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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 7:07 PM

By Matt Sitkoff -  NHL.com Contributor /NHL.com - NHL Live blog

CISCO NHL Live: Gary Bettman

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman joins CISCO NHL LIVE to discuss the newly approved NHL realignment.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 4:51 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Quick expected to start for Kings

SAN JOSE -- Jonathan Quick was the first goaltender off the ice at the Los Angeles Kings' morning skate and is expected to make his sixth straight start Thursday night at HP Pavilion against the San Jose Sharks and goaltender Antti Niemi.

Quick allowed five goals on 29 shots in a 5-2 road loss Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Last season he went 0-1-2 with a 2.56 goals-against average against the Sharks at HP Pavilion. He's 8-4-4 lifetime against San Jose with a 2.52 GAA.

Niemi is 8-3-2 for his career against Los Angeles with a 2.15 GAA.

Brent Burns, typically a defenseman, skated at right wing on the Sharks' top line with center Joe Thornton and left wing Logan Couture. He played forward Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues for the first time this season, opening on the third line but moving up to the first line late in the second period.

Sharks forward Martin Havlat was on the ice during the morning skate but remained on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Havlat has made significant progress in his recovery.

"He's getting better," McLellan said. "It's nice to see him skating at almost full speed."

Sharks backup goaltender Thomas Greiss remained on injured reserve with a strained neck but "skated a little bit" Thursday morning, McLellan said. "Won't play tonight. I think he's a little bit further down the road, but getting better."

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the Sharks face the Kings at HP Pavilion:

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 4:32 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Bieksa expects to return Thursday for Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Kevin Bieksa isn't planning to ride in on a white horse, but the Vancouver Canucks are counting on a boost when the defenseman returns from a groin injury against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

Despite being listed as a game-time decision, all signs at the morning skate pointed to Bieksa coming back after missing seven of the past eight games. After losing six of those seven without him (1-4-2), the Canucks will welcome him back with open arms.

"I don't think I am the savior," said Bieksa, who leads Vancouver's defense with five goals. "The answers are definitely in this room right now."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 2:47 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Liles back in for Maple Leafs after spell as scratch

TORONTO -- Looking to add a spark to the defense corps, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle will dress offensive-minded John-Michael Liles for the first time since Feb. 16.

Liles, who has been a healthy scratch for the previous 12 games, said he has watched video and heeded advice from Carlyle on what he needs to improve.

"It's a learning process regardless of if you are playing or not playing," Liles said. "By not playing, I was able to maybe scrutinize the film a little bit more than normal. It's just a matter of always trying to reevaluate and always trying to improve."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 2:15 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Ducks, Stars both missing key players

DALLAS -- When the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars hit the ice at American Airlines Center on Thursday, both clubs will be without key players.

Anaheim will be without its second-leading scorer, Corey Perry, as he begins serving a four-game suspension for an illegal check on the Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker in a 2-1 win at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday.

"Yeah, four games are a lot. What are we going to do?" Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "There's nothing I can do. It's done with and I don't think Brendan [Shanahan, NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety] is going to phone us and say, 'Geez, you guys are good guys. We're going to make it two [games],' so we just have to drop it and go without him for four games."

Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan, whose team will be without top-line center Jamie Benn (wrist) and captain Brenden Morrow (groin) for a second straight game, took a tongue-in-cheek approach when discussing Perry's absence from the Anaheim lineup.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 2:09 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Hamrlik back in on Rangers' blue line

WINNIPEG -- The New York Rangers (13-10-2) held a lively practice Wednesday after the team's arrival here in preparation for a date Thursday with the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre.

Eighth-place in the Eastern Conference is at stake for the clubs, who each have 28 points.

Roman Hamrlik likely will return to the Rangers' defensive rotation after a two-game absence, replacing Matt Gilroy. Defenseman Marc Staal remains injured and will miss his fifth consecutive game, leaving the Rangers to look for help to ease some of the burden on their blue line's top four.

"It's crucial that someone steps up in the five-six spot," coach John Tortorella said. "When you lose a guy like Marc Staal, and we have guys playing minutes that they're not used to playing, we'd really like to get a rotation of six [defensemen] playing. But we also have to try to win each game, so that's where we're making the call on the bench. We have a few guys looking to take that spot."

Forward Arron Asham participated in practice Wednesday, but is not expected to return to the Rangers' lineup against the Jets.

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal for the eighth time in the team's past nine contests.

Here is the Rangers' possible lineup:

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 1:54 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Bouchard will take Zucker's spot in Wild lineup

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Pierre-Marc Bouchard has been a healthy scratch each of the previous three games for the Minnesota Wild, but he will re-enter the lineup Thursday in place of injured Jason Zucker.

Zucker, who was hit in the head by Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry on Tuesday, will accompany the Wild on its three-game road trip beginning this weekend against the Colorado Avalanche. Zucker skated for the second straight day Thursday and has reported no problems so far.

For the Avalanche, veteran Milan Hejduk will return to the lineup after missing five games with a stiff neck.

Colorado's Semyon Varlamov and Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom are the expected starters in net.

Here are the projected lineups for the game Thursday at Xcel Energy Center:

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 1:47 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Blues, Coyotes getting healthy before matchup

ST. LOUIS -- Both the Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues are expected to get injured players back into their lineups when they meet Thursday at Scottrade Center.

For the Coyotes, defenseman David Schlemko returns after missing 16 games with an upper-body injury suffered early in a Feb. 4 game against the Minnesota Wild.

"It's been a long five-and-a-half weeks, I think," Schlemko said after the Coyotes' morning skate. "I'm definitely excited to get back in there. I think you bag-skate for three weeks straight ... reminds you how much you love the game. It'll be exciting. Probably a little bit of nerves the first couple shifts. It'll be fun to be back in there."

The Coyotes, who have won back-to-back games since losing 6-3 to the Blues one week ago, also could get center Matthew Lombardi (upper-body) back Thursday.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 1:36 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets look to overtake Rangers for eighth in East

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets look to overtake the New York Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference when the clubs meet Thursday at MTS Centre.

The Jets (13-11-2) will face the Rangers with a pair of tweaks to their lineup after a 5-2 home win Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Winnipeg recalled center Patrice Cormier from the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League on Wednesday to replace Jim Slater on the fourth line. Slater departed the game Tuesday with an apparent hand injury.

It also appears that center Alexander Burmistrov will be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row. Noel termed Burmistrov a game-time decision, but Burmistrov remained on the ice after the club's morning skate.

Winnipeg also recalled goaltender Edward Pasquale early Thursday to replace backup goaltender Al Montoya, who Noel said has aggravated a lower-body injury. Pasquale will dress in Montoya's place against the Rangers.

Here is what the Jets' lineup could look like Thursday:

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 1:18 PM

By Matt Sitkoff -  NHL.com Contributor /NHL.com - NHL Live blog

Commissioner Gary Bettman joins Cisco NHL Live

Thursday at 5 p.m. ET on the NHL Network we'll kick of Cisco NHL Live with a special guest. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will join Steve Mears and E.J. Hradek to discuss the new realignment plan that was just approved by the Board of Governors. We will also talk to Columbus Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson, as they move from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference.

Division rivals square off in Carolina on the NHL Network on Thursday night, and we'll get a live update from Hurricanes radio voice Chuck Kaiton, who will call the game. With 10 other games on the ice we'll hit all of them and even give you a live look at warm-ups via our Cisco NHL Arena Cam in our Ice Pass.

Don't forget to submit your ideas for new division names on Twitter and Facebook, and stick around for the shootout as EJ picks all 11 games being played on Thursday.

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Quote of the Day

It was a big dream. [Messi] is probably the best athlete out there, so it's a big honor, for [Kuznetzov] as well. It's maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the best player in soccer right now. I'm a big Barcelona fan and Messi fan, so it's huge. You can take [Michael] Jordan, [Mark] Messier, [Wayne] Gretzky, those kinds of [people]. It's an honor to meet. It's nice to be in that position.

— Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin told told Monumental Network after meeting soccer star Lionel Messi prior to Argentina's practice at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Md. on Friday