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Posted On Sunday, 11.06.2011 / 12:22 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning, Panthers battle for second in Southeast

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers have rarely been among the top team in the Eastern Conference at the same time, which has made it tough for the two geographical rivals to foster a significant rivalry on the ice.

It is possible that could change this season. Second place in the Southeast Division is on the line Sunday when the Lightning travel to BankAtlantic Center to face the Panthers. Both teams sit on 14 points, and the winner of this contest will be two shy of the Washington Capitals for first in the Southeast.

Only once in the two franchise’s young histories have both Florida-based clubs reached the postseason. The Panthers made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, while the Lightning were kicked out in the first round by Philadelphia. Since that season the Lightning have progressed – claiming the Cup in 2004 and reaching the conference finals last season. Florida has qualified for the playoffs only twice since that magical run and have not won a series.

The Panthers could be in the midst of a revival this season. General manager Dale Tallon made wholesale changes in the offseason, and Florida has been an improved team in the early stages. Even better, goaltender Jacob Markstrom looks like a future star, and Panthers fans eagerly await the arrival of potential franchise cornerstone Jonathan Huberdeau, who could help make the Panthers a more permanent fixture among postseason contenders.

One of the team’s new pickups, forward Tomas Fleischmann, has four goals and eight points in the past six games, and the Panthers are 3-1-2 in that span. He struggled mightily in the postseason for Washington in 2010 and missed several months with a blood clot problem, but Fleischmann has 32 points in 34 games for Colorado and Florida since leaving the Capitals.

Steven Stamkos dominated the NHL in the first half of last season, and he might just be getting warmed up to repeat the feat. Stamkos had a hat trick Friday night to help Tampa Bay defeat Chicago, and he now has nine goals – one behind Toronto’s Phil Kessel for the League lead.

The Lightning made “The Leap” into contention last season, but struggled at the start of this campaign. Tampa Bay lost five straight at one point, but the Lightning have now won five of seven and could climb has high as sixth in the East with a victory against the Panthers. 
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Posted On Sunday, 11.06.2011 / 1:05 AM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PIT @ LA - 16:40 of the Third Period

At 16:40 of the third period in the Penguins/Kings game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Kings forward  Dustin Brown deflected the puck into the net with his stick above the crossbar. No goal Los Angeles.

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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 8:15 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BOS @ TOR - :34 of the Second Period



At :34 of the second period of the Bruins/Maple Leafs game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Bruins forward Tyler Seguin hit the puck into the net with his stick below the crossbar. Good Goal Boston.
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 7:26 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CBJ @ PHA - 3:09 of the First Period



At 3:09 of the first period in the Flyers/Blue Jackets game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Philadelphia forward Jaromir Jagr's shot went into the Columbus net in a legal fashion.
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 6:16 PM

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

Rangers add Stralman to blue line

NEW YORK -- The Rangers officially announced the signing of defenseman Anton Stralman on Saturday to a one-year, $900,000 contract. It was originally reported just minutes before the Rangers played the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, but the terms of the agreement weren't hammered out until now.

The Rangers had been playing with just six defensemen on the roster, so the signing of Stralman provides some much-needed depth. The 25-year-old has played 212 games over parts of four seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets. He was in camp with the New Jersey Devils on a try-out basis, but he was unable to make the team.

Full Transcript: Tortorella

New York -- When John Tortorella was asked about new defenseman Anton Stralman, he responded with the following:
 
"What does Stralman bring to the club?"
"Who?"
"Your new defenseman."
"No idea."
"Do you have any idea when he'll be available?"
"No idea."
"Any other news on Rupp?"
"Nope."
"Is he on IR?"
"I have no idea."
"How about Wolski's MRI from yesterday?"
"I have no idea."
"Let's try this one: Do you know what line Sean is going to start on?"
"No idea."
"What's your mom's birthday?"
"I have no idea."
Coach John Tortorella didn't offer any insight into what he expects from Stralman, saying "no idea" when asked what he'll bring to the team and when he'll be available.

Stralman spoke to the media after the Rangers' 5-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night about his plans for joining the team.

"I'm really excited," Stralman said. "Obviously, coming in here and getting to know the guys first, then get into the practices again and the game routines. It's been a while so it's going to take a little time here to get back into game shape, but I'm going to work hard to do it.

"I had a rough camp with the Devils so I've been practicing hard. It's different practicing with a Division 1 team (in Sweden) than the NHL, but I'm going to get back pretty quick on that."

The right-handed Stralman has the ability to provide offense from the blue line. In 73 games with the Blue Jackets two seasons ago -- the most he's played in one NHL season -- he had 6 goals and 28 assists, with 4 of the goals coming on the power play.

Stralman returned to his native Sweden after the Devils decided not to sign him, but he's back in New York.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 5:37 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Back to the grind for Rinne

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Two days ago, Nashville's Pekka Rinne recorded what Predators coach Barry Trotz called a goalie's hat trick. He signed a seven-year, $49 million contract, celebrated his 29th birthday and shut out the Phoenix Coyotes 3-0.

It was a day Rinne said he'll never forget, but now he's back to the regular NHL grind, and he'll be back on the ice Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.

"I think now it's back to normal, back to our routines," Rinne said Saturday morning, outside of the Predators' dressing room at HP Pavilion, as some of his teammates went through an optional skate. "But yeah, the other day was an amazing day. A lot of things happened for me in one day. It was a special day."

Rinne was in goal on Nov. 25 when the Sharks beat the Preds 3-1 in Nashville. He faced 35 shots and gave up two goals, one to Joe Pavelski and one to Logan Couture.

"They are a really good team," Rinne said. "It's going to be a good challenge for us. Last time we played a good game, actually. It was a good matchup. We usually play pretty good games against these guys. It's a good challenge for us. They have a lot of firepower up front. Same thing on the blue line, skilled guys. With these guys you always have to be focused and ready and alert. All the lines, they can score. It's going to be a fun game."

Rinne has had three shutouts in his past six games, giving him 23 for his career.

"To me, obviously it feels great always to get a shutout," Rinne said. "But to me, those are also kind of team accomplishments. Like last game against Phoenix, there were a couple times when I was out of position and our 'D' blocked a shot and saved a sure goal for me that otherwise would have been in the back of my net. Those things, a lot of time you need everybody. It's not only me. It's nice, though."

Trotz said the way Rinne handled the excitement and pressure Thursday that came with signing his mega-deal showed "the maturity" of his goaltender.

"Last year when (Rinne) was nominated for the Vezina , we all said to ourselves, 'Now our little secret's out,'" Trotz said. "We've known how good he is, and coaches, especially in the Western Conference, know how good he is. I think it's just a little bit of the rest of the hockey world didn't know how good he is."

Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein, who took a puck off an ankle Thursday night against Phoenix, was not on the ice during Saturday morning's optional skate. Trotz said it will be a game-time decision whether Klein plays against the Sharks.

Forward Sergei Kostitsyn skated Saturday morning but will also be a game-time decision, Trotz said. He returned Thursday against Phoenix after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 4:33 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Predators

Here’s how the lineups could look Saturday night when the Sharks host the Predators at HP Pavilion.

SHARKS

Joe PavelskiJoe ThorntonLogan Couture
Ryane ClowePatrick MarleauTorrey Mitchell
Jamie McGinnMichal HandzusMartin Havlat
Brad WinchesterAndrew DesjardinsAndrew Murray

Dan BoyleDouglas Murray
Brent BurnsMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Justin BraunColin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

PREDATORS

Colin WilsonMike FisherPatric Hornqvist
Sergei KostitsynDavid LegwandPatric Hornqvist
Jordin TootooCraig SmithJerred Smithson
Niclas BergforsBlake GeoffrionMatt Halischuk

Ryan SuterShea Weber
Francis BouillonKevin Klein
Jonathon BlumJack Hillen

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 4:28 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Picard set for season debut with Pittsburgh

LOS ANGELES – The back end of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ defense will have a different look when it plays the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

Alexandre Picard will fill in for Ben Lovejoy after Lovejoy suffered a broken wrist. Paul Martin will be a game-time decision with newly recalled Robert Bortuzzo available as insurance.

Picard will make his season debut. He had a groin injury late in camp that prevented him from competing for a spot.

“It’s awesome,” Picard said. “It’s what I’ve been working toward since the summer. Here I am now and I just want to make the most of it.”

With the possibility of new personnel, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said there will be a slight adjustment but not drastic.

“I think we’ll go (over) a few little things,” Fleury said. “But I think we’ll keep it simple and let them do what they do. They’re good players, so I’m not worried about having them in front of me.”

Staal a game time decision: Jordan Staal will be a game time decision, coach Dan Bylsma said. He has skated for the past two days after he’s missed two games with a lower-body injury.

“I’m not sure if coach wants me in or not,” Staal said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Kings struggling offensively: The additions of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne were supposed to improve the Los Angeles Kings’ five-on-five scoring, a sore spot last season.

But through 13 games the Kings are 26th in five-on-five offense after a 3-0 loss to Edmonton on Thursday in which the team managed a season-low 19 shots on goal.

Outside of inserting Kevin Westgarth into tonight's lineup, coach Terry Murray strayed away from lineup changes and players said staying the course is wise.

“As long as we stick with the system, we’ve got some good players here that are going to make plays and we’re going to get some goals,” Richards said. “But just stick with the system, believe in it, trust in it, and eventually it’s going to come.”

Penner disappointing: Los Angeles Kings left wing Dustin Penner can take his share of the blame for the lack of the team’s offense. He has only one point this season and has been demoted to the third line.

Coach Terry Murray said he put Penner there with the idea of having three scoring lines, but he also concurred that Penner might not get enough offensive opportunities playing third-line minutes.

“I’m going to take a look at it,” Murray said. “Is it a concern a little bit? I really believe Penner is a guy that needs to get the puck at the right place at the right time, and players like Kopi (Anze Kopitar) and (Mike) Richards are certainly guys that can give it to him in the right situations.”

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

PITTSBURGH

Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Chris Kunitz - Mark Letestu - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham
Dustin Jeffrey - Richard Park - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen - Alexandre Picard

Marc-Andre Fleury

LOS ANGELES

Simon Gagne - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Scott ParseMike Richards - Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Ethan Moreau
Kevin Westgarth - Kyle Clifford - Brad Richardson

Drew Doughty - Willie Mitchell
Jack Johnson - Rob Scuderi
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 4:21 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks could stick with new-look lines

SAN JOSE – Shortly after falling behind by two goals in the first period Thursday night against Pittsburgh, Sharks coach Todd McLellan began juggling his lines, and those changes helped spark a 4-3 shootout win.

McLellan liked what he saw from his new-look lines against Pittsburgh, and he said “there’s a good chance” he’ll open with them Saturday night against Nashville.

During the morning skate, regular second-line center Logan Couture worked with the first line at right wing, along with center Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Regular first-line left wing Patrick Marleau centered the second line with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell, who moved up from the third line. Mitchell swapped places with Martin Havlat, who skated on the third line with center Michal Handzus and left wing Jamie McGinn.

“We’re 11 games into the season. You can get a little bit stale,” McLellan said of the changes. “And we weren’t getting a lot from our third and fourth lines, anyhow. Our other two lines for the most part carried the team on the road trip, but they started to sputter at the end, too. Maybe a fresh look -- it’s time.”

With these changes, McLellan spread the offensive firepower more evenly throughout his top three lines. By moving Marleau to the second line, he believes he created a matchup problem for Nashville, which features one of the league’s top defensive pairs in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

“They’ll try to match up against one of our big centermen, I’m assuming [Thornton], so that will allow another big body in [Marleau] to play against other pairs. When you put [Marleau] and [Clowe] together, they’re two big men. If they’re playing well, they’re a load to handle down low.”

Havlat said he skated on the same line at times with Handzus five years ago for the Blackhawks.

“He’s very smart with the puck, with the positioning,” Havlat said. “He’s a very good passer and play-maker. He can give you the puck pretty quick. He’s great at both ends, offensively and defensively.”

Couture said the moves make sense after the way the Sharks bounced back against Pittsburgh.

“We obviously knew we didn’t play well in the first period the other night,” Clowe said. “He changes things up and it seemed to turn us around a little bit. We played better after that. I think that’s the seasoning behind it. … Whoever I get to play with I’m glad to. I’ve gone from two good players to two good players. Hopefully I can get something going tonight.”

First-line wing Joe Pavelski is still battling a flu bug, but he was on the ice for Saturday morning’s skate and said he will play against Nashville. Pavelski, who did not practice on Friday, said he felt “better” Saturday.
“It’s something you have to deal with.”

Pavelski said he was dealing with the flu “a little bit” Thursday night against Pittsburgh but didn’t use it as an excuse for going without a point and posting a minus-2.

“I’ve got to be better than I was then,” he said. “First period was not good by any means. We need better starts there. It was good to see guys battle back, not totally waste the whole night.”
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 4:09 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Crosby returns to Pittsburgh, will practice Monday

LOS ANGELES – Sidney Crosby returned to Pittsburgh for a doctor’s appointment and will resume practice Monday, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said after his team’s morning skate Saturday.

Bylsma said there remains no target date for Crosby’s return even though he was cleared to practice last month.

“There’s no time table,” Bylsma said. “There’s no date. There’s no point in the future we’re talking about yet. It’s just a scheduled appointment and progression down the road for Sidney.”

Crosby was expected to continue to practice with the team as it concludes its road trip at Los Angeles, but it was learned Saturday morning that he flew back East.

“We have a team building event next week – he didn’t want to miss that,” Bylsma said. “We were able to see the doctor and get that taken care of and he’ll be returning to practice on Monday.”

Crosby has not played since January because of a concussion after he took hits in consecutive games.

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Quote of the Day

I've never seen anything like that. The great thing is I don't know how many times guys bailed me out where they had to score to keep it alive and they did every time. It was amazing. It's not the way we draw it up, to go 20 rounds here, but obviously it's a big win.

— Florida goalie Roberto Luongo after the Panthers defeated the Capitals in the longest shootout in NHL history on Tuesday
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