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Round 3
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:38 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Opportunity knocks for Lightning to gain ground

TAMPA -- From their precarious perch, the Tampa Bay Lightning can see everything. Ahead of them are five teams that they have to maneuver past in order to make the postseason; behind them is one team and one point separating them from the Eastern Conference basement.

That delicate balance makes every game crucial.

Tuesday night the Lightning open a four-game homestand against the Ottawa Senators, one of the clubs they must leapfrog in order to make the playoffs.

And although there is an eight-point hill to climb to reach the final playoff spot, the fates are aligning to give the Lightning every opportunity to get there.

They have six of their next nine games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where they are 15-8-2, and Ryan Malone, an important part of their power play, returns to the lineup Tuesday after an absence of eight games with an upper-body injury.

The return of Malone can only be welcome news for a Lightning power play that is 29th in the League with a 13.5 success percentage and has scored just twice in their last 29 attempts, which includes an empty-netter.

"He (Malone) is our best guy down low, so we're going to have to make room for him on the power play," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

After Sunday's 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh, the second half in a back-to-back series, Boucher was critical of the play of his team, which had jumped out to a first period two-goal lead. On reflection, Boucher now takes a different view of the loss.

"After the first period, we should have been expecting them coming out real strong, and they did, and we stayed at the same level," Boucher said. "We don't cut any slack, but we certainly can explain it. Our guys had nothing left in the second and the third. We could have played it differently; we stayed very aggressive and we didn't have the juice to do that.

"We knew we had to change the game plan around, but we didn't change it and it cost us. Next time around, we'll be able to manage it better."

Another point seemingly in the Lightning's favor is that the Senators arrive after going 1-6-2 in their last nine games, but Jason Spezza suggested that the worst was over.

"We picked up three of our last four points," Spezza said. "We struggled for five or six games before that, but in a snapshot of our last three games, we're playing better.

"The games become very important now because every team is desperate to pick up points. We'll face a desperate team every night, and no one can really feel safe."

Certainly the Lightning understand the critical situation they face.

"This is a huge homestand for us," Pavel Kubina said. "We're eight points out of the playoffs with a game in hand. We don't give up; we'll go to the end and see what will happen, but we're capable of making it, for sure."

Dominic Moore put it this way: "When there are points on the table, they need to be ours."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:34 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators, Lightning

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Ottawa Senators visit the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

SENATORS
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Jared Cowen - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

LIGHTNING

Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Dominic Moore - Nate Thompson
JT Wyman - Adam Hall - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:28 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild call up two, search for extra offense

ST. PAUL -- Talk about two teams headed in opposite directions: Tonight's contest in the State of Hockey features perhaps the league's hottest team (Anaheim) and its coldest (Minnesota).

The Wild, in the midst of a four-game homestand, have slid from the top spot in the NHL all the way to 12th in the Western Conference, five points behind eighth-place Phoenix. After losing twice to League-worst Columbus in a five-day span, including a 3-1 loss here Saturday night, the Wild have juggled their lines and called up two more players -- one familiar and one who will make his NHL debut this evening.

First, defenseman Marco Scandella will make his return to the big club after a stint with AHL Houston. When the Wild were going well earlier in the season, Scandella was a major reason why. He was sent down to Houston a month ago after a rough stretch, to work on his game and regain his confidence.

"It feels good to be back," Scandella said. "I went down there with a positive attitude. If you think about [getting called back up] too much, it'll make you crazy. I just played hockey and had fun."

Scandella said he worked on "being sharp" and "having confidence on the ice in making plays." He'll have that opportunity tonight paired with Jared Spurgeon, perhaps the Wild's most willing shooter from the blue line.

"It's always fun to play with him because you always know what he's going to do on the ice," Scandella said. "He's predicable for a d-partner and that's what you need."

Making his NHL debut tonight will be Calgary-native Kris Foucault. A fourth-round pick of the Wild in 2009, Foucault has 10 goals and 13 assists in 47 games in Houston, his first in the American Hockey League. He scored 47 goals in two seasons in the Western Hockey League from 2009-11, and was called up to Minnesota for one reason.

"We need goals, and he is a guy that has a chance to make a play," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.

Yeo has also shifted center Matt Cullen to the wing with Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson. Brodziak and Johnson did wonders to jump-start Dany Heatley's game a couple of weeks back, and Yeo said he's hoping the duo can do the same for Cullen.

"Culley's been playing well, the numbers haven't been there for him," Yeo said. "But he's doing a lot of good things. It's about surrounding him with guys who are capable of helping him to take advantage of his skill and what he can do out there.

"We saw what Heater was able to do with Brodzy and Johnny, so I think it gives Brodzy and Johnny someone who is a real threat on that line. On top of that, it gives Culley someone who's done a lot of good things for us, some really quality players that give him something more to work with."

In goal, Yeo said he is turning to Josh Harding tonight. The start will be Harding's first since a disastrous third period Jan. 31 against Nashville where the Wild blew a 4-1 lead over the game's final 10 minutes. The Predators scored three goals over the game's final three minutes, including the game-winner with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

"We haven't won, so we have to switch it up," Yeo said.

The challenge tonight for Harding will be if has put the Nashville collapse in the rear-view mirror.

"He has to," Yeo said. "It's been a little while now. I know Hards has the ability to be a starting goalie in the NHL. He's proven it this year. But in order for that to happen, these are the kind of things you have to deal with."



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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:27 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Cleary out, but Franzen OK as Wings go for record

DETROIT -- Initially, Danny Cleary was hoping he might be able to return to the ice for the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night against the visiting Dallas Stars.

The Wings have won 20 straight games at Joe Louis Arena, which has them tied with the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers for the longest home winning streak in NHL history.

Instead of playing, however, the 33-year old Cleary had another trip to the doctor on Tuesday morning to get additional fluid drained from his knee -- which had already been drained once last Friday to correct two Baker's cysts that were causing a great deal of discomfort.

Cleary said he might be able to return to the ice for practice as quickly as Wednesday and could return to action in games on Friday at home against the Nashville Predators

"I'm feeling a lot better," Cleary said on Tuesday morning, prior to having his knee drained. "It's amazing how quickly it turns. The message today is it's a lot better, so we'll see. If I skate [Wednesday], maybe [return Friday], but we'll see. That's my goal. I just had another pocket [of fluid] built up, but it feels better."

Meanwhile, Detroit forward Johan Franzen was back on the ice for a sparsely attended optional morning skate after missing practice Monday with what's believed to be a sore ankle. Franzen got hit in the ankle by a shot Sunday in a 4-3 win against the Flyers and also scored the game-winning goal to pull the Wings even with the other two teams in the League's record book.

"Felt good," Franzen said, when asked how things went for Tuesday's on-ice session. "[We] had to do a little work on the skate, as well, so I tried it out and it felt good."

Prior to the game Sunday, a teammate played a practical joke on Franzen while he was out on the ice for the morning skate -- placing a wall of red and white tape across the opening of his locker stall in the Wings' locker room.

Franzen had to hang his pads on the outside of the tape until an equipment manager removed all the tape prior to the game. On Tuesday, there was one single strand of tape stripped across the top of Franzen's stall -- seemingly as a reminder of the stunt.

"I think it's over with," Franzen said of the tape joke, before looking up to see the one strand still there. "Well … almost."

As for trying to become the only team in League history to win more than 20 straight home games in one season, the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Swedish power forward said he's already getting excited for the atmosphere inside Joe Louis Arena.

Prior to the 20th win, somebody hurled an octopus on the ice before the game -- a tradition usually saved for the postseason by Red Wings fans.

"It's going to be special, for sure," Franzen said of Tuesday night's game. "I think the fans are going to be into it, as well. We're really going to try to win this one."

Here is how the lineups might look like for the Stars and Red Wings:

STARS
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Tomas Vincour
Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Mark Fistric - Philip Larsen

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Notes: Jake Dowell re-enters the lineup in place of Toby Petersen at left wing on the fourth line, while defenseman Sheldon Souray will also miss another game with a bone bruise in his foot that’s giving him problems.

RED WINGS
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Jan Mursak - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Jakub Kindl

Joey MacDonald
Ty Conklin

Notes: The Red Wings will go with their same lineup as they used in the past two games against the Flyers and Anaheim Ducks. Cleary is out, is starting goalie Jimmy Howard (broken finger), who continues to face shots in practice and try to get himself back up to speed enough to start.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:24 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ducks feeling confident, looking to continue roll

ST. PAUL -- Down the hall from the home team at the Xcel Energy Center, the Anaheim Ducks have been a picture of stability. Tonight's contest against the Minnesota Wild is the Ducks' third in a string of eight straight road games -- a franchise record. Anaheim lost in a shootout to Detroit on Feb. 10, but bounced back nicely Sunday with a 5-3 win at Columbus.

After an abysmal start -- one which cost Randy Carlyle his job -- new coach Bruce Boudreau has the Ducks firing on all cylinders. At 12-3-3 since the first of the year, the Ducks have climbed to within 10 points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Their 27 points in that span is third-best in the League.

"It's all about confidence, having everybody on the same page," Ducks forward Teemu Selanne said. "We're trying to enjoy the moment right now and hopeful we can stay hot."

Selanne, playing in his 20th NHL season, is on the verge of climbing the League's career scoring charts. With his next goal, Selanne will tie Brendan Shanahan for 12th on the all-time list. He's also three points shy of matching Luc Robitaille for 20th on the all-time scoring chart and two power-play goals short of Robitaille for fourth on that list.

Selanne has 5 points, all assists, against the Wild in three games this season. Minnesota has won two of the three previous matchups.

And while Minnesota has struggled to score of late, the Ducks boast two lines that can seemingly score at will. Corey Perry netted a hat trick and fired a career-high 11 shots on goal in Sunday's win at Columbus. Ryan Getzlaf has 12 points over his last 13 games.

"Our first two lines, if they are playing their best, can be the best in the League," Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller said. "We have a good third and fourth line right now, too. Everybody's working together.

"Before, we had lots of ups and downs. Some nights, some guys were playing and some were not. Now, most nights, everybody is here 100 percent. Guys are willing to work and give everything. That's been the difference."

Hiller has been rock-solid himself, stopping shots at almost a 93-percent clip and allowing less than two goals per over his last 16 games. He is 10-2-3 over that stretch with one no-decision. 
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:18 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild, Ducks

Here's how the lineups project tonight for the Minnesota Wild's game against the Anaheim Ducks at Xcel Energy Center:

WILD

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Matt Cullen - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Kris Foucault - Erik Christensen - Carson McMillan
Darroll Powe - Warren Peters - Matt Kassian

Nick Schultz - Nate Prosser
Marek Zidlicky - Greg Zanon
Jared Spurgeon - Marco Scandella

Josh Harding
Niklas Backstrom

DUCKS

Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - George Parros

Cam Fowler - Francois Beauchemin
Lubomir Visnovski - Luca Sbisa
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Iiro Tarkki
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:02 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineup for Rangers

BOSTON -- The New York Rangers' lineup isn't set in stone heading into Tuesday night's tilt with the Bruins. Forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who missed the past two games, skated with the team for the first time in the morning and is a game-time decision.

If Fedotenko can't play, coach John Tortorella will likely use defenseman Stu Bickel as a fourth-line forward for the third straight game.

These were the lines during the Rangers' practice at TD Garden this morning:

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Michael Rupp - John Mitchell - Ruslan Fedotenko/Stu Bickel

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rangers remain focused on the task at hand

BOSTON -- It's just another game between the East-leading New York Rangers and second-place Boston Bruins.

That's the stance both sides are taking heading into Tuesday night's game at TD Garden. The Rangers have played one more game than the Bruins and hold a seven-point lead in the standings. A regulation win by the Rangers wouldn't clinch the East with 25 games to play, but it would be a huge mountain for the Bruins to climb.

"I don't think we're necessarily looking at this game like we need to catch up to these guys more than we need to play well to give us a chance to win the game -- it's as simple as that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Right now, our issues are a lot different than worrying about how far ahead they are or how much we need to catch up. We just have to go out there and play and if we play well and do the job we know we can, hopefully we can come up with a win and the rest will take care of itself."

The Rangers are taking the same tact -- they don't care how many points they are ahead of the Bruins, they just want to play their game. The last time the Rangers came to Boston they won 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 21 to turn a one-point lead in the East into a two-point edge.

The gap is wider now, but nothing is changing as far as the approach.

"I think we've done a pretty good job of trying to focus on the task at hand," Rangers forward Brian Boyle said. "We've got 20 games left where a lot can go on, where teams are going to catch fire. A lot can happen, you know? Right now, we're just trying to put one foot in front of the other. From a preparation standpoint, from what they think of us, I don't know. I don't really care. That's what they need to worry about. We're just trying to prepare for them and get our game ready."

The Rangers scored the winning goal thanks to Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference taking a major boarding penalty against defenseman Ryan McDonagh in overtime. Marian Gaborik scored in the waning seconds to win it, but neither team feels Ference's hit will be something that will carry over to this game.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of big saves by the goaltenders," McDonagh said when asked what he's expecting against the Bruins, who will start Tim Thomas against the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. "We're just going to play our system and our structure and get our forecheck going and grind them out."

The grinding style has been a hallmark of the Rangers the past three seasons since Tortorella arrived, and now it's yielding more success than ever. Combining that style with the physical one the Bruins play, and it's a mixture the Rangers relish.

"That's just the way we play," Tortorella said. "That's the way we have the best opportunity to win hockey games. That's been part of us building that identity for the past couple years. There's no secrets at all. That's the way we're built a little bit, and that's how we've developed our identity."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 12:49 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Preds' Ellis could sit out again

NASHVILLE -- Rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis was scratched for only the second time in 21 games since being called up in Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to Boston. Trotz said he thought Ellis had slipped back into making some high-risk plays that the coach didn't like. Trotz would not reveal whether Ellis would sit again tonight in favor of Jack Hillen.

Here's the likely lineup the Predators will have tonight:

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

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

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

Brian McGrattan will sit out, as will one of either Ellis or Hillen, and one of either Yip or Bourque.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 12:45 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Could Jackets be looking into Nash trade?



Could the Columbus Blue Jackets be investigating a trade of captain Rick Nash?

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the team has made it clear to certain NHL clubs that Nash would be available for the right price.

"We're open to all options to try to improve the team," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson told the newspaper this morning. "As far as rumors go, we're just not going to comment."

The rumor Howson mentioned is one from French-language TV station RDS, which reported Monday that the Jackets had put Nash on the trading block.

Citing a source, Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline wrote that Nash -- who has a no-movement clause -- has not requested a trade.

"The last couple of weeks there have been so many rumors," Nash told the newspaper following the team's morning skate. "And when a team loses, more rumors keep on surfacing. That's what it seems to be right now, is just rumors.

"I'm a Blue Jacket right now. I've played my whole career here and it's a special place to me. So as of right now I'm a Blue Jacket."

However, Portzline reports that following recent organizational meetings, which included, among others, owner John P. McConnell, president Mike Priest, Howson, senior advisor Craig Patrick and interim coach Todd Richards, that the possibility of trading Nash needed to be explored.

Last month, Nash told the Dispatch he had no desire to leave Columbus.

"I love Columbus. I love being here. I love being a Blue Jacket," he said. "The city of Columbus deserves a winner and deserves a good product on the ice. If it comes to that -- like you said, all speculation -- but if they don't want me here, they want to move me? I’m not going to do something where it's going to hurt the franchise just because I have that in my contract."

Howson, speaking with NHL.com Saturday in Philadelphia, said he wouldn't be commenting on any trade rumors leading into the deadline, but said he's determined the path the team wants to take.

"I'm not going to disclose what we're going to do, but we certainly have a plan in place," Howson told NHL.com. "We're working on it, we're talking to teams. We'll see … it's not just a pre-deadline plan. It's a plan leading up to the draft and leading into next season. We'll see what happens before the 27th and we expect to be active."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

That was something I've been dreaming of, something I've told myself before the third period I was going to do ... It was an amazing feeling. It's hard to describe. I didn't believe it went in at first but when I saw all the reaction and all the fans going crazy and my teammates going crazy, it's just an unbelievable feeling. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know whether to jump or just skate and do a Theo Fleury. I don't think I'm the same caliber player he is so I couldn't do it.

— Flames forward Mikael Backlund on scoring the overtime winner against the Ducks in Gm. 3