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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 7:47 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Vigneault downplays any rift with Kesler

VANCOUVER -- Alain Vigneault didn't want any part in extending a perceived spat with Ryan Kesler.

"Yes he is," Vigneault responded with a chuckle Tuesday morning when asked if his Selke Trophy-winning second-line center would be in the lineup against the Los Angeles Kings later that night.

Asked what he made of the attention given the media-driven back-and-forth between himself and Kesler, Vigneault added, "I think we all need to move on here."

It shouldn't be hard to do given how little there was to the situation.

Asked after Sunday's miserable 4-2 loss to Anaheim what was missing in Kesler's game, the coach offered a 42-second, 88-word response stressing the center's importance to the team, ending it by saying it wasn't "the right thing to do" to point fingers at Kesler on a night after the entire team played so poorly. But only the middle part about using "players around him a little but more" made it back to Kesler's locker the following day.

Kesler bristled when asked when about the coach saying he needed to do so.

"Utilize my players?" Kesler, who didn't talk Tuesday, retorted on Monday, seemingly surprised by the question. "Obviously, I don't know what he means by that and if he wants to say that he can come to me and talk to me about it. I'm going to play my game, the thing that's made me successful. I know what that is and if he wants to come talk to me, he's more than welcome."

The response, which was abrasive even by the often-prickly Kesler's standards, sparked talk of a rift between player and coach. But after missing training camp and the first five games of the season before returning - likely too soon, he admits now - from offseason hip surgery, Kesler has 12 goals and 31 points in 41 games, well off the career-best 41 goals he scored last season. He only has one assist - and two goals - while playing with a variety of wingers the last eight games.

So frustration may have played a role, according to Vigneault, who also carefully pointed out Monday that several other top Canucks have struggled of late.

"In Ryan's case what happens is he has shown that high, high-end level at really critical times the type of player he can be," Vigneault said. "And that's a really tough thing to be able to maintain in an 82-game schedule. Everybody is looking to Ryan to do that on a consistent basis. That's not easy for any player to do. Ryan being the competitive individual that he is will always try to achieve that standard. It's not easy so he's working on trying to get himself there and get himself there on that consistent basis."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 7:14 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Oilers' Hall injured in warmups

COLUMBUS -- The Edmonton Oilers are already without top-line phenoms Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. On Tuesday night, Taylor Hall joined them among the injured.

Hall was cut in the forehead by teammate Corey Potter's skate during warmups before Edmonton's game at Nationwide Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was helped to the dressing room by one of the team's trainers.

Because Hall's injury happened after Edmonton had submitted its official lineup, the Oilers will have only 17 skaters against Columbus.

Hall, the first player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft, has 15 goals and 31 points in 36 games in his second NHL season.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:32 PM

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

Extra eye on Yeo

PHILADELPHIA -- As if his team's current slide hasn't been hard enough to deal with, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has to deal with an extra layer of criticism -- and it's not from his boss, GM Chuck Fletcher.

His father, Wayne, is among the 32 dads on this week's Wild father and son road trip. Fletcher said it's not just players that have their fathers -- coaches and members of the team's public-relations, medical and equipment staff have their dads along as well.

"Puts some added pressure on me," said Yeo of his father's presence. "It's another watchful eye over the shoulder. If I screw up, he'll let me know."

Yeo obviously was joking, but having the dads around for tonight's game in Philadelphia and Thursday's game in Toronto has fun for all involved.

"It's nice to have them here," Wild forward Devin Setoguchi told "Everyone likes to have their family in town. It's something cool for them to see. Usually it inspires guys to play better when their dad is in town."

Yeo, though, hopes his players don't need any extra inspiration.

"I don't know that we need motivation," said the coach. "There's plenty there for us. We shouldn't have to look too hard, whether it's the challenge of facing this stretch without key guys in our lineup or just the understanding of just how important these games are this time of year, or whether it’s the father's trip, there's plenty of reasons to come to the rink and be motivated."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:08 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Flames-Sharks

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:05 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Flames try to end road woes

SAN JOSE --The Calgary Flames are 10-1-1 in their past 12 home games, but they've struggled on the road, going 8-14-3 with five straight losses. They open a three-game road trip Tuesday night against the Sharks, then play at Los Angeles on Thursday and at Edmonton on Saturday.

"We've been very solid at home but unfortunately our road game hasn't been nearly good enough, but our home record has given us a chance to stay in the mix, to have a chance," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said after Calgary's morning skate at HP Pavilion. "We're going to need to win some road games, so this is an important road trip for us, there's no question.

"We have three games on the road here before the break. We start with one. It really is, just starting with one. San Jose is obviously a good team. They have a lot of energy in this building. We've just got to find ways to play similar to home, but it's easier said than done. Everybody's a little better at home, most teams. It's just kind of narrowing that margin. We need to find ways to win games. So it happens to be tonight. We just focus on all being good."

Calgary coach Brent Sutter's message to his team?

"The biggest thing for us is we want to have a good start," Sutter said. "We want to make sure that what's happened in the past to us on the road, we've got to move on past that. I think Cory (Sarich) said it best. We need to hit the reset button and start over and do how we need to do it on the road. Every game's tough in the National Hockey League, but when you get on the road you've got to really step up.

"There's circumstances and situations that occur that you have no control over, as far as what's going on in the building. The only thing we can control is how we play. To me it's getting our game and playing our game and making sure everyone's being responsible and accountable within their own game and playing within the team concept."

Miikka Kiprusoff will be in goal Tuesday night against the Sharks, his former team, and for all four games before the All-Star Game break, Sutter said.

"Miikka's been outstanding. He's played very well the whole year. He's been stellar for us," Sutter said. "We've had eight or nine games our backups have been able to play, but we felt here going down to the All-Star break, we could probably run it with Kipper.

"We're going to need both guys after that because the games pile up pretty quickly in a short period of time, but from now until the All-Star break we'll go with Kipper. He's been playing very, very well for us."

Calgary defenseman Scott Hannan came off injured reserve Tuesday, and will be in the lineup against San Jose, his former team, Sutter said. Hannan missed the past four games with an upper-body injury.

The Sharks drafted Hannan in the first round in 1997. He played six full seasons and parts of two others with the Sharks before signing with Colorado as a free agent in July 2007.

The Flames recalled defenseman Brett Carson from the AHL's Abbotsford Heat after his second conditioning assignment of the season. A back injury sidelined Carson until Dec. 11, when he made his debut this season. But he played just two games before being sidelined again, this time with a different injury, that was undisclosed.

Carson played seven games during his conditioning assignment, which began Jan. 4.

"It has been tough and frustrating," said Carson, who arrived at HP Pavilion just after the end of the Flames' morning skate. "That's the way it goes sometimes. I do feel better now. Hopefully I can get back in here soon and keep going forward. … Physically I feel good. The body held up good. That's a good sign."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:02 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sharks' Clowe to sit vs. Flames

SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks power forward Ryane Clowe will miss Tuesday night's game at HP Pavilion against Calgary because of an injury he suffered Jan. 10 at Minnesota when he was knocked face-first into the boards.

Clowe played the Sharks' next two games at Winnipeg and Columbus while wearing a cage to protect his face. Then on Sunday against Chicago, he played without the cage, saying that it was making it difficult for him to see on the ice.

"Clowie won't play tonight. He's got an upper-body injury, and he's day to day," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after San Jose's morning skate, saying Clowe's injury is related to his face-plant against the Wild.

With Clowe out of his normal spot on the second line, McLellan will have to do some serious juggling. During Tuesday morning's skate, Patrick Marleau moved back from the top line and took Clowe's spot with center Logan Couture and winger Benn Ferriero. Third-line wing Jamie McGinn skated on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Tommy Wingels took McGinn's spot on the third line, and Frazer McLaren skated on the fourth line.

"We'll come up with some line combinations which will not be written in stone," McLellan said. "We'll start from there. We'll see what the first five to 10 minutes gives us. Whoever's playing well is going to play."

The Sharks are already missing top-six forward Martin Havlat, who's out after undergoing surgery to repair a torn hamstring tendon.

"When you're missing the Havlats and Clowes, you begin to juggle and you try to find three real strong lines right off the bat," McLellan said.

McGinn said he's comfortable skating on the top line.

"I'll be ready to go and just continue to do the same stuff I've been successful with this year," McGinn said. "So I'm just going to keep skating and working hard. I'm fine with it. It doesn't change the fact of what I'm doing. I've got to keep things simple and just play my game."

McGinn has raised his level of play this season and already has nine goals and seven assists.

"I think at this point last year we were begging for a goal, trying to get him to understand what he needed to do as a player," McLellan said. "Never quite got it. Needed to go back to the minors to refine that. Came back this year with a pretty clear conscience and pretty clear menu of what he needs to do as a player to be successful, and he's playing toward that."

Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins skated Tuesday morning for the first time since taking a hit to the head from Columbus' Dane Byers on Saturday but won't be in the lineup against the Flames.

"I went out there and tested the waters a bit," Desjardins said. "I felt good. We have to go day by day and make sure everything's right."

Desjardins said he has yet to take his baseline concussion test.

"The fact that he put the skates on and was out there is a step in the right direction," McLellan said.

Byers was suspended three games by the NHL for his shoulder-to-head hit on Desjardins.

"We're happy that the league sent a message," McLellan said. "Hopefully, again, the players watch, listen and learn. They have to. They have to take care of each other. It doesn't mean you can't play physical, but they're responsible for those type of hits."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 5:45 PM

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

Mason to start for Jets vs. Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel will ride the hot hand between the pipes when his club pays a visit to Prudential Center to face the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

Chris Mason, who made 25 saves in a 2-0 victory against the Senators in Ottawa on Monday, will get a second straight start against the Devils less than 24 hours later. It will be Mason's third career start against New Jersey (1-1-0, 2.93 goals-against average, .902 save percentage).

"He's played great all year and he's been hot lately," Jets captain Andrew Ladd told "He feels confident in net and we feel confident in having him back there so it's great to see. He's one of those guys who works so hard every day and is just a consummate professional so to see him get this opportunity is fun for us to be a part of."

Winnipeg is 0-6-0 this season when playing the second game of back-to-backs, so Mason will certainly have his work cut out for him. For the season, Mason is 6-3-0 with a 1.99 GAA and .923 save percentage in 12 appearances. It marks the first time this season he'll get back-to-back starts.

"For me, Mason has played well," Noel said. "Why wouldn't I give him back-to-back starts? He's earned the right. Our job as coaches is to try and help players get better and succeed and it's a tough task for him. He's played one of every four or five games, and he has an opportunity to feed off of [Monday night's] win and play well. We're trying to help him and that's why he's getting the start."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Goal support (or lack thereof) no concern to Quick

VANCOUVER -- Jonathan Quick's nose started bleeding during the national anthem before the Kings' game in Edmonton Sunday. It's one of the few times all season he's been leaky.

"Out of respect for the anthem you don't skate over to the bench right when it happens," Quick, who played the first period with gauze stuffed up his nose and then changed out of the blood-stained jersey at the intermission, said after the morning skate Tuesday in Vancouver. "You just kind of try not to leak too much during the anthem."

Quick, who blamed dry weather for the blood, said the gauze didn't bug him.

Not much has this season.

Quick is already a worthy All-Star selection, and a strong midseason Vezina Trophy candidate in just his fifth NHL season. Imagine if he had more offensive support.

As impressive as Quick's overall statistics look -- he leads the League in shutouts with six, and is fifth in save percentage at .933 and third in goals-against average at 1.95 -- his record would undoubtedly be a lot better than 19-11-8 if the Kings weren't also the lowest-scoring team in the NHL with a 2.15 goals-per-game average. 

Quick's physical tools have always been as obvious as the explosive cross-crease pushes and full-split saves that turn up on highlight reels around the League. But the fact he isn't bothered by the lack of support -- including a total of just 14 goals scored in his 11 regulation defeats -- says a lot about his mental development.

"Some goaltenders might go into every game thinking, 'I have to make 35, 40 saves to win,'" Kings forward Jarret Stoll said. "I don't think he even thinks about us scoring or not scoring. It's just the way he is. I know for a fact he doesn't think that way."

It's not an easy approach to achieve for some goalies. Almost all will tell you they can't afford to think about it, but getting to a point where they don't can be a process.

"Absolutely," Quick said. "Maybe a guy in their first or second year may think about it a little bit more than some guys in their 10th year, and that's just the natural progression of being a goalie in this League and just learning the game a little bit more."

Like a PGA Tour player talking about taking it one-shot-at-a-time and trying not to think too far ahead or about their score, it all starts with the first save for Quick.

"You can't go in thinking about it," he said. "You just go in trying to make the first save and then you worry about making the second save. That's personally how I prepare for each game. Whatever the score is, you just have to make the next save. If you let it get to you, maybe it could, but I feel like your job is you just gotta stop the puck whether you are up 5-0 or down 5-0, just make the next save. You have to look at it as a challenge."

It's one the Kings, who are 7-1-5 since Darryl Sutter took over as head coach, are hoping to make less challenging. They scored a whopping 13 goals over three games before losing 2-1 in overtime against the Oilers on Sunday. Not that Quick noticed.

"He's been the man for us, especially this year the way the scoring is going," Stoll said. "Hopefully he can keep it going. Hopefully we can help him out a little bit more."

As for Sutter, who got many similar performances from Miikka Kiprusoff behind a goal-challenged Flames team during his time in Calgary, he wasn't overly impressed.

"I wouldn't call it a challenge, I didn't know the best goalies in the NHL were supposed to give up more than two goals a game," said Sutter, rightly pointing out the Kings don't give up a lot of great chances. "I'm not a goalie and I've never been. I couldn't tell you. There are 10 guys that are aces in this League and that's what they do, right?"

Which in its own way says a lot about how far Quick has come.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 4:06 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Brassard beginning to turn his season around

COLUMBUS -- About a month ago, this was looking like a lost season for Columbus center Derick Brassard.

The 24-year-old had only 5 points in his first 24 games. There were nights when he watched his Blue Jackets teammates as a healthy scratch. His agent, Allan Walsh, was angry with how the organization was utilizing a guy who was the No. 6 pick in the 2006 Entry Draft and once considered a cornerstone in the team's quest to find consistent success.

Well, it was apparently too soon to write off the 2011-12 campaign for Brassard. He's got 9 points in his past 12 games, and now that he's back centering the team's top line, Brassard has a chance to finish strong and provide some hope for Blue Jackets fans waiting for him to become a consistent top-six forward.

"I'm just having fun and enjoying being at the rink," Brassard said. "I've just had the chance to play more minutes, on the power play especially. I've just tried not to worry about anything and I'm not thinking -- just react. That's been the biggest thing."

Brassard's ascension to the top line coincided with Jeff Carter being lost to a separated shoulder. It was another injury in a season of bad luck and bad results for the Blue Jackets.

If Brassard can continue to produce the way he has the past month, there could something of a silver lining from Carter's injury. Columbus got off to a terrible start this season, and previous coach Scott Arniel was constantly shuffling his lines around in search of the right combinations.

"We have a lot of guys who can play center, and I've been all over the place, but it is good to be back with Rick [Nash] and Vinny [Prospal]," Brassard said. "They are two great players and I love to play with those two guys. I enjoy the challenge of playing against some top players, too. Just to be on the ice with those guys -- they create so much offensively, it is really fun."

For Brassard moving forward, the search for consistency continues. He's been close to fulfilling his vast potential before.

He led all rookies in scoring when he went down with an injury in the 2008-09 season. After a rough 2009-10, Brassard responded with 17 goals and 47 points last season. There have been plenty of playoff teams that would be happy with that from their No. 2 center.

Maybe that is where Brassard eventually settles in, especially given the presence of Carter and 19-year-old Ryan Johansen. One of those three guys can probably play on the wing to accommodate everyone in the top six -- especially if their play warrants it.

"He's been very good over the last two games," interim coach Todd Richards said. "It has been his play without the puck is where he's been really good. He's been battling and competing.

"This will be another great challenge for him tonight, and the question I have for him is can he continue to play like this, game in and game out? There is that initial push, but will he be able to do the things he did the other night every night?"
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 3:34 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Canucks home for a rest, but can't afford to relax

VANCOUVER -- The Canucks are happy to be home after a four-game road trip, and eager for a more relaxed stretch of their schedule after playing 22 games over 46 days, including two separate swings through the Eastern Conference since the start of December.

"It was tough and we were on the road a lot during that stretch, so that takes a toll," Daniel Sedin said. "We're used to that, so to some degree we're not as affected by it, but at the same time when you get home and get a few days off, I think you realize you need it."

Vancouver now hopes to recharge during a stretch that, starting with Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Kings, will see them play just three games -- all at home -- over the next two weeks, including the five-day NHL All-Star break next weekend.

"I think it will be good for us to get some home time and some time away from hockey," continued Daniel, who, along with twin brother Henrik, defenseman Alexander Edler and rookie Cody Hodgson, will have the break shortened by participating in the All-Star Game in Ottawa. "It's been really hectic pretty much December until now. It will be good for us to get some practice and even some time in the gym, too, so it will be good."

But the players stressed a relaxed schedule didn't mean they could relax, a point proven by Sunday's lackluster, mistake-filled loss to Anaheim.

"We're obviously going to get some days off here, but when we practice we have to be sharp and when we're playing we have to make sure we're not coming out sloppy," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "It's a fine balance, but it's something you need over the course of an 82-game schedule."

As for claims the Canucks have been guilty of overlooking lesser opponents since an emotionally-charged Stanley Cup Final rematch with Boston back on Jan. 7, they won't have that excuse with a rematch of the Western Conference Finals against San Jose next up Saturday. And games against archrival Chicago and Detroit right after the All-Star break should also have their full attention.

"There are important games in the next couple weeks that we have to take care of," goalie Roberto Luongo said. "It gives us a chance to work on some stuff in practice. We always want to keep improving as a team and there's no better time to work on things."

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Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins