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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 3:49 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No Koivu again for Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Ducks will be without center Saku Koivu (lower body) for a second straight game, according to coach Bruce Boudreau. However, captain Ryan Getzlaf, who missed Tuesday's practice with flu, skated this morning and will play tonight.

Here's what the lineups likely will look like when the Ducks and Coyotes meet tonight at Honda Center.

Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Kyle Turris - Kyle Chipchura

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Michal Rozsival - David Schlemko

Mike Smith will start in goal, with Jason LaBarbera the backup.

Niklas Hagman - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Bobby Ryan - Teemu Selanne
Andrew Gordon - Maxime Macenauer - Kyle Palmieri
Matt Beleskey - Rod Pelley - George Parros

Cam Fowler - Francois Beauchemin
Lubomir Visnovsky - Toni Lydman
Luca Sbisa - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller will start in goal, with Dan Ellis the backup.

It's expected Lubomir Visnovsky will play for the Ducks for the first time since Nov. 11, when he broke a finger.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 3:43 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Visnovsky likely to return for Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Lubomir Visnovsky is expected to return to the lineup for the Anaheim Ducks tonight.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said Visnovsky will be a game-time decision, but Visnovsky has pronounced himself fit to play.

"I told (Boudreau) I'm ready," Visnovsky said after the morning skate.

Visnovsky suffered a broken finger when he blocked a shot in the final seconds to help seal a win against Vancouver on Nov. 11.

Visnovsky, who led all NHL defensemen in scoring last season, had a poor start before injury, but the Ducks miss his offensive skills, particularly on the power play.

Defense partner Cam Fowler has admitted to struggling while trying to make up for Visnovsky's role as the team's primary puck-mover and minutes-eater.

Visnovsky averages 23:36 of ice time per game, and Boudreau doesn't believe in easing him back in to the lineup.

"If he's ready to play, I anticipate him to be as a good as he can," Boudreau said. "I don't believe in guys giving an excuse already-made that 'I haven't played in a while and it's going to take time.' If you're ready to play in the National Hockey League, you better be ready to play."
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 3:20 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Keep open mind when judging players, teams

Sometimes our preconceived notions about players and teams can hurt us when it comes to enjoying the game and seeing who the best players and teams truly are. This was something I first learned about as a teenager, working my way into the NHL.

It's about performance vs. perception.

The biggest thing I had to learn once I started skating in the NHL was the gap between performance and perception. By that, what I mean is there are so many unheralded players. I had to get adjusted. The guys who received all the hoopla -- guys like Doug Gilmour, Eric Lindros and Curtis Joseph -- are completely unbelievably great players.

Then there was a guy like Steve Thomas, who was an unbelievable player, excellent player. I thought he was just as dangerous as those other guys, yet no one ever talked about how great he was or mentioned him in the same breath as the other guys.

Why does that happen? The average person that covers the game or a fan won't see how good a player like that is, or if they see it, they won't accept it. Part of that stems from hero worship. Someone will see a guy like Steve Thomas and think, "He can't be as good as these other guys."

When I ran track in high school, the fastest guy always ran the anchor leg. There were no opinions leading to the decision. It wasn't about where someone was from or their pedigree. It was about who was the fastest, and that person ran the anchor leg. That's how it went every time.

But that's not the case in sports. I had to learn to adjust to that.

The extension of that is, when we watch teams play, we let our perceptions influence us. We watch teams that we've already decided aren't good and think, "This team can't be a good team from here. No way the Wild or Panthers can win. Why? Because we're from Toronto or New York and that shouldn't happen." Who cares if the Wild have the best record in the NHL or the Panthers have been leading the Southeast Division for almost three months?

When people judge players or evaluate teams based on what they want them to be rather than what they are, it hurts them and it hurts fans.

All the while, you end up missing some pretty good things just because it's not what you want it to be. You can't appreciate the performance. Forget players and teams. The same thing can happen with cities, too.

Last year's All-Star Game in Raleigh is a great example. People went into it thinking it was going to be a bad time because it wasn't a traditional hockey city. Yet you had so many people who were out in Raleigh saying, "This is unbelievable, they know the game, they know how to party, they did it right." People got blown away. People were pleasantly surprised.

If they came in with an open mind, there wouldn't have been any unwarranted negativity toward going to Raleigh.

About 15 years ago, people were asking, "Who is this Dominik Hasek guy? I don't like his style or how he looks in the net." I'll tell you right now -- he's the best goalie I've ever played against. He's the most dominant goalie of all time in terms of being able to influence a game by himself.  Yet, no one wanted to accept that for a long time.

How does it happen? It's coaches and GMs saying things like, "Well we didn't we earmark him, we earmarked someone else. I can't relate to where he comes from, so that's why I'm not open to accepting that guy has talent. I didn't draft him. A friend from his hometown played with him and recommended him and it wasn't my call." That's why a lot of those guys are like that. They're so resistant. "We got Jack Campbell in the first round. Who's this Richard Bachman guy?" That's not how Joe Nieuwendyk thinks. He's cerebral, open-minded, a Cornell guy. I have lots of respect for him. But oftentimes, that's how people think. It impacts the thought process when judging performance.

It's the same thing with college players, or how people still say Europeans will disappear in the playoffs. Has anyone ever watched Marian Hossa? Nicklas Lidstrom? Johan Franzen?

Size to this day also influences how a player is judged even if he's performing well. Martin St. Louis is begging for ice time as a fourth-liner in Calgary, now he's an NHL MVP and wins the Stanley Cup and now he's playing nationally for Team Canada, for the same guys who said he was too small, his legs were too short, and he played in college.

Same thing with Tim Thomas, who went to Vermont with Martin St. Louis. "I don't like how he makes saves, he doesn't play like that guy, he's from Michigan." I love when people say he's a journeyman. Aren't we all on journeys? Quite often, that's said in a condescending way. But if it's a guy they like, they change the terminology. "Mike Sillinger, he's a guy everybody wants in their room. He's well-respected, he plays hard, a heart-and-soul type guy. Dean McAmmond, Prince Albert Raiders, high-character guy."

But if it's Mark Parrish, he's a vagabond. Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Paul Coffey all played for a lot of teams. So did Mark Recchi.

I just don't understand how so many people come in closed-minded when it comes time to judge talent. Far too often that happens when the performance is there. That's why they say perception is reality.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 2:43 PM

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

Sabres' Leino out 'weeks'

The Buffalo Sabres already are banged up and they got even more bad news today, as coach Lindy Ruff said center Ville Leino will miss "weeks" with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday's game against Ottawa.

Leino played 14:49 against the Senators, but just one shift, totaling 56 seconds, in the final 9:25 of the game.

Matt Ellis skated in Leino's place today at practice.

The Sabres already are missing forwards Brad Boyes, Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta and Corey Tropp.

The only good news is defenseman Tyler Myers, who hasn't played since Nov. 19 due to a broken wrist, told reporters he hopes to return sometime around the holiday break.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 2:40 PM

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

Skinner, Pitkanen out indefinitely with concussions

Carolina forward Jeff Skinner has been diagnosed with a concussion and is out indefinitely, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford announced in a statement Wednesday. Rutherford also updated the status of defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who also suffered a concussion and is out indefinitely.
Skinner, 19, currently leads the Hurricanes in goals (12) and points (24). He has missed the team's last two games, marking the first games he has missed in his NHL career.

Pitkanen, 28, leads all Hurricanes defensemen in assists (9) and points (12), and is tied for first among Carolina blueliners with 3 goals. He has missed the team's last three games.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 1:50 PM

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

Green to rejoin Caps, but no timetable for return

Capitals GM George McPhee said Wednesday that injured defenseman Mike Green would join the team in Colorado for Saturday's game, but there is no timetable for his return to the lineup. McPhee also added that Green, who has been sidelined since Nov. 11 with a groin injury, will not need surgery.

"No, they ruled that out," McPhee said, according to CSNWashington.com. "It's not worse than we already knew and he has been making progress. We're just trying to expedite things. We'll know more based on the treatments he's getting."

The Capitals on Monday said Green left the team to see a specialist. While it was assumed he was going to see someone about his groin injury, according to CSNWashington.com, McPhee said that is "not necessarily" the case.

Green has missed the past 15 games and has not been on the ice since Dec. 8, when he left the practice rink slamming his stick. McPhee said his Green's recovery "plateaued," which led the team to seek a new method of rehab, according to the Washington Post.

"We just sent him to see somebody that might be able to help, we're not sure (if it will)," McPhee said, according to the Post. "Hopefully when he joins the club on the road he'll be skating with the club -- getting closer. He was progressing then sort of plateaued. We thought we would try something else. Don't know if it will make a difference but we'll know more in a couple of days."
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 1:42 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hawks to go with Emery again

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Ray Emery his starter on Tuesday afternoon. It'll be Emery's fifth straight game and his fourth start in the last five. Emery was the goalie of record in Chicago's 3-2 overtime win Sunday against San Jose, stopping 35 shots and improving his record this season to 6-1-2.

"He's played well all year," said coach Joel Quenneville. "He's earned the opportunity to keep on going. He's got the confidence, he's been productive and we want to keep it going as long as we can."

He made 42 saves in a 5-3 win against Minnesota as a member of the Ottawa Senators in November 2006 -- his lone career start against the Wild.

Here's how the rest of the Blackhawks -- and the Wild -- likely will look when they hit the ice here at the Xcel Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus).
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 1:33 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Homecoming game for a few Hawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It'll be a homecoming game for a few members of the Blackhawks tonight when they take the ice here against the Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus).

Among them is Andrew Brunette, the fourth-leading scorer in Wild franchise history.

He said he's not putting too much stock into his return, however, and hopes to keep the focus on the business of netting points.

"I'm looking forward to getting this game over with," said Brunette, who had 321 points in 489 games with the Wild. "The first one is never a fun one. I really just want to get our two points and get out of here. I think the next time back, it'll be a little different."

Brunette said the atmosphere tonight could be playoff-like.

"I hope so," je said. "When this building gets going, it's one of the funnest buildings in the league to play in."

Also making a return to the State of Hockey is Eden Prairie native Nick Leddy, the Wild's first round selection in the 2009 Entry Draft.

"What he's giving us offensively and defensively is getting better and better," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "I don't necessarily measure his contribution numbers-wise. When he's playing (well), he's giving us that offense."

Former Wild defensemen Sean O'Donnell and John Scott also will return tonight.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 1:16 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild hoping to get key pieces back

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With realignment on the horizon, tonight's battle between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus) should be the start of a heated divisional rivalry starting as soon as next season.

This time around, however, it will settle midseason Western Conference supremacy, as the top two teams in the conference meet for the first time this season, here at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Blackhawks trail the Wild by three points in the standings. After this game, the Hawks will play six of their next seven at home to close the 2011 portion of their schedule.

The Wild return to downtown St. Paul for the first time in 12 days after a successful five-game road trip that saw them go 4-1-0.

Also returning could be a few key elements to the roster.

Coach Mike Yeo said defenseman Marek Zidlicky -- absent since Nov. 15 with a concussion -- could return to the lineup tonight. The puck-moving blueliner has 6 assists in 18 games this season.

Who sits if Zidlicky comes back is a question Yeo said the Wild coaching staff will toss around today.

"That's the tricky thing," Yeo said. "We have to get Zids back into the lineup. We have to get his game going. I felt like he was starting to come along before he got hurt."

Forward Matt Cullen also could return tonight after missing Tuesday's game in Winnipeg after falling ill earlier in the day. Yeo said he was feeling better but would be a game-time decision.

Also not to be decided until game-time will be the status of forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who was injured late in Tuesday's game after being checked from behind head-first into the boards. Bouchard, who missed all but one game in 2009-10 with a concussion, left the game with blood pouring out of his nose. He was one of only a couple of Wild players to skate this morning and appeared to have stitches on the bridge of his nose.

Wild forward Guillaume Latendresse returned to the lineup Tuesday in Winnipeg after missing 15 games with a concussion. He scored Minnesota's only goal in a 2-1 loss to the Jets, but also will be a game-time decision depending on how he feels after his first game back. He only practiced with the team once before making his return.

The Wild do have forward Warren Peters available because of the line-up uncertainty.

"We don't know what our lineup is yet, to be honest," Yeo said.

That uncertainty even extends to the net, where Niklas Backstrom will start -- if he's up to it. Backstrom missed three games with a groin injury earlier this month, but has played the last two games, including a 25-save effort Tuesday. Yeo hadn't talked to Backstrom to find out how he felt, but if he can't go, Matt Hackett would earn the start. Yeo said the team is in no rush to bring back an injured Josh Harding.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 12:53 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Wild, Blackhawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Here is what the lineups could look like when the Wild and Blackhawks hit the ice tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus) at the Xcel Energy Center.

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Cal Clutterbuck
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Matt Cullen - Casey Wellman
Darroll Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Brad Staubitz - Cody Almond - Colton Gillies
Nick Schultz - Mike Lundin
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Greg Zanon - Clayton Stoner
Niklas Backstrom will start in goal, with Matt Hackett the backup.
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Daniel Carcillo - Dave Bolland - Andrew Brunette
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Nick Leddy
Sami Lepisto - Steve Montador
Ray Emery will start in goal, with Corey Crawford the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Quote of the Day

Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season