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Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 3:00 AM

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

My All-Stars at the season's midway point

With last week's Winter Classic and the regular season's official midway point coming at the conclusion of games Monday night, it's time for the focus to shift to the NHL's next big event, when the best in the game will take the ice together at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place.

The pieces are already falling into place as the big event approaches, with the fans picking their first six All-Stars last week and Rangers coach John Tortorella sealing up a spot as one of the bench bosses for the game on Jan. 29. Soon we'll find out the rest of the All-Stars being selected and the captains before the fun of All-Star Weekend gets underway.

Because of the NHL All-Star Fantasy Player Draft the teams won't be divided between the Eastern and Western Conferences, but with no real way to split the pool up without knowing who is going to Ottawa, I'm going to stick with the old format and give you my East and West All-Stars so far in 2011-12.

Eastern Conference

Forwards


Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 45
SOG: 139 | +/-: 6
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning -- This one is a no-brainer. The No. 1 overall pick in 2008 has blossomed into one of the League's elite scorers down in Tampa Bay, leading the League with 28 goals and dishing out 17 assists to go with it. And has anyone been hotter than Stamkos lately? He has 8 goals in his last six games.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Kessel started off as the hottest player in the NHL and he hasn't cooled off since. He's trying to lead the Leafs back to the playoffs for the first time in a long time and if they finally break the drought, it will be in large part due to his 24 goals and 24 assists. His 48 points are tied for second in the NHL, and he's scored in each of his last four games.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers -- Philly got quite a scare when Giroux was diagnosed with a concussion earlier this season and it's a pretty safe bet there was some easy breathing when he wound up missing less than two weeks. Giroux has broken out in a big way this season with 18 goals and 30 assists. Playing with an all-time great like Jaromir Jagr certainly hasn't hurt, but Giroux is looking like a star for years to come.

Defensemen

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
-- You could talk about how Chara is a major physical presence on the Bruins' blue line, how he's the captain of the defending champions or how he's on pace to break his career high in points. But to really know why he might be the best D-man in the game, look no further than his plus-minus, which, at plus-27, is the second-best in the NHL.

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators -- Sometimes you see a player voted in by the fans because he's a hometown favorite and not because he's earned it, but Karlsson has definitely earned it. He's played solid defense all season for Ottawa and the only person with more assists than him in the entire League is Henrik Sedin. Giroux, Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Sedin, Evgeni Malkin -- those guys are all looking up at Karlsson.

Goalie

Tim Thomas
Goalie - BOS
RECORD: 17-7-0
GAA: 1.99 | SVP: 0.938
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins -- There are 21 goalies in the League who have played in more games this season than Thomas, who has been splitting time with Tuukka Rask to keep his 37-year-old body fresh for a playoff run. But despite only playing in 26 games, Thomas has 17 wins. His .938 save percentage, 1.99 goals-against average and 4 shutouts are all in the top five in the League.

Western Conference

Forwards

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks -- Another year, another big season for each of the Sedins. Daniel isn't on pace to break his career high of 104 points from last season when he won the Art Ross Trophy, but 47 points in 41 games isn't bad either, and it's certainly deserving of a place on my Western Conference All-Star team.

Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks -- The Sedins had to play apart for the first time in last season's All-Star Game and with the player draft it could happen again, but I won't be the person splitting them up. Henrik and Daniel might be in a personal fight to see who gets the Art Ross Trophy each season and this year Henrik has the upper hand. His 49 points are the most in the League.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks -- Toews is one of the bright young stars of our game and each season, he just gets better. This year he's on pace for his best season yet, and he's among the top goal scorers in the League. He's a great scorer, but what really sets him apart from other forwards is how good he is both ways. He might be the best two-way center in the League.

Defensemen

Shea Weber
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 30
SOG: 114 | +/-: 12
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators -- After being a Norris Trophy finalist last year, Weber is probably going to be in the discussion again this summer. He's shown himself to be a leader in Music City, and his 21 assists are tied for third most among defensemen despite him missing a few games due to a concussion recently.

Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks
-- To win in the NHL, you need a solid man on the blue line and Bieksa has been as solid as they come this season. Bieksa has helped out offensively with 25 points, but he's provided a physical presence while shutting down the opposition's top players each night.

Goalie

Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings -- Detroit's having a great year and you can look between the pipes for one of the big reasons why. No one in the NHL has more wins than Howard's 24, and the only team in the League with a better goal differential than the Wings won the Stanley Cup last spring.

Those are the guys I would put out there if I was looking for the top six players in each conference. I know it isn't the same as the first six players voted on by the fans last week, but that's fine. The All-Star Game is a time for the fans to have fun watching the players they love. Anything that makes the game better for the fans I'm all for.

Here's hoping we'll be in for another great show later this month.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.08.2012 / 9:56 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

DET @ CHI - 7:53 of the Third Period



At 7:53 of the third period in the Red Wings / Blackhawks game, video review was used to determine if the puck completely crossed the goal line. The review was inconclusive, therefore the referee's call on the ice stands. No goal Chicago.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.08.2012 / 5:31 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHI @ OTT, 8:25 of the first period



At  8:25 of the first period in the Flyers / Senators game, video review was used to determine that Chris Neil's shot did completely cross the goal line in a legal fashion. Good goal Ottawa.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.08.2012 / 4:19 PM

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

Blackhawks' O'Donnell looking to log game No. 1,200

CHICAGO -- If 40-year old defenseman Sean O'Donnell suits up on Sunday night for the Chicago Blackhawks, as expected, it will be the 1,200th game of his 17-year NHL career.

It would also make him the seventh active NHL player to reach that career milestone, which is something that O'Donnell will enjoy putting next to his career bio.

O'Donnell, who signed a one-year contract with the Hawks last summer, knew he was well within striking distance of his 1,200th game as this season started – but also knew he needed to stay off the injury report as much as possible to get there.

"It's just something I can be proud of," said O'Donnell, who has five assists in 26 games. "I'm not the kind of player that usually gets a ton of individual awards, so I think turning 40 this year and playing this many games kind of goes hand in hand with staying healthy."

O'Donnell said that getting to the 1,000-game mark was a major accomplishment, as well, and every milestone afterward is "gravy."

"Once you get within 25 or 30 (games of 1,200), you start to think that would be a fun thing to do," he said after Chicago's morning skate on Sunday at the United Center. "I don't see (1,300) happening, but I'll enjoy 1,200."

And, in case you're wondering, he does remember the first NHL game he ever played as a Los Angeles Kings rookie. The Kings were facing the Dallas Stars during 1994-95 season and O'Donnell got the pleasure of trying to stop former Stars superstar Mike Modano.

"I can still remember being on the bench nervous," O'Donnell said. "It was the second or third shift of the game and they told me to go. I was playing with Marty McSorley and they told me to go and I looked up and Modano had the puck coming down. It's something that you can sort of remember like it was yesterday. There's those certain moments in a career that you'll never forget and that's certainly one of them. (Modano) came flying down and Kelly Hrudey was the goalie and made the save."
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Posted On Sunday, 01.08.2012 / 1:47 PM

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

Kruger getting closer to return for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- He won't play on Sunday night against the Detroit Red Wings, but Chicago Blackhawks rookie center Marcus Kruger went through the team's morning skate on Sunday at the United Center.

It was the first team-oriented session he's been able to participate in since the morning skate on Dec. 26 prior to playing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

That game was Kruger's first back after a suspected concussion resulting from an illegal hit by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland forced him to miss a Dec. 21 game against the Montreal Candiens. The Blue Jackets hit Kruger hard twice in the first period of that game and he hasn't played since -- a span of five straight games -- despite finishing the Columbus game and totaling 14:23 of ice time.

"I feel good," said Kruger, who still isn't cleared for contact yet. "It's good to be back with the guys on the ice. It's been awhile, but it feels good."

Kruger appeared to regress in his recovery last Tuesday, when he couldn't finish his off-ice workouts because of the symptoms, but ever since he's shown improvement each day.

"That was frustrating, but the medical team has helped me a lot and I've done everything I can to be back as soon as possible," said Kruger, who'd been centering the second line between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa before the injury. "Today was just great to be back on the ice."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is pleased with the progress Kruger's making and is probably anxious to get the energetic 21-year old back in the middle of his second forward line. Kruger began skating on his own Friday and has continued to make progress.

"We appreciate the consistency in his game and he's useful in a lot of ways," Quenneville said of Kruger, who has three goals and 10 assists in 34 games played. "His production might not be high-end, but his effectiveness is what you appreciate and the consistency in his game. Positionally around the ice he's in the right spots to make plays and see plays, as well."
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Posted On Sunday, 01.08.2012 / 1:37 PM

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

Potential lineups for Red Wings-Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- How long does it take to have your season flipped on its collective ear in the NHL these days?

Apparently, less than a week.

The Chicago Blackhawks have found that lesson out first hand this past week. After a three game losing streak that started Jan. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers, they've gone from topping the League, Western Conference and Central Division standings with 52 points before this past Wednesday's action to sixth overall in the NHL, fourth in the West and second in their division.

Chicago has also lost four of its last five games during what appears to be a mid-season funk and now find themselves just five points ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Kings as the Detroit Red Wings come to the Windy City on Sunday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN2).

"We had a little comfort there and that's evaporated now," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Chicago's morning skate on Sunday. "It's an amazing race. You look at fighting for a division and fighting to be in the playoff race is there. We don't want to be in that race where it's fighting to get in, but we did lose a lot of … whatever you want to call it, whether it's gravy or what, but we know that we want to be first in our division. That's our motivation and we should be driven to try and make that accomplishment."

It starts against the Red Wings (25-14-1), who sit just one point back of the Hawks in third place of the Central and two points back of the division-leading St. Louis Blues. Chicago (24-13-4) has already beaten Detroit once at the United Center and could have the upper hand because the Wings are coming into the game off a tough 4-3 loss on Saturday night in Toronto.

Detroit, which didn't hold a morning skate, will start backup Ty Conklin in goal and might get injured forwards Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom back from groin injuries against the Hawks.

Chicago will again be without rookie center Marcus Kruger (suspected concussion), but will get defenseman Steve Montador back in the lineup after a three-game absence because of an undisclosed upper-body injury. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews and top defenseman Duncan Keith missed the morning skate, but both are expected to play against Detroit.

Here is a look at what the lineups for the Red Wings and Blackhawks might look like on Sunday night:

RED WINGS

Johan Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller-Darren Helm-Danny Cleary
Chris Conner-Justin Abdelkader-Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom-Ian White
Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson-Jakub Kindl

Ty Conklin
Jimmy Howard

BLACKHAWKS

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

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

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Sunday, 01.08.2012 / 12:42 PM

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

Projected Flyers-Senators lineups

KANATA, ONT. -- Here are the projected lineups for Sunday evening's game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Neither team skated due to the early start and after playing each other Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, where the Flyers won 3-2, in overtime.

SENATORS

Milan MichalekJason SpezzaColin Greening
Erik CondraKyle TurrisDaniel Alfredsson
Nick FolignoZack SmithBobby Butler
Kaspars DaugavinsZenon KonopkaChris Neil


Filip KubaErik Karlsson
Jared CowenSergei Gonchar
Chris PhillipsMatt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

FLYERS

Scott HartnellClaude GirouxMatt Read
Maxime TalbotDanny BriereJakub Voracek
James Van RiemsdykBrayden SchennWayne Simmonds
Harry ZolnierczykSean CouturierZac Rinaldo

Kimmo TimonenBraydon Coburn
Andreas LiljaAndrej Meszaros
Matt CarleMarc-Andre Bourdon

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Jaromir Jagr, who traveled to Ottawa with the team, is expected to be a game-time decision.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 10:25 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYI @ PHX - 19:59 of the Third Period



At 19:59 of the third period in the Islanders/Coyotes game, video review conclusively determined that Shane Doan's shot crossed the goal line with one tenth of a second remaining in the game. Good Goal Phoenix.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 10:19 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CAR @ NSH - 11:03 of the Third Period



At 11:03 of the third period in the Hurricanes/Predators game, video review determined that Patric Hornqvist kicked the puck with his left skate into the net.  According to rule 49.2 "A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net.". No Goal Nashville.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 8:27 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

DET @ TOR - 6:46 of the Second Period

At 6:46 of the second period in the Red Wings/Maple Leafs game, Pavel Datsyuk's shot was deflected by Todd Bertuzzi's stick, video review was inconclusive in determining whether the stick was above the cross bar. The referee's call on the ice stands. Good Goal Detroit.

According to Rule 60.5 "If the puck makes contact with the stick below the level of the crossbar and enters the goal, this goal shall be allowed".

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— Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on general manager Bob Murray's decision to sign Dany Heatley