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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:50 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Projected Game 1 lineups

Here's how the lineups project for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes set for Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena:

BLACKHAWKS

Patrick Kane - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette


Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Sean O'Donnell

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - Michal Rozsival

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera


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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:11 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Toews returning to lineup for Game 1

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews will return to the lineup Thursday night for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes the Blackhawks confirmed on their official Twitter feed Thursday.

Toews, the Blackhawks captain, hasn't played since Feb. 19 due to a concussion. He scored 29 goals and finished with 57 points and a plus-17 rating in 59 regular-season games this season.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 7:13 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Toews expects to play in Game 1

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Acknowledging that he would be surprised if he isn't on the ice Thursday night, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews went through a symptom-free practice at Jobing.com Arena on Wednesday and expects to be ready to go for Game 1 against the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
Skating on a line between Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, Toews took part in all phases of practice and had an extended chat with Chicago coach Joel Quenneville before meeting with reporters. Toews missed the final 22 games of the regular season because of a concussion, but has been back practicing with the team for a week.

"I feel good. I'm right there," Toews said. "It's another day when I feel like I'm better and better and getting back to where I want to be as far as playing."

Asked if he was surprised if he didn't play Thursday, Toews quickly answered, "Yeah." Upon reflection, he qualified the answer by saying, "That's the goal we've set, but we're going to make that decision tomorrow. We're sticking to that program."

Quenneville was pleased with what he saw from the line in practice and was targeting Thursday as his captain's return.

"That line looks fine together," he said. "Their upside's going to be high-end, puck possession, lots of ability. For sure we'll get clarification tomorrow, but we're optimistic."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 7:05 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Toews expects to play in Game 1

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Acknowledging that he would be surprised if he isn't on the ice Thursday night, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews went through a symptom-free practice at Jobing.com Arena on Wednesday and expects to be ready to go for Game 1 against the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
Skating on a line between Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, Toews took part in all phases of practice and had an extended chat with Chicago coach Joel Quenneville before meeting with reporters. Toews missed the final 22 games of the regular season because of a concussion, but has been back practicing with the team for a week.

"I feel good. I'm right there," Toews said. "It's another day when I feel like I'm better and better and getting back to where I want to be as far as playing."

Asked if he was surprised if he didn't play Thursday, Toews quickly answered, "Yeah." Upon reflection, he qualified the answer by saying, "That's the goal we've set, but we're going to make that decision tomorrow. We're sticking to that program."

Quenneville was pleased with what he saw from the line in practice and was targeting Thursday as his captain's return.

"That line looks fine together," he said. "Their upside's going to be high-end, puck possession, lots of ability. For sure we'll get clarification tomorrow, but we're optimistic."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes back in action to begin final stretch run

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It was an anxious three days for the Phoenix Coyotes as they could do nothing but watch the standings as their Western Conference foes attempted to compile points and leave them behind.

Now the Coyotes enter their final five games of the season with a clear mission -- and in control of their own fate. Win four of five and they are likely headed to a third straight NHL playoff berth. Stumble more than once along the way, beginning with tonight's huge game against the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena, and things get much more uncertain and gloomy.

"You look at the standings, and if we win our games we're fine," said Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who returns from a three-game suspension tonight. "You'd rather be sitting where Nashville is or Vancouver is, but we're not, so we have to find way to win our way in and earn it. But we control our own destiny and that's all you can ask. It's right there for us."

In addition to Doan, the Coyotes were able to heal over the three-day break. With the exception of winger Taylor Pyatt, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said everyone else on the roster is available for duty, meaning leading scorer Radim Vrbata and defensemen Adrian Aucoin and David Schlemko are prepared to play. Tippett has a lot of different ways he can go lineup-wise and wasn't tipping his hand at the pregame skate.

The Coyotes finish the season against three teams out of the playoff race -- Anaheim, Columbus and Minnesota -- as well as Western Conference-leading St. Louis. So the chance to improve their position and have a direct effect on a competitor ends tonight.

The Sharks lost 3-1 in Anaheim on Wednesday, making this game incredibly crucial for them as well. San Jose finishes its season with two games each against Los Angeles and Dallas -- the other two Pacific Division teams fighting for three playoff spots along with Colorado and Calgary. Not everyone will survive.

"Our players know exactly where we are and what the scenarios are … but this is the last game that we have that we can have an effect on the one of these teams we are battling," Tippett said. "So that makes it of the utmost importance. After that we have to take care of ourselves, but this is a huge game."

The Sharks will be without defenseman Douglas Murray, who suffered a lower-body injury early against the Ducks. Veteran Colin White will replace him in the lineup.

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Colin White - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine VermetteLauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin
Michal Roszival - Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
 

 
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:07 AM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Radim Vrbata back for Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes had 30-goal scorer Radim Vrbata back in the lineup for Thursday's showdown with the Colorado Avalanche at Jobing.com Arena.

Vrbata, who hasn't scored a goal in more than a month -- he got No. 30 on Feb. 21 against Los Angeles -- has missed three of the last four games with an undisclosed illness. He will replace Shane Doan, who will begin a three-game NHL suspension tonight for a hit on Dallas' Jamie Benn on Tuesday night.

The ninth-place Coyotes were without forward Taylor Pyatt and defenseman Adrian Aucoin as they attempted to jump over the Avalanche and back into a playoff spot in the jam-packed Western Conference

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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes may be down two key forwards vs. Avs

The Coyotes could be without their top two right wingers for tonight's huge game with the Avalanche.
 
Shane Doan is definitely out, serving the first of a three-game suspension for his hit on Dallas' Jamie Benn. And Radim Vrbata, who has missed two games and part of a third with an undisclosed illness, took part in Tuesday's optional skate and Wednesday's morning skate, is still a game-time decision.
 
If Vrbata is a no-go, that's more than 50 goals missing from a Phoenix offense that struggles even in the best of times. Winger Taylor Pyatt and defenseman Adrian Aucoin will also miss this game between the eighth- and ninth-place teams in the Western Conference.
 
The Coyotes are 3-1-3 in their last seven games, but have slipped out of a playoff spot and need a win to stay on the heels of Pacific Division-leading Dallas.
 
Colorado will go without defenseman Erik Johnson (back spasms) for a second straight game with a back injury and rookie Tyson Barrie will again get the call. Ryan O'Reilly, who had his nose broken in Tuesday's overtime win over Calgary, will be in the lineup.
 
These are the projected lineups for tonight's game:
 
COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Martin Hanzal - Gilbert Brule
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Radim Vrbata
Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
Michal Roszival - David Schlemko

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Peter Mueller - Matt Duchene - Milan Hejduk
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Mark Olver

Shane O'Brien - Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Ryan Wilson

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 4:36 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes look to build off shutout of Sharks

The Coyotes broke through with a huge 3-0 shutout of San Jose on Saturday night, but their 1-4-1 start to March has left them fighting three points behind Dallas in the Pacific Division standings and in a battle with five other teams separated by three points for the final two playoff spots.
 
Phoenix has won two of the three meetings with Nashville this season -- in keeping with its track record of playing the top teams tough this season. A win would move the Coyotes within a point of the idle Stars and keep them in seventh place. And with a tough four-game game road trip to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Dallas beginning on Wednesday, the last game of this three-game homestand looms large.
 
Mike Smith will be back in goal after recording his fifth shutout of the season against the Sharks and looking more like the League's First Star of February than the one that struggled for a week. But the Coyotes won't have center Martin Hanzal (upper body) for a second straight game, and that will play havoc with the forward lines. Boyd Gordon stepped up with a big game against the Sharks and will be counted on again with Daymond Langkow struggling and Kyle Chipchura still out of the lineup.
 
With defensemen Derek Morris and David Schlemko are skating but still not ready to return, the Coyotes have found rookie Michael Stone up to the task. Stone had his first NHL goal and set up Mikkel Boedker's goal against the Sharks and, just eight games into his NHL career, is impressing coach Dave Tippett with his poise.
 
COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Radim Vrbata
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Michael Stone

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

PREDATORS

Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Colin Wilson - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Hal Gill
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 8:13 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes regain Klesla, lose Hanzal

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes gained a defenseman but lost a center for Saturday’s huge game with San Jose.

Martin Hanzal will miss his 15th game of the season with an upper-body injury. Hanzal appeared to fall awkwardly on his right wrist in the first period of Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota. The injury initially was feared to be serious, but coach Dave Tippett said Hanzal is day-to-day. Marc-Antoine Pouliot replaced Hanzal in the Phoenix lineup.

On the plus side, defenseman Rostislav Klesla returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 18. Klesla has missed the last 10 games with an upper-body injury. He will replace David Rundblad and take a lot of pressure off Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Michal Rozsival, who have been playing major minutes.

Two more defensemen could be back soon. Derek Morris is back with the team after a one-month leave of absence to deal with a family illness. He is back skating but will need some conditioning time. Also, David Schlemko, out since Jan. 7, is close to returning from foot surgery.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 4:22 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

'Yotes hope struggling Wild the tonic for March slump

One week ago, the Phoenix Coyotes were two games away from the longest unbeaten streak in franchise history, completing an 11-0-1 February with a leap from 12th place in the Western Conference to the Pacific Division lead with 23 points in a month.

Just seven days later, everything is upside down. The Coyotes are in the midst of the longest pointless streak in coach Dave Tippett's coaching tenure in Phoenix -- four games -- and face the prospect of their first five-game losing streak since February of 2009 when they host the Minnesota Wild.

The Coyotes will start goalie Jason LaBarbera tonight after Mike Smith allowed two goals in the first four minutes of a 3-2 loss in Columbus on Tuesday. The Coyotes have five players still on the injured list and none will play tonight, with enforcer Paul Bissonnette expected to replace Gilbert Brule.

The Coyotes are still seventh in the West and just two points behind Dallas for the Pacific Division lead, but are just one point ahead of San Jose, Los Angeles and Colorado, and need a win to stop the bleeding.

Minnesota knows all about losing streaks. The Wild are 0-4-1 in the last five -- scoring just one goal in the last three games, on a penalty shot by Devin Setoguchi on Tuesday with Minnesota already hoplessly out of a 7-1 loss at Colorado. They have only three wins in the last 16 games (3-10-3) and are now 13th in the Western Conference.

Minnesota was 20-7-3 and had the NHL's best record the last time it was in Phoenix (Dec. 10). Since then, the Wild are 8-22-7.

Only seven players who dressed for that Dec. 10 game will play tonight: Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen, Dany Heatley, Nick Johnson, Darroll Powe, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon.

The rest are either injured, in the minors or no longer part of the organization. How bad has the turnover been?  If defenseman Tyler Cuma, who was called up on Thursday, makes his NHL debut tonight he would become 45th player to wear a Minnesota jersey this season.

Josh Harding will be in goal after Matt Hackett was bombed in Colorado. Cuma will replace Jared Spurgeon (flu). Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) is still out, along with a list too long to mention here.

Here's how the lineups could look tonight:

COYOTES
Raffi Torres - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Mikkel Boedker
Taylor Pyatt - Daymond Langkow - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
David Rundblad - Chris Summers

Jason LaBarbera
Mike Smith

WILD

Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Darroll Powe - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Stephane Veilleux - Erik Christensen - Nick Palmieri
Matt Kassian - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Marco Scandella - Tyler Cuma
Steven Kampfer - Tom Gilbert
Nate Prosser - Kurtis Foster

Josh Harding
Matt Hackett

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Quote of the Day

I had one really not-good game. I came back to the hotel and he [his father] was on Skype. My mother called first and said, 'Your father wants to talk to you.' So he moved my mother away, and he yelled at me for like 30 seconds. I understood him, and then he said, 'I'm done.' And he was gone. The next game I got my first shutout.

— Anton Khudobin recalls a fond memory, explains why he was so sharp in the Hurricanes' 3-0 win against the Capitals on Friday
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