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Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 2:26 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Penguins look to rebound from first loss of season

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Pittsburgh Penguins arrived here Thursday evening looking to move past a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in their home opener Wednesday.

The defeat took some of the shine off a season-opening built on consecutive road wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers last weekend. Pittsburgh's run of four road games in its first five contests continues Sunday at the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins face a Winnipeg Jets team they tormented last season. Center Evgeni Malkin posted three goals and eight assists in his three games against the Jets.

Coach Dan Bylsma will make two changes to the lineup that faced Toronto. Offseason acquisition Tomas Vokoun will make his second start in net for Pittsburgh. Ben Lovejoy will dress for the first time this season and take the place of Simon Despres on the Penguins' third defensive pairing with Deryk Engelland.

Right wing Tanner Glass, will make his return to Winnipeg, where he was a fan favorite last season with the Jets before signing in the summer with the Penguins.

Here are the possible line combinations for the Penguins:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Tyler Kennedy - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal

Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tanner Glass

Eric Tangradi - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin

Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang

Deryk Engelland - Ben Lovejoy

Tomas Vokoun

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Dustin Jeffrey

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Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 2:19 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Wellwood in, Scheifele out of lineup for Jets

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets returned home from a brief two-game road swing to Boston and Washington in a much better mood than when they departed last Saturday.

A 2-1 shootout loss to the Bruins and a 4-2 win against the Capitals took some of the sting out of a season-opening 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators that opened the Jets’ home schedule last weekend. The Jets’ 1-1-1 start represents the franchise's best beginning to a season since 2009-10, when it was the Atlanta Thrashers.

However, the Pittsburgh Penguins arrived in town Thursday, presenting a potential road block to a Winnipeg club looking to earn its first home win and establish itself as a legitimate contender for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot.

Coach Claude Noel repeatedly emphasized the need for his club to avoid any temptation to trade goals with the Penguins, a trap the Jets often fell into last season against Pittsburgh and other high-scoring opponents. Pittsburgh tormented the Jets last season, taking three of the four meetings between the clubs, including an 8-4 loss at Consol Energy Center that dealt a devastating blow to Winnipeg's postseason ambitions last March.

Noel continues to tinker with his lineup and will re-insert veteran Kyle Wellwood, a healthy scratch against the Capitals, on the right wing on the third line in place of rookie Mark Scheifele.

Ondrej Pavelec will make his fourth start of the season in goal for Winnipeg.

Here is how the lineup likely will look Friday:

Evander Kane - Olli Jokinen - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Bryan Little

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood

James Wright - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien

Mark Stuart - Ron Hainsey

Grant Clitsome - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Injured: Zach Bogosian, Antti Miettinen

Scratched: Anthony Peluso, Mark Scheifele

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 8:27 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Schiefele quickly adjusts to NHL game

WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele's 2012-13 hockey itinerary included another stop Saturday afternoon against the Ottawa Senators.

Before arriving in Winnipeg, Scheifele had posted 22 goals in 30 games with the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts and skated for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Scheifele logged on game with Barrie earlier this month before the Jets summoned their 2011 first-round selection to training camp.

Scheifele played seven games with the Jets last season before they returned him to Barrie, but he started against Ottawa playing the right side on Winnipeg's fourth line.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 8:22 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Methot-Karlsson pair solid for Senators

WINNIPEG – The Ottawa Senators' acquisition of Marc Methot last summer may not have drawn an abundance of headlines, but it helped reshape the club's blue line.

Methot, a 27-year-old Ottawa native, joined the Senators last July in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Nick Foligno. The Senators used Methot to replace the departed Filip Kuba and use his 6-foot-3, 231-pound frame to firm up a pairing with Erik Karlsson, the NHL's reigning Norris Trophy winner.

Methot spent parts of six seasons and logged 275 games with Columbus in that span. But his 2011-12 season ended with a broken jaw with 28 games remaining in a disastrous season for the Blue Jackets.

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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 2:56 PM

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

Jets envision Winnipeg as player destination

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel believes working in the NHL's smallest market will prove to be no hindrance in attracting top-flight talent.

"I think that we've got a good thing going here," Noel said during his season-ending press conference. "For one second, I will not take a backseat to anyone else. This is a great place to play. It's going to be a destination."

Captain Andrew Ladd signed a five-year contract shortly after the club relocated to Winnipeg. The Jets dominate the city's newspapers, radio and television, and Jets apparel is easy to spot across the city of 750,000. The club sold out all 41 home games, a long season-ticket waiting list is in place, and Jets players have been very vocal about the reception and treatment that they have received from the fans and the organization.

Winnipeg's reputation has spread across the NHL as opponents have made their first visits to the city and the cozy 15,004-seat MTS Centre, the League's smallest rink. Players find various locales attractive for an assortment of reasons, but the Winnipeg dressing room believes that the city's all-hockey mentality could prove to be a valuable recruiting tool.

"Guys talk," Ladd said. "We have friends all over the League. Just talking to guys who have played in the building this year, they're impressed with the excitement and electricity in the building. It's fun to be a part of on a consistent basis and know that when you're playing home games that every time you step out onto the ice that is the reaction you're going to get."

Noel compared Winnipeg to football-mad Green Bay, Wisc., a city he visited during his time as coach of the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.

"Green Bay wins," Noel said. "What is in Green Bay? I've been to Green Bay, and it's a nice town. For me, Winnipeg is going to be a good place to play. I think players like it. The response that we get from our players is that they love playing here."

Noel also revealed that Hockey Canada has not contacted him about a role at the upcoming 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championship that begins in May. Noel will spend the next few weeks reviewing the season, but he will have something else on his mind.

"I have fly-fishing trout on the brain," Noel said. "It keeps going through my brain. I see the trout just calling my name. I see rivers, and I pull over."
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 2:49 PM

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

Ladd, Kane to play for Team Canada at Worlds

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets will begin to scatter across the globe this week, but more than a handful of players might reconvene when the IIHF 2012 World Championship begins next month in Finland and Sweden.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd indicated that he will play for Canada after participating last spring at the event in Slovakia. Canada finished fifth in the 2011 tournament. Ladd will join Evander Kane, who led the Jets with 30 goals this season, as returnees from last season’s Canadian team.

“I had a great experience last year with it,” Ladd said. “Hockey Canada treats you very well, and it's fun to be a part of.”

Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec led the Czech Republic to a bronze medal last year, but his status for this year remains to be determined.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian will not play for the United States, as he battled late-season injuries. Dustin Byfuglien still is considering playing for the U.S. team, but Blake Wheeler seems unlikely to participate.

Other Jets who may be possibilities for the tournament are Nik Antropov (Kazakhstan), Alexander Burmistrov (Russia), Tobias Enstrom (Sweden), and Antti Miettinen (Finland).
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Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 1:43 PM

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

Stamkos shoots for 60 in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – Neither the Tampa Bay Lightning nor the Winnipeg Jets will be bidding for an invitation to the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they meet tonight at MTS Centre.
 
But both clubs have built-in incentives tonight when they play their respective season finales. The Lightning’s Steven Stamkos is one goal away from the 60-goal mark, while the Jets will be skating before a sold-out Winnipeg crowd for the final time this season.
 
Helping Stamkos to become the first NHL player to reach 60 goals since Alexander Ovechkin did so in the 2007-08 season has been something of a mission this week for his teammates. Still, for a club that reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final last May, playing out the schedule has required a mental adjustment from the Tampa Bay dressing room.
 
“In terms of motivation, it's certainly not ideal for either team,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher admitted after Tampa Bay’s morning skate.
 
Down the hallway at MTS Centre, Jets coach Claude Noel echoed similar thoughts as his clubs prepares to play in front of the 41st home sellout this season.
 
“I just want us to play well and play hard for the fans and play for the right reasons for each other.”
 
Dwayne Roloson will start for the Lightning against Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec. Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Lightning and Jets:
 
LIGHTNING
 
Martin St. LouisSteven StamkosRyan Malone
J.T. BrownVincent LecavalierTeddy Purcell
Nate ThompsonTom PyattJT Wyman
Brett ConnollyAdam HallBrian Lee
 
Eric BrewerVictor Hedman
Brett ClarkBruno Gervais
Keith AulieBrendan Mikkelson
 
Dwayne Roloson
Sebastien Caron
 
JETS
 
Andrew LaddBryan LittleBlake Wheeler
Evander KaneAlexander BurmistrovAntti Miettinen
Spencer MachacekJim SlaterChris Thorburn
Patrice CormierNik AntropovTim Stapleton
 
Tobias EnstromDustin Byfuglien
Mark StuartZach Bogosian
Mark FloodGrant Clitsome
 
Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason


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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 1:20 PM

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

Rangers look to sweep Jets, increase lead in East

WINNIPEG -- The New York Rangers have another opportunity to put further distance between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

The Rangers (48-21-7) will meet the Winnipeg Jets after taking a 3-2 road decision against the Minnesota Wild. The win and a Pittsburgh home loss to the New York Islanders moved the Rangers three points ahead of the Penguins for the Eastern Conference lead. Both clubs have played 76 games, but the Penguins are idle tonight.

All three of the Rangers' meetings with Winnipeg this season have been wins, and the Rangers have allowed only one goal in the season series.

The Rangers did not hold a morning skate at the MTS Centre. But it is expected that Henrik Lundqvist will start again for the Rangers, with Martin Biron backing up. Lundqvist shut out the Jets when the clubs last met at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 24.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Rangers:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Brandon Prust - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp
 
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Anton Stralman - Stu Bickel
 
Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 1:18 PM

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

Jets determined to play hard for home crowd

WINNIPEG -- The process of beginning to wind down the season begins tonight for the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets (35-33-8) will host the New York Rangers at the MTS Centre in their second-to-last home date. A 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators two nights ago effectively ended the Jets' already-thin Stanley Cup Playoff aspirations. They face a four-game road trip that will begin against the Carolina Hurricanes and continue against Tampa Bay, Florida, and the New York Islanders.

"It will be a good test for us against the Rangers," Jets coach Claude Noel said of a season series in which the Jets have gone winless and have managed only one goal in the clubs' three meetings. "They don't give you very much. The games are usually very heavy. Their battle level is high."

Facing the Rangers in front of another sold-out crowd in Winnipeg should prevent any letdowns for the Jets now, Noel believes.

"Out of respect for what they have given us, how could we come up with anything less?" Noel asked. "The fans here in Winnipeg have been a big factor for us having success here and have been like an extra player, so how could we disrespect the fans by not giving all that we have got?"
   
Grant Clitsome will replace Randy Jones on the Jets' third defensive pairing and partner with Mark Stuart. Nik Antropov and Chris Thorburn remain sidelined with injuries, but they will make the upcoming road trip. Dustin Byfuglien is battling a nagging bone bruise, but he will dress against the Rangers.

Ondrej Pavelec will make his 13th consecutive start, with Chris Mason backing up.

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 - Antti Miettinen
Tim Stapleton - Ben Maxwell - Spencer Machacek

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Grant Clitsome

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:48 PM

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

Win would move Ottawa within two points of sixth

WINNIPEG -- A win tonight against the Winnipeg Jets would provide the Ottawa Senators with some separation from one cluster of clubs and nudge them into a higher echelon.

A win would move the seventh-place Senators (38-28-10) four points ahead of the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres and to within two points of the sixth-place New Jersey Devils. They would also move to within three points of the Northeast Division lead the Boston Bruins hold at the moment.

Going against a desperate Winnipeg club poses a challenge for the Senators, they admit.

"They play hard and are desperate, just like we are," coach Paul MacLean said.

But Ottawa rebounded from a road shellacking against the Montreal Canadiens to take an 8-4 home decision over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. Captain Daniel Alfredsson registered a season-high four-point evening and six Senators managed multi-point nights.

"We hope that the big goal output that we had [against Pittsburgh] can give guys some confidence," leading scorer Jason Spezza said. "I think it was a pretty good bounce-back game for us, a good character game for us."

The win cost the Senators the services of goaltender Ben Bishop, who exited the game with a lower-body injury. Bishop's absence means that Craig Anderson, who missed 12 games with a hand injury before returning last week, will start tonight's game. Alex Auld will back up Anderson.

After tonight's game, the Senators do not resume play until Saturday, when they visit Philadelphia, and will have just five games remaining.

"Desperate teams are tough to play against," Nick Foligno said. "They're fighting for their lives, and we have to treat it the same way for us. We're a desperate hockey team as well. It's a tight race for us. It's a push to the playoffs for us, as well."

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Senators:

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer - Kaspars Daugavins - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

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Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares