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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:22 PM

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

Geoffrion honoring family's Habs history

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens will attempt to avoid their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Minnesota Wild tonight.

With the playoffs highly unlikely -- and everyone on the team seemingly resigned to that fact -- things like halting a five-game losing streak or improving their League-worst .333 winning percentage on home ice (11-14-8) are what the Canadiens players are focusing on for motivation.

"You play for pride and the logo on the front of your jersey," center Lars Eller said. "That means a lot. So you have to keep that in mind."

Someone who will be feeling a great sense of pride tonight is newcomer Blake Geoffrion, who will play his second game in a Canadiens uniform, but his first at home.

Geoffrion is wearing No. 57 to honor two members of his family who are legends in the Canadiens organization -- his grandfather, Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion (No. 5) and his great-grandfather, Howie Morenz (No. 7).

Another new Canadiens addition has a bit of extra motivation as well, as Brad Staubitz will face the team that placed him on waivers on Feb. 27.

"I really hope I can get my first goal of the year," Staubitz said with a smile.

He last scored a goal April 10, 2011, a span of 44 games. Although he'd probably settle for an assist -- his last point of any kind came on that goal. Better known for physical play, his 90 penalty minutes are the most on the Canadiens.

His former Wild teammates expressed regret that Staubitz was no longer with them, but they have little doubt that should he be called upon to fill play that extra-physical role Thursday, there will be no hesitation.

"I know what a great pro he is, so he's going to go out and play his game and do his job," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We expect him to play a very hard game, but having said that I'm sure he'd rather have that role and that responsibility against a team he's not as close with."

Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth would not tip his hand as to who will be in his lineup for the game, though he did suggest he would go with seven defensemen once again.

The matchup in goal will pit Carey Price against Niklas Backstrom.

We had the likely Wild lineup earlier; here’s the most likely Canadiens lineup:

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Ryan White - Tomas Plekanec - Blake Geoffrion
Aaron Palushaj - Lars Eller - Rene Bourque
Scott Gomez - Brad Staubitz
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Yannick Weber

With Price starting in goal, Peter Budaj will be the backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 1:35 PM

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

Palmieri enjoying opportunity with Wild

MONTREAL -- Nick Palmieri has waited all season for an opportunity like he will be getting Thursday when the Minnesota Wild face the Montreal Canadiens.

Palmieri was identified by Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher as the key piece that came back from the New Jersey Devils in the trade for defenseman Marek Zidlicky, and as soon as Palmieri arrived he could see why.

Coach Mike Yeo had Palmieri playing on the second line with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck for his first two games, but Thursday Palmieri will get bumped to the top line, alongside Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley.

"I've been very impressed so far," Yeo said of Palmieri. "The first day you see him he looks like an NHL player. He's got the size, the strength, the way he passes and shoots the puck. Every game that he's played for us -- he's played two now -- he's generated some quality scoring chances. We kind of eased him in, but he's earned himself some more opportunity on that top line and he's a guy we'd like to see on the power play, as well."

Palmieri, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-wing who's just 22 years old, readily admits he was starting to find his role difficult to take in New Jersey. After playing at least 10 minutes in all but one of his first 18 games with the Devils, Palmieri did not reach that mark once in his final 11 games, dating to Nov. 23, a span that included three return trips to the AHL.

"They had their lines pretty much set there, so there wasn't much room for me," said Palmieri. "But that's the way it goes. I'm just excited to play more minutes, no matter who I'm playing with."

Palmieri was getting decent minutes earlier in the season, but the production was slow to come in his second NHL season. Next thing he knew, he was a fourth-line player.

"I kind of got behind the eight-ball early in the year and started to feel the pressure," he said. "When they move you to the fourth line you kind of start to play more passive. You play to not make mistakes instead of trying to make a play."

He certainly will get that opportunity Thursday.

One player who won't, however, is Erik Christensen, who will be a healthy scratch for the first time since he was acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 3. Christensen does not have a point in 12 games with Minnesota, and he is a minus-5 in his last three games.

"It's one thing to not be getting goals and to not be getting assists, but if the puck is going in (our) net when you're on the ice, then it doesn't add up," Yeo said. "Some guys can go out and they might not score a goal but they can still be effective, they can still bring momentum or they can still be solid defensively. That's what we have to make sure of with Erik is the next time you're in the lineup, you might score or you might not, but just make sure you play a good game."

Here's how the Wild are expected to look like tonight:

Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Palmieri
Devin Setoguchi - Matt Cullen - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Kassian - Darroll Powe - Nick Johnson
Stephane Veilleux - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk - Tom Gilbert
Nate Prosser - Kurtis Foster

Niklas Backstrom will start in goal, with Josh Harding the backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 1:30 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild sign prospect Coyle to three-year deal

The Minnesota Wild on Thursday signed 2010 first-round pick Charlie Coyle to a three-year, entry level contract. No financial terms were disclosed.

The East Weymouth, Mass., native started this season as a sophomore at Boston University. But after representing the United States for the second straight year at the World Junior Championship, Coyle joined the defending Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he's played on the same line with fellow Wild prospect Zack Phillips, who's sixth in the QMJHL in scoring.

Coyle and Phillips have been a potent tandem, with Coyle scoring 12 goals and adding 12 assists in just 16 games.

“Point-wise I think obviously we’re both doing pretty good and we’re winning so I think it’s working for everyone,” Coyle told the Wild's website of playing with Phillips. “I think we complement each other pretty good. Hopefully we stick together. I think we work well together."

Coyle had four goals in six games with Team USA at the World Juniors after going 3-11-14 in 16 games for BU.
Coyle was originally a first-round pick by San Jose, but was dealt to the Wild on draft day last June along with Devin Setoguchi and a first-round pick that turned out to be Phillips in exchange for defenseman Brent Burns.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 12:56 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers' Briere to play tonight

Danny Briere will be in the lineup Thursday for the Philadelphia Flyers when they host the New York Islanders tonight.

Briere took a hard hit during Tuesday's game against San Jose and fell head-first into the boards, but was on the ice with the rest of his teammates during Thursday's morning skate.

"Luckily I don't think I ran into the boards too hard," Briere told CSNPhilly.com following the practice. "Sometimes I think that the impact is just as important or more important than how awkward you come into the boards. It did look bad, but somehow I was able to roll. Not so sure it's the best way, to tuck my chin in and roll, but it worked out. So I feel fortunate to escape with nothing too major on that play."

With his head healed, Briere must be hoping his stick will follow. He'll take a 17-game goal drought into Thursday's game. He hasn't scored since registering a hat trick Jan. 7 against the Ottawa Senators. He also missed six games in that span with a concussion.

"I only know one way to get out of a slump -- it's to keep working and keep plugging away," Briere told the Philadelphia Inquirer following Tuesday's game. "That's the only thing I can do, and at some point, I expect good things to happen."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boychuk making progress toward return

BOSTON -- Although he's been ruled out of tonight's home game against New Jersey, Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk today continued to make progress toward a return to the lineup.

Boychuk, who suffered a concussion last Saturday in Ottawa, skated on his own before the Bruins' practice Wednesday. Today he took part in an optional morning skate with his teammates and increased his heart rate both during the skate and after it, as he stayed on longer than most of the other players.

"I'm feeling pretty good. Just got out there, got a skate in and we'll see how I feel. Just going day by day, I guess," Boychuk said.

It was Ottawa forward Chris Neil's big hit on the forecheck that knocked out Boychuk in Saturday's third period. Boychuk compared it to being "run over by a train," but he also stressed that it was a clean hit.

If Boychuk continues to feel well, he'll practice again with the team Friday and then could make his return to the lineup over the weekend. Given that teammate Nathan Horton hasn't skated for several weeks after his initial attempt to get back on the ice after a concussion, Boychuk knows these types of injuries can be tough to predict. However, he's not fretting over that.

"You can’t really be nervous," he said. "You go out there, you see how you feel. If you feel good, then you feel good. If you don't, then you get off."


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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 12:46 PM

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

Callahan out, Scott in for Rangers

RALEIGH, N.C. -- New York Rangers forward Ryan Callahan will miss Thursday's game with an injured foot. Coach John Tortorella said no decision has been made on who will take his spot on Brad Richards' line.

Forward John Scott will make his Rangers debut after being acquired from Chicago ahead of Monday's trade deadline.

Martin Biron gets the start in goal for the Rangers.

We had the Hurricanes lineup earlier; here's what the Rangers likely will counter with:

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ruslan Fedotenko
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
John Scott - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Stu Bickel

Martin Biron will start in goal, with Henrik Lundqvist the backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 12:45 PM

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

Marc Staal faces Eric for first time since big hit

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Thursday's game between the Rangers and Hurricanes will be the first time Hurricanes forward Eric Staal and his brother, Rangers defensemen Marc Staal, have played against each other since Eric's big hit put Marc out of the lineup last February with a concussion.

"I enjoy competing against him," said Eric. "I enjoy the fact that I'm playing a game I love and he is, too. He wasn't (playing) last time (in New York), so that was difficult for me."

Then Staal quickly added with a laugh, "And the fact that I got booed every time I touched (the puck) -- that was different. It will be good to put this game behind us and focus on our teams."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 12:36 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

New Jersey gets latest crack at defending champs

BOSTON -- The New Jersey Devils will try to snap a three-game losing streak, and also try to defeat the Boston Bruins for the first time in four tries this season, tonight at the TD Garden.

Although this is the Devils' final meeting with the Bruins in the regular season, they could run into the defending champs in the postseason. If the season ended today, second-seeded Boston and seventh-seeded New Jersey would meet.

Nonetheless, the Devils aren't looking at this game as any type of playoff preview. They're looking at it more like a chance to start playing better. They had won four in a row before their current slide.

"I think more so for ourselves, just to get back on track, try to get back in the winning column. We've been playing well, we've been playing some good hockey, we just need to do a better job of generating some more offense,"  captain Zach Parise said after the Devils' morning skate. "But I think this is definitely a team that's going to be there at the end of the year, so we definitely want to make sure we play a good game against them."

In an effort to jostle his team's offense, New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer has juggled his forward lines, including moving Dainius Zubrus from third-line center to second-line right wing with Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias.

Here’s how the Devils' lineup should look tonight against the Bruins:

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

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

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg


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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Zanon will make Bruins' debut against Devils

BOSTON -- Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed that defenseman Greg Zanon will make his debut with the team tonight when Boston hosts the New Jersey Devils at the TD Garden.

Zanon was acquired in a trade from Minnesota on Monday and arrived in the Boston area late Tuesday night morning. He practiced with the team Wednesday and took part in an optional morning skate today.

"Obviously, every system has it's little adjustments. But hockey's hockey in the end, and you just go out there and play," Zanon said. "You just have to make sure you keep things in mind. It's a defensive style, so it's pretty easy for me just to fall into my spot and allow the rush to come to me and let the play happen. I'm not too much of an on-attack defenseman, so I'll wait for my opportunities, and when I get my opportunities to make a play, make a hit, I'm stepping up to do what I can."

Julien said that Mike Mottau, who was also traded to Boston on Monday, would be the healthy scratch against the Devils.

Here's the Bruins' projected lineup:

Milan Lucic - Chris Kelly - David Krejci
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Brian Rolston - Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Greg Zanon
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask



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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 11:51 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rangers' Callahan out vs. Hurricanes

The New York Rangers announced that captain Ryan Callahan will miss Thursday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes with a bruised foot.

Callahan, who is considered day-to-day, suffered the injury Monday night against the New Jersey Devils, but was not forced to leave the game. Newly acquired John Scott will take his place in the lineup.

Callahan has 25 goals this season, second-most on the team.
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Quote of the Day

[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.

— Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Mathieu Perreault, who scored two goals in win against Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday