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Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 2:46 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Booth will watch as Canucks play his old mates

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As frustrating as it is, this is nothing new for David Booth.

Once the face of the Florida Panthers, Booth had been looking forward to going up against his former team ever since he was traded to Vancouver on Oct. 22. Instead, Booth will be watching from the press box as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury.

It's the continuation of a pattern for Booth, one he could do without.

The speedy 27-year-old forward has had his share of injuries since making his NHL debut on Nov. 20, 2006. He missed the chance to play in his native Detroit when he was out in 2007-08 and in 2009-10, and he also lost a chance to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2010 because of a concussion that wiped out most of his season.

And now this.

"It seems like throughout my career the games I look forward to the most are the games that I miss," Booth said after joining five other Canucks players and goalies Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider for a workout at the BankAtlantic Center Monday morning. "It happened with the Olympics, it happens when we go to Detroit -- I still haven't played in Detroit yet and I think this is my seventh year. This is a game that ever since I got traded I was looking forward to. It's frustrating, but there's plenty more hockey to be played."

Booth has been out of action since Dec. 6 when he was the victim of a knee-on-knee hit by Colorado forward Kevin Porter, who was suspended four games for the incident.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault indicated Sunday that Booth has been medically cleared to play and it's now up to the player to tell his coach when he’s ready to go.

As much as he would have liked to have faced his former team, Booth said Monday he's not at that point yet.

"It's all a matter of time," Booth said. "I've only practiced twice with the team after being off the ice for a month. That's tough. You don't want to put yourself in a situation where you get further injured. I've got to take my time and know when I'm ready.

"I thought I would be back in time, but you have to put your career first. If I go out there and I'm not stable on that knee and get hit again, that's not good for me. I know the Panthers play a hard game. I know they play the body, they get on the forecheck, so that's going to be a tough game. I don't want to be a negative to our team out there if I'm not playing the best I can play."

The Panthers traded Booth along with veteran center Steven Reinprecht for forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. Booth was informed of the trade while the team was going through pregame warmups with the Islanders at the BankAtlantic Center and reports indicated he was in tears upon being told the news.

"It was tough at the time, and coming back down here brings back a lot of good memories," he said. "But I'm happy to be a Canuck now. Everything works itself out. It was tough for the first month or so, but I got over that and just realized that this is my new home and I've got to make the most of the opportunity I've been given."

Booth had only one assist in six games with Florida this season and he also got off to a slow start in Vancouver. But he had 3 goals and 2 assists in the five games preceding his December injury.

"It took a good month to get acquainted," Booth said, "but the chemistry with my linemates started coming around and I thought I was playing some of my best hockey there before I got hurt."

Booth says he keeps tabs on the Panthers and watches their games whenever possible. With Monday night's game being the only meeting between Florida and Vancouver this season, Booth will have to wait until next year to face his former team.

Hopefully for him, he'll be healthy and ready to go on Feb. 23 when the Canucks travel to Detroit so he can end his curse and play an NHL game in his hometown for the first time.



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Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Luongo enjoying being back in Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo still enjoys getting back to the BankAtlantic Center, but it's not so much because he's facing his former team.

Rather, it's because he gets to play in front of family and friends in the place he calls home in the offseason.

That includes the family of his wife, who he met while he played for the Panthers. Luongo's father-in-law, in fact, owns a pizza place in South Florida and the goalie took his teammates to eat there Sunday after the Canucks practiced at the BankAtlantic Center.

"My wife's side of the family is here, so there's a lot of people coming to the game," Luongo said. "It's always nice to come back here and play."

Luongo has had great success against the Panthers, who shipped him to Vancouver in a five-player trade in June of 2006. He has a 4-0-1 record with a 1.74 GAA, a .951 save percentage and one shutout. That includes a 3-2 victory during Luongo's rookie season with the New York Islanders in 1999-2000.

In his last visit to the BankAtlantic Center on Feb. 11, 2010, Luongo posted a 3-0 shutout.

But the goalie says facing his former team isn't as significant as it once was.

"Not as much as at the beginning, obviously," Luongo said. "It's more the excitement of playing in front of family and friends more than anything else that's exciting for me now."
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Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 1:34 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

With Markstrom ailing, Panthers recall goalie

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Panthers found themselves shorthanded in the nets when they held an optional morning skate Monday, so they called on a local college goalie to help out.

Jose Theodore, out since New Year's Eve with a knee injury, has been joined on the sidelines by Jacob Markstrom, who is nursing a knee injury of his own.

So the Panthers recalled Brian Foster from San Antonio of the AHL to back up Scott Clemmensen on Monday night against Vancouver.

Foster caught a flight out of Texas on Monday morning, so he wasn't present at the morning skate.

It's not clear exactly when Markstrom, who underwent knee surgery last season, hurt the knee. He was in net Friday night when the Panthers dropped a 5-2 decision at New Jersey in a game where the Devils scored two empty-net goals.

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Markstrom would meet with team medical director Dr. John Uribe on Monday night to get feedback.

"He had an MRI yesterday, which was encouraging," Dineen said. "Certainly we're leaning more toward the positive than otherwise."

In addition to Theodore and Markstrom, the Panthers will be facing the Canucks without the services of forwards Sean Bergenheim (groin), Scottie Upshall (lower body), Jack Skille (shoulder) and Marco Sturm (concussion).

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

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Alexander Sulzer
Keith Ballard - Andrew Alberts

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Michal Repik
Mikael Samuelsson - Marcel Goc - Matt Bradley
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Mike Santorelli

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster
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Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 11:52 AM

By Steve Webb -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Making of a Royal

Midseason review, importance of leadership

In this week's "Making of a Royal" blog, assistant coach Steve Webb offers his midseason review of the team and also discusses the importance of leadership and how he and head coach Pat LaFontaine help groom players into becoming effective leaders.
 
Well, we're about halfway through the season and when I look at the team, as a whole, I think that we're in a spot where we can definitely improve. There's work we have to do. When we're playing high-caliber teams, we must be more consistent on the back end. When you play against smarter players, it's interesting to see how some players handle that. The thing is, once we get going, we're fine, but sometimes we're just waiting for something to happen first. The start of the game is very important ... the preparation, mindset and how you go out on your first shift. We'll continue to work on breakouts and coming out of our own zone; we're looking forward to getting ready for the competition down the stretch and at the end of the season.
 

During the second half of the season, we'll have more time to prep for the year-end tournaments.
 
On the challenges of teaching leadership:
 
One of the hardest things to learn is leadership. A lot of times, you leave that up to the more vocal guys in the room or the more skilled players because, let's face it, everyone expects the good players to know how to lead. But for a 15-year-old, that's a tough thing, responsibility wise.
 
I think we need a lot of room to improve on that in that aspect. I don't want to say leadership is such an easy thing to come by. We try to give these guys a lot of rope, and lot of responsibility is put in their hands. You want to teach them how to learn how to be leaders versus showing them how to be leaders. We can help them and guide them, but, most importantly, we want them to take more control of their own leadership traits. 
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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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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