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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 5:33 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Predators at Sharks

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will return to the lineup when they play the Nashville Predators at SAP Center on Saturday.

Vlasic missed the final two periods Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers and the game Thursday against the Minnesota Wild with an upper-body injury.

The Sharks won the two games, and coach Todd McLellan was asked what he learned about them during those victories minus Vlasic.

"To be honest, we learned that we want him back," McLellan said after the morning skate. "And that's not a shot at the rest of them. Marc-Edouard's just that solid. He means that much to our team, his presence out there, the way he carries himself in the locker room, his ability to play in all situations. He's essential, but the fact that we could pinch hit without him was a real positive. It gave some others an opportunity for ice time and we found ways to win. So that was important."

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 5:23 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Canada to hold scrimmage at WJC camp

Canada will hold a scrimmage at its World Junior Camp in Toronto on Saturday.

"It's a big game; it's the first game for all of us here at camp and we're all looking to make that good first impression in front of all the management staff here," forward Michael Dal Colle told TSN. "So it's a pretty big game for all of us."

The 30-player roster will soon be reduced to 22 in preparation for the tournament, which begins for Canada on Dec. 26. Its final roster is due the day before.

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 4:12 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blues at Avalanche

DENVER -- Paul Stastny found it necessary to follow his St. Louis Blues teammates in order to find the visitors’ locker room at Pepsi Center on Saturday.

"I didn't know which entrance to go in, I didn't know where the change rooms were," said Stastny.

The 28-year-old will play against the Colorado Avalanche for the first time since leaving in free agency and signing a four-year, $28 million contract with the Blues.

"A lot of guys go through this in their careers at least once," he said. "I'm excited, it'll be fun. I have a lot of family and friends here, so it should be a good time. I'll just try to have fun with it and enjoy it."

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 3:57 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Rangers at Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins has been praised for his consistency throughout his first two months on the job, sticking with his lineup through slumps and mistakes.

So it’s probably not a coincidence his first significant line juggling comes after the first three-game losing streak of the season.

Coming off a 0-2-1 finish to a seven-game road trip, Desjardins is dropping Radim Vrbata from the top line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, and moving him down to a struggling second line centered by Nick Bonino. Rather than re-uniting Alexandre Burrows with the Sedins, however, Desjardins is moving Jannik Hansen up from the fourth line to the first, and dropping Chris Higgins from the second to fourth.

With Shawn Matthias playing on the third line after missing the past two games with a head injury, all four Vancouver lines will have a new look against the New York Rangers on Saturday night.

"I don’t think it's shocking," captain Henrik Sedin said. "I wouldn't call it a wake-up call either. I don’t think the changes are major. It’s moving one player off each line pretty much and that’s no problem. It’s when you see changes after one period in each and every game and you never get any familiarity with guys, that’s when it's tough."

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 3:29 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Wild at Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Scoring was a cause of concern before the season began for the Arizona Coyotes and has proven true during a disappointing 10-16-3 start.

The recent 1-6-1 slump is part of a string of eight consecutive home losses at Gila River Arena (0-6-2). The last four home games, including a 5-1 loss against the Nashville Predators Thursday, have seen the Coyotes outscored 17-3 and losing each game by at least three goals. Most of the third periods have been non-competitive.

But coach Dave Tippett, who has avoided long losing streaks during his coaching career by emphasizing core values, continues to hammer home the same point to his team: Until the strengths of the Coyotes – defense and goaltending – start to improve, any offensive improvement is even further away.

"To win in this league on a consistent basis you have to be able to defend and you need good goaltending – which both play into good penalty killing," Tippett said. "Those are the aspects that make you win, and we haven’t had enough of that this season."

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 1:47 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Ducks at Jets

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets will have left wing Evander Kane back in their lineup when they host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Kane served a two-game suspension this week for his hit from behind on Anaheim defenseman Clayton Stoner at MTS Centre on Dec. 7. The suspension was the first of Kane’s career.

Kane, who has four goals this season, will skate with center Adam Lowry and right wing Matt Halischuk against the Ducks, who won their sixth consecutive game 4-2 against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 1:32 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blackhawks at Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Chicago Blackhawks will be at full strength up front Saturday when they try for their ninth consecutive victory.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who left the Blackhawks’ 3-2 road victory against the Boston Bruins on Thursday in the second period after being checked face-first into the end boards, took part in the morning skate and will be in the lineup against the New York Islanders.

“I feel great,” said Toews, who has a history of concussions. “I felt fine after the hit and in the third period, but the training staff held me back as a precaution.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews was kept out of the remainder of the game against the Bruins after the hit by defenseman Dennis Seidenberg as a precaution. “He wanted to play,” Quenneville said. “But there are certain protocols you have to go through. We followed it and he’s ready to go.”

Chicago has been on a tear for nearly a month. The Blackhawks have won eight in a row, 11 of 12, and 13 of 15 games since Nov. 9. They’ve moved into first place in the Central Division and are second in the overall standings.

“Consistency,” Quenneville said when asked what he’s liked about his team’s play. “I like the four-line rotation; real solid across the board and everybody’s playing the right way. The penalty-killing has been great; our goaltending all year has been excellent. We’ve got a little momentum, a little excitement within our team right now. Everybody’s excited about playing games. We’ve got a little confidence that we didn’t see earlier in the year.”

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 1:02 PM

By Craig Merz -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Penguins at Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS – Star attractions will be missing, but that shouldn’t diminish the intensity when the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday for the first time since their First Round series in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Penguins (19-6-3) defeated the Blue Jackets 4-3 on April 28 to win the best-of-seven series 4-2 and the Blue Jackets haven’t forgotten.

“They’re the team [that] knocked us out last year and ended our season,” Columbus left wing Matt Calvert said. “We want to win against them as much as we can. I know our fans love it when we beat these guys. Being so close [geographically] it builds that rivalry.”

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 12:55 PM

By Adam Vingan -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Lightning at Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Part of what allowed the Washington Capitals to develop into Stanley Cup contenders several seasons ago was their distinct home-ice advantage. Between the 2008-09 and 2013-14 seasons, the Capitals’ 146 home victories were fourth-most in the NHL.

This season, however, Verizon Center has been too welcoming to opposing teams.

Washington has a 5-5-4 record at home, having lost four of its last five at Verizon Center entering its game Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It is the Capitals’ worst home start in seven years.

“I can’t put my finger on it,” Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “I’m sure there’s got to be a difference. I don’t know what it is.”

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Posted On Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 12:41 PM

By Joe Yerdon -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Panthers at Sabres

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres are seeking their fifth consecutive win but will have to beat a Florida Panthers team on Saturday that they haven’t had much success against recently to do it.

The Sabres have lost five consecutive to the Panthers and four straight at First Niagara Center. The Sabres dropped a 3-2 decision to the Panthers Dec. 6 in Sunrise.

"Last game we put a ton of shots on net and had really good chances," Sabres forward Cody Hodgson said. "Either [Roberto Luongo or Al Montoya] will be a challenge tonight. Hopefully we get a lot of puck on the net and keep the offense rolling."

Hodgson will re-enter the Sabres lineup after he was a healthy scratch against the Calgary Flames on Thursday. He takes the place of Cody McCormick who is out with a lower-body injury. Hodgson skated on a line with Chris Stewart and Patrick Kaleta at practice on Friday.

"We’ve got the [Zemgus] Girgensons line going now and we’ve got the [Torrey] Mitchell line going," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "We’re just kind of finding those mixtures there. If we get [Drew] Stafford continuing to play, we’ll get that mixture going. You never know what will get Cody going from within."

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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic