Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 4:01 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Kings not worried about PK issues

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Kings killed 40 straight penalties from Dec. 17 to Jan. 14 but have allowed a power-play goal in each of the past six games.

"Sometimes that's the way it goes," captain Dustin Brown said. "Our attitude is, I think, the main reason our PK is successful. I don't know if we've had the exact same attitude the last few games. Sometimes you get scored on, power plays make good plays. But there's been some breakdowns – the Colorado goals late in the game was just a breakdown on our part. It's not like they made a great play. We've got to tighten it up a bit."

Coach Darryl Sutter, though, isn't concerned. There's been no change in the group's structure and often their best penalty killers have been the ones serving the penalties.

There's also an element of luck. The streak ended on a play in which Calgary's Jarome Iginla scored because Trevor Lewis didn't have a stick to break up a pass.

"When you are so good for so long, that means you're good," Sutter said. "We're still in the top four or five in the League. We've got caught with broken sticks a little bit. We've got caught with not clearing pucks a little bit. We've got caught more with (the fact that) there is a hockey god. We've taken two bad change penalties that have cost us goals-against. We have taken retaliation penalties, which has cost us goals-against. That's probably where it is."
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 3:47 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Westgarth back in for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After using largely the same lineup for most of his tenure as Los Angeles Kings coach, Darryl Sutter will have one new wrinkle tonight.

Forward Kevin Westgarth, who has played just twice since Sutter became coach Dec. 20, will be inserted at right wing on the fourth line against the Ottawa Senators.

Sutter previously has gone with Trent Hunter in that spot, on a line with Colin Fraser and Kyle Clifford, because Hunter brings more offensive potential. But L.A. is coming off a disappointing loss to Colorado in which only its top line was a factor. The Kings have scored five goals in regulation the past four games.

"The fourth line has been sort of off on the energy part of it here, so we’ll see if we can give it a different look," Sutter said.

In his last game, Jan. 7, Westgarth played just two shifts, totaling 55 seconds. His last extended action was Dec. 26.

The Senators enter the game coming off a loss Saturday to the Anaheim Ducks. They haven't lost consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 9-11, but team history suggests that streak could be in jeopardy: The Senators have won just once in Los Angeles in franchise history (1-10-1). Their only win at L.A. was Jan. 11, 2000.

Here is what the lineups for the Kings and Senators likely will go with tonight:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Mark Borowiecki

Craig Anderson will start in goal, with Alex Auld the backup.

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov

Jonathan Quick will start in goal, with Jonathan Bernier the backup.
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 3:40 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Islanders hit Toronto on a hot streak

TORONTO -- The New York Islanders, winners of three straight games, head into Toronto tonight playing their best hockey of the season. They boast the League's hottest player in John Tavares, who has a season-long 12-game point-scoring streak; an up-and-coming play maker in PA Parenteau, who enters tonight's action fifth in the League in assists; and the NHL’s Third Star of the past week, goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

"We're executing more, we're starting to put 60-minute games together more frequently," said Tavares who has eight goals and 13 assists during his streak.

"When we are having tough stretches I feel like we're bouncing back and responding with solid shifts, big goals, big penalty kills and big saves, and we are coming up in those key moments in games and making some plays where overall it's making a difference for the end result."

Toronto will be playing their last of nine home games this month. They started the new year with four straight victories at Air Canada Centre but have tumbled recently, losing four of five and three of their last four at home.

"Their power play is just behind ours in the League and over the last 10 games or so it's about 35 percent," said Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "A lot of their offense is coming from the power play. By playing the way we have been, and not taking penalties will help, if we do take a penalty, (we need to) continue to be as aggressive as we have."

Wilson also acknowledged the play of Nabokov and his impact on the Isles. Wilson knows Nabokov well from their time together in San Jose.

"Nabokov is giving them solid goaltending (and) that's a huge plus," said Wilson. "A veteran presence in net who doesn't really get rattled. And when you get that kind of goaltending, your offence perks up and all areas of your game gets a little better."

Toronto enters the game two points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, while the Islanders can pull within five points of the ninth-place Leafs with a victory.

The Maple Leafs took the teams' only other meeting this season between the two clubs, skating away with a 5-3 victory Dec. 23 on Long Island.
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 3:08 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Umberger back for Blue Jackets

NASHVILLE -- Columbus activated left wing RJ Umberger, who has been one of the League's most durable players over the last few seasons, off injured reserve on Monday and Umberger will get back in the lineup when the Blue Jackets visit the Predators later in the day.

Umberger, who has 7 goals and 11 assists, was out for nine days and five games with concussion-like symptoms. To make room in the lineup, rookie Ryan Johansen, the fourth pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was expected to sit out, coach Todd Richards said.

Johansen has 1 goal in the last 12 games. He has been a healthy scratch five times this season, but not since Dec. 18. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound 19-year-old has 8 goals and 8 assists in 41 games and, at plus-3, is one of only three players with a positive rating on the Blue Jackets.

He had been skating on the Blue Jackets' second line with Derick Brassard and Tomas Kubalik. Umberger will likely slip into that slot.

"It's exciting," Umberger said. "It's obviously a new feeling for me. I was a little anxious and nervous this morning. I'm not used to being a guy who comes back in the lineup, so hopefully I just grab back on to my normal routines and make it a normal game."

Umberger said his goal was to get in front of the Predators' net, and to "be greasy and play a hard game."

Umberger, 29, had played in every game over each of the last three seasons and over the previous six seasons he had missed only eight games. Until the last five games, he had never missed a game as a Blue Jacket -- playing in 206 straight.

He talked about the frightening nature of head injuries.

"You just want to make sure you're getting healthy, you're going to live a normal life again," he said. "Things with the head are just so scary. It's not a fun way to go about every day, so once I started to get signs of coming back around, starting to feel myself,  that makes you feel a little better."

Richards addressed why Johansen would sit.

“A lot of it is his game’s been OK -- he has been OK -- but when you look up and down our lineup, our forwards, it’s tough to pull other guys out for what they bring to our team and what we need as a team, or what we feel as a staff we need, going into certain games,” he said. “The way our top six has gone, they’ve been good and we’re really happy with our third line, (Samuel) Pahlsson, (Derek) Dorsett and (Ryan) Russell.

"Right now, it's just a set of circumstances that he's not in the lineup. And he needs to be better. I think he can be better, but his play has not been bad where we have to get him out of the lineup."

Defenseman Brett Lebda was set to make his season debut after the Blue Jackets signed him on Jan. 17. He was expected to play on their top pair with Fedor Tyutin. Lebda was going to take the place of Nikita Nikitin, who had played in every game but one since Nov. 12 when he arrived with Kris Russell in a trade from St. Louis. Nikitin, who has 2 goals and 16 assists in 38 games, injured his knee on Saturday against Detroit.

Steve Mason was expected to start in goal, his second start in the last three games but only his third in the last 10.
Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Tomas Kubalik
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin - Brett Lebda
Marc Methot - John Moore
Grant Clitsome - Aaron Johnson
Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Islanders, Maple Leafs

Here's how the lines could look tonight when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the New York Islanders at Air Canada Centre:

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

Mark Streit - Travis Hamonic
Andrew MacDonald - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Dylan Reese

Evgeni Nabokov

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connolly - Nazem Kadri
Clarke MacArthur - David Steckel - Mike Brown
Dion Phaneuf - Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson - Mike Komisarek
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Jonas Gustavsson
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 1:26 PM

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

Toews out Tuesday, could miss All-Star Game

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will miss Tuesday's game against the Nashville Predators, and his availability for this weekend's NHL All-Star Game also appears in question.

Toews left Saturday's game in Nashville with what the team is calling an upper-body injury during the second period of the Hawks' 5-2 loss.

In speaking with reporters, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said today there wasn't one particular hit that injured Toews. He added that Toews was "not likely" to take part in the All-Star Weekend festivities.

"We have some time off. Have some extra days there," Quenneville said. "Hopefully he gets some rest. We'll get a better assessment after (the All-Star break)."

The Chicago Tribune reported Toews had been slashed on the left hand by Florida's Erik Gudbranson during Friday's game against the Panthers, but there's no word if that injury is connected to Toews' current ailment.

Quenneville said Dave Bolland will move into Toews' top line spot for Tuesday's game. 

"I don't want him to change how he plays," said Quenneville. "He doesn't have to be Johnny or an offensive type of guy. Play to your strength, especially tomorrow, because it will be a tight game."

Patrick Kane, Toews' linemate, said the rest of the team will have to step up in Toews' absence.

"Guys are going to have to step up and try to fill the void," said Kane. "We have to make sure we're focused and worry about the task at hand. He plays in every situation, key player, a guy you definitely miss if he's out of the lineup. You can't replace a player like (Patrick) Sharp or Toews, but there are some guys who can step up, and they have. These are big opportunities for myself and a lot of guys here."

In other Blackhawks news, Patrick Sharp skated for the first time today in his recovery from a left wrist injury. It's anticipated he'll return sometime during the Hawks' road trip after the All-Star break.

Quenneville also noted Corey Crawford will start in goal Tuesday against the Predators.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Kurt Dusterberg - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Mason hopes to continue mastery of Hurricanes

The Jets have had the Hurricanes' number this season, winning the first three games between the Southeast Division rivals. Winnipeg backup goaltender Chris Mason has been in the net for all of them, twice as the starter, once in relief. He has surrendered just four goals in the process.

"I don't really have an explanation," Mason said. "I haven't played against them a ton. I've had the three games against them this year and I've done pretty good. There's other teams I have played against a lot more and I don't have success against, even though I may have a better idea of what guys are going to do."

Given Mason's record against Carolina, Winnipeg coach Claude Noel didn't need to ponder the goaltending choice very long.
"If a guy has success against a team and feels comfortable, it's a pretty easy decision," he said. "But there's no guarantees in a game. Carolina's been going good. They've played a lot of low-scoring games. It's going to be all we can handle. Mason's going to have to be good."

Cam Ward will make his eighth straight start for Carolina. In his current stretch of seven consecutive starts, Ward has allowed no more than two goals in any game, good for a 3-2-2 mark.

Alexander Burmistrov - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Eric Fehr - Patrice Cormier - Antti Miettinen
Tobias Enstrom - Ron Hainsey
Johnny Oduya - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones
Chris Mason
Ondrej Pavelec
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Jussi Jokinen - Jeff Skinner - Zac Dalpe
Patrick Dwyer - Brandon Sutter - Andreas Nodl
Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Chad LaRose
Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Derek Joslin - Jamie McBain
Cam Ward
Justin Peters
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:52 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Yip's addition making things tough for Trotz

NASHVILLE -- After claiming forward Brandon Yip on waivers from the Avalanche last Thursday, Nashville now has 14 healthy forwards. That's made for some difficult decisions for coach Barry Trotz, as the team is playing well, having won 10 of 12 entering Monday.

On Saturday, the healthy scratches were Brian McGrattan and Matt Halischuk, who has 10 goals and also kills penalties. While McGrattan likely will continue to sit out for the time being, the other scratch will be a tough call on a nightly basis.

Trotz said he did not anticipate a roster move and said the Predators benefit from having the depth.

"The season's going to ramp up a little bit here," Trotz said. "We're going to have the trade deadline (Feb. 27). I think it was a great move picking up on Brandon. He's a player we've liked for a while. Hopefully, a new lease on life. We've had a number of players that's been a real good thing for us.

"It gives us a lot more depth and it allows even (general manager David Poile), if something comes up for the trade deadline and if we have to add or delete, in the past we'd add someone, but by adding someone, you create other holes and then we've had to expend a third- or a fourth-, fifth-round pick to fill that hole. With a Brandon Yip or whatever … you don't have to do that if you have more depth."

Here is what lineup the Predators could put out tonight -- one that includes defenseman Ryan Suter for the first time since Jan. 16.

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

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Jack Hillen - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne will start in goal, with Anders Lindback the backup.

Matt Halischuk and Brian McGrattan also took shifts on the fourth line, sharing time with Yip.
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:45 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Suter back in for Predators

NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Ryan Suter will return to the lineup tonight when his team hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets, securing his ability to play in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game.

Suter, who ranks third in the League in average time on ice at 26:30, missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, potentially jeopardizing his ability to play in his first All-Star Game. However, that issue seems to have resolved itself.

"What I said before was if I don't play with my team before the All-Star break, then it's not fair to go and play in something like that," said Suter, who turned 27 on Saturday. "Hopefully, everything goes well in the next couple of days and go have fun."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Suter wanted to play in Saturday's 5-2 win against Chicago, but the team held him out as a precaution.

Suter's return comes at an opportune time for Nashville, as veteran defenseman Francis Bouillon is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Bouillon got hurt Saturday and did not return.
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:26 PM

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

Stars sign Goligoski to four-year extension

The Dallas Stars and defenseman Alex Goligoski agreed to terms Monday on a four-year, $18.4 million contract extension.

Goligoski is in the final season of a three-year, $5.5 million contract and would have been a restricted free agent after the season.

"We're very pleased that we were able to sign Alex to this extension," said Stars owner Tom Gaglardi. "We are committed to building a winner here in Dallas and that starts with re-signing your key players and maintaining a solid foundation for your roster."

Goligoski, 26, has 15 points in 34 games, and leads the team with an average of 22:34 of ice time per game. He had 15 points in 23 games after arriving in Dallas in a trade last season.

Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the 2004 Entry Draft, Goligoski has 33 goals and 120 points in 236 games with the Pens and Stars.

"Alex Goligoski is one of our core players and we are very pleased to get him under contract during the prime of his career," said Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "Alex is a character person and one of the anchors of our blue line. He's a big part of our hockey club."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

I'll be happy, believe me, if we win our last playoff game. Not taking anything away, but we've had a fairly good lead for a while now. It would be more surprising if we didn't get the division. Business as usual.

— Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau after clinching their third straight Pacific Division title