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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 3:06 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flames, Coyotes

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena:

Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Michael Cammalleri - Blair Jones - Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma - Michael Backlund - Krys Kolanos
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie - Cory Sarich

Leland Irving
Miikka Kiprusoff

After collecting the 300th win of his career against his former team last night in San Jose, Kiprusoff is expected to take the night off and Irving will get the start against the Coyotes. Calgary will play the Coyotes four times in the final third of the season and the teams are side-by-side in the standings. The winner of the series could have a lot to do with who has the best chance at a playoff spot. The Flames dress only 12 forwards with ex-Coyote Lee Stempniak (ankle) and Curtis Glencoss (knee) both out indefinitely.

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Mikkel Boedker
Taylor Pyatt - Kyle Chipchura - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
Derek Morris - Michal Rozsival

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

The Coyotes are looking for a their fourth win in six days after Tuesday 4-1 win in Dallas. The six points in four days allowed the Coyotes to leap past three teams and move back into the playoff picture. The line of Whitney, Hanzal and Vrbata has produced 8 goals and 22 points in the last six games. The Coyotes are missing only defenseman David Schlemko, who is out for the season following foot surgery.

POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Tocchet talks Flyers and the urge to coach again

LAS VEGAS -- Rick Tocchet, now a part-time analyst for Flyers games on Comcast SportsNet, has been impressed with how his former team has persevered despite not having Chris Pronger since mid-November. However, Tocchet also told NHL.com Thursday morning that now, more than ever, the Flyers need Ilya Bryzgalov to step up and start living up to the expectations that he carried with him to Philadelphia.

"The young guys have played beyond expectations. Jagr has also played very well for them this season," Tocchet said from the Bellagio on Thursday. "They've got guys playing beyond the expectations that they thought they'd be at, but the guy that really is probably the most important guy that hasn't is Bryzgalov."

Tocchet said a big reason why the Flyers are still in the hunt for the Atlantic Division title and the top seed in the Eastern Conference is because of their team chemistry.

"You take (Shea) Weber, (Kris) Letang or other big-time defensemen away from their teams, it's going to be a chink in the armor," he said. "But, the (Flyers) team chemistry this year is at an all-time high, and sometimes team chemistry can overcome a big loss. But, listen, having Chris Pronger in a seven-game series is pretty special to have. It's a significant loss."

Tocchet is enjoying his job as a part-time analyst in Philadelphia because it allows him to spend more time at home in Pittsburgh with his 12-year-old son than he did when he was coaching in Tampa. However, he said Thursday that the itch is still there for him to coach in the NHL, and he'd like to scratch it soon.

"I've had a couple of calls for assistant coaching interviews, but it would have to be the right situation," Tocchet said. "You'd like to get a real solid chance with something really solid. If that happens, who knows? Listen, you get a taste for being a head coach you want to be a head coach. But, sometimes to get back in the game, you might have to be an assistant."

Tocchet admitted he still has a sour taste in his mouth from how it ended with the Lightning. He was not re-hired by GM Steve Yzerman after the team missed the playoffs in 2010 for the third straight season, and second under Tocchet.

"I could do full-time TV, but right now I do it part-time and that's really good," Tocchet said. "But, there is still that itch I'd like to scratch. You get a sour taste in your mouth from before, but part of it is a learning process, too. It's a good time to learn."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings not frustrated, but hope for more scoring

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Los Angeles Kings will enter Thursday night in seventh place in the Western Conference standings when they face the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center. It’s not all that bad considering the Kings are dead last in the entire League in goals.

“At the end of the day, right now we’re in a playoff spot,” said captain Dustin Brown. “Regardless of our scoring, that’s all that really matters for this team. Do we want to get better at our scoring? Yeah. I think a lot of guys are frustrated in here with the type of scoring, or lack thereof, that we have with this team.

“At the end of the day we’re capable of winning games 1-0 and 2-1 because of the way we play defense. Again, we’ve got to find ways to score more goals but we’re also capable of winning games without scoring many.”

That’s precisely what happened when the Kings faced the Panthers on Dec. 1 at Staples Center. That night, Los Angeles was able to pull out a 2-1 victory despite being outshot 42-26.

The Kings, who will be playing the fourth game in a season-long six-game road trip Thursday night, are coming off a 3-1 victory at Tampa Bay. It was only the 19th time in 54 games this season that Los Angeles had scored more than two goals.

“Hockey is a funny game,” Brown said. “It’s a confidence thing. If you look around at the numbers of the guys in this room, they’re probably having statistically one of their worst years. I’ve never been on a team where you see it happen to such a big number of big guys that are having down years.”

The two biggest disappointments in terms of goal-scoring this season have been second-line wingers Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll.

Penner scored at least 23 goals four of the last five seasons but has only five goals in 42 games so far. Stoll has five goals in 54 games after finishing with 20 last season.

The center on that line is Mike Richards, who will be playing in his 500th NHL game Thursday night. The former Flyers captain, who scored 11 goals in 13 games in November and December but has only one tally in his last 19 outings, says the victory at Tampa Bay was a good example of how the Kings can have success without putting up big numbers.

“We’re not going to be a team that just throws our sticks on the ice and gets two or three,” Richards said. “We’ve got to go out there and earn it. But at the same time, we’ve got to make the other team work hard and get pressure by our checking and how hard we work. We know our identity. Obviously we’d like to score more goals. Everyone does. But our biggest focus is keeping the puck out of the net and then moving forward.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Kings when they face Florida on Thursday night:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter
Kyle Clifford - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Jack Johnson - Willie Mitchell
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:42 PM

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

Wild look to capitalize on favorable home stretch

ST. PAUL -- In mid-December, when the Wild were the best team in the National Hockey League, they led Vancouver in the Northwest Division standings by as many as five points.

Less than two months later, the Canucks lead Minnesota by 13 points, and if the Wild are going to make one final push to narrow that gap, it must begin tonight. Minnesota just wrapped up a brutal portion of its schedule, playing 15 of its last 23 games on the road. Minnesota has won just five games during that stretch, capturing the second fewest points in the NHL in that time.

Tonight's game opens a stretch of four in a row, five of six and 18 of 29 the rest of the way at the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center, where Minnesota is 13-7-3 this season.

In its quest to get back on track, Minnesota will not have to face nemesis Roberto Luongo, who has shut out the Wild in three consecutive starts. He's the first goalie in the NHL to shut out one team three straight times since Evgeni Nabokov did it to the Coyotes in 2007.

With that kind of recent history against the Wild, one would have thought Luongo a cinch to get the start tonight, but his history in this building is less than stellar. Over his last three starts at the Xcel Energy Center, Luongo's goals against average is 7, he's stopped just 77 percent of shots faced and has not finished a game. For his career, Luongo is 3-9-2 in St. Paul.

Enter Cory Schneider, who started the only game the two teams have played in Minnesota this season back on Nov. 3. Minnesota won that game 5-1.

"Probably the most impressive offensive effort I've seen all season," Schneider said. "But we're a different team right now than we were at the beginning of the year and we know we can beat this team. We have in our building."

Neither Schneider or Canucks coach Alain Vigneault could offer much of any reason why this series has taken on such a home-team edge. It seems neither one of these teams can win in their opponent's barn.

"They've given us real hard battles in this building," Vigneault said. "For some reason, in this building, we haven't been as good as we can be. We're usually a really good road team, but for some reason, this building has been a challenge for us."

If Minnesota is going to continue its hot streak against the Canucks in St. Paul, the Wild will need more from a struggling power play, which scored on less than 10 percent of its chances during the road-heavy stretch. But that won't be an easy task against Vancouver, which has shut out the Wild power play on 12 chances this season. The Wild haven't scored a goal against the Canucks with the man advantage since February of last season, when Cal Clutterbuck potted a power-play goal 359 days ago.

Among the lowest scoring teams in the NHL, the Wild are 12-7-2 when scoring with the extra attacker this season.

The return of Mikko Koivu to the lineup tonight will allow Wild coach Mike Yeo to reshuffle his lines a little bit. Koivu returns to his top-line spot between Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

"They've played well together all year long," Yeo said.

Newcomer Erik Christensen, making his home debut for the Wild tonight, has been moved to wing on the second line with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck, giving Minnesota a skilled second line it has been missing of late. Yeo said he was pleased with how Clutterbuck and Cullen played with Pierre-Marc Bouchard earlier in the season, another skilled winger.

"That was a pretty effective line for us," Yeo said. "Obviously Christensen is not Butch, they're both different players. But both have skill, both make plays. Hopefully, they'll find a little bit of that magic again."

In goal for Minnesota will be Niklas Backstrom, who has been stellar for Minnesota over the past three games. Although his record over that stretch is just 1-1-1, the Wild have provided him with only three goals total of support.

On the injury front, the Wild placed defenseman Clayton Stoner on injured reserve with a lower body injury. There is no timetable on his return. Koivu was removed from IR today, so no further roster moves are pending.

For Vancouver, winger Dale Weise's CT scan on his foot was negative. He participated in the morning skate and is a game-time decision.

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Erik Christensen
Nick Johnson - Kyle Brodziak - Carson McMillan
Darroll Powe - Warren Peters - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Jared Spurgeon
Marek Zidlicky - Greg Zanon
Justin Falk - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Byron Bitz
David Booth - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Aaron Rome - Keith Ballard

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo
POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:37 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Hull chats about Hitchcock, Blues, Stars

LAS VEGAS -- Ex-Blues great Brett Hull swells with pride when he talks about the turnaround in St. Louis this season orchestrated by his former coach, Ken Hitchcock.

Hull, who spoke to NHL.com Thursday morning from the Bellagio, said it was "an absolute no-brainer" for Blues GM Doug Armstrong and President John Davidson to bring Hitchcock on board in early November because he's the exact coach the young team needed.

"They're group of young, talented kids that needed someone to give them direction and a no-nonsense approach to how we're going to play the game," Hull said. "It was just like in Dallas, if you didn't buy in and do it the right way at 100-plus percent, you weren't going to play. That's what those kids in St. Louis needed, and it's obvious that it's true because look at them now."

The Blues are fourth in the Western Conference with 69 points. They have two games in hand on fifth place Nashville and three games in hand on first place Detroit.

"It filters through the whole team," Hull added. "You're accountable to the next guy and he's accountable to the next guy. Then you're all working together, and it just breeds success."

Hull said he thinks the Blues are built to have success for many years to come with young players like T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo, David Backes, David Perron and Chris Stewart leading the way in front of one of the League's most formidable goalie tandems in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.

"From what I understand Hitch isn't quite as dictatorial as he was, so the players aren't going, 'OK, enough, enough,' " Hull said. "I do think it's built for the long term."

He can see some similarities between the Blues and another of his former teams and employers, the Dallas Stars.

Hull, though, said the Stars right now are a "generic" team that is missing a star.

"Jamie Benn has a chance to be a really good player, but he's still a baby and he hasn't figured it all out yet," Hull said. "Kari Lehtonen is a very good goalie, but other than that it's just a very generic, workmanlike, blue-collar team."

Hull still lives in Dallas and is around the team quite a bit though he has no official title. He is happy to see that Tom Galiardi has stabilized the ownership situation there, but said the only way for the team to win back the fans is to simply win and get in the playoffs.

Dallas is currently 12th in the Western Conference, but only two points shy of eighth.

"You feel bad for the team because you've got a two-time World Series team (Texas Rangers), you've got the World Champion Dallas Mavericks, and the perennial it doesn't matter if they go 0-16 Cowboys selling out a 100,000 seat building," Hull said. "There is only so much sport dollar to go around, but the only way to get 'em back is to win. But, to win you have to have a superstar-type player. There just isn't that right now."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:35 PM

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

Flyers' Bryzgalov out with the flu

The Philadelphia Flyers will be without goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov for tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) due to the flu.

In his place, Sergei Bobrovsky will start, and Jason Bacashihua was recalled from AHL Adirondack on an emergency basis to serve as the backup.

In 17 AHL games this season, Bacashihua is 7-6-1 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.

A 2001 first-round pick of the Dallas Stars, Bacashihua has 38 games of NHL experience, with the Stars and Blues, but none since the 2006-07 season with St. Louis.

It will be Bobrovsky's first game since he allowed six goals in 28 minutes in Saturday's 6-4 loss to the Devils. In his only start against the Leafs this season, he stopped 24 of 26 shots in a 4-2 victory in Philadelphia on Oct. 24.

Bryzgalov is coming off one of his best outings of the season, an 18-save shutout Tuesday against the New York Islanders, and while he allowed two goals in the shootout to suffer the overtime loss, it marked the fifth time in his last seven starts he's allowed one goal or fewer.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:04 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' goaltenders getting healthy

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers' goaltending situation is getting muddled as players get healthy again.

Jose Theodore and Jacob Markstrom, who both have been out with knee injuries, joined Scott Clemmensen when the Panthers held their morning skate in preparation for Thursday night's game against Los Angeles.

Another positive sign came Wednesday when Brian Foster, who backed up Clemmensen the last four games, was sent back to San Antonio of the AHL.

“We went from a goaltending issue to we’ve got a bit of a glut out there today," coach Kevin Dineen said. "No complaints from the coaching staff for us organizationally. It's nice for us to have a number of options for tonight’s game."

Clemmensen is expected to make a seventh consecutive start against Los Angeles, but Dineen didn't rule out the possibility of Theodore starting.

The former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner hasn't played since Jan. 20 in a 3-1 loss at Chicago. He initially was injured in a 3-2 victory over Montreal on New Year's Eve and returned Jan. 18 to start at Colorado in a game the Panthers lost 4-3 in overtime.

"I'm not going to break him in slowly," Dineen said. "As soon as he deems himself fit, and this morning's skate is a good, positive step for him, then he is a legitimate option to play tonight."

After a tremendous nine-game stretch where he was 5-1-3 with a 2.13 goals-against average and .935 save percentage, Clemmensen struggled in Florida's last two games. He gave up five goals on 32 shots in Saturday's 6-3 loss at Tampa Bay and then gave up four goals on 24 shots Tuesday in a 4-0 loss at Washington.

For the season, Clemmensen is 8-4-5 with a 2.80 GAA and a .908 save percentage, while Theodore is 14-9-5 with a 2.50 GAA and a .916 save percentage.

"He has been good this year and he'll continue to play an important role in our season," Dineen said of Theodore. "You can sit there, you can fiddle around, but goaltending is a key position in our League. A goaltender that comes in and makes that big, timely save is a real difference-maker. He did that on numerous occasions early in the season."

Markstrom, meanwhile, is still recovering from knee surgery, his second over the past year. He likely will be sent to San Antonio once he's ready to play.

"I'm just taking it day by day and trying to get back," Markstrom said. "You want to get back and play. It's never fun to watch your buddies play, so you always want to get back as fast as possible but you don't want a setback and you don't want to rush it. So you take it day by day, and hopefully I’ll be back playing soon."

Here's the Panthers' projected lineup:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Scott Clemmensen
Jose Theodore
POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:58 PM

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

Koivu's return a huge boost for Wild

ST. PAUL -- While one captain looks as though he will continue his ironman streak tonight at Xcel Energy Center, another looks to start a new one.

Minnesota's Mikko Koivu is expected to return after missing the Wild's last eight games with an upper-body injury. Clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the west, Koivu's return could be a major boon to a Wild squad kicking off a critical four-game homestand against the rival Canucks, who appear likely to have Henrik Sedin in the lineup tonight.

"I feel good, I feel stronger, the last couple of days have been good," Koivu said.

Koivu skated today between wingers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, reuniting a line that had been split up with Koivu out of the lineup. Koivu's return could also help spark a Minnesota offense that has sputtered of late, scoring just three goals total over the Wild's last three games. To its credit, Minnesota has gone 1-1-1 in that stretch.

"As much as anything else, just his leadership, he's a warrior out there. That's contagious with the rest of the group," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "With what he contributes and the role he has with our team, his play and the situations we put him out in and his effectiveness in those situations."

POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Gretzky's annual return to the ice

LAS VEGAS -- Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp, now in its 10th year of existence, still excites the Great One because it allows him to catch up with old friends and make new ones while gabbing about hockey the entire time.

Those two reasons are why he continues to hold the camp, and why it's the one time of year he laces up the skates and gets on the ice.

"One thing about being great players is sometimes I don't think people realize how much guys love the game of hockey," Gretzky told NHL.com Thursday morning from the Bellagio. "We can sit around and talk the game of hockey all day. So, my enjoyment comes in watching the campers come in and get the opportunity to ask questions to guys like Bobby Hull, and listen to stories about what happened in something like Game 7 of the '87 Cup Final. That's what it is all about. Everything about the camp is surrounded by the game of hockey, and that's what makes it enjoyable for me."

But why doesn't Gretzky skate anymore?

"Hockey is the greatest game in the world and playing in the NHL was a thrill and an honor, and I always felt that once I was done playing there and couldn't play anymore, there was no other league like the NHL so it would just not be the same playing in a Sunday night men's pickup league," he said. "So, I just stand on the sidelines and watch."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 1:49 PM

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

Jets need offense, face Caps in critical division clash

WASHINGTON – The Winnipeg Jets will look to narrow the gap in the Southeast Division on Thursday night when they visit the first-place Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.

The Caps took over first place with a 4-0 win Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. Washington is one point clear of Florida and four points up on Winnipeg.

“It’s actually pretty close to the exact same thing we faced Tuesday,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “This is a team that is just behind us and if they win they’re going to be pretty close, but if we win we can really put some distance.”

Laich’s point is not lost on a Jets team that one year ago today was one point out of a playoff position. The Atlanta Thrashers struggled down the stretch though, winning 10 of their final 26 games before finishing 13 points out of a playoff berth.

“We don’t want to have that same lull that we had last year,” Jets forward Evander Kane said. “I think if you look at this last half of the month for us, it could be a deciding factor for our season and that starts here tonight… It’s a big game and we need the two points real bad.”

 Kane returned to the Jets lineup Tuesday in a 2-1 win over Toronto after missing seven games with a concussion.

The 20-year-old continues to lead Winnipeg with 18 goals despite going 11 straight games without finding the back of the net. Kane’s Winnipeg teammates haven’t done much better of late.

The Jets have scored just eight goals in their last seven games and have gone 0-for-17 on the power play during the stretch. Winnipeg is also last in the Eastern Conference, averaging 2.34 goals-per-game.

“It’s on the offensive side of the puck where our players have to get better,” Jets coach Claude Noel said. “I don’t think it’s so much a team thing, I think it’s an execution thing on the power play and from the standpoint of individual players I think there are a lot of people who would like to get going.”

Noel singled out former Capitals forward Eric Fehr among those he would like to see produce more. Fehr has one goal and one assist in 30 games this season.

“I’m hoping that he has enthusiasm in the game and I’m hoping that he wants some form of maybe redemption [playing against his former team tonight],” Noel said. “I’d like to see him create a little bit more offensively and get his shot off – we haven’t seen too much of that and I think it’s something we need to see more of.”
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Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild