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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Can Kings complete improbable sweep?

It's happened only eight times in 19 years, but the Los Angeles Kings are a solid 60-minute effort away from becoming No. 9.

Thanks to a 41-save performance from Jonathan Quick and another tremendous effort from team captain Dustin Brown, the Kings -- who haven't won a playoff series since 2001 -- took a 3-0 lead on the Vancouver Canucks in their Western Conference Quarterfinal with a 1-0 win at the Staples Center on Sunday night.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 3-0-0
GAA: 1.33 | SVP: 0.965
Only eight teams that finished eighth in the conference have managed to knock off a No. 1 seed since the National Hockey League adopted the format in 1993. But the Kings, who didn't even know they were playing the Canucks until the final night of the regular season, can eliminate the Canucks with another victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Vancouver's special teams have struggled in this series, as the Canucks clearly miss injured winger Daniel Sedin. Vancouver went 0-for-4 on the power play Sunday night and is now 0-for-14 in the series.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, treated its fans to something they hadn't seen in quite some time -- a playoff victory on home ice. With Sunday's win, the Kings snapped a five-game playoff skid at Staples Center.

A long time coming -- Fifteen years since their last playoff victory, the Florida Panthers had reason to celebrate after Sunday's 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at the BankAtlantic Center.

When Tomas Fleischmann scored an empty-net goal in the game's final second, it sealed Florida's first postseason win since a 3-0 triumph against the New York Rangers on April 17, 1997 -- a span of 5,478 days.

Sunday's win didn't come easily for the Panthers. The club held a 3-0 lead, but the Devils scored twice in the third period and nearly tied it with just under 10 seconds to go before Fleischmann's tally helped Florida even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

It's probably a good thing Florida won Sunday, too -- New Jersey is 10-0 all-time when it wins the first two games of a playoff series.

Fleury of goals
-- What's happened to Marc-Andre Fleury?

Marc-Andre Fleury
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 0-3-0
GAA: 6.34 | SVP: 0.798
Easily one of the top goaltenders in the League during the regular season, the Pittsburgh Penguins' netminder has struggled mightily against the Philadelphia Flyers and was pulled after allowing six goals on 28 shots in the first two periods of Sunday's 8-4 loss at Wells Fargo Center.

Fleury won 42 games during the regular season while boasting a 2.36 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. But, in three appearances in the playoffs, he has a 6.34 GAA and .798 save percentage.

Seventh time's a charm -- The Nashville Predators finally won a playoff game at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday.

After going winless in their first six postseason games in Detroit, the Predators squeaked out a 3-2 victory against the Red Wings in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Nashville now has a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series, with Game 4 to be played in Motown on Tuesday.

The Preds also finally experienced some success on the power play against the Wings. Nashville was 0-for-12 with the man advantage in the series before captain Shea Weber found the back of the net 2:48 into Sunday's contest.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 7:16 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers' Meszaros out 6-8 weeks

When the Philadelphia Flyers open the postseason next month, it appears they'll be without another one of their top defenseman.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced Monday that Andrej Meszaros will undergo surgery to remove a small disc fragment in his lower back on Wednesday and will be out 6-8 weeks. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Alex Vaccaro at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

Meszaros, 26, has 7 goals, 18 assists and a plus-6 rating in 62 games this season. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound blueliner hasn't played since March 1 against the New York Islanders, when he had a goal and two assists.

Philadelphia is also without Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) for the remainder of the season. Pavel Kubina (upper body) and Andreas Lilja (throat) are day-to-day.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 8:42 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Report: Sharks have interest in Nash

Will Rick Nash soon be a member of the San Jose Sharks?

NHL Network hockey insider Darren Dreger reported Tuesday night that the Sharks are a strong contender for Nash's services. Sources have told Dreger that the Columbus Blue Jackets wanted Logan Couture in return, but that was quickly rejected by Sharks general manager Doug Wilson.

Nash and Sharks captain Joe Thornton are apparently good friends and have performed well together in international competitions.

Nash, 27, has a no-trade clause and will ultimately determine where he ends up.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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Posted On Saturday, 02.18.2012 / 11:28 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Hurricanes, Isles


UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders look to renew their playoff push against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight as the teams meet at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Islanders (24-25-8) are returning home after splitting a pair of road games this week. New York suffered a 5-1 loss at St. Louis on Thursday night after earning a 3-1 victory in Winnipeg on Tuesday. The Isles enter today's action eight points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina (22-25-11) is coming off a 3-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks at the RBC Center last night to move within a point of the Islanders in the standings. The Hurricanes have earned at least one point in 14 of their last 15 games against New York (10-1-4).

Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:

HURRICANES
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Jerome Samson
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Drayson Bowman
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward gets the start in goal. He is 14-3-3 with a 2.26 goals-against average in 21 career appearances against the Islanders. Justin Peters will be the backup.

Chad LaRose is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Hurricanes will also be without Tuomo Ruutu (upper body), Joni Pitkanen (concussion) and Brian Boucher (lower body).

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Brian Rolston
Jay Pandolfo - Marty Reasoner - Nino Niederreiter

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Aaron Ness

Kevin Poulin, who was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on an emergency basis Friday, gets the start for the Islanders tonight. Al Montoya will serve as the backup, while Evgeni Nabokov continues to recover from the flu.

"It's good," said Poulin, who made 21 saves for the Isles in a 5-2 win at Carolina on Jan. 31. "I was supposed to play at Bridgeport (tonight), but now I'm playing here. This way, I don't have to change anything."

Rick DiPietro (lower body), Mike Mottau (concussion) and Dylan Reese (leg) are out for New York. Tim Wallace and Ty Wishart will be healthy scratches.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 12:40 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Islanders start crucial stretch by hosting Canadiens

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have an opportunity to get over the .500 mark as they host the Montreal Canadiens tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Isles (22-22-8) are a .500 club this late in the season for the first time in five years after Evgeni Nabokov guided them to a 1-0 victory at Philadelphia on Tuesday night. New York enters tonight's action nine points behind the Ottawa Senators for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Isles have four games in hand. Ottawa plays host to Nashville tonight.

"We've got to try to win hockey games right now," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "It's a crucial two-week stretch for us."

Montreal (21-24-9) is seeking its third straight win after earning a 3-2 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night. The victory allowed the Canadiens to move within 10 points of Ottawa, although the Habs have only two games in hand.

"Everybody's in the race," Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "Everybody's got something to play for each and every night. We have to be on our game. We've built some good work of late, but that's not good enough. We can't rest on any laurels. We want to keep it going."

Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Tomas Plekanec - Travis Moen
Andrei Kostitsyn - Scott Gomez - Rene Bourque
Louis Leblanc - Lars Eller - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin

Carey Price gets the start in goal. Peter Budaj will be the backup.

Diaz returns to Montreal's blue line after missing the last two games. Cunneyworth said it will be a game-time decision as to who Diaz will replace in the lineup. The Canadiens promoted Palushaj from AHL Hamilton on Wednesday as Yannick Weber is out with a leg injury.

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Rhett Rakhshani - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Tim Wallace - Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Aaron Ness

Nabokov, who stole a 1-0 shootout victory for the Islanders in Philadelphia on Tuesday night in a remarkable 45-save performance, gets the start in goal. Al Montoya will be the backup.

Travis Hamonic (nose), Rick DiPietro (lower body), Mike Mottau (concussion), Marty Reasoner (hand) and Dylan Reese (knee) are out for New York. Jurcina is returning to the lineup after missing the last two games with a laceration on his elbow. Brian Rolston will be a healthy scratch for a fifth straight game.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 7:07 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Isles, Nielsen agree on 4-year extension

The New York Islanders confirmed Tuesday night that they have re-signed center Frans Nielsen, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The team said the deal will be announced Wednesday, but TSN's Bon McKenzie reported that it's a four-year deal worth $11 million, a cap hit of $2.75 million. That's a big jump for Nielsen, who is on the last season of a four-year, $2.2 million deal he signed in 2008.

Nielsen, 27, was the Islanders' third-round choice (No. 87) in the 2002 NHL Draft. He became the first Danish-born NHL player to score a goal when he connected during a 15-game callup in 2007, and became a full-time Islander in 2008-09.

Nielsen entered Thursday's action with nine goals and 25 points in 51 games after posting career highs of 13 goals, 31 assists and 44 points last season, when he led the NHL with seven shorthanded goals. He is also one of the NHL's most proficient scorers in the shootout -- his 57.6 percentage (19-for-33) is the best of any player who has taken 20 or more attempts.

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Posted On Monday, 02.06.2012 / 7:00 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Report: Rutherford, Ruutu to meet this week

Will Tuomo Ruutu remain a member of the Carolina Hurricanes?

The Raleigh News and Observer reported Monday that 'Canes general manager Jim Rutherford will be holding "an important meeting" with Ruutu this week.

"I want to talk to him about where he's at, this season and in the future," Rutherford told the paper. "We'll talk about that and see where it goes. We're closing in on the (NHL) trade deadline, so we need to make a decision.

"I've had casual conversations with his agent the past month or so. The next step is to meet with (Ruutu) and make a decision on what direction would be the best for everyone."

Ruutu, who turns 29 next week, is believed to be seeking a long-term contract. Set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, Ruutu leads Carolina with 16 goals.


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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 12:41 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sabres, Isles

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have an opportunity to get back to the .500 mark as they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Isles (21-22-7) pulled within a game of .500 Friday night when Mark Eaton ended a 120-game goalless drought in overtime to lift New York to a 2-1 victory at Ottawa. The Islanders -- who haven't been a .500 club since Nov. 5 -- enter tonight's action nine points behind Toronto for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We're a confident bunch right now," said Isles winger PA Parenteau, who had two more assists Friday night to give him 36 on the season. "We play with a lot of passion and we know what's at stake in the next two weeks. Nothing's impossible for us. … A lot of guys are playing well. It's only nine points and there's a lot of games left."

Buffalo (21-24-6) is also 2-0-1 in its last three games and has allowed only two goals over that span. The Sabres couldn't solve Henrik Lundqvist in a 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Rangers at the First Niagara Center on Wednesday night. The Sabres have been somewhat fortunate to earn points in three of their last four games considering they've only scored five goals.

"I know it'll come … we still have to score," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "I don't want to talk about chances any more. You've got to create them to get them. The more you create, the better chance you're going to have. The less you give up, the easier it is for your goaltender. I think we've played harder in some situations, which has made a difference."

Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:

SABRES
Ville Leino - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Paul Gaustad - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Luke Adam - Cody McCormick

Christian Ehrhoff - Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr - Jordan Leopold
Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller gets the start in goal. The Sabres' netminder has stopped 83 of 85 shots over the last three games while boasting a 0.63 goals-against average. Jhonas Enroth will be the backup.

Buffalo will be without sniper Thomas Vanek, who suffered an upper-body injury during Tuesday's 3-1 win at Montreal. Ennis and Stafford are both expected to play after battling the flu. Jochen Hecht and T.J. Brennan are out with concussions. Zach Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani are expected to be healthy scratches.

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Rhett Rakhshani - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Tim Wallace - Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina

The Islanders did not skate this morning after arriving home late from Ottawa. With the quick turnaround, it's likely Al Montoya will start in goal. Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves in Friday's victory.

Rick DiPietro (lower body), Mike Mottau (concussion) and Marty Reasoner (hand) are out for New York. Dylan Reese and Brian Rolston are the likely healthy scratches.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 12:27 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Islanders hope to put dent in Flyers' dominance

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders look to reverse their fortunes against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight as the teams meet at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Since the end of the 2006-07 season, the Isles are 1-17-5 against their Atlantic Division foes. They went 0-5-1 against the Flyers last season and lost their only meeting thus far this time around, a 4-3 overtime decision Nov. 23 thanks to game-tying and game-winning goals by Danny Briere.

"Sometimes there are just teams you match up against, I guess, and then you build confidence," Briere said when asked why the Flyers have had so much success against the Islanders. "There's other teams where we seem to be struggling against, for some reason. But the Islanders are one of those teams where we come in and we always have a lot of confidence -- even when we fall behind. I hope it keeps going because being in our division, we have to play them quite a bit."

"Sometimes you just match up a little bit better against other teams," Islanders captain Mark Streit said. "You can ask Detroit why they've lost four or five in a row (against us). Sometimes it's tough to explain, but it's a division rivalry and they have a good team. We need points, so you can't really pay attention to the stats." 

Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:
 
FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Maxime Talbot - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Harry Zolnierczyk - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
 
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Andrej Meszaros
 
Sergei Bobrovsky gets the start in goal. In six starts (seven games) against the Islanders, he is 6-0-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average. Ilya Bryzgalov will be the backup.
 
ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Brian Rolston - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Tim Wallace - Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter
 
Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina
 
Evgeni Nabokov gets his 10th straight start for the Islanders tonight as he goes for his 300th career victory. Kevin Poulin will serve as the backup.
 
Rick DiPietro (lower body), Al Montoya (concussion), Mike Mottau (concussion) and Marty Reasoner (hand) are out for New York. Dylan Reese will be a healthy scratch.
 
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 8:03 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers to update Pronger's condition Thursday

The Philadelphia Flyers will update the condition of defenseman Chris Pronger on Thursday, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.

Pronger, 37, hasn't played since Nov. 19 at Winnipeg. He temporarily lost vision after taking a high stick to his right eye on Oct. 24 and was immediately put on medication to help relieve the pressure build-up behind his eye. He missed the next six games.

Now the hulking defenseman is closing in on a month without making a single appearance. What was once deemed as a virus could be something much worse. Pronger was slated to meet with concussion experts in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He has a goal and 11 assists in 13 games this season.

The Flyers are also without Claude Giroux, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. Giroux leads the NHL with 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists).
 
"Giroux's status remains the same. We will have an update on Pronger tomorrow, once we have spoken to the doctors," Holmgren said Wednesday night.

The Flyers visit Montreal on Thursday night.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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I might have blacked out. I was pretty pumped.

— New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid on his first NHL win Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning
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