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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 12:58 PM

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

Win over Habs would vault Senators atop Northeast

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the starting lineups for Friday’s game between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Place:

SENATORS
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Bobby Butler - Zack Smith - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Ben Bishop
Alex Auld

After being scratched for the past four games, Butler returns to the lineup, making Kaspars Daugavins, in addition to Matt Carkner and Zenon Konopka, healthy scratches.

With a win on Friday night, the Senators could vault ahead of the Bruins to lead the Northeast Division. Spezza insists that the team is maintaining focus.

"It's obviously something that’s in the back of our minds," he said. "We're just trying to play good hockey and pick up as many points as we can. We're trying not to focus too much on what's happening around us, other than how we're playing. If we can take care of how we're playing, things will take care of themselves."

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Ryan White
Blake Geoffrion - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Yannick Weber
Chris Campoli - Federic St-Denis

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

Andrei Markov is out with an upper-body injury, and Alexei Emelin will return to the lineup. Tomas Kaberle is day-to-day, also with an upper-body injury. Mike Blunden, who has missed the last 20 games (lower body) practiced on Friday morning with the team. Raphael Diaz remains out with a lower-body injury.

Habs coach Randy Cunneyworth was coy about playing the role of spoiler against the Senators.

"We still have a lot to play for," he said. "Other teams have other things to play for. But there's always something important to be playing for. We have to be playing for the right reasons. We have to play hard, we have to compete. If it spoils (things) for other teams, so be it."
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 12:36 PM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Ekman-Larsson, Wolski pick up steam

There's no question that the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes have opened eyes around the hockey world by remaining in the thick of their respective division races through mid-March.

But even more surprising may be the fact that two emerging assets from those teams, Phoenix's Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Florida's Wojtek Wolski, are widely available on the waiver wire for the stretch run of the fantasy season.

Let's start with Ekman-Larsson (11 G, 18 A, minus-2, 26 PIM, 8 PPP, 126 SOG, 128 hits), who has played in all 72 games for the Coyotes this season and is currently tied with Alex Pietrangelo for the fifth-highest goal output among NHL defensemen. The Swedish-born blueliner scored a goal in his third consecutive game Thursday in Calgary, and has added 2 assists, a plus-2 rating and 11 SOG during his current three-game points streak.

What's more, Ekman-Larsson is only owned in 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Considering the 20-year-old has been a solid point-producer all season long and has totaled 100-plus hits and 100-plus shots for the Coyotes' secondary defensive pairing, it's important to note he's there for the taking in most leagues to provide a lift on the blue line.

Wolski, meanwhile, has come out of nowhere to blossom as of late since being shipped from the New York Rangers to Florida on Feb. 25. The 26-year-old battled through some injury issues this season in the Big Apple, but has been a sparkplug for the Cats as they pursue a division crown and potentially even the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Owned in only 2 percent of leagues, this Polish-born winger has accumulated eight points (3 G, 5 A) in 11 games since moving to the Sunshine State.

His most impressive stretch has come during his current four-game points streak, as Wolski has thrived on Florida's top line in the absence of Kris Versteeg with 1 goal, 4 assists, a plus-3 rating and 6 SOG in that span. He notched a goal and had a plus-2 rating skating alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss in the Panthers' 6-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday, lifting his value from a fantasy standpoint.

Each of these skaters could ultimately be diamonds in the rough for fantasy squads if their hot streaks continue, so it's important to monitor their performances over the next few days and potentially add the one that best fits your team.
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 9:33 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: March 16th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 70 78 12 90 7

9th 71 75 11 85 9
10th 70 74 12 85 9
11th 70 71 12 82 11
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 73 81 9 90 7

9th 70 80 12 92 7
10th 71 80 11 91 7
11th 70 78 12 89 8

The Skinny:
During the course of a playoff race, it is inevitable to hear, "We have control of our destiny."

For the Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals, that is exactly the case. It doesn't get better than this on Friday night -- Washington visits Winnipeg, where the fans are rabid and have spurred their hometown Jets on to a 22-10-4 record at the MTS Center.

Math can be complicated but in this case it's quite simple -- a Jets' regulation victory moves them within two points of the eighth-place Capitals. A Capitals victory moves them six points ahead of the Jets. Just wondering but, is that why they're called four-point games?

Regardless, a win by the Jets will not only have their fans cheering, but joining in the applause will be the Buffalo Sabres' faithful, who will remain three points behind Washington in the East. A Winnipeg loss and they are faced with the improbable, if not impossible task, of trying to gain seven more points than the Capitals in the remaining eleven games. A Jets' win and it sets up another showdown next Friday in Washington, where control of destiny would be the main theme once again.

The Caps also want to keep pace with the Panthers and continue their quest for another Southeast division title. Oh, what a night it's going to be.

In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks are hanging on to very faint playoff hopes. If they want to keep those hopes alive, they must win at home against the Los Angeles Kings. For the Kings, they are trying to keep pace with the pack of Phoenix, Colorado, San Jose and Calgary for the last two playoff spots.

The games on the ice are intriguing, but wouldn't it be something to get a glimpse of the other teams in the pack and see their reactions as this game unfolds? I'm guessing they will be cheering for the Ducks. The Flames will be busy in Edmonton, but they will sneak a peek now and again at the out of town scoreboard to keep tabs on what is happening in Anaheim.


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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 8:50 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BOS @ FLA - 4:53 of the Second Period

At 4:53 of the second period in the Panthers/Bruins game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Joe Corvo's point shot was not touched by any Bruin and went into the net in a legal fashion. Good Goal Boston.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 8:42 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BOS @ FLA - 0:38 of the Second Period

At 0:38 of the second period in the Blues/Panthers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Brian Campbell's point shot was tipped by Marcel Goc's stick, which was below the crossbar, and into the net. According to Rule 60.5 "The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick. If the puck makes contact with the stick below the level of the crossbar and enters the goal, this goal shall be allowed".  Good Goal Florida.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 6:58 PM

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

Duchene to return for Avs in New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. - The Colorado Avalanche will have center Matt Duchene back in the lineup on Thursday when they play the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

Duchene, who suffered a right ankle injury on March 6 against the Minnesota Wild and missed the previous four games, was originally expected to be sidelined three to four weeks.

The third-year forward is expected to center wings Peter Mueller and Milan Hejduk. Duchene has 13 goals and 26 points in 48 games for the Avalanche this season. He also missed 20 games with a knee injury earlier this season -- he was leading the team in goals and ranked second in points at the time of the injury.

Colorado coach Joe Sacco will start Jean-Sebastien Giguere between the pipes. The Devils will counter with Martin Brodeur. The Giguere-Brodeur matchup became quite an item during the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, when Brodeur helped the Devils to a seven-game series triumph -- even though Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 6:54 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flyers and Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Everyone will be watching Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who will look to extend his shutout streak beyond the 196:13 he carries with him into Thursday's game here against the New York Islanders.

Bryzgalov is just 31:27 shy of John Vanbiesbrouck's Flyers record of 227:40, set in October 1999.

One player standing in his way will be Islanders forward P.A. Parenteau, who returns after missing Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury.

Here are the projected lineups both teams will use when the puck drops here at Nassau Coliseum:

FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr

Eric Wellwood - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek

Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds

Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot - Zac Rinaldo

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann

Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen

Erik Gustafsson - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov will be in goal, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup. Bryzgalov tied Vanbiesbrouck's club record with his third straight shutout in his last start, a 17-save, 3-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

ISLANDERS

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - P.A. Parenteau

David Ullstrom - Josh Bailey - Nino Niederreiter

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Jay Pandolfo

Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald

Mark Streit - Steve Staios

Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina

Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal, with Al Montoya as the backup.

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

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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 5:54 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Preds' Klein almost ready to return

SAN JOSE - Nashville Predators defenseman Kevin Klein will likely miss his seventh straight game Thursday night against San Jose with an upper-body injury. However, barring a setback, he'll return to the lineup Saturday night at Los Angeles.

"He could play tonight, but I think I'm just going to keep him out," Predators coach Barry Trotz said after his team's morning skate at HP Pavilion. "If he doesn't play tonight he'll play the next game."

Klein was one of the last Predators off the ice Thursday morning.

"(I) had (Brian McGrattan) lean on me a little bit today, which was nice," Klein said. "We were battling. Felt pretty good. Little bit of contract, nothing too crazy. Probably ramp it up tomorrow, maybe take a few hits and see how I feel."

Klein said he expects to play Saturday, which can't come soon enough for him.

"I've been out for probably about three weeks now. Getting a little crazy. Eager to be back, eager to make this run toward the playoffs," Klein said. "If there's no setbacks I can see myself playing Saturday. It will be nice to be back playing games, that's for sure."

Injured defenseman Roman Josi (upper body) "probably" won't rejoin the team during its road trip, which ends Sunday at Anaheim, Trotz said. He's hopeful that Josi will be ready to play Tuesday at home against Edmonton.

The Alexander Radulov watch continued for the Predators, but Trotz said he "should have a better idea by the weekend" whether the winger will return to Nashville for the rest of the season. He is currently on the roster of the Kontinental Hockey League's Salavat Yulayev Ufa. His KHL contract runs through April 30, and he reportedly needs his team's OK to leave early without forfeiting two-thirds of his salary.

Radulov left the Predators in July of 2008 to sign with Ufa.

"It's really in his court," Trotz said. "If he wants to come over, they'll get the road blocks out of the way and that would be great. … Until I see the whites of his eyes, I'm not going to worry a whole lot about it."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 4:52 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks hope getting Havlat back provides spark

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks have been looking for a spark on offense, and they'll get one Thursday night against Nashville when winger Martin Havlat returns to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 17 when he injured his left hamstring against Edmonton.

Havlat underwent surgery to repair a partially torn tendon and missed 39 games. He's been practicing with his teammates for a few weeks, but tonight he'll jump back into the middle of a heated playoff race.

"Everything is a challenge after you come back after a long injury," Havlat said. "Everybody's going 100 mph. I just have to get in and try to be helpful. Every game right now until the end is very important.

"Basically now every game is a playoff game. Any point is very important, and we're playing a great team. They've been great the whole season. It's not going to be easy."

Havlat will skate on the second line with center Patrick Marleau and winger Ryane Clowe.

"Marty's a creative player," Clowe said. "We can use every goal we can get right now. Marty creates chances. Obviously on the power play he'll give us a little bit more depth on that second unit. I think his creativity, speed, his offensive awareness -- a high-end player like that, you're going to miss him when he's out. We had a little bit of chemistry there at the start of year. So hopefully we mingle good again."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he'll have to "manage" Havlat's minutes tonight and monitor his physical condition.

"It's hard to step in at this time of the year with the way the pace is going and the intensity of the games," McLellan said. "It's certainly not October hockey, and it's definitely not December hockey, and that's the last time he played, and this team tonight can really skate. They play the game fast, and he'll have to integrate himself quickly and we'll have to keep an eye on him."

The Predators will being keeping an eye on Havlat, too. He has 37 points in 30 career games against Nashville.

"He has great one-on-one skill," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "In the past we probably haven't paid enough attention to him."

Trotz, though, said it won't be easy for Havlat to get up to speed in his first game back after such a long layoff.

"His skill level will be there. He's a gifted player. He skates naturally. It's tough. It's hard to catch the train when you've been out for a while," Trotz said. "The pace is going to be really high, got people leaning on you. It's different. It's hard. I think you always need a couple games to get back in."

Havlat, who came to the Sharks from Minnesota in a trade for Dany Heatley in July, missed the entire preseason and the first four regular-season games while recovering from shoulder surgery. He was just catching his stride when suffered a freak injury against Edmonton, catching a skate on the boards he was trying to get back on the ice during a line change at HP Pavilion.

Havlat had a goal in that game and a pair of assists in his previous game against Colorado. For the season, he has 2 goals and 13 assists in 26 games.

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when these teams meet at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
TJ Galiardi - Andrew Desjardins - Benn Ferriero

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

PREDATORS
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Craig Smith
Jordin Tootoo - Nick Spaling - Colin Wilson

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis
Hal Gill - Jack Hillen

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 3:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers see returns of Versteeg, Kulikov near

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Versteeg and Dmitry Kulikov stayed on the ice after the morning skate Thursday and they'll once again be out of the lineup when the Florida Panthers face Boston Thursday night.

But their long-awaited return appears imminent. In fact, it very well might come as early as Saturday when the Panthers wrap up a four-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres.

"Getting closer, that's the good part," said Kulikov, who will miss his 23rd game since undergoing knee surgery. "I'm practicing with the team. So excited to be out there with the guys. Just waiting for my comeback."

Versteeg, for his part, will miss his ninth consecutive game with a lower-body injury.

Despite not having played since Feb. 26, Versteeg is tied with Tomas Fleischmann for the team lead in goals (22) and points (49).

Kulikov, meanwhile, appeared on his way to a breakout season in his third year in the NHL. Despite having played only 42 games, the 2009 first-round pick is only two points shy of his career high of 26.

"Kuli was so impressive at the beginning of the year," coach Kevin Dineen said. "For a young player, he shows a great deal of maturity and stability. He's been sorely missed. We're excited about his imminent return."

The return of Versteeg and Kulikov no doubt will provide a major boost for a Florida team looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Even with those two, the Panthers won't be completely healthy, as forwards Matt Bradley and Jack Skille are both likely out for the season with upper-body injuries.

But Versteeeg and Kulikov are two important pieces for the Panthers, and Dineen will find himself with some tough lineup decisions going forward.

"It's hard decisions," Dineen said, "and that's a good reflection on what Dale Tallon has done here to give us the depth to be healthy and to have options in the playoff run. And that's what we’re looking for."
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Quote of the Day

It was a different game in the past, that's for sure. It's not exactly what I was expecting but I think the experience paid off for a lot of our guys that realized what it takes in a Game 7. Realistically the effort we put forward, we might not even had to put 60 [minutes], but we just couldn't get a couple bounces to go our way and we just kept pushing.

— Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby on his team's play in a Game 7 win vs. the Islanders