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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 4:15 PM

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

Depleted Detroit happy to have Abdelkader back

NASHVILLE – After missing a 4-3 win Friday against Los Angeles with an illness, Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader was expected back in the lineup Saturday for a metting with Central Division rival Nashville at Bridgestone Arena.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said that forward Joakim Andersson, who played in five games without any producing any points, was sent back to the minors.

The Red Wings have been depleted by injuries and it has started to catch up with them so even getting back a fourth-line forward like Abdelkader, who has seven goals and 13 assists, is a help.

While the Red Wings are starting to get healthy – center Pavel Datsyuk skated on Friday in Detroit – they will miss plenty of players Saturday. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will miss his sixth straight game, Datsyuk his ninth straight, forward Todd Bertuzzi his third straight, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson his sixth straight and goalie Jimmy Howard his third straight.

Babcock said the results have dropped off, but the team is doing the best it can.

“I mean our record’s not even close, so reality is we haven’t been good enough,” he said. “But we’ve battled hard. We’ve lost two of our last three games and we’ve given up 18 and 23 and 24 shots. So we’re not an offensive machine, but we’re hanging in there and we’re battling hard to try and help our goaltender out. I think we’ve done a pretty good job in that area.”

Babcock said the critical thing is not to lose ground in the standings. With Datsyuk out, Detroit is 3-4-1 and St. Louis has overtaken the Red Wings for the division lead.

Nashville could move within four points of Detroit for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference with a regulation win.

Projected lines:

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Johan Franzen - Darren Helm - Drew Miller
Gustav Nyqust - Cory Emmerton - Danny Cleary
Tomas Holmstrom - Justin Abdelkader - Jan Mursak

Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
Doug Janik - Brendan Smith

Joey McDonald
Jordan Pearce

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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 4:02 PM

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

Desharnais out, but Markov could return for Habs

Montreal’s miserable season will continued without injured top-line center David Desharnais on Saturday night in Vancouver, but the Canadiens could get their top defenseman, Andrei Markov, back for the first time all season.

Markov, who has only played seven games in the last two seasons as he tries to come back from two major knee surgeries and another arthroscopic procedure, was activated from the injured-reserve list Saturday morning and could play against the Canucks, according to coach Randy Cunneyworth.

“He’s activated and available to us and should everything go as planned he will be in our lineup,” said Cunneyworth, adding the decision will be made after pre-game warm up, which will include 12 forwards and seven defensemen. “If he’s feeling the same way tonight as he is today, then we certainly will (play him).”

Markov averaged 55 points from 2005-2009, including a career-high 64 in 2008-09. But the 33-year-old Russian only played 45 games in 2009-10 and just seven last season before tearing his ACL in a Nov. 13, 2010, game against Carolina.

It’s been a long road back for the puck-moving, power play specialist. He practiced in November, but was shut down after the knee swelled up, and wasn’t cleared again for contact until Monday. He skated alongside Tomas Kaberle on Friday, but won’t speak to the media until after Saturday’s game – if he plays.

“I believe his condition is to a point where he can help out the team and do the work he feels will help our team be successful,” said Cunneyworth, who has indicated he will monitor the Russian defender’s minutes closely. “We’ll figure out best way to manage his ice based on how the game is going and how he is feeling. It's another step in the right direction for a guy we know is a very good player, but we don’t want to throw too much on his plate.”

Fellow Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges knows better than most what Markov is going through after having season ending surgery in January of 2011 and having to wait until the start of this season to make his return. That was an eight-month wait. Markov hasn't played a game in 16 months.

“I don’t expect him to be at his 100 per cent best first game back after this long a break,” Gorges said. “The timing of things has to come back, but mentally he just has to get out there, get a couple shifts early, keep them short, keep them quick, get the feel for the puck, for the timing. Probably the best thing to do would be take a hit, take a big hit, and to know that he can keep going, his knee will be fine and mentally he can overcome that obstacle and he’ll be fine.”

That said, Gorges believes it will be a big morale boost for the Canadiens, who are last in the Eastern Conference, to see Markov finally return.

“It will be a great boost to everyone just to see him playing,” Gorges said.

The news was almost as positive on Desharnais, who suffered a lower-body injury early during a win Thursday in Edmonton and won’t play in Vancouver.

Cunneyworth said the injury to Desharnais, whose 52 points are second in team scoring only to linemate Max Pacioretty (54), isn’t serious, and he could be back as early as Monday in Buffalo. In the meantime, Tomas Plekanec moves up to the top line between Pacioretty, who took the team scoring lead with two goals and an assist against the Oilers, and Erik Cole.

“There’s some chemistry, they've largely stayed together much of the season,” Cunneyworth said of the top line, “But you adapt and others take on the responsibility. It’s a good challenge for our group.”

Louis Leblanc, who was sent down to Hamilton of the American Hockey League on Wednesday, has been called back up and will play on the fourth line against the Canucks.

When it was suggested the Canadiens could have tried recalling top prospect Brendan Gallagher, who plays his junior hockey locally, on an emergency basis, Cunneyworth said it never crossed his mind.

"With Louis Leblanc he comes back with the knowledge of our system and he's able to step right in and not miss a beat," he said.

CANADIENS

Assuming the Canadiens dress 12 forwards, the lines will look like this, with Leblanc most likely to sit should Markov play as one of seven defensemen:

Erik ColeTomas PlekanecMax Pacioretty
Rene BourqueLars EllerRyan White
Aaron PalushajScott GomezBlake Geoffrion
Louis LeblancPetteri NokelainenBrad Staubitz
 
Josh Georges – P.K. Subban
Alexei EmelinTomas Kaberle
Yannik Weber – Chris Campoli
Andrei Markov
 
After a rare night off in Edmonton, Carey Price gets the start – his 59th in 69 games – with an estimated 20-30 family members making the trip from his hometown in Northern B.C. Peter Budaj is back to being the back up.
 
CANUCKS

The only change for the Canucks is the return of Roberto Luongo in goal against the team he grew up cheering after Cory Schneider played Thursday.
 
Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Chris HigginsRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Mason RaymondSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Manny MalhotraMaxim LapierreZack Kassian
 
Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Marc-Andre Gragnani – Chris Tanev
 
Luongo is in goal, with Schneider back to backing up.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 3:46 PM

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

Sanford returns to St. Louis with Blue Jackets

ST. LOUIS -- It's a homecoming of sorts for Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Curtis Sanford, who will get the start tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

Sanford, 32, got his NHL career started here in St. Louis, playing in parts of three seasons (2002-03 and 2005-07) that were certainly lean years for the St. Louis franchise.

He was 5-1-0 in eight games in 2002-03 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in limited duty for a Blues team that was 41-24-11-6 and used seven goalies that season.

But from 2005-07, Sanford was part of some tough teams that labored through some tough moments and the records certainly reflected them. He also spent time in the Blues' minor league system

However, Sanford was 21-25-10 in those two seasons and did his part to keep the ship afloat for the Blues to get to where they are now.

"That's a hard thing for franchises to accept that sometimes you have to go through lean years to really cherish the good times when they do come," Sanford said. "You take a look at teams around the league, a lot of teams have had to do it and build from within and they've done that. They've done an extremely good job.

"It's been a while (since his time in St. Louis), but I'm just trying to enjoy this experience again and make the most of it. You just never know when it's going to end, so you make the most of it."

Sanford, who is 10-15-4 with a 2.61 GAA and .912 save percentage with Columbus this season, is making the most of an opportunity after some tough and mentally draining years laboring behind Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and then having to shuffle around playing in the AHL.

"I didn't play a lot when I went to Vancouver," said Sanford, who played with current Blues Barret Jackman, David Backes and Roman Polak here in St. Louis. "Obviously Roberto played a ton there, so starts were hard to come by. Then I had to go down to the minors for a couple years in Hamilton with the Montreal organization.

"It's been a tough go, but just basically I've tried to stay on top of my game, not get too down on myself and just look at the positives in life. … I've tried to make the most of the opportunity. I didn't know what the start of the year was going to bring. I just wanted to make sure that I was prepared to play at this level when I was called upon. That's basically the way I've looked at it. It's been a tough year, but on a personal level, I've enjoyed the experience and play as well as I can."

Sanford, who has since added two more sons to the household since his playing days in St. Louis and has three boys, is a busy dad.
"It's a crazy household," Sanford joked. "Being away from them has been the tough part to deal with because I didn't know what was going to happen at the beginning of the season, but they've been great."

---

The Blue Jackets are currently riding a four-game winning streak, their longest winning streak since winning five in a row in November of 2010. For a team that has had to endure the turmoil of a horrendous start to the season, all the trade rumors of captain Rick Nash and dealing Jeff Carter to Los Angeles for a package that included defenseman Jack Johnson, it's been a pleasant change of pace for interim coach Todd Richards.

"Having won four games in a row with the teams that we've beat, how we've won the games, there's a confident group in the room," Richards said. "We respect our opponents, a lot of respect for the St. Louis team coming in. This will be a great challenge, but I think the guys are feeling good about themselves and are ready for that challenge."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 3:36 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Markov activated, could play for Habs

The Montreal Canadiens announced Saturday that Andrei Markov has been taken off injured reserve and is available for their game Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Markov has not played since Nov. 13, 2010, and he has played just seven games since the start of the 2010-11 season after suffering consecutive tears of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Markov will participate in the warm-up skate with his teammates prior to the game and a decision on whether he will dress or not will be made afterwards.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 2:53 PM

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

Toews progressing, could return Tuesday for Hawks

CHICAGO – It was another day of progress for Jonathan Toews on Saturday afternoon at the Chicago Blackhawks' practice facility just down West Madison Street from United Center.

The Hawks captain and top center was on the ice for a third straight day and second straight practice while recovering from a concussion that's kept him out for nine straight games.

That stretch will extend to 10 games missed Sunday night, when the Hawks play host to the Los Angeles Kings at  the Madhouse on Madison without their captain, but Toews is hopeful that he might be ready to go as soon as next Tuesday – when Chicago welcomes the St. Louis Blues.

"I always think that the next game is going to be the time, so I'd love to be in on Tuesday," Toews said. "But again, I've just got to focus on this afternoon, get a good rest tonight and worry about those little things right now ... the way I have been, just take it one step at a time and hopefully it's going to be sooner than later."

Toews has yet to be cleared for contact, however, so is Tuesday even a realistic goal?

"I think so," said Toews, who also had some fun skating around with two pee wee teams following Saturday's practice. "I keep telling myself that. You can shoot for a date like that, even if it's early. Obviously if you feel like you're improving and making strides, you notice a difference. This past week I was hoping for Sunday and now I'm realizing it's not going to happen. So, we'll shoot for [Tuesday] but again I'm going to tell [reporters] the same thing every day. We'll take it day by day and see what happens."

First he needs to get clearance from the team doctor for contact in practice.

"That's the real way of knowing I think," Toews said. "It's when you turn around the corner with a guy on you or you spin around and somebody hits you or just those things that kind of move you really fast. When you're doing full drills skating around the ice, you get your heart rate up eventually and you can kind of master that where the symptoms go away. But [contact] will be the real test, so we'll see when the time is for that."

As Toews alluded to, conditioning will be another factor. He has to get his heart rate up to game level and then not experience post-workout symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, feeling nauseous or lethargic.

So far, so good for Toews after three skates.

"People talk about setbacks and the last three days I don't feel like I've really had any, so that's a good thing," he said. "It's just the lungs that hurt a little bit."

That's not a surprise to any player who's gone through an extended absence from an injury mid-season. The good news for Toews is that he's renowned for his unrelenting physical conditioning efforts, which probably means less time needed to regain whatever he's lost by mostly just resting during the down period.

"They say you can lose it pretty quick, but a couple of skates like this it comes back just as fast, too," Toews said. "You've just got to be strong, push yourself through it and know that whenever that first game is going to be, it's not going to be easy, either."

Regardless, just having Toews continue to make progress is welcome news to the Blackhawks – who are treading water with a 5-4-0 mark in the nine games he's missed.

"He said he felt good and he felt good yesterday after the skate and then is progressing again today, so that's good," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He'll tell us. You get the feel of your body throughout the day and progressing in the days afterwards, you get a little more accustomed to ... going into games and practices. They tell you when they're ready and hopefully it's soon."

Toews, however, will not rush his return. It's the second concussion the 23-year old star's brief NHL career and he's already taken in what happened to Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby -- who's missed the bulk of the past two seasons with concussion-related symptoms after taking two hits to the head in short amount of time last year.

Toews and Crosby share the same agent and have been in contact via text messages, but the Blackhawks center said there wasn't a lot of advice on how to deal with this injury dispensed.

"He's a good guy to look at to kind of remind yourself that it's not a good thing to rush," Toews said of Crosby. "He's the best there is in this game and I'm sure he wants to get back in there with his team as much as anybody. There's all sorts of pressure from all over for a guy like that to come back and maybe play through something like this. He's being smart about it and that's what you've got to do. That's one of those lessons you can learn that it's a pretty serious injury and he's gone about it the right way so far."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 2:45 PM

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

Blues welcome NFL coach Rex Ryan to morning skate

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock's clone made an appearance at Scottrade Center Saturday morning.

No, there's no twin brother for the veteran Blues coach, but judging by the physique and coaching mannerisms to a certain degree, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is a lot like Hitchcock in many ways.

Ryan is in town and will be a spectator tonight for a Central Division matchup between a matchup of the NHL's top team (the Blues) and the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets.

Ryan is in town visiting older brother Jim, who lives in St. Louis, and nephew James and was on hand for the morning skate Saturday.

"We're now in James' element and older brother Jim's element," Ryan said afterwards. "It was kind of neat. A sport is a sport and you're watching this team ... this is what I want for our football team to where everybody buys in. They have one all-star player and it's the backup goalie. That's incredible, and here they are having the best record in hockey.

"When you look at it, I think, 'Man, you coach this team like a football team.' And that's true. He spent a lot of time around football coaches as well. This is my first opportunity to really be around a great hockey coach, and clearly that's what he is."

When Hitchcock was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers, he would often spend time with friend Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles' practices and absorbed a lot of teaching tools from those experiences.

"I've learned from football," Hitchcock said. "I've learned about the sense of timing, I've learned about preparation, I've learned about details from it. I spent that year with the Eagles and I learned a lot. I learned what we thought was attention to detail wasn't even close to what they do. I've learned about the discipline, I learned about how they coach people up hard and get people to respond that way.

"They're at a level above us. I knew (Ryan) was a big hockey fan. He lived with his mom in Toronto there for a long time. I knew he was a big hockey fan there. He talked about it a lot. He appreciates our sport and I think he likes our team and likes the way we play. Any time other people from other sports can be around your team, I think it energizes everybody in the building because it's nice to see other sports respect our sport. It was nice to see all the Cards hanging around here. It was good for us. It's good to see a guy like Rex and his family hang around."

New York Giants fan and New York native Kevin Shattenkirk jokingly said it would have been nice to look over and see Giants coach Tom Coughlin but appreciated the talk with Ryan.

"Coach Ryan is a very nice guy," Shattenkirk said. "I went up and chatted with him about the New York area and talking about when he played goalie when he was younger. He knows the game a little bit. He was just telling us to get to the playoffs and do what we do best.

"We had just a quick conversation, but he seemed like he was like a kid on the bench watching us play. He said he could feel how close our team was and how great our team chemistry seems. It's nice to get it from a guy like that."

Ryan, whose Jets missed the playoffs this past season after back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship game, said hockey and football are a lot alike from a personnel standpoint.

"I have some kind of control when I'm on a field. I feel a little out of place here," Ryan joked. "The skill level of these guys is incredible.

"The odds of playing in the National Hockey League or the NFL, you have better odds of winning the lottery. That's how special these guys are. That's kind of neat watching them."

- - -

With the teams at the opposite ends of the NHL standings, there's a sense that the top team can tend to have a bit of a letdown facing a team that hasn't had things together. But for the Blues, who will have a home-and-home series with the Blue Jackets this weekend, they can't have that mindset ... especially when they are trying to maintain their stay atop the NHL standings.

"The fortunate thing for us is we always know we get a battle when we play the Blue Jackets," Shattenkirk said. "There's a little bit of a rivalry factor there, especially with it being a divisional opponent. It keeps us on our toes.

"We know how good this team can be, how good Columbus can really play when they're at their best. There's a lot of threats on the team, so we can't sit back. All these points mean just as much for us. It's going to be important."

Hitchcock appreciates the attitude his team takes on a night in, night out basis.

"There's a sense of discipline here, but there's also attention to detail," Hitchcock said. "We don't let a pregame skate off the hook, we don't let a practice off the hook, we stop it. Everything is scripted. If we got the players to respond to that, I think that's what football is."

- - -

The Blues will bring in a 28-4-4 home record against a team that's 9-20-4 away from the home confines of Nationwide Arena. The 28 wins matches the top spot in the NHL with Detroit and Hitchcock said the fan appreciation is an element that can't be overlooked.

"This is a crowd that's in their seats at 6:45," he said. "The game's at 7:08. This is a crowd that's in the seats at 6:45. This isn't a 7:15 crowd. I think that part really helps us. You come in and the place is full before the drop of the puck, I think that energizes any team, and I've seen that. It's not a lot different.

"It's the same in San Jose, it's the same in Detroit. They're in their seats. That helps the players a lot. It's a blue-collar team with a blue-collar crowd. Everybody comes and wants to see the start and they want to come see the puck get dropped. They're here early. I think our players feed off that energy. It's very relevant."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 2:30 PM

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

Flyers trying to stay perfect in March

Philadelphia is perfect in March and look to keep things rolling Saturday night in Toronto against a Maple Leafs squad that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.

The Flyers have won all four games in March, including a 5-0 drubbing of the Florida Panthers on Thursday.  Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 28 shots for his second shutout in his past three starts and will be in net again tonight for Philadelphia.

The perfect start to the month is more impressive when factoring in the injuries to the Flyers blueline corps. Andrej Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen and newcomer Pavel Kubina are all out of the lineup with different ailments.

In their place on the ice this morning were rookies Eric Gustafsson and Brandon Manning, who will play in just his second career game.

Manning is not the only player who will hit the ice tonight with limited NHL experience.  Toronto’s deadline-day acquisition, Carter Ashton, will make his home debut after playing in his first game Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

“Its' been a whirlwind for sure.  I’m just trying to take it day by day and try to make the best of it,” Ashton said.  “With the few days I have been here, I have obviously learned a lot, jumping into my first NHL game.  I was nervous going into it, but got a chance to be in the starting line –up which got me right into it.”

 His father, Brent, is former a NHL player who is expected to be in attendance along with some other family members.   The senior Ashton played for nine NHL teams including Winnipeg where a fellow Jet was current Leafs coach Randy Carlyle.

 The tight lipped Toronto bench boss is expected to start Jonas Gustavsson for the fifth straight game which gives “The Monster” the task of garnering the Leafs their first win this season against the Flyers.  Toronto dropped the first two games by a combined score of 8-5.
 
“They are a bruising hockey club and they do some things aggressively on the forecheck," Carlyle said. "They are a hockey club that takes the most penalties in the League, so if we can exploit that and get our speed game going, that’s what we have to focus on."

It will also mark the first time the Schenn brothers do battle in a regular-season game in Toronto.  The younger of the two, Brayden, scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Flyers in the last meeting between the clubs February 9 in Philadelphia.

Older brother Luke, who patrols the blue line for Toronto, looks forward to another battle tonight, one that neither of the siblings feel ever gets old. 

“It definitely hasn’t worn off," Luke Schenns said. "It’s always pretty cool every time you get the chance to play against your little brother.”
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 2:17 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Blue Jackets

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for a Central Division game tonight between the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets from Scottrade Center.

BLUES

Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Elliott (20-8-2 with an NHL-leading 1.63 goals-against average and .937 save percentage) gets only his second start in 10 days and third in 18; Halak, who has accumulated the bulk of the starts recently, will get a day off and will start Sunday in Columbus.

D Kent Huskins (bruised hand), D Kris Russell (concussion), RW Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot), RW Matt D'Agostini (concussion) and LW Alex Steen (concussion) are on injured reserve. C T.J. Hensick will once again be a healthy scratch.

BLUE JACKETS

RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Maksim Mayorov
Dane Byers - Ryan Johansen - Ryan Russell

Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
Aaron Johnson - Nikita Nikitin
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Curtis Sanford
Allen York

Sanford started his NHL career with the Blues and played in St. Louis for parts of three seasons (2002-02 and 2005-07). York was recalled from the minors Friday to replace the injured Steve Mason (hand).
The Blue Jackets are without D Fedor Tyutin (hand), C Derek Mackenzie (concussion), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion), D Marc Methot (jaw) and RW Jared Boll (foot). All are on injured reserve. RW Derek Dorsett (upper-body) is day-to-day. Mason will not play in either game this weekend against the Blues.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Lightning's Connolly OK, moving on after hit

TAMPA -- Two days after taking a hit to the head that resulted in a three-game suspension for Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly showed no ill effects and bore no ill will.

“Obviously it wasn’t the best of hits and the League did what it needed to,” Connolly said. “They are cracking down on those hits. It’s a fine line. You want to finish your checks but at the same time you know that they are watching and you have to be careful with where your hands and elbows are. You have to be cautious with the person you’re hitting. Players are getting better with it but it’s a tough play. That was a hockey play that maybe went over the line a little bit.”

The hit occurred at the 11:03 mark of the second period during the Thursday night game between The Capitals and the Lightning, won by the Capitals 3-2 in overtime. Green hit Connolly when he was already engaged by Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

“I don’t think I feel any different about Green,” Connolly said. “For the most part, he’s a clean player. The game is so fast that sometimes you make a split second decision and it costs you a few games. It looks bad and the League did something about it."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 1:55 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Morrow, Ott returning for already surging Stars

DALLAS-- The Dallas Stars (37-26-5, 79 points) are currently on a nine-game point streak and have won four straight, but figure to get a huge boost with the likely return of captain Brenden Morrow and Steve Ott on Saturday night against the Anaheim Ducks (29-29-10, 68 points).
   
Morrow has missed 18 straight games with a lower-body injury and last played Feb. 2 at San Jose while Ott had played 50 consecutive games before missing a 4-3 shootout win Thursday over the Sharks because of back spasms.
   
“Yeah, he [Morrow] is going tonight,” Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said.”His [Ott’s] back spasms have settled down and he’s feeling good, so he’s going to be a go tonight unless something happens between here and there but he felt good this morning.”
   
Both Dallas regulars figure to return to their normal spots on the Stars’ second line with Morrow on the left and Ott on the right of a line centered by 2012 All-Star Jamie Benn.
   
“I’ve already talked to [Morrow] about that and we’re going to start him with Bennie but we’re going to manage his minutes. So we’ll change the lines up a little bit during the game. I told Brenden probably between 10 and 12 or 10 and 14 [minutes], somewhere in there for the first game in five and a half weeks,” Gulutzan said. “I told him he’s not going to PK tonight. It’s a tough one because when that guy gets in he’s 110. If he’s a one-man wrecking crew then coaches get swayed.”
   
And it’s no big surprise to hear both players say they’re chomping at the bit to return to the ice.
   
“Unless the wife makes me some pancakes or something and I have a little trouble getting up this afternoon, I think it’s thumbs up for the game. That’s never been my pre-game routine so I think we’re safe for today,” Morrow said.
   
Ott also chimed in.

“A lot better -- obviously I was pretty locked up there the last game. I hate missing games. It’s tough but I just couldn’t go,” he said. “It’s just too seized up, probably obviously from the long road trip we had. Finally got it to loosen up with a lot of rehab the last couple days and should be good enough to go barring I wake up and it’s not in spasm.”
   
However, the Stars will be without defenseman Sheldon Souray, who left the game Thursday after two periods with a lower-body injury. In his place, Adam Pardy will return to the ice after being a healthy scratch for the last seven games.
   
"[Pardy] was good. At points we were thinking of putting him back in here anyway because he played so well in that stint just with everything that was going on we didn’t do that,” Gulutzan said. “We’re glad he’s getting in now tonight and that’s why we got him, so we can win hockey games.”
   
The Stars have taken four of their first five meetings this year with the Ducks and even with their recent success, they know Anaheim and its lineup full of offensive firepower like reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry is always a club they have to be up for facing.
   
“They’ve got some good offensive players. You’ve got to always be aware when the other team’s top line and good offensive guys are out there because they can make some big plays,” Dallas rookie defenseman Philip Larsen said. “We’ve got to play our game. We know we’ve got to keep this going. We’ve got to be disciplined. They have a good team, got a good power play. It’s important to stay disciplined.”
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Quote of the Day

He's able to play now, we just want to see other guys. We know what he can do.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on not rushing Steven Stamkos onto the ice