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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Stars get Benn back, go for fifth straight win

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars have been riding high lately. A four-game winning streak will do that and tonight at American Airlines Center the Stars (33-26-4, 70 points), who currently sit eighth in the Western Conference standings and five points out of the lead in the Pacific Division, will look to equal their season-long winning streak of five games, set back in October 2011 as part of an 11-4-0 start.

These teams have already met once this season, back on Nov. 11 in Pittsburgh, and it was Dan Bylsma's Penguins who came away with a 3-1 win. Several things about that game continue to stick in the mind of Stars first-year  coach Glen Gulutzan.

"I thought they were a well-oiled machine," Gulutzan said. "I thought we played them well through the first half of that game. Then, they got a power-play goal and it was tied at 1-1 going into the third. They know their jobs, they work real hard and they play their systems to a tee."

Tonight's contest will mark the return of Stars All-Star center Jamie Benn to the ice after missing the last six games with a leg injury. Benn will return to his customary spot centering the second line alongside Steve Ott and Adam Burish, but will play less than 20 minutes in his first game since Feb. 16 against Calgary.

"I feel good," Benn said. "Excited for tonight, it's a big game for our team. It should be an exciting one. You want to get back in there and help your team out to try and make a strong push for the playoffs. There's two big points on the line tonight and we need them."

Even after missing much of February, Benn is still second on the Stars in points with 49, and his 32 assists are third-most on the club.

Dallas is 8-6-2 against the Eastern Conference this year and during their current four-game winning streak, the Stars have outscored their last four foes (Montreal, Chicago, Minnesota and Vancouver) by a combined 13-4.

Gulutzan's club is just 1-5-1 in its last seven against the Pens -- but that one win came in Dallas on Nov. 3, 2010, a 5-2 victory.

"They're a good team. They are all definitely on the same page and they play for each other. That combined with skill is a dangerous mix," Stars winger Eric Nystrom said. "We've got the same type of team in here. We're going to work as hard as we possibly can tonight, play our game plan and if we do that, the result should be good."

Dallas' top line of Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder has combined for 40 points in the 15 games since the NHL All-Star break. That matchup between the Stars' top group and the Pens' first line of Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and ex-Star James Neal figures to be one to watch, but the man behind the Dallas bench chooses to put his focus elsewhere.

"We'll be more interested in our defensive matchups against them. Obviously, they have an elite, elite player over there [in Malkin] and we're going to have to be mindful of that tonight," Gulutzan said. "To our guys, it's our game that's our focal point, for sure."
   
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 12:32 PM

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

Callahan day-to-day with bruised foot

New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan could miss Thursday night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes with a bruised foot. The team is listing him as day-to-day.

Callahan will travel with the team to Raleigh, N.C., but coach John Tortorella said he's not sure if he'll be able to play.

Callahan is second on the team with 25 goals and hasn't missed a game this season. He was forced to sit out the Rangers first-round playoff series last year with a broken suffered from blocking a shot by Boston's Zdeno Chara in the 80th game of the regular season.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 9:38 AM

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

Projected lineups for Penguins, Stars

DALLAS -- Here are the projected lineups for today’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Richard Park
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams - Dustin Jeffrey

Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brad Thiessen

Injuries: Arron Asham (upper body), Sidney Crosby (concussion), Brent Johnson (undisclosed), Tyler Kennedy (ankle)

Scratches:  Ben Lovejoy

Notes: Tonight will mark the first game in Dallas for Neal since the Stars traded him to the Steel City last February along with Niskanen for fellow blueliner Alex Goligoski. Neal was a second-round pick of the Stars in 2005 and played in 224 games for them, registering 72 goals and 131 points during his two-plus seasons in Big D. Niskanen was a first-round pick of Dallas in 2005 and skated in 277 games for the Stars with 16 goals and 76 points during his three and a half seasons in the Lone Star State. These teams met in Pittsburgh on Nov. 11, 2011 with the Pens prevailing 3-1.

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

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley - Mark Fistric
Alex Goligoski - Philip Larsen

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Scratches: Adam Pardy, Toby Petersen

Injuries: Jake Dowell (finger), Brenden Morrow (upper body)

Notes: Dallas is currently on a four-game winning streak and hasn't lost since Feb. 19 against Nashville. One more victory and the Stars will equal their season-winning streak of five games, which was set back in Oct. 2011 as part of an 11-4-0 start. The Stars last played on Sunday, when they beat the Canucks in overtime, 3-2 to end a six-game losing streak against Vancouver. Tonight's game will mark the return of Benn, their All-Star center who has missed the last six games with a leg injury. Benn suffered a cut to the back of his leg in an overtime win over the Flames on Feb. 16. He will center Dallas' second line alongside Ott and Burish. First-line center Ribeiro is currently on a seven-game points streak, the longest by any Stars player this season.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 9:04 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYI @ WSH - 2:16 of the Third Period

At 2:16 of the third period in the Islanders/Capitals game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Steve Staios' point shot went into the net in a legal fashion.  Good goal New York.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 8:20 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Blog: My take on the 2012 Trade Deadline

The trade deadline is always one of the most dramatic days of the season, with teams scrambling to make the right moves that will get them a Stanley Cup. This season's was no different, but there were some clear winners and clear things to take away from it in my mind.

