Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 1:16 PM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Vanek back in lineup for Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have a chance to move into ninth place in the Eastern Conference on Monday when they play the Montreal Canadiens, and they'll get a bit of help in that quest when they get Thomas Vanek back in the lineup.

If the Sabres beat the Canadiens tonight in Buffalo (7 p.m. ET, TSN), they'll jump ahead of idle Winnipeg for ninth place, and move within four points of eighth-place Washington.

Vanek sat out Saturday's game against the Senators after getting hit hard into the boards Thursday by Boston's Johnny Boychuk.

Vanek skated with the Sabres at Monday morning's practice, the first time he'd been on the ice since getting rammed into by Boychuk.

"Each day I got a little bit better," Vanek told the Buffalo News. "Obviously the first couple of days after, just tight and stiff and sore. The last two days, I came a long way so I feel pretty good. I would like to play (Monday); especially this time of year it hurts missing games and watching them. We're not in a position to sit back and relax, obviously."

Vanek is second on the team with 23 goals and 50 points, but in 27 games since the calendar flipped to 2012, he has just 5 goals and 11 points.
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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 11:50 AM

By Matt Dumba -  Special to / - Matt Dumba draft blog

Dumba: Still pushing hard to finish season

Matt Dumba is a defenseman for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. The 5-foot-11.75, 183-pound defenseman was named WHL Rookie of the Year after scoring 15 goals and adding 11 assists in 62 games. He also had a tournament-high 12 points -- all assists -- to help Canada Pacific win the bronze medal at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. This summer, he played for Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament and also took part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Dumba has offered to maintain a monthly blog for that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

It's been a rough month for us here in Red Deer, but it's nice to finally be home.

With the Scotties here in Red Deer -- it's the Canadian women's curling championship -- we got kicked out of our rink for two and a half weeks. So we made our swing out west and then back east. We played some really good teams and we're happy with the record we had on the road. Lately we've been .500, but the team's been working hard and it's been good to see.

We won't be making the playoffs this season -- we were eliminated over the weekend -- but with three games left, it's a matter of working hard and competing in the situation we're in and making the most of it.

Being on the road, it's tough. It wears on you, your body. Every game we played, we came out and worked and battled as hard as we should have and gave ourselves an opportunity to win almost every game. The coaching staff was happy about that and we're happy we showed that consistent work ethic.

And we were able to play well with so many guys injured. It's almost a joke. We laugh about it, how many injuries we have. Eight or nine regulars have been out. We only had four defensemen for about a month or something and we've been playing with five defensemen ever since. But it's been fun logging those minutes and I'm happy I'm helping my teammates out the best I can.

I'm pretty happy with my game. I think it's been really consistent. Throughout the games on the road there were times where there were a couple games where as a team we weren't playing our best hockey and I had one game in there where I didn't play my best. But beside that, the last month has been really good. I've been feeling really good, been battling and competing, doing all the little things my team has asked for.

We did have some fun on the road. We had a 20-hour bus ride from Vancouver to Prince Albert, and some of the older guys, the second-year veterans and some of the other guys, we stayed up and got our shaving cream and got a bunch of the guys while they were sleeping.

Our focus right now is taking it one day at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time. That's what we emphasize around here. If you win or lose, the big thing is knowing that you went out there and gave your all. Be able to look your teammates in the face and look in the mirror at the end of the night and be satisfied with your effort, know you couldn't have done any more.

Thanks for reading.
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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 10:58 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to / - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: March 12

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

Wins to
earn 8th
8th 69 76 13 89 8

9th 69 72 13 84 10
10th 69 72 13 84 10
11th 68 69 14 82 11
12th 69 68 13 79 12
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 69 76 13 88 8

9th 69 76 13 88 8
10th 70 76 12 88 8
11th 67 75 15 90 9

The skinny: Buffalo finds itself in the thick of a Stanley Cup Playoff race, four points behind the Washington Capitals, who currently hold the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Beating the teams below you in the standings and those with whom you are competing for a playoff spot becomes paramount at this point of the season.

While the projection may look daunting for the Sabres, they control their destiny with a game against Montreal on Monday (7 p.m. ET, TSN), followed by Florida and Tampa Bay before meeting Montreal again in nine days.

That run of games is pivotal for the Sabres because they play the Capitals on March 27, but it will not be a game of meaning if Buffalo doesn't obtain points in this critical stretch of games, which include three contests against teams currently out of the playoff picture.

San Jose finds itself out of the playoff picture as the week opens -- when was the last time that was the case?

The perennial Pacific Division champions have entered into a fight for their playoff lives.

That being said, the Sharks still project to the No. 8 position in the Western Conference -- largely based on having games in hand against the other teams in contention.

One of those games is Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN), a team well below them in the standings. A win can give the Sharks a bit of breathing room as they head to Calgary to face the surging Flames on Tuesday.

Two wins by the Sharks and they can re-enter the race for first in the Pacific.

That's how fast things can change as the regular season enters its final stage.

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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 9:00 AM

By Pat LaFontaine -  Special to / - Making of a Royal

LaFontaine talks about the N.Y. State Tournament

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, head coach Pat LaFontaine talks about the upcoming N.Y. State Tournament in Buffalo. On March 16, the Long Island Royals face the Hamburg (N.Y.) Hawks and the following day, the Syracuse Nationals.

As a 15-year-old team last year, we went to the final game and lost to the Buffalo Regals. We had beaten them in the first game but then ended up getting three or four kids injured, and ended up beaten up at that time. It was kind of a learning experience for the kids at 15, and we almost won it.

As coaches, we want to see the growth and the kids climb individually and collectively as a team and you do that through experience and adversity and through practice in trying to work hard, get better and improve all the time. Looking back, everything started in May and June in off-ice workouts and we got off to a good start and that carried over. We finished 49-5-3 and had a few bumps in the road, but through it all, we had a lot of learning experiences.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 8:37 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

STL @ CBJ 17:28 of the Third Period

At 17:28 of the third period in the Blues/ Blue Jackets game, video review confirmed the referee's call on the ice that Rick Nash's shot never crosses the goal line. No goal Columbus.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 7:47 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYI @ NYR - 11:15 of the First Period

At 11:15 of the first period in the Islanders/Rangers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck deflected off John Tavares  and entered the net in a legal fashion. Good goal Islanders.

According to rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body , in any manner, the goal shall be allowed."
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 7:34 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CAR @ FLA -17:00 of Third Period

At 17:00 of the third period in the Hurricanes/Panthers game, video review was used to determine that Jerred Smithson kicked the puck into the net with his left skate. No goal Florida.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 6:06 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Bobrovsky to start against Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will get his first start in almost a month on Sunday when the Philadelphia Flyers visit Prudential Center for an Atlantic Division showdown against the New Jersey Devils.
The Flyers scored a 1-0 shootout victory less than 24 hours earlier behind Ilya Bryzgalov's fifth shutout of the season. It was Bryzgalov's 11th straight start between the pipes. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told the media prior to faceoff that Bobrovsky would get the nod -- Bryzgalov is the likely starter on Tuesday in Philadelphia when the Flyers close out the home-and-home set with the Devils.
Bryzgalov is 8-2-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and three shutouts in Philadelphia's last 11 games -- including a no-decision. He's posted a 0.99 GAA and two of the shutouts during the Flyers' current five-game winning streak.
"We talked about this, looking at the schedule and what was coming up," Laviolette said. "The back-to-back and the fact Bryz has played 11 in a row, every other night, pretty much. It's a chance to get a fresh goaltender in there."
Bobrovsky, who last started Feb. 18 in a 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, is 12-8-1 with a 2.99 GAA and .900 save percentage in 24 appearances for the Flyers this season. He is 1-1-1 with a 4.71 GAA and .864 save percentage in three career games against New Jersey.
"You look at the schedule and what you have available, we got a guy who has been waiting and wants to get in there and play and this is a perfect spot to get him in there, as opposed to running Bryz down," Laviolette said.
Bobrovsky had lost four of the five starts he made in February.
The Flyers are 2-0-1 against the Devils in 2011-12 and have won five of eight and eight of the last 12 meetings. New Jersey has won its last two at the Wells Fargo Center, including a 4-3 shootout decision when the teams last met on Nov. 3.
The Devils will counter with Martin Brodeur in goal. Brodeur is 44-29-9 in 83 career games against the Flyers with a 2.50 GAA, .904 save percentage and nine shutouts.
Here are the projected lineups for each team:
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Steve Bernier
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky
Brodeur will start and Johan Hedberg, who earned a 23-save, 2-1 victory on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, will serve as backup.
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Max Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo
Jody Shelley - Eric Wellwood - Brayden Schenn
Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Erik Gustafsson
Brandon Manning - Andreas Lilja
Bobrovsky gets the start in goal, with Bryzgalov serving as backup.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 4:25 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues activate Langenbrunner off IR

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The St. Louis Blues announced that they have activated winger Jamie Langenbrunner off injured reserve and he will return tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Langenbrunner suffered a broken left foot blocking a shot on Feb. 19 in a 3-1 loss at Chicago. Langenbrunner has 21 points on four goals and 17 assists in 57 games.

Langenbrunner was originally supposed to be reevaluated in four weeks but will return ahead of schedule after practicing with the team in recent days.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 3:49 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sutter: Brown's path on the ice determines his play

CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Kings top-line forward Dustin Brown has a seven-game point streak going into Sunday night's road matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m., NBCSN) at the United Center.

He's recorded assists in three straight games and has five goals to go with six assists during the torrid stretch. Kings coach Darryl Sutter said it's come as the result of Brown's ability to play more of a vertical game with his skating instead of going horizontally, side to side, too often.

"Brown's been really solid," Sutter said after Sunday's optional morning skate. "He's got to play a straight-line game. If you see him going East to West on the ice, you'll know he's not on his game. He's got to play that North-South game."


"It allows him to play with power," Sutter said of the 6-0, 204-pound Brown. "When he does that, the nets are aligned for him. It's his game and he knows it. When he tries to do too much is when he gets out of his zone."

Brown, who's on the top line with star center Anze Kopitar and right wing Justin Williams, has scored 19 goals and added 23 assists in 68 games for the Kings.
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Quote of the Day

I loved being in the jerseys again and they worked some magic for us. It was weird in warm-ups, seeing No. 22 in that jersey and thinking he’s [Mike Gartner], and No. 8 reminds you of Danny Briere … every number had me thinking back to the guys who wore them and smiling.

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan on wearing the kachina-style jersey he and his team wore from 1996-2003, after their 3-2 victory against the Canucks on Thursday