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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 1:42 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Hawks to go with Emery again

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Ray Emery his starter on Tuesday afternoon. It'll be Emery's fifth straight game and his fourth start in the last five. Emery was the goalie of record in Chicago's 3-2 overtime win Sunday against San Jose, stopping 35 shots and improving his record this season to 6-1-2.

"He's played well all year," said coach Joel Quenneville. "He's earned the opportunity to keep on going. He's got the confidence, he's been productive and we want to keep it going as long as we can."

He made 42 saves in a 5-3 win against Minnesota as a member of the Ottawa Senators in November 2006 -- his lone career start against the Wild.

Here's how the rest of the Blackhawks -- and the Wild -- likely will look when they hit the ice here at the Xcel Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus).
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 1:33 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Homecoming game for a few Hawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It'll be a homecoming game for a few members of the Blackhawks tonight when they take the ice here against the Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus).

Among them is Andrew Brunette, the fourth-leading scorer in Wild franchise history.

He said he's not putting too much stock into his return, however, and hopes to keep the focus on the business of netting points.

"I'm looking forward to getting this game over with," said Brunette, who had 321 points in 489 games with the Wild. "The first one is never a fun one. I really just want to get our two points and get out of here. I think the next time back, it'll be a little different."

Brunette said the atmosphere tonight could be playoff-like.

"I hope so," je said. "When this building gets going, it's one of the funnest buildings in the league to play in."

Also making a return to the State of Hockey is Eden Prairie native Nick Leddy, the Wild's first round selection in the 2009 Entry Draft.

"What he's giving us offensively and defensively is getting better and better," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "I don't necessarily measure his contribution numbers-wise. When he's playing (well), he's giving us that offense."

Former Wild defensemen Sean O'Donnell and John Scott also will return tonight.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 1:16 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 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 - Correspondent / - 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.

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.
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 - Correspondent / - 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 - Correspondent / - 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.


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.


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 - 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 - 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 - Correspondent / - 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  - Correspondent / - 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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Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure