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Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:23 PM

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

Kings trying to stay on top of Pacific

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With their hopes for a division title on the line, the Los Angeles Kings look to stay out of the trap that foiled the Florida Panthers here Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Holding a tenuous lead over the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division, the Panthers led the Wild late Thursday, before surrendering a late goal to Erik Christensen in regulation and another to Mikko Koivu early in overtime, essentially surrendering a point the standings.

Los Angeles, which defeated Edmonton 4-1 on Friday night, now leads the Pacific Division by a single point over both Dallas and Phoenix, and by two points over San Jose. A similar let down by the Kings Saturday would be a crushing blow.

Nobody more than Los Angeles knows the tenuous nature of the Western Conference playoffs. Just 72 hours ago, the Kings were in ninth place on the outside looking in. Saturday night, they begin play in third place and in the catbird's seat in the division.

The Kings scored in a variety of ways Friday in Edmonton, netting a power play goal, a short-handed goal and two even-strength goals. Jonathan Quick made 13 saves in the win, meaning it's likely Jonathan Bernier gets the start in goal against Minnesota tonight. Bernier stopped all 26 shots he faced against the Wild in the Kings' last trip to Minnesota Feb. 28. A win tonight would give them the season series.

The Kings did not arrive in the Twin Cities until 4 a.m. local time and had an optional morning skate. Only defenseman Davis Drewiskie and forward Kevin Westgarth took part.

The Wild also had an optional morning skate after a full practice Friday. Coach Mike Yeo said his team can take advantage of the schedule and jump on the Kings early. But that won't be easy, especially with what's on the line for the visitors.

"If you play the game the right way, and play a game that grinds them down a little more physically, certainly that can play into our favor," Yeo said. "But I don't expect fatigue to be a factor in these last games. These are crucial points for them and they're going to come in here and I expect a really strong effort from them."

The game marks the final contest of a four-game road trip for L.A. Getting the game to overtime would assure the Kings of a winning road-trip. With three games left after tonight -- two of which are at Staples Center -- the Kings control their own destiny.

"We got the two points. That's what we want," Sutter said after beating the Oilers. "All of the games are really important right now."

Minnesota will go with Niklas Backstrom again in goal. He stopped 25 shots, earning his 18th win Thursday over the Panthers -- his first game back after injuring his groin almost a month ago.

On the blueline, the Wild will play without Marco Scandella, who Yeo said is out with a minor upper body injury. Kurtis Foster will skate in his place. Scandella is expected to accompany the team to Chicago for its game there Sunday evening.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, is also likely to be without forward Jeff Carter, who injured his ankle Wednesday in Calgary. He was in a walking boot afterwards and did not play Friday. He is likely to be re-evaluated when the team returns to the West Coast after the game this evening.

Here is the projected lineup for both teams:

WILD

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Darroll Powe
Jason Zucker - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Tom Gilbert - Clayton Stoner
Steven Kampfer - Justin Falk
Kurtis Foster - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
 
KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Colin Fraser
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Brad Richardson - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
 
Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Quick
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:19 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ PHI - 2:59 of the Second Period



At 2:59 of the second period in the Senators/Flyers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Brayden Schenn's shot deflected off Wayne Simmonds' face and into the net. According to rule 78.4 "if an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed." Good Goal Philadelphia.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:13 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blues refocus with hard practice

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock warned after a 4-3 shootout loss Thursday at Chicago that maybe the St. Louis Blues needed a good, hard practice Friday.

True to his word, that's exactly what they got.

But instead of fretting over what was to come at St. Louis Mills' Ice Zone on Friday afternoon, the Blues embraced a good old-fashioned refresher course on what has made them successful and why they have been able to maintain that edge.

If they're able to follow through on it, the Blues (48-20-10) will clinch the Central Division for the first time since 2000.

"We deserved what we got [Thursday] night and I think we deserved what we got this morning," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "It was good for everyone to get out there and get whipped around a little bit. Personally, I know I needed a little bit of it, especially with a big game tomorrow and getting a couple days off in between games. I think it's going to be good for us."

And what was it that the team needed to be reminded of?

"I think just the sharpness and crispness of everything," winger Alex Steen said. "Yesterday was a slower, mediocre team performance by us. Today was just getting back to that quicker step, a little quicker decisions and crisper passes and all that good stuff.

"We play 82 games, we practice, what, 170 times a year? It's good to just get a little reminder. Last night we got away from what had made us successful. [Friday] we got a little quick reminder and we're back on track."

Added defenseman Kris Russell: "It's human nature to kind of get a little soft in some cases. That's where as a team, we've got to be better and recognize that sooner in games.

"It was a good day [Friday]. I thought we did a lot of good things. We worked hard as a team, we were competing hard against each other. If we bring that speed and work ethic in the games, we're going to be successful."

Hitchcock, who conducted a 48-minute practice, hopes so, because what he saw from his 48-20-10 team was out of the ordinary.

"We were rotten. There's no other way to describe it. We were flat-rotten," Hitchcock said of the game against the Blackhawks. "We played the whole game with our eyes. It was just an absolute shock for us. For a coaching staff, it was like, 'Whoa!' To go as well as we played and skated against Nashville [a 3-0 win Tuesday] to come in and play like that [against Chicago], it was like we were playing the friendly games and they didn't want anything to do with it. They hit us, they knocked us around, they were tough on us. We tried everything we could, but we couldn't seem to get a response from our own group. Our own group couldn't get a response from each other. I don't know what it was.

"It's a young team and when you don't practice, you don't play well, and that's where we're at. When we don't practice, it just comes back and bites us every time and it has all year. I think veteran teams can do it and get away with it. You can talk things through, but when we don't get tempo at practice or we don't get everybody on the ice or we get to this playing every second day ... the only time we were good in a pregame skate was when we gassed it and had a hockey practice before the Nashville game. But that's hard to do every time. [Friday] was good. [It] hopefully gets out tempo back where it was before."

When the Blues implement that familiar tempo again against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday in hopes of clinching the Central Division title for the first time since 2000, they will do it with a full and healthy lineup for the first time in 160 games.

Hitchcock said Thursday that Andy McDonald (shoulder) would play against the Blue Jackets. Matt D'Agostini (concussion) was activated from injured reserve Thursday and Roman Polak, out the last five games with a bruised knee, is also back in the lineup.

So in practice Friday, there were 16 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies.

"It's a team we put together in the off-season, the team that's been practicing and working all year as a group," Steen said. "To finally have everybody healthy is a great feeling. Just knowing that guys have their health is the big thing. Everybody in here is friends. We're like family together. You never want to see a teammate get hurt.

"The coaches have a lot of decisions to make for the lineups and stuff like that. It's a good thing to have. There will be a lot of competitiveness. Guys want to play and play a lot."

It means that six players will sit the remaining games as long as the lineup's in tact the way it is. That will make competition for the 20 roster spots tough to sift through.

"It's always good when you have a healthy team, but shows how deep our team is," Russell said. "We were having success when guys were out, but it's been key guys that have been out. [Polak's] a big part of our defense. He's a shutdown guy, plays heavy minutes, five-on-five and four-on-four. You get guys like [Steen] and [McDonald] back, they help run the ship with the forwards. It's good to have those guys back and the leadership they bring.

"No matter how much money you're making, you've got to be competing, you've got to be earning a spot on that ice. That's the good thing about our team. There's competition. You've got to be at your best and if you're not, there's going to be someone breathing down your neck looking for that chance to get in. We work hard as a team and we help each other out. I think that's why we've been so strong."

The Blues usually bounce back strong after these types of competitive skates, and they typically bounce back strong off a loss.

Nothing less is expected once again.

"We're a team that feels uneasy when we don't play our best and we haven't really poured it all in," Shattenkirk said. "I think once that happens, you almost feel guilty and play harder.

"We owe it to ourselves to put the best product out there every night. Some guys won't have it some nights, but if the effort's there, usually we end up on the right side of things."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:43 PM

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

Toews could return next week for Hawks

NASHVILLE – Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said captain Jonathan Toews skated again Saturday and he might be able to return to action in the next week.
 
Toews skated at home in Chicago on Saturday, as he did not make the team’s trip for the game with the Predators.
 
“We’re hopeful that maybe we can get him in before the end of the season,” Quenneville said.
 
Asked if Toews had been cleared for contact, Quenneville at first responded in the affirmative but then said he was “not positive.”
 
Here is Chicago's projected lineup:
 
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik
 
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Sean O’Donnell - Dylan Olsen
 
Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:26 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blues finally healthy, face Blue Jackets

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for a Central Division battle Saturday night between the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets from Scottrade Center:

BLUES

Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Matt D'Agostini - Scott Nichol - Chris Stewart

Kent Huskins - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak gets his second straight start tonight in goal. He is 10-0-0 in his last 10 home starts with a .099 goals-against average and .960 save percentage, 13-0-1 at home dating back to Nov. 22.

The Blues will have their full lineup healthy and intact for the first time since March 3, 2010 (160 games). The scratches tonight will include forwards Jaden Schwartz, B.J. Crombeen, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Ian Cole.

BLUE JACKETS

R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Cam Atkinson
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Rick Nash
Ryan Russell - Ryan Johansen - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - Dalton Prout
Brett Lebda - Nikita Nikitin
Aaron Johnson - John Moore

Allen York
Shawn Hunwick

York, who started in a 4-1 win Friday against Florida and picked up his first NHL win Wednesday over Detroit, could go again or it is possible Shawn Hunwick could make his NHL debut.

The Blue Jackets' injury report includes G Curtis Sanford (leg), G Steve Mason (head), D Fedor Tyutin (hand), D James Wisniewski (concussion), D Marc Methot (jaw), D Radek Martinek (concussion), C Derek MacKenzie (concussion) and LW Kristian Huselius (groin).

All are out indefinitely except for Mason, who is day-to-day. Moore limped off the ice Friday in the first period but returned to finish the game. Coach Todd Richards told reporters after the game Moore is questionable for Saturday and the team might be forced to recall a player from Springfield.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

US Hockey-West/OHL to dominant afternoon session

5:56 p.m. (ET) - So Central has whipped through the first round and is now tearing through Round 2 -- 50 names have been voted upon. While I know it's probably killing you not to know who is rated where, my apologies. The final list is tentatively scheduled for release on April 9.

Beginning 9 a.m. Sunday morning, the boys will return to the conference room and look over the lists. It's possible a few hand votes will take place if there is a discrepancy somewhere.

4:17 p.m. (ET) - The OHL is now complete and that means the scouts will be voting on those players who should be considered in the first round, in order. Central Scouting Director Dan Marr (tongue in cheek) just asked me in front of the whole group, "Ok Mike, who do you take?"

A great honor indeed. But I passed. Marr is now just awaiting word from New York that 'Meeting Manager' is ready to accept votes. The scouts will then load in their first few picks and 'Meeting Manager' will then provide the average picks. Discussion will then commence.

3:20 p.m. (ET) - Ottawa's Cody Ceci has received some nice praise here at the scouting meetings. Discussion of Belleville's Daniil Zharkov, Oshawa's Scott Laughton and Owen Sound's Jarrod Maidens are on the table.

One scout said, "Brendan Gaunce is going to make one NHL team very happy," and another told the group "Olli Maatta may be the smartest player in the draft."

2:52 p.m. (ET)
- So Chris Edwards is ready to begin discussion of the Ontario Hockey League and first item up up for discussion - that Nail kid.

I'm very interested in finding out where Yakupov's teammate in Sarnia, Alex Galchenyuk, will wind up. He was listed at a 'limited viewing' at the midterm ranks in January.

2:15 p.m. (ET) - Jack Barzee still meandering through US West players and we're now discussing possible sixth-round picks. Al Jensen, David Gregory and Dan Marr all making their points as Barzee moves down his list.

1:10 p.m. (ET) - So Hockey Hall of Famer Jim Gregory opened up the afternoon with some inspiring and encouraging words. He basically told the boys how proud he is to be associated with such a great group of workers. The scouts then thanked Gregory.

Jack Barzee is now leading the talks on those U.S. - Western players on the chart. The players are from many U.S. colleges, high schools and the United States Hockey League, which includes the National Team Development Program. Needless to say, USNTDP defenseman Jacob Trouba is highly regarded.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:15 PM

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

Trotz reflects, deflects after 500th victory

NASHVILLE – Earlier this season, Barry Trotz coached his 1,000th game behind the bench – all with the Predators.
 
On Friday, he earned his 500th win with a 4-1 victory at Detroit. Talking about the feat Saturday morning, Trotz preferred to point credit in a different direction, saying he hadn’t thought about it much.
 
“Last night the players were coming off [the ice] and going, ‘Hey, congratulations,’” he said. “And David Legwand [a member of the Predators since their inaugural season] hands me a puck and I say, ‘What the [heck] is this for?’
 
“I was oblivious to it, so from that standpoint, after the game, really to me, it was good for the franchise and I thought it was real, real great for me that [general manager David Poile] was able to get 500 with two franchises -- which is the only guy in the history of this game, which is over a hundred years old -- to do that. I’m more proud of that for David than anything.”
 
Poile also guided Washington 500 wins from 1982 to 1997. The Predators are the fastest to win 500 of any expansion team after 1990, needing 1,062 games.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:08 PM

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

Trotz coy on goaltender choice for Predators

NASHVILLE – Coming off a huge win on the road Friday in Detroit that helped the Predators vault past the Red Wings into fourth place in the Western Conference, it was hard to tell if Nashville coach Barry Trotz was going to go for broke and start goalie Pekka Rinne again Saturday against Central Division rival Chicago.
 
Trotz said that backup Anders Lindback, who has only played in 14 games, would probably start a game or two in Nashville’s four remaining contests, but he would not say which goalie was going to start Saturday.
 
All Central Division teams have four games remaining entering Saturday and Nashville leads fifth-place Detroit by one point and the fourth-place Blackhawks by three. It’s possible that Trotz could start Rinne again Saturday and then rest him for one or two of the non-divisional games which don’t have as many playoff implications. One of those teams (Minnesota) is eliminated and another (Colorado) could be by the time Nashville plays the Avs in the season finale.
 
“We’re going to play sort of game-by-game,” Trotz said of the goalie decisions.
 
Rinne earned his 42nd win of the season Friday in the 4-1 win against Detroit by making 31 saves, including a sprawling, highlight-reel glove stop on Henrik Zetterberg from point-blank range in the second period. Without revealing anything, Rinne sounded as if he could play if called upon.

Lindback spent plenty of time on the ice during the morning skate; only the players who did not play on Friday participated in it. Rinne also said winning the first end of a back-to-back can be energizing.
 
“Yeah, for sure I think it’s a help,” he said. “We were talking about that after the game last night. Even though you feel, obviously, sometimes a little tired, but when you win, it gets easier and you feel like you have more energy. That kind of gives a boost for the whole team. Beating Detroit gives confidence to the whole team, so that’s a good thing.”
 
Rinne was asked if he would rate the win as one of his best performances of the season.
 
“I don’t know, for sure against a good team like that play a solid game at this point in the season,” he said. “It was a good game. It’s hard for me to rate it. … For sure, good to have a good game like that at the later stage of the season like it is.”
 
Trotz also said the lineup will not change much from now until the playoffs. Forwards Brandon Yip, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith and Brian McGrattan were all scratches last night, as were defensemen Jack Hillen and Ryan Ellis with Roman Josi returning to the lineup after missing nine games because of injury.
 
“We’re not going to try to tinker with it too much,” Trotz said.
 
Here is the Predators' projected lineup:
 
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Alex Radulov
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Paul Gaustad - Jordin Tootoo
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Brown set for NHL debut with Lightning

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning open their final homestand of the season when they play host to the Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.

With just two home games remaining and after two consecutive losses, it might appear like the Lightning are just playing out the string, but that assumption would be incorrect. Lightning coach Guy Boucher promises a full effort from his team.

“We play great at home and have respected our fans with our work ethic,” Boucher said.  “Our fans have given back to us by filling the stands every game. It’s important that we recognize that, but I want us to recognize that with a 60-minute effort. We’re playing a tough team and I don’t know if we’ll win or lose but there is one thing we can control and that is our work ethic.”

That effort has been absent in Tampa Bay’s previous two games -- losses to Boston and New Jersey. In both games, the Lightning started well but lackluster second periods changed the momentum of the contest completely.

“We get a great focus to start games and we’re short-staffed so I think the players come on the ice and they don’t want to get their butts kicked and it shows,” Boucher said.  “But I feel like when the first period is over they have a sense of relief. We don’t want that. The relief is when the game is over, the full 60 minutes.”

The Lightning will debut their newest acquisition Saturday night -- forward J.T. Brown, who signed March 28 as a college free agent from Minnesota-Duluth. The 21-year old was the MVP of the 2011 Frozen Four as he led the Bulldogs to the NCAA title.

Brown is the son of former Vikings running back Ted Brown, but unlike his father, the younger Brown’s sport was hockey rather than football.

“I played football until I was in ninth grade and then I had to make a choice to go one way or the other,” Brown said. “I like football but I have a passion for hockey.”

Brown had plenty of suitors once he announced his intention to leave school after his sophomore season, but said he chose to sign with Tampa Bay (a two-year deal) because he felt the Lightning would give him an opportunity to play right away.

He’s getting that, for sure.

“He’s going to play the remaining five games,” Boucher said. “We’ll give him some ice time with some quality players and give him the time to show us some of the stuff that our scouts have seen in him.

“He’s eager. He’s a young guy who is going to play in the NHL. Those were nerve-racking days, yesterday and today, signing his contract and all that. It’s a dream week but also a tough week to manage for him. We know that and the players he will play with are aware of that, too and they are ready to help him.”

They can start by helping him relax before the game.

“This is an exciting moment in my life,” Brown said. “Your first NHL game only happens once so I’ll try to make the best of it tonight. I usually take a pre-game nap but we’ll have to see if I can get one in today or not.”

Winnnipeg arrives for the second game in a back-to-back series, having kept its meager playoff hopes alive Friday night with a 4-3 overtime win in Carolina.

Saturday’s matchup is the fifth of six meetings between the Jets and the Lightning this season. The Jets have won three of the first four.

JETS

Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Antti Miettinen
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Wellwood - Tim StapletonNik Antropov
Ben Maxwell- Jim Slater - Spencer Machacek

Zach Bogosian - Ron Hainsey
Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Grant Clitsome

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - J.T. Brown
Tim Wallace - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
JT Wyman - Trevor Smith - Brandon Segal

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Brian Lee
Brendan Mikkelson - Mike Commodore

Sebastien Caron
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 12:47 PM

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

Bryzgalov out, Timonen in for Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- Sergei Bobrovsky will make his second straight start for the Flyers on Saturday when they face the Ottawa Senators (1 p.m., NHLN-US, CBC).

Ilya Bryzgalov practiced Friday, but the team will give him another day off to recover from the chip fracture in his right foot that occurred Monday night prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Flyers play again Sunday, in Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET, NBC), and there's a chance Bryzgalov could return for that one. After that, the Flyers next play Tuesday.

In four career starts against the Senators, Bobrovsky is 3-1-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Jason Bacashihua again will serve as the backup.

While Bryzgalov is out, All-Star defenseman Kimmo Timonen will return to the lineup after sitting out a game Thursday with an upper-body injury.

Here is the lineup the Flyers likely will use against the Senators:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read - Eric Wellwood - Jakub Voracek
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Pavel Kubina - Marc-Andre Bourdon

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jason Bacashihua

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK







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Quote of the Day

I don’t know if it was more relief for me that [Stamkos] scored or the power play scored. It was a whole compilation of Alka Seltzer.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Steven Stamkos broke a long scoring drought and Tampa Bay's struggling power play scored four times in Game 2 at Montreal