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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 11:00 AM

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

Updated playoff projections: March 23rd

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

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 74 81 8 89 5

9th 74 80 8 88 5
10th 73 76 9 84 7
11th 74 75 8 81 8
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
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:
The end of the work week could see the end of playoff hopes for teams failing to win on Friday night. Beginning with the race for eighth in the Eastern Conference, the Winnipeg Jets must win against Washington on Friday or their playoff dreams will become an end-of-season nightmare. A loss by the Jets will leave them seven points behind the Caps with eight games remaining. Projecting teams to need 90 points at a minimum to qualify, the equation is elementary, two points is the only answer because winning seven of the remaining eight games is highly improbable.

The surging Hurricanes -- we haven't talked about them in a while -- have a faint playoff pulse because of their four consecutive wins. Carolina visits Columbus, and a win there along with losses by the Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres, will have that pulse beating a little stronger.

Carolina needs help but if the Hurricanes can't help themselves, the clock will strike midnight on their playoff hopes. The Sabres are in Manhattan to visit the Rangers and a win, along with a regulation loss by the Caps, would put Buffalo in a playoff position.

We know Washington controls their destiny with a win against the Jets. It will effectively eliminate the Jets, and then they can focus on delivering a similar blow to the Sabres on Tuesday when they play host to Buffalo. Screen-in-screen viewing on NHL GameCenter with Sabres-Rangers and Jets-Capitals is recommended!

Florida plays host to the Oilers and the Panthers need three wins to gain 91 points to feel safe about qualifying for the playoffs, so a win moves them closer to ending their long playoff absence. Don't look now, but Ottawa fans could find their team pulled into the race for eighth. A worst-case scenario sees Ottawa losing to the Canadiens in Montreal while both Washington and Buffalo win, moving them to within one and two points respectively of the seventh-place Senators.

People call this "opening the door" for your opponents. What looked like a race for one playoff spot could become a sprint for two spots if Ottawa fails to beat last-place team in the East. I will have to make room for another game on my screen. Fortunately, NHL GameCenter can accommodate up to four games at one time. Is there another game I should be paying attention to? Perhaps not Friday, but Saturday could be a whole different story!
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:07 AM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Radim Vrbata back for Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes had 30-goal scorer Radim Vrbata back in the lineup for Thursday's showdown with the Colorado Avalanche at Jobing.com Arena.

Vrbata, who hasn't scored a goal in more than a month -- he got No. 30 on Feb. 21 against Los Angeles -- has missed three of the last four games with an undisclosed illness. He will replace Shane Doan, who will begin a three-game NHL suspension tonight for a hit on Dallas' Jamie Benn on Tuesday night.

The ninth-place Coyotes were without forward Taylor Pyatt and defenseman Adrian Aucoin as they attempted to jump over the Avalanche and back into a playoff spot in the jam-packed Western Conference

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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 10:36 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

COL @ PHX - 14:38 of the First Period



At 14:38 of the first period in the Avalanche/Coyotes game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Martin Hanzal's shot was stopped by Semyon Varlamov and never crossed the goal line. No Goal Phoenix.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 10:24 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CGY @ MIN - 12:23 of the Third Period



At 12:23 of the third period in the Flames/Wild game, video review determined that Darroll Powe's shot completely crossed the goal line. Good Goal Minnesota.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 6:46 PM

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

Caps' Semin to sit with lower-body injury

PHILADELPHIA -- Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin will not play Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers and is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Semin sat out practice Wednesday and did not skate with the team Thursday morning, but Capitals coach Dale Hunter said it was for "maintenance" reasons. He added Thursday morning that Semin would take part in the pre-game warm-ups and would be a game-time decision.

Semin's absence allows Joel Ward, a healthy scratch in Monday's game against the Detroit Red Wings, to return to the lineup.

Semin is second on the team with 46 points in 69 games.

In Semin's absence, here's how the Capitals' lineup will look:

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

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Jeff Schultz - John Carlson
Mike Green - Roman Hamrlik

Braden Holtby will start in goal, with Michal Neuvirth the backup.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 6:11 PM

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

Sharks look for turnaround against Bruins

SAN JOSE -- Two teams headed in opposite directions will collide Thursday night when the struggling San Jose Sharks face the surging Boston Bruins at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks have lost back-to-back games and have tumbled to 10th place in the Western Conference standings. After a four-game skid, the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins have won two straight, including an 8-0 thrashing of Toronto on Monday night, and own the No. 2 seed in the East.

The Sharks, naturally, are in desperation mode, but coach Todd McLellan said they've got find a way to loosen up and stop being so tight on the ice.

"First of all, we understand where we're at," McLellan said after his team's morning skate. "There's an anxiousness around our team which should be there. I feel at times it's a nervousness that holds us back. We have to be able to go out and play free. It's not about one or two individuals carrying the weight of the team on their shoulders, it's about distributing it evenly … and when you do that your team plays well. When you take too much on or not enough on, you have a tendency not to play well."

The Bruins don't have to worry about making the playoffs, but they're fighting to hold off Ottawa, which stands just three points back in the Northeast Division.

"I know they're in a battle for a playoff spot," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the Sharks. "This is a good team across the ice from here. The one thing I do know is that we've gone through the same situation of really struggling to find our game, and eventually when you do, you see what kind of team you really are.

"It's a matter of them doing the same thing, and right now our focus is not to let them have that happen against us - do it against somebody else. But we have to be ready. Everybody's in a fighting mode here and everybody's in a situation where they want to finish as high as they can and some are battling for playoff spots."

Boston will open a three-game California road trip against the Sharks, hoping to build on the strides it made with a 3-2 shootout win against Philadelphia and a rout of the Maple Leafs. Even though they scored eight goals against Toronto, the Bruins pointed to improved defensive play for their two-game turnaround.

"I think we were just playing more Bruins-style hockey, playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulders, going out and competing, winning battles, and I think that's really where we start playing well, when we start competing hard and winning all those little battles wherever they may be," forward Tyler Seguin said. "When we stay consistent with that, after having a good game in Philly, and regardless of the score against Toronto, just to see us competing hard and doing the little things right, that's what makes us happy."

Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said one "challenge" they'll face against San Jose is to avoid being "too high" after their 8-0 win.

"You want to focus on what you did well that game and try to bring it into a game tonight and just build on what you've done well," Seidenberg said. "The last two games have been better. We're still trying to get our consistent game back that we had before our slump the last couple months. Everybody knows we're not out of it yet and we have to keep building."

The Sharks thought they had busted out of their slump when they beat Nashville and Detroit last week. But they followed those two wins with a 5-3 home loss to Anaheim on Monday and a 5-2 loss at Los Angeles the next night.

"We know we're behind the eight-ball and we've got to win some games to get in the playoffs," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, a former Bruin. "It has to start tonight. We're facing a really good team, so we have to be on our toes, ready to go.

"They're just a complete team, right from the goaltender out. They're flying high off that eight-nothing win last game. We'd like to score early, get some confidence and go from there.''

The Sharks beat Boston 4-2 in October during a 5-1 road trip when they were riding high.

"When we have fun, we usually play well," Thornton said. "We've got to get back to that tonight."

Forward Logan Couture said no one in the Sharks' dressing room has lost faith.

"Everyone in this room believes we're going to be in the playoffs," Couture said. "We're going to make this push down the stretch. We've got nine games to play well and make the push."

The Sharks announced that rookie forward Tommy Wingels is the team's nominee for the Masterton Trophy.

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Boston Bruins at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat

Dominic Moore - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Daniel Winnik

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Brent Burns

Colin White - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Niemi, despite back-to-back rough games, will make his 13th straight start in goal for the Sharks. Handzus will likely return to the lineup after missing the past six games with a lower body injury. McLellan said there's a chance Wingels (upper body) could return after missing five games. Forward Ryane Clowe and defenseman Dan Boyle didn't practice Thursday morning but will play tonight, McLellan said.

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jordan Caron

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin

Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg

Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk

Greg Zanon - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas

Marty Turco

  • Thomas, the first goalie off the ice Thursday morning, will start for the 13th time in the past 14 games and make his 14th consecutive appearance. He's coming off his fifth shutout of the season but faced just 13 shots against Toronto.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes may be down two key forwards vs. Avs

The Coyotes could be without their top two right wingers for tonight's huge game with the Avalanche.
 
Shane Doan is definitely out, serving the first of a three-game suspension for his hit on Dallas' Jamie Benn. And Radim Vrbata, who has missed two games and part of a third with an undisclosed illness, took part in Tuesday's optional skate and Wednesday's morning skate, is still a game-time decision.
 
If Vrbata is a no-go, that's more than 50 goals missing from a Phoenix offense that struggles even in the best of times. Winger Taylor Pyatt and defenseman Adrian Aucoin will also miss this game between the eighth- and ninth-place teams in the Western Conference.
 
The Coyotes are 3-1-3 in their last seven games, but have slipped out of a playoff spot and need a win to stay on the heels of Pacific Division-leading Dallas.
 
Colorado will go without defenseman Erik Johnson (back spasms) for a second straight game with a back injury and rookie Tyson Barrie will again get the call. Ryan O'Reilly, who had his nose broken in Tuesday's overtime win over Calgary, will be in the lineup.
 
These are the projected lineups for tonight's game:
 
COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Martin Hanzal - Gilbert Brule
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Radim Vrbata
Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
Michal Roszival - David Schlemko

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Peter Mueller - Matt Duchene - Milan Hejduk
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Mark Olver

Shane O'Brien - Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Ryan Wilson

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 3:52 PM

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

Penner starting to see the goals gravitate his way

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It was a throwaway line by Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, but it got Dustin Penner's attention.

After Penner scored for the second straight game Tuesday, Sutter said, "He looked like Mark Messier."

"I heard that," Penner said with a slight smile.

After a rocky start to the season in which Penner endured knee, hand and back injuries and was a healthy scratch as recently as Feb. 22, things have looked up for the former 30-goal scorer.

Penner said he's been getting chances for a while, and now some results are tangible. He had 3 goals in his first 38 games and 4 over his next 18 going into Wednesday's game against St. Louis.

"Inertia's a powerful thing," Penner said. "Hopefully more goals will gravitate towards me."

The goal have come, ironically, after Sutter put Penner in a defensive third-line role playing with Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis.

"It's basically Penner's chance to do something or not to play anymore," Sutter said. "That's the way you get in. He's been a healthy scratch to playing on the third line."

Penner said it helps that his line has developed an identity. Whatever offense he brings is a bonus.

"I think we've been playing well as a line for quite a few games now," Penner said. "I think as a third line, we've been really sound defensively. I'm playing with two guys who (have done that) a lot … Stolie, especially, since I've been here. He's got great speed, he's a workhorse. He's great on both sides of the puck. We all bring different elements to the line that have combined for a pretty good third line."

No changes: Sutter has cited identity as a reason for L.A.'s uptick, so it's no surprise there aren't any lineup changes against the League-leading Blues.

Since they acquired Jeff Carter on Feb. 25, the Kings are the highest scoring team in the Western Conference at 3.5 goals per game. League-wide, only Pittsburgh has more with 4.25 per game.

Penner said the improved depth and balance can be traced to the fourth line of Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan.

"They're playing a lot of minutes in comparison to other team's fourth line and they're playing against other teams' top lines," Penner said. "While they're out there, our top guys are getting a rest. It's maybe a small gain at that time, but it accumulates and that's why you see at the end of the game or end of second beginning of the third, they start taking over."

Elliott against Quick:
Brian Elliott is expected to start for St. Louis after Jaroslav Halak suffered a loss to Anaheim on Wednesday night.

Neither has a track record of success. Elliott is 0-3 with a 3.64 goals-against average lifetime against Los Angeles, while Quick is 2-8-1 with a 2.69 GAA against the Blues.
a
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 3:48 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game at Staples Center between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues:

BLUES
David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Jamie Langenbrunner
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Chris Porter - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kent Huskins - Ian Cole

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

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
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Challenge for Preds is figuring where Radulov fits in

PITTSBURGH -- OK, so where does he fit in?
 
NHL coaches, especially those whose teams are gearing up for a long playoff run, usually don't need to shake up their lines to make room for a new player so late in the season. But that is what Predators coach Barry Trotz is doing he welcomes back Russian star Alexander Radulov, who last played for Nashville in 2008 before switching to the Kontinental Hockey League.
 
Radulov, a skilled scorer with size and speed, will play on a line with center David Legwand and right wing Patric Hornqvist against Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Previously, left wing Gabriel Bourque was on that line.
 
But Radulov is not just any other player -- he was a two-time KHL MVP -- so Trotz must sort this out, and in a hurry. Trotz not only wants to make a late push for a higher playoff seeding, he must best configure his lines as the Stanley Cup Playoffs draw close. And that means determining where Radulov best fits.
 
It also means making sure the rest of the Predators keep playing the way they have while going 24-9-4 since Dec. 28.
 
"We just have to make sure we do the right things as a group and not stand and watch," Trotz said following an optional morning skate. "One of the biggest fears is you get a player like Radulov, I don't want us just standing and watching: 'Let's see what Rad does here.' We have to work as a group of five. That's the only way you play good teams in this League."
 
Here's how the Predators are expected to line up for their one and only meeting of the season with Pittsburgh, which has won its last eight games at Consol Energy Center and 12 of its last 13 games overall:
 
Alexander Radulov - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Gabriel Bourque
Jordin Tootoo - Craig Smith - Brandon Yip
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Jack Hillen
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
 
If Rinne (39-15-8) starts as expected, he will have played in 66 of Nashville’s first 73 games. He is tied for the League lead in wins with Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who sat out an 8-4 win over Winnipeg on Tuesday. Rinne is 1-0-1 against  Pittsburgh. Rinne le
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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres