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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 3:14 PM

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

Helm to miss 4-6 weeks

DETROIT -- Darren Helm knew something bad had happened in his left knee almost immediately after he hit the ice in the third period Saturday in San Jose.

After trying to get a big hit against San Jose Sharks forward Dominic Moore in the neutral zone near the Red Wings' bench, Helm's leg appeared to get tangled with Moore's and Helm crashed to the ice in pain.

An MRI done Monday morning in Detroit showed Helm is suffering from a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and according to Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland, will miss 4-6 weeks..

"It's a sprain," Holland said. "You wait for the sprain to heal. This one just so happens to be on his knee. If you sprain your thumb, you don't do anything for it. You just wait for it to heal. This is the same thing.

"We just have to wait for it to heal."

He should be used to that refrain by now, with Detroit's list of walking wounded seemingly growing by the day. The good news is that several Red Wings appear to be on the mend, including defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist) and Jakub Kindl (oblique strain).

Both went through Monday's morning skate at the United Center and showed signs their ailments are healing. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom (bruised ankle) also went through a full morning skate for the first time in nine games and hopes to go through a full practice Tuesday.

"The playoffs are three-and-a-half weeks away," Holland said. "I'm hoping Helm's a fast healer and he'll be ready sometime around the start of the playoffs. That's certainly the hope, but you won't know until you let some time go by. But certainly we're hoping sometime during the first round of the playoffs we'll get Helmer back. In the meantime, it's an opportunity for (Gustav Nyquist) to play and an opportunity for (Justin Abdelkader) to have a bigger role."

Abdelkader will fill in for Helm at center on the third line, which likely will start with Danny Cleary at right wing.

"We're grinding right now," Holland said of his team, which has won just once in the past seven games (1-5-1). "We weren't overly pleased with our effort in our games in California (last week). I thought we played hard in San Jose. We just have to keep grinding."
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 3:04 PM

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

Lidstrom sees improvement

DETROIT -- One bit of good news from Monday's morning skate came from defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who participated in his first full morning skate since taking a slap shot off the outside of his skate Feb. 25 against Colorado. He left the lineup with a deep bone bruise in his ankle and has missed the last nine games -- which are three more than he's ever missed in any one of his 19 previous NHL seasons.

Lidstrom tried to get on the ice a couple of times last week during a road trip out West, but never lasted long, and eventually was sent home. On Monday, he wasn't near full speed but was at least able to complete the workout.

"That's encouraging compared to how it was on Wednesday morning in L.A., where if I had my skate on I couldn't really stand on my foot," Lidstrom said. "That's an improvement for sure, where I was able to skate out there and even pivot and do some turns."

His teammates were pretty happy to have him out there, as well.

"He's a guy you want in the lineup every night, especially our power play would like a little boost," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Just seeing him on the ice, we know he's getting closer. Hopefully he'll be back soon. Until then, we all have to dig in and take care of business."

Lidstrom said he's still "day-to-day" with the injury, which has been X-rayed several times and hasn't shown any fractures -- including the latest one taken Friday when he got back to Detroit.

"It's still just a bone bruise that's taking time to heal," Lidstrom said. "I still look at it as day-to-day and hopefully it gets better every day. Hopefully (Monday's morning skate) will help me, too, and that it's not going to get worse from skating."

He'll find that out Tuesday, when Lidstrom is hoping to go through a full practice for the first time since getting hurt. The biggest issues have been swelling and pain once he puts his foot in the skate and laces it up, but the swelling has subsided a decent amount in the past couple weeks.
 
"It's slowly been getting better, but the big test is when you put your skate on and when you're skating," Lidstrom said. "That's when you put the most pressure on it and can test it out. I can walk around and do all that, but the most pain is from tying the skate and putting the pressure on where it's hurting and then trying to skate."

The Wings have just 10 regular-season games left, but Lidstrom said he's planning to get back into games before the playoffs begin.

"As far as playing again, I think it's going to be up to the coaches and trainers," Lidstrom said. "I want to get back before the playoffs. I want to get some games in before the playoffs start. Hopefully it's just a matter of getting better every day."
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 2:02 PM

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

Numbers point to Schneider starting for Canucks

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Vancouver goaltender Cory Schneider will get a second consecutive start for the Canucks when they play at Minnesota on Monday.

For Schneider, it will be the fifth straight time he has started for Vancouver in St. Paul. Lifetime against the Wild, he is 5-2-0 with a 2.16 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage -- the latter two figures significantly better than Roberto Luongo, who has struggled mightily in this building. Luongo has shut out the Wild on three consecutive occasions, but all of those games were at Rogers Centre.

"I always feel comfortable on the road, I enjoy playing on the road," Schneider said. "(The Wild) are going through a tough time right now, but they've always given us trouble in this building. You can never expect them to lay down."

Schneider, who turned 26 on Sunday, is in the midst of a career season, going 16-6-1 with a 2.12 GAA  and .932 save percentage.

"Flying to Minneapolis," Schneider said when asked how he spent his birthday. And afterwards? "Not much. Just dinner and relaxed."

The Canucks will make a couple of other tweaks to the lineup, as Vancouver will get Manny Malhotra back after he missed two games for personal reasons. He will take the place of Mason Raymond.

"He's struggling a little bit right now," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of Raymond. "We've tried different possibilities with him. He can be such a valuable player on our team when he's playing his skilled game, being strong on the ice and using that skill and that speed. Right now, we're just having a tough time helping him find the players he can have the most success with."

Vigneault also said defenseman Sami Salo will not play. With the Canucks embarking on a four-game road trip, Vigneault figures tonight's game against 13th-place Minnesota would provide him with the best opportunity to give Salo a rest. Chicago, Dallas and Colorado are the final three stops on the trip and all are in the playoff race.

"He's such an important part of our team," Vigneault said. "Probably our best overall defenseman in terms of being able to contribute offensively and defensively. That combined with the fact that he is our oldest player.

"I had a chat with him a couple of times that if the opportunity or schedule would get to a point maybe we could get him a night off, it would be the right thing to do."

Minnesota had an optional skate this morning with several players expected to play tonight not in attendance. The team did send goalie Matt Hackett back to AHL Houston to make room for injured goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who is back from a lower-body injury.

Backstrom will back up Josh Harding in goal this evening.

Here are the projected lineups for each team tonight:

WILD
Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Nick Johnson
Darroll Powe - Erik Christensen - Matt Kassian
Stephane Veilleux - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Steven Kampfer - Tom Gilbert
Clayton Stoner - Nate Prosser

Josh Harding will start in net, with Niklas Backstrom the backup.
 
CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Manny Malhotra - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Dale Weise - Maxim Lapierre - Zack Kassian
 
Alexander Edler - Kevin Bieksa
Dan Hamhuis - Marc-Andre Gragnani
Aaron Rome - Chris Tanev
 
Cory Schneider will start in goal, with Roberto Luongo the backup.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 1:56 PM

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

Capitals could again have new-look lineup

DETROIT -- During a 5-2 loss Sunday in Chicago, Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter scrambled his line combinations in search of more offensive firepower.

It worked in the second period as the Caps scored twice, but didn't seem to do much in the third.

Washington held a very limited optional morning skate at Joe Louis Arena on Monday prior to facing the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night, so it's anybody's guess how Hunter's lineup will look.

The best guess is that he goes back to what the Caps started with against Chicago, plus a couple of anticipated changes. Roman Hamrlik could be inserted into the lineup on the blue line with Jeff Schultz a likely candidate to be replaced, while forward Jeff Halpern also could get back into a game.
 
Forward Joel Ward, who was a plus-1 against the Blackhawks, was one of only a handful of skaters on the ice Monday, so he could be a candidate to sit out.

Goalie Tomas Vokoun will not dress for the second straight game due to a lower-body injury that he aggravated this past Friday in Winnipeg. Braden Holtby will dress for the second straight game, but Hunter would not reveal who will get the starting nod between him and Michal Neuvirth, who took the loss in Chicago.

On the other side of the building, the Red Wings again will be without a number of injured players -- including captain and star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (bruised ankle), star forward Johan Franzen (back spasms), center Darren Helm (lower body), backup goalie Joey MacDonald (back spasms), defenseman Jakub Kindl (oblique strain), defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (broken wrist) and forward Patrick Eaves (injured reserve, concussion).

