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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 3:45 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Luongo OK, back in net for Canucks

Vancouver No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo will be back in goal Saturday night for the Canucks against the Calgary Flames, just 24 hours after a sore neck forced to him pull out of a scheduled start against Dallas after the pregame warmup.

Luongo, who was back on the ice Saturday morning, said he woke up with the sore neck Friday and just wasn’t able to move it well enough to track pucks, so he stepped aside at the last minute to let Cory Schneider take over against the Stars.

"A few years ago I might have been a little more stubborn and tried to play,” Luongo said. “But I thought about the team and the fact we have a guy who can obviously step in and do a great job for us. I tried to make a rational decision."

It was an easier decision after teammates kept picking the corners on him during warm up, but obviously frustrating as he slammed his stick before leaving.

"If you are not seeing the puck you are just a fraction of a second late in reacting to it,” Luongo said after an optional skate Saturday. “Going through warmups yesterday and getting lit up high you realize that maybe you are not ready to play."

Just 16 hours later, Luongo insisted he is now ready to play against Calgary.

"Definitely, I was able to loosen it up,” Luongo said. “I am feeling fine, I was able to track pucks with my head and I am not having any problems. … Obviously you don't want to take any chances with something like that, but I felt really good this morning and don't see why it would be a problem."

The Canucks had third-stringer Eddie Lack at the rink Saturday morning – their American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, played the night before in nearby Abbotsford – but let him leave with Luongo ready to return.

With Vancouver on its first five-game win streak in four months, Luongo is looking to build on a personal 2-0-1 run that includes a .965 save percentage. That came after taking a week off to “reset” his game following a stretch that saw him give up 25 goals in eight games. But with Schneider also playing well – after making 28 saves in a 5-2 win over the Stars, he is 12-1-1 in 14 starts since Christmas and second in the NHL with a .937 save percentage – Luongo is comfortable continuing to split starts over the final four games to keep both playoff ready.

“I am feeling good about my game right now,” Luongo said. “Obviously, Schneider is playing well also and we are getting wins. It's important to have both guys ready -- you never know what might happen.”

That point was driven home during the pregame warm up Friday night.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 3:26 PM

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

Gustavsson out, but could return next week for Leafs

Jonas Gustavsson took a shot off his left knee in the warm up prior to a 7-1 loss Thursday to the Philadelphia Flyers.  Gustavsson had to be helped to the dressing room where he recieved treatment and then returned to the bench at the start of the second period. When asked if his keeper would be lost for the balance of the season, Randy Carlyle indicated that was not the case. 

"Jonas Gustavsson is not available [today]," Carlyle said Saturday morning. "I think the improvement he showed between yesterday and today was very encouraging. The bruise and where it is affects his ability to get up, get down and move around the crease.  It's not anything other than a deep bruise. As crazy as it sounds, why there is no padding there is beyond me."

Meanwhile, Jussi Rynnas will back up Ben Scrivens against the Sabres.  He spent part of the morning skate working on positioning with Leafs goaltending coach Francois Allaire. 

"He wanted me to do everything a little bit faster, with a little bit more control, play the right corners and find the post, those things," Rynnas said.

Rynnas was pressed into his first NHL start Thursday and said his teamates were encouraging after he allowed seven goals on 30 shots. 

"I'm not going to put my head down, its helped me so much that guys said things like the team made mistakes too," he said.
 
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 3:13 PM

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

Scrivens expected to start in goal for Leafs

Ben Scrivens is expected to start in goal Saturday for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they face the Buffalo Sabres for the fifth time this season. 

Scrivens has eight career games under his belt, all played this season.  The bulk of his workload was in November, shortly after James Reimer sustained a concussion in Montreal on October 22nd.  He has posted a 2-4-1 record, and his last start was November 20th in Carolina where he had 38 saves in a 3-2 loss. 

“I played a couple of games, Monster [Jonas Gustavsson] was playing really good at that time too, in my mind it was never – I’m here for good, it was focus one day at a time and be ready to go if I was playing that day and if I wasn’t...try and get as much as I could from practice.” said Scrivens by his dressing room stall after a spirited morning skate at Air Canada Centre. “That is my approach at this point too, exactly what I was saying before, one game at a time”

Less than 24 hours prior, his focus was with the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate.  Scrivens stopped 33 shots in a 5-4 overtime win against Buffalo's AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, Scrivens and after the game found out that he was called up.

“It’s the life of a third [goalie] I guess, you always got to be ready, you never know when things are gonna’ change and they can change overnight," Scrivens said. "My focus last night was on beating Rochester and we had a gutsy overtime win – hopped in a car and came up here.  If I’m going tonight – I’ll be ready.”

The Maple Leafs are facing a tumultuous time with 5-17-3 record in their last 25 games and mounting player frustration along with fan backlash.  However, Scrivens is not phased -- in large part because of the success of his AHL club.

“When we are down with the Marlies, we’re not counting off points for the Leafs and seeing about their playoff push, we’re worried about ourselves down there and we’ve got ourselves in a good position for the playoffs,” Scrivens said.

Defenseman Mike Komisarek confirmed he will be in the lineup tonight, which means Cody Franson is likely to sit.

After a 5-3 loss Friday night to Pittsburgh, the Sabres have yet another crucial game in their push for the playoffs.  They currently sit in ninth position in the Eastern Conference, tied in points with the eighth place Washington Capitals but with fewer non-shootout victories. Washington plays host to Montreal on Saturday evening.  They will also know by puck drop if they can catch the seventh-place Senators, who play Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. They trail Ottawa by just two points.

“I think Buffalo has been a team that has really turned their team around specifically in the last 25 games," said Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, whose Ducks lost 4-1 to the Sabres in Helsinki, Finland October 7, in what was the opening game of the NHL season for both clubs. 

Carlyle also spoke of his players need to be less apprehensive. 

“The fear factor around our group is very high right now and when you play with fear it doesn’t allow you to do the things that naturally come to you...you can’t play the game in total fear,” he said.

As expected, after playing last night, Buffalo had only four players take to the ice Saturday morning -- forwards Jochan Hecht, Matt Ellis and Nathan Gerbe and goaltender Jhnonas Enroth.

The clubs have split their first four meetings, with the home team winning each time.

Here is the projected lineup for the Maple Leafs:

Matt Frattin - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski -Joey Crabb
Carter Ashton - Tim Connolly - Mike Brown
Jay Rosehill - Matthew Lombardi - Colby Armstrong
 
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Mike Komisarek
 
Ben Scrivens
Jussi Rynnas

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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:52 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ PHI - 14:38 of the Second Period



At 14:38 of the second period in the Senators/Flyers game, video review determined that Sean Couturier's shot crossed the goal line before the net became completely dislodged from the peg.  According to rule 78.4 "the goal frame shall be considered in its proper position when at least a portion of the flexible peg(s) are still inside both the goal post and the hole in the ice. The flexible pegs could be bent, but as long as at least a portion of the flexible  peg(s)  are still in the hole in the ice and the goal post, the goal frame shall be deemed to be in its proper position. The goal frame could be raised somewhat on one post (or both), but as long as the flexible pegs are still in contact with the holes in the ice and the goal posts, the goal frame shall not be deemed to be displaced."  Good Goal Philadelphia.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:23 PM

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

Kings trying to stay on top of Pacific

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With their hopes for a division title on the line, the Los Angeles Kings look to stay out of the trap that foiled the Florida Panthers here Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Holding a tenuous lead over the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division, the Panthers led the Wild late Thursday, before surrendering a late goal to Erik Christensen in regulation and another to Mikko Koivu early in overtime, essentially surrendering a point the standings.

Los Angeles, which defeated Edmonton 4-1 on Friday night, now leads the Pacific Division by a single point over both Dallas and Phoenix, and by two points over San Jose. A similar let down by the Kings Saturday would be a crushing blow.

Nobody more than Los Angeles knows the tenuous nature of the Western Conference playoffs. Just 72 hours ago, the Kings were in ninth place on the outside looking in. Saturday night, they begin play in third place and in the catbird's seat in the division.

The Kings scored in a variety of ways Friday in Edmonton, netting a power play goal, a short-handed goal and two even-strength goals. Jonathan Quick made 13 saves in the win, meaning it's likely Jonathan Bernier gets the start in goal against Minnesota tonight. Bernier stopped all 26 shots he faced against the Wild in the Kings' last trip to Minnesota Feb. 28. A win tonight would give them the season series.

The Kings did not arrive in the Twin Cities until 4 a.m. local time and had an optional morning skate. Only defenseman Davis Drewiskie and forward Kevin Westgarth took part.

The Wild also had an optional morning skate after a full practice Friday. Coach Mike Yeo said his team can take advantage of the schedule and jump on the Kings early. But that won't be easy, especially with what's on the line for the visitors.

"If you play the game the right way, and play a game that grinds them down a little more physically, certainly that can play into our favor," Yeo said. "But I don't expect fatigue to be a factor in these last games. These are crucial points for them and they're going to come in here and I expect a really strong effort from them."

The game marks the final contest of a four-game road trip for L.A. Getting the game to overtime would assure the Kings of a winning road-trip. With three games left after tonight -- two of which are at Staples Center -- the Kings control their own destiny.

"We got the two points. That's what we want," Sutter said after beating the Oilers. "All of the games are really important right now."

Minnesota will go with Niklas Backstrom again in goal. He stopped 25 shots, earning his 18th win Thursday over the Panthers -- his first game back after injuring his groin almost a month ago.

On the blueline, the Wild will play without Marco Scandella, who Yeo said is out with a minor upper body injury. Kurtis Foster will skate in his place. Scandella is expected to accompany the team to Chicago for its game there Sunday evening.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, is also likely to be without forward Jeff Carter, who injured his ankle Wednesday in Calgary. He was in a walking boot afterwards and did not play Friday. He is likely to be re-evaluated when the team returns to the West Coast after the game this evening.

Here is the projected lineup for both teams:

WILD

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Darroll Powe
Jason Zucker - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Tom Gilbert - Clayton Stoner
Steven Kampfer - Justin Falk
Kurtis Foster - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
 
KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Colin Fraser
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Brad Richardson - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
 
Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Quick
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:19 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ PHI - 2:59 of the Second Period



At 2:59 of the second period in the Senators/Flyers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Brayden Schenn's shot deflected off Wayne Simmonds' face and into the net. According to rule 78.4 "if an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed." Good Goal Philadelphia.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:13 PM

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

Blues refocus with hard practice

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock warned after a 4-3 shootout loss Thursday at Chicago that maybe the St. Louis Blues needed a good, hard practice Friday.

True to his word, that's exactly what they got.

But instead of fretting over what was to come at St. Louis Mills' Ice Zone on Friday afternoon, the Blues embraced a good old-fashioned refresher course on what has made them successful and why they have been able to maintain that edge.

If they're able to follow through on it, the Blues (48-20-10) will clinch the Central Division for the first time since 2000.

"We deserved what we got [Thursday] night and I think we deserved what we got this morning," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "It was good for everyone to get out there and get whipped around a little bit. Personally, I know I needed a little bit of it, especially with a big game tomorrow and getting a couple days off in between games. I think it's going to be good for us."

And what was it that the team needed to be reminded of?

"I think just the sharpness and crispness of everything," winger Alex Steen said. "Yesterday was a slower, mediocre team performance by us. Today was just getting back to that quicker step, a little quicker decisions and crisper passes and all that good stuff.

"We play 82 games, we practice, what, 170 times a year? It's good to just get a little reminder. Last night we got away from what had made us successful. [Friday] we got a little quick reminder and we're back on track."

Added defenseman Kris Russell: "It's human nature to kind of get a little soft in some cases. That's where as a team, we've got to be better and recognize that sooner in games.

"It was a good day [Friday]. I thought we did a lot of good things. We worked hard as a team, we were competing hard against each other. If we bring that speed and work ethic in the games, we're going to be successful."

Hitchcock, who conducted a 48-minute practice, hopes so, because what he saw from his 48-20-10 team was out of the ordinary.

"We were rotten. There's no other way to describe it. We were flat-rotten," Hitchcock said of the game against the Blackhawks. "We played the whole game with our eyes. It was just an absolute shock for us. For a coaching staff, it was like, 'Whoa!' To go as well as we played and skated against Nashville [a 3-0 win Tuesday] to come in and play like that [against Chicago], it was like we were playing the friendly games and they didn't want anything to do with it. They hit us, they knocked us around, they were tough on us. We tried everything we could, but we couldn't seem to get a response from our own group. Our own group couldn't get a response from each other. I don't know what it was.

"It's a young team and when you don't practice, you don't play well, and that's where we're at. When we don't practice, it just comes back and bites us every time and it has all year. I think veteran teams can do it and get away with it. You can talk things through, but when we don't get tempo at practice or we don't get everybody on the ice or we get to this playing every second day ... the only time we were good in a pregame skate was when we gassed it and had a hockey practice before the Nashville game. But that's hard to do every time. [Friday] was good. [It] hopefully gets out tempo back where it was before."

When the Blues implement that familiar tempo again against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday in hopes of clinching the Central Division title for the first time since 2000, they will do it with a full and healthy lineup for the first time in 160 games.

Hitchcock said Thursday that Andy McDonald (shoulder) would play against the Blue Jackets. Matt D'Agostini (concussion) was activated from injured reserve Thursday and Roman Polak, out the last five games with a bruised knee, is also back in the lineup.

So in practice Friday, there were 16 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies.

"It's a team we put together in the off-season, the team that's been practicing and working all year as a group," Steen said. "To finally have everybody healthy is a great feeling. Just knowing that guys have their health is the big thing. Everybody in here is friends. We're like family together. You never want to see a teammate get hurt.

"The coaches have a lot of decisions to make for the lineups and stuff like that. It's a good thing to have. There will be a lot of competitiveness. Guys want to play and play a lot."

It means that six players will sit the remaining games as long as the lineup's in tact the way it is. That will make competition for the 20 roster spots tough to sift through.

"It's always good when you have a healthy team, but shows how deep our team is," Russell said. "We were having success when guys were out, but it's been key guys that have been out. [Polak's] a big part of our defense. He's a shutdown guy, plays heavy minutes, five-on-five and four-on-four. You get guys like [Steen] and [McDonald] back, they help run the ship with the forwards. It's good to have those guys back and the leadership they bring.

"No matter how much money you're making, you've got to be competing, you've got to be earning a spot on that ice. That's the good thing about our team. There's competition. You've got to be at your best and if you're not, there's going to be someone breathing down your neck looking for that chance to get in. We work hard as a team and we help each other out. I think that's why we've been so strong."

The Blues usually bounce back strong after these types of competitive skates, and they typically bounce back strong off a loss.

Nothing less is expected once again.

"We're a team that feels uneasy when we don't play our best and we haven't really poured it all in," Shattenkirk said. "I think once that happens, you almost feel guilty and play harder.

"We owe it to ourselves to put the best product out there every night. Some guys won't have it some nights, but if the effort's there, usually we end up on the right side of things."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 1:43 PM

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

Toews could return next week for Hawks

NASHVILLE – Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said captain Jonathan Toews skated again Saturday and he might be able to return to action in the next week.
 
Toews skated at home in Chicago on Saturday, as he did not make the team’s trip for the game with the Predators.
 
“We’re hopeful that maybe we can get him in before the end of the season,” Quenneville said.
 
Asked if Toews had been cleared for contact, Quenneville at first responded in the affirmative but then said he was “not positive.”
 
Here is Chicago's projected lineup:
 
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik
 
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Sean O’Donnell - Dylan Olsen
 
Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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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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Quote of the Day

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— Defenseman Torey Krug on signing with the Boston Bruins
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