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Kessel, van Riemsdyk reflect on return to Ann Arbor

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There is no way Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk could have envisioned his dream coming true in the same place where it was born eight years ago, but that will likely happen Wednesday after the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, when he and right wing Phil Kessel are expected to be named to the United States Olympic team.

USA Hockey will name its team Wednesday from Michigan Stadium after the conclusion of the game; the announcement will be carried live by NBC.

Kessel and van Riemsdyk, Toronto's top two scorers, played for the United States National Team Development Program based in Ann Arbor. They attended Pioneer High School, which is across the street from Michigan Stadium. They lived with host families who will be at the game Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).


Howard returns to savor Winter Classic experience

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Wednesday could be one of the most memorable days of Jimmy Howard's hockey career. Not too long ago, he feared it would not come to pass.

Howard will be the starting goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium against the Toronto Maple Leafs in front of possibly the largest crowd in the history of the sport. After the game, Howard could be named to the United States team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The American Olympic team will be announced at Michigan Stadium after the Winter Classic as part of NBC's coverage of the game. Reports suggest that Howard will be one of the three goalies named.

When Howard left practice 20 days ago with a knee injury, his availability for the game at the Big House was in question and his potential place on the U.S. Olympic roster was cast into further doubt. He ended up missing eight games, but returned Monday night against the Nashville Predators and is ready to play Wednesday.

"Yeah, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't [have doubts about being ready]," Howard said. "When the knee injury happened, it was [projected to be] 3-4 weeks. It would have been three weeks right on the date of the game. You know I have to give a lot of credit to our team doctors and to our trainers. We worked extremely hard to get the knee back healthy and we were able to accomplish that."


Devils forward Elias leaves game with injury

Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 4:57 PM / News


New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias was injured in the first period Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins after taking a hit from forward Tanner Glass.

Elias did not return to the game and coach Peter DeBoer said afterward the team would know more about his condition Wednesday.

"It wasn't precautionary (leaving him out of the game)," DeBoer said. "I don't think it was an option to have him back. But I don't know anything more than that; I won't until tomorrow morning."


Fischer scores one final time for Red Wings

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

DETROIT -- There's not a day that passes that Jiri Fischer doesn't realize how fortunate he is to be alive and still involved in the sport he loves, even if it's now in the front office rather than on the ice.

But Tuesday afternoon at a snowy Comerica Park, Fischer found himself back in a Detroit Red Wings uniform, skating with some of the biggest names in the history of the Original Six franchise.

It was a fairy tale indeed, and became even more so when Fischer scored in the first period of Detroit's 5-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first game of the Alumni Showdown as part of the festivities leading up to the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which will be played Wednesday at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

"Do I celebrate? Do I not? Is it going to be embarrassing? Is it not? [But] it felt great," Fischer said. "That was maybe the last goal in a Red Wings uniform for most of us to score. It was a lot of fun."


Blue Jackets sign Rychel to entry-level contract

Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 3:34 PM / News


The Columbus Blue Jackets signed forward Kerby Rychel to a three-year, entry-level contract on Tuesday.

Rychel was the second of Columbus' three first-round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft, taken at No. 19.

"Kerby is a hard-nosed player who is very competitive and possesses a mixture of skill, the ability to score goals and grit," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. "We believe he will be an important part of our organization for years to come as he continues to grow and develop as a player."


Phaneuf signs seven-year extension with Maple Leafs

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis was convinced that a team would give defenseman Dion Phaneuf a seven-year contract if he made it to the unrestricted free agent market on July 1. He figured that team should be the Maple Leafs, and there's no reason to wait until the calendar flips to 2014.

Phaneuf and Nonis jointly announced the team captain's seven-year contract extension at a press conference Tuesday before the Maple Leafs practiced at Michigan Stadium in advance of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

Financial terms of the contract were not released, but media reports place the average annual value at $7 million. Nonis indicated that it's a market-value contract for a top defenseman who is 28 years old and in his ninth NHL season.


Oil Kings' Jarry thriving in first season as starter

Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 11:04 AM / In the Pipeline

Derek Van Diest - NHL.com Correspondent

EDMONTON -- The Pittsburgh Penguins would have preferred to see Tristan Jarry play more before selecting him in the second round of 2013 NHL Draft.

Yet, had Jarry not been a backup with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League last season, he may not have been available to the Penguins with the No. 44 pick.

"Having him play more probably would have made our job a little easier," Penguins co-director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said. "But the flip side is, had he played a lot a more he might not have dropped to us in the second round. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. We were fortunate that we have one of our western scouts, Wayne Meier, that lives in Edmonton. Wayne was on top of it whenever he did play.


Jagr poised to tie Lemieux on NHL points list

Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider


Jaromir Jagr looked up to Mario Lemieux during the early years of his career, when the two were teammates with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He's still looking up at Lemieux on the NHL's all-time scoring list, but that could change Tuesday.

Jagr enters the New Jersey Devils' afternoon game against the Penguins at Prudential Center (1 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA) eighth on the all-time scoring list with 1,722 points, one fewer than Lemieux totaled during his Hall of Fame career. Tying or surpassing Lemieux would be a nice way to end 2013, but Jagr contends that winning, not individual achievements, is foremost on his mind.

"Right now I'm not thinking about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't," he told the (Newark) Star-Ledger on Monday. "My job is obviously to score goals and help our team offensively, so the more I do it the better chances the team is going to win."

Jagr tied Lemieux's career goal total of 690 on Nov. 21 when he scored in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings and passed him six nights later when he scored against the Carolina Hurricanes. Jagr enters Tuesday with 694 goals, tying him with Mark Messier for seventh on the all-time list.


Daily Primer Dec. 31: Going out with a bang

Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The NHL is sending 2013 into the history books with a full day of hockey.

No fewer than 22 teams will say goodbye to the old year by taking the ice, beginning when the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils take the ice just after 1 p.m. ET at Prudential Center and ending just before midnight in the East when the final buzzers go off to end games between the Edmonton Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes and the Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames.


Glendening settles for AHL outdoor game, not Winter Classic

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Luke Glendening went to plenty of football games while matriculating at the University of Michigan. He even played in the first hockey game there, The Big Chill at the Big House on Dec. 11, 2010.

Neither of those facts are the reason Glendening feels like he really knows Michigan Stadium on an intimate level. The reason he really knows the Big House is because of a fun little activity he called "running the stadium."

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I didn't think it would actually work, but it ended up working, so I'm thanking my lucky stars tonight.

— Columbus forward Nick Foligno on scoring the overtime goal after telling the Blue Jackets in the locker room that he would win the game