Jimmy Howard, who recently was among the injured with his own groin issue, will get the start in net, with Jordan Pearce backing him up.

The good news for both Detroit and Washington is that Russian stars and friends Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin are healthy enough to face each other again -- which usually is a lot of fun to watch for fans and fellow teammates alike.

Detroit fell to fifth in the Western Conference because of tie-breakers after Nashville beat Anaheim on Sunday, while the Caps are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, just two points ahead of ninth-place Winnipeg and 10th-place Buffalo.

Here's a look at how the Capitals and Red Wings might line up Monday:

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Jeff Halpern

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green

Michal Neuvirth could get the start in goal, with Braden Holtby available as the backup.

RED WINGS
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Todd Bertuzzi - Pavel Datsyuk - Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton - Jan Mursak

Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
Brendan Smith - Doug Janik

Jimmy Howard will start in goal, with Jordan Pearce the backup.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 1:43 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Likely lineups for Sabres, Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- Here are the lineups the Sabres and Lightning likely will use Monday when they meet here at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

SABRES
Corey Tropp - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Ville Leino - Cody Hodgson - Thomas Vanek
Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Cody McCormick - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta

Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Alexander Sulzer - Christian Ehrhoff
Mike Weber - Jordan Leopold

Ryan Miller will start in goal, with Jhonas Enroth the backup.

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Eric Brewer - Keith Aulie
Brett Clark - Victor Hedman
Brendan Mikkelson - Mike Commodore
Brian Lee

Dustin Tokarski will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson the backup.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 1:39 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lightning add goaltender Caron

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Sebastien Caron, and hope to add him to the roster Tuesday, if he clears waivers.

Caron, whose equipment already was in place in the Lightning locker room, has been playing for German team Iserlohn Roosters and if all goes well, will join the team in time for Thursday's game against Edmonton.

Caron has appeared in 92 NHL games with a record of 25-47-12 with a 3.45 goals-against average.

"We'll go one game at a time and give him some time to get accustomed first, flying back here, being back in the NHL and getting used to NHL shots and NHL type of game, and we'll see when we can put him in," Boucher said.

Once Caron joins the team, Dustin Tokarski will be returned to AHL Norfolk for the playoffs.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 1:37 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Injuries led to Lightning's slip in standings

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Buffalo Sabres meet the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday at the Tampa Bay Times Fourm, on display will be a case of two teams heading in opposite directions.

Buffalo, two points behind Washington for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, has put together an enviable run at the postseason, going 9-2-3 over its last 14 games.

Tampa Bay, however, has fallen off the playoff trail, going 1-4-1 and dropping three of four during its seven-game homestand.

Adding to the Lightning's woes is the loss of two additional key players, Adam Hall and Ryan Shannon, bringing the total to eight regulars sidelined.

"I have a choice: Either I start crying, which I felt like, or I just look at it like it's ridiculous and just go with it," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "We've got two lines of AHL guys, but they work hard and they give us a chance to stay in games. The reality is everyone has got their own pace of development and we want to respect that."

Although Boucher's preference often is to play seven defensemen, usually it's a decision, rather than a mandate.

"I've got no choice," Boucher said. "I don't have 12 forwards. Let's not kid ourselves."

Twelve forwards or not, Monday's task appears to be a formidable one for the Lightning.

"We know what's going on," Boucher said. "They're on a high, they're playing terrific. They're bouncing at the perfect time and they're making a push and their game doesn't have any fog right now. They have speed and scoring ability on each line. Goaltender is playing incredible. They are one of the top teams in the League right now in terms of performance."

If Boucher looks at the Buffalo bench with some envy, he might be forgiven; earlier in the month the Lightning were just two points from the eighth spot, which is precisely where Buffalo is now.

"It's extremely frustrating to be right there and then lose all these guys," Boucher said. "It's very tough, but they have been handling it like men and it will pay off."

For Tampa Bay, though, the pay-off will have to be in the future.

"We all understand where we are," said forward Martin St. Louis. "When you are in the heart of the season and things happen, I think you're counted on as veteran leadership, but when it comes down to this sort of do-or-die situation, you have to look at yourself and see what you can do to pull us an inch closer. If you're waiting to look at somebody all the time, it's not going to happen."

