank in the top 10 forwards of all time. You've got two of the greatest players in the history of the game playing tonight."
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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 2:48 PM

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

Selanne brushes off talk about trade to Red Wings

DETROIT -- The closer the calendar gets to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, the more Teemu Selanne's name is likely to be thrown out for public consumption.

There are already rumors swirling about the League-leading Detroit Red Wings having interest in adding the skilled 41-year old Selanne to their already-talented collection of forwards. Selanne is good friends with Finnish Wings forward Valtteri Filppula, so people are already starting to connect the dots and wonder if he'd waive the no-movement clause in his contract for a Stanley Cup chase in Motown.

However, Selanne on Friday morning at Joe Louis Arena warned not to get too caught up in trade talk concerning his name just yet.

"I'm trying to avoid that question," Selanne said, when asked whether he'd accept any potential deals before the trade deadline. "Obviously, everybody in this room believes that we can make the playoffs and that would be almost wrong to think about any other options. That's not in my mind right now. Let's see what happens. My main focus is right now and today."

The Ducks are 11-2-2 in their last 15 games and 10 points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference going into Friday's action. They're also starting an eight-game road trip on Friday night against the Red Wings, which Selanne is real interested to see play out.

"This road trip is going to pretty much decide which direction we're going to go and everybody's looking ahead and up," he said. "Hopefully we can do it and let's see what happens after that. The way things went in the first half [of the season], it was really tough. That's why I think it's time to enjoy every moment and make sure that our way is going up in the standings, not going down. This is the time to push now and enjoy it."

As for fans in Detroit already having Selanne's name highlighted as a potential "perfect fit" with Filppula with the Wings, Selanne chuckled.

"We don't go that far," he said, smiling. "[This trip] is so important for everybody right now and we know the urgency, what we have to do. But that's the only focus we have right now. Everything else is stuff to put aside and forget from now on."
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Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp