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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 4:18 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Landeskog excited for All-Star opportunity

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nineteen-year-old Gabriel Landeskog was hoping to meet fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom, the six-time Norris Trophy winner from the Detroit Red Wings, at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game. Alas, the second pick in the 2011 Entry Draft will have to wait, as Lidstrom will not be present.

"Lidstrom, those Swedish guys," Landeskog said of who he looked forward to meeting the most right after coming off the ice, where he learned the news that he was one of 12 rookies picked to participate I All-Star Weekend. "(New York Rangers goalie) Henrik Lundqvist. I haven't played against him yet."

Landeskog has 8 goals and 21 assists in 44 games, but perhaps most significantly he owns a plus-9 rating -- best on a team that has a minus-16 goal differential. At 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds, he plays a physical two-way game.

The Avs are finish a home-and-home set with Nashville tonight coming off a 4-1 Predators win Tuesday in which Landeskog threw his body around. Predators coach Barry Trotz joked after his team's morning skate that in the old days Landeskog would have been met with a "Koho sandwich" for his physical play.

"He plays a complete, 200-foot game," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "He's a really good two-way player for us. He's physical. That's what you probably notice about him more than anything. He's on the body. He finishes his checks. He's difficult to play against for a young player, but he's been doing that pretty much all year long, that physical side of his game. Doesn't really waver that much. He does a lot of dirty work out there. Goes to the hard areas of the ice, competes, battles and he never gives up regardless of the outcome of the game or the score or wherever we're at. He's always competing and that's what I like most about him."

This year's All-Star Game will be only the second time the Avs have not had a player selected to play in the main game since the franchise re-located from Quebec.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 3:47 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wideman surprised by ASG selection

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Dennis Wideman picked up his phone Thursday afternoon, heard the voice on the other end, and figured he was wrong.

"I didn't know what was going on, but in my experience when the GM calls you it's usually not good news," Wideman said smiling.

This time it wasn't. This time, it was Washington general manager George McPhee calling Wideman to tell him he had been selected to play in his first career NHL All-Star Game.

Wideman was among 10 defensemen picked on Thursday to join fan vote favorites Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, which will be played Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

To say Wideman was surprised at McPhee's news is an understatement.

"I got the call from George, and you guys all know, you've talked to George, he's pretty even keeled and when he called me I was like, 'Oh man, where am I going now?' " Wideman said. "It was good. I was pretty excited -- a little caught off guard, but excited about it."

Wideman earned his spot in the All-Star Game with strong offensive numbers in the first half. He has eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points in 41 games, including 16 points in his last 17 games.

He'll join five-time All-Star Alex Ovechkin as the Capitals representatives in Ottawa.

"I think it's going to be an experience," Wideman said. "Obviously guys that have been there eight, nine, 10 times they might want a break, but for me and guys that are getting picked for their first time it's really exciting to get a chance to go and see what it's all about. I've been watching it on TV for years, so it should be exciting."

Wideman isn't quite sure what he'll be asked to do in the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 28, but he has his own ideas of what he'll be good at.

"I'm hoping that we don't all have to do skills and I'm one of the ones that doesn't have to do it," he said. "I'm not even sure what all of them are, but hopefully I can just hold a camera and take some pictures."

Wideman said he will have to cancel a planned trip home in order to go to Ottawa, but he's happy to do it. He also said he will have some family there, but who remains to be seen.

"I'm not even sure how it all works, how many tickets you get," he said.

He's looking forward to figuring it out soon.

"It's something that at some point in your career you hope you get a chance to do," Wideman said of playing in an All-Star Game, "and I was lucky enough this year to get the opportunity."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 3:29 PM

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

Quick earns first All-Star nod

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – What has been known for quite some time became reality Thursday: Jonathan Quick is an All-Star goalie.

Probably the only thing surprising about the announcement is that this is Quick’s first All-Star selection. Quick was informed on the ice during the morning skate.

The only other Kings goalies to earn the honor are Terry Sawchuk, Rogie Vachon and Mario Lessard.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Quick said. “I’m looking forward to do it at the end of the month. … It’s something I’m looking forward to. It’ll be a great time, a good couple of days. But that’s a couple of weeks away here. We’ve got a lot to do here in the next couple of weeks.”

Quick typically downplayed his selection and repeatedly said his focus is on Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Stars.

It is that focus that has propelled Quick to an outstanding first half.

He entered Thursday ranked in the top five in the NHL with a 1.93 goals-against average and .934 save percentage with a league-leading six shutouts in 35 starts.

That’s even more impressive considering Quick has little margin for error backstopping the worst offense in the NHL. L.A. has averaged just 2.09 goals per game this season.

“He’s had to be on every night,” Matt Greene said. “He can’t have an off night. That’s hard to do with his position when you play as much as he does, and he’s done it for us. If you look around, there’s not a lot of teams that score as much as we do and still be in the playoff hunt. He’s been awesome.”

Quick has been particularly hot under coach Darryl Sutter with a 6-1-2 record, 1.18 GAA and .948 save percentage in his last nine starts (Sutter is 6-1-3 with the Kings).

Prior to coming to L.A., Sutter was mostly aware of Quick through his statistics. But Sutter knows the
background on Quick, 25, a third round draft pick who won the job over the more highly-regarded Jonathan Bernier in the 2008-09 season.

“It’s nice to see,” Sutter said. “A guy that’s come the hard way, paid his dues and he’s having a great season. He should be there.”

Voynov in: Defenseman Slava Voynov will return to the lineup from an upper-body injury, Sutter said.
Voynov gives Los Angeles a much-needed offensive presence, particularly on the power play. Voynov has four goals and six assists with a plus-two rating in 24 games as a rookie.

Alec Martinez will likely be scratched to make room for Voynov.

Sutter’s new home: In an odd anecdote to the coaching change in L.A., Sutter on Tuesday moved in to the residence of former Kings coach Terry Murray.

Asked if Murray showed him how to run the microwave, Sutter quipped, “I’m not very good at any of that stuff.”

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Tom Wandell - Loui Eriksson
Eric Nystrom - Radek Dvorak  -Vernon Fiddler
Jake Dowell - Toby Petersen - Adam Burish

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Sheldon Souray - Mark Fistric

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Alec Martinez
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 3:06 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks to be well-represented at All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL announced the remaining roster for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, slated for Jan. 29 in Ottawa.

The Blues' lone representative is goalie Brian Elliott, who will start tonight against the Canucks. Elliott is 15-5-0 and is second in the League in goals-against average (1.62) and save percentage (.940).

The Canucks will be represented by Daniel and Henrik Sedin as well as defenseman Alexander Edler. Forward Cody Hodgson was one of 12 rookies selected.

"I'm having fun," said Hodgson, who has 10 goals and 25 points in 44 games. "I'm enjoying playing hockey. It's a good bunch of guys that make you feel like part of the team. Hopefully, it continues."

For Edler, it's his first time being selected.

"It's obviously a big honor. It's fun for us," said Edler, who has 30 points in 44 games. "You always watch the guys that go there, so obviously, it's a dream."

The Sedins hope to get the chance to play together this year. At last year's game, they were on opposite teams thanks to the All-Star Player Fantasy Draft.

"It's a great privilege and a lot of good players there," Daniel Sedin said. "You go there and have fun for two days ... it's a good experience."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is pleased that his team is represented well.

"For all those guys, from Hank to Danny to Eddy (Edler), to Cody for the younger players, it's always a great experience and they'll make the best of it," Vigneault said. "They're going to represent us real well."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:59 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rome back for Canucks; Booth getting close

ST. LOUIS -- The Vancouver Canucks will get defenseman Aaron Rome (broken thumb) back into the lineup tonight after missing 13 games after blocking a shot Dec. 17 at Toronto.

It means Keith Ballard goes to the sidelines as a healthy scratch.

"We talked this morning and he said he's good to go, so we're going to put him in the lineup tonight," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of Rome. "When Aaron is playing his game, he helps us in the back end with our puck movement. He's one of our defense that likes to move it, as Don Cherry would say, 'Easy early,' and we like that with our group. He also brings a dimension to our power play."

The Canucks also are on the verge of getting left wing David Booth (knee) back in the lineup, but Booth will not play tonight.

"As a player, you've got to feel that you're ready," Vigneault said of Booth. "Obviously if he hasn't come to see me, it's because he's not ready and we respect that.

"When he feels that he's ready to help this team, he's going to come and see me and tell me he's ready to go."

With Rome in and Booth still out, here's the lineup the Canucks will put on the ice tonight.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:57 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks know what Blues are capable of

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues and Canucks have a tremendous amount of respect for one another heading into tonight's matchup, which sees the top spot in the Western Conference be up for grabs.

The Blues are 2-0 against the Vancouver Canucks this season and the Canucks are very aware of it.

"They've always played well defensively," Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said. "They've got a hard-working team. It's for first in the conference and it's fun to see St. Louis up there. They should be up there and they're finally here."

Added Canucks forward Cody Hodgson: "They're one of the top teams in the League, no question. They've got emerging real stars. They have a real good team that plays together and they've just been getting better since (coach Ken) Hitchcock got there."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who spent parts of two seasons as a player with the Blues, saw the makings of a good hockey team in St. Louis.

"Because we had that playoff series against them a couple years back (in 2008-09), we knew there was a tremendous amount of potential that that team had, the great kids that that team had," Vigneault said. "At some point I remember comparing them to the Blackhawks. With the young players that they had in their lineup in that group, they would be like Chicago and they would be able to challenge for top billing.

"I'm not exactly sure what happened, but this doesn't surprise me at all. They've got a lot of talent and a lot of potential. They've got a good-sized team that right now is playing a good system and playing a real good way. Obviously right now, they are one of the best teams in the NHL."

Hitchcock said his team isn't where the League's top heavyweights are yet, but continue to make progress.

"We're in the evaluation stage against good teams," Hitchcock said. "When you play against teams like Vancouver or Detroit, we're the ones that learn the most. They already have that knowledge. We want that knowledge.

"At the end of the day, we want to know what makes teams like Vancouver tick. We're hoping that they bring their 'A' game and they give us their best game so that we can evaluate our players. We respond when we're a little bit scared."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:49 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jackman, Steen nearing return for Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues were hoping a couple key pieces would be ready for tonight's Western Conference heavyweight battle with the Vancouver Canucks, but will have to wait at least one more game.

Defenseman Barret Jackman, who injured a hip Tuesday in Montreal, and left wing Alexander Steen, out since Dec. 27 due to concussion symptoms, will miss tonight's game. Jackman took a twirl on the ice at this morning's skate and Steen took part in the entire skate, but coach Ken Hitchcock decided they will need one good day to practice and feels they will be ready for Saturday's home game with Minnesota.

Here's what the Blues lineup will look like, as well as what lineup the Canucks likely will ice tonight.

"He'll play Saturday probably, but he's not ready for tonight," Hitchcock said of Jackman, who was checked into the side boards by the Canadiens' P.K. Subban. "Steen -- same thing. He feels OK, but he wants to have a full practice with us, so he'll play again Saturday.

"It'll be good to get those guys back on the weekend. That's kind of what we're hoping, both guys get a good practice in tomorrow and then they're ready to go."

Steen, who will miss a seventh consecutive game, feels he's close.

"I feel much better. It's a different injury," Steen said after skating. "It's my first time going through it. It's kind of a lonely feeling because you don't know what to expect or what the next day's going to bring. It's weird not having a timetable and not being able to push yourself through something, but a lot of credit to the doctors and the training staff. Everybody's been really supportive and have done the right things.

"I felt like I could have played a while ago, but sometimes you want to make sure everything is in order. ... I'm starting to feel really good, feel like myself again."

Added Hitchcock: "He's got no issues now. We haven't really had a practice. ... Having (Steen) get a good skate with the group tomorrow will be good for us and getting him back is going to be a huge boost for everybody. We're looking forward to it."

Hitchcock said he things Ian Cole can pick up Jackman's competitive edge.

"He plays with a real edge. He's a real feisty, competitive guy," Hitchcock said of Cole. "Plays with a real edge. He's got a little bit of meanness to him. It's who he is. He's a spirited player. We're asking a lot of him. He hasn't even played 50 games in the NHL and all of a sudden, he's playing against the other teams' best players.

"We're a week from getting healthy on the back end where we get both Jackman and (Kris) Russell back. But Cole's making a real niche for himself. He's a real competitive guy."

The Blues are looking to get Russell (groin) back into the lineup sometime in the next week. Also, forward Andy McDonald (concussion) continues to make progress but still is wearing a red no-contact jersey. He traveled with the team for the first time for Tuesday's game in Montreal, which is a good indicator he's ready to shed the no-contact jersey.

The Blues have been mixing and matching lineups for some time now with all the injuries, but continue to persevere. With a win tonight, they can claim the top spot in the West.

"We're competitive," Hitchcock said. "We don't wow you off the rush, but we score off the grind. If we get some room off the grind, that's where we get all our goals and we're willing to work for our chances. This is a real competitive group right now."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:48 PM

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

Setoguchi back in lineup after one-game benching

CHICAGO -- After being a healthy scratch against his former team on Tuesday, Minnesota Wild forward Devin Setoguchi will go right back into his spot at left wing of the top line on Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Wild coach Mike Yeo decided to sit Setoguchi against the San Jose Sharks in Minnesota's previous game for what's been reported as the former Shark missing a team meeting. That meant he had to watch his new team beat his old team in street clothes at Xcel Energy Center, rather than contributing on the ice.

