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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:26 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blues finally healthy, face Blue Jackets

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for a Central Division battle Saturday night between the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets from Scottrade Center:

BLUES

Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Matt D'Agostini - Scott Nichol - Chris Stewart

Kent Huskins - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak gets his second straight start tonight in goal. He is 10-0-0 in his last 10 home starts with a .099 goals-against average and .960 save percentage, 13-0-1 at home dating back to Nov. 22.

The Blues will have their full lineup healthy and intact for the first time since March 3, 2010 (160 games). The scratches tonight will include forwards Jaden Schwartz, B.J. Crombeen, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Ian Cole.

BLUE JACKETS

R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Cam Atkinson
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Rick Nash
Ryan Russell - Ryan Johansen - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - Dalton Prout
Brett Lebda - Nikita Nikitin
Aaron Johnson - John Moore

Allen York
Shawn Hunwick

York, who started in a 4-1 win Friday against Florida and picked up his first NHL win Wednesday over Detroit, could go again or it is possible Shawn Hunwick could make his NHL debut.

The Blue Jackets' injury report includes G Curtis Sanford (leg), G Steve Mason (head), D Fedor Tyutin (hand), D James Wisniewski (concussion), D Marc Methot (jaw), D Radek Martinek (concussion), C Derek MacKenzie (concussion) and LW Kristian Huselius (groin).

All are out indefinitely except for Mason, who is day-to-day. Moore limped off the ice Friday in the first period but returned to finish the game. Coach Todd Richards told reporters after the game Moore is questionable for Saturday and the team might be forced to recall a player from Springfield.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

US Hockey-West/OHL to dominant afternoon session

5:56 p.m. (ET) - So Central has whipped through the first round and is now tearing through Round 2 -- 50 names have been voted upon. While I know it's probably killing you not to know who is rated where, my apologies. The final list is tentatively scheduled for release on April 9.

Beginning 9 a.m. Sunday morning, the boys will return to the conference room and look over the lists. It's possible a few hand votes will take place if there is a discrepancy somewhere.

4:17 p.m. (ET) - The OHL is now complete and that means the scouts will be voting on those players who should be considered in the first round, in order. Central Scouting Director Dan Marr (tongue in cheek) just asked me in front of the whole group, "Ok Mike, who do you take?"

A great honor indeed. But I passed. Marr is now just awaiting word from New York that 'Meeting Manager' is ready to accept votes. The scouts will then load in their first few picks and 'Meeting Manager' will then provide the average picks. Discussion will then commence.

3:20 p.m. (ET) - Ottawa's Cody Ceci has received some nice praise here at the scouting meetings. Discussion of Belleville's Daniil Zharkov, Oshawa's Scott Laughton and Owen Sound's Jarrod Maidens are on the table.

One scout said, "Brendan Gaunce is going to make one NHL team very happy," and another told the group "Olli Maatta may be the smartest player in the draft."

2:52 p.m. (ET)
- So Chris Edwards is ready to begin discussion of the Ontario Hockey League and first item up up for discussion - that Nail kid.

I'm very interested in finding out where Yakupov's teammate in Sarnia, Alex Galchenyuk, will wind up. He was listed at a 'limited viewing' at the midterm ranks in January.

2:15 p.m. (ET) - Jack Barzee still meandering through US West players and we're now discussing possible sixth-round picks. Al Jensen, David Gregory and Dan Marr all making their points as Barzee moves down his list.

1:10 p.m. (ET) - So Hockey Hall of Famer Jim Gregory opened up the afternoon with some inspiring and encouraging words. He basically told the boys how proud he is to be associated with such a great group of workers. The scouts then thanked Gregory.

Jack Barzee is now leading the talks on those U.S. - Western players on the chart. The players are from many U.S. colleges, high schools and the United States Hockey League, which includes the National Team Development Program. Needless to say, USNTDP defenseman Jacob Trouba is highly regarded.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:15 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Trotz reflects, deflects after 500th victory

NASHVILLE – Earlier this season, Barry Trotz coached his 1,000th game behind the bench – all with the Predators.
 
On Friday, he earned his 500th win with a 4-1 victory at Detroit. Talking about the feat Saturday morning, Trotz preferred to point credit in a different direction, saying he hadn’t thought about it much.
 
“Last night the players were coming off [the ice] and going, ‘Hey, congratulations,’” he said. “And David Legwand [a member of the Predators since their inaugural season] hands me a puck and I say, ‘What the [heck] is this for?’
 
“I was oblivious to it, so from that standpoint, after the game, really to me, it was good for the franchise and I thought it was real, real great for me that [general manager David Poile] was able to get 500 with two franchises -- which is the only guy in the history of this game, which is over a hundred years old -- to do that. I’m more proud of that for David than anything.”
 
Poile also guided Washington 500 wins from 1982 to 1997. The Predators are the fastest to win 500 of any expansion team after 1990, needing 1,062 games.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:08 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Trotz coy on goaltender choice for Predators

NASHVILLE – Coming off a huge win on the road Friday in Detroit that helped the Predators vault past the Red Wings into fourth place in the Western Conference, it was hard to tell if Nashville coach Barry Trotz was going to go for broke and start goalie Pekka Rinne again Saturday against Central Division rival Chicago.
 
Trotz said that backup Anders Lindback, who has only played in 14 games, would probably start a game or two in Nashville’s four remaining contests, but he would not say which goalie was going to start Saturday.
 
All Central Division teams have four games remaining entering Saturday and Nashville leads fifth-place Detroit by one point and the fourth-place Blackhawks by three. It’s possible that Trotz could start Rinne again Saturday and then rest him for one or two of the non-divisional games which don’t have as many playoff implications. One of those teams (Minnesota) is eliminated and another (Colorado) could be by the time Nashville plays the Avs in the season finale.
 
“We’re going to play sort of game-by-game,” Trotz said of the goalie decisions.
 
Rinne earned his 42nd win of the season Friday in the 4-1 win against Detroit by making 31 saves, including a sprawling, highlight-reel glove stop on Henrik Zetterberg from point-blank range in the second period. Without revealing anything, Rinne sounded as if he could play if called upon.

Lindback spent plenty of time on the ice during the morning skate; only the players who did not play on Friday participated in it. Rinne also said winning the first end of a back-to-back can be energizing.
 
“Yeah, for sure I think it’s a help,” he said. “We were talking about that after the game last night. Even though you feel, obviously, sometimes a little tired, but when you win, it gets easier and you feel like you have more energy. That kind of gives a boost for the whole team. Beating Detroit gives confidence to the whole team, so that’s a good thing.”
 
Rinne was asked if he would rate the win as one of his best performances of the season.
 
“I don’t know, for sure against a good team like that play a solid game at this point in the season,” he said. “It was a good game. It’s hard for me to rate it. … For sure, good to have a good game like that at the later stage of the season like it is.”
 
Trotz also said the lineup will not change much from now until the playoffs. Forwards Brandon Yip, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith and Brian McGrattan were all scratches last night, as were defensemen Jack Hillen and Ryan Ellis with Roman Josi returning to the lineup after missing nine games because of injury.
 
“We’re not going to try to tinker with it too much,” Trotz said.
 
Here is the Predators' projected lineup:
 
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Alex Radulov
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Paul Gaustad - Jordin Tootoo
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Brown set for NHL debut with Lightning

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning open their final homestand of the season when they play host to the Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.

With just two home games remaining and after two consecutive losses, it might appear like the Lightning are just playing out the string, but that assumption would be incorrect. Lightning coach Guy Boucher promises a full effort from his team.

“We play great at home and have respected our fans with our work ethic,” Boucher said.  “Our fans have given back to us by filling the stands every game. It’s important that we recognize that, but I want us to recognize that with a 60-minute effort. We’re playing a tough team and I don’t know if we’ll win or lose but there is one thing we can control and that is our work ethic.”

That effort has been absent in Tampa Bay’s previous two games -- losses to Boston and New Jersey. In both games, the Lightning started well but lackluster second periods changed the momentum of the contest completely.

“We get a great focus to start games and we’re short-staffed so I think the players come on the ice and they don’t want to get their butts kicked and it shows,” Boucher said.  “But I feel like when the first period is over they have a sense of relief. We don’t want that. The relief is when the game is over, the full 60 minutes.”

The Lightning will debut their newest acquisition Saturday night -- forward J.T. Brown, who signed March 28 as a college free agent from Minnesota-Duluth. The 21-year old was the MVP of the 2011 Frozen Four as he led the Bulldogs to the NCAA title.

Brown is the son of former Vikings running back Ted Brown, but unlike his father, the younger Brown’s sport was hockey rather than football.

“I played football until I was in ninth grade and then I had to make a choice to go one way or the other,” Brown said. “I like football but I have a passion for hockey.”

Brown had plenty of suitors once he announced his intention to leave school after his sophomore season, but said he chose to sign with Tampa Bay (a two-year deal) because he felt the Lightning would give him an opportunity to play right away.

He’s getting that, for sure.

“He’s going to play the remaining five games,” Boucher said. “We’ll give him some ice time with some quality players and give him the time to show us some of the stuff that our scouts have seen in him.

“He’s eager. He’s a young guy who is going to play in the NHL. Those were nerve-racking days, yesterday and today, signing his contract and all that. It’s a dream week but also a tough week to manage for him. We know that and the players he will play with are aware of that, too and they are ready to help him.”

They can start by helping him relax before the game.

“This is an exciting moment in my life,” Brown said. “Your first NHL game only happens once so I’ll try to make the best of it tonight. I usually take a pre-game nap but we’ll have to see if I can get one in today or not.”

Winnnipeg arrives for the second game in a back-to-back series, having kept its meager playoff hopes alive Friday night with a 4-3 overtime win in Carolina.

Saturday’s matchup is the fifth of six meetings between the Jets and the Lightning this season. The Jets have won three of the first four.

JETS

Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Antti Miettinen
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Wellwood - Tim StapletonNik Antropov
Ben Maxwell- Jim Slater - Spencer Machacek

Zach Bogosian - Ron Hainsey
Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Grant Clitsome

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - J.T. Brown
Tim Wallace - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
JT Wyman - Trevor Smith - Brandon Segal

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Brian Lee
Brendan Mikkelson - Mike Commodore

Sebastien Caron
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 12:47 PM

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

Bryzgalov out, Timonen in for Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- Sergei Bobrovsky will make his second straight start for the Flyers on Saturday when they face the Ottawa Senators (1 p.m., NHLN-US, CBC).

Ilya Bryzgalov practiced Friday, but the team will give him another day off to recover from the chip fracture in his right foot that occurred Monday night prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Flyers play again Sunday, in Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET, NBC), and there's a chance Bryzgalov could return for that one. After that, the Flyers next play Tuesday.

In four career starts against the Senators, Bobrovsky is 3-1-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Jason Bacashihua again will serve as the backup.

While Bryzgalov is out, All-Star defenseman Kimmo Timonen will return to the lineup after sitting out a game Thursday with an upper-body injury.

Here is the lineup the Flyers likely will use against the Senators:

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

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Pavel Kubina - Marc-Andre Bourdon

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jason Bacashihua

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







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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 12:43 PM

By Kurt Dusterberg -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Devils' Ponikarovsky faces old teammates for first time

Alexei Ponikarovsky will play his first game against Carolina since the Hurricanes dealt him to the Devils on Jan. 20. Ponikarovsky was in his first season with Carolina, but struggled to make an impact as the team fell to 15th in the Eastern Conference. After registering 15 points in 49 games in Carolina, he has accounted for 16 in just 29 games in New Jersey.

"We're playing pretty good as a team," Ponikarovsky said. "When you're in a playoff spot, it's a little different than when you're out of the playoffs. The atmosphere and everything else is a little different, for sure. Our focus is to win some games and get some points on the board."

The Devils will call on Martin Brodeur in net, while Carolina will counter with Brian Boucher.

Here is the projected lineup for the Devils and Hurricanes:

DEVILS

Patrik Elias - Dainus Zubrus – Petr Sykora
Ilya Kovalchuk - Zach PariseAdam Henrique
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Jacob Josefson - Ryan CarterSteve Bernier
 
Anton VolchenkovPeter Harrold
Marek ZidlickyBryce Salvador
Andy GreeneMark Fayne
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
HURRICANES
 
Jiri TlustyEric StaalChad LaRose
Jeff SkinnerJussi JokinenTuomo Ruutu
Drayson BowmanBrandon SutterPatrick Dwyer
Derek JoslinTim BrentAnthony Stewart
 
Tim GleasonBryan Allen
Jay HarrisonJustin Faulk
Joni PitkanenJamie McBain
 
Brian Boucher
Cam Ward
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 11:58 AM

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

Melrose Mullet of the Week: Brian Rolston

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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 11:56 AM

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

Melrose Mathup: Predators at Blackhawks

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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 11:55 AM

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

Senators back to work after long layoff

PHILADELPHIA -- For the Ottawa Senators' first game since Monday, coach Paul MacLean said he plans on using the same lineup that took the ice March 26 in Winnipeg.

MacLean said he wasn't sure how his team would react coming off a long layoff, telling reporters, "The biggest concern is we come out flat."

He said that the way he feels his team handled the long week had him feeling cautiously optimistic.

"Nothing is ever easy, but the way we've handled the week looks good," MacLean said. "We'll know (Saturday) at 1:08 when the face off hits."

Here's the lineup they'll like put on the ice here at Wells Fargo Center:

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

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

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares