Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 3:55 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Predators will miss popular Smithson

NASHVILLE – Jerred Smithson was a long-time Nashville Predator who was liked and respected by teammates and members of the coaching staff alike.

So when Nashville traded him to Florida on Friday for a sixth-round pick, it was not an easy move.

Smithson, a solid two-way forward who was strong on faceoffs and a good penalty killer, scored what coach Barry Trotz called arguably the biggest goal in franchise history last year in overtime in Game 5 of the first round at Anaheim, setting Nashville up for its first series-clinching win in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena.

Trotz was the second member of the organization to speak to Smithson on Friday night after general manager David Poile informed him of the trade. Trotz said it was a “tough” phone call and that he was at a loss for words, saying Smithson was “one of my favorites.”

Smithson, 33, in his seventh season with Nashville, was held out of the lineup four times since the Predators claimed a younger faster forward with more potential offensive upside in Brandon Yip. Trotz also said that the development of young players like Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Craig Smith and Gabriel Bourque increasingly took over Smithson’s former role.

Smithson had only one goal and four assists in 53 games. He entered the season with 35 goals and 46 assists in 444 games for Nashville.

“It was difficult in the sense that Jerred brought a lot to the locker room,” Trotz said. “The stats, if you look at stats, they’re really for losers. He brings a lot of intangibles to the group -- character guy. Real pro, one of the better faceoff guys in the game, with him also he probably hasn’t had the year he was expecting and maybe he was expecting. Not to diminish anything he’s done. Not to diminish anything he’s done. He’s done a lot for us.”

Trotz hinted that it was a potentially unhealthy situation, having a player so well respected sitting out on a regular basis, saying, “One thing you don’t want is a player you highly respect and you know has contributed in a lot of different ways to not be a part of it.”

Smithson and Predators captain Shea Weber were roommates on the road. Weber was the third person to speak to Smithson after the deal. He said it was hard to see Smithson sitting out.

“Yeah, yeah, he’s such a character guy, someone who means so much in the locker room, a veteran presence especially where we’re so young,” Weber said. “It was tough to see.”

Right wing Jordin Tootoo played on the same line as Smithson and sat next to him in the Preds’ dressing room.

“He’ll be greatly missed in the dressing room but at the same time it’s part of business,” said Tootoo, who also spoke to Smithson after he was dealt. “… As a person, he was a very comical guy.”…

Right wing Patric Hornqvist will return to the lineup after missing five games with what the team called an upper-body injury.

Here is the projected lineup for the Predators:
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher-Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling-Jordin Tootoo
Matt Halischuk - Craig Smith-Brandon Yip
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Hal Gill
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Out: Jack Hillen

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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 3:41 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sharks hope win sparks trip turnaround

NASHVILLE – The San Jose Sharks enter their second-to-last game on Saturday of what had been a rather unsuccessful nine-game road trip with a chance to finish at .500 thanks to a 2-1 win on Saturday at Toronto.

The Sharks went 1-4-1 in the first six games of the trip, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he saw some improvement and hopes that with wins over the Predators on Saturday and in the finale at Minnesota on Sunday the Sharks can go home with nine out of a possible 18 points.

The poor road trip, combined with Phoenix’s surge, has allowed the Coyotes to tie the Sharks for first in the Pacific Division with 71 points entering Saturday.

“Defensively, we were much better,” McLellan said of the Leafs’ game. “We weren’t as loose. Positionally, we were better. I thought our goaltender looked sharp, the way he’s supposed to look. Power play got us a goal. We came out on the winning side of a one-goal game, instead of the losing side. Kept a team to under three, which is important to our team.

“A lot of real positives. I thought we got solid contributions from all four lines. We were much more disciplined. We didn’t end up in the penalty box. I can keep going on and on. It’s amazing how many things we did better and yet it still a one-goal win.”

One player who will not play on Saturday or Sunday is newly acquired center Dominic Moore, who has a lower-body injury. Moore missed the game on Thursday at Toronto and McLellan said he would not get back into the lineup at earliest until the team returns home against Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Here's the Sharks' projected lineup:
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryan Clowe - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Jim Vandermeer
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Jason Demers - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Colin White
Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 3:32 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Abdelkader hopes for happy birthday against rival Avs

DETROIT -- While growing up in Muskegon, Mich., in the 1990s Justin Abdelkader enjoyed the bitter rivalry that developed between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche.

Though the rhetoric has almost evaporated from those old battles, which featured two goalie fights and other physical run-ins, Abdelkader said he still thinks there is some leftover spite between the two organizations.

“I think it's still there," said Abdekader, who turned 25 on Saturday. "Maybe it's a little different, because I think both teams were pretty much 1-2 during the late [1990s], when they were battling it out. It's a little different, but I think there's still some of that intensity there.''

The Red Wings and Avalanche will face each other for the fourth and final time during the regular season on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, which gave Abdelkader an opportunity to reflect on his days growing up as a Red Wings fan.

"It was '97, so I was probably 10 years old or so when it got heated up," Abdelkader said of the rivalry. "Just watching on TV, watching the battles, the playoffs, looked like it was really neat. I remember the fights. Lot of good memories."

If things go well on Saturday night, Abdelkader might make a few memories of his own in the rivalry with the Red Wings. He'll be lined up at right wing on the third line and will try to duplicate his one goal and one assist performance from Thursday night's 4-3 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Also, he'll  have a sizable group of family and friends attending the game and celebrating his birthday.

"It's crazy," Abdelkader said. "Seems like each year goes by faster and faster. Talking to my parents on the way down to the rink ... 25 ... you know, it's wild, but it's pretty neat to get an opportunity to play a game on my birthday."
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 3:14 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

New Flyers working on fitting in

Though the trade deadline looms Monday, the Philadelphia Flyers have already worked on assimilating their newest additions into the lineup.

Defensemen Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman have been forced to adapt quickly after being recently acquired by the Flyers, who are in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference.

“Everything is new,” said Kubina, who will protect projected starter Ilya Bryzgalov Saturday night against Calgary. “New team, new system. You’ve just got to work on it. It’s a little different style then we’ve played in Tampa. You’ve got to learn quick.”

The biggest adjustment may be mental for Kubina. Previously a member of the 12th-place Tampa Bay Lightning, the 6-foot-4 defenseman now has the playoffs directly in his crosshairs.

“It’s always good to have a chance and be in the playoffs,” Kubina said. “I remember we won a Stanley Cup in Tampa, we made it to the playoffs the next year after that but I wasn’t in for five, six years after. It’s always special to have a chance to be in the playoffs.”

Adjusting to new partners won't be a problem for current Flyers defensemen. They’ve been forced to do it all season, Matt Carle said.

“With all the injuries we’ve had this year it seems like you’re always playing with a new partner,” Carle said. “That’s the one positive. It’s helped to make these adjustments when bringing new guys in. We’ve had our fair share of new faces on the back end so it’s nothing new for us to bring someone new into our d-core.”

Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette likes what he sees out of his two newest additions that combine for almost 13 feet and nearly 500 pounds between them.

“They’ve been good,” he said. “They’re big units back there – both of them. They’ve done a pretty good job since being here trying to put some size back there behind our forwards and in front of our goaltender and clear things out in front of our net.”

Here's the Flyers' projected lineup:

Scott HartnellClaude GirouxWayne Simmonds
Danny BriereMatt ReadJaromir Jagr
James van RiemsdykBrayden SchennJakub Voracek
Eric Wellwood – Max Talbot – Jody Shelley

Kimmo TimonenBraydon Coburn
Matt CarlePavel Kubina
Nicklas GrossmanAndrej Meszaros

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Young Wings will be happy to see deadline pass

DETROIT -- Cory Emmerton, like many young players, will have a little sense of relief after the Monday trade deadline comes and goes.

The Detroit Red Wings rookie center isn't part of speculation, but many players don't really know if they're staying or going until after the deadline passes -- especially young guys.

"It's kind of nice when it's all said and done," Emmerton said on Saturday morning. "As much as you say you don't think about it, it's  always there. It's just part of hockey. It's more of a media thing. It's the biggest day of the year in Canada."

Emmerton actually finds that part of it entertaining.

"It's funny how they make a big production out of it," he said. "It'll be fun when it's overwith and we can just worry about playing hockey and not have to worry about what's going on with trades in the League."

Forward Justin Abdelkader, who turned 25 on Saturday, agrees.

"Obviously it's always a time of year when you never know, teams are always looking to upgrade their rosters," he said. "Players always have it in the backs of their minds. You can't really worry about it. You just have to go out and play. When it passes you don't need to worry anymore, but it's one of those things where you can control what you can control. Just go out there, play hard and do your best."

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has already pulled off a trade on Tuesday to bring in 26-year old defenseman Kyle Quincey from the Colorado Avalanche in a three-team deal that gives Detroit depth on the blue line with eight NHL defensemen.

Backup goalie Joey MacDonald has a firm handle on that role, so all that's really left to address -- if anything -- is a depth forward to help replace the likely loss of Patrick Eaves (concussion) for the rest of the season.

"We’re all in our organization and as a management group right now focused on if we can improve our team," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "At the same time, we like our team. If there’s something there that can help us and makes sense, then that’s a great thing. Change just to change isn’t going to be the approach."
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 2:51 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Datysuk better, but not skating yet

DETROIT -- His knee continues to recover from the arthroscopic knee surgery that was performed on Tuesday, but Detroit Red Wings star center Pavel Datsyuk hasn't gotten back onto the ice just yet.

The dynamic Russian two-way centerman continues to do rehab work off the ice, but said he's glad he had the procedure to clean up a ligament fragment now rather than waiting. Datsyuk could be out up to two more weeks or longer, but is expected to be fully recovered by the time the playoffs start.

"Yeah, it's better now," Datsyuk said on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. "I'm lucky to have [it done] now and not late in the season. I have more time to come back.''

Datsyuk said he was getting closer to skating on his own, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether he's being 100 percent serious.

"I would like to skate [Sunday] but maybe we have day off and I not come," Datsyuk said, smiling. "I'm not sure."

A reporter asked if he might try to skate somewhere other than Joe Louis Arena on Sunday.

"Yeah, I skate somewhere else," Datsyuk said, now clearly joking. "Maybe in Russia."
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 2:47 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Capitals, Maple Leafs

Here are the projected lineups for the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. They play Saturday night at Air Canada Centre:


Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Marcus JohanssonKeith Aucoin
Jay Beagle - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connolly - Matt Frattin
Mike BrownDavid Steckel - Colby Armstrong
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 2:03 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Leafs, Caps vie for critical points at ACC

The Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Washington Capitals tonight at Air Canada Centre in what will be there third meeting this season.  Each team has won once.

As it stands, both clubs are on the outside of the playoff picture with 65 points and trailing the eighth-place Florida Panthers by one in the standings.

For Toronto, getting off to the right start is imperative. They have not held a lead after the first 20 minutes in the first two games of their current homestand and ended up losing both contests by one goal.

“That’s what we need tonight, is to be aggressive right off the bat and take it to them as quickly as possible, not wait.” coach Ron Wilson said.  “We’ve got to initiate things, especially with Washington and us in the (same) proximity in the standings and the fact they played last night.”

Wilson also confirmed that James Reimer would start in goal for the second straight game.

Joffrey Lupul, the Leafs second-leading scorer, acknowledged that opponents have been looking to mitigate Toronto’s speed, something which has contributed to their recent woes. 

“It’s something we got to be prepared for, we might not get 15 or 20 scoring chances in a game but we have to be ready to score when we do," Lupul said. "On the other hand we have to limit other team’s chances.  These guys are a team with a lot of top end talent.  We want to try and limit Ovechkin and Semin in their time and space.”

Leafs forward Darryl Boyce and was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.  Boyce had a goal and an assist in 17 games for Toronto this season.  Fellow forward Jay Rosehill cleared waivers and was sent to Toronto’s AHL Affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

The moves made room for the Maple Leafs to call up forward Matt Frattin, who will play tonight.  The rookie has 10 points in 37 games with the Leafs so far this season.  Forward Colby Armstrong will also play tonight.

After a 4-1 win Friday against Montreal, the Capitals had only four players on the ice for the morning skate. Goalie Tomas Vokoun was on the ice but Michal Neurvirth is expected to start for the second straight night after stopping 30 shots for the victory Friday.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Flames turn to Desbiens for energy boost

In order to inject a little life into their club against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, the Calgary Flames have turned to Guillaume Desbiens.

A rough-and-tumble forward recalled yesterday from the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, Desbiens will make his Flames debut against the Broad Street Bullies.

It’s the perfect situation for his debut.

“They’re a physical team and I’m a physical player,” said Desbiens, who has 13 points with the Heat this season. “It’s going to be a good match for me and the kind of game I like to play in. I’m not going to change anything. I’m going to forecheck, be physical and try to bring some energy and try to spend some time in the offensive zone. If I can do that, I’ll be happy with my game.”

Lance Bouma, a fellow call-up from Abbotsford, thinks it’s the right situation for his teammate.

“That’s the type of player he is,” Bouma said. “He’s a big, strong guy who uses his body well. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves. He’s not shy with that at all. It’s a big game for him coming in.”

Coach Brent Sutter, whose Flames have shown little in the way of emotion in back-to-back losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes earlier in the week, hopes Desbiens can provide that spark.

“He’s a big, strong guy who plays with emotion, plays with his heart on his sleeve,” Sutter said. “He’s going to bang, crash, go hard to the net. He’s not a real high-end skilled guy. It gives him an opportunity and gives us an opportunity to see where he’s at.”

Emotion shouldn’t be difficult to find for Desbiens, who has 102 penalty minutes in 51 games this season in the AHL.

“It’s a good time of the year,” he said. “Stakes are high. The team is doing pretty good so we’re hoping to make a final push for the playoffs. The stakes are really high. When you’re younger you dream about these games.

Here's the Flames' projected lineup:

Jarome IginlaOlli JokinenCurtis Glencross
Alex TanguayMichael CammalleriBlake Comeau
Guillaume DesbiensRoman HorakTim Jackman
Lance BoumaMatt StajanTom Kostopoulos

Jay BouwmeesterDerek Smith
Mark GiordanoScott Hannan
TJ BrodieCory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 1:46 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Carter doesn't skate, expected to make Kings' debut

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Jeff Carter did not skate with the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday morning but the club expects him to play against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Carter had a physical off site and is expected to join the team before the 5 p.m. PT game at Staples Center.

“You’re still waiting for the League sign off,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “But he’s been through everything so that’s not an issue but there’s still a formal procedure that they have to do, and because it’s Saturday – I guess its trouble putting all that together.”

Sutter confirmed Carter will play on the second line with Mike Richards. Dwight King has had chemistry with Richards and will likely fill the other wing spot.

Sutter plans to plug in Carter without much hitch.

“Our systems and all that are pretty generic,” he said. “And he’s played most of the season. Other than the odd tweak or maybe three feet where he’s got to be, there’s not much (adjustment).”

Voynov in: Slava Voynov returns to the lineup after he was recalled. A bright spot on defense this season, Voynov is largely why the club justified trading Jack Johnson.

Voynov said he found out about his recall during a game with the Manchester Monarchs. He is aware of this increased responsibility.

“I’ve waited for this time,” Voynov said. “First power-play (unit) – more pressure for me.”

Father watching: Jordan Nolan said his father, former NHL coach Ted Nolan, is in town and will watch him in Los Angeles for the first time.

Jordan Nolan has been put on the fourth line but his stay with the big club has gone on longer than he expected.

“I’m probably the guy they’ll send down next because of waivers,” Nolan said. “You just got to keep on your toes and play your best hockey because you never know.”

Nolan said he’s learned a lot in his brief time in the NHL.

“I think I’ve learned how serious the game is, how badly the guys want to win and how guys want to be successful,” he said. “It’s a business and guys want to stay in the lineup, so that’s all I’m trying to do right now.”
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Quote of the Day

For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Rangers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 that will be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday