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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 12:28 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Spezza to play 600th game as Senators host Devils

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for Tuesday night's game between the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Place -- both teams held optional skates.

SENATORS

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Zenon Konopka - Zack Smith - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Ben Bishop
Alex Auld

Bobby Butler, Kaspars Daugavins and Matt Carkner are the healthy scratches.

Spezza will play in his 600th career game on Tuesday night. On Monday, the center served as pallbearer at the funeral of his childhood friend, Canadian freestyle skier, Nik Zoricic, who was killed during a World Cup event on Mar. 10.

"It's a good honor to play that many games, and it's good to see him do it," Chris Neil said. "He's a professional and he knows he has to step in and play -- and a big milestone like this -- obviously he's got a lot on his plate. But he'll be able to put that aside."

"He's going through a lot, but everyone goes through a lot at times," coach Paul MacLean said. "A lot of time, the most comfortable place to be is with your teammates."

DEVILS

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Cam Janssen

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson

Johan Hedberg
Martin Brodeur

Travis Zajac (Achilles tendon) will not play in Ottawa -- he is skating, but remains day-to-day. Matt Taomina and Steve Bernier are the scratches.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 9:28 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: March 20th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 73 80 9 89 5

9th 73 78 9 86 6
10th 72 76 10 85 7
11th 73 73 9 80 9
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 74 83 8 91 6

9th 72 82 10 92 6
10th 72 82 10 92 6
11th 73 81 9 89 7
The skinny: Tuesday night in the NHL should be billed as "The Race for Eighth."

After the games Monday night, my projection for points needed to qualify for the playoffs is 93 in the West and 90 in the East. Let's look first at the West. Dallas is in first place in the Pacific Division as they play host to Phoenix, but they are tied in points. The Coyotes have played one more game, so this one takes on added importance, if that was possible.

Should the Stars win in regulation, it would force Phoenix to need six wins in their remaining eight games to reach 95 points and feel safe about avoiding tiebreaker scenarios. A Dallas win moves them to 85 points and makes winning five of their remaining nine games a lot more manageable.

San Jose, after losing at home Monday to Anaheim, travels to Los Angeles to take on the Kings. This will be the first of three remaining games between the two clubs so the outcomes of these games will have a direct bearing on each club's playoff hopes.

You can bet on one thing -- the other teams in the race are hoping there are not three-point games. Calgary takes on Colorado in Denver and a loss will make their task of qualifying for the playoffs extremely difficult. With eight games remaining after Tuesday, the Flames would need six wins to get into comfortable playoff position. Colorado has a similar situation facing them and a loss will force them to win six of their last seven games to surpass the projected cut line at 93 points. This is a game that has serious repercussions for the loser, and may in fact ensure that team of being outside the top eight at the conclusion of play on April 7th.

The East is not without its own interesting scenarios Tuesday. Winnipeg visits Pittsburgh to try and keep pace with Washington and Buffalo, who both won Monday night. A loss by the Jets, and it will be closer to striking midnight on their season than anybody in Winnipeg would like. They would need to win seven of the last nine games to get to 90 points.

Florida visits Philadelphia and the Panthers are feeling the heat from the Capitals in the race for first in the Southeast. The Panthers do need only four wins to surpass the 90-point mark, so they are in a great position to end their long playoff absence. They also have a very forgiving schedule.

Can't forget about the Penguins and Flyers -- they are both trying to gain a foothold on fourth in the conference and home ice in the first round of the playoffs, while also keeping their hopes of catching the N.Y. Rangers for first in the East very much alive.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 11:56 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

ANA @ SJ - 0:36 of the Third Period



At 0:36 of the third period in the Ducks/Sharks game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Corey Perry's shot did not cross the goal line. No Goal Anaheim.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 7:56 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NJ @ NYR - 4:35 of the First Period



At 4:35 of the first period in the Rangers/Devils game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Ruslan Fedotenko's backhand shot never crossed the goal line.   No Goal Rangers.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 7:16 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers' Meszaros out 6-8 weeks

When the Philadelphia Flyers open the postseason next month, it appears they'll be without another one of their top defenseman.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced Monday that Andrej Meszaros will undergo surgery to remove a small disc fragment in his lower back on Wednesday and will be out 6-8 weeks. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Alex Vaccaro at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

Meszaros, 26, has 7 goals, 18 assists and a plus-6 rating in 62 games this season. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound blueliner hasn't played since March 1 against the New York Islanders, when he had a goal and two assists.

Philadelphia is also without Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) for the remainder of the season. Pavel Kubina (upper body) and Andreas Lilja (throat) are day-to-day.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 6:54 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bruins, Thornton agree on two-year extension

BOSTON – Now that he's in his fifth season with the Boston Bruins, gritty forward Shawn Thornton probably has some casual fans that just jumped on the team's bandwagon while the team was on the cusp of its 2011 Stanley Cup championship or just after.

Considering Thornton has personified what it means to play "Bruins hockey" – with a combination of grit and determination that goes with skill – and his year-round presence in the Hub, Thornton has transformed himself into Boston's adopted son.

Now he'll be sticking around at least two more years beyond this season. The Bruins officially announced Monday that Thornton signed a two-year contract extension. The deal is reportedly worth $1.1 million per season. Thornton was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"My family's happy not having to move and all that stuff (and) not having to wait around for July 1 to see what was going to happen," Thornton said. "I wasn't too concerned, but I'm very happy to get it done."

Although he was imported from Anaheim as a free agent prior to the 2007-08 season to provide the Bruins with some missing truculence, Thornton has been so much more than just a tough guy or energy player. Last season, he posted career highs with 10 goals and 20 points. So far this season, he has four goals and 12 points in 70 games. In addition, he leads the League with 19 fighting majors.

Thornton is also one of the team's more vocal leaders and last season was responsible for getting the Bruins' training staff to hang motivational pictures of Bruins championship teams of the past during the postseason run.

"Since we got Shawn, I don't know how many years ago, every year, to me, he's improved as a player, and I think that’s what's allowed him -- that and his conditioning has allowed him to be a good fourth-line player in this League and then a good catalyst in his own way," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "You see some of the skill that he has when he scores, when he makes some plays, but most importantly, you see the enthusiasm and the vigor that he brings to the rink every day, and that's important for this team and his character's important for this team.

"I'm happy to get him signed and I believe he just takes so much pride in his conditioning, and that's gotten better over the time when I've seen him. I think, without question, he'll be able to play well for two more years."

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 5:13 PM

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

Projected Ducks, Sharks lineups

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle will reach a bit of a milestone Monday when the Sharks host the Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN), playing his 300th game with the team.

"I didn't know that," Boyle said of the milestone. "It's been fun. It's been a challenge, but I've been lucky to be with a very good organization and some great players, so it's been fun.''

After missing one game with an upper-body injury, Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman will return to the lineup against San Jose, said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau.

Sharks forward Tommy Wingels (upper body) will miss his fourth straight games and forward TJ Galiardi will miss his second straight.

Here's how the lineups could look Monday when the San Jose Sharks face the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Benn Ferriero

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi will be in goal, with Thomas Greiss the backup.

DUCKS
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Bobby Ryan - Nick Bonino - Kyle Palmieri
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - Devante Smith-Pelly

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller likely will be in goal, with Jeff Deslauriers the backup.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 5:09 PM

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

Will Hiller's streak continue?

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The big question around the Ducks is whether goaltender Jonas Hiller will make his 33rd consecutive start. Boudreau refused to reveal his starter but did say that backup Jeff Deslauriers -- the only Ducks goalie on the ice Monday morning -- will get a another start at some point before the season ends.

"He's worked too hard in practice and everything else, and (Hiller has) done everything and anything a goaltender could be asked to do," Boudreau said. "So at some point he's going to get a rest."

The fact that Hiller was resting Monday morning could be seen as a sign that he'll be in goal Monday against the Sharks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN). He already has crushed the previous franchise record for consecutive starts of 23. His streak is the second longest in the NHL since the start of the 2010-11 season, surpassed only by San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi's 34-game starting streak from Jan. 15-April 4, 2011.

"It's something special, and the way he's played and what he's had to do to keep us in the games," Boudreau said. "I think it's special. I haven't seen it done before. Maybe they have here because Niemi did it, but they had a pretty good team last year in front of him, too. Not that we don't. I'm just saying they probably had less chances-against and they had more firepower so Niemi had a little bit more breathing room in the games. When we win, it's 2-1. If we get three goals, it's a lot. He has to keep us in the game every night, and so to be mentally on top of that for all these games is quite an amazing streak."

Niemi, who has been on a hot streak, will make his 11th consecutive start.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 5:05 PM

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

Sharks can't take slumping Ducks lightly

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks haven't enjoyed the view from atop the Pacific Division since Feb. 25, but they can reclaim first place Monday night with a victory Anaheim (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at HP Pavilion.

Just don't expect the surging Sharks to use that as a rallying cry.

"Winning is the motivating factor," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team's morning skate. "Not standings or Pacific Division, because tomorrow we'll be talking about it again. Just flat-out winning has to be their motivator, and what a great motivator. That's what we set out to do in Game 1 and we set out to do in Game 72."

The Sharks tumbled out of the Pacific lead that night when Phoenix beat Edmonton and they lost to Nashville in the next-to-last game of a disastrous nine-game road trip.

The Sharks have won two straight games and have earned at least one point in six of their past seven games, but they have more work to do in their final 11 games to secure a playoff spot. With 82 points, they're ninth in the Western Conference, one point behind Phoenix and Colorado. By beating Anaheim, the Sharks would jump over second-place Phoenix and first-place Dallas (82 points) for the Pacific lead and the conference's No. 3 playoff spot.

The Sharks and Ducks are the only Pacific Division teams in action tonight.

"The standings will take care of themselves," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "It's in our hands. We're aware of that. If we take care of our business, we'll be where we want to be at the end of the season."

After making a strong run as they tried to dig their way out of a huge early hole, the Ducks have won just once in their last six games (1-5-1) and are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Even so, the Sharks know better than to take their division rivals lightly. The Ducks have won three of the first four games in the series this season.

"They always play us hard," McLellan said. "It's a natural rival. Their leadership group kind of matches our leadership group. They provide a lot to their team. They count on three or four guys to do a lot of their scoring. We do the same thing here in our organization. It's always a real intense battle.

"Having played them so much over the years, you have a ton of respect for their competitiveness, the Corey Perrys and the (Ryan) Getzlafs. So I don't think we're going to see a team that's going to take their foot off the gas pedal. In fact, they may push it a little bit harder tonight."

The Ducks, facing the second game in a back-to-back, will have to summon enough energy to push the pedal harder. They're coming off a 3-1 loss to Nashville on Sunday. Most of the Ducks' regulars opted to skip Monday morning's optional skate in order to rest.

"It's a challenge," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's our fifth game in eight days again. I think sometimes the guys are mentally tired and need a break, but we'll get it when we get it."

Boudreau knows there will be no rest for his weary team against San Jose.

"They're good. They go to the net. They're four lines deep and six defense deep," Boudreau said. "That's the challenge, and they play hard. And they're in a desperate situation. The challenge is survival and getting through. We know we've got a huge battle on our hands. That's the challenge."
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 4:14 PM

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

Red Wings say Ovechkin is as good as he's ever been

DETROIT -- Don't try telling the Detroit Red Wings that Washington Capitals star forward Alex Ovechkin is any less of a player than he's been over his first six NHL seasons.

They'd probably laugh in your face, as reporters learned Monday morning after Detroit's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena.

"He's still got what? Thirty goals?" asked Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "I'd say that's still pretty good."

Informed of a notion that there's now a "book" on how to contain Ovechkin's immense offensive talents, Kronwall chuckled.

"Really?" he said. "Be sure to send it this way."

Chicago's top defenseman, Duncan Keith, probably would like a copy of it too -- just to see if there's a section entitled: "How to Stop the Reverse Between-the-Legs Pass to Himself and Go."



Ovechkin pulled that little number out at Keith's expense Sunday in Chicago, and the 2010 Norris Trophy winner didn't really have much of a chance to stop it. Ovechkin zipped past him to the outside going 1-on-4 and then deposited the puck into the short side of the net over Corey Crawford's shoulder for his 30th goal of the season.

"It's a good goal," fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings said. "All over the highlights. It's a good goal. It's why he's one of the best."

Asked if he likes playing against Ovechkin, Datsyuk only needed four words for an answer.

"Against him?" Datsyuk said. "Not really."

That's because Datsyuk -- whose own hockey skills are largely unmatched -- thinks Ovechkin is still every bit the superstar he was when he was averaging 54 goals per season in his first five seasons. Ovechkin "only" has 30 goals this season, but Datsyuk believes Ovechkin's past amazing seasons skew anything less.

"He's the same as before, but now more people waiting for him more and more," Datsyuk said. "If he's not scoring 50-goal seasons, (they say), 'Oh, he not good anymore.' I think he's really good. You need to pay attention. He shoots from anywhere. He's one of those guys who can score from anywhere."

The Red Wings learned that lesson the hard way a year ago in this building, when Ovechkin fired a rocket wrist shot through the legs of a defenseman that went over the shoulder of goalie Jimmy Howard and under the crossbar.

"It's quick and it's fast," Howard said of Ovechkin's shot. "He gets it off relatively quick; usually it's really hard, as well. He's dangerous no matter where he is on the ice when he's shooting."

That's why the best way to play against him as a defender is just anticipating his position on the ice and trying to take away as many options as possible.

"You'd like to get a gap up on him early, hopefully try to take away that wrister he's got," Kronwall said. "Anytime he enters the zone, he either tries to beat you wide or he's going for that wrister between your legs. It's tough. He's always shooting at the right times."

And when he's not, as Keith discovered Sunday, he's just as dangerous with his stickhandling.

"That's why it's so tough, because you don't know what he's going to do," Kronwall said. "Sometimes he'll shoot and sometimes he'll fake the shot and go around you. With that speed and size advantage, you've definitely got to be aware of when he's on the ice. Those guys are definitely hard to defend, and with his size and skillset and shot, he's the complete package."
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Playing for my favorite team growing up, I've probably scored that goal a million times in my driveway. It feels good to actually do it in real life.

— Dale Weise, who grew up a Canadiens fan, on scoring the overtime winner in Montreal's 5-4 victory against Tampa Bay in Game 1