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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:46 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry Melrose Mullet of the Week goes to...

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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:12 PM

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

St. Louis seeking answers on special teams

ST. LOUIS -- The continued struggles for the St. Louis Blues' special teams -- particularly the power play -- has the team searching for answers and trying to find ways to break through.

The Blues are currently last in the league on the power play (3-for-36) at 8.3 percent. Only the Blues and fellow Central Division competitors Chicago (4-for-46, 8.7 percent) and Columbus (6-for-63, 9.5 percent) are below the 10-percent threshold.

But nobody's panicking in the locker room, since the Blues feel like the chances are there.

"We hadn't been (getting good opportunities), but I think the last couple games, they have been better," winger Matt D'Agostini said. "We're getting a lot better zone time, shots on net and chances. ... We've got talent on this team to put in goals. I don't think we're too worried about being snake-bitten or anything like that."

The Blues are ninth in the league in 5-on-5 situations, scoring 1.17 goals per game more than the opposition, and once they get the speciality teams straightened out, their 5-6 record should vastly improve.

"I think early on, there was some execution that didn't get in the net and then all of the sudden, we kind of got ourselves spun into a number of different situations where the unit's changing and Andy (McDonald's) out," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Now all of the sudden, we have trouble getting the puck in the zone. I don't think that's as much of an issue now. Now you see teams really coming at us because they know we haven't scored a bunch of power-play goals.

"I think the guys are gaining an understanding of how we're going to counteract that and how we're going to stick with it. ... These guys are too good to be held off for too long."

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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:08 PM

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

Blues' offensive production slightly up from 'D'

ST. LOUIS -- On paper, it doesn't look like the Blues are getting quite enough offensive support from their defensemen. But in actuality, the numbers are higher than they were over an 82-game period last season.

Last season, the Blues got 38 goals, 123 assists and 161 points from their defensive unit. That averages out to 1.96 points and .46 goals per game.

Through 11 games, the Blues have 6 goals, 17 assists and 23 points from their blueliners, which averages out to 45 goals, 127 assists and 172 points over the course of 82 games. That translates to 2.09 points and .55 goals per game.

Still, the defensemen feel they can give more than they've produced thus far.

"It's something we chatted about over the weekend," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "How can we improve in the offensive zone? Whether it's moving around a little more and jumping down into the play. That's something that I haven't really brought to the table as much as I did last year. I need to start going more. I used to be in and out and having a little more movement in there. That's something that we're focusing on as a d-core as well."

Shattenkirk leads the way with 1 goal and 6 points, Alex Pietrangelo has 2 goals and 5 points, Kent Huskins has 2 goals and 2 assists, Carlo Colaiacovo has 1 goal and 2 assists, Roman Polak has 3 assists and Barret Jackman has 2 assists.
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:06 PM

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

Canucks turn back to Luongo in net

ST. LOUIS -- The Vancouver Canucks, on the heels of a 5-1 loss at Minnesota Thursday night, will go back to Roberto Luongo tonight against the Blues.

The Canucks (6-6-1) had an optional skate at Scottrade Center, with Luongo (4-3-1 with a 3.20 goals-against average and .883 save percentage) and defensemen Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome (hand injury) as the only skaters.

"I think we're all disappointed with the performance last night," said Luongo, who did not play as backup Cory Schneider stopped 40 shots. "It's a good thing we get to play the next day and make sure that we come out with a good performance and redeem ourselves here."

Luongo, after backstopping the Canucks to a 5-1 win Tuesday in Calgary with a 28-save performance, had arguably his best performance of the season and hopes to continue that tonight.

"I just wanted to make sure I got a good sweat this morning and feel good about seeing the puck and feeling the puck and have a good feeling for tonight's game," Luongo said.

The Canucks and Blues have had a tight series in recent past, with the winning team scoring three goals in each of the last six games. The Canucks saw a two-game winning streak snapped with Thursday's loss and hope to build another one.

"We weren't really happy with the way we executed and the effort level last night," defenseman Dan Hamhuis said. "We've got to put that behind us ... maybe use it as motivation, too, and play a lot better tonight."

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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:02 PM

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

Blues pull one over on Polak

ST. LOUIS -- Apparently, Blues defenseman Roman Polak has to polish up on his baseball knowledge.

When St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter came into the locker room Thursday and introduced himself, Polak didn't know who he was and thought the Blues were working in a new player.

Fellow defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo made it known, and Polak was given a chance for a rebuttal.

"I told him not to tell anybody," Polak joked. "I thought we got a new player. He said, 'Hey I'm Chris.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm Roman what's up.' ... I didn't know. I probably should, but I'm not into baseball."

Tonight's game will feature honors for the World Series champions. Manager Tony La Russa, along with Carpenter and third baseman David Freese, will be on hand. La Russa will drop the ceremonial first puck.

There will be highlights of the World Series as well as other Cardinals-themed items throughout the night.
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:00 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Canucks

Tonight's probable lineups for the Blues and Canucks, who will meet for the second time this season after St. Louis won 3-0 on Oct. 26 in Vancouver:

BLUES

Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Alex Steen - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Evgeny Grachev - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Taylor Chorney - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott will start in goal after blanking the Canucks last week with a 34-save effort. Jaroslav Halak, 1-5 with a 3.58 goals-against average and .843 save percentage, will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include defenseman Nikita Nikitin and winger Chris Porter. Defenseman Kent Huskins has a bone bruise on his left ankle and will not play. David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), Andy McDonald (concussion) and B.J. Crombeen (fractured shoulder) are on injured reserve.

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Cody Hodgson
Christopher Higgins - Manny Malhotra - Jannik Hansen
Aaron Volpatti - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Alexander Sulzer

Roberto Luongo gets the start. Cory Schneider will be the backup.

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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 1:32 PM

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

Tortorella: Rupp will require arthroscopic surgery

Rangers coach John Tortorella told reporters Friday that forward Mike Rupp will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee next week. A timetable for Rupp's return will be determined after the surgery.

Tortorella also said that Wojtek Wolski, who re-injured his groin in Thursday's 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim, is expected to have an MRI and is definitely out for Saturday's game against Montreal. That means Sean Avery will make his season debut with the Rangers after clearing re-entry waiveres and getting recalled earlier in the week.

Backup goalie Martin Biron missed practice due to a death in the family, but will be back for Saturday's game. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start against the Canadiens.

Tortorella said there was no further update on the status of Marc Staal (post-concussion symptoms). He reportedly used the word "indefinite" when asked about Staal's health status.

The Rangers could make a subsequent move to replace Wolski on the roster should he be out for an extended period, but they've done nothing as of yet. They also haven't officially announced the signing of defenseman Anton Stralman, who reportedly agreed to a one-year, $900,000 contract on Thursday.
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 1:22 PM

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

Kovalchuk's status remains uncertain for Saturday

The Devils still don't know the extent of Ilya Kovalchuk's lower-body injury or if he'll be able to play Saturday at home against Winnipeg.

"We're going to evaluate him today and get a report tonight and probably, it'll be more, see how he feels tomorrow morning," Devils coach Pete DeBoer told the reporters in attendance at the Devils optional practice Friday.

Kovalchuk left Thursday's game in Philadelphia late in the third period. He told reporters he thought it was a muscle pull. Kovalchuk did not return for overtime and did not participate in the shootout, though he said he did think about it.

"I tried and it wasn't good at all," Kovalchuk said.

Devils goalie Martin Brodeur confirmed that he will start Saturday against the Jets. Brodeur admitted he felt some soreness in his right shoulder following Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Toronto (his first game since suffering the injury three weeks earlier), but it went away and he felt fine during pre-game warm-ups in Philadelphia.

Johan Hedberg did not practice for the Devils after complaining of back pain following his 4-3 shootout victory Thursday. And defenseman Andy Greene, who sat out Thursday's game with a lower-body injury, will participate in the morning skate Saturday. He'll be re-evaluated afterward.
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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 12:54 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Avalanche, Stars

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Colorado Avalanche visit the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center:

AVALANCHE
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Joakim Lindstrom - TJ Galiardi - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Daniel Winnik
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Kevin Porter

Kyle Quincey - Shane O'Brien
Erik Johnson - Ryan Wilson
Ryan O'Byrne - Jan Hejda

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

STARS
Loui Eriksson - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Adam Buish
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Krystofer Barch - Jake Dowell - Toby Petersen

Alex Goligoski - Adam Pardy
Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley

Kari Lehtonen
Andrew Raycroft


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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 12:39 PM

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

Boudreau: Ovi 'benching' got too much attention

Now that a few days have passed since Washington coach Bruce Boudreau sat Alex Ovechkin in the final moments of a game Tuesday night against Anaheim, the coach said Friday morning the story didn't deserve the attention it received.

"There was no football, there was no basketball, there was nothing else going on," Boudreau said after the Capitals' morning skate in Raleigh. "So they made a big deal out of nothing."

The Capitals were trailing by a goal with 1:27 left in regulation when Boudreau called a timeout. He didn’t put Ovechkin on the ice then, nor did he do so with 1:02 left when there was another stoppage in play and he pulled goaltender Tomas Vokoun for an extra attacker. Nicklas Backstrom wound up scoring the game-tying goal with 42 seconds left, as well as the winner in overtime.

"It's all about accountability, but it was way overblown," said Boudreau. "[Ovechkin] wasn't benched or anything; he just wasn't chosen to go out the last minute. I've done it many different times with many different players. You have a hunch and you go with it. I just thought the other guys were going to score."

WASHINGTON

Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromTroy Brouwer
Cody EakinMarcus JohanssonAlexander Semin
Jason ChimeraBrooks LaichJoel Ward
Mathieu PerreaultMatt HendricksMike Knuble

Roman HamrlikDennis Wideman
John ErskineJohn Carlson
Jeff SchultzKarl Alzner

Michal Neuvirth

CAROLINA

Jiri TlustyEric StaalChad LaRose
Jeff SkinnerTuomo RuutuAnthony Stewart
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Brandon SutterPatrick Dwyer
Drayson BowmanTim BrentZach Boychuk

Joni PitkanenJamie McBain
Tim GleasonBryan Allen
Jay HarrisonTomas Kaberle

Cam Ward
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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery