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Posted On Monday, 10.31.2011 / 2:12 PM

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

Preds missing Fisher, two others vs. Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- This isn't exactly the way the Nashville Predators wanted to go into their first meeting of the season with the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night at the United Center.

Saturday's 3-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks has taken a toll on the Preds, who incurred a couple of injuries in that game that are holding over to Monday and possibly beyond.

Top center Mike Fisher (upper body) didn't make the trip after he took a big hit against the Ducks and forward Nick Spaling (lower body) was placed on injured reserve after leaving the Anaheim game early. Sergei Kostitsyn, who missed the Anaheim game with a lower-body injury, is also not expected to play on Monday.

Rookie Craig Smith will center the top line, but that's really the only lineup adjustment that appears set in stone heading into the game. The Preds also called up forward Ryan Thang from its AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

"How do we (respond)?" Nashvile coach Barry Trotz said after the Preds' morning skate. "Like we always do. We'll just put someone in and good luck. Craig will go to center tonight but with the forward lines, we'll move them around a little bit just to give him some support."

Trotz said Fisher seems to be doing better and could make Nashville's upcoming West Coast road trip that starts on Thursday. Spaling is getting a further diagnosis on his injury Monday, while Kostitsyn continues to be day-to-day.
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Posted On Monday, 10.31.2011 / 1:20 PM

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

Projected lineups for Predators, Blackhawks

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators at United Center in a battle of Central Division rivals:

PREDATORS

Niclas Bergfors - Craig Smith - Martin Erat
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Ryan Thang - Jerred Smithson - Jordin Tootoo
Matt Halischuk - Blake Geoffrion - Brian McGrattan

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
Jack Hillen - Jonathon Blum

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Top-line left wing Sergei Kostitsyn appears to be a no-go, which has thrown Nashville's lines into a state of flux. The Predators called up Thang from their AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

BLACKHAWKS

Andrew Brunette - Jonathan Toews - Viktor Stalberg
Patrick Sharp - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Rostislav Olesz / John Scott - Marcus Kruger - Jamal Mayers

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

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 3:21 PM

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

Mitchell 'very close' to returning for San Jose

DETROIT -- San Jose Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell skated this morning here at Joe Louis Arena, but it doesn't look like he'll make a return to the lineup tonight against the Red Wings.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said his third line -- where Mitchell had been slotted at left wing before sustaining an upper-body injury last week -- most likely will be comprised of Jamie McGinn, Michal Handzus and Benn Ferriero.

Mitchell, who has missed the last two games, apparently is making good headway in his recovery.

"He's very close," McLellan said.
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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 3:18 PM

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

Sharks still easing Havlat back into action

DETROIT -- After assisting on Logan Couture's shorthanded goal in a 3-1 victory against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, Sharks forward Martin Havlat has some wondering if he and Couture might soon see more time on the penalty kill.

Havlat has played just three games after missing the first four with an upper-body injury, but he's got 3 assists and a plus-1 rating while playing catch-up from a physical standpoint. Couture, meanwhile, is off to a solid start, with 2 goals and 2 assists in seven games.

"(Havlat's) into basically exhibition game No. 4 tonight (against Detroit), whereas everybody else is a month ahead of him," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We're going to manage his minutes and put him in situations that we think he can be successful. We talked about maybe taking some of the penalty-killing minutes away from some of our bigger players and distributing them evenly. Logan could potentially be one of those guys. So, yeah, they will get penalty-killing time. Yes, the goal was very important and we needed it, but for now we'll continue to manage it the way we are."

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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 3:15 PM

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

Sharks contemplating new look on blue line

DETROIT -- San Jose coach Todd McLellan said people will just have to wait until tonight to see what his final lineup looks like, but the way the Sharks practiced at their morning skate this morning might be a clue.

The first two defense pairings were the same, but the third was comprised of 23-year-old Jason Demers and 24-year old Justin Braun. Braun was just recalled from Worcester of the American Hockey League last weekend and has started on the third pairing with veteran Jim Vandermeer in the last two games.

"If we're out there together tonight, it will be good," said Braun, who had an assist and a plus-2 rating in three games with Worcester before being called up. "Jason's got great experience and I think we'll just pick each other up and keep the confidence going."

Braun had 2 goals and 9 assists in 29 games with the Sharks last season. Getting a chance to face the Red Wings this season is something he's looking forward to doing, regardless of what the lineup looks like.

"You look over there and they've got some pretty good hands," he said of the Red Wings. "You've just got to not overcommit, contain and wait for them to kind of make a mistake and make good passes all night."
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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 2:38 PM

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

Cleared to play, Commodore awaits opportunity

DETROIT -- Detroit defenseman Mike Commodore (knee sprain) has been medically cleared to return to the ice in game action, according to Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

Now what the 31-year old veteran needs is an opportunity to crack the defensive-pairing rotation. Since he was hurt toward the end of the preseason, Commodore has seen 24-year-old Jakub Kindl play well in his absence as the team's sixth defenseman, paired with 27-year-old Jonathan Ericsson.

Kindl had a slip-up at Washington last weekend, finishing with a minus-3 in a 7-1 loss to the Capitals, but overall has been solid. Commodore, meanwhile, knows he needs to remain patient.

"I've had a couple of good practices lately, which is good because it's been awhile," he said following Detroit's Friday morning skate. "I just want to have good practices and then when the opportunity arises, be ready to go. If it takes a while for that opportunity, then so be it. That's fine."

Commodore is wearing a knee brace for the first time in his career, but said he doesn't mind it.

"I'll be playing with a brace for the rest of the season, if not the rest of my career," he said. "It's fine. I'm used to it now."

His knee is also feeling more stable now than it's been since his return to practicing.

"Every once in a while, if I get extended on that leg … if my weight gets extended out it can be a bit of a pain, but it's a lot better," he said. "It's gotten a lot better in the last week."

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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 2:34 PM

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

Abdelkader to center Detroit's fourth line

DETROIT -- On the surface, it kind of looks like a demotion for 24-year old Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader -- who was moved from left wing of the third line to center the fourth line against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

That's where Abdelkader will start Friday night's game against the San Jose Sharks, between left winger Drew Miller and right wing Tomas Holmstrom. Meanwhile, Todd Bertuzzi flips from right wing on the third line to the left side of that line in order to make room for right wing Patrick Eaves.

Rather than a demotion for Abdelkader, however, Detroit coach Mike Babcock sees the move as merely the result of fitting puzzle pieces together. Babcock didn't like the prospect of pairing Holmstrom and Eaves on a line, so he needed to figure out a way to get them both playing on separate lines.

Moving Abdelkader -- who played center almost exclusively in junior and at Michigan State -- seemed like the most logical thing to do.

"I had to move some stuff around and I needed a center," Babcock said. "I don't know if it's the best thing for Abby, but it's the best thing for our team."

Babcock also played Abdelkader at center during a first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes last season, when the Wings were without injured center Henrik Zetterberg. He didn't produce much offensively, but Abdelkader's 6-foot-1, 219-pound frame was a help defensively and he was pretty good in the faceoff circle, too.

"He's a center iceman," Babcock said. "The only time he hasn't (been) is when I wanted to get him more minutes. He wasn't getting the minutes I thought he deserved as a player (on the fourth line). I think he needs top-nine minutes. Even tonight, just because he's centering the fourth line doesn't mean he'll get less minutes."

Abdelkader said he's not looking at it as a demotion and just wants to use his versatility to play wing or center to the Wings' advantage.

"Wherever the team needs me, I'm just going to go chip in and help out," he said. "Whether it's third line, fourth line, wing or center … whatever it is, I'll do to help the team win. It's a little different game when you're playing up the middle of the ice. You handle the puck a little more and in the D-zone you're coming down low a little more, but it's nothing new to me. I've played center the majority of my career."

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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 2:30 PM

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

Conklin scuffling for Red Wings

DETROIT -- Since shutting out the Colorado Avalanche in the second game of the season, Detroit Red Wings backup goalie Ty Conklin has hit a rough patch in the previous two games.

The Red Wings have dropped two in a row and Conklin started both, allowing 10 goals against on 56 shots to drive his goals-against average up to 3.36 with a paltry .882 save percentage. Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he's not pleased with Conklin's recent play, but also knows the veteran has what it takes to turn it around -- as evidenced by this being his ninth season in the League.

"I thought he was outstanding in (his first game) and since then I don’t think he's been near as good," Babcock said on Friday morning. "Conks would be the first guy to tell you that. He's been in the League a long time and the reason he's been in the League is he scratches and he claws and he battles. When things have gone bad for him, he's taken a deep breath and gotten back (to work). All of us at times during the year that happens to us, but you've got to respond."

Jimmy Howard, the Wings' starter, didn't play in either of the last two games and his wife gave birth to their first child last Sunday -- which caused him to miss the trip to Columbus entirely. Howard will be back in net on Friday night against the visiting San Jose Sharks but Babcock didn't say which goalie would get the nod for Saturday's road game against the Minnesota Wild.

It could be Howard, though, considering the recent time off and his hot start (4-0-0, 1.72 GAA, .933 save percentage) prior to it.

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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 12:38 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Red Wings

This is how the lineups could look when the San Jose Sharks face the Detroit Red Wings tonight at Joe Louis Arena:

SHARKS

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Patrick Marleau
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Benn Ferriero
Brad Winchester - Andrew Murray - Andrew Desjardins

Douglas Murray - Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Jim Vandermeer / Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi is expected to start in goal with Thomas Greiss serving as his backup.

RED WINGS

Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Danny Cleary
Valtteri Filppula - Johan Franzen - Jiri Hudler
Todd Bertuzzi - Darren Helm - Patrick Eaves
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

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

Jimmy Howard is expected to start in goal with Ty Conklin serving as his backup.


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Posted On Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 4:39 PM

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

Hawks to keep close eye on Ducks’ top line

CHICAGO – The Blackhawks know from first-hand experience last season how much the Ducks’ top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry can impact a game – especially if left unchecked for even a couple seconds.

Last season, the Ducks beat the Hawks 2-1 on March 26 at the United Center and Perry scored both of Anaheim’s goals. Getzlaf and Ryan also picked up assists on both markers, as the Ducks’ top line dominated the puck most times they were on the ice.

“You’ve really got to be mindful when they’re out there and really try to limit their time deep in the zone,” said Blackhawks back-up goalie Ray Emery, who started that game for Anaheim and picked up the win. “Those three players are dominant players on their own, and when they play together it’s that much more special. They can kind of find each other with little blind plays and quick spins to the net and they’re always dangerous when they’re out there. More nights than not, if you shut them down you’re going to do pretty well against their team.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville agreed with that assessment, stating that his team can’t even have one lapse when the Ducks’ top trio is on the ice. The Hawks had a number of defensive miscues on Saturday night that led to a 5-4 shootout loss at home to the Colorado Avalanche and will need to be a lot better on against the Ducks on Tuesday.

Quenneville even said he’ll likely use more than just the energy checking line of Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik to defend them.

“That line does a lot of things you don’t see,” Quenneville said. “They can make special plays and they kind of have an understanding of where other guys are and they’re dangerous around the net with quick sticks. There’s got to be an awareness of when they’re on the ice. They play so much it’s a tough responsibility for one line (to defend them), so hopefully a couple of guys will have a chance of seeing them as well.”
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Quote of the Day

I mean, any of those 14 teams (in the lottery) it would have been an absolute honor. If I am selected by Edmonton it will be amazing, a dream come true. They have a lot of amazing young players there.

— Likely No. 1 pick Connor McDavid after the Oilers won the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday