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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:50 PM

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

Once a shutdown pairing, Scuderi, Gill face off

NASHVILLE -- Since they won a Stanley Cup together as a defense pair with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill have not crossed paths much on the ice.

Scuderi signed with Los Angeles and Gill with Montreal after that 2008-09 season. Since Gill was traded to Nashville, both players are now in the Western Conference. Through a quirk in the schedule, Los Angeles is visiting Nashville for the second time in eight days and Nashville visits the Kings again 11 days from now.

Gill's wife and three children are visiting him this week during a break for the schools in Montreal so he was not able to get together with Scuderi on Monday. Nonetheless, he considers Scuderi, 33, a good friend. (Gill, 36, played his college hockey at Providence College while Scuderi played his at Boston College, but both make their offseason homes in the Boston suburbs.)

Scuderi has 1 goal (his third in the last three seasons) and 7 assists this season and is minus-1 while averaging 20:25 of time on ice. The Kings are ninth in the Western Conference, just a point out of the final playoff spot entering Tuesday's games.

"I think we both see the game pretty similar," Gill said. "Play good defense. Take away passing lanes, take away shot lanes. Try and make the first pass, make it tape-to-tape and support our (defense) partners. For the most part, other than us playing together, we've always been with an offensive guy and we kind of play center defense, I guess."

In consecutive seasons playing against Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final, Gill and Scuderi often matched up against the Red Wings' top offensive players such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

"Usually, we got the big line," Gill said. "It was fun. You have that challenge every game. It gives you something to play for. As a defensive defenseman, you're not going out there and trying to score goals, so you don't get that glory unless you do a good job shutting down their top line."

In '09 during the Cup Final, Scuderi famously misspoke and referred to himself as "the piece" of the puzzle that the Penguins needed to win it all. His teammates then, with mock affection, nicknamed him "The Piece."

"We got on him pretty good because that's not his personality at all," Gill said.

Despite backup goalie Jonathan Bernier's 5-1 lifetime record against Nashville, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he will go with No. 1 Jonathan Quick in goal on Tuesday because each game is now like a Game 7 for the Kings with 17 games remaining. Quick, who is second in the League in shutouts with seven and third in save percentage at .932, has never beaten the Predators in his career, as he is 0-4-1 against them, losing 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena eight days ago.
 
Projected lines:
 
Justin Williams - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
 
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
 
Out: Brad Richardson, Davis Drewiske, Kevin Westgarth
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:32 PM

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

Chicago's Bollig has St. Louis homecoming

ST. LOUIS -- It will be a homecoming Tuesday night for Chicago Blackhawks enforcer Brandon Bollig, whose recall last week came just in time.

Bollig, who was called up from the American Hockey League's Rockford IceHogs last week, was born and raised in nearby St. Charles and is a product of Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles. This is the first time as an NHL he will play in his home state.

"Not only am I living a dream playing with the Hawks right now and getting my first crack in the NHL, but I'm lucky enough to come here to St. Louis and playing in front of my hometown crowd," said Bollig, who has seven penalty minutes in three games. "I'm pretty excited. I've got a lot of people coming and I can't wait to get going."

Growing up, Bollig began skating in nearby Creve Coeur (Mo.) before the St. Peters Rec Plex got a program of its own. He tried out for the Triple-A Junior Blues, then went on to play Junior-A and onto Rockford before getting his chance with the Blackhawks after they dealt away popular John Scott at the NHL Trade Deadline.

"I think I was more nervous when I thought about playing in front of my home crowd, but now that it's actually time to do it, I'm sure once game time comes around, I'll be a little bit nervous," Bollig said. "Hopefully I just look at it as another game and kind of take it as that."

Bollig said there will be 50-plus people in attendance Tuesday night, but he didn't have to purchase the entire ticket count.

------------

The streaky Blackhawks, who have won three, lost nine, won four, lost three and now won three since Jan. 15, have made the necessary adjustments without captain Jonathan Toews (upper-body) in the lineup.

Toews will miss his eighth consecutive game Tuesday, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville likes how his team has come together, particularly Patrick Kane, who has four goals and four assists in the past 10 games.

"You miss a lot without Johnny in the lineup," Quenneville said. "We talk about Kaner, he's absorbed a lot of that responsibility here recently. We're coming off two of our better games in sequence all year being on the road. Playing that solid team game gives us a good chance without Johnny around. It's the way we have to play to be successful.

"There's some positive things in our game recently that we like. We keep rooting for Johnny to get back here, but in his absence, Kaner has really stepped up."

Chicago is on the last of a three-game trip that has seen them win a pair of 2-1 games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:32 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Carlyle move culminates coaching-change culture

When we look back at this season, it may be remembered as the season of coaching changes.

More than a quarter of the League has replaced its coach during the course of the 2011-12 campaign, which is a remarkable total. The latest replacement came last week in Toronto when Ron Wilson was replaced by Randy Carlyle. In all likelihood, this will be the last time a coach is fired before the regular season is over, but with eight coaching changes this year, it's important to note that the previous changes all played a part in leading up to this one.

And they haven't all worked out for the better.

St. Louis Blues -- This was the first one and, obviously, this was a home run. When Ken Hitchcock came in and replaced Davis Payne he completely changed the culture of the team and brought in accountability. Obviously, when a coach walks in that's won a Stanley Cup the players can't say the coach doesn't know what he's doing. Given the results, it's clear he was the perfect man at the right time. St. Louis may be the best team in the NHL since the change, their home record is fantastic, and their goaltending, which was at one point a weakness, might now be the best in the League.

Most importantly for every other coach, however, is that this one probably accelerated the process for other changes around the League. When an owner or GM looks at St. Louis and says, "Well, look what this change did. That's clearly what we have to do," it has a wide-ranging impact.

Carolina Hurricanes -- When Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice at the end of November, it was another successful change. Paul Maurice is a good coach, but I think this was just a case of the message being lost. Maurice had been there for too long, the guys had heard from him for too long and some fresh air was needed. Since Kirk's come in the team has turned it around and played a style that's much more fun to watch and much quicker. Eric Staal also looks like he's responded and as Staal goes, so go the Canes. This was a change that has definitely paid off and it could get things going for this team next season.

Washington Capitals -- The Capitals are a total mystery, and Bruce Boudreau's getting replaced by Dale Hunter seems to have confirmed it. Washington was a team that started the season on fire with seven straight wins, Boudreau had everything going his way, and then the Caps lost to Detroit and the wheels just fell off the wagon. Personally, I think it's just a case of the players deciding they didn't want to play for Boudreau anymore, and GM George McPhee knew some change had to be made -- and the choice was basically change the coach or change the team. They weren't going to trade Ovechkin, they weren't going to trade Semin, they weren't going to trade Backstrom and any other move would have just been cosmetic. It's always easier to fire one guy than 25 guys and I think Boudreau was a victim of that. But as you can see, despite a few brief flashes, things haven't gotten much better with Hunter in the job now. I think this is a team with issues in the dressing room and issues with character and the solution might just be to blow the team up, because it looks like it doesn't matter who's coaching. They're probably the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season.

Anaheim Ducks -- Of course, it's hard to talk about the Caps without mentioning the Ducks, who brought in Boudreau just days later to replace Carlyle when they were in their own slump. Now, I have my three-year rule. After three years a coach can't find a new way to get their message across and the players get tired of hearing the same thing. The nucleus for the Ducks is very talented, but it's also been together for a long time by NHL standards. Sometimes things get stale and it looks like it was just a case of Carlyle getting shut out. Boudreau has been a breath of fresh air and the players have responded. This is clearly another coaching change the has worked out for the best. I think they've run out of time as far as the playoffs are concerned; but at the start of next year, you have to assume they'll be in the playoff mix with Boudreau at the helm.

Los Angeles Kings -- This is another group that might be in the same boat as Washington. They aren't as dramatic a disappointment, but when Terry Murray was fired the team was struggling to score and were fighting in that No. 7 to No. 10 cluster of teams in the West. When they won, they basically won with goaltending from Jonthan Quick and Jonathan Bernier. Now, under Darryl Sutter, they're basically the same team. They're not scoring more, they're not assured of a playoff spot and, even with the addition of Jeff Carter, they're not putting up the numbers they expected even if they've won a few games with him. GM Dean Lombardi clearly didn't want to make this move when he did, and the apparent results might indicate why.

Columbus Blue Jackets -- What can you really say about this one? Columbus came into this season with massive expectations and it's just been a complete disaster. The trades have been terrible, there was the Nash boondoggle at the NHL Trade Deadline, and things haven't changed much since Todd Richards replaced Scott Arniel. It's a mess. Whether Richards loses the interim tag or they hire someone new this offseason, the Jackets will have a number of things they need to do -- most notably figure out the Nash situation. Either way, however, the season was lost long before the coaching change happened. This could be a real make-or-break time for the Columbus franchise. The fans in that city have been great since the team started playing, but they need something to repay them for coming year after year. The man who eventually is coach in 2012-13 has to give those fans a positive light for the future.

Montreal Canadiens -- This is another team that's just in a tailspin that a coaching change couldn't fix. I will be very surprised if both Pierre Gauthier and Randy Cunneyworth are still with the team next season as the team is going to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. It's just been a tough season all around. When Cunneyworth replaced Jacques Martin I think he walked into a real no-win situation. The team was bad, he didn't speak French, it was just an uphill fight from the start. I love the way he battled and how he handled everything, but it was a can't-win situation for him. I expect there will be more changes this summer in Montreal.

Toronto Maple Leafs -- So after looking through all the coaching changes that happened this season before Toronto's, it was clear that some proved to be great moves and others have proven not to be or were just window dressing on bigger problems. The change in Toronto is particularly surprising, though, because Ron Wilson was given a contract extension midseason. I think GM Brian Burke did his friend Ron a favor by giving him that extra year -- remember, these two have a history together, most recently with Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. I think Brian thought things would turn out OK when he did that, but it hasn't been the case.

The Leafs had lost six games in a row before Wilson was fired and and the two of them had had enough time to turn that team around, particularly since they're in a market where they can spend to the salary cap.

At this point, Toronto is clearly not where it expected to be with the moves its made and that hot start probably fooled the Leafs into thinking they were better than they are. All of that created a lot of pressure to make a change. I don't think Burke wanted to fire Wilson, but he had to to appease the fans. When your fans get riled up and the team shows no sign of turning it around, you have to make a move like that, particularly with a guy like Randy Carlyle available. Burke obviously has a history with Carlyle, too, since they won a Cup together in Anaheim in 2007. He knows what kind of a coach Carlyle is and he couldn't risk letting him get to another team. This is a guy who is a big name in Toronto, who knows what to expect from the media after playing there and who's won a Stanley Cup. Burke couldn't risk him getting hired away and knew he had to make a move now to get him.

This is probably step Toronto had to make to advance. Randy is a very good coach, and so is Wilson, but they're different kinds of coaches and Burke, knowing he had to make a move, probably knew he couldn't wait much longer because someone else might have hired his man first. Now, I tend to think that most times coaching changes are made in season, it's a panic move where the GM is trying to take the heat off himself. Sometimes teams improve afterward, but often the replacement doesn't do much better and it lets the players get off the hook for underperforming. If you look at the situations in Buffalo and Nashville, those players know that their coach isn't going anywhere, and as a result, they're going to be held accountable.

That wasn't what happened in Toronto, but the change probably brought the players a needed bit of fresh air anyway. The Leafs won their first game with Carlyle at the helm and with two games in hand on eighth-place Winnipeg, their playoff hopes are far from finished.

At this point though, the Maple Leafs could still wind up looking as much like Washington as they could St. Louis. Only time will tell if Carlyle is the right man for the job.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:25 PM

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

Back home, Blues expect to be sharp for Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- The old adage for teams coming off extended trips away from home is that first game back, teams tend to be flat.

In the case of the Blues, a 5-1 trip is something to be proud of since the road hadn't been all too kind to them this season.

So when the Blues (41-18-7) host the rival Chicago Blackhawks (36-24-7) tonight at Scottrade Center, the Blues will have to guard against that flat start.

Or do they?

"I think playing Chicago gets our attention," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've had our number the last couple games. It's kind of our turn to respond. They've outplayed us, they've outplayed us for more minutes than we've outplayed them. So it's our chance to respond.

"They beat us in this building (5-2 on Dec. 3), and then they took it to us in the second half in that game in Chicago (Feb. 19, a 3-1 result) and nipped us at the end. They got our attention off of that. We'll see where we're at."

The Blues don't feel like there will be an issue, considering they haven't played since Saturday night.

"We had a tough trip and we were away for a while, but I think guys are excited to be here back at home," forward Andy McDonald said. "Travel's tough on the way back, but we've had a few days of rest. There shouldn't be any excuses. We should be ready to go. ... The extra day really helps so we should be ready."

Winger T.J. Oshie agreed.

"Coming out flat isn't really going to be an issue for us," Oshie said. "We've been playing good at home this year, so we want to protect that."

------------

Since coming back from a concussion that forced McDonald to miss 53 games, the veteran center/winger hasn't missed a beat being out of the lineup.

McDonald, 34, has 9 points (6 goals) in 12 games, including 5 points in five games. But there's always more adjusting to do.

"I'm still adjusting. There's some areas that I'd like to clean up in my own game," McDonald said. "I thought that I'd be in top shape by now, but there's some of the timing things that I'd still like to improve on. That's what I'm trying to do. Hopefully our line can (continue) to produce and generate offense every time we're out there but also be strong defensively."

Playing with Patrik Berglund and David Perron in recent games seems to have elevated the production from the line in general.

"He's a veteran player and he's been through it before," Hitchcock said of McDonald. "He knows how to pace himself. He knows what to work on. I don't think he pays much attention to it. I think he went through the initial phases where he was enthusiastic and careful, and now he's playing hockey. He's a big part of our team right now. He's a very effective player. We don't have a lot of those rush attack chances, but when he's on the ice, we do. I think that's a threat that makes other teams nervous."

If McDonald has another gear, there will be plenty more points on the table.

"I just remember him and (Brad) Boyes playing catch on the power play," Hitchcock said of McDonald, remembering when he used to coach against the Blues with Columbus. "That's all I remember was bing-bing-bing and in the net. Our sticks were turned over half the time when they had it on the power play. That's what I remember about him from here.

"I think he's a lot stronger than people think he is. I think he surprises people because he can strip you of pucks, he's strong on the puck and he's got great courage to score. He's a great help for us right now."
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:25 PM

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

Probable lineups for Blackhawks vs. Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The projected lineups for Tuesday night's Central Division battle between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks 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

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak, who went 5-0-0 on the Blues' recent six-game trip with a 1.55 goals-against average and .939 save percentage, will get the nod for the sixth time in seven games.

Alex Steen (concussion), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot), and Kris Russell (concussion symptoms) are all on injured reserve. Defenseman Kent Huskins has a bruised left hand and is day-to-day. Center T.J. Hensick is a healthy scratch.

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

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Dylan Olsen - Sami Lepisto

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford

Center Jonathan Toews (upper body), defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) and defenseman Steve Montador (upper body) are out with injuries. Winger Daniel Carcillo (lower body) is on long-term injured reserve. Healthy scratches include defenseman Sean O'Donnell, center Brendan Morrison and winger Michael Frolik.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:18 PM

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

Preds debate Ellis vs. Hillen on defense

NASHVILLE -- Defenseman Kevin Klein is expected to miss his fourth straight game on Tuesday when Nashville hosts Los Angeles. The team is calling Klein's injury an upper-body injury.

When Klein went down, the Predators called up rookie Ryan Ellis, who has yet to get back in the lineup. Ellis played 22 games with the Predators earlier this season, totaling 3 goals, 6 assists and a plus-8 rating. Ellis was sent down after Nashville acquired defenseman Hal Gill from Montreal.

Since Klein got hurt, however, Predators coach Barry Trotz has preferred to go with veteran Jack Hillen. Hillen has played in 49 games this season, but had played relatively sparingly since early January. He had been a scratch for 14 games since the start of the new year. He has played played the past three, going plus-1 in two of them and even in the other.

Trotz would not reveal his lineup for Tuesday, but hinted that Ellis might get in the lineup, saying Nashville might have "one of each" --a new forward and defenseman -- in its lineup.

Brandon Yip and Matt Halischuk were the scratches at forward in Nashville’s last game, as the Predators suited up new forwards Paul Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn, both acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, for the first time in the same game. Gaustad missed his first game afterhis acquisition because of an upper-body injury.

Trotz described the options involved in playing Ellis or Hillen.

"They're a little bit different," Trotz said. "What you get with Jack is a good defender, get some veteran presence. He's a guy that subtly is able to get the job done. He sort of goes under the radar a little bit, but he's pretty efficient.

"With Elly, you get a real good dynamic, puck-moving guy. Competes pretty well. Defends, actually, pretty well, too, so just a little bit different. You get a little bit more of the offense with Ellis than you do with Hillen, but you get a little bit more of the defensive side with Hillen. He'll give you a little more penalty killing. He's a little more of a transporter. Ellis has really great dynamic thought process, stick, passing. Those are all intangible."

With Los Angeles being the League's lowest-scoring team, it will be interesting to see which direction Trotz goes.

The Predators entered Tuesday with the League's No. 2-ranked power play, but they haven't scored a power-play goal in their past three games -- mostly because they’ve only had one chance in each.

"We can't tell if it's any good anymore," Trotz quipped of the unit, "because we never get any" chances.

He thinks with the Stanley Cup Playoffs in sight and so many teams fighting for their lives or positioning, that teams are playing more disciplined.

"I just think everybody's ramped up defensively," he said. "They know the importance of the games … during the playoffs sometimes that's what happens. Everyone's pretty disciplined, but it's good, clean, physical hockey, and no one's taking any penalties."
 
Projected lines:
 
Sergei Kostitsyn-Mike Fisher-Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn-David Legwand-Patric Hornqvist
Colin Wilson-Nick Spaling-Jordin Tootoo
Gabriel Bourque-Paul Gaustad-Craig Smith
 
Ryan Suter-Shea Weber
Hal Gill-Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon-Jack Hillen/Ryan Ellis
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
 
Out: Brian McGrattan, Matt Halischuk, Brandon Yip
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:15 PM

By Dennis Ryan -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bruins wait to see if veteran Turco clears waivers

TORONTO -- With backup goaltender Tuukka Rask out four-to-six weeks with a groin/abdomen strain, a position of strength for the Boston Bruins has turned into a concern. Rask had been expected to see significant action in the final month of the regular season in order to keep starter Tim Thomas fresh for the playoffs.

With the Bruins scheduled to play 18 games in the next 33 days, the plan to lighten the load on Thomas is in jeopardy -- especially considering the Bruins have struggled recently and sit just three points ahead of Ottawa in the Northeast Division standings. General manager Peter Chiarelli signed veteran Marty Turco to a one-year deal Monday to fill the void; Turco must clear waivers Wednesday before officially joining the Bruins.

"It's an unfortunate injury at a real bad time of year, but we hope to have Turco with us by tomorrow," coach Claude Julien said. "He'll give us that experience and the type of backup goaltender that we need to keep moving forward down the stretch."

After a disappointing season with the Blackhawks in 2010-11, when he went 11-11-3 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .897 save percentage, Turco did not sign with an NHL team leading into this season.  He has stayed sharp by playing in the Spengler Cup for Team Canada, and more recently a 10-game run with EC Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian First Division. 

Julien is optimistic about the potential addition of Turco.

"When you're in that position where you're past the trade deadline, you've got to find solutions," Julien said. "There's no doubt if Turco comes to us tomorrow it will be a great solution to a tough situation."

Julien was guarded when asked about how many games he would like to see Thomas play in the coming month.

"I go day by day, I've always said that. We'll see how everything turns out, we don't know whether Marty is going to be with us, so for me to answer that, I can't."

Thomas will start tonight against the Maple Leafs in Toronto, with Michel Hutchinson called up from Providence to back him up.

And if all goes well for the Bruins, they will add an experienced backup to the fold on Wednesday.

Here are tonight's projected lines:
 
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brian Rolston - Patrice Bergeron - Brad Marchand
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Jordan Caron
Lane MacDermid - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
 
Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Greg Zanon - Adam McQuaid
 
Tim Thomas
Michael Hutchinson
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:10 PM

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

Staal looking to match NHL season-high point streak

WASHINGTON -- Eric Staal will look to match the longest point streak in the NHL this season, as the Carolina Hurricanes try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they visit the Washington Capitals tonight at Verizon Center.

Staal is on an 11-game point streak (7 goals and 13 assists), one shy of John Tavares' season-high 12-game point streak set in January.

"Not only has he been going very strong, but he's made guys around him better as well," said coach Kirk Muller. "Certainly not to take anything away from the other players, but he's really taken this team on his shoulders and played some really good hockey. Playing really well with and without the puck, a really good two-way forward, he takes on a lot of ice time, he's our leader and he's been leading us in the right direction."

The Hurricanes are 5-2-4 during Staal's 11-game point streak, but they remain 10 points behind eighth place Winnipeg as they begin a season-high five-game road trip.

Staal has also tied Dave Keon's 32-year-old franchise record with a 10-game assist streak.

"He's big, he's fast, he has good hands and he generates speed very, very well," said Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, who along with defense partner John Carlson will be among those responsible tonight for limiting Carolina's No. 1 line.

"He uses the other four players on the ice and it turns him into a pretty deadly player. When he comes wide on you, you better time it right, or else you're not going to have a chance to stop him. He's very tough."

Among those that have benefitted from Staal's play of late have been linemates Jiri Tlusty and Anthony Stewart. Tlusty has 12 points in 13 games, while Stewart is coming off his first multi-goal game of the season.

"Staal is a top-tier player in the League," Stewart said. "He's always out there making things happen, so when you're out there with him, you're just going to do whatever you can to get him the puck and let him do his thing and hopefully bang a couple of goals in."

Stewart has been given the chance to stick with the top line while Tuomo Ruutu remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.

"That's kind of our group -- everyone just kind of contributing in different ways," Muller said. "At one time we had five injuries and so guys had to jump into different roles and take on different responsibilities, and I thought the guys really adjusted well.

"Guys have really stepped up, and Stewey is one of them -- he's jumped up, played with Stalsey, he's been producing, skating and playing hard, and that's what we need guys to do."

Playing with Staal and Tlusty is also an opportunity not lost on Stewart.

"I have to make the most of it," he said. "Playing fourth line most of the year, you don't really have a chance to show what you can do -- you just have to keep it as simple as possible. But now with the increased playing time, I can get a little more comfortable and confident, and I'm just trying to contribute any way I can."
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Complacency not a concern for Tortorella

NEWARK, N.J. -- With the Rangers sitting atop the League standings, eight points clear of the Penguins and 12 points ahead of the Bruins with less than 20 games to play, it wouldn't be out of the question for complacency to set in with a young team.

Rangers coach John Tortorella, however, doesn't see that being a problem at all over the final month of the season.

"Not with this team," said Tortorella, whose Rangers will face the Devils at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night. "This team is a group that understands that if we're going to continue to compete, we need to work every day. I trust the group understands that. We've got a lot of things to work on."

Tortorella admitted that all of his teams haven't been free of lackadaisical play. Without naming the specific team, Tortorella said that was a problem when he was coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning when they were a young team still learning about what it takes to win consistently in the NHL.

"I will say early on with the last team I coached, there were some struggles understanding how to keep your level up, but that's part of a process with a young team," said Tortorella, who is now coaching one of the youngest teams in the NHL. "I think our team has gone through a process. The best way I can put it -- I trust our guys. Our leadership group and how they've worked with their identity and the level of play that needs to be there at all times in the season. I trust them.

"I think you're going to have some struggles here and there. I think you need to be really careful when a team starts losing some games, everyone says the readiness isn't there. There's a lot of different ways you lose and win hockey games. I can only speak on my behalf."

Tortorella said the Rangers, who are 13-3-3 in their last 19 games, had an extensive film session before taking the ice for practice Tuesday morning.

"You have to," Tortorella said. "I'm being honest. I think if you don't continue to work on even the good parts of your game, let alone the ones you're struggling with, it slips. We just spent 40 minutes with tape this morning as far as some of the details of our game that I feel has slipped. That's the way this coaching staff operates. We want to continue to get better and stay consistent."

There's always lessons for young teams that when you win five or six, you can't get complacent. You need to keep it level. "

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist spoke of the different feeling at this time of the season compared to the previous two, when the Rangers were fighting just to get in the playoffs.

"When you just think about what you have to do, a lot of times you get more points because you play better," Lundqvist said. "Your mindset is not, you have to get points. It just get, get your game better and improve your game and the rest will take care of itself. I think our mindset has been good all year."

Brad Richards, who played under Tortorella in Tampa during all seven of their seasons there, said the Rangers have been in nearly the same spot for three weeks, so if complacency was going to show up, it would have already.

"We could've done that for a little while now and put ourselves back in a battle," said Richards, who cited that Pittsburgh has been playing very well of late. "We've been aware of that. It can still happen very quickly. A bad week with the amount of hockey we're playing -- we're playing pretty much four games a week in March (17 games total) -- you put in a bad week of work and you don't know what can happen."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:48 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Eminger draws into lineup for Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- With Ryan Callahan likely back in the lineup for the Rangers on Tuesday night, the team will be back to nearly full strength when they face the New Jersey Devils.

One lineup change will be the insertion of defenseman Steve Eminger in place of Anton Stralman, who will likely be a healthy scratch based on the defense pairings. Stralman was benched for the third period of Sunday's game against the Bruins and had a turnover that led to a goal in the first period.

Here's what the lineup will likely look like tonight:

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Carl Hagelin
Michael Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Steve Eminger
Marc Staal - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres