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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:32 PM

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

Incident leads Jordan Staal to consider visor use

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal may have seen the light when it comes to wearing a protective visor.

Staal normally doesn't wear a visor, but he had one during the morning skate in advance of the Penguins' game against the Boston Bruins on Monday night. And the change may not be temporary.

Staal received an estimated seven to eight stitches under his left eye -- and a major scare -- when an attempted pass by Carolina's Tomas Kaberle deflected off Staal's stick, causing the puck to strike him flush in the face Saturday night. Staal, who was bleeding, left the ice following the third-period mishap and did not return to a game the Penguins held on to win 3-2.

Staal acknowledged the injury could have been much worse. He was fortunate that he saw what was happening and was aware the puck was traveling at a high rate of speed toward his eye.

"I was worried about getting (my eye) closed," Staal said. "Right away, I knew it was close. It's never a fun thing when it happens. It was unfortunate. I'm glad nothing worse came of it."

Staal planned to wear the visor Monday night and is weighing whether to keep one on his helmet fulltime.

"A lot of guys wear them. It's not a huge issue," Staal said. "I've just been used to having without, but maybe I'll get used to having one."
POSTED ON Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:10 PM

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

Thomas chases career-best 10th straight win

PITTSBURGH -- Goaltender Tim Thomas goes for a career-high 10th consecutive victory when the Boston Bruins -- the NHL's hottest team with a 13-0-1 record in its last 14 -- take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Monday night.
Thomas has enjoyed some success against the Penguins, going 7-4-4 with one shutout and a 2.74 goals-against average against them. The NHL's First Star for November, when he was 9-0 with a 1.76 GAA, Thomas hasn't lost since Oct. 27 against Montreal.
Thomas, as usual on a game day, did not speak to reporters following the morning skate.
Of course, a lot of goalies don't have much to say on a day they're opposing Sidney Crosby. For the record, Crosby -- who returned to the Penguins two weeks ago following a concussion layoff that lasted more than 10 months -- has 6 goals and 22 assists and is a plus-9 in 18 career games against Boston.
Coach Claude Julien did not reveal any anticipated lineup changes.
"It's exciting to be able to play a game like this, against a team that's extremely good and has Sidney back. A team that has earned a lot of respect around the League," Julien said. "For us, we've got to make it fun. It's not a situation where we've got to win at all costs. It's about going out there and competing and playing as good as you can, and having fun with it."
Apparently, that fun began about seven hours before the opening faceoff. Rushing to get to the team bus for the short ride back to the Bruins' hotel, rookie forward Tyler Seguin -- wearing shorts -- went from room to room in the dressing room, looking for a suit that linemate Brad Marchand had hidden.
The Bruins' likely lineup:
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid
Thomas is 4-3 in Pittsburgh during his career. The backup goalie will be Tuukka Rask, who made 21 saves during a 4-1 win over Toronto on Saturday night. He is 4-0-1 in his last five starts.
POSTED ON Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:04 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Rangers

NEW YORK -- With back-to-back games on the horizon for the Toronto Maple Leafs, coach Ron Wilson said he expects to use his fourth line more than usual against the Rangers on Monday night.

Backup Jonas Gustavsson, who handed the Rangers their only regulation loss at Madison Square Garden this season with a 28-save performance on Oct. 28, will start in goal. James Reimer will be in net when the Leafs host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Here's what Wilson will likely throw out onto the ice tonight:

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Matt Frattin
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
David Steckel - Joe Colborne - Philippe Dupuis

Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn

Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer

Nothing will likely change with the Rangers, who have won five straight and 12 of 14.

Ruslan Fedotenko - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell
Sean Avery - Brandon Dubinsky - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Michael Sauer
Jeff Woywitka - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

POSTED ON Monday, 12.05.2011 / 12:56 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rangers ready to welcome HBO cameras 24/7

NEW YORK -- The camera crews for HBO's "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic" have made brief appearances during the past month, but they will become fully immersed starting Monday as the Rangers host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden.

HBO's acclaimed documentary series will start compiling footage for the show's premiere, Dec. 14 at 10 p.m. ET. The cameras have been around the Rangers at times, and the players have said they'll adjust now that the cameras will be around full-time.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said he won't change anything he does and said he wants his players to enjoy the experience.

"I'm not worried about our guys," Tortorella said. "I think athletes are entertainers. I think they're going to enjoy it. But I also trust our guys that they know what we're doing here. They know what the big picture is here. I think we're letting people into our room and I think it's a good thing for the League. But it won't affect our team. I trust our players understand that.

"I want them to enjoy this. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them."

Will there be any tirades like the ones captured by HBO when Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was swearing at a record rate?

"Probably not," Tortorella said.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson was asked if he'd welcome cameras into his locker room the way the Rangers and Flyers are with HBO.

"It'd be HBO Canada, so I don't know," said Wilson, pointing out a Canadian franchise hasn't participated in a Winter Classic. "We wouldn't be involved in a situation like that because it is HBO and it's an NBC production, as well. I'd be interested to see if the CBC or TSN would be involved with something like that."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

POSTED ON Monday, 12.05.2011 / 12:42 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Leafs looking to improve against League's elite

NEW YORK -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are having a pretty good season. It could be an even better one if not for the Boston Bruins.

The Leafs are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points. But if not for four losses to the Boston Bruins, things would be looking even better in Toronto. Just a split in those games would have the Leafs in second place in the East and on the doorstep of the top spot in the League.

Finding ways to beat the NHL's top teams has been a problem for the Leafs -- of their 10 regulation losses this season, nine have come against teams with winning records. It won't get any easier Monday night when they have to face the New York Rangers, who have won 12 of 14 and boast the best winning percentage in the League.

If the beatings by the Bruins and losses to the League's top teams have had any effect on the Leafs' confidence, a win against the Rangers would give it a boost.

"It would be huge," center Tyler Bozak said. "We just have to get back to doing what we were doing on our road trip (3-1-0). It's obviously going to be a tough game in their building. They play well here and are on a little bit of a streak, so we're going to have to come and give it our all tonight to have a chance."

The Rangers are 7-1-1 at Madison Square Garden, but that regulation loss came to the Leafs on Oct. 27. The Rangers have caught fire since then, but that early-season win has the Leafs confident they can do it again.

"We beat them here already, so it's not like we feel we can't beat the Rangers," winger Joffrey Lupul said. "Right now, it's just two points for us for a team it looks like we'll be battling all year. As far as confidence goes, we're confident. It's not like we're coming in here thinking we can't beat these guys. We know we can."

The Leafs will attempt to use the same recipe they did in October -- get traffic in front of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and use their own Swedish goaltender, Jonas Gustavsson, who made 28 saves in the 4-2 victory.

"It's always fun to compete against the best, whether it's a goalie or a defenseman or forward," Gustavsson said of facing Lundqvist. "In the end, it's just the same thing. You don't focus on what he's doing. You try to stop as many shots as you can.

"I see every game as a new game. I don't like to look in the past. We know it's going to be a really tough challenge tonight. They have a good team and are playing well. But I'm sure we can match them. When we're playing good, we're a really tough team to beat. Hopefully we're going to show that tonight."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

POSTED ON Monday, 12.05.2011 / 12:36 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators, Lightning

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for Monday night's game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place:


Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Milan Michalek - Nick Foligno - Daniel Alfredsson
Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil

Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson
David Rundblad - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson will get the start, with Alex Auld serving as backup. Nikita Filatov is the healthy scratch. Filip Kuba, who sustained an upper body injury against the Jets on Nov. 29, skated by himself on Sunday morning. There is no timetable for his return.

Steve Downie - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Dana Tyrell - Nate Thompson - Ryan Shannon
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Brett Connolly

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Bruno Gervais
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson is expected to get the start, with Mathieu Garon backing him up. Gervais is in for Pavel Kubina, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

POSTED ON Monday, 12.05.2011 / 11:58 AM

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

Penguins' young defense gets test from Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins' depth is one of the organization's strengths. That depth will be severely tested Monday night against the streaking Boston Bruins in an Eastern Conference matchup of division-leading teams.
The Penguins (16-7-4), who are 5-1-1 since star Sidney Crosby returned, lead the Atlantic Division and the conference with 36 points. The Bruins (16-7-1) top the Northeast Division after going 13-0-1 in their previous 14.
"They've been at a high level, an elite level," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "The best in the League."
Three of the six Penguins defensemen expected to be in uniform were with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) only days ago: Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo and Alexandre Picard. Picard returned to the Penguins Monday after Kris Letang -- off to a fast start with 3 goals and 16 assists in 22 games -- was placed on the injured reserve list, backdated to Nov. 26.
Letang and Zbynek Michalek, who have concussions, did not take part in the morning skate. The Penguins also are without defenseman Deryk Engelland (lower body injury), who is listed as day-to-day. Forward Richard Park (lower body injury) also missed practice.
While their forwards are healthy -- Jordan Staal (cut below left eye) will play -- the Penguins will rely on a realigned defensive corps during their only home game in a two-week period. They went 3-1 on a just-concluded road trip, and will head off to play the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders later this week.
"Situations like we've been in, you can expect to see a lot of different pairings," Bylsma said. "Paul Martin with a lot of guys. Brooks Orpik with a lot of guys. Matt Niskanen with a lot of guys. If someone is playing well, you might play him more minutes."
The Penguins' expected lineup for the first of their four games against Boston this season:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Matt Niskanen - Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik - Simon Despres
Robert Bortuzzo - Alexandre Picard
Marc-Andre Fleury, tied for the NHL lead with 14 victories and 11-2-2 in his last 15 starts, will be in net. Backup goalie Brent Johnson won at Carolina 3-2 on Saturday, holding on even as the Hurricanes ended the game with a three-man advantage after pulling their goalie.
POSTED ON Monday, 12.05.2011 / 10:10 AM

By Pat LaFontaine -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Making of a Royal

Tough loss provides a teaching moment

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, Long Island Royals Under-16 National coach Pat LaFontaine recalls the team's play in the Bauer International Invite in Chicago, Ill., two weeks ago. The Bauer International is one of the largest amateur hockey tournaments in the world. After earning victories against the Toronto Eagles, Ice Jets Academy (Texas), Detroit Warriors, Indiana Ice and Team Wisconsin, the Royals suffered a 2-1 shootout loss to Honeybaked Hockey Club (Detroit) in the tournament semifinals. LaFontaine discusses that dramatic setback and his thoughts on coaching players in the shootout.

So Honeybaked and the Royals each were 5-0 and playing in the semifinal; it was a classic meeting. We prepared the kids to come out quick and try to dictate the game early because one goal or power-play chance could change the momentum in a short game. Really, when you get to the quarterfinal or semifinal round, the kids, mentally, know what's at stake.

You don't have to say too much and might just want to go over a few details. The kids actually played one of their better games in the quarterfinal against Illinois. They were hitting on all cylinders in that game, and once they're doing that, you don't have to do or say too much because they know what to do and what’s expected of them. As coaches, we just prepare them for the team we're facing.
We started Matt Atwell (Freeport, N.Y.) in net and we knew the Honeybaked goalie had been playing pretty strong, so it was one of those back-and-forth games. Nobody could get that little momentum swing for a goal. We got a few power plays, and had a 5-on-3, in fact. If we executed or capitalized on it, it would have changed the momentum and we probably would have won the game. Matt was making big saves for us and their goalie was making big saves. I felt our team had more quality chances and probably outplayed them for the most part, but in a game like that, when you get good goaltending, you must find a way to win and find a way to execute. We just weren't able to get that goal, and neither were they.
So here we go into an overtime game in a 0-0 tie. We play five minutes of 4-on-4, five minutes of 3-on-3, and then went to the shootout. We actually had a power-play to start the 4-on-4 and we had four or five shots, but their goalie made a couple of big saves when they needed them.
The 3-on-3 was even for five minutes, so after a 40-minute game, it's still 0-0. I told the kids that I was proud of them and no matter what happened, the guys played a heck of a game. But we wanted to win this thing and find a way to score goals in the shootout.
I asked the referee, since we were the home team, if we could have the choice of whether or not to shoot first. I really wanted to go first, but we couldn't. It's in the rulebook that the visiting team goes first. Most NHL teams like to go first to get that momentum, but despite the fact we were the home team, we didn't get that edge.
Entering the shootout, you kind of feel who is having a game or having chances and getting shots. I did almost put one of younger guys in there, but thought otherwise. Maybe further along he'll be ready. I just went with guys on the team who had been scoring for us. Sometimes you go with a hunch and sometimes a hot player. I went to the coaching staff and we had our lists and tweaked them a little. No matter what, we win and lose as a team and the game is based on momentum swings. At the end of the day, there are lots of opportunities over the course of a game.
So in the shootout, Matty Atwell tried to pokecheck the first player and just missed him; the skater made a nice move and scored. We were up next and Mike Marnell went in and made a nice move, but it was poke-checked off his stick.
The next Honeybaked player came down and made a similar move. Matt tried to poke check and the player put it upstairs so now we're down 2-0. You try and keep the kids positive. If we can get one, we'll have some momentum. Up next for us was Joey Fallon. He skated in and made a tremendous move; he's a right-handed player but made that (Pavel) Datsyuk move and I thought he was a little too tight but he still popped it in and the kids were fired up. 
POSTED ON Sunday, 12.04.2011 / 11:30 PM

NHL.com - Melrose Minute

My all-time team of big guys in NHL history

What I tried to do in this was pick big guys, but they also had to be good. These guys are big, big men, but they're also very good players, because in the end you can't just rely on your size to play in the National Hockey League.

And so, without further ado, here is my best all-time lineup of big guys:

Ken Dryden, G -- In net, we're starting with Ken Dryden. He's 6-foot-4, and the numbers speak for themselves. He won the Conn Smythe before he won rookie of the year (in 1971), which hasn't happened since, and he's one of the greatest goaltenders ever to play our game. He was a part of those great Montreal teams -- some say the best teams in NHL history -- and he was an iconic figure on those teams. We all remember the photos of him leaning on his stick -- he made that pose very, very famous.

A goalie with Dryden's height, to play like he did, completely changed the game. They talk about positions that have changed the most or the biggest difference between now and the 1970s. It's goaltending. Every team now has got a great goaltender, and if you look at these goaltenders they basically all play the same, they're all 6-2 to 6-5, and some like Ben Bishop are as tall as 6-7. They're all butterfly goalies and they're well-schooled. They're not reaction goalies anymore. They go to where the puck is going to go, and they're the best athletes on the team now. In the old days you put the fat kid in net. Now the best athletes on the team are in net. That's the biggest difference and you could certainly say Ken Dryden was on the cutting edge of that.

Zdeno Chara
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 18
SOG: 76 | +/-: 18
Zdeno Chara, D -- He's 6-9, but the guy is great, too. Zdeno Chara was an easy choice. He's won a Stanley Cup, he's one of the best defensemen in the game right now, he's just a unique player, he's the captain of an original six team and the guy's gigantic. And he's not just a freak of nature -- the guy's a great athlete. Both of his parents were great athletes and his father went to the Olympics as a greco-roman wrestler. Chara came over to Prince George, British Columbia at a young age, began practicing and just developed, developed, developed. If you ask GMs in hockey which defenseman they'd take first if they got to draft them all, I've got to think a large number would pick Chara. He's that good.

A buddy of mine was an assistant coach at Prince George and he talked to me about Chara. He really thought he was going to be a player. He told me that Chara had just improved so much since he came over, he's a workaholic, he's a great kid, he's a sponge for information, and he's just awesome. Sometimes athletes that tall can struggle with coordination, but the guys who saw him play in juniors said he'll make it. They didn't say he'd become the best defenseman in the game, but they did say he's going to play in the NHL and play well. In addition to being a presence though, the guy scores 10-20 goals a year. He gets points. He's on the power play. He's a complete player. He's not a one-dimensional freak. He's a great defenseman who happens to be gigantic.

Chris Pronger, D -- He's 6-6 and all you have to do to see the impact of Chris Pronger is see what Philadelphia looks like with him out of the lineup. He's a lot like Chara size-wise, but he's a great passer of the puck. That's the biggest difference between the two if you had to find one. There aren't very many better first passers in the NHL than Pronger and that's an important part of today's game. He'll play the point on the power play, he'll kill penalties, he always plays against the other team's best player, and if you noticed, Pronger made the Final three times in five years with a different team each time.

Pronger is one of the great defensemen ever to play the game. He's mobile, he can skate, he's mean as a rattlesnake, tough to play against and his size just makes him more effective.

Mario Lemieux, F -- It's nice when we're talking about one of the five greatest players in the history of the game as one of the big guys on my team, but if you look at him, 6-4, 230-240 lbs., great talent, some of the best hands the game's ever seen, scored over 600 goals -- he's another guy that if he hadn't been hurt or had cancer his numbers would have been Gretzky-esque. And he's also, arguably, done as much off the ice as he's done on the ice. He basically saved Pittsburgh twice -- once when he came into the NHL because Pittsburgh was a terrible, terrible franchise, and once when he restructured all the money they owed him and kept the franchise in Pittsburgh. Now everyone knows it as maybe the best franchise in the NHL.

He's just a great ambassador of our sport, but that frame makes him really the first great big guy with talent. Big guys before were physical players and fighters, but here we had a guy that big who was maybe the most skilled player in the game. Just a unique individual and a unique player. If he had stayed healthy his whole career I don't think he would have beat Gretzky -- Gretzky's numbers are that freakish -- but he certainly would have been up there.

At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Pete Mahovlich used his oversized body to score 288 goals and 773 point in 884 NHL games for the Canadiens and Red Wings. (Photo: Getty Images)
Pete Mahovlich, F -- Pete was 6-5 and when I think of Big Pete I always think of that goal he scored against the Russians in the '72 Summit Series, where he beat the whole Russian team, went in and scored. It's one of the greatest goals ever. He was also very skilled, similarly to Mario. He had one of the best sets of hands the NHL ever saw, and he was also one of the funniest guys in the NHL. He was a great teammate. Everyone loved playing with Pete.

He was really just an unbelievable talent skill-wise. Here was a guy that wasn't very physical, but his hands, his stick, his skating, his ability to move the puck, he was one of the great players of that era. Anyone benefits from playing on a great team like he did, but Pete was a talent in his own right. When you're picked to Team Canada in '72 and you're one of the key players on Team Canada in '72, you're a great player. Pete was front and center on that team, so I think he stands on his own.

Dave Andreychuk, F -- Dave is 6-5, another guy with over 600 goals, he won a Stanley Cup, he always scored a ton of goals in junior and the NHL, every place he went and every organization he went to he scored goals so it wasn't a case of people he was with making him a goal scorer, and he just had a great set of hands around the net. He was a gigantic man physically, and he would get into that tripod stance on the ice that made him impossible to move. He was a great power play performer and just one of the great goal scorers in our game.

He was not a great skater -- he'll be the first to tell you that -- but he got to the puck and he was able to put it in. As a result, Andreychuk is the third man on that gigantic line.
POSTED ON Sunday, 12.04.2011 / 10:23 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

MIN @ ANA - 14:29 of the third period

At 14:29 of the third period in the Wild/Ducks game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck deflected off the skate of Minnesota player Nick Johnson and into the Anaheim net. Good goal Minnesota.
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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