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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:16 PM

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

Zetterberg says winning early is crucial

DETROIT -- Despite ending a six-game winless streak last weekend, the Detroit Red Wings are well aware that it was just one win and they need to keep winning to make up the ground they lost in the Western Conference standings.

The way things are in the West -- and the way they were last season -- every standings point matters, but especially those early in the season, when teams usually are at their peak from a health standpoint.

"It's so tight on both sides, and when you're looking back at the end of the year, it's a win here and a win there and that's a playoff (season)," Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "That could determine whether you're going to make it or not. You have to get a good start."

That's why he understood the rationale behind the St. Louis Blues firing Davis Payne on Sunday and hiring highly-regarded veteran coach Ken Hitchcock to replace him.

"If you don't have a good start, it's real tough to get something going," Zetterberg said. "All of a sudden you have 55 or 60 games left and you know you're done. Teams don't want that to happen, so (sometimes) you have to make a tough decision early."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:15 PM

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

Hitch has high praise for Patrick Kane

ST. LOUIS -- New Blues coach Ken Hitchcock paid the ultimate compliment to Hawks star Patrick Kane, who has been playing center for Chicago after previously playing exclusively on the wing.

"That's the worst nightmare for all of us," Hitchcock said, referring to coaches around the NHL. "That's not good because a player that's that strong and that competitive and that patient with the puck, we've all kind of dreaded that day when he was going to move into the middle of the ice. It's not fun. When you come with a 1-2 punch like that, it's not a lot of fun."

When hearing those comments, Kane responded, "It's fun to hear that, especially from a coach like that who's so well-respected like that and who has so many wins under his belt.

"I feel like I can a little more consistent. I can probably do some better things all around, but I guess it comes with the territory of learning the position. So far, I think it's been a pretty good thing for the team. It gives us an option, if now, maybe down the road a little bit."

Hitchcock said Kane's transformation will be fine and the rest of the league will just have to deal with it.

"We were hoping it didn't come. It's there," Hitchcock said. "You've got to deal with it, but there were a lot of 'Oh, no's,' because the game isn't played in the middle of the ice much anymore, but he's got enough trust and confidence in his own ability. He knows how to play in there. It's a nervous defending time when you have a player with that type of skill level and patience with the puck that can make plays with people. It's a little bit scary.

"Joel (Quenneville, Blackhawks coach) could have made it a lot easier if he would have put Kane and (Jonathan) Toews together. That kind of screws up our plan. We'll have to adjust."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:12 PM

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

Brunnstrom moves out, hopes to move up

DETROIT -- Fabian Brunnstrom no longer is staying with the Zetterbergs, so at least he's moved out on his own in the Motor City.

Now, the task is to move up in the Red Wings' hierarchy of forward lines. The 26-year old Swedish forward has played just two games since making the team out of training camp on a tryout offer -- but his last time out was much better than his first.

After not playing at all in Detroit's first five games, Brunnstrom made his debut in a 7-1 loss in Washington Capitals. Soon after, he was sent to the Red Wings' affiliate in the American Hockey League, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

After playing a game -- and notching a goal -- with the Griffins, Brunnstrom was recalled this past weekend to replace Todd Bertuzzi (illness) in the lineup. He played on the fourth line, but chipped in an assist in a 5-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks. He also buzzed around the net a lot.

Brunnstrom now will get another game at right wing on the fourth line tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. If he continues to play well, you might see his name start to creep up higher in the forward lines – since Detroit coach Mike Babcock has said before that Brunnstrom has the talent to be a top-six forward.

For now, he's content with playing on the fourth line and providing energy.

"It's a great team with a lot of good players, so when I get a chance, I have to take that chance and try to do something good," Brunnstrom said. "You have to take every day one day at a time and just do the best you can. It's professional hockey. You can't take a break and just have to keep pushing every day."

That includes driving to the net and doing some of the dirty work that he wasn't always used to handling back in Sweden.

"Those are the things I've been trying to do a little bit more since I came over here," Brunnstrom said. "It's hard to score goals, but if you go to the net you give yourself a better chance."

Babcock, pleased to hear him say that, hopes that becomes as contagious in the Wings' locker room as whatever flu bug appears to be going around.

"Let's hope he spreads the word," Babcock said.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:10 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Blackhawks

Here are the projected lineups as Ken Hitchcock gets set to coach his first game for the St. Louis Blues, tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Scottrade Center:

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

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak will make his third straight start, with Brian Elliott as the backup.

BLACKHAWKS
Michael Frolik - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Sharp
Daniel Carcillo - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Andrew Brunette - Dave Bolland - Rostislav Olesz
Viktor Stalberg - Marcus Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Nick Leddy
Steve Montador - John Scott

Corey Crawford gets the start; Ray Emery is the backup.

Chicago, coming off a 6-2 loss at home against Vancouver on Sunday, has tweaked its lineup and knows the Blues will come hard playing their first game with a new coach.

"When you look at a team and they make a coaching change, you want to make sure you are ready against that team because they're going to show they want to play for the new coach," Hossa said. "They want to bring out all the emotions, all the energy. They'll be ready. We're going to have to play smart against this team. It's never easy to play in this building.

Said coach Joel Quenneville, "We expect them to be excited. On our side of it, we want a response to our game from Sunday night. There's a lot of motovation on both sides. We expect both sides to be hungry and ready to play. It should make for a good game."

The Hawks' lineup against the Blues includes the return of Keith, who missed the last four games with a hand injury.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:06 PM

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

Oh captain … no captain?

DETROIT -- One of the first things that stands out about the Colorado Avalanche roster is the lack of a "C" next to any of the names.

Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny both have an "A" next to their names, as alternate captains, but there's no "C," and might not be a captain for some time.

"It's still a process that will play itself out here at some point," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "When? I don't know, but it's a process that's playing itself out. We have a number of good leaders in this dressing room and that's why we're doing that right now. It will play itself out when it's the right time."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:02 PM

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

Colorado's Wilson making presence felt with physicality

DETROIT -- Word is starting to get around the League that you'd better keep your head up on the ice whenever hard-checking Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson is out there.

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Wilson has been paired with hard-hitting 6-5, 234-pound Ryan O'Byrne and the pair is making life difficult for opponents trying to get past them. They're also adding some offense for the Avs as the team's third defense pair -- O'Byrne chipping in a goal and 2 assists to go with a goal and 7 assists for Wilson.

Their hits, however, is where they really make their mark -- especially Wilson, whom teammate Matt Duchene said is "one of best open-ice hitters I've ever seen."

"What he brings is pretty simple," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "He brings an edge to the game and keeps the opponents on their toes when they're on the ice. He's one of those guys who, when you look at his name on the (scouting report), you'd better have your head up when he's on the ice. That's the type of players he is."

More often than not, that physicality to his game helps keep the puck out of the Colorado net, as Wilson leads the Avs with a plus-7 rating.

"He seems to always be a guy who's a plus player," Sacco said. "Last year, before we hit a bit of a tailspin, he was by far our plus/minus leader. He's dependable and he's also chipping in with some points, which is a bonus for us."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:00 PM

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

Backstrom gets chance to reclaim Wild net

CALGARY -- Yesterday Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding was named the NHL's First Star of the Week after winning all three starts and posting a 0.99 goals against average and .968 save percentage.

Today he'll get some rest and serve as backup to Niklas Backstrom as the Wild take on the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"It's not Backstrom over Harding," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of the decision in the crease. "When Hards was rolling we wanted to give him a chance to go but didn't want Backs sitting on the bench for two weeks and then all of a sudden throw him in the lineup and expect him to perform at the same level that he has. We eyed this as a game that would be a good opportunity for him to get back in there."

Backstrom's last start came on Oct. 27, a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

"I think that most people would agree having good goaltending is an important key to being successful as a team and without question it hasn't mattered who we put in the net," Yeo said. "Between Hards and Backy, both guys have gone in on their own turns and done a great job for us."

Cal Clutterbuck is questionable to play after suffering an injury in the second period of Saturday's game against the St. Louis Blues.

"We'll just see how I feel when I get up from my nap and decide if I'm going to take warm ups and then from there I'll decide if I play or not," Clutterbuck said.

Should he be unable to go, Warren Peters will slide into the lineup. Peters was called up from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League earlier today.

While Clutterbuck isn't certain to play, the Flames will be aided in tonight's game by the return of David Moss.

Moss missed Calgary’s 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche Sunday after blocking a shot against the Buffalo Sabres two nights prior.

"I feel good," Moss said after the morning skate. "I was able to skate today so I feel good to go. It happens and it's part of the game. Maybe (I'll) learn how to block shots better."

Flames coach Brent Sutter confirmed Moss' place in the lineup if he feels ready to go.

"If he's ready to play he's going to play," Sutter said. "He's a big part of our forward group up front and he seems like he's feeling quite a bit better today so it's a good sign."

Mikael Backlund is nearing his season debut for the Flames, but it wont be in tonight's game against Minnesota.

"Expect him soon," Sutter said of Backlund, who is recovering from a broken pinky finger. "We're going to continue to take it day-to-day here, get him through a few practices, but he's getting really close."

Backlund all but confirmed he was ready to go as soon as Calgary's coaching staff deemed fit.

"Obviously I want to play all the time," he said. "I don't want to sit out. It's boring. It's frustrating when you can't help the team. I've been pretty patient and positive all the time and I'll keep doing it until I get my chance to play again."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 2:57 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flames, Wild

Here are the projected lineups for when the Calgary Flames face the Minnesota Wild tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome:

FLAMES
Alex TanguayRoman HorakJarome Iginla
Curtis GlencrossOlli JokinenRene Bourque
Niklas HagmanMatt StajanLee Stempniak
Tom KostopoulosDavid MossTim Jackman

Jay BouwmeesterChris Butler
Mark GiordanoScott Hannan
Derek SmithAnton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson

WILD

Guillaume LatendresseMikko KoivuDany Heatley
Devin SetoguchiMatt CullenPierre-Marc Bouchard
Cal ClutterbuckKyle BrodziakNick Johnson
Colton GilliesDarroll PoweBrad Staubitz

Nick SchultzMarek Zidlicky
Marco ScandellaJared Spurgeon
Justin FalkNate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 2:56 PM

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

Avs pleased with Duchene’s play at left wing

DETROIT -- Searching for a way to unlock some of Matt Duchene's untapped offensive potential, Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco recently moved the talented center to left wing on the team's top line.

The results have been good, at least initially, so don't expect Duchene to go back to the middle anytime soon if the production of the new lines keeps up. Duchene, playing on the left side of star center Paul Stastny and right wing Milan Hejduk, has 3 goals and 5 points since the switch -- including a hat trick against the Dallas Stars last Friday.

The trio will try to keep it going tonight night at Joe Louis Arena against the Detroit Red Wings.

"I'm not thinking about it too much," Duchene said. "If I get put back at center, I know what to do with my own end at center. I know how to play it. I've played it my whole life. It's natural.  Wing … I'm getting used to, but I think it makes you a more versatile player. If I can be a good winger, I get to play with (Stastny), you know? He and I can play on the same line. If I'm not very good on the wing, I'm not able to do that. It just adds a different element to our team."

That’s the exciting part for Duchene, who had just 2 goals and 5 points in 12 games before the switch. He looks around the League like anyone else and sees how superstars on other teams often are paired because of that versatility.

"It's just like (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg here (in Detroit)," he said. "They're versatile and able to play on each other's wings when they need them to. Same with (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) in Chicago. Those types of great players, in terms of positionally, you want to model your game after."

While those pairs have been split recently -- Kane centers the second line in Chicago, while Datsyuk and Zetterberg mostly play on separate lines -- Duchene on the wing is working for the Avs and Sacco is happy to see it.

"I don't know if it created some excitement for him, I'm not sure, but there's definitely been some positive results individually for him," Sacco said of Duchene. "I'm looking at the big picture, though. I'm looking at what's best for the team here and right now that's what's best for the team, as well. That's a line that we can go to offensively."

As for the move coming as a message about his play, Duchene said it's nothing new to him, if that's the case.

"That's always happened to me," he said. "Since I've been there that's always been the case. It's been the case with almost everybody, just sending a message. Sometimes I'm not as careful with the puck as I should be. I'm a creative guy and sometimes that takes over a little too much. I try stuff that maybe I shouldn't. I'm always going to be creative, but I've just got to know how to manage it."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 2:45 PM

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

Boxing legend Frazier touched Emery's life

ST. LOUIS -- When the news of the passing of boxing great Joe Frazier came down, it touched many lives, including that of Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery.

Frazier, who died Monday from liver cancer, had many fans all over the globe, but Emery is one that carried Frazier with him to the rink every day.

Emery, who has played for the Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks and now the Blackhawks, had a depiction of Frazier and fellow boxing great Bernard Hopkins on his goalie mask. They were caricatures that stayed with him all through his career that Emery was proud to display.

"Those guys for the most part kind of had a tough, tough go of it as far as the sport goes," Emery said. "I think it's a good thing how the sport's progressed now as far as head injuries and things like that. They kind of take better care of their athletes now."

Emery, who took an interest in boxing when he was young, met the 67-year-old Frazier while he was playing with the Flyers.
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Quote of the Day

You get the right whistles at the right times, you can leave him out there. He's a beast when it comes to being on the ice. I thought [Saturday] he was a big man. That first period, he did that lateral cut and it was like three bowling pins bounced off him. There's not too many guys that can do that.

— Capitals coach Barry Trotz on Alex Ovechkin, who enters February tied for the NHL lead in goals