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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 3:40 PM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - At the Rink blog

Boucher philosophical about realignment

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- After having a chance to digest the realignment setup agreed to at the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Monday, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher was philosophical.

"I woke up and thought, 'Let's just build a practice rink in Vermont. That's a good solution,'" he said with a smile during a Tuesday media scrum.

Under the new setup, the Lightning and Florida Panthers are grouped with Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. The demise of the Southeast Division will mean fewer trips to Carolina and Washington and plenty of time in New England, Western New York and Eastern Canada.

"It's difficult to understand why Carolina, which is an hour away, is not in our conference," he said, "We've built a rivalry with Washington and they're gone too. 

"Let's not kid ourselves -- we're going to have more travel, and we're going to have to deal with it."

But Boucher also said he realizes that trying to juggle an alignment that would make all 30 teams happy was going to be impossible.

"I'm sure the League worked extremely hard trying to do something that makes sense -- and it's difficult to make sense of 'not enough teams for here and there,' and you're stuck," he said. "I can see how difficult it must have been for them to make something that made sense, to keep the rivalries.

"You look at Boston -- they're pretty close to the other teams and could have been in the other division, but they've got rivalries with Buffalo and Montreal, the old Adams Division. Do you want to separate Pittsburgh and Philly? I think it was very difficult for them to decide what to do."

One thing Boucher said is sure to continue is that his team will be a popular destination for teams to bring their fathers along on road trips.

"We'll see that all year long," he said. "Everyone's got their 'Father's Trip' in Tampa."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 3:34 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sutters clash as father coaches against son

CALGARY -- Though it's an important two points for two franchises that have struggled this season, there's more than just a win on the line tonight when the Calgary Flames host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Family bragging rights are up for grabs.

Son Brandon, a forward for the Hurricanes, will try to get the better of father Brent, who serves as Calgary's coach, as the two Sutters square off at the Scotiabank Saddledome for the only meeting between the two this season.

"They always are," Brandon said. "Hopefully I can find a way to get them this year."

Retain might be a better word. Brandon had an assist in last season's 6-5 shootout win for the Hurricanes. The previous season, though, Brent's Flames beat Brandon's Hurricanes 4-1.

"I think last year we beat him so I'm trying to keep that train rolling," said Brandon, who has 5 goals and 10 points in 28 games this season. "It's a little nicer for the bragging rights, that's for sure."

It's more complicated than just having the right to boast for Brent, who also served as Brandon's coach with the Red Deer Rebels throughout his three-year junior career.

"It's never an easy thing, believe me," Brent said of coaching a son. "It's a lot harder on me then it is him. That's the way it is. Like I told him yesterday, I hope he has a great game, but as long as we finish one goal ahead of him it's a great day for me and a crappy one for him. It's just the way it is when you’re a coach and your son plays in the National Hockey League."

As per Sutter family rules, ice will be thicker than blood -- at least temporarily.

"It's game day," said Brent, who has guided the Flames to an 11-13-2 start this season. "Our makeup is, and our DNA is, that's the way we are. He's focused on trying to help the Carolina Hurricanes as a player and my job is to help the Calgary Flames as a coach. When the game is over, it's over."

If ever there was a household divide, mother/wife Connie provides the ultimate trump card.

"She has an easier time worrying about me than him," Brandon said.

Brent concurred.

"Guaranteed she's not cheering for her husband," he said.

Which means Brent will have to hear it twice should the Flames fall to Carolina.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 3:34 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Williams promoted back to Kings' first line

ANAHEIM -- Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray put his top line back together for tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks, reuniting Simon Gagne and Anze Kopitar with Justin Williams, who had been demoted to the third line.

Murray also put Dustin Brown back at left wing.

"He's so effective coming off that left side on the attack," Murray said of Brown. "I just want to take advantage of it right now."

Penner feels good:
Kings forward Dustin Penner returned to the lineup last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season after he missed nine games with a hand injury.

Penner, whose season has been interrupted by injuries, said this is the best he's felt all season.

"It's a combination of the extra work I put in, and also I'm injury free," Penner said.

Penner's goal came on a tip in front of the net, which is exactly the type of net presence that coach Terry Murray has preached.

"That's the attitude that we need to re-establish as a team again," Murray said. "We're getting away from that the last several games. Overall, his game was real good. I just want to make sure there's no back off the gas pedal here."

Kings searching for entry point: An inability to generate shots has been an ongoing point of emphasis for the Kings, who remain among the worst-scoring teams in the NHL.

"I personally think it starts with our neutral-zone play, coming up the ice together," captain Dustin Brown said. "Sometimes we get too spread out. Whether it's a quick counter or a long counter, we've got to be able to identify that, as a group of five, and come together.

"You look at our team, we have nine or 10 guys that have scored 20 goals. So guys can score goals. But we can't score goals when we're dumping the puck and not getting it back, and the result of that is our neutral zone. As players, we have a system in place, guys need to identify a quick counter or a long counter. Those are really are two options. Right now we're getting caught in between those … it puts guys where they have to chip it in. There's no speed. There's no pressure on the puck."
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 3:30 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Beleskey getting shot on Ducks' top line

ANAHEIM -- Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau is getting to know his team better, and one of the young pieces that has caught his attention is winger Matt Beleskey.

Boudreau put Beleskey with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the third period of Sunday's game, and that will be the case when Anaheim hosts rival Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

The move is not surprising because Beleskey played with Getzlaf and Perry briefly a couple of seasons ago under former coach Randy Carlyle.

Boudreau said it's part of learning about his team.

"A lot of these young guys I'd like to see," Boudreau said. "I think I pretty well know what Teemu (Selanne) can do. … When you're in the East you don't hear about Matt Beleskey, and you don't hear too much about Andrew Cogliano, even though he's a Toronto boy. … You don't hear a lot about those guys. It's intriguing to see what they can and can't do, and that takes a little bit of time."

Beleskey is taking the place of Bobby Ryan, who has been dropped to the second line with Saku Koivu and Selanne. Cogliano is back at third-line center.

Anaheim recalled center Nick Bonino in an attempt at offensive depth, although Bonino arrived late and won't play Tuesday. Bonino has 20 points in 17 games with the Syracuse Crunch.

"We're looking for scoring on the third and fourth lines," Boudreau said. "I think in today's game you need four lines that can score. Bonino, from what I've gathered … he's an offensive guy and we've got to give him an opportunity."

Parros available:
Ducks winger George Parros is a game-time decision after he missed 13 games with an eye injury.

Anaheim desperately needs size on its bottom-six forward unit, and it's possible that it could ice a fourth line of Parros and Jean-Francois Jacques.

 Boudreau, who coached Parros in Washington's organization, said it's not just about toughness, though.

"I'm not getting guys to fight," Boudreau said. "I told him when I had him (that) he's got to play. He's not just going to sit on the bench and take somebody’s spot."

Kings-Ducks connections:
Boudreau has roots in the Kings' organization as coach of its AHL-affiliate Manchester from 2001 to 2005.

The following year Boudreau coached Hershey in the Calder Cup where the Bears played a Portland team that had Getzlaf, Perry and current Kings forward Dustin Penner, who were sent down by Anaheim after the Ducks were eliminated by Edmonton in the conference finals.

Penner, who won a Stanley Cup playing with Getzlaf and Perry on the so-called Points Per Game line in 2007, said it was surprising to see his former team struggle.

"I know what they're going through," Penner said. "I did it for four years in Edmonton. It's definitely surprising. To what extent, I don't know. I think they rely heavily on their top two lines. When you look at every team that comes into Staples Center, they've got three or four lines. I'm not saying they won't have it in a year or two, but right now their bottom six, I don't know if they have 100 games combined."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 3:19 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

No Filppula for Wings

ST. LOUIS -- After suffering a cut on his shin due to a skate blade in Sunday's loss at Colorado, the Wings will be without winger Valtteri Filppula tonight against the Blues.

Filppula, who has 8 goals and 13 assists in 25 games this season, tried to give it a go by adjusting his skate to alleviate any pressure on the cut, but still couldn't make a go of it.

"It's as good as it can be, but I just can't push it," Filppula, who is listed as day-to-day, said after the morning skate. "I'm hoping it gets better soon. I can't say when it's going to be good enough, but probably every day, I'm going to give it a try.

"It was pretty painful. I could cruise around a little bit, but then when I had to try skating faster, I couldn't really do it."

The Wings will use Cory Emmerton tonight, and depending on coach Mike Babcock's thinking, could play him at fourth-line center or use him at wing on the third line and play Justin Abdelkader as a fourth-line center.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 3:16 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Kings, Ducks

Here's how the lineups could look for tonight's game between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings at Honda Center:


Simon Gagne - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Brown - Jarret Stoll - Trent Hunter
Dustin Penner - Andrei Loktionov - Ethan Moreau
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Jack Johnson - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Davis Drewiske

Jonathan Quick

Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell is skating but is still out with a groin injury. Alec Martinez (upper body) has been cleared for contact.


Matt Beleskey - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Niklas Hagman - Andrew Cogliano - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jean-Francois Jacques - Maxime Macenauer - George Parros

Cam Fowler - Francois Beauchemin
Toni Lydman - Luca Sbisa
Sheldon Brookbank - Kurtis Foster

Jonas Hiller

Anaheim activated backup goalie Dan Ellis and re-assigned Jeff Deslauriers. Ellis had a groin injury.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 2:46 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Muller sticks with same lineup in search for first win

CALGARY -- Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller will continue with a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen as he searches for his first win since taking over as coach.

Muller, who is 0-3-0 since replacing Paul Maurice, will have one new face in the lineup tonight. Goaltender Mike Murphy was called up on an emergency basis from AHL Charlotte to replace Brian Boucher, who suffered a lower-body injury in practice yesterday.

It's one face Muller will be familiar with.

"He's a Kingston (Ont.) kid, so I’ve known Murph since he was a kid," Muller said, himself a Kingston native. "One of the kids I know the most is coming up. I got a break there."

Muller hasn't gotten a break since joining Carolina. The team has lost five consecutive games as Muller looks to instill a new identity in the club, one of teamwork.

"I don't care if you're minus-15, I don't care if you have 1 goal, let's look at today and see how we can be better," Muller said. "Let's just do it together. No one has to be Superman. It's strength in numbers. Let's get out of this together. Let's just come tonight and have fun and play hard and let's see where we're at. We've been doing that for three games, so we just have to keep getting them to believe in it."

We had the likely Flames lineup earlier. Here's what the Hurricanes lineup likely will look like:

Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
Jiri Tlusty - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Andreas Nodl - Anthony Stewart

Bryan Allen - Derek Joslin
Tim Gleason - Justin Faulk
Joni Pitkanen - Tomas Kaberle
Jamie McBain

Cam Ward will start in goal, with Mike Murphy to serve as the backup.

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

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 2:46 PM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - At the Rink blog

Bolts' scoring woes not for lack of chances

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning bring a four-game losing streak to the Nassau Coliseum for tonight's game against the New York Islanders. They've scored just seven goals in those games, including two each in 4-2 losses to the New York Rangers at home on Saturday and at Ottawa on Monday.

But coach Guy Boucher feels his team is doing a lot of things right -- except for putting the puck in the net.

"At the beginning of the year, on the road, we were horrible," Boucher said. "Plain and simple -- all over the place. The work ethic wasn't there. The relentlessness wasn't there, the physicality wasn't there. We were getting some chances, but not like now. Now, it's ridiculous -- our games could be 5-1 after two periods. That's frustrating -- to miss those goals.

“During the game, it's frustrating -- and when I look at the video it's really frustrating. You can't believe the goals that we've missed; it's unreal. We've had more scoring chances than even last year -- just ridiculous."

It's not that the Lightning lack firepower -- Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are three of the best offensive players in the NHL. But for whatever reason, the pucks haven't been going in.

"I don't remember coaching a team that has misfired that much," Boucher said. "Look at Stammer -- he was wide-open, the puck on his stick, the goalie wasn't even there, but something happens and it trickles. That's just one of them.

"We're missing these goals, and that comes with swagger and swagger comes with results. It's a vicious circle. But one thing's for sure: We're playing great. If we keep at it and stick to it and continue working at the small details, we'll be a much better team, because once the (puck) goes in and we correct these little things … we can hope for good things."

The Lightning led 2-1 in the third period of the games against the Rangers and Senators, but allowed three goals each time and went home empty-handed -- dropping them to 11-13-2 and 13th place in the Eastern Conference.

"If we want to win games, we have to make sure we check in those moments," Boucher said. "Both those games -- one with three minutes left, one with four minutes left -- you go into overtime and lose, it's still a point and a point, like winning one of the two games, and those points are big."

After former Islander Dwayne Roloson played in Ottawa on Monday, Mathieu Garon will start in goal for the Lightning, who again will be without defenseman Pavel Kubina, out with a lower-body injury. Tampa Bay recalled Evan Oberg from the AHL Norfolk Admirals for the game -- they acquired Oberg just four days ago in a four-player swap with Florida.

Forward Adam Hall, a scratch in the last two games, is likely to dress -- "there's a big chance he plays," Boucher said. "Big, big chance."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 2:40 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Blue Jackets get Carter back from ankle sprain

MONTREAL -- The Columbus Blue Jackets will welcome center Jeff Carter back to the lineup tonight when they face the Montreal Canadiens.

Carter missed the Blue Jackets' last game in Edmonton -- a 6-3 loss to the Oilers -- with a sprained ankle, but he declared himself fit and ready to go back to his spot next to Rick Nash on Columbus' top line.

"For the opposition coaches and the opposition players, he's a big threat," said Columbus coach Scott Arniel, who went without Carter for a 10-game stretch earlier this season. "When he's not there they can key on Nash and key on a few other people. Jeff, his ability to shoot the puck and to get into the offense and get open is so big. It helps our power play a lot and it makes teams adjust. We talked about it in the beginning of the year when we brought him in it would take some of the pressure off Rick. So when he's out, it is noticeable."

The Blue Jackets find themselves in the desperate situation of needing to make up ground in a hurry to save their season after an 0-7-1 start dug them into a serious hole.

Nash says that as captain, remaining positive has been a difficult task.

"It's been a tough job, for sure, especially as a leader on the team," he said. "You see the lowest that guys get, so it's tough to keep guys upbeat. But we knew we were going to work our way out of it. It's just a matter of making up as much ground as we can right now."

At the same time, Nash says it is just as important not to think of just how much ground there is left to make up.

"I think that's what we were doing early on in our losing streak, we were worrying about how we were going to make up all these games," Nash said. "But in that last few weeks we've taken it by period and even by five-minute segments within periods. We just tried to break it down as simply as we could and let the big picture take care of itself."

Curtis Sanford will get the start in goal against the Canadiens, his former employers last season when he was starring for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL. Sanford will face several of his old Bulldogs teammates, including P.K. Subban, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, Yannick Weber and Mathieu Darche, with whom he was especially tight.

"I consider them good friends," Sanford said. "But tonight, we're not going to be friends out there."

Meanwhile, Blue Jackets center Derrick Brassard -- a native Quebecer -- will be a healthy scratch for an eighth time in 12 games. In Carter's absence in Edmonton, Brassard got 16:42 of ice time -- his highest total in three weeks -- registering four shots on goal and a plus-1 rating.

"I try to talk to him a little bit. It's not an easy situation," said fellow Quebecer Antoine Vermette in French. "I'm trying to encourage him as much as I can, but it's hard on him. He's still maintaining a good attitude about it, though. He's not hanging his head around the other players, he's not being negative and he's working hard in practice. That's what he needs to do."

For the Canadiens it should be Carey Price starting in goal after making 64 saves on 68 shots over his last two outings, a shootout loss in San Jose and a 2-1 win in Los Angeles. Defenseman Frederic St-Denis is out of the lineup as a healthy scratch.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 2:23 PM

By Patrick Williams - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Jets happy with next season's conference lineup

WINNIPEG -- No team in the NHL is more geographically displaced this season than the Winnipeg Jets.

Jets players and coaches roundly supported last night's realignment decision that is expected to move the club out of the Southeast Division for the 2012-13 season. Next season Winnipeg will play in a conference with the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.

Minnesota is the Jets' nearest geographic rival and should allow fans to make the seven-hour car trip for road games next season. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is a Winnipeg product, and the Blue Jackets have former Winnipeg Jet Scott Arniel manning their bench.

While the Jets have the benefit this season of frequent travel to warmer climates for road games with the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, next season's schedule should ease the Jets' travel burden.

The Jets also have three Minnesota products on their roster, and a chance to play before family and friends at the Xcel Energy Center delighted Blake Wheeler, who also played his NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota.

"I like being in the Midwest a little more and being in the Central time zone," Wheeler said. "It'll be fun to play back home a little more often, and more specifically, for our travel, it's going to be huge to play the majority of our games in this area."
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There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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