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Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 3:09 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Blackhawks, Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Here's how the lineups might look for Chicago and Phoenix in tonight's game at the United Center:

BLACKHAWKS
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Sharp
Daniel Carcillo - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Andrew Brunette - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Bryan Bickell - Marcus Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Steve Montador - Sami Lepisto

Corey Crawford will get the start in net, with Ray Emery the backup.

Sean O'Donnell or John Scott also could draw in on defense, possibly in place of Lepisto.

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Kyle Chipchura - Patrick O'Sullivan

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - David Schlemko

Mike Smith will get the start in net for Phoenix, with Jason LaBarbera the backup.

Cal O'Reilly could see time in the middle in the fourth line in place of Chipchura.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 3:05 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

What happens in Edmonton, stays in Edmonton

CHICAGO -- The Hawks had a stopover in Las Vegas planned before the team left on its annual "circus trip," but some wondered whether they still would go after losing 9-2 in Edmonton just before they were supposed to arrive in Sin City.

They made the trip anyway and wound up using it as a way to get rid of the bitter memory of that stinging defeat.

"It was kind of a wake-up call, losing that game to Edmonton, because we didn't play at all the way we wanted to," forward Viktor Stalberg said after this morning's skate at the United Center. "That was the biggest thing, but it was nice to get away for a couple days. It was good for us to get away from (the loss) for a little bit."

That's because it was one of those losses that stuck in a lot people's minds who watched it, let alone watched first-hand from the receiving end.

"It's easy when you have a loss like that to keep overthinking things," Stalberg said. "The message in our locker room from the older guys was just, 'It's a loss. It doesn't matter if it's 2-1 or 9-2. We take the loss and move on from there.'"

Chicago then lost its next game in San Jose, but played much better in defeat before winning the final two games of the road trip, against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 3:01 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Carcillo back in Hawks' lineup

CHICAGO -- After being a healthy scratch for the first time this season Saturday against the Kings, gritty forward Daniel Carcillo will get back in the lineup tonight against the Coyotes.

Carcillo played left wing on the second line with Patrick Kane at center and Marian Hossa on the right side for much of the early part of the season, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn't thrilled with Carcillo's effectiveness of late and decided to sit him out for a game.

The message came through loud and clear, according to Carcillo.

"I haven't been playing as well as I'd like to," said Carcillo, who didn't record a point and logged just four shots with a minus-3 rating in the five games preceding his benching. "Obviously, sitting out last game I'm not very happy about … so I'm ready to get back at it with a strong match."

What things will Quenneville be looking for from Carcillo?

"The biggest thing is being on the forecheck and being on the body and getting under people's skin," Carcillo said, following today's morning skate at the United Center. "That comes with skating and working hard and getting (my linemates) pucks and finishing my checks."
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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 2:46 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Detroit's Emmerton OK after collision Friday

DETROIT -- Cory Emmerton won't be in the lineup Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena against the visiting Nashville Predators, but Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said it's not a decision based on his health.

Emmerton appeared to be hurt during a collsion at center ice with Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who was assessed a kneeing penalty on the play. Emmerton left the ice, but returned to finish the game.

He also participated in an optional morning skate on Saturday morning.

"I don't think it was intentional," Emmerton said of the hit. "It was just trying to make a hit there at center ice and I don't really know what happened, but (we) just kind of collided or whatever. It's more like a stretching of the leg than a direct hit on anything, so I was very fortunate."

Emmerton said there isn't much lingering pain and he could've played Saturday had Babcock called his number to go.

 "I don't think there's anything wrong besides a little bit of stiffness," said Emmerton, who has one goal and one assist in 18 games as the fourth-line center. "I'll take that any day over an injury. I feel fine."
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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 2:30 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Against Detroit, familiarity breeds Nashville's success

DETROIT – Barry Trotz has been on the bench leading the Nashville Predators in every year of their existence, so he would know better than anybody just how far his team has come in terms of measuring up against the Detroit Red Wings.

Nashville has played the Wings as tough as any team in the League and took four of six regular-season games from them last year. The secret really isn’t a secret at all, according to Trotz. It’s just the Nashville organization growing and adapting to playing Detroit often as Central Division rivals.

“We’ve played them a lot,” said Trotz, whose Preds will try to break a three-game winless streak on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena. “The one year we met them in the playoffs, we played them twice in the pre-season, played them six or eight times in the regular season and then played them six times in the playoffs. You start playing teams 15 times a year, you get a good feel for what their DNA is all about. That’s probably the biggest thing.”

Incremental increases in confidence that each close game brought also factors into it.

“I think over the course of time we’ve grown,” Trotz said. “We used to be almost terrified to come into the Joe the first couple years as an expansion team because they had the puck the whole time. Now (we have) great respect for what the Red Wings do as a team and organization, but not too much respect where you’re intimidated coming into the Joe. That’s probably been the biggest thing over the course of time that allows us to have success here.”
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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 2:24 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Nashville's Josi looking forward to NHL debut

DETROIT – Nothing is set for sure, but it looks like rookie defenseman Roman Josi will make his NHL debut for the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena against the Detroit Red Wings.

Josi, 21, was a second-round pick for the Predators in the 2008 Entry Draft (No.38 overall) and appeared to be in good position to make a run at a roster spot in training camp. Instead, the puck-moving Swiss blueliner had a concussion early in camp and that set him back.

Now, he’s been called up and may make his debut playing next to Jonathan Blum for the Predators. Nashville coach Barry Trotz didn’t confirm Josi is playing, but did say he’s looking forward to seeing what the young defenseman can add.

“He’s a pretty dynamic player,” Trotz said after Nashville’s morning skate. “He’s such a great skater and he’s more of a puck-mover. If I had to describe him, he’d be more like a Ryan Suter. He’s got great ability to move laterally and he’s got great escapability and is a great passer. He’s a good young defenseman. I’d use him on the power play. That’s a strength for him.”

Trotz said it was simply time for Josi to get more familiar with the League.

“I brought him up to get him acclimatized to the National Hockey League a little bit, with no expectations that he’s going to be in the lineup or not in the lineup,” Trotz said. “I need him to get used to us and us to him.”

If Josi does play for the Predators tonight, he’ll be playing against one of his childhood favorites in Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom – who fronts a team that’s quite popular where he’s from.

“They always had a good team and I always watched the Red Wings (growing up),” Josi said. “They’re pretty famous in Switzerland, too. Everybody watches the Red Wings, especially Lidstom. He was always great and is still great, so I’m excited to see him out there. He was always one of the best players and defensemen and I always looked up to him.”
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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 1:18 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Red Wings back at home to face physical Predators

DETROIT – Their 3-2 shootout win Friday afternoon against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in Beantown still had the Detroit Red Wings talking about the atmosphere of that game Saturday morning.

It was the first NBC broadcast of the season, it was the NHL’s inaugural “Thanksgiving Showdown” and it was intense from start to finish, which ended with Todd Bertuzzi’s slick top-shelf move to beat Tuukka Rask for the win.

Some of the Wings even said it felt a little like a playoff game, with the balance of the game hanging on seemingly every rush up the ice down the stretch. Now, Detroit has to face the always-physical, grinding style of the Nashville Predators a day later back home at Joe Louis Arena.

“Every game is a battle and if you’re not up for it or you’re not 100 percent going into the game, you probably will not be in the game,” 38-year old Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom said following the Wings’ optional morning skate. “[Nashville] doesn’t give up much. They really seem to block lots of shots and their best player is probably the goalie (Pekka Rinne), so we’ve got to get lots of shots and get in his face [so he doesn’t] see the shots coming.”

That probably sounds easier than it’s going to be for the Wings to do. Asked what’s the most difficult challenge about playing back-to-back games, let alone ones that involve a defending Cup champion, Detroit coach Mike Babcock was to the point.

“Energy,” he said. “It’s real simple. You don’t like to play back-to-back if you don’t have to. We’re fortunate it was an afternoon game (in Boston) and we’ll come here and get after it.”

They’ll also “get after it” with a new face in the lineup, as forward Patrick Eaves will get back on the ice for the first time since a Nov. 15 loss against the St. Louis Blues – a span of six games as a healthy scratch.

Detroit didn’t skate forward lines Saturday morning, but Eaves will likely slot into the right wing slot of the third line for Justin Abdelkader – who may drop down to center the fourth line in place of Cory Emmerton. That would mean Eaves would be paired with speed center Darren Helm and another good skater in Jiri Hudler.

“Eaves has been fine,” Babcock said. “The reality is, the way our lineup’s been this year, I like Patty to play with two skaters, so he’s been the odd man out not because of things he’s done. He played great in St. Louis his last time out.”

Eaves also battled a back issue that kept him out for three games in the first week of November, but he said that’s healed and he’s ready to contribute.

“I’ve been waiting to get this opportunity and it should be fun,” said Eaves, who has one assist in nine games played. “Just staying in shape and keeping your mind in the hockey mode is all you can do. You can control what you can control and that’s about it. As a player you’re always motivated to play.”

Here are the projected lineups for the Red Wings and Predators:

PREDATORS

Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Martin Erat - Mike Fisher - Sergei Kostitsyn
Jordin Tootoo - Craig Smith - Nick Spaling
Matt Halischuk - Blake Geoffrion - Jerred Smithson

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
Roman Josi - Jonathan Blum

Pekka Rinne will get the start in net, while Anders Lindback will be on the bench as the backup.


RED WINGS

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Danny Cleary
Jiri Hudler - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall
Jakub Kindl - Brad Stuart

Jimmy Howard will get his 15th straight start in net, while Ty Conklin will be on the bench as the backup.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:58 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Iginla not ready to panic about slow start

DETROIT – Calgary Flames star captain Jarome Iginla has gone through scoring droughts before, so he’s not ready to hit the panic button just yet because he has just five goals and nine points in 19 games heading into a matchup Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.

Two seasons ago, the two-time 50-goal scorer went through a similar dry spell and still wound up with 32 goals and 37 assists – but even those numbers were very uncharacteristic of Iginla, who’d scored 50
goals just two seasons prior.

Much has been made about the pressure Iginla puts on himself to score goals for the Flames, who don’t have a wealth of star power in their top six forwards, but he’s not ready to sound the alarms just because he’s now 34 years old.

“As far as my game, yeah, it’s tough,” said Iginla, who’s scored just one goal and two points in Calgary’s last eight games. “It’s been a tough stretch, there’s no question. But I’m going to remain positive. I don’t think it’s helpful for myself, personally, in my game to feel sorry for myself or get too frustrated or get negative. I’m going to work and I’m going to go over things I think I can improve on and keep going and I believe it will change.”
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:55 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Morrison set to return for Flames

DETROIT – Brendan Morrison’s knee is good enough to get back into the active lineup, so that’s what will happen Wednesday night when he joins the Calgary Flames for a game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

After Morrison didn’t score a goal or point in eight games to start the season, the Flames decided to put him on injured reserve Nov. 8 to do more conditioning work and put his surgically-repaired left knee through more rehab work. Morrison started the season as Calgary’s second-line center and said he felt enough to go. However, practice intensity differed from game intensity and he didn’t feel confident in the knee holding up during games. Now, he’s feeling confident it’s ready to go.

“It’s better for sure,” Morrison said Tuesday. “A little more time helps the (healing) process and just mentally trusting it more. That was the biggest issue early on was not really trusting it and not engaging anybody for fear of being beat and having to chase guys. That has improved over the past 2-1/2 weeks, so I’m excited to try it again and get back to work.”

Calgary head coach Brent Sutter said he’ll get back to work Wednesday night against the Wings – replacing Matt Stajan at center on the fourth line. Morrison said he doesn’t think his decision to start the season in the active lineup was a rushed decision.

“When I came back, I was practicing and felt good in practice,” he said. “There was no issue at all. That’s where I was at that point in time. I felt like I was ready and it was comfortable in practices, but going into the games it was evident I was still lacking a little bit. So, that’s when we made the decision to kind of take some time and work on it.”
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:08 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wings tell Smith not to pack bags just yet

DETROIT -- Brendan Smith was excited as he talked about his recent debut as an NHL defenseman, which happened during the Detroit Red Wings' recent four-game road trip to the West coast.

Smith, 22, was so pumped up that he didn't even seem to mind getting sent back to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League following Detroit's practice on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. He hurriedly packed his hockey bag for the short drive to the West part of Michigan and talked about how thrilling it was to make his debut in front of his parents and older brother Rory -- all of whom caught a cross-country flight the morning of his first game, against the San Jose Sharks.

It's just that, unbeknownst to him, Smith's demotion to Grand Rapids wasn't a sure thing in the mind of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock -- who noticed Smith's bag all packed up in the locker room and yelled over to him to unpack it.

Babcock said Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart is dealing with an undisclosed injury and will be a game-time decision after warm-ups, which means Smith might be back in the lineup on Wednesday night despite the return of defenseman Ian White, whose broken cheekbaone prompted Smith's promotion in the first place.

"I'm very pleased with my first three games and there's a lot of things I've learned," Smith said. "A lot of the things the coaches have told me are about how to make the quick play. The biggest thing is that in Grand Rapids I can kind of get away with carrying the puck a little bit more, just because of my skill level and stuff, but it's a lot harder to do it in the NHL. I'm going to have to make that earlier pass and not get into bad habits in Grand Rapids."

Smith also had to sit out five NHL games at the start of this season because of a hit in the preseason on Chicago Blackhawks rookie Ben Smith. Brendan Smith said he wasn't trying to make a malicious hit or target Ben Smith's head, but his shoulder did clip the Blackhawks forward's head and sent him to the ice.

The next day, Brendan Smith sent a text to Ben Smith to explain what happened -- which Ben Smith received and texted back that it was just a hockey play. Since then, both have now played with their respective teams.

Brendan Smith said, if anything, he's learned that he needs to make sure he gets full body contact shoulder-to-shoulder on any future plays like that one, in which Ben Smith toe-dragged the puck to the middle of the ice as Brendan Smith came at him across the ice.

He's also ready to put that play completely behind him and concentrate on the future -- which for the short-term probably includes at least one more game with the Wings, who sent down forward Fabian Brunnstrom on Tuesday to make room to keep Smith.
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Quote of the Day

We have no doubt how he can play. You don't, with four teams that are left, you're not getting here without good goaltending. All great goalies left, and [Bishop] is a top-tier goaltender in this league and he's shown it.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper on goalie Ben Bishop, who shut out the Rangers in Game 5