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Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 2:03 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Lightning's Filppula close, but still out vs. Predators

NASHVILLE -- Some of the Tampa Bay Lightning's best players are traveling with the team during this four-game road trip and are close to returning from injury, but remain out.

Forwards Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula each participated in the Lightning's morning skate Thursday for their game against the Nashville Predators, but coach Jon Cooper said Filppula (ankle), the closer of the two to returning, would not dress.

"Val's out," Cooper said. "This is probably a day-to-day thing."

Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 1:54 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Alfredsson all business as Red Wings visit Senators

OTTAWA -- Daniel Alfredsson caught up once more with Erik Karlsson at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday. With the Detroit Red Wings facing the Ottawa Senators for the fourth time since Alfredsson left Karlsson and the Canadian capital behind to play in Motown, it's all business this time around.

"We always have a good time together, but this is a division game with playoff implications," Alfredsson said about seeing Karlsson, his former Senators protégé and teammate on Sweden's silver medal-winning team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, prior to his second game back in Ottawa. "I think everybody knows it's going to be a tight race all the way until the end, and you play teams that are right around you; it's important games, so I'm not looking to go out there and have fun, it's just go out there, get the job done and get the two points."

Alfredsson was welcomed back by Senators fans in Detroit's first game in Ottawa on Dec. 1. He was given a huge ovation during a pregame video tribute, and then went out and scored an empty-net goal to seal a 4-2 win for the Red Wings.

Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 1:45 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Busy week means no rest for Blackhawks' Olympians

NEW YORK -- If the Chicago Blackhawks' 10 Olympians are looking for a sense of normalcy in their lives, they better look to the future because it's not coming until next week at the earliest.

Days after Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Blackhawks are opening their post-Olympic schedule Thursday with a game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

Roughly 48 hours later, they'll be competing outside at Soldier Field against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

The Blackhawks had their first full post-Olympic team practice Wednesday before traveling to New York. Their next practice will be Friday night at Soldier Field.

"Off to the races right away," Keith said Thursday morning. "That's a good thing; get back into the swing of things hard and fast."

Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 1:35 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Vitale, Pyatt set to rejoin Penguins lineup

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will welcome a few players back to their lineup while adjusting to the loss of defenseman Paul Martin when they face the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

Forwards Joe Vitale (upper body) and Taylor Pyatt (lower body) will return after missing 12 and two games respectively. Their presence will strengthen Pittsburgh's bottom-six, which had featured defenseman Deryk Engelland at right wing on the fourth line in recent games.

Forward Pascal Dupuis spoke for the first time since tearing his ACL on Dec. 23. Brian Gibbons will continue to fill Dupuis' role as the top-line right wing for the time being. Dupuis is expected to fully recover in 6-8 months, but said he is attempting to recover in closer to six.

"I'm feeling good, surgery went well," Dupuis said. "I know my season is over this year. It definitely looks and sounds long, but I guess you can't rush anything."

Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 1:18 PM

By Staff -  / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Amid injuries, rumors, business as usual for Islanders

Life without John Tavares begins for the New York Islanders on Thursday when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first game for both teams following the Olympic break. New York has lost six straight games at Nassau Coliseum, while Toronto has won two straight and 11 of 14.

The Islanders may soon be looking at life without forward Thomas Vanek and defenseman Andrew MacDonald. Each player is rumored to be headed elsewhere by the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5 at 3 p.m.

"Is it in the back of your mind? I'm sure it is. If [I said it wasn't] I'd be lying," Vanek told reporters. "I know what's ahead and what could happen, but once you come to the rink you block it out."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano has no intention on sitting Vanek to protect him from injury.

"We need to go about our business," Capuano said.

Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 12:37 PM

By Staff -  / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks get Couture, Torres back; Hertl skates

The San Jose Sharks are set to have forwards Logan Couture and Raffi Torres back in their lineup when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.

It's the first game out of the Olympic break for each team.

Couture hasn't played since Jan. 5 because of a hand injury which required surgery. He had a five-game point streak when he came out of the lineup, including goals in four straight games from Dec. 29-Jan. 4. He'll center the second line between Patrick Marleau and Marty Havlat.

"Last night, it was difficult going to sleep just thinking about how exciting it is to get out and play in an NHL game again," Couture said Thursday, according to "It feels like I haven't played in like three years."

Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 12:21 PM

By Staff -  / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Gaborik's return provides boost for Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Marian Gaborik is expected to start out on the fourth line in his return to the lineup Thursday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

The Blue Jackets and Devils are among four teams in the Metropolitan Division separated by two points, and Gaborik's return after missing the past 22 games with a broken collarbone is a key addition for a Columbus team that starts Thursday three points out of the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards liked the way his top three lines were playing prior to the Olympic break, so Gaborik will begin the game playing alongside Mark Letestu and Derek MacKenzie.

Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 12:00 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Rangers brush aside trade talk, focus on Blackhawks

NEW YORK -- With rumors swirling around them about players that could be leaving and one that wants to join them, the New York Rangers are trying to keep the focus on getting their post-Olympic schedule started off the right way so they can quickly get back the feeling they had before the hockey world turned its attention to Sochi.

The Rangers play their first game since the Olympic break against the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). It's the first of a stretch that features three games in four days, including a trip to play the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon and a home game against the Boston Bruins on Sunday night.

New York won five of its past six games before the Olympic break and is second in the Metropolitan Division with 67 points.

"From our standpoint, games are so important and the points are so important," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We talked to our players [Wednesday] before practice and we had a good meeting here [Thursday] morning, and I think everybody understands that we can't take a couple of days here to get back into it here. We've gotta play well and we've gotta play well right now."

Posted On Wednesday, 02.26.2014 / 4:18 PM

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

Canucks won't have Kesler vs. Blues; Sedin likely

VANCOUVER -- So much for the 2014 Sochi Olympics giving the injury-ravaged Vancouver Canucks time to rest and recover.

Although a couple key players are expected to return against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, none will make up for the loss of second-line center Ryan Kesler, who won't play after injuring his hand in Sochi.

"He's out and day-to-day," coach John Tortorella said shortly before the Canucks skated Wednesday morning, refusing twice to elaborate.

Posted On Wednesday, 02.26.2014 / 4:02 PM

By Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Kings' Jones, Avalanche's Giguere likely to match up

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche are looking to pick up where they left off before the Olympic break when they play the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday at Pepsi Center, while the Kings are hoping to get back on the winning track.

The Avalanche (37-16-5) are 11-4-1 in their past 16 games and sit third in the Central Division, five points behind the first-place St. Louis Blues and second-place Chicago Blackhawks.

The Kings (31-22-6) are on a 2-8-1 slide and third in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of the ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference.

Each team is expected to start its backup goalie, Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the Avalanche and Martin Jones for the Kings. Colorado's Semyon Varlamov played for Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick was in net for the United States.

"I feel everyone is feeling really good and recharged and ready to go," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I was pleased with the intensity that we had in our practices. It's going to be a challenge, but I think we have quality people here and I'm very confident that we'll do well."

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[Stamkos] is a great teammate and a great leader, that's why he's got the 'C'. He brings that tremendous work ethic to the rink and he's one of the top players in the game. I know if I put the passes where they are supposed to be, there's a very good chance he's going to put it in the back of the net.

— Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin
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