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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 5:30 PM

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

Ovechkin out for Caps tonight

The Washington Capitals' attempt to jump back into the top eight into the Eastern Conference Wednesday will take place without their captain and leading scorer, Alex Ovechkin.

The Washington Capitals announced Ovechkin will miss tonight's game against the Ottawa Senators due to a lower-body injury.

Ovechkin was on the ice for about eight minutes during the team's morning skate, with coach Dale Hunter revealing the injury after the full team practice.

Ovechkin likely suffered the injury during Monday's 5-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, which saw Ovechkin play just 15:43, including just five shifts in the third period. The team announced after the game that Ovechkin played so little -- it was the second-lowest ice time he's had this season -- due to an equipment issue.

However, Ovechkin was seen by reporters limping after the game, and he sat out Tuesday's practice.

The Capitals had recalled forward Keith Aucoin from AHL Hershey earlier Wednesday.

The Caps, who have won just three of their last 10 games, enter Wednesday's game 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points behind eighth-place Toronto, which hosts San Jose tonight. A win and regulation losses by Leafs and the ninth-place Winnipeg Jets, who host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, would move the Caps into eighth place.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 1:55 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Coyotes add Jackets' Vermette

Antoine Vermette is excited to be jumping into the Western Conference playoff race.

The Phoenix Coyotes acquired the veteran center from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday in exchange for a pair of draft picks and goaltender Curtis McElhinney. The Blue Jackets will get the 2012 second-round pick the Coyotes acquired as part of the Kyle Turris trade, and a 2013 fifth-round pick. If the Coyotes win a playoff round, the 2013 pick becomes a fourth-round selection.

Antoine Vermette
Center - PHX
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 27
SOG: 106 | +/-: -17
It's a big change for Vermette, who is going from the worst team in the NHL to one that has ridden an 8-0-1 run to seventh place in the Western Conference. The Coyotes are even in points with first-place San Jose in the Pacific Division standings, though the Sharks are on top because they've played fewer games.

"I love that, I truly enjoy it and can't wait to get going," Vermette said of moving to a team in the playoff race. "It was a similar situation for me when I was dealt to Columbus from Ottawa. It was the same situation ... every game was a playoff game and meant so much. That's the fun part of hockey being in that part of the year and competing for those points and looking for the playoffs, it's really exciting.

Vermette has 8 goals and 19 assists in 60 games for the Blue Jackets, but has six seasons of at least 16 goals on his resume, plus 42 games of playoff experience with the Senators and Blue Jackets. Vermette was part of the 2007 Senators team that played in the Stanley Cup Final.

"He's a solid, two-way player who takes care of both ends of the rink," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Center-ice depth has been a concern all year, and I think we've added a player that will fit very well into the style and the team concepts we play under. He brings a lot of different elements – penalty-killing, power play, faceoffs, there are a lot of elements he can bring to our group that can help us."

His best offensive season was in 2009-10, when he set career highs with 27 goals, 38 assists and 65 points. But regardless of whether he scores at that level for the Coyotes, Phoenix general manager Don Maloney said Vermette is a perfect fit for his organization.

"We look at Antoine as being a Dave Tippett-type player," Maloney told the team's web site. "He touches a lot of areas of the game. He's very good in the faceoff circle, he's a good penalty killer, he plays the power play. Two years ago he had [65] points, 27 goals. ... He's having a little down year offensively this year, but he's the type of player that will fit in like a glove with Dave and his staff.

"He might not be a 65-point guy -- he may turn out to be a 50-point guy. But we're still excited with all the other things he does."

Vermette is in the second year of a five-year, $18.75 million contract. With three more years at a cap hit of $3.75 million per season, Maloney said the budget-conscious Coyotes spent some time trying to make the numbers work. But with a two-game trip to Edmonton and Calgary this week as part of a stretch of five games in seven nights, Maloney felt making the move now was imperative.

"We've been talking about this and trying to juggle financially how to fit it in," Maloney said. "He had a good contract. It was a matter of making the dollars and cents work. But the sooner we get him here the better, with Calgary coming up and Edmonton, and then beyond the deadline, I look at it as it helps us now. And if you look at our centers under contract going forward, with Marty Hanzal and Antoine and Boyd Gordon, that makes us a lot stronger."

It's also the first move in what could be a busy next few days for Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson. With the Blue Jackets 30th in the NHL, rumors have swirled about which players Howson could trade in an attempt to rebuild. Reportedly, center Jeff Carter has asked for a trade, and the Jackets also could be considering dealing team captain Rick Nash.

"This is moving forward," Howson told the Columbus Dispatch. "We have to move forward. It wasn't working this season as we expected. We're going to move forward and this is part of the process of reshaping the team.

"Antoine was very professional, just as I expected he would be. I thanked him and his wife Karen, who did a lot of work in our community, for being such a good player and such a good person for our organization."

In 241 games with the Blue Jackets, Vermette had 61 goals and 91 assists.

Originally a 2000 second-round pick by the Senators, Vermette has 141 goals and 178 assists in 600 NHL games with Ottawa and Columbus.

Vermette said Wednesday's move is reminiscent of the trade that brought him to Columbus three years ago. At the time, the Senators were out of the playoff race while the Blue Jackets were pushing for what would become the franchise's only playoff berth, in 2009.

"I'm very excited and very happy to be joining a team that's successful and in the (playoff) race," Vermette told the Coyotes' website. "That side of the deal got me going. I can't wait to get this going and play competitive, challenging hockey, which I love. Since I've been a kid I never missed the playoffs beside the last two years. That's one thing I'm going to look forward to here."

Vermette said he played with current Coyotes Rostislav Klesla and Raffi Torres in Columbus, but knows little about this season's team. The Blue Jackets and Coyotes have played just once this season, meaning Vermette will see his former team three times between now and the end of the season.

"I think they (Coyotes) play well as a group, that's why they're so successful," he said. "That's what I keep hearing from different people, the coaching is doing a good job getting them on the same page. That's been a strong suit of theirs and mainly why they're having success. Where I'm going to fit, I talked to Don a little bit, probably going to play center on the top two lines. He was excited and told me he was happy about the trade. I am, too. I can't wait to be part of this and meet the guys and get this going."

McElhinney, who had abdominal surgery in January, is not expected to play again this season. He has 69 games of NHL experience -- including two games with the Coyotes this season -- while spending the majority of the season with Coyotes' AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. In 25 AHL games prior to his injury, he went 10-13-4 with a 3.04 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 12:27 PM

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

Ovechkin to be game-time decision

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin told reporters in Ottawa that he would be a game-time decision for Wednesday's game against the Senators due to a lower-body injury.

Capitals coach Dale Hunter informed the media of the injury following the team's morning skate.

"I don't feel really good right now," Ovechkin told reporters. "We'll see how it goes before the game."

Ovechkin was on the ice for about eight minutes Wednesday morning. According to the Washington Post's Katie Carrera, Ovechkin appeared to try to build speed to explode through the neutral zone, but was forced to pull up after a few strides. He immediately skated to the bench and left the ice.

Ovechkin played just 15:43 in Monday's 5-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, including just five shifts in the third period. Capitals officials told the Washington Post after the game it was due to an equipment issue. However, reporters noticed Ovechkin limping after the game.

Ovechkin than sat out practice Tuesday, with Hunter telling reporters it was a "maintenance day."

The Capitals had recalled forward Keith Aucoin from AHL Hershey earlier Wednesday.

The Caps, who have won just three of their last 10 games, enter the game 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points behind eighth-place Toronto.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 11:54 AM

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

Ovechkin leaves practice after 8 minutes

According to multiple media reports, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin left Wednesday morning's practice in Ottawa after about eight minutes, leaving his status for tonight's game against the Senators in question.

This comes one day after Ovechkin skipped practice, and two days after he was seen limping after Monday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ovechkin played just 15:43 in the 5-0 loss to the Hurricanes, the second-lowest ice time he's had in a game this season, including only five shifts in the third period. Capitals officials told the Washington Post after the game it was due to an equipment issue.

“He had an equipment problem (Monday)," coach Dale Hunter told reporters. "Then we just gave him a maintenance day today (Tuesday)," said Hunter.

According to the Post's Katie Carrera, Ovechkin appeared to be testing something during practice. She reported that at one point it appeared that he tried to gather speed and explode through the neutral zone, but after a few strides had to pull up. Ovechkin immediately skated to the bench and left the ice.

Earlier this morning, the Capitals recalled forward Keith Aucoin from AHL Hershey, but it could have nothing to do with Ovechkin. The Caps had an optional practice this morning, and forwards Alexander Semin and Jeff Halpern stayed off the ice completely.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 4:41 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Sens' Murray unsure if he'll be active

Seeing the Ottawa Senators sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference with less than a week to go until the trade deadline is a major surprise. How they handle the next few days also could be a surprise.

"I don't know that we're doing anything," Senators general manager Bryan Murray told reporters when asked about his plans heading into the Feb. 27 trade deadline. "A lot of managers seem to be like me -- they're not sure what they want to do. They're in the race but they're not convinced if they're going to be around, so we're all trying to be somewhat cautious."

The Senators enter Tuesday seventh in the East with 70 points, but they're just two points behind fourth-place New Jersey.

Ottawa has hung around the top eight in the conference for most of the season, and after a seven-game winless skid around the All-Star break, they've rebounded to win four of their last five and three straight.

Murray said he'd like to add depth to his team, but wouldn't go into detail as to what area of his club he'd like to add it to. He said he's not actively working on anything, but said he's had phone calls with numerous teams.

"I've talked to a couple teams that look like they're ready to trade people away and asked for a particular name," he said. "And in turn I've had calls were we've talked about, could we get this guy or that guy, what the price would be. I can't be really definite because there's nothing definite I could get."

Murray said ideally he'd make a deal similar to the one he made in December with Phoenix for center Kyle Turris.

"That's the kind of trade we'd like to make," said Murray. "If we can get a younger play coming in that can help us now but has a good future going forward, that's the type of thing I'd much like to do more than trade a younger player for an older guy that's unrestricted that you'll really have a hard time re-signing."

One name that Murray has heard mentioned in trade rumors is defenseman Filip Kuba, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but Murray was quick to squash any talk of him moving the veteran blueliner. Kuba has 22 points and a team-best plus-18 rating while playing 23:30 per game.

"I think he's one of our best defensemen, if not our most steady guy at this point in time," said Murray. "He's played penalty kill, power play, he's been Erik Karlsson's partner. He plays a lot of minutes, has great respect on the team. I'm not sure why his name has ever come up. At this point in time … unless I got something awfully, awfully good, it would do us no service to not keep him here."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 12:35 PM

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

No Toews for Hawks tonight

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will miss Tuesday's game against the Detroit Red Wings (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) with an upper-body injury.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters in Chicago that the injury is not related to a wrist injury that sidelined Toews last month, and he is being listed as day-to-day.

Brendan Morrison will play in Toews' place.

Also out for the Hawks is defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who will be replaced in the lineup by John Scott.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 11:02 AM

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

Lightning's Lecavalier out with fractured hand

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier will be out with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand, the team learned Tuesday.

Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman later updated that report with a text to the Tampa Bay Times' Damian Cristodero, saying Lecavalier is "day-to-day." But RDS reported Tuesday night that Lecavalier is expected to miss 3-5 weeks.

Tuesday's game against the visiting Anaheim Ducks will be the first one he misses this season.

Lecavalier left Monday's practice early for an MRI. Lightning coach Guy Boucher told the Tampa Bay Times that the injury "popped up" during Saturday's game against the Washington Capitals.

While not revealing the specific nature of the injury, Lecavalier told reporters Tuesday that he does not need surgery.

Lecavalier has 21 goals and 25 assists in 58 games.

The Lightning enter Tuesday's games 11th in the Eastern Conference, six points behind eighth-place Toronto.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 02.18.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Report: Flyers, Jackets discussing Nash deal

PHILADELPHIA -- Could the Flyers be the leader in the race to acquire Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash?

For the third straight game, a top Blue Jackets executive is here in Philadelphia. General manager Scott Howson was in attendance last Saturday for the Flyers-Rangers game and had two long conversations with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. Blue Jackets senior advisor Craig Patrick was here for Thursday for a game against the Buffalo Sabres, and today both Howson and Patrick are here. Howson again spent time talking with Holmgren prior to the game.

Sources tell CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio that the Flyers are listening and having serious discussions about the cost of acquiring Nash. Panaccio speculates that cost could be high.

"As for the asking price for a player of Nash’s caliber? Probably Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn,” Panaccio wrote. “But … it may be something else. It may be James van Riemsdyk, another player, plus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Or a high draft pick besides a player. The Flyers don't want to move Couturier or Schenn, but if I'm Howson, I want both those players."

Panaccio reports his source tells him the Flyers are more interested in adding another defenseman, like they did Thursday when they acquired Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars. However, when asked if it was "unlikely" he'd go after a star player, Holmgren paused, and replied: "Unlikely? I don't know if I'd use that word, but probably not something that we're talking about at length."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 02.18.2012 / 11:38 AM

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

JVR, Briere, Jagr all in for Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- The injury-plagued Philadelphia Flyers will be welcoming back a hat trick of forwards for Saturday's game against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jaromir Jagr is over his bout with the flu, and Danny Briere, who sat out the final two periods of Thursday's game against the Sabres with an upper-body injury, will be back in. And James van Riemsdyk, out with a concussion since Jan. 12, will make his return to the lineup.

Here's what the Flyers' lineup -- which also will include newly acquired defenseman Nicklas Grossman -- likely will look like.

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

Braydon Coburn - Kimmo Timonen
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bourdon
Andrej Meszaros - Nicklas Grossman

Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal, with Sergei Bobrovsky as the backup.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma swapped a few of his lines around at Friday's practice, including welcoming back Arron Asham, who hasn't played since Jan. 15 due to a concussion.

Bylsma said Friday the move mostly was to add a bit of extra bulk on each line to counter the Flyers' physical forwards.

"Not having the matchup on the road plays into that a little bit as well," Bylsma said. "Having another physical presence on each line is something you saw we had today. One of the things that was evident against Anaheim, we had some good shifts and zone time. We didn't a lot get around the net and we didn't get inside there, penetrate. Against teams like that, bigger defensive teams that crowd the house, you have to get on the inside. Playing on the outside is not going to get you much. A little bigger presence on some of those lines."

Here's what their lineup likely will look like:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Jordan Staal - Steve Sullivan
Matt Cooke - Dustin Jeffrey - Arron Asham
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Richard Park

Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Deryk Engelland - Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen - Zbynek Michalek

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal, with Brent Johnson the backup.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 02.17.2012 / 2:32 PM

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

Stars' Benn out for weekend games

The Dallas Stars will be without All-Star forward Jamie Benn for weekend games against the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators due to a cut on his leg suffered during Thursday's game against the Calgary Flames.

Benn was tangled in the corner with the Flames' Mark Giordano and suffered a skate cut to his left knee that required 13 stitches to close.

"We're hoping on Tuesday (at Montreal)," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan told the Dallas Morning News. "He's got a significant cut on his leg, Thank goodness nothing else was involved, just a very deep, significant, painful cut, and we're glad that nothing else happened. So he'll be a day-to-day guy."

The Stars certainly hope it won't be too many days. Benn leads the Stars with 32 assists and 48 points. The third-year left wing also has 17 goals and a team-high plus-13 rating. The Stars enter the weekend 10th in the Western Conference, but just four points out of seventh and six points out of sixth place.

The team recalled forward Ryan Garbutt from their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, and he could make his NHL debut Saturday in Phoenix. Garbutt was second on the AHL team with 16 goals and fourth with 33 points in 50 games.

"I was pretty excited," Garbutt told the Morning News. "It was tough to fall asleep. It's been a long journey and a lot of work, but it went by pretty fast for me. I'll play both sides of the rink, two-way forward. I'll just do whatever I'm asked to do."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

You know what? We've played in some pretty special buildings along this playoff run so far. You start in Detroit, you go to Montreal, you come here … I think it's the first team to beat three Original Six teams to get to the Final if I'm not mistaken. That says how tough the road has been. Those are tough places to win.

— Lightning forward Steven Stamkos after Game 7 win vs. Rangers on Friday in New York