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NHL Insider

Johnson, McClement returning to St. Louis with Avs

Monday, 02.21.2011 / 3:47 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Turns out, you really can go home again. Erik Johnson and Jay McClement are proof of that.

A little more than 48 hours after leaving St. Louis following the blockbuster trade that sent them to Colorado, Johnson and McClement boarded the Avalanche's charter Monday for a flight back to the Gateway City and Tuesday's game against the Blues at the Scottrade Center.   

"It's pretty weird to come back that soon, but It's going to be fun," Johnson said after getting in his first full practice Monday with his new team at the South Suburban Family Sports Center. "We go back there two more times (this season), so it'll be nice to get the first one done tomorrow. It's going to be weird coming into your old rink on the other side of the barn and seeing all your old trainers and coaches and teammates.

"Nothing would feel better than to get a win."

Duchene probably to play Tuesday night

Monday, 02.21.2011 / 2:15 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Colorado Avalanche expect to have leading scorer Matt Duchene in the lineup for Tuesday's game in St. Louis.

Duchene took part in a full practice Monday for the first time since injuring his left hand Feb. 14 against Calgary. He missed two games after being struck by a shot launched by former teammate Kevin Shattenkirk, who was traded to the Blues on Saturday along with Chris Stewart and a 2011 or 2012 second-round draft pick in exchange for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a first-round pick in 2011 or 2012.

Duchene, who has 21 goals and 27 assists in 57 games, centered a line with Kevin Porter and Milan Hejduk in practice.

"I felt pretty good," Duchene said. "I'm excited to get back out there tomorrow. It's your bottom hand, putting a lot of force on it. I think I've got it figured out. I think I have a way to stabilize it. It feels OK.

Staal OK for matchup vs. Capitals

Monday, 02.21.2011 / 1:18 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins already were without their top two centers. They won't be missing their top remaining center when they finish their always-entertaining season series against the Washington Capitals on Monday (7:30 p.m., VERSUS, TSN2, RDS).

Jordan Staal, one of the NHL's best two-way forwards, will play, according to coach Dan Bylsma, despite being struck on the left cheek with the puck in overtime during Pittsburgh's 3-2 loss in Chicago on Sunday.

Staal, stationed near the net, tried to duck to avoid a shot from teammate Kris Letang but couldn't avoid being struck. He did not return, but after the game he flashed a thumbs-up sign to Bylsma.

Bylsma said Staal has some swelling in the cheek, but wasn't otherwise injured.

'Canes raise Brind'Amour's No. 17 to the rafters

Friday, 02.18.2011 / 8:39 PM / NHL Insider

Former Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour donned his jersey one more time before his No. 17 was raised to the rafters of the RBC Center before Friday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Players on both teams wore No. 17 jerseys in warmups and during the 35-minute ceremony -- then the real No. 17 saw his a banner bearing his number raised to the roof to join Glen Wesley's No. 2 and Ron Francis' No. 10.

"The banner that means the most to me, that means more than an individual banner, and obviously you know what I'm talking about, is the Stanley Cup championship," Brind'Amour said during his speech while looking up at the 2006 championship banner.

Blackhawks continue playoff push without 'Q'

Friday, 02.18.2011 / 3:37 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

"The points are valuable and we want to make sure we keep these guys behind us. At this point, I think it's still a little too far out to start solidifying those playoff spots. Anything can happen down the stretch. If we play our best, we like to think we control our destiny."
-- Patrick Sharp

CHICAGO -- Their coach remains in the hospital, but the Chicago Blackhawks don't have the luxury of worrying about Joel Quenneville's continued absence.
Instead, the defending Stanley Cup champions are preparing for another tough home game Friday at the United Center against a Central Division rival, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Columbus is just two points behind the 11th-place Blackhawks in the Western Conference, while Chicago is just four points outside the top eight.
"You look at the standings, like we have every day for the past two weeks, and things aren't changing that much," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "The points are valuable and we want to make sure we keep these guys behind us. At this point, I think it's still a little too far out to start solidifying those playoff spots. Anything can happen down the stretch. If we play our best, we like to think we control our destiny."

Around the West: Jackets unable to gain ground

Friday, 02.18.2011 / 10:49 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Columbus captain Rick Nash is torn between feelings of elation and frustration. He's thrilled his Blue Jackets have fought their way back into the playoff chase, but discouraged because they've managed to pick up just one spot in the Western Conference standings despite going 8-3-3 since Jan. 14.

The Blue Jackets enter their game Friday at Chicago -- one Nash called "huge," as if that even needs to be said at this point -- 12th in the West and six points out of eighth. Columbus can tie Chicago for 11th with a regulation win at United Center.

Wings legend Yzerman now focused on Bolts

Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 8:13 PM / NHL Insider

David Kalan - Staff Writer

After a Hall of Fame career as captain of the Red Wings, Thursday night marked the first time Steve Yzerman would face Detroit in any capacity. While most players or GMs with 27 years working in the same organization might dismiss any misty-eyed notions, Yzerman admitted Thursday that he didn't quite know what to expect as far as his own emotions were concerned when new team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, hosted the team he'd called his own since turning pro in 1983.

"We'll see when the game gets under way," Yzerman said on "The NHL Hour With Gary Bettman" prior to Thursday night's game at the St. Pete Times Forum. "I thought long and hard for weeks leading up to ultimately meeting with [Lightning owner Jeff Vinik] and talking about the position, and it was a difficult decision to eventually leave. But I felt like this is something I know I wanted to do. I want to pursue this and whether it's now or at some point I'm going to have to leave the organization to do that."

Vrbata isn't streaky, just finally healthy

Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 4:16 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata doesn't consider himself a "streaky" player. However, his numbers beg to differ.

What there's no argument about, however, is when Vrbata starts lighting up the score sheet, the Coyotes usually ride the wave to success.

The Coyotes take a five-game winning streak into Thursday's game with the Atlanta Thrashers at Arena. During that streak, Vrbata has 4 goals and 6 points, including a four-game point-scoring streak that he carries into the game. But he doesn't think he's on a hot streak.

"I feel a lot better physically right now. All of late December and a lot of January I was affected by [a lower-body] injury," Vrbata said. "Now I feel like I have better jump and I can trust my body a little more. I can jump into the open holes and create something more.

Oils aiming for first win streak since December

Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 3:10 PM / NHL Insider

Robin Brownlee - Correspondent

EDMONTON -- As modest as a two-game winning streak might be, that's the goal for the Edmonton Oilers when they face the Montreal Canadiens at Rexall Place Thursday (9 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS).

Coming off a 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars Tuesday, the Oilers will be looking to win two games in a row for the first time since winning four straight from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 when the Canadiens visit to open a three-game road trip.

"Putting wins together, that's been the problem this season other than on that one road trip," said Andrew Cogliano. "There's something different going on right now. After winning the last game, I feel like we're not going to be complacent. We're going to come out and play hard again. You can't just win one game and lose the next one. You don't get anywhere like that."

Quenneville still hospitalized but in 'good spirits'

Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 3:10 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

"I talked to Q late last night, after the game. We talked about the game. He watched the majority of it and he was very pleased and very happy about the game. I know he has some tests today, but he was laughing when I talked to him last night. He was in good spirits. He was joking and laughing on the phone, so it was good to hear." -- Mike Haviland

CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville remains in a hospital undergoing tests for an undisclosed medical condition, but the Chicago Blackhawks coach is said to be in "good spirits" according to those who have been in contact with him.
As of Thursday morning, the Blackhawks had yet to release an update on the 52-year-old Quenneville's health, but a team official said there could be one coming later Thursday, depending when the test results are received.
Quenneville got a visit from Hawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen after Wednesday's 3-1 Blackhawks win against the Minnesota Wild, and he also spoke by phone with assistant Mike Haviland, the team's acting head coach.

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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic