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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 5:24 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Flyers

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the San Jose Sharks face the Philadelphia Flyers at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Ryane Clowe - Joe Thornton - Tommy Wingels
Daniel Winnik - Patrick Marleau - Joe Pavelski
TJ Galiardi - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Jim Vandermeer

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi, who came off the ice first Tuesday morning, is expected to be in goal tonight. He backed up Greiss on Sunday at Minnesota. In two of his three previous starts he was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals. Center Dominic Moore (lower body) took part in the morning skate and appears close to returning, but he'll miss his fourth straight game.

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Maxime Talbot - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Brayden Schenn - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Pavel Kubina - Matt Carle
Andrej Meszaros - Nicklas Grossman

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Bryzgalov, coming off a 5-4 shootout win over Calgary on Saturday, will be in goal again for the Flyers. He's 22-12-6 overall with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No McLellan for Sharks tonight

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan will miss Tuesday's game against Philadelphia (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) because of concussion-like symptoms he's still suffering from after accidentally being hit in the head with a stick during the second period of Sunday's game against Minnesota, the team announced.

As they did for the remainder of that game against the Wild, assistants Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft will share the coaching duties.

"Todd continues to make progress in his recovery from the stick incident in Minnesota on Sunday evening but is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms," Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said in a statement released by the team. "Thus, he will not be behind the bench until cleared by doctors to resume his coaching duties, beginning with tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers. While Todd will continue to provide his input on the team, we have full confidence in the abilities of assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft to lead the team in Todd's absence. Our main concern at this point is for Todd's full and complete recovery."

McLellan was hurt when forward Jamie McGinn -- who was traded Monday to Colorado -- checked Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella into the boards alongside the Sharks' bench. Scandella's stick made contact with McLellan's forehead, knocking the coach down behind the bench.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton said McLellan was knocked out.

"He wasn't moving," Thornton said. "We were yelling to the ref, 'There's a problem here.' It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen, that's for sure."

Thornton said he wasn't surprised at the news that McLellan would miss the game.

"He was hit pretty hard," said Thornton. "We saw him a little bit today. He's gotten better, so that's a good sign. But, yeah, he got hit real hard."

McLellan missed one game last season to attend a funeral of a family member. Shaw, Woodcroft and former Sharks assistant Trent Yawney shared coaching duties in that game, Woodcroft said Tuesday after San Jose's morning skate. Yawney no longer is with the team.

"In that case, Trent Yawney ran our defense and Matt and I ran the forwards like we did last year," Woodcroft said. "And for us, this year going forward, we're going to stick with that precedent. I'm going to run the forwards, which I've worked with during the season, and Matt will continue running the (defense).

Woodcroft said he expects that plan to work smoothly tonight.

"Our staff has been with this group for four years," he said. "There's a lot of trust with our leadership group. We understand where we're at in our season. We expect everybody's best effort. Todd has spoken to our leadership group, so they know it's coming, and there's a real comfort level. They know what to expect, and we're going to expect a strong effort tonight."
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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Reeling Blackhawks lose a pair of defensemen

SAN JOSE -- The Chicago Blackhawks, riding a six-game losing streak and a deep defensive slump, got some more bad news Friday morning.

Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson, two of the Blackhawks' top defensive players, were sent back to Chicago because of upper-body injuries and will miss Friday night's game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.

Montador, who was hurt in the second period Tuesday against Colorado, was placed on injured reserve. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson has been ruled out for Saturday's game at Phoenix.  Hjalmarsson had missed the previous two days of practice with what the Blackhawks said was the flu but, according to multiple reports, could actually be a concussion.

"Things changed," Quenneville said, offering no specifics.

Chicago recalled rookie defenseman Dylan Olsen from Rockford of the American Hockey League. He didn't arrive in time for Friday morning's skate, but he's expected to arrive in time for the game and will be in the lineup Friday night, Quenneville said. So will defenseman Sami Lepisto, who has been a healthy scratch the past 15 and 23 of the past 24 games.

"I think Sami can give us some defensive consistency," Quenneville said. "He's got some offense, as well, to back it up. I want him to play a sound game, kind of like our team game."

Quenneville offered no specific reason why Lepisto has played so seldom.

"When you've got eight 'D' sometimes you've got to make some tough decisions," he said. "Whether it's him or John Scott, they want to play. You've got to commend them for sticking with it and being part of it and being a good teammate when they've been watching other guys get more ice time or games that they'd love to get a part of it. I was telling Sami the other day, be patient, things can change quickly, and here he is."

Olsen, 21, made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks on Jan. 5 and played two games before being sent back down. He had four shots, five hits and one blocked shot in that stint. Chicago drafted him with the 28th pick in the 2009 Entry Draft. In 44 games with the IceHogs, he has 4 goals, 3 assists and 44 penalty minutes.

"I think when he played here prior, the two games he played, I thought he was real solid for us," Quenneville said. "Gave us some size. Had some good presence, played the right side for us, did some good things."

The news was much better for San Jose. Defenseman Dan Boyle, who missed Wednesday night's game and Thursday's practice because of the flu, skated Friday morning and expects to return to the lineup against Chicago.

"I feel better," Boyle said. "Obviously I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel better. Stomach flu kind of went through the whole household. My parents were here, they both had it. Both my daughters and my wife had it. Not sure what it was. Ran its course and hopefully back in there tonight."

With Boyle sidelined, the Sharks suffered a 4-3 loss to Calgary, which came on the heels of a 5-3 loss at Phoenix. The Sharks' No. 1 focus tonight will be to get their defense back on track against a Blackhawks team that beat them 4-3 on Jan. 15 at Chicago.

"We know they're a very dynamic offensive team, so we're going to have to look after our end, and usually when we do that good things happen," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "So take care of our end and we'll probably play in their end quite a bit."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he expects to see "a different look" from his team Friday night than it had against Calgary.

"We didn't have a lot of intensity or energy early in the game," he said. "We expect that to change, and we weren't very good defensively. Too loose, too many freebies, too many turnovers. If we're playing the way I believe we can, we'll fix those areas and we'll still be in for a tight game because they're a group that's trying to fix their own issues, and I'm sure they'll come out with a lot of fire early in the game, and we'll have to match that."

Despite having back-to-back rough games, Antti Niemi will be in goal to face his former team, McLellan said. Niemi, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup two seasons ago, is 4-2-1 against the Blackhawks with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.

"We think he's played well against them in the past," McLellan said of his decision to start Niemi. "He's due for a good game, and we believe in him."

Niemi certainly won't lack motivation when he takes the ice against a team that let him go in a salary cap move shortly after he won a Stanley Cup.

"You get motivated knowing who you're playing against," Niemi said. "Don't have to dig it from deep."

After losing six straight games and allowing 27 goals during that stretch, the Blackhawks should have motivation to spare, too. For the past two days, they've gone back to the basics, trying to get their defensive house in order.

"There's some little things we need to just remind ourselves of that are very important," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "When things are going well you don't have to think about it. You just go out and do it. Maybe the last couple games we've been thinking a little too much out on the ice and that's why we're making mistakes. It's good just to refresh our mind on what we need to do defensively and now we can go out there and play and it will be a little more natural."

Here's how the lineups could look Friday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Chicago Blackhawks at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Benn Ferriero - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - John McCarthy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

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

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Sami Lepisto - Sean O'Donnell
Dylan Olsen - Nick Leddy

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

Crawford will start in goal for Chicago after backing up Ray Emery the previous two games. Crawford lost 1-0 to the Sharks and Niemi on Nov. 23, Chicago’s first game at HP Pavilion this season.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 5:48 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames' Kiprusoff goes for 300th win

SAN JOSE - As a team fighting for its playoff life, the Calgary Flames will have plenty of motivation Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks. But the Flames should have an extra boost with goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff going for his 300th career victory -- against his former team.

The Sharks took Kiprusoff with the 116th pick in the 1995 NHL Draft. But with an overload of talent in goal, they traded him to Calgary in November 2003 for a 2005 second-rounder they used to draft defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

"It would be huge," said Calgary defenseman Scott Hannan, a former Shark. "He's a great goalie. Everybody knows what he's done for the franchise and how special a player this year he's been for us. He's been huge in every game that we've needed him to be in. He gives us a chance every night, which is more than you can ask of a goalie. To get him a win here would be great."

Kiprusoff has a career record of 299-194-62 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. This year he's 23-17-4 with a 2.29 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

"He's a hell of a goaltender," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team's optional skate Wednesday morning at HP Pavilion. "Fans, not only in San Jose early in his career, but obviously in Calgary for most of it, appreciate his talent and what he brings to the rink every night. I think it's probably fair to say when their players walk into the locker room in Calgary and see his number or name circled, they get a pretty good feeling. And that's a true sign of a goaltender that can carry a team, and he's been that for many years there."

Kiprusoff is 13-12-3 against the Sharks overall, but he's 0-1-1 this season despite playing well both games. The Sharks beat Kiprusoff and the Flames 2-1 in a shootout at HP Pavilion then 1-0 at Calgary.

San Jose's Antti Niemi, a fellow Finn, got both wins, improving to 8-1-0 lifetime against Calgary. Niemi said facing a countryman always gives him an extra dose of motivation.

"Playing Finnish guys, just the veteran goalies who have been in the League for a long time who you remember from a long, long time ago," Niemi said. "So of course you get a little extra energy playing against those guys.''

Based on the past two games, goals should be at a premium Wednesday night. What's more, the Flames have allowed a total of 12 goals over their past seven games as they've turned up the defensive pressure.

"We're certainly playing better defensively that we were earlier," coach Brent Sutter said. "I think it's just more consistent now. It's a commitment that you have to have from every individual inside your dressing room. I understand that guys in the room, or any dressing room, are goal scorers, but when you get into the final third of the season everybody's got to be committed to doing it the right way, back checking like they can and making sure they're doing it the right way in their own zone. You want to have the puck. You've got to be able to play with the puck to win games, and you've got to be able to get it back from your opposition. The only way that happens is by playing a good team game."

Flames forward Blair Jones said the improved defense is "just kind of in direct relation to where we are in the standings and the time" in the season. "It's time to tighten up and start playing good hockey every game. There's no excuses for the next 28, 29 games we have left. It's got to be the same way every night. Just try to pay attention to details and bring a good defensive effort every game."

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe expects another hard-fought, low-scoring game.

"I think if we can get three goals, we've got a good chance. I think we can hold them under three goals," Clowe said. "Lately all their games have been pretty low scoring -- 2-1, 2-0, that sort of game. So if we can put three on the board, I like our chances."

With 55 points, the Flames are in 12th place in the Western Conference standings, but they're just three points behind Minnesota and Phoenix, who are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. Just as a reminder of how tight the race is and how important each game is, the conference standings were posted in Flames' dressing room at HP on a grease board.

"It's a learning curve from the start of the season until now," Hannan said. "At times in games when we've lost it's been that little mental break. That's just something to reaffirm in our minds how important every shift is, how important every play is in the game. You never know what's going to break the other team or in essence break you in that game. I think that's just a reminder of how important that is."

The Flames won't have defenseman Derek Smith against San Jose - he's still recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered Dec. 29 against the Islanders - but Calgary locked him up for the next two seasons Wednesday with a new deal worth $1.5 million.

Smith initially signed this season with the Flames as a free agent after playing nine games with Ottawa and 71 games with Binghamton of the AHL last season.

"He's a 27-year-old player that came to training camp wanting an opportunity, and he earned that throughout camp," Sutter said. "He came in and did everything we wanted from him. He just has grown. You look at it, when he got hurt he was arguably our best defenseman at that point in time. We've missed him, but it's good both from an organizational standpoint and his standpoint that they can get something worked out. It's a commitment made by both sides and it's great to see that Smitty can be a Calgary Flame for the next two years and not worry about losing him because he is an important part of our defense."

Smith, who did not travel with the team on its road trip, has two goals and eight assists in 32 games this season.

"Derek came to training camp this year on a two-way contract and played his way into our starting lineup," GM Jay Feaster said in a statement. "When Mark Giordano went down with his hamstring injury, Smitty stepped up and shouldered an increased workload and did so in excellent fashion."

Here's how the lineups could look Wednesday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Calgary Flames at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Benn Ferriero - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe

Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - John McCarthy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Brent Burns

Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

FLAMES

Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla

Michael Cammalleri - Blair Jones - Blake Comeau

Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Krys Kolanos

Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester - Chris Butler

Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan

T.J. Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff

Leland Irving

Joe Pavelski will play his 400th NHL game Wednesday night, all as a Shark. McLellan hinted that he was going to shuffle his lines. Andrew Desjardins will likely move from first-line winger to fourth-line center, where he's spent most of the season. Benn Ferriero will likely return to the top line. One day after announcing his retirement, Owen Nolan will drop the puck during a pre-game ceremony. Nolan played for both San Jose and Calgary during his 18 NHL seasons.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Clowe returns for Sharks, but Niemi injured

SAN JOSE -- Sharks forward Ryane Clowe was activated from injured reserve and will return to the lineup Thursday night against Dallas, but San Jose will be without No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi, who suffered a lower-body injury Wednesday during practice.

Backup goalie Thomas Greiss will start against the Stars. Tyson Sexsmith was recalled from Worcester of the AHL to serve as Greiss’ backup Thursday night, and veteran Antero Niittymaki, who cleared waivers, was assigned to Worcester. In another roster move, defenseman Jason Demers (lower body) was placed on injured reserve.

Niemi was injured when he was hit by a puck. A smiling Niemi called it a “mid-body” injury and said he’ll be back on the ice for practice Friday and will ready to play Saturday at Phoenix.

“It should be fine,” Niemi said.

Clowe missed the past six games because of a facial fracture he suffered Jan. 10 at Minnesota. He played three games after that – the first two while wearing a protective cage – before going on injured reserve. He wore a protective visor during Thursday morning’s optional skate at HP Pavilion, and he’ll wear one tonight in a game for the first time since his junior hockey days.

“I think it’s probably smart for another little bit to keep it on,” Clowe said. “I don’t want anything to happen, get smacked there again. It was weird, really weird. That was the first time I’ve worn a visor in a while, but it was a little better than a cage.”

“I was advised it was the right thing to do. I think it’s something where I know that if I wear it for a little bit I can take it off eventually here pretty soon hopefully.”

Clowe is known for his rugged, aggressive style of play, as well as his willingness to drop the gloves. Will he have to be more cautious in light of his injury?

“Obviously the fighting part will be not there, I guess. Who knows?” Clowe said. “I’m not going to say it’s not going to be there because you see what happened to (defenseman Colin White) last game. I don’t’ think it will change my style. I can’t be cautious. I wouldn’t play if I felt I had to be timid out there. I’ll be my normal self, I think.”

White rarely fights because an eye injury he suffered in 2007, but he fought during the third period against Columbus on Tuesday night after taking a shoulder to the head.

Clowe seemed more concerned about adjusting to the visor and to live-game action after a long layoff than about his injury.

“I think the first period will be a bit of a battle tonight,” Clowe said. “I’m sure I’ll be sucking wind. I’m sure I’ll have spit and snot and everything else in my visor that I’ll be trying to battle through. That’s what I’ve got to get used to, and then the legs come after that. I’ve got to be able to see first.”

Niemi has had back-to-back shutouts, beating Calgary and Columbus, but Greiss has been on a hot streak, too. He allowed just one goal in each of his past three starts, beating Columbus twice and losing to Edmonton in a shootout.

“He’s kept teams to one goal and he’s come in and played very well,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “There isn’t any added pressure on him, by any means. He just comes in and plays his game, and that’s what we want to see.”

Greiss will face a Dallas team that is coming off a 6-2 win Wednesday night at Anaheim but had scored a total of seven goals in its previous six games.

“They have a couple of really good shooters,” Greiss said. “(Mike) Ribeiro is really crafty. You have to be ready for him, especially on the power play. He can throw a couple moves at you.

“Their whole team likes to try to go to the net. A couple of … disturbers, too. It should be a fun game.”

