Crosby won't play in the regular-season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes, but he might have learned whom coach Dan Bylsma has in store as his linemates for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They appear to be very familiar ones.
James Neal said he will be on the right wing of Evgeni Malkin with Jarome Iginla on the left side Saturday in Neal's return after missing eight games because of a concussion. Bylsma has said the Penguins are using the regular-season finale as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the postseason.
Crosby's wings for most of the season, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, appear to be together with Jussi Jokinen. When Jokinen was acquired from Carolina at the NHL Trade Deadline earlier this month, the Penguins made no secret Jokinen was brought in as a stopgap -- and as insurance -- for an injured Crosby. That would signal Kunitz and Dupuis will be with Crosby when he is cleared to play.
PITTSBURGH -- Jordan Staal isn't sure what emotions he'll experience when, as expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins roll a tribute video to him during a first-period stoppage in play Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.
Traded to the Carolina Hurricanes after declining to sign a contract extension with the Penguins last June, Staal also isn't sure how the Pittsburgh partisan crowd will receive him.
"All I can say is that I had a lot of good memories here and I had a lot of fun playing here," Staal said following his final morning skate of the season Saturday.
The Hurricanes wrap up their season with a 7:30 p.m. game at the Penguins, Staal's former team that enters next week's Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.
Staal spent the first six seasons of his NHL career with Pittsburgh and was part of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2009. This is his first game in Pittsburgh since being traded.
"It's going to be a little different for him because he's used to being on the other side dressing for the Penguins," teammate and brother Jared Staal said. "I'm sure he'll try to enjoy it. It'll be a little weird at first, but I'm sure he's moved on a bit. He's a Hurricane now."
Greene has not skated with the team the past two days because of an undisclosed injury from Wednesday that is not related to his previous back surgery, coach Darryl Sutter said. Keaton Ellerby took Greene's place in the morning skate Saturday and will fill in when the Kings play a pivotal game against the San Jose Sharks.
NEW YORK -- With a long offseason awaiting the New Jersey Devils after the season finale Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, coach Peter DeBoer was adamant his team wouldn't be a pushover against the New York Rangers.
As for their rivals from across the Hudson River, New York clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth Thursday and are jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference.
"We came to win the game. You just want to finish the right way," DeBoer said Saturday. "I think we have enough professionalism that I don't see that being an issue. The big thing we've talked about is not letting our play drop because of the situation we're in. We've played some very good hockey the last three weeks."
ST. LOUIS -- For the St. Louis Blues, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs scenario in their own hands and not having to rely on outside help, two words fit the description heading into the season finale Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks: no excuses.
If the Blues (28-17-2) win, they will finish as the fourth seed in the Western Conference and have home ice in the first round of the playoffs. A regulation loss eliminates them from a possible fourth seed because the teams they're jockeying for position with (San Jose and Los Angeles, each one point back), play each other. One point Saturday gives the Blues a chance.
"It's win and move on," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "To me, regardless what happens, 90 minutes after the game we've moved onto the next event. If it ends up in a win, great, we're the four seed and we watch TV. If we don't win, we adjust accordingly. To me, you can't carry any baggage postgame."
If the Wild and Blue Jackets finish tied in the standings -- each has 53 points -- Minnesota makes it to the postseason because it holds the tiebreaker with Columbus. The Wild also could move from eighth place in the Western Conference to seventh, depending how the Detroit Red Wings, who have 54 points, fare in their game at the Dallas Stars.
Goalie Niklas Backstrom is expected to start for the Wild despite getting pulled after allowing three goals on five shots in the first period Friday in a 6-1 home loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Backstrom has gone 10-2-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his past 13 games in Denver, where the Wild have gone 11-2-2 in their past 15 visits.
DALLAS -- The Detroit Red Wings enter the final game of the regular season Saturday with a simple goal: Beat the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center and secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 22nd straight season.
Detroit (23-16-8, 54 points), which has won three straight and is 6-3-3 in April, sits seventh in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild, who are eighth at 53 points.
The Stars were eliminated from postseason contention for a fifth straight season when the Red Wings beat the Nashville Predators, 5-2 on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena. And even though Dallas has little other than pride to play for, the approach remains the same for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
"Well, you just play hard, get prepared and win a game. That’s what we have to do here," Babcock said. "I don’t think we need to worry about anything else, just focus on the process like we talk about each and every game, have some urgency about us, make sure we start on time and we let the structure of the game protect us by being in good spots and being patient."
Though the Maple Leafs have made every effort to not get too ahead of themselves in terms of discussing their first trip to the postseason since 2004, there is no ignoring the fact the game Saturday has special meaning.
"We’re playing a possible first-round opponent and we want to play well," Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf said. "Whether it’s them or another team, you want to go into the playoffs feeling good about your game and about the way your team is playing, so it’s a big game for our team. We want to play our style and feel good about our game going into the playoffs."
Jagr remained in Boston with the flu while Nathan Horton will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury. According to Bruins coach Claude Julien, both players are day-to-day.
Since joining the Bruins earlier this month in a trade with the Dallas Stars, Jagr has two goals and nine points in 11 games. He skated 14:30 in Boston's 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday -- his lowest time-on-ice since the trade.
OTTAWA -- Fresh off a triumphant return to the Ottawa Senators lineup on Thursday, defenseman Erik Karlsson will play in his first home game since Feb. 13, when Matt Cooke's skate cut his left Achilles tendon.
The injury, which required surgery, was estimated to require 4-6 months in recovery time, but the former Norris Trophy winner was able to make a stunning recovery, returning to the lineup in 31 games. Karlsson admitted Saturday morning the Stanley Cup Playoffs served as motivation to return.
"It's the most fun you can have," Karlsson said. "It's what everyone plays for, and it's what everyone wants to be a part of. I was part of missing it one year (when the Senators did not make the postseason in 2010-11) and I've been part of going to the first round (against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10 and New York Rangers in 2011-12) and I know how much fun that was. You build up during the season and hopefully get to the playoffs for a good run."
Here are the projected lines for the Senators and Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Place on Saturday night:
TAMPA -- It's Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos against the Florida Panthers on Saturday -- or at least it seems that way, as the last bit of excitement for two teams that end their season with this game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum centers around St. Louis' pursuit of the Art Ross Trophy for most points in the NHL and Stamkos' quest for the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals.
Make no mistake, the entire Tampa Bay Lightning squad will be on hand, but mostly just to assist both players in their pursuits.
"They are talented players and we'd be lying to say that it's not in the back of our minds," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "In the last game of the year, if we can ultimately get two players to be recognized for how they played all year and their accomplishments, we'll do our best to help them out."
ARLINGTON, Va. – Having already clinched the Southeast Division and No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, the goal for the Washington Capitals is to play a clean hockey game against the Boston Bruins on Saturday and build momentum heading into the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I talked to him, actually, about which game he would rather have, and in terms of rest, what's too much rest, how recent do you want to play," coach Adam Oates said. "I don't think there's any perfect formula. I don't think anybody's ever perfected that, but it makes sense to him to play [against Boston] and if we [open the playoffs] Tuesday or Wednesday, it's kind of a good rhythm because we've almost played every other day this year. It's been that kind of season."
The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Ryan Stanton from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Friday, but coach Joel Quenneville said more prospects will likely make the trip to St, Louis on Saturday to give some regulars a breather prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.
After wrapping up first in the Western Conference and earning the Presidents’ Trophy for posting the best record in the National Hockey League, Chicago has the luxury of not worrying about these final two games.
“We’re going to play our group tonight and [Saturday] we might be resting some guys,” Quenneville said after Friday’s morning skate at United Center.
Goalie Ray Emery and center Dave Bolland are both out against Calgary with lower-body injuries and neither will make the trip to St. Louis. Corey Crawford will start in goal against the Flames, while backup Carter Hutton might get the nod against the Blues.
Quenneville said he’s not concerned about Bolland’s injury and expects him to be ready for the playoffs, which in the past has been when the gritty centerman shines brightest. However, the Blackhawks coach hinted on Friday that veteran Michal Handzus might get a look at second-line center – between stars Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane – even when Bolland returns.
It would be somewhat surprising if the Wild didn't clinch Friday. Not only are the Oilers in a deep funk as their season draws to a close, Minnesota has won 19 of its last 20 meetings with Edmonton in this building. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom is 17-0 at home against the Oilers, with a 1.34 goals against average and a save percentage approaching 95 percent.
That's not good news for Edmonton, which is 1-9-0 in its last 10 games and has scored just 13 goals in that stretch.
Here is a look at how the lineups could look for both teams this evening:
BUFFALO -- The New York Islanders have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but find themselves in eighth place heading into their final game of the regular season Friday night. When the Islanders take on the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center, they'll have an opportunity to improve that position.
At 54 points, they're in a three-way tie with the sixth-place Ottawa Senators and the seventh-place New York Rangers. Ottawa has two games remaining while the Rangers have one. Both the Senators and Rangers are idle on Friday.
The Islanders are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. It was New York's first regulation loss in 12 games. They were on an 8-0-3 run and are 11-2-3 in their past 16 games, but 0-1-1 in their past two.
"I just want to get back -- and I know the guys want to get back -- to playing the way that we want to play. Win or lose, we just have to make sure we play our style," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.
The Ducks will be without seven regulars when they play here Thursday, though initial plans to include captain Ryan Getzlaf among those resting may be scuttled with fellow center Nick Bonino not feeling well.
“We don't know yet, probably won’t know until game time,” Getzlaf said after the morning skate. “Either way, I’m kind of impartial to the whole thing. Sometimes its almost better to keep going as it is to rest, but the last couple of days have been good rest because I’ve been off both, so if I do play tonight it will be fine.”
With or without Getzlaf, the Ducks won’t resemble the team that clinched the Pacific Division on Monday night with a win against the Edmonton Oilers.
Karlsson has not played since Feb. 13, when the defenseman sustained a 70-percent tear to the Achilles tendon in his left leg during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Karlsson underwent surgery the next day and was expected to miss four to six months. Instead, the reigning Norris Trophy winner will return exactly 10 weeks after the operation.
"He said the day after it happened, he had surgery, he said two months," Alfredsson said of Karlsson's timetable. "And we knew that was not possible. We never thought he would be able to come back unless we went really far in the playoffs. But he's been positive the whole time through and been encouraged by what he's been able to do and worked hard to get here. It's great to see."
DALLAS -- The numbers are definitely not pretty for the Columbus Blue Jackets when it comes to facing the Dallas Stars. All time, Dallas is 31-10-5 against Columbus, including a 15-5-2 at home with all but two of those meetings at American Airlines Center.
However, when these Western Conference foes square off Thursday night here, the result could be a bit different because these teams are heading in different directions. The Blue Jackets, who are ninth in the West with 51 points, one behind the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings, have won six of their past seven games. Dallas, 10th with 48 points, is hanging on for dear life and could be eliminated if Detroit earns a point on Thursday against the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena.
Columbus coach Todd Richards said how well his club starts could determine the outcome.
"Starts are important. We’ve stressed that for a long time now. Our last 14 games, we haven’t been down by more than one goal in any of those games in the first period and a lot of times we’ve had leads," Richards said. "So, it’s important to get your legs underneath you, especially this time of year. Every shift is critical. You never know when the big play of the game is going to happen. The difference-maker might be in the first period and we’ve approached that, credit to the players who have come out and played hard from the drop of the puck."
The Canadiens, who have four wins in their past 10 games, have an invitation to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Jets, meanwhile, are clinging to the faintest of postseason hopes.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien will insert rookie defensemen Jarred Tinordi, whom the Canadiens recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League this week, and pair him with veteran Francis Bouillon. Tinordi, whom the Canadiens selected with the 22nd pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, was named the Bulldogs' defenseman of the year along with fellow rookie Nathan Beaulieu. Tinordi will replace Yannick Weber on the Montreal blue line.
Travis Moen will sit out his second consecutive game for the Canadiens, and Ryan White will serve the final game of his five-game NHL suspension.
Montreal's Carey Price will make his seventh consecutive start in goal and face Winnipeg workhorse Ondrej Pavelec, who will close out the Jets' regular season with his 13th straight starting assignment.
Here are the projected lineups for the Canadiens and Jets:
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The New York Rangers will have a chance to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth Thursday night when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes. One thing they will need is a bigger offensive push than they gave in Tuesday's 3-2 loss against the Florida Panthers.
"We need to forecheck better and establish a net presence," said Rick Nash, who leads the Rangers with 19 goals. "We got a lot of shots (against Florida), but they were from the outside -- no traffic. The goalies in this League are world-class and you've got to be able to put some bodies in front of them."
The Rangers will clinch a playoff spot with any combination of two points gained in their final two games, or a loss by the Winnipeg Jets to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. Against Carolina, New York hopes to add some diversity to its offensive game and remove any doubt about the postseason.
"[We want to] get to the dirty areas, maybe spread the offensive zone out and use the points a little bit," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "We talked about trying to use our D, and if we don't get the puck on net, at least draw the forwards out and maybe get a quick 2-on-1 in front of the net or something like that. Just try to be a little more creative in the offensive zone."
For Carolina, Alexander Semin will miss the final two games of the season with a concussion.
Here are the projected lineups for the Rangers and the Hurricanes:
RALEIGH, N.C. -- For the first three Staal brothers, NHL success came quickly. First Eric, followed by Jordan, then Marc.
That was not the end of the family pipeline, however.
A fourth Staal, Jared, will make his NHL debut Thursday night, skating with Eric and Jordan for the Carolina Hurricanes. Marc is in town, too, with the New York Rangers, but he won't be able to round out the on-ice family photo, as he recovers from an eye injury.
Jared's route to the NHL has been nothing like those of his older brothers. Eric, Jordan and Marc were first-round draft picks, jumping straight to the NHL out of juniors. They cast long shadows on their youngest brother -- but not so long that the NHL dream ever went away.
"Obviously I have a different path than my three older brothers," Jared Staal said. "They're all exceptional players who deserved to be in the NHL at a young age. I guess mine is more conventional compared to most hockey players."
The surprisingly large turnout could be attributed to two important reasons.
First and foremost, the Maple Leafs still have a shot at passing the Montreal Canadiens for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Second, the Maple Leafs want to build some momentum entering the playoffs after losing three of their past four games.
"It just shows that the guys are willing to work to get back to where we were," Kadri said. "I don’t think we're far away from that. It's something that's very easy to correct, but at the same time we've got to be willing to work and execute the game plan."
NEWARK, N.J. -- Just when it appears the Pittsburgh Penguins are close to getting healthy for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a few more injuries have popped up.
Brooks Orpik and Joe Vitale did not accompany the team on the trip for the game Thursday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) because each is dealing with a lower-body injury.
Orpik was injured in the game Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres. Vitale did not play in either of the past two games.
Martin has missed the past 11 games with a broken hand, and Neal has missed the past seven with a concussion.
"I think that's the plan," Martin said of his status. "I was hoping for [Thursday], but now it looks like probably Saturday."
Sidney Crosby did not travel with the team due to a dental appointment Thursday, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. There still is no timetable for Crosby's return to the lineup from the broken jaw he sustained during a game March 30. He has been skating but has yet to return to full practices with the team.
Franzen, who scored his 14th goal of the season in a 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, didn't go back onto the ice for the last few minutes of the game. His status was undetermined afterward and no description of an injury was given -- only that Franzen wasn't available to go back on the ice despite staying on the bench.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock still didn't know whether Franzen would be available after Detroit's optional morning skate Thursday, but the Swedish power forward said he'd likely be in uniform. He also said his absence from the ice in the waning minutes of Wednesday's game isn't cause for alarm.
"Just got a little rest, no need to play those last minutes (with a two-goal lead)," said Franzen, who has six goals and 11 points in the past six games. "I thought I'd get off and take the rest, so that's it.''
The reigning Norris Trophy winner has not played since Feb. 13 when his Achilles tendon was sliced in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Karlsson underwent surgery Feb. 14 and was expected to miss four to six months. Instead, the 22-year-old will return exactly 10 weeks after the operation.
The Senators could clinch a second straight Stanley Cup Playoff berth as early as Thursday night with a win against the Capitals or a Winnipeg Jets’ regulation loss against the Montreal Canadiens.
Ottawa has lost two straight games since beating the Capitals 3-1 a week ago at ScotiaBank Place. The Senators have since been outscored 7-2 in back-to-back defeats by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Capitals’ loss in Ottawa last Thursday remains the club’s only blemish in a 10-1-0 month of April. Washington clinched the Southeast Division title and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 5-3 win Tuesday against Winnipeg.
Here is Ottawa’s projected lineup for Thursday night:
BOSTON – The Boston Bruins will finish a string of three straight games against teams that aren’t going to be in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden on Thursday.
The Bruins are 1-1-0 during this stretch, where they’ve found out just how hard the non-contenders are competing even with little more than pride on the line. Considering his team’s disappointing performance in a 5-2 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien knows his team cannot take anyone lightly.
“It’s a team that played, I thought, a really good game [Wednesday] night,” Julien said of the Lightning. “I watched them play, and I think you just have to look around at the schedule the other night, all the playoff-seeded teams, almost every one of them except for Washington, lost. So it goes to show you teams aren’t giving up. They’re coming out and playing some solid hockey. When you know you’ve only got 'X' number of games left and you want to finish on a positive note, you play your best. And that’s what we should expect from Tampa [on Thursday] night.”
The Bruins are almost completely healthy, with only Nathan Horton battling an injury. Julien said Horton skated Thursday morning but he is still day-to-day and will not face the Lightning.
The game with Tampa Bay will be Horton’s third game missed since he was injured against the Pittsburgh Penguins last Saturday.
Tampa Bay did not hold a morning skate after flying in from Tampa after a win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
Hedberg, who is making his first start since a March 19 loss to the New York Rangers, is 5-9-3 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in 17 games this season. In 10 career appearances against the Penguins, Hedberg is 3-5-1 with 2.84 GAA and .900 save percentage.
"It's been a while now since I last played, so it's nice to get one in and set up for next year," Hedberg told NHL.com. "We're playing for pride now. The fans have been great all year and coming to every game. That's really what we're playing for tonight … to show our appreciation for what they did for us."
The Ducks clinched the Pacific Division and locked themselves into the second seed in the Western Conference with a 3-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. Anaheim finishes the season at home against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
“You can look at it both ways, it’s a fine line,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of resting players. “I think some guys do need a rest. … But I don’t think those two guys are going to lose anything. They are by far the oldest line in the NHL, I gotta believe."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes are all but mathematically eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the most important number that led to their fate is zero.
Zero goals. Zero offense. Zero chance.
The Coyotes were shut out for the ninth time this season -- and the seventh time in 23 road games -- in a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday that slammed the door on their last realistic path to the playoffs. That game looked an awful lot like the game that reduced their postseason chances to long-shot status, a 4-0 home loss to the San Jose Sharks nine days ago.
San Jose and Phoenix meet again Wednesday at Jobing.com Arena, but with a lot less on the line.
TAMPA -- A rested and relaxed group of Toronto Maple Leafs, fresh from clinching their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2004, visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
After nailing down the postseason spot Saturday night in Ottawa, the Maple Leafs had a chance to soak in what they had accomplished with three off days in Tampa.
"We've had a little bit of rest," Toronto defenseman John-Michael Liles said. "Sunday some of the guys played golf and some went out on a boat. Nothing too crazy, just trying to relax. It's nice to have the playoffs in your back pocket, but I think the main focus here is to move up in the standings and finish out the season strong. All year we've just been focusing on the next game and that's what we will continue to do, even with the playoffs clinched. It was nice to have these few days to kind of rest and get some sun, but now it's back to work."
Instead, Bertuzzi will sit out for at least one more game and hopes to return for Thursday's home game against the Nashville Predators. Bertuzzi hasn't played since Feb. 7 against the St. Louis Blues because of a painful pinched nerve in his back.
He's been skating for a while, but hasn't been able to do much conditioning work on the ice until lately. That, according to Bertuzzi, is why he isn't ready to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings on Wednesday night.
"I'll be ready to play [Thursday]," Bertuzzi said after working extra following Wednesday's morning skate. "I needed another hard skate. Like I said before, a week ago, I can't come in and not be ready to play a full 60 [minutes] and help out, contribute, be big down low, finish my checks. I needed another hard skate and that's what we just finished."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sounded both surprised and disappointed upon learning Bertuzzi's status for the game against the Kings.
"I thought he was going today," Babcock said. "Nothing made me hesitate. It wasn't my decision."
PHILADELPHIA -- Kimmo Timonen missed 15 games in his first five seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it's not like he's been a fully healthy all that time.
That's why it takes something like a broken bone to get the veteran defenseman out of the lineup. The club announced Tuesday morning that Timonen would miss the Flyers' final three games with a compression fracture in his right foot.
"This particular thing has been bugging him for a couple weeks," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "Every time we'd want to go further than an x-ray with it, maybe get an MRI, take a little deeper look, Kimmo said no, it feels better [so] we just kind of put it aside. He got an MRI [Monday] and it showed this compression fracture and the doctor thought because of where it is, the potential risk of doing something much worse if he were to get hit there in that same spot, you're asking for trouble, so we just shut him down."
Holmgren said with rest, Timonen should be healthy in four to five weeks. It might Timonen that long to get over being taken out of the lineup.
"Kimmo hates missing games," Holmgren said. "He was decimated [Monday] when we called him and said this is what we're doing. He was in a bad mood this morning when I talked to him. He hates missing games. He's a tough, competitive older player."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette hates having Timonen out of the lineup just as much.
"Losing a guy like Kimmo is tough," Laviolette said. "He provides a lot of veteran leadership on this team, a lot of quality minutes He's had a really good year for us. He's played strong. Taking a guy like him out of the lineup certainly is not what you want to do. … He's a reliable fixture in the locker room. That's why not having him in there tonight will be a difficult sight for everybody. We're used to him being in there."
In Timonen's place, Andreas Lilja was recalled from the American Hockey League Tuesday and will play his second NHL game Tuesday against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN).
The Flyers' other lineup change will be Steve Mason starting in goal for the fifth time since being acquired by the Flyers on April 3. In five games with Philadelphia, he's 2-2-0 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
Here is how the Flyers' lineup likely will look when they take the ice against the Bruins:
However, Jagr's first game back in Philadelphia, the team he played with last season, also drew eight fans from western Canada. The Traveling Jagrs, a group of eight fans dressed like Jagr, flew from Calgary to Philadelphia on Tuesday to get to Wells Fargo Center in time for the game.
The "Traveling Jagrs" in Philadelphia.(Click to enlarge)
Each fan wore a classic Jagr mullet and a personalized Jagr jersey from over the years -- from a Czech Republic national team sweater, through his NHL stops with the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, Flyers, Stars and Bruins. An eighth Jagr, wearing a Wales Conference all-star jersey, was a late arrival after getting stuck at the airport in Chicago.
Tyler, also known as Ranger Jag, originated the Jagr look a few years ago in Las Vegas.
"We were looking for a group costume and a couple of us had Jagr jerseys," he told NHL.com. "We're all Jagr fans and said, 'let's go dressed as Jagr.' That was our thought process."
WASHINGTON -- For a dozen players expected to be in the Winnipeg Jets lineup Tuesday night at Verizon Center, the game against the Washington Capitals will feel like nothing they have experienced before because they've never played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
For the other eight, including captain Andrew Ladd, a member of two Cup-winning teams, it will be reminiscent of playoff hockey even though the Jets can't clinch anything with a win or be eliminated with a loss.
There are two certainties going into the game Tuesday:
SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks can clinch their ninth straight trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with one point Tuesday night in their final regular-season home game against the Dallas Stars.
The Sharks, who are in fifth place in the Western Conference with 55 points, know that point won't come easily against a team that has defeated them three straight times this season and is fighting for its playoff life.
"They played well against us all year," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "I think our power play and penalty kill kind of struggled against them all year. Tonight would be the battle of the special teams. If we could win that, we'll probably get the two points."
ST. LOUIS -- Here is a look at the probable lineups for the rematch Tuesday night between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center. The Avalanche won 5-3 Sunday night in Denver.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Boston Bruins enter their game Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) tied with the Montreal Canadiens with 59 points. The Bruins, however, hold the top spot in the Northeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference based on having played one fewer game.
But with each team playing Tuesday -- the Canadiens play at the New Jersey Devils -- the Bruins know they have to be on their game to stay ahead in the race.
"We have to play a big game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're hoping to hang on to our top spot in our division and at the end of the night you've got to come up with the two points."
NASHVILLE -- For seven of the past eight seasons, the final regular-season home game represented a leaping off point for the Nashville Predators to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This season, that will not happen. The Predators missed the playoffs for a variety of reasons -- some of which will be reflected when the team suits up Tuesday against the Calgary Flames at Bridgestone Arena. Two of the team's top-six forwards, Mike Fisher and Patric Hornqvist, remain out, too injured to play, although they participated in the team's morning skate.
Nonetheless, it appears the fans will have an opportunity to give starting goalie Pekka Rinne a sendoff until next season; he'll get the start in goal.
"It's sort of closure at home here," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "Our fans have been fantastic. The last couple of years we've filled this building. We had 28 straight sellouts this year (dating back to last season). Then we had that week where we had four home games. That sort of put a damper on that in terms of sellouts. They've come out and supported us even in tough times. We haven't been really good with a number of injuries."
PHILADELPHIA -- The Boston Bruins are fighting for the top spot in the Northeast Division and second place in the Eastern Conference, but the major topic of conversation around the team's locker room after its morning skate was the return to Philadelphia of Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr.
The game Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) will mark the first time Jagr has played here since his one-season stint with the team ended. Jagr, in his return to the NHL after three seasons in Europe, had 19 goals and 54 points in 73 games, helped the Flyers reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and after the season said it was the most fun season he had in the NHL.
"It was pretty good last year, that's for sure," Jagr said. "It's too bad we didn't beat New Jersey [in the conference semifinals] to go a little further. I had fun."
In the offseason, while the Flyers pursued high-profile free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Jagr took a one-year offer from the Dallas Stars. At the NHL Trade Deadline, he was moved to the Bruins.
"I was happy here [in Philadelphia]," Jagr said. "Everybody knew it. I loved that team. I loved the fans. I loved the city. But on the other side, I always believe in God. And I always believed He would find the best place for me. I had a fate that something good would happen to me even if [returning to Philadelphia] didn't happen."
After missing out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs five straight seasons, the Islanders have a shot at clinching a berth in the Eastern Conference. If New York beats the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Winnipeg Jets lose to the Washington Capitals, the Islanders are in.
If there are any jitters among the team, they didn't show after the morning skate.
"It's an exciting week for us," Islanders captain Mark Streit said. "We've been playing pretty well, and the mindset has been to take it game by game. Whatever happens with Winnipeg happens. But it's getting closer. We'll concentrate on the game and how we want to play as a team."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Montreal Canadiens have lost four of five -- all in regulation -- since clinching a berth in Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 11. They will begin a season-closing three-game road trip against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night and will enter the contest with one lineup change.
Forward Colby Armstrong, out since April 1 with a knee injury, will take the spot of Travis Moen on the Canadiens' fourth line. Moen signed a four-year contract with the club over the summer and has played in 44 of 45 games this season, but will be a healthy scratch against the Devils.
"Colby's an important guy," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "I've always believed in good team chemistry. He's good with the players. He knows the system really well. He's good killing penalties. Guys have different roles on a team when we have success. All the roles, as far as I'm concerned, are important. Colby has an important role on our club."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The disappointment of being on the outside looking in on the Stanley Cup Playoff chase is beginning to hit home for the New Jersey Devils.
Now it's all about playing for pride and, perhaps, job security. The Devils have three games remaining in the regular season, including the first of two straight home games beginning Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens at Prudential Center.
The Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins visit Thursday before the Devils travel to Manhattan in their season finale on Saturday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"It's hard to understand what happened, and not to be able to play for something in the regular season is hard, but it is what it is for us right now and we'll have to make the best of the last three games and stay focused and finish on a good note," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- A regulation or overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center on Tuesday is all the Washington Capitals need to clinch the Southeast Division.
A shootout win will not be enough for the Capitals to clinch the division or even a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it will drop their magic number to one point either gained or lost by Winnipeg in its final game of the regular season Thursday.
However, if the Jets win in regulation or overtime they will take over the lead in the division and move up to third in the Eastern Conference standings. They also would take over the lead in the first tiebreaker, which is regulation/overtime wins (ROW).
"Hopefully we can just make sure we clinch the playoff spot tonight and we'll go from there," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We're playing a good team and we've gotta be hungry."
Here is what the Capitals lines, defense pairs and goalie depth likely will look like Tuesday night:
VANCOUVER -- While the Chicago Blackhawks contemplate resting key players in the final week of a dominant regular season, the Vancouver Canucks are just trying to find enough healthy defensemen to make it to the end.
Frank Corrado will not only make his NHL debut for Vancouver against League-leading Chicago on Monday night, he will do so on a top-four pairing with Alexander Edler. Not bad for a 20-year-old who was playing junior 10 days ago.
Corrado's debut comes with Kevin Bieksa and Christopher Tanev -- the Canucks' only two right-shot defensemen -- both out with lower-body injuries. Keith Ballard joined them on the sidelines after tweaking his back in a fight Saturday.
Derek Joslin was the only other healthy option, but he shoots left, so the Canucks called up Corrado, who played three games with their American Hockey League affiliate after his junior season in the Ontario Hockey League ended.
"It's a combination of we're curious to see if he can play at this level and, personnel-wise, we have two options right now and one of those options is a right-handed shot," coach Alain Vigneault said. "So that's basically how he won the job."
BUFFALO --Zach Redmond skated with the Winnipeg Jets during their morning skate at First Niagara Center on Monday after the team recalled the rookie defenseman from a conditioning stint with St. John's of the American Hockey League.
Redmond has been out since Feb. 21 when an artery and vein in his right leg were cut by a skate during practice. Surgery was required to repair the injury.
Jets coach Claude Noel said there is no timetable for Redmond's return to the lineup, as he wants to work to build more strength in that leg.
"It's unbelievable that in a matter of six weeks, he's back. It's really hard to fathom," Noel said. "When he went down, we didn't really know what would take place. We were hopeful, but not like this."
The Jets are well aware that they will likely have to win their final three games to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It will be his second straight start; he stopped 38 of 40 shots Saturday as the Penguins beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Marc-Andre Fleury did not make the trip to Ottawa with the team, as his wife is about to have a baby.
Eric Hartzell, signed April 14 after leading Quinnipiac University to the Frozen Four championship game, will serve as the backup.
The Penguins also will not have defenseman Kris Letang or rookie forward Beau Bennett in the lineup. Letang did not practice Sunday and did not travel with the team due to a case of food poisoning. Bennett is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Senators :
The Red Wings enter the game ninth in the Western Conference, three points behind the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets. The Coyotes are 11th, five points behind the Blue Jackets.
The Red Wings will use just about the identical lineup they went with Saturday in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The only change is on the fourth line, where Patrick Eaves replaces Drew Miller. Miller is out with a broken right hand sustained during the game Saturday.
The Oilers, who enter 12th in the Western Conference, need a victory to keep alive their flickering hopes for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A loss would mean missing the postseason for the seventh straight year.
Making matters more difficult is the fact they'll have to make their push without second-year center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who the team announced Sunday would miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury that likely will require surgery.
The Ducks, meanwhile, can clinch the Pacific Division title with a win and some help. A Ducks win, combined with a Dallas Stars regulation-time win against the Los Angeles Kings and a Columbus Blue Jackets defeat of the San Jose Sharks would win their first division title since 2007 -- the year the franchise won its only Stanley Cup.
Here are the lineups the Ducks (via the Orange County Register) and Oilers likely will go with Sunday:
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- For a team that barely squeaked into the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, the Los Angeles Kings weren't really breathing a big sigh of relief Sunday.
Los Angeles clinched a berth when the Detroit Red Wings lost Saturday night, but they have bigger fish to fry as it sits fourth in the Western Conference standings going into a game against the Dallas Stars on Sunday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
"It's always nice when that 'X' appears in front of your team's name," Anze Kopitar said. "But we have some other business to take care of. We're shooting for home ice. That's been the goal for the last two weeks, and we're going to stick to it."
The defending Cup champions know last season was a historical anomaly. They were the first eighth seed to win the Cup, having started all four postseason series in another city.
NEW YORK -- Last summer the New York Rangers' season ended against the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They now have an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge, as they can eliminate the Devils from postseason contention with a win Sunday at Madison Square Garden (3 p.m. ET, NBC).
They'll go about doing that by icing the same lineup that has scored 14 goals in the past two games, including a franchise-record five goals in a span of 2:58 Friday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals on 28 shots in Buffalo, but he will be back in the crease Sunday for his eleventh straight start. Before the Rangers' 8-4 win Friday, Lundqvist had allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of his past 15 games.
Prior to a crucial game Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks, the Oilers reported Nugent-Hopkins will travel to Cleveland to have his shoulder examined, with surgery a likely possibility.
The Oilers need a win to keep their hopes for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs alive. They enter the game 12th in the Western Conference, seven points behind the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets with five games remaining.
Nugent-Hopkins, the first pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, had four goals and 20 assists in 40 games this season. He missed time earlier this season with an injury to his left shoulder, and missed 20 games last season with a shoulder injury.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid also will sit out against Florida. McQuaid left the game Saturday in the second period with a lower-body injury after a hit from Penguins forward Matt Cooke. McQuaid played the third period, but Julien said the blueliner also is day-to-day.
Rookie Dougie Hamilton and veteran forward Milan Lucic, who were healthy scratches Saturday, are expected to be in the lineup against Florida.
TAMPA -- Two teams looking to finish disappointing seasons in a bit of a positive way will meet Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Carolina Hurricanes.
For the Hurricanes, after dropping a 5-3 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, the morning was time off to rest. For the Lightning, the morning skate was optional and only a handful of players were on the ice.
Anders Lindback, one half of the Lightning's goalie tandem of the future, along with Ben Bishop, will get the start in net Sunday, his first game back after missing 13 with an ankle injury.
The start also will mark Lindback's first game for new Lightning coach Jon Cooper, but Cooper played down the importance of that.
VANCOUVER –Vancouver Canucks left wing Chris Higgins is close to coming back from a minor knee strain. That return should also provide enough forward depth to help the Canucks bring back their three-line attack.
Until then, however, Vancouver will probably continue to load up their top-two lines. That means playing centers Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy together on the second unit as they try to clinch a playoff spot Saturday night with a win over a Detroit Red Wings team that needs a victory to move back into eighth place in the West.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said he would take the afternoon to decide whether to continue the two-line tactic of the past two games. Throughout the team's morning skate, Higgins skated on the third line with Roy in the middle and Jannik Hansen on the right.
Higgins huddled with the coach and trainers towards the end of practice, but said he wasn’t yet ready to play.
“We’re pretty close but it didn't feel quite right and I hadn't had a full practice with the team,” said Higgins, who has played well with trade-deadline addition Roy, getting 14 shots in three games before hurting his knee and missing three contests. “Definitely close. It just needs another day, get a full practice in.”
CHICAGO -- The Phoenix Coyotes could use a boost heading into the last five games of the regular season and might get one Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET) at United Center.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after Saturday’s morning skate that injured goalie Mike Smith, who missed the past two games with a lower-body issue, might return to face Chicago (34-5-4) in a big road game for the Coyotes (18-17-8).
“I haven’t talked to him yet, but there’s a chance he’ll play tonight,” Tippett said. “He’s our No. 1 goaltender. If we can get him in there and get him on a roll, that gives us the best chance to win.”
Diaz has missed 25 games with a concussion; he was a key member of Montreal’s defense prior to the injury, playing 20:36 per game. With Alexei Emelin’s season-ending knee injury throwing the Canadiens defense pairings into a state of flux, Diaz’s return is a welcome boost.
In 19 games this season, Diaz has a goal and 12 assists, with seven of his 13 points coming on the power play, where he could help Montreal’s second unit.
The Capitals will be going with the same lineup that lost 3-1 at Ottawa Senators on Thursday, one still missing Brooks Laich (groin) and Joel Ward (knee contusion). By the time the puck drops, the Capitals will know the result of the game between the Winnipeg Jets and the New York Islanders. The Jets began the day two points behind the Capitals in the race for the Southeast Division.
“We’re all scoreboard watching, obviously, and the game’s earlier than ours so it makes it difficult,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “But our job is to play hockey. The guys are going to go to sleep focusing on the game tonight. No matter the outcome of that game, we’ve got to play our game tonight.”
Skinner sat out Thursday night's game against the Winnipeg Jets. He was on the receiving end of an open-ice hit from the Ottawa Senators' Jared Cowen on Tuesday night. Skinner did not return during the game and was returned here for observation.
Upon returning home, team doctors determined he did not suffer a concussion.
"I respect the decision the doctor made," Skinner said. "I agree you have to be safe and cautious."
The Hurricanes have reminded the 20-year-old forward to be aware of vulnerable places on the ice, particularly in light of his knack for drawing contact.
"Maybe I shouldn't have been cutting across [the neutral zone] there," Skinner said. "I saw the guy, but I didn't think he would step up there, but he did. I don't think there's a point in dwelling on it. It's done, so you move forward."
Goalie Devan Dubnyk will start for the Oilers. Dubnyk made 35 saves in a 4-0 win against the Avalanche on March 12. He has a 6-3-1 record with a 2.03 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in 10 career decisions against Colorado.
CALGARY -- The Anaheim Ducks, winless in their past three games, are looking to get back on track against the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
A victory over the Flames would bring the Ducks within one win of clinching the Pacific Division title, something coach Bruce Boudreau is eying.
"We'd certainly like to have that, and then we'd love to secure second overall in the Western Conference, which I think is the same thing, two wins, but every team that we're playing is playing really hard right now," he said. "Calgary's a great example of a team not throwing in the towel. To beat a hungry Detroit team in their last game says something to me. We better be ready."
CHICAGO -- All that's left for the Chicago Blackhawks to accomplish in the regular season is to secure the Presidents' Trophy as the NHLs top team in points earned.
Otherwise, the Blackhawks have already locked up everything else. They were the first team to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they won the Central Division handily, and they will be the Western Conference's top seed in the postseason. They've done all that and still have six games left, which raises the question if they will continue playing their usual lineup or start sitting out key players to avoid injuries and garner rest.
The answer, at least short term, is to stay the course. Chicago plays back-to-back games at United Center this weekend, beginning with Friday's contest against the Nashville Predators (7:30 p.m.) and finishing against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
"I think we want to go in the same mode here," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Friday's morning skate. "We've still got six games [left]. We've got a busy schedule next week, but we'll play these games and go along here and we'll make those decisions as we go along. We're not going to change going into these two games. We'll see. We have that in our pocket to visit with, for sure, but that depends."
BUFFALO -- For the Buffalo Sabres, it's essentially win or start thinking about next season.
The Sabres face what comes down to an elimination game Friday night when they host the New York Rangers at First Niagara Center.
Buffalo, 10th in the Eastern Conference with 44 points, trails eighth-place New York by four points. The Sabres have four games remaining including Friday; the Rangers have five games left. The Rangers hold the tiebreaker with five more non-shootout wins than the Sabres.
A regulation win by New York would eliminate Buffalo from qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A Sabres victory would keep their hopes alive for at least one more day.
Due to circumstances in Boston, Buffalo's game at the Pittsburgh Penguins scheduled for Saturday has been moved to Tuesday. The Sabres will next play Monday at home against the Winnipeg Jets.
"We have to take care of our own destiny in that aspect," Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston said. "We've been that way for a while, just concentrating on one game and playing our best in that game. That'll be the same case [Friday]."
NEW YORK -- With his team slated to play three games in four nights heading into the final stretch of the regular season, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella confirmed that forward Brian Boyle would not be in the lineup for any of those contests, starting with Thursday's home matchup against the Florida Panthers.
Replacing Boyle will be 21-year-old Chris Kreider, who the Rangers called up Wednesday from Connecticut of the American Hockey League. In the past month, Tortorella has voiced his reluctance to stifle the development of players such as Kreider and prospect JT Miller, both of whom have seen action with the Rangers this season. But in the end, he saw Kreider's speed as an asset for his team.
"There were a number of players we talked about [calling up]. What we settled on was his speed," Tortorella said. "I'm still not crazy about bringing a kid here. We felt with his assets, his speed especially, that's what we would go with."
Boyle was ruled out for Thursday's game with a leg injury. In 17 games with the Rangers this season, Kreider has two goals and three points.
Vlasic and Heatley took swings at each other with their sticks then started wrestling. Heatley, a former Sharks player, landed hard on the ice with Vlasic on top of him and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery.
The Sharks and Wild meet again Thursday night at HP. Will there be any carryover?
"I think it will be an emotional game," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said after the Wild's morning skate. "I think that both teams are focused on getting two points at this time of the year. That's what it's about. Whatever you can use to get you motivated. I don't know that we need a whole lot of extra motivation right now, but, again, I think it will be an emotional game."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Since the beginning of the NHL season, forward Chris Kreider has had three separate stints with the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League. But after being called up Wednesday, Kreider is excited to be back with the New York Rangers in April.
It was around this time last season the Boston College product saw his first NHL action, contributing five goals in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games as the Rangers advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. After collecting three points in 17 games this season, Kreider would love nothing more than to make a similar contribution in the postseason.
"I think it was around this time that I got that opportunity," Kreider said following Thursday's optional team skate. "That being said, it's an entirely different situation. I'm looking forward to trying to seize that opportunity."
Greene was activated from injured reserve Thursday morning and is available to play his first game since he injured his back in the season opener Jan. 19. Coach Darryl Sutter was not available to reporters, but Greene said he was good to go against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"You got to play," Greene said. "You got to play some time, you know? Playoffs are every other day. Obviously you've got to play some games to try and get ready and see if I can handle it."
Sitting in ninth place and tied at 46 points with the eighth-place New York Rangers, the Jets will again be without first-pairing defenseman Tobias Enstrom (mid-body), who will miss his third straight game. The Jets have won the first four games of their six-game homestand that ends Saturday afternoon against the New York Islanders.
The Hurricanes have lost four consecutive road games and will be without forward Jeff Skinner, who left their 3-2 road loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Skinner joins goalie Cam Ward, defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forward Tim Brent among the Carolina injured. After the morning skate, coach Kirk Muller said he hopes Skinner will return this weekend when the Hurricanes play a pair of back-to-back games.
Bachman went 3-1-0 during that stretch with a 1.88 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. However, Lehtonen is now healthy and will return to the net for Dallas on Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks at American Airlines Center.
Anytime a player many in the Stars room call their team MVP returns, it's definitely a good thing.
"It's huge," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "I think [Bachman] played unbelievable. Played three great games, but for sure, Kari has been our MVP so far this year in my mind. He's been very good. He's won some games for us. When you get a goalie like that back in the net, for sure you get a little boost."
PHILADELPHIA -- New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus has played more than 1,000 games in the NHL, and even he can't believe what's going on with his team right now.
Mired in a 10-game winless skid (0-6-4), Zubrus is positive his team is playing far better than its current record shows.
"Since my injury I've played seven games, and other than maybe the first game, we've played five, six games and honestly they're as good as any of the games I've played in my career and not get a point," he told NHL.com. "It's been five or six in a row like that."
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens were one of the NHL's best first-period teams through their first 40 games of the season before suddenly and inexplicably getting off to horrendous starts in losing each of their last three games.
They may have a chance to snap out of it at Bell Centre on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that is going through a very similar problem.
Over the first three games of their current four-game road trip that ends here, the Lightning were down 4-0 to the Washington Capitals, 3-0 to the Buffalo Sabres and 3-1 to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, a game Tampa Bay came back to tie before losing 4-3 in overtime.
He played nearly 33 minutes in the team's win Monday at the Montreal Canadiens, and one night later, against the New York Rangers, he skated 24:39. He was solid, going a plus-1 and taking one penalty. He also helped rookie defense partner Oliver Lauridsen continue to adjust to the game at the NHL level.
Schenn averaged 16:02 per game last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, seventh among that team's blueliners. This season, he's now up to 21:40 per game, and that number likely will continue to grow through the Flyers' final five regular-season games.
"I think his year has been a strong year for us," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's taking on more minutes, I think by necessity based on certain situations and line matchups that have to happen for us. But I think he's had a strong year. The minutes have gone up recently because of the injuries on the back end. You see him pushing almost 60 minutes combined the last two games. That's an opportunity for him. He's had it all year and he's played well."
TORONTO -- When it comes to getting into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, James Reimer has no allegiance to his home province in Manitoba.
Reimer will definitely be cheering against the Winnipeg Jets while he tends goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Maple Leafs' magic number to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs is four, meaning any combination of points by Toronto and points lost by Winnipeg adding up to four puts Reimer's team into the postseason.
"If that's what needs to happen for us to get into the playoffs then it would be great if the Jets lose," Reimer said. "But you can't bank on that. You have to take care of your own business, so that's all we're focused on."
According to a report, the New York Rangers will be without forward Brian Boyle for an indefinite period of time due to a lower-body injury.
Boyle has two goals and five points in 38 games for the Rangers, who are battling the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres for the eighth Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers host the Florida Panthers on Thursday and travel to face the Sabres on Friday.
CALGARY --Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock knows the dangers of playing a team like the Calgary Flames, a club that is long out of the Western Conference playoff picture and auditioning its young players.
He's just not sure if it makes them any more dangerous than the next team, considering Detroit has six games remaining on their schedule with a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance far from guaranteed.
"When you're playing teams at this time of the year, is it better to play a team that's in the playoffs and a little more comfortable?" Babcock questioned. "Is it better to play a team that's fighting for their life, maybe seized up a little bit? Or is it better to play a team that has some kids and they're just loose and dry?
"I don't know the answer to any of these questions and it's a waste of time thinking about it. Lets play."
The Red Wings enter Calgary holding down the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 47 points. The Columbus Blue Jackets, who have played one more game than Detroit, also sit with 47 on the season. The Dallas Stars are two points back at 45.
Kovalchuk, who will miss his 11th straight game with a right shoulder injury, told reporters Wednesday he would determine whether he would be able to play against the Flyers after his team's morning skate Thursday. But Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Kovalchuk would not be making the trip to Philadelphia.
PITTSBURGH -- Acknowledging there is a benefit to seeing game action before the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma stressed that none of his injured players will be rushed back and that all have shown an ability to seamlessly rejoin the lineup after long layoffs.
NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), reigning 40-goal scorer James Neal (concussion), 25-minute-per-game defenseman Paul Martin (hand) and 2011-12 Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) each have missed time. All but Malkin have been ruled out for Wednesday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens. Malkin was termed a game-time decision by Bylsma but his role in recent practices and Wednesday's morning skate suggests he is unlikely to play.
With six games and exactly two weeks between now and the projected first game of the opening round of the playoffs at Consol Energy Center, Bylsma said there won't be any rash decisions made concerning Malkin, Crosby, Neal or Martin.
"We're talking about players who are good hockey players and can get in games and be factors in games, and they're going to be that in their first game, whenever that is," Bylsma said. "I feel comfortable they're going to be able to get in their spots and play and be factors."
Defenseman Yannick Weber will play for the Canadiens for the third time this season. It will be Weber's second appearance since January and first since March 7. Weber replaces Nathan Beaulieu after Montreal allowed 12 goals in losing its past two games.
"It's not like it's my first game ever, but it's been a while," Weber said. "For me, it's just go back and find my game and take it shift by shift. Normally it takes a couple shifts, and then you're back as if nothing happened. I'm excited and I'm ready to go."
An injury-depleted blue line saw two more players join the injury list -- Kent Huskins, who sustained a concussion during the game Monday against the Canadiens, and Bruno Gervais, who team announced Tuesday needs surgery to repair a torn stomach muscle. They join Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros, who are out with shoulder injuries, and Nicklas Grossmann, who has a concussion.
Here is what the Flyers' lineup likely will look like when the puck drops:
The rookie defensemen, both recalled from the Flyers' AHL team Tuesday, saw four teammates from earlier this season dressing in same room.
On a defense depleted by injuries -- the latest are a concussion sustained by Kent Huskins during the game Monday against the Montreal Canadiens and the torn stomach muscle that will sideline Bruno Gervais indefinitely -- the arrival of Manning and Konan mean four of the Flyers' seven healthy defensemen started the season in the minor leagues.
Manning has four games of NHL experience from last season, but if Konan gets in, it will be the first game for the undrafted native of Orange, Calif.
"It does [help with the nerves], seeing Olie [Oliver Lauridsen], Gussy [Erik Gustafsson], Mand-dog [Manning]," Konan said. "It does help seeing those guys. I'm excited to be here. I'm thankful and I'm going to do whatever I can to be ready. If they need me I'll be ready to go."
Konan had offseason surgery to repair a pair of sports hernias and started the season in the ECHL. He also missed time this season with a concussion, but in 42 AHL games he has two goals and four assists.
"Konan was a guy that he keeps getting talked about that he's playing well down there," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "A tall kid; a good, steady two-way defenseman."
Manning was plus-1 with six shots on goal in four NHL games last season. He admitted to struggling at times this season, and in 65 AHL games he has 21 points, 135 penalty minutes and a minus-28 rating that ranked as the second-worst in the league. However, he did play in the AHL All-Star Game.
"My game hasn't been where I want it to be," Manning said.
Laviolette said he's looking forward to having another look at Manning in the NHL, based on his "familiarity with [him] from having him up here. You know what he brings."
Laviolette said he won't change much of the game plan, but did say there have been "tweaks."
"We've tried to just play a more dependable game defensively," Laviolette said, "and in certain situations where maybe we'd be a little more aggressive we've tried to back off the numbers a little bit if the circumstances aren't allowing us to be aggressive."
One of Manning or Konan has to play for the Flyers to have six defensemen, but Laviolette would not say which one or both would play.
"I think defense is a tough, tough position for young players," Laviolette said. "Forwards you get a little bit of latitude if there's a mistake in the offensive zone or the neutral zone. Your defense is your last line of something in front of your goaltender. When there's a breakdown it's a little more obvious. So it's a little more difficult for young defensemen."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
SAN JOSE -- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Greene said he still doesn't have a target date for his return, but he took what looked to be another step in that direction Tuesday morning at HP Pavilion.
Greene, who underwent back surgery in late January to repair a herniated disk, was on the ice for the Kings' optional skate and stayed long after most of his teammates had left.
Greene was cleared for contact Monday, but he spent most of his time Tuesday skating hard and getting back into shape.
'You want to try to get into as good of shape as you can be if you want to get a chance to come back," Greene said. "It felt good. It's feeling better and better every day. It's just getting more and more used to skating. Getting a little bit of timing back, but I think it's still going to be a battle."
WINNIPEG -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have only the slimmest of chances to still reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, but they have secured a key part of their future.
Goaltender Ben Bishop signed a two-year contract extension Monday after the Lightning arrived here for their game Tuesday evening with the Winnipeg Jets. The Lightning acquired Bishop from the Ottawa Senators on April 3 at the NHL Trade Deadline for speedy forward Cory Conacher.
The 26-year-old has gone 2-3-0 in six games with Tampa Bay and posted a .916 save percentage to go with his 3.21 goals-against average. Bishop earned a 45-save shutout in his Tampa Bay debut April 4 against the Carolina Hurricanes and has assumed the Lightning's No. 1 job with an ankle injury having sidelined Anders Lindback since March 20.
"It's definitely nice to have, but it doesn't change anything," Bishop said after Tampa Bay's morning skate at MTS Centre. "It's just a piece of paper. I still have to go out there and perform and do [my] job."
WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets’ margin for error is slim Tuesday evening as they begin their final push toward what would be their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007.
The Jets will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at MTS Centre without defenseman Tobias Enstrom, who is out with what the Jets are terming a "mid-body injury." The Jets downgraded Enstrom’s status to week-to-week during their four-day break.
Jets coach Claude Noel said center Nik Antropov, who has not played since April 2, is a possibility to return later this week as the Jets close out their six-game homestand.
It was the first time Staal has taken the ice with teammates during the pregame skate, but coach John Tortorella said there was nothing new to report in regard to Staal's condition. The defenseman hasn't played since being hit near the right eye by a deflected puck during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 5.
PHILADELPHIA -- Coming off one of the New York Rangers' better efforts of the season in their previous game, coach John Tortorella said he will stick with the same lineup he used Saturday when his team faces the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
That means Henrik Lundqvist will be back in goal. In seven games since the calendar flipped to April, Lundqvist is 5-1-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. In the Rangers' 1-0 overtime win against the New York Islanders, Lundqvist stopped all 29 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season.
"If he wasn't standing on his head that game we would not have won that one," defenseman Anton Stralman told NHL.com. "He saved us two points right there."
Jaskin, who joined the Blues in Nashville a week ago, has taken part in every practice and every drill thus far. And with the Blues mired in a drought of five goals in five games, going 3-2-0, coach Ken Hitchcock will insert the 6-foot-2, 196-pound right wing into the lineup and give him his opportunity.
"He looked a little off-balance taking nine days off when he first came here, and then I thought the last two days ... what convinced me to give him a chance, and I'm kind of excited to look at him, was we did a really hard down-low offensive drill yesterday," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "It was a very difficult drill, and he scored against NHL players and it was a hard drill and he found the back of the net, he put it through the back of the net. I was really impressed. He got whacked around really good yesterday down low, and he stood his ground and was determined to put the puck in the net."
Cowen underwent surgery in November to repair a torn labrum in his left hip after being injured in an American Hockey League game, and the thinking at the time was he would be lost for the remainder of the season.
It's a huge boost for an Ottawa team that is without Erik Karlsson (Achilles) on its blue line.
"It's a big day," Cowen said. "I've had this day in mind for a while. I picked it a long time ago because it's not a back-to-back and it's at home. I wanted to start at home. I worked really hard to get here. Sometimes rehab doesn't go the way you want it to. A lot of it has been luck. When I'm on the ice doing drills or skating, I don't think about my hip at all, and my doctor said that's the key. All systems are go."
Cowen played in all 82 games for the Senators as a rookie last season, posting five goals and 17 points. The 22-year-old was a first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2009 NHL Draft.
Here are the projected lineups for the Hurricanes and Senators:
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- With six games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the New York Islanders will view each match as a must-win situation.
But they know they really can't afford to let two points slip away Tuesday, when the Islanders (21-16-5, seventh place in Eastern Conference) face the Florida Panthers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
With 32 points, Florida (13-22-6) resides in last place in the Eastern Conference and will be looking to avoid a three-game losing streak. The Panthers have been outscored 10-3 in back-to-back losses to the Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
"I know what that feels like the last couple of years," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said of the Panthers, a team that is simply playing out the remainder of its schedule. "Those are dangerous teams sometimes. They want to win these games and they want to mess with someone else's season. We have to be prepared."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes remain in control of their playoff destiny, but the grip on that control is getting looser and looser.
The Coyotes' 1-1-1 road trip to Western Canada left them alive in the playoff race but in need of a great finish -- likely 12 points out their final seven games -- beginning Monday night when they open a two-game homestand against the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena.
The Coyotes swept three games and all six points on their past homestand, and need to do the same against the Sharks and St. Louis Blues on Thursday to have any serious chance to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth straight year. Points in eight of the past nine games (5-1-3) have kept them afloat but even overtime losses aren't good enough anymore.
CALGARY -- After missing six games with a lower-body injury, center Matt Cullen is ready to return to the Minnesota Wild with the hope of injecting some life into their playoff push.
The Wild are just 3-6-1 over their past 10 games and have won just once since Cullen's injury, but remain seventh in the Western Conference and have a chance at two points against the Calgary Flames on Monday night.
It's been tough to watch, Cullen admitted.
"We've gone through a tough stretch of games, some serious playoff quality teams," he said. "You never want to miss that and its been awfully tough watching."
Cullen has seven goals and 25 points in 35 game this season.
For the Blue Jackets, Brandon Dubinsky will move from left wing to center on the second line, replacing injured center Artem Anisimov. Anisimov is listed as day-to-day after sustaining a head injury on a hit from the Minnesota Wild's Charlie Coyle in the first period Saturday in the Blue Jackets' 3-2 shootout win. Blake Comeau, who was a healthy scratch the past two games, will play left wing on the fourth line.
CHICAGO -- It's been almost a month since the Dallas Stars lived through a hockey nightmare against the Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center.
Chicago came into "The Big D" on March 16 and put up a memorable 8-1 blowout victory on the board that included starting goalie Kari Lehtonen being chased and backup Richard Bachman also surrendering four goals -- including a Patrick Kane jaw-dropping spin-o-rama backhand number from the right circle.
Now the Stars will conclude their season series against the Blackhawks on Monday night at United Center, and things have changed considerably for Dallas. Since that Chicago rout, the Stars are 9-5-0 and currently riding a five-game win streak that's put them into contention for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a handful of other Western Conference teams.
The rugged forward appeared to hurt his left arm or shoulder when he was driven into the glass in a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, but coach Michel Therrien says he should be back in the lineup in time for Wednesday night's game in Pittsburgh against the Penguins.
He said keeping Prust out was a precautionary measure.
NASHVILLE -- When he made his highly-publicized comments after the NHL Trade Deadline on April 3 about his frustration that his contract made it difficult for him to be moved, Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was in the midst of a stretch of earning only one start in 11 games.
On Monday, when Vancouver visits the Nashville Predators, Luongo will start for the second time in three games. Last Wednesday, Luongo stopped 40 of 41 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
"It gives him a chance to play," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. Number one goalie Cory Schneider "was on such a roll, and then he got sick and Louie came in and did an incredible job in Calgary for us, and that's what we expect tonight."
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins will look to snap their two-game losing streak Monday against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden, and they'll have at least one player back in their lineup after a short absence.
Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton is expected to play after resting the last two games. Hamilton has played around 80 games dating back to last May in international competition, junior and the NHL.
"Obviously, just playing so much, it kind of feels like the end of the year, which it is," Hamilton said after the Bruins' morning skate. "But I think just to get a rest, I guess, mentally most of all, just to get away from playing and to be able to come back and kind of it feels like junior a little bit when you get the week off and then you go back and play on the weekends. So I think hopefully I didn't get too rusty over the couple days. But I think I feel good, so I'm pretty happy."
NASHVILLE -- The parade from Milwaukee to Nashville continues, as the Nashville Predators recalled defenseman Mattias Ekholm on Monday from their American Hockey League affiliate.
Second-pair defenseman Kevin Klein suffered an injury in the Predators' 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, and so the team was forced to recall Ekholm on Monday morning. Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who would not specify the injury, said Klein was highly questionable to play.
Ekholm was expected to arrive in Nashville later in the day. As the injuries continue to pile up, Ekholm will be the sixth rookie on the Predators' roster and the third Swede to suit up for the team in roughly one week's time.
Kovalchuk, who turned 30 today, will miss his 10th straight game on Monday with a right shoulder injury. The Devils visit Air Canada Centre to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.
According to Devils coach Pete DeBoer, Kovalchuk had a good skating session on Sunday and will skate again on Monday in New Jersey.
"I would call him day-to-day," DeBoer told local reporters. "My conversation with [Kovalchuk] before we left New Jersey [Sunday] was he had a good day [Sunday] morning, he was going to try to have another good one [Monday] and we would talk tomorrow morning."
TORONTO -- A year ago former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke described his team as being akin to an 18-wheel truck being driven over a cliff.
After a terrific start to the year, the Maple Leafs went into a tailspin that ultimately caused them to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh season in a row and cost coach Ron Wilson his job.
The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, went about their business as usual as one of the hardest-working and best defensive teams in the NHL, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final ultimately losing to the Los Angeles Kings.
This year it's the Devils who resemble the 18-wheeler going off a cliff while the Maple Leafs, who have been transformed into a tough, hard-checking group by new coach Randy Carlyle, are on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Devils are winless in their past nine games (0-5-4) and sit 11th in the Eastern Conference.
NASHVILLE –Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg will make his much-anticipated NHL debut on Sunday as a member of the team’s top line and first power-play unit.
One day after arriving from Sweden, the 18-year-old is set to play on a line with David Legwand, who has played for the Predators in every season of their existence, and rookie Taylor Beck, who has three goals in 13 games.
That the Predators’ top line is comprised of two rookies with a total of 13 NHL games between them is a testament to the extent to which injuries have impacted the Predators but also to how they have fallen out of the Stanley Cup Playoff race. They have lost eight out of nine entering their game on Sunday with the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena and were 13th in the Western Conference.
Forsberg, drafted 11th in the 2012 NHL Draft, is the player whom the Predators received in exchange from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat, who ranks second all-time in most Nashville offensive categories.
Bolland missed the previous four games with a lower-body injury, initially hurt against the Nashville Predators while blocking a Shea Weber shot April 1. Bolland played the next game against the Blues in Chicago three days later but has not dressed since.
Sharp, who had missed 14 games with a shoulder injury, returned to play the last two games but will not be in the lineup today after not making the trip Saturday with an upper-body injury, presumably the same one that forced Sharp to miss a month.
For the Blues, T.J. Oshie (foot) will miss his eighth consecutive game Sunday. He was injured blocking a shot against the Los Angeles Kings March 28. Oshie's been on the ice and skated for the last week and is presumably close to returning, perhaps during the Blues' four-game homestand this week.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – There were no apparent lineup changes for the Los Angeles Kings at their morning skate as they go into their series finale against the Anaheim Ducks. Coach Darryl Sutter has stuck with the defensive combination of Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr, and Doughty likes having that stay-at-home type to balance out his freelancing.
"That gives me the opportunity to kind of jump up every time I can," Doughty said. "He’s always back there. He’s always solid. For the most part, I know what he’s going to do with puck. It’s going to be a simple play. He’s not going to make that saucer pass over a stick or anything like that. He’s either going to go straight up to the winger or over to me.
"I want the puck in my hands as much as I can have, and if he’s going to keep giving it to me, I love that. I think so far we’ve worked really well together. As we get used to each other, we’re going to get better and better."
Doughty said his slow start to the season was tough because he wasn’t putting up points. He took on an increased role with heavy minutes but he also adjusted with partners Jake Muzzin and Keaton Ellerby.
DALLAS -- It’s been six days since the San Jose Sharks and the Dallas Stars last met with Dallas prevailing 5-4 in a shootout at HP Pavilion last Sunday.
Dallas has now won four straight games, and Sharks coach Todd McLellan is impressed with how well Glen Gulutzan’s club has performed during their current streak.
"Well, they’re working hard, they’re a fast team. I don’t know if a lot of people realize they’re No. 10 in offense in the league," McLellan said. "And they have played very free, very loose, excited. Now they’re into a stretch where there’s probably going to be some pressure, so they’ll have to deal with that. But they’re a hard-working team that gets it done five-on-five."
But it’s not like San Jose, who is 8-1-1 in their past 10 games, is exactly struggling, a run which Sharks wing Adam Burish chalks up to some fairly simple things he and his teammates have been doing well.
"I think we’re playing with a little more depth. Everybody’s going now, everybody’s contributing. We’re sustaining momentum in games, but I think too we’re playing with confidence," Burish said. "We’re playing a little simpler too. This team, with all the skill we have, we tend to want to make cute plays and pretty plays. We’re just playing simpler now, more straight ahead, more direct and then you mix that in with continuing to gain confidence you’re going to play better."
ST. PAUL, Minn. --Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo was unusually secretive about who will be in his lineup Saturday when his team faces off with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the final game of a critical three-game home stand.
"I'm not gonna talk about lineup this morning," Yeo said when asked about the status of injured center Matt Cullen, who skated with the team during the morning skate for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury Apr. 1.
The same was said when he was asked about the status of injured defenseman Ryan Suter, who missed much of the game Thursday against the St. Louis Blues. Suter did not take part in the optional morning skate Saturday, neither did several other Wild veterans -- complicating matters when trying to project who is in and who is out for the Wild.
RALEIGH, N.C. -Boston Bruins rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton will sit out for the second game in a row, but not because he's falling short of expectations.
Boston coach Claude Julien wants to give Hamilton a breather, just to make sure he is rested and ready for the stretch run.
"The rest is the only reason he's been sitting out. It's certainly not because of his play," said Julien, who had a lengthy discussion with Hamilton at the end of the morning skate. "One thing we've done as an organization is developed our young guys properly, and I think he's progressed very well this year. We want him to get some rest. With fatigue, you get bad habits. We don't want that to creep into his game."
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron practiced with the Bruins, but he remains out of the lineup following a concussion.
"As long as he's feeling good, he gets a chance to practice with us," Julien said. "He's cleared for contact, but light contact so far. He still needs final clearance from the doctors, and hopefully sooner than later."
Here are the likely lineups for this game between the Bruins and Hurricanes:
Crosby has been out since sustaining a jaw injury when he was hit by a slap shot March 30 against the New York Islanders.
The Penguins also again will be without the services of defenseman Paul Martin and left wing James Neal. Martin will miss his seventh consecutive game because of a hand injury, while Neal will miss his third game because of a concussion.
Pittsburgh has a five-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens atop the Eastern Conference standings, but the Penguins aren’t likely to take the last-place Panthers lightly after what happened in their last visit to BB&T Center.
Florida scored four power-play goals, the most allowed by Pittsburgh all season, in a 6-4 victory on Feb. 26.
"We talked about the fact that they did beat us," Penguins wing Pascal Dupuis said. "We weren’t ready. We weren’t physically involved. They had four power-play goals. We definitely have to be better in our penalty killing. They’re a group of guys that play a fast game, they play a high-tempo game. We’ll have to be ready."
TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens hooking up on a Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada is a special occasion for many – especially now that both organizations are prospering.
For a kid like Joe Colborne, who is trying to make his mark in the NHL, it is a bit of a dream come true.
For others, such as Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, it's just another day at the office.
"It's going to be very tough to have a pre-game nap today," said Colborne, who had his shares of ups and downs with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League this season before being recalled by the Maple Leafs on April 4. "There's such a buzz when you get to the rink; you can tell it's a big game. I'm ready to step into the rivalry and I know it's going to be a lot of fun."
The Canadiens, under new general manager Marc Bergevin, have been one of the NHL's biggest success stories this season. Through 40 games the Habs possess the fourth-best record in the league at 26-9-5 and sit second in the Eastern Conference behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins with 57 points. Toronto, meanwhile, appears poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and is fifth in the East at 22-13-5.
While the Maple Leafs are still without one of their best player, left wing Joffrey Lupul who is out with a suspected concussion, they got some good news that center Mikhail Grabovski is available for action. Carlyle wasn't sure if the Russian, who underwent a battery of tests in New York earlier in the week because of an infection, would dress, but did acknowledge Grabovski saves some of his best performances for his former team.
"The player is available and we will make out decision on tonight's lineup later this afternoon," Carlyle said. He added the results of the tests Grabovski took would not be available until Wednesday or Thursday.
Carlyle said he understands the fanfare that comes with a Montreal-Toronto matchup, but he said the team does its best not to get caught up in the extra hype.
"What we have tried to do is eliminate all the outside influences that take place," Carlyle said. "You can't ignore it, but you just try to focus on what you can control. Our preparation is paramount because we're a young team and we're learning how to prepare…how to push some of the things that normally would be front and center to the side. Believe me, there's as many things presented to me as the players; people looking for tickets to parking passes. Everybody thinks you have all this free time to concentrate on what their needs are."
MacLean said Michalek will be reunited with top-line center Kyle Turris and right wing Daniel Alfredsson to open the game. The 28-year-old has missed the past 24 games with a knee injury. He has two goals and 10 points in 15 matches in 2012-13.
"We're hoping he can bring speed, leadership and his ability to score," MacLean said during his pregame media scrum. "He's been a very consistent player throughout his career, and he's the type of player you can put on the ice in any situation; power play, penalty-kill or 4-on-4. He's a very valuable part of our team, and we look forward to having him back in the lineup."
The 6-foot-4 goaltender has stopped 93 of 95 shots since returning to the lineup against the Colorado Avalanche on April 6 after missing six games with an upper-body injury. He's earned four of a possible six points for a Coyotes club that enters action against the Calgary Flames on Friday night trailing the Detroit Red Wings by two points for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
According to coach Dave Tippett, Smith has been the injection the Coyotes needed as they try to close in on the Red Wings.
"We needed a guy that's going to take the ball and run with it," Tippett said. "We had a good week at home where we used three different goaltenders and got three wins, but ultimately if we're going to have a chance to be a playoff team, Smitty has to take that ball and run with it."
NASHVILLE -- With the Dallas Stars in a desperate situation to try to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen was not sounding optimistic Friday about his injured groin following his team's morning skate.
"I was hoping that I would feel a lot better than I did," Lehtonen said, but he added the injury is "going in the right direction."
As a result, Richard Bachman was going to start Friday at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators. Lehtonen will not be in uniform. Coach Glen Gulutzan said Cristopher Nilstorp, an emergency call-up from Texas of the American Hockey League, would back up Bachman.
The two Central Division rivals will meet for the final time of the season Friday night, also for the last time as divisional rivals, with the Blue Jackets departing for the Eastern Conference beginning with the 2013-14 season.
The Blues, winners of six in a row, will turn to Jake Allen in goal after Brian Elliott earned his third straight shutout in Thursday's 2-0 win at the Minnesota Wild. Elliott has a shutout streak of 189:29 he will carry into Sunday's NBC Game of the Week against the Chicago Blackhawks.
NEWARK, N.J. -- In a season when the New Jersey Devils haven't fared well after allowing the first goal of the game, their inexplicable start in a loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, with a Stanley Cup Playoff berth on the line, left coach Peter DeBoer speechless.
The Devils will look to make amends Friday at Prudential Center against the Ottawa Senators, marking the fifth straight meeting against a Northeast Division opponent. Entering the game 1-5-6 against the Northeast this season, the Devils will be looking to snap an eight-game winless streak (0-4-4) against a team that just snapped its own five-game skid with a 3-1 win at the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
CHICAGO -- The Detroit Red Wings are reeling coming down the stretch, attempting to secure the Western Conference's last spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After losing to the San Jose Sharks in a shootout Thursday night in Detroit, the assignment gets even more difficult Friday night at United Center, where the Red Wings will play the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago blasted Detroit 7-1 in the last meeting March 31 at Joe Louis Arena and aim to make it a four-game season-series sweep in the final meeting between the storied franchises as division rivals.
Chicago's Dave Bolland will sit out his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury believed to be his foot, which was struck by a hard slap shot from Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber on April 1 in a 3-2 Blackhawks shootout win.
Corey Crawford will get the start in goal for Chicago, and Jimmy Howard is expected to get the start for Detroit after taking the loss on Thursday night against San Jose.
Here is how the Red Wings and Blackhawks might line up on Friday night:
Most notable is the insertion of Simon Gagne as the left wing on the top line, alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. It's a line that appeared to spend the most time together at the Flyers' morning skate, but Laviolette had different trios making rushes in drills, which included injured center Danny Briere.
PHILADELPHIA -- The last time the Ottawa Senators were in Philadelphia, on March 2, a rare thing happened -- Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct.
Alfredsson was angered over a hit by the Flyers' Zac Rinaldo on Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips near the Ottawa bench in the third period, and cross-checked Rinaldo immediately after the hit on Phillips. Alfredsson was assessed a major for cross-checking and a game misconduct. It was the second time in Alfredsson's 17-season NHL career he had been called for a major penalty and game misconduct, with the other time coming April 9, 2002.
Of Alfredsson's 29 penalty minutes this season, 15 came on that one play.
Thursday marks the first time the teams have met since then, but it's doubtful we'll see the same level of physicality, but it has nothing to do with the fact that Rinaldo is out of the lineup with a sprained left ankle.
"It's an important game for both teams," Alfredsson said. "I don't expect anything special to happen unless one team gets up four or five goals."
Alfredsson said he does expect the Flyers to play their usual aggressive, attacking style, but hopes his team can use that play to its advantage.
"We know they're going to be aggressive, it's up to us to make that to our advantage and move the puck quick," he said. "If we can make them go out of their way to makechecks and we move the puck quick, we should create a lot of chances from that."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow himon Twitter: @NHLAdamK
The team announced via its Twitter feed Thursday that the 20-year-old will be making his first NHL appearance after veteran goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere started four of Colorado's past five games, posting a 1-2-1 record.
A fourth-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Aittokallio has spent much of the season playing for Lake Erie of the American Hockey League. In 26 games with the Monsters, the native of Tampere, Finland posted a 2.89 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. He was the starting goaltender for a Finland squad that finished fourth at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship.
WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets' push to earn the franchise's first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007 continues Thursday against the Florida Panthers.
The clubs meet at MTS Centre, where the Jets play the third game on their six-game homestand. They'll do so without defenseman Tobias Enstrom, who exited their 4-1 win Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres after a heavy hit from Steve Ott. Jets coach Claude Noel labeled Enstrom as day-to-day with what was termed a mid-body injury. Paul Postma will replace Enstrom.
Defenseman Mike Weaver (lower body) did not accompany the Panthers on their one-game trip to Winnipeg, but his return reportedly is imminent. Center Drew Shore has missed three games but could dress Thursday.
"We're trying to put the best team on the ice to give us a chance to win the game," MacLean, whose team has lost six straight, said after the team's morning skate here at Wells Fargo Center. "Right now we're not winning games, so we need to find a better group to do that with and that's what this is about."
VOORHEES, N.J. -- A year ago Thursday, the Philadelphia Flyers were in Pittsburgh, preparing for Game 1 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Penguins.
If they have any hope of getting back to the postseason this year, they'll need what Flyers forward Scott Hartnell called an "epic" final nine games of the regular season, starting with their game Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators.
The Flyers are 12th in the Eastern Conference, seven points out of a playoff spot.
"We need to have an epic ending to the season," Hartnell said after practice Thursday morning. "Basically we need to win them all to have a chance. We need to get back to our winning ways. Hopefully we can come out here hard, lay it all out on the ice."
BUFFALO -- The Montreal Canadiens have a chance to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday and the players are well aware of that opportunity.
The Canadiens can qualify for the playoffs with a win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center, or if they earn one point against the Sabres and the Florida Panthers defeat the Winnipeg Jets in any fashion Thursday.
"At the start of this season, your first goal is to get into the playoffs, and we have an opportunity tonight to reach that first goal," Canadiens alternate captain Josh Gorges said. "I think we have to understand and respect the importance of tonight's game and understand the opponent that we're facing too."
TAMPA -- Benoit Pouliot leads all Tampa Bay Lightning forwards with a plus-9 rating and has recorded three points (one goal and two assists) in the past three games he has played. Tom Pyatt ranks first among Lightning forwards with 33 blocked shots.
Both skaters, however, will be off the ice, scratched for the second consecutive game, when Tampa Bay faces the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Significant? Not to Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
"I wouldn't read too much into it about the guys that are scratched," Cooper said. "We're just caught between that, we're trying to win, we're trying to win, we're trying to win, but we are also trying to see what we have. What guys can handle this? What guys can play next year? It's tough to do; it's tough to balance."
If Marchand, who was elbowed in the head by New Jersey Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov on Wednesday night, is unable to play against the New York Islanders, the Bruins will be missing two-thirds of what’s been their most productive forward line this season.
Patrice Bergeron has been out since suffering a concussion April 2. He skated with the Bruins’ scratches during an optional morning skate at TD Garden. Tyler Seguin had been the other member of that line.
The Bruins should have Adam McQuaid back in the lineup for the first time since March 19, when he strained his shoulder.
Here are the projected lineups for the Bruins and Islanders:
Bergeron has missed the past four games with a concussion, but Wednesday, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told a local radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub, that Bergeron had begun working out and is "on his road to recovery."
In addition, Boston coach Claude Julien said injured forward Brad Marchand "was being reassessed by doctors this morning, so we'll have an update later today."
The Washington Capitals will attempt to at least maintain -- and perhaps add to -- their slim lead atop the Southeast Division when they host the reeling Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at Verizon Center.
Sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference with 48 points entering Wednesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs have put themselves in a favorable position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.
And with each game growing more and more important as the season winds down, playoff experience is proving important for a team that doesn't have a lot of it.
One of the League's youngest teams, Toronto has 15 players on its roster who have never played in an NHL playoff game. And for the two players who have seen postseason action in the past two years -- James van Riemsdyk and Cody Franson -- there's an implicit understanding of how important Wednesday's game will be against the Rangers, who sit eighth in the East with 42 points.
"[Games] always get tight going towards the end of the season. Teams are trying to make a push or hold a spot. We're trying to put ourselves in a good position," said Franson, who saw playoff action in 2011 with the Nashville Predators. "You're going to see a lot of one-goal games coming down the stretch. That's just the way it's going to be. We're prepared for that."
Coming off a 4-3 loss Monday night against a Toronto Maple Leafs squad that has given teams trouble with its aggressive forecheck, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella on Wednesday stressed the importance of his team being stronger in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
"We need to defend better. Certainly around our net," Tortorella said before the rematch at Madison Square Garden. "Our D have moved away from our net. So we need to straighten that out."
Presumably the two were discussing Getzlaf's status for the game against the Colorado Avalanche, but they could have been talking about the Rihanna concert Getzlaf attended the previous night.
"I loved the concert," Getzlaf said. "It was really good."
Regarding whether he will return from a three-game absence from a leg injury, Getzlaf looked more active at the skate but did not take part in the regular line rushes. He did sound optimistic, though, one week after he got tangled up with Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.
"It felt good," Getzlaf said. "Things are moving along the way we wanted to, and there's a good chance I'll be in the lineup tonight. We’ll see."
NEWARK, N.J. --Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has begun working out on his own, but there is no timetable for his return from a concussion.
Bergeron will miss his fourth straight game Wednesday when the Bruins face the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). He was injured after colliding with Ottawa Senators forward Colin Greening during a game April 2.
"Any time a guy starts doing something it's a step in the right direction," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We never comment any more than that because, as you heard me say often, those things are encouraging one day and discouraging the next, so we just keep our fingers crossed and keep hoping that he keeps getting better."
NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils right wing Ilya Kovalchuk will miss his eighth straight game Wednesday when his team faces the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2), he did admit to feeling better during his second practice with the team in as many days.
Kovalchuk, however, hasn't put a timetable on his return to the lineup.
"I don't know [when I'll be back]," Kovalchuk said. "That's what we'll decide with doctors and coaches, but I don't think I'll be back [Friday against the Ottawa Senators]."
Kovalchuk said he felt a lot better at practice Wednesday and was able to shoot a little more.
"We definitely took more shots and there were some battles in the end, so it felt good," he said. "It's definitely a step in the right direction.
"I haven't been able to unload the big one-timers, but I just tried to shoot harder [Wednesday]. When skating and doing sprints, it didn't bother me at all and that's a positive thing."
NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Bryce Salvador was back on the ice Wednesday for his club's morning skate in preparation for a game Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).
Salvador sat out practice Tuesday in an attempt to rest for a team that has beaten the Devils six straight times (0-4-2) over the past two seasons, including a 1-0 Bruins win in Boston on April 4.
The game between the Central Division rivals Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena will see the Blues get back left wing Andy McDonald (flu) after the veteran missed the team's 1-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.
"Andy's going to play," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That'll give us the 12 forwards that we designed for the last game, so same combination before he went down. We'll see how we look and see how it looks.
"If he doesn't have the energy, we'll just move [Chris] Porter into the left side during the game at some period of time."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he's glad to see Penner make his return against Dallas.
"His last shift was in this building. Hopefully he still remembers that," Sutter said.
Penner, who last played March 31 against the Stars, figures to skate on the Kings' second line, alongside center Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, which will knock Kyle Clifford, who had been filling in, to the fourth line.
After the Sabres' morning skate at MTS Centre, Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who has missed six games with an upper-body injury, is a possibility to return against the Jets. Rolston also indicated that Ville Leino likely will not return during the regular season because of an upper-body injury.
Ward and Erat made the trip to Montreal, but coach Adam Oates said each needs more time before returning to the lineup.
"[Ward] is still hurt pretty good from that shot," Oates said. "He came on the trip in case he got better, but he just wasn't feeling good this morning. Marty's just loosening up, but he's not quite ready yet."
Oates said there was no timeline for the return of either player.
Goaltender Ben Bishop, one of the principals in the April 3 trade in which the Lightning sent forward Cory Conacher to the Senators, will face his former team as he makes his fourth consecutive start. For Bishop, who is 1-2-0 with Tampa Bay, the start just adds to what has been a whirlwind week.
"I've been in six cities and two countries in four games, so it's been hectic," Bishop said. "But if you can't get excited for games like this, you've got a problem. The last week has been a lot of emotions, a lot of excitement and a lot of adrenaline."
With one goal combined over a current two-game losing streak, the Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed some important reinforcements when they took to the ice Tuesday before their game against the San Jose Sharks.
The Blue Jackets defense, which has dealt with injuries through much of the season, saw Tim Erixon and Nikita Nikitin return to practice. The blueliners each had and upper-body injury but have been cleared to play against San Jose. Another defenseman, Dalton Prout, is a game-time decision.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk will return to the lineup Tuesday after missing the past nine games with a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Faulk is Carolina's leader in ice time, skating 23:23 per night. Carolina sent defenseman Brett Bellemore to Charlotte of the American Hockey League to open a roster spot.
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks will welcome Ryan Kesler back against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night after the Selke Trophy-winning center missed more than a month with a broken bone in his foot, but the injury news wasn't entirely positive after the morning skate.
Defenseman Christopher Tanev will miss the game against the Coyotes after hurting his right leg taking a hit from Calgary Flames forward Tim Jackman in the first period on Saturday night. Tanev went straight to the locker room, returned for the second period and finished the game, but wasn't on the ice with teammates on Monday morning.
"It should be more day-to-day here," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We're going to give him a day today to recuperate and see how he feels tomorrow."
"It felt pretty good," Getzlaf said. "It responded the way we've kind of wanted it moving forward. We're kind of just waiting to make a decision on that [playing]. We've got a lot of time from now until then, so we'll see how it reacts after the skate this morning."
Getzlaf was injured when he got tangled with Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars in an awkward play during a game April 3. Anaheim won that game, lost to Dallas on Friday and won Sunday against the rival Los Angeles Kings.
Baertschi, 20, had one assist in 10 previous games with the Flames this season. He was the Flames' No. 1 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and had 10 goals and 15 assists in 31 games for Abbotsford.
On the other side, right wing David Jones will return to the Avalanche lineup after missing eight games with a knee injury. Jones has struggled this season with just three goals in 27 games. He has gone 10 games without a point.
They're just not entirely sure what Kesler they'll get after being off skates for a month.
Kesler has played just seven games all season, missing the start recovering from offseason wrist and shoulder surgeries only to break a bone in his foot blocking a shot in his Feb 15 return. He played six more games before the fracture turned up in a CT scan, and he couldn't skate until late last week.
"I'm not exactly sure what we're going to get back, to tell you the truth," coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's been off skates for quite some time, but like they used to do in the old days, we are going to play him into shape."
BOSTON -- While there's still no news, positive or negative, pertaining to Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron's status after he suffered a concussion last week, the team should be healthier Monday when it faces the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
Coach Claude Julien said he expects center Chris Kelly, who has been out since March 11 with a broken tibia, to return to the lineup. Kelly took part in an optional morning skate and has been practicing with the team for about a week.
"I feel good and it'll be nice to get back," Kelly said.
The Bruins juggled their lines Sunday for practice.
Here's a look at the projected lineups for the Bruins and Hurricanes:
TORONTO -- It hasn't been the season many expected from the New York Rangers, but with goalie Henrik Lundqvist finding his game, the end result could be a good one.
Lundqvist was sensational Saturday, making 48 saves, including 20 in the third period, as the Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. The Rangers, who are seventh in the Eastern Conference, go back to work Monday, starting a home-and-home set with the fifth-place Maple Leafs in Toronto.
New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh said there is a certain comfort level the Rangers enjoy when Lundqvist is in the zone.
"You enjoy it, but you don't want to rely on it," McDonagh said. "To be a successful team you need to be fundamentally sound in your defensive zone and make smart plays with the puck. We just didn't do that enough last game and he was able to correct our mistakes."
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks could become the first team in the NHL to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff spot if they pick up at least a point against the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (7 p.m. ET) at United Center.
Meanwhile, it's getting close to do-or-die time for the Predators, who continue to lose forwards to injuries and close games down the stretch run of the season. Nashville dropped a 1-0 game to Chicago on Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena -- continuing a vexing trend of not scoring enough goals -- and now the Predators face the Blackhawks again a little more than 24 hours later without Gabriel Bourque and veteran forwards Paul Gaustad and Mike Fisher.
All three will miss Sunday's game with undisclosed upper-body injuries, and Colin Wilson remains on the injured reserve list with an upper-body injury. Bourque and Gaustad didn't play in the game Saturday, but Fisher did. Now he's out, and forward Austin Watson was recalled Sunday morning from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League to take his place.
BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will look to make it three wins in a row while the New Jersey Devils hope to snap a three-game losing streak when the teams meet at First Niagara Center on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo's leading scorer, will miss his sixth game in a row with an upper-body injury. He did not participate in the team's morning skate Sunday, but interim coach Ron Rolston said it was not due to a setback; Vanek was scheduled to have the day off. Rolston said Vanek would practice again Monday.
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Ottawa Senators have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season, but they’re hoping the return of goaltender Craig Anderson can make a difference Sunday against the Florida Panthers.
Anderson, who leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.49) and save percentage (.952), will be in net for the first time since Feb. 21 when he sustained an ankle injury against the New York Rangers.
"It can certainly help the psyche of your team, for sure," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "We can use that boost right now."
"The whole week's been pretty crazy," Redmond said at MTS Centre. "Obviously everybody knows Winipeg's a great place to play; all the support that they have is incredible. Y'know, it's just been more than I could have ever imagined."
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes are going for a crucial sweep of their three-game homestand tonight, a cause that will be helped by the return of their No. 1 goalie between the pipes against the Colorado Avalanche.
Mike Smith, who hasn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury in a collision with Vancouver’s Alexander Edler on March 23, is back in the lineup as the Coyotes try to stay in the playoff hunt and extend their points streak to six games. Phoenix is 3-0-2 since a troubling stretch in which they lost six straight games.
“I expect him to play like a No. 1 goaltender,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said of Smith. “Last year, he missed a few games and when he came back we went on a run and we’re looking for the same thing to happen now.”
Smith hasn’t been the same goalie that led the Coyotes to the franchise’s first Western Conference Final berth last season. Four of his 11 wins are shutouts, but his 2.83 goals-against average and .901 save percentage are a shadow of last season’s 2.21 and .930 numbers.
Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the Coyotes gutted out a 4-2 win despite having more than half a dozen players dealing with a nasty flu bug. It’s still running through the team and defensemen Keith Yandle and David Schlemko were unable to skate Saturday morning due to the bug. Tippett said he expects both to be able to play Saturday.
Kesler has played seven games all season, missing the start recovering from offseason wrist and shoulder surgeries only to break a bone in his foot blocking a shot two periods into his return. He played six more games before the fracture turned up in a CT scan, but the only thing keeping Kesler from playing now is a lack of conditioning after spending a month on crutches.
“It’s finally healed and it's just a matter of time for the wind to get back and for me to feel comfortable,” Kesler said after taking part in an optional morning skate Saturday. “Obviously being out there you want to play tonight, but that's not realistic. I am itching big time. It’s been a tough year for me but everything happens for a reason. … My goal is to get some games in before playoffs and feel good about my game heading into playoffs.”
Plekanec missed a 4-1 win Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets with a groin injury, but he was back in his usual spot at Canadiens practice between Michael Ryder and Brian Gionta. Coach Michel Therrien said a final decision on Plekanec will be taken following the warm-up.
“One thing is certain,” Therrien said, “if he plays tonight, it’s because he’s able to play.”
Laich played in Washington’s past nine games after missing the first 28 because of a groin injury, but he did not play in the last 9:26 of regulation or overtime in a 2-1 shootout victory Thursday against the New York Islanders.
“He didn’t really aggravate it,” Oates said after the morning skate Saturday. “He’s just sore all over, just from playing so much since he got back and fighting through it. I think we just need to give him a little rest.
“He probably could play today. But he’s getting a little weaker. He played fine the other night. I shut him down just because he got hit. He wasn’t feeling good all over.”
According to the team's Twitter page, the 38-year-old forward will play right wing on the Devils top line alongside Patrik Elias and another in-season acquisition, Andrei Loktionov.
Sullivan and Elias were linemates for the Devils' minor-league team in Albany 17 years ago.
"I'm excited," Sullivan said Saturday, according to The Record of Hackensack. "Obviously to play with a player with his skill is going to be good. I'm very excited about the opportunity to play with him again."
Lupul sustained an upper-body injury when hit during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
Coach Randy Carlyle would not call the injury a concussion Friday.
“No that’s a bad word,” Carlyle told the newspaper. “We don’t use that word until we’re 100 percent sure on any of those situations medically. The term concussion, in today’s sporting world, you want to make sure you’re 100 percent sure before you start using that one.”
After San Jose's morning skate at HP Pavilion, coach Todd McLellan said Torres won't be in the lineup Friday night against the Calgary Flames for the Sharks, who have won six straight games.
"I didn't make the decision. Mother Nature made the decision," McLellan said. "He wasn't feeling real good last night. Feeling a little bit better today, but he won't play tonight, due in large part to that. But I also struggled sleeping last night whether or not we would put him in. The right thing to do for the individual is to put him in and make him feel comfortable right off the bat. But we have to do what's right for the team, and there's been a lot of guys that have played well lately and have to continue that reward."
Talking to reporters before McLellan's announcement, Torres didn't mention being ill, but he said he wouldn't mind if he wasn't in the lineup two days after being traded from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Sharks.
"If it was up to me, I probably wouldn't want to see myself play, just because you don't want to mess with a good lineup when it's winning," Torres said.
Getzlaf got tangled up with Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. He returned and scored a goal in the third period before Boudreau rested him the rest of the night. Getzlaf did not skate Friday morning and is still sore heading into Friday's game against Dallas.
"If he doesn't feel comfortable today, then he'll probably play Sunday," Boudreau said.
DENVER -- The Detroit Red Wings will have a different look on defense Friday night when they meet the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Kyle Quincey is expected to play after missing nine games with a fractured cheekbone, and Danny Dekeyser will make his NHL debut after playing three seasons at Western Michigan University.
Quincey, 27, who was injured in a March 15 game against the Edmonton Oilers, has one goal and one assist in 26 games. Dekeyser, 22, signed a two-year contract with the Red Wings on March 30. He was Western Michigan's captain this season and had two goals and 13 assists in 35 games.
Here are the projected lineups for Friday's game between the Red Wings and Avalanche:
ST. LOUIS -- The Columbis Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues, coming off road victories Thursday, had optional skates Friday morning with limited participation.
One change likely for the Blue Jackets will be the addition of forward Blake Comeau. He was acquired from the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, got his visa and working papers in order and will be available Friday.
Here are the projected lineups for when the teams face off Friday night at Scottrade Center:
The trio got a crash course in playing together during the morning skate Friday.
"There's obviously a little adjustment period, but me and [Dupuis], we're going to play the same style," Kunitz said. "We're not ad libbing a whole bunch. We're going to be in certain areas and putting pucks in certain places. As soon as we get a feel for each other, we're going to have success."
"I think we have a lot of speed on our line. Those two guys that I'm playing with are guys that are very confident with the puck and they're very patient," Conacher said. "They know how to make plays and, like I said, they're fast too, so they'll take pucks to the net pretty quick. So you've got to be ready for that."
Conacher grew up in Toronto and played at Canisius College in Buffalo, so he's expecting a big turnout of fans and family for the game.
"We certainly feel that motivation isn't going to be a concern for him. It might be over the top if it's going to be anything," Senators coach Paul MacLean said.
PITTSBURGH -- New York Rangers coach John Tortorella said there would be no changes in the lineup for the second of a home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
After New York dominated Pittsburgh in a 6-1 victory Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, why would there be?
Forwards Ryane Clowe and Derick Brassard and defenseman John Moore -- all new additions to the team -- combined for eight points in the win but continue to adapt to the Rangers' system. Each was acquired via trade during the hours preceding the game Wednesday.
"Gradually they're kind of instilling the basics in us," 22-year-old Moore said. "That's pretty refreshing, especially for a young guy like myself, for them to do that. Because if they're giving you too much information you might be thinking too much.
"[Tortorella] has been great in terms of just making sure we're going out, playing our game. When we were walking out of the locker room as we were going out for warm-ups he had a big smile on today: 'Go have fun.' So that's what we tried to do."
Here is what the Rangers' lineup will look like Friday:
VANCOUVER -- The cavalry is coming for the Vancouver Canucks, but for now they'll have to rely on trade-deadline acquisition Derek Roy for a boost.
Roy will make his Canucks debut against the streaking Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, but the bigger news coming out the Vancouver morning skate was the number of injured teammates who could soon join him in the lineup.
Selke Trophy-winning center Ryan Kesler highlighted the list of hurt forwards out before the rest of the team took the ice, skating for the first time since a broken bone was discovered in his foot in late February. Forwards Mason Raymond and Dale Weise, each out with a shoulder injury, also skated, as did defenseman Keith Ballard, who has been sidelined due to a fractured foot. All could be back within a week -- some maybe by the weekend -- but for now a Canucks team that has struggled to score will rely on Roy for a lift on and off the ice.
"Having a guy like Derek is hopefully going to be a big addition to the lineup and we're excited to have him," said goalie Cory Schneider, who will make his ninth straight start. "We saw a bunch of the wounded guys skating out there today, so that's always a good sign and will bring some optimism back into the room."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After trading away three forwards at the NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday, and still without wing Lauri Korpikoski, the Phoenix Coyotes will have a different look Thursday night when they face the Detroit Red Wings and try to keep their Stanley Cup Playoffs hopes alive.
"On one side you want to just kind of get there and meet the guys, get acclimated a little bit," Bouwmeester said after practicing with his new team Thursday morning. "For me, it was kind of good because I've got a young family. I've got a baby at home (a 3-month-old daughter), so it's good to kind of spend some time with her. They'll come and visit probably, but I probably won't see them too much."
Bouwmeester, who will make his Blues debut Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks, will keep his ironman streak alive, which sits at 621 consecutive games played. He will be partnered alongside Alex Pietrangelo.
"No. 1, it was good just to get back on the ice," Bouwmeester, who has six goals and 15 points in 33 games this season, said. "... Everyone here has been real welcoming. It seems like a really good group. I'm pretty excited. ... We're playing a big rival [Thursday]. To jump right into it, should be fun."
Byfuglien, who played forward for most of his time with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2005-10, will at least start the game at right wing Thursday when the Jets look to snap their skid against the Montreal Canadiens.
"He gives us a guy on the right side that can create a little more offense," Noel said. "We've been stuck a little bit on the offensive side of things on the top two lines."
"Your first game, you want to show what you can do for the guys," said Bishop, who has a 2.45 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. "At the same time, I've been doing this for a little bit now and one game is not going to make the year."
His first challenge, he figures, is getting to know his teammates before he takes the ice Thursday night.
"The biggest thing is trying to learn everybody's names on the ice real quick and not have to think about it before you call their name," he said. "So that will be the hardest thing. After a couple days I'm sure I will have it down."
Sportsnet and CBC are reporting Thursday that Mason will sign a one-year contract for less than the $2.9 million salary-cap number he has this season. Mason is in the final season of a two-year, $5.8 million contract and is scheduled to become a restricted free agent this summer.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks decided to stand pat after acquiring veteran forward Michal Handzus from the San Jose Sharks, so now it's time for the Western Conference leaders to put the roster that's gotten them this far to the test.
Chicago (27-5-3) sits atop the standings with 57 points but will face a good test from the Central Division rival St. Louis Blues (18-14-2, 38 points), who pay a visit to United Center on Thursday night (8:30 p.m. ET) looking to solidify a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We like our team [and] we like our depth," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Thursday's morning skate. "Up front … we're deep in that area, and on defense we've been pretty solid there all year as well. We're pleased with the way things have progressed. Our goaltending's been strong and consistent all year. We want to make sure we try and get better and bringing meaning to these games, because these are important games in a lot of ways. Let's make sure we get something out of them."
TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs had an experienced goaltender on their shopping list at the NHL Trade Deadline. They didn't find the deal they were looking for.
James Reimer, now the No. 1 goalie for the Maple Leafs for the foreseeable future, spent his afternoon Wednesday -- trade deadline day -- shopping at the supermarket, stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Just another day in the life of a youngster trying to establish himself as a starter in the NHL.
Steve Mason, on the other hand, was presented a new opportunity, having been traded to the Philadelphia Flyers by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 24-year-old, who had 10 shutouts in his first NHL season and was the NHL's rookie of the year in 2008-09, joined a handful of his new teammates for the morning skate at Air Canada Centre on Thursday. He is expected to back up starter Ilya Bryzgalov on Thursday when the Flyers play the Maple Leafs.
"He's a young goaltender that's had some success in the League," Laviolette said. "I'm sure he's looking to get here and get going with us. Fresh start for him. We're excited. He's a big goaltender that's had a lot of success in the League."
Mason said he planned to arrive in Philadelphia sometime Wednesday evening and hopefully meet the team after its game against the Montreal Canadiens, then fly with the club to Toronto for its game against the Maple Leafs on Thursday.
When he joins the team, Jokinen, who is expected to skate with the team Thursday, will take Sidney Crosby's spot centering Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. When Crosby eventually returns from a broken jaw that is expected to keep him out for the rest of the regular season, 30-year-old Jokinen is expected to find a new role.
"Obviously, getting healthy would leave different options available," Bylsma said before Wednesday's game. "You could see him playing on a fourth line and filling specific roles on your team, be it the faceoff or the power play. There are different options that he can fulfill at a point in time when you get everyone healthy.
"[He is] a guy I always circle as one of the guys you need to pay attention to on the other team. A guy who is versatile, plays center, plays wing, plays both special teams, takes faceoffs."
Kiprusoff, who reportedly nixed a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier in the day, will serve as backup. He has been pulled in back-to-back games, including Monday's game in Edmonton after allowing three goals on six shots in Calgary's 4-1 loss. In relief, MacDonald stopped 13 of 14 shots.
The recent struggles of Kiprusoff helped persuade Calgary coach Bob Hartley's decision to start MacDonald against the Oilers.
"I think that Joey played very good and at the same time, it's been a tough couple of weeks for Miikka," Hartley said. "Just to give him a break at the same time, I think that Joey deserves the start."
PHILADELPHIA -- The Montreal Canadiens certainly have missed defenseman Raphael Diaz, who hasn't played Feb. 25 due to a concussion. The team did find a bright side, using Diaz's absence as an opportunity to see how some of the organization's younger players could handle NHL pressure.
However, the stretch run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs means it's time to get serious, and the Canadiens did that Tuesday by trading for defenseman Davis Drewiske from the Los Angeles Kings.
Drewiske, 28, had four points and a plus-3 rating in 20 games with the Kings this season, his fifth in Los Angeles.
However, he had played twice in March, and said the best thing about leaving the Stanley Cup champions will be the opportunity play more often. And with Diaz just now skating for the first time since his injury Wednesday at the team's practice rink in Brossard, Quebec, Drewiske could get lots of playing time.
"You get to play games, that's a positive," he told NHL.com. "You make the most of the opportunity."
VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers have a chance to do something Wednesday when they face the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN) that they have yet to do this season: win their third straight game.
However, entering the game 13th in the Eastern Conference and six points out of a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 13 games to go, the Flyers know they need a lot more than three wins.
"All games are huge for us and we have to put ourselves in a situation to play a good hockey game and put ourselves in position to try to get the two points at the end of the night," forward Simon Gagne said. "Sure we won the last two games and it would be nice to get three in a row [but] it doesn't matter what happened in the past. We have to focus on the game [Wednesday] and win this one. All points are going to be key for us right to the end of the season."
Forward Adam Cracknell also was recalled from Peoria of the American Hockey League.
Allen has been recalled under emergency conditions due to goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s lower body injury, which he suffered during the first period in the Blues' 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Monday night.
Hillen, 26, has registered one assist and 10 penalty minutes in 10 games with the Capitals this season. Hillen ranks eighth on Washington in average ice time per game (18:21) after missing 25 games with an injury.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes haven't won three games in a row all season. But if they are going force themselves back into the Western Conference playoff conversation as the final month of the season begins, three home wins this week are all but mandatory.
It begins Tuesday against the surging Los Angeles Kings, who beat the Coyotes twice in Los Angeles during a seven-game losing streak that sent Phoenix's season spiraling south. Phoenix will host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday and Colorado Avalanche on Saturday before playing seven of their final 10 on the road.
Kennedy skated during practice Tuesday morning at center, between Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. However, coach Dan Bylsma said he could insert Dustin Jeffrey on that line if there's an important faceoff, as Kennedy is not an experienced center, and has taken just 16 faceoffs this season.
Crosby sustained a broken jaw during a game Sunday against the New York Islanders and will be out indefinitely. Coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby was released from the hospital Monday morning.
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators have played three one-goal games this season and woke up Tuesday seeded fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Eastern Conference.
So any thoughts about the trade deadline Wednesday has to be on the back burner.
“I’m sure it is for every team in the League a little bit,” Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said about potential distractions after his team’s morning skate at TD Garden. “But our goal is to keep an upbeat locker room and whatever happens, happens. We can’t control that, obviously. I like everybody we have here. We like the situation we’re in here with more players getting closer to returning from injuries and joining us on trips. So even if we don’t do anything, we’re still going to have some nice additions.”
Ottawa is starting a seven-game road trip. The Bruins lead the Senators by four points in the Eastern standings and have won the prior three meetings between the teams.
The New York Islanders will find themselves in eighth place in the Eastern Conference at the end of Tuesday night with either a victory or a post-regulation loss to the Winnipeg Jets at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders begin play Tuesday in ninth, but have 37 points, tied with the eighth-place New York Rangers, who aren't in action again until Wednesday.
The Jets hold down the third seed by virtue of leading the Southeast Division, but they've lost three straight and are four points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals, who face each other Tuesday.
Here's how the lineups could look for the Islanders and Jets:
Mitchell had surgery on his knee in the offseason and reinjured it during the lockout. He had been trying to rehabilitate his leg during the season, but ESPN's report states that Mitchell had arthroscopic surgery on the injured knee and will miss the remainder of the season.
The veteran blueliner had career-bests of five goals and 24 points in 76 games last season, and was a plus-7 in helping the Kings win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Lecavalier wore a red jersey, symbolizing he was cleared for contact, and took part in all the team drills.
"I was sitting there about to address the team and then I see the red jersey and there's Vinny," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It was pretty exciting to see him there. Hopefully he is feeling well. He's not going [Tuesday] but there is hope for Thursday."
In four games this season, Greiss is 1-3-0 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
In two games with San Jose this season, Stalock has posted an 0-0-1 record with a 2.86 GAA and a .846 save percentage. In 31 games with Worcester, he has posted a 15-12-3 record with a 2.48 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
MONTREAL -- Forward Tuomo Ruutu took a couple of spins around the ice before retreating back to the dressing room prior to the Carolina Hurricanes morning skate Monday after injuring his groin in Saturday night's 3-1 win against the Jets in Winnipeg.
There was also some good news on the injury front for the Hurricanes, however, as defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti skated with the team, though he will miss his fourth game with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Justin Faulk will miss his fifth game with a knee injury, but the Hurricanes are hopeful he will return by the end of the week, Muller said.
Finally, goaltender Dan Ellis will be the backup for Justin Peters on Monday after recovering from a leg laceration that cost him the last three games. He should be ready to start Tuesday night in a big divisional game at home against the Washington Capitals.
On Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior at the University of Notre Dame experienced the disappointment of elimination from the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals by fourth-seeded St. Cloud State. That ended any hope top-seeded Notre Dame had at reaching the Frozen Four.
Two days later, however, he signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the team that drafted him in sixth round (No. 152) of the 2009 Draft.
While Lee will not play for the Islanders against the New Jersey Devils on Monday at Prudential Center, he did join his teammates for their morning practice.
Bailey was forced to exit Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 16:23 mark of the second period after taking a hard hit behind his own net from left wing Chris Kunitz.
"I feel good," Bailey told NHL.com. "I was a little nervous at first, and had to kind of gather my thoughts. I felt it in the neck right away and anytime you feel it in the neck, you get a little nervous."
After going through an optional morning skate at United Center, Sharp and Hossa both need more time to fully heal from what is believed to be shoulder-related issues. Chicago doesn't play again until Thursday at home against the St. Louis Blues.
"They're real close and then the fact we've got a couple extra days here, so I think we [want to be] … more than ready when they're coming back," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We'll get 'em on the ice on Wednesday and we'll know for sure whether they'll be playing Thursday or not. They could."
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- On the surface, the Minnesota Wild's penalty kill numbers don't look bad. For the season, the team has killed off 82.2 percent of chances against it, good for 11th best in the National Hockey League.
But the Minnesota kill has been off the last two games, allowing five goals in its last eight chances against the Dallas Stars on Friday and Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
The three power-play goals allowed against the Stars amounted to the difference in the game -- a 5-3 loss that snapped the Wild's seven-game winning streak.
Colaiacovo, who missed the past 33 games with a sprained left shoulder, will replace rookie Brian Lashoff in the lineup and skate alongside Brendan Smith, coach Mike Babcock said.
Zetterberg missed Sunday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks with a groin issue that isn't quite better yet.
"Well, it's still day-to-day. I will say I feel a few percent better today than yesterday,'' Zetterberg told reporters. "That’s improvement. So we're still doing good treatment and hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow."
Zubrus, who underwent surgery to repair ligament damage in his left wrist on Feb. 14, has missed the past 26 games. He's been skating on his own since mid-March and practiced with the team on Monday for the first time since he last played on Feb. 5 against the New York Rangers at Prudential Center.
"I feel good, it's been a while," Zubrus told reporters after practice. "I think I have [my stamina] back. After about 10 days after my surgery I was able to work out, so I feel like I'm in pretty good shape. I know getting back in a game situation is a little different since you battle guys and push guys, so that adds a lot more work, but it's not going to be the first time I've ever done this, so I think I'll be OK."
The 27-year-old Smid is in his seventh NHL season. He has a goal and three points in 34 games this season and has posted career totals of 10 goals, 62 points and 361 penalty minutes in 443 games, all with the Oilers.
"It's a huge day for me," Smid said. "I feel really happy for me and my family to stay in Edmonton. It's my home now."
Kassian, 22, has appeared in one game since March 14. He has five goals and eight points in 27 games this season. Hodgson, meanwhile, has 12 goals and 28 points in 35 games this season for the Buffalo Sabres.
Vanek took the ice along with forward John Scott and goaltender Ryan Miller following a team meeting Sunday morning. After the skate, Vanek told reporters that he would not be able to play Sunday night when the Sabres host the Boston Bruins.
“Today went a lot better than yesterday, but [I’m] still not where I would like it to be, so I just have to be patient, which is obviously a tough thing to do in the position we’re at,” Vanek said.
Notes: Fourth-line center Vernon Fiddler is day-to-day after leaving Friday’s 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild in the first period after crashing into a goalpost. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan termed Fiddler’s injury a charley horse after the game. He did not practice on Saturday.
With Fiddler’s status uncertain for Sunday’s game with the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas recalled wing Toby Petersen from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on Saturday. Petersen spent all of last season in the NHL and had 23 points (7-16-23) in 65 games in the AHL this season. He skated on the left side of the Stars’ fourth line in practice on Saturday, with Antoine Roussel at center and Tomas Vincour on the right side.
Center Ryan Garbutt, who has missed the past seven games with a hand injury, skated again on Saturday but Gulutzan said he’s still a few days away from returning. That likely means Garbutt will travel with the Stars on their three-game road trip that will see them face the Anaheim Ducks in consecutive games before ending the trek against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at HP Pavilion.
Kari Lehtonen will make a 14th straight start in goal for Dallas.
DETROIT – Jimmy Howard will become an unrestricted free agent this summer if the Detroit Red Wings don’t reach a contract extension with him, but he does know what he wants to happen.
“I want to play here a long time,” Howard said. “It’s been hard to think about anything [other than playing games] because we’ve been playing so much, but it’s something I’d like to get worked out.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told NHL.com earlier this week that reaching a deal on a contract extension with Howard is his plan, so what’s left is actually negotiating the deal. Whether that happens during the season or afterward remains to be seen, but there might not be a lot of time for it to happen after the season ends if the Red Wings qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and go on any sort of extended run.
"He's not going to play tonight," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Demers. "Not feeling good today."
Demers took a hard shoulder-to-head hit from Detroit Red Wings center Cory Emmerton in the first period Thursday night. Although Demers finished the game, that hit raises obvious questions about a potential concussion. McClellan was asked whether Demers is out because of the Emmerton hit.
"He's not going to play tonight," McLellan repeated. "He's not feeling good today."
Coach John Tortorella was still lamenting his team’s effort in a 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, citing it as a glaring example of a problem that has plagued the Rangers all season long.
Tortorella said he was happy with the way the Rangers played in a 5-2 victory at the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. But his disappointment that it didn’t carry over to Thursday’s game was compounded by the fact the season is racing toward its completion.
“There is time here, but we’re running out of it as far as our consistency,” Tortorella said. “That’s been the tough one for us as a group. We see glimpses but then we take a step backwards.”
The talented Swede made his NHL debut in a relief appearance against the New Jersey Devils Jan. 23, 2011. His coach at the time was Pete DeBoer.
Now Markstrom is set to face his former coach when the Panthers play host to the New Jersey Devils Saturday night at BB&T Center.
Markstrom’s appearance in the 2011 game, when he replaced Scott Clemmensen after the first period of a 5-2 loss, was his only NHL action that season. After bouncing back and forth between Florida and San Antonio of the American Hockey League the past two seasons, Markstrom has become the Panthers’ starting goalie.
He’ll make his sixth start in the past seven games and had allowed only six goals in four starts before four deflections got by him in Thursday’s 5-4 shootout victory against the Buffalo Sabres.
Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston said Vanek possibly could return on Sunday for Buffalo’s home game against the Boston Bruins.
Vanek, Buffalo's leading scorer, took part in the team’s optional skate Saturday morning.
“He was out there today and moving, but he’s not where he needs to be,” Rolston said.
Washington defenseman Jeff Schultz will return to its lineup after sitting out the past four games as a healthy scratch.
“Sometimes you ask a guy to step back and re-evaluate themselves. We’ve got two games in two nights and we need him,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “We need his size and he need him to be a force. Hopefully it [was] a little bit of a wake-up call.”
Note: Chris Neil was injured against the New York Rangers on Thursday when a skate blade cut his leg. He returned to finish the game but left practice early on Saturday. Coach Paul MacLean said Neil would be a game-time decision.
Martin will undergo surgery and will be out of action for approximately six weeks.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are begin in 4-1/2 weeks.
Deryk Engelland regained his spot in the lineup, replacing Martin against the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. The Penguins also are without Kris Letang, the NHL's leading scorer among defensemen, for at least a week because of a lower-body injury.
Taking to the ice for the first time since trading their captain and franchise face, coach Bob Hartley and the Flames are ready to tackle life without Iginla.
"With the departure of Jarome, we're starting a new cycle," Hartley said. "That's the unfortunate thing or the fortunate thing of pro sports. You look at football, baseball, hockey, basketball, there comes a time when a great athlete leaves an organization, leaves a city and the next day it's still business. You have to roll up your sleeve and say 'What's next?'"
CHICAGO – The team that's occupying the visitors locker room at United Center on Friday just happens to be the only team in the Western Conference that hasn't lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Anaheim Ducks have beaten the Blackhawks in each of the first two meetings and both have come right down to the end. Now they'll meet for a third and final time this regular season Friday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network).
Anaheim (22-7-4, 48 points), which trails West-leading Chicago (25-4-3, 53 points) by five points, prevailed 3-2 in a shootout at United Center on Feb. 12 then won 4-2 on March 20 at Honda Center. In that second victory, Anaheim scored twice in the third period to take the lead before adding an empty-net goal.
Neither loss sat very well with the Blackhawks, who ripped through the rest of the conference to start the season with an unprecedented 24-game points streak.
"People want to point out that we haven't won against this team yet, but I don't think that's a huge flaw or anything," Chicago captain Jonthan Toews said. "Obviously we want to prove ourselves. We've played two good games and it's come down to the wire against the Ducks, so if the same situation comes up [on Friday night] we obviously want to be on top. We'll work as hard as we [can] to get there and just make the smart plays and the right plays to stay there, I guess, and find a way to get the two points."
The Ducks have lost four in a row since their 4-2 win over the Blackhawks on March 20. Hiller gave up four goals on 29 shots in a 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.
The Ducks have allowed nine first-period goals over the past four games. They yielded eight first-period goals in their previous 14 games.
"You gotta look at the way we started the last couple of games and it hasn't been great," Ducks forward Corey Perry told NHL.com. "We had a stat up this morning that we gave up nine goals in the first period in the last four games and that's just not starting the game the right way. If we're better in the first 10 minutes and get our feet under us we'll be all right for the rest of the game."
Anaheim is the only team in the Western Conference that hasn't lost to Chicago this season. The Ducks are five points behind the Blackhawks in second place in the Western Conference standings.
Here is the projected lineup for Anaheim against Chicago on Friday:
DALLAS -- After starting Niklas Backstrom in goal for the past 12 games, a stretch in which the Minnesota Wild have gone 10-2-0, coach Mike Yeo decided to keep his No. 1 goaltender back in the Twin Cities. That means Matt Hackett will make his first start of the season Friday night against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
Hackett, who was recalled from Houston of the American Hockey League on Thursday, has yet to appear in an NHL game this season, but was 3-6-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average in 12 games with Minnesota last season.
“All I’m hoping to see is what he came up and did last year. He played very good hockey for us last year and we’ve seen him do that both at this level and the American Hockey League,” Yeo said. “We’re anxious to get him in a game. We’re anxious to see him play and prove what he can do.”
TAMPA -- New Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper may have looked calm as he prepared to coach his first game in the NHL, but looks can be deceiving.
"How am I looking right now? Am I looking OK?" Cooper asked the media after the morning skate. "OK, so take this and do the opposite and that's what is going on in here. I'm jacked. This is really, really exciting. I've got a plan. I've done it my way, and here I stand today. I wouldn't say that I'm really nervous, although five minutes before the game I'm sure I will be. There is a wave of emotions. I wish everyone could feel what I'm feeling right now. It's pretty cool."
Cooper will debut behind the bench Friday night when the Lightning play the New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Elliott will start for the Rivermen on Friday against Oklahoma City and Saturday against Lake Erie before returning to the Blues following Saturday’s game.
Elliott, 27, has appeared in 11 games for the Blues this season posting a 3-6-1 record including a 3.65 goals against average and a .851 save percentage. Elliott hasn't played since March 5 as Jaroslav Halak and Jake Allen have taken over the goaltending duties.
SAN JOSE -- Less than 24 hours after shutting out the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi will make his 11th straight start Thursday night when the Sharks face the Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion.
Niemi loves a heavy workload, and he said he has no problem playing back-to-back games.
"Especially when the first game goes pretty good, it's pretty easy to go in the second game," Niemi said Thursday morning after the Sharks' optional skate and brief team meeting. "Just keep on doing what I did last night."
Niemi stopped all 22 shots he faced Wednesday night in the Sharks' 4-0 victory, recording his second shutout of the season and 21st of his career. He improved his record to 14-8-5, lowered his goals-against average to 2.22 and improved his save percentage to .922.
"Nemo's our guy," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He had a day off in Anaheim, played, day off coming home. Back-to-back, but he (slept) in his own bed. He should be fine."
Moved up from defense to play third line left wing because of injuries to six forwards, Ballard will join them in the infirmary after fracturing his foot in a 1-0 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, and won’t play Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
“Ballard suffered a very, very, very minor fracture to his foot last game -- not exactly sure when and how,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “If this was playoff hockey he would probably be able to suck it up and play, but considering it is quite painful right now we are going
to give him a couple of days. It’s not something that is long term, it’s day to day, very minor.”
PITTSBURGH -- Based on a report from the Winnipeg Sun and observations at the morning skate, it appears the Winnipeg Jets will go with backup goaltender Al Montoya over Ondrej Pavelec in Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a move likely based on past history at Consol Energy Center.
Pavelec has allowed a total of three goals in winning the past two games, but last season he allowed 13 goals in 4 1/2 periods at Consol in losses to the Penguins. He is 0-4-0 with a 5.95 goals-against average in the 3-year-old facility.
The projected lines and defense pairings for Thursday night's game:
OTTAWA – Jared Cowen practiced with the Ottawa Senators for the first time this season Wednesday. Cowen was sidelined with a torn labrum in his left hip sustained during a game with the Binghamton Senators in October. The defenseman had surgery in November and expected to miss the rest of the season.
Goalie Craig Anderson also worked out with the team Wednesday. Anderson sprained his ankle on Feb. 21 against the New York Rangers, and though he still has no set date for his return, he did not rule out being ready to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
Here are the projected lineups for the Rangers and Senators on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place:
The 23-year-old right wing will try to snap a five-game pointless drought Thursday night when the Maple Leafs host the Carolina Hurricanes -- two teams battling for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Carolina defeated Toronto in the teams' previous two meetings this season.
Van Riemsdyk is third in Toronto scoring with 14 goals and 22 points in 34 games, but has one assist in his past seven games.
The New York Islanders hope to inch closer to a top-eight spot in the Eastern Conference and avenge an earlier rout at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers when the teams meet Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.
The Islanders enter Thursday in ninth place, two points behind the New York Rangers. In their only previous matchup against the Flyers this season, they suffered a 7-0 defeat on home ice in a Feb. 18 matinee.
Here are the projected lineups for Thursday's game:
SAN JOSE -- After missing four games with a shoulder injury, San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe will return to the lineup and skate on the third line Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion.
Clowe hasn't played since the first period against the Los Angeles Kings on March 16 when he aggravated a nagging shoulder injury.
"I feel good," Clowe said after the Sharks' morning skate. "I probably felt pretty good last game, but I just needed a couple extra skates. ... I had a little skate yesterday. I feel good today."
Citing travel and the birth of his second son Oskar last week, coach Bob Hartley is opting to give Kiprusoff the night off, starting MacDonald for the ninth time this season.
"He was a busy man in the last couple of games, plus the traveling plus the new baby and everything," Hartley said. "It's a lot on his plate. After talking with Kipper, we both decided that we would give the start to Joey MacDonald."
MacDonald is 3-5-1 with a 2.98 goals against average and .894 save percentage this season.
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Two teams going in very different directions in the Western Conference standings will meet tonight at Xcel Energy Center when the Minnesota Wild face the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Wild, playing some of their best hockey under second-year coach Mike Yeo, have won a franchise-best six straight games.
The Coyotes kick off a three-game road trip having lost six games in a row. Phoenix, which sat in sixth place in the West on March 14, one point out of fourth, has tumbled seven spots as a result of the skid and now sits four points back of the San Jose Sharks for the eighth and final spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t hold an official morning skate on Tuesday at United Center, but they did get some good news.
Injured star right wing Marian Hossa returned to the ice for conditioning work for the first time since leaving a game against the Colorado Avalanche on March 18 late in the first period after a hit from defenseman Ryan O’Byrne.
“He skated today, so he’s progressing” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Hossa, prior to Chicago facing the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night (8:30 p.m. ET). “He’s kind of comparable with [Sharp], so we’ll see how they do. But he’s not playing [against Calgary].”
CHICAGO -- Jarome Iginla opted not to speak with reporters Tuesday morning at United Center after the Calgary Flames' optional morning skate.
Thus, any thoughts the Flames captain might have on trade speculation involving him will have to wait until after Tuesday's night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET) -- one of the teams some think might make a play for him.
Iginla's teammates, however, were asked about the ongoing rumors with the April 3 trade deadline looming. The general consensus: remain narrowly focused and keep a sense of humor about it.
"Most of us can read, and so we're aware of it," forward Mike Cammalleri said. "I guess, amongst ourselves, you can make our own comedy of it and then just prepare to play the hockey game, and really quickly realize it's not something we can worry about."
PITTSBURGH -- More than 13 years after making his NHL debut, Brenden Morrow felt something during his drive to the rink Tuesday morning that he hadn't felt much since breaking into the League as a 20-year-old in 1999.
"I hadn't felt them in a long time," Morrow said after the morning skate Tuesday, in advance of his Pittsburgh Penguins debut Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens. "But those are good feelings. They're not maybe the best feelings in your body, but you know you're alive, you know you're feeling something when those butterflies show up."
Bylsma finally acknowledged a nagging injury to Matt Cooke, who has regularly sat out morning skates in recent weeks but has not missed any games. Assuming he is healthy, the addition of Morrow means one player will be left out.
Bennett was occupying the spot Cooke usually holds on the third line. With Jeffrey and Joe Vitale needed as true centers, Tanner Glass playing plenty of minutes on the penalty kill, and Tyler Kennedy's strong play of late, the best guess is that rookie Bennett will be the odd man out.
Here are the projected lines and defensemen pairings for Tuesday night's game between the Penguins and Canadiens at Consol Energy Center:
TORONTO -- There's nothing like taking three of four points from the Boston Bruins to give an emerging team confidence. And the Toronto Maple Leafs know there's nothing like losing at home to the 30th place team in the NHL to throw that credibility out the window.
That's why the Maple Leafs insist they are not taking the Florida Panthers lightly.
"There might be the temptation to take them lightly, but we're not going to let that get into our heads," Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser said. "We got three of four points from a really good team, and now we're going to try to carry the momentum over into tonight's home game. We know we have to get the two points."
"After that win, the atmosphere around the team was down," Yzerman said Tuesday, prior to the Lightning's game Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres. "We came back and played three more games and won two out of the three. Going on the road to Toronto, I had a sense that the atmosphere had changed, and watching the team play, the emotion, and trying to read the situation -- after watching the scenario play out over the last couple of weeks, the decision was made over a few days and just culminated with watching the game in Ottawa [a 5-3 Lightning loss which saw the team fall behind 4-0 in the opening period] I felt it was best for the team and I felt it was best for Guy Boucher at that point."
The Lightning announced Sunday that Boucher had been relieved of his duties, and a day later named Jon Cooper, the coach of the Lightning's American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, his replacement.
Cooper, the eighth full-time coach in team history, will make his debut Friday when the Lightning host the New Jersey Devils. Assistant coach Daniel Lacroix and player development coach Steve Thomas will share the coaching duties Tuesday.
The 30-year-old has missed Carolina's past 10 games with a concussion, but participated in his second straight practice Tuesday morning in preparation for the team's game with the Winnipeg Jets. LaRose was on a line with Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner during the morning skate.
With Danny Briere out indefinitely with a concussion, the Philadelphia Flyers have juggled their lines again heading into their game Tuesday against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) in hope of finding a spark to ignite their fading Stanley Cup Playoff hopes.
Besides Briere, defenseman Nicklas Grossmann was not on the ice Tuesday. He is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained in practice last week, but is unlikely to play Tuesday. He also sat out the Flyers' game Sunday at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
ANAHEIM -- After Radek Dvorak couldn't continue his 17-year career in the National Hockey League, he went to Switzerland. But he said that "deep in my mind and my soul I was hoping if I come back, maybe I can get another shot, and it happened."
Dvorak, who turned 36 this month, not only signed a one-year, $675,000 pro-rated contract with the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday but he cleared waivers Monday to join a Stanley Cup-contending team. The veteran wing is sixth on the active games played list at 1,191, but he has not played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2005-06 season.
"I'm so glad it was Anaheim," Dvorak said. "It's nice to be back in the NHL. It was tough for me to leave after 17 years in the League, but that's how it is. That's life. But like I said, it's nice to be back with a team like Anaheim -- one of the best teams in the League. I'm very glad and I'm very happy."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If the Phoenix Coyotes are going to snap a season-long five-game losing streak and beat the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, they will have to do it without their No. 1 goaltender.
Mike Smith was not on the ice for Monday's morning stake and hasn't been on the ice since being run by Vancouver's Alexander Edler in the second period of Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Canucks. Jason LaBarbera will make only his second start since Jan. 26, and he steps in at a big moment -- with the Coyotes fading in the Western Conference playoff race, having collected just one point in the last 12 days.
DALLAS -- The Minnesota Wild enter Dallas for Monday night's game having won five in a row to run their record to 8-3-2 in March.
On Sunday, the Wild recalled center Jake Dowell, who played 52 games for Dallas last season, and goaltender Darcy Kuemper from Houston of the American Hockey League. Wing Jason Zucker and goaltender Matt Hackett headed to the AHL for the Wild.
The Stars, meanwhile, will be playing their first game without captain Brenden Morrow, traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday for defenseman Joe Morrow and a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Morrow had been their longest-tenured player, being with the club for the last 14 seasons.
The Stars kicked off a season-long five-game homestand on Saturday night by beating the Colorado Avalanche, 5-2 at American Airlines Center. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan shuffled his lines a bit, putting Eric Nystrom on his top line alongside Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr and it worked. Nystrom had a goal and an assist, Benn turned in a three-point performance and Jagr added a goal and an assist.
Hossa and star left winger Patrick Sharp are both out with upper-body injuries believed to be shoulder related, but the good news for Chicago is that center Andrew Shaw (flu) -- who didn't participate in the team's morning skate -- will play against the Kings.
OTTAWA --Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, who has missed the last 14 games with a high ankle sprain, took shots on net for the first time at practice on Monday morning. Coach Paul MacLean said that Anderson is "progressing" but did not offer any timeline for his return.
Here's how the lineups project for Monday night's game between the Senators and New Jersey Devils:
Jets coach Claude Noel replaced Ken Hitchcock with the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2009-10 season. Noel, an assistant coach on Hitchcock's staff, took over Feb. 3, 2010 and finished the season with a 10-8-6 record. The Blue Jackets did not retain Noel after the season.
But Sunday the Jets will face the Tampa Bay Lightning at MTS Centre, an opponent with even more upheaval after the Lightning fired coach Guy Boucher early Sunday morning. General manager Steve Yzerman announced Sunday that assistant coaches Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond, along with player development coach Steve Thomas, will run the Tampa Bay bench on an interim basis.
After playing Saturday at the Ottawa Senators, the Lightning did not have a pre-game skate Sunday morning.
Briere, who has five goals and eight assists in 26 games, officially was listed as "day-to-day" by general manager Paul Holmgren. Briere did not accompany the team on the trip to Pittsburgh.
Briere does not have a point in seven games, and is without a goal since Feb. 18, a span of 13 contests. Briere has 38 points -- tied for third-most against any opponent -- in 47 career games against the Penguins.
The reigning NHL MVP and scoring champion will miss his eighth consecutive game.
"I'm out until I'm 100 percent," Malkin said after participating in another morning skate with the team Sunday. "No rush. I have a workout program with my doctor and (Penguins strength and conditioning coach) Mike Kadar. I played a little in the corners today. It's still a little sore, but we will see next game."
The Penguins carry an 11-game winning streak into the game against the rival Flyers. Pittsburgh has won all seven of the most recent games Malkin has missed and is 9-2-0 without him this season.
Backlund did not dress Friday in Calgary's 5-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He's playing through a bruise associated with a crack in a bone in his foot sustained blocking a shot in a March 15 game against the Nashville Predators.
"When I'm out there playing I don't think about it," Backlund said. "Obviously it's not fully recovered, but it's not bothering me through games. It wasn't my best road trip so I've got to find a way back and get better."
Backlund missed 14 games earlier this season with a knee injury. He has four goals and seven points in 14 games this season.
The Blues, playing one night after their 3-0 win at the Edmonton Oilers, did not have a morning skate.
One look at the likely lineups for the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers heading into their matchup Sunday at Madison Square Garden shows how things are going for each team.
The Capitals are coming off two straight road wins against the Winnipeg Jets -- 4-0 on Thursday and 6-1 on Friday -- and won’t make any lineup changes.
The Rangers, however, made two moves in the wake of their 3-1 home loss Thursday to the Florida Panthers, the NHL's 30th-place team. Fourth-line center Jeff Halpern was placed on waivers and claimed by the Montreal Canadiens, and Stu Bickel, who has split time on defense and at forward, also was placed on waivers.
Forward Kris Newbury was recalled from Connecticut of the American Hockey League and could find himself on a line with Chris Kreider, as the two worked well together during their time together with the Whale. Arron Asham is healed from a back injury that has sidelined him for more than a month and could be back against the Capitals.
DALLAS -- Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan is well aware of his club's 6-6-2 record at home, a mark which ranks as the worst in the Western Conference. However, as Dallas begins a season-long five-game homestand Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche at American Airlines Center, he and his players are focused on the task at hand, winning game one and moving on to the next one.
"That's irrelevant to us," Gulutzan said when asked about the importance of the homestand. "It's tonight, this game. Confident we can win on the road, just got to win this game."
Dallas is almost completely healthy, missing only defenseman Aaron Rome (foot), who has missed the past 12 games, and forward Ryan Garbutt (hand), who will miss his fifth straight game Saturday.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Florida Panthers have an opportunity to win three consecutive games for the first time this season when they visit the New Jersey Devils on Saturday at Prudential Center.
The only other time the Panthers entered a contest having won the two previous matches was Feb. 5 when they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Winnipeg Jets. Florida has defeated the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers in the opening two games of this five-game road swing.
"We're looking at the first period and everything is short-term snapshots," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "It's been nice to have a couple days off where we can sit on a victory; it makes a tremendous difference. Rest comes easier when your mind is at ease."
For the Canadiens, Ryan White will miss the game with a lower-body injury suffered in a 5-2 win Thursday night against the New York Islanders. He will be replaced on Montreal’s fourth line by Mike Blunden, who was called up from the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday.
Rene Bourque, who has missed the past month with a concussion, did not skate with the team for a second straight day after practicing with the Canadiens on Wednesday then making the trip to Long Island on Thursday. He missed an optional practice Friday and was not on the ice Saturday morning.
Defenseman Yannick Weber, who hurt his knee two weeks ago, did skate with the team Saturday morning for the first time since his injury.
Here are the projected lineups for the Sabres and Canadiens on Saturday night:
NASHVILLE – When the Nashville Predators acquired defenseman Hal Gill last February it was mostly to help with their penalty killing as they anticipated a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Having re-signed Gill in the offseason, the Predators expected him to perform the same service. However, he has been injured for much of the season and, as a result, the Predators’ penalty-killing unit has suffered, ranking 28th in the League at 77.2 percent.
Nashville hopes that changes Saturday when they play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena and, Gill, who has played in half of his team’s 30 games, should return to the lineup. He has missed 12 straight games with a lower-body injury and has played in three since Feb. 10.
"The penalty kill needs more attention than the power play (which ranks 17th but has yielded three shorthanded goals in the past three games) right now based on we haven’t been able to keep pucks out of our net there, so big Hal Gill has been a big factor since he’s been out," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Our percentage is pretty low for where we were."
The Devils conducted an optional skate at Prudential Center on Saturday morning, and though D'Agostini participated, coach Peter DeBoer was mum on who his newest acquisition would replace in the lineup. However, it's possible forward Krystofer Barch, who remained late out on the ice after practice, will be a healthy scratch.
D'Agostini, acquired from the St. Louis Blues on Friday, is looking forward to a new opportunity.
"It's kind of like a fresh start for me, so I'm looking at this as game one and looking to establish my game early by working hard and hopefully get some chances," D'Agostini said. "I'm best when I'm using my speed and driving the D-men deep, and creating havoc on the forecheck."
Kennedy took part in the morning skate at Nassau Coliseum but was not on the ice for pregame warmups, and the Penguins announced about 20 minutes before game time that Kennedy would not play due to an illness.
The Penguins are without star center Evgeni Malkin (upper body) and No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang (lower body). They bring a 10-game winning streak into the game.
"It was tough," Perry said. "The best team in the League -- obviously you want to be out there helping your team win."
Perry returns Friday against the Detroit Red Wings after a four-game suspension resulting from his hit on Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild. The fourth game happened to be the biggest regular season game in recent franchise history. But the Ducks pulled out a 4-2 win to go 3-0-1 without the former Hart Trophy winner.
It also will be Perry's first game since he signed an eight-year, $69 million contract extension. Longtime linemate Ryan Getzlaf said, "Anytime he's been out for any length of time he's come back and made a statement. We're looking forward to tonight" against the Red Wings.
But the Capitals (13-16-1) bought themselves some breathing room after shutting out the Jets 4-0 Thursday night to move themselves five points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Winnipeg (16-13-2) did not hold a morning skate at MTS Centre, and the Capitals’ optional skate had five players.
Capitals coach Adam Oates will return to Braden Holtby in net one night after he shut out the Jets for the second time this month in Winnipeg. Oates said he will dress the same lineup that featured the return of defenseman Mike Green from a 10-game injury absence. The Capitals also reportedly placed right wing Joey Crabb on waivers to alleviate a roster glut.
The Jets will again turn to goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who will start his 10th consecutive game. Winnipeg’s blue line was dealt another injury blow Thursday when a heavy third-period hit from Alex Ovechkin ended Mark Stuart’s evening. Jets coach Claude Noel described Stuart as “banged up” and termed him a game-time decision. Noel also said he may tinker with his lineup.
Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Jets for the game Friday:
The Pittsburgh Penguins will be aiming for their 11th consecutive win on Friday night when they visit the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Penguins will be looking to extend the one-point lead they hold over the Montreal Canadiens for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Islanders on Friday:
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Last Thursday the Coyotes departed Phoenix after a win against the Los Angeles Kings sitting in a playoff spot and scoring goals with regularity.
A week later, they return from a road trip where they went 0-3-1, were shut out three times and scored a total of two goals -- both by Shane Doan in a 3-2 loss at Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Now outside of the top eight and struggling, the Coyotes hope a little home cooking will help as they face the banged-up Vancouver Canucks on Thursday at Jobing.com Arena.
The Coyotes went more than 245 minutes without a goal -- the longest drought in franchise history, and pushing Columbus to a shootout Saturday provided them with their only point on the trip. Even Doan's incredible effort against the Kings -- two goals and an NHL single-game high 13 hits -- could keep Los Angeles from sweeping back-to-back games and keeping the Coyotes desperate for a win.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – With a dominant home stand and a three-game winning streak, Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter would seem to have little reason to change his lineup.
Signs at the morning skate Thursday pointed to a minor tweak though as it appears that rookie Tyler Toffoli will be scratched in favor of Jordan Nolan. The Kings did not do line rushes but Nolan came off the ice with the regulars and Toffoli stayed out with the extras.
Sutter recently had a pointed critique of Nolan, while the puck has found Toffoli often in his first three National Hockey League games. But Sutter could want Nolan's size as the Kings try to avenge their last home loss, to the Dallas Stars on March 7.
Sutter typically guards his lineup information as if it's a national security threat. He's liked the recent play of Dustin Penner and could move Penner back up in Toffoli's spot on the second line, although Sutter was begrudging when asked about Penner's compete level.
"I think it depends on who we're playing and who we play guys against," Sutter said. "That's the advantage of playing at home. You can try and match guys up, and if they're prepared for that challenge, then we like it."
The Capitals (12-16-1) sit seven points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot and face a pair of nearly must-win games if they are to remain in contention. But a Washington blue line missing four regulars could regain Mike Green's services against Winnipeg. Green, who has missed 10 consecutive games with a groin injury, participated in the Capitals' morning skate, but Washington coach Adam Oates labeled him a "game-time decision."
Braden Holtby will make his third consecutive start in goal for the Capitals after a 36-save performance Tuesday against the