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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 4:42 PM

NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hiller again in Ducks' net

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jonas Hiller will make his 30th straight start in net for the Anaheim Ducks tonight.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said he won't rest Hiller unless Hiller says he needs it.

Asked if he expects Hiller to ask for a day off soon, Boudreau said, "I just try to avoid him so I don't get that question."

Boudreau added that Hiller, who has played in 64 of Anaheim's 70 games, doesn't practice much and that he monitors him closely.

"I ask him all the time," Boudreau said. "I'm very conscientious of what he's done."

Here's the rest of the lineup the Ducks likely will use tonight:

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

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

Jonas Hiller will start in goal, with Jeff Deslauriers the backup.

Corey Perry, who sat out Monday's game with a shoulder injury, could replace Palmieri on the top line. Boudreau said Perry's status would be decided prior to puck-drop.

Here is the lineup the Red Wings likely will use tonight.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 4:38 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bertuzzi back in lineup for Red Wings

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Detroit Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi confirmed he will return after a four-game absence from a groin injury.

"I feel like it's pretty strong right now," Bertuzzi said. "I just have to get my timing back and all that. But as far as the groin, it feels a lot better than what it was."

As a spectator, Bertuzzi said at least one aspect of the team's has stood out when he's watched his teammates.

"We haven't put the puck in enough and we've made some uncharacteristic mistakes and it has cost us goals," he said. "I think back to basics -- taking care of our zone first and when we get some chances, bury them."

Here's the rest of the lineup the Red Wings likely will use tonight:

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Johan Franzen
Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary - Todd Bertuzzi
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton - Jan Mursak

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

Joey MacDonald will start in goal, with Jimmy Howard the backup.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 4:34 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Perry, Sbisa game-time decisions

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Corey Perry and Luca Sbisa will be game-time decisions for the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday when they host the Detroit Red Wings.

Sbisa suffered back spasms before Monday's game and had to sit out, the first game this season he's missed. He took part in a very optional morning skate for the Ducks and appears to be closer to returning for Wednesday's game.

Perry left the ice early and might miss a second straight game with a sore shoulder, the result of a hit by Stephane Robidas of Dallas last Saturday. His streak of 272 consecutive games played ended Monday.

"They're both being worked on," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's a proverbial game-time decision."

Boudreau said Nick Bonino is ready to play after he suffered a lower-body injury. Ryan O'Marra was re-assigned to Syracuse.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

Stars finish road trip looking to build on Pacific lead

WINNIPEG -- The Dallas Stars made the short Minnesota-to-Winnipeg trip and spent the morning catching up on their sleep.

The Stars (39-26-5) went to sleep having spun off a 10-0-1 run that includes six consecutive wins. A 1-0 win at Minnesota leaves Dallas holding a four-point advantage in the Pacific Division race. Only the ultra-hot Pittsburgh Penguins, who have won nine games in a row, have been able to match the Stars' pace of late, and the team will head home for Texas after tonight's game to play four straight on home ice.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Richard Bachman will start in goal, with Kari Lehtonen backing up.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Stars:

Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Jamie Benn - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Adam Burish
Ryan Garbutt - Tom Wandell - Tomas Vincour

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Mark Fistric - Trevor Daley
Philip Larsen - Adam Pardy

Richard Bachman
Kari Lehtonen

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Surprising Senators can equal Bruins' point total

The Ottawa Senators have a chance to accomplish something Wednesday few people outside the team itself thought possible coming into training camp -- they can grab a share of the Northeast Division lead in March.

While technically the Senators would still be second to the Boston Bruins if they manage to beat the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre, Ottawa would be level on points with a victory.

"Obviously it would be a nice thing to accomplish and we really want to win this game," said Erik Karlsson, the runaway points leader among NHL defensemen who has 10 goals and 11 assists in his last 13 games. "It's not only to catch Boston, but just to keep winning games."

Ottawa's pace has slowed somewhat since losing goaltender Craig Anderson to a cut on his hand, going 4-3-1 in his absence. While Anderson has gotten back on the ice a couple of times, coach Paul MacLean says there is still no timetable for his return.

Still, the fact that the stretch is considered a dip speaks volumes about the performance of a team many picked to finish near the bottom of the conference standings, which is where their opponents Wednesday currently sit.

"We were in their exact position last year," Karlsson said of the Canadiens. "So we know how it feels and we know how we felt. We didn't want to lose any games."

Captain Daniel Alfredsson said the environment created by MacLean from day one was markedly different from last season under Cory Clouston. A heavy emphasis on skating and conditioning in training camp quickly carried over into the regular season, where the team understood how hard it needed to work in order to play MacLean's system.

"We're skating better than we have the last three or four years," Alfredsson said. "(MacLean) has done a great job of making guys accountable, but doing it in a way that's fun, too."

When told the change in atmosphere in the Senators dressing room is striking from last year, Alfredsson quipped, "Ya think?"

But he also conceded that the lack of expectations allowed this Senators team to find its identity without added pressure, something Alfredsson has experienced before on some of the powerhouse Ottawa teams he's played for over his brilliant career.

"It's a lot easier to live up to no expectations than big expectations," he said. "We just took the attitude that we'll prove everyone wrong."

It's safe to say the Senators have already done that, and should they be able to climb into a tie with Boston tonight it would only be another big accomplishment.

The Senators will be facing a Canadiens team that will be missing Tomas Kaberle and Scott Gomez.

Kaberle's wife Julia was expecting the couple's first child Wednesday and he's been excused from playing as a result. It will be the sixth member of the Canadiens to have a baby during this season after Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri (since traded to the Flames), Hal Gill (traded to Nashville), Travis Moen and Alexei Emelin.

Defenseman Frederic St-Denis was called up from Hamilton and is expected to dress against Ottawa.

Gomez is out with what is widely believed to be a concussion after he was hit from behind Monday by Buffalo's Tyler Myers -- a hit that earned the Sabres defenseman a three-game suspension. Coach Randy Cunneyworth would only concede that Gomez is out with an upper-body injury.

Here are the expected lines for the game:

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

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

Ben Bishop
 
CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Ryan White
Blake Geoffrion - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Chris Campoli - Yannick Weber
Frederic St-Denis

Carey Price
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Jets back in action with some ground to make up

WINNIPEG -- A fruitless two-game swing through Vancouver and Calgary followed by a five-day layoff has left the Winnipeg Jets chasing the Eastern Conference pack.

The Jets (32-29-8) last played in Winnipeg on March 5 and finished that night at 72 points, just two points behind the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead. Now the 10th-place Jets trail the Panthers by seven points, and the resurgent Washington Capitals have elbowed their way into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Winnipeg begins a three-game homestand this evening with a visit from the Dallas Stars, who have taken six straight wins and have won 11 of the franchises' 13 all-time meetings. Given that the Jets have only 11 road wins this season and have not shown any indication they will be able to correct their road problems, their stay at home this week has taken on even greater urgency for a club trying to stay above water in the playoff race.

But the Jets will do so without defenseman Zach Bogosian, whose injury woes linger, and right wing Chris Thorburn, who exited the Jets' loss in Calgary and will be out for an extended period of time. Going in for Thorburn on the Jets' checking line will be little-used forward Eric Fehr. Coach Claude Noel has not played Fehr since Feb. 21, and Fehr has only 1 goal this season.

Ondrej Pavelec will again start in net for Winnipeg, with Chris Mason backing up.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Eric Fehr
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Grant Clitsome
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 1:21 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Senators add UConn forward Schneider

The Ottawa Senators have signed University of Connecticut free-agent forward Cole Schneider to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Schneider, a 21-year-old sophomore, set single-season school records with 23 goals and 45 points this season.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound left wing, a native of Williamsville, N.Y., was assigned to the Senators' American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 12:46 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Letang possible to return to Pens' lineup Thursday

In addition to the return of captain Sidney Crosby, it appears defenseman Kris Letang also could be in the lineup  Thursday when the Pittsburgh Penguins play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

According to Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Letang's concussion symptoms have subsided. Letang also said he never was diagnosed with a second concussion this season, following a hit he received from Dallas' Eric Nystrom on Feb. 29. Letang said the symptoms were more related to the concussion he suffered Nov. 26 against Montreal.

Letang practiced with the team Wednesday and even took turns with Crosby on the top power-play unit. Letang, who has 9 goals, 31 points and a plus-7 rating in 40 games this season. He hasn't played since taking that hit from Nystom.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 11:44 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps' Backstrom skates for second straight day

Nicklas Backstrom, out more than two months due to a concussion, offered some good news to the Washington Capitals' Web site Wednesday.

"I felt good," said Backstrom after lightly skating for the second day in a row at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "There was no problems at all."

Backstrom suffered a concussion on Jan. 3 after taking an illegal hit to the head from Calgary's Rene Bourque, who was suspended five games for the incident. Bourque is now a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Backstrom skated a few times after the injury, but was eventually shut down and went home to Sweden to get his mind off hockey.

"I was out for a couple games and you get frustrated seeing all the guys," Backstrom said. "You want to be out there with them. I was changing up the atmosphere a little bit. Go home, see my family, girlfriend, stuff like that. I think that was a good thing to do and I feel better after that.

"I wasn't thinking as much about hockey as I was here. Hopefully, that helped me a lot I could do my owne thing. I was biking and stuff there."

Backstrom was leading the Capitals in scoring at the time of his injury and still ranks fourth on the team with 42 points in 38 games. He tried skating in the days that followed the Bourque and one more time later in the month before he was eventually shut down.

The 24-year-old said there's no comparison to how he felt when he woke up Jan. 4 compared to Wednesday morning after skating Tuesday.

"I've been improving a lot. I don't have the same feeling I had from when I first got the hit," Backstrom said. "We're on the program right now and I just got back from Sweden. It feels better. I started skating. You have to see where you are.

"It's day and night. It's a good sign I think. But I don't know anything else. I just know I'm skating thepast two days."

One thing Backstrom doesn't know is when he'll be back. He's currently on LTIR and there is no timetable for his return.

"We'll see what happens," Backstrom said. "The only thing I can tell you now is I'm on the ice skating light. We'll go from there. It's a process and we're working on it. I want to be out there so bad. A concussion is nothing to play around with. You want to make sure you're 100 percent before you go out there."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo


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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 10:51 AM

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

Updated playoff projections: March 14th

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 70 78 12 90 7

9th 70 74 12 85 9
10th 69 72 13 84 10
11th 69 71 13 83 11
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 69 78 13 91 8

9th 70 78 12 89 8
10th 70 78 12 89 8
11th 71 78 11 89 8
The skinny: As the playoff drive continues, watching teams put pressure on their competitors is exciting. The Florida Panthers did exactly that on Tuesday in their victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Who did they put pressure on? The answer is the Winnipeg Jets, who may have seen their opportunity to claim first place in the Southeast Division fade further into the sunset. The win moves the Panthers seven points ahead of the Jets, which means Winnipeg needs to win four more games than Florida in the final 13 contests for both teams -- possible but very unlikely.

Further harm for the Jets on 'Terrible Tuesday' was the three-goal deficit the Washington Capitals overcame to beat the New York Islanders. The Capitals moved six points ahead of Winnipeg for the eighth spot. Talk about a left-right combination!

You want to see a 'must-win' game on the schedule? It's in Winnipeg on Wednesday night. The red-hot Dallas Stars are in town, and a loss for the Jets will make an already difficult task that much more so.

Interconference games usually aren't marquis ones at this point of the season but the Colorado Avalanche traveling to Buffalo to face the Sabres is. The Avalanche are in a fierce fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and the Sabres, who will be without the services of Tyler Myers for the next three games because of a suspension, are trying to stay in the hunt for the eighth spot in the East.

The left-right combination on the chin of the Jets with the results Tuesday night was felt in Buffalo as well. Colorado has played more games than their competitors in the West, so with games dwindling losses can't be absorbed. The Avs can move into a playoff spot with a win in Buffalo. A loss will put them into the 'we need help' category and that is not where teams want to be.

Phoenix, who was leading the Pacific Division on March 5th, has fallen into the battle for the final two playoff spots and it doesn't get easier for the Coyotes against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday before playing the surging Flames in Calgary on Thursday.

The games are dwindling and as teams win, like the Panthers and Capitals did Tuesday, they buoy their own hopes and at the same time put more strain on other teams' hopes. It will be no different Wednesday night.

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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery