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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 4:18 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Talbot, a Classic vet, doles out advice

Having played outdoors last year in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Flyers forward Max Talbot was doling out some advice to his teammates Sunday morning before they hit the ice at Citizens Bank Park for practice ahead of the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic.

Talbot knows how impressive it can be for players to walk out to the rink in the middle of a huge stadium for the first time, and how that might impact the way certain players approach practice.

Except Sunday’s practice was more important than most, and Talbot wanted to be sure his teammates took full advantage of it.

“This morning I went to see a couple of the rookies and the young players and also my linemates,” Talbot said. “I just wanted them to visualize the stands full and that there was another team on the ice, not to just come and practice for the fun of it. We won’t have a morning skate tomorrow, and it’s different. It’s tough to get your bearings and the game starts quickly so we need to be ready. It’s two big points.”

Talbot was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins for last year’s game against the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field, and there were many differences he noticed from one year to the next.

“It’s a bit different going from a football stadium to a baseball stadium, it seems like the seats are a lot closer,” he said. “But I really liked the ice conditions today. It was better than last year.”
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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Classic a family affair for Couturier

Sean Couturier may be the youngest player on the Philadelphia Flyers, but it is that very fact that gives him a good dose of experience when it comes to playing in the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic.

“I’m a young guy, so three or four years ago I was still playing outside with my friends,” said Couturier, who just turned 19 last month. “So this is pretty cool.”

It is so cool, in fact, that Couturier has decided to share the moment with as many of his loved ones as possible. His parents will be part of a contingent of 13 members of his family and friends who are in Philadelphia to watch Monday’s main event.

“It’s going to be very special for them,” Couturier said. “It’s not every day you get to play outside. So I think they’re going to appreciate the moment.”

Couturier returned to action Thursday night for the Flyers, notching a pair of assists in Philadelphia’s 4-2 win in Pittsburgh. He missed four games recovering from an ear problem suffered in a 6-0 loss to Boston on Dec. 17 when Couturier was hit behind the ear by a shot.

He said the ear felt like it was completely blocked when it was at its worst, but that his hearing is practically fully returned now.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 3:51 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Lilja first on the ice

PHILADELPHIA -- Decked out in an orange tuque and his Winter Classic home jersey, Flyers defenseman Andreas Lilja was the first player to skate on the temporary ice rink built in the middle of the Citizens Bank Park infield this morning.

This isn't Lilja's first Winter Classic -- he played with the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field for the 2009 outdoor game -- but said he's going to have far more fun playing for the home team this time.

"The thing I remember most was we were the visiting team, and we had such a long walk to the game," Lilja told NHL.com. "I think it took us at least five minutes to walk to the game. But it was an awesome feeling."

He expects more of the same when he takes the ice Monday.

"I heard it was unbelievable yesterday (for the Alumni Game)," said Lilja. "I hear it was unreal. … I'm really looking forward to that tomorrow."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 1:21 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Hartnell credits Jagr/Giroux with making him better

Scott Hartnell said Sunday that Flyers leading scorer Claude Giroux deserves credit for helping him become a harder worker off the ice this season.

"He's our hardest-working player, and I think that says a lot to the teammates and even young kids growing up that want to have someone to look at," Hartnell said of Giroux, who has 45 points this season as the center between Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. "My dad always told me to be the hardest-working player every time you're on the ice, and he definitely is. Playing with him this year, it rubs off on me. I've taken care of myself better, done more in the gym, stayed after practice a little bit longer to do things. It's been incredible for me and every player watching the game. He's just a great player to emulate."

Hartnell, though, also gave credit to Jagr for the success of the Flyers top line. The trio has combined for 46 goals and 64 assists this season, including 17 goals and 17 assists for Hartnell.

"At first it was like, 'Holy man, this guy is on our team.' Then it was like, 'Oh my gosh, this guy is on our line.' I'm still shocked by it," Hartnell said of Jagr. "He wants to be the best player that's ever played and he makes me practice better and makes 'G' practice better. He wants to score goals all the time. We try to be the best line on the ice every night. It's been awesome for my career. I'm just blessed to be with them right now."

Speaking of Jagr, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said the 39-year-old veteran had no clue who Giroux was before he got to the Flyers.

"He had been out of the League for three years so he didn't know who he was, but I think he knows him now and he's happy to be playing with him," Holmgren said. "You're talking about high-end offensive players, and the more you have playing together the more success you can have. Those two guys think the game at a different level."

Hartnell has been the beneficiary.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Rinaldo meets his idol

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers rookie Zac Rinaldo got to meet his hero Saturday inside the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.

Rinaldo approached Eric Lindros following the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game and told the ex-Flyer great that he is the only reason he gained a passion for hockey as a young kid growing up in Hamilton, Ont.

"He's the only reason I watched hockey, really," Rinaldo said of Lindros. "I told him if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be the player I am today, and that's the truth. I don't think I would be able to hit the way I want to. I didn't like watching hockey if he wasn't playing. If he was playing, I'd watch."

Rinaldo said he was able to get Lindros to sign his jersey. Rinaldo's father also took a picture with Lindros.

"(Lindros) will be at the game (Monday), so hopefully I can put on a good show for him," Rinaldo said. "Maybe we can keep in touch.

"He was really humble. He's a really great guy."

Rinaldo, one of the Flyers resident pugilists who has 110 penalty minutes this season, did say if he got to play in Lindros' era, he wouldn't have backed down from the powerful center.

"He'd be the first guy to go after," Rinaldo said. "I wouldn't ask him to fight. I'd give him a little respect, but I'd definitely try to hit him. He'd probably put me on my (butt), but I'd be honored to take a hit from that guy."

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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 11:20 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Bobrovsky gets start for Flyers

One of the biggest questions heading into Sunday's practice day apparently has been answered.

According to goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, he will not be starting in the Winter Classic. That means backup Sergei Bobrovsky, who turned in a strong performance in Thursday's win against Pittsburgh, will Play against the Rangers Monday afternoon.

Peter Laviolette has not spoken to the media yet, so the announcement is not official. But, Bryzgalov said he will not play and several players said after Sunday's practice that Bobrovsky is being rewarded for his consistent performance this season.

Bobrovsky has a 1.55 goals-against average in his past eight games. Bryzgalov, meanwhile, has lost four straight and has allowed 18 goals during that span.

Bryzgalov, brought in during the off-season as a free agent to answer the Flyers goaltending problems, has struggled in the month of December. But, he is the unquestioned No. 1 and this is the biggest and most high-profile regular-season game the Flyers will play during the 2011-12 season and there was some expectation that Bryzgalov would get the start for those reasons.
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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 10:38 AM

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

Medal and relegation round schedule set for WJC

EDMONTON - So now that pool play in each bracket is complete, it's time for the teams in each bracket to congregate in Calgary for medal and relegation-round competition in the 2012 World Junior Championship.

In Group A, Sweden, Russia and Slovakia were the top three teams and in Group B, Canada, Finland and the Czech Republic earned spots in the medal round. The United States joins Denmark, Switzerland and Latvia in the relegation round, which will also take place at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

Canada is the only country to win all four games in regulation during preliminary-round play, outscoring the opposition, 26-5. Sweden, the Group A winner and also unbeaten, outscored its foes, 26-11.

The teams receive a day off on New Year's Day but will commence action on Monday.

Quarterfinal Round

Finland vs. Slovakia, 5 p.m. ET
Russia vs. Czech Republic, 9 p.m. ET

Semifinal Round
Sweden vs. Finland/Slovakia winner, 5 p.m. ET
Canada vs. Russia/Czech Republic winner, 9 p.m. ET

Wednesday - Placement Round (5th/6th), 11 p.m. ET
Thursday - Bronze medal game at 3:30 p.m. ET
Thursday - Gold medal game at 10 p.m. ET

Tuesday - Team USA vs. Latvia, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday - Latvia vs. Denmark, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday - Switzerland vs. Team USA, 5 p.m. ET

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 10:06 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Family time for Flyers

With practice complete, it is time for the families to take the ice at Citizens Bank Park.

As mentioned, it is always one of the highlights for the players. This year is proving to be no different.

Some youngsters are out there playing a bit of shinny, skating through other skaters treating the session as perhaps the greatest public-skating session of their lifes.

As always, there were indelible moments that won't be forgotten.

Scott Hartnell had several kids on the ice with them. Suffice it to say, they already have the Hartnell Down move down pat

Max Talbot, who enjoyed a family skate last season as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field, took him mom out for a twirl, holding her arm as she navigated the crowded ice surface.

Rookie Zac rinaldo was out on the ice with his father, both men deep in conversation -- perhaps about all the early-morning ice sessions of Zac's youth.

Defenseman Brandon Coburn, meanwhile, was rocking a baby as he glided across the ice.

Other players posed for pictures with family and friends, talked on the phone with those that could not be on hand or just skated leisurely around, soaking in all the details of a picture-perfect morning.

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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 9:18 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Outdoor touches everywhere

While the Flyers are trying to make Sunday's practice as normal as possible, there is no denying that it is different -- mainly because it is out-of-doors in the home of baseball's Philadcelphia Phillies instead of their usual practice site in Vorhees, N.J.

In Vorhees, the playing surface is not surrounded by 48,000 seats and the lighting is soft and artificial. Here, the rink is smack in the middle of a vast expanse of seats and the sun is just starting to come over the facade of the stadium, beating down in the far corner of the left-field end of the rink surface.

Many players are wearing eye black to battle the glare. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, meanwhile, is going retro for practice with his Philadelphia-themed Winter Classic mask and the brown pads and old-school blocker that were commonplace in the 1970s and early '80s.

The Flyers spent the first 15 minutes of practice working some transition drills before moving on to line rushes.

Certainly, Philadelphia will take the full hour allotted for practice before giving up the ice surface for a family skate, which is always the highlight of the practice day. Many members of the Flyer family are watching practice from the far side of the rink while the media observes from the home-plate side.
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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 9:52 PM

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

Wedgewood preserves Canada's 3-0 lead on U.S.

EDMONTON -- The U.S. National Junior Team put the pedal to the metal in the second period in an effort to pare the three-goal deficit they faced after the opening 20 minutes in Group B preliminary-round play of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rexall Place.
Unfortunately for the Americans, Canada goalie Scott Wedgewood wouldn't allow it. Wedgewood stopped 12 shots in the middle period and extended his personal shutout streak in the tournament to five periods. Wedgewood has made 20 saves through 40 minutes.
Wedgewood was even taken out by U.S. forward Emerson Etem at the top of the right circle when he attempted to clear the puck. Etem, perhaps not wanting to collide with Wedgewood head-on, slid to the ice but tripped up Wedgewood with 4:19 remaining in the second. The Americans actually denied the Canadians on a 5-on-3 power-play for a little over a minute.
While there were no goals scored in the second, there was plenty of excitement and big hits. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (6-foot-6.5) of Team Canada leveled Austin Watson (6-foot-3) in the Canadian end midway through the period.
Mark Stone, Jaden Schwartz and Brett Connolly each scored goals in the first when Canada opened a 3-0 lead.
It certainly wasn't the start the U.S. needed coming off two straight losses to Finland on Wednesday and the Czech Republic on Friday by a combined 9-3 aggregate.
Stone began the barrage with his team-leading seventh goal of the tournament off a quick release from the slot after gathering a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau. Schwartz, Canada's captain, extended the lead to 2-0 when he took a feed from Stone in the slot and buried an attempt from in close on starter Jack Campbell.
Connolly then scored at the 15:59 mark of the first on an unassisted goal. After skating into the right circle, Connolly ripped a shot that beat Campbell to the long side for a 3-0 cushion.
The U.S. was totally outplayed in the opening 20 minutes by a quicker and stronger Canadian group. Campbell turned aside 16 shots. Wedgewood is making his first start since posting a 26-save, 5-0 shutout, against the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

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Quote of the Day

The biggest part for us is that it's a home game. We know how special the fans here are and how much the fan base has grown in the last decade, and how passionate they are. I don't think a lot of people around the hockey world know that or appreciate that yet, and I think that it's great that this city is getting recognition for how passionate they are about hockey.

— Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic