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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

Sabres aim to snap 10-game road losing streak

WINNIPEG -- A 10-game road losing streak has left the Buffalo Sabres' season barely clinging to life.

What has been a disastrous week for the Sabres (19-22-5) continues tonight in Winnipeg. The Sabres followed a 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings with a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks before heading to Winnipeg having lost three consecutive games. With just two wins in January and in the midst of a seven-game road trip, the Sabres are nine points behind the eighth-place Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference race.

Injures have battered the Buffalo lineup. The Sabres’ blue line is missing three regulars in Christian Ehrhoff, Brayden McNabb and Robyn Regehr. Up front, Tyler Ennis and Colin Stuart both have missed 14 games.

The Sabres did not hold a morning skate in Winnipeg, but Ryan Miller is expected to return to the Buffalo net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Buffalo:

SABRES
Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Drew Stafford - Derek Roy - Nathan Gerbe
Luke Adam - Brad Boyes - Ville Leino
Matt Ellis - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Andrej Sekera - Tyler Myers
T.J. Brennan - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 1:28 PM

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

No sophomore slump for All-Star pick Couture

WINNIPEG -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan will have company in Ottawa later this month.

Sharks center Logan Couture, a former standout with the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's,will join McLellan for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star game in Ottawa on Jan. 29.

Couture's 18 goals lead all Sharks scorers this season, and he celebrated his ticket to Ottawa with a game-winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets in a 2-0 win on Thursday night. Couture set a franchise record last season for goals by a rookie with 32. On a roster packed with veteran stars like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, it is Couture who will be en route to Ottawa.

"I still find it hard to believe that he is as young as he is," McLellan said of his 22-year-old star. "Give him credit for establishing himself in the National Hockey League and maintaining it."

Couture's nomination to the event comes two days after McLellan cinched his trip to Ottawa by virtue of the Sharks having owned the Western Conference’s best points percentage as of Jan. 9.

"There's nobody in our room debating whether Logan Couture is an All-Star, not one bit," McLellan said. "He deserves to go to that game, and he will represent our organization, and even more importantly, our city."
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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 1:22 PM

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

Noel waiting to see how Jets respond to adversity

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets have officially hit turbulence.

Just 1-4-0 to start 2012, the Jets followed up a third-period collapse on Tuesday night in Boston with a 2-0 home loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. With eight of their next 10 games on the road, a club with just six wins in 21 road games this season faces a difficult path over the next month that will determine whether it is a legitimate playoff contender. Last season's second-half collapse doomed a promising start by their predecessors, the Atlanta Thrashers, and that memory remains fresh in the Winnipeg dressing room this season.

"Certainly we've hit a bump in the road now," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "This is going to be interesting to see how we do. It will be a good task for us, a good test for us, because we're going to face adversity straight-square in the face.

"For me, it's going to be more about dealing with the morale of the team now," Noel continued. "The team isn't going to be feeling very good. It's one of the issues that we're going to have to deal with."

Injuries to defensemen Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien have left the Winnipeg blue line struggling to generate much in the way of offense. The Jets will also be attempting to save their season against elite competition that is digging in for the Eastern Conference race, and Noel is all too aware of that reality.

"What happens at the 40-game mark is that you can see the teams with experience, they have winning experience, and our team doesn't have that experience," Noel said. "Somehow we have to find a way to get ourselves over the hump and re-energize and re-charge ourselves. It's a tough task."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:34 PM

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

Jets hope return home cures recent woes

WINNIPEG -- When the Winnipeg Jets last skated before their fans at the MTS Centre, life was good.

The Jets (20-17-5), who meet the San Jose Sharks tonight at home, finished a packed December home schedule with New Year's Eve win that concluded a 9-2-1 mark at the MTS Centre for the month.

But then the Jets embarked on a 1-3-0 four-game road trip in which they were throttled in their three losses. On Tuesday night in Boston, the Bruins stomped the Jets in the third period in which the visiting club blew a second-intermission lead and lost 5-3.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian and checking winger Tanner Glass exited Tuesday's loss with injuries. Bogosian will not dress for tonight's game. Glass is questionable, as is Alexander Burmistrov, who has missed Winnipeg's past two games due to injury. Dustin Byfuglien and Derek Meech remain out with injuries.

Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start in net for the Jets. Here is a look at the projected lineup for Winnipeg:

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

Ron Hainsey - Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones
Mark Flood - Johnny Oduya

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason


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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:34 PM

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

McLellan seeking better effort from Sharks

WINNIPEG -- A 5-4 shootout loss on Tuesday night at Minnesota figures to leave the San Jose Sharks a hungry bunch leading into tonight's date with the Winnipeg Jets.

The shootout loss ended the Sharks' four-game win streak as they started a four-game road trip that continues against the Jets before winding its way to Columbus for a game with the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"We were actually quite disappointed with a number of our players," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We didn't get the effort that we needed.

"We'll probably talk about a 10-minute game and a 50-minute game," McLellan explained when asked what he expects from the Jets. "We'll have to be on our toes early. I think they're going to be an energized team."

Antti Niemi, who has started 15 of the Sharks' past 16 games, is expected to be in net for San Jose. Ryan Clowe is expected to skate for the Sharks tonight after being banged up in Minnesota. The Sharks will be without defensemen Jim Vandermeer and Colin White as well as Martin Havlat.

McLellan also indicated that there could "potentially" be lineup changes after Tuesday's game. Here is a look at the projected lineup for San Jose:

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryan Clowe - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 1:29 PM

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

Jets need improvement away from home

BUFFALO – Whether the Winnipeg Jets can resolve their road woes figures to go a long way toward determining just exactly where they fit in the Eastern Conference playoff mix.

The Jets will hit the halfway point of their season Saturday night when they visit the First Niagara Center to meet the Buffalo Sabres. They will do so fresh off consecutive losses in Montreal and Toronto in which they were outscored by an 11-3 margin. Those losses come right after the Jets had outlined much better road play as a key goal for the second half of the season.

“We’ve got to find a way,” captain Andrew Ladd said after a 4-0 loss Thursday night to the Leafs.

Those two losses may have taken a bit of the luster off a franchise-best month of December in which they ran off a 9-2-1 mark in 12 games at MTS Centre. The Jets’ 14 home wins are third-most in the League, tying them with the likes of Chicago, Washington and Boston.

“You’re always going to be a bit more comfortable in your own arena,” injured center Bryan Little said. “It definitely helps with the energy.”

On the road, however, the Jets just 26th in the NHL with a 5-10-4 road mark. Away from Winnipeg, the Jets have only two wins since Nov. 3 when they had just won their third consecutive game in the midst of a seven-game road trip.

“I think that it’s just a matter of trying to bring that energy and that work ethic to the road,” Little said. “It’s hard. You play in front of your own fans and you’ve got 15,000 loud fans right on your back. We’ve got to find a way to play like that on the road, too.”

With seven of their remaining 11 games in January on the road, the Jets will need to rectify their road difficulties in order to mount a serious push toward a playoff spot. Veteran goaltender Chris Mason believes that a much more concerted approach toward road hockey is needed.

“We have to sit down and look at ourselves,” Mason said.

After an optional practice on Friday afternoon at the First Niagara Center, coach Claude Noel attempted to frame the Jets’ road woes as one more obstacle that needs to be addressed in the long NHL season.

“To me, there is no panic, there is no crisis, there is no nothing,” Noel said. “You guys can determine that. This is all part of the season. If you look at it, we’ve played 40 games. You’ve got 82 that you’ve got to play. This is how the ebb and flow of the season happens.”

Rather than focus solely on the road problems, perhaps the Jets can take solace that they are still in the playoff mix even with their poor road play, to hear Noel’s perspective.

“How do we manage this?” Noel asked rhetorically. “Is it adversity? How do we deal with it? Those are the challenges, and that’s great. That’s why you have the big rewards when you do make the playoffs, and if you can win in the end, because you invest so much.”

“There is no manual,” Noel continued. “There is no right way. There is no wrong way. It is, ‘Does it work?’” That’s what our job is, and that’s what makes the job really interesting.”

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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 1:04 PM

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

Bozak game-time decision for Leafs

WINNIPEG – The Toronto Maple Leafs arrive in Winnipeg to meet the Jets on Saturday night while lugging a two-game losing streak in the midst of an inconsistent December.

The Leafs blew a two-goal lead in the third period Thursday night at Carolina and lost 4-3 in overtime to the Hurricanes. The Leafs have a 4-5-3 December mark and are in a four-way tie with the Jets, New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators at 41 points in the Eastern Conference.

The Leafs did not hold a morning skate, but center Tyler Bozak fell awkwardly in the Leafs’ afternoon practice Friday at the MTS Centre and will be a game-time decision on Toronto’s top line. Colby Armstrong, Mike Brown, Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles are all out with injuries. Philippe Dupuis and Matthew Lombardi could be possibilities for the Leafs.

James Reimer will start in net for the Leafs in front of family and friends in his native Manitoba. Reimer’s start will be his sixth consecutive nod and 11th in the Leafs’ 13 games this month.

After Saturday night, the Leafs return home for four-game homestand that begins this coming Tuesday against Tampa Bay. The Leafs begin the new calendar year with nine of 10 games at the Air Canada Centre.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Toronto:

MAPLE LEAFS

Joffrey LupulTyler BozakPhil Kessel
Clarke MacArthurTim ConnollyNazem Kadri
Nikolai KuleminMikhail GrabovskiMatt Frattin
Darryl BoyceDavid SteckelJoey Crabb

Dion PhaneufCarl Gunnarsson
Luke SchennKeith Aulie
Cody FransonJake Gardiner

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 2:17 PM

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

Bernier could make appearance in Kings' net

WINNIPEG -- The Los Angeles Kings look to build on their two-game winning streak tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

The Kings (18-14-5) are 3-0-1 under new coach Darryl Sutter and shut out the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday at the United Center. Jonathan Quick's 32-save shutout was his League-high fifth of the season, but Jonathan Bernier is a possibility to make his first appearance since Dec. 17. With 41 points, the Kings are ninth in the Western Conference.

The Kings did not hold a morning skate after arriving late from Chicago. After tonight's game, the Kings return home for a six-game homestand that begins Saturday night against Vancouver.

Simon Gagne (upper body) and Scott Parse (lower body) are not available for the Kings.

Here are the projected forward lines and defense pairings for Los Angeles:

Kyle Clifford - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Andrei Loktionov - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene

Jonathan Bernier likely will start in goal, with Jonathan Quick the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 2:00 PM

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

December run has Jets in playoff position

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets wind down their long month at home with a date tonight against the Los Angeles Kings at the MTS Centre.

The Jets (17-14-5) have played on home ice for 10 of their 12 games this month and will wrap up their home stretch against the Kings and a New Year's Eve meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jets' 7-2-1 run at home this month has fueled their climb up the Eastern Conference standings. Tuesday's 4-1 win at Colorado pushed Winnipeg into a playoff spot for the first time this season. The Jets now sit in eighth place with 39 points, just two points behind the sixth-place New Jersey Devils and six points behind the Florida Panthers, who lead the Southeast Division.

Jets coach Claude Noel does not expect an easy evening against the Kings. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will miss his second consecutive game due to an injury, and Bryan Little will not dress for his fifth consecutive game. Center Jim Slater is also a game-time decision, so the Jets recalled center Patrice Cormier from their American League affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps, as a precautionary move.

"This won't be an easy game for us," Noel said. "We do realize that this is their third [game] in four nights. We're going to have to find a way to make them work. But if they've got the puck, we’ll be doing most of the work trying to get it off them."

Noel will give goaltender Ondrej Pavelec a rare night off and start veteran Chris Mason. The start will be only the fourth for Mason since Nov. 25. Pavelec turned in another stout performance on Tuesday against the Avalanche, but Noel said that the Czech netminder needs a night off at some point.

"If Pavelec continues to play the way he plays," Noel said, "when would you ever take him out? He'd end up playing in 82 games. You could never justify taking him out, so you have to manage the minutes."

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg.

JETS

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

Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Ron Hainsey - Johnny Oduya
Mark Flood - Tobias Enstrom

Chris Mason
Ondrej Pavelec
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 4:40 PM

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

Jets prepare to head out for rare road game

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets held a Boxing Day morning practice session before doing something they have not done very often lately -- packing their bags and heading to the airport for a road game.

The Jets will visit the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night in what will be only their second game away from the MTS Centre since Nov. 26. The Jets' only foray out of town was a quick one-night trip to Detroit on Dec. 10 in which the Red Wings throttled them, 7-1, at Joe Louis Arena.

Coach Claude Noel's club will finish December having played 12 of 14 games on home ice in the month. The Jets have been able to fuel their climb up the Eastern Conference standings via that abundance of home ice in front of the always-raucous MTS Centre crowd. The Jets have posted a 7-3-1 December mark so far. Included in those seven wins have been home wins over the likes of Phoenix, Boston and Minnesota. Only Boston, Detroit and St. Louis (13 wins apiece) have been more successful on home ice this season than the 12-6-1 Jets.

But the road has been a struggle for the Jets, who are 4-8-4 entering Tuesday. Only Anaheim, Carolina and Columbus have fewer road wins. The Jets will need to rectify their road problems, as they face a January slate in which they will play nine of 13 games away from Winnipeg, with the likes of Boston, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia serving as hosts.

Since posting back-to-back road wins over the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders during a seven-game road swing that spanned late October and early November, the Jets are just 1-4-3 away from home. Their only road win in that span came against Carolina just three days before the Hurricanes fired coach Paul Maurice.

Paying a visit to the Pepsi Center will serve as a test drive of sorts for the Jets in re-accustoming themselves to life on the road before they take on their road-heavy January slate. The Jets could also benefit from the Avalanche playing at Minnesota tonight. But they will have to deal with a Colorado team that owns the second-longest home win streak in the NHL this season at eight games.

"It will be good for us to get on the road," Noel said, "and hopefully get a road win and stop (Colorado's) streak and for us to play on the road and get some wins. It will be a back-to-back night for them, so hopefully we can take advantage of that."

Noel is making it a point to stress the need to build momentum on the road, where the Jets are not able to draw upon the energy of their home crowd.

"It will be good to get away," Noel said. "For us, we have to start winning some games on the road. If you're going to be a playoff-contending team, which we hope to be, I think you have to start getting to .500 on the road, and that has to be our next goal.

"We've managed to do well here at home," Noel continued. "We've managed to really make some hay, as I said before, while we could, but it's time to get our road record going. We've got a ways to go to get to .500, so it will be a good challenge. We're playing better in the general sense of things, so it will be good."

Skating in high-altitude Denver presents another challenge to the Jets. Forwards Nik Antropov and Blake Wheeler acknowledged that the schedule sending them to Denver immediately after a break is not ideal. Short shifts and jumping on a Colorado team playing on back-to-back nights will be critical.

"It could be a real issue," Noel acknowledged. "If you get stuck on long shifts, you could really have a hard time. You've got to go 30-, 35-, 40-second shifts and get the change, because if you get stuck, your recovery really hits the wall, so it's really tough. It's an advantage to them because they're used to it."
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I've never seen anything like that. The great thing is I don't know how many times guys bailed me out where they had to score to keep it alive and they did every time. It was amazing. It's not the way we draw it up, to go 20 rounds here, but obviously it's a big win.

— Florida goalie Roberto Luongo after the Panthers defeated the Capitals in the longest shootout in NHL history on Tuesday
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