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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 3:34 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Brown, Kopitar key in Kings home improvement

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the mandates coach Darryl Sutter brought with him when he took over as coach of the Los Angeles Kings was to improve the club's home record, and he's largely done so with an 11-4-3 record at Staples Center.

What was the key?

"Get an identity," Sutter said. "Top teams have strong identities at home. In the big picture, if you're just over .500 on the road, you're a good team. But at home you better be a 70- to 80-percent deal."

A difference maker is the improved play of the top line, notably Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. Brown has 15 points in his past 11 games and Kopitar has 11 points in his past 10 games.

"You have leaders now," Sutter said. "Every day, every game. They're not just offensive princesses. They have to be 200-foot leaders … (in) practice, off ice, on ice. They have to do that for our team to be productive. That's a responsibility they want and a responsibility they need."
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 3:29 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings' Sutter expecting angry Sharks

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter took in some interesting television viewing Monday night.

He watched his favorite movie, "The Shawshank Redemption," for about the 18th time. But of course he tuned into to see the San Jose Sharks blow a golden opportunity to move to third in the Western Conference when they lost to the Anaheim Ducks at home.

Sutter and his players expect a motivated Sharks squad at Staples Center on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in another big Pacific Division matchup.

"We should all be motivated," Sutter said. He then said of San Jose, "They're used to being a dominant home-ice team. I'm sure with their start last night that's how they were going to be. They were getting lots of chances early, then they probably loosed up a little."

Tuesday marks the first of three games between San Jose and Los Angeles over the final 10. The teams play a home-and-home series to end the regular season.

If San Jose is at its grumpiest Tuesday, the Kings won't be surprised.

"I wouldn't expect anything less," Jeff Carter said. "Obviously you look at the standings and it's a pretty big game for both of us. We don't expect anything short of their best effort, so we've got to be ready."

At the beginning of the season most observers pegged the Kings and Sharks to be in the top eight at this point of the season. While both are on the outside looking in going into Tuesday's game, the winner would climb back into the top eight in the West.

"For whatever reason, teams have their ups and downs," Carter said. "It's how you kind of respond to it. I think our team has been playing some good hockey and putting some wins together and given ourselves a pretty good shot here."
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 3:28 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Quick back at work

El SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Jonathan Quick is expected to return in goal for the Kings on Tuesday after he was given a rare night off Saturday. Quick will have four days of rest between starts.

How much will it pay off?

"We'll find out in the next few hours," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter.

Fatigue was a concern with Quick under former coach Terry Murray, who started Quick 72 games in 2009-10. Quick will make his 61st start tonight.

Sutter, who rode Miikka Kiprusoff in Calgary, said the rest period was planned.

"It was the best time to do it," he said.

Here is what the rest of the Kings' lineup could look like:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick will be in goal, with Jonathan Bernier the backup.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 4:54 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Kings, Predators

Here are the projected lineups for the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators for their game Saturday night at Staples Center:

KINGS


Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

PREDATORS

Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Colin Wilson - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Brandon Yip - Craig Smith - Matt Halischuk

Shea Weber - Ryan Suter
Jack Hillen - Hal Gill
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Paul Gaustad (upper body) is expected to sit out and Kevin Klein (upper body) is a game-time decision.
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 3:26 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Palmieri could slot in for Perry on first line again

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Corey Perry is moving closer to a return, but signs indicate that the reigning Hart Trophy winner might miss another game.

Perry took part in all of Anaheim's morning skate, but was last in line during the drills and appeared to be slightly holding back. Perry is recovering from a sore shoulder from a hit by Stephane Robidas of Dallas. He said he is a game-time decision against rival Los Angeles.

Friday is the first of three games in four nights for Anaheim, and it would be reasonable for the club to be cautious in bringing Perry back.

"It's a tough decision," Perry said. "You don't like sitting out, but you also don't know how it's going to feel taking a check, and the possibility of playing three in four -- it's a lot of hockey and a lot of banging. It's playoff hockey and it's going to be tough out there, but we'll see how it is."

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau sounded cautious with Perry and Luca Sbisa, who is recovering from back spasms.

"They're starting to skate and practice," Boudreau said. "But it looks sooner than later. It's not another week, as far I know. It looks like before the San Jose game (on Monday) they'll play."

That the Ducks are facing slim odds at a postseason berth provides justification for more rest. Also, Kyle Palmieri scored two goals in place of Perry on Wednesday.

"It's really a double-edged sword," Boudreau said of Palmieri, who led the AHL with 32 goals at the time of his recall.

"We'd love to see him here to take a good look at him. At the same time, he's fighting with a team all year that's two points out of a playoff race there and he's arguably their best player. He's the best scorer in that league. You've got to weigh one versus the other.

"You've got to think about Anaheim first, but at the same time, do we know him well enough to know where we slot him in next year? If he keeps doing what he did the last game, he's not going nowhere."

This is unusual territory for Perry, whose streak of 272 consecutive games played ended Monday.

"It's tough," he said. "It's been a long time since I've missed a game -- especially in the dogfight we're in trying to catch up and try to make a push for the playoffs in the last 11 games. It's definitely not fun watching, riding the bike and watching it on TV. It isn't what you really enjoy doing."

Sbisa said he's progressing but also said he's a game-time decision.

"I don't want to say I'll be in 100 percent," Sbisa said. "If you want to play, you got to be 100 percent. You can’t make a selfish decision and just go out there for two or three shifts and realize it's not good enough for a game, right? But it still felt pretty good."

Perry on Stamkos: Perry, the NHL's only 50-goal scorer last season, wasn't the least surprised that Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay already reached the mark.

"Not the way he scores goals," Perry said. "He puts the puck in the net with the best of him. He's got a (great) shot. He's got skill and he's got speed, so he uses all of those to his advantage. Fifty is tough and 60 would be a tremendous feat. There's not too many guys that can do that."

Boudreau on Sutter:
Boudreau played with Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter on the 1978-79 New Brunswick Hawks of the AHL and briefly with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1980s.

"He had a great wrist shot for his time," Boudreau said. "He was a skinny young guy and he actually played in Japan and nobody knew him other than the fact his last name was Sutter, but at that time only Brian was playing.

"He took no crap from anybody. He wasn't a fighter, but at the same time, stood up for himself all the time. To me, he was a great teammate. He'd do anything he had to do for the team to win, and that's how he continued doing what's he doing as a coach."
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 3:20 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Workhorse Hiller set for 31st consecutive start

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jonas Hiller is expected make his 31st consecutive start tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Los Angeles Kings, which would match Buffalo’s Ryan Miller for the second-longest streak in the past two seasons.  Antti Niemi of San Jose started 34 straight from Jan.15, 2011 to April 4, 2011.

Hiller has played and started in 65 of Anaheim's 71 games. He is on track to break Guy Hebert's franchise record for most games played (69) and most starts (68).

Jonathan Quick is expected to start for Los Angeles. Quick is 2-3-1 with a 3.47 goals-against average in his past six road games and is 4-4 in nine career appearances in Anaheim.

Here's how the lineups project:

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

DUCKS
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Nick Bonino - Matt Beleskey
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - Devante Smith-Pelly

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Lubomir Visnovsky - Nate Guenin
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 4:48 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Datsyuk improving, could return Saturday

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk continued to skate and strengthen his surgically repaired knee on Wednesday and said it felt "outstanding."  He could return Saturday when the Wings play the San Jose Sharks.

"Two more days," he said. "We'll see … every day (it's) better, better. But it's hard to say."

While Datsyuk improves, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will miss an eighth straight game because of a bone bruise in his ankle. It is the most consecutive games Lidstrom has missed during a 20-year career.

"It's quite an amazing accomplishment,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "I worry more about the fact that (Detroit) lost last night. Good teams very rarely put two bad games together in a row, and they're a really good team, so I expect them to be a lot better with or without him."
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 4:38 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bertuzzi back in lineup for Red Wings

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Detroit Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi confirmed he will return after a four-game absence from a groin injury.

"I feel like it's pretty strong right now," Bertuzzi said. "I just have to get my timing back and all that. But as far as the groin, it feels a lot better than what it was."

As a spectator, Bertuzzi said at least one aspect of the team's has stood out when he's watched his teammates.

"We haven't put the puck in enough and we've made some uncharacteristic mistakes and it has cost us goals," he said. "I think back to basics -- taking care of our zone first and when we get some chances, bury them."

Here's the rest of the lineup the Red Wings likely will use tonight:

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Johan Franzen
Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary - Todd Bertuzzi
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton - Jan Mursak

Brad Stuart - Niklas Kronwall
Ian White - Kyle Quincey
Brendan Smith - Doug Janik

Joey MacDonald will start in goal, with Jimmy Howard the backup.
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 4:34 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Perry, Sbisa game-time decisions

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Corey Perry and Luca Sbisa will be game-time decisions for the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday when they host the Detroit Red Wings.

Sbisa suffered back spasms before Monday's game and had to sit out, the first game this season he's missed. He took part in a very optional morning skate for the Ducks and appears to be closer to returning for Wednesday's game.

Perry left the ice early and might miss a second straight game with a sore shoulder, the result of a hit by Stephane Robidas of Dallas last Saturday. His streak of 272 consecutive games played ended Monday.

"They're both being worked on," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's a proverbial game-time decision."

Boudreau said Nick Bonino is ready to play after he suffered a lower-body injury. Ryan O'Marra was re-assigned to Syracuse.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 4:04 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wings get Howard back, but Lidstrom still ailing

LOS ANGELES -- The Detroit Red Wings will get one of their walking wounded back in the lineup on Tuesday night.

Goalie Jimmy Howard is expected to return in net when Detroit plays at Los Angeles.

Howard has missed three games with a groin injury suffered on March 4. Joey MacDonald went 1-2 in his absence, including a 4-3 win against Los Angeles last Friday.

"Joe has been great when he's been in the net, but of course we want Howie back," Johan Franzen said.

Todd Bertuzzi has a sore groin and is expected to return Wednesday at Anaheim. Pavel Datsyuk also skated Tuesday but remains day-to-day in his recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery on Feb.21.

"We're going to see Pavel on this trip," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "When he's ready, he'll let us know."

Lidstrom update: Nicklas Lidstrom reported little progress in his recovery from a bone bruise in his ankle, and Babcock said he probably won't play on this road trip.

Lidstrom skated on his own again, but is able to only do laps with no abrupt starts and stops.

"I still have pain in the ankle, so it's not good stopping or turning or doing any quick starts and stops," Lidstrom said. "I just want to be out there and kind of get a feel of getting the groins going and kind of doing some laps and being on the ice again."

Lidstrom couldn't put a timetable on a possible return.

"I didn't think it was going to take this long," he said. "It's been somewhat frustrating I haven't been able to come back earlier, but the trainers want me to make sure I don't re-aggravate it again and be out for another couple of weeks."

Remarkably, Lidstrom has never missed this many consecutive games (seven) in his 20-year career, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"(The accomplishment) feels good but it's still frustrating when you're not able to play," he said. "After a while you get sick and tired of sitting around and watching the guys play. You want to be part of it. You want to be on the ice and be part of the team again."

Line shakeup?: Babcock appeared to mix up his second and third lines in the morning skate.

Franzen centered Gustav Nyquist and Danny Cleary on the second line, while Darren Helm centered Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader on the third line.

"I did it in the pre-game skate today, so we'll see what happens," Babcock said. "Basically I'm trying to get Helmer in a spot where he can do what he normally does. I want energy. I think him, Abby and Millsy might be able to give me that. I haven't decided 100 percent for sure. Game-time decision."

The Franzen line offers size, but Babcock said they have to change their approach against L.A.

"To me, we've been a bit of a rush team and not much a grind team," Babcock said. "L.A., the last time we played them, got the game on the walls and ground us. That's why we weren't on the inside and we weren't at their net enough to play in their zone. It's got to be different here today. We can't expect to be successful doing that."

Franzen has played pivot in his career but hasn’t done it much this season.

"That's where I feel most comfortable -- at the center position," Franzen said. "But I might be a little rusty. It's been a while since I've played center, but hopefully after a few shifts I'm back into it."

Power-play issues:
Detroit is 0-for-20 on the power play over the past five games and 3-for-41 in its last 11 games.

Babcock said the Wings have to take a "real simplified approach, much like we would do at training camp. Normally you do it four or five times a year. But this is an ongoing thing for us. I think it's in our head more than anything. The way to get out of it is to simplify and shoot the puck, and we'll get one and get on a roll."
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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic