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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 4:16 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Kings' Carter ready for Game 1

VANCOUVER -- Their playoff series hasn’t started yet, but already the Los Angeles Kings are leading the Canucks 1-0 when it comes to welcoming back key forwards from injury.

While the Canucks were talking about missing top goal scorer Daniel Sedin for Game 1 of the playoffs Wednesday night because of a concussion, the Kings were preparing to welcome back Jeff Carter from a bone bruise that kept him out the last five games of the regular season.

“Good to go,” Carter said after joining teammates for a third straight day Wednesday.

That’s welcome news for a Kings team that has improved offensively since his arrival in a blockbuster trade with Columbus that reunited Carter with fellow former Flyers forward Mike Richards.

The Kings were dead last in scoring before Carter arrived, but averaged more than three goals in the 21 games after his arrival, which would be top-four in the NHL for the entire season. Carter only has six of them, and just nine points overall, but he balanced out the top six and created more room and less checking pressure for Anze Kopitar’s top line.

“I think I filled a hole, kind of balance things out maybe, shifted guys into roles that probably suit them well,” Carter said. “Just a little bit of balance.”

That balance will be important after the Canucks created a shutdown line with the trade deadline addition of center Samuel Pahlsson, who is expected to go head-to-head with Kopitar.

"[Carter] definitely adds a threat all over the ice at all times and we all know he can score some big goals and we need him to do that for us," Kopitar said. "It spreads everything out and maybe those guys can't; just key on the top line because it spreads the scoring around and that's what you need in the playoffs if you want to go deep."

Here are the rest of the expected lines as the Kings, who are missing Brad Richardson after undergoing an appendectomy Monday, try to avenge a six-game, first-round loss to Vancouver two years ago:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Likely Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick is in goal, with Jonathan Bernier backing up.   
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Raymond to start in Sedin's spot for Game 1

VANCOUVER -- With Daniel Sedin sitting out Game 1 of the Canucks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Kings on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC), the Canucks will do a bit of line-juggling.

Mason Raymond, who missed the last regular-season game to witness the birth of his first child, will take Sedin's spot on the top line, alongside Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows, while Maxim Lapierre, who played well in Daniel's place on the top line, shifts to the second line.

Here is how the Canucks likely will look when they hit the ice Wednesday for Game 1, including Zack Kassian's return after missing two games with a shoulder injury:
 
Mason Raymond - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Byron Bitz - Zack Kassian
 
Dan Hamhuis - Chris Tanev
Alexander Edler - Kevin Bieksa
Aaron Rome - Sami Salo
 
Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Daniel Sedin won't play Game 1 for Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Daniel Sedin did not take part in Wednesday's morning skate at Rogers Arena and has been ruled out for Game 1 against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

"There is nothing new to report. Obviously he's not going to play tonight," coach Alain Vigneault said.

Sedin, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer last season, practiced with teammates Monday for the first time since being concussed by an elbow from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith on March 21, but was not out with the main group on Tuesday, skating instead with a smaller group of spare part players after the main session ended.

Twin brother Henrik said Daniel was "100 percent" on Monday, and despite the absence Tuesday, coach Alain Vigneault said Sedin hadn't suffered a setback in his recovery.

Daniel, who missed the final nine games of the season but still leads the team with 30 goals and is second with 67 points, has not talked with reporters since the injury, which earned Keith a five-game suspension.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 2:15 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Daniel Sedin absent from Canucks practice Tuesday

Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin practiced with teammates Monday, but didn't talk.

He didn't practice Tuesday, but skated shortly after.

What does it mean for the Canucks' leading scorer in Game 1 of the playoffs Wednesday?

No one with the Canucks was saying, leaving only question marks about whether last season's Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL's leading scorer would be ready to return from a March 21 concussion in time to face the Los Angeles Kings when Vancouver starts the first round.

Twin brother Henrik, who said Daniel was "100 percent" a day earlier, offered only no comments when asked about his lifelong linemate's health and playing status.

Coach Alain Vigneault did at least say Sedin hadn't suffered a setback in his recovery after practicing for the first time with teammates on Monday, but that was about it.

"It's not a setback," Vigneault said twice. "It's a unique injury and he will continue the protocol and when he's ready to play he'll address you. Until then he won't talk to you."

Daniel, who missed the final nine games of the season, but still leads the team with 30 goals and is second with 67 points, did not talk with reporters after practicing on Monday. He skated with regular linemates Henrik and Alexandre Burrows, and worked in his usual spot on the top power-play unit, staying out through the end of a hard skating session at the end. On Tuesday he didn't go on the ice until most teammates were talking to the media -- mostly not answering questions about his status.

Daniel skated for 40 minutes with six spares, including Keith Ballard, who is coming off a concussion of his own and not expected to play in Game 1, doing drills with skill coach Glenn Carnegie, and firing into a net guarded only by a shooter tutor.

There was no word -- or even a hint -- if he'd play Wednesday.

"You should know by know I don't discuss lineup decisions," Vigneault said.

Daniel still wasn't wearing a white helmet the way Ballard, who has been out since early February, did before he was cleared for contact last week. But there was no contact.

Keith was suspended five games for the hit. The Canucks won eight of their last nine games without Daniel to secure a second-straight Presidents' Trophy.


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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 2:12 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Daniel Sedin skates with Canucks at practice

Daniel Sedin rejoined the Vancouver Canucks at practice Monday morning.

Sedin, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer last season, took his usual spot on the top line alongside twin brother Henrik and Alexandre Burrows.

Vancouver's leading goal scorer hasn't played since being concussed by an elbow from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith on March 21, but his return was a positive sign Sedin could be ready for Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs, Wednesday night against Los Angeles.

Sedin, who still leads the team with 30 goals and is second with 67 points despite missing the final nine games, skated on his own with a skills coach before practice and stayed out with the main group when they took to the ice. Sedin wasn't wearing a white helmet the way defenseman Keith Ballard, who has been out since early February with a concussion, did before he was cleared for full contact in practice last week.





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Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 4:27 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks after top spot in West, Presidents' Trophy

The Canucks can lock up the top spot in the in the Western Conference - and perhaps the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team - by winning Saturday's regular-season finale against Edmonton.

Perhaps more exciting, however, are reports that top goal scorer Daniel Sedin, out since an elbow to the head from Duncan Keith on March 21, has been skating on his own. First reported by TSN's Farhan Lalji Saturday afternoon and confirmed later in a Vancouver Province story, word that Sedin has skated by himself the last few days and is expected to be ready for the playoffs puts a positive spin on his twin brother's comments a bit earlier.

"As time has moved on he's felt better," Henrik Sedin said. "But until you are on the ice and feel comfortable playing a game, [concern is] always going to be there."

Henrik said those concerns are fueled by seeing players like Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who has missed 22 games with a concussion, still out.

"For sure, those guys I'm sure after a week they thought they were going got be able to play in three or four days, and 20 games later they still haven't played," he said. "That's always going to be there until he's back."

With the absence of Daniel, and fellow top-six forward Mason Raymond away for the birth of his first child, the Canucks will shake up their forward lines again. Here's how all the lines are expected to look Saturday:

CANUCKS

Andrew EbbettHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Maxim LapierreRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Chris HigginsSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Manny MalhotraByron BitzZack Kassian

Dan Hamhuis – Chris Tanev
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Andrew AlbertsAaron Rome

Roberto Luongo is back in goal after watching Cory Schneider start in Calgary on Thursday, giving Luongo one last chance to erase the memories of being pulled form his last start before the playoffs start next week.

Maxim Lapierre, who has played well since moving up from the fourth line to the first line in place of Daniel Sedin, is moving down to try and spark a struggling second line. Andrew Ebbett, playing his fourth game after missing almost three months with a broken collarbone, moves up to the first line, while AHL call-up Byron Bitz centers the fourth unit.

The only line that remains intact is the checking unit anchored by Samuel Pahlsson, which has been the team’s best trio for at least two weeks.

On the back end, Chris Tanev comes back from a maintenance day, while Marc-Andre Gragnani, who now has played enough games to become a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted free agent, will be a healthy scratch.
 
OILERS

Teemu HartikainenRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle
Ryan JonesSam GagnerAles Hemsky
Eric BelangerShawn HorcoffRyan Smyth
Darcy HordichukChris VandeVeldeBen Eager
 
Ryan WhitneyNick Schultz
Cam BarkerJeff Petry
Andy SuttonColten Teubert
 
Devan Dubnyk starts in goal for a fourth straight game – and 12th time in the last 14 – ahead of veteran Nikolai Khabibulin
 
The Oilers are locked into 14th place in the Western Conference and another lottery pick in the NHL Draft, but coach Tom Renney made it clear they have something to play for beyond just spoiling the Canucks’ night.

“The fact we’ve had the type of season we’ve had is motivation in itself and as I explained to the guys out on the ice just now this is the first game of next year,” Renney said. “Better play that way.”

Ben Eager, who has a long history of antagonizing the Canucks during his time in Chicago and San Jose, draws back into the lineup on the fourth line.

With defensemen Ladislav Smid (neck), Theo Peckham and Corey Potter (both concussions) all still out, prospect Colten Teubert remains with the Oilers on emergency recall and gets to play his first NHL game in front of family and friends form his nearby suburban hometown of White Rock, B.C.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 5:30 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bieksa, Sedin remain out of Canucks' lineup

Top-four Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa was back on the ice for an optional morning skate, but will miss his fourth straight game Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks as he continues to take an extended "maintenance day."

"I'm just going to take it one maintenance day at a time,” Bieksa said, using the words "maintenance" or "maintain" more than a dozen times during a brief but entertaining back and forth with the media. "There's no problem."

The status of Daniel Sedin, who will miss a seventh-straight game because of a concussion, isn't a laughing matter. Vancouver's top goal scorer still isn't skating, but reports Sedin has been at the rink working out off ice for three-straight days are at least positive, and indicate he could be back for the start of playoffs.

In the meantime, the healthy Canucks are taking motivation in a chance to stay atop the Western Conference and possibly claim a second-straight President’s Trophy as the NHL's top regular-season team. Thanks to a six-game win streak without Sedin, Vancouver is one point ahead of St. Louis in the West, and tied with the New York Rangers overall, with three games left for each team.

The Canucks play all three against non-playoff teams, and will use the chance to lock up home ice advantage in the playoffs as a way to get fired up

"We want to finish as high up in the conference as we can and obviously it's second or first and we want first," associate coach Rick Bowness said after Tuesday's morning skate. "Do we have a shot at the Presidents' Trophy again? Absolutely. Are we focused on making sure we take care of the day-to-day process and the in-game process to give ourselves a chance to do that? Absolutely. We want home-ice advantage. We saw the benefit of it last year, and even though it didn't help us in Game 7 against the Bruins, it was certainly nice going into every round knowing we had home ice. So we'd like that again."

For an Anaheim team in 13th place, the chance to spoil that is a goal.

"It is kind of what we've been talking about," Ducks top-line winger Corey Perry said. "They have something to play for and we just want to go out and play our game and if it happens to be as a spoiler, we're happy to do that."

Here are the expected lines as the 49-21-9 Canucks try to reach the 50-win mark for a second-straight season by extending their longest win streak of this season against a 33-35-11 Ducks team playing out the string -- possibly for the last time for veteran Finnish forwards Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu:

CANUCKS
Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Maxim Lapierre
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Andrew Ebbett - Manny Malhotra - Zack Kassian

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev
Marc-Andre Gragnani - Alexander Edler
Andrew Alberts - Sami Salo

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

Luongo will get a second-straight start in the late-season goaltending rotation, with Schneider expected to play in Calgary on Thursday.

While the Canucks only have six healthy defensemen right now, Bieksa said he could play now if the playoffs started early, and Aaron Rome (knee) and Keith Ballard (concussion) are also skating, though Ballard is still wearing a white helmet to indicate he hasn't been cleared for contact.

DUCKS
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Niklas Hagman - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Bobby Ryan - Nick Bonino - Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey - Andrew Cogliano - George Parros

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Mat Clark - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers

Veteran defenseman Toni Lydman is out with an upper-body injury, so Clark draws back into the lineup on the back end.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 4:59 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames hope to bouce back against surging Canucks

The Calgary Flames are still technically alive in the Western Conference playoff race, but their hopes dimmed so considerably after a 4-1 loss to Colorado on Friday night that it’s hard to know how they’ll respond 24 hours later in Vancouver.

For the first time in a while, Canucks players were talking about facing a team that was playing for jobs next season rather than one fighting to make the playoffs this year. It’s an interesting conundrum for the Canucks, who have used their opponent’s desperation as motivation to snap out of their own late-season funk with five straight wins against teams battling for one of the final playoff spots.

“A lot of times those guys are playing for their jobs for the next year,” said goalie Roberto Luongo, who plans to play against Calgary after a sore neck forced him to abandon a scheduled start Friday night against Dallas after warm up. “We have seen it throughout this year, we haven't necessarily had great success against teams like that. We want to make sure we still get ready to play.”

Vancouver clinched at least the second seed a while ago, which contributed to an early-March funk. But their first five-game win streak since November has put the Canucks within a point of St. Louis for top spot in the Western Conference, and two back of the New York Rangers in a bid to win a second-straight President’s Trophy as the NHL’s regular season team. That should keep them focused.

“That should be good enough motivation,” coach Alain Vigneault said.

Here are the expected lineups as the Flames try to stay alive – at least mathematically – in the west playoff race against a Canucks team looking for its first six-game win streak of the season:
 
CANUCKS

Alexandre BurrowsHenrik SedinMaxim Lapierre
Mason RaymondRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Chris HigginsSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Andrew EbbettManny MalhotraZack Kassian
 
Dan Hamhuis – Chris Tanev
Marc-Andre GragnaniAlexander Edler
Andrew AlbertsSami Salo
 
Luongo returns in goal after ceding a start Friday against Dallas to Cory Schneider in warmups because of a sore neck.

The only change for the Canucks is the return of Andrew Ebbett, who has been out since having his collarbone broken in two places by a clean hit from Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg during a Jan. 7 rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Ebbett, who required multiple screws and plates during surgery to repair the damage, was cleared for contact 10 days ago.
"It was actually 12 weeks since I got hurt, so it's about that time," Ebbett said of his return, which allows the Canucks to test his playoff readiness.

The versatile 5-foot-9 forward had four goals and five points in just 14 games. He takes the spot of Dale Weiss on the fourth line.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault also said he hoped to get defenseman Keith Ballard, out since Feb. 7 with a concussion, back in a few games before the end of the season. But Ballard, who went seven weeks without even skating, still hasn't been cleared for full contact, is just hoping to rejoin a full practice on Monday, and didn't sound like he was close to playing a game.

“Right now I know I’m not ready," Ballard said.
 
FLAMES
 
Calgary didn’t skate Saturday after flying in late following a 4-1 loss to Colorado, so the lineup is expected to be the same. The big question mark is in goal, where No. 1 Miikka Kiprusoff has played seven straight, 37 of the last 40, and is one game short of 70 for a seventh-straight season.
Kiprusoff has 34 of the Flames 35 wins, with rookie Leland Irving posting the only other victory in Vancouver two days before Christmas. Current backup Henrik Karlsson has only played 20 NHL minutes since injuring his knee in a crease collision with Canucks’ forward David Booth during a 5-1 loss here Dec. 4.
 
Alex Tanguay - Michael Cammalleri - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Lee Stempniak - Matt Stajan - Blake Comeau
Tom Kostopoulos - Blair Jones - Tim Jackman
 
Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Anton Babchuk - Cory Sarich
 
Kiprusoff may finally get a night off in favor of backup Henrik Karlsson.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 3:45 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Luongo OK, back in net for Canucks

Vancouver No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo will be back in goal Saturday night for the Canucks against the Calgary Flames, just 24 hours after a sore neck forced to him pull out of a scheduled start against Dallas after the pregame warmup.

Luongo, who was back on the ice Saturday morning, said he woke up with the sore neck Friday and just wasn’t able to move it well enough to track pucks, so he stepped aside at the last minute to let Cory Schneider take over against the Stars.

"A few years ago I might have been a little more stubborn and tried to play,” Luongo said. “But I thought about the team and the fact we have a guy who can obviously step in and do a great job for us. I tried to make a rational decision."

It was an easier decision after teammates kept picking the corners on him during warm up, but obviously frustrating as he slammed his stick before leaving.

"If you are not seeing the puck you are just a fraction of a second late in reacting to it,” Luongo said after an optional skate Saturday. “Going through warmups yesterday and getting lit up high you realize that maybe you are not ready to play."

Just 16 hours later, Luongo insisted he is now ready to play against Calgary.

"Definitely, I was able to loosen it up,” Luongo said. “I am feeling fine, I was able to track pucks with my head and I am not having any problems. … Obviously you don't want to take any chances with something like that, but I felt really good this morning and don't see why it would be a problem."

The Canucks had third-stringer Eddie Lack at the rink Saturday morning – their American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, played the night before in nearby Abbotsford – but let him leave with Luongo ready to return.

With Vancouver on its first five-game win streak in four months, Luongo is looking to build on a personal 2-0-1 run that includes a .965 save percentage. That came after taking a week off to “reset” his game following a stretch that saw him give up 25 goals in eight games. But with Schneider also playing well – after making 28 saves in a 5-2 win over the Stars, he is 12-1-1 in 14 starts since Christmas and second in the NHL with a .937 save percentage – Luongo is comfortable continuing to split starts over the final four games to keep both playoff ready.

“I am feeling good about my game right now,” Luongo said. “Obviously, Schneider is playing well also and we are getting wins. It's important to have both guys ready -- you never know what might happen.”

That point was driven home during the pregame warm up Friday night.

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Posted On Friday, 03.30.2012 / 7:10 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks need to shut down Stars' stars

With the Vancouver Canucks preparing for the playoffs, it's no surprise they've built a shutdown line around new checking center Samuel Pahlsson. With the Dallas Stars in a battle to make the playoffs, it's no surprise they're leaning on a sizzling top line anchored by skilled center Mike Ribeiro.

When the two lines go head-to-head Friday night, however, it may surprise some to learn it will also be a battle of the team's top two lines overall of late.

In addition to seeing more pure matchups against the opposition's best forwards, Pahlsson's line has been producing offensively, with Chris Higgins scoring the tying goal and overtime winner in Colorado last week -- and the only goal in a 1-0 victory over the Avalanche on Wednesday. Pahlsson, who had two goals and nine assists in 61 games with Columbus before being acquired at the trade deadline, already has a goal and four assists in just 14 games with the Canucks.

That may not sound like much, but with Vancouver struggling to score it's more than Ryan Kesler (three goals, one assist) over the same stretch, and not far behind former Hart and Art Ross Trophy-winner Henrik Sedin (seven assists).

"It took a couple games for us to find each other and mesh," said Higgins of a trio rounded out by Jannik Hansen. "Now I kind of know where [Pahlsson] is going to be and that's why we're having success. All three of us know where we are going to be on the ice and that's an underrated element of a line. [Henrik and Daniel Sedin] don't even look for each other, they just know where each other are and it's not as difficult when you don't need to take that extra half a second just to know where your teammate is going to be."

That sounds a lot like the chemistry enjoyed by Ribeiro with Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder on a top line that combined for all three goals and eight points in Dallas' 3-1 win in Edmonton on Wednesday night. The trio has five goals and 12 points in the last three games, as well as six goals in three games against Vancouver this season.

"Ribeiro is really tricky to play against," Pahlsson said. "He can really make a fool out of you and make you look stupid, so you've got to be ready for him."

Playing against that line is perfect playoff preparation, said Higgins.

"We're playing some tough minutes against some of the players we'll play in the playoffs, some of the other team's best players, but it's good practice," he said.

"Ribeiro is one of the best passers in the game and sees the ice like few players in the game can, Ryder is having a great year, has an unbelievable shot, and Eriksson is great around the net. So it will be a tough match up for us tonight but I think we enjoy the challenge of playing against those guys."

The results have played a role in the Canucks' success against Dallas. After the Stars' top trio combined for 12 points while winning the first two meetings - and before the Canucks put their current shutdown line together - Vancouver held all three off the scoresheet in a tight-checking 2-1 win March 22. Ribeiro expects the matchup, and welcomes the challenges, knowing it frees up others.

"They've had a few shutouts. It's just up to us to be ready tonight," Ribeiro said. "We'll see probably a few more checking lines, and that's fine too, it gives [Jamie] Benn's line a chance to create more chances and score for us too. It's hard for other teams to match up against two or three lines that can score."

As for tendencies, Higgins may have a slight advantage having played on the same line with Ryder for parts of four seasons with the Montreal Canadiens.

"Yeah I may know a couple things," Higgins said with a smile.

Of course, in a battle of the two top lines, that may work both ways.

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Quote of the Day

Because of the way they play and their skill set I don't think they're fourth-line players, so in my mind I'm looking at one of those guys I'll have to move over to the wing.

— Capitals coach Barry Trotz on his four-player battle for second-line center