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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Cuma set to make NHL debut on Wild blue line

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota defenseman Tyler Cuma will make his National Hockey League debut tonight when the Wild host Chicago at Xcel Energy Center.

Cuma, a first-round pick in 2008, will be the 46th different player to suit up for the Wild this season. He will be the 15th rookie and the ninth to make his NHL debut -- all League highs.

A series of injuries, however, has derailed his track to the NHL, including a knee injury in 2009, after he nearly made the Wild roster out of his first training camp.

Cuma has played in 68 games this season with Houston of the American Hockey League, chipping in offensively with nine assists.

Here is Minnesota's projected lineup:

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Darroll Powe
Jason Zucker - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Tom Gilbert - Nate Prosser
Marco Scandella - Justin Falk
Kurtis Foster - Tyler Cuma

Josh Harding
Niklas Backstrom

Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:48 PM

By Alan Robinson - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Neal, Sullivan, Niskanen all sidelined for Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will be playing somewhat shorthanded against the New York Rangers on Thursday night, as forwards James Neal and Steve Sullivan and defenseman Matt Niskanen sit out with injuries.
All three might also miss the regular-season ending game Saturday against the Flyers, but coach Dan Bylsma said they are expected to be ready for the Stanley Cup Playoffs that begin next week.
Neal and Sullivan have lower-body injuries and Niskanen has an upper-body injury, all of which occurred during the Penguins' 5-3 victory at Boston on Tuesday night. Niskanen was injured during a collision with Daniel Paille in the first period and did not return. Sullivan played the entire game, but was seen limping afterward.
It is uncertain when Neal was hurt.
With Neal missing, Richard Park -- who has not dressed for 10 of the last 13 games -- was on a line with Chris Kunitz and NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin during the morning skate. Eric Tangradi and Pascal Dupuis were the wings on the Sidney Crosby line.
Joe Vitale took part in the morning skate despite being struck in the jaw by a Zdeno Chara shot Tuesday.
"All of us and everyone in the building (TD Garden) saw the puck rise off his stick, it was only a wrist shot, but it was (Zdeno) Chara," Bylsma said. "He got it up and around the head area, so there was concern. It left a mark, but he's doing well and everything seems to be good with him."
Vitale is expected to center the fourth line, which also includes Arron Asham and Craig Adams.
The Penguins can secure fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, as early as Thursday if they defeat the Rangers or the Flyers lose to Buffalo in regulation.
Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:46 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Lupul skates, laments season-ending shoulder injury

TORONTO -- Ahead of their last home game of the season, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul was on the ice Thursday morning. He skated for the first time since succumbing to a shoulder injury on March 6. He will not be in the lineup against Tampa and will also miss the final game of the season in Montreal.

"Hopefully another week or so of rehab and working on some things and I'll be ready 100 percent," said the 28-year-old Lupul, who was arguably Toronto's most valuable player this season before the injury. He had a career-high 67 points in 66 games.

Lupul, who has faced his fair share of set backs throughout his career, feels the timing of the injury could not have been worse.

"It was extra tough because we we're still in the midst of a playoff chase," he said. "We had been struggling right before I went out, and then to watch what happened over the next couple of weeks was pretty difficult. ... Everything went wrong, we didn't get the job done as a team."

Fellow Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski, who is recovering from a leg laceration suffered this past Saturday, also hit the ice but is not expected to play Thursday evening.

Tampa did not hold a skate after playing last night in Montreal, falling to the Canadiens, 5-2.

Here are the Maple Leafs' projected lines:

Matt Frattin - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Joey Crabb
Tim Connolly - David Steckel - Mike Brown
Jay Rosehill - Carter Ashton - Colby Armstrong

Dion Phaneuf - Mike Komisarek
John Michael-Liles - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Ben Scrivens
Jonas Gustavsson
Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:30 PM

By Erin Nicks - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators, Bruins

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Colin Greening
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Zack Smith - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer - Jesse Winchester - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar

Ben Bishop
Craig Anderson

Alex Auld, Zenon Konopka, Bobby Butler, Matt Gilroy and Kaspars Daugavins are the healthy scratches. Kuba and Karlsson did not participate in the morning skate, but coach Paul MacLean insisted that both would play.

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Brian Rolston - Jordan Caron
Lane MacDermid - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Dennis Seidenberg - Andrew Ference
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

Anton Khudobin
Marty Turco

Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara did not travel with the team -- all three are resting in preparation for the playoffs. MacDermid was recalled from Providence on Wednesday and will start on the fourth line. The Bruins said defenseman Johnny Boychuk is day-to-day after sustaining a knee strain against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Goalie Tuukka Rask (lower body) is anticipated to be back in time for the postseason. Mike Mottau is a healthy scratch.

Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:24 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Rinne likely to return to Predators net against Stars

NASHVILLE -- After not dressing for the Predators' game on Tuesday because of an illness, No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne practiced Wednesday and participated in the team’s morning skate for its regular season home finale on Thursday against Dallas.
Coach Barry Trotz said that "he's probably in, yeah," in reference to a question as to whether Rinne would start on Thursday. Rinne said on Wednesday that he had an IV to help him rehydrate.
Here's tonight's projected lineup for the Predators:
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Paul Gaustad - Jordin Tootoo
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 11:46 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Sabres stick with same lineup vs. Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Buffalo Sabres had an optional skate Thursday morning here at Wells Fargo Center. Most of the healthy players were on the ice, with the notable exception of forwards Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, and goaltender Ryan Miller.

Jhonas Enroth was the only goaltender on the ice.

It's the Sabres' first visit to Philadelphia since Feb. 16, when they suffered one of their worst losses of the season, a 7-2 defeat that saw the Flyers score the game's final seven goals.

However, since then the Sabres are 15-4-4, which has put them right in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. A win against the Flyers and a Capitals regulation loss to the Panthers would boost the Sabres into the eighth spot.

Here is the lineup the Sabres likely will put out against the Flyers when the teams meet Thursday in a crucial game for Buffalo. It's the same lineup the team used in Tuesday's 6-5 overtime win against the Maple Leafs.

Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Ville Leino - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Corey Tropp - Cody Hodgson - Thomas Vanek
Nathan Gerbe - Cody McCormick - Patrick Kaleta

Robyn Regehr - Jordan Leopold
Brayden McNabb - Alexander Sulzer
Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

Forward Brad Boyes and defenseman TJ Brennan will be the scratches, along with injured defensemen Christian Ehrhoff (knee) and Tyler Myers (foot). Forward Matt Ellis has been cleared to play following a knee injury that's kept him out since March 10, but will not dress Thursday.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 11:42 AM

By Kurt Dusterberg - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Canadiens, Hurricanes

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Montreal Canadiens pay a visit to PNC Arena to face the Carolina Hurricanes:


Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Louis Leblanc
Blake Geoffrion - Lars Eller - Mike Blunden
Aaron Palushaj - Gabriel Dumont - Brad Staubitz
P.K. Subban - Josh Gorges
Frédéric St-Denis - Andrei Markov
Chris Campoli - Alexei Emelin
Peter Budaj
Robert Mayer

Montreal did not skate Thursday morning, coming off a 5-2 home win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.


Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Derek Joslin - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart
Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain
Jaroslav Spacek
Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

Carolina forward Andreas Nodl skated with the team Thursday morning, but Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said he is unlikely to dress. He has missed seven games recovering from a concussion. Instead, Spacek will join the lineup as the seventh defenseman.
Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 8:51 AM

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

Updated playoff projections: April 5th

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
7th 80 92 2 94
8th 80 88 2 90 2

9th 80 88 2 90 2
Wins to
earn 8th
6th 80 98 2 100
7th 80 93 2 95 1
8th 80 92 2 94 2

9th 80 89 2 91 3
The skinny: At the Trade Deadline, the projections for the No. 8 spots in the Eastern and Western Conference was 89 points and 91 points, respectively. The total points required for Stanley Cup is going to be at least 92 in the West and could be as high as 92 in the East. Time for a little recap of what the projection was on Feb. 27 and what has transpired entering action Thursday.

Eastern Conference (Feb. 27)

Standings Points Projected wins Actual record since Feb. 27
3. Florida 70 10 8-5-6
9. Washington 67 11 9-6-3
12. Buffalo 62 14 12-4-2
Western Conference (Feb. 27)

Standings Points Projected wins Actual record since Feb. 27
3. Phoenix 73 10 8-6-4
7. San Jose 71 11 9-7-3
8. Dallas 70 11 9-7-1
9. Los Angeles 68 12 12-5-1
10. Colorado 68 12 9-6-2
Florida has benefitted from gaining a single point in six games, an equivalent of three wins. So, as the Panthers prepare to play Washington on Thursday, they need a single point to qualify.

Washington has earned close to the original projection, but with a higher actual point total now necessary it will need at least one more win to qualify. If the Caps beat the Panthers Thursday night, they will still be alive for Southyeastern Division title and the No. 3 seed in the West when the season concludes with all 30 teams playing Saturday.

On Feb. 27, Buffalo needed to go on a tear and it did; but it still may not be enough. The Sabres must win in Philadelphia to keep their playoff hopes vibrant and need a Panthers win against the Caps to gain control of their own playoff destiny entering the final game of the season. If the Capitals win out, Buffalo can not pass them.

In the West, the Kings were true to projection and reeled off the necessary wins to put them in the driver's seat and on the brink of playoff qualification. Now, the Kings just need one of four points in its home and home against San Jose to close the season.

Dallas and Colorado will be rooting hard for the Kings to beat the Sharks in theses two games because both the Stars and Avs must help themselves and get help to qualify for the postseason. Dallas and Colorado have both fallen short of the needed wins and equalling the projection looks to leave one or both short of the playoffs.

Phoenix, meanwhile, has met the wins total, or points equivalent. One more point guarantees the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive year for the Coyotes.

The math tells a very accurate story, but ultimately it falls to the teams to win their games. Win and the points add up. Lose and you are looking at all kinds of combinations and permutations to get you to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 2:43 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - At the Rink blog

Sabres lose Myers for last two games

The Buffalo Sabres' road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs just got a bit harder with the news that top defenseman Tyler Myers will be out for the team's final two games with what coach Lindy Ruff called a "bad foot."

"He won't be on the trip," Ruff told reporters Wednesday. "Tyler's out. It'll be a period of time. What time frame that is? It's more than just this week."

Myers already has missed two games with the injury, and Buffalo already is without blueliner Christian Ehrhoff with a knee injury, leaving the Sabres shorthanded defensively at the most critical time of the season.

The other blueliners have been forced to play expanded roles, part of which could be the reason the Sabres have allowed 14 goals in three games without Myers and Ehrhoff.

They'll need to tighten up defensively Thursday against the Flyers, a team that beat them 7-2 the last time they played, on Feb. 16. The Sabres need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“We went through that game [Tuesday's 6-5 overtime win against the Maple Leafs], we went through the first period, went through the chances, and emphasized the importance of staying inside some of the mistakes we made," said Ruff. "Some of it was lack of communication. Some of it was the coverage. But we do have to tighten up, there's no secret. That's on myself and my staff to make sure that we tighten up those areas so it's not a game where you give 16 or 17 [chances]. We've got to get it back to the norm, which is somewhere around 10 or 11, in that area. And not give up the high quality.

"We worked hard on that [Wednesday] morning, went through that with the players. We understand that we know how to play, and we know how to play in our own end. It should be an easier fix. Some of it is adapting to the players we have in. Some of it is just system related."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 1:46 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Red Wings trying to get back into pre-injury rhythm

ST. LOUIS -- The Detroit Red Wings, who are 0-5-2 in their last seven road games, will play away from the confines of Joe Louis Arena in the regular season for the final time tonight.

And much like their counterparts tonight in the St. Louis Blues, the Red Wings are getting healthy and looking to gear their game towards an NHL-best 21st straight playoff run.

"Going through that injury stretch messed with the rhythm and timing of things, but now that we've got our full lineup back minus (Darren Helm) and (Patrick Eaves), it should give us a good chance the last three games getting our game just right heading into the playoffs," said goalie Jimmy Howard, who has had three stretches this season out with injuries.

The Wings have missed at one time or another guys like Helm, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Danny Cleary, Ian White, Todd Bertuzzi and Jonathan Ericsson. They have managed to stay up to speed, just like the Blues. Depth has been key.

"I think it's good for us in the long run," center Justin Abdelkader said of the team's depth. "Guys have played more expanded roles and gotten more minutes. When everyone's healthy, hopefully it's helped taken us in the right direction and our depth has come through. Hopefully we're ready to make a run here in the playoffs."


The Wings, with 99 points and a record of 47-27-5, can reach the 100-point mark tonight for an NHL-record 12th consecutive season with at least an overtime/shootout loss.

It's quite a feat, especially since there is so much parity in the NHL these days and the man-power teams deal with, particularly with so many injuries.

"That is pretty impressive since the last month and a half here hasn't been too kind to us with the injury bug," Howard said. "The guys stepped up and we got ourselves a chance to do it again.

"It just shows you do a lot of winning throughout the years. ... It's difficult. It's not easy by any means, especially with the parity throughout the League. Anyone can beat anyone now on any given night. To be able to hit 100 points here again tonight if we get the opportunity, it would be pretty sweet."

Abdelkader, a part of two of those 100-point seasons and looking for his third, said there were difficult times for the team when it went through a 1-6-2 stretch before winning three of five.

"We tried to sustain what we had going, but it was tough," Abdelkader said. "Our play kind of declined there for a while. When you have so many injuries like that, it's tough to maintain it, but now's the time to get everyone healthy and everyone's been coming around. That's good for us.

"It is an accomplishment (reaching 100 points) and it's a tribute to the owners, the management, the scouts that do all the work. Bringing the teams together each year, I think they've done a tremendous job."
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Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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