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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 2:57 PM

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

Caps need supporting players to step up

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Playing against the Boston Bruins can be tough enough at full strength, but the Washington Capitals will do so tonight without their three best players.

Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green are injured, and Alex Ovechkin will join them as spectators as he serves the first game of his three-game suspension for a charging incident with Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek during Sunday's game against the Penguins.

"I think when you lose top guys, you sort of go into survival mode," said Brooks Laich. "You want to be in close hockey games. You want to be right there at the end of the game where you have a chance to win. If you can, just get it to overtime and see what happens -- just try and survive it. They play a lot of minutes, but we're going to have to find a different way to win now."

The Capitals have played without Ovechkin in the past, and actually done a fine job without their franchise player and captain. Two seasons ago, Ovechkin missed 10 games because of injury and suspension, but Tomas Fleischmann filled in on the top line and scored a bunch of goals in the games Ovechkin missed.

Washington also has had some success without Green, but not having all three at the same time will be quite the challenge.

"It is tough," said Mathieu Perreault. "Those are your best players and we need them on the ice. At the same time, it is a good opportunity for guys to step up. We have confidence in our group here. Even without those guys, we can out-work and out-play other teams."

Perreault will center the Capitals' top line against the Bruins, flanked by Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson. Perreault had a strong game against Pittsburgh on Sunday as he played on Ovechkin's line.

The Capitals will need members of their supporting cast to move into leading roles without the trio of stars for the next three games, which includes contests against Tampa Bay and Florida following tonight's game.

"It is an opportunity for other guys -- Matty Perreault and Marcus (Johansson) are going to get more minutes and they're excited about that," Laich said. "Other guys are going to get chances on the power play, but obviously those are three big guys for our team. You're never going to replace them, but you have to try and pick up some of the slack. You have to do that by committee."

Added Perreault: "Just last game I ended up playing over 16 minutes and it was a career high for me. Obviously when you get more minutes, you get more chances to score points. It is a good chance for me to show what I can do with more minutes."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 2:36 PM

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

Ducks want to keep the wins coming

DALLAS -- The Anaheim Ducks (18-22-7, 43 points) will look to continue their nine-game unbeaten streak with a win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. Bruce Boudreau's club is 8-0-1 over its last nine games, a run of positive results that includes a 5-2 win over the same Stars on Jan. 10 at the Honda Center.

Anaheim's coach has no illusions about how rare such a good run of form is in today's National Hockey League.

"I think it has more to do with staying at a level to win, which is difficult. That's why there's not a lot of winning streaks of this nature during the course of a year," Boudreau said. "It's tough to win. Early on, teams said we're playing the Ducks. Now teams say they're playing pretty well. We'd better be ready for them. We want to be the ones to end it."

For Ducks forward Corey Perry, the 2011 Hart Trophy winner, his club's recent streak is something he chalks up to one simple fact.

"Yeah, I think everybody's starting to buy into the system. Everybody's buying into what Bruce is preaching every day," Perry said. "You look at the way we've been winning games and it starts right in our own zone -- playing tight defense and eliminating the turnovers we had in the first half of the year."

The Ducks head into tonight's game two days removed from a 3-2 win over Colorado, a game where starting goaltender Jonas Hiller stopped a season-high 43 shots to pick up his fifth straight win between the pipes.

"I don't think we played our best, but Hiller did. This was a game the goalie needed to steal you one," Boudreau said. "We just hope it doesn't become a trend. I just thought our guys looked a little tired, maybe a little more mentally tired than they were physically tired, but Jonas came up and played tremendous for us."

Tonight's game coupled with Anaheim's first two after the break against Phoenix and a second meeting with Dallas figure to be big should the Ducks hope to climb back into the playoff race, something everyone in the room is aware of.

"We talked about that this morning. It's division opponents and teams you're trying to catch in the standings," Perry said. "These are three huge games for us. Six points are on the line. You could even say 12 points are on the line because it's our division and division teams. We have to be ready to play. We want to get the two points tonight before the six-day break that we have and go into the break on a high. It'd be a good feeling if we could do that."

His coach agrees, but is also keeping things in proper perspective.

"We just want to focus on one thing at a time, and tonight's the only thing we want to focus on," Boudreau said.

But the veteran head coach did admit he and his staff are on guard to prevent his players from looking past tonight's game to the pending All-Star break.

"Yeah, I think we alluded to that this morning a little bit and we'll do it again tonight. We'll do some talking about that for sure," Boudreau said.

   

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 2:15 PM

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

In need of win, Stars hope for boost from Ribeiro

DALLAS -- It's no big secret that the Dallas Stars (24-21-2, 50 points) need a win in a big way. Dallas is currently on a five-game winless streak, a run that has seen both their record at home and on the road fall below .500.

The Stars have also not won at home since Jan. 7, going 0-2-1 in their last four at American Airlines Center and making tonight's game with the Anaheim Ducks pretty huge.

"We've played a few games here through this stretch with some good intensity. The way Anaheim's playing we're going to have to come out hard," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We're looking for a 60-minute effort from all our guys."

Dallas will get a boost from the return of top centerman Mike Ribeiro, who has missed the last seven games with a knee injury.

Gulutzan said Ribeiro is ready to go, but the veteran center wasn't quite so sure.

"Good, it feels good out there. Just see after the warm-up (before the game)," Ribeiro said. "This morning, it was a little tight when I got up. First 10 minutes, it's tight and then after I'm warmed up, it felt better."

And the one thing the veteran center wants to bring is energy to his club.

"You need to win no matter what or get a point here and there, scratch it out. It's going to be important before the break to get a win to boost the team with a positive before the break. February's going to be crazy for us," Ribeiro said. "It's going to be important to finish (the first half) the right way. It's important for us to win to just get that positive vibe back. If I can play tonight, hopefully I can bring energy for the guys and get guys excited for the game."

However, the Stars will be without captain Brenden Morrow, who is currently bothered by a neck issue, something that reared its head earlier this season and put him out for six games.

With Morrow out, Dallas called up Matt Fraser from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League who had 21 goals and 35 points in 40 games in the AHL. Fraser will skate on the Stars' fourth line alongside Jake Dowell and Tomas Vincour.

"It's exciting," Fraser said of making his NHL debut. "You dream of this day since you start playing hockey. Obviously, it's a step in the right direction for me personally. It's just a small taste. My goal is to be a professional in the NHL."

Dallas will also still be without center Jamie Benn, who will miss a fourth straight game after having his appendix out nine days ago. Benn however will likely skate in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday in Ottawa.

While the Stars players know they want more than anything to head into the All-Star break on a winning note, they also realize they’re facing a Ducks team that is unbeaten in their last nine (8-0-1).

"Obviously, they've got those big three guys (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan), those three righty skill players, big guys," Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "More importantly, they're playing really good, something like 8-1-1 in their last 10. They're playing obviously their best hockey of the year. Got off to a tough start, but they're kind of rounding into form I guess. It'll be a good test for us tonight."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 2:04 PM

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

Lightning dealing with litany of injuries

TAMPA, Fla. -- At their practice facility in Brandon, Florida, on Monday, the Tampa Bay Lightning locker room was festooned with red jerseys, which indicate "no contact" for that particular player.

A new red jersey was hung in Ryan Malone's stall, as he and Dana Tyrell joined the roster of walking wounded that now numbers nine players.

Tuesday night the Lightning will face the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and although Tampa Bay is riding a three-game winning streak, the home-ice advantage is of little interest to coach Guy Boucher.

"Right now, it doesn't really matter, home or on the road, it's a question of injuries. Malone and Tyrell are out and half of Norfolk is coming up," Boucher said, in reference to the call-ups from the team's AHL affiliate. "Upper body, lower body, back of the body and top of the head, we've got them all now. To me, it's just a blur right now."

Arriving from Norfolk will be Evan Oberg, who has made the commute numerous times this season but has yet to appear in a game, and Mike Angelides, who will be making his NHL debut.

"Angelides hasn't been up with us yet, so it will be another baptism," Boucher said.

Malone and Tyrell join a list of injured that includes Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Adam Hall, Tom Pyatt, Ryan Shannon and JT Wyman

Filling the gap has been several AHL call-ups, including Brendan Mikkelson, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Trevor Smith.

"The void is also being filled by our regulars like (Martin) St. Louis and (Vincent) Lecavalier and (Steven) Stamkos," Boucher said. "Those guys are playing a lot and they need to. Nate Thompson is practically sleeping on the ice; his tongue is hanging to the floor. He plays in all situations, offensively and defensively.

"This is the most injuries we've had since I've been here, by far. It's extremely taxing, but this (Columbus) is our last game before the break and hopefully our guys will be back after the break."

Boucher was at a loss as to what to attribute the injury outbreak to.

"All the injuries are different," he said. "If we had the same injuries you could say, maybe its how we practice or how we train, but one is caused by being hit by a shot, another guy ran into the boards, they are all different. Without a tendency it’s hard to figure what to do better or differently."

Ultimately, Boucher attributed the rash of misfortunate to factors beyond his, or anyone's, control.

"The hockey gods are just whipping us left and right," Boucher said. "And we're taking it and fighting it and the players have shown great character of late and shown that they want to survive and that they are doing everything they can to survive."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:56 PM

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

Bolland to fill Toews' spot vs. Predators

CHICAGO -- Just one more home game remains before the Chicago Blackhawks go through arguably their toughest stretch of the schedule following the All-Star break.

That game is tonight against the surging Nashville Predators, and the Hawks will be without their captain and top-line center, Jonathan Toews, who was placed on injured reserve today due to an upper-body injury.

Dave Bolland will move up from third-line center to replace Toews on the top line between Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Kane, while rookies Marcus Kruger and Brandon Pirri will man the middle for the second and third lines. Veteran Jamal Mayers will remain in his regular role as the fourth-line center.

Patrick Sharp also is out with an upper-body injury, so the Hawks could start five rookie forwards against the Preds, who have won three games in a row and 11 of their past 13 to make the tight race in the Central Division between the
Hawks, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings even tighter.

"I don't know if I'm surprised," Bolland said of the clogged division standings. "I knew it was going to be a tough time with the teams that we have with us, Detroit, (St. Louis) and Nashville and all the teams we have in our division. We knew it was going to be a tough year and not going to be an easy one."

Tuesday's game won't be easy, either, despite Nashville having hosted Columbus last night while the Hawks had the night off.

"It's definitely a grind and that's what we're going to talk about and reinforce as we go along here, but it's about board balance, puck protection, supporting the puck, traffic and simple plays," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his team's approach to beating the Preds without Toews and Sharp. "It doesn't have to be pretty."

Here is a look at how the Predators and Blackhawks could line up tonight:

PREDATORS
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Jordin Tootoo - Nick Spaling - Gabriel Bourque
Jerred Smithson - Craig Smith - Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Jack Hillen - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne will start in goal, with Anders Lindback the backup.

BLACKHAWKS
Viktor Stalberg - Dave Bolland - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Andrew Brunette - Brandon Pirri - Jimmy Hayes
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford will start in goal, with Ray Emery the backup.

In the morning skate, Bickell and Michael Frolik split shifts at fourth-line left wing, so either could get the start, with the other being scratched.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames likely to get Tanguay back after long absence

CALGARY -- After a 15-game absence from the Calgary Flames lineup, Alex Tanguay is set to return to action tonight against the San Jose Sharks.

At least, that’s what it sounds like from the update of a jovial Brent Sutter.

"He slept well last night, he had a good breakfast this morning, he came to the rink and he was good this morning, so all likelihood he will play tonight," the Flames coach said.

Tanguay was a little more direct in regards to his status.

"I think I'm going to go tonight, that seems to be the plan," Tanguay said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's been a while. I'm anxious to get back and just try to work my hardest and try to help the team keep going."

Out with a neck injury since Dec. 22, Tanguay admits he's eager to return despite not being completely healthy.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I was 100 percent," Tanguay said. "I'm anxious to be back. I'm just going to do as much as I can and help the team and we'll see where that fits in."

Matt Stajan, who left practice yesterday after falling hard to the ice, is not expected to be in the lineup. Nor is Lance Bouma, who blocked a shot with his foot in Saturday's win over the Edmonton Oilers.

Here's the Flames' projected lineup for tonight's game:

Michael Cammalleri - Mikael Backlund - Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau - Olli Jokinen - Lee Stempniak
Alex Tanguay - Blair Jones - Tom Kostopoulos
Brendan Morrison - Roman Horak - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:48 PM

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

Projected lineups for Ducks, Stars

DALLAS -- Here are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

DUCKS
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Niklas Hagman - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Rod Pelley - Mark Bell - George Parros

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

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers

Scratches: Nate Guenin.
Injuries: LW Matt Beleskey (hand), G Dan Ellis (groin), RW Devante Smith-Pelly (foot).

Notes: Anaheim is an impressive 8-1-1 in its last 10 games and heads into Tuesday's final game before the All-Star break fresh off a 3-2 win over Colorado on Sunday. Hiller had 43 saves in that win over the Avs, getting the victory in his fifth straight start. Getzlaf had a goal and an assist in that victory, which gives him 9 points in his last nine games. Ryan had a pair of tallies vs. Colorado, giving him 4 goals in his last five and 9 in his last 13.

STARS

Michael Ryder - Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson
Steve Ott - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Matt Fraser - Jake Dowell - Tomas Vincour

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

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Scratches: Mark Fistric, Adam Pardy, Toby Petersen.
Injuries: Brenden Morrow (neck), Mike Ribeiro (knee).

Notes:  The Stars head into their final contest before the break on a five-game winless streak. Most recently, Dallas fell 5-2 at Minnesota on Saturday night. Ribeiro, who has missed the last seven games with a knee injury, returns to the ice for the first time since Jan. 7 against Edmonton, when he bumped knees with the Oilers' Theo Peckham. Fraser will be making his NHL debut against the Ducks. He had 21 goals and 35 points in 40 games for the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. These clubs met on Jan. 10 at the Honda Center with Anaheim prevailing, 5-2.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:47 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No Burns for Sharks

CALGARY -- After suffering an injury to his leg last night, the San Jose Sharks will be without defenseman Brent Burns tonight against the Calgary Flames.

Burns suffered the injury after taking a hit from Ales Hemsky in the Sharks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Hemsky was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for kneeing.

Though Burns won't be playing, there is a silver lining.

"The injury is not as severe as we originally thought," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "The good news is it isn't a knee, it's more of a charley horse situation. He'll need some treatment beginning today and hopefully when we get through the All-Star break he'll be ready to play."

McLellan has some options to replace Burns. The team has been carrying eight defensemen since activating Jim Vandermeer off injured reserve; Vandermeer had missed 20 games with an upper-body injury.

"We do have some options," McLellan said. "We'll make some decisions at game-time."

However, it will be tough for the Sharks to replace Burns, who has averaged 22:25 of ice time per game while playing in all 46 games.

"There is a large portion of our back end that we rely on that comes through Brent Burns," McLellan said. "He plays a lot of minutes in every situation. He can be physical and skate the puck out of trouble. There are a lot of assets he has that we need on a nightly basis.

"That being said, we aren't the only team with bumps and bruises this time of year."

Without Burns, here's the lineup the Sharks likely will use tonight:

Andrew Desjardins - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - John McCarthy - Andrew Murray

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Justin Braun
Colin White - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi will start in goal, with Thomas Greiss the backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:35 PM

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

Hedman skates, closer to rejoining Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, a key missing component on an injury-stressed defense, took part in the morning skate with the team for the first time since being hurt and declared himself close to returning.

Hedman suffered a concussion Dec. 27 against Philadelphia and will miss his 13th consecutive game Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It's just a matter of time until I get back into game-shape," Hedman said. "During the All-Star break I'm not going to lay on the beach or anything like that. I'm going to work hard and get prepared for when the season re-starts."

Sitting out during his recovery has been a chore for Hedman.

"Being off the ice is the worst thing," Hedman said. "Hockey is my life and it's what I do for a living. When you can't do what you want it's tough to be real happy, but I've been trying to keep my mood up as much as I can. I'm on the right track now and things are moving in the right direction."

Hedman said he hoped to be ready to play by Jan. 31, the Lightning's first game back after the break.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher was more reserved about that prospect, but hopeful.

"It's a possibility," Boucher said. "But we'll see. I'm not a doctor. But after all the time we've been waiting for him, it's nice to see he's doing well."

The return of Hedman to the lineup would be a morale boost for the Lightning, who are missing nine starters due to injury.

"He's a dominant player and they are rare in our League, so we definitely need him," Boucher said.

Evan Oberg, currently on his seventh call-up from the team's AHL affiliate Norfolk since Dec. 2, will finally see some game action tonight, his debut as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I'm happy for him," Boucher said. "He's been up and down, waiting for an opportunity to come in and contribute and he'll get that opportunity tonight."

Oberg appeared in four career games as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:32 PM

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

Potential lineups for Flyers, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Here is what the rosters could look like when the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers face off tonight at the BankAtlantic Center. The Flyers opted not to skate Tuesday morning, while the Panthers held an optional skate:

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Brayden Schenn
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
Tom Sestito - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Jody Shelley - Ben Holmstrom - Harry Zolnierczyk

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

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

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Shawn Matthias - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky
Krys Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

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

Jose Theodore will start in goal, with Scott Clemmensen the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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I might have blacked out. I was pretty pumped.

— New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid on his first NHL win Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning
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