Sexsmith, a third-round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, struggled last year at Worcester when he played despite having a hernia, but he made the AHL All-Star team this year. He has a 2.15 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage for Worcester.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Sexsmith said. “I’ve been in San Jose for a few years now, just waiting for my chance – having a good year down in Worcester. I finally got a chance to come up here and see what it’s like.”

After playing Wednesday night at Anaheim, the Stars held an optional morning skate with just three players on the ice – forward Toby Petersen, defensemen Nicklas Grossman and Adam Pardy and goaltender Richard Bachman. Grossman missed the Anaheim game because of the flu, but he’ll likely return to the lineup Thursday night.

Bachman will start for Dallas in place of Kari Lehtonen, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said Wednesday night after his team’s win over Anaheim. Bachman is 6-2-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. In the Sharks’ 5-2 victory against Dallas on Dec. 8, Bachman saw his first action of the season for the Stars in relief of Andrew Raycroft and stopped all 11 shots he faced. After that, he played well enough to earn the backup job.

“As a young goaltender, he came in and took a veteran’s job,” McLellan said. “When you do that, you’re doing something well. They ran him for a while and got a number of wins from him, so he feels good about being in the league. After that, the rest will be up to us to try to get to him and get to some second chances in and around the net. But based on the pre-scout, he’s played pretty well for them.”
Here’s how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Jim Vandermeer

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Thomas Greiss
Tyson Sexsmith

STARS
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Alex Goligoski - Philip Larsen
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley

Richard Bachman
Kari Lehtonen
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:16 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Mason gets call for Columbus

SAN JOSE -- Columbus goaltender Curtis Sanford has allowed just four total goals in two games against San Jose this season - both 2-1 losses - but Steve Mason will be in goal Tuesday night when the Blue Jackets face the Sharks at HP Pavilion.

On their last California road trip earlier in January, Sanford suffered a one-goal loss to the Sharks then beat the Los Angeles Kings 1-0. The Blue Jackets will face the Kings again in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

"We're playing back-to-back games," Columbus interim coach Todd Richards said of his decision to start Mason. "Sanford played both games, here in San Jose and also in L.A. He played well in both buildings, but we're playing back-to-back. Steve's played well in his last two starts. (Sanford) played the last game in Tampa. It seems logical to us that he'll play tonight and Sanford will play tomorrow in L.A."

Mason will play in his 200th career game Tuesday night. He has an 82-85-25 career mark with a 2.85 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. This season he is 5-18-2 with a 3.42 goals against average and a .882 save percentage.

It's been that type of season for the Blue Jackets, who are last in the NHL with just 32 points. While the Sharks and most NHL teams begin their playoff pushes, Columbus has to set for smaller goals.

"I talked to the guys about the goal I have for this road trip, and hopefully they have the same type of goals and what they want to accomplish as a group because I can have one thing and want one thing and it might not mean the same to them," Richards said. "So hopefully we're kind of on the same road as far as what we want, but it's getting those small goals and what's realistic, what we can achieve.

"Trying to create a fun atmosphere again, too. We've been beaten up so much this year. A lot of it is self-inflicted, with the beating up that we've done, but it's trying to create a positive environment again where we can enjoy being around each other, enjoy being at the rink and enjoy doing what we're doing."

Richards declined to reveal his specific goals for his team's three-game California swing against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks.

"It has nothing to do with points," he said. "It has nothing to do with wins, losses or ties. It's just something that as a coach, as a coaching staff that we just want to see from our team"

Opening on the road against San Jose is a tough assignment for the Blue Jackets in their first game after the All-Star Game break, but they've played the Sharks tough twice in one-goal losses, at HP Pavilion and at home.

"They've obviously got a lot of skill and a lot of talent on their team, but for many years they've been a hard-working team, too," captain Rick Nash said. "I think that's the way we have success is by outworking them. They've got a lot of weapons over there. They're a pretty dangerous team. Good goal tending. We've got to make sure we outwork them."

Getting off to a good start after the long break will be important for both teams.

"I think the biggest thing is getting our timing back right away," Nash said. "You sometimes lose that after one day off. So four or five days off, we're going to have to get our legs back and our timing."

San Jose forward Patrick Marleau said the key tonight for the Sharks will be to "keep it simple" in their first post-break game.

"Get your legs, your body, your mind into it early. Attention to detail is going to be important," Marleau said.

"You've got to be sharp from the get-go," Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray said. "The big thing is to get your confidence back and your skating and your puckhandling and your passing, just try to be as sharp as possible from the beginning."

Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter hasn't played since suffering a separated shoulder on Jan. 8, but he was on the ice for the morning skate at HP Pavilion. Although Carter won't play tonight, Richards sounded positive about his chances of returning to action soon.

"He's getting close," Richards said. "I don't know if that means tomorrow night or our game in Anaheim."

Center Andrew Joudrey, called up Monday from Springfield of the AHL, isn't expected to play Tuesday night, but he might make his NHL debut during the road trip.

"When you talk to the coaches down there and talk to the guys who have seen him play in management, they say he has been playing extremely well, and he's earned the opportunity to get up here and the opportunity, if it does present itself, to play," Richards said.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 4:36 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Still no Clowe for Sharks, but return could be soon

SAN JOSE -- Sharks forward Ryane Clowe skated for the second straight day Tuesday morning, but he'll miss his sixth straight game tonight when San Jose faces Columbus at HP Pavilion as he continues to recover from a facial fracture.

Clowe was hurt Jan. 10 at Minnesota when he went face-first into the glass. He played the next three games -- the first two while wearing a protective cage -- but not since then, and remains on injured reserve.

"I feel good," Clowe said after practice. "Obviously back on the ice yesterday and today, doing everything pretty normal and feeling good. I think I'll be back this week."

Clowe said he wants to make sure his fracture has healed to the point where it can withstand a blow when he returns.

"I guess the biggest worry is just getting hit there again," Clowe said. "I don't want to keep wearing a cage when I come back. I want to make sure if I do get hit there, if something happened and I get in a fight and get punched there, I'm not out another few weeks. The time's up to where it should be healed now."

Clowe said he never took a baseline concussion test after being injured in Minnesota because he never felt any concussion symptoms.

"My nose was bleeding, but I didn't feel anything like that," Clowe said. "As far as my head and all that, I felt good. No issues with that. We flew after the game, and I was fine."

After facing Columbus, the Sharks next game is Thursday at home against Dallas. Although Clowe said he hopes he's good to go against the Stars, there's no guarantee at this point.

"If he was completely comfortable and good we'd play him tonight," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He's that important to our team. The sooner the better, but the other thing we have to consider is not only the injury but the fact he hasn't skated in a while. We want to make sure that when he does go in he's ready to play and play the way he can."

The Sharks are also missing top-six forward Martin Havlat, who will miss his 18th straight game Tuesday night. Havlat is recovering from surgery to repair a partially torn hamstring tendon, but McLellan said he’s making good progress.

"When I came back from the All-Star break and walked in and he met me in the hallway, he looked really good," McLellan said. "That was the best I've seen him look. No crutches, no limp, walking very good. I think from this point forward it's about getting it strengthened up and conditioning now. I can't pinpoint a day for you, but the sooner the better."

McLellan said he doesn't even know when Havlat will return to the ice and resume practicing.

"I don't know what the training staff is thinking," he said. "I just know that he looked real good and he was bright again, he was smiling, and that's a big step in the right direction."

With Havlat and Clowe out, the Sharks recalled forward John McCarthy from Worcester of the AHL, and he will likely center the fourth line against Columbus.

Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray, meanwhile, will reach a milestone tonight when he plays in his 400th career game, all with San Jose.

"I love playing here," Murray said. "I don’t know if there's 29 other teams that don't want me or if I'm doing something right."

Murray, 31, is in his seventh season with the Sharks.

"I've got to be on some sort of record for how long it took me to get to 400," said a joking Murray.

Here's how the lineups could look tonight:

SHARKS
Andrew Desjardins - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - John McCarthy - Andrew Murray/Jim Vandermeer

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

BLUE JACKETS
Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Ryan Johansen
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Brett Lebda
John Moore - Marc Methot/David Savard
Aaron Johnson - Grant Clitsome

Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

Mason will get the start in goal for Columbus, interim coach Todd Richards said. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, first off the ice after Tuesday morning's skate, is expected to start for San Jose. Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot missed the morning skate because of an illness and is questionable for the game. David Savard would likely take Methot’s place if he can't play. San Jose defenseman Jason Demers will miss the game with a lower-body injury, but defenseman Brent Burns will return to the lineup after missing one game because of a knee-to-knee collision Jan. 23 at Edmonton.  Sharks defenseman Jim Vandermeer skated with the forwards Tuesday morning, but McLellan said he didn't know whether he'd be in the lineup. Vandermeer saw action at forward in the Sharks' last game before the All-Star Game break against Calgary.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 6:16 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wingels will stay on Sharks' top line vs. Ottawa

SAN JOSE -- Midway through the San Jose Sharks' 2-1 shootout win over Calgary on Tuesday night, rookie forward Tommy Wingels jumped from the third line to the first, joining Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

That's where it looks like Wingels will be skating Thursday night when the Sharks face Ottawa at HP Pavilion.

"You prepare for moments like this," Wingels said after the morning skate. "When you think about playing up, this ultimately is the spot you want. You're always dreaming about playing with guys like that in this situation. I don't' think there's too much pressure. I'll just stick to my game. You can't change the way you play. I'm sure they'll do the same thing."

Thornton said Wingels "seemed to be calm" Tuesday night, and he expects him to remain that way in what could be seen as a pressure-filled assignment for a rookie.

"He's a pretty calm guy in general," Thornton said. "It didn't really faze him. Hopefully we get some chemistry and get it going."

"Chemistry isn't made overnight, but they're great players, and I'm just going to try to help them continue being great players," Wingels said.

Fourth-line center Andrew Desjardins will return to the lineup after missing two games with a head injury. He took a shoulder-to-head hit Saturday against Columbus from Dane Byers, who was suspended three games by the League.

Desjardins passed his baseline concussion test and was cleared on Wednesday to play.

"We expect him to be ready to go," coach Todd McLellan said.

The Sharks have been carrying three goaltenders since Dec. 23 when Antero Niittymaki was recalled from a conditioning stint with Worcester, joining Antti Niemi and backup Thomas Greiss.

Niittymaki hasn't played in or even dressed for a game this season with the Sharks since his recall. On Thursday, he headed back to Worcester for another conditioning assignment. He's expected to play two games for Worcester over the weekend, general manager Doug Wilson said.

Niittymaki's trip to Worcester coincides with the start of top goalie prospect Alex Stalock's stint at Stockton of the ECHL. Stalock suffered a season-ending injury during a game for Worcester last Feb. 4. He had a nerve behind his left knee severed when he was accidently stepped on by an opponent. He's expected to play his first game since that injury on Saturday.

Thursday night's game will be a reunion of sorts for McLellan and Ottawa Senators first-year coach Paul MacLean, who spent three seasons together as Detroit Red Wings assistants under Mike Babcock. They'll face each other for the first time as coaches in the NHL.

The Senators went 32-40-10 last season under Cory Clouston, who was let go and replaced by MacLean. This season, they're 26-16-6 and have gone 8-1-1 in their past 10 games.

"I think that Paul MacLean has done a tremendous job," McLellan said. "He's done such a good job instilling his system and getting the players to believe in it. I think when you watch them and do the pre-scout, it's pretty evident.

"Obviously spending time with him and Mike, I have a good idea of how they want to play, and you can see it. And I think that's a sign of a coach doing a tremendous job. … It looks like they're having fun playing the game. It looks like they have an identity. They're a very dynamic offensive team when they're on the entries. Their defense is up in the rush, very much like a Red Wing team."

And very much like a Sharks team, too, for that matter.

"I think there's similarities," MacLean said. "You don't work together with people and have success and not share ideas and have an idea of how to play, so there's really a lot of similarities among the three teams, I would say. But each person also brings their own little tweak, a thing that they might think is a little bit more important, but also the rest of the league mimics whatever's successful, so there's an awful lot of similarity throughout the league, too."

McLellan said he's probably "further into the evolution" away from his Red Wings days than MacLean because this is his fourth season at San Jose.

"You bring a lot of the principles with you, but if you're not changing and you're not evolving with your players and the tools you have, you're going to be left behind," McLellan said. "The game has changed a lot in our four years here."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 5:51 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Borowiecki set for NHL debut with Senators

SAN JOSE -- Two days after being called up from Binghamton of the AHL, Ottawa rookie defenseman Mark Borowiecki will make his NHL debut Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks.

Borowiecki got the news Thursday morning before the Senators skated at HP Pavilion.

"The first few strides around the rink I was a little wobbly, but I'm feeling good now," said Borowiecki, the first Ottawa native ever drafted by the Senators. "I'm definitely very excited. It's something you work all your life to get to. It's just nice to get a chance now."

Borowiecki said his father, Tom, mother, Cynthia, and sister, Diana, are flying to San Jose for the game and then will travel to Los Angeles, where the Senators play the Kings on Saturday. His father made the plans before Borowiecki learned that he would be in the lineup against San Jose.

"They made a little holiday of it. So it worked out well, eh?" said Borowiecki, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.

When he was recalled, Borowiecki had 15 points for Binghamton - three goals and 12 assists - tops among defensemen, and led the team with a plus-3 rating. He'll take Matt Carkner's spot in the lineup against San Jose.

"We thought he had a real good season last year when Binghamton won the Calder Cup," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "He was a big part of it. He's had a good training camp with us and exhibition season. He's played real well for them down there. We really want to see him play here in the National Hockey League and give him that opportunity, and we're pretty excited to see him play."

While Borowiecki makes his NHL debut, veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar will play in his 1,100th NHL game Thursday night.

"It's actually amazing," Gonchar said after the morning skate. "I never thought I'd play in the NHL when I was growing up. Back then in Russia, not that many players played in the NHL. The biggest dream to accomplish was to play for the local team. … Then I was drafted, and I started playing in the NHL, and I never dreamed I'd play that long. Playing 1,100 games is something special. Not that many players have done it and especially not that many Russians have done it. It's a good accomplishment for me."

Gonchar, 37, is playing in his 17th NHL season, a fact that also amazes him.

"The thing is the time is flying by," he said. "It seems like I just started playing in the NHL a little while ago - then it's 1,100. Time is flying by, season after season."

Gonchar, who has 24 points this season in 41 games, said he's not sure how many more years he'll play.

"I'm still enjoying the game and I'm having fun," he said. "If I'm going to still have that feeling, I'm going to continue playing."

Thursday night's game will be a homecoming for Senators forward Milan Michalek. The Sharks drafted him with the No. 6 pick in 2003, and he played 317 games for San Jose before being traded to Ottawa on Sept. 12, 2009, as part of the Dany Heatley deal.

"I had some good years here, and I started my career here," Michalek said. "I'm excited to play here. The fans are great here every time. It's going to be a lot of fun tonight."

This will be Michalek's second game at the Shark Tank as a Senator. On Dec. 1, 2009, he had a pair of assists in a 5-2 loss to the Sharks in San Jose. This time he's returning as an NHL All-Star. He has 23 goals, three off his career single-season high set in 2006-07 with San Jose, a team he first played for when he was still a teenager.

"It flies by," Michalek, now 27, said of the time. "I was 18, and I really couldn't speak English. It was tough times, but it was also fun, too, those years. I have great memories."

Michalek said he was "surprised" when the Sharks traded him to Ottawa.

"I didn't see it at all coming. I wasn't disappointed or anything. It's the NHL and trades can happen at any time, and it happens to everybody almost," he said. "So I just took it as another opportunity and wanted to play."

Now, Michalek said, he's happy that's he's rewarding the Senators for their faith in him.

"Yeah, I feel good. They wanted me. It was good for me and I was confident coming there."

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Ottawa Senators at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Tommy Wingels - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero

Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Brent Burns

Jason Demers - Justin Braun


Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

SENATORS

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek

Erik Condra - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson

Nick Foligno - Zack Smith - Chris Neal

Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Bobby Butler

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson

Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar

Chris Phillips - Mark Borowiecki

Craig Anderson

Alex Auld

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:08 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Flames-Sharks

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Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players