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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 2:31 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Frustrated Knuble wants to play ... somewhere

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals forward Mike Knuble says if he’s not part of the team’s immediate plans, then it might be best to send his talents elsewhere.

Knuble, 39, has been a healthy scratch in three straight games – all Washington losses – after going the previous 11 games without a point.

The eight-time 20-goal-scorer has three goals and 11 points in 53 games this season, having played primarily on Washington’s fourth line. He is also a team-worst minus-14.

“If a player is not going to be used,” Knuble said, “or in the near future you don’t have plans, then that player probably wouldn’t want to be there. That’s how we are in our League – you want to go somewhere where you’re going to play and contribute to your team and if you can’t do it in one place, then you’ve got to go.”

Capitals coach Dale Hunter would not say whether he plans on using Knuble this weekend when the Caps begin a four-game road trip with back-to-back games in Florida and Tampa Bay.

“He’s a leader, he’s a professional,” Hunter said of the Caps alternate captain. “We’re trying for more speed in the lineup and Mike can be professional about it and train hard out here so when [he] gets back in [he’s] ready to go and can show me that I made a mistake. That’s what I want.”

Knuble watched the Capitals fall Monday 5-3 to the San Jose Sharks while American Hockey League call-ups Joel Rechlicz earned a sweater. Rechlicz played just 90 seconds spread over two shifts.

“Everybody in here is a little bit frustrated with the way it’s been going lately,” Knuble said. “Then you throw this on top of things – you watch your team losing and all of that, it’s very frustrating.”

With the NHL trade deadline now 13 days away, Knuble was asked Tuesday if plans on formally requesting a trade.

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. I just kind of got through this weekend with three games in [five] nights – just wanted to get through it and see what [would] happen. Obviously we all saw what happened so it gets you thinking.

“We’re all competitive and we want to play and we all want to contribute. So if it’s not irritating you and you’re not thinking of your options then you may as well stop playing then.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 2:02 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Quenneville wants to see Hawks get 'swagger' back

NASHVILLE -- With his team mired in as long of a losing streak as he can remember during his tenure, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was emphasizing defense on Tuesday entering their game with the Central Division rival Predators.

The Blackhawks have yielded 34 goals over their eight-game losing streak, an average of 4.4 per game. Chicago is on its seventh game of a nine-game road trip.

"We haven't really responded to being scored on lately, and I think that's one where we want to make sure, let's be tight in that area," Quenneville said. "We'd love to score first, but if we do get scored on, let's not get distracted."

In the third period of Saturday's 3-0 loss to Phoenix, Quenneville put together Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together on the same line. That was going to carry over into Tuesday's game.

Together, that trio has combined for 61 goals.

"That line together, the last period the other night, they like playing together," Quenneville said. "Maybe as a group, we look for a little more balance, but when those three guys get together, they can generate a lot of things and I think they read off one another and they get excited about playing together, so hopefully they can recapture that feeling."

Quenneville said it was important for Chicago to get back to playing with a "swagger."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he expected his duo of All-Star defensemen, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, would match up against that line with the Predators' being the home team and having the last change.

Quenneville said John Scott would return to the lineup, with the defenseman likely playing up front on one of the forward lines.
 
Here are the projected lines for the Blackhawks:
 
Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Brunette - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
John Scott - Dave Bolland - Viktor Stalberg
Jamal Mayers - Brendan Morrison - Andrew Shaw
 
Duncan Keith - Dylan Olsen
Sean O'Donnell - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Sami Lepisto
 
Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:52 PM

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

Red Wings eye weekend return for Howard

DETROIT -- The tentative plan to get injured goalie Jimmy Howard [fractured finger] back in net for the Detroit Red Wings is to start him against the rival San Jose Sharks on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

However, there is an outside chance he might be ready for Friday night's game at The Joe against Central Division rival Nashville. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock let his coaching staff know to slot Howard in as the starter against the Sharks -- but do it in pencil.

"We'll see what happens there and if it means he's starting against Nashville or not, but he's starting sooner or later," Babcock said after Detroit's morning skate on Tuesday. "You can only get so much holiday time during the regular season."

Fine by Howard, who continues to face live shots in practices and is getting tired of the nervous anxiety he gets from watching games in the locker room.

"I'm looking forward to getting back out there and going through a whole practice where I don't come out of the net," said Howard, who's been out since fracturing his right index finger on Feb. 2 in Vancouver stopping a shot. "I think [returning Friday] is still a realistic possibility. That was the goal that was in place from the start, but if Babs and [Detroit general manager Ken Holland] want to give me another few days in practice, then that's what their game plan is."

Howard has eschewed the specialized goalie stick that he'd been using after returning for practices -- it had a notch cut out of it for his index finger to lessen the vibration of pucks hitting the stick.

"I got rid of it," Howard said. "It wasn't working, so I got rid of it. I didn't like the feel of it, so I just went back to the way the regular sticks are."

Howard also said he's feeling more comfortable tracking pucks and not flinching when hard shots send pucks screaming at his blocker side -- where the fractured finger is located.

"At first it didn't feel all that great to be back out there, but each day that's passed it's feeling a little better," Howard said. "I'm not second-guessing when shots are on my blocker. I'm not hesitating."

He will, however, have to hesitate before taking swings with his fists at opposing players who try to crowd or invade his crease looking to screen or intimidate him. Howard has already gotten into a few altercations against the St. Louis Blues this season, but can’t get into any more for a while.

"I already had to promise our finger doctor … no fighting," Howard said, laughing.

The Red Wings don't face the Blues again for a sixth and final time until April 4 in St. Louis.

"Not til the end of the season, right?" Howard said, smiling. "Plenty of time to heal."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:38 PM

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

Opportunity knocks for Lightning to gain ground

TAMPA -- From their precarious perch, the Tampa Bay Lightning can see everything. Ahead of them are five teams that they have to maneuver past in order to make the postseason; behind them is one team and one point separating them from the Eastern Conference basement.

That delicate balance makes every game crucial.

Tuesday night the Lightning open a four-game homestand against the Ottawa Senators, one of the clubs they must leapfrog in order to make the playoffs.

And although there is an eight-point hill to climb to reach the final playoff spot, the fates are aligning to give the Lightning every opportunity to get there.

They have six of their next nine games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where they are 15-8-2, and Ryan Malone, an important part of their power play, returns to the lineup Tuesday after an absence of eight games with an upper-body injury.

The return of Malone can only be welcome news for a Lightning power play that is 29th in the League with a 13.5 success percentage and has scored just twice in their last 29 attempts, which includes an empty-netter.

"He (Malone) is our best guy down low, so we're going to have to make room for him on the power play," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

After Sunday's 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh, the second half in a back-to-back series, Boucher was critical of the play of his team, which had jumped out to a first period two-goal lead. On reflection, Boucher now takes a different view of the loss.

"After the first period, we should have been expecting them coming out real strong, and they did, and we stayed at the same level," Boucher said. "We don't cut any slack, but we certainly can explain it. Our guys had nothing left in the second and the third. We could have played it differently; we stayed very aggressive and we didn't have the juice to do that.

"We knew we had to change the game plan around, but we didn't change it and it cost us. Next time around, we'll be able to manage it better."

Another point seemingly in the Lightning's favor is that the Senators arrive after going 1-6-2 in their last nine games, but Jason Spezza suggested that the worst was over.

"We picked up three of our last four points," Spezza said. "We struggled for five or six games before that, but in a snapshot of our last three games, we're playing better.

"The games become very important now because every team is desperate to pick up points. We'll face a desperate team every night, and no one can really feel safe."

Certainly the Lightning understand the critical situation they face.

"This is a huge homestand for us," Pavel Kubina said. "We're eight points out of the playoffs with a game in hand. We don't give up; we'll go to the end and see what will happen, but we're capable of making it, for sure."

Dominic Moore put it this way: "When there are points on the table, they need to be ours."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:34 PM

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

Projected lineups for Senators, Lightning

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Ottawa Senators visit the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

SENATORS
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Jared Cowen - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

LIGHTNING

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

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

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:28 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild call up two, search for extra offense

ST. PAUL -- Talk about two teams headed in opposite directions: Tonight's contest in the State of Hockey features perhaps the league's hottest team (Anaheim) and its coldest (Minnesota).

The Wild, in the midst of a four-game homestand, have slid from the top spot in the NHL all the way to 12th in the Western Conference, five points behind eighth-place Phoenix. After losing twice to League-worst Columbus in a five-day span, including a 3-1 loss here Saturday night, the Wild have juggled their lines and called up two more players -- one familiar and one who will make his NHL debut this evening.

First, defenseman Marco Scandella will make his return to the big club after a stint with AHL Houston. When the Wild were going well earlier in the season, Scandella was a major reason why. He was sent down to Houston a month ago after a rough stretch, to work on his game and regain his confidence.

"It feels good to be back," Scandella said. "I went down there with a positive attitude. If you think about [getting called back up] too much, it'll make you crazy. I just played hockey and had fun."

Scandella said he worked on "being sharp" and "having confidence on the ice in making plays." He'll have that opportunity tonight paired with Jared Spurgeon, perhaps the Wild's most willing shooter from the blue line.

"It's always fun to play with him because you always know what he's going to do on the ice," Scandella said. "He's predicable for a d-partner and that's what you need."

Making his NHL debut tonight will be Calgary-native Kris Foucault. A fourth-round pick of the Wild in 2009, Foucault has 10 goals and 13 assists in 47 games in Houston, his first in the American Hockey League. He scored 47 goals in two seasons in the Western Hockey League from 2009-11, and was called up to Minnesota for one reason.

"We need goals, and he is a guy that has a chance to make a play," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.

Yeo has also shifted center Matt Cullen to the wing with Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson. Brodziak and Johnson did wonders to jump-start Dany Heatley's game a couple of weeks back, and Yeo said he's hoping the duo can do the same for Cullen.

"Culley's been playing well, the numbers haven't been there for him," Yeo said. "But he's doing a lot of good things. It's about surrounding him with guys who are capable of helping him to take advantage of his skill and what he can do out there.

"We saw what Heater was able to do with Brodzy and Johnny, so I think it gives Brodzy and Johnny someone who is a real threat on that line. On top of that, it gives Culley someone who's done a lot of good things for us, some really quality players that give him something more to work with."

In goal, Yeo said he is turning to Josh Harding tonight. The start will be Harding's first since a disastrous third period Jan. 31 against Nashville where the Wild blew a 4-1 lead over the game's final 10 minutes. The Predators scored three goals over the game's final three minutes, including the game-winner with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

"We haven't won, so we have to switch it up," Yeo said.

The challenge tonight for Harding will be if has put the Nashville collapse in the rear-view mirror.

"He has to," Yeo said. "It's been a little while now. I know Hards has the ability to be a starting goalie in the NHL. He's proven it this year. But in order for that to happen, these are the kind of things you have to deal with."



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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:27 PM

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

Cleary out, but Franzen OK as Wings go for record

DETROIT -- Initially, Danny Cleary was hoping he might be able to return to the ice for the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night against the visiting Dallas Stars.

The Wings have won 20 straight games at Joe Louis Arena, which has them tied with the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers for the longest home winning streak in NHL history.

Instead of playing, however, the 33-year old Cleary had another trip to the doctor on Tuesday morning to get additional fluid drained from his knee -- which had already been drained once last Friday to correct two Baker's cysts that were causing a great deal of discomfort.

Cleary said he might be able to return to the ice for practice as quickly as Wednesday and could return to action in games on Friday at home against the Nashville Predators

"I'm feeling a lot better," Cleary said on Tuesday morning, prior to having his knee drained. "It's amazing how quickly it turns. The message today is it's a lot better, so we'll see. If I skate [Wednesday], maybe [return Friday], but we'll see. That's my goal. I just had another pocket [of fluid] built up, but it feels better."

Meanwhile, Detroit forward Johan Franzen was back on the ice for a sparsely attended optional morning skate after missing practice Monday with what's believed to be a sore ankle. Franzen got hit in the ankle by a shot Sunday in a 4-3 win against the Flyers and also scored the game-winning goal to pull the Wings even with the other two teams in the League's record book.

"Felt good," Franzen said, when asked how things went for Tuesday's on-ice session. "[We] had to do a little work on the skate, as well, so I tried it out and it felt good."

Prior to the game Sunday, a teammate played a practical joke on Franzen while he was out on the ice for the morning skate -- placing a wall of red and white tape across the opening of his locker stall in the Wings' locker room.

Franzen had to hang his pads on the outside of the tape until an equipment manager removed all the tape prior to the game. On Tuesday, there was one single strand of tape stripped across the top of Franzen's stall -- seemingly as a reminder of the stunt.

"I think it's over with," Franzen said of the tape joke, before looking up to see the one strand still there. "Well … almost."

