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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 2:09 PM

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

Potenial lineups for Canadiens, Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- Here are the lineups the Canadiens and Lightning could use when the teams take the ice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum tonight.

A stomach virus and a slew of roster changes has Lightning coach Guy  Boucher unsure of what his lineups could look like.

"I don't know who's going to play tonight," Boucher said. "We'll just see what we put on the ice."

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Blake Geoffrion - Tomas Plekanec - Ryan White
Rene Bourque - Lars Eller - Ryan White
Petteri Nokelainen - Scott Gomez - Brad Staubitz

Josh Georges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli

Carey Price will start in goal, with Peter Budaj the backup.

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

Eric Brewer - Brett Clark
Mike Commodore - Brian Lee
Evan Oberg - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson the backup.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 2:06 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Versteeg out for Panthers; Leafs go with Reimer

TORONTO -- Leading goal scorer Kris Versteeg will not play for the Florida Panthers versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. 

"He has a little bit of a lower-body injury that has been bugging him for about a week," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said after the morning skate. "He's wanted to play through it, but when he is not 100 percent he doesn't have that extra step."

Dineen confirmed that Versteeg did not make the trip to Toronto and will not play until being evaluated next week. 

It is expected Dineen will use Wojtek Wolski and Jack Skille to varying degrees in hopes of filling the void left by Versteeg's absence. 

Versteeg did play in Florida's victory over Montreal on Sunday, but did not finish the game.

Jose Theodore will start in net for the Panthers, while Toronto coach Ron Wilson has elected to start James Reimer despite being critical of the netminder's performance in a loss to Washington on Saturday night.

"It's Reimer, because we believe he can get the job done," Wilson said in his pre-game press conference. 

Wilson, who will be coaching his 1,400th NHL game, confirmed defenseman Mike Komisarek will also be in the lineup, taking the place of Cody Franson.

"It's very competitive on our back end," Wilson said. "Sometimes he is out because other guys have played better, sometimes he is out because we have won with a certain group. Tonight he needs to be physical and make simple plays, move the puck, keep it out of the middle and be aggressive."

Komisarek has been a healthy scratch for the past four games and last saw action on Feb. 15.

The Panthers visit will mark the end of Toronto's four-game homestand in which the Leafs have only earned one of a possible six points. It will be the third meeting between the two clubs, with the Panthers having taken both previous meetings by a combined score of 10-4. The 10th-place Maple Leafs trail the Panthers by five points in the Eastern Conference race.

The Panthers have taken five of a possible six points in their past three games.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 2:04 PM

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

Aucoin, Cizikas look to capitalize on NHL ice time

WASHINGTON -- After skating alongside Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson at practice yesterday, Capitals forward Mike Knuble was asked if he read anything into his practicing with the No. 1 line.

"No because I imagine Keith [Aucoin] will be back [Tuesday]," said Knuble, a healthy scratch the previous two games while American Hockey League call-up Keith Aucoin donned a Caps sweater both nights. "That's what I assume will happen -- that he'll be back [Tuesday]. So I just got to fill in his spot for a day."

Twenty-four hours later, Knuble's theory was proven correct. Aucoin was recalled from the AHL Hershey Bears this morning and will play tonight as the Caps host the New York Islanders at Verizon Center.

Aucoin will play on a line with Ovechkin and Johansson while Knuble will sit as a healthy scratch for the third straight game and for the sixth time in the last 10 games overall.

"Definitely, he played pretty well last game, so we're giving him the chance to play again," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said.

Aucoin had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win Saturday in Toronto. Those are Aucoin's only two points in eight NHL games this season, but the 2009-10 AHL Most Valuable Player is second in AHL scoring this season with 70 points in 43 games.

"We all know he's not a big guy," Hunter said of the 5-foot-8 forward. "But he's smart player. That's why he's put numbers up in the American League and wherever he's been he's played well offensively and he's a smart player."

While the 33-year-old Aucoin won't be mistaken for a blue-chip prospect, he is nonetheless making the most of his latest look in the NHL.

At the other end of the spectrum, 21-year-old Casey Cizikas is looking to take advantage of his first look in the NHL.

