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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Dennis Ryan - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Wild, Maple Leafs must find way back into fast lane

TORONTO -- Expect to see two desperate teams at Air Canada Centre tonight, as the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Minnesota Wild. Both teams are struggling lately and sit in ninth place in their respective conferences, falling out of playoff positions they have held for much of the season. The Leafs have lost three straight games, while the Wild have lost 10 straight on the road and have won just two of their last 16 overall.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson isn't happy with the defensive play of his club and will split up the high-scoring combination of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul for the first time this season, coming off Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Ottawa when the top line was victimized for two key goals. Matthew Lombardi will join Tyler Bozak and Kessel, while Lupul will skate with Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri.

"We have to pay more attention to detail on defense," said Wilson, whose team has been outscored 9-4 on the current losing skid. "We have to stop the other teams. Sometimes you can't control how well the other goalie plays. All they hear here is 'secondary scoring, secondary scoring, you've got to score more goals.' If you're giving up three, yes you do; if you only give up one or two or none, you don't."

Wilson stressed that though the goaltender or defensemen often take the blame for goals against, the forwards are often just as culpable.

"Half the time it's a forward not getting the job done in the neutral zone or the offensive zone, a bad turnover, a poor decision, not backchecking properly or not winning a battle on the boards to help the 'D' get the puck out," he said.

With Mike Komisarek returning after one game in the press box, the defensive pairings will shift as well. Komisarek will play with Carl Gunnarsson, Dion Phaneuf joins Luke Schenn, and Jake Gardiner pairs with Cody Franson. Keith Aulie appears to be the odd man out.

Jonas Gustavsson, who gets the start in net, does not foresee any issues with the new pairings.

"I trust all our (defensemen)," Gustavsson said. "If I have to worry about who is out there I might lose focus on my own game. No matter who is out there I trust them to do their job and I'm going to focus on doing mine."

Of note for the Wild, goaltender Niklas Backstrom returns to action for the first time since Jan. 7, having missed the last four games with a stomach virus.

Coach Mike Yeo will make adjustments up front as well. With top center Mikko Koivu still sidelined with a shoulder injury, Warren Peters will get a shot at the top line between Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

Yeo is confident Peters can get the job done.

"Despite being very inexperienced in the NHL, he is an experienced player and has a pretty good idea of what his foundation is as a player and the way he has to play the game," Yeo said of Peters, who has played eight seasons in the AHL but just 62 career games in the NHL. "It's not an easy thing for a lot of players to get thrown up to the top line. It's important that he doesn't try to change his game or get outside of what he has to do, and we think he's capable of that."

Much like Wilson, Yeo wants his team to go back to defensive fundamentals to break out of its recent funk.

"We have to understand that we have a lot of skill guys out (Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Guillaume Latendresse). Offense isn't going to come as easily, so we have to have a much stronger focus on the defensive part of our game," Yeo said. "When we were winning games, we were a team that was real tough to play against defensively."

As for the Wild having fallen out of a playoff spot, Yeo had a quick answer.

"It’s not how you drive, it's how you arrive," he said.

Both the Wild and the Leafs need to get back in the fast lane soon, or their playoff hopes could be in jeopardy.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:53 PM

By Dennis Ryan - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild, Maple Leafs

Here's how the lines could look tonight when the Minnesota Wild visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre:

Devin Setoguchi - Warren Peters - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Casey Wellman
Darroll Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Brad Staubitz - Carson McMillan - David McIntyre

Marek Zidlicky - Nick Schultz
Mike Lundin - Greg Zanon
Clayton Stoner - Jared Spurgeon

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

Matthew Lombardi - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Nazem Kadri
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joey Crabb - David Steckel - Mike Brown

Dion Phaneuf - Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson - Mike Komisarek
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:30 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - At the Rink blog

Julien wants Bruins to raise intensity

NEWARK, N.J. -- Boston coach Claude Julien sat his team down Wednesday afternoon and went over some game film in great detail. The point he was trying to get across was simple.
"It was about finding our game again," Julien said Thursday morning from Prudential Center. "I think our level of play has dropped off and we just have to pick that up again. It's pretty obvious when you look back maybe a few weeks ago, just before Christmas, how we were playing and the inconsistency in our game since then. We're certainly trying to find that game we had going there for a while, and right now it's dropped off."
The Bruins are 6-4-0 in their past 10 games. It's a record most teams would accept, especially in the dog days of the season, after the holiday break and before the All-Star break.
"We're still above .500, but for us it's not good enough," Julien said.
He wants to see his team increase its battle level. He wants to see his team work just a little bit harder. He wants them to cut down on the goals against (11 in the last three games), and believes it can happen if they simply pick it up a notch.
"I'm avoiding using the word slump. It's not a slump. It's a dip in our play and we just have to pick it up," Julien said. "If we pick it up, we're going to be fine. But, what you learn to do is not panic. You want to push your players to battle through it, and as a coach when you've been around a team long enough, you'd like to think you know the right buttons to push."
Getting Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley, two energy and speed guys, back in the lineup for Thursday's game should help. However, Julien and the Bruins feel it's about more than just those two players; it's about matching the intensity that teams are bringing toward them on a nightly basis.
It hasn't happened enough for Julien's liking.
"We knew that from the start of the season that teams would be gunning for us. It's something that happens, a natural thing that happens with teams that have won a Cup," Julien said. "We responded well, we were playing some really solid hockey for a while, and there were a lot of games that we kind of ran away with. Teams all have pride and they all seek some sort of revenge."
For example, the Devils will be looking for revenge Thursday night after the Bruins came in here and thumped them, 6-1, on Jan. 4.
"When you come in here and beat the Devils 6-1, it's not something you see very often in this building, so we know they're going to be ready for us," Julien said. "We know revenge is on their mind and that's just a natural thing. We have to make sure we're ready to play as well as we can, because we know the other team will be."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:23 PM

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

Numbers point to Bobrovsky

PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers held a full skate this morning, but they didn't break into line rushes. Considering coach Peter Laviolette has a tendency to stick with things when they're working -- and they certainly were working in Tuesday's 5-1 win against the Wild -- it's likely the line combinations and defense pairings remain the same.

The only place it could change would be on the fourth line, where Zac Rinaldo could return to the lineup in place of Jody Shelley. Rinaldo sat out Tuesday due to an upper-body injury. He told that it was a neck injury suffered last Saturday in Nashville that stiffened up on him. He skated with the team at practice yesterday and was a full participant in drills this morning.

Also, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start in place of Ilya Bryzgalov. While Bryzgalov was very good against the Wild, Bobrovsky's numbers demand he plays against the Isles.

In eight career games, Bobrovsky is 7-0-0 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. Bryzgalov, meanwhile, is 0-1-0 in three games against the Isles, with a 5.50 GAA and .825 save percentage.

We had the Islanders' lineup earlier; here's how the rest of the Flyers' lineup could look:

Jaromir Jagr - Claude Giroux - Scott Hartnell
Maxime Talbot - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Jody Shelley/Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Harry Zolnierczyk

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

Either Shelley or Rinaldo will sit out, along with defenseman Andreas Lilja.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins, Rangers

NEW YORK -- Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will make his fifth straight start as the Pittsburgh Penguins pay a visit to the New York Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Defenseman Kris Letang, out nearly two months, will be back in the Penguins' lineup. It was announced by the Penguins that forward Arron Asham, who hasn't played since Sunday, has a concussion and is out indefinitely.

The Rangers won't make it official until later in the day, but Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes. Backup Martin Biron was the only goalie on the ice at an optional practice in Greenburgh, N.Y., in the morning, a sure sign that Lundqvist will start.

Here is what the Penguins and Rangers will probably look like when they take the ice (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) in their Atlantic Division showdown. The lines for the Rangers were put through a blender during the end of their last game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, but what you see here is how they started that game.

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Dustin Jeffrey - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Tyler Kennedy - Richard Park
Eric Tangradi - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

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

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 Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:09 PM

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

Isles want Parenteau to think shoot-first more

PHILADELPHIA -- Islanders coach Jack Capuano certainly is happy that forward PA Parenteau is tied for seventh in the League with a team-best 30 assists, but he believes there's more to the right wing than his set-up skills.

"A lot of times he's a guy that thinks pass-first," said Capuano. "The more he shoots the puck, the more (positive) results we're going to get. That's something we always stay on top of him about. He has had, the last few games, four or five shots a game and that's paid dividends for him."

Parenteau has nine goals this season, but two of them came Tuesday in Washington for his first two-goal game in the NHL.

"I am a little too generous at times passing the puck," Parenteau told "It's something I like to do. When I'm well-surrounded, I like to pass the puck. But he (Capuano) is right, I can definitely shoot it a little more. I did last game and I got rewarded for it. Maybe I'll look to shoot it a little more the rest of the year here."

Parenteau admitted playing on a line with top goal-scorers John Tavares and Matt Moulson, it was easy to think pass-first. Now that he's been moved onto a line with Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner, it's easier for him to start shooting the puck more.

"Maybe sometimes playing with Moulson and Johnny I was a little too generous because I know they're such good goal scorers," said Parenteau. "And they were always open. … I try to be the same player -- try to move the puck well and make some plays, and take the puck to the net when it's needed."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:06 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - At the Rink blog

Marchand off suspension, Peverley also back for B's

NEWARK, N.J. -- After waiting for the mandated five games, Bruins forward Brad Marchand is eager to get back in the lineup. He will Thursday night against the Devils at Prudential Center.

Marchand hasn't played since he was issued a five-minute clipping major and game misconduct late in the second period of the Bruins 4-3 loss to Vancouver on Jan. 7. He was subsequently suspended by the NHL for five games.

"It's always tough to have to watch your team play," Marchand said Thursday morning. "I'm just very excited to be back in the lineup and back in the game again."

Marchand isn't the only Bruin getting back in. Rich Peverley, who missed the last two games for personal reasons, is also returning to the Bruins' lineup Thursday.

"I missed the game," said Peverley, who is not disclosing the reason why he was away from the team for their trip to Florida to play the Panthers and Lightning. "I am really excited to be around the guys again. I'm really excited just to play a game."

Marchand and Peverley are energy players who bring a lot of speed. That's two elements of the game the Bruins have been missing of late.

"Fresh legs, some experienced players as well, and guys that play big roles on our hockey club," Bruins coach Claude Julien said in describing what his team is getting back. "Both of those guys are power-play, penalty-killing players, and they obviously play a big role on their lines. No doubt they're a welcome addition right now."

Julien is hopeful that Marchand won't be thinking about the reason he got suspended when he gets on the ice Thursday night. The last thing the Bruins want is for him to tone down his energy.

"He has got to play his game," Julien said. "But, at the same time, you just have to learn from those situations. He seems to understand from what Brendan (Shanahan) has told him, so he's going to try to rectify that."

Marchand said he doesn't think the suspension will affect his game, but he admitted he will have to ward off thinking about it prior to puck drop.

"The game happens so quick that you really don't have time to think about that stuff," he said. "But before the game you have to think about how you have to play, and sometimes that can creep into your mind a little bit."

Here is the Bruins' entire projected lineup for Thursday's game, including starting goalie Tim Thomas:

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

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

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Penguins welcome Letang back on defense

NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will receive a boost on the blue line Thursday night, as they will welcome back Kris Letang to the lineup against the New York Rangers.

Letang has not played since suffering a concussion on Nov. 26 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Coach Dan Bylsma said Letang's minutes will be limited against the Rangers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), but he couldn't be happier about getting back his top defenseman.

"It certainly is a situation where you're not looking to give him too many minutes," Bylsma said. "I still think he's going to be used in the top-four role against the other good players and on the power play, so he is going to play a fair amount of minutes in tonight's game."

Letang was an All-Star last season and was well on his way to a trip to Ottawa for this year's game before a hit from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty sidetracked his season. Pacioretty delivered a hit to Letang's head late in the third period of that game that left Letang bloodied and sent him to the locker room, but he returned to score in overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory.

Pacioretty was suspended three games for the hit, while Letang missed the next 21 games.

"I would say excited," Letang said of his emotions headed into Thursday's game. "When you've been out of the lineup for a long time like this, you just want to get back out there with your teammates and be part of the team."

Letang said he has no anxiety about physical contact.

"It's just going to come," Letang said. "I'm going to get hit probably before I hit somebody. I'm just focusing on the way I play the game and that's it."

Conditioning isn't a concern for Letang, either. He said he worked out and practiced daily while the Penguins spent three games on the road before returning home for Tuesday's 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Letang leaned on Sidney Crosby, whose concussion problems cost him the second half of last season and the first 20 games of this season before they resurfaced on Dec. 5.

"(He said) just pay attention to how your body reacts out there and make sure I'm 100 percent ready," Letang said of Crosby's advice. "Don't take any chances because you need your head for the rest of your life."

Along with Crosby and Letang, it was announced by Bylsma on Thursday that forward Arron Asham is also dealing with concussion-like symptoms. The injury list also includes center Jordan Staal, who is out 4-6 weeks after a knee-to-knee collision with the Rangers' Mike Rupp on Jan. 6, and defenseman Simon Despres, who is out two weeks with a sprained knee.

The Penguins have been ravaged by injuries for a better part of the past two seasons, so Letang's return is a welcome sight for the team, which hasn't had its top four of Letang, Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik healthy all at once all that often.

"It's good to have your top-four defenseman back on the ice, that's for sure," Bylsma said. "We certainly missed his presence back there in a lot of ways -- defending, the ability to play with the puck power-play-wise. To be able to get those four guys who we haven't really had a significant amount this year, to get them together will be a lift for our team."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 12:49 PM

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

Islanders staying the same

PHILADELPHIA -- Coming off a 3-0 win against the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday, New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he didn't see any reason to change his lineup for tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

That means defenseman Dylan Reese stays in the lineup for a second straight game in place of veteran Steve Staios.

Capuano said he's been impressed by what he's seen of Reese since the 6-foot-1, 201-pounder was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Jan. 6.

"In Bridgeport, he's a 26-, 27-minute guy down there, he plays in all situations," said Capuano. "When you play that many minutes in those situations, you work on a lot of things. His game has come a long way."

Here's the rest of what the Islanders' lineup will look like when they hit the ice tonight:

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

Mark Streit - Milan Jurcina
Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Mark Eaton - Dylan Reese

Evgeni Nabokov will start in net, with Al Montoya backing him up.

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

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 12:34 PM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Predators claim Yip off waivers

The Nashville Predators made a pair of roster moves Thursday, claiming forward Brandon Yip off waivers from the Colorado Avalanche and activating forward Jerred Smithson off injured reserve.

Yip was scoreless in 10 games for the Avalanche this season while missing time due to arm and groin injuries. An eighth-round pick by Colorado in the 2004 Entry Draft, he has 23 goals and 41 points in 113 games over parts of three seasons with the Avs.

A 6-foot-1, 195-pound right wing, Yip recorded 45 goals and 108 points in 139 games with Boston University from 2005-09, helping the Terriers win the 2009 NCAA national championship on a team that also included current Predators forward Colin Wilson.

Smithson, who was out with a lower-body injury, has 1 goal and 4 points in 41 games this season.
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Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday