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Posted On Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 12:51 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

After lift from old team, Ponikarovsky to make Devils debut

NEWARK, N.J. -- Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky traveled  with his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on Friday, in order to get acquainted with his new mates Saturday, the New Jersey Devils.
 
Ponikarovsky, who was acquired by the Devils from the Hurricanes in exchange for minor-league defenseman Joe Sova and a 2012 fourth-round draft pick on Friday night, is eager and excited to get started. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Ponikarovsky will make his Devils debut against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at Prudential Center on the team's third line with David Clarkson and center Jacob Josefson.
 
"I'm excited to be here," Ponikarovsky said. "This team is battling for a playoff spot and it's always nice to be in a scrum like that. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to play here and do my best."
 
Coach Peter DeBoer is hoping Ponikarovsky will add some scoring depth.
 
"I think Lou [Lamoriello] and I have talked over the last couple of months, and I think he saw an opportunity to get a guy that can give us depth on third line … a veteran NHL presence who makes us deeper and bigger, and hopefully better," DeBoer said. "He'll play with Josefson and Clarkie. We've liked out first two lines. There's been chemistry there, so I think the upgrade was to try to get three lines that can score on a regular basis."
 
Ponikarovsky, 31, had seven goals and 15 points in 49 games for Carolina this season. He was scoreless in 15:20 of ice time in a 3-0 win Friday against Washington. He got word of the trade immediately following the victory against the Capitals.
 
"I got the news after finishing the game, got on the plane and got here and then got some sleep," Ponikarovsky said. "I was here [Friday] night because [Carolina] had to fly to New York anyway since we were playing the Islanders. I just got off plane and came here."
 
Was he surprised by the trade?
 
"It's part of the job," he said. "You play for one team one day, and then everything changes, so you just basically pack up [and] go wherever they send you. Carolina was in a position to trade some players and I was a free agent after the season, so maybe I was a target. But those things happen and you just move on and go and play as best you can for the other team."
 
Ponikarovsky is a four-time 20-goal scorer, most recently in 2009-10, but had just five goals and 15 points with the Los Angeles Kings last season. He signed with Carolina this summer as a free agent.
 
"Along with adding size and strength, Ponikarovsky also has the ability to play all three forward positions," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "He's a left shot and he's going to help our third line. We just have to get our third and fourth line straightened out and this is one step towards it."
 
In 603 regular-season games, Ponikarovsky has 128 goals, 296 points and 397 penalty minutes. He also has three goals and 10 points in 38 playoff games.
 
"I'm not thinking about [playing time] right now … I'm just taking it day-by-day and we'll go from there," Ponikarovsky said. "I learned a little about the system [on Saturday] and I'm going out there and bringing what I can. My size, shots and everything else … I'll bring my A-game. I'm never going to say I'm going to score 30 goals, but I'll play the system and be accountable."
 
DeBoer doesn't doubt that Ponikarovsky will play determined and hard.
 
"He's played with good coaches over the years," DeBoer said. "There were minor details he went over with [assistant coach] Dave Barr this morning that maybe we do differently than other teams.
 
"But you can never have enough size," he added. "We want to be a big, strong, hard team to play against and that's the identity we want to play with and he fits that. You can never have enough big bodies, especially come playoff time."
 
The deal comes one day after the 'Canes sent Jon Matsumoto and Mattias Lindstrom to Florida for Evgeni Dadonov and AJ Jenks in a four-forward swap. Ponikarovsky, who will wear jersey No. 12, is on a one-year contract for $1.5 million.
 
Lamoriello assigned right wing Mattias Tedenby to the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany. DeBoer said his fourth line against the Flyers will have Brad Mills centering Eric Boulton and Ryan Carter. Steven Zalewski, who has played seven games with the Devils this season, will be a healthy scratch.
 
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will start Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes against the Devils. Bryzgalov is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in three career appearances against New Jersey.
 
Here are the projected lineups for a Saturday afternoon game between the Devils and Flyers at Prudential Center:
 
DEVILS
 
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Brad Mills - Ryan Carter
 
Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Matt Taormina - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster.
 
Martin Brodeur will get the start in goal; Johan Hedberg will serve as backup.
 
FLYERS
 
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Max Talbot - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
Jody Shelley - Bryaden Schenn - Harry Zolnierczyk
 
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Matt Carle
Erik Gustafsson - Andrej Meszaros
 
Ilya Bryzgalov gets the start in goal; Sergei Bobrovsky will serve as backup.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
 
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Posted On Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 12:29 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks not worried about recent slow starts

The Canucks aren’t worried about starts Saturday against the Sharks – their own or a rare 1 p.m. local time at home.

Vancouver spent most of the last two first periods being badly outshot – 10-3 in the opening period of a 4-2 loss to Anaheim on Sunday, and 15-0 in the early stages of a 3-2 shootout loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday, surrendering more than a half-dozen odd-man rushes to the Kings in the first eight minutes alone.

Coach Alain Vigneault correctly pointed out the Canucks scored first in 10 straight games before their recent letdowns out of the gate, which came on the heels of a draining Eastern road trip. Having San Jose in town also helps, given a rivalry that heated up in the Western Conference finals last season.

“I would safely say the last two starts are blips on the radar,” Vigneault said. “This group prepares themselves really well, they get ready to play, as prior games showed. … San Jose is coming in here, one of the top teams in the League, they are always competitive and real tight games that could probably go one way or another so I expect another hard fought battle and I expect my guys to be ready for it.”

That includes starting goalie Roberto Luongo, who was the only reason the Kings didn’t run away with the game early Tuesday. A creature of habit who often takes part in game-day skates even when most of his teammates are given them off, Luongo suffered a rare groin injury during an early afternoon game in Pittsburgh way back in 2008, and is still answering questions about whenever the Canucks have an early start time.

“It’s unfortunate that a lot of times people remember what happened a long time ago and that kind of sticks with you,” said Luongo, who never did link the injury, suffered stretching for a quick redirection that caught him moving the wrong way, with not going through his normal game-day routine. “I’m comfortable with afternoon games, I’ve played major ones since in the Olympics and one against the Sharks (in the playoffs) last year.”

As for not being able to go through his normal morning-skate warm up, Luongo, who has been known to show up early morning to take shots on the rare occasions the Canucks have a 4 p.m. start, said he’s adjusted to going without.

“Over the years you kind of develop a routine for different times,” he said. “I don’t mind afternoon games any more. You just get up, eat breakfast and come to the rink so you don’t have time to think about it too much and sometimes that’s a good thing.” 
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Posted On Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 11:58 AM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Salo skates for Canucks, Tanev to play against banged-up Sharks

Veteran Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo was back at practice Friday and taking contact for the first time since a experiencing a concussion as the result of Brad Marchand’s low hit in Boston on Jan. 7, but he won’t play Saturday in a matinee against San Jose.

Instead, second-year pro Chris Tanev will make the rare jump from the American Hockey League to a top-4 spot, taking Salo’s spot alongside All-Star Alexander Edler on the second pairing. It’s a jump Tanev earned with his poise during 29 games last season as a rookie just two years removed from Tier-2 junior and after only had one season of college hockey.

Part of it is being a right-shot and comfortable on the right side, something none of the Canucks’ left-shot defensemen that took a turn in Salo’s spot were able to demonstrate.

“Nobody else that’s here has taken the bull by the horns in Sami’s absence and said my play will keep me in that spot,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’ve tried a number of guys, and not that they’ve played bad, but they haven’t played to that ice time. That ice time gets obviously more minutes so we’ll try Chris and see what he can do.”

Tanev, whose offense has been limited in two pro seasons, won’t replace Salo on the top powe- play unit – forward Alexandre Burrows is back there for now – but should get the bulk of action five-on-five.

David Booth was demoted to the third line for the third period Tuesday and scored the tying goal there in a shootout loss to Los Angeles, but the Canucks see enough promise from the “American Express” combination with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins to put it back together Saturday.

With Salo still out and Tanev called up, Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer will both be healthy scratches against the Sharks, with Aaron Rome and Keith Ballard – neither of whom prefers playing the right side -- together on the third pairing.

CANUCKS

Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Chris HigginsRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Mason RaymondCody HodgsonJannik Hansen
Manny MalhotraMaxim LapierreDale Weise

Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler – Chris Tanev
Keith BallardAaron Rome
 
Roberto Luongo is back in goal for a fourth straight game. Cory Schneider backs him up.

San Jose practiced at home before flying north Friday afternoon, and there were no game-day skates with the 1 p.m. local start time, so there are no guarantees when forecasting a lineup hit hard by injuries of late.

The latest was to rookie Tommy Wingels in a 4-1 loss to Ottawa on Thursday night. The upper-body injury is expected to keep him out through the All Star break, and is a tough blow after he earned a top-line forward spot with Martin Havlat and Ryane Clowe already out of the lineup and on injured reserve.

The good news is Andrew Desjardins was back Thursday after clearing concussion protocol to center the fourth line against the Senators. And based on reports out of San Jose’s practice, Desjardins should at least be one player to get a look in Wingels’ spot alongside the two Joes – Thornton and Pavelski.

It looks like John McCarthy will take Desjardins' place on the fourth line. McCarthy was reportedly recalled and expected to join the team in Vancouver. He leads Worcester with 27 points (11 goals), but has just four points in 41 games for the Sharks in the past two seasons.