Cizikas was recalled by the Islanders from AHL Bridgeport last Thursday and will play in his third career NHL game tonight against the Capitals.

Cizikas appeared in the AHL all-star game in January, and was Bridgeport's leading scorer with 45 points in 51 games at the time of his recall.

"If you had told me coming into the season that this is how it would have been, I never would have believed you," said Cizikas, the Islanders' fourth-round pick at the 2009 Entry Draft. 

"It's been a dream year right now for me as a professional rookie. It's something I never imagined but it's definitely been fun, first getting the call for the [AHL] all-star game and now this is just icing on the cake. It's definitely been a year that I'm never going to forget."

With the Islanders trading veteran forward Brian Rolston to Boston ahead of Monday's trade deadline, Cizikas could get an extended look down the stretch.

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound center has primarily seen third-line duty with the Islanders and is expected to skate alongside Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo tonight in Washington.

"I try to be more of an energy guy up here," Cizikas said. "We have so many guys that can put the puck in the net, so if I could chip that would be nice, but I think my role here is to get pucks deep, grind in the corners and finish my checks. So that's what I've been trying to do and everyday I'm getting more comfortable out there."
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Kings turn to Bernier for second of back-to-backs

ST. PAUL -- Expect few changes for the Los Angeles Kings from last night's 2-1 loss in Nashville. Jonathan Bernier will get the nod in goal tonight against the Minnesota Wild.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he's been impressed with the ability Jeff Carter has brought since his acquisition from the Columbus Blue Jackets last week.

"He's had lots of good opportunities, hit a post last night, had two or three good ones the night before," Sutter said. "I think the big adjustment for him is going to be pace of play."

Tonight's contest features two of the League's lowest-scoring teams. All of which means tonight's game will likely be a high-scoring shootout -- that's typically how it turns out anyways, especially this time of year when expectations can change on a nightly basis.

"We had enough chances last night, that's for sure," Sutter said. "Probably had more chances last night than we did in the Chicago game (a 4-0 Kings win last Saturday)."

On the injury front, the Kings came out of the game last night fine and are expected to put out the same lineup.

"Playing last night, we have some bumps and bruises but nothing holding anyone out," Sutter said.

Here's tonight's projected lineup for the Kings:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Quick
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:38 PM

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

Minnesota product Gilbert set to make Wild debut

ST. PAUL -- It's possible the smile hasn't left Tom Gilbert's face since it was announced he was traded yesterday in a deadline deal from Edmonton to Minnesota.

Gilbert, born and raised in the Twin Cities, will make his Wild debut this evening on national television against the Los Angeles Kings. And while the story is definitely of the feel-good variety, none of that will matter once the puck hits the ice. The Wild, winners of three of their last four games, trail the Kings by three points in the ever-tightening Western Conference playoff race, where just six points separate six teams for the final two playoff spots.

But for Gilbert, hitting the ice tonight will probably be the most relaxed he's been over the last 24 hours. After learning of the trade, Gilbert said he spent a couple of hours answering emails and texts before packing and hoping on a plane to get to St. Paul. He arrived early this morning, skated with his new teammates and will now try and glean as much as he can about a new system in the eight hours or so before faceoff.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," Gilbert said. "I think after this first game, once I get settled, it'll be more of a reality."

Perhaps the only people more excited than Gilbert are his parents Kelly and Mary, who still live in Gilbert's hometown of Bloomington, Minn. -- a short 15-minute drive south of Xcel Energy Center.

"I had called my parents before and warned them that my name was out there and that Minnesota was brought up," Gilbert said. "Obviously, my mom and dad were pretty excited. It took me about an hour and a half after the trade to get a hold of them. I'm sure they were dying to hear from me."

From a hockey standpoint, moving Gilbert for franchise mainstay Nick Schultz -- someone Kings defenseman and former Wild teammate Willie Mitchell said he thought would be a "lifer," -- should help jumpstart Minnesota's lackluster offensive production from the blueline.

"It's a big reason why Tom is here," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "The way we want to play the game, a huge part of that is how our defensemen execute and transition the puck out of our defensive zone and deliver it up to our forwards quickly.

"It's a tough game to play if your defensemen aren't moving the puck well. We defend well, but we spend too much time defending."

Here's tonight's projected lineup for the Wild:

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

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Tom Gilbert - Justin Falk
Kurtis Foster - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:34 PM

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

Boucher unsure what kind of team he'll have tonight

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher surveyed the locker room after Tuesday's morning skate, he saw an unusual collection of players. There was Mike Commodore and Brian Lee, two defensemen obtained Monday at the trade deadline; Tim Wallace, claimed on waivers Feb 23; and three call-ups from AHL Norfolk -- Brandon Segal, Mike Angelidis and Trevor Smith. Not yet present, but en route from Norfolk, was Evan Oberg.

Missing were Vincent Lecavalier, who will miss his fifth consecutive game Tuesday with a fractured hand; Ryan Shannon and Victor Hedman, both sidelined with upper-body injuries; and Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson and Brendan Mikkelson, all ill with a stomach virus. The virus also hit assistant coach Marty Raymond, who was sent home from practice.

"I've never seen anything like it," Boucher said.

The Lightning open a two-game homestand Tuesday when they host the Montreal Canadiens at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Hanging on to their playoff hopes just six points out of the final post-season spot, Boucher will send out a mixed bag of players, some of whom he knows and some of whom he never has seen on the ice before.

"I don't know who's going to play tonight," Boucher said. "We'll just see what we put on the ice."

On the ice for certain will be two of the three defensemen acquired Monday. Keith Aulie, obtained from the Toronto Maple Leafs, is awaiting a visa, but Commodore and Lee were given a crash course on the Lightning game plan before the morning skate.

"We went over a lot of information; a lot to digest this morning," Lee said. "I'll try to pick it all up this afternoon and then come back and be ready for the game. There are different systems and ideologies here, but at the end of the day, it's still hockey."

Commodore, joining his seventh NHL team in 11 seasons, will be ready to go, but admitted he didn't get much rest Monday.

"I couldn't sleep, so I got to bed around 3 a.m. I was in Tampa by 11 p.m. but I couldn't fall asleep," Commodore said. "A lot happened yesterday. I had a couple of hours to get things packed and catch a flight. Hopefully, I'll get a nap today and be ready to go.

"We had a meeting and the coach went over some stuff, just keeping it simple. From what I've taken from everything this morning, from the coaches to the new gear to not playing in a month, I'm just going to keep it real simple tonight. That will be the number-one thing that I do."

Boucher planned to play his newcomers in tandem on the ice Tuesday.

"We'll play Commodore and Lee together," Boucher said, "since they both won't know what's happening. We'll try to help them both at the same time."

Commodore said the pairing will be "a work in progress."
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:16 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Panthers, Maple Leafs

Here's how the lineups project when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Florida Panthers tonight from the Air Canada Centre:

PANTHERS
Sean Bergenheim - Stephen Weiss - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Tomas Kopecky - Wojtek Wolski
Shawn MatthiasMike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen

MAPLE LEAFS
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Matt Frattin
Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connolly - Nikolai Kulemin
Mike Brown - David Steckel - Joey Crabb

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

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:12 PM

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

Gilroy to get first look from Senators

BOSTON -- Ottawa isn't wasting any time getting newly acquired defenseman Matt Gilroy into its lineup.

Gilroy, who was acquired Monday from Tampa Bay in a trade for Brian Lee, will make his Senators debut tonight at the TD Garden against the Boston Bruins and skate on a pair with Chris Phillips, according to coach Paul MacLean.

"He's got good size and he's got good mobility and he can make a pass," MacLean said after his team's morning skate. "So he gets the puck going up the ice. He has the ability to join the rush and even lead the rush at times. That’s the type of player that we like on the back end, and he gives us another puck-moving guy on the third pair that has the ability to bring offense. And in today's game, if you're not attacking with four people, you're not going to score goals."

Gilroy said he was excited to get traded up in the standings to a team currently holding a playoff spot. He also thinks his game will fit well with his new teammates.

"There's a lot of talented players here," Gilroy said. "They like to move the puck. And there's a lot of talented forwards here that like to work with the D on the rush, so it should be exciting to play with."

Defenseman Matt Carkner will be scratched along with forward Kaspars Daugavins, as MacLean will also re-insert Zenon Konopka into the Sens' lineup. Robin Lehner gets a second straight start in net.

"It's going to be fun," Lehner said. "I played Boston last year once. They're a good team, obviously, and a huge challenge for both me and the team."

Here's the Senators' projected lineup:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Zenon Konopka - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil

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

Robin Lehner
Alex Auld
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:04 PM

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

Caps use same personnel as they chase third straight

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals look for their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 11-15 as they begin a five-game homestand tonight against the New York Islanders.

Washington begins the day in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind eighth place Winnipeg and three points behind the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers.

The Islanders have lost three of their last four games to drop to 13th place in the conference, eight points out of a playoff position.

Dale Hunter is expected to use the same lineup that won back-to-back games last weekend against Montreal and Toronto. That means that veterans Mike Knuble, Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine will again be healthy scratches.

"You have to work hard in practice and prepare yourself that when I get in I'm going to play well," Hunter said. "Now if Hammer or Knubes get in and they play well, they'll bump out a guy. That's the way it is."

Hamrlik, who has played no fewer than 75 games in each of the past five seasons, will be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game, while Knuble will watch from the press box for the third straight game, and for the sixth time in 10 games overall.

Knuble, 39, has 3 goals and 12 points in 57 games this season and has spent much of the season on Washington's fourth line.

"I haven't been healthy scratched in six years," said Caps forward Brooks Laich, "but my second year when I got healthy scratched, you feel like you're forgotten about. The rest of the team is here and you're just a forgotten piece, and for the guys that aren't playing, you want to make sure that as a teammate that you still include them in everything. Talk about the game with them and keep them involved as much as possible, because it would be easy if nobody talks to them for them to go the other way."

Michal Neuvirth (8-9-3) is expected to start a third straight game for the Caps for the first time since Dec. 15-26 when the 23-year-old started five straight games.

Evgeni Nabokov (15-15-0) will start for the Islanders. Nabokov, an unrestricted free agent at season's end, was thought to have been on the trading block prior to yesterday's deadline.

"Nabby has been a huge part of our success," Islanders captain Mark Streit said. "But honestly, I didn't expect [a trade] because we're still in it, we have a shot -- we need a great run here, let's not fool ourselves -- but [general manager] Garth [Snow] didn't want to make any deals because he believes in the team and has a lot of faith in us so we're all looking forward to the next six weeks."

Here are the projected lineups for tonight’s game:

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

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

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

ISLANDERS

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
David Ullstrom - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - Kyle Okposo
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jay Pandolfo

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Streit - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Steve Staios

Evgeni Nabokov
Al Montoya

NOTES: The Capitals have the second best home record in the Eastern Conference at 20-8-2. … Nabokov is 10-1-0 lifetime against the Caps with two shutouts, a 1.98 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. … Nino Niederreiter is expected to be a healthy scratch for the Islanders. Niederreiter has 1 goal in 39 games this season and his minus-19 rating is last among Eastern Conference forwards.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Bruins will have Rolston, Mottau in the lineup

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins' three deadline-day acquisitions were all in town this morning.

Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau, who were picked up from the New York Islanders, took the morning skate at the TD Garden in preparation for tonight's game against Ottawa. Both are scheduled to play against the Senators.

Greg Zanon, who was acquired from Minnesota, arrived late in the morning. Bruins coach Claude Julien said he wants Zanon to get in a practice with the team Wednesday before playing the veteran blueliner in a game.

With Nathan Horton (concussion), Rich Peverley (knee) and Johnny Boychuk (concussion) currently out of the lineup, Boston needed the reinforcements.

"We've run into some injuries lately," Julien said. "That's been a challenge in itself to keep our lineup going in the right direction. So now there's a little bit more breathing room, as far as putting some guys in that have been around for a while."

Shawn Thornton has been ill, but took the skate and should be ready to go at puck drop.

Here is the Bruins' projected lineup for tonight:

Milan Lucic - Chris Kelly - David Krejci
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Brian Rolston - Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Andrew Ference
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Mike Mottau - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

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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