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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:26 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Kings say they've moved past loss in Detroit

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Kings say they've completely forgotten about the gut punch they took on Friday night in Detroit, when a late one-goal lead and two standings points vanished in a matter of minutes before the final horn.

The Kings have moved onto their next game on Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks -- literally and figuratively speaking.

"We don't have any other choice," Los Angeles star center Anze Kopitar said after the Kings' optional morning skate at the United Center. "There's 14 games left and we're not in a position where we wanted to be, but we're still very much alive. We've got to look ahead. We can't worry about what happened on Friday or last month. We have to look ahead to [Sunday night] and focus on that."

That's because the Kings (31-25-12) come into the day's action 11th in the Western Conference, but just two points behind eighth-place Colorado for the last playoff spot. Calgary also has 74 points, while the San Jose Sharks have 75 in ninth. Only four points ahead of the Kings in seventh sit the Phoenix Coyotes, so these last 14 games ought to provide quite a bit of drama.

"We've been seventh to 11th since I've been here and two or three points either way," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter, a former Blackhawks player and coach who joined L.A. mid-season as Randy Carlyle's replacement. "It doesn't really change anything. You try to put an emphasis on each game and each game kind of takes on a life of its own. A couple teams have separated themselves at the top. A couple teams have separated themselves at the bottom. Everybody else is pretty much the same. It comes down to head-to-head [games] and move on."

Head to head against his former team has gone pretty well for Sutter thus far. He's faced the Blackhawks twice -- once at home and once here at the United Center -- and won both backed by shutouts from goalie Jonathan Quick.

In fact, Quick has faced the Hawks in each of the previous three games this season and allowed just two goals against 84 shots. Chicago will have to find a way to get him off his game on Sunday night, and it won't be easy -- Hawks captain and top-line center Jonathan Toews out for a 10th straight game with concussion symptoms.

"We've had a couple games against [the Kings] where we haven't been able to get any offense going," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Our special teams last game weren't very effective and that's got to be a priority. We know we've got to get traffic and look for scrappy goals against this team because they play well, they check well and they play tight in their own end. That's basically got to be our thought process is getting through that area and then finding ways to score."

Chicago hasn't scored on the power play in its last two games, despite trending up with the man-advantage recently, so getting that unit working again is high on the list of things to do. Quenneville said he's probably going to see how newly-acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya looks on one of the points of the power play, but in general is looking for his team to get in Quick's way more often.

"Whether it's 5-on-5 or on the power play, we've got to get traffic, we've got to get through and penetrate that slot area kind of like we did against the Rangers [on Friday night]," Quenneville said. "Whether it's screens, tips, deflections, second opportunities or ugly goals ... that's what we've got to look for."

Ray Emery will start in net for the Blackhawks (37-25-7), who are sixth in the West standings with 81 points. Toews, who skated for the fourth straight day, won't play. Neither will Hawks defenseman Steve Montador, who skated for the first time in a week but is unavailable with an upper body injury that's believed to stem from a concussion.

Quick is expected to get the start for the Kings.
Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:21 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Back-to-back has challenges for both Blues, Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- They used to be quite common in the NHL years ago when teams would play home-and-home back-to-back games, especially division rivalries.

They're not quite as frequent these days, but for division rival St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets, they'll go at it again Sunday night after locking up Saturday night in St. Louis.

The Blues (44-18-7) kept their NHL-best mark with a 4-1 victory, snapping the Blue Jackets' winning streak at four and winning their fourth straight. It'll be a successful weekend for the Blues if they can sweep, with this being the start if a seven-game trip.

"Only if you win them," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "They become survival games.

"This is a tough go for both teams. This is a quick turnaround with (a) bad time change. You lose an hour (with daylight savings), then you lose another hour in the (eastern) time change. This is a tough go for both teams and then have an early start. This is a hard go for us."

There were fisticuffs throughout, and one would expect in these home-and-home series for some bad blood to carry over.

"I think they're cool," said Blues winger Chris Stewart, whose second-period goal snapped a 1-1 tie. "I think they build that playoff atmosphere. Any runs we can get in before the playoffs here and some high-intensity games here are going to be good for us."

Added Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk: "It reminds me of the college schedule, at least back east, we used to do a lot of home-and-homes. It makes it interesting hockey and you get some bad blood brewing. I'm sure there's going to be some stuff carrying over into (tonight's) game. It's good for the league."

- - -

Blues defenseman Ian Cole continues to learn and make strides towards that permanent spot on the Blues' roster.

The first step was when the team decided that even with more than enough healthy defensemen available, Cole would remain on the active roster here rather than go back to Peoria and become eligible to be on their playoff roster.

Cole has since played three games with Kent Huskins sidelined with a bruised hand, and Hitchcock has seen both sides of the ledger.

"He's had some really good stretches and then ... he's had some stretches where he's tried to overextend himself, defensively or whatever," Hitchcock said. "I think moving forward, if we're going to use him as a real player, we're going to have to work with him on the good things he's doing. He's got strength one-on-one and he moves the puck at times well. But defensively, we've got to get him to receive the rush more rather than attack people. He's taking some penalties attacking people."

Cole took a pair of penalties in the game Tuesday against Chicago, particularly one where he was whistled for interference that Hitchcock said is all about making the correct read and not rushing into judgment.

"That's just patience," Hitchcock said. "I think it's just getting him to be more patient in his game will make him a better player. The way he plays and his skill-set is, less is more. It's not so much more with the puck, it's without the puck. Over-exuberance at times.

"If we can get that calmed down at times, we're going to get a good player here."

- - -

The Blues will try once again for a fifth straight win this season, an area they have failed to capitalize on six previous times.

The Blues have had six four-game winning streaks this season and have failed to win a fifth on each occasion.

They are tied with Detroit for the most wins in the league with 44, and Hitchcock feels like his team is finding ways to win and there's more to accomplish.

"I don't think it's clicking," he said. "I think it's more finding a way. For maybe six weeks, it was five-on-five play, PK was just OK and the power play wasn't very good, goaltending's kind of been the key thing all year. They've given us the big save, but we've really been good five-on-five. Now five-on-five's slipped a little bit and the special teams have come back up.

"I just think it's a combination of finding a way. ... We've got great team spirit. We don't overwhelm you with our skill level. We don't lead the league in anything scoring-wise, but we just find a way to chip it in and get that one-goal edge that you need to win."

- - -

Columbus (22-39-7), which saw its season-best four-game winning streak snapped with Saturday's loss, is looking at the future rather than a playoff berth. It's been that way for some time with the horrendous start to their season.

Interim coach Todd Richards is looking at players the team has recalled from their AHL affiliate in Springfield (Mass.) and said they need to embrace an opportunity.

"As an American (Hockey) League player and as a young guy, these are the opportunities ... when the door opens up, you're looking forward to it," Richards said. "(St. Louis) is a big, heavy team, plays fast, obviously first in the league, so a challenge but an opportunity for players.

"It's a chance for us as a staff and organization to see some of these guys play in a difficult situation."

As for playing against the Blues, Richards mentioned before the teams' meeting here in Feb. 14 that for the Jackets to be successful and win, they need to be prepared to win a 2-1 type of game -- which is exactly what they won by.

"Still the same," Richards said regarding playing the Blues. "They play hard, a very disciplined team. I will use the word patient and what I mean by that is I think they're aggressive, and I know that's a contradiction in saying aggressive and patient. What I mean by that is they'll dump pucks, they'll continue to play a certain way. They're going to go after it, but they play a certain way and they wait for you to break or make a mistake and then capitalize and they tend to feed off the momentum that's usually created there.

"If the game is dumping and chasing, we have to do the same thing. We can't turn pucks over and (we have to) play along with the patience. We still want to be aggressive and match their puck management."
Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:19 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - 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.


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.


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 - Correspondent / - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - Correspondent / - 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 / - 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 - Correspondent / - 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."
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It's not just going to happen on its own. We have to have guys commit to the areas we need to improve on. We're going to be better than last year but there is still a long way to go. But I really like the pieces and where we're headed.

— Sabres forward Tyler Ennis on the progress of Buffalo's rebuilding process