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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.25.2014 / 1:49 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Hurricanes start playoff push with Ward healthy

BUFFALO -- With the Olympic break over, the NHL season is heading into the stretch run. The Carolina Hurricanes start their push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Tuesday night.

The Hurricanes enter the game three points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, and they'll have starting goalie Cam Ward back in the lineup.

Ward hasn't played since Dec. 31 against the Montreal Canadiens because of a lower-body injury. He was the first goalie off at the morning skate and appears likely to start.

"I think it's going to be a lot like the first game of the year," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "Everyone has high expectations. It's like a clean slate. On our part everyone is healthy. We just mentioned to our guys, right from the drop of the puck, I assume the intensity is going to be high and everyone's going to be recharged restarting, and it's going to be full bore from here to the end now."


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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.08.2014 / 12:44 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Defenseman Hamhuis returns for struggling Canucks

TORONTO – The Vancouver Canucks are hoping to start the break during the 2014 Sochi Olympics on a high note. The Canucks have lost six straight games and are winless in 15 of the past 19 games as they face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Center on Saturday.

Injuries have been a major problem for the Canucks, but they’ll have defenseman Dan Hamhuis back in the lineup against the Maple Leafs after he missed the past three games with an upper-body injury. Vancouver is still without four other defensemen in Kevin Bieksa, Christopher Tanev, Yannick Weber and Andrew Alberts.

The Canucks had a very light morning skate with just Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo on the ice taking shots. Luongo was off the ice first and will likely get the start.

Fortunes have been different for the Maple Leafs. Toronto has won 10 of their past 13 games and sits one point behind second-place Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs have been led by the scoring of Phil Kessel, who has 13 goals and 30 points in the past 20 games.

The Maple Leafs did not hold a morning skate. Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the start for the sixth straight game.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.05.2014 / 1:33 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins' Kunitz, Niskanen game-time decisions

BUFFALO -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres may be without key players when they face each other at First Niagara Center on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2).

Penguins forward Chris Kunitz and defenseman Matt Niskanen each missed the morning skate and will be game-time decisions.

"They will just hopefully [be out for] maintenance and will be on the ice [Wednesday]," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "The rest of our lineup will be game-time [decisions]."

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POSTED ON Monday, 02.03.2014 / 1:50 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sabres' Stafford returning to lineup

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will get forward Drew Stafford back in the lineup against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

The 28-year-old forward sustained an upper-body injury Jan. 25 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and has missed the past four games.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Stafford said. "We'll see how it goes. I'm anxious to get back and try to pick up where I left off when I came out last time."

Stafford had five points in four games before getting hurt against the Blue Jackets and has 18 points in 46 games this season. He'll be on the top line with Tyler Ennis and Linus Omark.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.01.2014 / 1:53 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Crucial points on the line in Battle of Ontario

TORONTO – The Battle of Ontario is never lacking for story lines, and the matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators at Air Canada Center on Saturday night is no different.

The Maple Leafs lead the Senators in the Atlantic Division by six points going into the game, and for them it's a chance to put a little distance between themselves and their cross-province rival, who hold two games in hand.

"I don't think there needs [to be] any extra motivation for this game," Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri said. "They're kind of right on our tails in the standings. We want to try to keep them in our rear-view as much as possible."

Kadri has been a key player for the Maple Leafs lately and has scored 12 points in the past 8 games. Toronto is 8-1-1 in the past 10 games.

The Maple Leafs held an optional skate but have a pair of forwards dealing with injuries. Carter Ashton has a swollen hand and Peter Holland is dealing with "lace bite," an inflammation of the foot tendons caused by tight skates.

"It's a new one for me," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "To me it's crazy. It's something that a guy wears a pair of new skates in the morning, plays the game that night, and the next morning's got lace bite. Go figure. I'm at a loss to explain it."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.30.2014 / 1:30 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Maple Leafs' Smith has setback, not ready to return

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs head into the game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night having won six of the past eight games. The Maple Leafs thought they would get forward Trevor Smith back in the lineup, but he had a setback this week in his recovery from a broken hand.

"Trevor Smith is not available," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "Not the hand, if you can believe it. He hurt himself in the weight room. So we thought we'd have him available, but two days ago he came up with an ailment from a post-practice workout."

The Maple Leafs held an optional morning skate and only James Reimer was on the ice. That means Jonathan Bernier gets the start against the Panthers. Bernier made 40 saves in a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.28.2014 / 2:12 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Capitals' Laich game-time decision against Sabres

BUFFALO -- Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates said forward Brooks Laich will be a game-time decision when they face the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).

Laich is dealing with a groin injury that has kept him out of action for parts of this season, but he did participate in the morning skate.

"I'm sure he's going through so many bumps and bruises that I'm sure he's hypersensitive to what's going on down there, which is natural for what he's gone through," Oates said. "You look at every single game, you get hit so many times you don't realize. Faceoffs you get poked and prodded that maybe it was just something like that that he thinks, 'Oh no, here we go again.' And he skated today and he felt pretty good.

"I'm sure in his own mind he wants to make sure he doesn't set it back. He said to me, 'What if I play [Tuesday] and I can't play Thursday?' I'm like, 'Well, you can't play [Tuesday].' But I don't know how you think like that. He's obviously over-thinking it and hopefully he felt good out there and he can conquer it."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 12:36 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sabres' Varone set for NHL debut vs. Hurricanes

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will have a new face in the lineup when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Forward Philip Varone was called up from the American Hockey League on Wednesday and will make his NHL debut Thursday.

"I don't think words can describe it," Varone said. "Extremely humbled, extremely excited, nervous. I mean, it's been a long time coming. I've worked my whole life for it. When it finally comes you don't expect it."

Varone was a 2009 fifth-round pick (No. 147) of the San Jose Sharks but never signed with the team. He's spent the past two seasons in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. He'll play Thursday on the third line with Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.21.2014 / 12:52 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Tallinder returning to Sabres lineup

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will have defenseman Henrik Tallinder back in the lineup when they host the Florida Panthers at First Niagara Center on Tuesday.

Tallinder was injured Dec. 29 against the Washington Capitals and missed the past eight games.

"It's always frustrating when you're injured, so it's good to be back with the guys in the locker room and everything that comes with it," Tallinder said.

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said Mark Pysyk would sit out so Tallinder can play. Tallinder likely will be paired with Tyler Myers, his usual defense partner.

"We just found out this morning that he's really good to go," Nolan said of Tallinder. "We haven't really had a chance to think about exactly who he's going to go with. Myers seems to be the guy who's really going right now. It could be a big benefit for him to play with the top guy right off the hop."

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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.18.2014 / 2:36 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Bolland works to return to Toronto lineup

TORONTO -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward Dave Bolland has been out of action since Nov. 7 when a tendon in his ankle was cut by the skate blade of Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian.

Bolland resumed skating in Toronto this week and spoke to the media Saturday for the first time since getting back on the ice.

Dave Bolland
CENTER - TOR
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 10
SOG: 27 | +/-: 4

"It's not like any other rehab when you break an ankle and you can just say six weeks and you're back and it's healed," Bolland said. "You cut a tendon and it's got to re-heal itself. You've got to do the rehab, do the movements with the trainers and in the gym. It's not fun. It's grueling.

"You're always in the gym, you're always doing the things. You want to get back on the ice and you want to play but these are the things you've got to do to get back on the ice. Now I'm at that step back on the ice. Now it's just trying to get back into the game."

Bolland had surgery on the tendon shortly after he sustained the injury. It's a good sign that he's returned to the ice to skate, but it doesn't come without pain.

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It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday