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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 1:33 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins, Senators

KANATA, Ont. – Here are the projected lineups for a Saturday night game between the Ottawa Senators and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Scotiabank Place:


Colin GreeningJason SpezzaMilan Michalek
Zack SmithKyle TurrisDaniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno – Jim O’Brien – Chris Neil
Rob KlinkhammerKaspars DaugavinsErik Condra

Filip KubaErik Karlsson
Jared CowenSergei Gonchar
Chris PhillipsMatt Carkner

Ben Bishop
Craig Anderson

Bobby Butler, Zenon Konopka, Matt Gilroy and Alex Auld are the healthy scratches. Matt Carkner returns to the lineup after sitting the past 12 games.


Chris KunitzEvgeni MalkinJames Neal
Steve Sullivan - Jordan StaalPascal Dupuis
Matt CookeSidney CrosbyTyler Kennedy
Eric TangradiCraig Adams – Aaron Asham

Paul MartinKris Letang
Brooks OrpikZbynek Michalek
Ben LovejoyDeryk Engelland

Brad Thiessen
Marc-Andre Fleury

Matt Niskanen (unspecified) and Joe Vitale (upper-body) are both day-to-day and did not travel with the team. Brent Johnson (unspecified) is also day-to-day. Richard Park and Dustin Jeffrey are the healthy scratches.

Crosby admitted the ability to vault into first place in the Eastern Conference with a win against the Senators on Saturday night is in the back of the Pens’ minds.

“It’s something we’re aware of and we want to get it but I think if we focus on the way we need to play, those things will take care of themselves,” Crosby said.  “We’ve got some games here before playoffs and we want to make sure we’re playing the right way.”

The Pittsburgh captain also continues to feel better on the ice, but he still wants to work on his timing.

“I’m just (trying to) get comfortable with the speed and decisions,” he said. “There’s so many aspects that go into a full, complete game. You kind of have to learn on the fly, sometimes. There’s only so much you can do as far as practicing – you have to get into games. I think the speed and the decision making takes a little longer (to get back).”
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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 1:24 PM

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

Slumping Lightning close homestand against Islanders

TAMPA -- When the Lightning unpacked their bags and settled in at home 14 days ago, they had some serious hopes of making the playoffs. Now, heading into the final game of their season-long, seven-game homestand against the New York Islanders on Saturday night, they are perilously closer to falling into the Eastern Conference cellar rather than finding the postseason.

Going 2-4-0 is not how Tampa Bay hoped this series of games would play out, and they are now a mere two points ahead of the Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens at the bottom of the standings.

To make matters more difficult for the Lightning, New York arrives in the midst of a minor revival, seeking their first three-game win streak since Jan. 17-21. They have racked up consecutive road wins over Montreal and Toronto and are 3-1-1 in their last five away games.

“Those last two wins are building blocks,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We got contributions from lots of guys and that’s how you are going to win in this League.”

Saturday features the fourth and final matchup this season between these clubs, and the home team won each of the first three meetings. The Islanders have outscored the Lightning 11-6 thus far in the series.

Tampa Bay will continue to field two forward lines composed primarily of recalled AHL players, as none of the seven regulars on the injured list are ready to return. Despite the depleted lineup his club will face, Capuano still sees the game as a good test for the Islanders.

“Yes, the Lightning are beat up,” Capuano said, “but they still have lots of firepower up front. The key for us is to keep guys out of the penalty box.”

Capuano might be looking at some old numbers; after a brief five-game spurt during which their power play converted six times on 15 attempts, the Lightning have reverted back to their season-long form of 15.5 percent -- 24th in the League -- having scored only once in their last 14 extra-man opportunities.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:


Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Josh Bailey - Frans Neilson - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - David Ullstrom
Nino Niederreiter - Marty Reasoner - Matt Martin

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Streit - Dylan Reese
Mark Eaton - Steve Staios

Al Montoya
Evgeni Nabokov


Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Brendan Mikkelson
Brian Lee - Bruno Gervais
Keith Aulie

Dwayne Roloson
Sebastien Caron
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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 1:15 PM

By Bill Meltzer -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Habs to face rested Flyers in Philadelphia

Over the course of the long NHL season, every team periodically finds itself in situations where it plays on back-to-back nights and faces a rested opponent in the second game. That’s the situation the Montreal Canadiens are in tonight as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers took a complete day off Friday after a 2-1 shootout victory Thursday over the Capitals. The Habs, meanwhile, downed the Ottawa Senators 5-1 and then flew to Philadelphia.

Mired in the Eastern Conference cellar, the Canadiens have little but personal pride to play for at this point of the regular season. To the credit of the players and coach Randy Cunneyworth, the club has managed to compile points in seven of the last eight games (4-1-3).

Last night, the club dealt a significant setback to the rival Senators. Erik Cole is coming off a game in which he scored a natural hat trick, while Lars Eller and Petteri Nokalainen had single tallies. Saturday, the Habs will attempt to delay Philadelphia from clinching a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The fifth-seeded Flyers will be guaranteed a playoff berth with a victory of any kind (regulation, overtime or shootout) over the Canadiens, or with some help against Winnipeg and Buffalo.

The Canadiens did not conduct a morning skate in Philadelphia. Goaltender Peter Budaj could make just his 13th appearance of the regular season. Workhorse starter Carey Price made 37 saves Friday night. Price has started all three previous games against Philadelphia this season.

With one exception, the Flyers practiced on Saturday morning with the same line combinations used in the Washington game.  Veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja, who took a puck to the throat in Boston last Saturday and missed one game before returning for the last two, did not participate in the morning skate. The club has recalled defenseman Erik Gustafsson from the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms. Paired with Pavel  Kubina, Gustafsson skated in place of Lilja.

Ilya Bryzgalov is slated to make his 17th start in the Flyers’ last 18 games. For the month of March, he has twice collected First Star of the Week honors, while sporting a 9-1-1 record, 1.24 goals against average and .954 save percentage.

On Thursday, Laviolette made changes on three of the team’s four forward lines, most notably putting Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds on a line with Danny Briere despite the fact that all three players have been mired in lengthy goal-scoring slumps.

The trio generated several scoring chances in the last game, although it did not score a goal. In the climactic shootout, however, Simmonds potted the game-winning tally.

“To put Danny back with a couple guys that he’s been with in the past, he’s been with [Simmonds] in the past, and see if they can’t catch a little bit of fire,” Laviolette explained on Thursday. “I’d like to keep it together and see if they can build on [last game]. You never know, it could be that goal or that one big game that gets the line going where they get some confidence and get some chemistry and get jumping.”

Here are the projected lineups:


Scott HartnellClaude GirouxJaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn –  Danny BriereWayne Simmonds
Matt Read –  Max Talbot – Jakub Voracek
Eric WellwoodSean CouturierZac Rinaldo

Matt CarleKimmo Timonen
Nicklas GrossmannBraydon Coburn
Erik GustafssonPavel Kubina

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky


Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Lars Eller
Mike Blunden - Ryan White - Louis Leblanc
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Chris Campoli - Yannick Weber

Peter Budaj
Carey Price
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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 12:43 PM

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

Lidstrom a game-time decision for Detroit

DETROIT -- The "Perfect Human" might finally get back into a game for the Detroit Red Wings, who've missed their captain Nicklas Lidstrom greatly for the past 11 contests.

The 41-year-old Lidstrom, who's missed a career-high 11 straight games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle, took part in Detroit's optional morning skate at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. Afterward, he told reporters that he will be a game-time decision when the Red Wings take on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Lidstrom will take part in the pre-game warmup and then a team decision will be made.

"It slowly has been getting better," said Lidstrom, who initally made a West Coast trip 10 days ago but was sent home to rest when he couldn't skate. "I think today is better than [Friday], so that's a good sign it's going in the right direction. They want to make sure I have no soreness going on the ice twice in one day."

If Lidstrom plays, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said rookie defenseman Brendan Smith will be a healthy scratch to make room. Smith, however, is on notice that he could get the start if Lidstrom can't go.

"It's a big difference from when I was out in California and went home from the trip," Lidstrom said. "It feels a lot better than about a week ago."

As for who will make the final call on Saturday night to him playing or not, Lidstrom, said it will be a group decision between himself, doctors and athletic trainer Piet Van Zant. If it were solely up to him?

"Oh, I wanted to play four weeks ago," Lidstrom said. "I didn't want to miss any games. I thought it was going to be shorter. I wanted to play as soon as possible, but it just hasn't been able to do that."

If he does play, the biggest challenges will likely be how the ankle holds up once the tempo of the game increases past he levels that exist in practices and how good Lidstrom's conditioning is after sitting out for so long.

"I've been working hard off the ice, but it's not the same as skating," Lidstrom said. "That'll be some adjustment time, too. I've been skating the last couple of days, but again, when you're in games, it's gonna be different."

In other Detroit injury news, goalie Jimmy Howard (groin) progressed to taking some shots at the skate and is hopeful to return soon, while defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist) is hoping to be ready for the game Monday against Columbus.

Defenseman Jakub Kindl (oblique strain) is going to make his return to the ice Saturday night against the Hurricanes, while forward Johan Franzen (back spasms) skated for the second day in a row and said his conditioning was the biggest issue.

The Hurricanes did not skate after losing 5-1 at Columbus on Friday night. Here is a look at how Carolina and Detroit are expected to line up on Saturday night:


Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Pat Dwyer - Brandon Sutter - Drayson Bowman
Derek Joslin - Time Brent - Anthony Stewart

Bryan Allen - Tim Gleason
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

Injuries: Jarslav Spacek (back), Andreas Nodl (concussion symptoms)


Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Todd Bertuzzi - Pavel Datsyuk - Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary
Tomas Holmstom - Cory Emmerton - Jan Mursak

Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
Brendan Smith/Nicklas Lidstrom - Jakub Kindl

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

Injuries: Nicklas Lidstrom (gametime decision/ankle), Jimmy Howard (out/groin), Johan Franzen (out/back spasms), Darren Helm (out/knee sprain), Joey MacDonald (out/back), Jonathan Ericsson (out/wrist), Patrick Eaves (IR/concussion)
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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 11:52 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: March 24th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

Wins to
earn 8th
8th 75 82 7 89 4

9th 75 82 7 89 4
10th 74 78 8 86 6
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 74 85 8 94 5

9th 76 85 6 91 5
10th 74 84 8 92 6
11th 75 83 7 89 6
The skinny: Saturday night in the Western Conference looks like a repeat of Thursday night.

How crazy was Thursday night?

Dallas lost to Vancouver and fell from No. 3 to No. 8 in the conference. Phoenix beat Colorado, moving from No. 9 to third for a short stint before falling to No. 7 after Los Angeles beat St. Louis in a shootout to move from eighth to third. Oh yeah, the Sharks beat the Boston Bruins to hold on to their spot at No. 10, just a point out of the playoff picture in the West. The Pacific Division lead changed hands three times in the span of four hours.

This is called shuffling the deck! Expect more of it on Saturday.

In the West, the projection for qualification to the Stanley Cup Playoffs sits at 94 points and there are a ton of teams that can get there.

Dallas and Calgary meet in the first of a home-and-home series Saturday. The Flames, with a record of 0-1-3 in their past four games, need to beat the Stars twice to keep their playoff hopes alive. With seven games remaining for Calgary, its margin for error is almost non-existent. To get to 94 points, Calgary needs 11 points out of the final 14 on offer. And, don't forget, back-to-back wins against the Stars will deny Dallas points.

The Stars are in eighth, but just two points ahead of Calgary. But, let's not forget that the Stars are still in the hunt for first in the Pacific -- just a point behind Los Angeles -- and wins for Dallas allows it to keep pace or pull away from the Kings and the seventh-place Phoenix Coyotes.

The schedule is winding down and you can't afford to lose because the opportunity to get valuable points is dwindling. There simply aren't enough games remaining to make up for losses. Five wins in eight games is manageable for the Stars, but two losses to the Flames means the Stars would need five wins in six games to get to 94 points and that is a far more difficult task.

Phoenix also has a make-or-break weekend. It plays a desperate San Jose team before returning home to greet the first-place St. Louis Blues on Sunday. Saturday night's game against the Sharks is another 'playoff death match' for both teams. The Coyotes can put some distance between themselves and the Sharks with a win but the Sharks can move past the Coyotes, barely, with a regulation win. I'm thinking the Sharks aren't too happy about sitting in 10th place at this point of the season.

Los Angeles, with six consecutive wins, is doing exactly what is necessary at this time of the season -- mastering their own destiny. The first-place team in the Pacific will be the third seed entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the other Pacific Division teams in the hunt will be relegated to scrambling for the No. 7 and No. 8 spots. This is the scenario today, it was the scenario on Thursday and it will be the scenario for every day remaining in this crazy race to the regular season's finish line.

The Colorado Avalanche, meanwhile, are running out of games. As a result, a win at home against the Canucks is virtually mandatory. A loss with five games to play translates into a scenario where the Avs would have to run the table and possibly still get help from other teams just to claim the No. 8 spot.

Three significant games in the East also get the spotlight Saturday: Minnesota at Buffalo, Winnipeg at Nashville and Pittsburgh at Ottawa.

Believe it or not, the Senators now find themselves in the race for a playoff spot. A Buffalo win Saturday night combined with an Ottawa loss in regulation will find the Sabres and Sens tied in points.

Winnipeg, after a massive comeback win Friday against the Caps, now must win again against Nashville, and hope Ottawa and Buffalo each lose. The Jets especially want the Sens to lose to Pittsburgh because Winnipeg plays Ottawa on Monday night. To make that Monday night game meaningful, though, the Jets have to beat Nashville on Saturday. Fail on that count and the Jets will leave Nashville singing the saddest of country music songs.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 11:31 AM

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

Caps' Backstrom cleared for contact

The Washington Capitals did not make a move at the trade deadline, but they could be getting closer to a key addition that could help save their season.

Nicklas Backstrom has been cleared to participate in practice without restriction, a Capitals team spokesman told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., on Saturday. Backstrom, the team's top center and best player this season, has not played since taking an elbow to the head Jan. 3 by then-Calgary forward Rene Bourque.

Backstrom has 42 points in 38 games this season, and the Capitals' offense has suffered without the team's No. 1 center. The Capitals are 16-15-6 since Backstrom left the lineup, and they currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Buffalo Sabres because of a tiebreaker.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 10:45 AM

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

Flames, desperate for two points, travel to Dallas

DALLAS -- Here are the projected lineups for the game Saturday between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center:


Alex Tanguay - Matt Stajan - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Lee Stempniak - Blair Jones - Blake Comeau
Tom Kostopoulos - Lance Bouma - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Derek Smith - Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson

Injuries: Mikael Backlund (shoulder), TJ Brodie (upper body), Michael Cammalleri (upper body), Cory Sarich (upper body).

Scratches: Roman Horak, Clay Wilson.

Notes:  Losers of four straight, including their last three games in extra time, it’s no big secret the Flames head to Dallas for an afternoon tilt in desperate need of two points. Calgary last played Thursday, dropping a 3-2 decision at Minnesota in overtime. For the season, they are 14-16-9 on the road and 5-1-4 in their last 10 games. But if there’s anything to give the Flames hope, it’s that both of their first two meetings this season with the Stars have gone to the wire. Dallas won in overtime at American Airlines Center earlier this year and it took a shootout for the Stars to leave Calgary with two points when these clubs met at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames are currently 11th in the Western Conference standings with 83 points, but a regulation win today would tie them with Dallas, who currently sits in eighth.


Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Jamie Benn - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Philip Larsen - Alex Goligoski
Trevor Daley - Adam Pardy

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Scratches: Jordie Benn, Ryan Garbutt, Toby Petersen. Tomas Vincour.

Injuries: Mark Fistric (abdominal strain).

Notes:  After putting together an 11-game point streak, the Stars have dropped three of their last four, including two of their first three games on their current homestand, which ends with the visit by the Flames. Dallas last played Thursday, losing 2-1 to the Canucks. Scoring goals has suddenly become an issue for the Stars as only once in their last six games have they scored more than twice in a game. That came Tuesday night in a 4-3 shootout win against the Coyotes. Dallas has beaten Calgary twice this season already, once in overtime at American Airlines Center and again in a shootout in Alberta.  Two Stars players have ties to the Flames. LW Eric Nystrom started his career in Calgary while D Adam Pardy spent the last few seasons there before signing with Dallas as a free agent last summer.
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 10:11 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ MTL- 5:05 of the Third Period

At 5:05 of the third period in the Senators/Canadiens game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Lars Eller's shot crossed the goal line and struck the back bar inside the net. Good goal Montreal.

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 9:00 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ MTL - 3:14 of the Second Period

At 3:17 of the second period in the Senators/Canadiens game, video review was inconclusive in determining if Daniel Alfredsson's stick was above the crossbar.  Therefore the referee's call on the ice stands. No goal Ottawa.

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 8:27 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ MTL - 14:14 of the First Period

At 14:14 of the first period in the Senators/Canadiens game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Ryan White's shot never completely crossed Ottawa's goal line. No goal Montreal.

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