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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 11:44 AM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Lundqvist not yet recovered from flu; Biron to start

NEW YORK -- For the second straight game, the New York Rangers won't be anywhere near full-strength.

Goaltender and Vezina Trophy favorite Henrik Lundqvist said Thursday morning that the flu bug that sidelined him for Tuesday's game is gone, but he's still not recovered to the point where he's ready to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in an Eastern Conference showdown on Thursday night.

"I was hoping to play tonight, but being off the ice for three days, I had a feeling it might be tough to be game-ready right away," said Lundqvist, who took part in the team's morning practice but won't dress for the game. "There's no health issue. It's just sitting at home doing nothing. Just laying in bed for two days doesn't really help."

Backup Martin Biron will make his second consecutive start after making 27 saves in the Rangers' 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. For the year, the 34-year-old Biron is 12-4-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

Chad Johnson was again recalled from Connecticut of the AHL to serve as Biron's backup.

With the Penguins on a nine-game winning streak and now six points back of the Rangers for the top spot in the East, Biron has been thrust into his team's biggest game of the season. He sees it more as big opportunity for the club, not just himself.

"It's big for everybody here to keep going and building our game," Biron said. "I think the last few games have been good games for us in the team game and some individual games too. It's a big stage and a big opportunity for this club to keep going."

The news was equally discouraging on captain Ryan Callahan (foot) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (hip). Callahan will miss his third straight game and sixth game in the last nine with his injury, while Del Zotto will sit for the fourth consecutive game.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 11:12 AM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Ovechkin leaves practice after collision (UPDATED)

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin left practice early after an open-ice collision, according to multiple reports.

Ovechkin collided with Mike Knuble, and Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington wrote the two-time MVP was on the ice for about two minutes before sitting on the bench for three more minutes holding his head. He then left the bench and went to the dressing room.

“I can just speak from my situation and I’m worried, too,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who hasn't played since Jan. 3 because of a concussion, told Gormley. “We’ll see what happens.”

The Capitals begin a critical four-game road trip Friday in Winnipeg. Gormley wrote the team's chartered flight is expected to leave Thursday at 1 p.m.

Washington is currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, three points in front of Buffalo and four clear of the Jets. Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 29 goals and 53 points.

Washington coach Dale Hunter said Ovechkin is "fine." Hunter said Ovechkin just had the wind knocked out of him, and he will travel with the team to Winnipeg.
Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 11:02 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Duchene could be set for early return to Avs' lineup

NEWARK, N.J. -- There's a good chance the Colorado Avalanche will welcome forward Matt Duchene back to the lineup on Thursday when they visit the Prudential Center to face the New Jersey Devils.
Duchene, who suffered a right ankle injury on March 6 against the Minnesota Wild, was originally thought to be sidelined three to four weeks. The third-year forward, who has missed four games, skated on his own Tuesday and felt good.

The Avalanche, winners of three straight, enter their showdown with the Devils in eighth place in the Western Conference with 80 points through 72 games. They lead San Jose, which has played three fewer games, by only two points.
The Avalanche didn't skate Thursday in Newark after scoring a 5-4 shootout decision over the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Wednesday.
"His ankle was feeling better, so he skated (Tuesday) for about 40 minutes on his own," Avs coach Joe Sacco told Adrian Dater of The Denver Post. "The plan is to play him (Thursday) if all goes accordingly."
If Duchene returns, he would likely center Peter Mueller and Milan Hejduk.
Sacco didn't reveal his starter in goal against the Devils following Wednesday's victory over Buffalo. There's a good chance Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the nod, however, after Semyon Varlamov stopped 20 of 24 shots through regulation and overtime in the victory over the Sabres. The shootout win over the Sabres gives the Avalanche a 12-4-0 record against Eastern Conference opponents this season.
Colorado wing Chuck Kobasew did skate Wednesday morning in Buffalo, but remains out with a back injury.
Here are the probable line combinations for the Avalanche:
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Peter Mueller - Mark Olver/Matt Duchene - Milan Hejduk
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Kevin Porter
Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Ryan Wilson
Giguere is the probable starter with Varlamov serving as backup.
Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 9:41 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to / - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: March 15th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

Wins to
earn 8th
8th 70 78 12 90 7

9th 71 75 11 85 9
10th 70 74 12 85 9
11th 69 71 13 83 11
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 72 80 10 91 7

9th 69 78 13 91 8
10th 70 78 12 89 8
11th 70 78 12 89 8

The skinny: On the marquis Thursday night in New York City, the Pittsburgh Penguins invade Gotham with Sidney Crosby in tow and their sights set on the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have a game in hand on the Rangers and play them one more time this season.

A win tonight against New York and Pittsburgh can continue their quest for first. A loss and it almost certainly becomes a scramble for home ice with the Flyers and Devils.

Colorado, after a last-second goal Wednesday to force overtime in a shootout win at Buffalo, faces the New Jersey Devils in Newark. The Avalanche are in a playoff spot entering play Thursday, but have played more games than their counterparts in the Western Conference. After this game, Colorado will have nine remaining and while they play Calgary two more times and Phoenix once, a win gives them a little breathing room -- but not enough to feel safe.

Speaking of the Flames and Coyotes, they match up in Calgary for a pivotal game. Phoenix won Wednesday in Vancouver, and the Coyotes are chasing the Dallas Stars for first in the Pacific while trying to hold down a playoff position.

It is incredible to think the Coyotes are chasing first (and a top-three seed, while still trying to hold on to a playoff spot. That is the definition of tight right there.

The Flames continue to roll with four straight victories. Their downfall last season was not winning against teams competing for one of the final spots (like the Coyotes) down the stretch. They want to build on the momentum of their win Tuesday against the Sharks and climb back into a playoff spot.

Down in the Sunshine State, there has been plenty to shine about in South Florida this season for the Panthers. The Boston Bruins make a visit there Thursday, and they are only four points ahead of the Panthers. Florida can think about second in the conference with a win.

George McPhee, general manager of the Washington Capitals said he can't watch his team on TV because it is too hard for him. Does he watch other teams, and how do those games feel? If he doesn't watch, he'll be logging on to to follow all the action and get updates on the games in progress. You should too.
Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 8:00 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Alex Galchenyuk's season debut impresses scout

One of the top North American prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, Sarnia Sting center Alex Galchenyuk, returned to the lineup for the first time in 66 games on Wednesday to the delight of the hometown faithful at RBC Centre in Sarnia.

Galchenyuk, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a Sept. 16 preseason game and underwent surgery in October, said he felt no pain following the game. The only pain felt was the postgame sting that accompanied a 7-1 loss to the Saginaw Spirit.

Ho totaled approximately 10 minutes of ice time and played on a line with Brett Thompson and Charles Sarault.

Despite the long absence, there's a strong possibility Galchenyuk still could be drafted among the top 10 players in the first round of this year's draft. He's ranked as a "limited viewing" player on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings, but was No. 2 among OHL skaters in Central Scouting's preliminary rankings.

Playing alongside top North American draft prospect, Sarnia's Nail Yakupov, Galchenyuk produced 31 goals and 83 points in 68 games last season. It was enough to make believers out of any scout who had the opportunity to watch him play. Yakupov is currently sidelined with an upper-body injury.

On Wednesday, caught up with Central Scouting's Al Jensen, who provided immediate reaction to Galchenyuk's anticipated debut this season.
Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 11:54 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHX @ VAN - 18:41 of the Second Period

At 18:41 of the second period in the Coyotes/Canucks game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck deflected off Gilbert Brule's body and entered the net in a legal fashion. Good goal Phoenix.

According to rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body , in any manner, the goal shall be allowed."

Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 11:50 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CBJ @ EDM - 18:56 of the Second Period

At 18:56 of the second period in the Blue Jackets/Oilers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Columbus' net became dislodged  before the puck crossed the goal line. No goal Edmonton.

Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 11:12 PM

By Alex Galchenyuk -  Special to / - Alex Galchenyuk draft blog

Galchenyuk: Good to be back, but best is yet to come

Alex Galchenyuk is a forward for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot, 198-pound forward was born in Milwaukee but is of Russian decent -- his father, Alexander, spent five of his 22 professional seasons playing in the U.S. Alex was the first pick of the 2010 OHL draft, and last season had 31 goals and 52 assists in 68 games. He had 2 goals and an assist in five games for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and returned to take part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Despite suffering a major knee injury that nearly ended his season before it really began, Galchenyuk has maintained a monthly blog for that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Today was a pretty good day. It's been five long months, but I was finally able to play in a game tonight.

Usually I don't sleep the day before a game, but yesterday I slept good. We went to the rink this morning, did some skating, rode the bike. That's when I got really excited. Then I went home, had a pre-game nap, and then my buddy picked me up and we went to the game.

I got to the arena a little earlier than usual. Getting dressed I was obviously nervous -- and excited. I didn't know what to think. It's my first game, so my focus wasn't to go out and score three goals. I just wanted to get into the game, and try not to get embarrassed.

I got to start the game, along with my linemates, Brett Thompson and Charles Sarault. It was strange being on the ice for the anthems. Last year I played all 68 games and didn't even miss a single practice. Most of this season, I was in the press box listening to the anthem. Now I'm standing in skates on the ice. It was a pretty cool experience. Just thinking about trying to get here, waiting for this moment -- it was pretty special.

I got a real nice reaction from the fans when my name was announced for the starting lineup. It was pretty loud and I really appreciated that.

I didn't play as much as I usually would, but tonight was about getting back into game shape, getting my timing back. I talked to the coach before the game and he said how much I played would depend on how I felt. One moment I would feel tired and then the next moment I'd feel fine. Late in the game I got tired and didn't play the last six minutes.

I got hit pretty hard today once and I felt OK. I was pretty happy I got hit. It got me back to some physical play. Because of the schedule I haven't had a lot of practice time and obviously no one on my team is out to hit me hard, so getting that hit early was good.

We lost 7-1 tonight, so it was tough mentally and physically. I know I can play a little bit better. I didn't expect much, I haven't played in five months. But I think I'll be better for the next game.

I'm sore, but you're usually sore after practice or a game. My knee is OK, so that's good.

It was good to get the first game back out of the way. We play London on Friday and that game will be on national television. The focus will be different. For this game, I was just getting used to playing again because I haven't played in five months. On Friday, the focus will be to play like I want to play, be skillful. It's like getting your first goal out of the way. I got it and I don't have to worry about it anymore. I'm excited for London.
Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 8:24 PM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

No sign of Lidstrom return in near future

Don't look for captain Nicklas Lidstrom in the Detroit Red Wings' lineup any time soon.

Lidstrom will sit out his eighth straight game when the Wings visit Anaheim on Wednesday due to an injured right ankle. He cut short a brief morning skate at Honda Center, and there's no indication as to when he might be ready to return.

"It is discouraging and it's disappointing too that you're feeling better and it's getting up to over two weeks now," Lidstrom, who was injured in a game against Colorado on Feb. 25, told the Red Wings' website. "So it's frustrating when you want to be out there playing and you can't."

Wednesday's game will be just the 43rd of his career – regular-season and playoffs – that the legendary defenseman will miss in his 20 NHL seasons. Lidstrom admitted that he and team trainers have discussed shutting him down for a week to rest the still-swollen ankle.

"We've talked about it and I'm sure (the trainers) will talk more to the coaching staff and we'll see what the next step will be," he said. "But it's still day-to-day. It was more sore today -- that's the update, so I don't think it's good when you're sore. They want me to be more cautious with it."

Lidstrom had two separate X-rays taken of the ankle shortly after he was struck by a shot -- but in both cases, the results were negative and did not show any structural damage.

Asked if the unexpected recovery time has given way to thoughts of retirement after this season, Lidstrom told the Wings' site that: "It hasn't really come into my thought process at all. It's just one of those freak accidents that I've never really experienced in the past, so I think that's the frustrating part."
Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 8:06 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

COL @ BUF -1:39 of the First Period

At 1:39 of the first period in the Avalanche/Sabres game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck deflected off the skate of Marcus Foligno and entered the net in a legal fashion. Good goal Buffalo.

Rule 49.2  A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal.

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