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Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 2:48 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Spezza out for Senators, Briere back for Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza will have to wait one more game before returning from his hip flexor injury.

With his teammates winning without him, there's really no rush for Spezza to get back.

Spezza will miss his fourth straight game Saturday when the Senators take on the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre seeking a fourth straight victory.

The Senators play their next game Wednesday on the road against the Colorado Avalanche, so missing this game gives Spezza an additional four days to rest and rehabilitate his injury.

"If we absolutely needed him to play the game we could have had him play the game," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "We just felt with four more days before we play in Colorado we should err on the side of caution. For sure the expectation is on Wednesday he'll be 100 percent and stay in the lineup. To play him tonight and have him get re-injured didn't make a whole lot of sense to us."

Spezza took part in his first full practice with the team Friday and said afterwards he felt good, but MacLean said he is not yet fully recovered to play, though he denied the team's success in Spezza's absence had anything to do with the decision to sit him out.

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 2:47 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blues getting healthier with Backes, Leopold back

ST. LOUIS -- The list of walking wounded for the St. Louis Blues got a lot shorter in time for an inter-conference matchup Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

David Backes will make his return after sitting out the past three games with an undisclosed upper-body injury, and defenseman Jordan Leopold, who has been out of the lineup since Nov. 7 with ligament damage in his right hand, will mark his return to the lineup after missing the past 26 games.

Backes, who's missed five of the previous eight games with two separate upper-body injuries, has skated regularly the past five days. He has 16 goals and 30 points in 35 games.

"Better than yesterday, and that's a good sign," Backes said when asked how he's feeling. "Hopefully good enough to find my way into the lineup. It's always a fluid situation, but feeling good and hopefully that's the case.

"It's tough. It's not something I'm accustomed to. It's tough watching the games, but the guys have been putting it on the line and winning games and you love to see that. They've done a phenomenal job, different guys stepping up, different guys taking on different roles and responsibilities and flourishing in them. You love to see that we do have that depth when guys do go down."

Leopold's original anticipated time frame was eight weeks from the time he had hand surgery, which was a few days after his injury occurred. But with the elevated play of Ian Cole and Carlo Colaiacovo as the Blues' third defensive pairing, the Blues were able to give Leopold, 33, some more time.

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 2:32 PM

By Steve Hunt - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Datsyuk a game-time decision for Red Wings

DALLAS -- Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk participated in the morning skate Saturday in advance of the game against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

However, Datsyuk is a game-time decision.

"Yeah, we'll see tonight who plays," was all Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had to say about his lineup.

Datsyuk did not practice on Friday, an absence termed a "maintenance day" by Babcock.

If Datsyuk doesn't play, Luke Glendening, who has been centering Detroit's fourth line, might be in line to move up and Mikael Samuelsson would draw back into the lineup.

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 2:29 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Coyotes captain Doan returns, Ekman-Larsson sits

GLENDALE, Ariz. – For the first time in a month, the Phoenix Coyotes will have their captain in the lineup Saturday. And his team could use the boost as they play host to the Philadelphia Flyers at Arena.

Shane Doan remains Phoenix's leading goal scorer, despite missing the past 12 games with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, an ailment likely brought on by a tick bite. That shows how much the Coyotes, who were 4-3-5 during Doan's absence, missed the presence and firepower of their leader.

The Coyotes didn't have a morning skate so where Doan plays isn't known. But it's a good bet that he can help any line even as he works his way back into playing shape.

"It adds another top player to our group, but we have to be realistic in the expectations [for Saturday]," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "He's worked awful hard to get back but he's missed a month. We'll see how many minutes he'll play. It will be more about watching that asking."

"Before he went out we had some pretty good rhythm in our lines. Hopefully we can get that back."

Doan was happy after getting clearance from the doctors on Friday and doesn't want to waste any more time.

"I think my energy level is high enough to go. I've done enough that I'm not worried about that," Doan said Friday. "I want to play. We've been involved in so many tight games lately and it's hard to watch when you want to help out.

"I know I'm going to do as much as I can and go as hard as I can. I know I can contribute. I'll be a little rusty, but I've skated five or six times now and that's enough."

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 2:03 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild lose Spurgeon, still without Harding

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild will be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for the foreseeable future after the team put him on injured reserve with a lower-body injury Saturday before the final game of a four-game homestand against the Washington Capitals.

Spurgeon, who elevated to the Wild’s top pairing with Ryan Suter earlier this week, was hurt while blocking a shot in a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. He never missed a shift during the game but did not practice Friday, elevating concerns that he could be hurt.

With Spurgeon out, Wild coach Mike Yeo will reunite the pairing of Suter and Jonas Brodin, who have played together for much of the past two seasons. Nate Prosser will step into Spurgeon’s old role next to Marco Scandella on Minnesota’s second pairing. Prosser has two assists in 17 games this season but will add some size and grit.

"It’s a great opportunity for [Prosser]," Yeo said. In the past, he’s shown the kind of stability and defensive game that we need to go against top lines."

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 1:50 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers coach Horachek faces old boss, friend

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Barry Trotz and Peter Horachek reminisced about their nine years working together with the Nashville Predators when they went to dinner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Friday night.

It's all business Saturday, though, when the Predators face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center and Trotz goes up against his former right-hand man for the first time.

"Obviously we didn't share any secrets," said Trotz, the only coach the Predators have had since they joined the NHL in 1998. "That's taboo. It was the first time I got to see Peter since he left the organization. I would do the same if it was vice versa or he was coming to Nashville. We just caught up on old times."

Horachek was an assistant on Trotz's staff for the past nine seasons, serving as associate coach the last two.

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 1:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

German forward Laub suspended one game

Forward Lukas Laub of the German National Junior Team was suspended one game by the International Ice Hockey Federation disciplinary panel Saturday for his hit on Norway defenseman Erlend Lesund on Friday in Game 2 of the relegation round at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship at Malmo Isstadion in Sweden.

Laub will miss the final game for his country as a result of the suspension that occurred in the second period of Germany's 4-3 win. Germany and Norway play in the third and final game of the relegation round on Sunday at 6 a.m. ET to determine which team will remain in the top level at the 2015 WJC in Toronto and Montreal. The best-of-3 series is tied, 1-1.

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 1:02 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Jovanovski erases doubts, excited for return

SUNRISE, Fla. — Ed Jovanovski admitted Saturday morning there were several times during the past several months when he wondered whether he would ever play another NHL game.

His perseverance has paid off, and the Florida Panthers captain is set to make his season debut Saturday against the Nashville Predators at BB&T Center.

"I'm excited, for sure," Jovanovski said after the Panthers' morning skate. "It's been a long while. For me, there's been a lot of days where it beats up on you, but it's all worth it for having the opportunity to play a game again."

Jovanovski will be playing his first game after having hip resurfacing surgery April 5. He played six games last season, none after March 16.

The veteran defenseman first was injured Jan. 29 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and missed 22 games. He came back for the one game in March against the New York Islanders, but his return lasted less than two periods.

"For the most part, I remained positive throughout this whole process, listened to the doctors, listened to our trainers," Jovanovski said. "I was on a pretty good program to get to where I am today. Hopefully all that hard work and all the listening that I had hopefully is going to pay off for me."

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 12:32 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Konopka eager for debut with Sabres

BUFFALO – The Buffalo Sabres will have a bit of a new look Saturday night when they play host to the New Jersey Devils at First Niagara Center.

Newly acquired forward Zenon Konopka will be in the lineup and forward Ville Leino will be out with a nagging lower-body injury. Konopka was picked up off waivers from the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

"I pride myself on other players not wanting to play against me," Konopka said. "Not just because of the fighting and hitting but just overall strength. I’m looking forward to that and also the penalty kill. I killed a lot early in Minnesota and kind of everywhere else I’ve been."

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said Konopka will likely start on a line with John Scott and Matt Ellis. Rookie defenseman Brayden McNabb will also play against the Devils. Alexander Sulzer will be scratched.

Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 11:13 AM

By Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche forward Tanguay could have surgery

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he would know early next week whether injured right wing Alex Tanguay will need hip surgery.

Tanguay has been sidelined since he sustained knee and hip injuries in a Nov. 2 game against the Montreal Canadiens.

"Monday or Tuesday will be a big test for him," Roy said. "He's going to skate and if it goes well, we'll keep going [with his rehab program]. If it's not, then we're probably going to have to have surgery for his hip. That's where we are."

The Avalanche have gone 2-0-1 in the first three games of their seven-game homestand heading into the game Saturday against the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center.

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It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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