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Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Habs aim for back-to-back wins vs. angry Caps

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens once again will attempt to embark on a potentially season-saving winning streak tonight, but they will have to do it against an angry Washington Capitals team.

Not only do the Capitals have injured teammate Nicklas Backstrom on their minds as they face the player who hurt him, Montreal's Rene Bourque, but they are coming off a 3-0 loss at home to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, when they generated just 17 shots on goal.

"We came out flat, they jumped on us on their power play and they shut us down after that," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "We didn't generate much. They trapped it up and did a good job. You've got to give them credit."

The loss was just the Capitals' third in their past 10 games, and it was the first time all season they've been shut out. But this game marks the first of a stretch of six out of seven games on the road, with the final one of those games back here in Montreal on Feb. 4. Washington has struggled mightily away from Verizon Center this season, with a 7-12-1 road record, including just one win in their past six road games (1-4-1).

The Canadiens, coming off a convincing 4-1 win against the New York Rangers, will look to string together consecutive wins for just the fifth time this season. Aside from a four-game win streak from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4, the Habs have won as many as two games in a row on just three other occasions.

Coach Randy Cunneyworth will go with the same lineup that beat the Rangers, meaning he will dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards for an eighth straight game. The lone exception will be Carey Price coming back in for Peter Budaj in goal.

Hunter would not confirm whether he would go with Tomas Vokoun or Michal Neuvirth in net, but did say that defenseman John Erskine will draw in for rookie Tomas Kundratek.

The game also will mark the Bell Centre return of former Canadiens Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Halpern, who both left Montreal over the summer to sign as free agents with Washington.
Here are the expected lineups:

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Alexander Semin
Mike Knuble - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Cody Eakin - Mathieu Perreault - Matt Hendricks

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Dennis Wideman
Dmitry Orlov - John Erskine
 
CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Travis Moen - Lars Eller - Andrei Kostitsyn
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Mike Blunden
Mathieu Darche - Scott Gomez
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Hal Gill - Yannick Weber
Tomas Kaberle

Carey Price will start in net, with Peter Budaj the backup.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 1:36 PM

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

Schedule does Sabres no favors as they face Hawks

CHICAGO -- The task doesn't get any easier for the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night in the Windy City, when they come into a game against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m., NBCSP) with a franchise-worst nine-game road losing skid.

It will also be the second straight opponent that finds itself right in the mix among the best teams in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks will be looking to leapfrog the idle second-place St. Louis Blues and first-place Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division -- after the Wings did the same to the idle Hawks on Tuesday by winning a shootout in Dallas.

The lead changes in the Central Division and West standings are happening on a nightly basis again because there are a host of good teams battling it out. Over in the Eastern Conference, it's tight at the top but the Sabres aren't anywhere near that fight.

They're more concerned about sitting fourth in the Northeast and 11th in the East with 43 points -- seven back of the eighth playoff spot after getting blown out 5-0 Monday in Detroit.

"We're playing a dangerous team tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the Hawks' optional morning skate. "They're going to be ready and they're a desperate team. They've got a lot of ability. We'll have to make sure we check well and take care of that part of our game."

In terms of skill level and ability, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff could say the same thing of his Sabres' need to play the Hawks -- who are 17-5-4 at the United Center this season, including three straight wins on their home ice.

Ruff said Monday's blowout loss in Detroit might not have been entirely indicative of the effort the Sabres put into it, but rather the result of each mistake they made in an otherwise solid first period leading to three goals before the horn sounded.

"I've seen a lot worse games," Ruff told Sabres.com at Tuesday's practice in Chicago. "I've seen a lot worse games when it comes to work ethic and skating. I've got to guard against (getting emotional) when I'm standing behind that bench, to let my frustration show. It's not a time to yell and scream, to rant and rave. We've had some discussions in the room, but my frustration can't show. I've got to be the guy that leads them through this."

Buffalo also held an optional skate at the United Center and Ruff will be available to speak with the media Wednesday afternoon.

The feeling after the Sabres' workout was that backup goalie Jhonas Enroth would get the start against Chicago. Buffalo also has a number of injured players who are still unable to play, which is another issue in their struggles.

Here's a look at how the Blackhawks and Sabres might line up on Wednesday night:

SABRES

Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Drew Stafford - Derek Roy - Nathan Gerbe
Luke Adam - Brad Boyes - Ville Leino
Matt Ellis - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Brayden McNabb - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera/TJ Brennan - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Jhonas Enroth
Ryan Miller

BLACKHAWKS

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Ben Smith - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 1:43 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Anderson becoming fantasy workhorse

Last February, the Ottawa Senators acquired goaltender Craig Anderson from the Colorado Avalanche. Ever since, Anderson has taken his game to another level.

Craig Anderson
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 24-13-4
GAA: 2.91 | SVP: 0.910
After posting an 11-5-1 mark during his stint with the Sens last season, Anderson has carried over the positive momentum to this campaign, where he leads the NHL in games played, time on ice, shots allowed and saves. Despite the heavy workload, he has been the stable foundation behind Ottawa's resurgence in the Eastern Conference.

The most impressive stretch of the Anderson's season is ongoing, as he held down the fort Tuesday with 37 saves as Ottawa rallied past the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, to improve to 9-1-1 in his last 11 outings.

Anderson (owned in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues) is tied for second in the League in wins (24), and the Senators are a mere four points behind the New York Rangers for the NHL lead in points. Quietly, he has been one of the most intriguing stories past the midpoint of the fantasy season.

While Anderson is likely nowhere to be found on the free agent wire of most leagues, he is flying under the radar as one of the most durable goaltenders in the League. The fantasy world was probably not convinced that the 30-year-old netminder was a difference-maker coming into 2011-12, but Anderson has used an elite statistical season through 43 appearances to instill nothing but confidence in his owners.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 8:45 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ TOR - 16:46 of the Second Period

At 16:46 of the second period in the Senators/Maple Leafs game, video review determined that Kaspars Daugavins kicked the puck towards the net and it deflected off Jason Spezza's stick and into the net. According to rule 49.2 "a kicked puck that deflects off the stick of any player shall be ruled a good goal." Good Goal Ottawa.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 7:47 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Vigneault downplays any rift with Kesler

VANCOUVER -- Alain Vigneault didn't want any part in extending a perceived spat with Ryan Kesler.

"Yes he is," Vigneault responded with a chuckle Tuesday morning when asked if his Selke Trophy-winning second-line center would be in the lineup against the Los Angeles Kings later that night.

Asked what he made of the attention given the media-driven back-and-forth between himself and Kesler, Vigneault added, "I think we all need to move on here."

It shouldn't be hard to do given how little there was to the situation.

Asked after Sunday's miserable 4-2 loss to Anaheim what was missing in Kesler's game, the coach offered a 42-second, 88-word response stressing the center's importance to the team, ending it by saying it wasn't "the right thing to do" to point fingers at Kesler on a night after the entire team played so poorly. But only the middle part about using "players around him a little but more" made it back to Kesler's locker the following day.

Kesler bristled when asked when about the coach saying he needed to do so.

"Utilize my players?" Kesler, who didn't talk Tuesday, retorted on Monday, seemingly surprised by the question. "Obviously, I don't know what he means by that and if he wants to say that he can come to me and talk to me about it. I'm going to play my game, the thing that's made me successful. I know what that is and if he wants to come talk to me, he's more than welcome."

The response, which was abrasive even by the often-prickly Kesler's standards, sparked talk of a rift between player and coach. But after missing training camp and the first five games of the season before returning - likely too soon, he admits now - from offseason hip surgery, Kesler has 12 goals and 31 points in 41 games, well off the career-best 41 goals he scored last season. He only has one assist - and two goals - while playing with a variety of wingers the last eight games.

So frustration may have played a role, according to Vigneault, who also carefully pointed out Monday that several other top Canucks have struggled of late.

