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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 12:07 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers have special guest on ice

With the Philadelphia Flyers coming to his hometown, a former Flyer joined the club for Thursday's morning skate.

Wearing an orange practice jersey and his familiar black helmet with No. 88 on it, Eric Lindros skated around, took shots and chatted with a few players and assistant coach Craig Berube, a former Flyers teammate, prior to the Flyers' game Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It's another step in the improved relationship between the former star player and the franchise. Lindros memorably pulled on a Flyers jersey for the first time in more than a decade at the Flyers-Rangers alumni game as part of the 2012 Winter Classic.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 12:55 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Backstrom traveling with Caps, won't play Thursday

One day after one of their tougher losses of the season, the Washington Capitals got some good news Wednesday when the team announced center Nicklas Backstrom will travel with the team when it leaves a game Thursday in Boston (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

However, Backstrom and coach Dale Hunter confirmed the top-line center will not play Thursday.

"No. Not (Thursday)," Backstrom told reporters Wednesday. "We'll see. We take it day-by-day and see how it goes."

Backstrom has been practicing with the team since March 24, and passed a neuropsychological test Tuesday, which was required before he returned to the lineup.

The next step for Backstrom is for him to continue working toward a return to game shape. He hasn't played since Jan. 3, when he was elbowed in the head by then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque.

"I'm close to playing, I think," Backstrom said. "Obviously it takes a while to get back in normal shape. But we don't have too much time, either. I'm feeling good, I've been practicing good the last couple days; been pushing it a little bit, too."

Hunter said the reason he wants Backstrom on the trip is so he continue pushing with the full team.

"We just want him with the team so he can practice," said Hunter. "You see the drills that they're doing with him, all battle drills, that if he gets in, that's how he has to play. They're hard drills out there and every day he's been fine, so it's good news for him."

The Capitals suffered a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday which dropped them to ninth in the Eastern Conference. The Caps held an optional practice Wednesday, with Backstrom, Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern and goalie Tomas Vokoun the only players on the ice with three assistant coaches.

Washington certainly could use Backstrom back in the lineup. In the 39 games he's missed, the Caps are 17-16-6. He was the Caps' leading scorer with 42 points in 38 games at the time he was hurt.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 5:01 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Fracture in foot sidelines Bryzgalov



Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has a chip fracture in his right foot, will not play Thursday in Toronto, and is listed by the team as day to day.

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said the injury happened in pre-game warm-ups Monday, when a Jakub Voracek shot hit Bryzgalov in the foot.

The team has recalled Jason Bacashihua from AHL Adirondack to serve as the backup to Sergei Bobrovsky for Thursday's game.

Holmgren said X-rays of Bryzgalov's foot taken before and after Monday's game didn't show an injury; an MRI Tuesday revealed the fracture.

Holmgren added he didn't believe the injury was serious and that Bryzgalov could practice as soon as Friday.

"We're hoping that he'll be back on the ice practicing with the idea that he can play on the weekend," said Holmgren. "It's just going to be a little bit of pain management for Ilya.

"Obviously when you're dealing with something like this, it might be too painful to skate on Friday, but we'll see. He doesn't feel that bad today. We'll see how it is. It's not a thing that surgery is required; it's nothing like (James) van Riemsdyk's broken foot or anything like that. It's a chip off a weight-bearing bone, and the doctor has said it'll be absorbed back into his system, the little chip that's in there, and there's no real risk here at all. It's just he's in a little bit of pain right now.

"Ilya's a tough kid. He wants to play, and we look forward to seeing him on the ice with the team at practice on Friday."

Bryzgalov has been the best goalie in the League in March, going 10-2-1 in 13 games, with a 1.43 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He was named NHL First Star of the Week for the first two weeks of March, and earlier this month set the club scoreless streak record of 249:43.

He also had a streak of 11 straight games allowing two goals or less snapped Monday when he allowed four goals in a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

Holmgren said there never was a thought to pull Bryzgalov from the game Monday.

"Ilya wanted to play," said Holmgren. "To be honest with you, I knew what was going on. I watched the game and I didn't see any issues. The goals they scored were good goals. The last one he wasn't paying attention when Matt (Carle) had the bobble at the side of the net. The other goals were good goals that you can't really fault him on. I didn't have any issues with how he played the game and I don't think his foot was an issue during the game."

Bryzgalov had started 19 of the last 20 games; now Bobrovsky will be pressed into duty. Bobrovsky has played just one game in March, and hasn't won a game since Feb. 9.

The Flyers have six games left, and after Thursday they next play Saturday at home against Ottawa and Sunday in Pittsburgh.

"Ilya wants to play," said Holmgren. "He feels like he'll be OK, but we'll just see how it goes. I think we'll have a better grasp on how he is (Wednesday) ... and then probably more on Thursday and Friday.  As I said, nobody's really concerned. The doctors are not concerned, (trainer) Jimmy McCrossin's not too concerned. He's a little sore right now."

The Flyers also announced that defenseman Kimmo Timonen will not play Thursday and is day-to-day due to an upper-body injury. The team recalled defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon from Adirondack to replace him.

Holmgren said giving Timonen a game off is more of a maintenance issue than any injury, and part of a plan put in place following Timonen's five-game absence earlier this month due to an upper-body injury.

"When Kimmo missed the time earlier, it was kind of a planned thing where we wanted to give him some rest and do some rehab," said Holmgren. "This is also part of the plan. It's just take this day off, he doesn't have to fly up, he doesn't have to play the game. He can rest and rehab and get ready to play on the weekend."

In addition to Timonen, defenseman Andreas Lilja is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He did not play Monday against Tampa Bay.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:36 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lecavalier's 'best day' puts him closer to returning

PHILADELPHIA -- Vincent Lecavalier skated with his teammates Monday morning, but said he won't be playing when his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates take the ice against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN2).

Lecavalier hasn't played since Feb. 18 when he broke his right hand during a game against the Washington Capitals.

"It was definitely my best day today, by far," Lecavalier said after this morning's practice. "I felt really good. Obviously I'm not going to play tonight (but) it's progressing really well."

Lecavalier said the power is returning to his shots, and that he hopes to get into a game at some point during the team's three-game road trip; after tonight's game in Philadelphia, they'll play in Boston and New Jersey.

"That's why I'm here," he said. "I want to play, (but) we'll see. It all depends on how it reacts. Today was probably the best day, but see how it feels tomorrow."

Lecavalier said he's anxious to jump back in the lineup.

"It's not really fun," he said of rehabilitating. "The first four weeks I was skating alone, no pucks. It wasn't a lot of fun. It'll be nice to get back to your teammates. Today just practicing with my teammates was a lot of fun."

With all the injuries the Lightning have suffered this season, coach Guy Boucher said he's happy to know that any of his veteran forwards are close to returning.

"It'll mean a lot for us," Boucher said. "Half the team is from the American league. Any guys we can get back makes a big, big difference. Our guys from the American league have done everything they could for us to stay in games and battle, and we have. Guys are playing real well. But like I've said before, we can't expect or put pressure on guys coming up and replacing Vinny. Power play, 5-on-5, and same thing with (Nate) Thompson, they're such important players for our team. (Adam) Hall's not there, (Ryan) Shannon's not there. More than half our forwards are guys that didn't start the year with us. It's important those guys understand we're asking them to do things they can do and when Vinny's back, we'll ask Vinny to do things he can do."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK




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Posted On Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:24 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Roloson back in net for Lightning

PHILADELPHIA -- With Dwayne Roloson winning the last two games, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher has elected to stick with the hot hand and start the veteran in net Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).

Roloson has made 34 saves in back-to-back wins; it's the first time he's won consecutive games since a three-game streak Nov. 4-9.

In 34 games, this season, the 42-year-old goalie is 10-14-2, with a 3.67 goals-against average and .884 save percentage.

"It's been a tough year for him," said Boucher. "We're all feeling for him the entire year. He's had some tough moments and we wanted to help him, he wanted to help himself. He's done everything he could, it just was tough. Lately he's been very calm in the net and he's played well the last two games. I want to give him the net. During the year there were lots of times I wanted to give him the net but it was tougher than we expected. Now if we can give him those games back, I'm happy for him."

We had the Flyers lineup here earlier
. Here's the rest of the lineup the Lightning potentially will use tonight:

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Brandon Segal

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brian Lee - Brett Clark
Mike Commodore - Brendan Mikkelson
Keith Aulie

Dwayne Roloson
Sebastien Caron

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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Posted On Monday, 03.26.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Briere hoping new line provides past results

PHILADELPHIA -- With a pair of goals Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, Danny Briere shook a giant monkey off his back. The goals were the first he had scored against a goalie in 29 games (he had an empty-net goal March 13 against New Jersey).

"I think anybody that goes through this kind of stretch at some point, any offensive player, at some point you can definitely feel that (pressure to score)," Briere told NHL.com. "It definitely feels like it's starting to come back. … The last three weeks I really felt like my game was better. I was there for a lot of chances, it just wasn't going in."

Part of his success can be attributed to a line change that has seen him center rookie Brayden Schenn on the left and Wayne Simmonds on the right. 

"I think I'm probably in a better place with my game to start with," said Briere. "Brayden, too, with a little bit more experience than earlier in the year. I've had the chance to play with many guys on the team, so that can change in a hurry, too. I'm ready for anything that happens."

This new line for Briere is similar to the one formed during the 2010 postseason, when Briere was placed between Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, and that trio carried the Flyers all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

"We were like the three leftovers that were going nowhere at that time," Briere said. "All of a sudden things just started clicking. Hopefully that happens again."

Coach Peter Laviolette said he sees a few similarities, but isn't ready to predict the same kind of future.

"I think a little bit," he told NHL.com. "(Simmonds and Hartnell), they both do the same thing, they're big and strong and go to the hard areas. I think Brayden and Ville, maybe two entities that we're not sure of -- we never had Ville, we never had Brayden, he's been hurt a lot and he's trying to find a line, find where he fits in. We moved him over to left wing and with Danny, so we're hoping. … Certainly they've had a couple good games."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


 
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Posted On Monday, 03.26.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers riding hot hand as Bryzgalov starts again

PHILADELPHIA -- Ilya Bryzgalov will be back in the net for the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2), making it his 19th start in the last 20 games.

And with the way he's played in March -- 10-1-1, 1.22 goals-against average, .956 save percentage, four shutouts -- there's no reason not to keep riding the sizzling-hot hand.

"He's played extremely well this month," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's a big reason why we've been able to push up the standings. Our team needs that. … Teams at the top of the conference are usually led by their goaltender and he's been excellent this month."

Here's the rest of the lineup the Flyers likely will put on the ice Monday:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Zac Rinaldo - Eric Wellwood - Matt Read

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen
Pavel Kubina - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Defenseman Andreas Lilja is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, but was a full participant in the morning skate and could replace Gustafsson in the lineup.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK



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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 6:46 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps' Semin to sit with lower-body injury

PHILADELPHIA -- Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin will not play Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers and is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Semin sat out practice Wednesday and did not skate with the team Thursday morning, but Capitals coach Dale Hunter said it was for "maintenance" reasons. He added Thursday morning that Semin would take part in the pre-game warm-ups and would be a game-time decision.

Semin's absence allows Joel Ward, a healthy scratch in Monday's game against the Detroit Red Wings, to return to the lineup.

Semin is second on the team with 46 points in 69 games.

In Semin's absence, here's how the Capitals' lineup will look:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Mike Knuble
Jay Beagle - Keith Aucoin - Marcus Johansson
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Jeff Schultz - John Carlson
Mike Green - Roman Hamrlik

Braden Holtby will start in goal, with Michal Neuvirth the backup.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 2:14 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps believe current struggles will benefit in playoffs

PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Capitals are in foreign territory these days. In the last few years, by now they've either had a playoff spot locked up or were close to doing so.

This season, though, they're one of the teams fighting and clawing to hold onto a spot in the top eight in the conference. Checking the standings and the previous night's results are the first thing some of the players do every morning -- or even sooner.

"I do it before I got to bed," Capitals center Mathieu Perreault told NHL.com. "I see all the games, what happened, see where we're at and see where other teams are at. This is the time of the year you have to keep a close eye on your opponents. And for sure, I look at the standings every day."

The Capitals enter Thursday's game eighth in the conference with 80 points, the same as ninth-place Buffalo, and five points behind Southeast Division-leading Florida.

Rather than worry, though, the players are embracing the challenge, and believe it will make them even better when the postseason begins.

"The last two years we've been kind of cruising, waiting and seeing what everyone else is doing," forward Mike Knuble told NHL.com. "I have to believe (their spot now) makes your team sharper from being on every night. I don't think you tire out, I don't think you're worn out. … If you're lucky enough to make the playoffs I don't think you're worn out. By the time you get there, you're hopefully already in that frame of mind, and maybe you can take it up another notch in the playoffs."

Perreault agreed, saying that after recent playoff disappointment, shifting into that must-win mode now could help in the long run.

"If you look at the last few years, we're just sitting there wondering who we're going to play in the first round," he said. "When the playoffs would start, maybe we wouldn't be as sharp as we could. This year it's going to be a battle to the end, so when the playoffs start we'll be in the playoff mode and that'll be a good thing for us."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK



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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 1:46 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers happy to have another 'rivalry' game

PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers had a run of three straight games against bitter rivals -- New Jersey, Boston and Pittsburgh -- and earned points in each of them. Then came Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers. The players admit there was a bit of a let-down, and the result was a 2-1 loss.

They'll have no problem re-discovering that emotion Thursday when the Washington Capitals visit.

"You get (Alex) Ovechkin coming into the building, you get fired up, you get that extra motivation," Scott Hartnell said. "Nothing against Florida, but we've had some big games (against Washington)."

Hartnell is one of four Flyers remaining from the Flyers team that beat Ovechkin and the Capitals in seven games in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and in coach Peter Laviolette's first game with the Flyers, Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and 4 assists and Mike Green had a pair of goals as the Caps routed the Flyers 8-2.

"You mention that Florida team, they're a great hockey team, they've had a great year, and for some reason they don't get the respect they deserve," Laviolette said. "But (Washington) certainly brings more punch with the name of the Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin. But it's still the same thing for us, it's another desperate hockey team that needs to win a game and we have to win some games ourselves here. Should be a great hockey game."

Here's the lineup the Flyers likely will put on the ice Thursday:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Eric Wellwood - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov will be back in net, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup.

Jody Shelley will be the lone healthy scratch.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK




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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres