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At the Rink blog
Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 4:28 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks understand importance of focus at home

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks played spoilers on their two-game road trip, ruining home openers for the Calgary Flames then Edmonton Oilers.

Consider those games as two red-flag warnings as the Sharks approach their home opener tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion. As the Sharks learned first-hand, the emotions and distractions surrounding home openers can make it tough on the home teams.

"I don't think the home teams have done well," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after his team's morning skate at HP. "We have to be aware of that. Once the ceremonies are over, we have to be focused."

Thornton said he expects the scene at HP tonight to be "pretty crazy" and that the key for the Sharks will be to keep their emotions in check.

San Jose coach Todd McLellan said the fact he has a mature group of players, most of whom have been through plenty of home openers, should help the Sharks cope with an emotional night.

"I'd like to think we'll be prepared," McLellan said.

After last season, the Sharks certainly won't look past Phoenix. The Coyotes won the season series 4-1-1 and captured the Pacific Division crown, ending San Jose's four-year reign.

Phoenix goalie Mike Smith had three shutouts against San Jose last season, but it's likely the Sharks won't have to face him tonight. Smith has a lower-body injury that forced him to leave the Coyotes' 5-1 victory Wednesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets midway through the first period. Backup Jason LaBarbera took over against Columbus and will likely start tonight.

McClellan said Smith's "puck handling skills are so good" it's like facing "three defensemen instead of two." If LaBarbera starts, the Sharks won't have to be as concerned about "puck placement," McClellan added.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 4:25 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Coyotes

Here are how the lineups could look tonight when the San Jose Sharks face the Phoenix Coyotes:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Martin Havlat - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe

Tommy Wingels - Michal Handzus - TJ Galiardi

James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brad Stuart

Matthew Irwin - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Scott Gomez, who signed a one-year free agent contract Wednesday with the Sharks, won't suit up tonight. Coach Todd McClellan said he wants Gomez to have at least one more practice with his new team before he plays and that there's a chance he could make his debut Saturday against Colorado.

"I'm not here to ruffle feathers," Gomez said. "I'm part of this group now. When you get put in, you get put in."

Fourth-line forward Frazer McLaren was in the lineup for the season-opener against Calgary, but Sheppard took his spot against Edmonton. McLellan said he had yet to decide which one will play tonight.

COYOTES

Steve Sullivan - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Mikkel Boedker - Matthew Lombardi - Radim Vrbata

Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - David Moss

Paul Bissonnette - Alexandre Bolduc - Kyle Chipchura

Zbynek Michalek - Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris

Michael Stone - David Schlemko

Jason LaBarbera

Chad Johnson

After playing Wednesday night, Phoenix didn't have a morning skate in San Jose, although defenseman Rostislav Klesla and forward Martin Hanzal were on the ice. Both missed Wednesday's game with lower body injuries and are day-to-day. After Wednesday's game, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said the team would bring up Johnson from Portland of the AHL as an emergency call-up with Mike Smith nursing a lower-body injury.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 3:52 PM

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

Report: Canucks stick with Schneider against Ducks

The Vancouver Canucks will give Cory Schneider his second consecutive start in goal and third in four games when they play at the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, according to a report.

Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun tweeted Thursday that Canucks coach Alain Vigneault confirmed the start for Schneider, who picked up the team's first win of the season Wednesday, a 3-2 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames.

Schneider stopped 34 shots during regulation and overtime, then turned aside four of the Flames' five attempts in the shootout.

"It's fun having the game on the line and you gotta make a save," Schneider said afterward. "That's an opportunity I relish."

It was a much-needed rebound effort after he was pulled from his opening-night start after giving up five goals on 14 shots. Roberto Luongo relieved and started the Canucks' following game against the Edmonton Oilers, creating waves that Schneider's new role as the No. 1 goalie could be short-lived.

"He responded the way I expected he would respond -- by playing well," Vigneault said.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 3:14 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Avalanche

DENVER -- Here are Thursday night's projected lineups for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

BLUE JACKETS

Brandon DubinskyArtem AnisimovCam Atkinson

Nick FolignoRyan JohansenVinny Prospal

RJ UmbergerDerick BrassardDerek Dorsett

Matt CalvertMark LetestuJared Boll

Jack JohnsonJames Wisniewski

Fedor TyutinNikita Nikitin

John MooreAdrian Aucoin

Sergei Bobrovsky

Steve Mason

Scratched: Colton Gillies, David Savard

No injuries

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau

Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones

Chuck Kobasew/Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Milan Hejduk

Kobasew/Cody McLeodMark Olver - Patrick Bordeleau

Ryan O'Byrne - Jan Hejda

Ryan Wilson - Erik Johnson

Greg ZanonMatt Hunwick

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratches: Tyson Barrie, Brad Malone, Shane O'Brien

Injuries: Steve Downie (knee)

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 2:57 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Ovechkin stays at right wing ... for now

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals will have a different look tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, as Wojtek Wolski joins Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the top line.

Wolski is expected to play on his natural side at left wing, meaning Ovechkin will continue to play on the right side. Ovechkin has played left wing throughout his NHL career, but coach Adam Oates moved Ovechkin to the right side in training camp and he's played there in the first two games of the season.

"I think when you play all the time on the left side, and you try right away on the right side, you just have to realize it and give it some time," said Ovechkin, who has been held to one assist through two games.

"If I score one goal or two goals, like, I'm going to feel much more comfortable and it's going to take pressure off of my shoulders."

Oates explained in training camp that the decision to move Ovechkin to the right side -- not unlike what the New Jersey Devils did last year with Ilya Kovalchuk -- was in an effort to expand his game and limit his increasingly predictable tendencies from the left side.

"We're going to use him every way we can," Oates said before the start of the season. "He's a force in this League, he's very important to us and I want to make sure that he knows that I'm going to do my best to let him be successful."

For years, Ovechkin made a living by gaining an opponent's blue line, cutting to the middle and wiring a shot from atop the left faceoff circle (often while using a defenseman as a screen).

In recent seasons though, opponents caught on and adjusted and defended Ovechkin accordingly.

"It's a different view now," Canadiens defenseman Josh Georges said of Ovechkin's new position. "He's coming down now from his strong side. When he plays on the left side he does a good job of getting to the middle of the ice and getting that shot… He can kind of shoot it from any position and it's something that we have to be aware of. But now that he's coming down on the other side, he's a fast skater, a strong guy and we have to make sure that we're in his face no matter what.

"We'll take it in stride. Good players find open ice; they find the room no matter what side of the ice they're on. So we're going to have to rely on a five-man unit to play against him and his line."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 2:56 PM

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

Panthers continue to mix and match with top line

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen will be going his fourth different top line in four games Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Veteran Alex Kovalev will be the latest to skate alongside center Stephen Weiss and left wing Tomas Fleischmann. He follows Mike Santorelli, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky on the line that’s missing last year’s right wing, Kris Versteeg, who is out with a lower-body injury.

"You're always hoping for different things when you put a group together out there," Dineen said. "Just a little different look. That's going to be part of the package here early is trying to find some chemistry that's going to work."

After beating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on the strength of three power-play goals, the Panthers combined for one goal in losses at Ottawa on Monday and the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

The Panthers have scored two goals at even strength all season, neither of which was produced by the top line.

Fleischmann has two assists in the first three games, and Weiss has one assist.

"We just don't have the same player on the line every game," Fleischmann said. "It's tough to get something going chemistry-wise, but everybody is an NHL player and we have to get used to it. We've just got to work hard and it's going to come. It's just about the time, I would say. It's going to be OK."

Kovalev, who was given a one-year contract after coming to camp as a tryout player, had three points in the opener playing on the second line with Peter Mueller and rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, but has been shut out since.

"Flasher is a good shooter and Weisser can make plays," Kovalev said. "Hopefully, with my skill I can open up some space."

Versteeg, who underwent hip surgery in the offseason, sustained a lower-body injury in practice the day before the opener and was placed on the injury list Monday.

He's eligible to return to action Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, but Dineen said it was doubtful Versteeg would play in that game.

Dineen said the lineup change Thursday night is about more than just getting better production from the first line.

"I think everybody's shown well in that spot, but what we're trying to do is find balance through four lines," Dineen said. "With our injury situation, there's a little mix and match that would happen anytime. Those guys will be fine. They're high-end professionals."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 2:03 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Blackhawks pleased with balanced, prolific start

DALLAS -- There’s no doubt things are going well for the Chicago Blackhawks as Joel Quenneville’s club is off to a 3-0 start, their best since 1972-73 when the Blackhawks began that season with four straight victories.

"Yeah, it [our start] is huge, but we can’t look at it too much," wing Patrick Kane said. "It's only been three games. We've had a good start. Right now I think the biggest question for us is can we keep it up? We feel we've got the team in here that can do it."

The Blackhawks have erased all but one opposing power play so far this season, making their penalty kill tied for third-best in the NHL at 90 percent. But maybe the biggest story for Chicago through three games has been their incredible offensive balance.

Defenseman Nick Leddy is tied for the team lead in assists with three, and blueliners Johnny Oduya and Michael Rozsival are right behind him with two helpers each. Chicago is getting contributions from the usual suspects Kane (two goals, three assists), Marian Hossa (four goals, one assist) Patrick Sharp (one goal, two assists), Jonathan Toews (one goal, two assists) but it’s the offensive balance his club has displayed thus far that has their coach especially pleased.

“We’re getting good contributions across the board. When your best players are your best players, you’re usually going to be OK,” Quenneville said. “But we like the contribution we’re getting across the board right now and I think the balance in our four lines is helping as well.”

The Blackhawks are pleased to start the season 3-0 but that optimism is tempered a bit in knowing that they are only three games into a truncated 48-game season.

“Yeah, it’s still pretty early but it’s nice to win the three games and I think they guys are skating fast, playing at a high pace and that’s impressive because not a lot of us played during the lockout,” Sharp said. “It’s a short season. You want to get in and gather as many points as you can and so far so good.”

And no one is tempering his team’s optimism or expectations more than the man behind the Chicago bench.

“Every game’s meaningful. It seems like it’s a playoff race already. The intensity is amazing,” Quenneville said. “Dallas is working hard here. They play a nice, simple team strong game. Let’s be respectful of what they do, but we’ve got to make sure we keep getting better as we go along here and not be satisfied with what happened.”

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:54 PM

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

Wounded Panthers lose another in Caruso

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers will continue to be without some injured key players — at least in the short term.

And now there’s another player on the shelf, with coach Kevin Dineen confirming Thursday that defenseman Michael Caruso sustained a broken wrist in a 4-1 loss Tuesday at the Montreal Canadiens.

Caruso, a 2006 draft pick who made his NHL debut in the season opener Saturday, sustained the injury in the first period.

“Shame, I thought he actually had a couple of really good shifts to start the game in Montreal,” Dineen said. “Very unfortunate for him.”

The Panthers will face the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night and will again be missing four regulars from their Southeast Division championship team of 2011-12 — wings Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergenheim, center Marcel Goc and defenseman Erik Gudbranson.

All but Bergenheim have been skating, but Dineen said Goc and Gudbranson will be out at least through the game Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Versteeg, who was placed on the injury list Monday, will be eligible to return Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, but Dineen said Versteeg was doubtful for that game.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:52 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Predators, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for Thursday night's Central Division matchup between the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

PREDATORS

Martin Erat - Mike Fisher - Sergei Kostitsyn

Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist

Brandon Yip - Nick Spaling - Gabriel Bourque

Matt Halischuk - Craig Smith - Brian McGrattan/Rich Clune

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Scott Hannan - Kevin Klein

Hal Gill - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Chris Mason

Scratches: Either Clune or McGrattan, Jonathon Blum

Injuries: Paul Gaustad (upper body)

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Andy McDonald - Alexander Steen - Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart

Vladimir Sobotka - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Wade Redden - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak

Brian Elliott

Scratches: Jamie Langenbrunner, Matt D'Agostini, Ian Cole

Injuries: None

Defenseman Jeff Woywitka cleared waivers Thursday morning and was assigned to the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League. Cole, assigned to Peoria on Wednesday to make room for Redden on the active roster, was recalled Thursday morning.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:37 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Wolski gets prime opportunity for Capitals

WASHINGTON -- In the six months since Wojtek Wolski signed with the Washington Capitals, the 26-year-old has repeatedly said he is simply looking for a chance to prove his doubters wrong.

The Capitals are Wolski's fifth team in less than three years, and he ended his time with the Florida Panthers last spring as a healthy scratch for Games 3-7 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the New Jersey Devils.

Through two games with the Capitals, though, Wolski has seen top-six minutes and power-play time, and tonight against the Montreal Canadiens he is expected to play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on Washington's No. 1 line.

"I'm happy to play wherever I'm going to get ice time and I'm going to get a good opportunity," Wolski said.

"I've been working hard. I've been moving my feet. I'm getting up in the play and creating opportunities, turnovers. I think that's going to give Nicky and Ovi an opportunity to get some scoring chances."

Wolski started the season on Washington's second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer. The unit combined for two goals and five points through two games, including a Wolski tally in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But with Marcus Johansson struggling alongside Backstrom and Ovechkin on the No. 1 unit, lineup changes were expected.

"Just looking for a little spark, a little something," coach Adam Oates said. "I thought in the third [period against the Winnipeg Jets], I put [Wolski] up there and I thought that they had a little bit of chemistry, so hopefully we'll keep it going for tonight."

Wolski's addition to the top line should provide "more creativity," according to Ovechkin.

"You know, he's a skilled guy who can control the puck. Again, it's -- find out something new, maybe. We'll see how it works."

Ovechkin is still searching for his first goal of the season, and he enters tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens with one assist and eight shots on goal in two games.

With Wolski expected to see more opportunity on Washington's top line, Johansson's early season struggles have landed him on the Caps' fourth line, where he will play with Mathieu Perreault and Joey Crabb.

Johansson is a team-worst minus-3 and was benched in the third period of Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets for all but 50 seconds.

"He's a young kid, he's still learning the game, he's a natural center and we have playing the wing so I'm sure that some of his reads and decisions are based on that," Oates said of the Capitals' first-round pick (No. 20) from the 2009 NHL Draft.

"So we just showed him a lot of video yesterday and we moved him today with [Perreault] to see if they can get a little spark and help him out."

The Capitals have been held to three even-strength goals in their first two games and have played with the lead for a total of 2 minutes, 32 seconds. They are 0-2-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season.

"They lost their first two games, you know they're going to be fired up," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said.

"They're at home, so you know that they're going to throw everything at us. We have to expect their best, we have to expect that they're going to come out full of [grit] and that they're going to do everything they can to win, so we have to come out and be ready to win."

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Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff