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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Stars begin grueling stretch trying to hold off Coyotes

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars embark on an 18-day stretch beginning tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes in which they will play 11 games without having consecutive home games at any point. Dallas clearly wants to start off this run on a positive note, but there is a lot more in play surrounding tonight's Pacific Division clash.

That's because after Phoenix beat Detroit 3-1 in Glendale on Monday night, the Coyotes (24-21-8) pulled into a tie with the Stars for the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings with 56 points. The Stars (27-22-2) currently hold the tiebreaker because they have played two fewer games.

First-year Stars coach Glen Gulutzan is well aware how big tonight's game is for his club, especially playing a division rival they figure to be battling the rest of the way for one of the bottom two playoff spots in the West.

"Every game's important for us, but some have different meanings. This is a team we're tied with. This is direct competition. This is a team that wants what we want," Gulutzan said. "This is a bigger game for us. They played last night. We're fresh. This is a real big game for us."

While the Coyotes come into this game on the second end of a back-to-back and in the early stages of a stretch where they play four games in six nights, Dave Tippett's club does have history on their side. The Coyotes are 2-0-1 in their last four games at American Airlines Center, but they are just 12-11-4 on the road this year.

Phoenix is 4-3-1 in the second game of a back-to-back this season, a solid mark. But for Stars center Vernon Fiddler, who spent his last few seasons with the Coyotes, jumping on tonight's foe early is vital, especially with them having played Monday.

"It's an advantage for any team -- a team's coming in back-to-back. With their travel, they get in late. We've been waiting for them and we have to be focused and ready," Fiddler said. "It seems like when we're a little more physical, we're a better hockey team. It's something we're going to start doing tonight."

The Stars last played on Saturday when they beat the Wild 2-1 in a shootout. No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen was stellar, stopping 33 of 34 shots and two of three attempts by Minnesota in the shootout. It was Lehtonen's third consecutive win after a run of four straight losses. He is 4-1-3 with a 1.91 goals-against-average in his nine career starts against Phoenix.

But if there is a key to tonight's game for both clubs, it involves discipline. Phoenix is the least-penalized club in the NHL, averaging just 7.8 minutes per night while Dallas averages 13.1, making them the League's third-most penalized team.

However, should they play a fairly disciplined game and be able to draw some penalties, the Stars' power play could be a factor. Dallas has scored on the power play in three straight games, which ties a season high, and it's a streak the Stars would like to continue tonight.

"I think we have to get a real good start here. We have a lot of games coming up here. There are so many big games coming up," Stars winger Loui Eriksson said. "We have to play well to make it to the playoffs. Starting today against Phoenix, it's a four-point game for us here. If we win, we can get two extra points against them before we go on a road trip here with a lot of games coming up, so it's going to be an important game."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:30 PM

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

Cats stick with Clemmensen; Theodore not ready yet

WASHINGTON -- Florida Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore did not travel with the team for its critical contest against the Washington Capitals with the Southeast Division lead in the balance, but coach Kevin Dineen said he is close to returning to the lineup.

Theodore has not played since Jan. 20 because of a knee injury. He missed five games in the first half of January because of the knee before returning to make a pair of starts. Dineen said Theodore is expected to skate Tuesday and Wednesday in South Florida.

Scott Clemmensen will make his sixth straight start in net for the Panthers. He was pulled near the end of the second period in Florida's last contest, a 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay, but Dineen put him back in for the third period. He was 3-0-2 and had allowed 10 goals in his previous five starts.

Here is the projected lineup for the Panthers:

Tomas Flesichmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Kopecky - Mike Santorelli - Shawn Matthias
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Matt Bradley

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:28 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Devils, Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- According to media who attended Rangers practice Tuesday morning in Greenburgh, N.Y., defenseman Steve Eminger stayed late on the ice, a sign that he will not return to the lineup against the New Jersey Devils.

Eminger has been recovering from a separated shoulder suffered against the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 17. Rookie defenseman Stu Bickel will likely be sent down to Connecticut of the AHL when Eminger is ready, but Bickel drew high praise from coach John Tortorella for his performance in a 5-2 win against Flyers on Sunday afternoon.

The only lineup change for the Devils on Tuesday will be the insertion of Cam Janssen in place of Brad Mills, who was sent to Albany of the AHL. Defensemen Adam Larsson (back) and Henrik Tallinder (leg) and forward Ryan Carter (hand) will not play.

