Corey Abbott

In The Crease

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Training Camp Report

Saturday, September 24, 2011


NHL training camps are currently in full swing.  That means projected line combinations, battles for spots and injuries are at the forefront of news right now.  This week's edition of In the Crease will take a look at some intriguing developments.
ANAHEIM DUCKS Goalie Jonas Hiller is expected to get clearance to start in net and after missing most of the second half of last season due to vertigo. His performance will be closely watched.  On the injury front, Matt Beleskey has been slowed at camp by shoulder surgery that he underwent in May and he didn't play in either of the team's first two pre-season contests.  He may not be available for the start of the regular season.  Andrew Cogliano skated with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu in his exhibition debut with the Ducks on Tuesday, posting a goal and an assist. 
BOSTON BRUINS Tuukka Rask was solid in his pre-season debut on Wednesday night against Ottawa.  He made 34 saves on 36 shots in a 2-1 OT loss.  Rask is expected to play more often this season despite the fact that he will enter the year as Tim Thomas' backup.  Tyler Seguin created some buzz by playing center early in camp, but he also has a shot to line up at right wing on the B's second unit with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand
BUFFALO SABRES The Buffalo defense corps has a number of players vying for two spots in the top six group. Marc-Andre Gragnani, Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber and Shaone Morrison need strong camps to play their way onto the Sabres.  Ville Leino began camp on Buffalo's second line between Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, which could be an interesting combination if they can click. 
CALGARY FLAMES Captain Jarome Iginla has been hampered by back spasms since camp opened, but he doesn't expect to be out much longer.  With Daymond Langkow traded to Phoenix and Brendan Morrison recovering from knee surgery, Mikael Backlund has a shot to center Calgary's top line at the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign alongside Iginla and Alex Tanguay
CAROLINA HURRICANES The Hurricanes may feature Eric Staal between Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jussi Jokinen as their top line and Tuomo Ruutu centering Jeff Skinner and Anthony Stewart at the outset of this season.  Canes' defensive prospects Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk are still at camp and are in the running for a spot on the blueline. 
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS Patrick Sharp had an emergency appendectomy on September 19th and he is hoping to be ready for the regular season opener on October 7th.  Ray Emery and Alexander Salak haven't gained any ground on each other yet in the battle to be Corey Crawford's understudy. 
COLORADO AVALANCHE Joakim Lindstrom has reportedly caused a stir at camp by playing well with Paul Stastny and David Jones.  The trio has impressed with their cycle game, which could bode well for Lindstrom on opening night if he can lock down that position in the lineup.   As a result, Gabriel Landeskog has been pushed down to the third line with center Ryan O'Reilly and left wing T.J. Galiardi.  
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS Columbus lost Mark Dekanich, who was projected to be their backup goalie this season, to a high-ankle sprain in the opening period of their first pre-season contest.  Curtis Sanford will probably be called on to be Steve Mason's number two option in his place.   Vaclav Prospal should be productive this season on the Jackets' top line with Jeff Carter and Rick Nash after suffering through an injury-plagued campaign in 2010-11 with the Rangers.  
DALLAS STARS Captain Brenden Morrow tweaked his knee and hurt a finger on Tuesday in pre-season play, while Stephane Robidas is being brought along slowly after undergoing major hip surgery in April.  The Stars are expected to err on the side of caution with both players for the remainder of the exhibition schedule.  Sheldon Souray could be a solid sleeper this campaign if he can stay healthy and get an opportunity to play on the Stars' top power-play unit. 
DETROIT RED WINGS Niklas Kronwall is being looked at to elevate his game in 2011-12 with Brian Rafalski's retirement.  He should see more power-play minutes and is playing for a long-term contract with the Red Wings.  Todd Bertuzzi opened camp on Detroit's third line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, which is a different role than he is accustomed to but it makes perfect sense at this point in his career.
EDMONTON OILERS The Oilers will give first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a long look during camp to see if he has what it takes to be an NHLer right after being drafted.  Tough guy Ben Eager is suffering from a concussion and whiplash after colliding with rookie defender Kirill Tulupov at practice on Sunday.  He passed his baseline test though and is expected to miss at least one week.  Ales Hemsky (shoulder) and Ryan Whitney (foot) are also being brought along slowly at camp due to injuries.      
FLORIDA PANTHERS The Panthers are getting great performances from their deep prospect pool at camp, with forward Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman  Erik Gudbranson and goaltender Jacob Markstrom taking turns impressing the team's brass.  Kris Versteeg hasn't seen any preseason action yet because he is still recuperating from double sports hernia surgery in May.
LOS ANGELES KINGS Drew Doughty's sticky contract situation with the Kings has been on ongoing story throughout the summer.  However, it has reached new levels of frustration for both sides and his potential fantasy owners, with the regular season quickly approaching.  The Kings have made their position clear: they don't want to pay him more than what Anze Kopitar is making and they don't want to trade him, either. 
MINNESOTA WILD Mikko Koivu is expected to play with newcomers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in Friday's exhibition contest against Columbus.  Pierre Marc-Bouchard is penciled in to skate alongside Matt Cullen and Guillaume Latendresse on the second line once the regular season gets underway. 
MONTREAL CANADIENS Andrei Markov is hoping to be available for the start of the 2011-12 campaign after suffering a setback in his recovery from his surgically repaired knee.  He is skating on his own while trying to work himself back into game shape.  The good news from Montreal's perspective is that Max Pacioretty is recovered from a severe concussion and a cracked vertebra in his neck. 
NASHVILLE PREDATORS Mike Fisher hasn't recovered from off-season shoulder surgery as well as he had hoped.  He hasn't be cleared for contact yet and might miss the Predators' regular season opener.  Blake Geoffrion is expected to miss two weeks after sustaining a cut to his wrist from an errant skate blade on Monday.  Nashville prospects Ryan Ellis and Craig Smith have a chance to crack the lineup on opening night. 
NEW JERSEY DEVILS With Travis Zajac sidelined for at least the first month and a half of the 2011-12 season due to a torn left Achilles tendon, the Devils will utilize Patrik Elias at center with Zach Parise. Jacob Josefson has an opportunity to play with Ilya Kovalchuk.  New Jersey bench boss Pete DeBoer wants to improve the team's  horrid 28th ranked power play this year and right-handed shots from the point by first-round pick Adam Larsson or tryout invitee Anton Stralman could help if they land roster spots following camp. 
NEW YORK ISLANDERS Mark Streit will wear the captaincy for the Islanders this campaign after missing the entire 2010-11 season because of shoulder surgery.  He is healthy now and should provide the team with offense from the back end and leadership this year.  John Tavares inked a six-year contract extension worth $33 million with the team last week and he should continue to grow this season. 
NEW YORK RANGERS Marc Staal's post-concussion headaches have kept him out of contact drills, but he is still skating.  However, it is unclear if he will see any action in the pre-season or if he will be available for the commencement of the regular season.  Wojtek Wolski may have the inside track for the top-line left winger slot with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, but he'll have to carry on his solid start to earn the position. 
OTTAWA SENATORS The Senators will ice a young lineup in 2011-12 and it could feature 2011’s sixth overall selection Mika Zibanejad.  The talented Swede is making it difficult for the Sens to return him to Europe with his strong play in the pre-season.  On the blueline, Jared Cowen and David Rundblad will garner consideration for roster spots on opening night as well.   Nikita Filatov has also enjoyed a solid camp while seeing time with Jason Spezza and Bobby Butler
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS The Flyers may go with the trio of Jaromir Jagr, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux when regular season play kicks off on October 6th.  Jakub Voracek appears to be the likely replacement for Leino alongside Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell.  Keep an eye out for Zac Rinaldo this season.  He may earn a spot on Philadelphia's fourth line out of camp and has the potential to be the next Daniel Carcillo
PHOENIX COYOTES Kyle Turris and the Phoenix Coyotes are far apart in contract negotiations and a trade may be the only way for both parties to resolve the matter.  Daymond Langkow will probably start the season on the Coyotes' top line between Shane Doan and Ray Whitney, which is a spot that Turris might have had with a new contract in place. 
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS  Obviously the health of Sidney Crosby has been the primary focus of Penguins’ training camp.  He has been skating regularly and hasn't shied away from high-traffic areas.  Getting clearance for contact shouldn't be too far away now, but his return date is still uncertain. 
SAN JOSE SHARKS    Antti Niemi had a cyst removed and it may keep him sidelined for the start of the regular season.  The Sharks don't appear to be overly concerned right now, despite Niemi being vague about his status.  Joe Pavelski is projected to play with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in 2011-12, while Martin Havlat will join Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe.   
ST. LOUIS BLUES David Perron won't be ready for the beginning of 2011-12 due to a concussion that has kept him on the shelf since November 4th.  David Backes will wear the "C" this campaign for the Blues after being named the team's 20th captain earlier this month. 
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING Ryan Shannon is being viewed as a player with a lot of potential in Tampa Bay after signing with the club this past off-season.  Coach Guy Boucher mentioned that Shannon could open the 2011-12 campaign on the top line with Martin St. Louis and Steve Stamkos
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS Matthew Lombardi hasn't received the green light for contact yet from a concussion, but he is making progress.  His status for opening night is still cloudy at this time.  Tyler Bozak and Colby Armstrong have been impressive during the exhibition schedule with three goals and five assists between the two of them in two games. 
VANCOUVER CANUCKS Ryan Kesler (hip) and Mason Raymond (back) aren't anticipated to be ready for the start of the regular season due to injuries.  Dan Hamhuis is also on the mend from sports hernia surgery, but he should see action in one of the last two pres-eason contests. 
WASHINGTON CAPITALS Marcus Johansson has been skating alongside Alex Ovechkin at camp with a revolving door of wingers.  The duo have played with Mike Knuble, Troy Brouwer and Joel WardNicklas Backstrom has lined up in the middle of Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin.  Injury-plagued defender Tom Poti (groin) failed his physical when camp opened, which will likely pave the way for him to land on  the team's long-term injured reserve list.  Dennis Wideman and Mike Green are fully recovered from their ailments, though, and are ready for 2011-12.     
WINNIPEG JETS Mark Scheifele , the seventh overall pick in 2011, is attracting plenty of attention at Winnipeg's camp for all the right reasons.  He performed well in the rookie tournament and has carried that momentum into the pre-season where he tallied two goals and two assists in his debut against Columbus.  At the other end of the spectrum, Dustin Byfuglien’s notoriety stems from legal issues arising out of an arrest for suspicion of boating while under the influence.  He will face four charges as a result of the incident, but to his credit he's just trying to stay focused on his performance at camp.  


Corey Abbott is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him Twitter @CoreAbbott.
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