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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 3:03 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Herman Liv visits Red Wings practice

The Detroit Red Wings had a special visitor at practice Thursday -- Herman Liv, the 5-year-old son of former goaltending prospect Stefan Liv, who was one of 44 people killed in the Lokomotiv team plane crash in Russia in September.

The Liv family -- mother Anna, Herman and 3-year-old son Harry -- have been visiting from Sweden and staying with Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson for the past month. Ericsson and Stefan Liv became close as teammates with the Wings' AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

"It's nice for them to get away, to get off the focus at home," Ericsson told reporters. "It's been a lot for them, throughout everything. So it's nice to think about something else for a while.

"The kids are fine. They're too young, I think. But Anna has her up-and-down days, of course. So it's nice to think about something else and do something else for a while."

Liv was a 2000 fourth-round pick of the Red Wings but played just one season in North America, 2006-07, which he split between Grand Rapids and the ECHL's Toledo Storm. The rest of his career was spent in his native Sweden. This season was going to be his first playing in the KHL.

Fellow Swede Nicklas Kronwall, who played on Swedish national teams with Liv, said Herman, "Reminds you non-stop of Stefan."

"You're happy to see them and it's fun to see the kids running around," added Kronwall. "They're just like him."

Kronwall said he had only good memories of Liv.

"He was always one of those guys you hung out with, went to dinner with," said Kronwall. "One of those guys you always wanted to be around because you were having a good time. He'd always make you smile. You'd always be in a good mood around him.

"It's tough looking back, especially when you see (his kids)."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:50 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

BLUE JACKETS
RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Russell - Derek MacKenzie - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Ryan Johansen

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

INJURIES: RW Jared Boll (foot), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion) and D Marc Methot (jaw) are out.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Jamie McGinn - Mark Olver - David Jones
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Peter Mueller

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: RW Chuck Kobasew (back) and D Ryan O'Byrne (knee) are out.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:41 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Islanders, Flyers

Here is what the teams could look like when the Islanders and Flyers skate tonight in Philadelphia.

The Flyers didn't practice line combinations, but with a healthy Danny Briere and coming off a mostly solid effort in a 1-0 loss in San Jose Tuesday, coach Peter Laviolette could stick with the same lineup Thursday.

The Islanders will stick with the same lineup they used Tuesday against Washington, which means rookie forward Nino Niederreiter again will be a healthy scratch.

Here are the likely lineups for each team:

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
David Ullstrom - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - Kyle Okposo
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jay Pandolfo

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Milan Jurcina - Mark Eaton

Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal, with Anders Nilsson the backup. The last time Nabokov faced the Flyers, he stopped all 45 Flyers shots in regulation and overtime, and then two more in the shootout in a 1-0 Islanders win.

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Maxime Talbot - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Brayden Schenn - Jakub Voracek
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Danny Briere

Matt Carle - Braydon Coburn
Kimmo Timonen - Pavel Kubina
Nicklas Grossman - Andrej Meszaros

Ilya Bryzgalov will make his seventh straight start for the Flyers, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:30 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers have enjoyed success at MTS Centre

WINNIPEG -- The Florida Panthers look to tighten their grip on the Southeast Division lead further tonight when they visit the Winnipeg Jets.

Visiting teams have experienced difficulty in Winnipeg this season, but the Panthers (30-20-12) have found success in Manitoba this season. Along with the New York Islanders, the Panthers are the only team that has come into the MTS Centre and taken two wins this season. The Panthers also have assembled a 5-1-1 mark over seven games in Canada this season.

A regulation win tonight for the Panthers, who have won three straight games, would extend Florida's divisional lead on the Jets to six points and five points on the Washington Capitals. A win would also tie the club's franchise record of five consecutive on the road, set during the 2008-09 season. The 17 points that the Panthers accumulated in February matched a franchise record for the month.

However, the Panthers will be without Kris Versteeg (lower-body injury), who has lit up the Jets for 5 goals in two games on Winnipeg ice this season.

Jose Theodore is expected to start in net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Panthers:

Sean Bergenheim - Stephen Weiss - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Tomas Kopecky - Wojtek Wolski
Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:26 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets face virtual must-win against first-place Panthers

WINNIPEG -- Tonight's date with the Florida Panthers at the MTS Centre figured to be a critical game for the Winnipeg Jets.

But a home loss that featured a third-period meltdown to the Edmonton Oilers earlier this week means that tonight's game takes on even greater importance for the Jets (30-27-8). Winnipeg trails Florida by four points, and the Jets cede three games in hand to the Panthers. A regulation loss would set the ninth-place Jets six points behind Florida and leave them stuck one point behind the eighth-place Washington Capitals, who will also hold three games in hand after tonight.

While eight of the Jets' final 17 games are against Southeast Division opponents, a season-high eight-game homestand has yielded Winnipeg wins in only three of its first six games. The Jets will have a rare weekend off before concluding the homestand against the Buffalo Sabres early next week.

Aiding Winnipeg will be the return of defenseman Zach Bogosian after an upper-body injury cost him a seven-game absence. With Bogosian's return, the Jets, who have lost 244 man-games to injury this season, have a completely healthy roster. Newcomer Grant Clitsome, whom the Jets acquired via waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, will not dress.

Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start in net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Zach Bogosian - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:22 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Geoffrion honoring family's Habs history

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens will attempt to avoid their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Minnesota Wild tonight.

With the playoffs highly unlikely -- and everyone on the team seemingly resigned to that fact -- things like halting a five-game losing streak or improving their League-worst .333 winning percentage on home ice (11-14-8) are what the Canadiens players are focusing on for motivation.

"You play for pride and the logo on the front of your jersey," center Lars Eller said. "That means a lot. So you have to keep that in mind."

Someone who will be feeling a great sense of pride tonight is newcomer Blake Geoffrion, who will play his second game in a Canadiens uniform, but his first at home.

Geoffrion is wearing No. 57 to honor two members of his family who are legends in the Canadiens organization -- his grandfather, Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion (No. 5) and his great-grandfather, Howie Morenz (No. 7).

Another new Canadiens addition has a bit of extra motivation as well, as Brad Staubitz will face the team that placed him on waivers on Feb. 27.

"I really hope I can get my first goal of the year," Staubitz said with a smile.

He last scored a goal April 10, 2011, a span of 44 games. Although he'd probably settle for an assist -- his last point of any kind came on that goal. Better known for physical play, his 90 penalty minutes are the most on the Canadiens.

His former Wild teammates expressed regret that Staubitz was no longer with them, but they have little doubt that should he be called upon to fill play that extra-physical role Thursday, there will be no hesitation.

"I know what a great pro he is, so he's going to go out and play his game and do his job," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We expect him to play a very hard game, but having said that I'm sure he'd rather have that role and that responsibility against a team he's not as close with."

Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth would not tip his hand as to who will be in his lineup for the game, though he did suggest he would go with seven defensemen once again.

The matchup in goal will pit Carey Price against Niklas Backstrom.

We had the likely Wild lineup earlier; here’s the most likely Canadiens lineup:

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Ryan White - Tomas Plekanec - Blake Geoffrion
Aaron Palushaj - Lars Eller - Rene Bourque
Scott Gomez - Brad Staubitz
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Yannick Weber

With Price starting in goal, Peter Budaj will be the backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 1:35 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Palmieri enjoying opportunity with Wild

MONTREAL -- Nick Palmieri has waited all season for an opportunity like he will be getting Thursday when the Minnesota Wild face the Montreal Canadiens.

Palmieri was identified by Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher as the key piece that came back from the New Jersey Devils in the trade for defenseman Marek Zidlicky, and as soon as Palmieri arrived he could see why.

Coach Mike Yeo had Palmieri playing on the second line with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck for his first two games, but Thursday Palmieri will get bumped to the top line, alongside Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley.

"I've been very impressed so far," Yeo said of Palmieri. "The first day you see him he looks like an NHL player. He's got the size, the strength, the way he passes and shoots the puck. Every game that he's played for us -- he's played two now -- he's generated some quality scoring chances. We kind of eased him in, but he's earned himself some more opportunity on that top line and he's a guy we'd like to see on the power play, as well."

Palmieri, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-wing who's just 22 years old, readily admits he was starting to find his role difficult to take in New Jersey. After playing at least 10 minutes in all but one of his first 18 games with the Devils, Palmieri did not reach that mark once in his final 11 games, dating to Nov. 23, a span that included three return trips to the AHL.

"They had their lines pretty much set there, so there wasn't much room for me," said Palmieri. "But that's the way it goes. I'm just excited to play more minutes, no matter who I'm playing with."

Palmieri was getting decent minutes earlier in the season, but the production was slow to come in his second NHL season. Next thing he knew, he was a fourth-line player.

"I kind of got behind the eight-ball early in the year and started to feel the pressure," he said. "When they move you to the fourth line you kind of start to play more passive. You play to not make mistakes instead of trying to make a play."

He certainly will get that opportunity Thursday.

One player who won't, however, is Erik Christensen, who will be a healthy scratch for the first time since he was acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 3. Christensen does not have a point in 12 games with Minnesota, and he is a minus-5 in his last three games.

"It's one thing to not be getting goals and to not be getting assists, but if the puck is going in (our) net when you're on the ice, then it doesn't add up," Yeo said. "Some guys can go out and they might not score a goal but they can still be effective, they can still bring momentum or they can still be solid defensively. That's what we have to make sure of with Erik is the next time you're in the lineup, you might score or you might not, but just make sure you play a good game."

Here's how the Wild are expected to look like tonight:

Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Palmieri
Devin Setoguchi - Matt Cullen - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Kassian - Darroll Powe - Nick Johnson
Stephane Veilleux - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk - Tom Gilbert
Nate Prosser - Kurtis Foster

Niklas Backstrom will start in goal, with Josh Harding the backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 1:30 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild sign prospect Coyle to three-year deal

The Minnesota Wild on Thursday signed 2010 first-round pick Charlie Coyle to a three-year, entry level contract. No financial terms were disclosed.

The East Weymouth, Mass., native started this season as a sophomore at Boston University. But after representing the United States for the second straight year at the World Junior Championship, Coyle joined the defending Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he's played on the same line with fellow Wild prospect Zack Phillips, who's sixth in the QMJHL in scoring.

Coyle and Phillips have been a potent tandem, with Coyle scoring 12 goals and adding 12 assists in just 16 games.

“Point-wise I think obviously we’re both doing pretty good and we’re winning so I think it’s working for everyone,” Coyle told the Wild's website of playing with Phillips. “I think we complement each other pretty good. Hopefully we stick together. I think we work well together."

Coyle had four goals in six games with Team USA at the World Juniors after going 3-11-14 in 16 games for BU.
Coyle was originally a first-round pick by San Jose, but was dealt to the Wild on draft day last June along with Devin Setoguchi and a first-round pick that turned out to be Phillips in exchange for defenseman Brent Burns.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 12:56 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers' Briere to play tonight

Danny Briere will be in the lineup Thursday for the Philadelphia Flyers when they host the New York Islanders tonight.

Briere took a hard hit during Tuesday's game against San Jose and fell head-first into the boards, but was on the ice with the rest of his teammates during Thursday's morning skate.

"Luckily I don't think I ran into the boards too hard," Briere told CSNPhilly.com following the practice. "Sometimes I think that the impact is just as important or more important than how awkward you come into the boards. It did look bad, but somehow I was able to roll. Not so sure it's the best way, to tuck my chin in and roll, but it worked out. So I feel fortunate to escape with nothing too major on that play."

With his head healed, Briere must be hoping his stick will follow. He'll take a 17-game goal drought into Thursday's game. He hasn't scored since registering a hat trick Jan. 7 against the Ottawa Senators. He also missed six games in that span with a concussion.

"I only know one way to get out of a slump -- it's to keep working and keep plugging away," Briere told the Philadelphia Inquirer following Tuesday's game. "That's the only thing I can do, and at some point, I expect good things to happen."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boychuk making progress toward return

BOSTON -- Although he's been ruled out of tonight's home game against New Jersey, Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk today continued to make progress toward a return to the lineup.

Boychuk, who suffered a concussion last Saturday in Ottawa, skated on his own before the Bruins' practice Wednesday. Today he took part in an optional morning skate with his teammates and increased his heart rate both during the skate and after it, as he stayed on longer than most of the other players.

"I'm feeling pretty good. Just got out there, got a skate in and we'll see how I feel. Just going day by day, I guess," Boychuk said.

It was Ottawa forward Chris Neil's big hit on the forecheck that knocked out Boychuk in Saturday's third period. Boychuk compared it to being "run over by a train," but he also stressed that it was a clean hit.

If Boychuk continues to feel well, he'll practice again with the team Friday and then could make his return to the lineup over the weekend. Given that teammate Nathan Horton hasn't skated for several weeks after his initial attempt to get back on the ice after a concussion, Boychuk knows these types of injuries can be tough to predict. However, he's not fretting over that.

"You can’t really be nervous," he said. "You go out there, you see how you feel. If you feel good, then you feel good. If you don't, then you get off."


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I don't have a crystal ball. Predicting is a real complicated thing. If we stay healthy, have enough depth and get the good goaltending we think we're going to have, you can go all the way. But a lot of things have to happen. There's going to be a lot of teams that think the same thing. Everyone made deals. We're all are optimistic about where we'll end up.

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