As for trying to become the only team in League history to win more than 20 straight home games in one season, the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Swedish power forward said he's already getting excited for the atmosphere inside Joe Louis Arena.

Prior to the 20th win, somebody hurled an octopus on the ice before the game -- a tradition usually saved for the postseason by Red Wings fans.

"It's going to be special, for sure," Franzen said of Tuesday night's game. "I think the fans are going to be into it, as well. We're really going to try to win this one."

Here is how the lineups might look like for the Stars and Red Wings:

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

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Mark Fistric - Philip Larsen

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Notes: Jake Dowell re-enters the lineup in place of Toby Petersen at left wing on the fourth line, while defenseman Sheldon Souray will also miss another game with a bone bruise in his foot that’s giving him problems.

RED WINGS
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Jan Mursak - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

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

Joey MacDonald
Ty Conklin

Notes: The Red Wings will go with their same lineup as they used in the past two games against the Flyers and Anaheim Ducks. Cleary is out, is starting goalie Jimmy Howard (broken finger), who continues to face shots in practice and try to get himself back up to speed enough to start.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:24 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ducks feeling confident, looking to continue roll

ST. PAUL -- Down the hall from the home team at the Xcel Energy Center, the Anaheim Ducks have been a picture of stability. Tonight's contest against the Minnesota Wild is the Ducks' third in a string of eight straight road games -- a franchise record. Anaheim lost in a shootout to Detroit on Feb. 10, but bounced back nicely Sunday with a 5-3 win at Columbus.

After an abysmal start -- one which cost Randy Carlyle his job -- new coach Bruce Boudreau has the Ducks firing on all cylinders. At 12-3-3 since the first of the year, the Ducks have climbed to within 10 points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Their 27 points in that span is third-best in the League.

"It's all about confidence, having everybody on the same page," Ducks forward Teemu Selanne said. "We're trying to enjoy the moment right now and hopeful we can stay hot."

Selanne, playing in his 20th NHL season, is on the verge of climbing the League's career scoring charts. With his next goal, Selanne will tie Brendan Shanahan for 12th on the all-time list. He's also three points shy of matching Luc Robitaille for 20th on the all-time scoring chart and two power-play goals short of Robitaille for fourth on that list.

Selanne has 5 points, all assists, against the Wild in three games this season. Minnesota has won two of the three previous matchups.

And while Minnesota has struggled to score of late, the Ducks boast two lines that can seemingly score at will. Corey Perry netted a hat trick and fired a career-high 11 shots on goal in Sunday's win at Columbus. Ryan Getzlaf has 12 points over his last 13 games.

"Our first two lines, if they are playing their best, can be the best in the League," Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller said. "We have a good third and fourth line right now, too. Everybody's working together.

"Before, we had lots of ups and downs. Some nights, some guys were playing and some were not. Now, most nights, everybody is here 100 percent. Guys are willing to work and give everything. That's been the difference."

Hiller has been rock-solid himself, stopping shots at almost a 93-percent clip and allowing less than two goals per over his last 16 games. He is 10-2-3 over that stretch with one no-decision. 
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:18 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild, Ducks

Here's how the lineups project tonight for the Minnesota Wild's game against the Anaheim Ducks at Xcel Energy Center:

WILD

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Matt Cullen - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Kris Foucault - Erik Christensen - Carson McMillan
Darroll Powe - Warren Peters - Matt Kassian

Nick Schultz - Nate Prosser
Marek Zidlicky - Greg Zanon
Jared Spurgeon - Marco Scandella

Josh Harding
Niklas Backstrom

DUCKS

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

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

Jonas Hiller
Iiro Tarkki
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:02 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineup for Rangers

BOSTON -- The New York Rangers' lineup isn't set in stone heading into Tuesday night's tilt with the Bruins. Forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who missed the past two games, skated with the team for the first time in the morning and is a game-time decision.

If Fedotenko can't play, coach John Tortorella will likely use defenseman Stu Bickel as a fourth-line forward for the third straight game.

These were the lines during the Rangers' practice at TD Garden this morning:

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

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Quote of the Day

This is a great day for me. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. This is a great opportunity that the St. Louis Blues organization, (owner) Tom Stillman and Doug Armstrong are giving me and trusting me in doing...This is going to be a great challenge for me.

— Martin Brodeur, after announcing his retirement as an NHL player and becoming a senior adviser with the Blues on Thursday