Here is what the line combinations will likely be for Tuesday's matchup at Madison Square Garden:

DEVILS
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Ilya Kovalchuk
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier
Petr Sykora - Dainus Zubrus - David Clarkson
Cam Janssen - Jacob Josefson - Eric Boulton

Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Matt Taormina - Kurtis Foster

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

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

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

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:25 PM

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

Lineups for Flyers, Islanders

PHILADELPHIA -- Here are what the lineups likely will look like when the Flyers and Islanders face off tonight here at Wells Fargo Center.

Highlighting the Flyers' lineup is the return of center Danny Briere, who missed the last six games due to a concussion. While the team didn't skate in line combinations this morning, the assumption is the line combinations will look something like this:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Maxime Talbot - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Tom Sestito

Braydon Coburn - Kimmo Timonen
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bergeron
Andrej Meszaros - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup.

Healthy scratches will be forwards Jody Shelley and Harry Zolnierczyk, and defenseman Andreas Lilja.

With the Islanders missing defensemen Milan Jurcina (elbow laceration) and Travis Hamonic (facial injuries), rookie Aaron Ness will make his NHL debut. Here's how the rest of their lineup could look:

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
PA Parenteau - Frans Nielsen - Michael Grabner
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Rhett Rakhshani
Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter - Tim Wallace

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Dylan Reese
Aaron Ness - Mark Eaton

Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal, with Al Montoya the backup.

Forward Brian Rolston will be the only healthy scratch.

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

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:15 PM

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

Ness excited to make NHL debut

PHILADELPHIA -- With the New York Islanders missing defenseman Milan Jurcina and Travis Hamonic, Aaron Ness will make his NHL debut tonight here against the Flyers.

The 21-year-old blueliner, in his first professional season, has 17 points and a plus-6 rating in 48 games with AHL Bridgeport. A 2008 second-round pick (No. 40), Ness' strength is his offensive ability.

"I'm going to try to play on the offensive side as much as possible," he said following this morning's practice. "But for me, the first game tonight, I have to just be solid out there defensively, as well."

Coach Jack Capuano said Ness will start the game paired with veteran Mark Eaton.

"He must be really excited," said Isles captain and fellow defenseman Mark Streit. "He's a good player. He played a couple preseason games and he did really well. He's a great skater. That makes it way easier for him. He gets to pucks quick and I'm sure he's going to have a great game … just keep it simple. Move the puck, skate, play good defensively and I'm sure he'll be all right."

Streit said the most important thing for Ness is to enjoy the moment.

"It's important that you enjoy it a lot," he said. "You shouldn't be overly nervous. Enjoy it. You don't get too many first games in the NHL."

Ness said he knows the key for him will be playing to his strengths and not trying to do too much.

"The biggest thing (teammates) have been telling me is play my game," he said. "Obviously why I got the call here is they like what I'm doing, and I just have to continue what I'm doing in the American league."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning recall Oberg as insurance

TAMPA -- In what qualifies as somewhat of a mystery move, the Tampa Bay Lightning recalled defenseman Evan Oberg from Norfolk (American Hockey League) on Tuesday.

This is Oberg’s eighth recall with the Lightning since he was acquired from Florida on Dec. 2. He has appeared in one game, logging 1:21 of ice time.

But what makes the call-up unusual this time is the timing and circumstances. Previously, Oberg arrived when Tampa Bay faced multiple injuries, including injuries to Victor Hedman and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Currently, the Lightning defensive corps is as healthy as it has been all season, with Hedman returning to the lineup and Marc-Andre Bergeron set to return at any time.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher prefers to dress seven defensemen as a rule, but with Bergeron back, the team will be carrying nine players on the blueline, scratching two each game.

The addition of Oberg to the roster has lead to some speculation about a pending trade, something Boucher was quick to dismiss at his conference after the morning skate Tuesday.

“There are no trades or anything to speculate on,” Boucher said. “We don’t say everything and obviously some of our defensemen have little ‘boo-boos’ that we’re not sure about, so it’s just a precaution thing.

“If something happens, it will be something out of the blue. There is nothing hidden. It’s just the fact that we have some players that are practicing and playing but we just want to make sure. If I were 100-percent sure of Bergeron returning today we wouldn’t need to take that precaution, but right now there are things that I can’t talk about that we’re taking precautions on. Nothing gigantic.”

Later, Boucher indicated that Bergeron appeared ready to play on Tuesday night against the L.A.Kings.

“Bergeron, our top-scoring defenseman, might be back tonight,” Boucher said, “so that might be interesting too.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Kings vs. Lightning

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will wrap up their homestand Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Kings make a rare visit to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Kings have not played in Tampa since Nov. 14, 2009. Only San Jose has currently gone longer without visiting Tampa Bay. The Kings are in the middle of a season-long six-game cross-country road trip which has not begun well. L.A. has dropped their past two decisions, losing 1-0 in St. Louis and 2-1 against Carolina on Saturday night.

Tuesday night, the Lightning complete a stretch that had them at home -- where they are 15-7-2 -- for seven of their past nine games. They arrived limping, in the throes of a season-long seven game losing streak, but have turned that around and have captured 13 of a possible 14 points since. The run has put Tampa Bay back in the Stanley Cup Playoff hunt, currently 10 points out of the final post-season spot.

For Lightning coach Guy Boucher, it’s a matter of the team jelling at the right time.

“To see the effort from the players at all positions means there is a team chemistry; a team vision and cohesion,” Boucher said. “That’s what you’re after the entire year. Sometimes it takes more time than others but that’s what we have right now.”

But why did it take the Lightning 51 games to reach this point? Boucher points to several factors, but mostly attributes misplaced expectations and loss of focus as the culprits.

“The reality is, it often happens that a player that has some success the previous year comes in thinking they’ll take their game to a way other level,” Boucher said. “The expectations are not in the right place. It took a long time for us as individuals and a team to get the right expectations. That, and the injuries and away games early in the season. But to battle through that and get to where we are now was the whole point. It just took time.”

Dwayne Roloson gets the nod and will start Tuesday night for Tampa Bay. It will be Roloson’s first start since the All-Star break, when he made 33 saves to beat Phoenix Jan 21. Mathieu Garon has started the past four games.

“I knew I wanted to get Roli in soon enough after the break,” Boucher said. “He played well last game he played so I wanted to find a way to get him back in, but at the same time, Garon was doing well.”

The prospect of facing L.A.’s goaltender Jonathan Quick and his 22 wins and 1.91 goals against average is no concern to Boucher at all.

“Pavelec, Tim Thomas, we’ve been meeting them all;” Boucher said. “One great goalie or another great goalie, to me, it’s the same approach.”

Steven Stamkos, the NHL’s leading goal scorer, echoed Boucher’s thoughts about facing Quick.

“We don’t get to see Quick that often, but we pretty much have the same plan against any goalie; the basics,” Stamkos said. “Try to get traffic in front and put lots of pucks on the net and hope for the best.”

The “best” would be heading out on the road with another win, but Stamkos, who turned 22 Tuesday and was drenched in shaving cream in an on-ice celebration, knows that won’t come easily.

“These guys are a very good defensive team,” Stamkos said. “They play a lot of low-scoring games. They’re physical and they’re fast, so we have to play our best defensive game today because these guys don’t give up a lot and they can capitalize on chances. We know the importance of this one.”


KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Kyle Clifford - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Jack Johnson
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

LIGHTNING

Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Martin St. Louis - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - Nate Thompson
JT Wyman - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais
Matt Gilroy

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 12:55 PM

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

Projected lineups for Coyotes vs. Stars

DALLAS -- Here are the projected lineups for Tuesday night’s game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

COYOTES

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

Keith Yandle-Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Rotislav Klesla
Michael Roszival-Derek Morris

Mike Smith (starter)
Jason LaBarbera

Scratches: Paul Bissonnette, Chris Summers.

Injuries: David Schlemko (foot).

Notes:  The Coyotes beat Detroit 3-1 on Monday night in Glendale, ending a seven-game losing streak against the Red Wings. Martin Hanzal had two goals against Detroit, who has now beaten the Sharks and Red Wings in consecutive games. Dave Tippett’s club is 4-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs so far this season and has a goal differential of plus-1 in those contests. These clubs have already met three times this year but only once in Dallas, where the Stars won 2-1 in overtime back on Oct. 10. Phoenix is 1-0-1 in the two meetings in Glendale. The Coyotes are 12-11-4 on the road and are 4-4-2 in their past 10 games.

STARS

Steve Ott-Jamie Benn-Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom-Mike Ribeiro-Loui Eriksson
Adam Burish-Vernon Fiddler-Radek Dvorak
Toby Petersen-Tom Wandell-Tomas Vincour

Sheldon Souray-Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman-Trevor Daley
Philip Larsen-Alex Goligoski

Kari Lehtonen (starter)
Richard Bachman

Scratches: Mark Fistric, Adam Pardy, Jake Dowell.

Injuries: Brenden Morrow (upper body).

Notes: Dallas begins a stretch with Tuesday night’s game against Phoenix where it will play in a different building in 11 straight games. There are a number of home games, five to be exact, coupled with six road contests but the Stars won’t have consecutive games in the Lone Star State until Feb. 24 against Minnesota, when they start a three-game homestand. The Stars beat the Wild 2-1 in a shootout Saturday night at American Airlines Center and will be without captain Brenden Morrow, who continues to be bothered by a combination neck/shoulder issue. Morrow will miss a second straight game and also won’t travel for a quick, two-game road trip to Columbus and Buffalo later this week.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 12:50 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Predators ready to get Rinne more rest

NASHVILLE – Despite goalie Pekka Rinne having the benefit of the All-Star break off, Nashville coach Barry Trotz nonetheless gave him a rare night off this past Thursday eventhough the Predators were not in a back-to-back games situation.

Rinne, who has won 11 straight and has 30 wins, ranks second in the League with 47 starts. Trotz said it was an effort to get back-up Anders Lindback, who has played in only 10 games, a start.

Trotz said Lindback is going to start playing more for the Predators.

“I wanted to re-introduce everybody back into the lineup, if you will, and Anders is going to have to play some games here,” Trotz said of both goalies and forwards alike. “I don’t want him sitting too long either.”

Rinne, however, is back in the lineup for Tuesday night's showdown with Vancouver.


Lindback has played so rarely the past two seasons that despite being on the roster for virtually the entire 2010-11 season, he preserved his rookie status entering this one. He also has been sent to the minors at times simply to get in some games.

But that has changed perhaps because Rinne, by winning so much of late – the Preds have won 14 of their past 17 -- has given the Predators the luxury of not having to be desperate to earn every point.

With 68 points and 29 games remaining, Nashville basically only has to average a point per game to reach a threshold that should get the team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I think it gives you a little bit of breathing room,” Trotz said. “If you’re trying to catch everybody, you need every point, yeah, you don’t have that luxury. From our standpoint, we’re going to need both of them anyways. But when I can get Peks some rest, when I feel I can get him some rest, I try to do that. And we’ve been managing his practice, sort of, and game time, even in terms of drills we select so he’s not getting worn out."

Trotz said that forward Jerred Smithson, one of Nashville’s better faceoff men and penalty killers, would likely get back in the lineup. Smithson, a mainstay in the lineup as a checking line player, has only played in four of the past 12 games, owing both to injury and a logjam of 14 healthy forwards.
 
Projected lines:
 
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patrick Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Jerred Smithson - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Matt Halischuk - Craig Smith - Brandon Yip
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
 
Out: Brian McGrattan, Gabriel Bourque, Jack Hillen
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 12:30 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues vs. Senators

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for Tuesday’s game between the Ottawa Senators and the St. Louis Blues at Scotiabank Place:

SENATORS
Milan MichalekJason SpezzaColin Greening
Erik CondraKyle TurrisDaniel Alfredsson
Nick FolignoZack SmithChris Neil
Kaspars DaugavinsZenon KonopkaJim O'Brien

Filip KubaErik Karlsson
Jared CowenSergei Gonchar
Chris PhillipsMatt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

Brian Lee is day-to-day with a lower-body injury while Bobby Butler is a healthy scratch.

BLUES

Jamie LangenbrunnerDavid BackesT.J. Oshie
David PerronPatrik BerglundMatt D'Agostini
Chris PorterVladimir SobotkaChris Stewart
B.J. CrombeenScott NicholRyan Reaves

Carlo ColaiacovoAlex Pietrangelo
Kris RussellRoman Polak
Barret JackmanKevin Shattenkirk

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Jason Arnott is day-to-day with a bruised shoulder. He made the trip to Ottawa but is not expected to play. Alexander Steen (concussion), Andy McDonald (concussion) and Kent Huskins (ankle) remain out.
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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic