NHL Announces Full Rosters For All-Star Game Fantasy Draft

Written by Mike Salerno on .

The NHL has released the full list of players that will be participating in the 2012 All-Star Weekend taking place from Thursday, January 26 through Sunday, January 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. 

The festivities will commence with the second annual Player Fantasy Draft to be held on that Thursday, where the list of players will be divided up into two squads by this year's captains, who have yet to be announced. The fantasy draft will be held at 8 p.m. on TSN and the new NBC Sports Network.

Last year's event was a hit among players and fans, as Nicklas Lidstrom and hometown hero Eric Staal created a number of storylines that ranged from the Sedin twins being forced to play against each other to Staal making brother Marc sit and wait to hear his name called as he snatched up fellow Hurricanes Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner.

Who will earn the coveted first overall selection? Will Phil Kessel be the last man picked again?

Based on the fan ballot, six players, including four Senators, were already selected to the pool, including defenseman Erik Karlsson, who is second in the NHL in assists with 35.

The Senators, this year's hosts, will be featuring five players, the most of any team, including Karlsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and rookie Colin Greening.

As always, there are a few deserving players who will be watching All-Star weekend from home. This year is no different as the likes of  James Neal, Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr will all be enjoying some extra time off at the end of the month.

After the jump, we'll give you the full roster of players traveling to Ottawa and break down who were this year's biggest snubs.

2013 Winter Classic Coming To Michigan Stadium?

Written by Mike Salerno on .

It's nearly a foregone conclusion that the Red Wings will be hosting the 2013 Winter Classic. The NHL's annual event and recently worst kept secret has become the flagship event for the NHL, more than any part of All-Star weekend or even the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, who also owns the Detroit Tigers, would obviously prefer to keep all the revenue in-house by having the game at Comerica Park, which holds 41,255. But the NHL has their sights set on something much bigger. The biggest, in fact: Michigan Stadium, also known as "The Big House."

According to Jeff Arnold of Puck Daddy, the NHL is in advance discussions with University of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon about hosting the game at the school's football stadium, which welcomed 113,411 fans for an outdoor game between Michigan and Michigan State on December 11, 2010:

Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports this week that the NHL is in advanced discussions with the University of Michigan about holding the 2013 Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.

One source, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon wasn't initially sold on the idea of the NHL hosting an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium. But over a matter of a couple of weeks, the source said "something happened to make it go from looking like it could happen to [a point where] it probably will."

Unlike previous years, where the Winter Classic was announced over the summer, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman waited until late September to announce this year's matchup between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Ballpark.

This year, though, Bettman will be looking to get the announcement out of the way much earlier. A Sports Business Journal article published earlier this week said the NHL was looking to finalize the location of next year's Winter Classic prior to the All-Star Game on January 29 and hinted that the next Classic will "break records."

An AnnArbor.com article stated that though talks may be ongoing, the NHL is not interested in stirring rumors further until there is officially news to report:

NHL vice president of communications John Dellapina declined to comment on the NHL's interest in playing at the Big House.

"We don't comment about potential sites for specific Winter Classics until contracts are signed," Dellapina said in an email.

Michigan has had a flare for the spotlight since Brandon took over as the school's athletic director. In addition to last year's "Big Chill at the Big House," the Michigan football team also hosted Notre Dame for the first night game in the 85-year history of Michigan Stadium and shattered all previous stadium records with an attendance of 114,804.

The 113,411 that took in last year's outdoor game set the Guinness World Record for attendance at a hockey game by over 25,000. Though unlike last year, where Michigan hosted a number of other high school and college games as well as public skating events, the NHL game would be the only contest played, according to Arnold's report.

The college outdoor game at Michigan included a post-game choreographed  fireworks show and a pre-game flyover. Talk circulated during the event that if Michigan did host another outdoor game, the school would like to do it in conjunction with the NHL, pointing to a Red Wings-Maple Leafs match-up.

The source said if the Winter Classic would be played at Michigan Stadium, it would be the only event played. Last year, the Big Chill At The Big House was one of 26  games played, including college and high school games — as well as a public skate.

Few venues around the world cram in spectators better than Michigan Stadium. While there are still a bevy of revenue-related details that still need to be ironed out, it's hard to imagine a record-breaking day the NHL envisions without the allure of The Big House and 113,000 of it's closest friends on a chilly afternoon in Ann Arbor.

NHL Central Scouting Releases Mid-Season Rankings

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Mock draft aficionados, start your engines!

NHL Central Scouting has released it's mid-season list of the top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft to be held on June 22-23 at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center with little surprises at the top.

As has been widely discussed, the 2012 draft pool is very heavy in defensive prospects, as seven of the top 10 North American skaters ranked are blueliners. After seeing teams like the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders draft for offense in previous years, most notably last season as both teams passed on defensemen Adam Larsson and Dougie Hamilton, this year's crop of talent is a dream come true for a number of defensively-starved organizations.

After the jump, we'll discuss some of the top talent in both from both the North American and European skaters lists. Be sure to check THS early and often today as we'll continue to update our coverage of the NHL Central Scouting report.

Halak Blanks Habs in Return to Montreal

Written by Brian McCormack on .

Halak's Old Stomping Grounds

As the seconds wound down at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night, the boo-birds sang loud and clear as the Canadiens failed to win at home for the 14th time this season, falling 3-0 to the St. Louis Blues.

But as the Habs glided off the ice, those of the 21,273 sell-out crowd who had not left stood for a rousing ovation, saluting the man with the highest winning percentage in the history of the Bell Centre, Jaroslav Halak.

In his first game back to Montreal since being traded away to St. Louis after the 2010 season, Halak stopped all 19 shots the Canadiens

threw at him, including just seven in the third period. It was only the third time the Blues had ever earned a shut-out in Montreal.

Halak, who has split time this season with Brian Elliott, earned his 10th win and second shutout of the season.

The Blues received goals from Jason Arnott (10) and David Backes (14) in the second, before Chris Stewart (10) iced it in the third.

Despite a light work load, Halak was steady when called upon, stopping Tomas Plekanec's short-handed breakaway in the first period and then stacking the pads halfway through the third to make this stop on Mathieu Darche, perhaps his best of the night.

After serving as Montreal's full-time backup in 2008-09, his first opportunity to stick in the NHL, Halak stole the starting job away from an ineffective Carey Price the following spring, leading the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens to their first Eastern Conference Final since 1993.

Halak and the Canadiens took down the top-seeded Washington Capitals and then the Pittsburgh Penguins, before running out of steam against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Canadiens then re-dedicated themselves to Price, sending Halak to St. Louis while his stock was at its highest.

Halak took a step back in 2010-2011, with only one more win than the season before despite twelve more starts, and with his GAA and Save % both falling off slightly as the Blues missed the post-season.

But with Ken Hitchcock's attention to details on defense, as well as the rejuvenation of Elliot's career, Halak has become half of one of the NHL's best goaltending tandems.

While the Blues have responded to Hitchcock, now 19-5-5 under his guidance, the Habs are 3-7 under new bench boss Randy Cunneyworth and have dropped from two points out of playoff contention to six points out since his take-over. That's bad in any language.

And while the Canadiens continue to fumble and stumble down the Eastern Conference ladder, the fans stood and applauded a not-so-subtle reminder of what their team looked like two springs ago. Gritty, determined, and disciplined. A team that lost defensemen like Andrei Markov, Jaroslav Spacek, and Jeff Gorges for parts of the postseason, leaned on Jaro Halak and found success.

And as Halak took a spin around the ice to acknowledge his former city, one could only cast a disparaging glance at those in Bleu Blanc et Rouge leaving the ice and face a harsh realization.

There is no player on which this team can lean. And barring drastic changes, as Halak's Blues continue to rise, the Habs will continue to sink.

Tonight's Healthy Scratches' Inaugural Podcast

Written by THS Staff on .


We've graced you on paper--or screen--now it's time for the staff of THS to grace your ears with our sensual voices, as we are proud to present you with the premier episode of our weekly podcast.

This is the first of many forays into radio broadcasting for The Scratches, as we'll also be featuring The Two-Man Advantage, one of western New York's premier hockey shows co-hosted by fellow Scratch Brian McCormack .

On tonight's show, we discussed the five-game suspension doled out to Brad Marchand, Dustin Penner's pancake problems, some potential trade targets and hand out some awards at the midway point of the season.

Our hour-long podcast is available for download on iTunes as well under Tonight's Healthy Scratches. Check your iTunes podcast directory to have our shows automatically updated on your iPod, iPhone, iPad or iWhatever each week!

Dustin Penner Hurts Himself Eating Pancakes. Yes, Really.

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Straight out of the "WTF!" file comes the latest hiccup of Dustin Penner's less-than-stellar tenure in Los Angeles. According to Rich Hammond at LA Kings Insider, Penner injured his back reaching to indulge in some pancakes over the weekend.

Penner missed Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Blue Jackets with back spasms but was apparently healthy enough to take the ice at practice on Sunday. He probably just had a bagel or something instead.

The Kings winger who was the big prize of last year's trade deadline hasn't impressed much in his time in the City of Angels. He scored just two goals after coming over in last year's trade with Edmonton and has managed just two more this year in 30 games.

No, you can't make this up. Here's Penner's take on the, um, incident. But hey, at least he didn't chew with his mouth full when he spoke to reporters:

“Apparently it’s one of those mysterious things, where you can throw it out (from) sneezing. I just leaned over to dip into some delicious pancakes that my wife made. It’s just like it [the pain] wraps around you and squeezes. … So it was disappointing. Hopefully it’s just an isolated incident, and not something that’s going to become chronic.”

Chronic pancake disorder? That's a new one by us. Apparently Penner doesn't quite understand how important a "healthy balanced breakfast" really is. Here's to hoping he sticks to cereal for the forseeable future.

Then again, if he continues his scoring drought, he may quickly find himself trying to score endorsement deals with Aunt Jemima and IHOP just to make ends meet.

Blue Jackets Fire Head Coach Scott Arniel

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Blue Jackets fans' tough weekend has spilled over into Monday.

First came the news on Friday that the proposed NHL realignment plan, which would've stood to benefit Columbus perhaps more than any other team, was shot down by Donald Fehr the NHLPA. Now, after yet another aggravating loss, comes news that the organization has parted ways with head coach Scott Arniel.

According to Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch, the Blue Jackets have fired Arniel despite hiring him prior to the 2010-11 season. Assistant coach Todd Richards will take over as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Arniel is the seventh head coach to be fired this season around the NHL.

The move comes on the heels of the latest Blue Jackets head-scratching loss, a 7-4 defeat at the hands of the also-lowly Anaheim Ducks last night.

Portzline reports that general manager Scott Howson informed Arniel of the team's decision after the game and Arniel flew out of Anaheim earlier this morning.

Howson told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun it was his decision to fire Arniel, and that he was given the go-ahead by management.

With the large number of coaches that got the axe earlier this season, it comes as a surprise, frankly, that Howson waited this long to cut Arniel loose.

A few weeks ago, when Jacques Martin was let go in Montreal, we speculated that Arniel may be next. It wasn't exactly a huge gamble on our part, since Columbus had been falling short of expectations that were somewhat gaudy heading into this season, given their recent history.

The addition of Jeff Carter, a bonafide no. 1 center to play along captain Rick Nash, and power play specialist James Wisniewski offered the idea that the Jackets were ready to climb out of the NHL cellar.

Carter ran into a laundry list of injury problems that have limited him to only 30 games so far this season in which he's been less than stellar with just 10 goals and seven assists.

Miserable goaltending from Steve Mason, who the team had relied on to take over the starting job, has also been a contributing factor to the Blue Jackets lack of success, as they've spent all but 10 days in last place in the NHL standings. They are currently 11-25-5, 20 points behind eighth place in the Western Conference.

Goaltending isn't all to blame, though. A distinct lack of a strong defensive system plagued the Blue Jackets over Arniel's short tenure. In the year and a half he spent behind the Columbus bench, the team allowed six goals or more 14 times in 123 games.

Arniel drew praise after the Jackets stormed out to a 14-6-0 start in 2010-11, but they've tumbled since. Under Arniel, they are 31-54-18 since then according to Portzline, and they've recorded only eight regulation wins in their last 63 games. In that time, they've managed to only win eight games in regulation.

UPDATED: Marchand Likely To Be Shanabanned, Lucic Misconduct Rescinded

Written by Mike Salerno on .

UPDATED, 6:14 p.m.: NESN.com is reporting that the game misconduct handed out to Milan Lucic will be rescinded, as it was deemed he was legally on the ice and did not leave the bench to join the frecas early in today's Bruins-Canucks game. Rescinding it is the League's way of admitting, essentially, that Lucic should never have been shown the gate. 

Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman tweeted that according to replays that showed Lucic on the ice, he should not have been ejected:

This obviously means Lucic will not face any supplemental discipline for his part in the line brawl, which could have resulted in a lengthy ban as a "repeat offender." However, it also opens the door for speculation about the game's outcome had Lucic been available to play the entire game, as opposed to just the first four minutes.

It'll certainly be interesting to hear what kind of reaction the Bruins have to the NHL's decision and about potentially playing the majority of today's game without one of their top players, seemingly for no reason.

It was anything but "just another game" as both sides had suggested in the days leading up to the first meeting between the Bruins and Canucks since last season's thrilling Stanley Cup Final. The teams combined for over 100 penalty minutes in Vancouver's 4-3 victory, including a few items that will certainly draw the ire of NHL Director of Player Discipline Brendan Shanahan.

Less than four minutes into the action a scrum ensued as five Canucks jumped Shawn Thornton in front of their bench that quickly escalated into a vicious line brawl. Milan Lucic left the bench to join the fray, which earned him a game misconduct. Here's how last year's finalists greeted each other this afternoon:

Lucic got a two-minute minor for roughing and a 10-minute game misconduct, just three minutes into the action. He got two shifts totalling 1:17 of ice time before he was sent to the locker room for the rest of the afternoon, forced to watch the Bruins comeback attempt fall just short.

That line brawl was just the beginning of the teams exchanging pleasantries, as there were 62 penalty minutes doled out in the first period alone. Yes, just another game indeed, gentlemen.

The second period saw its' fair share of minor penalties as both teams returned to playing the high level of hockey everyone was expecting. That is until Brad Marchand caught Sami Salo by surprise in the corner to Tim Thomas' left:

Marchand, who took a great feed from Tyler Seguin and beat Cory Schneider five-hole with a slick backhander to tie the game at one in the first period, showed little regard for the puck while throwing his shoulder right above Salo's knees, sending the Vancouver defenseman tumbling over his back.

Salo remained down for a few moments and was helped to the locker room favoring his right shoulder. He did not return for the third period. Marchand was given a five-minute major for clipping and a game misconduct of his own. Surprisingly, he was not given a match penalty,

The Canucks took full advantage of the extended power play, scoring twice, including this blast from Cody Hodgson that ultimately was the game-winner:

Despite having Marchand's penalty arguably cost Boston the game, Shanahan will certainly welcome the pair of Bruins back for return visits to his office for supplementary discipline in the coming days. While Lucic's infraction was signifcantly less egregious than Marchand's, it's possible they both may face lengthy suspensions as repeat offenders.

WJC Wrap-Up: Sweden Takes Home Gold With OT Win Over Russia

Written by Mike Salerno on .

It had been 31 years since the Swedes last captured Gold at the World Junior Championships. After all that time, it was fitting that they had to play a little bit longer to finally earn it.

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The Three Stars of HBO's 24/7 Road To The Winter Classic: Episode IV

Written by Mike Salerno on .


Each week, the THS staff has selected the three stars of each airing of HBO's 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic. Though there were often more than three worth candidates, there's only three spots on the ballot. Some tough decisions have been made, so tell us what you think in the comments!

The final episode of HBO's riveting documentary that took the casual fan inside the locker rooms of two of the NHL's most beloved franchises did not disappoint. This week, the HBO crew gave us a deeper look into how the Rangers stood up for one of their young defensemen, the long-awaited return of their most prominent blueliner and what Ilya Bryzgalov sounds like when it's not all going his way.

Like the last three weeks, it was tough to select three individuals that stood out among a host of unique characters and personalities. But here are Tonight's Healthy Scratches' Three Stars of 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic:

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