San Jose does have an extra body in defenseman Jason Demers, who came out of the lineup when Colin White was activated from the injured list Thursday. Jim Vandermeer is also getting close to returning after missing 20 games with an upper-body injury.

SHARKS

Andrew Desjardins - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad WinchesterAndrew Murray-John McCarthy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun
 
Antti Niemi is expected to start, with Thomas Greiss backing up. Antero Niittymaki is expected to make another conditioning-stint start in Worcester after stopping 23 shots in a 3-2 loss to Providence on Friday.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 1:25 AM

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

Fantasy Spin: Purcell proving to be consistent contributor for Bolts

Teddy Purcell won't soon be confused with Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis or Vincent Lecavalier, but he's certainly making a name for himself of late.

The 26-yaer-old Tampa Bay Lightning winger is coming off a two-goal night against the Dallas Stars Friday night, a game which also saw Purcell skate away with seven shots and a plus-1 rating.

Teddy Purcell
Right Wing - TBL
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 26
SOG: 74 | +/-: 1
While that kind of evening might not become the norm for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound forward, it has been representative of his recent play.

In the past five games, Purcell has combined for five points, including two multi-point outings. During that same span, he has managed to tickle the twine on three occasions. For someone who sees roughly 15 minutes per night, those stats look that much more impressive.

On the season, the former Los Angeles King has himself 11 goals, 15 assists and 26 points to go along with 74 shots and 16 PIMs. Last year, albeit on a seemingly more dangerous Bolts squad, Purcell finished with 17 goals, 51 points and just under 200 shots. Again, numbers that certainly are nothing to sneeze at.

Owned in 16 percent of standard Yahoo! leagues, the crafty winger may be in play in deep leagues. If you need a steady-as-he-goes performer on your fantasy squad, Purcell could fill that role nicely and, if you're lucky, exceed expectations.
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 11:02 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

TB @ DAL - 1:22 of the Third Period



At 1:22 of the third period in the Lightning / Stars game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck deflected off Tom Wandell's skate and entered the net in a legal fashion. Good goal Dallas.

According to rule 49.2 "A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal."
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 10:51 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

FLA @ CHI - 17:39 of the Second Period



At 17:39 of the second period in the Panthers / Blackhawks game, video review was inconclusive in determining if Andrew Brunette's stick was above the crossbar. Therefore the referee's call on the ice stands. No goal Chicago.
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 6:23 PM

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

Fleury gets start vs. Canadiens

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will start for the second straight night when Pittsburgh plays the Montreal Canadiens at Consol Energy Center on Friday.

With the Penguins playing three games in four days and four in six, Brent Johnson was expected to make only his second start since Dec. 16. Fleury made 30 saves in helping lead Pittsburgh to a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

But coach Dan Bylsma said Fleury will be in net against his hometown Canadiens. Johnson has won only once since mid-October and has just two wins this season.

The Penguins did not hold a morning skate, so Bylsma announced his decision shortly before game time.

"Marc has been playing the lion's share, but we're looking at playing against Montreal as a game that Marc is always probably looking to play," Bylsma said.

Fleury will be appearing in his 20th consecutive game. Johnson did not finish either of his last two starts.

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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 5:34 PM

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

Bolland quietly making impact, Sharp healing

CHICAGO -- A lot of the recognition for the Chicago Blackhawks' recent success has gone to captain Jonathan Toews, Viktor Stalberg and impressive rookies Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes.

Brushed aside a little is the play of Dave Bolland, who's done a lot more in the past six games than just disturbing the other team's top line by being a puck-hounding pest. He's also scoring goals and setting up teammates for good scoring opportunities -- skills he showed in abundance while playing in junior hockey.

Bolland has 6 goals and 3 assists in the last six games and now has 14 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season. He's currently centering the third line with Andrew Brunette on the left side and the 6-foot-6, 221-pound Hayes on the right.

"Bolly's game has been trending in the right direction," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "When he has [pace and speed] to his game, he's so effective in a lot of ways offensively and defensively. Things are going in for him right now and that I like that line, as far as what they’re doing offensively -- and defensively we haven't had too many shifts in our own end."

In other Blackhawks-related news, injured forward Patrick Sharp is still in the holding pattern of his recovery from an upper-body injury (hand/wrist) that has the Hawks projecting a potential return to the lineup at some point during a trip to Western Canada following the All-Star Game at the end of January.
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 5:22 PM

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

Chirp-fest begins as Hawks get set to face ex-mates

CHICAGO -- It started with a friendly suggestion made by Jonathan Toews on Thursday night, when he and some other Chicago Blackhawks met up for dinner with former Hawks Kris Versteeg and Jack Skille, who are now Florida Panthers.

