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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 4:16 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Holmstrom plans on setting up shop like usual

VANCOUVER -- Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom will play Thursday night after missing one game with swollen knees, and plans to go straight to his usual spot in front of Vancouver's net. The 39-year-old isn't worried about his health.

The knees are a long way from the heart.

"I play my game, I like the game I play, and it's a good spot to be, the puck is going to be there sooner or later," Holmstrom, who didn't play in Calgary on Tuesday and was hobbling around with ice on his knees, told NHL.com. “I never think about if I take a beating.”

Holmstrom has taken plenty of pounding during 14 NHL seasons establishing himself as the League's best net-front presence. He's a fourth liner now, but remains invaluable on the first power-play unit, screening opposing goalies and scoring on tips and rebounds.

For Holmstrom, it's an easier job now -- even at his age -- then when he first started.

"After the lockout it seems like you can get to the net much easier, you can't do the cross checking before you get to the net, but when the puck comes there, hell still breaks loose," he said with a smile. "But back then you got three cross checks to the neck before you get to the paint, and then you get cross-checked again. So it's a huge difference."

Detroit was 0-for-3 on the power play without Holmstrom against the Flames, though his replacement, Jan Mursak, who will come out of the lineup against the Canucks on Thursday, did set up a goal in just 7:32 of ice time on the fourth line.

Here are the rest of the expected lineups and changes for the Red Wings and Canucks:
 
RED WINGS
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

There is one change on defense as well, with Jakub Kindl replacing Mike Commodore on the third pairing, ending a run of four-straight starts for the latter.

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard, who was given a day off Wednesday and, along with fellow All Star Pavel Datsyuk, ordered to stay away from the rink entirely, makes his sixth-straight start while Ty Conklin backs up.
 
CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Mason Raymond - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Aaron Rome

As the Canucks wrap up a six-game homestand broken up by the All-Star break, the only change is in goal, where Roberto Luongo returns after watching Cory Schneider's often-spectacular 37-save effort in a 3-2 overtime win over Chicago on Tuesday.

The win included a highlight-reel diving save to take away an empty net after he gave the puck away behind his own net, prompting Luongo to joke about trying to top his partner with a "backhand sauce up the middle and then dive back to see if I can get it."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 3:44 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Several teams face interesting trade decisions

Earlier Thursday, we touched on the situation for the Dallas Stars as the Trade Deadline approaches. The Stars could go in a few different directions, and they are not alone.

There are probably 28 teams that still think the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a remote possibility, though that number could shrink by a few well before the deadline. Still, there is a group of teams that will have to decide if now is the time to strike and add a player or players to bolster a playoff run, or if sticking to the original plan of patience and developing a contender through young players.

Here’s a look at a few of those teams that could swing the number of buyers and sellers and alter the market of available players in drastic fashion:

DALLAS STARS: As already discussed, the Stars are in ninth place and could buy, sell or stay put. GM Joe Nieuwenduk has retooled the roster and there are young centerpieces in place like Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski and Loui Eriksson and a couple of potential impact prospects in Scott Glennie, Jamie Oleksiak and Jack Campbell.

OTTAWA SENATORS: Nobody thought the Senators would even be in a position to battle for a playoff spot, let alone solidly in the top six of the Eastern Conference. Now that the Senators are a legitimate playoff contender, should GM Bryan Murray try to add veterans one year after dealing a bunch of them away and starting a rebuild? The Senators have prospects and young players at every position and no obvious long-term holes, but Murray may want to build on the momentum of this surprising campaign.

COLORADO AVALANCHE: The Avalanche have yo-yoed a bit in recent seasons, ending up with high picks in 2009 and 2011 with a surprise playoff appearance in 2010 mixed in. Colorado is back in the mix again this season. GM Greg Sherman made a big splash by paying a high price for young goaltender Semyon Varlamov, but veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere has taken control of the nets in Denver and has helped the Avalanche to within a point of eighth place in the Western Conference. The Avalanche could make a push, or they can sit tight and be content with a nice collection of young talent with which to build. If they stumble and decide to sell, don’t be surprised if Sherman tries to obtain high picks in the 2012 Entry Draft after dealing his first pick in 2012 and a No. 2 in either 2012 or 2013 for Varlamov.

WINNIPEG JETS: The Jets are five points back in both the race for the Southeast Division title and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Winnipeg is a young team and given it is the first year back in Manitoba there may not be as much pressure to make the playoffs as there might be in places like Dallas, Minnesota and Florida. Still, the Jets have plenty of salary-cap space and could also look to add some help up front and make a push for an even more memorable return for the NHL in Winnipeg.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 3:14 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

WILD
Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Darroll Powe - Warren Peters - Carson McMillan
Matt Kassian - Chad Rau - Jed Ortmeyer

Nick Schultz - Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk - Nate Prosser
Greg Zanon - Clayton Stoner

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

Injuries: RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), C Mikko Koivu (shoulder), LW Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and RW Jarod Palmer (concussion) are out.

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'ReillyMilan Hejduk
TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - Peter Mueller
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Erik Johnson - Stefan Elliott
Kyle Quincey - Ryan Wilson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

Injuries: LW Matt Duchene (knee) is out.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 1:06 PM

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

Byfuglien returns to lineup as Jets visit Lightning

TAMPA -- Two teams on the outside looking in at the postseason hook up tonight when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Tampa Bay Times at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Jets, heading into a stretch of three road games in four nights amid a season-long six-game road swing got some good news as defenseman Dustin Byfuglien returns to the lineup after missing 16 games with a knee injury.

"Looks like Buf is ready to go," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "That's a welcome addition. He stabilizes the other guys."

The unknown is how much Byfuglien will be able to play, but Noel cautioned about expecting too much.

"In all fairness, he hasn't played for a while so we have to be a little bit patient," Noel said. "He'll have enthusiasm, and most times it goes good for the first game and then drops off later, but we'll monitor his condition level and see where he's at."

Even if Byfuglien's minutes on the ice are minimal, his teammates are glad to see him return.

"He's an important guy on our team," goalie Ondrej Pavelec said. "Lately we've had trouble scoring goals and I'm pretty sure this guy will help us."

Tampa Bay has won seven straight home games against the Thrashers/Jets and is riding a season-long five game winning streak. This is the third meeting between these two teams this season, with Tampa Bay and Winnipeg each winning at home.

"They've got some dangerous players," Noel said. "(Steven) Stamkos alone has 32 goals; that's pretty awesome for one guy to have that many goals. Who are you going to check? Lecavalier and St. Louis or Stamkos and whoever he's with? It should be a really good challenge. It should be a really good game."

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

JETS
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Wellwood - Nik Antropov - Eric Fehr
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Aaron Gagnon - Alexander Burmistrov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason

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

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

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 1:02 PM

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

Hurricanes focus on improving road record

BOSTON -- While the Carolina Hurricanes have enjoyed their matchups with the Boston Bruins this season to the tune of a 3-0-0 record against the defending Stanley Cup champions, they've struggled on the road regardless of the opponent.

Entering tonight's game at the TD Garden, the Hurricanes are 28th in the NHL in the road standings with a 5-13-6 record. Coach Kirk Muller, however, is quick to point out that over their last 10 games, the Hurricanes have played four contests away from Raleigh and compiled a 1-1-2 record.

"We're kind of looking at it more, not so much over the year, like game to game and we've taken it in 10-game segments," Muller said after his team's morning skate. "And with that we're really pleased with our effort on the road, and that's what we've got to keep building on."

Chad LaRose did not make the trip to Boston due to flu-like symptoms. Drayson Bowman was recalled from Charlotte of the AHL to fill LaRose's spot.

Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who missed the last seven Hurricanes games with an upper-body injury, is expected to return to the lineup. Here's a look at the projected full roster that will take the ice against the Bruins:

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Riley Nash
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Drayson Bowman

Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Bryan Allen - Tim Gleason
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Justin Peters

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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 12:48 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kostitsyn sees ice time dropping for Canadiens

Andrei Kostitsyn had 4 points over the last three games before the All-Star break, but his minutes have been precipitously dropping over the last four games and now he's being demoted to the fourth line. Kostitsyn is expected to start Thursday's game against the Devils at Prudential Center as the left wing on the fourth line with Louis Leblanc and Yannick Weber.

Over the last six games, Kostitsyn has averaged roughly 14 minutes per game, topping out at 17:12 in a shootout loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 20, when he had a goal and an assist. He's been limited to fewer than 14 minutes of ice time in four of the last six games after having the same thing happen only four times in his first 34 games.

The Canadiens have had only four power-play opportunities totaling 5:09 in the last two games, but Kostitsyn saw only five seconds of ice time on the extra-man unit. He had been getting a regular shift on the power play.

Mathieu Darche has been bumped up to third-line duty to play with Lars Eller and Mike Blunden.

Carey Price will start in net opposite Martin Brodeur. Chris Campoli will be a healthy scratch.

Here are the Canadiens' lines, D-pairs and goalies for Thursday's game:

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Scott Gomez
Mathieu Darche - Lars Eller - Mike Blunden
Andrei Kostitsyn - Louis Leblanc - Yannick Weber

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 12:40 PM

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

Bruins' blue line fortified with Ference's return

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins should be whole again on their back end tonight for the first time in more than a week, as defenseman Andrew Ference will return from his three-game suspension.        

Ference earned the ban against the New York Rangers Jan. 21, when he awkwardly pushed defenseman Ryan McDonagh into the end wall. Combined with Adam McQuaid's apparent return to health after catching a rut in the ice in the third period Tuesday and missing practice Wednesday, Ference's return will provide the Bruins with their usual sextet of blueliners against Carolina at the TD Garden.

"Well, I think he's been a pretty stable force for us back there," Bruins coach Claude Julien said about Ference, who has provided the team with 4 goals and 20 points so far this season. "I've liked his game this year. He's been a real healthy player. And I think that's what's held him back in the past, as far as people appreciating him for what he really is."

While Ference and McQuaid are scheduled to rejoin the lineup, Nathan Horton (concussion) has still not done any physical activity. Julien said the forward is improving and could exert himself later in the week.

Here is the Bruins' projected lineup:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Zach Hamill
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 11:29 AM

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

Barry's Best: Three intriguing trade candidates

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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 11:05 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Dalton Thrower comes to aid of Saskatoon teammate

KELOWNA, B.C. -- The old adage 'blood is thicker than water' was certainly put to the test, to an extent, on Wednesday during the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game here at Prospera Place.

Saskatoon's Lukas Sutter (L) and Dalton Thrower
Not that Saskatoon Blades teammates Lukas Sutter and Dalton Thrower are related, but you kind of get the feeling this friendship is not only built on trust and reliability, but watching the other's back in a time of need.

So was the case on Wednesday when, with 3:22 remaining in the second period, Thrower came to the aid of his best friend following a tremendous hit that sent Sutter head over skates in his own zone. Plymouth Whalers forward Thomas Wilson was the one to raise the ire of Thrower, who wasted little time when given a brief window of opportunity to set the record straight despite being four inches shorter and 18 pounds lighter than the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Wilson.

"I was still on the bench when it happened, but the (defenseman) changed right after the hit and I saw Wilson was still on the ice," Thrower said. "He's a great player and a physical presence out there. I didn't know a lot about him but you see he's a big guy and I saw him hitting guys out there. I felt it wasn't a clean hit and did something about it."

Wilson appeared to get the upper hand initially, but Thrower, who partners with Colorado Avalanche prospect Duncan Siemens in Saskatoon, had a good finish.

"I thought I did OK [in the fight]," Thrower told NHL.com. "He had a couple inches and pounds on me, but I wasn't too scared."

Said Sutter: "That's what best friends are for. It was a good hit and he caught me at the end of a shift, and Dalton was the first guy to have my back … I wouldn't expect anything different from him."

Sutter, the son of former Philadelphia Flyers forward Rich Sutter, said he gave Thrower a hug and said thank you after the period.

"I gave him pat on back," he said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 10:52 AM

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

Salvador in lineup for Devils

Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador will play Thursday against Montreal despite being the only active player who did not participate in Thursday's morning skate. The Devils said Salvador was "resting," but he also sat out practice Wednesday, when coach Pete DeBoer admitted he had a "minor injury."

DeBoer confirmed to reporters in Newark, N.J., that Salvador is sore, and did not rule out going with seven defensemen just in case. If DeBoer uses seven defensemen, Matt Taormina will get the nod. He's the only other healthy defenseman the Devils have in Newark right now.

Brad Mills would be the forward who comes out if Taormina is going to play.

Martin Brodeur will make his seventh straight start and Patrik Elias, who joined Salvador on the sidelines during Wednesday's practice, was the second player on the ice for the morning skate Thursday and he will play.

Rookie center Adam Henrique will miss his second straight game and fourth in the last seven games with a groin injury. Henrique skated Thursday morning (not with the team), and could potentially practice with the Devils on Friday.

Travis Zajac (sore Achilles) and Henrik Tallinder (blood clot) are on injured reserve.

Here are New Jersey's expected lines for Thursday's game. The defense pairs we're using are the same as what the Devils had for Tuesday's game. If Taormina dresses, Mills will come out of the lineup.

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

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg


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Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday