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At the Rink blog
Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 2:24 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Islanders sign Strait to three-year contract

The New York Islanders have signed defenseman Brian Strait to a three-year contract, reportedly worth $775,000 per season.

Strait is scoreless in six games with the team this season since being claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 18.

Prior to joining the Islanders, Strait had appeared in 12 NHL games with the Penguins, collecting one assist and four penalty minutes. The Penguins selected the 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman in the third round (No. 65) of the 2006 NHL Draft.

In 220 career American Hockey League games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Boston native has eight goals, 40 points and a plus-46 rating.

Strait played three years of college hockey at Boston University, highlighted by a NCAA National Championship in 2009, his final season with the team. He also spent two seasons with the United States National Development Team in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

On the international stage, Strait played for the U.S. National Team at the 2008 World Junior Championship and the 2006 Under-18 World Championship, winning gold as team captain in 2006.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 2:10 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Flames' Baertschi out 'week-to-week'

CALGARY, Alberta -- Rookie Sven Baertschi will be out of the lineup when the Calgary Flames host the Colorado Avalanche at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.

Baertschi suffered a hip flexor injury in practice Tuesday and is listed by the team as week-to-week.

"I was skating and my left skate seemed to have caught a rut in the ice and my legs kind of went into a splits position," Baertschi said in a statement. "I felt pain immediately and left the ice to have it checked. It’s very disappointing to learn that it’s a hip flexor injury that will keep me out of the lineup.”

Coach Bob Hartley said he will soldier on without the 20-year-old.

"You can't win with the players you don't have," Hartley said. "You play with the 20 bodies that you have in your lineup. Sven is capable of many great things, but we believe in everyone in this lineup. It's not a one-man show. It's about being a team. There's always a good and a bad part to injuries. The bad part is the player can't play. The good part, it gives opportunities to others to get some roles, to get some responsibilities."

Here are the Flames' lines against the Avalanche as Calgary looks for its second consecutive win of the season:

Curtis GlencrossAlex TanguayJarome Iginla

Lee StempniakMikael BacklundMichael Cammalleri

Jiri HudlerMatt StajanRoman Cervenka

Blake ComeauBlair JonesTim Jackman

Jay BouwmeesterMark Giordano

Dennis WidemanTJ Brodie

Cory SarichChris Butler

Miikka Kiprusoff

Leland Irving

Injured: Anton Babchuk, Sven Baertschi

Scratched: Steve Begin, Derek Smith

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:58 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers want Gudbranson to finish rehab in AHL

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson will start his season in the American Hockey League and how well he plays will determine how long he'll be away from the NHL.

Gudbranson, the third pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury which occurred during the summer while wakeboarding, and the Panthers sent him to the San Antonio Rampage on Wednesday.

Gudbranson is scheduled to make his AHL debut Friday night when San Antonio plays host to the Rockford IceHogs.

After spending the 2010-11 season in the Ontario Hockey League, Gudbranson went straight to the NHL, where he played in 72 games for the Panthers last season.

Florida coach Kevin Dineen said there was no set number of games he wanted Gudbranson to play in the AHL.

"It depends on what we think of him," Dineen said. "We'll see where he's at. We'll watch the game tomorrow night and see how he's doing and go from there. He's got to go down and establish his play, and play."

Gudbranson was one of two Panthers players loaned to San Antonio, the other being forward Mike Santorelli.

After clearing waivers before the start of the regular season, Santorelli opened the season playing on the first line but was dropped to the third line after the game and was a healthy scratch three of the past four contests.

Santorelli didn't have a point in three games this season. He had 20 goals in 82 games in 2010-11, but had nine goals and two assists in 60 games last season.

"I've always been a believer that Santo is a top-six player," Dineen said. "That's his skill set, as a higher-end skilled forward. Unfortunately, we don't have that fit for him right now. He's got to either diversify his game or get a major dose of confidence. I feel that some time in the American League is going to give him that jolt and that quality ice time that he'll need to get things turned around.

"That book is not closed yet, but he's got to go down there and expand his game and as much so get his confidence back."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:53 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Leafs recall Hamilton, claim McLaren off waivers

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs (3-3-0) are gunning for their first home win against the Washington Capitals (1-4-1), who are still adjusting to playing under rookie coach Adam Oates.

After stopping 28 shots in the Maple Leafs overtime victory in Buffalo on Tuesday, James Reimer will get the start in goal.

Gritty fourth line forward Mike Brown has a shoulder strain that Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said will keep him out of action for at least seven days. In Brown's place, Toronto has called up Ryan Hamilton, captain of its American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

"He's added another gear … and now he is getting an opportunity tonight and the issue will be where to play him in the lineup," Carlyle said. "Right now we brought him up to fill in for Mike Brown, but we wouldn't be afraid to put him higher in the lineup."

The Maple Leafs also claimed forward Frazer McLaren off waivers from the San Jose Sharks. In 40 career NHL games, all with San Jose, McLaren has registered one goal, five assists and 85 penalty minutes.

Capitals forward Brooks Laich skated with his teammates for the first time this season but he will remain out with a groin injury and there is no timetable on his return.

"The guys gave a little round of applause which is nice," Laich said after leaving the ice. "I wake up feeling better every day -- the more I can get on the ice with the guys, the quicker it will be. As far as a timeline, I can't really tell you, I don't have an exact date, but (I'm) getting closer and closer every day."

Alex Ovechkin, who has one goal this season, also spoke with the media after the morning skate.

"Two points is not good enough for me," Ovechkin said. "It's not my game, I have to be better."

Ovechkin did not record a goal last season in two games in Toronto but did have two assists in Washington's previous game at the Air Canada Centre, a 4-2 win on Feb. 25.

MAPLE LEAFS

James Van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Jay McClement - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin

Matt Frattin - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Ryan Hamilton - David Steckel - Colton Orr

Dion Phaneuf - Michael Kostka

Carl Gunnarsson - John-Michael Liles

Mark Fraser - Cody Franson

James Reimer

Ben Scrivens

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb

Wojtek Wolski - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Mike Ribeiro - Joel Ward

Matt Hendricks - Marcus Johansson - Eric Fehr

Karl Alzner - Mike Green

John Erskine - John Carlson

Jeff Schultz - Tomas Kundratek

Michal Neuvirth

Braden Holtby

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:36 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Jets, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Here are the projected lines for the game Thursday between the Florida Panthers and the Winnipeg Jets at BB&T Center.

JETS

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

Ron Hainsey - Zach Redmond

Grant Clitsome - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Injured: Zach Bogosian, Antti Miettinen

Scratches: Paul Postma, Anthony Peluso, Mark Scheifele

NOTES: Forward James Wright will face the Panthers for the first time since being claimed by the Jets after he was waived by Florida before the start of the season.

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Kris Versteeg

Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Peter Mueller

Alex Kovalev - Shawn Matthias - Tomas Kopecky

Jack Skille - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore

Scott Clemmensen

Injured: Stephen Weiss, Ed Jovanovski, Sean Bergenheim

Scratches: Scottie Upshall

NOTES: Defenseman Tyson Strachan is set to make his first appearance since the Jan. 19 season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes as he replaces the injured Ed Jovanovski.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:29 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

New-look Sabres focused on points, not rough stuff

BOSTON – The Buffalo Sabres team that will take the ice Thursday at TD Garden is much different than the one the Boston Bruins beat four times in six tries last season.

In an effort to improve their toughness and physical play, the Sabres added forwards Steve Ott and John Scott during the offseason. Plenty was written and discussed about how the Sabres did not respond last season when Boston forward Milan Lucic ran into Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller during a Nov. 12 contest.

To Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, last year was last year, and he’s more concerned with his team doing what it needs to end a four-game losing streak. That includes his team exercising its newfound physicality as part of an all-round game.

“You try to win the puck battles. You try to win the territorial battles. We have to win a game,” Ruff said after his team’s morning skate. “Not coming out of here with points is not being successful. We need points. In a short season you need points. We’ve answered the physical challenge. We’ve been there for each other from Day One in this. And we’ve played a gritty style, we’ve played a hitting style. We have to win games.

“We dealt with last year. We had a game where [Paul] Gaustad fought with Lucic. [Robyn] Regehr fought [Zdeno] Chara. We played a couple great games against them and came away with points. Hockey’s about winning the game. It’s about winning the mental battle, but winning the physical battle. It’s about winning the territorial battle. If you win those, you give yourself a chance to win.”

In Ott, the Sabres have the perfect foil for the Bruins. His rivalry with Boston goes back to a 2008 fight-filled game between the Dallas Stars and Boston, which featured Ott being ejected. In February 2011, Ott and Boston center Gregory Campbell fought one second into a game to settle a grudge from their junior careers.

Ott doesn’t plan on going out of his way to do more than just what it takes to make up some ground on Buffalo’s Northeast Division rivals.

“Team toughness is within. You don’t have to go out there and drop the gloves every five minutes to prove how tough you are,” Ott said. “I think toughness comes from the locker room. Every guy in here, when you have each other’s back and you play a tough team to play against, I think that’s where you bring your team toughness. And I think that’s more where the focus is, and winning the game.”

Although Claude Julien attributed it to Chris Bourque’s struggles through the Bruins’ first six games, the Bruins coach revealed he will insert of tough guy Lane MacDermid for his season debut in place of Bourque. Rugged defenseman Adam McQuaid is also scheduled to be back in Boston’s lineup.

Here are the projected lineups:

BRUINS

Milan LucicDavid KrejciNathan Horton

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronTyler Seguin

Daniel PailleChris KellyRich Peverley

Lane MacDermidGregory CampbellShawn Thornton

Zdeno CharaJohnny Boychuk

Dennis Seidenberg – Doug Hamilton

Andrew FerenceAdam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

Scratches: Aaron Johnson, Chris Bourque

SABRES

Thomas VanekCody HodgsonJason Pominville

Steve OttTyler EnnisDrew Stafford

Marcus FolignoMikhail GrigorenkoJochen Hecht

John ScottMatt EllisNathan Gerbe

Mike WeberAndrej Sekera

Alexander SulzerChristian Ehrhoff

Jordan LeopoldTyler Myers

Ryan Miller

Jhonas Enroth

Scratches: T.J. Brennan

Injured: Robyn Regehr, Patrick Kaleta

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Byfuglien's availability Thursday uncertain for Jets

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets could be without defenseman Dustin Byfuglien on Thursday night when they face the Florida Panthers.

Byfuglien did not take part in the morning skate, and coach Claude Noel said a determination on Byfuglien's status would be made later.

"He aggravated something previous to the morning skate," Noel said, "so we're going to see with him and make a game-time decision on whether he'll be in or not."

Byuglien got a team-high 28:26 of ice time in the Jets' 4-3 loss at Montreal on Tuesday. The Jets did not practice on Wednesday.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:24 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jovanovski joins Weiss on sidelines for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers again will be without center Stephen Weiss on Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets, and he'll be joined on the sidelines by captain Ed Jovanovski.

The veteran defenseman sustained a knee injury in Tuesday night's 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay.

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Jovanovski wouldn't play at Buffalo on Sunday, either. If there's any good news regarding Jovanovski, it's that an exam Wednesday revealed no structural damage.

"It's going to take a few days here, but the guy's heart is pretty big," Dineen said. "It's hard to put a number on how many days he'll be out."

As for Weiss, he continues to be sidelined by a groin injury and will miss his fourth consecutive game.

Dineen said the issue isn't conditioning, but rather making sure that Weiss isn't rushed back into action before he's ready.

"If it was conditioning, Weisser would be right into the thick of things for us, but I want to make sure a player as important as he is to our lineup is with us the next 40 games instead of for a short-term snapshot," Dineen said. "If Stephen Weiss was making the decision, it probably would be a different look to our lineup tonight. He's an important guy and we want to make sure that he's healthy."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:18 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers get Goc back in lineup against Jets

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Center Marcel Goc will make his season debut for the Florida Panthers Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets.

Goc missed the first six games because of a lower-body injury sustained while he played in Germany during the lockout.

Goc is expected to center the top line between Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg.

"No injury comes at a good time, and this one came just a few days before the lockout was over," Goc said. "It was really bad timing, but you can't predict that. Things happen. I had to do my rehab work and I put the time in, and now I'm back, I'm excited and I hope I can help the team."

The Panthers are off to a disappointing 1-5 start, and have missed Goc's versatility.

"He's not a kind of player that you notice a heck of a lot during the course of the game, but boy, we use him in a lot of different situations," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "He kind of gives us one more bullet in the chamber to throw out in many different situations.

"In any sport there's a level of trust that gets into coaching when you're looking for that player that's going to make a difference, whether it's a faceoff or making a responsible play or can go out and give you a quality play on offense. Marcel is pretty diversified. He can do a lot of things."

While the injury was disappointing, Goc said he enjoyed playing in Germany because it gave him the opportunity to play on the same Manheim team as his younger brother Nikolai.

The big highlight, though, was a game against Hanover, which featured Goc's older brother Sasha.

"That was fun," Goc said. "The one game I played with my younger brother against my older brother, that was pretty cool. That was fun to play in that game."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:00 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Penguins get a look at Tangradi as net-front presence

NEW YORK -- Chris Kunitz didn't take part in Thursday morning's practice, but Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma expects him to be in the lineup against the New York Rangers.

Eric Tangradi spent practice in Kunitz's spot on the Penguins' top line with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis, as Kunitz was termed under the weather by Bylsma.

With Kunitz absent, Tangradi was the net-front presence on the team's power play during practice. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward doesn't have a goal in five games this season, but standing around the crease with the likes of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice could help him break out of his slump.

"It’s going to be tough for the goalie to see around him and for the defensemen to move him," Crosby said. "He's got good hands in tight. If he's got rebound opportunities, he's going to be able to put them in. I think he's someone used to playing there; he's played there with us before. He should be pretty comfortable."

Tangradi doesn't care how the puck goes into the net.

"I feel like I've gained confidence from the way I've played, be it the beginning of this year or last year," Tangradi said. "Just to have one find the back of the net would definitely be encouraging. I've had a lot of quality chances and just haven't really found the back of the net. It definitely would kick-start something for me if I was to find the back of the net."

The Penguins' power play, despite ranking 11th in the NHL at 22.7 percent, has gone 1-for-14 in the last two games since starting the season 4-for-8 in wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.

Bylsma believes despite the funk, it's nothing to get worked up about this early in the season even with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang and James Neal on the ice at the same time.

"Great power plays fail 75 percent of the time," Bylsma said. "So I think if people expect that every time they get on the ice something magical is going to happen, that it's going to go in the net, it's a false assumption. It's not true. They have been part of a very good power play, but it doesn't mean we score every time."

Bylsma announced that Tomas Vokoun will make his third start of the season and second against the Rangers. On Jan. 20 at Madison Square Garden, Vokoun made 31 saves in a 6-3 victory.

Here are the lines and defense pairings the Penguins showed at practice with Kunitz not taking part.

Eric TangradiSidney CrosbyPascal Dupuis

Dustin JeffreyEvgeni MalkinJames Neal

Matt CookeBrandon SutterTyler Kennedy

Tanner GlassJoe VitaleCraig Adams

Simon DespresKris Letang

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin

Ben Lovejoy- Deryk Engelland – Rob Bortuzzo

Tomas Vokoun

Marc-Andre Fleury

Bylsma said Bortuzzo will be in the lineup but said the rest of his team is a game-time decision. Lovejoy, Despres and Engelland were all in the lineup against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

If Kunitz is healthy enough to play, it's possible Jeffrey will be a healthy scratch. He has played in just two games this season.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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