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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 3:10 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Coyotes expect Smith will start in goal Friday

According to the Phoenix Coyotes, starting goaltender Mike Smith will return from a lower-body injury and start Friday night against the Dallas Stars.

"He's going to play tomorrow, barring anything between now and then," Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke told NHL.com Thursday. "He'll go out in the morning skate tomorrow and if everything goes well he'll play tomorrow night in Dallas."

Smith, who enjoyed a breakout year last season in Phoenix when he set career highs in games (67), wins (38), minutes (3.902), goals-against average (2.21) and save percentage (.930), missed four games with the injury. He initially suffered a groin injury during pregame warm-ups before the Jan. 23 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was pulled from that game after facing four shots and was officially placed on the injured reserve list Monday.

According to Dave Vest, the Coyotes senior director of news content, Smith participated in the team's optional skate Thursday before declaring himself ready to play.

"It's gotten a lot better over the last few days, so I'm excited to get back in the lineup. I'm ready," Smith said.

In his absence, the Coyotes suffered losses to the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings in which backup Jason LaBarbera stopped 57 of 65 shots for an .877 save percentage. Following those two losses, Phoenix decided to replace LaBarbera as starter with Chad Johnson, who was called up from the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates on Monday. In the two games Johnson started, Phoenix went 1-0-1 with Johnson allowing two goals, including Nail Yakupov's overtime winner on the power play for the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

"I think we've played a lot better as of late ... so it's an exciting time to get back in," Smith said.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 3:05 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Luongo will start third straight for Canucks on Friday

The Vancouver Canucks will continue to ride the hot hand in goal, and for now that means Roberto Luongo.

The Canucks announced Thursday via their official Twitter account that Luongo will receive his third straight start on Friday when the team hosts the Chicago Blackhawks.

Luongo shut out the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night, giving him a 1-0-2 record with a 1.61 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in four appearances (three starts) this season.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 2:28 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Avs expected to give Giguere first start of season

CALGARY, Alberta -- Jean-Sebastien Giguere is expected to get his first start of the season Thursday night when the Colorado Avalanche visit Scotiabank Saddledome to take on the Calgary Flames.

In his only appearance this year, Giguere kicked aside 17 shots in relief of Semyon Varlamov in Colorado's 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks Saturday.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog remains questionable to face the Flames.

Here are Colorado's lines as the Avalanche look to snap a three-game losing streak against the Flames:

Jamie McGinnMatt DuchenePA Parenteau

John MitchellPaul StastnyDavid Jones

Chuck KobasewMichael SgarbossaMilan Hejduk

Cody McLeodMark OlverPatrick Bordeleau

Erik JohnsonRyan Wilson

Greg ZanonMatt Hunwick

Ryan O'ByrneJan Hejda

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Semyon Varlamov

Scratched: Tyson Barrie, Shane O'Brien

Injured: Steve Downie, Gabriel Landeskog

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 2:24 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Islanders sign Strait to three-year contract

The New York Islanders have signed defenseman Brian Strait to a three-year contract, reportedly worth $775,000 per season.

Strait is scoreless in six games with the team this season since being claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 18.

Prior to joining the Islanders, Strait had appeared in 12 NHL games with the Penguins, collecting one assist and four penalty minutes. The Penguins selected the 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman in the third round (No. 65) of the 2006 NHL Draft.

In 220 career American Hockey League games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Boston native has eight goals, 40 points and a plus-46 rating.

Strait played three years of college hockey at Boston University, highlighted by a NCAA National Championship in 2009, his final season with the team. He also spent two seasons with the United States National Development Team in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

On the international stage, Strait played for the U.S. National Team at the 2008 World Junior Championship and the 2006 Under-18 World Championship, winning gold as team captain in 2006.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 2:10 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Flames' Baertschi out 'week-to-week'

CALGARY, Alberta -- Rookie Sven Baertschi will be out of the lineup when the Calgary Flames host the Colorado Avalanche at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.

Baertschi suffered a hip flexor injury in practice Tuesday and is listed by the team as week-to-week.

"I was skating and my left skate seemed to have caught a rut in the ice and my legs kind of went into a splits position," Baertschi said in a statement. "I felt pain immediately and left the ice to have it checked. It’s very disappointing to learn that it’s a hip flexor injury that will keep me out of the lineup.”

Coach Bob Hartley said he will soldier on without the 20-year-old.

"You can't win with the players you don't have," Hartley said. "You play with the 20 bodies that you have in your lineup. Sven is capable of many great things, but we believe in everyone in this lineup. It's not a one-man show. It's about being a team. There's always a good and a bad part to injuries. The bad part is the player can't play. The good part, it gives opportunities to others to get some roles, to get some responsibilities."

Here are the Flames' lines against the Avalanche as Calgary looks for its second consecutive win of the season:

Curtis GlencrossAlex TanguayJarome Iginla

Lee StempniakMikael BacklundMichael Cammalleri

Jiri HudlerMatt StajanRoman Cervenka

Blake ComeauBlair JonesTim Jackman

Jay BouwmeesterMark Giordano

Dennis WidemanTJ Brodie

Cory SarichChris Butler

Miikka Kiprusoff

Leland Irving

Injured: Anton Babchuk, Sven Baertschi

Scratched: Steve Begin, Derek Smith

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:58 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers want Gudbranson to finish rehab in AHL

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson will start his season in the American Hockey League and how well he plays will determine how long he'll be away from the NHL.

Gudbranson, the third pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury which occurred during the summer while wakeboarding, and the Panthers sent him to the San Antonio Rampage on Wednesday.

Gudbranson is scheduled to make his AHL debut Friday night when San Antonio plays host to the Rockford IceHogs.

After spending the 2010-11 season in the Ontario Hockey League, Gudbranson went straight to the NHL, where he played in 72 games for the Panthers last season.

Florida coach Kevin Dineen said there was no set number of games he wanted Gudbranson to play in the AHL.

"It depends on what we think of him," Dineen said. "We'll see where he's at. We'll watch the game tomorrow night and see how he's doing and go from there. He's got to go down and establish his play, and play."

Gudbranson was one of two Panthers players loaned to San Antonio, the other being forward Mike Santorelli.

After clearing waivers before the start of the regular season, Santorelli opened the season playing on the first line but was dropped to the third line after the game and was a healthy scratch three of the past four contests.

Santorelli didn't have a point in three games this season. He had 20 goals in 82 games in 2010-11, but had nine goals and two assists in 60 games last season.

"I've always been a believer that Santo is a top-six player," Dineen said. "That's his skill set, as a higher-end skilled forward. Unfortunately, we don't have that fit for him right now. He's got to either diversify his game or get a major dose of confidence. I feel that some time in the American League is going to give him that jolt and that quality ice time that he'll need to get things turned around.

"That book is not closed yet, but he's got to go down there and expand his game and as much so get his confidence back."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:53 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Leafs recall Hamilton, claim McLaren off waivers

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs (3-3-0) are gunning for their first home win against the Washington Capitals (1-4-1), who are still adjusting to playing under rookie coach Adam Oates.

After stopping 28 shots in the Maple Leafs overtime victory in Buffalo on Tuesday, James Reimer will get the start in goal.

Gritty fourth line forward Mike Brown has a shoulder strain that Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said will keep him out of action for at least seven days. In Brown's place, Toronto has called up Ryan Hamilton, captain of its American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

"He's added another gear … and now he is getting an opportunity tonight and the issue will be where to play him in the lineup," Carlyle said. "Right now we brought him up to fill in for Mike Brown, but we wouldn't be afraid to put him higher in the lineup."

The Maple Leafs also claimed forward Frazer McLaren off waivers from the San Jose Sharks. In 40 career NHL games, all with San Jose, McLaren has registered one goal, five assists and 85 penalty minutes.

Capitals forward Brooks Laich skated with his teammates for the first time this season but he will remain out with a groin injury and there is no timetable on his return.

"The guys gave a little round of applause which is nice," Laich said after leaving the ice. "I wake up feeling better every day -- the more I can get on the ice with the guys, the quicker it will be. As far as a timeline, I can't really tell you, I don't have an exact date, but (I'm) getting closer and closer every day."

Alex Ovechkin, who has one goal this season, also spoke with the media after the morning skate.

"Two points is not good enough for me," Ovechkin said. "It's not my game, I have to be better."

Ovechkin did not record a goal last season in two games in Toronto but did have two assists in Washington's previous game at the Air Canada Centre, a 4-2 win on Feb. 25.

MAPLE LEAFS

James Van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Jay McClement - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin

Matt Frattin - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Ryan Hamilton - David Steckel - Colton Orr

Dion Phaneuf - Michael Kostka

Carl Gunnarsson - John-Michael Liles

Mark Fraser - Cody Franson

James Reimer

Ben Scrivens

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb

Wojtek Wolski - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Mike Ribeiro - Joel Ward

Matt Hendricks - Marcus Johansson - Eric Fehr

Karl Alzner - Mike Green

John Erskine - John Carlson

Jeff Schultz - Tomas Kundratek

Michal Neuvirth

Braden Holtby

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:36 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Jets, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Here are the projected lines for the game Thursday between the Florida Panthers and the Winnipeg Jets at BB&T Center.

JETS

Evander Kane - Olli Jokinen - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Bryan Little

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood

James Wright - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien

Ron Hainsey - Zach Redmond

Grant Clitsome - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Injured: Zach Bogosian, Antti Miettinen

Scratches: Paul Postma, Anthony Peluso, Mark Scheifele

NOTES: Forward James Wright will face the Panthers for the first time since being claimed by the Jets after he was waived by Florida before the start of the season.

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Kris Versteeg

Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Peter Mueller

Alex Kovalev - Shawn Matthias - Tomas Kopecky

Jack Skille - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore

Scott Clemmensen

Injured: Stephen Weiss, Ed Jovanovski, Sean Bergenheim

Scratches: Scottie Upshall

NOTES: Defenseman Tyson Strachan is set to make his first appearance since the Jan. 19 season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes as he replaces the injured Ed Jovanovski.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:29 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

New-look Sabres focused on points, not rough stuff

BOSTON – The Buffalo Sabres team that will take the ice Thursday at TD Garden is much different than the one the Boston Bruins beat four times in six tries last season.

In an effort to improve their toughness and physical play, the Sabres added forwards Steve Ott and John Scott during the offseason. Plenty was written and discussed about how the Sabres did not respond last season when Boston forward Milan Lucic ran into Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller during a Nov. 12 contest.

To Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, last year was last year, and he’s more concerned with his team doing what it needs to end a four-game losing streak. That includes his team exercising its newfound physicality as part of an all-round game.

“You try to win the puck battles. You try to win the territorial battles. We have to win a game,” Ruff said after his team’s morning skate. “Not coming out of here with points is not being successful. We need points. In a short season you need points. We’ve answered the physical challenge. We’ve been there for each other from Day One in this. And we’ve played a gritty style, we’ve played a hitting style. We have to win games.

“We dealt with last year. We had a game where [Paul] Gaustad fought with Lucic. [Robyn] Regehr fought [Zdeno] Chara. We played a couple great games against them and came away with points. Hockey’s about winning the game. It’s about winning the mental battle, but winning the physical battle. It’s about winning the territorial battle. If you win those, you give yourself a chance to win.”

In Ott, the Sabres have the perfect foil for the Bruins. His rivalry with Boston goes back to a 2008 fight-filled game between the Dallas Stars and Boston, which featured Ott being ejected. In February 2011, Ott and Boston center Gregory Campbell fought one second into a game to settle a grudge from their junior careers.

Ott doesn’t plan on going out of his way to do more than just what it takes to make up some ground on Buffalo’s Northeast Division rivals.

“Team toughness is within. You don’t have to go out there and drop the gloves every five minutes to prove how tough you are,” Ott said. “I think toughness comes from the locker room. Every guy in here, when you have each other’s back and you play a tough team to play against, I think that’s where you bring your team toughness. And I think that’s more where the focus is, and winning the game.”

Although Claude Julien attributed it to Chris Bourque’s struggles through the Bruins’ first six games, the Bruins coach revealed he will insert of tough guy Lane MacDermid for his season debut in place of Bourque. Rugged defenseman Adam McQuaid is also scheduled to be back in Boston’s lineup.

Here are the projected lineups:

BRUINS

Milan LucicDavid KrejciNathan Horton

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronTyler Seguin

Daniel PailleChris KellyRich Peverley

Lane MacDermidGregory CampbellShawn Thornton

Zdeno CharaJohnny Boychuk

Dennis Seidenberg – Doug Hamilton

Andrew FerenceAdam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

Scratches: Aaron Johnson, Chris Bourque

SABRES

Thomas VanekCody HodgsonJason Pominville

Steve OttTyler EnnisDrew Stafford

Marcus FolignoMikhail GrigorenkoJochen Hecht

John ScottMatt EllisNathan Gerbe

Mike WeberAndrej Sekera

Alexander SulzerChristian Ehrhoff

Jordan LeopoldTyler Myers

Ryan Miller

Jhonas Enroth

Scratches: T.J. Brennan

Injured: Robyn Regehr, Patrick Kaleta

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Byfuglien's availability Thursday uncertain for Jets

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets could be without defenseman Dustin Byfuglien on Thursday night when they face the Florida Panthers.

Byfuglien did not take part in the morning skate, and coach Claude Noel said a determination on Byfuglien's status would be made later.

"He aggravated something previous to the morning skate," Noel said, "so we're going to see with him and make a game-time decision on whether he'll be in or not."

Byuglien got a team-high 28:26 of ice time in the Jets' 4-3 loss at Montreal on Tuesday. The Jets did not practice on Wednesday.

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Quote of the Day

It is really special. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight, and for my first [NHL] game in here it was great. I played here as an elementary-school player in the city championships and this was my first time back. It was a lot of fun..

— Toronto native Brandon Pirri after scoring 2 goals for Panthers in win at Maple Leafs on Thursday