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At the Rink blog
Posted On Friday, 03.30.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Kurt Dusterberg -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Jets, Hurricanes

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena:

JETS

Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Antti Miettinen
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Wellwood - Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Spencer Machacek

Zach Bogosian - Ron Hainsey
Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Grant Clitsome

Chris Mason
Ondrej Pavelec
 
HURRICANES
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Drayson Bowman - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart
 
Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain
 
Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

Antropov returns to the lineup for the Jets after missing the past five games with a lower-body injury. Mason will get the start in goal for Winnipeg, his fifth in six games against the Hurricanes this season. Ward will make his sixth consecutive start for Carolina.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes back in action to begin final stretch run

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It was an anxious three days for the Phoenix Coyotes as they could do nothing but watch the standings as their Western Conference foes attempted to compile points and leave them behind.

Now the Coyotes enter their final five games of the season with a clear mission -- and in control of their own fate. Win four of five and they are likely headed to a third straight NHL playoff berth. Stumble more than once along the way, beginning with tonight's huge game against the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena, and things get much more uncertain and gloomy.

"You look at the standings, and if we win our games we're fine," said Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who returns from a three-game suspension tonight. "You'd rather be sitting where Nashville is or Vancouver is, but we're not, so we have to find way to win our way in and earn it. But we control our own destiny and that's all you can ask. It's right there for us."

In addition to Doan, the Coyotes were able to heal over the three-day break. With the exception of winger Taylor Pyatt, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said everyone else on the roster is available for duty, meaning leading scorer Radim Vrbata and defensemen Adrian Aucoin and David Schlemko are prepared to play. Tippett has a lot of different ways he can go lineup-wise and wasn't tipping his hand at the pregame skate.

The Coyotes finish the season against three teams out of the playoff race -- Anaheim, Columbus and Minnesota -- as well as Western Conference-leading St. Louis. So the chance to improve their position and have a direct effect on a competitor ends tonight.

The Sharks lost 3-1 in Anaheim on Wednesday, making this game incredibly crucial for them as well. San Jose finishes its season with two games each against Los Angeles and Dallas -- the other two Pacific Division teams fighting for three playoff spots along with Colorado and Calgary. Not everyone will survive.

"Our players know exactly where we are and what the scenarios are … but this is the last game that we have that we can have an effect on the one of these teams we are battling," Tippett said. "So that makes it of the utmost importance. After that we have to take care of ourselves, but this is a huge game."

The Sharks will be without defenseman Douglas Murray, who suffered a lower-body injury early against the Ducks. Veteran Colin White will replace him in the lineup.

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Colin White - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine VermetteLauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin
Michal Roszival - Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
 

 
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 3:50 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharp, Keith vie to be EA Sports' latest cover athlete

CHICAGO -- Patrick Sharp has already defeated teammate Patrick Kane in an advertising-sponsored burrito contest, so why not take on Duncan Keith for the right to grace the cover of a video game?

EA Sports announced on Thursday that fan votes will determine which player winds up gracing the cover of its EA Sports NHL 13 video game, with two players from each team facing each other in the first round of the competition.

Sharp and defenseman Duncan Keith were chosen to face off for the Blackhawks.

"It's pretty special and we'll see how everything plays out," Sharp said after Thursday's morning skate at United Center. "I'm not exactly sure how all the fans vote for it, so maybe I'll get back on the Twitter or something and get my fan base up. But it's a cool competition."

Keith, who didn't participate in the skate and is serving a five-game suspension for an elbowing incident, wasn't available for comment.

The first-round winners from each team will advance into a field of 32 players that includes two "wild card" selections and from there the field will be whittled to a top 16 through voting. That will net a 16-player single-elimination playoff bracket to determine the ultimate cover player.

The Blackhawks have already had star Patrick Kane (2010) and captain Jonathan Toews (2011) on the cover of the EA Sports NHL series, and both said they'd be thrilled to welcome another Chicago star into the club.

"We've had two in the past couple years, so it'd be nice to have another one, I guess, and have the Hawks well-represented," Kane said. "It's a cool game. I remember growing up saying, 'This is a game I want to play with this guy on the cover or that guy on the cover,' and to be one of those athletes was pretty special. It'd be nice to have the Hawks represented again. Hopefully Duncs wins, though. We don't want Sharp to win."

Toews didn't have a rooting interes other than to see another Hawks player showcased.

"It's awesome," he said. "There's been a lot of Hawks on there lately. That'd be cool. It's one of those things that's kind of like a fantasy a little bit. When you get a chance to do it, you don't really believe it's happening, that you've come that far. But you always have that. I always have that [2011 game] sitting next to my DVDs, so it's pretty cool."

Sharp, meanwhile, got in a friendly shot at Kane after hearing his fellow star forward was rooting for Keith.

"I was [into video games] when I was a little kid," Sharp said, smiling. "I used to play a lot of games with my older brother and my friends, but ever since they put Kane on the cover I stopped being a fan."

How about if he wins this competition, though?

"Oh, well then things will change," Sharp said, laughing. "I'll get back into it."

Voting began on Thursday and fans can vote as often as they want at NHL.com/CoverVote. Fans can also get more information at EA Sports' NHL Facebook page and are encouraged to use the hashtag #NHL13Cover on Twitter to support their favorite players.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 3:30 PM

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

Likely lineup for Blues

CHICAGO -- Tonight's lineup for the St. Louis Blues, who face the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at United Center.

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Alex Steen - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Vladimir Sobotka - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kent Huskins - Kris Russell

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak will get his first start since March 21 at Anaheim, as Elliott has started the last three games -- all shutouts -- but will sit out tonight.

The Blues activated winger Matt D'Agostini, who missed the last 25 games with a concussion, but he will not play tonight. Also, Andy McDonald (shoulder) will not play, but coach Ken Hitchcock said after Thursday's morning skate McDonald would play Saturday vs. Columbus. Also scratched are right wing Chris Porter, left wing B.J. Crombeen and defenseman Ian Cole.

Defenseman Roman Polak (bruised knee) did not accompany the team to Chicago, but could return to the lineup Saturday as well.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 3:24 PM

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

Perron offers skating lessons for EA cover votes

CHICAGO -- David Perron and T.J. Oshie are going to battle.

The players were chosen as the St. Louis Blues' representatives to compete for the cover of EA Sports NHL13, which will be decided by fan voting.

Fans can go to NHL.com/covervote and vote for their favorite player to be the next cover star. Perron didn't waste any time spicing up the offer for fans if they vote for him. Perron said if he wins the voting, he'll randomly select one fan to receive a 60-minute private skating session from him, as well as a jersey, stick, gloves and helmet that Perron uses, courtesy of Reebok.

"It's only an hour of my time and a few pieces of equipment," Perron said. "The point is to give back to the fans who are going to vote on you to maybe be on there. It's having fun with it more than anything. I talked with my agent [Allan Walsh] about it and we thought it was a good way to be maybe be a little different from the other guys.

"I was surprised by [the selection]. I think it's a cool way for the fans to vote for whoever's going to be the next guy on there. ... Hopefully the fans enjoy it and it's something I thought about for a while to do it and it's important to do it."

When told of Perron's giveaways, Oshie thought he'd chime in with an idea of his own:

"Hopefully they can just watch my play and hopefully that's enough to win the fans over," Oshie said. "I'll be like Wal-Mart, who says they'll match it. You bring in the better offer and they'll match it, so I'll match [Perron]. Whatever he wants to do, I'll do.

"I might just stay old-fashioned and let the play decide."

Oshie even went as far to say he helped Perron with his idea.

"In the morning, I saw him at breakfast and I made sure he knew what to stay," Oshie joked. "I told him to look at my tweet if he needed any ideas and I guess he wanted to one-up me and go above and beyond and start offering skating lessons ... I don't know what he threw out there."

Both players are quite familiar with the EA Sports collection of games and said they grew up playing them. Both said they're grateful to be part of the voting process.

"It's going to be fun for me and Perry [Perron] to go back and forth even though in the end, if one of us doesn't win, we want the other one to win," Oshie said. "... It's a fun thing, fun thing to be a part of for the fans. EA Sports is a good game. I grew up playing their games all the way up -- NHL, NFL, NBA ... you name it. It's a fun thing for the fans, fun thing for the players."

Perron said the EA hockey games were the only ones he requested for Christmas from his parents.

"I bought every single game ever since it started that I can remember," Perron said. "That was the only Christmas present I would ask for and I would get pretty much when I was growing up.

"I was really excited every year because as much as my parents were saying that they weren't going to get that, I just kind of knew that I would get it for every Christmas. My brother and I would play until we tried to win the Cup."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 3:20 PM

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

Playoff spot in the bag, Blues go for division clinch

CHICAGO -- Step by step, the Blues have been presented with goals, and each time, they knock the door down and reach uncharted territory.

First, it was clinching a playoff berth for the first time since the 2008-09 season and only the second time since the work stoppage.

Next up is the Central Division title, and it's there for the taking when the Blues (48-20-9) play against a division foe, the Chicago Blackhawks (42-26-9) at United Center.

Coupled with Detroit's surprising loss at Columbus on Wednesday night, the Blues have the chance to wrap up their first division title since 1999-2000 with a regulation or overtime win over the Blackhawks.

"It'll definitely be a good accomplishment for us," winger T.J. Oshie said. "You look at the points that are in our division and the teams that are in our division ... even Columbus coming up with a big win (Wednesday). It's a tough division, and to be at the top of that would be a good stepping stone for this team. It would be a stepping stone because we want to get up to that big goal at the end, but it's definitely something we'd like to have on the resume."

The Blues have a chance to knock the Red Wings off the perch for a change. Detroit, which has clinched a playoff berth for the 21st straight season, has owned the Central, winning it in nine of the last 10 seasons.

"This would be a good feeling for someone else to be able to do this other than those big two (Detroit and Chicago, which won the division in 2009-10) and maybe sometime down the road give them something to think about," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've got lots of goals in front of us now between the Jennings (Trophy), the division, the conference, the Presidents' (Trophy) ... they're all obtainable. They're in our control.

"We spent seven months getting to this stage. We want to just keep going. We don't want to give up something that we've earned and kept for a little while. We've got teams pushing us in every aspect. The loss for Detroit to Columbus opens up a door for us tonight, so hopefully we jump all over it."

For a team with so many younger players who haven't experienced what's been presented to them, the Blues have been even-keeled and not looked too far ahead and lost sight of what's in front of them.

"There's been a lot of patience with this team from the fans and management and players," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "To be in the position we are and contending for first place in the division and the conference and potentially overall, it's pretty gratifying and it shows the hard work we've put in this year.

"Everybody's smart enough in this room to know that the Presidents' Trophy isn't going to get you anything in the playoffs. It doesn't give you any freebies, any first-round byes or guarantees you're going to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. We all know the toughest part is still to come. We're excited about the potential, but you look at our game in Tampa Bay to be the first to clinch a playoff spot, we didn't bring out any champagne. It was business as usual and moved on."


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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 3:15 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Quenneville: Montador out indefinitely

CHICAGO -- The comeback from an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related didn't even last one full game for Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador.

The 32-year-old Montador, who'd missed 22 games in a row, was re-injured Tuesday night in New Jersey when his head collided hard with Devils defenseman Mark Fayne early in the third period. Montador did not participate in Thursday's morning skate at United Center and will not play against the St. Louis Blues.

"We'll just say right now he's out indefinitely," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Upper body."

It's been a frustrating second half of the season for Montador, who was acquired by Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman before free agency started last summer and signed a four-year contract extension worth $11 million ($2.75 million cap hit) according to capgeek.com.

He's missed 25 games because of injuries overall, and has five goals with nine assists and a plus-4 rating in the 52 games he's played. Chicago will also play its third straight game without top puck-moving defenseman Duncan Keith, who's serving a five-game suspension for elbowing.

Montador actually played forward on the fourth line in New Jersey, rather than defense, which meant veteran 40-year-old defenseman Sean O'Donnell was on the third pairing with rookie Dylan Olsen. Sami Lepisto isn't ready to return yet, so that appears likely to be the setup for the game against the Blues, as well.

Look for Michael Frolik to grab Montador's spot on the fourth line with rookie Jimmy Hayes likely being a healthy scratch for the sixth straight game.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 2:47 PM

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

Likely lineups for Flyers, Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Here are the expected lineups the Flyers and Maple Leafs will use Thursday when they face off at Air Canada Centre:

MAPLE LEAFS
Matthew Lombardi - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Matt Frattin
Carter Ashton - Tim Connolly - Joey Crabb
Jay Rosehill - Colby Armstrong - Mike Brown

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Jonas Gustavsson
Jussi Rynnas

With James Reimer out with an upper-body injury, Gustavsson likely will start the remainder of the games.

David Steckel will be a game-time decision because of a lower-body injury.

"I've got a sheet of paper, there's about 15 different combinations I have put down there." said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. "I would think that you are going to see Tim Connolly go to the middle with Carter Ashton and (Joey) Crabb, that is tentatively on one of those little pieces of paper."

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot - Zac Rinaldo
Matt Read - Eric Wellwood - Jakub Voracek

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossman
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bourdon
Pavel Kubina - Erik Gustafsson

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jason Bacashihua

The Flyers are without goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Kimmo Timonen, neither of whom made the trip. Bryzgalov has a chip fracture in his right foot, while Timonen is taking a game off to treat an upper-body injury.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 2:13 PM

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

Lindros joins Flyers for morning skate



TORONTO -- The Flyers had a special guest on the ice at their morning skate Thursday here at Air Canada Centre -- Eric Lindros, who skated onto the ice in his old black and orange colors, wearing a black helmet, emblazoned with No.  88.

"It was a lot of fun," said Lindros, who spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Flyers. "Anytime you can wake up and head to this building and go have some fun on the ice, it's a blast."

He joined the club at the behest of Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

"(Holmgren) gave me a call, said come down to the room, say hello to the guys, go out for a skate," said Lindros.

Philadelphia is back at Air Canada Centre for the second time this month in hopes of sweeping the season series with the Maple Leafs. Philadelphia currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the Penguins for the final home-ice slot in the playoffs.

On March 10, Philadelphia came up with a 1-0 victory on the strength of a beautiful shootout goal by Claude Giroux. Ilya Bryzgalov earned the shutout victory that night, but will not play and is not with the team due to a chip fracture in his right foot suffered Monday. Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to get the start in goal, with Jason Bacashihua recalled from AHL Adirondack to serve as the backup.

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen also did not make the trip for the Flyers, with Marc-Andre Bourdon called up from the AHL on Wednesday to play in his place.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Toews getting close to return

CHICAGO -- Good news keeps coming by the day for injured Chicago Blackhawks captain and top center Jonathan Toews.

He'll miss his 18th straight game Thursday, when the Hawks host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center, but Toews hinted that his return from an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related could be right around the corner.

 "(I'm) getting very, very close," said Toews, who has skated for 10 straight days, including Thursday's morning workout. "I think getting to this point and not playing is probably the toughest thing to do, but at the same time it's smart. I definitely need a few more days to kind of see how it goes through this weekend and we'll see where we're at next week, basically. Right now, I'm feeling great. I've just got to get those legs going and try to get myself back to being as close to game shape as I can."

Toews said he expects to get clearance for contact either Thursday or Friday, which is one of the last steps he'll have to clear in order to return to game action.

"He's getting real close (for contact)," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think in the next day or so, so hopefully he gets out there and gets a little bit more (on-ice work), but he had a lot over the last few days and we like the progress."

Toews does, too.

The last time he tried to return from his current injury, he skated hard for four straight days and then had a return of the symptoms that have kept him out. This time, he's gone six consecutive days longer and apparently feels more like himself following each skating session.

 "Last time I was on the ice, I was feeling like I was close to being able to play and I (had) more of a setback than anything, so this time around I feel like there's nothing I can do really that's going to make that happen," Toews said. "I've been pushing myself harder and harder every day and I feel good. I feel confident. Any day now I should be ready to go."

The Hawks are likely to take the conservative approach, however, which means Toews' most likely will return in one of two games next week -- at Minnesota or at Detroit in the regular-season finale.

"It (stinks) when you see the season wind down," Toews said. "Of course everyone's excited to get into the playoffs, but I haven't played in what feels like forever, so it doesn't matter to me. As soon as I'm able to be on the ice, I'll be out there."

What, exactly, will be the key thing that will earn him the green light?

"When he's ready to go," Quenneville said. "He's got to be comfortable as a player, and organizationally there's some hurdles you've got to pass."

Chicago is 10-5-2 in the 17 games Toews has been out, but that success doesn't surprised the Hawks' 23-year old captain.

"We have a good leadership group and we don't always just rely on one guy," said Toews. "In these games that I've missed, the guys have realized they want to keep winning and they want to hang in there and play playoff hockey and be competitive once you do get there. So they've kind of committed themselves to doing those little things right and playing the right way. It's been fun to see that."
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Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season