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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:30 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Excitement building for Howe's big night

PHILADELPHIA -- Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe will have his No. 2 retired by the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Howe spent 10 seasons with the Flyers and is regarded as the best blueliner in the team's history.

It's fitting the opponent on the night of the ceremony is the Detroit Red Wings, the team for which Howe currently works as director of pro scouting.

"It's a great honor for Howeie, well deserved," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "He was a great Flyer, had an unbelievable career. He's worked for us for 19 years, started three years as a player. He's been involved in two really great organizations to finish his career. I think he's proud of that fact, we're proud of him. We're honored and thrilled to be sharing it with him tonight."

Matt Carle, in his fourth season with the Flyers, was too young to see the best part of Howe's career -- he was born in 1984 -- but said he's been doing his homework on Howe recently. 

"I was reading about him in the last week when they were gearing up for this night," Carle said, "some of the statistics he threw up were mind-blowing. He was plus-85 one year (1985-86). It's a huge honor for him. It'll be fun for us to be here for it."

One of the newest Flyers, Nicklas Grossmann, also is looking forward to watching the Howe ceremony.

"Growing up you see all these players when you're a kid that you idolized and now you play with some of them and you see some guys retire and their jerseys (retired), so it's pretty cool to be around," he said. "He was a spectacular player that played for a long time. You're here, you see on the walls, the good old players that used to play. It's pretty cool to be part of an organization like that. It's going to be a pretty special thing."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:26 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canes must win on road to keep last-gasp hopes alive

WASHINGTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes begin a season-long five-game road trip tonight as they visit the Washington Capitals in a Southeast Division matchup at Verizon Center.

The Hurricanes are 10 points behind eighth place Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference and will play five road games in the next eight days against the Capitals, Sabres, Lightning, Panthers and Rangers.

"It's definitely going to be make or break," Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart said of the trip. "It's going to be a dogfight and we can't get too far ahead of ourselves looking at the standings. We just have to win one game, and it's at that point in the season where one point or an overtime loss isn't acceptable. We have to start getting two points, and hopefully it starts tonight."

The Hurricanes have made a habit of earning just one standings point, dropping three of their last five games overall after regulation.

The more disturbing trend for Kirk Muller's team is that the Hurricanes held a third period lead in all three games -- a pair of shootout losses to Anaheim (Feb. 23) and Florida (Feb. 25) and an overtime loss to Tampa Bay last Saturday.

"On our home stretch we had a couple of tough points that we lost in different ways," Muller said, "but our games have been good, we've been strong and aggressive, but we have to play that same way going on the road."

Carolina has won an NHL-low seven games on the road this season (7-14-8). Cam Ward is expected to start tonight, but with a pair of back-to-back games scheduled on the road trip, backup Brian Boucher is likely to earn his first start since Dec. 3 sometime in the next few days. Boucher was activated over the weekend after missing three months with a lower-body injury.

Below are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Capitals and Hurricanes:

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

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

HURRICANES
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Anthony Stewart
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Jerome Samson

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:22 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers, Red Wings hold optional morning skates

PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers and Red Wings both held optional skates Monday morning, so there's no real set way of knowing how each team will look when they hit the ice tonight here at the Wells Fargo Center.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he left it up to his players to decide if they wanted to skate this morning.

"It's a busy month," he said. "If you look at the amount of games we're playing, we're really trying to manage what we're doing here. The most important thing is the game tonight. If the guys feel like they need a break this morning, take the break."

Among those who stayed off the ice were forwards Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. Also missing were defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros, both of whom are out indefinitely with lower-body injuries.

The injury-ravaged Red Wings only had 10 players on the ice, among them Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom. Out tonight are forwards Pavel Datsyuk (knee) and Todd Bertuzzi (groin), defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and Jakub Kindl (upper body), and goalie Jimmy Howard (lower body).

However, Laviolette said he doesn't expect much to change in the Wings' team game.

"I think anytime you take big pieces out of teams there's a difference," he said. "They still probably play with the same style that they've played with for years."

Babcock said he won't change anything about how he expects his team to play, regardless of who's in or out of the lineup.

"We try to do the same things," he said. "You're cognizant that you can't race to 10, you don't have the firepower. Different guys get different opportunities."

Here is what each team could look like when they take the ice tonight:

RED WINGS
Henrik Zetterberg - Valtteri Filppula - Jiri Hudler
Johan Franzen - Darren Helm - Drew Miller
Danny Cleary - Justin Abdelkader - Jan Mursak
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton - Chris Conner

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

Joey MacDonald will start in goal, with Jordan Pearce backing him up.

FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Brayden Schenn - Jakub Voracek
Eric Wellwood - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Pavel Kubina
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal for the ninth straight game, with Sergei Bobrovsky backing him up.
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:16 PM

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

Lundqvist supports initiative's message of tolerance

NEWARK, N.J. -- Henrik Lundqvist is one of the most accommodating players in the NHL, always willing to answer a question at his locker long after most would walk away and a happy and willing contributor to the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity whose goal is to "make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles."

So when Patrick Burke needed assistance with the You Can Play Project, an initiative designed to teach tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community in all sports, Lundqvist was happy to be part of it.

"For me, it's obvious that everyone should have the same rights and ability to play the game, it doesn't matter race or sexual orientation," Lundqvist told NHL.com Tuesday morning. "To me, I think overall, all the hockey players I meet are a respectful group of people. I've never had an issue with it or seen people have issues with it. But when they asked me, if they wanted my help, I would."

Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, is the son of Leafs GM Brian Burke, who lost his son Brendan in a car accident in 2010. Before his death, Brendan revealed his homosexuality to his family in 2007 and went public with the information in 2009. Brendan was working toward spreading a message of tolerance and inclusion in the hockey world while working as a student manager and video assistant for the men's hockey team at Miami (Ohio) University at the time of his death.

"I've said it many times -- if a player form the Flyers came out tomorrow and I could improve our team by cutting him, great, see you later," Patrick Burke told NHL.com's Adam Kimelman on Monday. "… Conversely, if I can win a Stanley Cup with 22 gay guys, great. Let's go."

Lundqvist, along with many other high-profile hockey players, including Columbus' Rick Nash, Chicago's Duncan Keith, Toronto's Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, appeared in a PSA that aired nationally during Sunday afternoon's Bruins-Rangers game on NBC.

Lundqvist said that during his playing days both in Sweden and the NHL with the Rangers, he never knew of a teammate or player that was gay who wanted to come out. Lundqvist also said if that was the case, that person would've been accepted, whether if it was while he was playing for Frolunda or the Rangers.

But Lundqvist also said he understands the difficulty and fear that comes with being open about such a matter in a sports locker room.

"It is a tough mentality, no question," Lundqvist said. "I've never been on a team where guys come out. I don't know how guys would react. I can say from the people I know, that players are very respectful. Honestly, it wouldn't be a problem."

When asked if it would be a problem on this current Rangers team, Lundqvist gave a quick, emphatic answer.

"Absolutely not," he said.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:02 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Babcock defers talk of reprising Olympic role in 2014

PHILADELPHIA -- Hockey Canada on Monday announced the entire management group from the 2010 Olympics would return to lead Team Canada for the 2014 Games.

Steve Yzerman will return as executive director, with Doug Armstrong, Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe back on board as assistants.

That group's ability to construct a gold medal-winning team was part of the reason they were asked to reprise their roles for 2014; does that mean the coach of the 2010 team will be back for 2014?

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who guided Canada to the gold medal in Vancouver, said Tuesday there's a long time before he has to think about that. The NHL has not committed to sending its players to the 2014 Games, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.

"There's a couple years before those decisions are made," Babcock said following the Wings' morning skate. "Not only that, the players … the League has to figure out if they're going and get an agreement. Everything will happen in due time. Hopefully I won't have to answer that question for a while."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 12:48 PM

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

Game-time decision, Callahan a likely go vs. Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Rangers captain Ryan Callahan will likely return from a three-game absence Tuesday night to take on the New Jersey Devils.

Callahan, who hasn't played since the Rangers' 2-0 victory against the Devils eight days ago, has been dealing with a swollen right foot. X-rays showed no break, but the swelling was so significant that Callahan couldn't get the foot into his skate. He took part in the team's morning skate at Prudential Center and appeared to have no limitations, but said afterward he will be a game-time decision.

"It felt pretty good out there, not too bad," said Callahan, who also skated on his own Monday. "I'll take warmups and go from there, see how it reacts."

Callahan said he'll wear an extra piece of padding in his skate as a precaution if he does play.

"It's just a matter of being comfortable out there and being able to do everything at top speed," Callahan said. "I felt comfortable and I felt good.

The League-leading Rangers, who have 91 points in 64 games, didn't miss a beat in Callahan's absence, going 2-0-1. Facing the defending Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon, the Rangers found a way to pull out a 4-3 victory.

Callahan is the Rangers' second-leading scorer with 25 goals and 47 points in 61 games.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 12:44 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Long-time jersey snafu finally made right for Flyer

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossman might be the nicest player on the ice, but he's pretty cordial when it comes to the equipment guys.

Now in his sixth season in the NHL, he's never corrected any of the folks who took care of his jersey in Dallas or Philadelphia -- even though it's had his name misspelled since he arrived in the League.

Tuesday against the Red Wings, Grossman for the first time will wear his name spelled correctly on his jersey -- Grossmann.

"I just started off and they put it on the wrong way and I just kept it like that," he told reporters following the Flyers' morning skate. "My dad said something a while ago, why is it spelled wrong, and I said that's the way it came and I didn't change it."

It was Flyers Director of Team Services Bryan Hardenbergh who noticed recently that Grossman's name was spelled one way on his jersey and a different way on his passport.

"He (Hardenbergh) came up to me and said I notice your name (on your jersey) is a little different than what's in your passport and I said that (the passport) is what it should be," Grossman said. "He said we can change it for you, so I said OK."

Grossmann said he never said anything early in his career. Since then, he's just gotten used to it.

"When I was young coming up I didn't want to say anything," he said. "I was just happy to have a jersey with my name on it."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelamn@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 12:38 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Carlyle calls Leafs' play against Bruins 'embarrassing'

TORONTO -- Randy Carlyle spoke candidly Tuesday morning about the Maple Leafs abysmal record this season against the Boston Bruins. He used the word "embarrassing" to describe the Leafs' four losses by a combined 23-6 score against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Carlyle, of course, was not around for any of Toronto's own Boston massacre. It didn't change his thinking.

"When you're with a team, it's we, it's not I, so I'm part of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and to tell you as a head coach of the hockey club and to look at the record, we are embarrassed," said Carlyle, who will make his debut behind the home bench at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. "We want to make a change in that. As we stated, we have to play the game to a higher level on the road and in this building. This is our building. We want to make it as difficult as possible for teams to come in here and have success against us. That's a fact."

Carlyle put the Leafs through two rigorous practices Sunday and Monday that occupied a combined three and a half hours. There was plenty of teaching going on in each session. He said the key to beating Boston on Tuesday is to basically put into play what he implemented over the last two days.

"The message was we better be prepared to play the type of hockey that is going to be necessary to win the little battles that are out there, to win the 50-50 pucks, the one-on-one battles, or we're going to be embarrassed," Carlyle said. "We can't be embarrassed in our own building.

"We want to try to be first on the puck, use the skating game that we're capable of, be conservative from a standpoint where you don't give up and don't make the Hail Mary plays, and keep as many people above the puck when you don't have it," he later added. "And when you have opportunities to go, you're a transition team and you skate. I've said it numerous times, we've got to get on our horse and get going."

Sticking to his superstitious ways, Carlyle would not verbally announce the starting goaltender for Tuesday's game. But Jonas Gustavsson was the first off the ice and Carlyle said if a guy is playing well he's going to stick with him.

Gustavsson made 21 saves in Toronto's 3-1 win over Montreal on Saturday. He has a 5.44 goals-against average and .852 save percentage in three appearances against Boston this season.

"You've got to play well to earn the next chance. That doesn't change if you get a new coach," Gustavsson said. "I try to make the most of every chance I get. Then, if I get another chance I'll try to do the same thing there. My thinking didn't really change with the new coach. It's just about doing the same thing."

Carlyle did have some lineup news to announce. He said Mike Brown, who aggravated a previous hand injury late in Monday's practice, will not play and John-Michael Liles is a gametime decision. Liles developed a temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit late Monday night.

"We thought it would be best suited for him not to come here this morning," Carlyle said. "He will visit with the doctors prior to the game, before everybody gets here, and we'll make an assessment on whether he's available to us or not."

Here is what Toronto's lines and D pairs could look like Tuesday:

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Matt Frattin
Nikolai Kulemin - David Steckel - Colby Armstrong
Jay Rosehill - Tim Connolly - Matthew Lombardi

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles or Cody Franson - Mike Komisarek
Luke Schenn - Jake Gardiner

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Shot to hand won't keep Parise from facing Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise declared himself good to go on Tuesday following his team's morning practice at Prudential Center in preparation for the New York Rangers.
 
In the second period of a 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, Parise was struck in the left hand with a shot by Isles defenseman Milan Jurcina. While he was able to finish the game, he appeared a bit uncomfortable at times and was ultimately taken for X-rays. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello informed the local media on Monday that the results were negative and showed no broken bones.
 
"Yeah, it would take a lot for me to miss this game," Parise told reporters. "I wouldn't want to miss this game … I'll be alright.

"Everyone is hurt and sore one way or another, and that's just how it is in March and April. Probably 15 or 20 guys are dealing with some type of injury, so it's nothing really."
 
The Devils are certainly going to need all hands on deck in their fifth meeting against their Atlantic Division rival this season. The Rangers are 2-1-1 against the Devils, scoring a 2-0 victory in the most recent meeting on Feb. 27 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have outscored the Devils, 9-5, including a 6-2 advantage in the third period. Additionally, 12 of the last 16 meetings have been decided by two goals or less.
 
"It's great rivalry," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "If you can't get up for this game … they're leading the conference. They're a team we're trying to close the gap and a team we might see in the playoffs at some point. It's two critical points for us where we're sitting in the standings, so all that factors in, and then you have the rivalry. The games we've had with them have been great; emotionally and from a hockey point of view, so it's exciting."
 
Meanwhile, left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who has skated the last two days after missing the last two games with a right knee injury, will be sidelined again. An MRI on Ponikarovsky's knee on Saturday revealed no damage.
 
"I did some conditioning and skating," Ponikarovsky said. "I'm doing well and [the knee] feels much better right now. It's been three days since it happened and I'm taking it day by day. I'll practice again [Wednesday] and see how it goes. I'm definitely not going [Tuesday]."
 
On defense, Andy Greene, who sat out Sunday's game after suffering back spasms during his pre-game stretching routine, did practice but admitted he'll be a game-time decision against the Rangers.
 
Martin Brodeur will face the Rangers in the regular season for the 94th time in his career. He sports a 45-28-20 mark with a 2.11 goals-against average, nine shutouts and a .919 save percentage.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for the Devils:
 
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Steve Bernier - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Cam Janssen
 
Adam Larsson - Matt Taormina
Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky

Game time decision: Andy Greene
 
Brodeur will start and Johan Hedberg will serve as backup.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.05.2012 / 4:14 PM

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

Hall declares himself fit to play for Oilers

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall pronounced himself fit to play Monday after going through the morning skate pain free at Honda Center.

Hall hurt his shoulder on a cross-check by Mark Fistric of Dallas on Friday night. He was held out of practice Sunday and was thought to be questionable for Monday night's game against Anaheim.

"It was a little sore when I woke up yesterday," Hall said. "(They) kind of recommended not to practice and we took that time to get the swelling down. Going out there today is usually the thing that would hurt it and didn't it at all, so I don't see why I can't play tonight. If (coach) Tom (Renney) has anything else to say, that's fine, but I think I should be in."

Hall might have to address the area during the offseason with a possible procedure but he said he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it.

"There's no question that throughout the season you're going to have little nicks and scrapes, and you have to take care of them when the season’s done," he said. "That's something we're going to have to re-visit."

Omark up:
Edmonton recalled Linus Omark in case Hall couldn't go, but Omark figures to get another look at some point anyway.

Renney said Omark is a game-time decision. It would be the fourth game in four nights for Omark, who played all three games over the weekend for the Oklahoma City Barons.

How will his legs feel?

"I don't know," Omark said. "I don't remember (ever doing) that. Of course it's a chance, so I'm glad to be here. I got to find a way to have fresh legs."

Omark was initially sent down in October to find his scoring touch, but he suffered a broken ankle with the Barons and was out for three months. He has 5 goals and 9 points in 11 games with Oklahoma City since he returned, and this is something of a tryout because he is an impending free agent.

"Where this ends up going, it's hard to say," Renney said. "I think he can contribute to our team, our organization. I think there's an opportunity for him, should he come back and have a real strong training camp and make some noise for himself again. Obviously, he needs to get traction."
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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