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Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:16 PM

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

Lightning won't look past road-weary Blue Jackets

TAMPA, Fla. -- After a 4-1 loss Monday in Nashville and a late-night flight, the Columbus Blue Jackets arrived at their Tampa hotel early Tuesday morning and skipped the morning skate to rest up before facing the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Rested or not, for the Lightning, struggling to gain traction for a playoff run, there can be no more welcome sight than the Blue Jackets coming over the horizon.

Columbus' 5-16-3 road record is the worst in the NHL, and they have allowed 37 more goals then they have scored away from home.

Tampa Bay apparently has shaken off the effects of a recent seven-game winless streak and is back on track, arriving home from a two-game road swing seeking their fourth consecutive win. If they get it, they will have their longest win streak of the season.

Although this will be the final game before the All-Star break for both clubs, it marks the first in a crucial 12-game stretch for Tampa Bay. They will play nine of those games at home, where they are 12-7-1 this season. If the Lightning, nine points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, are to make a run for the postseason, these next 12 games will be key.

Tuesday night will be the second and final time these two teams meet this season. The Lightning got a 3-2 win in Columbus on Dec. 17 behind goalie Mathieu Garon, who turned aside 26 shots. Garon will be back in the net Tuesday for the Lightning.

Despite a 5-1-0 all-time record against Columbus at home, Tampa Bay, with nine players out with injuries, is taking nothing for granted.

"They (Columbus) have been working hard and battling lately," Brett Clark said. "They battle hard for 60 minutes. You can't underestimate them. For us, we have to come out with the same effort we've had the last few games and sustain it for 60 minutes. That's the key."

Steven Stamkos, leading the NHL in goals with 32, discounted the Blue Jackets' road record as a factor.

"They have a poor road record, but so did we and we just won two in a row, so stats can be misleading sometimes,' Stamkos said. "You can't take any team for granted in this League and we're definitely not in a position to do that, anyway. We have one game before the break and we need a win."

Here's what both teams likely will put on the ice tonight. The Lightning will play seven defensemen and 11 forwards:

BLUE JACKETS
Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Tomas Kubalik
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Brett Lebda
Marc Methot - John Moore
Grant Clitsome - Aaron Johnson

Curtis Sanford will start in goal, with Steve Mason the backup.

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Dominic Moore - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Trevor Smith - Brett Connolly
Mike Angelidis - Nate Thompson

Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson
Evan Oberg

Mathieu Garon will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson the backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:15 PM

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

Sabres set to welcome back Ehrhoff, Regehr

NEWARK, N.J. -- Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff finally had an opportunity to look on the bright side on Tuesday as his team prepared for the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
 
One day after learning defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who had been sidelined the past three weeks with a rib injury, would make his anticipated return, Ruff got word that fellow defenseman Robyn Regehr would also return following a four-game absence.
 
"I'm going to go out there and help us try and win a game … it's come around the last couple of days as I've been able to take some slap shots with the guys in practice," Regehr, who was suffering from an upper-body injury, said. "My strength seems to be back, so hopefully I can use some of it [Tuesday]. It's never fun when you're a player stuck on the sidelines having to watch -- you really don't feel you're part of the team.
 
"I like being around the guys and being a part of the solution. We're on a slide right now and we have one game to turn it around and then enjoy a few-days break so I think everyone is looking forward to that opportunity."
 
Since Ehrhoff suffered his injury on Dec. 30 in a fight with Troy Brouwer of the Washington Capitals, the Sabres have gone 2-7-2. The Sabres' power play has also faltered without Ehrhoff, going 4-for-28 over that 11-game stretch.
 
"It's huge to have those guys back, just having their presence in the locker room is big," Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. "They are two of our top defensemen and they're going to log a lot of minutes. Robyn usually plays against the top line and Christian is really good on the power play and penalty kill. They're going to add a lot to our team and we're excited to have them both back."
 
Will it make a difference for the struggling Sabres, who currently sit last in the Eastern Conference?
 
The Sabres have lost 12 straight games on the road in regulation -- they've never before dropped more than seven in a row at any point in their history. The team is 8-15 away from First Niagara Center in 2011-12 with just 41 goals in 23 games for an NHL-low 1.78 per game.
 
Buffalo has been outscored 50-17 during its 12-game road losing streak, and 11 of those losses have been by two or more goals. Their seven-game road trip concludes next Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Entering the sixth game of the current swing against the Devils, the Sabres have been outscored 23-7.
 
Goalie Ryan Miller is just 3-9-0 in his last 12 decisions and backup Jonas Enroth is 1-8-3 in his last 12 outings. Miller, who sports a 5.00 goals-against average and .836 save percentage during the team's current five-game losing streak, needs just two victories to equal Dominik Hasek's franchise record of 234 career wins.
 
Nearing the end of the Tuesday's practice, Miller took a hard slap shot to the collarbone off a shot by Marc-Andre Gragnani. He quickly skated off the ice but later told the media, "I am fine."
 
"I think he's OK," Ruff said. "He took a shot there. I didn't see it but I think he's OK."
 
Ruff is obviously happy to have both Ehrhoff and Regehr back in the lineup against the Devils.
 
"It should really help our defending," Ruff said. "I think up ice we've done a better job of getting inside but it's in our own end where we've had a tough time and two get two NHL defensemen back should help us."
 
Forward Brad Boyes, who missed practice on Monday with the flu, was again with the team at Tuesday's skate. He'll resume his normal role at center alongside Ville Leino and Drew Stafford. The team returned defenseman Joe Finley to their American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester.
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Sabres against the Devils:
 
SABRES

 
Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe - Jochen Hecht - Patrick Kaleta
Ville Leino - Brad Boyes - Drew Stafford
Matt Ellis - Luke Adam - Cody McCormick
 
Andrej Sekera - Tyler Myers
Christian Ehrhoff - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Robyn Regehr
 
Miller is likely to get the start in goal, while Enroth serves as backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Strachan excited to be back in NHL with Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Tyson Strachan made one thing perfectly clear after his first morning skate with the Florida Panthers. The team's recent call-up is not an offensive threat with a big slap shot like new teammate Jason Garrison.

"I saw that guy shooting out there today," Strachan said with a smile. "It's pretty impressive.

"I'm a defenseman, I am a defensive defenseman, I would say. I've got a big, physical body. I like to bring a little bit of jam to the game and play with a little bit of an edge, and on top of it I can jump up a little bit and try to shoot when I can. But don't count on me for 20 this year, that's for sure."

Strachan returned to the NHL on Monday when he was called up from San Antonio after defenseman Dmitry Kulikov underwent knee surgery.

The 27-year-old Strachan will make his Panthers debut Tuesday night when the Philadelphia Flyers come to the BankAtlantic Center. A fifth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003, Strachan bounced back and forth between Peoria and St. Louis the last three years, but he's been in the AHL throughout this season.

"It's been a lot longer down there than I was hoping, but at the same time the opportunity is here," Strachan said. "That's hockey and that's life, when the opportunities come, you've got to be ready to take care of them and hopefully this is a nice opportunity and I seize it."

Strachan became the eighth player the Panthers have called up from San Antonio this season, but the first defenseman. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Strachan had 3 goals and 7 assists in 30 games for San Antonio this season, but he has no goals in 67 NHL games.

"Tyson is a veteran guy that's played NHL games before," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "What was really nice about giving Tyson the call is that it wasn't an easy decision. We have some options to use at the American League level. We've been through a large chunk of the San Antonio roster on the forward side of things, but for our defense it's the first time we've reached out to them and Tyson is a guy who, according to his coach, was the right fit for us right now."

Dineen said after the optional morning skate he hadn't decided who he would pair up Strachan with, but one possibility would be Mike Weaver. The two were teammates in St. Louis in 2008-09 and 2009-10 during Strachan's stints with the Blues.

"He's an easy guy to play with," Strachan said of Weaver. "I know just from my St. Louis days playing with him, he talks a lot. Just to get settled in is a big thing right now after not being in the League for a little bit. Playing with anybody right now ... the whole D corps is great. Whoever I'm paired up with, I'm excited for."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 12:45 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Knee surgery to sideline Kulikov 6-8 weeks

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After dealing with a rash of injuries among their forwards and then at the goalie position, the Florida Panthers are now hurting on defense.

A week after veteran Ed Jovanovski was sidelined with a broken hand, Dmitry Kulikov underwent knee surgery on Monday to address a meniscus injury.

Coach Kevin Dineen revealed the news after the Panthers' optional morning skate Tuesday morning and said Kulikov would be out 6-8 weeks.

"That's obviously a big loss for us," Dineen said. "I wish his knee felt as good as his attitude. He's such an enthusiastic young man and he's been such a big part of what we've done this year. It's a tough loss for us, but we've got some resiliency and we'll need that right now without him in the lineup."

Kulikov was at the BankAtlantic Center Tuesday morning walking on crutches and wearing a wrap around his knee.

The defenseman told NHL.com the injury was one he's been playing with for about five years.

"I wasn't planning on this, obviously, but it happens," Kulikov said. "As long as it didn't bother me, I didn't want to do the surgery. I was hoping I could wait until the end of the season and then have it done, but unfortunately it happened, it got worse. So I had the surgery. Now I'm going to try to get back as fast as possible and we'll go from there."

Kulikov said he aggravated his knee injury when he checked the Jets' Jim Slater behind the Florida net in the first period of Saturday night's 4-3 shootout victory at Winnipeg.

The Panthers' 2009 first-round pick finished the game and ended up getting 22:07 of ice time.

"I think I just twisted it or hit it against the boards," Kulikov said. "That aggravated it, made it worse. I was able to finish the game. I was getting worse and worse throughout the game. Afterwards, on the plane, it was getting worse and worse. The next day I couldn't even get downstairs at my house. I had to get it done."

In 46 games this season, Kulikov has 4 goals and 20 assists to rank fifth on the team with 24 points -- two shy of his career high of 26, which he accomplished in 72 games last season.

Kulikov also is third on the team in average ice time behind fellow defensemen Brian Campbell and Jason Garrison.

With Kulikov out, the Panthers will need even bigger contributions from their other two former first-round picks on defense, Erik Gudbranson (2011) and Keaton Ellerby (2007).

"It (stinks) that Kuli's out," Gudbranson said. "He's such a big part of our defensive corps. He's probably one of the better defensemen we've had all year. It's tough to see him out and for the period that he's out.

"That makes us step up. We know that everybody has to step up. I'm excited about the opportunity. It was unfortunate for him, but I've got to step up. Everyone does."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 11:53 AM

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

Devils' defenseman Harrold to start game at forward

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defenseman Peter Harrold will make his New Jersey Devils debut Tuesday -- as a forward.
 
Harrold, who has one goal, 12 points, 26 penalty minutes and a plus-3 rating in 41 games with the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany this season, will open at right wing, on a line with left wing Eric Boulton and center Ryan Carter when the Devils host the Buffalo Sabres.
 
Just because the 28-year-old Harrold is starting the game at forward, however, doesn't necessarily mean he'll remain there the entire game.
 
"He gives us seven defensemen," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's an opportunity to kind of monitor our defense. He's an extra body if someone is not going and he's capable of helping out on the power play. He has some versatility."
 
Harrold has 8 goals and 18 assists in 164 career NHL games -- all with the Los Angeles Kings. He signed with the Devils as an unrestricted free agent last summer.

He has played forward in the past with the Kings.
 
"I played forward two years ago [under then-Kings coach Terry Murray]," Harrold said. "I played there about 20-25 games and it's a little different. You get into it more on the offensive end and I enjoy that part of the game, but playing defense is what counts the most."
 
The Devils only have six healthy defensemen on the roster, with Andy Greene and Henrik Tallinder sidelined by injuries. Greene resumed skating last week and could be back after the All-Star break.
 
"The big thing for me is making sure I know the system and I have to be defensively reliable," Harrold said. "I think that's going to be my biggest focus as a forward. Clearly if I can pitch in offensively, I'd like to, but taking care of our own end would be the biggest thing."
 
The Devils are coming off two straight losses, to the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, by identical 4-1 scores.
 
The optional morning skate Tuesday did not include Ilya Kovalchuk, Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador or Brad Mills.

This will be the Devils' final game before the All-Star break. Their next game will be Jan. 31, when they host the New York Rangers.
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Devils tonight:
 
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Peter Harrold
 
Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Matt Taormina - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster
 
Martin Brodeur will get his fifth straight start in goal; Johan Hedberg will serve as the backup.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike _morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 11:29 AM

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

Hawks place Toews on IR

The Chicago Blackhawks placed center Jonathon Toews on injured reserve this morning and have recalled forward Brandon Pirri from Rockford of the American Hockey League.

Toews left Saturday's game against the Nashville Predators in the second period due to an upper-body injury.

Toews is second in the League with 27 goals and second on the Hawks with 50 points. He was picked for his third All-Star Game earlier this month.

"You certainly miss his leadership and how important he is to our team," coach Joel Quenneville said Monday. "It changes the complexion of what our options are, but it's part of it. You get tested along the way. Everybody goes through it, top guys out, key guys. It's certainly going to test us.”

"Guys are going to have to step up and try to fill the void," added teammate Patrick Kane. "We have to make sure we're focused and worry about the task at hand. He plays in every situation, key player, a guy you definitely miss if he's out of the lineup. You can't replace a player like (Patrick) Sharp or Toews, but there are some guys who can step up, and they have. These are big opportunities for myself and a lot of guys here."

Taking Toews' place in the middle of the top line -- at least to start tonight's game against Nashville -- will be Dave Bolland.

"I don't want him to change how he plays," Quenneville said Monday. "He doesn't have to be Johnny or an offensive type of guy. Play to your strength."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 11:10 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose votes Karlsson as Fantasy Draft top pick

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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 4:55 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stars place Morrow on IR, activate Ribeiro

Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow suffered an upper-body injury in Saturday's game and has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 21, while Mike Ribeiro was activated off the IR on Monday.

The Stars released the following statements earlier in the day from coach Glen Gulutzan through their official Twitter account:

"Morrow out, not a long term issue there, and (Stephane) Robidas will be a game player for us tomorrow."

"Ribeiro is close and we will reevaluate him after morning skate tomorrow. (Matt) Fraser will be a go for us tomorrow."

Morrow, in his 12th NHL season, is fifth on the team in scoring with 8 goals and 22 points in 41 games.

Ribeiro is fourth on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 31 points. He hasn't played since Jan. 7, when he was involved in a knee-on-knee collision in a game against the Oilers. Ribeiro was on a hot streak before he went down, scoring twice in each of his last two games.

Fraser, an undrafted, 6-foot-1, 204-pound right wing, is set to make his NHL debut after being called up from the AHL Texas Stars, where he had 21 goals and 35 points in 40 games.
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 4:01 PM

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

Kings not worried about PK issues

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Kings killed 40 straight penalties from Dec. 17 to Jan. 14 but have allowed a power-play goal in each of the past six games.

"Sometimes that's the way it goes," captain Dustin Brown said. "Our attitude is, I think, the main reason our PK is successful. I don't know if we've had the exact same attitude the last few games. Sometimes you get scored on, power plays make good plays. But there's been some breakdowns – the Colorado goals late in the game was just a breakdown on our part. It's not like they made a great play. We've got to tighten it up a bit."

Coach Darryl Sutter, though, isn't concerned. There's been no change in the group's structure and often their best penalty killers have been the ones serving the penalties.

There's also an element of luck. The streak ended on a play in which Calgary's Jarome Iginla scored because Trevor Lewis didn't have a stick to break up a pass.

"When you are so good for so long, that means you're good," Sutter said. "We're still in the top four or five in the League. We've got caught with broken sticks a little bit. We've got caught with not clearing pucks a little bit. We've got caught more with (the fact that) there is a hockey god. We've taken two bad change penalties that have cost us goals-against. We have taken retaliation penalties, which has cost us goals-against. That's probably where it is."
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 3:47 PM

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

Westgarth back in for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After using largely the same lineup for most of his tenure as Los Angeles Kings coach, Darryl Sutter will have one new wrinkle tonight.

Forward Kevin Westgarth, who has played just twice since Sutter became coach Dec. 20, will be inserted at right wing on the fourth line against the Ottawa Senators.

Sutter previously has gone with Trent Hunter in that spot, on a line with Colin Fraser and Kyle Clifford, because Hunter brings more offensive potential. But L.A. is coming off a disappointing loss to Colorado in which only its top line was a factor. The Kings have scored five goals in regulation the past four games.

"The fourth line has been sort of off on the energy part of it here, so we’ll see if we can give it a different look," Sutter said.

In his last game, Jan. 7, Westgarth played just two shifts, totaling 55 seconds. His last extended action was Dec. 26.

The Senators enter the game coming off a loss Saturday to the Anaheim Ducks. They haven't lost consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 9-11, but team history suggests that streak could be in jeopardy: The Senators have won just once in Los Angeles in franchise history (1-10-1). Their only win at L.A. was Jan. 11, 2000.

Here is what the lineups for the Kings and Senators likely will go with tonight:

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

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Mark Borowiecki

Craig Anderson will start in goal, with Alex Auld the backup.

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov

Jonathan Quick will start in goal, with Jonathan Bernier the backup.
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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