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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 3:42 PM

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

Toews skates for fourth straight day, eyes Tuesday

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews skated for the fourth straight day and third in a row with his Chicago Blackhawks teammates on Sunday morning at the United Center, which was another positive sign in his recovery from a concussion.

Toews will miss Sunday night's game against the visiting Los Angeles Kings, which will be his 10th straight game out of action, but he continues to feel optimistic about his eventual return. After Saturday's practice, Toews mentioned that he was hoping to be ready for Tuesday's home showdown against Central Division rival St. Louis, but qualified the statement by saying he was still just taking his availability on a day-to-day basis.

He said the pretty much same thing after Sunday's workout.

"About the same thing," the Hawks captain replied, when asked how he felt on Sunday. "I'm getting closer and closer as far as how I feel injurywise, but definitely can tell my conditioning needs some work. So, we'll work on that, too. I'm feeling better and better every day and more like myself out there. Just got to keep working through it."

As for the possibility of playing on Tuesday against the Blues?

"Like I said, every time we play a game I hope [to return] for that game," Toews said. "I'm not thinking about missing the game on Tuesday. I'm more focused on how this practice went and what I've got to do the rest of the day. I'm obviously not ready to play [right now]. If it comes to Tuesday and I feel the same way, I'll probably be saying the same thing. Let's just take it one day at a time."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville mimicked that sentiment.

"He'll determine a lot of that," Quenneville said of Toews possibly playing on Tuesday. "He's got to pass some hurdles, as well. He's excited getting back on the ice. It was a long time coming for him and not [being] active like he'd like to be is probably frustrating for him. So, he's excited knowing he's out there and he's getting close."

One guy who's excited that Toews isn't quite ready yet is Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who will face the Hawks on Sunday night without having to worry about Chicago's dynamic captain.

"Well, he's kind of one of my favorite players," Sutter said. "So, it'd be nice to see him and not to coach against him.  He's probably the best two-way player in the NHL. [He's] a good faceoff man, good on the power play, good penalty killer, captain, plays 20 minutes, able to play a physical game but also plays the speed game. [It's] pretty tough to find anything like that. Nice to see him, but it's nice not playing him."

Toews said he hopes to get his clearance for contact in practice soon, however. Once that happens, both he and the Hawks ought to better know when he can return to playing in games.

"It's one step at a time," Toews said. "That might be the next step, so hopefully we can get that checked off the list here."

Toews was also asked if he's symptom free right now, which he said was not the case.

 "I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent," Toews said. "If I was, I'd be ready to push myself right to the limit to get back in the lineup. I'm still being smart and not rushing that too quickly, where I'm not quite 100 percent yet."

The fiery Hawks emotional leader is also not spending time getting his teammates fired up before home games that he's not able to play. His nickname is "Captain Serious" and it was assessed to him for a reason.

"If you're not playing, for the most part, you're worried about yourself and what you have to do to get yourself back in the lineup," Toews said. "For the guys [who] are playing, they've got their own routines and things to do to get ready. Kind of the last thing they want to get in the way is an injured guy who might be a little looser and more relaxed because he's not going through that same pressure that getting ready for a game puts on you. So, I'm not really that involved ... not as much as I'd like to be, I guess."
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 3:12 PM

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

Projected Flames-Wild lineups

ST. PAUL -- With face-off at Xcel Energy Center between Minnesota and the Calgary Flames coming a couple of hours earlier than normal, Wild coach Mike Yeo won't have to wait long on a couple of game-time decisions he will make regarding two injured players.

Injured in Thursday's game at Phoenix, goaltender Josh Harding will back-up Matt Hackett if he's able to dress. If not, the Wild will likely sign a local amateur to play behind Hackett. Earlier this season, the Wild had to sign 51-year old Paul Deutsch to an amateur contract when a personal issue kept starter Niklas Backstrom from a game and Hackett was iffy to get to the arena in time after a call up. Hackett did, and Deutsch was only used during warm-ups.

"We have a back-up plan for that," Yeo said, divulging little.

But considering the Wild's luck with injuries this season, if they must make another signing tonight, whomever gets inked better stay warm. The Wild have used a team-record 44 players this season, tops in the NHL.

Also a game-time decision is defenseman Clayton Stoner who has not played since Feb. 2 after leaving that game against Colorado following a fight. He's missed 17 games with a hip injury.

"He had a good day yesterday," Yeo said. "It was just a matter of how he felt this morning."

Despite any hope for the playoffs being virtually gone, tonight's game is big for the Wild, who have not won a game at home since Feb. 26. Although that was just three games ago, Minnesota has been blanked by both Los Angeles and Colorado in the two games since -- making it feel like much longer.

"We haven't played real well in this building," said Wild winger Dany Heatley. "I think we got back to our game against Phoenix [Thursday]."

For Calgary, defenseman T.J Brodie did not make the trip and will be replaced in the line-up by veteran Anton Babchuk, who has five assists in 18 games this season and is a plus-1.

Unlike the Wild, Calgary is still very much in the playoff chase, entering play Sunday with 74 points, good for 10th in the west, but only two points behind eighth place-Colorado. The Flames also have two games in-hand on the Avs. San Jose is in ninth with 75 points. The Kings, also have 74 points before the log jam loosens -- the Wild are in 12th with 68.

WILD

Dany Heatley - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Nick Palmieri - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Matt Kassian - Erik Christensen - Darroll Powe
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Tom Gilbert - Steven Kampfer
Clayton Stoner - Nate Prosser

Matt Hackett
Josh Harding

FLAMES

Alex Tanguay - Matt Stajan - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos - Greg Nemisz - Sven Baertschi
Krys Kolanos - Roman Horak - Guillaume Desbiens

Jay Bouwmeester - Derek Smith
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Anton Babchuk - Cory Sarich

Mikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:27 PM

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

Projected Kings-Blackhawks lineups

Here's a look at how the Kings and Blackhawks are expected to line up on Sunday night:

KINGS

Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson-Colin Fraser-Kyle Clifford

Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez-Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier


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
Johnny Oduya-Nick Leddy
Nicklas Hjalmarsson-Dylan Olsen

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:26 PM

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

Kings say they've moved past loss in Detroit

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Kings say they've completely forgotten about the gut punch they took on Friday night in Detroit, when a late one-goal lead and two standings points vanished in a matter of minutes before the final horn.

The Kings have moved onto their next game on Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks -- literally and figuratively speaking.

"We don't have any other choice," Los Angeles star center Anze Kopitar said after the Kings' optional morning skate at the United Center. "There's 14 games left and we're not in a position where we wanted to be, but we're still very much alive. We've got to look ahead. We can't worry about what happened on Friday or last month. We have to look ahead to [Sunday night] and focus on that."

That's because the Kings (31-25-12) come into the day's action 11th in the Western Conference, but just two points behind eighth-place Colorado for the last playoff spot. Calgary also has 74 points, while the San Jose Sharks have 75 in ninth. Only four points ahead of the Kings in seventh sit the Phoenix Coyotes, so these last 14 games ought to provide quite a bit of drama.

"We've been seventh to 11th since I've been here and two or three points either way," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter, a former Blackhawks player and coach who joined L.A. mid-season as Randy Carlyle's replacement. "It doesn't really change anything. You try to put an emphasis on each game and each game kind of takes on a life of its own. A couple teams have separated themselves at the top. A couple teams have separated themselves at the bottom. Everybody else is pretty much the same. It comes down to head-to-head [games] and move on."

Head to head against his former team has gone pretty well for Sutter thus far. He's faced the Blackhawks twice -- once at home and once here at the United Center -- and won both backed by shutouts from goalie Jonathan Quick.

In fact, Quick has faced the Hawks in each of the previous three games this season and allowed just two goals against 84 shots. Chicago will have to find a way to get him off his game on Sunday night, and it won't be easy -- Hawks captain and top-line center Jonathan Toews out for a 10th straight game with concussion symptoms.

"We've had a couple games against [the Kings] where we haven't been able to get any offense going," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Our special teams last game weren't very effective and that's got to be a priority. We know we've got to get traffic and look for scrappy goals against this team because they play well, they check well and they play tight in their own end. That's basically got to be our thought process is getting through that area and then finding ways to score."

Chicago hasn't scored on the power play in its last two games, despite trending up with the man-advantage recently, so getting that unit working again is high on the list of things to do. Quenneville said he's probably going to see how newly-acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya looks on one of the points of the power play, but in general is looking for his team to get in Quick's way more often.

"Whether it's 5-on-5 or on the power play, we've got to get traffic, we've got to get through and penetrate that slot area kind of like we did against the Rangers [on Friday night]," Quenneville said. "Whether it's screens, tips, deflections, second opportunities or ugly goals ... that's what we've got to look for."

Ray Emery will start in net for the Blackhawks (37-25-7), who are sixth in the West standings with 81 points. Toews, who skated for the fourth straight day, won't play. Neither will Hawks defenseman Steve Montador, who skated for the first time in a week but is unavailable with an upper body injury that's believed to stem from a concussion.

Quick is expected to get the start for the Kings.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:21 PM

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

Back-to-back has challenges for both Blues, Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- They used to be quite common in the NHL years ago when teams would play home-and-home back-to-back games, especially division rivalries.

They're not quite as frequent these days, but for division rival St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets, they'll go at it again Sunday night after locking up Saturday night in St. Louis.

The Blues (44-18-7) kept their NHL-best mark with a 4-1 victory, snapping the Blue Jackets' winning streak at four and winning their fourth straight. It'll be a successful weekend for the Blues if they can sweep, with this being the start if a seven-game trip.

"Only if you win them," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "They become survival games.

"This is a tough go for both teams. This is a quick turnaround with (a) bad time change. You lose an hour (with daylight savings), then you lose another hour in the (eastern) time change. This is a tough go for both teams and then have an early start. This is a hard go for us."

There were fisticuffs throughout, and one would expect in these home-and-home series for some bad blood to carry over.

"I think they're cool," said Blues winger Chris Stewart, whose second-period goal snapped a 1-1 tie. "I think they build that playoff atmosphere. Any runs we can get in before the playoffs here and some high-intensity games here are going to be good for us."

Added Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk: "It reminds me of the college schedule, at least back east, we used to do a lot of home-and-homes. It makes it interesting hockey and you get some bad blood brewing. I'm sure there's going to be some stuff carrying over into (tonight's) game. It's good for the league."

- - -

Blues defenseman Ian Cole continues to learn and make strides towards that permanent spot on the Blues' roster.

The first step was when the team decided that even with more than enough healthy defensemen available, Cole would remain on the active roster here rather than go back to Peoria and become eligible to be on their playoff roster.

Cole has since played three games with Kent Huskins sidelined with a bruised hand, and Hitchcock has seen both sides of the ledger.

"He's had some really good stretches and then ... he's had some stretches where he's tried to overextend himself, defensively or whatever," Hitchcock said. "I think moving forward, if we're going to use him as a real player, we're going to have to work with him on the good things he's doing. He's got strength one-on-one and he moves the puck at times well. But defensively, we've got to get him to receive the rush more rather than attack people. He's taking some penalties attacking people."

Cole took a pair of penalties in the game Tuesday against Chicago, particularly one where he was whistled for interference that Hitchcock said is all about making the correct read and not rushing into judgment.

"That's just patience," Hitchcock said. "I think it's just getting him to be more patient in his game will make him a better player. The way he plays and his skill-set is, less is more. It's not so much more with the puck, it's without the puck. Over-exuberance at times.

"If we can get that calmed down at times, we're going to get a good player here."

- - -

The Blues will try once again for a fifth straight win this season, an area they have failed to capitalize on six previous times.

The Blues have had six four-game winning streaks this season and have failed to win a fifth on each occasion.

They are tied with Detroit for the most wins in the league with 44, and Hitchcock feels like his team is finding ways to win and there's more to accomplish.

"I don't think it's clicking," he said. "I think it's more finding a way. For maybe six weeks, it was five-on-five play, PK was just OK and the power play wasn't very good, goaltending's kind of been the key thing all year. They've given us the big save, but we've really been good five-on-five. Now five-on-five's slipped a little bit and the special teams have come back up.

"I just think it's a combination of finding a way. ... We've got great team spirit. We don't overwhelm you with our skill level. We don't lead the league in anything scoring-wise, but we just find a way to chip it in and get that one-goal edge that you need to win."

- - -

Columbus (22-39-7), which saw its season-best four-game winning streak snapped with Saturday's loss, is looking at the future rather than a playoff berth. It's been that way for some time with the horrendous start to their season.

Interim coach Todd Richards is looking at players the team has recalled from their AHL affiliate in Springfield (Mass.) and said they need to embrace an opportunity.

"As an American (Hockey) League player and as a young guy, these are the opportunities ... when the door opens up, you're looking forward to it," Richards said. "(St. Louis) is a big, heavy team, plays fast, obviously first in the league, so a challenge but an opportunity for players.

"It's a chance for us as a staff and organization to see some of these guys play in a difficult situation."

As for playing against the Blues, Richards mentioned before the teams' meeting here in Feb. 14 that for the Jackets to be successful and win, they need to be prepared to win a 2-1 type of game -- which is exactly what they won by.

"Still the same," Richards said regarding playing the Blues. "They play hard, a very disciplined team. I will use the word patient and what I mean by that is I think they're aggressive, and I know that's a contradiction in saying aggressive and patient. What I mean by that is they'll dump pucks, they'll continue to play a certain way. They're going to go after it, but they play a certain way and they wait for you to break or make a mistake and then capitalize and they tend to feed off the momentum that's usually created there.

"If the game is dumping and chasing, we have to do the same thing. We can't turn pucks over and (we have to) play along with the patience. We still want to be aggressive and match their puck management."
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:19 PM

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

Projected Blues-Blue Jackets lineups

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The probable lineups for tonight's Central Division rematch between the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets from Nationwide Arena.

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 has won seven straight starts (matching a career best) will get the start looking for his eighth straight win. Elliott stopped 21 shots in Saturday's 4-1 win over 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 is a healthy scratch. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock did say that three of the injured players (likely Huskins, Russell and Langenbrunner) would become available at some point on the first leg of the trip.

BLUE JACKETS

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

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

Curtis Sanford
Allen York

The Blue Jackets are without D Fedor Tyutin (hand), C Derek MacKenzie (concussion), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion) and D Marc Methot (jaw). All are on injured reserve. RW Derek Dorsett (upper-body) missed Saturday's game and is day-to-day. Richards said Saturday he didn't think Dorsett would be ready for Sunday's game but didn't rule him out either. G Steve Mason (hand), who was in goal for the four-game winning streak for the Jackets last week, will not play again tonight after missing Saturday.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Thomas gets the start for Boston

PITTSBURGH -- Tim Thomas played in his ninth consecutive game in goal Sunday when the Boston Bruins tried to extend their Pittsburgh winning streak to four games.

The Bruins have never lost in Pittsburgh since Consol Energy Center opened in 2010, going 3-0 there -- including a 3-1 decision on Dec. 5.

Bruins coach Claude Julien hinted before the game that Marty Turco might make his first NHL start in 13 months. Turco was playing in Austria's top league until signing with the Bruins with backup goalie Tuukka Rask injured his groin and abdomen against the Islanders on March 3.

No goaltender except Thomas or Rask has played in a Bruins game since the 2008-09 season. Turco's last NHL start was on Feb. 11, 2011.

Thomas is 4-4 over his last eight games, including a 4-3 loss to Washington on Saturday in which he made 26 saves. He has played in 17 of the Bruins' last 19 games, starting the last five.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who has an 0.98 goals-against average in his last five home games, was in net for Pittsburgh. He is second in the NHL with 36 wins.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 10:15 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CBJ @ STL - 7:11 of the Third Period

At 7:11 of the third period in the Blue Jackets/Blues game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Alex Pietrangelo's shot was stopped by Curtis Sanford and deflected off Nikita Nikitin's stick and into the Blue Jackets net. Good Goal St Louis
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 9:33 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BUF @ OTT - 14:06 of the Third Period



At 14:06 of the third period in the Sabres/Senators game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Marcus Foligno's backhand shot went off Daniel Alfredsson's right skate and into the Ottawa net in a legal fashion. Good Goal Buffalo.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 8:32 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

BUF @ OTT - 10:38 of the Second Period



At 10:38 of the second period in the Sabres/Senators game, the Toronto situation room initiated a review because Zack Smith had poked the puck into the net. The referee confirmed that he had blown the whistle prior to Smith poking it into the net. No Goal Ottawa.
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