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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 3:52 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sabres, Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Buffalo Sabres at Honda Center:

SABRES
Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Ville Leino - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Brad Boyes - Corey Tropp

Jordan Leopold - Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Christian Ehrhoff - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

DUCKS
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Niklas Hagman - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Matt Beleskey - Rod Pelley - George Parros

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

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 3:43 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Coyotes, Leafs illustrate opposite ends of spectrum

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Two teams going in opposite directions as the Stanley Cup Playoff races head down the stretch. Read on to find out who, what, why, all of it...

What's Clicking?

The Phoenix Coyotes = red hot.

They've had the most controversy of any team in the NHL during the last two or three years with the ownership issue, but GM Don Maloney has done just a tremendous job of not only keeping the faith within that dressing room, but bringing in quality players and a coach who has created a great playing atmosphere for these players.

You can tell by the way they play.

They were up against adversity going into the All-Star break, and they come out playing like their playoff lives were on the line. Now to be unbeaten in February and third in a difficult, strong Western Conference without any major superstars just tells you how much pride is in that locker room.

Shane Doan, who is one of the best men I've ever met in the game, is a true professional in the way that he runs this team, captains this team, leads it by example.

Radim Vrbata is drastically under-appreciated in the NHL for what he can do and for the season he's having. For him to not make the All-Star Game was such a kick in the face.

And, I've got to give props to Ray Whitney -- 20 years in the NHL and he's leading the Coyotes in points. He continues to be a great locker room leader and a fantastic person to watch on the ice. To keep his level of play as high as he has is a true testament to him as a competitor.

All in all, I am very proud of the Coyotes and I hope for continued success for them. I really hope they can continue this right on into the playoffs and be that team that nobody wants to play come April 10.

Kudos to them. Job well done.

What's Missing?

The Toronto Maple Leafs = ice cold.

This is a team that is under probably the most scrutiny of any in the NHL, especially because they haven't made the playoffs since 2004, but you have to wonder what it is now. It's not coaching because obviously Ron Wilson has a system in place that had the team flying high in the beginning of the season.

You know what, I'm going to make the same statement I made last week about the New York Islanders: Does this team even want to make the playoffs? Does this team even want to make the sacrifice that it takes to win crucial games night in and night out?

I know Florida is a good team, but you can't lose to the Florida Panthers at home when you're battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. There are too many teams right now that are refusing to take that next step, and Toronto is in that group.

Phil Kessel has continued to play strong hockey. Joffrey Lupul has fallen off a bit. But, the guy who has fallen off the most and is hurting this team is Mikhail Grabovski.

It bothers me so much when a guy with that much talent has so many ups and downs throughout a season. You can't be as good as Grabovski was and then be as poor as Grabovski has been. Either you're good or you're not.

To me, it's simply about effort.

Grabovski is a great player and he needs to step up and be accountable for the way he's performing.

But, unfortunately, goalies James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson have also fallen on quiet times. That's not helping the cause at all for Wilson and Brian Burke or the Toronto Maple Leafs' fans.

Finally, I have heard they're calling for Wilson to be fired, chanting for it at Air Canada Centre; but it's not right. Why is it Wilson's fault now? What about the beginning of the season? They weren't calling for his head then.

It now goes down to the players because they're not performing to their expectations. They have proven that they can do it, that the system works, but now they have to play the system and stop blaming the coach.

They just need to do what it takes to win hockey games.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Hawks face important game against desperate Leafs

CHICAGO -- Time keeps ticking away on the regular season and no team is more aware of it running out than the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Hawks have slipped from the top of the heap in the Western Conference into a fight to hold onto a playoff spot with just 18 games remaining. They're currently sitting sixth in the West with 73 points heading into Wednesday night's Original Six matchup against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center -- but are just three points ahead of the eighth, ninth and 10th place teams.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are having their own issues -- just one win in the past 10 games -- so it's logical to look at this game as one of those "must-wins" for the Blackhawks (33-24-7), who hit the road again this coming weekend for games in Ottawa and Detroit.

"You look at our schedule and it's a pretty tough schedule," Hawks forward Patrick Kane said after Chicago's morning skate on Wednesday. "We've got to take advantage of the home games. It's a fun game for us to play against Toronto, a team you don't see very often. It's a fun Eastern Conference team to play against with the Original Six, Chicago-Toronto all-time series ... but the most important thing is focusing on winning the game and that's it."

Hawks teammate Patrick Sharp said the Hawks started doing the math a while ago, when they went through an ugly nine-game winless skid that stretched into most of a grueling nine-game road trip to start the month of February.

"It's not anything new to me," Sharp said of the Hawks' playoff push. "I saw the standings during that nine-game road trip and knew it was going to be tight right down the stretch. That's the nature of our conference. It's not like we're waking up today concerned about it. It's been an issue for a long time now."

Have the Hawks also begun to peek ahead at what kind of record they might need to wind up with to secure a playoff spot?

"Not really," Kane said. "I think you can get a little bit ahead of yourself if you start doing that. For us, just take it one game at a time here and try to win every game. We know we have 18 left and our main goal is to get in the playoffs, because we feel we have a team that can do well in a playoff situation. We've kind of proven that in the last three years. That's the main goal, to get in the playoffs."

They'll have to start that quest on Wednesday night without their captain for the fifth straight game -- as center Jonathan Toews will miss another game with an undisclosed upper-body injury that's thought to be a concussion. Toews also missed a Jan. 24 game against the Nashville Predators, a 3-1 loss at the United Center, and the Hawks are just 1-4-0 in the five games he's missed so far this season.

"It's tough," said Kane, who will likely start Wednesday's game centering the top line between Andrew Brunette and Marian Hossa. "He's a great player and big part of our team. Everyone knows that, but you're going to have injuries throughout the season. You can never replace a guy like Johnny, but at the same time, if you're winning without him I'm sure it makes [him] feel a little bit more at ease and our team feel more at ease. Important game tonight, for sure."

The game will also be the Blackhawks debut for puck-moving defenseman Johnny Oduya, who was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets prior to Monday's trade deadline, but Chicago will be without defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, who remain out with upper-body injuries also believed to be concussion-related.

On the other side of the rink, the game is just as important to the struggling Leafs (29-27-7), who've dropped three straight games and came out flat at home on Tuesday night against the Panthers despite a pep talk by coach Ron Wilson -- whose name fans started calling for to be fired.

"You get frustrated [about the firing chants], but at the same time, sometimes I think if I was working a 9-to-5 job and I paid that much money to come to the game, I'd be upset, too," Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur said on Wednesday in Chicago. "They have all the right to do that. They pay for their seat and it's our job to come out and have a better performance than that."

Florida had two goals on the board against Toronto before many inside Air Canada Centre could even get settled in their seats, which led to the firing chants.

"As much as that reflects on him, that's our [poor] playing that's really being said out there," MacArthur said. "It's just something where we're getting down early in games and we're allowing the other teams to play exactly the kind of games they want to play."

Sharp said the Blackhawks know what happened and said the Leafs will probably be even more fired up than usual to start Wednesday night's game at the Madhouse on Madison.

"They've been on a tough stretch," Sharp said. "I watched their game last night and they're going to be a hungry team coming into our building, and that's always dangerous. No game's an easy one on the schedule. We've learned that. It's going to be a fun one."
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Kennedy, Crosby skate with team, but out tonight

DALLAS -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy skated with his teammates Wednesday morning, as did Sidney Crosby, but neither of them figure to play tonight.

"Tyler Kennedy was back on the ice with the team for the first time in a morning skate," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. "Lineup will be game-time at this point in time and Marc-Andre Fleury will start in the net. Sidney skated with the team because he likes skating with people on the ice. He skated today because Tyler was going to be back on the ice with the team."
   
Kennedy hasn't played since Feb. 5 due to a high ankle sprain that was expected to sideline him from 4-6 weeks.

Forward Arron Asham, who missed Sunday's win against Columbus with an upper-body injury, will be a game-time decision. Bylsma said the decision will be made after Asham skates in pre-game warm-ups.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 2:34 PM

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

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Here's a look at how the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks might line up on Wednesday night:

MAPLE LEAFS
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connelly - Matt Frattin
Colby Armstrong - Dave Steckel - Mike Brown

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

Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer

BLACKHAWKS
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bollig

Duncan Keith - Nick Leddy
Johnny Oduya - Brent Seabrook
Sami Lepisto - Dylan Olsen

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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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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I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the series-winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round