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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Friday, 02.24.2012 / 10:34 AM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Trades, injuries have depleted Tampa's scoring lines

WINNIPEG -- Guy Boucher managed to survive a game-day without any dents to his roster.

Prior to the Tampa Bay Lightning's 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, Boucher's club had seen three players traded on the day of their previous three games over a five-day span. Dominic Moore, Pavel Kubina and Steve Downie all departed in separate trades, and none of the trio yielded a roster player in return.

For a club that began the night only five points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference and owning games in-hand, the losses hurt in the short-term. Those moves, coupled with captain Vincent Lecavalier's upper-body injury that will sideline him into March and Marc-Andre Bergeron's ongoing injury woes, left the Lightning roster thin for their crucial meeting with the Jets. Tampa Bay's second line of Ryan Malone, Nate Thompson and Adam Hall had combined for just 18 goals this season prior to facing the Jets.

The personnel losses left the scoring burden squarely on the shoulders on the Martin St. Louis-Steven Stamkos-Teddy Purcell first line, allowing Winnipeg to key on that trio throughout the contest until they finally broke loose late in the third period when the Jets already owned a 4-0 lead.

"Well, obviously, depth is huge in this League," Boucher said. "If [Lecavalier is] here tonight, we would certainly have two lines of guys who can score goals."

Adjusting to the changes has been a challenge, Boucher acknowledged.

"It's been tough for some of the players to manage it, but whether this year or last year, we have shown a lot of character," Boucher said. "We've had injuries all year. We've basically never played with our full lineup and it keeps on going. We've been adjusting for a while now."

While some clubs would bristle at losing roster players while fully engaged in a playoff battle, Boucher insists that Tampa Bay management has the support of the Lightning dressing room.

"The thing is that I'm the first guy that trusts (general manager) Steve Yzerman and the plan that he is putting forth, and the players that we have got all trust in him," he said. "In the long run, we know that it's going to be a plan that is going to take us closer to what we want to do."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning still push for playoffs despite deals, injuries

WINNIPEG -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have been in selling mode over the past week, but their playoff aspirations are not completely gone.

The Lightning (27-26-6), who have shipped out Dominic Moore, Pavel Kubina and Steve Downie in trades over the past week, meet the Winnipeg Jets tonight at the MTS Centre. All three players have been moved on game-days for the Lightning, leaving coach Guy Boucher a bit skittish before facing the Jets.

"I'm scared to check my phone," Boucher said jokingly prior to Tampa Bay's morning skate. "Hopefully we don't have another one traded today. It's been tough for some of the players to manage it, but whether this year or last year, we have shown a lot of character. We've had injuries all year. We've basically never played with our full lineup and it keeps on going."

Thanks to a 10-3-2 run that includes their current three-game winning streak, the Lightning sit five points behind the ninth-place Jets and the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs. They hold three games in hand on Winnipeg, however, and a single game in hand on the Leafs as well.

Boucher's club will be without captain Vincent Lecavalier, who will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury. Injured defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron will not dress for the 17th time out of the Lightning's past 18 games.

The Lightning claimed forward Tim Wallace on waivers from the New York Islanders on Thursday morning, but he will not be in the Tampa Bay lineup tonight. Wallace notched 1 assist in 36 games with the Islanders this season.

Mathieu Garon will make his third consecutive start in net for the Lightning.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Lightning:

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - Adam Hall
Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly - Ryan Shannon
JT Wyman - Trevor Smith - Mike Angelidis

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 2:56 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets continue homestand, battle for Southeast lead

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets will again attempt to climb into the Southeast Division lead when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fourth contest of an eight-game homestand at the MTS Centre.

The Jets (29-27-6) failed to close out the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, losing 5-4 in overtime after allowing Philadelphia's tying goal with 10.8 seconds in regulation. The Jets sit outside the Eastern Conference's top-eight mix in ninth place at 65 points. A win tonight and a home loss for the Florida Panthers to Minnesota would allow the Jets to slip into the Southeast Division's top spot and third place in the Eastern Conference.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian will sit out his fifth consecutive contest.

Jets coach Claude Noel hinted that the Jets might insert Mark Flood into the lineup and skate seven defensemen. Flood has not played since Jan. 19. It is also expected that Antti Miettinen will replace Eric Fehr on Winnipeg's fourth line. Potentially sacrificing a forward for an extra defenseman against Tampa Bay might be an option after a physical, draining game against the Flyers.

"When you give up 55 shots, are you wearing down your defensemen and your goalies?" Noel asked. "Maybe I should dress three goalies. We're trying to manage our rest-and-recovery systems a bit so that we have energy."

Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 50 of 55 Philadelphia shots on Tuesday night, will start again in the Winnipeg net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Eric Fehr

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny Oduya - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 9:52 AM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Noel sees bright spots despite Jets' overtime loss

WINNIPEG -- It is on nights like these that Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel really puts on his thinking cap.

The Jets' 5-4 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night became a missed chance for the club to elbow past the Florida Panthers into the Southeast Division lead and the Eastern Conference's third spot. Philadelphia tied that game at 4-4 with 10.8 seconds left in regulation before closing out the Jets in overtime.

Afterward, Noel admitted that he and his club were disappointed, but he did not expect the setback to linger inside the Winnipeg dressing room.

"I don't see that as an issue," Noel said.

Instead, Noel chose to find bright spots in the Jets' efforts against the Flyers, a team locked in its own playoff battle in the heart of the Eastern Conference. The Flyers erased three separate Winnipeg leads in taking the win. But Noel liked that his club continued to push back against Philadelphia.

"For me, the resilience is good," Noel said. "We had a chance to win the game. I like our group as much as I liked them yesterday and the day before."

The Jets were a quiet group after the loss, and Noel certainly noticed his club's discontent.

"I've got a really unhappy group in there," Noel said. "They're really disappointed. They're not real happy at all.

"I think our guys care about winning," he continued. "There is a will that I like. We try to find ways to win games. Our will was good. Our intent was good. We tried to get some stuff done."
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 9:45 AM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bryzgalov soaks up 'adulation' in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets fans may not care much for Philadelphia Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, but he certainly seems to like them.

The latest in a long line of NHL goaltenders to receive an unfriendly welcome at the MTS Centre, Bryzgalov has come under intense jeering from the Winnipeg fan base after making comments about the city that many fans deemed to be critical. Jets fans serenaded Bryzgalov with boos and taunts throughout the evening as he made his first-ever NHL start in the city.

But Bryzgalov, who made 22 saves in the Flyers' 5-4 overtime win, offered a cheeky assessment of his evening in Winnipeg.

"I like it," Bryzgalov said of the experience. "It was a great atmosphere. I wish every building would be supportive like here and support me like here."

"It was nice to hear [them] cheering, 'Ilya, Ilya,'" Bryzgalov said jokingly. "I never heard that before anywhere. When 15,000 people support you, it's very impressive."

"Here they cheer me," Bryzgalov continued, tongue in cheek. "In Philly, they boo me."

The evening capped off an eventful day for Bryzgalov in the Manitoba capital. He took a shot to his left glove hand during Philadelphia's morning skate, leaving his status for the game in doubt. However, the injury did not prove to be serious.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 5:18 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bryzgalov deemed fit to start against Jets

WINNIPEG -- The Philadelphia Flyers announced this afternoon that goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will start for the club in tonight's game with the Winnipeg Jets.

Bryzgalov had taken a shot to his (left) glove hand during the team's morning skate at the MTS Centre earlier in the day. Bryzgalov left the ice early, returned to the Philadelphia dressing room and did not speak with the media. Comcast Sportsnet later reported that Bryzgalov went for X-rays.

Bryzgalov has twice faced the Jets in Philadelphia this season. He allowed four goals on 10 shots in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky during a 9-8 loss on Oct. 27. He started against the Jets at home on Jan. 31 and turned in a 23-save performance in 2-1 shootout loss.

Bryzgalov has gone 20-11-6 with a 2.79 goals-against average in 40 games this season with the Flyers. He joined the club this past summer from the Phoenix Coyotes after agreeing to a nine-year contract.

Bobrovsky will back up Bryzgalov tonight.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 2:02 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bryzgalov injures hand in morning practice

WINNIPEG -- Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov departed the club's morning skate at the MTS Centre with an apparent injury to his left hand.

A shot hit Bryzgalov in the glove (left) hand during practice and he headed to the Philadelphia dressing room. Bryzgalov was at his locker stall when local media entered the dressing room later, but he did not speak to reporters.

Philadelphia's Comcast Sportsnet reported that Bryzgalov went for X-rays. His immediate status is not known, and Flyers coach Peter Laviolette declined to announce his starting goaltender for tonight's game with the Winnipeg Jets. However, CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio reported Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said of Bryzgalov: "He is fine."

Bryzgalov has gone 20-11-6 with a 2.79 goals-against average in 40 games this season with the Flyers. He joined the club this past summer from the Phoenix Coyotes after agreeing to a nine-year contract.

If Bryzgalov can't play, Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start tonight.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:33 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers hope road cures February ills

WINNIPEG -- The Philadelphia Flyers look to turn around their month when they begin a four-game road trip tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

Just 3-5-1 in February, the Flyers arrived in Winnipeg on Monday after a 6-4 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon in which starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov allowed three goals on just 13 shots before exiting the game in the second period. Philadelphia has lost 10 of the past 11 meetings with the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise, and the Jets have taken all three games this season. The Flyers continue their trip this week with visits to Edmonton and Calgary.

Philadelphia management has worked to retool the club's blue line over the past week, adding Nicklas Grossman from Dallas and Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina in trades. Grossman had team-highs of eight hits and three blocked shots in his Philadelphia debut on Saturday.

The trades also allowed the club to return youngsters Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson to the American Hockey League for further development.

"I think it adds depth, experience and size," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of bringing aboard Grossman and Kubina.

Bryzgalov left the ice early and was taken for X-rays after being hit in the glove hand with a shot during the team's morning skate at MTS Centre. Laviolette would not indicate who would start in net for the Flyers, but CSNPilly.com quotes GM Paul Holmgren as saying of Bryzgalov, "He is fine."

We had the Jets linup earlier; here is the projected lineup for the Flyers:

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

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

If Bryzgalov can't start in goal, backup Sergei Bobrovsky would get the start.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:25 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Win would put Jets in division lead

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets' bid to join the upper reaches of the Eastern Conference continues tonight at the MTS Centre with a visit from the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Jets (29-26-6) have used three consecutive wins and the struggles of the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals to elbow their way into the playoff discussion.

The Flyers-Jets season series has seen Winnipeg take all three meetings this season, including a 6-4 win at the MTS Centre on Nov. 19. A win tonight in the third contest of an eight-game homestand would push the Jets ahead of the Panthers and into first place in the Southeast Division and third place in the Eastern Conference.

However, the Panthers will hold four games in hand on the Jets after tonight, and Jets coach Claude Noel is placing little stock in what leading the Southeast Division at this point in the season would mean.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian will miss his fourth straight game tonight while forward Eric Fehr will remain in the Winnipeg lineup.

"I think it has the potential to be longer," Noel said of Bogosian's status. "We're hoping for Thursday (at home against Tampa Bay). It is day-to-day."

Ondrej Pavelec will start in net for the Jets once again after backstopping the Jets to home wins against Boston and Colorado this past weekend.

Here is the projected lineup for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Eric Fehr

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny Oduya - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal, with Chris Mason the backup.
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POSTED ON Sunday, 02.19.2012 / 3:13 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avalanche's projected lineup for Sunday

WINNIPEG -- The Colorado Avalanche will have an opponent with which to commiserate, but they do not expect any sympathy from the Winnipeg Jets.

Like the Jets, the Avalanche (29-26-4) have 62 points and find themselves in a battle to break into the playoff top-eight after winning at Edmonton, 3-1, on Friday night. Sitting in 11th place, the Avalanche sit three points behind the eighth-place Calgary Flames and will also need to overtake the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars.

"It's going to be an exciting game," Colorado coach Joe Sacco predicted. "It should be almost a playoff-type atmosphere."

The Avalanche will welcome back Matt Duchene, who missed 20 games with a knee injury. Duchene has 12 goals in 39 games before suffering the first major injury of his career.

"We're excited to have him back," Sacco said. "It's not going to be the easiest transition when you miss that amount of time, so it's going to take a little bit of time to get his feet well. But we're a team now that has played much better."

"Offensively, we still need more guys contributing," Sacco said of the  and Matt helps in that area."

Sacco would like to manage Duchene's minutes on a line with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, but admitted that the plan may be subject to change.

"You always say that," Sacco said, "but it never really happens. It just depends on how the game is going and how he is feeling. We'll monitor as we go along. He has looked good in practice. He looks like he has a lot of energy, a lot of jump."

Duchene spent Saturday making sure that he was well-rested for the tonight's game and watched the Calgary-Los Angeles game on Hockey Night in Canada to tire himself out before bed.

"It's great to be back," Duchene said.

Duchene hopes that his play will merit extra ice time in spite of his long lay-off, and Sacco admitted that Duchene's first-line status and role on the Colorado power play will cause his minutes to accumulate quickly.

"It doesn't matter which way you contribute," Duchene said, "as long as you contribute."

While regaining Duchene's services, Colorado will be without Peter Mueller and T.J. Galiardi.

Semyon Varlamov will again start in net for the Avalanche after stopping 26 of 27 shots at Edmonton.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Avalanche:

AVALANCHE

Matt DuchenePaul StastnyMilan Hejduk
Mark OlverRyan O'ReillyGabriel Landeskog
Daniel WinnikJay McClementKevin Porter
Cody McLeodDavid Van Der GulikChuck Kobasew

Kyle QuinceyErik Johnson
Jan HejdaRyan O'Byrne
Shane O'BrienRyan Wilson

Sergei Varlamov
Cedrick Desjardins
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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery