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Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 2:56 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Flames proud of recent accomplishments on home ice

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames hope to finish above .500 on home ice when hosting the Winnipeg Jets in their Scotiabank Saddledome finale on Friday.

"I think that would be a huge testament to the identity we've been working to create all year," said forward Kevin Westgarth, whose Flames sit 26th overall in the NHL and have long been out of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture. "Obviously we've had a lot of downs but a lot of ups as well, and to finish the season the way we have I think would be a huge plus going forward for next year."

The Flames, who conclude their 2013-14 season Sunday in Vancouver, have gone 12-4-0 at home since dropping a franchise record seven straight games at the Saddledome from Dec. 27-Jan. 16. They've outscored opponents 58-42 during their recent run.

Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 2:22 PM

By Steve Hunt - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Depleted Blues piece together lineup to face Stars

DALLAS -- The St. Louis Blues not only lost 4-2 at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night and fell out of first place in the Central Division, but the Blues are also down three players -- right wing T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury), center Derek Roy (upper body) and left wing Vladimir Sobotka (lower body) -- after that defeat at Xcel Energy Center.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed Oshie, Roy and Sobotka would not play for St. Louis on Friday against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. Hitchcock added center and captain David Backes (lower body) and left wing Brenden Morrow (lower body), a former Dallas captain, will each miss a second straight game.

"We've been able to pretty much the whole year stay healthy. We would have preferred better timing, but it is what it is and it's all about who's in now," Hitchcock said of his team being in scramble mode. "You never know, everybody goes through this. We just got it at the end of year. You got to just stay focused on the guys you have."

Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 1:30 PM

By Lonnie Herman - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blue Jackets' Horton out six weeks after surgery

TAMPA -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton had abdominal surgery Friday morning and is expected to miss six weeks.

Horton missed four games with the injury before returning to the lineup Tuesday in a 4-3 win against the Phoenix Coyotes. However, he skated only eight shifts before leaving the game.

Horton, who missed the first half of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, appeared in 36 games with five goals and 19 points.

"It's a blow," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "The reason why it's a blow is the potential out on the ice. A goal scorer, big and strong. But the other thing is that he's played in big games and big moments. That's why an organization like this goes out to get a guy like him. He can offer it being around the guys but it's that in the room, in between periods and on the bench during a game, that he could have had a great effect."

Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 1:12 PM

By Adam Vingan - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks' Morin, Smith making names known

WASHINGTON -- As Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain out of the lineup while nursing injuries, the team has been buoyed by the recent play of its younger role players.

Forward Jeremy Morin, recalled from the American Hockey League when Kane was placed on long-term injured reserve March 21 after suffering an apparent knee injury two days earlier, has scored three goals in as many games.

Forward Ben Smith has also been contributing offensively with three goals in his past four games, all of which the Blackhawks have won.

In doing so, Morin and Smith have thrust themselves into the lineup conversation when the Blackhawks open the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.

"Well obviously the goal is play in [the] playoffs," Morin said. "I can't control that. All I can do is if I'm in the lineup, just make the most of it. I'm trying to finish off the season the right way and just keep contributing."

Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 1:04 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red Wings won't rest on laurels as playoffs approach

DETROIT -- Now that a 23rd straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is assured, the Detroit Red Wings can afford to rest some legs in the final two games of the regular season.

They're just not planning to exercise that option. Heading into a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS), the Red Wings are planning to stick with the same lineup they've used of late.

The lone exception will be on the bench. Rookie goalie Petr Mrazek will back up starter Jimmy Howard in the absence of Jonas Gustavsson, who hurt his shoulder in the playoff-clinching 4-3 shootout loss Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We want to keep winning," Red Wings veteran forward Johan Franzen said after the morning skate. "We want to win these last two games and maybe climb up a spot. So, that's our focus right now."

Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 6:26 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Luongo to return against Maple Leafs

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Goaltender Roberto Luongo will be back in the lineup for the Florida Panthers when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, but he'll have a different backup and will be facing a goalie making his first NHL start.

Luongo, sporting a new mask, was the only Panthers goalie at the morning skate after Dan Ellis was sidelined with an upper-body injury sustained in practice Wednesday. Ellis was an emergency starter Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers when Luongo was scratched after leading the Panthers onto the ice for warm-ups.

With Ellis out, the Panthers recalled veteran Scott Clemmensen on an emergency basis, but he didn't skate Thursday morning because his equipment failed to arrive with him on his flight from San Antonio.

Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 5:42 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Canadiens closing in on home ice for first round

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens can clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as early as Thursday as long as they get a point at home against the New York Islanders.

The Canadiens have a three-point lead in the Atlantic Division standings on their first-round opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who play at home against the Philadelphia Flyers. If Montreal ends the night with a four-point lead on Tampa Bay, it will guarantee Game 1 of the series will be played at Bell Centre.

The Canadiens will have to attempt to clinch that privilege Thursday without the services of forward Alex Galchenyuk, who left a 3-2 overtime road loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday in the first period with a lower-body injury. George Parros will take his place in the lineup.

Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 5:15 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Varlamov can set Avalanche single-season wins mark

VANCOUVER -- With the Central Division and home-ice advantage to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs still on the line, the Colorado Avalanche will start Vezina Trophy candidate Semyon Varlamov on Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

With nothing left to play for, Vancouver will finally give goalie Jacob Markstrom his first start in a Canucks uniform, and his first in the NHL since late December.

In addition to possibly catching the St. Louis Blues, who are two points ahead in the Central, and securing at least second place in the division by moving four points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks with a win, Varlamov has a chance to break coach Patrick Roy's franchise record with his 41st win of the season.

Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 3:10 PM

By Patrick Williams - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Bruins' Krejci back in vs. Jets, Bergeron likely to rest

WINNIPEG -- The Boston Bruins can move a step closer to their first Presidents' Trophy since the 1989-90 season when they meet the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday at MTS Centre.

The Bruins have 114 points and lead the Anaheim Ducks by two. The Bruins, who begin a stretch of three games in four days, have a game in hand on the Ducks. With the Eastern Conference top seed clinched, the Bruins' next goal is to earn home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Center David Krejci will return to the lineup after having Tuesday off against the Minnesota Wild.

"I'm excited to play," Krejci said after the morning skate. "It was nice to get a little time off, but at the same time it's not fun to watch the game from the stands, the dressing room or [television]. I'm glad I'm back and looking forward to it."

Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 2:46 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blues' Backes sidelined; Folin to debut for Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Louis Blues will play the Minnesota Wild on Thursday without captain David Backes, who sustained a foot injury after being hit by a teammate's shot Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. Backes was seen with a walking boot on his left foot.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Backes could be out for the rest of the regular season but expects him back in time for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's an opportunity for guys to step forward," Hitchcock said.

Wild defenseman Christian Folin will make his NHL debut. Folin, who two weeks ago was playing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, was generally considered the top college free agent available following the season. He had interest from nearly every team in the NHL but chose the Wild over the Philadelphia Flyers, signing a two-year entry-level contract with Minnesota on March 31.

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