Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis headline Penguins roster for 2011 Winter Classic alumni game

The 2011 Winter Classic is sure to be a huge spectacle in Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day with the Penguins and Sidney Crosby taking on the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin, the day before is shaping up to be a spectacle all its own.

On December 31st the Penguins and Capitals will have a game between respective members of their alumni. If you think that this sounds like a great idea given some of the stars in the Penguins and Caps history, you’d be 100% right. The Penguins are sparing no expense in trying to ice one of the best alumni teams ever assembled.

Mario Lemieux will be joined by fellow Hall of Famers Paul Coffey, Ron Francis and Bryan Trottier and “youngster” Bill Guerin as the Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni team takes on the Washington Capitals Alumni Dec. 31 at Heinz Field as part of the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic weekend.

Uh… Wow. Full rosters for both teams will be available in the near future but for now we’ve got this to get us excited.

Getting Lemieux and Francis out there is impressive in its own right but adding Coffey and Trottier, both who made their name with different dynasties in the 80s (Coffey with Edmonton and Trottier with the Islanders) it’s an incredible assembly of hall of fame talent. Bill Guerin getting to suit up as an alumni so soon after retiring from the NHL makes for a nice perk. Let’s just go ahead and say he’ll probably be the guy doing the bulk of the scoring.

If you’re wondering who the Caps will throw out there against this insane crew, all that is known as of now is 80s and 90s great Peter Bondra. As for who else we’d like to see out there from both teams, our lists are huge. Right off the top of our head though we’re hoping that the goalies facing off against each other are Tom Barrasso for Pittsburgh and Olaf Kolzig for Washington.

We’d also really enjoy seeing tough guys Ulf Samuelsson and Dale Hunter get out there and throw down for old time sake, but getting Samuelsson away from the Coyotes bench where he’s an assistant coach might be tough. Perhaps ESPN analyst Matthew Barnaby can get the call in his place.

This is one moment where we’re really upset that Jaromir Jagr is playing in the KHL as having him able to suit up for both teams to get booed by their fans would be hilariously entertaining all on its own. Of course, the thought of getting Lemieux and Jagr together one more time, even in an old timers game setting like this, would be amazing.

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    Caps’ Vrana hoping to earn spot with Ovechkin, Kuznetsov

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    It looks like the Washington Capitals are going to give Jakub Vrana the opportunity of a lifetime.

    Washington has given the young winger a chance to earn a spot on the right side of the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

    On Wednesday night, they got to put the chemistry to the test, as Vrana and the Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal.

    Vrana finished the game with a power play goal (an innocent shot that went off Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson and in the net). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin registered the assists on the goal and the Caps won 4-2.

    “We played fast today,” Vrana said, per the Washington Post. “We had some passes today, some chances. It’s always a good sign when you have chances. … You’re going to be confident when you play with guys like this. You’re just going to be confident on the ice with the puck. Just play fast and build some chemistry there.”

    The 21-year-old got his first taste of real NHL action last season, but the production simply wasn’t there (three goals and three assists in 21 games). But the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft did put up solid numbers in the AHL, as he had 36 points in 49 games last year and 34 points in 36 games with the Hershey Bears two years ago.

    “He gets to space,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets on the puck because he moves his legs and his speed is noticeable. Kuzy can get him the puck, and getting down ice, he can put some pressure to create a forecheck, too. He worked hard today, and I think we keep putting him with top players, because we think he’s going to be a top player.”

    WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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    The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

    The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

    Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

    NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

    It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

    Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

    NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

    NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’

     

    Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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    A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

    Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

    The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

    That is one incredible save.

    Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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    Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

    But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

    From Sportsnet:

    “I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

    “But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

    As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

    The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

    It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

    “And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”