The Sabres, on the other hand, are focused on what they have to do to make the playoffs and have gotten some breaks going their way, especially Sunday, when Winnipeg, with whom they currently are tied, and Washington, who they trail, both lost.

"There's always pressure making the playoffs, but we got a break last night when both those teams lost," Buffalo rookie Marcus Foligno said. "That's huge for us. It's about capitalizing on chances and we have a chance tonight against Tampa Bay."

Veteran Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who has seen his share of battles for the playoff, said, "We have to go game-by-game. We've won our share and we'll have to win more than our share down the stretch to get in."
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Peverley continuing to work his way back

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward Rich Peverley continued on the trail to returning to the lineup Monday when he joined his teammates for their morning skate at TD Garden.

Peverley suffered a third-degree sprain of the MCL in his right knee Feb. 15 against Montreal. At the time, his prognosis was for a return in 4-6 weeks.

Coach Claude Julien classified Peverley as day-to-day.

"Again, there's no exact time for when he's going to start playing again," said Julien, "but he's looking better every day. There's the rehab part of it that he's doing right now, so he started skating last Wednesday on his own and he's progressed since then. So when you've been off for that long, you just don't come back every night. So we're going to give him a chance and wait for our doctors to clear him."

Peverley said he hopes to join the team for a practice this week and then go on the upcoming California road trip, which Boston will start Wednesday with a cross-country flight and then a practice in San Jose.

Peverley is seventh on the Bruins with 38 points in 49 games played this season.
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 12:54 PM

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

Learning experiences continue for Skinner

WINNIPEG – The learning experiences continue for Jeff Skinner, the Carolina Hurricanes’ star second-year forward.

Skinner has completed his two-game suspension for a kicking incident against the St. Louis Blues this past Thursday night. Skinner’s teammates eased some of his guilt by taking two come-from-behind wins in a two-game road swing through Minnesota and Winnipeg that put the Hurricanes back on the edge of postseason discussion.

The 19-year-old has 20 goals in 55 games this season after a 31-goal rookie season that earned him the Calder Trophy.

“It’s always tough sitting out,” said Skinner, who earlier this season missed time with a concussion. “It definitely has been a learning experience. It has been a little bit of a tough year.

"As you go through the League, gain more experience and become more mature, you benefit just as much from going through the tough times and learning how to handle them.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.19.2012 / 12:48 PM

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

Carolina's Staal putting up the good fight

WINNIPEG – On a night when Eric Staal took his turn as the object of scorn among Winnipeg fans, the Carolina Hurricanes’ dressing room countered with ample praise for its captain.

Staal saved the best work of his two-goal, one-assist performance for the third period of the Hurricanes’ 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the Winnipeg Jets. Staal’s breakaway goal midway through the final period tied the game at 3-3 and he then set up Chad LaRose’s game-winner with 1:22 remaining. The win was the third time this season that Carolina has taken two points after trailing at the second intermission.

Afterward, Staal’s teammates jokingly chanted “Jordan’s better!” in reference to a chant that Jets fans unleashed comparing Staal to his brother, Jordan Staal of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Staal’s good-natured retort to the crowd?

“I mean, Jordan’s good, but I don’t know if he is better,” Staal replied.

Staal has rebounded from a dismal start that plagued both him and the Hurricanes, led to Paul Maurice’s firing and buried the club at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for much of the season. Staal had managed just nine goals by the 40-game mark. But Staal spun off a 12-game point streak for the Hurricanes in the season’s second half and helped power the club back into semi-contention.

“He has taken this team and has been an unbelievable leader,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “Everybody talks about his start, but I think that people should talk about how he has played his last 40 games.”

Goaltender Cam Ward, who won a Stanley Cup alongside Staal in 2006, agreed with Muller.

“It was a huge win for us,” Ward said. “We were led by Staal, who took the game up on his shoulders and was dominant.”

Now the Hurricanes have moved to 11th place in the Eastern Conference and are only three points behind the Jets and five points behind the Washington Capitals for eighth place. While the club’s poor first half may ultimately doom any Stanley Cup Playoff aspirations, the Hurricanes are, if nothing else, making themselves a relevant player again in postseason conversation.

“We’ll take [the win],” Staal said, “and keep working, because stranger things have happened, and we’re going to keep playing hard.”
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For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory