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Posted On Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 4:11 PM

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

Canucks projected lineup

Cory Schneider is hoping to turn consecutive starts into the rhythm missing from his game so far. The Canucks' backup might have to do it behind a patchwork defense.

Schneider will be in goal for a second-straight game Sunday night against Ottawa while No.1 Roberto Luongo continues to recover from a still-unidentified upper body injury, but won't know until just before the game exactly who is playing in front of him.

Keith Ballard is definitely out after suffering a back injury early in Wednesday's 5-1 loss to rival Chicago, and will be replaced by Andrew Alberts on a third pairing with Aaron Rome. Alexander Edler was a late scratch from the morning skate with back spasms of his own and is listed as a game-time decision. Alexander Sulzer is ready to replace him, but the fact Edler might still play was at least a positive sign it isn't serious for a valuable top-4 defender that missed more than two months after back surgery last season.

"Alex came in this morning with stiffness in his back," head coach Alain Vigneault said after the game-day skate. "So we're working on him right now."

No matter who plays on defense, Schneider is preparing himself mentally to see more odd-man rushes, something the normally stingy Canucks have surrendered more of during an inconsistent 9-9-1 start to the season. Add in a 13-day break between his last two starts, and Schneider admitted he is struggling to find his form from last season.

"Today is a good opportunity to bounce back and have a solid effort," he said. "We need this one badly so I think we'll be ready to go and for my personally to get back on a more consistent level that I am used to playing at and sort of solidify the back end there."

As for the rush chances, Schneider said he and Luongo, who skated for a second straight day Sunday but will cede the backup job to AHL call up Matt Climie, need to be more aggressive on the puck carrier, and trust their defense to take care of the pass option.

"Just reading certain situations and maybe handling rushes differently," Schneider said. "We seem to be giving up more rush chances, so that's something we're going to have to adjust to and maybe be a little more aggressive on those ones. And for me just keep the focus for 60 minutes and not having that mental lapse where a bad goal goes in."

With a .904 save percentage, he wasn't getting any arguments from his coach.

"Our whole team needs to be better and can be better," Vigneault said. "That being said it's very evident when teams get on rolls in the NHL, one of the key components to that success is goaltending. We need our goaltenders to give us the same thing."

CANUCKS

With Ryan Kesler feeling well enough to play after taking a practice off because of right shoulder stiffness from a hard crash into the end boards, the forward lines are expected to stay the same, at least to start. Vigneault had them in a blender pretty quick in the last game.

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Alex Burrows

Cody Hodgson - Maxim Lapierre - Chris Higgins

Aaron Volpatti - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise

If Edler can play, the top four will stay intact, but if not don't be surprised if Aaron Rome moves up to play with Sami Salo on the second pairing, with Sulzer on the right side with Alberts.

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa

Alex Edler - Sami Salo

Andrew Alberts - Aaron Rome

Schneider starts, with Climie called up from the AHL to back him up.
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Posted On Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 3:53 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Giguere getting third straight start for Avs Sunday

DENVER -- Signed as a backup on July 1, Jean-Sebastien Giguere will make his third consecutive start in goal tonight when the Colorado Avalanche play the San Jose Sharks at the Pepsi Center.

Giguere, 34, is coming off a 3-0 win against Dallas on Friday when he made 24 saves, and he's stopped 41 of 42 shots in his past two starts.
   
"He's played very well the last two games and he deserves to get back in there," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said after the morning skate.

The Avalanche sent first- and second-round draft picks to Washington on July 1 to acquire Semyon Varlamov and signed him to a three-year, $8.3 million contract, but he's struggled after getting off to a hot start. Varlamov, 23, is winless (0-5-1) in six starts since a 3-2 victory against Los Angeles on Oct. 30.

"It's a situation where he played very well for us early on and he's going through a tough stretch," Sacco said. "Sometimes the best thing for a young goaltender is to see what's going on."

Giguere has played well in each of his seven games -- six starts and one relief appearance -- and is relishing another chance to return to the crease.

"You always want to play as many games as possible," said Giguere, who has a 4-2 record with a 1.68 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. "(Varlamov) is the guy they see as their future, the future of this team. It's normal to go through a slump, especially when you're young. He had a lot of emotion at the beginning of the year and that kind of slowly dies down as the year goes on. He just has to recapture that somehow.

"Everybody knows what he's capable of doing. He's working extremely hard in practice. Until then, as a backup, you have to be ready for situations like that."

Giguere's role includes being a mentor and sounding board for Varlamov, who owns a 5-8-1 record with a 3.30 GAA and .890 save percentage.

"I'm here to be a good teammate, too," Giguere said. "I've been through what he's going through many times. If anybody in this room knows what he's going through, it's me. I talk to him as much as I can and try to keep him positive, try to keep him smiling. That's what they wanted me here for. They know that with a young guy sometimes things can go wrong. It's always good to have a good veteran presence helping the young guy along."

The Avalanche will be trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since a five-game winning streak on the road from Oct. 10-17. It won't be easy against the Sharks, who are on a 5-1-1 roll and have gone 10-2-1 since Oct. 21.

The Sharks won their second game in a row with a 4-1 victory Saturday night in Dallas and didn't skate this morning.

"They're one of the powerhouses in the Western Conference and in the league," Sacco said. "They play a real strong cycle game, have a lot of big, strong power forwards and a big defense corps. They play a pretty straightforward game. They try to spend time in the offensive zone and wear you down. They're going to be a great test for us."
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Posted On Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 3:39 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineup for Sharks-Avalanche

These are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

SHARKS

Logan CoutureJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski

Ryane ClowePatrick MarleauMartin Havlat

Jamie McGinnMichal HandzusTorrey Mitchell

Brad WinchesterAndrew DesjardinsAndrew Murray

Dan Boyle, Douglas Murray

Brent Burns, Marc-Eduoard Vlasic

Jason Demers, Jim Vandermeer

Antti Niemi is expected to start in goal with Thomas Greiss as the backup.

AVALANCHE

Gabriel LandeskogMatt DucheneMilan Hejduk

Kevin PorterPaul StastnyBrandon Yip

David JonesRyan O'ReillyDaniel Winnik

TJ GaliardiJay McClementChuck Kobasew

Kyle QuinceyShane O'Brien

Ryan WilsonErik Johnson

Jan HejdaRyan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start in goal with Semyon Varlamov as the backup.
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Posted On Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 3:35 PM

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

Projected lineups for Senators-Canucks

The Senators won't have any problem getting up to play in Vancouver Sunday night. Not only is there the "measuring stick" aspect of facing a team that went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last summer, but they've already got a pre-game speech ready.

It will sound a lot like the one they used to end a length drought in Calgary, where they hadn't won since 2003, a streak of five-straight that ended with a 3-1 win on Tuesday.

Ottawa hasn't won in Vancouver since 2004, a drought exacerbated by the lack of head-to-head meetings with Western Conference teams. Still, the Canucks have won seven of the last eight meetings dating back to 2005-06, and done so by a total score of 29-13.

"We have a tape recording of whatever was said in Calgary and we're going to play that again," defenseman Chris Phillips said. "I can't remember exactly what was said but it was a while since we won in there so we'll try to do that. Year to year it is different guys and different scenarios, but obviously we'd like to change that and get a win here."

To do so the Senators will try not to change anything else.

Their yo-yo of a season is back on a winning streak upswing with three-straight victories through four stops of a six-game road trip that will end in Pittsburgh on Friday. Coming off wins in Calgary and Edmonton, they've got a chance to sweep a Western Canadian swing for the first time in franchise history with a win at Rogers Arena Sunday.

It has started with a tighter effort in their end, and needs to include staying out of penalty trouble to keep a 23rd-ranked penalty kill way from the Canucks' No.1 power play.

"These guys were in the Stanley Cup final last year and it's going to take what we've been doing," Phillips said. "A solid effort just trying to keep it simple and force other teams to really work at getting their chances, to not give stuff up, and take advantage of that. It's been working for us lately and we want to keep it going."

Ottawa is expected to so with the same lineup that won in Alberta, including fours goals the last two games from what has been a strong fourth line of late:

SENATORS


Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek

Nick Foligno - Stephane Da Costa - Daniel Alfredsson

Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra

Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Bobby Butler

Erik Karlsson - Filip Kuba

Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar

Jared Cowen - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson start again in goal, with former Canuck Alex Auld backing up.
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Posted On Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 11:02 AM

By Kurt Dusterberg -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs Hurricanes

While Toronto and Carolina did not skate this morning, these are the projected lineups for tonight's game at the RBC Center:

Toronto

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Nikolai Kulemin - Tim Connolly - Matt Fratin

Les Steckel - Joe Colborne - Joey Crabb

Jay Rosehill - Phillipe Dupuis - Colton Orr

Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson

John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson

Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn

Ben Scrivens
 
Carolina
 
Anthony Stewart - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose

Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer/Zac Dalpe

Jiri Tlusty - Tim Brent - Zach Boychuk

Bryan Allen - Tim Gleason

Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk

Jamie McBain - Tomas Kaberle

Cam Ward
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Posted On Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 1:48 AM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Oilers' youth growing up quickly

While the club is not quite there yet, the two fresh faces of the franchise are taking major strides in their pursuit of becoming elite players night in, night out. Saturday night, the two spilled oil all over the Chicago Blackhawks, combining for three goals, five assists, eight points and seven shots. Not a bad night.

The tough part is deciding which player had the better night. Hall collected a hat trick, but Nugent-Hopkins amassed five assists. Let'Tyler s call it a tie.

This year, fantasy owners have seen unexpected greatness from Nugent-Hopkins, a small-framed, inexperienced rookie. Through 19 games, RNH has 19 points on seven goals and 12 assists and has thrown 40 shots on the cage. Fellow stud Hall, meanwhile, has 14 points in 18 games and has 52 shots thrown on net.

The dynamic duo in Oil Country could be emerging as the next Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin or Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane. Fantasy owners are taking notice, too. Nugent-Hopkins is owned in 68 percent of Yahoo! leagues and has jumped from an original ranking of 244 to 93, currently. Hall is owned in 82 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

While you search for the next long-term solution for your fantasy teams, look no further than the two headliners in Edmonton.

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Posted On Sunday, 11.20.2011 / 1:31 AM

By Eric Lipschutz -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Big Buff back on track

Dustin Byfuglien is having a November to remember after experiencing an October to forget.

Byfuglien had another big game Saturday, scoring a goal and adding two assists in Winnipeg's 6-4 win against Philadelphia. That makes three goals and seven assists for Byfuglien in nine games this month. During that span, the 26-year old defenseman has totaled 30 shots on goal while racking up 20 penalty minutes.

With 10 points in nine November games, Dustin Byfuglien appears to have put his slow start to the season behind him. (Photo: Getty Images)
Byfuglien's impressive month is quite the turnaround from his lackluster October in which he posted a meager seven points and was a minus-5 in 11 games. Concerns by the Jets and fantasy owners about Byfuglien in the season's opening month were only compounded by a disappointing finish to the 2010-11 season and growing concerns about his weight. However, Big Buff's strong November performance seems to indicate that he has put all his issues behind him and is ready to return to his elite status among fantasy blue liners.

In his latest On the 'D'-Fence segment, Brian Metzer moved Byfuglien up two spots to No. 12 in his weekly rankings. If Byfuglien can continue to produce up to his potential, then the offensively-gifted defenseman could easily crack the top 10 and even has the ability to soar into the top 5.

Unfortunately, fantasy GMs looking to buy low on Byfuglien may have missed their opportunity. However, if you are still looking to target Byfuglien in a trade, then you should feel confident Byfuglien is back on track and poised for his typical all-around stellar production at the always-thin defenseman position.
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Posted On Saturday, 11.19.2011 / 10:03 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PIT @ FLA - 16:30 of the Third Period

At 16:30 of the third period in the Penguins/Panthers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Florida forward Stephen Weiss directed the puck into the net with his stick during the scramble in front of the Pittsburgh net.  Good Goal Florida.

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Posted On Saturday, 11.19.2011 / 7:40 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHX @ BUF - 11:57 of the First Period

At 11:57 of the first period in the Coyotes/Sabres game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Buffalo forward Luke Adam deflected the puck into the net with his stick below the crossbar. According to rule 60.5 "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 Buffalo.

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Posted On Saturday, 11.19.2011 / 5:01 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHI @ WPG - end of the Second Period

In the Flyers/Jets game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice, Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds shot the puck into the net after time had expired in the second period. No Goal.

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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic