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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 2:10 PM

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

Jets want to keep accumulating home points

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets look to continue to accumulate points tonight when the Washington Capitals are the latest visitor in this month's home-heavy schedule.

The Jets (14-12-4) have won eight of their past nine games at home, including their last five consecutive MTS Centre dates. Only the Detroit Red Wings (9-1-0) and Boston Bruins (8-1-1) have been better than in their past 10 home games than have the Jets (8-2-0). Among those wins was a 4-1 decision over the Capitals at home on Nov. 17. The clubs also met in Washington on Nov. 23, a game the Capitals took in overtime, 4-3.

Winnipeg plays 12 of 14 games at home this month and is in the midst of a six-game homestand. The Jets' recent home success has pushed them to within one point of the eighth-place New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference.

Coach Claude Noel expects that Nik Antropov, who has missed five of the Jets' past six games, will be a game-time decision. Alexander Burmistrov and Randy Jones will miss their second consecutive games with injury. Noel also indicated that defenseman Tobias Enstrom could be ready for action by this weekend. Enstrom has been out since Oct. 31 with a broken collarbone. Waiver-wire addition Antti Miettinen will not dress for the Jets tonight.

Center Bryan Little has anchored the Jets' top line and has goals in four straight games and 17 points (11 goals) in his last 16 contests. Linemates Evander Kane (10-5-15 in his past 13 games) and Blake Wheeler (2-11-13 in his past 12 games) have flanked Little during the Jets' recent run.

The Jets have not faced the Capitals since Washington replaced Bruce Boudreau with Dale Hunter behind the bench. Noel noted that the Capitals have transitioned from a 1-3-1 system to Hunter's 1-2-2 system, but he does not expect a substantially different look from the Capitals.

"They've changed their systems a bit," Noel said. "I don't think Dale is going to come in and re-invent the game and make it confusing."

Here are tonight's projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg.

JETS
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Kyle Wellwood - Eric Fehr
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Jason Jaffray - Tim Stapleton - Carl Klingberg

Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Mark Flood

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 1:06 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Habs, Flyers are hurting

BROSSARD, Que. -- Both the Flyers and the Canadiens will be missing their captains when the teams meet tonight at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

The Flyers have been without Chris Pronger for nearly a month due to concussion-type symptoms, as well as knee surgery that would have sidelined him anyway until the end of the month, at the earliest.

Philadelphia also will play its second game without Claude Giroux, the League's leading scorer.

The Flyers are also missing rookie center Brayden Schenn due to a concussion, though he skated with the team Wednesday, the first time since he was injured Dec. 3 against Phoenix. Also working his way back is defenseman Andreas Lilja, out with a high ankle sprain suffered Nov. 25. Neither will play tonight.

Canadiens captain Brian Gionta will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury. He'll be joined as a spectator tonight by forward Travis Moen, who left Tuesday's 5-3 win against the Islanders with a lower-body injury. Also, defenseman Raphael Diaz is out with an illness.

They'll be replaced by AHL call-up Michael Blunden and Alexei Emelin, the hard-hitting rookie who was a healthy scratch Tuesday.

Those injuries are added to the long-term absences of defenseman Andrei Markov and centers Scott Gomez and Ryan White.

Here's which healthy players will be dressing for the teams tonight, and how the forward lines and defense pairings could look.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 12:58 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Habs counting on Desharnais' line

BROSSARD, Que. -- The Philadelphia Flyers arrived in Montreal for their game against the Canadiens on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) with three forward lines scoring goals on a regular basis.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, have one.

The line of David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty has been the Canadiens' most consistent trio all season, and they will be counted on to produce against the high-powered Flyers, who lead the League with 3.66 goals per game, including the five they scored in Washington on Tuesday while missing League scoring leader Claude Giroux due to a concussion.

While Cole and Pacioretty are well-known commodities in the NHL, Desharnais is not quite a household name.

Listed at 5-foot-7 and 177 pounds, Desharnais has beaten the odds as an undrafted free agent who dominated the ECHL and American Hockey League not only to reach the NHL, but thrive there.

"I didn't know a tremendous amount about him," Cole said of Desharnais. "But I was impressed with him when I played against the Canadiens last year. For a small player he's strong in puck battles. His compete level is very high."

The emphasis on the Desharnais line producing is made all the more glaring by the lack of production coming from Montreal's other key offensive players -- Michael Cammalleri has 1 goal in his last nine games, Tomas Plekanec has 1 goal in his last 11 games, and Brian Gionta, before he was sidelined with a lower-body injury that will cost him a third game Thursday, had 1 goal in his last nine games.

"It's got to get better," said Cammalleri. "But no, I'm not frustrated."

Here's what the rest of the Canadiens' lineup -- and the Flyers' lineup -- likely will look like tonight.

And for more on tongiht's game, check out the preview here.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 12:57 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Flyers, Canadiens

BROSSARD, Que. -- The Flyers did not skate this morning so it's difficult to judge what their exact lineup will be or who will start in goal, but Ilya Bryzgalov has started the last six games -- all Flyers wins -- so it would be odd to turn away from him now. Carey Price will be in goal for Montreal.

Here are tonight's likely lineups when the teams meet tonight at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., NHLN-US, TSN).

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Sean Couturier - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Jody Shelley - Harry Zolnierczyk - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bourdon
Kevin Marshall - Andrej Meszaros
 
CANADIENS
Michael Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Matthieu Darche - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Michael Blunden - Petteri Nokelainen - Yannick Weber

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Chris Campoli
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 12:51 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Murray and Pearson earn spots for Team Canada

It's interesting to note that two players eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft will play a part for Canadian National Junior Team coach Don Hay in the anticipated 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta., later this month.

             Tanner Pearson, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Not surprisingly, defenseman Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League will be looked upon to stabilize the back end. Meanwhile, forward Tanner Pearson of the Barrie Colts had really been ripping up the Ontario Hockey League prior to attending Canada's three-day selection camp. His inclusion on this team, particularly since he has quite the chemistry with Barrie teammate and Canada's likely top-line center Mark Scheifele, isn't a surprise either.

Both players on Thursday were also invited to participate in the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game scheduled Feb. 1 in Kelowna, B.C. Pearson will play for Team Orr and Murray will dress for Team Cherry.

"Tanner has made a steady improvement each season," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "This season he has broken out and has led the league in scoring almost from the start of the season."

Pearson leads the OHL with 66 points, including 26 goals and 40 assists, through 30 games with the Colts this campaign.

"He's become a skilled forward with lots of finish around the net," Edwards said. "He has very good hands and can handle the puck very well in traffic. He also has very good play-making ability and sees the ice and passes the puck as well as anyone. He is creative and highly skilled."

No wonder Hockey Canada's managerial team opted to keep the 6-foot, 198-pound Pearson.

Three other players considered to be blue chip prospects were sent home, including defensemen Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels (WHL), Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67's (OHL) and forward Philliip Di Giuseppe of the University of Michigan. Dumba is rated No. 3 according to NHL Central Scouting's preliminary WHL list. Ceci is rated No. 10 in the OHL and Di Giuseppe is the lone 'A Watch Player' in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Murray is the second member of the Silvertips to represent Canada at the World Juniors. Goaltender Leland Irving, currently in the Calgary Flames organization, was a member of Canada's gold-medal squad in 2007. He has three goals and 7 points in 11 games this season for Everett.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 12:42 PM

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

Zajac set to make season debut for Devils

New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer will receive an early Christmas gift on Friday when his team plays host to the Dallas Stars at Prudential Center.

Center Travis Zajac, who has been sidelined all season while recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon, will play his first game. Zajac was practicing on the team's third line on Thursday with wings Eric Boulton and Mattias Tedenby. DeBoer confirmed after practice that Zajac, who underwent surgery on Aug. 18, would be in the lineup.

Meanwhile, defensemen Henrik Tallinder (left wrist) and Anton Volchenkov (hand) were also practicing with the team and are probable for Friday's meeting with the Stars. Wing David Clarkson was missing from practice but, according to general manager Lou Lamoriello, is dealing with a personal matter.

The Bergen Record is also reporting that goalie Johan Hedberg will get the nod against Dallas and Martin Brodeur will start against Montreal on Saturday.

Here were the Devils line combinations at Thursday's practice:

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Eric Boulton - Travis Zajac - Mattias Tedenby
Tim Sestito - Ryan Carter - Cam Janssen

Bryce Salvador - Kurtis Foster
Henrik Tallinder - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Mark Fayne
Alexander Urbom - Matt Taormina
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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 12:13 PM

By Kurt Dusterberg -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Luongo gets day off for Canucks against Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. -- After six consecutive starts by Roberto Luongo, the Canucks will turn to Cory Schneider in goal against Carolina. Here are the projected lineups for both teams as they get set to meet Thursday night at RBC Centre.

VANCOUVER

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Jannik Hansen
Mason Raymond - Cody Hodgson - Maxim Lapierre
Aaron Rome - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Sami Salo - Alexander Edler
Keith Ballard - Andrew Alberts

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo

CAROLINA

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

Tim Gleason - Jamie McBain
Jaroslav Spacek - Justin Faulk
Derek Joslin - Bryan Allen

Cam Ward
Justin Peters

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 11:07 AM

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

Barry's Best: This week's best players

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 11:05 AM

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

Melrose Place: Barry talks coaching changes

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POSTED ON Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 12:22 AM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Emery continues stretch of hot play

Ray Emery has been on four clubs since 2007-08.

It seems as if he's found a home in Chicago, as the Blackhawks backup to Corey Crawford has done nothing but dazzle between the pipes this season when called upon.

Ray Emery
Goalie - CHI
RECORD: 7-1-2
GAA: 2.70 | SVP: 0.904
Anyone can step in and have a good night or two, but Emery has been a consistent stabilizing force in his 11 appearances so far. Consider the numbers: the 29-year-old has a 7-1-2 record with a 2.70 GAA and .904 save percentage. While the latter two statistics aren't mind-boggling, his record certainly is.

Emery can be the perfect complement to your fantasy squad's goaltending crop, if only because the Blackhawks are among the stronger clubs in the NHL and the likelihood of a victory is strong.

Also consider the reason for the seemingly high goals against average: he allowed more than three goals in a game three times in his first five outings. Since then? He did it just once.

As you consider your options between the pipes, don't lose sight of a perfectly nice option in Emery.
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Playing for my favorite team growing up, I've probably scored that goal a million times in my driveway. It feels good to actually do it in real life.

— Dale Weise, who grew up a Canadiens fan, on scoring the overtime winner in Montreal's 5-4 victory against Tampa Bay in Game 1