"In Ryan's case what happens is he has shown that high, high-end level at really critical times the type of player he can be," Vigneault said. "And that's a really tough thing to be able to maintain in an 82-game schedule. Everybody is looking to Ryan to do that on a consistent basis. That's not easy for any player to do. Ryan being the competitive individual that he is will always try to achieve that standard. It's not easy so he's working on trying to get himself there and get himself there on that consistent basis."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 7:14 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Oilers' Hall injured in warmups

COLUMBUS -- The Edmonton Oilers are already without top-line phenoms Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. On Tuesday night, Taylor Hall joined them among the injured.

Hall was cut in the forehead by teammate Corey Potter's skate during warmups before Edmonton's game at Nationwide Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was helped to the dressing room by one of the team's trainers.

Because Hall's injury happened after Edmonton had submitted its official lineup, the Oilers will have only 17 skaters against Columbus.

Hall, the first player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft, has 15 goals and 31 points in 36 games in his second NHL season.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:32 PM

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

Extra eye on Yeo

PHILADELPHIA -- As if his team's current slide hasn't been hard enough to deal with, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has to deal with an extra layer of criticism -- and it's not from his boss, GM Chuck Fletcher.

His father, Wayne, is among the 32 dads on this week's Wild father and son road trip. Fletcher said it's not just players that have their fathers -- coaches and members of the team's public-relations, medical and equipment staff have their dads along as well.

"Puts some added pressure on me," said Yeo of his father's presence. "It's another watchful eye over the shoulder. If I screw up, he'll let me know."

Yeo obviously was joking, but having the dads around for tonight's game in Philadelphia and Thursday's game in Toronto has fun for all involved.

"It's nice to have them here," Wild forward Devin Setoguchi told NHL.com. "Everyone likes to have their family in town. It's something cool for them to see. Usually it inspires guys to play better when their dad is in town."

Yeo, though, hopes his players don't need any extra inspiration.

"I don't know that we need motivation," said the coach. "There's plenty there for us. We shouldn't have to look too hard, whether it's the challenge of facing this stretch without key guys in our lineup or just the understanding of just how important these games are this time of year, or whether it’s the father's trip, there's plenty of reasons to come to the rink and be motivated."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:08 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Flames-Sharks

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:05 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames try to end road woes

SAN JOSE --The Calgary Flames are 10-1-1 in their past 12 home games, but they've struggled on the road, going 8-14-3 with five straight losses. They open a three-game road trip Tuesday night against the Sharks, then play at Los Angeles on Thursday and at Edmonton on Saturday.

"We've been very solid at home but unfortunately our road game hasn't been nearly good enough, but our home record has given us a chance to stay in the mix, to have a chance," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said after Calgary's morning skate at HP Pavilion. "We're going to need to win some road games, so this is an important road trip for us, there's no question.

"We have three games on the road here before the break. We start with one. It really is, just starting with one. San Jose is obviously a good team. They have a lot of energy in this building. We've just got to find ways to play similar to home, but it's easier said than done. Everybody's a little better at home, most teams. It's just kind of narrowing that margin. We need to find ways to win games. So it happens to be tonight. We just focus on all being good."

Calgary coach Brent Sutter's message to his team?

"The biggest thing for us is we want to have a good start," Sutter said. "We want to make sure that what's happened in the past to us on the road, we've got to move on past that. I think Cory (Sarich) said it best. We need to hit the reset button and start over and do how we need to do it on the road. Every game's tough in the National Hockey League, but when you get on the road you've got to really step up.

"There's circumstances and situations that occur that you have no control over, as far as what's going on in the building. The only thing we can control is how we play. To me it's getting our game and playing our game and making sure everyone's being responsible and accountable within their own game and playing within the team concept."

Miikka Kiprusoff will be in goal Tuesday night against the Sharks, his former team, and for all four games before the All-Star Game break, Sutter said.

"Miikka's been outstanding. He's played very well the whole year. He's been stellar for us," Sutter said. "We've had eight or nine games our backups have been able to play, but we felt here going down to the All-Star break, we could probably run it with Kipper.

"We're going to need both guys after that because the games pile up pretty quickly in a short period of time, but from now until the All-Star break we'll go with Kipper. He's been playing very, very well for us."

Calgary defenseman Scott Hannan came off injured reserve Tuesday, and will be in the lineup against San Jose, his former team, Sutter said. Hannan missed the past four games with an upper-body injury.

The Sharks drafted Hannan in the first round in 1997. He played six full seasons and parts of two others with the Sharks before signing with Colorado as a free agent in July 2007.

The Flames recalled defenseman Brett Carson from the AHL's Abbotsford Heat after his second conditioning assignment of the season. A back injury sidelined Carson until Dec. 11, when he made his debut this season. But he played just two games before being sidelined again, this time with a different injury, that was undisclosed.

Carson played seven games during his conditioning assignment, which began Jan. 4.

"It has been tough and frustrating," said Carson, who arrived at HP Pavilion just after the end of the Flames' morning skate. "That's the way it goes sometimes. I do feel better now. Hopefully I can get back in here soon and keep going forward. … Physically I feel good. The body held up good. That's a good sign."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:02 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks' Clowe to sit vs. Flames

SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks power forward Ryane Clowe will miss Tuesday night's game at HP Pavilion against Calgary because of an injury he suffered Jan. 10 at Minnesota when he was knocked face-first into the boards.

Clowe played the Sharks' next two games at Winnipeg and Columbus while wearing a cage to protect his face. Then on Sunday against Chicago, he played without the cage, saying that it was making it difficult for him to see on the ice.

"Clowie won't play tonight. He's got an upper-body injury, and he's day to day," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after San Jose's morning skate, saying Clowe's injury is related to his face-plant against the Wild.

With Clowe out of his normal spot on the second line, McLellan will have to do some serious juggling. During Tuesday morning's skate, Patrick Marleau moved back from the top line and took Clowe's spot with center Logan Couture and winger Benn Ferriero. Third-line wing Jamie McGinn skated on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Tommy Wingels took McGinn's spot on the third line, and Frazer McLaren skated on the fourth line.

"We'll come up with some line combinations which will not be written in stone," McLellan said. "We'll start from there. We'll see what the first five to 10 minutes gives us. Whoever's playing well is going to play."

The Sharks are already missing top-six forward Martin Havlat, who's out after undergoing surgery to repair a torn hamstring tendon.

"When you're missing the Havlats and Clowes, you begin to juggle and you try to find three real strong lines right off the bat," McLellan said.

McGinn said he's comfortable skating on the top line.

"I'll be ready to go and just continue to do the same stuff I've been successful with this year," McGinn said. "So I'm just going to keep skating and working hard. I'm fine with it. It doesn't change the fact of what I'm doing. I've got to keep things simple and just play my game."

McGinn has raised his level of play this season and already has nine goals and seven assists.

"I think at this point last year we were begging for a goal, trying to get him to understand what he needed to do as a player," McLellan said. "Never quite got it. Needed to go back to the minors to refine that. Came back this year with a pretty clear conscience and pretty clear menu of what he needs to do as a player to be successful, and he's playing toward that."

Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins skated Tuesday morning for the first time since taking a hit to the head from Columbus' Dane Byers on Saturday but won't be in the lineup against the Flames.

"I went out there and tested the waters a bit," Desjardins said. "I felt good. We have to go day by day and make sure everything's right."

Desjardins said he has yet to take his baseline concussion test.

"The fact that he put the skates on and was out there is a step in the right direction," McLellan said.

Byers was suspended three games by the NHL for his shoulder-to-head hit on Desjardins.

"We're happy that the league sent a message," McLellan said. "Hopefully, again, the players watch, listen and learn. They have to. They have to take care of each other. It doesn't mean you can't play physical, but they're responsible for those type of hits."

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