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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 4:37 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

USA, Czechs tied after one period

EDMONTON - The Czech Republic survived an offensive barrage by the U.S. National Junior Team in the first period on Friday in Group B preliminary round play at the 2012 World Junior Championship to enter the intermission in a 1-1 stalemate.
 
Despite allowing the American nine minutes in power-play time, Czech goalie Petr Mrazek was able to turn aside 17 shots to keep his team even. U.S. goalie Jack Campbell, making his first start since the tournament opener against Denmark, needed to make just five saves.
 
The U.S. was given an extended power-play just 2:21 into the game when Czech forward Petr Straka was issued a five-minute boarding penalty and game misconduct. Straka leveled U.S. defenseman Derek Forbort along the boards at center ice. Forbort remained on the ice for several minutes before being helped off the ice by teammates. He did not receive another shift in the period -- leaving the United States with just six defensemen.
 
T.J. Tynan made the Czechs pay when he converted a picturesque feed from J.T. Miller from in tight at the 5:14 mark to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. The Czechs did a marvelous job killing off the remainder of the penalty, however, and even killed off a two-minor minor that followed before Tomas Filippi knotted the score at the 12:05 mark. Filippi's initial shot from low in the right circle was stopped by Campbell, but the rebound was jammed home.
 
The U.S. closed out the period with a four-minute power-play after Petr Zamorsky was whistled for a double minor for high sticking. Mrazek was his usual sharp self between the pipes, making several big stops, including a juicy rebound off the stick of Miller with 38.9 seconds remaining.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 3:38 PM

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

Predators-Blues probable lineups

The probable lineups for tonight's Nashville Predators game at St. Louis Blues:

Blues

David Perron - David Backes - Chris Stewart

Evgeny Grachev - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie

Matt D'Agostini - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner

Vladimir Sobotka - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Roman Polak

Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk

Jaroslav Halak

Brian Elliott

The Blues are without Alex Steen (concussion-like symptoms), Andy McDonald (concussion), defensemen Kent Huskins (ankle) and Kris Russell (groin), along with winger Ryan Reaves (hip). The likely scratches for tonight would be Adam Cracknell and Chris Porter, although Grachev could be scratched in favor of Porter. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was unsure this morning.
Predators

Martin Erat-David Legwand-Craig Smith

Sergei Kostitsyn-Mike Fisher-Patric Hornqvist

Colin WIlson-Nick Spaling-Jordin Tootoo

Gabriel Bourque-Jerred Smithson-Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter-Roman Josi

Francis Bouillon-Jonathon Blum

Jack Hillen-Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Anders Lindback

Defenseman Kevin Klein (flu) will miss tonight's game. They will scratch winger Brian McGratton.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 3:35 PM

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

Preds trying to survive without Weber

The Predators, who have won both meetings against the Blues this season, are also dealing with the concussion issue with top d-man Shea Weber, who will miss his third straight game FRiday night with a concussion suffered Dec. 23 at Dallas.

Weber who is among the NHL leaders in ice time per game at 26:20 and the Predators are making due with what they have, trying to patch together Weber's production.

"You can't replace those elite players," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "You just have to do it as a group. Sometimes, one of the best things that can happen from a team coming together is the fact that top guys are out. It's not that I want Shea out at all.

"Everybody's going to have to pitch in. You can't replace the quality 28, 29 minutes he plays a night."

Guys like Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and even Jack Hillen hope to fill some of gaps Weber, who has 29 points in 35 games, leaves.

"It's not a cliche ... you just don't go out there and replace a Shea Weber," Hillen said. "Each one of us does something individually and we have to fill that void as a group.

"If I try to be Shea Weber, I might look like an idiot. We just have to stay within ourselves."

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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 3:32 PM

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

McDonald making progress

Andy McDonald took part in the morning skate Friday with his teammates for the first time since making his first appearance on the ice on Dec. 23.

McDonald continues to recover from the concussion suffered in the third game of the season at Dallas on Oct. 13.

"I'm feeling really good and happy to be back on the ice," said McDonald, who is wearing a red no-contact jersey. "I was feeling good off the ice doing the workouts (and) riding the bike. Just in general, I was feeling good and feeling motivated. This is the next step to be able to get on the ice, to be able to function in practice and do all the things you have to be able to do on the ice. It's one thing to be able to get on the bike and do a workout in the gym, but to be able to perform on the ice is the next step that I have to get to."

This concussion for McDonald, the sixth one suffered during his playing career, nearly put him out of the game for good.

"Probably the first week or two I was out, I thought that I was probably done for good," McDonald said. "With the way I felt, there was just no way that I would ... with my history and with the way I felt at the time, there would be no way that I would come back. But I've had a pretty good turnaround and I'm feeling really good, but also I'm still not 100 percent. That'll be the key. I've had so many of them that I want to be 10 percent when I come back. I just can't put myself at risk for another one and certainly not being 100 percent, I'm going to rely on myself for that."

McDonald said he's at 90-95 percent as far as his health is concerned but has placed no timetable on a return. He's been headache-free but still feels a bit foggy at times.

"There's some certain things and certain levels that I need to get to," McDonald said. "I passed the neuro-psyche (testing), so it's cleared from that regard. I've done the bike and stuff like that. I felt pretty good, so the next level's to get into a regular practice to get this red practice jersey off.

"This one has been different symptoms. I've reacted in a different way. There doesn't seem to be a pattern. I don't really know why that it is, but they're all different."

Hitchcock has cvhatted with MacDonald, but he won't start planning lineup changes until the winger changes the color of his jersey.

"It's kind of like two ships passing: Hello, how are you, fine, I'll see you when you get out of the red sweater," Hitchcock said. "That's the way we're dealing with it.

"There's no point in even having an update. When the color of the sweater changes, boy we can really get into it. But it's not a lot different than David Perron or even B.J. Crombeen. When the sweater's red, there's no point in even having a meeting about it until the color changes. ... It's nice to see him around, nice to see him being a part of it. But as long as you're in a red sweater, you're kind of a non-subject matter with everybody."
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 3:18 PM

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

Steen out for Blues, three others return

ST. LOUIS -- Concussions continue to take their toll on the St. Louis Blues.

David Perron to Andy McDonald to Carlo Colaiacovo all have dealt with head injuries in the past year and have made recoveries. McDonald, though, is in the process of dealing with yet another concussion.

Alex Steen's name may be added to the list.

Steen will not play Friday night when the Blues (21-11-4) host the Nashville Predators (19-14-1) because of what coach Ken Hitchcock called "concussion-like symptoms" believed to have been suffered Monday when the Blues hosted Dallas.

Steen, who is tied for the team lead in points (with David Backes) with 24, played Tuesday in Detroit and skated Thursday at practice, but Hitchcock said Steen didn't feel right and the team is holding him out Friday and likely Saturday night in Detroit before giving a further update.

"Looks like in the Dallas game, there was a hit in the Dallas game," Hitchcock said. "He didn't feel right after practice yesterday. We'll just hold him out ... it's day to day or what it is. Right now, he can't play today."

It would be the first concussion suffered in Steen's career if he has one.

"We'll let you know in a couple days on Steener how things are going there," Hitchcock said. "... We'll give you an update in a day or two.

"We're erring on the side of caution and we'll see in a day or two. It might be nothing and away we go, but you want to be safe."

While the Blues will suddenly be subtracting Steen from the lineup, they will be adding T.J. Oshie (wrist), Jamie Langenbrunner (flu) and Vladimir Sobotka (ankle) back into the lineup Friday night.

All three skated Friday morning and were deemed fit to go by Hitchcock, although Langenbrunner was declared fit Thursday after missing two games.

Oshie also missed two games after injuring his left wrist a week ago in Phoenix, while Sobotka has missed seven games after taking a puck off his ankle during a practice Dec. 12.

"Both guys are in, good to go," Hitchcock said of Oshie and Sobotka. "Both feel good enough to play. Both guys felt a lot better today after yesterday's practice. That's a good sign.

"Lags is back to normal. Three guys in and one guy down, so that's good."

Although Hitchcock was unsure of Friday night's lineup, it's likely that Adam Cracknell will be the one that goes to the press box as a healthy scratch.

Cracknell was recalled in time for Monday's game against Dallas.

"With those three guys in, that adds to our roster up front for sure," Hitchcock said. "We'll have to get somebody to replace Steen on that big line. I'm not 100 percent sure which way we're going to go yet.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 1:55 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Kuznetsov turns in dominating performance

The Russians knew their captain was good.

But nine points good?

Yevgeni Kuznetsov, the only returning player from Russia’s gold medal-winning squad last year, came within one point of Peter Forsberg’s all-time tournament record of 10 against Japan at the 1993 World Junior Championship with his performance Thursday night -- much to the awe and delight of his teammates.

“It was like ‘Are you kidding me, what are you doing?” Nail Yakupov said after the game. “He’s amazing, you know? He did everything today. He’s a great player. It’s his second World Juniors and he plays in the KHL. He plays like an NHL player.”

After being held off the scoresheet through the first 20 minutes by Latvia, Kuznetsov exploded, recording points on six straight Russian goals before adding three more points – including his hat trick goal -- in the third period.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 1:52 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Campbell gets pivotal start for Team USA vs. Czechs

EDMONTON - If the U.S. National Junior Team seeks to remain in contention for a gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship, a victory over the feisty Czech Republic is in order on Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET at Rexall Place.

That being the case, U.S. coach Dean Blais will have Jack Campbell back between the pipes with so much at stake. If the U.S. falls to the Czech Republic in regulation, and should Finland defeat Denmark in regulation on Friday night, the Americans would be destined for the relegation round regardless of the outcome of its New Year's Eve clash against rival Canada.

If the United States defeats the Czech Republic, however, it would not only remain in medal contention, but in a position to capture first place in Group B so long as the Czech Republic avoids a regulation loss to Finland and Team USA defeats Canada.

Campbell is certainly no stranger to the big international stage, particularly under the tutelage of Blais.



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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 1:03 PM

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

Weaver earned his new contract

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Defenseman Mike Weaver was standing in the Florida Panthers dressing room Friday morning when teammate Kris Versteeg snuck up behind him and rubbed shaving cream all over his face.

"We did it! We did it!" Versteeg shouted before walking away laughing.

It was Versteeg's way of congratulating Weaver for signing a two-year contract extension, which was announced Friday morning.

The 33-year-old Weaver is in his second season with the Panthers after playing for four different teams in his first eight NHL seasons.

Weaver has been a dependable defenseman for the Panthers the last two seasons and a member of the first penalty-killing unit.

"Mike Weaver is one of those character players that is widely respected around the League," said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. "He was a guy last year that I used as an example for some of my players in the American league how to play defense. His character as a player is not always going to show up on the score sheet, but he's one of those guys that goes out and consistently does a good job for us. He plays against other teams' top lines. Not only does he play against them, but that's a role he really relishes.

"That's a very strong signing for the Florida Panthers and really bodes well for both him and us. It's a win-win situation for the next couple of years."

For Weaver, the extension is a nice reward for a career spent overcoming obstacles -- starting with his lack of size, as he's listed at just 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds.

After playing four years at Michigan State, he signed with the Atlanta Thrashers, but never appeared in more than 40 games in his three seasons with the team.

He then spent two seasons with Los Angeles, another with Vancouver and two with St. Louis before the Panthers signed him in August 2010.

"I just look one game at a time, one season at a time," Weaver said. "I've worked my butt off ever since I turned pro to get in a situation I'm able to feel comfortable in. It's nice to be here in Florida, for sure.

"When we agreed on the contract, it's amazing looking back what I've gone through to this point."

Weaver has no goals and 9 assists this season, but offense never has been his forte. He has 6 goals in 458 NHL games and only three since the start of the 2007-08 season.

Weaver, however, is a terrific defensive defenseman. He rarely gets caught out of position or beat 1-on-1, plus he's second on the team behind Jason Garrison with 62 blocked shots.

With the offensive success of fellow Panthers blueliners Brian Campbell, Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov, as well as the presence of five-time All-Star Ed Jovanovski and rookie Erik Gudbranson, the third pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, it's easy to overlook Weaver.

And that's just the way he likes it.

"As long as I'm out of the paper, I'm fine," Weaver said. "That's the way I look at it. My game is most valuable to the current organization that I'm in. A lot of GMs or scouts come to the game, I really become unnoticed out there. That's my game -- keep it simple and not be in the limelight."

His teammates, though, know he valuable he is.

"It's good for him that he stays here," said Kulikov, who has been partnered with Weaver this season. "He brings a good attitude to the team and he brings a lot of hard work. He's a hard-working guy and he's good defensively."
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 12:30 PM

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

Panthers' Weiss to be a game-time decision

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss took part in the morning skate, but coach Kevin Dineen wasn't ready to say afterward that Weiss would be back against the New York Rangers tonight.

Weiss has missed the last two games -- an 8-0 loss at Boston last Friday night and a 5-3 victory against Toronto Tuesday -- because of an upper-body injury.

"He had a good day," Dineen said. "I hope he can play tonight. We're going to give him the afternoon and probably dress an extra forward for warm-up and make a final decision post-warm-up whether he's physically able to play or not."

Weiss was among seven forwards who missed the Toronto game. None of the other six -- Marco Sturm, Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, Jack Skille, Scottie Upshall and Marcel Goc -- are expected to play tonight or tomorrow against Montreal.

At the morning skate, Weiss centered a line with Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky. He has played all season with Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann on a line that's been among the most productive in the League.

Versteeg and Fleischmann were split up during Weiss' absence; Fleischmann skated with Shawn Matthias and Matt Bradley.

Dineen wasn't ready after the morning skate to make any declarations about his lines.

"I'm not one to play cagey, but we're going to make a lot of decisions after warm-up," he said. "A lot of dominoes will either fall or come into place depending on the health of our team. At this point, it's almost hourly. We'll see where we're at post-warm-up."

Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers, and the Rangers, who did not skate this morning:

RANGERS
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell
Ruslan Fedotenko - Mike Rupp - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Jeff Woywitka - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal, with Martin Biron the backup.

PANTHERS
Tomas Kopecky - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Fleischmann - Shawn Matthias - Matt Bradley
Tim Kennedy - Mike Santorelli - Michal Repik
Krys Barch - Mark Cullen - Bill Thomas

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

Jose Theodore will start in goal, with Scott Clemmensen the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 12:29 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wisniewski goes down with broken ankle

The Columbus Blue Jackets suffered a major blow Thursday night as defenseman James Wisniewski suffered an fractured left ankle in the second period.

Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson tweeted Friday that after seeing Dr. Larry Watson, Columbus' team physician, Wisniewski will not require surgery and will be out six weeks.

Wisniewski suffered the injury when he blocked Mike Ribeiro's shot at the 7:38 mark of the second period.

Wisniewski signed a six-year, $33 million contract during the summer, but sat out the first eight games of the season due to suspension. He has 17 points and a minus-18 rating in 29 games.
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Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season