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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 1:16 PM

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

Wild hoping to get key pieces back

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With realignment on the horizon, tonight's battle between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus) should be the start of a heated divisional rivalry starting as soon as next season.

This time around, however, it will settle midseason Western Conference supremacy, as the top two teams in the conference meet for the first time this season, here at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Blackhawks trail the Wild by three points in the standings. After this game, the Hawks will play six of their next seven at home to close the 2011 portion of their schedule.

The Wild return to downtown St. Paul for the first time in 12 days after a successful five-game road trip that saw them go 4-1-0.

Also returning could be a few key elements to the roster.

Coach Mike Yeo said defenseman Marek Zidlicky -- absent since Nov. 15 with a concussion -- could return to the lineup tonight. The puck-moving blueliner has 6 assists in 18 games this season.

Who sits if Zidlicky comes back is a question Yeo said the Wild coaching staff will toss around today.

"That's the tricky thing," Yeo said. "We have to get Zids back into the lineup. We have to get his game going. I felt like he was starting to come along before he got hurt."

Forward Matt Cullen also could return tonight after missing Tuesday's game in Winnipeg after falling ill earlier in the day. Yeo said he was feeling better but would be a game-time decision.

Also not to be decided until game-time will be the status of forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who was injured late in Tuesday's game after being checked from behind head-first into the boards. Bouchard, who missed all but one game in 2009-10 with a concussion, left the game with blood pouring out of his nose. He was one of only a couple of Wild players to skate this morning and appeared to have stitches on the bridge of his nose.

Wild forward Guillaume Latendresse returned to the lineup Tuesday in Winnipeg after missing 15 games with a concussion. He scored Minnesota's only goal in a 2-1 loss to the Jets, but also will be a game-time decision depending on how he feels after his first game back. He only practiced with the team once before making his return.

The Wild do have forward Warren Peters available because of the line-up uncertainty.

"We don't know what our lineup is yet, to be honest," Yeo said.

That uncertainty even extends to the net, where Niklas Backstrom will start -- if he's up to it. Backstrom missed three games with a groin injury earlier this month, but has played the last two games, including a 25-save effort Tuesday. Yeo hadn't talked to Backstrom to find out how he felt, but if he can't go, Matt Hackett would earn the start. Yeo said the team is in no rush to bring back an injured Josh Harding.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 12:53 PM

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

Potential lineups for Wild, Blackhawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Here is what the lineups could look like when the Wild and Blackhawks hit the ice tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus) at the Xcel Energy Center.

WILD
Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Cal Clutterbuck
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Matt Cullen - Casey Wellman
Darroll Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Brad Staubitz - Cody Almond - Colton Gillies
 
Nick Schultz - Mike Lundin
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Greg Zanon - Clayton Stoner
 
Niklas Backstrom will start in goal, with Matt Hackett the backup.
 
BLACKHAWKS
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Daniel Carcillo - Dave Bolland - Andrew Brunette
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik
 
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Nick Leddy
Sami Lepisto - Steve Montador
 
Ray Emery will start in goal, with Corey Crawford the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 12:48 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Senators' Michalek out with concussion

KANATA, Ont. – Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean confirmed that Milan Michalek, who leads the League with 19 goals, is day-to-day after suffering a concussion following a collision with teammate Erik Karlsson during Tuesday's game against the Buffalo Sabres. He won't play tonight when the Senators host the Boston Bruins.

“Right now we have to follow the concussion protocol, so he’s day-to-day," MacLean said. "It's based on as long as he's symptom-free, he can participate. He felt way better today, so we'll see how it goes."

The injury occurred with just over five minutes left in the game, when Michalek collided with teammate Erik Karlsson.

"I read the guy's pass and stepped up and I think (Michalek) was coming full speed to backcheck," Karlsson said after the game. "I was only looking for their guys and not ours and we collided pretty hard there. We were both going forward."

With Michalek out, expect Bobby Butler to play in his spot alongside Jason Spezza. However, MacLean doesn't think it will be too long that Michalek will be out.

"I don’t believe at this point that it's going to ruin his year," said MacLean. "It's disappointing, but not devastating."

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 12:41 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Bruins, Senators

KANATA, Ont. – Here are the projected lineups for Wednesday night when the Boston Bruins meet the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Both teams held optional skates after the Sens faced the Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday night, while the Bruins played Los Angeles at home.

SENATORS

Colin GreeningJason SpezzaBobby Butler
Nick FolignoPeter ReginDaniel Alfredsson
Erik CondraZack SmithChris Neil
Kaspars DaugavinsZenon KonopkaJesse Winchester

Jared CowenErik Karlsson
Chris PhillipsBrian Lee
David RundbladMatt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

Milan Michalek is day-to-day with a concussion. The injury occurred during a collision with Karlsson on Tuesday night against Buffalo. Filip Kuba (shoulder) and Sergei Gonchar (upper-body) both skated this morning, and are also listed as day-to-day. Coach Paul MacLean hopes to have at least one of them back in the lineup Friday.

BRUINS

Milan LucicDavid KrejciNathan Horton
Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronTyler Seguin
Benoit PouliotChris KellyRich Peverley
Daniel PailleZach HamillShawn Thornton

Andrew FerenceJohnny Boychuk
Dennis SeidenbergJoe Corvo
Steven KampferAdam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Zdeno Chara (leg) skated today, and says he “felt okay, but probably most likely will not (play) – but it’s a game time decision.” Gregory Campbell, who fractured his foot Dec. 10 against Columbus, did not travel with the team. Jordan Caron is expected to be a healthy scratch.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 9:04 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHI @ WSH - 5:26 of the Third Period

At 5:26 of the third period in the Capitals/Flyers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Philadelphia forward Jakub Voracek deflected the puck into the net with his stick below the crossbar. Good Goal Philadelphia.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 8:52 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ BUF - 16:36 of the Second Period

At 16:36 of the second period in the Senators/Sabres game, video review was initiated by the Buffalo Video Review Booth and the Toronto Situation Room because the puck crossed the goal line during a goal mouth scramble. It was determined that the referee's whistle was blown prior to the puck crossing the goal line. No Goal Ottawa.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 7:04 PM

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

Paille returns to Bruins' lineup

BOSTON – Forward Daniel Paille will make his return to the Boston Bruins lineup tonight against Los Angeles at the TD Garden.

Paille missed one game after he suffered a mild concussion in the first period of last Thursday's game against Florida. He did not return to that game and missed Boston's win at Columbus two nights later.

He started skating for the first time Monday during a non-contact practice and took the morning skate with the Bruins today. Paille said he's been symptom-free since the hit but was held out of the game and activity for precautionary reasons.

Jordan Caron is a healthy scratch due to Paille's return.


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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 4:37 PM

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

Stastny returns for slumping Avalanche

DENVER – Paul Stastny will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup tonight against the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center after missing three games with a torso injury. The teams will face off again Thursday in San Jose.
   
Stastny was injured late in the second period Dec. 4 in the Avalanche’s 4-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings. He’ll center a line with Matt Duchene and TJ Galiardi.
   
“It was tough being away, but I’ve been feeling better every day and I’ll be ready to go tonight,” Stastny said after the morning skate. “I just took an awkward hit and it kind of stunned me. It kind of weakened me around my torso area. It wasn’t comfortable at all. I really couldn’t push off or skate too hard or take draws or shoot pucks for a while.”
   
Right wing Brandon Yip suffered an apparent leg injury this morning and won’t play against the Sharks.

“He’s being re-evaluated right now,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.

Without Yip, the Avalanche is down to 11 healthy forwards, so defenseman Matt Hunwick will suit up and slide between fourth-line duties and the blue line.
   
The victory against the Red Wings 10 days ago gave the Avalanche a three-game winning streak and completed an eight-game homestand with a 5-3 record, but the team followed it by losing all three games of a trip through Western Canada last week by the combined score of 13-3.
   
“No. 1, we have to try and minimize some of the mistakes that we’re making, be it with or without the puck,” Sacco said. “Another area that we can be better at is managing the puck. We were playing well before the road trip. We had a nice homestand and played solid hockey – just get back to making sure that we take care of the puck and that we play with good energy at home like we were before. We started to build something before we left for the road trip.”
   
The Avalanche’s power play has been in a prolonged slump, going 1-for-23 in the past seven games and 4-for-46 in a 14-game stretch. Colorado has allowed at least one power-play goal in five consecutive games, killing off just 19 of 26 penalties in that span.
   
The Sharks also are in a slump, posting a 2-5-1 record in eight games since rattling off a 12-2-1 record in their previous 15 games.
   
Like the Avalanche, the Sharks have been hampered by a poor power play and subpar penalty killing. They have gone 1-for-25 on power play in the past eight games and have permitted at least one power-play goal in five of those games, killing off just 16 of 22 penalties.
   
A number of the Sharks’ most talented forwards haven’t been producing of late. Patrick Marleau has gone seven games without point, Joe Pavelski has one goal and one assist in nine games, and Joe Thornton has eight assists but no goals in 11 games.
   
Martin Havlat has one goal – it came on a power play -- and 11 assists in 23 games this season after collecting 62 points (22 goals, 40 assists) with Minnesota in 2010-11 to tie Mikko Koivu for the team scoring lead. The Sharks acquired him July 3 in a trade that sent Dany Heatley to the Wild.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 4:28 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

SHARKS

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Torrey Mitchell
Ryan Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Jamie McGinn - Patrick Marleau - Michal Handzus
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason Demers - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

INJURIES: D Douglas Murray (upper body) and D Jim Vandermeer (upper body) are out.

AVALANCHE

Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - TJ Galiardi
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - David Jones
Matt Hunwick - Brad Malone - Cody McLeod

Kyle Quincey - Shane O'Brien
Erik Johnson - Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: RW Chuck Kobasew (head), LW Peter Mueller (head), C Mark Olver (head), D Ryan Wilson (head) and RW Brandon Yip (leg) are out.

LW Kevin Porter has two games remaining on his four-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit against Vancouver’s David Booth on Dec. 6.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 3:26 PM

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

Kampfer getting a chance with Chara out

BOSTON – It’s been almost a month since Steven Kampfer played in an NHL game.

The second-year defenseman will get back into action tonight for the Boston Bruins when they play host to the Los Angeles Kings at TD Garden without captain Zdeno Chara. Other than two conditioning games with Providence in the American Hockey League earlier this month, Kampfer has spent a lot of time practicing.
           
He’s only played in five games all season after he skated in 38 games for Boston and 22 for Providence last season as a first-year pro.
           
“That you’ve just got to take every day and get better,” said Kampfer about the biggest lesson this season has taught him when asked after Boston’s morning skate. “It’s a learning process when you come in as a seventh [defenseman]. They want you to learn things. So I think that’s been the main aspect of the year so far.”
               
So what has Kampfer learned from Day One of training camp until now?
               
“[I’m] moving my feet more, more confidence,” he said. “Definitely the skating aspect of the game has definitely helped. So I think using that confidence will help out.”
              
Coach Claude Julien wants Kampfer’s confidence level to be pretty high in order to produce the way he can, regardless of how many minutes he winds up playing. He has one assist in the five games he’s played, and has averaged a little less than 12 minutes of ice time before contest.
               
“A player like that just has to go out and he can’t be afraid of making mistakes, and you’ve heard every coach say that,” Julien said. “You just go out there and play, play with confidence and if you’re afraid of making a mistake, you’re going to make a mistake. … He’s worked really hard, we’ve done some extra with him in practice, kept him in the best shape possible and he’s had a couple of games in Providence, where they felt he played really well. So he just needs to bring that with him tonight … he’s a player that skates really well and he can move the puck when he feels good and he’s confident about his game, that’s what he brings to us.”
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