Here are my thoughts on the biggest stories of deadline day.

Why did St. Louis stand pat?

A lot of people thought the Blues might have been left behind after each of their division rivals made moves to solidify their rosters before the playoffs, but I just think St. Louis likes its team a lot. The Blues don't really have any extra guys to trade, and they're mostly young aside from Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, both of whom have been playing great (though Langenbrunner is hurt right now). Sometimes it's better not to tinker. Sometimes you know you've got a good thing going in your locker room and the window for the Blues is big because so much of the team is young and in its prime. They didn't want to give up draft picks or young players in older to bring an older player back, so I just think it was a case of Doug Armstrong liking his team and not wanting to shake it up.

The Rick Nash situation

I'm not surprised Nash stayed put in Columbus. I'm glad that it came out that he asked for the trade and I think Scott Howson and the Blue Jackets handled it perfectly. They asked for a big price -- if they got it they got a home run and if they didn't they don't trade him. People need to remember that Nash has several years left on his contract. They don't have to trade him. He tried to back them into a corner to make them deal him, but he also said he only wants to go to four or five teams. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Columbus held firm, and that was the right thing to do. Come this summer if the Jackets can get the group of guys they want for him then make the move, but if not then keep him. If you play it right at that point, maybe you can convince him to be a part of the rebuilding process. If you don't get what you want during the summer then he'll be a Columbus Blue Jacket next season if he wants to get paid.

Some might say Columbus was asking for too much and that's why it didn't get done -- at least with the Rangers that appeared to be the case -- but it didn't have to get done. Nash isn't a free agent and Columbus holds all the cards. And they have to hit a home run. They can't look like the losers in this to their fans. They can't look inept. They have to make it look like they did a great job and got maximum value for their top asset. They can wait until someone blinks and I think they're handling it the right way. Demand the Moon and if you get the Moon great. If not, Rick Nash is going to be a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Looking forward, who's the best?

Right now I rate the top contenders for the Stanley Cup in 2012 as Vancouver, the New York Rangers, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Boston. Of course, if Sidney Crosby comes back that changes things dramatically, because it adds the greatest player in the game to the team that has the greatest player playing right now in Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh would be right there with New York if he comes back. I don't think Dan Bylsma can count on that, I think he has to count on not having him, but they've done a masterful job of handling that all year long, which is why they're still in the thick of the hunt.

If I had to pick a team to win it all at this point though, I'd probably take New York because of its goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist. I'm a big believer in goaltending and Roberto Luongo struggled last year in the playoffs for the Canucks. I know Vancouver has Schneider backing him up, but once you get to the late rounds of the playoffs, I think whomever Vancouver plays will have better goaltending.

It's possible we might have a rematch of the last time New York won the Cup in 1994, but despite the fact that Vancouver made several moves to improve and the Rangers didn't make many, I still think Lundqvist gives the Rangers the edge -- and it also makes them the team to beat from here on out.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 8:15 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Blog: My winners at the Trade Deadline

The trade deadline is always one of the most dramatic days of the season, with teams scrambling to make the right moves that will get them a Stanley Cup. This season's was no different, but there were some clear winners and clear things to take away from it in my mind.

Here are my thoughts on the biggest stories of deadline day.

The Winners

Nashville Predators -- I like what Nashville did for several reasons. First of all, it was great to see the Predators be buyers at the deadline. For so many years Nashville always had to sell players. They've always had to get rid of free agents because they knew they couldn't sign them. We've seen so many great players leave Nashville so it was nice to see them change their philosophy and take a run at winning. I think everyone that follows hockey is a Nashville fan. They know what Nashville's been through financially, and I think everybody deep down would love to see Nashville have a deep playoff run.

As for what the Predators did in the days leading up to the deadline, I love the Hal Gill deal, because Hal Gill plays his best hockey in the playoffs. Come playoff time he always plays against the other team's top forwards and he shuts down everyone he plays. As for Monday, I liked the move to get Paul Gaustad. I know the price is high -- a first-round pick -- but Gaustad is something they don't have. They don't have a big, physical forward -- a guy that can win draws, a guy that can check the other team's top player, a guy that can kill penalties, and a guy that has a physical edge to him. I thought that was a need that Nashville had and I thought they went out and filled that need.

I like the move to bring in Andrei Kostitsyn as well. I know he's an underachiever. You look at him and his points never add up to what his talent level is, but hopefully he'll get caught up in what Nashville's doing and get fired up about playing with his brother again. That is something, a little added spice, that other teams couldn't offer Kostitsyn. Hopefully the chance to play with his brother again will invigorate him and get him fired up for the stretch run. Nashville is a very defensive team -- they win by bottling you up -- and doesn't have a lot of offense, which is why Kostitsyn is such a good addition. He's a pure scorer, someone who doesn't need 10 or 12 chances to put the puck in the net.

The Predators have risen up a level with these moves and they're with the big boys in West now. Their goaltender gives them a chance to win every night -- an argument could be made for Pekka Rinne to be in the discussion for the Hart Trophy, not just the Vezina -- and now all of their players in their prime. They've also got to have a deep playoff run to take a run at keeping Ryan Suter and Shea Weber over the next two offseasons. That makes this a paramount time in the history of the Predators franchise. These moves have set them in the right direction at this important moment for that team, and I think they were the clear winner at the deadline this year.

San Jose Sharks -- I thought San Jose had to do something. They were in a free fall after going 2-6-1 on their recent road trip -- and coach Todd McLellan is out with a concussion, which doesn't help. Things seem bleak for them and they're dropping like a rock, so it was important that they did something to send a message to the team. They added two forwards who will be third- and fourth-line guys, but they're going to give them depth. Daniel Winnik is a big body who gives them a kind of physical presence they don't have enough of, and T.J. Galiardi is a guy I loved as a rookie. He can fly and he'll fit in well with San Jose's style and maybe he can recapture how he played in his rookie year. I thought it was a good move, they needed to do it, they sent a message to the team that they weren't going to stand pat and that they were going to try to jumpstart the team.

You could say they didn't add an impact player, but sometimes just the message you're sending is more important than what you actually do. I think this was a good message from the San Jose Sharks and don't forget they've still got Martin Havlat coming back, too. He's a top-six forward who will make their power play better, and while I think he's a bit of an underachiever, he's still one of the biggest pure talents the NHL has when he's healthy.

Vancouver Canucks -- I like what Vancouver did. A lot of fans might be upset that they traded Cody Hodgson to Buffalo, but I have no problem with that. He was only playing 12 minutes a game or so, and he wasn't seeing time on the power play behind Kesler and Sedin so where would he go. The Canucks felt they weren't tough enough last year against Boston, but going to get a guy like John Scott from Chicago wouldn't have been the move they needed. They needed a Milan Lucic-type player, someone with skill and toughness. I'm not saying Zack Kassian already is that kind of player, but you can see him becoming that type of player. He's skilled enough, he's a good skater, he's mean, he's big at 230 pounds, he's physical. Having him on the bench and the ice will make them a tougher team mentally -- and certainly give them more toughness physically. You could say that they overpaid for him, but unless you've been pushed around and you know your team's not tough enough you don't value toughness. You don't value toughness until you don't have it. I think Vancouver realized that was what they didn't have last year against Boston.

The Canucks' pickup of Sammy Pahlsson is also interesting because he had such a good playoff for Anaheim back in 2007. He scored some big goals, he was big on draws, and you can never have enough guys that score and can win draws come playoff time. Getting him was a good deal because of his playoff experience, and if you can get him to play well for three months, that's all you're looking for. Vancouver now has two solid centermen in Manny Malhotra and Pahlsson who can play on the third or fourth line. It also gives you the ability to put two centermen on one line if you need to have a second option on the ice for a key draw. Getting Pahlsson was a good, cheap pickup for Vancouver.

Boston Bruins -- In the East, Philadelphia made deals to add Pavel Kubina and Niklas Grossman a week before the deadline, but on the deadline day itself, the East was much quieter than the West. The West was much more aggressive. Boston cheaply added Brian Rolston, and people might wonder why, but the Bruins know Rolston. Claude Julien probably figures he can come in and play on the third or second line and play a little on the power play. I like Greg Zanon, too. He's a Boston-type defenseman -- very physical and he blocks a lot of shots. Mike Mottau is a veteran who doesn't beat himself. That's what Boston wants on its defense -- guys who don't beat themselves. They need to know what they're getting every shift and Mottau and Zanon are those types of defensemen. Boston got better.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 7:50 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

FLA @ TOR - 19:35 of the First Period

At 19:35 of the first period in the Panthers/Maple Leafs game, video review determined that Joffrey Lupul kicked the puck into the net with his left skate. According to rule 49.2 "A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net.". No Goal Toronto.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 5:26 PM

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

Lower-body injury leaves Couture game-time decision

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture, who leads the team with 27 goals, will be a game-time decision Tuesday night against Philadelphia because of a lower-body injury he suffered Sunday at Minnesota.

Couture took three huge hits against the Wild and left the ice for good midway through the second period. He skated briefly Tuesday morning, without pads, but was not on the ice for the rest of the morning skate.

"It felt good to get on the ice," Couture said. "I didn't feel that bad. There's a chance I could play tonight."

On Sunday against Minnesota, Couture's head banged against the glass at least twice, but it's a lower-body injury that's the main problem.

"I think all three (hits) really built up, and the last one, my body was hurting," Couture said. "I really didn't want to come back in the game. I got a couple days of rest. Yesterday, rested and treated it. Today as well. It definitely feels a lot better than it did the other day at the game."

Couture said he didn't think Minnesota was targeting him specifically or trying to take him out of the game, and he said "there was nothing wrong" with any of the hits he took.

"Guys were finishing checks," Couture said. "That's hockey. You expect to get hit every night. I definitely didn't feel they were only hitting me out there. They were hitting other guys, too.’"

The Sharks, coming off a 2-6-1 road trip, could definitely use Couture tonight against Philadelphia when they open a four-game homestand.

With or without Couture, the Sharks hope to get a boost from forwards Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi, who will make their debuts after being traded from Colorado to San Jose on Monday.

"That's what we're hoping," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after the morning skate. "We definitely think we've got the pieces in here to make a good run. We just feel like the two new guys are definitely going to help that out."

Winnik said he hopes that he and Galiardi can energize the Sharks.

"When you get traded you bring new excitement with yourself, and hopefully TJ and I inject some energy into the lineup," Winnik said.

During the morning skate, Winnik was on the second line with Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. Galiardi skated on the third line with Michael Handzus and Torrey Mitchell. Ryane Clowe and Tommy Wingels skated on the top line with Thornton.

That's likely how they'll open tonight's game unless Couture is able to play.

The road-weary Sharks will face a Flyers team that is playing the final game of a four-game road trip but hasn't played since Saturday when it beat Calgary 5-4 in a shootout.

"A couple days in California isn't bad for the body or the mind," Flyers winger Scott Hartnell said. "We had a good practice yesterday, a good skate this morning. Even though we're all the way across the country, we've got to play hard and not focus on getting back home."

Hartnell, who played six seasons in Nashville, has been to the Shark Tank enough times to know how tough San Jose is to beat at home.

"This is a tough building to play in," Harnell said. "The fans are incredible and they feed off that energy. So it's going to be a big battle for us. It's going to be a big test for us tonight to come out, come hard. Hopefully we get a lead. It seems like we haven't had a lead in the first period for three months."

The Flyers haven't beaten the Sharks in San Jose since Nov. 5, 1999. Their last victory over San Jose was on Dec. 21, 2000, in Philadelphia.

Hartnell is coming off a two-goal game against Calgary and has a career-high 30 goals for the season. He credited “a lot of hard work” for his career year, as well as the chance to skate with teammates such as Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr.

“It’s a lot who you’re playing with and power play time and things like that,” Hartnell said. “I’ve been really focused, trying to be focused for every practice, every game. Just trying to do what I do best, and that’s go to the net. Playing with Giroux and Jagr, you put your stick on the ice, pucks are going to find your stick. It’s been a real treat playing with those guys.”

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 5:24 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Flyers

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the San Jose Sharks face the Philadelphia Flyers at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Ryane Clowe - Joe Thornton - Tommy Wingels
Daniel Winnik - Patrick Marleau - Joe Pavelski
TJ Galiardi - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Jim Vandermeer

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Jason Demers - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi, who came off the ice first Tuesday morning, is expected to be in goal tonight. He backed up Greiss on Sunday at Minnesota. In two of his three previous starts he was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals. Center Dominic Moore (lower body) took part in the morning skate and appears close to returning, but he'll miss his fourth straight game.

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Maxime Talbot - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Brayden Schenn - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Pavel Kubina - Matt Carle
Andrej Meszaros - Nicklas Grossman

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Bryzgalov, coming off a 5-4 shootout win over Calgary on Saturday, will be in goal again for the Flyers. He's 22-12-6 overall with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 4:47 PM

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

Ruff back on the ice

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A familiar face was back on the ice today with the Buffalo Sabres -- coach Lindy Ruff.

Ruff skated during practice for the first time since he broke three ribs in a collision with Jordan Leopold during a practice earlier this month.

"It felt good to be out there," Ruff said. "I'd probably win the stupid award for going out. I just felt that it's time and be careful that I don't fall and that I don't get hit."

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It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday