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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 12:46 PM

By Erin Nicks - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Senators, Blackhawks

KANATA, Ont. – Here are the projected lineups for Friday's game between the Ottawa Senators and the Chicago Blackhawks at Scotiabank Place:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O’Brien - Chris Neil
Zenon Konopka - Zack Smith - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar

Robin Lehner will start in goal, with Alex Auld the backup.

Goalie Craig Anderson, out with a hand injury, spoke to the media on Thursday but did not offer any timeline for his return.

Kaspars Daugavins and Matt Carkner will be healthy scratches.

Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Jimmy Hayes

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Sami Lepisto - Dylan Olsen

Ray Emery will start in goal, with Corey Crawford the backup. It will be Emery's first start in Ottawa since he was bought out of his contract by the Senators following the 2007-08 season.

"It's exciting -- I have good memories of being here," Emery said following the Hawks' morning skate. "That said, it's an important time of year for the team. We've got 17 games left here and it's a real fight in the West. I want to stay focused and win the game. You always get motivation from playing your old teams, especially when you see the success they've had here."

Defenseman Nicklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) is day-to-day, as is Jonathan Toews (upper body).

Sean O’Donnell, Brendan Morrison and Michael Frolik will be healthy scratches.
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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 12:22 PM

By Ben Raby - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Caps focused on having big weekend

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals seek a return to the top eight in the Eastern Conference on Friday as they continue their season-long five-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils.

After consecutive wins against the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders, the competition gets stiffer this weekend with the Devils' visit tonight and the Philadelphia Flyers in town Sunday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

"It’s a challenge for us," Capitals forward Joel Ward said of the weekend ahead. "Obviously if you win outright, you can advance and move up in the standings as much as you can. We've had some success at home, so we just have to keep building on that."

The Caps have the second-best home record in the Eastern Conference (21-7-2), but they enter play tonight in ninth place in the conference, one point behind eighth-place Winnipeg and six points behind seventh place New Jersey.

Washington also is within three points of the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers.

The Devils will look to snap a four-game winless streak (0-3-1), following last night's 4-3 overtime loss in Boston. The last time New Jersey went winless in five straight was a six-game skid from Dec. 17-29, 2011.

Michal Neuvirth (9-9-3) will make his fourth straight start for the Capitals while Johan Hedberg (13-7-2) is expected to start for the Devils. Martin Brodeur played last night in Boston, his ninth straight start.

"They had an overtime loss last night," Caps forward Matt Hendricks said of the Devils, "so they're going to try to take it to us early and then play defense for the rest of the game. So we need to get on them, force them into penalties and not allow them many chances."

The Devils did not skate this morning while all but four Capitals (Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson and Dennis Wideman) took part in an optional skate.

Capitals coach Dale Hunter said all four players will play tonight. Veterans Roman Hamrlik and Mike Knuble will be healthy scratches for the fifth and fourth straight games respectively.

Here are the projected lineups for tonight’s game:

Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Keith Aucoin
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jay Beagle - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth will start in goal, with Tomas Vokoun the backup.

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrick Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Steve Bernier

Mark Fayne - Andy Greene
Marek Zidlicky - Anton Volchenkov
Adam Larsson - Bryce Salvador

Johan Hedberg will get the start in goal, with Martin Brodeur the backup.

Sykora will play his 999th NHL game tonight.
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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 12:13 AM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BUF @ SJ - 18:25 of the Third Period

At 18:25 of the second period in the Sabres/Sharks game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Ryane Clowe's shot never crossed the goal line. No Goal San Jose.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 5:04 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Flames' Moss to play first game since November

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Calgary Flames will welcome David Moss back to the lineup Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes. It will be his game since suffering a broken ankle Nov. 12. His return allows the Flames to juggle their top six forwards.

Moss will play right wing alongside Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen, while Jarome Iginla moves alongside Alex Tanguay, and Mike Cammalleri, with Blake Comeau dropping to the third line. Left wing Guillaume Desbiens is the odd-man out of the lineup Thursday.

The Flames are 0-2-2 in their last four games and 4-2-4 in the last 10 -- which includes an overtime loss and a shootout loss to the Coyotes in that span. The Coyotes have won six straight and eight of the last 10 against Calgary.

We had the Coyotes lineup earlier; here's the lineup the Flames will use in hopes of breaking their slide.

Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Alex Tanguay - Mike Cammalleri - Jarome Iginla
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma - Roman Horak - Tim Jackman

Derek Smith - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff will start in goal, with Henrik Karlsson the backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:57 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Coyotes, Smith look to extend winning streaks

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes will look to stay unbeaten in regulation for the 13th straight game Thursday when they host the Calgary Flames.

The franchise record is 14 (12-0-2), set in 1998 by a Coyotes team that featured Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick and Nikolai Khabibulin.

After starting the season with a 7-8-2 record at Arena, the Coyotes have turned things around. Since Dec. 26, Phoenix is 10-2-2 in the last 14 games on home ice, outscoring opponents by a margin of 43-27 during that stretch.

The Coyotes still have five regulars, including three defensemen (Rostislav Klesla, Derek Morris and David Schlemko) on the injured list and none of those players are expected back before next week. But coach Dave Tippett has been impressed by the play of rookies Chris Summers and Michael Stone during this run -- the Coyotes are unbeaten (5-0-0) with them in the lineup -- and could have some difficult decisions once the sidelined blueliners return.

Mike Smith will make his 51st start of the season and shoot for his 12th consecutive win. The League’s First Star of the Month was 11-0-0 in February with a 1.42 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. He already owns the franchise record for consecutive wins, and a victory Thursday would gave him the longest streak in the League this year. A win also would give him 30 in a season for the first time in his career.

Here's the lineup the Coyotes likely will use tonight:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Mikkel Boedker
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Michael Stone - Chris Summers

Mike Smith will start in net, with Jason LaBarbera the backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:42 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sharks minus coach again, could get Couture back

SAN JOSE -- San Jose forward Dominic Moore will return to the lineup Thursday night against Buffalo after missing four games with a lower-body injury, but injured forward Logan Couture will be a game-time decision, and Sharks coach Todd McLellan will definitely miss his second straight game.

McLellan is still suffering concussion-like symptoms after being struck in the head Sunday by the stick of Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella in a freak accident after Scandella was checked into the boards in front of San Jose's bench.

Sharks assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft will again share the coaching duties Thursday night, as they did Tuesday night during a 1-0 win against Philadelphia. Woodcroft, though, said McLellan remains "very involved" in the game planning and preparation.

"He's getting better each and every day," Woodcroft said after the Sharks' morning skate. "He's feeling better, and both Matt and I consult him every day. We're in touch with him. He's coming into the building and being a big part of our game plan.

"He's getting better, so that's the primary concern of not only Matt and myself, but the whole organization, is to get Todd better. He's getting better, which is very positive. I think you saw our team's response in the last game. They knew we were missing our leader, but our leadership group in terms of players really stepped up. Bottom line is we're in a playoff hunt, and every two points is important. You saw that against Philadelphia, and we're definitely going to bring the same attitude tonight."

Sharks coach Joe Thornton said many players on the team understand first-hand what McLellan is going through as he recovers from a blow to the head.

"He's going to come back when he feels comfortable behind the bench," Thornton said. "I'm sure the lights still give him problems and the sounds. A lot of guys in here have gone through concussions, and you never know how long they're going to last. We just hope he gets back quick."

After coming to the Sharks on Feb. 16 from Tampa Bay in a trade, Moore played just three games before being sidelined.

Moore said he's "feeling good" and is ready to return to the lineup after a "very frustrating" stint off the ice.

"You never want to be missing time, and you want to be helping the team as much as you can," Moore said. "It was very tough, but I'm excited to be back, back in action."

Couture, San Jose's leading goal scorer, missed the Philadelphia game with a lower-body injury he suffered Sunday at Minnesota, where he took three hard hits. He skated briefly with his teammates Thursday morning before heading to the dressing room.

"Logan made some progress today, felt a lot better," Woodcroft said. "It will be a game-time decision today."

Two other injured Sharks -- forward Martin Havlat and defenseman Douglas Murray -- practiced with the full team for the first time since being injured. Havlat suffered a partially torn hamstring tendon on Dec. 17 against Edmonton and underwent surgery. Murray took a puck to his Adam's apple on Feb. 16 against Tampa Bay.

Havlat and Murray are both making strides, but neither one knows when he'll return to action. Havlat, though, said he definitely wants to log some games before the playoffs.

"The more the better. I have to get used to everything again," Havlat said. "It's like getting ready for a new season. Same situation I was in when I was coming back after the shoulder injury. I want to play as many games as I can to get ready, physically and timing-wise, too."

Havlat said he faces some challenges before he's game-ready.

"I've got to get stronger and get used to the movements on the ice, all those quick movements and the stop and starts, that's the most important during the game and that's (what) I have to work on," he said.

Murray has been skating hard, but has yet to be cleared to play by doctors. The No. 1 concern is that he might experience swelling that would affect his breathing.

"It felt good, but you know how it goes when it comes to your head or breathing," Murray said. "They're a lot more careful. … It's day to day, and hopefully I'll be out there soon."

Murray wore extra padding to protect his throat during the morning skate and expects to wear it when he returns to action.

"I've worn worse things that bother me a lot more than this to protect from injuries," Murray said. "It's not a problem."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:41 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Letang suffering concussion symptoms

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday defenseman Kris Letang is suffering from concussion symptoms and will be re-evaluated when the team returns to Pittsburgh.

Letang was injured midway through the first period of Wednesday's game in Dallas when he was hit hard by Dallas' Eric Nystrom. Nystrom was given a two-minute minor for roughing, but will not face supplemental discipline.

Letang missed 21 games earlier this season due to a concussion. In 40 games, he has 9 goals and 31 points.

"I'm certainly concerned for every player," Bylsma told reporters following the Penguins' practice Thursday in Denver. "(Especially with) the significance of the hit, Kris being on the ice. That was the first thing that I thought of in that situation for Kris. Whether you've had one or a couple before, you're concerned for the player and their health. He took a hard hit."

Without Letang the team still has six healthy defenseman, but Bylsma said he will consider recalling an extra blueliner from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, possibly in time for Saturday's game at the Avalanche. 

"We'd be down to six here if Kris was out for an extended period of time -- or longer than just this weekend -- so I think with the number of games that we have left on the schedule, we certainly would consider having one of the players down (in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) come up," said Bylsma. "Simon (Despres) has been on the power play. He's been 5-on-5 against other team's good guys. So he certainly would be a candidate and a consideration."

Another place Letang's absence would be felt is on the power play, where he quarterbacks the first unit, along with Steve Sullivan. Sullivan also was hurt Wednesday, leaving the game with a lower-body injury that kept him off the ice Thursday.

"Matt Niskanen filled in (Letang's) spot on the ice and in a similar role," said Bylsma. "We had success with Matt there, so Matt will slide into that spot. The bigger question is whether Steve Sullivan can play next game or not and what happens there. (He and Letang are) both point guys. If Steve and Kris aren't playing, we're going to have to put Matt there with Paul Martin, as you saw in (Wednesday's) game. They'll have to play there and possibly Dustin Jeffrey. He's played the point on the power play before and might be used in that similar spot as Sullivan."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Sabres

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Buffalo Sabres at HP Pavilion:

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Daniel Winnik - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Tommy Wingels
Brad Winchester - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi, coming off a 1-0 shutout of Philadelphia on Tuesday night, was the first Sharks goalie off the ice Thursday morning and is expected to start against Buffalo. If Couture is scratched again tonight, the Sharks would have their choice of Andrew Desjardins, Benn Ferriero or Jim Vandermeer to insert in the lineup.  His absence, of course, would force some line juggling. Against Philadelphia, Thornton, Clowe and Wingels were on the top line, while Marleau, Pavelski and Winnik were on the second line.


Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Ville Leino - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Brad Boyes - Corey Tropp

Jordan Leopold - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera - Robyn Regehr
Christian Ehrhoff - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

The Sabres, who beat Anaheim 2-0 on Wednesday night, did not skate Thursday morning. There's no official word on who will be in goal for Buffalo, but the fact that Miller shut out the Ducks points to him getting the start against San Jose.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:36 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Defense the theme in battle for West lead

VANCOUVER -- The battle for first place in the NHL Thursday night comes down to a Vancouver Canucks team that has scored the most goals in the League against a St. Louis Blues squad that has given up the fewest in the Western Conference

If you ask Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, it's a perfect playoff preview.

Asked about the St. Louis showdown as preparation for playing a team like the Blues or Nashville in the postseason, Sedin said: "Keep lining up teams: Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, all good defensively. Everyone plays the same way, so once we get to the playoff it's going to be a grind from game one until wherever it takes us. It's going to be low-scoring games, tight games, so we have to get used to this."

The Canucks have certainly adjusted to tight games of late, going past regulation 13 times in the last 21 games, and winning eight before blowing third-period leads and losing in extra time the last two, snapping their perfect 26-0-0 run when leading after 40 minutes this season.

"This is the way the games are being played this year, it's very rarely you see us or anyone blow out teams," Sedin said. "It's a good sign. We've shown we can win in tight games and it doesn’t matter how they are played -- if it's Boston or Detroit, with more skill -- so I think it’s good for us."

Sedin said it starts in their own end, where they'd try to match the Blues.

Certainly defense has been key to St. Louis' turnaround under Ken Hitchcock, who took over a 6-7-0 team and has since guided them to a 34-10-7 record. Only the New York Rangers, with 124 goals against, have given up fewer than the Blues' 128 -- and in addition to having played three more games than New York, St. Louis surrendered 35 goals in those 13 games before Hitchcock replaced the fired Davis Payne.

The Canucks may not match the Blues defensively, but they have been almost as hot since a slow October start.

In fact, when St. Louis beat the Canucks on Nov. 4, Vancouver was just 6-6-1 and 10th in the west. The Blues were 5-6-0 and 14th.

Now they'll meet with top spot in the NHL on the line.

"Since the beginning of November they've been one, and we've been one of the best teams in the NHL," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, tipping his hat to Hitchcock for the job he's done. "And we both find ourselves right now fighting for that top spot."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:02 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Likely lineups for Blues, Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Marc-Andre Gragnani, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, will make his Canucks debut Thursday. He'll replace Chris Tanev, who struggled as the Canucks closed a six-game road trip Phoenix on Tuesday, while fellow trade-deadline acquisitions Zack Kassian and Samuel Pahlsson made their debuts for Vancouver.

"We'll see what he can do tonight -- he hasn't played in a while and he's got an opportunity," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Obviously we want to see what Marc-Andre can do and Chris' game in Phoenix was a little bit more challenging."

St. Louis skipped the morning skate after running its season-high road win streak to four games with a 5-2 win in Edmonton on Wednesday. The Blues, who are just 14-13-3 on the road this season, aren't expected to change their lineup other than swapping starting goaltenders. Not that it should make a difference, as Jaroslav Halak, who played Wednesday, and Brian Elliott each has 20 wins, a first for St. Louis, and each is among the NHL leaders in goals-against average and save percentage for the League’s stingiest defensive team.

Here is what the teams could put on the ice when they meet at Rogers Arena, with first place in the Western Conference on the line:
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Zack Kassian
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Marc-Andre Gragnani - Aaron Rome
Roberto Luongo is back in goal after Cory Schneider started in Phoenix on Tuesday.

Dale Weise is a healthy scratch for a second-straight game since the arrival of Kassian, while fellow big-bodied fourth-liner Byron Bitz was sent to the AHL.

Andy McDonald - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Vladimir Sobotka
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves
Alex Pietrangelo - Carlo Colaiacovo
Barrett Jackman - Roman Polak
Kent Huskins - Kevin Shattenkirk

Brian Elliott is expected to start in goal after Jaroslav Halak beat the Oilers in Edmonton on Wednesday.
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Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday