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Player Profiles

Versteeg thriving in Florida, hopes to put down roots

Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 9:00 AM / Player Profiles

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Kris Versteeg looks like he might get his wish.

Despite having three 20-goal seasons on his resume at the age of 25, Versteeg has been traded four times in his career, including three times in a span of 366 days.

Kris Versteeg
Right Wing - FLA
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 26 | PTS: 48
SOG: 138 | +/-: 5
Versteeg doesn't want to become a hockey nomad. He wants to stay in one place for a while, and his performance this season has given the Florida Panthers every reason to keep him around.

Given an expanded role with the upstart Panthers, Versteeg has responded with a team-high 22 goals, a total that ties him for 17th in the League.

Versteeg has needed only 53 games to match his career high, and he's on pace to become Florida's first 30-goal scorer since David Booth had 31 in 2008-09.

Consummate pro MacDonald can help make history

Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 10:14 AM / Player Profiles

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

Joey MacDonald
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 3-1-1
GAA: 1.87 | SVP: 0.926
DETROIT -- If there's one thing that Joey MacDonald has learned from playing professional hockey for nearly a decade, it's that there's no time for pouting.

The sport simply moves too fast, both on and off the ice. Pouting goalies often find themselves on the wrong end of a great move, shot or -- in his case -- transaction. The 31-year old MacDonald has learned that lesson simply by learning to survive in pro hockey, which has seen him bounce around between five NHL teams and four teams in the American Hockey League over nine seasons.

"I've been up and down so much," said MacDonald, who's started the last four games for the Detroit Red Wings and won three in a row, all at Joe Louis Arena, to help the Wings tie a rare NHL record with 20 consecutive home wins. "You see a lot of guys who get sent down and their heads are down, but you know what? You just go down and work hard. You were up for a reason and if you go down and work hard, you're going to be back up again. You've just got to be patient and wait, and your time will come."

Holmstrom makes it to 1,000 games the hard way

Friday, 02.10.2012 / 10:46 AM / Player Profiles

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- Kris Draper's smile quickly turned into a laugh.

It usually does whenever he or anybody else inside the Detroit Red Wings fraternity is asked to share stories about Tomas Holmstrom -- who, on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena, will become just the sixth Red Wings player in franchise history to play 1,000 games with the winged wheel on his chest.

Draper, one of the other five, retired last season after playing 17 years in Detroit and 14 with Holmstrom, who's more commonly known in the Wings locker room as "Homer."

Parise focused on present, feeling great physically

Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 3:00 PM / Player Profiles

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- After suffering through the most tumultuous season of his career, Zach Parise is having fun again.
And he expects it to remain that way despite the pending NHL trading deadline and free agency period.
"The NHL trade deadline means nothing for me … I don't expect anything to change," Parise told "There's no different approach by me for anything. I like how we're playing right now and how we're, hopefully, going to finish."
There's no doubt Parise's future in New Jersey has been on the minds of everyone within the organization this season, as well as around the League. The unrestricted free-agent-to-be has continually said all the right things during what has to be an uncertain off-ice period in his career.
"I would say [free agency] was on my mind earlier in the season and now, as best I can, have forgotten about it," Parise said. "Once I did that, I've been playing better. It can weigh on you, and honestly, it's not just lip service. I try as hard as can to not even think about it and just play. I found once I do that, I play better."

St. Louis back at scene of scary incident good as ever

Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:12 PM / Player Profiles

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The last time Martin St. Louis came to Madison Square Garden, he left the arena a bloody mess with his career, and perhaps the quality of his life, in danger.

During the Tampa Bay Lightning's morning skate here on Dec. 8, St. Louis and teammate Dominic Moore were taking part in a drill they had done a million times. It was a 2-on-1 rush with very little defensive pressure. St. Louis dished the puck to Moore and curled behind the net. A backhand try by Moore from the right post flew high and wide, catching an unsuspecting St. Louis in the left eye.

Bloodied and afraid, St. Louis skated to the locker room with a towel pressed against his face.

The 36-year-old would miss that night's game against the Rangers, but only four more after that due to facial fractures. He didn't avoid Moore's errant shot, but he knows he certainly dodged a bullet.

St. Louis isn't big on reliving the incident, so he kept this thoughts about it brief Thursday morning as the Lightning prepare to face the East-leading Rangers.

"I'm just happy I can see," St. Louis said.

Fisher doing well for Preds as trip to Ottawa looms

Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 10:00 PM / Player Profiles

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Travel is bad enough for NHL players. Red-eye flights from the West Coast to the East. Playing back-to-back nights and checking into hotels in the middle of the night.

Mike Fisher
Center - NSH
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 32
SOG: 105 | +/-: 1
For Mike Fisher, after he married country music star Carrie Underwood, there was the hidden travel. With her living in Nashville and him in Ottawa, the couple tried to rendezvous a couple of times a month.

Sometimes it was off days. Fisher could leave after a game at Scotiabank Place and, by flying out of Carp Airport, a small municipal airport near the arena, he could arrive in Nashville before midnight Central Time.

Sometimes Underwood was on tour and they would meet in random cities, which made it even more difficult for Fisher to see his wife.

With Fisher's trade to the Predators Feb. 10, 2010, for a first- and a third-round pick, all of that came to an end.

Elliott again back in Ottawa; this time it's business

Monday, 02.06.2012 / 11:00 PM / Player Profiles

Louie Korac - Correspondent

When Brian Elliott returned to the place where it all began for him in the National Hockey League during All-Star weekend, he was received with open arms.

The reception Elliott got from the fans at Scotiabank Place, he admitted, was palpable. But those feelings might be a bit more subdued when Elliott and the St. Louis Blues face the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

When the Blues (30-14-7) and Senators (27-21-7) skate for the only time this season, it marks the first time Elliott returns as a visiting player since being dealt last season to the Colorado Avalanche.

Elliott, who was the lone representative for the Blues at the All-Star Game, will get the start against his former team. There would be added intrigue if Craig Anderson was at the other end in goal, since he was the player the Senators acquired from Colorado in the trade for Elliott on Feb. 18, 2011.

"It's always a little weird going back somewhere where you played before," said Elliott, who is 15-5-2 on the season with an NHL-leading 1.69 goals-against average and second in save percentage at .938. "You go into the visiting dressing room for the first time. You try not to put any emphasis on it. You try to play the same way that you would any other game."

Rangers bringing Staal along slowly as he finds game

Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 12:32 PM / Player Profiles

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

One month into the return of Marc Staal from a concussion, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella is facing a conundrum with his top defenseman -- in order to get Staal back to form, he needs to play more minutes, but since he's still behind the curve after missing so much time, there's a danger in playing someone who isn't ready to handle more minutes.

"It's just too far along in the season and Marc has missed so much time," Tortorella said. "It wouldn't be fair to him or the team."

Staal, who led the Rangers in ice time the past two seasons, missed all of training camp and the first 36 games of the season before returning for the Winter Classic on Jan. 2. As expected, Staal's play in his first 12 games has been choppy; he has no points and is minus-4 while playing 17:16 per game, about eight minutes fewer than he averaged last season.

The 25-year-old has played as little as 12:06 in one contest while topping out at 24:58 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 19. The game against the Penguins was one where Staal's lack of readiness to return to big minutes was most evident. He made two gaffes in the third period -- the first a bad pinch that led to a tie-breaking goal and a misplay on a puck played around the boards in his own zone that led to another goal.

During January, Staal has been on the ice for six goals scored and 10 goals against, two of which were the only power-play goals the Rangers allowed last month.

Big-game starts raising Schneider's profile

Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 11:33 AM / Player Profiles

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

Cory Schneider
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 11-5-0
GAA: 2.28 | SVP: 0.928
Vancouver Canucks backup Cory Schneider has already done a lot this season to prove to the hockey world that he's ready for a No. 1 job in the NHL.

The Canucks seem intent on showing the rest of the League he's a big-game goalie, too.

Of the three starts Schneider has made over the last month, two were against the Canucks' biggest rivals, and the other came at the tail end of back-to-back road games against a Tampa Bay team badly in need of puck-stopping help.

That middle start against the Lightning sparked plenty of talk about his future as trade bait for a Canucks team that already has Roberto Luongo under contract another 10 seasons after this one.

Preds' Ellis showing he's not all about offense

Monday, 01.23.2012 / 11:15 AM / Player Profiles

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- During a Jan. 14 game against Philadelphia, Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, all 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds of him, was barreling down the left wing with the puck as he neared the faceoff circle in the Nashville Predators' zone and began to cut in toward the goal.

"Everybody talks about his size, but he just reads the game really well, so he doesn't put himself in bad positions. He puts himself in good positions so he's not on the back side of a big guy."
-- Shea Weber

Predators rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis took the correct angle and moved directly into Simmonds' path. At that point, Ellis stopped and sort of bent over, and Simmonds toppled to the ice like a man falling off a building with a spectacular crash.

It was a textbook open-ice hip check by the 5-foot-10, 21-year-old player suiting up for just the eighth time in his NHL career. To this point in his young career, Ellis has been that -- textbook -- and if his first 12 games are any indication, that trend would appear likely to continue.

Ellis has 6 points and a plus-4 rating in his first dozen NHL games heading into Monday's game against the Blue Jackets.

"The guys in pro, even in the American league, are a lot bigger than in junior," Weber said of Ellis' transition to the NHL after 17 points in only 26 games this season with AHL Milwaukee. "Obviously, the way he's played, the amount of points he's got down in the American league, you saw the transition wasn't too hard on him and hasn't been thus far in the NHL."
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