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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 3:12 PM

By Sergei J. Feldman -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Hawks' Shaw, Hayes making impact

Move over Jonathan Toews, and take Patrick Kane with you.

There's a new tandem in town.

They go by the name of Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes, two Chicago Blackhawks rookies who have done nothing but impress since being penciled in on the NHL roster.

The surprisingly dynamic duo has combined for nine goals, four assists and 13 points in 18 games, and both have shown a propensity to participate in the more physical elements of the game, as Shaw dropped the gloves in his first game, while Hayes has amassed six PIMs in his brief stint. Couple those hard-to-find attributes with an obvious scoring touch and knack for creativity and you've got yourself a complete NHL package.

Success at the highest level wasn't written in stone for the two youngsters, as both were selected outside the first round (Hayes, 60th overall; Shaw, 139th overall). Nowadays, both players are riding their dark horses to a photo finish of marvelous play.

In the case of Shaw (5 goals, 6 points, 7 PIMs, plus-1, 19 shots), it doesn't hurt to be playing alongside Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger in place of the injured Patrick Sharp. Shaw is currently riding a four-game goal and point-scoring streak and is recently coming off a multi-point night against Buffalo. His numbers so far are staggering, especially when compared with modest AHL outputs. In 33 games with the Rockford IceHogs, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound 20-year-old scored 12 goals and collected 21 points.

With the way he's dazzling night in, night out, it shouldn't be a surprise to see Shaw's ownership in standard Yahoo! Leagues to go up from his current three percent.

Hayes (4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, 6 PIMs, 16 shots), meanwhile, has points in three of his past four games, including two multi-point nights. He's getting no fewer than 16 shifts a night in his past seven games and is making the most of his opportunities.

Owned in one percent of standard Yahoo! Leagues, Hayes could be a nice addition to any roster, especially as the Blackhawks continue a strong 2011-12 campaign.

Continue to follow the unlikely story, but don't be left behind by other more active fantasy owners, as the chance to jump at both could no longer be available in short order.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:56 PM

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

Steen still not ready for Blues

ST. LOUIS -- For the second time in a week, the St. Louis Blues were anticipating the return of winger Alex Steen to the lineup.

And for the second time, it's been determined that Steen (concussion-related symptoms) is not quite ready to return.

Steen will miss his 10th consecutive game when the Blues (27-12-6) entertain the Edmonton Oilers (17-24-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM). Steen continues to skate, and even took part in a full-scale workout Wednesday at St. Louis Mills, determining himself to be "close." But after Thursday's morning skate, the Blues said he's not at 100 percent.

"Steen's not 100 percent and he's not coming in until he's 100 percent, so the next update we'll give you which ... who knows, will be when he's in," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's a very similar situation with Andy (McDonald). He's not 100, so he's not playing.

"He's had good days, but until he's 100 (percent) with that injury, we're not taking any chances. ... He's participating in everything, but this is 100 percent physically, 100 percent mentally and if it's 95 or 99, we're not taking any chances. We want this to be 100 percent, so if it's on a conditioning side where we're concerned with where there's kind of soreness the next day or he's missed a time and hit the wall, we're not taking any chances. We want the player for long-term so we'll keep him out and keep working him hard like we are now."

The good news for the Blues is that defenseman Kris Russell (groin) will make his return after missing nine games.

Russell, who has five points in 21 games with the Blues, will replace Ian Cole in the lineup.

"I didn't want to push it if I wasn't feeling right, but it felt good," Russell said after the morning skate. "Obviously a little bit of tightness in it, but I'm fully confident in my skating ability now. It should be good."

Hitchcock is one that if a player is ready to play, he's in; so there won't be any type of easing Russell back in.

"Hitch is always like that," Russell said. "If you're ready to go, you better execute and play within the system, be an effective player. That's what I want to do."

So for Russell, it's just do what he does best.

"Mostly it's just simplifying your game," Russell said. "Try not to do much, make quick first outlet passes, be sharp on the puck and let your game evolve from there. That's what I'm going to try and do."

With Alex Steen out of the lineup, the St. Louis Blues will keep things as they have been the last handful or so games. That means Matt D'Agostini will stay in a top-six role with Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie, while David Perron moves back up with David Backes and Chris Stewart.

That means the return of the 'Kid Line' will have to wait for the time being.

"We'll just go back to flipping him (D'Agostini) and flipping Perron back in with Backes and go back to where we were before," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If we get in a situation like we did in the third period (Monday) where we think we need Oshie's energy and a little bit different role, then we'll go back to that.

"Oshie's been good wherever we play him. The thing that concerned me the last game, the (Backes) line was spending too much time on their heels. They were defending too much. It was too conservative. Wherever you play Oshie, it's not going to be a conservative group. You'll be on the forecheck all night. He created the energy that the line came with and he did a helluva job."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:48 PM

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

Edmonton's Hall discusses facial injury

ST. LOUIS -- The Edmonton Oilers, who have suffered as many freakish injuries as any team in the NHL, addressed the strangest one of all, that of winger Taylor Hall, who suffered a scary cut to his head after being cut by a skate blade of teammate Corey Potter during pregame warmups Tuesday in Columbus.

Hall, who has 15 goals and 31 points in 36 games this season, accidentally stepped on a puck near the Oilers' goal, wiped out teammate Ladislav Smid in the process before being accidentally stepped on by Potter.

Hall received 30 stitches on the left side of his head and is sporting a black eye and swelling around the eye. He was not wearing a helmet when the incident occurred.

"I'm feeling better every day," said Hall, who will not play Thursday night. "From the time it happened and the freezing came out, it's pretty painful. But I'm not feeling too much pain now. I got some exercise in this morning and it held up. My face didn't swell up too much. I'm looking forward to getting back as soon as possible.

"I didn't feel too much pain (when the incident occurred). I thought it was just kind of a little cut. I knew right away when the blood was coming out pretty bad that it was serious. I just tried to get in the (locker) room as soon as possible and slow the bleeding down."

Hall said there's an outside chance he plays when the Oilers return home to face Calgary on Saturday.

"I'd like to think that I can try and play on Saturday against Calgary, but that's not for sure by any means. I want to get a helmet on and see how that feels and get a couple bumps in. There's no for sure when I'm going to play."

Oilers coach Tom Renney said there are no major repercussions with Hall.

"He certainly feels a lot better. He slept well for two nights now," Renney said. "The wound looks really good ... for me.

"The bottom line is it's a matter of impact and whether not the stitches might open up or whatever if in fact he gets hit. It's kind of a day-to-day thing. I know he would tell you he's ready to go tonight in talking to him. ... He's had no head issues whatsoever. He slept well, his appetite's good, no dizziness, nothing like that whatsoever. It's a matter of the healing of the wound."

What was Hall's reaction when he saw himself in a mirror for the first time?

"It doesn't look good, that's for sure," he said. "I looked a lot better before.

"What can you do? I said to someone this morning that it's lucky and it's unlucky at the same time. You can say that I'm lucky that I didn't get my eye taken out or my throat sliced or I'm just unlucky because something like this has never happened in the history of the sport with guys that have not worn a helmet in warmups. ... It's kind of the way the injuries have gone for this team."

Potter was shaken up before the game Tuesday but is obviously relieved his teammate is fine.

"Now that I know he's doing well, things are starting to calm down here and feeling a little better. I'm just happy that he's alright," Potter said. "... The guys in the locker room after warmups were definitely letting me know that it's alright. It was just kind of a freak accident and not to take it personally. They were there to back me up for sure."

The Colorado Avalanche issued a release stating that they are mandating all their players to wear helmets during pregame warmups. It might become a trend in the wake of the Hall incident.

"We're discussing that internally right now," Renney said. "You'll see everyone on with a helmet tonight.

"I'm not sure it's a (NHLPA) issue. Obviously they have a voice that we should all pay attention to. At the same time, at the end of the day, if this is what I want as a head coach or we as an organization, we do it."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:44 PM

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

Probable lineups for Blues vs. Oilers

Thursday night's probable lineups between the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers:

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

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

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak is 9-0-3 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in his past 12 starts, will get his sixth start in the past eight games Thursday night. He has shutouts in two of his previous three starts.
Forward Andy McDonald (concussion) and defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) remain on injured reserve. Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) was expected to play Thursday night but will not after taking part in morning skate. Healthy scratches include defenseman Ian Cole and forward Chris Porter.

OILERS

Jordan Eberle - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones
Anton Lander - Josh Green - Magnus Paajarvi
Darcy Hordichuk - Ryan O'Marra - Ben Eager

Ladislav Smid - Corey Potter
Andy Sutton - Jeff Petry
Theo Peckham - Colten Teubert

Nikolai Khabibulin
Devan Dubnyk

The laundry list of injured players for the Oilers is a long one. Included are defensemen Cam Barker (ankle), Ryan Whitney (ankle) and Tom Gilbert (knee), center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), center Eric Belanger (leg) and winger Taylor Hall (facial laceration).
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets return home needing to collect points

WINNIPEG -- Which Winnipeg Jets team will show up when the Buffalo Sabres visit the MTS Centre tonight remains to be seen.

Will it be the Jets club that spun off a 10-3-1 record in December, with nine of those wins coming on home ice? Or will it be the team that owns a 2-6-0 record in January, the most recent loss a dismal 5-1 showing at New Jersey on Tuesday night?

The Jets (21-20-5) sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, five points out of a playoff spot, and desperately need to collect points at home this week. After tonight's visit from the Sabres, the Florida Panthers visit Winnipeg on Friday before the Jets play eight of their next nine games on the road over the next three weeks.

The Jets received some good news on Thursday with the return of Blake Wheeler to the lineup. Wheeler missed two games after taking a puck to his throat last Saturday at home against New Jersey. Defensemen Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien and Derek Meech all remain out with injuries.

Ondrej Pavelec will return to the Winnipeg net after veteran Chris Mason received consecutive starts on the Jets' two-game road trip through Ottawa and New Jersey.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg:

JETS
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Antti Miettinen - Alexander Burmistrov - Eric Fehr

Tobias Enstrom - Ron Hainsey
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones
Johnny Oduya - Mark Flood

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sabres aim to snap 10-game road losing streak

WINNIPEG -- A 10-game road losing streak has left the Buffalo Sabres' season barely clinging to life.

What has been a disastrous week for the Sabres (19-22-5) continues tonight in Winnipeg. The Sabres followed a 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings with a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks before heading to Winnipeg having lost three consecutive games. With just two wins in January and in the midst of a seven-game road trip, the Sabres are nine points behind the eighth-place Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference race.

Injures have battered the Buffalo lineup. The Sabres’ blue line is missing three regulars in Christian Ehrhoff, Brayden McNabb and Robyn Regehr. Up front, Tyler Ennis and Colin Stuart both have missed 14 games.

The Sabres did not hold a morning skate in Winnipeg, but Ryan Miller is expected to return to the Buffalo net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Buffalo:

SABRES
Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Drew Stafford - Derek Roy - Nathan Gerbe
Luke Adam - Brad Boyes - Ville Leino
Matt Ellis - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Andrej Sekera - Tyler Myers
T.J. Brennan - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:04 PM

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

Jagr having fun, not rushing to decide NHL future

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr made one thing very clear in speaking with reporters this morning -- in his world, happiness comes before money.

Jagr, who has had an outstanding return to the NHL after three seasons in Russia -- 34 points in 38 games, a spot on the team's top line -- says he's having as much fun now as he ever has in his long career.

"Everything right now is good and nobody is panicking," Jagr said. "That's what I like, nobody's panicking. We lose, coach has confidence, we don't panic, we don't switch lines. Our line didn't play good for four games, nobody panicked. Coach (Peter Laviolette) said to us, 'You have to play better,' but no panicking."

He's having so much fun a month shy of his 40th birthday that he said he'd be amenable to signing another one-year contract with the Flyers -- assuming things stay the way they are.

"I don't think it'll be a problem to make something here," he said.

Jagr did say, however, he's in no rush to sign any contract extension now. He's still not completely healed from the nagging groin injury that kept him out four games in November and two more in January. He'd said he'd rather wait until the end of the season and see how he feels and where he thinks he fits with the team.

"I don't want to talk about it because we've got 40 games to go and the playoffs," he said. "I just want to let it go. If I'm going to play good, I don’t think it's going to be a problem."

And Jagr said money won't be the biggest issue with him.

"If it would just be money, I wouldn't be here," he said. "Why would I come here when I get twice or three times as much in Russia and play 50 games? I came here just to play. Can you buy happiness for two years? Are you going to take the risk to go somewhere else and not be happy? I want to be happy. At my stage, I want to come to work and be happy. There's lots of places where the guys don't like each other, but they have to come (to the rink) because that's their job. I don't want that at my stage.

"We play good, have a lot of young guys, having a lot of fun. The coach is great, organization is great. It's like a family."

And to that extended family -- the Flyers' fans -- he says not to worry about next season.

"They don't have to worry," he said. "If I'm going to play good, I'll probably be here."

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

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Dennis Ryan -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild, Maple Leafs must find way back into fast lane

TORONTO -- Expect to see two desperate teams at Air Canada Centre tonight, as the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Minnesota Wild. Both teams are struggling lately and sit in ninth place in their respective conferences, falling out of playoff positions they have held for much of the season. The Leafs have lost three straight games, while the Wild have lost 10 straight on the road and have won just two of their last 16 overall.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson isn't happy with the defensive play of his club and will split up the high-scoring combination of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul for the first time this season, coming off Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Ottawa when the top line was victimized for two key goals. Matthew Lombardi will join Tyler Bozak and Kessel, while Lupul will skate with Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri.

"We have to pay more attention to detail on defense," said Wilson, whose team has been outscored 9-4 on the current losing skid. "We have to stop the other teams. Sometimes you can't control how well the other goalie plays. All they hear here is 'secondary scoring, secondary scoring, you've got to score more goals.' If you're giving up three, yes you do; if you only give up one or two or none, you don't."

Wilson stressed that though the goaltender or defensemen often take the blame for goals against, the forwards are often just as culpable.

"Half the time it's a forward not getting the job done in the neutral zone or the offensive zone, a bad turnover, a poor decision, not backchecking properly or not winning a battle on the boards to help the 'D' get the puck out," he said.

With Mike Komisarek returning after one game in the press box, the defensive pairings will shift as well. Komisarek will play with Carl Gunnarsson, Dion Phaneuf joins Luke Schenn, and Jake Gardiner pairs with Cody Franson. Keith Aulie appears to be the odd man out.

Jonas Gustavsson, who gets the start in net, does not foresee any issues with the new pairings.

"I trust all our (defensemen)," Gustavsson said. "If I have to worry about who is out there I might lose focus on my own game. No matter who is out there I trust them to do their job and I'm going to focus on doing mine."

Of note for the Wild, goaltender Niklas Backstrom returns to action for the first time since Jan. 7, having missed the last four games with a stomach virus.

Coach Mike Yeo will make adjustments up front as well. With top center Mikko Koivu still sidelined with a shoulder injury, Warren Peters will get a shot at the top line between Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

Yeo is confident Peters can get the job done.

"Despite being very inexperienced in the NHL, he is an experienced player and has a pretty good idea of what his foundation is as a player and the way he has to play the game," Yeo said of Peters, who has played eight seasons in the AHL but just 62 career games in the NHL. "It's not an easy thing for a lot of players to get thrown up to the top line. It's important that he doesn't try to change his game or get outside of what he has to do, and we think he's capable of that."

Much like Wilson, Yeo wants his team to go back to defensive fundamentals to break out of its recent funk.

"We have to understand that we have a lot of skill guys out (Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Guillaume Latendresse). Offense isn't going to come as easily, so we have to have a much stronger focus on the defensive part of our game," Yeo said. "When we were winning games, we were a team that was real tough to play against defensively."

As for the Wild having fallen out of a playoff spot, Yeo had a quick answer.

"It’s not how you drive, it's how you arrive," he said.

Both the Wild and the Leafs need to get back in the fast lane soon, or their playoff hopes could be in jeopardy.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:53 PM

By Dennis Ryan -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild, Maple Leafs

Here's how the lines could look tonight when the Minnesota Wild visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre:

WILD
Devin Setoguchi - Warren Peters - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Casey Wellman
Darroll Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Brad Staubitz - Carson McMillan - David McIntyre

Marek Zidlicky - Nick Schultz
Mike Lundin - Greg Zanon
Clayton Stoner - Jared Spurgeon

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

MAPLE LEAFS
Matthew Lombardi - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Nazem Kadri
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joey Crabb - David Steckel - Mike Brown

Dion Phaneuf - Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson - Mike Komisarek
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 1:30 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Julien wants Bruins to raise intensity

NEWARK, N.J. -- Boston coach Claude Julien sat his team down Wednesday afternoon and went over some game film in great detail. The point he was trying to get across was simple.
 
"It was about finding our game again," Julien said Thursday morning from Prudential Center. "I think our level of play has dropped off and we just have to pick that up again. It's pretty obvious when you look back maybe a few weeks ago, just before Christmas, how we were playing and the inconsistency in our game since then. We're certainly trying to find that game we had going there for a while, and right now it's dropped off."
 
The Bruins are 6-4-0 in their past 10 games. It's a record most teams would accept, especially in the dog days of the season, after the holiday break and before the All-Star break.
 
"We're still above .500, but for us it's not good enough," Julien said.
 
He wants to see his team increase its battle level. He wants to see his team work just a little bit harder. He wants them to cut down on the goals against (11 in the last three games), and believes it can happen if they simply pick it up a notch.
 
"I'm avoiding using the word slump. It's not a slump. It's a dip in our play and we just have to pick it up," Julien said. "If we pick it up, we're going to be fine. But, what you learn to do is not panic. You want to push your players to battle through it, and as a coach when you've been around a team long enough, you'd like to think you know the right buttons to push."
 
Getting Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley, two energy and speed guys, back in the lineup for Thursday's game should help. However, Julien and the Bruins feel it's about more than just those two players; it's about matching the intensity that teams are bringing toward them on a nightly basis.
 
It hasn't happened enough for Julien's liking.
 
"We knew that from the start of the season that teams would be gunning for us. It's something that happens, a natural thing that happens with teams that have won a Cup," Julien said. "We responded well, we were playing some really solid hockey for a while, and there were a lot of games that we kind of ran away with. Teams all have pride and they all seek some sort of revenge."
 
For example, the Devils will be looking for revenge Thursday night after the Bruins came in here and thumped them, 6-1, on Jan. 4.
 
"When you come in here and beat the Devils 6-1, it's not something you see very often in this building, so we know they're going to be ready for us," Julien said. "We know revenge is on their mind and that's just a natural thing. We have to make sure we're ready to play as well as we can, because we know the other team will be."
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Quote of the Day

For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Rangers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 that will be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday