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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 2:00 AM

By Ryan Murray -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Ryan Murray draft blog

Murray finishes second in hardest shot competition

Defenseman Ryan Murray is captain of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League. The 6-foot, 182-pound native of Saskatchewan was recently named captain for Team Cherry at the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna, B.C. He took second place in 'Hardest Shot' at the Top Prospects Skills Competition with a blast of 94.3 mph. He recently won a bronze medal playing for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Despite the busy schedule, Murray continues to provide a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hi all. I just finished up at the Top Prospects Skills Competition and was pretty happy to get second in the hardest shot event. It's a pretty simple event. You just go in there, wind up and smack it as hard as you can ... not much skill to it. But it was fun.

I told (Nick Ebert) before he went up for his shot that he was going to beat me, because I knew he had a pretty hard shot. And Nick did wind up winning (with a shot of 94.7 mph). I really hadn't recorded my shot in quite some time -- last time I checked, I hit the puck 37 mph.

I thought maybe I could have done well in the fastest skater event. I love the breakaway shootouts, for sure. That would have been fun, as well. Overall, though, this was great. It's nice that they mix in some fun with the game. I know everybody is kind of nervous. You have one game to kind of prove yourself in front of a ton of scouts, so it's good to loosen things up with the skills competition.

That 3-on-3we had in the end was a little tiring. Staying out there for 40-second shifts is a long time when you only have three guys on the ice. There's a lot of skating out there. I give credit to the goalies. I thought the goaltending was good. They are forced to stop shootouts and it gets tough on the goalies. Even on those 3-on-3's ... there's a lot of backdoor passes and they were good sports with everything that was going on.

I can tell you there's a lot of excitement for (Wednesday's Top Prospects Game). Everyone in the locker room is excited and nervous at the same time. But these are the games we all love to play and everybody is watching, so it'll be fun.

I've seen some scouts during my stay here in Kelowna while at my hotel, but they've stayed clear and out of everyone's way for the most part. There was a New York Rangers scout in our elevator (Tuesday), so they're kind of around. He didn't ask any serious questions or anything. He just said hello and told me to have fun. They introduce themselves, but aren't asking any serious draft questions.

Well, time to get some sleep before practice Wednesday morning and the game in the evening. Thanks for reading.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:23 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Skills competition winners

KELOWNA, B.C. - The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Skills Competition is under way here at Prospera Place.

Results:

Fastest skater: 1-Francis Beauvillier (Rimouski Oceanic) 14.132. 2-Branden Troock (Seattle Thunderbirds) 14.356. 3-Damon Severson (Kelowna Rockets) 14.542.

Hardest shot: 1-Nick Ebert (Windsor Spitfires) 94.7. 2-Ryan Murray (Everett Silvertips) 94.3. 3-Chandler Stephenson (Regina Pats) 94.1.

Accuracy: 1-Gianluca Curcuruto (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) 4 hits on 5 attempts (1 for 1 in tie-breaker). 2-Scott Laughton (Oshawa Generals) 4 hits on 5 attempts (0 for 1 in tie-breaker). 3-Tom Wilson (Plymouth Whalers) 4 hits on 6 attempts.

Showdown Breakaway Challenge: 1-Radek Faksa (Kitchener Rangers). 2-Tim Bozon (Kamloops Blazers). Faksa shootout winner in tie-breaker against Bozon came on backhand lift from in tight off Matthew Murray of Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:22 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NSH @ MIN - 9:22 of the Third Period

At 9:22 of the third period in the Predators/Wild game, video review conclusively determined that Brandon Yip's shot completely crossed the goal line. Good Goal Minnesota.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Kelowna boys receive loudest ovation

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Not surprisingly, Kelowna Rockets captain Colton Sissons and defenseman Damon Severson received the loudest ovation during pre-game introductions for the CHL/NHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Skills Competition here at Prospera Place.

Sissons, ranked No. 14 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, is currently in this second season with the Rockets. He's produced 26 goals and 38 points in 51 games this season for Kelowna.

"It's definitely more comfortable for me being there than for some of the guys coming into Kelowna," Sissons told NHL.com. "I'm used to it here. Our fans will be loud and into it, and hopefully all our fans will get to enjoy our fans like I do night in and night out."

Sissons will participate in the showdown breakaway contest for Team Orr.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:58 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

DET @ CGY - 19:09 of the First Period

At 19:09 of the first period in the Flames/Wings game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Dan Cleary's backhand did not cross the goal line. No Goal Detroit.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:42 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

TOR @ PIT - 19:53 of the Third Period

At 19:53 of the third period in the Maple Leafs/Penguins game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that James Neal's shot deflected off Evgeni Malkin's chest and into the net in a legal fashion. According to rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed." Good Goal Pittsburgh.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:16 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Mason gets call for Columbus

SAN JOSE -- Columbus goaltender Curtis Sanford has allowed just four total goals in two games against San Jose this season - both 2-1 losses - but Steve Mason will be in goal Tuesday night when the Blue Jackets face the Sharks at HP Pavilion.

On their last California road trip earlier in January, Sanford suffered a one-goal loss to the Sharks then beat the Los Angeles Kings 1-0. The Blue Jackets will face the Kings again in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

"We're playing back-to-back games," Columbus interim coach Todd Richards said of his decision to start Mason. "Sanford played both games, here in San Jose and also in L.A. He played well in both buildings, but we're playing back-to-back. Steve's played well in his last two starts. (Sanford) played the last game in Tampa. It seems logical to us that he'll play tonight and Sanford will play tomorrow in L.A."

Mason will play in his 200th career game Tuesday night. He has an 82-85-25 career mark with a 2.85 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. This season he is 5-18-2 with a 3.42 goals against average and a .882 save percentage.

It's been that type of season for the Blue Jackets, who are last in the NHL with just 32 points. While the Sharks and most NHL teams begin their playoff pushes, Columbus has to set for smaller goals.

"I talked to the guys about the goal I have for this road trip, and hopefully they have the same type of goals and what they want to accomplish as a group because I can have one thing and want one thing and it might not mean the same to them," Richards said. "So hopefully we're kind of on the same road as far as what we want, but it's getting those small goals and what's realistic, what we can achieve.

"Trying to create a fun atmosphere again, too. We've been beaten up so much this year. A lot of it is self-inflicted, with the beating up that we've done, but it's trying to create a positive environment again where we can enjoy being around each other, enjoy being at the rink and enjoy doing what we're doing."

Richards declined to reveal his specific goals for his team's three-game California swing against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks.

"It has nothing to do with points," he said. "It has nothing to do with wins, losses or ties. It's just something that as a coach, as a coaching staff that we just want to see from our team"

Opening on the road against San Jose is a tough assignment for the Blue Jackets in their first game after the All-Star Game break, but they've played the Sharks tough twice in one-goal losses, at HP Pavilion and at home.

"They've obviously got a lot of skill and a lot of talent on their team, but for many years they've been a hard-working team, too," captain Rick Nash said. "I think that's the way we have success is by outworking them. They've got a lot of weapons over there. They're a pretty dangerous team. Good goal tending. We've got to make sure we outwork them."

Getting off to a good start after the long break will be important for both teams.

"I think the biggest thing is getting our timing back right away," Nash said. "You sometimes lose that after one day off. So four or five days off, we're going to have to get our legs back and our timing."

San Jose forward Patrick Marleau said the key tonight for the Sharks will be to "keep it simple" in their first post-break game.

"Get your legs, your body, your mind into it early. Attention to detail is going to be important," Marleau said.

"You've got to be sharp from the get-go," Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray said. "The big thing is to get your confidence back and your skating and your puckhandling and your passing, just try to be as sharp as possible from the beginning."

Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter hasn't played since suffering a separated shoulder on Jan. 8, but he was on the ice for the morning skate at HP Pavilion. Although Carter won't play tonight, Richards sounded positive about his chances of returning to action soon.

"He's getting close," Richards said. "I don't know if that means tomorrow night or our game in Anaheim."

Center Andrew Joudrey, called up Monday from Springfield of the AHL, isn't expected to play Tuesday night, but he might make his NHL debut during the road trip.

"When you talk to the coaches down there and talk to the guys who have seen him play in management, they say he has been playing extremely well, and he's earned the opportunity to get up here and the opportunity, if it does present itself, to play," Richards said.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 7:23 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Russians on top

KELOWNA, B.C. -- At the 2004 Entry Draft, a pair of Russian forwards were taken with the top two picks for the first time ever -- Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

That could be repeated at the 2012 NHL Draft.

Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov and Quebec Remparts center Mikhail Grigorenko are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters, and are the frontrunners to hear their names called first in June.

That decision wasn't an easy one for Central Scouting.

"Right now, Yakupov has shown, with the level that he's played, that he does have the ability to make a difference in the game," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "That's not saying that Grigorenko doesn't make a difference. Grigorenko controls the play, can dictate how the game is played when he's on the ice. But, right now, the consensus was Yakupov has the potential to be a difference-maker in a game. He can just turn a game around in a couple of shifts; he's that dynamic a player."

Of Grigorenko, Marr said: "When Mikhail is on the ice, he controls the play and he's got deceptive speed for a 6-foot-3.25, 200-pound man.

Despite missing time with a knee injury suffered at the World Junior Championship, Yakupov has 22 goals and 33 assists in 29 games. He returned Friday from his injury and has a goal and an assist in three games. He opted against playing in the Top Prospects Game.

Grigorenko injured his ankle at the WJC, but has recovered to the point where he'll take part in Top Prospects. He has 64 points in 41 games, tied for ninth in the QMJHL in scoring. He also leads all first-year players in the league in goals (28), assists (36) and points. 

"It's really nice," Grigorenko said of him and Yakupov topping the rankings. "I'm really happy about this, two Russian guys are first and second. It's really nice."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 7:07 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Athanasiou has big move in store for skills competition

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Will London Knights wing Andreas Athanasiou be able to pull off the ridiculous move he has up his sleeve at the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Skill competition on Tuesday here at Prospera Place.

If he does, it could turn out to be even more spectacular than last year's lacrosse-style scoop and wicked backhand off a spin-o-rama by Detroit Red Wings prospect Tomas Jurco.

"I remember watching that move last year by Jurco … it was pretty amazing," Athanasiou told NHL.com.

While the 6-foot-1, 174-pound native of Woodbridge, Ont., would not reveal the exact move he had prepared for the scouts and fans in attendance, he was certain that if he's able to execute, it will be something special.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 6:25 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Grigorenko feeling good

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Quebec Remparts star forward Mikhail Grigorenko said he's not quite 100-percent healed from the ankle injury he suffered last month during the World Junior Championship, but he's still here for the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

"Not 100 percent, maybe 80 percent, probably," he told NHL.com. "It's going the right direction, feeling good now."

Grigorenko injured his left ankle during Russia's preliminary-round game against Latvia, when he collided with Latvia defenseman Artus Salija.

"It was a bad first pass from my (defenseman) and I didn't see the guy who hit me," Grigorenko told NHL.com. "I saw him at like the last moment. I just went out from him and he pushed me and my leg was twisted."

Grigorenko missed one game, but played the rest of the way in helping Russia win the silver medal. He finished with 2 goals and 3 assists in six games, but felt he wasn't able to showcase his full skill set.

"I think I played well without the puck," he said. "I didn't want to score a goal or do something with the puck, just tried to play for my team, just stay in my zone and help my (defense). I think I did really well."

He has 3 goals and 3 assists in five games since returning from the injury. For the season, he has 28 goals and 36 assists in 41 games. He's tied for ninth in the QMJHL in scoring with 64 points, and he leads all first-year QMJHL players in goals, assists and points.

At No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft, Grigorenko is the top-rated skater taking part in tomorrow's Top Prospects Game (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet). He'll play for Team Orr, which will be coached by Pat Quinn.

He'll be taking part in the accuracy shooting competition tonight as part of the skills contest.

"I've never tried it," he said. "I hope I will be good at this. Yesterday I tried to shoot the puck and I missed the net."

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