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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:45 PM

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

Despite losses, Boucher likes his team's play

NEW YORK -- The potential loss of Martin St. Louis for Thursday night's game against the Rangers aside, and Lightning coach Guy Boucher feels like his slumping team is turning a corner.

St. Louis took a puck in the face during Thursday's morning skate and went to the hospital for further evaluation. He will likely be out of the lineup for Thursday's game.

This comes on the heels of a 5-1 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, Tampa's fifth-straight defeat. Subtract that loss -- which came after the team got to their hotel at 4 a.m. after losing the night before -- and Boucher likes what he has seen.

"With the way we've been playing, except for last game, yes, definitely," Boucher said. "We have a team that needs to win 2-1 and 1-0 and 3-2 at best. Right now,  we're having a hard time with injuries and finding which guys are going to click. We’ve had more scoring chances in the last eight games than we had in our best games last year. Stamkos has missed seven open nets the last five games. I don't think I've ever seen him do that. But when it's going this way, it's going that way."

Defenseman Pavel Kubina and forward Nate Thompson won't be in the lineup Thursday night. With St. Louis' availability in jeopardy as well, the team will likely recall a forward. But Boucher said there's a possibility he will use seven defensemen and 11 forwards; but there were still too many unknowns when he spoke after the morning skate.

Mathieu Garon was the first goaltender off the ice and will likely start. Dwayne Roloson will serve as the backup.

Line combinations and line rushes went out the window with St. Louis' injury. Now, Boucher probably won't determine in his lineup until right before game time.
Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:42 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Breakthrough performance keeps Morrison in lineup

CALGARY -- When Brendan Morrison was inserted onto the Flames' top line in place of flu-stricken forward Curtis Glencross Tuesday, all coach Brent Sutter wanted was for the veteran to come in and play a role.

That role turned out to be scoring two goals and adding a pair of assists in a wild 7-6 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Though it's earned him another start in the lineup -- his first back-to-back games since Nov. 23-25 -- Morrison knows he doesn't need another four-point outing to stay in the lineup.

"I've been around long enough that the odds are that's not going to happen," Morrison said. "If we can find other ways to contribute, whether it is to win faceoffs or create chances for my linemates, it doesn't matter as long as we win games."

Though he found chemistry on the wing with Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla against Carolina, Morrison will move back to center between Alex Tanguay and Rene Bourque tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

With Glencross back in the lineup, rookie Roman Horak will sit.

Sutter hopes it will be a learning experience for the 20-year-old, who has 2 goals and 9 points in 25 games this season.

"Roman's a young player, and like all young players there's certain things in his game he needs to continue to work on and maybe slipped a little and we want to get it back where he needs to," Sutter said. "There are a couple things I want him to watch tonight and see the game. It's good for young players to do -- to watch the game and get a different perspective, a different view on it."

FLAMES

Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay - Brendan Morrison - Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
T.J. Brodie - Scott Hannan
Derek Smith - Joe Piskula

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving

Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:40 PM

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

Canucks ravaged by injuries as they face Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Vancouver Canucks arrive in Montreal for their matchup with the Canadiens tonight a battered bunch.

Two-thirds of their second line is out with injury, with David Booth slated to miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL and Chris Higgins day-to-day with a staph infection in his foot.

As a result, Bill Sweatt, the 38th pick in the 2007 Entry Draft and a former Colorado College standout, will make his NHL debut against the Canadiens on the third line with Maxim Lapierre and Cody Hodgson.

Roberto Luongo gets the start in his hometown, where he hasn't won in his last three starts over three years. His last win in Montreal dates back to a shutout during the 2006-07 season, when Luongo spent the previous night in a local hospital after taking a shot in the throat in practice before beating the Habs 4-0.

Ironically enough, Luongo had to leave his last game after taking a shot in the throat as well, but the Canadiens are hoping history doesn't repeat itself. Overall, Luongo is 3-6-4 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .923 save percentage playing in his hometown. 

For Montreal, defenseman Yannick Weber will be a healthy scratch to make room for Frederic St-Denis. Weber was benched for the second half of the Canadiens 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus on Tuesday after he allowed R.J. Umberger to skate unfettered to the Montreal net and score the go-ahead goal on Carey Price.

Weber's main role is to help the power play with his booming shot, but he hasn't been very effective in that role lately and was taken off the first unit, making his defensive errors all the more glaring.

Price gets the start in goal to face the team he cheered for growing up in Anahim Lake, B.C.

Here are the likely lineups for the game:

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Jannik Hansen
Bill Sweatt - Maxim Lapierre - Cody Hodgson
Dale Weise - Manny Malhotra - Andrew Alberts

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Aaron Rome - Keith Ballard

CANADIENS

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Andrei Kostitsyn - Lars Eller - Travis Moen
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Louis Leblanc

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Hal Gill - Frederic St-Denis
Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:29 PM

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

Panthers coach Dineen returns to New England

BOSTON – Florida head coach Kevin Dineen is enjoying something of a homecoming today with his Panthers visiting TD Garden for a showdown with the Boston Bruins.
   
After years of battling the Bruins with the Hartford Whalers in his playing days, Dineen has maintained ties to the region.
   
“It’s always good. I guess we’d consider ourselves New Englanders,” he said after the morning skate. “I married a Hartford girl, and we’ve spent a lot time here, specifically in Portland the last six years. So it’s just fabulous to be back in the area.”
   
Dinner coached the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League the last six seasons.
   
The Panthers are schedule to have two new players in their lineup. Krys Barch was just acquired in a trade with Dallas, while Mikael Samuelsson should return after a 20-game absence with a lower-body injury.
   
“We’ve waited a long time for Sammy,” said Dineen. “We’re going to slowly matriculate him into our lineup here and I think it’s going to be well worth the wait. He’s a quality player and a great individual and he’s going to add a lot to our mix right now.”
   
Jose Theodore missed the Panthers’ last game with the flu. He practiced yesterday and took the morning skate, so Dineen said starting the veteran is an option for tonight.
   
Here are the Panthers’ probable lines and D pairs:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Sean Bergenheim
Mikael Samuelsson - Tim Kennedy - Krys Barch

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Erik Gudbranson - Ed Jovanovski
Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison

Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:26 PM

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

Coyotes look to set 'new standard' against Wings

DETROIT -- The Phoenix Coyotes are back at Joe Louis Arena for the first time since a first-round playoff series last spring that saw them lose the first two games here on the way to being swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

In fact, Detroit has knocked Phoenix coach Dave Tippett's Coyotes out of the playoffs for two straight seasons -- despite the Coyotes always seeming to play the Wings tough in hard-hitting, close games. Are the Wings a sort of measuring stick for the upstart Coyotes, who come into Thursday night's game seeking their third straight win?

It's the first of four games between the two this season and Phoenix has already knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators earlier this week on this road trip.

"I don't if it's a measurement game, but what we've done is we've tried to set new standards," Tippett said after Thursday's morning skate. "When you're playing against top teams, if you can go out and play well and beat top teams you set new standards."

Beating the Wings certainly qualifies, even though both are currently deadlocked in the Western Conference standings with 33 points each.

"We've played pretty hard here and kept ourselves in a lot of games," Tippett said. "This will be another one of those tests for us. Detroit's a very good team."

It might also help Phoenix to get some veteran help back on the blue line. Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival, who's been on injured reserve since Oct. 10 with an upper body injury, will make his return against Detroit and replace rookie Chris Summers on the second pairing with David Schlemko.

Detroit will also get a key cog back into its lineup when top-six forward Valtteri Filppula returns from a one-game absence caused by a deep cut to his shin that happened in a game last weekend at Colorado. Filppula, who will wear Kevlar socks to protect the wound, will go right back to his spot at left wing on the second line next to star center Henrik Zetterberg.

"I felt OK," Filppula said of testing the shin out in Thursday's morning skate. "It's obviously sore, but I felt a lot better than the last time I skated (on Tuesday)."

Here's a look at what the lineups might look like for the Red Wings (16-9-1) and Coyotes (15-9-3) on Thursday night:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Kyle Turris - Kyle Chipchura

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Michal Rozsival - David Schlemko
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin

Mike Smith will get the start in net, while Jason LaBarbera will be on the bench.

RED WINGS

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Chris Conner - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

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

Jimmy Howard will get the start in net, while Ty Conklin will be on the bench.
Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 1:12 PM

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

Puck to face keeps St. Louis from milestone

NEW YORK -- Martin St. Louis left the Madison Square Garden ice Thursday morning bleeding from his left eye area after a teammate backhanded a shot into his face during practice. He was taken to a nearby hospital for examination and will not play Thursday night against the Rangers in what was scheduled to be his 500th consecutive game.

"It's a difficult loss for the team, but you know what? It's an opportunity for guys to step up," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said this morning.

The team released a statement saying St. Louis is out indefinitely with facial and nasal fractures. He will return to Tampa to undergo further medical examination by Lightning team physicians when swelling subsides in and around his left eye.

The incident happened early in practice. St. Louis was circling behind the net when teammate Dominic Moore missed the net with a backhander and caught St. Louis near the eye. The Lightning's second-leading scorer skated to the bench and was immediately helped to the locker room by a trainer.

"It's one of those plays," a remorseful Moore said afterward.

It's a devastating blow for a team that has dropped five straight games and nine of 12 overall. The Lightning are already without defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Pavel Kubina due to injuries, but the loss of St. Louis is both crippling and unexpected. He had played in 499 consecutive games.

"It just keeps on pouring," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

The Lightning are coming off a 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday. Boucher gave his team the day off Wednesday after losses on back-to-back days, but he put his players through the paces Thursday at a morning skate that was far more intense than usual.

"If you don't put in the dedication and commitment here, you're of no use to me," Boucher shouted at his players before ending the practice by telling his team, "It has to be better than this … and it will be."

The message from Boucher was emphatic, but he said it wasn't anything he doesn't say at different times during the season.

"It's because it hasn't been on the ice in front of everybody," Boucher said when a reporter asked if his demeanor had anything to do with the recent losing skid. "It's because we don't get practice time."

But Boucher admitted that the injury to St. Louis made him change his tone.

"To be honest with you, with what happened to Marty, I know what's happening," Boucher said, referring to his team sagging at the sight of one of their leaders leaving the ice with a severe injury. "It's another one, you know? And it's probably the biggest blow you can get on our team right there. I am the leader. I can't show that we're going into this battle with our heads down. It's already going to be as difficult as it can be playing a top team. If we get down on ourselves and feel sorry for ourselves, we're cooked. You have to be tough."

St. Louis has been a rock for the Lightning. He's third on a team that has trouble scoring with 9 goals. He won the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy in 2004 as the Lightning won their first Stanley Cup, and he was a finalist for the Hart Trophy last season.

Steven Stamkos understands what the loss of St. Louis means to a struggling team and why Boucher would amp up practice.

"When things aren't going well, you have to make sure guys are ready to compete and never quit," Stamkos said. "That was the message here. We need to do things better and get out of this little slide that we're in."

All the Lightning can do is move forward, but it doesn’t make the loss of St. Louis any easier to swallow.

"He's been playing extremely well," Yzerman said. "Bad things happen at the worst time."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 12:54 PM

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

Seguin back in lineup after one-game benching

BOSTON -- One game as a healthy scratch was obviously enough to convince the Boston Bruins that Tyler Seguin learned his lesson for missing a team breakfast and meeting.

Seguin was absent Tuesday morning from a team gathering in Winnipeg, and was subsequently scratched from that night's 2-1 loss to the Jets.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said Seguin is scheduled to be back in the lineup tonight, when the Bruins host the Florida Panthers at the TD Garden.

"I talked about it the other day. I already kind of moved on and I'm ready for the next game," Seguin said after the morning skate.

The second-year forward, who leads the Bruins in scoring, was forbidden from speaking further on the matter. Julien had no intention of addressing the subject more either.

"All I know -- this is old news. This is two days old and for us, we've really turned the page on that," Julien said. "It's not even an issue today, and old news is old news. We've moved on, so I don't even know that I want to go back to that. He's fine and I'm fine. He's in the lineup tonight, he's going to be playing and I think unfortunately, you guys are trying to make a bigger story out of this than it is. He's missed a game, he's paid his dues. It's a 19-year-old that is fine with us, he's a good professional, and that's it. Page turned and we move on."

Here is the probable lineup for tonight's game:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk

Tim Thomas, who was won his last 10 starts, is scheduled to start in net, as the Bruins try to begin a new streak after their 15-game point streak was snapped by Winnipeg.
Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 12:44 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Recovering Zajac skates with team at practice

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils center Travis Zajac took another positive step in his road to recovery on Thursday when he skated for the first time this season in his usual red practice jersey with teammates at Prudential Center.
 
Zajac, who is recovering from Aug. 18 surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon, is at least two weeks away from making his return to the lineup. Still, teammates were sure glad to see No. 19 back on the ice, skating, stick-handling and snapping shots.
 
"We still know in the back of our minds that he still has a little while to go," Devils captain Zach Parise told NHL.com. "It'll probably be a couple more weeks until we see him in a game. But he's made good progress and has taken good steps. It looks like he's moving and skating really well out there. That's important and big for everyone to see.
 
"We'll welcome him back as soon as he can without rushing him, but we're excited to get him back. He's a big part of our team."
 
Zajac has 89 goals and 249 points in 408 career games with the Devils spanning five seasons.
 
"Everyone has kind of stressed that to me during the comeback, to not push it and be patient … you have to listen to your body and right now, I feel great on the ice," Zajac told reporters following Thursday's practice. "I've had a lot of trainers helping me here and getting me back in shape, making sure I'm ready to go. I don't suspect I'll have any doubts about coming back too soon."
 
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said ice time will be something he and his staff will monitor closely whenever Zajac does return to the lineup.
 
"We're aware with the significance of the injury and we've all been very well-versed by the doctors on the schedule and the time frame for him to come back," DeBoer said. "No one is deviating from that. I've talked with him about how, when he does come back, we're going to ease him in and I'm not going to throw him into 20 minutes a night. That's going to be my job; to make sure we don't overuse him early."
 
DeBoer admitted Zajac won't be given top-six minutes at the outset. Parise said Zajac approached him before practice on Wednesday and asked about his recovery from a knee injury that sidelined him 65 games last season.
 
"He asked me in practice, 'Was it this hard for you when you came back?' and I said, it is," Parise said. "You come back and are skating by yourself going right into practice mode when the team is 25 games in. You feel like you don't even belong on the ice; everything is so fast and that was hardest for me.
 
"Even the first 15 or 20 games, it's hard being out so long. As far as rushing back, there's no need. It's only December. There's still a lot of hockey left, so he can take that extra two weeks if needed. We can't afford for him to have a setback and then all of sudden he's gone until April."
 
In the absence of Zajac and fellow center Jacob Josefson (collarbone), Parise said rookie Adam Henrique has done a fine job. Henrique has connected for 6 goals and 18 points in 23 games.
 
"He's done a good job filling in and playing that position, playing a lot of minutes and on the penalty kill and power play," Parise said. "He's done a really good job but at the same time, Travis is on another level. He's been a great player in this League for a few years now and we'd welcome him back. But Adam has been doing really well; he's been a good surprise for us."
 
Zajac echoed those sentiments.
 
"Adam has been great and playing with confidence … the puck follows him and he's not afraid to make plays out there," he said. "He's pretty sound in all parts of the game and reliable defensively. He has poise with the puck and he definitely knows the game."
 
The Devils will be without defenseman Andy Greene on Thursday when they play host to the Ottawa Senators. Apparently, Greene re-aggravated a lower-body injury.
 
"Andy's got some bumps and bruises and we're going keep him out," DeBoer said. "It's a carry-over from other stuff and I'm not sure what we're really dealing with, whether it's the ankle or foot. We'll know more [Thursday afternoon] after an X-ray."
 
Mark Fraser will make his fourth appearance in the lineup in Greene's absence. Goalie Martin Brodeur will make his second straight start for New Jersey.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 12:40 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Devils, Senators

NEWARK, N.J. -- Here are the probable line combinations for the Devils and Senators, who play tonight at Prudential Center:
 
DEVILS
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Mattias Tedenby - Patrik Elias - Petr Sykora
Dainius Zubrus - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Nick Palmieri
 
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fanye
Mark Fraser - Anton Volchenkov
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
 
Martin Brodeur will start, backed up by Johan Hedberg.
 
SENATORS
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Milan Michalek - Nick Foligno - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil
 
Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Brian Lee - David Rundblad
 
The Senators did not practice Thursday morning after flying in from Ottawa in the morning following a loss on home ice to the Washington Capitals. The only lineup change for the Senators comes in goal as Alex Auld will make his seventh appearance of the season and first start since Nov. 20 -- a 2-1 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Craig Anderson is the backup.

Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 12:38 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Islanders, Blackhawks

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders are gunning for their third straight victory as they host the Chicago Blackhawks this evening at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Here are the projected lineups for the clubs:

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
David Ullstrom - Josh Bailey - Brian Rolston
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Tim Wallace

Mark Streit - Travis Hamonic
Steve Staios - Milan Jurcina
Mike Mottau - Dylan Reese

Al Montoya gets the starting nod in goal. Kevin Poulin will back him up.

Scratches for the Isles are Nino Niederreiter (concussion), Evgeni Nabokov (groin) and Rick DiPietro (groin). Andrew MacDonald (leg), Mark Eaton (MCL) and Jay Pandolfo (foot) are on injured reserve.

Grabner will return to the lineup after missing Tuesday's 5-1 win against Tampa Bay due to a groin injury. Micheal Haley will likely be a healthy scratch.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Grabner said after participating in an optional skate this morning. "I got a good skate in. It's coming along. I'm starting to feel better."

BLACKHAWKS

Daniel Carcillo - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Ben Smith - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Viktor Stalberg - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sami Lepisto - Steve Montador

Ray Emery will start between the pipes. He is 5-0-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average in six career appearances against the Islanders. Corey Crawford will be the backup.

Defensemen Sean O'Donnell and John Scott are likely to be the healthy scratches, along with left wing Bryan Bickell.
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