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POSTED ON Friday, 11.25.2011 / 2:36 PM

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

Gonchar believes Malkin has reached next level

PITTSBURGH -- Sergei Gonchar and fellow Russian star Evgeni Malkin played four seasons together in Pittsburgh, winning a Stanley Cup in 2009. That same season, Malkin won the NHL scoring title with 113 points and the Conn Smythe Trophy after scoring a League-high 36 points in the playoffs.
 
Still, Gonchar never saw a Malkin quite like this one.
 
After Malkin's 2010-11 season ended prematurely Feb. 4 with two torn knee ligaments, he started working out sooner -- and much harder -- than he did in any previous offseason.
 
Gonchar believes Malkin's statistics a season ago, with career lows in goals (15) and points (37) in 43 games, contributed to that determination. While the numbers were bound to be lower than usual because of the games missed to injury, Malkin had never averaged less than a point per game in the NHL.
 
"To me it seems like he is making that next step and maturing," the Ottawa Senators defenseman said of the 25-year-old Malkin. "He is more serious about his job. Last year, he didn’t have a successful season like everyone expected him to have, so obviously he was hoping to play better."
 
Gonchar also believes it helped that Penguins conditioning coach Mike Kadar went to Russia to train Malkin in person. While he was there, Kadar sent video of Malkin's workouts back to the Penguins.
 
"He was mentally ready for it. He was willing to do whatever it took to make sure he was ready for the season," said Gonchar, who often trained alongside Malkin. "Every morning he was doing whatever Mike was telling him to do."
 
Malkin and Gonchar remain close friends, and they shared a Thanksgiving dinner together on Thursday night before their teams met Friday night at Consol Energy Center. When Malkin joined the Penguins as a rookie in 2006-07, he stayed in Gonchar's house so that a fellow Russian could help ease his transition to a new league, a new country and a new language.
 
Now, the two almost always get together socially when their teams oppose each other.
 
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.25.2011 / 1:18 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

'Bob' back in net for Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- After his strong relief effort Wednesday against the New York Islanders, Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start today for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Montreal Canadiens.

Bobrovsky relieved starter Ilya Bryzgalov after the first period with the Flyers trailing 3-1, and stopped all 23 shots he faced in the final two periods and overtime as the Flyers rallied for a 4-3 victory.

"He came in and did a really nice job," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "There weren't a lot of chances either way in the game, but the ones that were available for both teams, they were pretty decent chances and he came in and gave us an opportunity to fight back and win that game."

Laviolette said he's been particularly happy with how Bobrovsky has handled everything that's been thrown at him this season.  He's played in just seven of the Flyers' first 21 games this season, after playing in 16 of the first 21 last season.

"Bob's been patiently waiting," Laviolette said. "He's a guy who was the starter for us last year and did a nice job in his rookie year. He's working hard and looking for opportunities and I think you need to reward people."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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POSTED ON Friday, 11.25.2011 / 1:04 PM

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

Senators wrapping up successful road swing

PITTSBURGH -- The Ottawa Senators wind up a six-game road trip when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night -- a successful journey to date in which they have gone 3-1-1. The road swing took on a slightly different twist when they spent three full days at home following a 2-1 overtime loss Sunday at Vancouver.
 
After they return home to play Carolina on Sunday, it's back on the road to play the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals.
 
"The last game in Vancouver was against an elite team, and again here in Pittsburgh it's an elite team," coach Paul MacLean said. "We're measuring ourselves against some of the best teams in the League. We've had some success and we've had some nights that haven't been very successful. So this is another opportunity for us to come in here and be prepared to play the game the Senators' way and see how it goes. But we're looking forward to the opportunity."
 
MacLean isn't displeased that his team is playing nine of 10 on the road.
 
"The mix of old and young we have -- we were home quite a bit (earlier) -- these long road trips at this time of the year allow you to bond as a group," MacLean said. "Just have the fellows go out and do some things. We've been home now for four days coming back from Vancouver, and we thought the trip out west was a good opportunity for us to show the people in Canada what kind of a team we have and for our team to go together. I believe that we did a good job on both sides of that."
 
MacLean said there would be no lineup changes for the Penguins, who took three of four in the 2010-11 season series after eliminating Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals the previous season.
 
The Senators' lines:

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Nick Foligno - Stephane Da Costa - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Bobby Butler
 
Erik Karlsson - Filip Kuba
Sergei Gonchar - Chris Phillips
Brian Lee - Jared Cowen
 
Craig Anderson will be in goal, with Alex Auld as the backup. Anderson's career record against Pittsburgh is 2-1-1 with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. Auld is 5-1 against the Penguins.
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.25.2011 / 1:04 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Red Wings, Bruins

BOSTON – The Bruins will put their 10-game winning streak on the line today against Detroit with Tuukka Rask in goal at TD Garden.
   
Jimmy Howard will start for Detroit, which has won three in a row.
   
The Bruins will also be looking to avenge a home-and-home sweep by the Red Wings in February.

Here is the Bruins’ projected lineup based on pre-game warm-ups:

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

Here is the Red Wings’ lineup based on pre-game warm-ups:

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

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

Detroit outscored Boston, 10-3, last season in those two February meetings.
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.25.2011 / 12:52 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Stars

These are how the lines could look when the Dallas Stars face the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the American Airlines Center:

MAPLE LEAFS
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Nikolai Kulemin
Matt Frattin - Joe Colborne - Joey Crabb
Jay Rosehill - David Steckel - Philippe Dupuis

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

Jonas Gustavsson
Ben Scrivens

STARS
Loui Eriksson - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Steve Ott - Mike Ribeiro - Tomas Vincour
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Toby Petersen

Stephane Robidas - Sheldon Souray
Trevor Daley - Nicklas Grossman
Mark Fistric- Philip Larsen

Kari Lehtonen
Andrew Raycroft



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POSTED ON Friday, 11.25.2011 / 12:32 PM

By Kurt Dusterberg -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Pavelec streak ends as Mason starts vs. Canes

RALEIGH, N.C. -- After 13 consecutive starts by Ondrej Pavelec in goal, the Jets will turn to backup Chris Mason Friday night against Carolina. Mason earned his only win of the season against the Hurricanes Oct. 22, coming in in relief to stop 18 of 19 shots.

"We just need to rest Pavelec," coach Claude Noel said. "Mason is really a fierce competitor. We had to get him back playing. For us, it's getting him to be part of the team. He's one of the leaders in our room."

Mason, who has appeared in four games, knows the keys to returning to the lineup after a layoff.

"I want to focus on controlling rebounds and covering pucks when I can, slow it down a bit," he said. "Those are the biggest things when you haven't played in a while. You can simulate those situations (in practice) but when you have three or four guys crashing the net and a big pile of guys around, that's the hardest part for me."

The Hurricanes will be without defenseman Jay Harrison, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He will be replaced by Derek Joslin.

JETS
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Alexander Burmistrov
Chris Thorburn - Tim Stapleton - Eric Fehr
 
Dustin Byfuglien - Mark Stuart
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Mark Flood
 
Chris Mason

HURRICANES
Jeff SkinnerEric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
Jiri Tlusty - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Brett Sutter
 
Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Justin Faulk - Derek Joslin
Jamie McBain - Tomas Kaberle
  
Cam Ward
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.25.2011 / 12:16 PM

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

Crosby already rocketing up All-Star tally list

PITTSBURGH -- One more statistic from Sidney Crosby's comeback game on Monday: 14,000.
 
Those were the number of votes the Pittsburgh Penguins captain received that day alone as part of the NHL All-Star Fan Balloting. Even though he has played just two games this season, Crosby already is 10th in the balloting among forwards for the 2012 Tim Hortons All-Star Game in Ottawa.
 
Crosby has led all vote-getters during each of the last four All-Star Games (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011).
 
Crosby had a four-point game Monday against the Islanders as he returned from a 10-month layoff with a concussion. He was held without a point during a 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis on Wednesday.

Crosby will remain on a line with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis when the Penguins wrap up a three-game homestand by playing the Ottawa Senators at Consol Energy Center on Friday night.
 
The Penguins' lines:
 
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams
 
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
 
Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal as the Penguins play the front end of back-to-back weekend games. Fleury is 6-8-1 with a 3.63 goals-against average in his career against Ottawa, while backup Brent Johnson is 8-1-1 with a 1.99 goals-against average against the Senators. Coach Dan Bylsma, who has not revealed his goalie choice for Saturday night’s game at Montreal, said records aren't the only factor in choosing a goalie.
 
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.25.2011 / 11:11 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov returns to lineup for Sarnia Sting

After missing his first game of the season due to injury five days earlier, top 2012 draft prospect Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup for the Sarnia Sting on Thursday in a 4-3 loss to the Barrie Colts.

Yakupov, who took a check to the head in the third period of last Friday's victory over the Saginaw Spirit, appeared to be his normal productive self when he connected for 2 goals and 3 points. But his club suffered their second loss in the last five games.

Despite the loss, Sarnia assistant coach Trevor Letowski told The Sarnia Observer after the game that "Yakky was one of our best guys tonight."

Yakupov woke up Saturday morning experiencing a headache and a sore back and was held out of the lineup that evening. At the time, Sarnia coach and general manager Jacques Beaulieu said he was taking a "wait and see" approach with regard to Yakupov's soreness.

Yakupov, who suffered his injury after taking a hit from Saginaw's Garret Ross early in the third period, is second in Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 46 points, including 18 goals in 23 games.

According to Sarnia's assistant general manager, Mark Glavin, Yakupov was on the ice Friday morning at practice. Glavin said he was sore but wasn't suffering from any major setbacks. Glavin also informed NHL.com that Yakupov "never had a concussion and was just pretty banged up and too sore to play" last Saturday.

Ross received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the infraction. The Sting will next play host to the Niagara IceDogs on Saturday.

Earlier this season, Yakupov's linemate and fellow Russian countryman, Alex Galchenyuk, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and underwent surgery. He is still at least four months away from returning to the lineup. Galchenyuk suffered his injury on Sept. 16 in a preseason game against the Windsor Spitfires.

The injuries to Yakupov and Galchenyuk certainly aren't isolated incidents this season in the Canadian Hockey League. There are several other top blue chip players watching from the stands. In the Western Hockey League, Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray (high ankle sprain), Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Griffin Reinhart (shoulder) and Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Morgan Rielly (season-ending knee surgery) have been shelved, although Murray resumed skated on Tuesday.

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Halifax Mooseheads right wing Martin Frk hasn't played a game this season due to a concussion.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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POSTED ON Thursday, 11.24.2011 / 1:45 AM

By Eric Lipschutz -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Vrbata a viable fantasy option?

Radim Vrbata is known as a streaky scorer, and boy, is he streaking right now. For the fourth time in the last 10 games, Vrbata recorded a two-goal night. as the Coyotes doubled up the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on  Wednesday night. The red-hot Vrbata now has 5 goals in his last three games.

Vrbata is a perplexing fantasy case. Sure, he has 10 goals in his last 11 games, but he also had just one in his first nine. The 30-year-old right-wing has always had the ability to score, but has never reached the 30-goal or 60-point plateau over his nine-year NHL career. Vrbata is also a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to fantasy, as he only tends to contribute to the goals categories.

Despite his shortcomings, Vrbata has been so hot as of late that he is forcing the fantasy world to take notice. Could this offensive outburst be more than just a hot streak? If your squad could use some help in the scoring department, you might want to give Vrbata a look. Owned in just 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Vrbata is still ripe for the pickings.

If you have the roster room, taking a flyer on Vrbata is your typical low-risk, high-reward move. Worst-case scenario, you can ride out the rest of Vrbata's scoring frenzy and part ways once he cools. But there is always the chance that Vrbata is a late bloomer and this could finally be the year he breaks out and becomes an above-average scorer with a respectable plus/minus rating to boot. Now that would be a worthwhile waiver pick up, wouldn't it?

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 10:30 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

LAK @ DAL - 1:33 of the Third Period

At 1:33 of the third period in the Kings/Stars game, video review upheld the referee's call that Los Angeles forward Andrei Loktionov's shot went off the post and off Kari Lehtonen but did not go into the net. No Goal Kings.

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For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory