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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 1:59 PM

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

Hawks set to face Blues again without Toews

CHICAGO -- After getting back on the ice for four straight days while recovering from what's believed to be a concussion, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has taken the last two days off.

The Hawks didn't practice on Monday and Toews didn't skate on his own. He then missed the morning skate Tuesday prior to the Hawks facing the St. Louis Blues at United Center on Tuesday night -- meaning he will not play against the Blues. It will be his 11th straight game out of the lineup.

"He didn't skate today, he's here getting treatments," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the skate. "It's part of the process. Some days are better than others, but he knows his body and we'll see how he is."

Toews was unavailable to speak with reporters while getting those treatments, but Quenneville sounded optimistic when asked if he was hopeful that his team's captain and top center could return within the next week or two.

"He's excited about when he was skating here, so he's still looking forward to getting back out there," Quenneville said. "Hopefully it's going to be soon."

Chicago is 5-4-1 in the previous 10 games since Toews left the lineup following a 3-1 win against the Blues on Feb. 19 at the United Center. Toews has missed a total of 11 games this season and the Hawks are 5-5-1 in those contests -- a mark that isn't nearly as bad as many might've thought when Toews first left the lineup.

"You'd probably like to be a little bit better than that, but he's a big part of the lineup ... everyone knows that," said star forward Patrick Kane, who has five goals and seven points in the past seven games filling in at top-line center. "He does so much. He scores goals. He's great on the penalty kill and faceoffs. He just helps in so many ways. When you miss a guy like that, it's a big void but I thought we've done pretty good overall."

The Blues present yet another tall order Tuesday night. Despite the teams splitting the first four games of the season series, St, Louis dominated Chicago 5-1 in the last meeting on March 6 at Scottrade Center. Toews was not in uniform for that game and the Blues seemed to thrive without the two-way center on the ice.

Since that game, however, the Hawks have managed to beat one of the League's best teams in the New York Rangers and then earn a point in a shootout loss to the playoff-hunting Los Angeles Kings -- both in Chicago.

Considering the Hawks have gone 4-1-1 since going 1-3-0 to start this extended stretch without their emotional leader, it could be a lot worse for them.

"The last [six] games we kind of realized that we wanted to put it together and start winning some games without him in the lineup," Kane said. "We've done a better job with that, as of late. Hopefully it's kind of a blessing in disguise, where you miss him for a little bit, you start playing the right way as a team and you know you're only going to get better when he comes back. It's kind of nice to think about it that way ... that you're winning games without a big piece of your lineup and you know he's coming back soon. It's exciting."
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 1:56 PM

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

Surging Stars happy to have their captain back

ST. PAUL -- The Dallas Stars look to continue their playoff push against the slumping Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center as the two teams hook up for the fourth and final time this season. The home team has won each of the previous three meetings.

The last time these teams played in St. Paul on Jan. 21, the Wild won 5-2, thanks to four second-period goals. Since Dec. 13, Minnesota has won just nine times and the win over Dallas that Saturday is perhaps the team's most impressive in that stretch.

Since then, the Stars have morphed into the NHL's hottest team, winners of five straight games. Dallas hans't lost a game in regulation in nearly a month -- Feb. 19 against Nashville, going 9-0-1 over that stretch.

The streak has pushed the Stars from the outside of the playoff race to the peak of the Pacific Division, two points ahead of Phoenix and four clear of San Jose.

If its winning ways was not good news enough, Dallas also got its captain back Saturday night as Brenden Morrow returned after missing 18 games with an upper-body injury. Morrow came back in style, too, netting the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over Anaheim.

"It's a pretty long layoff, but the team was playing well and it gave me the time to take care of the body and get healthy again," Morrow said. "I didn't want to screw anything up. The team's been playing great, so it was nice to come in and help out. Spent too much time in the penalty box, though."

The Stars' winning ways allowed the team to take a hands-off approach to Morrow's rehab, affording him to use the full time-frame to get healthy instead of rushing him back. Morrow said he's not all the way back yet, but he's getting closer everyday.

Regardless, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said having Morrow back in the lineup will definitely help with the grind of the final month, where back-to-back games become more regular.

"He gives us a big, heavy body in there and has a good voice in the locker room," Gulutzan said. "It's going to take him a few games to get up to 100 percent, but I thought his first game was pretty good."

The Stars are dinged up on the back end, however, as defenseman Sheldon Souray is suffering from a lower-body ailment that will keep him out of the lineup tonight and likely again tomorrow in Winnipeg. Forward Radek Dvorak will also miss tonight's game with an ankle injury suffered against the Ducks on Saturday.

Like with Morrow, Dallas plans to play it cautiously with both as Gulutzan says he has confidence in the guys who will replace them in the lineup, defenseman Jordie Benn and Ryan Garbutt.

"[Souray] and Devo are in the same boat, I'd rather have them at 100-percent healthy, or as close to it as we can get rather than to try and push them to play at 75, 70 percent," Gulutzan said. "We need healthy guys and we have healthy guys who can step in and help us."

The Stars called up defenseman Benn on Monday from AHL Texas. He has an assist in two games with Dallas this season and leads Texas defensemen in scoring with 28 points in 56 games.

Along with brother Jamie, a forward, the Benns are just the third set of brothers to play for the Stars at the same time since the team moved from Minnesota in 1993 and just the sixth in franchise history.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 1:41 PM

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

Devils' lineup will be game-time decision

Devils coach Peter DeBoer told The (Bergen) Record he hadn't decided on his lineup for the game Tuesday, and that all 13 forwards would skate in the pre-game warm-ups.
 
That means Steve Bernier, a healthy scratch Sunday when the teams played at the Prudential Center, could get back in the lineup.
 
"We're dealing with some bumps and bruises and we'll see," DeBoer said following the team's morning skate at Wells Fargo Center.
 
However, DeBoer also could opt to keep Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen in the lineup to match the Flyers' physicality. He liked the way that part of the game went in a 4-1 win Sunday. He said he expects to see an equally as physical game Tuesday.
 
"They always do," DeBoer said of the Flyers playing physical. "They're at home and that's what they do. We expect that."
 
Here's the projected lineup the Devils for tonight:
 
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus - Petr Sykora
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Steve Bernier/Cam Janssen
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Marek Zidlicky - Anton Volchenkov
Adam Larsson - Bryce Salvador
 
Martin Brodeur will be in goal, with Johan Hedberg the backup.

Defenseman Matt Taormina will be a healthy scratch.
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 1:36 PM

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

Turco makes first Bruins start in visit to Lightning

TAMPA -- With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Tampa Bay Lightning hope the Boston Bruins haven't brought along the scissors.

The Lightning face off Tuesday night against Boston at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the second game in a crucial seven-game homestand. Tampa Bay, 0-2-1 over their its three and seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, may finally see the writing on the wall.

"We are trying to groom our players, not just for this year but for the next few years," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "Look at the last two games, like in Washington where we lost in overtime, we were short-staffed and we had a kid from the AHL in net (Dustin Tokarski) and our players basically shut down the opponent for two periods. We gave them almost nothing.

"Same thing here last game against Carolina, same thing, giving very little to the opponent. That tells me there is a real dedication to improving and getting better in all aspects of the game. It's a very honest approach by our players towards not just hard work but attention to details and it has to stay this way."

Until the mathematics completely turn against the Lightning, Boucher will continue to urge his troops to battle, but he also knows he can't keep throwing his top line on the ice for 27 minutes, which is what Steven Stamkos played last game against Carolina, or 29 minutes, which was Martin St. Louis' ice time for that same game.

"We have to score more goals, and yes, we've got some guys who are not here offensively, but some other guys have stepped up and scored some goals lately," Boucher said. "We've been playing Marty St. Louis and Stamkos too much, but we had to. We can't keep this up until the end of the year. They can't play that many minutes. I have to rely on some other guys. Our top line has been asked to do a lot, and they've been on the ice a lot. Obviously, they are out of gas by the end of the game. I have to manage it in such a way that they do have enough gas to play 60 minutes.

"There is a delicate balance. We have to play them a lot but there is a point where I can't go overboard. In Carolina, on the power play, they stayed on the ice for the full two minutes. Usually after a minute I'm screaming at them to get off but I didn't, because we had no choice."

This will be the third of four meetings between the Lightning and the Bruins this season. The home team has won each of the last two games, and Tampa Bay's win on Jan. 17 proved to be a turnaround game for the club. The 4-1 victory halted a seven-game losing streak and began the five-game winning streak that propelled the Lightning back into playoff contention.

Boston is playing game two tonight of a stretch in which they play six of seven games on the road. The Bruins are 2-2-0 in their last four games and their power play has struggled of late, going 1 for 22 over their last eight games.

Marty Turco gets the call in net for the Bruins, his first start since rejoining the NHL on March 5. He relieved Tim Thomas for two periods on Sunday against Pittsburgh, allowing 2 goals while facing 22 shots.
                                                                                                                                                           
Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game:

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Lane MacDermid - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Marty Turco
Tim Thomas

LIGHTNING
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Adam Hall - Nate Thompson
Ryan Shannon - JT Wyman

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Mike Commodore
Brendan Mikkelson - Brian Lee
Keith Aulie

Dustin Tokarski
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 1:25 PM

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

Brodeur ends streak of Hedberg starts in Philly

Martin Brodeur has made a career of beating the Flyers -- he has 45 wins in 82 regular-season starts against them, with nine shutouts. However, when he stars against them at Wells Fargo Center tonight, it will be his first regular-season start in Philadelphia in nearly two years -- March 28, 2010, when he suffered a 5-1 loss.

Backup Johan Hedberg started all six games against the Flyers last season, and then started the teams' first two games this season in Philadelphia.

Brodeur said following the team's morning skate at Wells Fargo Center that playing in Philadelphia wasn't all that much of a big deal to him.

"I've played my share of games here," he told The (Bergen) Record.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brodeur is 16-16-2 with three ties in 37 regular-season starts at the building known as Wells Fargo Center, which opened in 1996, with a 2.68 goals-against average, .904 save percentage and four shutouts.

Coach Peter DeBoer said the arena his team is playing in has no bearing on who he chooses as his starter.

"We’ll take into account previous records against teams and things like that," he told The (Bergen) Record. "That all goes into the pot when you're making those calls, but the building usually doesn't come up."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK



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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 1:02 PM

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

Toews remains off ice, won't dress against Blues

CHICAGO -- After getting back on the ice for four straight days while recovering from what's believed to be a concussion, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has taken the last two days off.

The Hawks didn't practice on Monday and Toews didn't skate on his own, then he missed Tuesday's morning skate prior to Tuesday night's game against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Toews will not play against the Blues, his 11th straight game out of the lineup.

Chciago is 5-4-1 in the previous 10 games since Toews left the lineup after a Feb. 19 game here against the Blues.

"He didn't skate today, he's here getting treatments," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's part of the process. Some days are better than others, but he knows his body and we'll see how he is."

Here's how the Blackhawks' lineup projects against the Blues:

Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Jimmy Hayes

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Dylan Olsen

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 12:35 PM

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

Wellwood's play warrants promotion to scoring line

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers center Eric Wellwood had a great chance to help his team's chances Monday night when he had dinner with his best friend, Devils center Adam Henrique.

The two were teammates for four seasons with the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires and won a pair of Memorial Cups together on a juggernaut team that included Oilers forward Taylor Hall, Canucks forward Zack Kassian and Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, among others. So when they had a chance to catch up prior to the teams playing Tuesday, the pair had dinner at Wellwood's apartment.

"We got to hang out last night. He came over to my place," Wellwood said. When asked what he cooked, he said he didn't and then realized his missed opportunity -- "I should have poisoned him, actually."

Wellwood obviously was joking, and said he's not surprised his friend is among the front-runners for this year's Calder Trophy.

"He got a lot of points, but he never was Taylor Hall or Ryan Ellis in junior," Wellwood said. "Those guys are obviously good players in the NHL as well … but playing with him you knew he was good."

Wellwood also has shown his skills in his time with the Flyers. He has 2 goals in five games in his most recent promotion from AHL Adirondack, and he earned another promotion at Tuesday's morning skate -- from center on the fourth line to second-line left wing, playing with Danny Briere and Jakub Voracek.

Wellwood, regarded by some as the fastest skater on the team, said the shift to the wing will allow him to use his speed more.

"I think I can be more aggressive on the forecheck," he said. "When you're at center you sit back a little bit more, you just watch the play develop, because you don't want to get caught defensively, because that's your major responsibly -- especially if you're playing on the fourth line. I think my game will change a bit. I'll be a lot faster, and I'll be on the forecheck more. I'll try to get them the puck as best as I can.

"I think I'm going to be the one to create them space. I think if I get in on the forecheck and get the puck, and do a lot of the dirty work, that will help them out a lot. It seems like a good line. I think we've got a lot of good things going."

Coach Peter Laviolette wouldn't commit to that line sticking together for Tuesday's game, but said he's been very pleased with what he's seen from Wellwood so far.

"I've liked Wellwood's game, he's been terrific," Laviolette said. "He brings a lot of speed. You go back and you watch the game over and he's always around there doing something -- he's breaking up a forecheck or he's driving the net or he's killing a big penalty. His speed is a real asset. He's a real smart player. He's been real good.

"Every time he's put a uniform on up here, he's impressed people. Whether it's exhibition games or call-ups, whenever it might be, he's been an impressive player."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 12:06 PM

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

Voracek also set to return to Flyers' lineup

VOORHEES, N.J. -- One week after absorbing a scary hit from Detroit's Niklas Kronwall, Flyers forward Jakub Voracek says he will be back in the Flyers' lineup when his team hosts the New Jersey Devils.

He missed three games with a concussion, and said he's happy to be back after so short an absence.

"It wasn't great to sit out three games, but there was nothing I could do about it," he said after the morning skate. "I think after the hit I'm pretty happy I'm back in a week. Hopefully we're going to get a win and get it rolling again."

He skated at right wing on a line centered by Danny Briere, with rookie Eric Wellwood at left wing.

Here's the rest of the Flyers' lineup, based on their morning skate:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Eric Wellwood - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup.

Pavel Kubina, who has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, skated with the team at the morning skate, but will not play. Rookie defenseman Brandon Manning and veteran forward Jody Shelley will be healthy scratches.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK



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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 11:55 AM

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

Flyers get Timonen back after five-game absence

VOORHEES, N.J. -- After a five-game absence, Philadelphia Flyers All-Star defenseman Kimmo Timonen will be back on the ice when his team hosts the New Jersey Devils.

Timonen has been out with a lower-body injury, but told reporters following the Flyers' morning skate that he was "95-percent sure" he was playing.

Timonen wouldn't specify the exact nature of his injury, but said he's hoping his time off will be enough to sustain him through the rest of the season and the playoffs.

"It's one of those things that I don't think it's going to go away, but hopefully this lasts," he said. "We'll see. … We go game-by-game and day-by-day and see how it feels."

Timonen, who had played in 248 consecutive regular-season games prior to sitting out, said he enjoyed the time off.

"Mentally it's been great," he said. "I've played a lot of hockey the last four years. The last 10 days I didn't do much. Mentally it's been really good, and hopefully it carries over to rest of the year and the playoffs."

Now, though, he knows rest time is over, and he's excited to get back into the lineup.

"It's a tough thing, you don't want to miss games," he said. "I played 3 1/2 years not missing any games, so it was tough. I knew it was going to happen (but) I'm excited to be back. Hopefully I can help the team."

The Flyers have been without Timonen, as well as fellow veterans Andrej Meszaros and Pavel Kubina. Rookies Erik Gustafsson and Brandon Manning have done solid jobs filling in, but with the return of one of their injured veteran blueliners -- Meszaros (lower body) and Kubina (upper body) remain out -- the Flyers should be a bit more composed in their back end.

"Kimmo is the same as Prongs (Chris Pronger)," Matt Carle, who was paired with Timonen at Tuesday's practice, told NHL.com. "They've been around so long, you just expect them to be in the right place and make the right plays because they've been doing it so long. No matter how much time they've missed, you expect them to be great. When he's out there he's so sound as a player that you're not going to notice too much of a difference with him whether it's bad or good. He's an even-keeled player like that."

Timonen has 36 points and is tied for third among NHL defensemen with 34 assists, but it's his role off the ice as much on it that the Flyers missed. 

"He's looked up to on our team by a lot of guys," Carle said. "He's somebody who's been in the League a long time and somebody who's a leader."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 9:47 AM

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

Updated playoff projections: March 13th

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 69 76 13 89 8

9th 70 74 12 85 9
10th 69 72 13 84 10
11th 68 69 14 82 11
12th 69 68 13 79 12
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 71 78 11 89 7

9th 68 77 14 91 8
10th 69 76 13 88 9
11th 69 76 13 88 9

The skinny: The NHL has their own version of March Madness as teams jockey for position and nearly every possible playoff spot is at stake.

Florida, which is trying to end a long playoff drought, entertains the reeling Toronto Maple Leafs with a chance to move three points ahead of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division. Just as importantly, in their quest to end the playoff drought there is an opportunity to move further ahead of the Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets, who are trying to chase down Washington in the eighth spot.

Winning this game would make it almost impossible for the Jets to catch the Panthers. The Jets would have to win four more games than Florida in their remaining games to pass them. This is called breathing room.

As for the jockeying inside the top eight, look no further than the New Jersey Devils-Philadelphia Flyers matchup. Both of these teams try to chase down the fourth position in the conference and coveted home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

Looking to the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks won in Edmonton on Monday night to move past Calgary and can find themselves back in a playoff position with a win or even a single point Tuesday against the Flames. Those three point games are certainly loathed by teams not playing on a particular night.

The Flames have eight of their remaining 13 games at home, and those games are almost mandatory if they want to qualify for the playoffs. A year ago on this date the Flames were in eighth position, but they finished 5-3-3 -- including an 0-2-2 record against Phoenix, Los Angeles and Anaheim.

If you don't beat the teams you are competing with for playoff spots, you won't qualify. The Flames don't want to have a repeat of that this season.

As for the battles inside the top eight, Detroit, at the very least, wants to have home ice in the first round of the playoffs and with a win against the Kings, the Red Wings can move four points ahead of Nashville in that race.
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