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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 2:14 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Now settled, Pittsburgh's Neal scoring again

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal won't wonder again why some players - even those with a history of producing - struggle after being dealt to a contending team at the trading deadline.

Last season, he was one of those players.

With the injured Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup and the Penguins' scoring average down a goal per game from when their stars were playing, they acquired Neal and his reliable scoring Feb. 21 from the Dallas Stars.

Only that scoring touch disappeared when he left the Stars to join a team loaded with injured stars. Pressing to produce for a team that was winning even without Crosby and Malkin, Neal was held to a single goal in 20 regular-season games. He also had only one in Pittsburgh's seven-game Eastern Conference playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

An unfamiliarity with a new city, new teammates and a new system, and perhaps some loneliness associated with his family being back home in Dallas, admittedly affected Neal's game.

"I underestimated it," Neal said Saturday before the Penguins played the Buffalo Sabres at Consol Energy Center. "I keep saying you get one phone call in your life that turns your life upside down within seconds. You're on a plane and in a whole city, with new teammates, and it's a huge change."

No wonder Neal welcomed a new start this season.

"I came in fresh, a better mindset and everything was easier with the living situation," said Neal, who relocated to Pittsburgh during the offseason. "It was just a lot more of a comfortable feeling coming to the rink. Now, knowing all of your teammates and really being a part of the Penguins is definitely better."

The stats sheet agrees with him. Playing mostly on a line with Malkin and Steve Sullivan, Neal had four goals and an assist in Pittsburgh's first five games, including two goals during a 3-2 overtime loss Thursday to the Washington Capitals.

"When Geno, Sully and Neal are on the ice together, they enjoy every single shift and they create so many chances and plays," defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "It can be a dangerous line definitely."

Malkin won't play against the Sabres because of right knee soreness - he will be missing his third game in the Penguins' last four - but Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said playing the Penguins without their stars is no treat. The Sabres lost to Pittsburgh twice last season after Crosby sustained a concussion the first week of January.

"They're very dangerous. They're a hard-working, competitive team and they're getting goal scoring from different areas that makes them dangerous," Ruff said. "In our case, we know we've got to take care of our part. We know what to bring and we've got to be ready to outplay them."

The Sabres are looking to bounce back after losing their home opener to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 on Friday night after permitting two shorthanded goals. They began the season with a pair of victories in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere in Europe, beating the Los Angeles Kings in Berlin and the Anaheim Ducks in Helsinki.

"I thought we played a really good two games overseas, but we got away from our game (against Carolina). I think we got caught up a little bit in the hype of home ice, the home opener," Ruff said. "We've talked about that and now it's get back to work and play our game."

Neal is expected to move onto the Crosby line once the Penguins' captain returns; Crosby skated on a line with Neal and Sullivan during the morning skate but still has not been cleared medically to play in games.

"Obviously it would be great  to play with Sid, but the way we're playing with Geno, who knows what will happen?" Neal said. "As long as the team is doing well and I'm contributing, things are going great."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 2:12 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bergenheim to face ex-Lightning mates for first time

Sean Bergenheim has fond memories of his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning, particularly his impressive playoff performance last season.

But there won't be much time for nostalgia Saturday night when Bergenheim faces his former team in the regular season for the first time as a member of the Florida Panthers.

"There's good guys on that team," Bergenheim said after the Panthers' morning skate Saturday. "Even though I keep in contact with a few of them, on the ice there's definitely contact, but it's maybe not the good kind."

Bergenheim says he still keeps in touch with a few players on the Lightning, among them Victor Hedman, Dominic Moore and Mattias Ritola. There have been text messages exchanged in the last few days, but nothing about Saturday night's game.

The Panthers and Lightning faced each other twice in the exhibition season, and Bergenheim was in the lineup for one of those games.

"I kind of did feel different," Bergenheim said. "It was good to get that over with, the first game against them. Now, I actually feel pretty normal right now. I'm looking forward to playing against the system and these guys. I've got to set aside that there's some friends. They're not friends on the ice."

One of the many veterans acquired by the Panthers in July, Bergenheim signed with Florida after playing a major role in the Lightning's run to the Eastern Conference final, where Tampa Bay lost in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Bergenheim had 14 goals in 80 regular season games in 2010-11, but then erupted for nine goals in 16 playoff games.

He agreed to a four-year, $11 million deal with the Panthers on July 1 when it was 5 a.m. Finland time. Later that day, he got married in Helsinki.

In his first two games with the Panthers this season, Bergenheim has yet to collect a point but is averaging about 15 minutes a game on the third line with center Marcel Goc and right wing Jack Skille.

Bergenheim's Panthers debut came last Saturday against the Islanders, the team with which he began his NHL career.

Like that game, Bergenheim figures to have just a little bit of extra motivation against Tampa Bay, even if he tries to downplay it.

"When you play against a former team, there's always a little bit of extra," he said. "Right now, we're focusing on our game, getting our game going. There's a little bit of extra motivation, but I really don't see it as that big of a deal."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 1:30 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boucher shakes up Lightning lineuup

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher is making some lineup changes for Saturday night's game at Florida, and there are a couple of reasons.

Forwards Tom Pyatt and Blair Jones will be skating after being scratches for Tampa Bay's last two and three games, respectively. Matt Gilroy will suit up on defense after sitting out the last two games, while Mathieu Garon will make his second start of the season in net.

Forwards Ryan Shannon and Teddy Purcell will be out of the lineup for the first time this season, while defenseman Bruno Gervais will sit after playing the last two games.

Boucher said the lineup changes were made both to try to jumpstart his team, which has lost three in a row after winning its opener, and to keep his forwards sharp.

"Jones and Pyatt are guys who work extremely hard," Boucher said. "They're physical, they're in the other team's face, they're very reliable defensively, they block shots, they're great in penalty kills. It's something I hate to get rid of when I don't put them in the lineup, and that's our problem right now.

"It's a good problem to have: We have too many guys that can play as forwards. We've got a lot of depth with the forwards; right now we don't want to lose anybody, so we want to make sure that guys play games."

That said, Boucher is hoping the lineup changes can spark his team.

"If you look at the final four teams, San Jose really hasn't played yet, they've played one game, Boston is 1-3, Vancouver is 1-2 and not playing their best, and it's the same for us," Boucher said. "And I know why. It's because we're still there. We're still in the playoffs, We're still thinking that that's what we are, that's our team. But that's not true. We're a new team, it's a new year and everything is to do right now. We were there because we earned it. We earned it every day last year and right now I think [subconsciously], we talk about it, but [subconsciously] the players think, hey, we are that team. We're not. We have to become that team. That's difficult and it's going to take a lot of work."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 1:08 PM

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

Former roommates likely to collide

While most of the attention for tonight's game is focused on Kings center Mike Richards and his return to Philadelphia, there is another side to that trade -- former King Wayne Simmonds, who has moved into a top-six forward role with Philadelphia, and has earned a spot on the top power-play unit, will face his former team for the first time.

The previous two seasons, Simmonds shared a home with defenseman Drew Doughty, and the two became very close friends. Doughty said he's looking forward to seeing a lot of his former roommate on the ice tonight.

While it won't be the first time the pair have faced off -- Doughty's Guelph Storm and Simmonds' Belleville Bulls were frequent opponents in the Ontario Hockey League -- it will be a bit different this time because of their relationship.

"We have that friendship that we developed over three years playing together," Doughty told NHL.com, "but I played against him in the OHL so I know how gritty and how tough he is to play against. I'm not really looking forward to playing against him, but there's no friends on the ice. I'm sure we won't be afraid to take a couple runs at each other. … We're not going to try to hurt each other, but if he gives me a shot, I'm going to make sure I give him a shot."

Doughty said while it was rough to see his friend head east, he said the return -- Richards, an All-Star and Olympic gold medalist who captained the Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final -- made it a bit easier to take.

"When he got traded I was pretty disappointed, but getting Richy (Richards) is huge for us," said Doughty. "He makes us a lot better team. The trade is good for both parties. Obviously we miss him, but I think picking up Richy was huge."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 1:06 PM

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

Chicago's Hossa questionable against Cup champs

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa did not participate in the morning skate Saturday for the Chicago Blackhawks and was classified as a "game-time decision" by coach Joel Quenneville against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Hossa, 31, also missed practice Friday because of an upper-body injury that Quenneville expects to be "very short term."

Hossa, who's missed a total of 42 games since joining the Hawks in 2010, is off to another good start after tallying a goal and two assists in three games while playing right wing on the second line next to center Patrick Kane.

Kane, who was moved to center in training camp, hadn't spent much time on the ice at the same time as Hossa prior to the move. It's been working out great so far, though -- with the pair of slick playmakers setting their line up for good scoring chances on almost every shift of a 4-3 win Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Forward Viktor Stalberg skated in Hossa's place Saturday morning and could play there if Hossa can't go. Stalberg's also been out since the preseason with a minor knee injury and could play on the fourth line if Hossa does play.

"I've been playing with (Hossa) for the past couple weeks now and developed a little bit of chemistry," Kane told NHL.com. "Right now, you'd like to see him in, because we played pretty well last game. So, it just seems like we're starting to hit our stride. I was talking to him this morning and hopefully it's one of those things where if he takes off a night it's better for him for the whole season."

Kane said Stalberg's speed could also mix well with his own playmaking skill.

"Viktor's obviously very fast, so it's kind of the same thing," Kane said. "I'll try to get him the puck in good areas and hopefully he can win some pucks back for us."

Boston's top center, David Krejci, is also out. He didn't make the trip after injuring a core muscle in practice earlier this week, while defenseman Adam McQuaid (upper body) was ruled out for this game on Friday by coach Claude Julien.

Matt Bartkowski will likely dress in place of McQuaid.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 12:59 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins and Sabres

PITTSBURGH -- Jhonas Enroth will make his first start in goal for Buffalo, one night after the Sabres gave up two shorthanded goals in a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in their home opener. Enroth was 9-2-2 last season while being recalled from Portland (AHL) five times. He was the first NHL goalie to gain each of his first three wins in a shootout.

"In back to back situations, we're definitely going to use him," coach Lindy Ruff said. "He had a great preseason for us. I don't have any hesitation putting him in. We've got faith he can play well for us. I think it's important for us – we're in a busy part of our schedule and we're looking for him to step in for us."

Enroth stopped 28 of 29 shots during a 1-0 loss to the Penguins on Nov. 24, 2010.

SABRES

Thomas Vanek - Luke Adam - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Ville Leino - Brad Boyes
Cody McCormick - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Robyn Regehr - Tyler Myers
Jordan Leopold - Christian Ehrhoff
Andrej Sekera - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Enroth will start in goal, with Ryan Miller as the backup

PENGUINS

Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby* - James Neal
Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Pascal Dupuis
Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams

Kris Letang - Deryk Engelland
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Ben Lovejoy

Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net after missing Thursday's game against the Capitals with flu-like symptoms. Brent Johnson will be the backup.

*Crosby is practicing with the top line, but remains out indefinitely as he recovers from a concussion. Coach Dan Bylsma did not say who would move onto that line. The only other healthy center on the roster, Mark Letestu, was scratched against Washington. Center Evgeni Malkin won't play due to right knee soreness.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 12:57 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Lightning, Panthers

Here’s a look at what the lineups might look like tonight when Florida plays host to Tampa Bay at BankAtlantic Center:

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Brett Connolly
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Nate Thompson
Mattias Ritola - Dominic Moore - Steve Downie
Blair Jones - Tom Pyatt - Adam Hall

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Pavel Kubina - Brett Clark
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy

Mathieu Garon

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
David Booth - Tomas Kopecky - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Ryan Carter - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 12:40 PM

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

Likely lineups for Flyers, Kings

Here are the potential lineups for tonight's game between the Flyers and Kings from Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.

FLYERS
Wayne Simmonds - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Jaromir Jagr - Claude Giroux - James van Riemsdyk
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Scott Hartnell
Zac Rinaldo - Maxime Talbot - Andreas Nodl

Chris Pronger - Matt Carle
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Andrej Meszaros - Andreas Lilja

Defenseman Matt Walker will sit out, and forward Jody Shelley will be out serving the fourth regular-season game of his suspension.

Ilya Bryzgalov will make his fourth straight start in goal, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup.

KINGS
Simon Gagne - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Dustin Brown
Brad Richardson - Jarret Stoll - Trent Hunter
Ethan Moreau - Trevor Lewis - Kyle Clifford

Drew Doughty - Willie Mitchell
Rob Scuderi - Jack Johnson
Davis Drewiske - Matt Greene

Forwards Kevin Westgarth and Scott Parse, and defenseman Alec Martinez all will out.

Jonathan Quick likely will start in goal, with Jonathan Bernier the backup.

More in a bit with news out of the locker rooms. But for now, check out the preview of tonight's game.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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POSTED ON Friday, 10.14.2011 / 4:09 PM

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

Projected lineups for the Sharks, Ducks

Here are the lines and pairings for tonight's game between the Ducks and Sharks from the Honda Center in Anaheim (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA). It's the first game for either team since Oct. 8, a break they're happy finally is over.

SHARKS
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Patrick Marleau
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Dan Boyle - Douglas Murray
Brent Burns - Marc-Edouard Vlasic

The third pairing will see Jason Demers skating with either Jim Vandermeer or Colin White. Either Vandermeer or White likely will sit out.

Thomas Greiss will start in goal, with Antti Niemi serving as the backup. Niemi is working his way back from having a cyst surgically removed from an undisclosed body part.

DUCKS
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Jason Blake - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Devante Smith-Pelly - Andrew Cogliano - Andrew Gordon
Brandon McMillan - Maxime Macenauer - George Parros

Lubomir Visnovsky - Toni Lydman
Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler

The third pairing will consist of Luca Sbisa skating with Nate Guenin or Sheldon Brookbank, with the other likely sitting out.

Jonas Hill will start in goal, with Dan Ellis backing him up.

The Ducks will honor former defenseman Ruslan Salei, who was killed in this summer's plane crash in Russia. The Sharks also have a tribute to one of their 2011 draft picks, who also died in the crash.

And for more about tonight's game, here's the preview.
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POSTED ON Friday, 10.14.2011 / 3:58 PM

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

Foster on conditioning assignment

Anaheim defenseman Kurtis Foster will begin a two-game conditioning assignment with Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Friday.

Foster missed almost all of the preseason to have a wire removed from his left thigh. The wire was put in place to secure the bone he fractured in March 2008 and was causing inflammation.

Foster was acquired in the offseason from the Edmonton Oilers for Andy Sutton.
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For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory