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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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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 1:36 PM

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

Credit Holmgren for Flyers' prolific top line

PHILADELPHIA -- It's been a long time since Paul Holmgren was behind an NHL coach, but the Philadelphia Flyers' GM apparently still has a good eye for line combinations.

Five months ago today -- Oct. 22, 2011, in a game against the St. Louis Blues -- was the first time Scott Hartnell started on a line with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr.

Coach Peter Laviolette credited that particular line change to Holmgren.

"We were talking and Paul had suggested it," Laviolette said. "We looked at it and gave Scott an opportunity."

Hartnell had been floundering and even spent time on the fourth line when he received the promotion.

"He was going through a time where he had had a tough start due to injury and couldn't train at the end of the summer and even in training camp like he wanted to," Laviolette said. "To his credit, he put in a lot of extra time to get himself in great shape, and I think playing with Claude really helped him. From there the confidence just continued to grow. Their line has become a really good line for us. It's been together the entire year because they've been productive."

Giroux was an All-Star and is in the race for the Hart Trophy and scoring title, and Jagr has been tremendous in his return to the NHL, but it's Hartnell who has been the biggest beneficiary of the line change.

Hartnell is having by far his best NHL season, as he's posted career highs in goals (35), points (64) and power-play goals (a League-best 15), and played in his first NHL All-Star Game.

"You always think about who you're playing with before or last year," Hartnell told NHL.com. "I've had some great linemates since I've been in Philadelphia, and Nashville, too, (but) these two guys can do things with the puck that most people can't. I'm pretty fortunate to be in the spot I am."

While most have forgotten about the early struggles Hartnell had, he certainly hasn't, and that allows him to appreciate his situation even more.

"That's one thing I try to put in my head," Hartnell said. "The first few games you might not score a goal or might not score a point, the coaches could change it up the next game and you're with someone else. I've tried to come every practice, every game, to work hard and keep up with them."

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




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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 1:08 PM

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

Rinaldo credits Dale Hunter for his success

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo had a pretty simple answer when asked his opinion of Dale Hunter: "I'm not the player I am today if it wasn't for Dale Hunter."

Rinaldo played for Hunter with the London Knights for parts of two seasons (2008-09 and 2009-10), and had no problem crediting Hunter for his rise to the NHL.

Rinaldo had 12 goals, 20 assists and 237 penalty minutes in 56 games playing with Hunter.

"Dale lets his players play hockey," Rinaldo told NHL.com. "If you come to the rink prepared to play and he sees you're working hard, you'll get the ice time."

Hunter told NHL.com he was happy to see Rinaldo emerge as a full-time NHL player this season. In 57 games, he has 2 goals, 6 assists and is second in the League with 190 penalty minutes. Beyond that, however, he's emerged as a useful fourth-line checking forward who supplies speed and energy on the forecheck.

"You can see he's an aggressive kid," Hunter said. "He cares about winning and losing, and he's got the fire in the belly. … You try to corral it, without taking penalties and stuff. He's been doing a good job of it. He playing against top lines, he's learning his defensive responsibilities. He's a great kid, got a great personality. He just wants to play hockey. He's a hockey player."

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

 

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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 12:50 PM

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

Semin to be game-time decision for Capitals

PHILADELPHIA -- Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter said forward Alexander Semin will be a game-time decision for Thursday's game here against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Semin did not practice Wednesday and skipped this morning's skate, which was an optional practice. Team captain Alex Ovechkin and defenseman Dennis Wideman also opted to skip the practice.

"He's still on maintenance right now," Hunter said.

Hunter said Semin would skate in the pre-game warm-ups, after which he'll decide if the forward will play or not.

If Semin does play, it looks like Joel Ward will be a healthy scratch, although Hunter would not reveal what his lineup would look like.

Assuming Semin plays, here is what the Capitals likely will put on the ice tonight:

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

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

Hunter wouldn't reveal who his starting goaltender would be, but it's likely Braden Holtby will receive his second straight start. He stopped 30 of 33 shots in Monday's 5-3 win in Detroit. Michael Neuvirth will be the backup.

Ward and defensemen John Erskine and Dmitry Orlov likely will be healthy scratches.

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


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Quote of the Day

It's a date that's been circled on my calendar, so it's kind of nice to have it here and get it over with (Thursday). This is a little bit of the closing of the book on the move. That's kind of how I'm looking at it.

— Stars forward Jason Spezza on returning to Ottawa for the first time to face the Senators