SUN Hockey Pool

NHL notes: Yakupov still heads prospects list

Team Canada's Brendan Gallagher, from Tsawwassen, B.C.,(R) collides with Nail Yakupov of Team...

Team Canada's Brendan Gallagher, from Tsawwassen, B.C.,(R) collides with Nail Yakupov of Team Russia during the semifinal of the 2012 IIHF U20 World Junior Hockey Championship in Calgary, Alberta, Tuesday January 3, 2012. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:46 PM ET

Russian-born Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov held on to top spot in NHL Central Scouting's mid-season rankings of North American-based skaters released Wednesday.

Yakupov, who will miss a month due to a knee injury suffered in the final of the world junior championship, debuted at No. 1 in Central Scouting's initial rankings. He has 21 goals and 32 assists in 26 games this season.

Fellow Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts is ranked second, followed by defenceman Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, centre Radek Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers and defenceman Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Seven of the top 10 North American prospects are defencemen.

The top European-based skater is Swedish forward Filip Forsberg, who plays for Leksand in his country's domestic league.

Malcolm Subban, the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban, is the top-rated North American goaltender. Subban, now in his third OHL season with the Belleville Bulls, leads the league with a 1.93 goals-against average.

ZAJAC STILL SORE

Travis Zajac is still experiencing soreness and will use the next couple of weeks to rest up for a return following the all-star break, New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday.

The all-star weekend runs Jan. 26-29 in Ottawa. The Devils' first game after the break is a home matchup with the New York Rangers on Jan. 31.

Zajac missed the first 30 games of the season following Achilles surgery, then returned to get one goal and two assists in eight games. He last played four games ago in Ottawa.

SKINNER CLEARED

Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner was cleared for contact Wednesday after recovering from a concussion.

Skinner has missed 14 games since taking a dirty hit from Edmonton's Andy Sutton, that cost the Oiler an eight-game suspension.

Skinner, 19, has 12 goals and 12 assists in 30 games. He was Carolina's leading scorer at the time of the injury.

BACKSTROM ON IR

The Washington Capitals put centre Nicklas Backstrom on injured reserve Wednesday, with no timetable for his return.

Backstrom has missed the past two games since taking an elbow to the head from Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque last Tuesday. Bourque was suspended for five games.

"We're being cautious with him still," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He's not feeling 100%, so we're being careful."

The 24-year-old centre has 13 goals an 29 assists in 38 games.

BRIEFLY

Former NHLer Paul Terbenche, who played 189 games during the 1960s and '70s, died Sunday in Cobourg. A defenceman, Terbenche played for the Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres before moving on to the WHL, where he played for the Vancouver Blazers, Calgary Cowboys, Birmingham Bulls, Houston Aeros and Winnipeg Jets ... Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo might need season-ending knee surgery, according to CSNChicago.com. Carcillo was hurt on the Jan. 2 play that led to him being suspended for seven games.


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