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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:19 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected Blues-Blue Jackets lineups

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The probable lineups for tonight's Central Division rematch between the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets from Nationwide Arena.

BLUES

Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak, who has won seven straight starts (matching a career best) will get the start looking for his eighth straight win. Elliott stopped 21 shots in Saturday's 4-1 win over Columbus.

D Kent Huskins (bruised hand), D Kris Russell (concussion), RW Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot), RW Matt D'Agostini (concussion) and LW Alex Steen (concussion) are on injured reserve. C T.J. Hensick is a healthy scratch. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock did say that three of the injured players (likely Huskins, Russell and Langenbrunner) would become available at some point on the first leg of the trip.

BLUE JACKETS

RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Jared Boll
Dane Byers - Ryan Johansen - Ryan Russell

Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
Aaron Johnson - Nikita Nikitin
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Curtis Sanford
Allen York

The Blue Jackets are without D Fedor Tyutin (hand), C Derek MacKenzie (concussion), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion) and D Marc Methot (jaw). All are on injured reserve. RW Derek Dorsett (upper-body) missed Saturday's game and is day-to-day. Richards said Saturday he didn't think Dorsett would be ready for Sunday's game but didn't rule him out either. G Steve Mason (hand), who was in goal for the four-game winning streak for the Jackets last week, will not play again tonight after missing Saturday.
Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Thomas gets the start for Boston

PITTSBURGH -- Tim Thomas played in his ninth consecutive game in goal Sunday when the Boston Bruins tried to extend their Pittsburgh winning streak to four games.

The Bruins have never lost in Pittsburgh since Consol Energy Center opened in 2010, going 3-0 there -- including a 3-1 decision on Dec. 5.

Bruins coach Claude Julien hinted before the game that Marty Turco might make his first NHL start in 13 months. Turco was playing in Austria's top league until signing with the Bruins with backup goalie Tuukka Rask injured his groin and abdomen against the Islanders on March 3.

No goaltender except Thomas or Rask has played in a Bruins game since the 2008-09 season. Turco's last NHL start was on Feb. 11, 2011.

Thomas is 4-4 over his last eight games, including a 4-3 loss to Washington on Saturday in which he made 26 saves. He has played in 17 of the Bruins' last 19 games, starting the last five.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who has an 0.98 goals-against average in his last five home games, was in net for Pittsburgh. He is second in the NHL with 36 wins.
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 10:15 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CBJ @ STL - 7:11 of the Third Period

At 7:11 of the third period in the Blue Jackets/Blues game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Alex Pietrangelo's shot was stopped by Curtis Sanford and deflected off Nikita Nikitin's stick and into the Blue Jackets net. Good Goal St Louis
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 9:33 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BUF @ OTT - 14:06 of the Third Period



At 14:06 of the third period in the Sabres/Senators game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Marcus Foligno's backhand shot went off Daniel Alfredsson's right skate and into the Ottawa net in a legal fashion. Good Goal Buffalo.
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 8:32 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BUF @ OTT - 10:38 of the Second Period



At 10:38 of the second period in the Sabres/Senators game, the Toronto situation room initiated a review because Zack Smith had poked the puck into the net. The referee confirmed that he had blown the whistle prior to Smith poking it into the net. No Goal Ottawa.
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 8:13 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes regain Klesla, lose Hanzal

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes gained a defenseman but lost a center for Saturday’s huge game with San Jose.

Martin Hanzal will miss his 15th game of the season with an upper-body injury. Hanzal appeared to fall awkwardly on his right wrist in the first period of Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota. The injury initially was feared to be serious, but coach Dave Tippett said Hanzal is day-to-day. Marc-Antoine Pouliot replaced Hanzal in the Phoenix lineup.

On the plus side, defenseman Rostislav Klesla returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 18. Klesla has missed the last 10 games with an upper-body injury. He will replace David Rundblad and take a lot of pressure off Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Michal Rozsival, who have been playing major minutes.

Two more defensemen could be back soon. Derek Morris is back with the team after a one-month leave of absence to deal with a family illness. He is back skating but will need some conditioning time. Also, David Schlemko, out since Jan. 7, is close to returning from foot surgery.
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 5:27 PM

By Noah Liberman -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

EDM @ COL - 17:14 of the Third Period



At 17:14 of the third period in the Oilers/Avalanche game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Paul Stastny's shot hit the post and never crossed the goal line. No Goal Colorado.
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 5:15 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kesler hopes tactical changes help create space

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault figures he can try whatever he wants to try and fix a power play mired in a two-month slump.

Since going 4-for-11 in a big Stanley Cup rematch win against Boston on Jan. 10, the Canucks are just 6-for-68 with the man advantage, falling from first in the League (by a healthy margin) to third heading into a game Saturday against Montreal. It prompted Vigneault to try using four forwards on his top unit.

“If you look at the way our power play has been since the Boston game, I think it's fair to say I can try whatever I want,” Vigneault said.

That included moving Ryan Kesler away from the front of the net, where he managed to score 15 goals for the League’s best power play last season, and back to the point for the first time in his eight-year NHL career.

The new-look power play only got one chance in a 3-2 win against Winnipeg on Thursday, and failed to score. But they did manage six shots, Kesler hit one of his two posts on the night, and looked as good as it has in months.

For Kesler, playing the point gives him a little more time and space to get off a shot he worked tirelessly to improve before scoring a career-high 41 goals last season. It’s something he feels other teams have tried to take away this year.

“They are. Scoring 41 goals last year, teams are going to key in on me more and play me harder and it's harder minutes and they are taking away my time and space to shoot so you gotta find other ways to use the shot,” Kesler said.

One way to do that is to move back to the point, which also reduces the number of hard minutes Kesler, who is also a top penalty killing forward, has to play down the stretch after a long playoff run and offseason hip surgery last season.

“It’s taxing at times,” Kesler said. “It’s a little different playing the point, but at the same time I think I can use my shot more and help the power play that way … I get the puck a little more. My job is to shoot obviously first.”

Kesler is also hoping the long-awaited re-unification of the American Express line with fellow U.S.-born forwards David Booth and Chris Higgins will help him get that shot away more often. The speedy trio, split up because of injuries and illness after a promising December debut, combined for 16 shots against the Jets.

“When we come up the ice with speed it backs off the D, which allows me to shoot the puck more,” said Kesler, who had seven shots and two more off the iron that didn’t count. “We played like a line that wants to stay together."
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 4:15 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Depleted Detroit happy to have Abdelkader back

NASHVILLE – After missing a 4-3 win Friday against Los Angeles with an illness, Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader was expected back in the lineup Saturday for a metting with Central Division rival Nashville at Bridgestone Arena.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said that forward Joakim Andersson, who played in five games without any producing any points, was sent back to the minors.

The Red Wings have been depleted by injuries and it has started to catch up with them so even getting back a fourth-line forward like Abdelkader, who has seven goals and 13 assists, is a help.

While the Red Wings are starting to get healthy – center Pavel Datsyuk skated on Friday in Detroit – they will miss plenty of players Saturday. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will miss his sixth straight game, Datsyuk his ninth straight, forward Todd Bertuzzi his third straight, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson his sixth straight and goalie Jimmy Howard his third straight.

Babcock said the results have dropped off, but the team is doing the best it can.

“I mean our record’s not even close, so reality is we haven’t been good enough,” he said. “But we’ve battled hard. We’ve lost two of our last three games and we’ve given up 18 and 23 and 24 shots. So we’re not an offensive machine, but we’re hanging in there and we’re battling hard to try and help our goaltender out. I think we’ve done a pretty good job in that area.”

Babcock said the critical thing is not to lose ground in the standings. With Datsyuk out, Detroit is 3-4-1 and St. Louis has overtaken the Red Wings for the division lead.

Nashville could move within four points of Detroit for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference with a regulation win.

Projected lines:

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Johan Franzen - Darren Helm - Drew Miller
Gustav Nyqust - Cory Emmerton - Danny Cleary
Tomas Holmstrom - Justin Abdelkader - Jan Mursak

Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
Doug Janik - Brendan Smith

Joey McDonald
Jordan Pearce

Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 4:02 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Desharnais out, but Markov could return for Habs

Montreal’s miserable season will continued without injured top-line center David Desharnais on Saturday night in Vancouver, but the Canadiens could get their top defenseman, Andrei Markov, back for the first time all season.

Markov, who has only played seven games in the last two seasons as he tries to come back from two major knee surgeries and another arthroscopic procedure, was activated from the injured-reserve list Saturday morning and could play against the Canucks, according to coach Randy Cunneyworth.

“He’s activated and available to us and should everything go as planned he will be in our lineup,” said Cunneyworth, adding the decision will be made after pre-game warm up, which will include 12 forwards and seven defensemen. “If he’s feeling the same way tonight as he is today, then we certainly will (play him).”

Markov averaged 55 points from 2005-2009, including a career-high 64 in 2008-09. But the 33-year-old Russian only played 45 games in 2009-10 and just seven last season before tearing his ACL in a Nov. 13, 2010, game against Carolina.

It’s been a long road back for the puck-moving, power play specialist. He practiced in November, but was shut down after the knee swelled up, and wasn’t cleared again for contact until Monday. He skated alongside Tomas Kaberle on Friday, but won’t speak to the media until after Saturday’s game – if he plays.

“I believe his condition is to a point where he can help out the team and do the work he feels will help our team be successful,” said Cunneyworth, who has indicated he will monitor the Russian defender’s minutes closely. “We’ll figure out best way to manage his ice based on how the game is going and how he is feeling. It's another step in the right direction for a guy we know is a very good player, but we don’t want to throw too much on his plate.”

Fellow Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges knows better than most what Markov is going through after having season ending surgery in January of 2011 and having to wait until the start of this season to make his return. That was an eight-month wait. Markov hasn't played a game in 16 months.

“I don’t expect him to be at his 100 per cent best first game back after this long a break,” Gorges said. “The timing of things has to come back, but mentally he just has to get out there, get a couple shifts early, keep them short, keep them quick, get the feel for the puck, for the timing. Probably the best thing to do would be take a hit, take a big hit, and to know that he can keep going, his knee will be fine and mentally he can overcome that obstacle and he’ll be fine.”

That said, Gorges believes it will be a big morale boost for the Canadiens, who are last in the Eastern Conference, to see Markov finally return.

“It will be a great boost to everyone just to see him playing,” Gorges said.

The news was almost as positive on Desharnais, who suffered a lower-body injury early during a win Thursday in Edmonton and won’t play in Vancouver.

Cunneyworth said the injury to Desharnais, whose 52 points are second in team scoring only to linemate Max Pacioretty (54), isn’t serious, and he could be back as early as Monday in Buffalo. In the meantime, Tomas Plekanec moves up to the top line between Pacioretty, who took the team scoring lead with two goals and an assist against the Oilers, and Erik Cole.

“There’s some chemistry, they've largely stayed together much of the season,” Cunneyworth said of the top line, “But you adapt and others take on the responsibility. It’s a good challenge for our group.”

Louis Leblanc, who was sent down to Hamilton of the American Hockey League on Wednesday, has been called back up and will play on the fourth line against the Canucks.

When it was suggested the Canadiens could have tried recalling top prospect Brendan Gallagher, who plays his junior hockey locally, on an emergency basis, Cunneyworth said it never crossed his mind.

"With Louis Leblanc he comes back with the knowledge of our system and he's able to step right in and not miss a beat," he said.

CANADIENS

Assuming the Canadiens dress 12 forwards, the lines will look like this, with Leblanc most likely to sit should Markov play as one of seven defensemen:

Erik ColeTomas PlekanecMax Pacioretty
Rene BourqueLars EllerRyan White
Aaron PalushajScott GomezBlake Geoffrion
Louis LeblancPetteri NokelainenBrad Staubitz
 
Josh Georges – P.K. Subban
Alexei EmelinTomas Kaberle
Yannik Weber – Chris Campoli
Andrei Markov
 
After a rare night off in Edmonton, Carey Price gets the start – his 59th in 69 games – with an estimated 20-30 family members making the trip from his hometown in Northern B.C. Peter Budaj is back to being the back up.
 
CANUCKS

The only change for the Canucks is the return of Roberto Luongo in goal against the team he grew up cheering after Cory Schneider played Thursday.
 
Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Chris HigginsRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Mason RaymondSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Manny MalhotraMaxim LapierreZack Kassian
 
Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Marc-Andre Gragnani – Chris Tanev
 
Luongo is in goal, with Schneider back to backing up.
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He is, in my opinion, one of the best defensemen in the NHL and continuing to grow. I think his game, from an offensive standpoint, he continues to drive our offense... I think there's still tremendous upside for Oliver.

— Coyotes GM Don Maloney on defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson