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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:36 PM

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

Projected lineups for Lightning, Rangers

NEW YORK -- Martin Biron will be in net for the Rangers on Thursday night when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden. He'll be opposed by Mathieu Garon, who started seven of the last nine games for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said he will use seven defensemen and 11 forwards against the Rangers, but he hasn't decided on his lineup following Thursday morning's practice. He said Brett Connolly will be in the lineup, but the injured Ryan Malone will sit out another game and potentially return Saturday in Buffalo.

In Greenburgh, it was reported that rookie defenseman Stu Bickel stayed on the ice after practice, a sign that Steve Eminger will return after missing nearly two months with a separated shoulder. Eminger has been a healthy scratch the past two games.

The Lightning showed these lines at practice Thursday, while the Rangers revealed new ones at their practice Wednesday, but with coach John Tortorella, they could be completely different at 7 p.m. tonight:

LIGHTNING
Ryan Shannon - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Nate Thompson - Dominic Moore
Brett Connolly - Adam Hall - JT Wyman

Note: Wyman played just 2:35 in the Lightning's previous game, a 3-1 loss to the Kings, so he could be the forward who is removed from the lineup for Connolly, who was a healthy scratch last game.

Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Victor Hedman - Brett Clark
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson
Marc-Andre Bergeron

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson

RANGERS

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - John Mitchell - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brad Richards - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Steve Eminger

Martin Biron
Henrik Lundqvist

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:30 PM

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

Langenbrunner set for first game back in New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. -- St. Louis Blues forward Jamie Langenbrunner said he has no idea what type of reception he'll receive on Thursday when he makes his first appearance at Prudential Center since being dealt by New Jersey Devils last year.
 
But he does admit to being a tad nervous.
 
"It feels a little weird coming back for the team you played for, and obviously I was here for a lot of years, but it's good to come back," Langenbrunner told the media following his team's practice on Thursday morning. "It's a little weird walking through the [visitor's] door instead of the other one."
 
Not only was the ex-Devils captain a key member of New Jersey's Stanley Cup run in 2003, leading the League with 11 goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games, but Langenbrunner was also a popular member of the team's "ZZ Pop" line alongside current captain Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. He said he went out to dinner with Parise on Wednesday before speaking to a few former teammates on Thursday.
 
Langenbrunner played 564 regular-season games in New Jersey spanning seven-plus seasons from 2001-02 to 2010-11, producing 142 goals, 243 assists and 385 points. Jason Arnott, who spent parts of four-plus seasons in New Jersey and was dealt to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline last year, will sit out Thursday's game with a sore shoulder.
 
"I think of all of all the good things that happened while I was here," Langenbrunner said. "The friendships you made and successes you had. I really enjoyed my time in New Jersey and am proud to have played for this organization."
 
Langenbrunner was traded to the Dallas Stars last Jan. 6 before signing a one-year deal with the Blues over the summer.
 
"It's been great and I've really enjoyed my time [in St. Louis]," Langenbrunner said. "I didn't know a whole lot about it, to be honest with you. I played in [New Jersey] so long that you don't pay too much attention to the team's out west, but I've really enjoyed it. Obviously, since [Ken Hitchcock] has come in, we've given ourselves a chance.
 
"He's brought experience and calm to the bench. He brings a simplified way of playing the game and everyone has brought into that and has enjoyed playing for him."
 
The feeling is mutual.
 
"Langer and [Jason Arnott] have been valuable pieces for what we need," Hitchcock said. "In those competitive games, Jamie has been a very competitive player. The harder the opposition plays, he recognizes that and his experience and competitiveness just takes over; he dials it up and it drags other people into the fight. I think when you have a young team that suddenly finds the opposition dialing up the checking, they might get overwhelmed, but Jamie and Arnott have helped us plow through it."
 
Forward T.J. Oshie has also benefitted from Langenbrunner's presence.
 
"I think he brings that hard work ethic," he said. "Langer never takes a shift off, he doesn't complain about anything. He doesn't complain about ice time and just goes out there and plays hard when he gets his minutes. I think that's an inspiration to us younger guys to keep playing hard."
 
In other news, Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal and Brian Elliott will get the nod at home against Colorado on Saturday.
 
Also, the Blues recalled 21-year-old Russian forward Evgeny Grachev from their American Hockey affiliate in Peoria on Wednesday. Grachev has played in 24 games for the Blues this season, notching 1 goal and 4 points. In 13 games for the Rivermen, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Grachev had 2 goals and 5 points.
 
Grachev was acquired by the Blues from the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2011 third-round draft choice (Steven Fogarty) last June.
 
"He was really good when we had him from a checking standpoint, but in Peoria, we wanted him to be more assertive offensively and he was," Hitchcock said. "Rather then being a guy who deferred to other people, we wanted him to kind of put the puck in his hip pocket and drive to the net and he did that. He's a trusted defensive player, but we think there's a lot more he can do offensively if he uses his body to take the puck to the net."
 
Here's the projected lineup for the Blues:
 
Jamie Langenbrunner - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Chris Porter - Vladimir Sobotka - Evgeny Grachev
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves
 
Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Kris Russell - Roman Polak
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
 
Jaroslav Halak will get the start in net and Brian Elliott will serve as backup.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:24 PM

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

Fisher set for Ottawa homecoming

KANATA, Ont. -- Nashville Predators forward Mike Fisher, who makes his first trip back to Ottawa since being traded last February, is excited to be back facing his old friends.

"It feels great. It's good to be here to see a lot of close friends and family," Fisher said. "It took a while (to settle in); I don't think I did until the summer. It's definitely strange being in the other locker room. I hope it will be good. I had a lot of good years here and the fans always treated me really well."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz knows that the night is special for Fisher, as a part of him never truly left Canada's capital.

"One thing Fish will tell you is that he really loved his time in Ottawa," Trotz said. "Obviously we (benefited) from getting him; he's become a big part of Nashville just as he was in Ottawa. But I know there's a big piece of Mike Fisher in Ottawa. He was always in the community and he's always had ties. I could tell in the last week he was getting a little antsy, and it will be a bit strange for him."

Fisher, who was always a fan favorite in Ottawa, will likely get a rousing ovation when he takes the ice. Trotz wants to be sure his star gets a chance to bask in it.

"I'm going to ask him (about putting him in the starting lineup)," he said. "There are two trains of thought: I could start him, or I could wait for that first whistle and have him come out. Hopefully the referees will give him a long chance to get to the faceoff circle. I'll let him decide that. And I know what his answer will be: 'You decide that … I've got enough on my mind.'"
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:22 PM

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

Senators defenseman Phillips to play 1,000th game

KANATA, Ont. -- Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who will play in his 1,000th game on Thursday, insists it's just another day at the office.

"Once you're into the game, it's all business and we're trying to get back to our winning ways," he said. "I'm very proud of it -- it's a lot of games, and to do it all with one team makes it a little bit sweeter, for sure."

Phillips, the No. 1 pick in the 1996 Entry Draft, has made it through the long haul in Ottawa.

"There was talk early on of being trade bait, possibly being moved," he said. "And later on, I've had the opportunity of maybe moving on, but I'm certainly glad that everything worked and nothing happened, and I was able to continue to help this team out and have this night tonight.

"I think my role is more defined after that long being a defensive player, and priding myself on that. I came in as playing power play and putting some points up in junior, but that's definitely changed over the years. No matter what's been asked on the ice, it;s fun."

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who celebrated his 1,000th game earlier in the season, knows what Phillips is going through.

"I played on the road, which I think was a little bit easier," he said.  "Here, we're at home, there's more distractions. But you just gotta go with the flow. We know it will be nerve-wracking for him, being here and anticipating the game. Once you get to the rink and get into your routine and that kind of settles you down. But we're going to be sure it's fun to join him in this game tonight, and hopefully we can get a win for him."
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:18 PM

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

Projected lineups for Senators, Predators

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for Thursday night's game between the Ottawa Senators and the Nashville Predators at Scotiabank Place:

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

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Brian Lee

Alex Auld
Craig Anderson

Auld gets his first start since Dec. 30. Lee replaces Matt Carkner (healthy scratch), while Zenon Konopka is also a healthy scratch.

PREDATORS
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Yip - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Jerred Smithson - Craig Smith - Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Brian McGrattan is day-to-day with an upper body injury and didn't participate in practice. Gabriel Bourque is a healthy scratch.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:10 PM

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

Lightning could have Malone back by end of week

NEW YORK -- Lightning forward Ryan Malone has been on injured reserve since Jan. 31 with an upper-body injury, but he could be close to returning to the lineup.

He won't be back in time to face the New York Rangers on Thursday night, but after a lengthy skate at Madison Square this morning, Malone is eyeing a possible return in Buffalo on Saturday.

"It feels good, just a little contact there," Malone said following practice. "We're just making sure. We'll see how it feels tomorrow. We don't want to come back too soon. Everybody wants to make sure it's good to go and I'll last the rest of the season."

Coach Guy Boucher won't guarantee Malone's return Saturday, but he's hopeful.

"When he got injured, he thought he'd playing two days later," Boucher said of Malone's optimism about Saturday. "We need this guy in the lineup. He had been playing really well. His last 10 games out there (3 goals, 7 assists) he had been really terrific offensively. He finally had his legs going. So it's tough."

For the season, Malone has 10 goals and 17 assists in 41 games. He hasn't played since Jan. 21.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 12:40 PM

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

Islanders start crucial stretch by hosting Canadiens

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have an opportunity to get over the .500 mark as they host the Montreal Canadiens tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Isles (22-22-8) are a .500 club this late in the season for the first time in five years after Evgeni Nabokov guided them to a 1-0 victory at Philadelphia on Tuesday night. New York enters tonight's action nine points behind the Ottawa Senators for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Isles have four games in hand. Ottawa plays host to Nashville tonight.

"We've got to try to win hockey games right now," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "It's a crucial two-week stretch for us."

Montreal (21-24-9) is seeking its third straight win after earning a 3-2 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night. The victory allowed the Canadiens to move within 10 points of Ottawa, although the Habs have only two games in hand.

"Everybody's in the race," Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "Everybody's got something to play for each and every night. We have to be on our game. We've built some good work of late, but that's not good enough. We can't rest on any laurels. We want to keep it going."

Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Tomas Plekanec - Travis Moen
Andrei Kostitsyn - Scott Gomez - Rene Bourque
Louis Leblanc - Lars Eller - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin

Carey Price gets the start in goal. Peter Budaj will be the backup.

Diaz returns to Montreal's blue line after missing the last two games. Cunneyworth said it will be a game-time decision as to who Diaz will replace in the lineup. The Canadiens promoted Palushaj from AHL Hamilton on Wednesday as Yannick Weber is out with a leg injury.

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Rhett Rakhshani - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Tim Wallace - Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Aaron Ness

Nabokov, who stole a 1-0 shootout victory for the Islanders in Philadelphia on Tuesday night in a remarkable 45-save performance, gets the start in goal. Al Montoya will be the backup.

Travis Hamonic (nose), Rick DiPietro (lower body), Mike Mottau (concussion), Marty Reasoner (hand) and Dylan Reese (knee) are out for New York. Jurcina is returning to the lineup after missing the last two games with a laceration on his elbow. Brian Rolston will be a healthy scratch for a fifth straight game.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 11:42 AM

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

Hedberg starts as Devils go for six straight

NEWARK, N.J. -- Johan Hedberg will make his first start in three games on Thursday when the surging New Jersey Devils play host to the red-hot St. Louis Blues at Prudential Center.
 
The Devils are looking to build upon a season-high five-game winning streak while the Blues enter the game having earned 22 of a possible 24 points against teams from the East this season.
 
The 38-year-old veteran has won six of his last eight decisions -- the last coming on Saturday in a 6-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. For the season, Hedberg is 13-7-1 with two shutouts, a 2.52 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
 
The decision comes two days after Martin Brodeur twisted his right ankle in a shutout victory over the New York Rangers. Brodeur didn't practice with the team on Wednesday but did return to the ice for the team's optional skate on Thursday.
 
"If it's a playoff game, he probably starts, but we want to do the right thing long term here," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We have to emotionally re-engage here and be ready to go."
 
Four of the Devils' five victories during their current run have come against teams currently holding postseason spots in the East. The steak began with a 4-3 shootout win over the East-leading New York Rangers on Jan. 31.
 
It isn't known if Brodeur will serve as Hedberg's backup, but the team did recall goalie Jeff Frazee from Albany of the AHL.
 
"I'm capable of coming in and playing if need be," Brodeur said.
 
"He looked pretty good in practice," DeBoer said of Brodeur. "I'll sit down with [Devils GM] Lou [Lamoriello] and we'll see how [Brodeur] feels when he gets off the bike and has done his workout."
 
Meanwhile, defenseman Adam Larsson, who will miss his fourth straight game with a bruised lower back, is progressing nicely according to DeBoer.
 
"He's getting better and did some light exercise [Thursday morning]," DeBoer said. "All the results on him have been negative, so it's just a matter of time."
 
DeBoer also said that while wing David Clarkson did not participate in the morning skate, he will suit up Thursday against the Blues. Clarkson, who is having a career-season with 21 goals and 30 points, was the only healthy player not to participate at Thursday's skate.
 
Here are the projected lineups for Tuesday game for the Devils:
 
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Dainius Zubrus - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier
Eric Boulton - Jacob Josefson - Cam Janssen
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov
Matt Taormina - Kurtis Foster
 
Johan Hedberg gets the start; either Martin Brodeur (ankle) or Jeff Frazee will serve as backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 11:26 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Knuble set to be healthy scratch for Caps against Jets

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A trying season for Capitals veteran Mike Knuble hit a new low this morning when he was told that he would be a healthy scratch tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

Knuble, 39, has played in all 53 games this season, the majority of which have been spent on Washington's fourth line.

The eight-time 20-goal scorer has three goals and 11 points this season and is a team-worst minus-14.

Knuble has not scored since Dec. 5 -- a stretch of 27 games in which he has been held to just 3 assists -- and he skated a season-low 8:31 in a 4-1 loss Sunday afternoon to Boston.

With Knuble out, Jay Beagle returns to the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch for five straight games.

"It's always hard to do but we put Beagle in for more speed," coach Dale Hunter said. "Mike hasn't scored in a while and we figured we'd get him up top to watch the game."

Knuble did not speak to reporters after staying on the ice for extra work this morning with fellow healthy scratch John Erskine and backup goalie Michal Neuvirth.

"We know that he's a team leader," Hunter said. "He worked hard out here [this morning] and that's what leadership is all about, but we wanted to add more team speed and he's the odd-man out."

Hunter said he expects Beagle to play just more than 10 minutes against Winnipeg, including ice time on the Caps' penalty kill.

Beagle will skate on the fourth line alongside Keith Aucoin and Brooks Laich. Aucoin will play in his fourth straight game since being recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League last week, while Laich remains limited after suffering a left knee injury Sunday.

Laich skated a season-low 9:28 in a 4-0 win Tuesday against Florida.
 
Here are the Capitals' and Jets' projected lineups for a key Southeast Division meeting at Verizon Center:
 
CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Brooks Laich - Keith Aucoin - Jay Beagle
 
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Roman Hamrlik
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman
 
Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth
 
JETS
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Nik Antropov - Eric Fehr
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Alexander Burmistrov - Aaron Gagnon - Antti Miettinen
 
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Johnny Oduya
 
Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason


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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 10:52 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Making good on dad's dying wish

LAS VEGAS -- Even in a group that includes Hall of Fame players like Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Bobby Hull, Brian Leetch and Grant Fuhr, the best stories can still sometimes come from two brothers from Linwood, Ont. named Scott and Kevin Basler.

Scott and Kevin are here at Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Hockey Camp because it represents one of their father's dying wishes.

When Joe Basler got sick 16 months ago, he told his boys that if he were to die, they need to do something fun, a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing, with their inheritance money. He didn't want them to pay their taxes or pay off their cars or any debts they had; he wanted them to experience one of their dreams.

So, they each paid the $11,999 freight to come to Gretzky's camp with their wives and have the time of their lives.

"We used to joke around and kept asking to come to this camp as a Christmas present," Kevin said Wednesday night from the hospitality suite at the Bellagio, where the teams for this year's camp were revealed. "Our mom, Bernice, died in '02 and dad went and bought himself a Harley. He said you only live once. Well, this is our one-shot deal. That's why we're here."

Scott is in the furniture moving business and Kevin is a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician as well as a huge New York Rangers fan. Scott is a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

They were put on a team that will be coached by Cap Raeder and Bobby Hull. Denis Savard and Guy Carbonneau are the former pros that they will be playing with, though Kevin would have fulfilled another one of his dreams to land on the same team as Brian Leetch.

The next best thing is getting to know Leetch and all the other former pros here.

Dad would be happy.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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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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