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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 9:00 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ MTL - 3:14 of the Second Period

At 3:17 of the second period in the Senators/Canadiens game, video review was inconclusive in determining if Daniel Alfredsson's stick was above the crossbar.  Therefore the referee's call on the ice stands. No goal Ottawa.

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 8:27 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ MTL - 14:14 of the First Period

At 14:14 of the first period in the Senators/Canadiens game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Ryan White's shot never completely crossed Ottawa's goal line. No goal Montreal.

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 6:17 PM

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

Toews skates for fourth straight day

CHICAGO -- A few hours before finding out that their top defenseman, Duncan Keith, had been suspended for five games by the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks got some good news on the ice at the United Center.

Injured captain and top center Jonathan Toews, who's missed the Hawks' last 15 games with an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion, skated on his own Friday afternoon for the fourth straight day. Toews had skated four consecutive days once before during his recovery, but then needed to back off for about 10 days, presumably because symptoms of his condition returned.

"When you get him on the ice more for consecutive days you have more hope, but we'll see," coach Joel Quenneville told reporters.

When asked if he'd like Toews to get a couple of regular-season games under his belt before heading into the playoffs, Quenneville compared the situation to one last season with third-line center Dave Bolland -- who missed the end of the regular season and the first three games of a first-round playoff series with a similar injury.

"We'll see," Quenneville said. "Maybe we were in that same process last year with Bolly and we're just hoping for that same situation, so we'll see."

Defenseman Steve Montador, who's also out with an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, skated with the team in practice again but said he wouldn't rush his return just because Chicago's depth will likely be tested again by Keith's absence -- he was suspended for an elbow to the head of Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in the first period of Wednesday's 2-1 overtime win.

Rookie center Marcus Kruger also skated for a bit on his own Friday after the rest of the team practiced. Kruger left the game against Vancouver in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. He missed eight games at the end of December and the start of January with an upper-body injury also believed to have been from a concussion.

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 2:34 PM

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

Senators bolstered by returns of Anderson, Spezza

Craig Anderson and Jason Spezza will return to the Ottawa Senators' lineup Friday night when they face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

Anderson will start his first game since Feb. 22 after a sliced right hand cost him 12 games, while Spezza is coming off a one-game absence due to the flu.

When asked how he was feeling Friday morning, Spezza responded, "I'm going to be playing tonight, so I'm a little bit better."

A little bit?

"Yup."

The Senators enter the game on a two-game losing streak and with just one win in their previous five games, and they are suddenly just three points up on the eight-place Washington Capitals.

Ottawa has a 2-2-1 record against the last-place Canadiens this season, and they face a very difficult test Saturday at home against the powerhouse Penguins.

"It's a big weekend for us and we want to get it off on the right foot," Spezza said. "We need to pick up points wherever we can."

Anderson will face Carey Price in goal, and the Canadiens will be without the injured Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle, Travis Moen, Mathieu Darche and Brian Gionta.

Here are the expected lineups for the game:

SENATORS

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer - Zenon Konopka - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Lars Eller
Mike Blunden - Ryan White - Louis Leblanc
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Chris Campoli - Yannick Weber
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 2:19 PM

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

Vokoun's injury leaves Caps with net quandary

WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals signed veteran free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun in the summer with the hope he would become a key cog in a deep playoff run.

But with eight regular-season games remaining, the Capitals are not yet guaranteed a playoff berth and their springtime fate could come down to the play of younger goalies Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.

Vokoun has not played since a 3-2 loss last Friday in Winnipeg and the 35-year-old remains sidelined with a nagging groin injury. The injury has limited Vokoun to just three starts in 14 games since Feb. 22.

"It's just unfortunate for a goalie," Vokoun said after a light skate Friday morning. "I'm not limited in skating or biking or anything like that- it doesn’t bother me walking. It's just for a goalie you do so much explosive stuff and stretching and if you have a pulled groin you can't guard it. It gets used all the time, so it’s a bad injury for goalies."

The Capitals recalled Holtby from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on Monday and the 22-year-old stopped 57 of 61 shots this week in a 5-3 win in Detroit and 2-1 shootout loss in Philadelphia.

It is not clear if Capitals coach Dale Hunter will go back to Holtby tonight against the Winnipeg Jets or if he will go with Neuvirth, who turns 24 today.

A possible return date for Vokoun is also unknown but it does not sound as though he will be ready to play during the Capitals upcoming three-game homestand.

"Maybe shoot for [a return] sometime next week, but I don’t know," Vokoun said. "You can pull it and [suffer] a setback. It's more of an unpredictable situation right now."

The eighth-place Capitals begin the three game homestand tonight against Winnipeg with upcoming games Sunday against the Minnesota Wild and Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 1:51 PM

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

Jets plan: Slow down surging Ovechkin

WASHINGTON – The Winnipeg Jets had two things working in their favor during a 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals last Friday night -- a boisterous home crowd at MTS Centre and an ability to contain Alex Ovechkin and the Caps’ No.1 line.

The Jets and Capitals meet again Friday at Verizon Center, and while the Jets won’t have the same crowd support, their game plan against the Caps remains unchanged.

“I think we played great against Ovechkin,” said Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who is expected to make his 10th straight start for the Jets. “It wasn’t easy for him, we made him work for everything and if you can eliminate the best player on the team, you have a good chance to win.”

The Jets were the only team the Capitals faced on their just completed five-game road trip that kept Ovechkin from scoring.

The two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner has recently shown flashes of his old self with a three-game goal scoring streak and six goals in his last five games overall.

“He’s hitting on all cylinders right now,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “Before, he was getting his chances but he was hitting posts and missing the net. But right now, he’s in a zone and when you’re in a zone good things happen.”

Ovechkin’s hot streak comes at an opportune time for the Capitals, who could be missing their second-leading scorer Alexander Semin for a second straight game.

Semin did not play in the Caps’ 2-1 shootout loss last night against the Philadelphia Flyers and is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

This game marks the start to a three-game homestand for the Capitals with contests against Winnipeg, Minnesota and Buffalo in the next five days.

The eighth-place Caps are one point clear of Buffalo and five points ahead of Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference standings. While the Capitals were in Philadelphia last night, the Jets have had two days of practice in Washington following an 8-4 loss Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

“I think we know the task,” Jets coach Claude Noel said. “I think we know everything that’s at stake. We’ve been sitting here for a couple of days waiting and the wait is long and tedious. So let’s get going and play the game. We have to be anxious and I sense that our players are ready to go. It’s a road game that we have to win.”
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 1:50 PM

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

Lundqvist looks to refine game heading into playoffs

NEW YORK -- Among starting goaltenders in the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist ranks first in goals-against average (1.87), save percentage (.934) and is tied with the Kings' Jonathan Quick for the League lead in shutouts with eight.

Following the Rangers' 2-1 overtime win against the Red Wings on Wednesday in which he made 26 saves for his third win in four starts, Lundqvist said he wanted to sharpen his game and improve in some areas that need work.

Yes, the presumptive favorite for the Vezina Trophy feels like he should be playing better as the Rangers get set to face the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night on Madison Square Garden.

"I need to be more focused and make better decisions," Lundqvist said. "It's tough to play perfect games. Sometimes you make poor decisions and it costs you, and sometimes it doesn't cost you. That's what you're always trying to do. You're trying to play a perfect game where you make good decisions all the time and don't put yourself in trouble by making a bad read. That's what it comes down to. It's not technically how I can change. It's the way I focus. Just the keep the game simple. It's exciting. I feel like getting we're getting closer. Sometimes that helps you not overthink. You just go out and play."

March hasn't been the best month so far for Lundqvist. He allowed 16 goals in five games to start the month before being hit with the flu bug after a 4-3 win against the Islanders on March 19. Since returning, Lundqvist has looked more like himself, going 2-1 with a 1.65 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Exhaustion hasn't been a problem in the past for Lundqvist, and he said it won't be again this year. Even if he starts in all nine remaining games for the Rangers, those 63 starts will be his fewest since taking over the No. 1 goaltending job in 2006-07. To make up for the diminished playing time, Lundqvist said he'll use practices, as rare as they are this time of year, to stay sharp.

"When you're out there you need to go hard, get good habits," Lundqvist said. "You don't want to be out there and cheating because you're tired. I'm not tired, so that's a good thing.

"Going into the last few weeks, you don't really feel tired. When you don't practice that much, you can save a lot of energy for the games. I think biggest difference year was in December and late-November, not playing as much. Maybe I would've been a little tired (in the past at that time). But this time of year, you're never really tired."

Lundqvist started the Rangers' final 26 regular-season games last season due to a broken collarbone suffered by backup goaltender Martin Biron. The Rangers made the playoffs, but were ushered out the door by the Washington Capitals in the first round in five games.

Since it wasn't a problem last year, Lundqvist doesn't see fatigue being a problem this year.

"I felt great. I wasn't tired," Lundqvist said. "Going down the stretch you're so focused. Especially if you're winning and doing well, I think that helps. You're relaxed. But I wasn't tired going into the playoffs. But that was in April. Our goal is to play in June. But right now, I pretty much feel the way I always do this time of the year."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 1:01 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Leafs' Hamilton perserveres, earns NHL opportunity

NEWARK, N.J. -- Ryan Hamilton has been in the American Hockey League since 2006, and with the Toronto Marlies for the last three-and-a-half seasons. He's had to undergo heart ablation surgery and battle through a debilitating knee injury, but he's persevered and his hard work has finally paid off.

Hamilton, 26, will make his NHL debut Friday night at Prudential Center with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He and Nazem Kadri were called up on an emergency basis Thursday night to replace Clarke MacArthur (upper-body injury) and Matt Frattin (ankle injury) in the struggling Leafs' lineup.

"You never want to give up on your dream," Hamilton said after the morning skate Friday. "It was real exciting news when I got the call to join the guys here in New Jersey. It was definitely something that came out of the blue, but real exciting."

Hamilton started his professional career in the Wild organization. He was traded to Toronto in 2009 and has been viewed as a veteran leader on a developing Marlies' squad that is poised for a run in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Hamilton has 46 points on 23 goals and 23 assists in 65 games this season for the Marlies, who are second in the AHL's Western Conference. When Leafs coach Randy Carlyle called Marlies coach Dallas Eakins and asked him who has earned the right to get the call up, Hamilton's name was the first one mentioned.

"I couldn't really stay healthy for the last couple of years," he said. "I had that little heart operation and with that knee injury last year it was frustrating, but I've been healthy all year and been part of a real good team down there. Now I'm real fortunate to get an opportunity up here.

"It's something special, something I've worked hard my whole life for. It's a real good opportunity, a real honor."

Kadri was the second name Eakins gave to Carlyle. Considered one of the Leafs' top prospects, Kadri has had an interesting season to say the least. He was a favorite to make the team out of training camp, but after playing in five preseason games he was assigned to the Marlies. Kadri earned a recall in October and played in three games before going back.

He was back with the Leafs in December and lasted through the month of January, but has been with the Marlies since the beginning of February. He has 32 points in 42 games with the Marlies but only six points in 19 games with the Leafs.

Kadri said he's looking at this latest opportunity as a chance to impress Carlyle, who was not the coach the last time he wore a Leafs' uniform.

"That's exactly what it is, really," he said. "It is a new coaching staff and a new system so you have to go out there, do what you can, and hopefully he likes what he sees."

Carlyle insisted that Kadri will not be pinned to the bench Friday night. While he wasn't locked into his lines yet, he did say he doesn't see a benefit in bringing up a skilled player (Kadri is a skilled player) and playing him on the fourth line.

MacArthur and Frattin were wingers for Mikhail Grabovski, so it's possible that at least Kadri gets to play in the Leafs' top-six against the Devils. Hamilton could have that opportunity as well.

"If you're a scorer and you're supposed to be a scorer, well then we have to find out if you can score in the NHL," Carlyle said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:44 PM

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

Caps have another chance to damage Jets' hopes

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals missed out on an opportunity last Friday at MTS Centre to bury the Winnipeg Jets in the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps will get a second chance Friday night at Verizon Center.

The eighth-place Capitals had a four-point cushion on Winnipeg for the final playoff position a week ago, but a 3-2 win by the Jets narrowed the gap and gave them hope. Seven days later, it's an almost identical situation with the teams meeting for the sixth and final time this regular season and the Caps now five points clear of 10th-place Winnipeg.

"It's a big game -- it's pretty much the game of the year," Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov said. "Everybody has to step up and we have to play how we usually do at home but now on the road."

If the Jets do in fact fall short in their bid for a playoff berth, their play on the road will largely have something to do with it. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets (10-23-4) have fewer points away from home than the Jets (11-20-4) and of Winnipeg's nine remaining games, six will be on the road.

The Capitals return home tonight after a season-long five-game road trip (2-2-1) which ended with a 2-1 shootout loss Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I think we got some points in some real tough buildings," Caps forward Troy Brouwer said. "I think a couple of our games we didn't show up as much as we would have liked to, especially for this time of the season, but five points in five games is all right.

"We're one point ahead of Buffalo in the standings right now, so we are in the playoffs at this point. But we're looking forward to [tonight's] game. It's going to be a very intense, very exciting game."

The Capitals did not hold a morning skate and it is unclear who will start in goal. Tomas Vokoun remains sidelined with a groin injury and is hopeful of a return next week.

Braden Holtby (1-1-1) has started the last two games with Michal Neuvirth (11-12-4) dressing as the backup. Ondrej Pavelec (27-5-7) will start for the 10th straight game for Winnipeg and for the 15th time in the last 16 games overall.

Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Jets:

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Mike Knuble
Keith Aucoin - Jay Beagle - Marcus Johansson
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward/Cody Eakin

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - John Carlson

Michal Neuvirth
Braden Holtby

Notes: The Capitals recalled Eakin, a Winnipeg native, from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on Friday. Should Eakin draw into the lineup, it could be in place of either Halpern or Ward.

Eakin has four goals and eight points in 29 NHL games this season. The 20-year-old has also recorded 11 goals and 25 points in 41 AHL games.

Alexander Semin missed the final 7:35 of a 5-3 win Monday in Detroit and has not practiced or played since. He is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

JETS
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Patrick Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen
Tim Stapleton - Ben Maxwell - Spencer Machacek

Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:28 PM

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

Leopold, Sabres focused on winning out, getting in

NEW YORK -- For Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold, Friday night's matchup with the New York Rangers doesn't have any added meaning as a potential 1 vs. 8 matchup in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in a few weeks.

Instead, Leopold is focused on the fact the Sabres have control over their playoff destiny with eight games to play. They are one point behind the Capitals for the eighth spot in the East, but if the Sabres win the rest of their games, which includes one against the Caps, they will be in the playoffs.

"We look at it is as controlling our destiny. We have that opportunity if we win out, so this is just another one of those games coming down the stretch we need to get," Leopold told NHL.com. "We're playing one of the best teams in the League right now and have definitely had our number this year (the Rangers have won all three meetings). We need the two points desperately."

The Sabres are in a similar position to last season, when a 19-20-5 start was followed by a 24-9-5 finish to earn a playoff berth. This year, the Sabres' slow start was more about injuries to key players -- goaltender Ryan Miller, defenseman Tyler Myers and center Jochen Hecht just to name a few -- but their current 15-5-3 run has them knocking on the postseason door once again.

"We had a lot of injuries this year. You don't want to use it as an excuse, but it's a fact," Leopold said. "You look at that, and it's definitely played a role in getting us a little bit behind the 8 ball. We've totally climbed our way out of this when everyone said we couldn't and put ourselves in a good position. With eight games remaining, we have a good opportunity if we get the right amount of points, we can get to the magic number and make the playoffs."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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