"I was willing to take 'Steeger' to the hair salon and get him a haircut, but he didn't want to do that," said Toews on Friday morning, referring to the long, blond hair Versteeg is sporting these days. "He just wanted to hang out at the restaurant. Good to see him a little bit, though."

Florida will face Chicago on Friday night at the United Center (8:30 p.m.), but the game could feel a little bit like an old Blackhawks inter-squad scrimmage between the whistles -- thanks to the Panthers being constructed by former Chicago general manager Dale Tallon, who's collected four Hawks from the 2010 Stanley Cup team plus Skille.

That 2010 Hawks team had great locker room chemistry and thrived off subtle jabs at each other off the ice. Thus, Toews' crack about Versteeg's hair was not unexpected by the recipient -- who's making his first trip back to the Madhouse on Madison since helping Chicago win Game 5 of the 2010 Cup Final by scoring a goal.

In fact, Versteeg was ready with a comeback for Toews after Florida's Friday morning skate when told of the haircut quip.

"It's always been a thing of [Toews'] … try and get inside someone else's mind, when really you can get inside his mind before he can get inside of yours," Versteeg said. "So last night at the restaurant he let me know about it, but [the hair's] not going to go anywhere anytime soon."

Blackhawks star forward Patrick Kane also got in a few barbs on Versteeg, who was definitely one of the leaders of Chicago's Kangaroo Court two seasons ago. Asked whether he thinks Versteeg will show off his "rap skills" again for the special occasion of his return -- something he did in front of millions at the Hawks' Cup parade -- Kane just laughed.

"You call those skills?" he said. "I don't know if you could call those skills. That was pretty embarrassing, so hopefully we don't see any of that for a while."

Versteeg, however, said he hasn't even come close to giving up his interest in musical performance.

"I've actually been writing a few things here and there and I'll be coming out with a music video, but that's actually in the near future," he said, trying to stay straight-faced. "That's actually a work in progress."

Kane, Toews and Versteeg all agreed on one thing -- playing this game on Friday night ought to be a blast, especially when it comes to the banter between the former teammates. Florida also has former Hawks Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, John Madden and Jack Skille likely playing.

"There's always old stories coming up and I think they'll be some pretty tough competition," Toews said. "It might get a little heated out there. We'll see."

Kane said it's probably going to be a little weird seeing them all wearing different uniforms inside the United Center -- not to mention trading some friendly trash talk during stoppages.

"They were all big parts of our team and it's fun to see them all, for sure," Kane said. "It's almost kind of like it's not a real hockey game. There's a lot of laughing and joking around and having fun, but at the same time you want to beat them, too. It's a little bit different, but it's definitely fun."
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 5:14 PM

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

Madden happy to get shot with Panthers

CHICAGO -- He's 38 years old now and the phone just wasn’t ringing when the season started.

So John Madden kept training three days a week and also watched a lot of hockey while he patiently waited for some team to call about him playing center for them. That team was ultimately the Florida Panthers, who signed him on Jan. 4 to man the middle of their third line -- but not before the silence of his phone got him thinking about his career.

Madden won the 2010 Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and then signed last season as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild before heading out into the open mark again last summer.

Did he think his playing days might be over at any point?

"Oh, for sure," Madden said. "It's a new game and a lot of teams are going with young, talented kids and seeing what they've got. Reluctantly I thought it might be the end of the line, but I told myself it wasn't and tried to stay in shape the best I could -- even though I thought the writing was on the wall, so to speak. I was glad to get a phone call from (Panthers GM Dale Tallon)."

While he waited for that call, Madden worked out three days a week on the ice and several days a week off ice -- also watching a lot of hockey and wondering why certain teams hadn't called his agent.

"I think that's the part that hurt the most," Madden said. "I'm not being conceded or anything like that, but having watched a lot of the hockey games this season -- and for some reason I've watched more hockey this year than I have my entire life, at least two or three games a night and possibly seven a week -- yeah, those thoughts went through my mind. I was thinking, 'I know I could still play,' and I still wanted to play. That's the biggest part. You know you've had enough when you don't want to play anymore."

Madden hadn't reached that point yet, but he was getting close after busting his tail in workouts and not having a guarantee that it would pay off at all.

"It's hard to just go at it by yourself," said Madden, who only spent one season in Chicago and won two other Cup titles with the New Jersey Devils. "I never really thought it would be that hard, but the motivation has to be there within yourself in order to get up and do it every single day. There was no guarantees. It's not like you're going to training camp. That was a hard thing I had to fight though on most days, but I stayed with it somewhat."

Madden has yet to register a point for the Panthers in the five games he's played, but he's won 52.1 percent of his faceoffs and logged 14:33 of ice time per game.
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