Setoguchi has 8 goals and 6 assists in 30 games, but also has a minus-7 rating after being dealt to Minnesota by San Jose last summer. He scored 22, 20 and 31 goals in his previous three seasons for the Sharks, but thus far isn't playing up to that kind of production for the Wild.

Yeo, however, expects Setoguchi to give an inspired effort against the Hawks on Thursday night.

"I think he's going to play hard tonight," Yeo said after Minnesota's morning skate at the United Center. "I always like accountability and I always like, even more than that, if you mess up then you come right back and respond. That's what we've done as a team many times this year and he's been a part of that, and I would expect him to do the same tonight."

The Wild are also counting on another solid performance from goalie Josh Harding, who will get the start with Niklas Backstrom still too sick to play. Matt Hackett will be Harding's backup, as the Wild try to duplicate the effort they gave against the Sharks without Setoguchi on the left side of captain Mikko Koivu.

Despite struggling to score goals this season, the Wild managed to beat San Jose starter Antti Niemi four times in regulation and twice in the shootout.

"Last game was a game that we have to try and go out and build off of," Yeo said. "We scored four goals against a team last game that doesn't give up a lot of goals. That doesn't mean we're just going to go out and do that at will now, but if we put in what we did last game we'll give ourselves a good chance."

That doesn't necessarily mean setting up the perfect pass for great scoring chances, either. It means swarming the net, being physical and trying to get the puck past Chicago goalie Ray Emery any way possible.

"We have to keep that type of mentality," Yeo said. "We don't score a ton of pretty goals, but that doesn't mean we can't score goals. We just have to do it the hard way."

Here's what the lineups for Minnesota and Chicago might look like on Thursday night:

WILD
Devin Setoguchi - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Casey Wellman
Darrell Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
David McIntyre - Warren Peters - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Jared Spurgeon
Marek Zidlicky - Justin Falk
Clayton Stoner - Greg Zanon

Josh Harding
Matt Hackett

BLACKHAWKS

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Jimmy Hayes - Dave Bolland - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Ben Smith
Andrew Brunette - Andrew Shaw - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lineups for Blues, Canucks

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lineups for tonight's Western Conference clash between the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks:

BLUES
David Perron - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Ryan Reaves - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk
Cade Fairchild - Roman Polak
Brian Elliott will start in goal, with Jaroslav Halak backing him up.

Defenseman Barret Jackman (hip) and left wing Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) are day to day. Left wing Andy McDonald (concussion), defenseman Kris Russell (groin), defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) are on injured reserve. Forward Chris Porter is a healthy scratch.

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

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Sulzer - Alexander Edler
Andrew Alberts - Aaron Rome
Roberto Luongo will start in goal, with Cory Schneider serving as the backup.

The Canucks will be without forward David Booth (knee), who is close to returning to the lineup. Defenseman Sami Salo (concussion) is out indefinitely, as is left wing Aaron Volpatti (shoulder). Center Andrew Ebbett (shoulder) is out for the rest of the regular season. Defenseman Keith Ballard is a healthy scratch.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boudreau mulls goalie options as Ducks visit Flames

With starting goaltender Jonas Hiller unlikely to start tonight's game against the Flames, Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said he has options.

Boudreau could opt with Jeff Deslauries, who was recalled Tuesday and stopped 26 shots in a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars, his first victory since April 7, 2010.

Playing coy, Boudreau wouldn't announce his goaltending plans. Though he said it's possible Deslauries gets the nod, the Ducks coach reminded he still has Iiro Tarkki at his disposal as well.

"I probably would imagine but we'll see," Boudreau said. "We've got three of them. If Hiller's not playing I have the choice of the other two."

Boudreau's decision could come down to how Hiller responds to his lower-body injury in today's morning skate.

"I'm waiting for the report myself to see how he handles it out there today," Boudreau said. "If he handles it well he’ll probably back up tonight."

Boudreau will have Niklas Hagman in the lineup though. Hagman is making his return to Calgary after being placed on waivers and picked up by Anaheim in November.

"He's brought a lot of energy," Boudreau said. "He's played really hard. In the last 10 games especially he's starting to get rewarded for his efforts. He's really fit in well with the other two Finns and they've found chemistry. He's made some really, really good plays. He's a really good fit for our team."

Here's the projected lineup for the Ducks:
 
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Niklas Hagman - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Matt Beleskey - Rod Pelley - Kyle Palmieri

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jeff Deslauriers
Iiro Tarkki
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Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares