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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 4:46 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

WJC teammates happy to see Hodgson on their side

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In perhaps the biggest move Monday, the Buffalo Sabres acquired center Cody Hodgson and defenseman Alexander Sulzer from the Vancouver Canucks for Sabres prospect forward Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Hodgson, taken by Vancouver with the 10th pick of 2008 Entry draft, currently is tied for second among rookies with 16 goals in 63 games, which makes him the third leading scorer on the Sabres.

Neither player was available for practice Tuesday, as they were back in Buffalo for their physicals. Hodgson also had to take care of paperwork regarding his work visa. The Sabres expected both players to arrive in time for the game.

With the Sabres, Hodgson will be reunited with Sabres center Tyler Ennis and defenseman Tyler Myers; the three won gold medals with Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championship.

"He was a huge part of our gold-medal team,” Ennis said of Hodgson, who led that tournament with 11 assists and 16 points in six games. "He was probably one of the best guys in the tournament."

Added Myers, "If he plays anything like he did in the World Juniors, he's a very good player. He was a really nice kid. I know that was three years ago, but I doubt much has changed."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said it will be "trial and error" working in Hodgson. He said the initial thought would be to have him center Ennis and Drew Stafford.

"I know we're getting a real good player," Ruff said. "I've heard nothing but good things about Hodgson and the offensive side of it. I told the team that there's some guys that are going to get a bigger role, some guys will get different roles. We've got a guy that left that was our top penalty guy, top faceoff guy, and he was the guy that played the last minute of the game. Players are usually begging for those responsibilities and I want to see who comes through."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 4:42 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Miller unhappy over Gaustad's departure

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The focus was on who wasn't on the ice when the Buffalo Sabres practiced Tuesday for the first time since the trade deadline.

Newly acquired center Cody Hodgson and defenseman Alexander Sulzer had not yet arrived because they traveled to Buffalo for medical clearances.

Noticeably absent was veteran center Paul Gaustad, and at least one teammate voiced his disapproval at the organization's decision to deal him to Nashville.

"I'm not going to lie -- I'm not really happy about the way it all turned out," said goalie Ryan Miller. "But (it's) the business of hockey. We don't make those decisions -- there's more proof. If I had any more influence, Paul would still be here. I really appreciate the way he plays and he's been one of my best friends for a long time there."

Miller came up through the Sabres organization with Gaustad, a third-line center who is a key penalty killer and faceoff man. Buffalo sent Gaustad and a fourth round draft pick in 2013 to Nashville for a first round pick in this year's draft.

"If you don't understand, I'm not going to explain it," Miller said of Gaustad's worth. "Because it's just too important for a hockey team, I think. So it is a little frustrating in that regard.

"Personally, we're close friends and also I think he's a big part of the team. No matter the way you view hockey, you have to understand how important players like Paul can be and how long it takes to develop a guy who plays that way at such a high level. Winning those faceoffs is not easy. Killing those (penalties) is not easy. There's not a lot of guys that are willing to do that job."

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said it was difficult when he spoke with Gaustad.

"I've been with him all these years," Ruff said. "I remember his first game. He came up and I thought, 'I don't know. His skating may hurt him. He may never make it.' He's come a long a way. That's a tough one. It's like dealing with a Brian Campbell. You've grown up with a player like that, spent all those years with him. It's tough to see him go."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 4:20 PM

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

Blackhawks report 'no progress' yet on Toews

CHICAGO -- It looks like captain Jonathan Toews will sit out again when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night at the United Center (8 p.m., TSN).

Toews, the Hawks' captain, has missed four straight games with what the team is calling an upper-body injury that's believed to be concussion-related. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville sounded hopeful this past weekend that Toews might be ready to face the Leafs, but the young superstar and Chicago's sparkplug didn't practice on Tuesday and there is no change in his prognosis of "day-to-day" with the injury.

"Toews is the same, didn't skate today," Quenneville said when asked after Tuesday's practice. "[He's] about the same he's been the last few days. No progress."

The Hawks are also missing defensemen Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who are also out with suspected concussions. Hjalmarsson skated on his own Tuesday, but was also ruled out for Wednesday's game -- which will be his second straight game missed since returning from a seven-game absence last week against the Dallas Stars.

Missing Toews, however, is a crushing blow to the Hawks -- who feed off his drive, emotion and sheer will to win. They also lack a true center to play on the top line, which is why star forward Patrick Kane will likely man that position on Wednesday night between Andrew Brunette and Marian Hossa.

"Obviously we'd like to see him on the ice and get a pretty good idea when he'll be back," Quenneville said of Toews. "He enhances our team in all areas, so it's tough when we don't see him on the ice. He's watching games and he's disappointed he can't be out there helping."

Knowing Toews, however, the term "disappointed" is probably understating his frustration by quite a bit.

"Injured guys definitely deal with that," Quenneville said. "We know the leader he is and how meaningful he'd be in our lineup. That's part of the frustration, as well."

Chicago also called up rookie forwards Andrew Shaw and Brand Bollig in the past two days now that the trading deadline has passed and teams no longer have to limit their rosters to 23 players.

Shaw is a gritty two-way forward who's not afraid to play around the net despite a lack of size, while Bollig is a big enforcer type who was put on a fourth line for Tuesday's practice with big bodies Jimmy Hayes and Jamal Mayers.

The Blackhawks now have five rookies on their roster, and all could suit up to play the Leafs on Wednesday in a big game for two teams trying to stop out of slumps. Quenneville wants his veterans to lead the way and try to take some pressure of all the young guys as the final portion of the regular season comes at them.

"The stretch drive is going to be very competitive, [and] going to be extremely tight," Quenneville said. "[We] lost the nice position we were in a month ago. It's evaporated and we have to come together here quickly and push and help each other."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 3:50 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes try to solve Canucks to cap amazing month

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Coyotes will shoot for an 11-0-1 February to cap an incredible month that shot them from 12th place in the Western Conference to third on Tuesday when they meet the Vancouver Canucks -- the only team to take a point away from Phoenix this month with a 2-1 shootout win over backup goalie Jason LaBarbera on Feb. 13 in Vancouver.

The Coyotes are 5-1-1 against Western Canadian teams this season, but still looking for their first win over the Canucks, who humbled Phoenix 5-0 in Glendale way back on the day after Thanksgiving.

What's most amazing about the Coyotes' streak is they have pulled it off with as many as six regulars out of the lineup -- and five will miss the Vancouver game. Defensemen Rostislav Klesla (upper body), Derek Morris (leave of absence, family illness) and David Schlemko (foot) all remain out but could be back within a week, and forwards Kyle Chipchura (wrist) and Gilbert Brule (upper body) are also still out.

The addition of Antoine Vermette from Columbus and the play of young defensemen Chris Summers and Michael Stone have allowed Phoenix to keep rolling. Goalie Mike Smith will go for his 11th straight win and has allowed just 15 goals in 10 starts in February.

Here is how the Coyotes will line up tonight:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Mikkel Boedker
Paul Bissonnette - Boyd Gordon - Taylor Pyatt

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Michael Stone - Chris Summers

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 3:42 PM

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

Tavares learned a lot playing for Dale Hunter

WASHINGTON -- It has been three months to the day since former Capitals captain Dale Hunter was named the 15th head coach in club history.

Hunter has since compiled a 19-17-4 record, while attempting to transform the once offensively potent Capitals into a more conservative defensive hockey team.

"I like the way he coaches," general manager George McPhee said Monday. "Certainly I think we're a team that's much better defensively. We haven't given up much under [Hunter] and you've got to be stingy defensively."

Hunter has been challenged in recent weeks for his handling of goalies Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth and for his scratching healthy veterans Roman Hamrlik and Mike Knuble.

Tonight against the Islanders, Hamrlik is expected to be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game, Knuble for the third straight game.

"If you play well you're going to stay in the lineup," Hunter said. "And especially down the stretch here, we need who is playing the best to be in the lineup to win games."

Islanders leading goal scorer John Tavares is familiar with the concept. Tavares played 38 games for Hunter's London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League in 2009.

"The biggest message that I remember he used to send is that if you weren't playing well or doing things the right way, or if you were making mistakes and not working hard, then you usually just didn't play," Tavares said.

Tavares was already the projected first pick in the 2009 Entry Draft when he joined London in an OHL trade from Oshawa. But the 18-year-old recalls being treated no differently than any of his teammates while playing for Hunter.

"If he had that trust in you and you played the game the right way, then you were going to be counted on for a lot of responsibility," Tavares said. "He wanted to make sure that you were not taking things for granted, that you were doing the right things out there and that you were working hard."

In 38 combined regular-season and playoff games under Hunter, Tavares had 42 goals and 71 points. But it was his play away from the puck, Tavares says, that benefitted most from Hunter's tutelage.

"Not only were you going to be counted on offensively, but in defensive situations as well," he said. "That's where he really helped me understand that I could be a better player on both sides of the puck and he had a lot of faith in me that way and it definitely helped me prepare for the National Hockey League."

The Knights were the OHL's Midwest Division champions in 2008-09, but were eliminated in five games by the eventual Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires in the conference finals.

"It was a lot of fun," Tavares said of playing for Hunter. "He taught me a lot even though I was there only for a short period of time. He had a lot of trust in me and gave me a lot of opportunity when I went there. … I had a great time, we had a great team, and I really excelled and learned a lot from him and I'm happy to see him get the opportunity at this level."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No McLellan for Sharks tonight

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan will miss Tuesday's game against Philadelphia (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) because of concussion-like symptoms he's still suffering from after accidentally being hit in the head with a stick during the second period of Sunday's game against Minnesota, the team announced.

As they did for the remainder of that game against the Wild, assistants Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft will share the coaching duties.

"Todd continues to make progress in his recovery from the stick incident in Minnesota on Sunday evening but is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms," Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said in a statement released by the team. "Thus, he will not be behind the bench until cleared by doctors to resume his coaching duties, beginning with tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers. While Todd will continue to provide his input on the team, we have full confidence in the abilities of assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft to lead the team in Todd's absence. Our main concern at this point is for Todd's full and complete recovery."

McLellan was hurt when forward Jamie McGinn -- who was traded Monday to Colorado -- checked Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella into the boards alongside the Sharks' bench. Scandella's stick made contact with McLellan's forehead, knocking the coach down behind the bench.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton said McLellan was knocked out.

"He wasn't moving," Thornton said. "We were yelling to the ref, 'There's a problem here.' It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen, that's for sure."

Thornton said he wasn't surprised at the news that McLellan would miss the game.

"He was hit pretty hard," said Thornton. "We saw him a little bit today. He's gotten better, so that's a good sign. But, yeah, he got hit real hard."

McLellan missed one game last season to attend a funeral of a family member. Shaw, Woodcroft and former Sharks assistant Trent Yawney shared coaching duties in that game, Woodcroft said Tuesday after San Jose's morning skate. Yawney no longer is with the team.

"In that case, Trent Yawney ran our defense and Matt and I ran the forwards like we did last year," Woodcroft said. "And for us, this year going forward, we're going to stick with that precedent. I'm going to run the forwards, which I've worked with during the season, and Matt will continue running the (defense).

Woodcroft said he expects that plan to work smoothly tonight.

"Our staff has been with this group for four years," he said. "There's a lot of trust with our leadership group. We understand where we're at in our season. We expect everybody's best effort. Todd has spoken to our leadership group, so they know it's coming, and there's a real comfort level. They know what to expect, and we're going to expect a strong effort tonight."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 2:20 PM

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

Potential lineups for Wings, Jackets

Here is what the Red Wings and Blue Jackets could look like when they take the ice Tuesday in Columbus:

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

Niklas Kronwall - Brendan Smith
Jakub Kindl - Brad Stuart
Doug Janik - Ian White

Joey MacDonald will start in goal, with Jimmy Howard the backup.

Smith was called up from AHL Grand Rapids to replace Kyle Quincey, who is out with a groin injury. Janik was recalled when Nicklas Lidstrom's bruised ankle was too sore for him to play tonight.

R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Russell - Ryan Johansen - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Derek MacKenzie - Aaron Johnson

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Curtis Sanford will start in net, with Steve Mason backing him up.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 2:09 PM

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

Potenial lineups for Canadiens, Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- Here are the lineups the Canadiens and Lightning could use when the teams take the ice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum tonight.

A stomach virus and a slew of roster changes has Lightning coach Guy  Boucher unsure of what his lineups could look like.

"I don't know who's going to play tonight," Boucher said. "We'll just see what we put on the ice."

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Blake Geoffrion - Tomas Plekanec - Ryan White
Rene Bourque - Lars Eller - Ryan White
Petteri Nokelainen - Scott Gomez - Brad Staubitz

Josh Georges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli

Carey Price will start in goal, with Peter Budaj the backup.

Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
JT Wyman - Adam Hall - Tom Pyatt
Mike Angelidis - Brett Connolly - Tim Wallace
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Brandon Segal - Trevor Smith

Eric Brewer - Brett Clark
Mike Commodore - Brian Lee
Evan Oberg - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson the backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 2:06 PM

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

Versteeg out for Panthers; Leafs go with Reimer

TORONTO -- Leading goal scorer Kris Versteeg will not play for the Florida Panthers versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. 

"He has a little bit of a lower-body injury that has been bugging him for about a week," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said after the morning skate. "He's wanted to play through it, but when he is not 100 percent he doesn't have that extra step."

Dineen confirmed that Versteeg did not make the trip to Toronto and will not play until being evaluated next week. 

It is expected Dineen will use Wojtek Wolski and Jack Skille to varying degrees in hopes of filling the void left by Versteeg's absence. 

Versteeg did play in Florida's victory over Montreal on Sunday, but did not finish the game.

Jose Theodore will start in net for the Panthers, while Toronto coach Ron Wilson has elected to start James Reimer despite being critical of the netminder's performance in a loss to Washington on Saturday night.

"It's Reimer, because we believe he can get the job done," Wilson said in his pre-game press conference. 

Wilson, who will be coaching his 1,400th NHL game, confirmed defenseman Mike Komisarek will also be in the lineup, taking the place of Cody Franson.

"It's very competitive on our back end," Wilson said. "Sometimes he is out because other guys have played better, sometimes he is out because we have won with a certain group. Tonight he needs to be physical and make simple plays, move the puck, keep it out of the middle and be aggressive."

Komisarek has been a healthy scratch for the past four games and last saw action on Feb. 15.

The Panthers visit will mark the end of Toronto's four-game homestand in which the Leafs have only earned one of a possible six points. It will be the third meeting between the two clubs, with the Panthers having taken both previous meetings by a combined score of 10-4. The 10th-place Maple Leafs trail the Panthers by five points in the Eastern Conference race.

The Panthers have taken five of a possible six points in their past three games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 2:04 PM

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

Aucoin, Cizikas look to capitalize on NHL ice time

WASHINGTON -- After skating alongside Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson at practice yesterday, Capitals forward Mike Knuble was asked if he read anything into his practicing with the No. 1 line.

"No because I imagine Keith [Aucoin] will be back [Tuesday]," said Knuble, a healthy scratch the previous two games while American Hockey League call-up Keith Aucoin donned a Caps sweater both nights. "That's what I assume will happen -- that he'll be back [Tuesday]. So I just got to fill in his spot for a day."

Twenty-four hours later, Knuble's theory was proven correct. Aucoin was recalled from the AHL Hershey Bears this morning and will play tonight as the Caps host the New York Islanders at Verizon Center.

Aucoin will play on a line with Ovechkin and Johansson while Knuble will sit as a healthy scratch for the third straight game and for the sixth time in the last 10 games overall.

"Definitely, he played pretty well last game, so we're giving him the chance to play again," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said.

Aucoin had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win Saturday in Toronto. Those are Aucoin's only two points in eight NHL games this season, but the 2009-10 AHL Most Valuable Player is second in AHL scoring this season with 70 points in 43 games.

"We all know he's not a big guy," Hunter said of the 5-foot-8 forward. "But he's smart player. That's why he's put numbers up in the American League and wherever he's been he's played well offensively and he's a smart player."

While the 33-year-old Aucoin won't be mistaken for a blue-chip prospect, he is nonetheless making the most of his latest look in the NHL.

At the other end of the spectrum, 21-year-old Casey Cizikas is looking to take advantage of his first look in the NHL.

Cizikas was recalled by the Islanders from AHL Bridgeport last Thursday and will play in his third career NHL game tonight against the Capitals.

Cizikas appeared in the AHL all-star game in January, and was Bridgeport's leading scorer with 45 points in 51 games at the time of his recall.

"If you had told me coming into the season that this is how it would have been, I never would have believed you," said Cizikas, the Islanders' fourth-round pick at the 2009 Entry Draft. 

"It's been a dream year right now for me as a professional rookie. It's something I never imagined but it's definitely been fun, first getting the call for the [AHL] all-star game and now this is just icing on the cake. It's definitely been a year that I'm never going to forget."

With the Islanders trading veteran forward Brian Rolston to Boston ahead of Monday's trade deadline, Cizikas could get an extended look down the stretch.

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound center has primarily seen third-line duty with the Islanders and is expected to skate alongside Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo tonight in Washington.

"I try to be more of an energy guy up here," Cizikas said. "We have so many guys that can put the puck in the net, so if I could chip that would be nice, but I think my role here is to get pucks deep, grind in the corners and finish my checks. So that's what I've been trying to do and everyday I'm getting more comfortable out there."
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