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Posted On Monday, 02.27.2012 / 2:24 PM

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

Gilbert trade a surprise for Oilers

WINNIPEG -- The Edmonton Oilers planned to be without injured defenseman Tom Gilbert for tonight's date with the Winnipeg Jets.

What the Oilers (24-31-6) did not expect was to wrap up their morning skate at the MTS Centre with the news that they would be without the well-liked Gilbert for good. Edmonton management shipped Gilbert to the Minnesota Wild for blueliner Nick Schultz. Gilbert's name had not been linked in previous trade rumors, making the trade all the more surprising for his teammates.

Schultz must still pass a team physical, Oilers coach Tom Renney said, and he will not dress for the Oilers against the Jets. Renney spoke by phone to Gilbert, who did not make the trip to Winnipeg.

"Kudos to Tom Gilbert for being an outstanding teammate, obviously, and a really solid NHL defenseman, and one that his teammates and the coaching staff will miss," Renney said. "He brought everything that he could every day to the rink for us, and we certainly appreciate that and wish him real good luck going forward."

Former Winnipeg Jet Nikolai Khabibulin was hoping to dress for tonight's game, but a lingering groin injury will sideline him. Yann Danis will back up starter Devan Dubnyk.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Oilers:

Ryan Smyth - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Jones - Shawn Horcoff - Ben Eager
Lennart Petrell - Eric Belanger - Darcy Hordichuk

Ryan Whitney - Corey Potter
Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Andy Sutton - Cam Barker

Devan Dubnyk
Yann Danis
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Posted On Monday, 02.27.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Jets add Clitsome, turn focus to Oilers

WINNIPEG -- The NHL trade deadline talk dominated the MTS Centre, but the Winnipeg Jets have a playoff race to focus on, first and foremost.

The Jets (30-26-8) continue their eight-game homestand with a visit from the Edmonton Oilers, the city's long-time Smythe Division nemesis during its first NHL era. Eighth-place Winnipeg is two points behind the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead and yields three games in hand to Kevin Dineen's club. The Jets and Panthers will meet in Winnipeg on Thursday.

Coach Claude Noel admits that combining the trade deadline and a game-day routine is a complicated mix, particularly inside a dressing room that he says has solid team chemistry.

"It's a tough day for players for a lot of different reasons," Noel said. "I think our chemistry is great, and that is always the fear."

Defenseman Zach Bogosian will be a game-time decision for the Jets.

The Jets also added defenseman Grant Clitsome via waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Noel does not expect that Clitsome will be available for action against the Oilers. The 26-year-old Clitsome registered 4 goals and 14 points in 51 games this season and was in the Columbus organization when Noel worked with the Blue Jackets.

"You can never have enough defenseman," Noel said.

Ondrej Pavelec, who had a game off in Saturday afternoon's 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis, will return again to 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 - Antti Miettinen

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

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 6:40 PM

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

Jets ready for tough test from Blues

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets might finally control the Southeast Division's top spot, but the challenges will keep coming for coach Claude Noel's club.

The St. Louis Blues visit the MTS Centre on Saturday afternoon and will present the Jets with another stiff challenge in the fifth of a season-long eight-game homestand. The Jets are 3-0-1 during their current stay at home and sit one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead.

"It will be a really good challenge for our team," Noel said of his team's final game before the NHL Trade Deadline. "They've got a pretty good team. They've got some good elements when you look at their team."

"It's very clear that they will manage the puck well and will check, check, check," Noel said of the Blues. "You're going to have earn every inch of ice, especially up the ice."

Noel will be matching up against Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, his long-time mentor in the Dallas and Columbus organizations.

"It will be interesting. That's good. It raises the bar, makes it fun," he said.

Noel said after practice on Friday that he has not yet determined his starting goaltender for Saturday's game. Ondrej Pavelec has started Winnipeg's past four games, including a 55-shot barrage from the Philadelphia Flyers this past Tuesday night.

"There are a lot of reasons why you wouldn't want to move off Pavelec," Noel said.

Zach Bogosian will miss his sixth consecutive game on the Winnipeg blue line. What was expected to be a brief absence has lasted longer than expected, and he will not return until at least next week, Noel said.

The Jets also placed forward Antti Miettinen on waivers on Friday. Winnipeg claimed the Finnish veteran on waivers from Tampa Bay on Dec. 13, but the move has not panned out for the Jets. Miettinen has not scored, managed just four assists and been a healthy scratch four times.

"I think that with Miettinen I would like to see more of his play, a little bit better play," Noel said. "I've spoken with him about that."

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 6:37 PM

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

Blues are all smiles as they prepare for Jets

WINNIPEG -- The St. Louis Blues landed in Winnipeg early on Friday morning feeling good about themselves.

The Blues (37-17-7) earned a 3-2 shootout win on the road against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night in a bounce-back effort after a tough home loss to the Boston Bruins a night earlier. The win leaves St. Louis 7-3-0 in its past 10 games.

"To come back and get two points off a back-to-back was really impressive for us," coach Ken Hitchcock said after the Blues practiced at the MTS Centre on Friday afternoon in preparation for Saturday's matinee against the Winnipeg Jets.

Leaving previous efforts in the past, be they wins or losses, has been strength for the Blues this season, Hitchcock explained. The veteran coach attributes the club's ability to recover and refocus on a strong veteran core that includes Jason Arnott, Barret Jackman and Jamie Langenbrunner.

"I think the young guys have responded," Hitchcock said of the role that the veteran leadership plays inside the St. Louis dressing room.

"We're different from a lot of teams in that our skill base is all young," Hitchcock said. "It's a young core. We're asking a lot of 22- and 23-year-old players to carry the day emotionally and physically. So, it has been trying at times for them, and the veteran guys have really helped those guys stabilize."

Now the Blues find themselves in Winnipeg to begin the Western Canada leg of a six-game trip. The MTS Centre has quickly become one of the most difficult buildings for visiting clubs. With the Jets entrenched in the heart of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Hitchcock expects an imposing environment for his club.

"They've got a great feel in the building," Hitchcock said of the Jets, who have won 19 of their 31 home dates this season. "We've got to find a way to pull the crowd out of the building if we can. It's going to be hard to do, but I think the teams that have a little bit of success here quiet the crowd down."

"One way that you can to do that is to make them play defense," Hitchcock continued. "We're going to come with a heavy, hard forecheck and see where we go."

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 10:40 AM

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

Flood's return to lineup eases burden on Jets' defense

WINNIPEG -- Zach Bogosian's continued absence finally meant an entry into the Winnipeg Jets' lineup for Mark Flood.

The injured Bogosian missed the Jets' 4-3 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, his fifth consecutive absence. Randy Jones had replaced Bogosian on the Winnipeg blue line. Flood continued to remain a healthy scratch and before playing the Lightning had not dressed for a game since Jan. 19.

But Jets coach Claude Noel opted to go with seven defensemen against Tampa Bay and scratch forwards Eric Fehr and Antti Miettinen. A chaotic 5-4 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night had left the Winnipeg defense corps drained, and neither Fehr nor Miettinen has shown any indication of breaking loose of their season-long slumps.

Returning Flood to game action has been an objective for Noel in recent days. The Jets are loathe to attempt slipping Flood through the NHL waiver wire in order to assign him to the St. John's IceCaps, their AHL affiliate. Playing both Flood and Jones also allows the Jets to showcase one of the two for a potential trade before the NHL's Monday deadline, though Noel shooed away any such speculation on Thursday morning.

Flood stepped into the lineup and allowed the Winnipeg coaching staff to dial down the minutes that their workhorse defensemen had to play. Dustin Byfuglien, who played 26:51 against Philadelphia, logged a more manageable 20:32 with Flood available to provide blue-line relief. Ron Hainsey's ice time decreased from 24:24 on Tuesday to 19:51 against the Lightning.

Flood finished with 9:03 of ice time and assisted on the Jets' second goal.
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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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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