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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 3:14 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Moss' absence gives chance to Byron

CALGARY -- Like Ottawa, the Flames will be without a key member of its forward core.

Flames coach Brent Sutter confirmed center David Moss, who played just 6:52 after suffering a lower-body injury in Calgary's 4-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, will not play.
 
Moss' absence opens the door for Paul Byron to make his Scotiabank Saddledome debut. Byron was recalled from the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League in time to join the club on its two-game road trip this past weekend, and he scored his first goal as a member of the Flames in Saturday's game in Colorado.

"It feels really good," Byron said. "I worked pretty hard down in Abbotsford. It feels good to be the one that gets to be called up."

Another Flame is nearing his season debut as well.

While he's not ready to play just yet, defenseman Brett Carson has resumed practicing with the Flames. Carson has missed training camp and the start of the regular season with a back injury.

"It's feeling a lot better," Carson said. "I made a lot of progression in the last couple weeks. I felt pretty good out there, now it's just a matter of strengthening it and making sure it's not just going to flare up again."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 3:12 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No Neil for Senators

CALGARY -- While the rest of his Senators teammates are set to embark on the Western Canada leg of their current six-game road trip, veteran forward Chris Neil stayed in Ottawa.

Nursing an ankle injury, Neil did not join the team on their trip to Calgary and was placed on injured reserve.
 
Though the club has Bobby Butler and Erik Condra filling the role played by Neil, there is no replacing the 32-year-old, coach Paul MacLean said.

"You always miss Chris Neil and his physical play," MacLean said. "We lose his physicality and that presence that he brings to the rink every night. We don't have another element like that, but it's an opportunity for Bobby Butler to play and Condra to play up in the lineup a little bit. Condra's played real well in the place of Chris Neil."

While Neil is out, a familiar sight will be in net for Ottawa.

Goalie Craig Anderson is scheduled to make his seventh consecutive start for the Senators. Tonight marks the 17th game this season for the workhorse, who currently shares the lead in games played among goaltenders with Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 3:10 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Flames, Senators

CALGARY -- Here is what the lineups for the Senators and Flames could look like tonight when they face off in Calgary.

FLAMES
Alex Tanguay - Mikael Backlund - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Rene Bourque
Paul Byron - Roman Horak - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie - Derek Smith

Miikka Kiprusoff will start in goal, with Henrik Karlsson the backup

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 again will start in goal, with Alex Auld the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:34 PM

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

Projected lineups for Capitals, Predators

Here's how the lineups could project when the Washington Capitals travel to Bridgestone Arena to face the Nashville Predators tonight:

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Joel Ward
Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson - Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Mike Knuble
Matt Hendricks - Mathieu Perreault - Troy Brouwer
 
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - John Erskine
 
Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth
 
PREDATORS

Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Colin Wilson - Craig Smith - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Jerred Smithson - Jordin Tootoo
Nick Spaling - Blake Geoffrion - Niclas Bergfors
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
Jack Hillen - Jonathon Blum
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:30 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sacco impressed by Pens' play without Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Colorado Avalanche are taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time in nine months, but two key factors haven't changed going into the interconference matchup.
 
Sidney Crosby isn't playing, yet the Penguins remain a very difficult opponent even without their world-class center.
 
Since Crosby sustained a concussion during the first week of January, the Penguins are 33-17-8. They have gotten at least one point in 41 of 58 games, even while being without the player who was easily leading the NHL in scoring at this time last season.
 
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said the Penguins are capable of being just as impressive, from a team concept standpoint, as they are when the former Hart Memorial Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner is in the lineup.
 
"This team rolls along, they don't miss a beat, and they've done that for a year and a half now with the injuries they've had," Sacco said. "They've figured things out, how to get by without some of their top players. He's not the only guy missing, but certainly he's the key."
 
Since the 2010-11 season began, the Penguins have played only two games with all three of their top centers – Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal -- yet they are 59-29-11 during that span. Staal missed the first half of 2010-11 with a foot injury and broken hand.
 
Pittsburgh also was without Malkin (right knee) for half of last season and seven games of this season.
 
The key to Pittsburgh's success without its stars, according to forward Matt Cooke, is a determination to play with the same intensity, preparation and commitment to a system that has worked no matter who is in the lineup.
 
"If we play out our game plan, we're going to have success -- regardless of what the other team does," Cooke said.
 
Defenseman Alexandre Picard, who played for Montreal last season, is impressed with how the same system used in Pittsburgh is implemented at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL).
 
Penguins general manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma require that organization-wide uniformity so that a player such as Picard can be exposed in the minors to the same power-play unit, penalty-killing unit and offensive and defensive systems they will play in Pittsburgh.
 
"Even down there, it's the same thing, it's the mentality of the organization," Picard said. "It doesn't matter who you are or how many minutes you play, the coaching staff expects something out of you. Whether you're Sidney Crosby or Joe Vitale, they expect the same thing."
 
That doesn't mean that Picard isn't eager for Crosby to rejoin the Penguins -- and perhaps soon. Picard opposed the Penguins and Crosby while with Montreal, Philadelphia and Ottawa, so he can't wait to have him on his own team.
 
Like his other teammates, Picard sees daily in practice how Crosby appears to have recaptured all of his offensive skills despite being out more than 10 months with a concussion. The earliest that Crosby could play is Thursday at Tampa Bay.
 
"He's the best player in the world, so obviously when he comes back it's going to be a huge boost," Picard said. "But you still want guys to play the same way that we're playing now, and not hold back anything just because he’s back."
 
While Crosby won't play -- just as he didn't during the Penguins' 3-2 overtime victory at Colorado on Feb. 16 -- the Avalanche-Penguins matchup features the NHL's top power-play unit against its best penalty-killing unit.
 
Colorado's power play is converting at a 27.1 percent success rate (17 of 55), while the Penguins have permitted only 3 power-play goals in 50 attempts, a 94-percent kill rate.
 
"They have a simplistic approach," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of the Avalanche's power play. "They get the puck to the net. They get the shot up top. Then they have skilled players with a unit anchored by (captain Milan) Hejduk."
 
Bylsma also said, "They have skill, movement, they hunt pucks down, (they) have a big shot from the point. They've had success in a lot of different ways. They haven't gotten it one way. It's not a one-dimensional power play. They are relentless."
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:24 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Shutout earns Elliott second straight start

ST. LOUIS -- The philosophy for St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is simple: earn a shutout one game, start the next.

So there's no debating who's in goal when the Blues host the Detroit Red Wings tonight: Brian Elliott.

After a 19-save performance, including some acrobatic ones in the waning seconds of Saturday's 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, Elliott earns another game in a big Central Division showdown instead of No. 1 Jaroslav Halak, who's also played solid.

"For me, a shutout ... you've got to reward. That's just the way I feel," Hitchcock said. "I think for us, the goaltending is also a product that we're not giving up odd-man rushes, we're not giving up easy scoring opportunities, we're not giving up breakaways. If you play in the zone, I think both guys are good. But no goalie looks good when you're giving up a ton of odd-man rushes. We've got to eliminate them and if we do that, then we give ourselves a chance every night."

Elliott, who leads the NHL with a 1.49 goals-against average and is second in save percentage (.946) behind Minnesota's Josh Harding (.948), is 6-1 on the season and gives the Blues (8-7-1) a nice 1-2 punch these days.

"We kind of push each other in practice," Elliott said of himself and Halak. "I try to stop every puck that comes my way. Having two guys is great for the team."

Halak is only 2-6-1 on the season and his current numbers (2.78 GAA and .882 save percentage) don't crack the League leaders. But considering he once sported a season-low 3.53 GAA and .835 save percentage, the players are noticing the confidence both netminders have.

"Let's talk about our goalies. A 1-2 punch ... they've been playing great," winger Alex Steen said. "The way our goalies have been playing the last little while has just calmed everything down in the D-zone. I think we've played some pretty good hockey."

Added Hitchcock, "It looks like we've got two guys that can play. It's a good feeling."

------------

In an effort to get their second line going a bit, Hitchcock won't move anyone onto it, just switch a couple wingers.

Patrik Berglund will stay in the middle, but the Blues will move Chris Stewart to the left side and Matt D'Agostini to the right against Detroit.

The move is in hopes of getting the line scoring on a consistent basis, despite the trio getting scoring chances.

"We practiced with it two days ago and really liked it," Hitchcock said. "For whatever reason in the game against Tampa, Dags ended up on the right side a lot. He showed great speed and the ability to bring the puck to the net.

"For me, it doesn't matter whether Stewy plays right or not. When you've got a quick stick like he does, which you need to play on the off-wing, he's effective either way. For me, it's more for Dags."

The two players have no preference on moving.

"It's no different," said Stewart, who played left wing in Colorado. "It's a little easier to attack when you're on your off-wing there as opposed to cutting to your back end there. It's a little easier to protect the puck. It shouldn't be any difference.

"We're playing with poise, getting opportunities off the rush too. That's always a good thing. It's just a matter of time before we start capitalizing."

D'Agostini and Stewart would up playing opposite sides in Saturday's 3-0 win over Tampa Bay.

"It's not that much of a change," D'Agostini said. "We're reading off of each other during the game. ... I've moved from left to right, right to left before during the season, so it's not a big change.

"We've played well the last couple games. We've been playing in the offensive zone most of the time, but we just haven't been able to bang that many in yet. The law of averages, they'll go in sooner or later."

------------

The Blues will insert winger Chris Porter into the lineup tonight in place of enforcer Ryan Reaves. It will be Porter's first game under Hitchcock and first since Oct. 30 at Edmonton.

"I've watched him in practice. He's got great speed. He gets after it," Hitchcock said of Porter. "We're looking at this being a really quick game. Detroit just drops the puck and plays. There's no stuff after the whistle. They play as hard whistle to whistle as anybody in the National Hockey League.

"We just feel like we're going to need to play with tempo tonight to match theirs and we think Porter has a chance here. But this is, for me, a look. I don't really know much about him as a player. I'd like to look at him because he's looked very good the past two practices. He's looked like he's dug in and bit and wants to play some hockey. So I want to give him that opportunity to see what he does."

Porter's been a healthy scratch the last five games and has no points in seven games played.

"I've been working hard," Porter said. "When your name's called, you have to go out and perform. That's what I plan on doing tonight. ... My game is based around speed and physicality. Hopefully, I can bring that tonight. Obviously Detroit carries the puck. They don't like to dump the puck too much. I'll have to be good defensively. Hopefully, we can minimize their chances offensively and play in their zone all night."

------------

Upon further review, Blues defenseman Kent Huskins does in fact have a fracture in the left ankle that he injured in a game Oct. 28 in Calgary, and will be out the next eight weeks.

Huskins, who was initially diagnosed with the fracture by doctors in Calgary, then was looked at by doctors here who determined it was a deep bone bruise. Huskins skated Monday and had no problems with straight line skating. But when came down to turns, there were problems.

Blues trainers immediately sent Huskins to the hospital, where X-rays determined a fracture. Huskins will have a screw inserted Wednesday.

"They skated him hard yesterday in straight lines ... no issue," Hitchcock said of Huskins. "Then they started to do turns with him and there were issues. They did another test on him, and they found the fracture. They never found it skating the first time. They never found it skating ahead the second time, but on the turn part of the practice, it started giving him pain."

It means Ian Cole, recalled from the American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria, will be here for the near future.

"This obviously gives a guy like Cole a long-term opportunity here," Hitchcock said. "Hopefully, Ian takes advantage of it. We've got our seven (defensemen) here and this is what we're going to be going with."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:20 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Past relationship for Babcock, Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS -- New Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and his Red Wings counterpart, Mike Babcock, are friends -- good friends, as a matter of fact.

The two go back a long way with Team Canada. Babcock was the head coach and Hitchcock was an assistant for Canada's gold medal winning squad at the Winter Olympics of 2010.

The two have also coached against one another plenty in the Western Conference, with Hitchcock having stints in Dallas and Columbus.

"I worked with Hitch at the Olympics," Babcock said. "I got to know him good then. When he was let go in Columbus, he's a hockey junkie and so I talked to him a lot. When you talk to a guy a lot, he ends up knowing how you're thinking and how your team's playing. He's a smart hockey guy and he's going to do a good job here. They've got themselves a real good coach."

There was some discussion this past summer about Hitchcock joining Babcock's staff in Detroit as an assistant but that never materialized.

"We talked about it, but I think both of us felt that I still wanted to be a head guy," Hitchcock said. "I think he wanted to get young energy in there. I was probably too old for his staff. We talked about it, though.

"We're good friends. We went through the toughest experience you can go through in life, and that is to represent your country. We came out OK. We did it together. There was a good feeling amongst the staff and especially with Mike and I because we had a major responsibility game planning, scheming and stuff like that."

------------

The Red Wings will be without Ian White indefinitely after the defenseman suffered a broken cheekbone during Saturday's 5-2 win over Dallas, the Wings' fourth straight win.

It means Mike Commodore, who's only played two games because of a knee sprain, will be slotted into the lineup and play on the third pairing with Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson moves to the top pairing with Nicklas Lidstrom.

"I'm thinking he'd be a good matchup guy," Babcock said of Ericsson. "Move the puck six feet at a time, and do what you do well: be physical, play hard."

------------

In talking to Babcock in previous years, he's always been a big fan of the Blues.

"I just think they've been a good team here for a long time," Babcock said. "Probably a playoff team, but they've run into some injuries. It hasn't gone as good as they wanted.

"I thought Andy Murray did a good job with them, I thought Davis Payne did a good job and now 'Hitch' has got a more finished product here. It looks like they're deep in all positions. They're playing hard and they're playing what I think is right and well."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:14 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues, Red Wings

Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings at Scottrade Center:

BLUES
Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Evgeny Grachev - Scott Nichol - Chris Porter

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott gets the start in goal; Jaroslav Halak is the backup.

The Blues are without winger Andy McDonald (concussion), winger David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) and winger B.J. Crombeen (shoulder). Defenseman Ian Cole and winger Ryan Reaves are healthy scratches.

RED WINGS
Danny Cleary - Pavel Datsyuk - Tomas Holmstrom
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Johan Franzen
Jiri Hudler - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Patrick Eaves

Nicklas Lidstrom - Jonathan Ericsson
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kindl - Mike Commodore

Jimmy Howard gets the nod in goal; Ty Conklin, who played for the Blues the last two seasons, will be the backup in his return to St. Louis.

The Red Wings are without injured defenseman Ian White (cheekbone), Todd Bertuzzi (sinus infection) and Jan Mursak (ankle). Healthy scratches include winger Fabian Brunnstrom. Defenseman Brendan Smith, recalled from Grand Rapids after White's injury, will serve the last of a five-game suspension tonight after receiving the suspension in the preseason for a hit to the head on Chicago's Ben Smith.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 1:55 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Productivity from blue line huge for Panthers

DALLAS -- As the Florida Panthers get set to face the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center, one of the big storylines for Kevin Dineen's club in tonight's matchup could be how much production the Panthers get from the blue line.

That's because through its first 17 games, Florida has gotten 48 points from its defensemen. Brian Campbell leads the way with 16 points and currently leads the team with 15 assists, but Dmitry Kulikov has also done his part with his 12 helpers, second on the club.

"Yeah, that's something that we pride ourselves on. The League is a very hard-working, defensive league. It's hard to score goals," Dineen said. "We have to have more than one layer to have success. And certainly our D has been very productive not just on the score sheet but keeping us in the offensive zone. They've done a good job."

Panthers winger Kris Versteeg, who currently leads the team with 8 goals, has definitely noticed a huge positive difference with the likes of Campbell and Kulikov contributing on both ends of the ice.

"They make a lot of great plays on power plays and on 5-on-5 they make it easy on everyone coming up the ice. They can make a difficult pass at times and they can make a simple pass at times, too," Versteeg said. "They've been big for us. We're going to need their success going forward for us to be successful."

And it never hurts getting such solid production from the back end, especially from the perspective that it takes some pressure off the offensive guys to produce more.

"It definitely helps," Versteeg said. "Our defense is a big part of this team. Whether it's from the offensive and defensive perspective, we've got a really solid D core."

Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan is well aware of the considerable impact that Campbell, Kulikov and the rest of the Florida rearguard could have on tonight's contest and expects his Stars to be ready to handle such a challenge.

"Those guys just give them such a dynamic," Gulutzan said. "They can move up on the play. They're not afraid to involve themselves on the rush. They can improvise pretty well and make plays. They can ramp up the pace a little bit and can go."

But the Stars coach offered a simple solution when asked how they can help minimize the damage Florida can do from the blue line tonight.

"We're going to have to be making sure we play a little bit of a grinding game, a little harder on those guys so they're not up on the play all the time," Gulutzan said. "We're going to have to be wary of those guys. I know how they play. They're going to play hard."

Florida heads into tonight's game after a 3-2 home loss to the Flyers on Sunday. And considering the Panthers are 6-3-0 on the road this year, tying them with several other clubs for most road victories in the league, getting away from home is never a bad thing.

Dineen even offered a lighthearted take on why his team has been so much better on the road than at home so far this year.

"I think undercoaching [has been the difference]," Dineen said. "You get home and you start matching lines. You get on the road, we roll them and that seems to help. That's something that we talked about at the beginning of the year that we wanted to have a solid road record. We've met a few tests but tonight will be a great one for us."
   
   
   
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 1:35 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stars look to right ship at home vs. Panthers

DALLAS -- After ending last week's road trip with back-to-back losses, the Dallas Stars return to the ice tonight looking to return to the win column against the Florida Panthers at the American Airlines Center, a building they are 6-1-0 in so far this season.

However, the Stars (11-5-0), who continue to lead the Pacific Division with 22 points, will be without gritty center Steve Ott, who continues to be bothered by a hip pointer and will miss a sixth consecutive game.

Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan had termed Ott a game-time decision after practice on Monday, but after the morning skate, it was clear he wouldn't play.

"Otter's not going tonight. He'll be ready for Friday," Gulutzan said. "He's pleading his case to go tonight but it's better for us long-term than to rush him back when he's about 85 percent."

In his absence, Adam Burish will continue to skate on the Stars' second line alongside captain Brenden Morrow and center Mike Ribeiro, a role he has held since Ott last played Oct. 29 against the Devils.

The Stars have won two straight at home this season and have fallen only once in their own arena, a 5-3 loss to the Kings back on Oct. 27. And given they come off consecutive road losses to the Red Wings and Penguins, it's definitely good to be back on their home ice.

"That road trip started off real good and then, the last two games didn't go our way. It's always good to get back here and get settled," Gulutzan said. "It was good that we had the Sunday off when we came back. I think we had a good day off and a good practice yesterday and we're ready to go here tonight."

Florida comes into this one off a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday night and the Panthers are just 2-2-3 at home so far this season. But on the road, it's a different story, as Kevin Dineen's club is 6-3-0, tying them for most road wins in the League.

Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman sees a much improved Florida team and expects a real battle tonight in the Lone Star State.

"I think like every game, it's going to be a tough game. They're looking real good this year, especially with the new additions they made on the back there and the recent trade they had," Grossman said. "They have a good team, no question about it. They've got lots of speed, lots of skill guys. We've got to expect a hungry team coming in, so we've got to be ready."

Tonight's game will be the first for Stars third-line winger Radek Dvorak since coming over from Florida in the offseason. The veteran forward did say it might be a bit weird to face one of his former clubs, but added his focus is where it needs to be.

"It's just another game for us. Obviously, I spent a lot of time in Florida but the most important thing is we have to be sure we go about our game tonight no matter who we play," Dvorak said. "We just need a couple of points tonight and we have to do our best to achieve that."
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Quote of the Day

[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.

— Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Mathieu Perreault, who scored two goals in win against Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday