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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 12:58 PM

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

Full-strength Stars look to right ship vs. Coyotes

DALLAS -- For the first time since early February, the Dallas Stars (39-28-5, 83 points) have everyone healthy with veteran winger Radek Dvorak and defenseman Sheldon Souray returning to the ice for tonight's game with the Phoenix Coyotes (36-26-11, 83 points), a contest at American Airlines Center for the lead in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference.

This is the same Phoenix team that Dallas faced on Feb. 4 at the same venue and it was the Coyotes who came away with a big 4-1 win. So it's safe to say Stars first-year coach Glen Gulutzan knows what to expect in the final regular-season meeting between these clubs.

"They know who they are. They know how to play to win. They know how to play to get points and they're comfortable in their own skin," Gulutzan said.

Dallas heads into tonight's contest on a two-game losing streak, having most recently lost to Chicago 4-1 on Friday. Last Wednesday, the Stars saw their 11-game point streak end at the hands of the Jets with a 5-2 loss in Winnipeg.

Despite those considerable setbacks, Gulutzan and his players aren't about to panic, especially since counting tonight, they have exactly 10 games remaining.

"Our guys are ready. We're refocused here," he said. "We're not worked up. We know there's a task at hand and we're focused on these last 10."

Dvorak will return to Dallas' third line after missing the last three games with a lower- body injury while Souray will be back in the Stars' top defensive pairing alongside fellow veteran Stephane Robidas after missing four games of his own with a similar injury.

"I feel good. Excited to come back in and be a part of what the guys are doing here and what we're trying to accomplish," Souray said. "It's always a lot more fun to step into the lineup when the games are so meaningful, just get back in it and get back to work."

Gulutzan will again start No. 1 netminder Kari Lehtonen on Tuesday. And while the Finnish-born goaltender figures to see the bulk of the action the rest of the way, rookie backup Richard Bachman figures to get at least one more start between the pipes for Dallas.

"No, we certainly have another back-to-back in a tough road swing, so we'll certainly play that by ear. There's probably one more game left on the docket for Bacher. We're not looking at this in any different way than we have the rest of the season," Gulutzan said. "We like the positioning we're in and we like what we've done after 72 games, so we're just going to continue these next 10 games the same way."
   

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 12:54 PM

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

Wings' Howard day-to-day with groin injury

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard is day-to-day with his second groin injury in less than two months.

Howard was out nearly three weeks with a groin problem in February, but GM Ken Holland said it's not as serious this time around.

With backup Joey MacDonald dealing with a back injury, the Red Wings placed Ty Conklin on re-entry waivers. If no one claims Conklin, he will be with the team in New York when they face the Rangers on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN).

Howard was 1-4-2 in his seven games since returning from the original groin issue and allowed 11 goals in his last three starts. MacDonald was called into duty when Conklin faltered in place of Howard in February, going 8-5-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

Conklin was 3-5-0 with a 3.40 GAA and .878 save percentage before he was sent to Grand Rapids of the AHL on Feb. 21. Conklin has shown improvement with the Griffins, going 8-4-0 with a 2.40 GAA and .915 save percentage.

The 25-year-old Jordan Pearce has been serving as the backup since he was recalled for the ailing MacDonald on March 16, but has yet to appear in a game.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 12:48 PM

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

Thiessen earns another start in net for Penguins

PITTSBURGH — Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has had only four games off since well before Christmas. If Brad Thiessen plays as well as he did in his first two NHL games, Fleury will get a fifth game off Tuesday night.
 
Thiessen, called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) last month, will start against Winnipeg as the Penguins try to get the much-used Fleury some rest during a busy stretch of play. Their last-second loss in overtime Sunday in Philadelphia was their third game in four days, and they begin another crowded stretch of games – five in eight nights – on Tuesday.
 
Fleury (39-14-4) has played in 40 of 44 games since Dec. 3.
 
Brent Johnson is still on the shelf with an undisclosed injury, so Thiessen is getting a chance to play in some important games for a team that is pushing the New York Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins began the night three points behind New York, a 4-2 winner over New Jersey on Monday.
 
Thiessen was in net as the Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Feb. 26, turning aside 22 of 24 shots. He had exactly the same numbers during a 3-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 7.
 
Thiessen, last season’s AHL goaltender of the year, couldn’t have had a much better start.
 
“In his first start, he was pretty confident in front of the net and looked pretty comfortable there,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “He’s been playing well, and I’m looking forward to seeing him in there.”
 
Winnipeg will be the first contending team that Thiessen has faced.
 
“Leading up to it, you’re a little bit anxious,” he said. “It’s a good kind of excitement. But once the game gets going, you focus on playing your game and everything kinds of settles down a little bit.”
 
Johnson took part in the morning skate as he begins his rehabilitation, but a return date has not been established.
 
The Penguins will attempt to bounce back from one of their toughest losses of the season, although they earned a point in their 3-2 loss at Philadelphia decided by Scott Hartnell’s goal with less than a second remaining.  Pittsburgh couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead in the third period of a defeat ended their 11-game winning streak and cost them a chance to, at least for a day, catch up to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings.
 
Sometimes, players will attempt to put such a loss behind them as quickly as possible. This one was more difficult to push aside.
 
“I haven’t forgotten about it,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “I had a phone call from a friend in hockey who watched the game on TV and knew how I probably felt. … He said, `You have to look at it
this way: You’ve gotten 23 out of the last 24 points.’ That was better than saying we got five out of six (on a three-game road trip). We wanted to go in there and beat Philly and we let that slip away. We got off our game a little bit in the third period. That’s what sits with you about that game. We’ll put that one behind us, but it’s not far behind you.”
 
On Tuesday, Pittsburgh will attempt to match its longest home winning streak (eight games) since the 2004-05 work stoppage. The Penguins have won 13 of 14 at Consol Energy Center since Jan. 17. They also have won 10 in a row at home against the Winnipeg franchise, which relocated from Atlanta after last season, and 13 of the last 15 meetings overall.
 
The Penguins are 2-1 against the Jets this season.
 
Pittsburgh’s projected lineup:
 
Chris KunitzEvgeni MalkinJames Neal
Steve SullivanJordan StaalPascal Dupuis
Matt CookeSidney CrosbyTyler Kennedy
Eric TangradiCraig AdamsArron Asham
 
Kris LetangPaul Martin
Brooks OrpikZbynek Michalek
Matt NiskanenDeryk Engelland
 
Brad Thiessen
Marc-Andre Fleury
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 12:28 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Spezza to play 600th game as Senators host Devils

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for Tuesday night's game between the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Place -- both teams held optional skates.

SENATORS

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

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

Ben Bishop
Alex Auld

Bobby Butler, Kaspars Daugavins and Matt Carkner are the healthy scratches.

Spezza will play in his 600th career game on Tuesday night. On Monday, the center served as pallbearer at the funeral of his childhood friend, Canadian freestyle skier, Nik Zoricic, who was killed during a World Cup event on Mar. 10.

"It's a good honor to play that many games, and it's good to see him do it," Chris Neil said. "He's a professional and he knows he has to step in and play -- and a big milestone like this -- obviously he's got a lot on his plate. But he'll be able to put that aside."

"He's going through a lot, but everyone goes through a lot at times," coach Paul MacLean said. "A lot of time, the most comfortable place to be is with your teammates."

DEVILS

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Cam Janssen

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson

Johan Hedberg
Martin Brodeur

Travis Zajac (Achilles tendon) will not play in Ottawa -- he is skating, but remains day-to-day. Matt Taomina and Steve Bernier are the scratches.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 9:28 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: March 20th

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 73 80 9 89 5

9th 73 78 9 86 6
10th 72 76 10 85 7
11th 73 73 9 80 9
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 74 83 8 91 6

9th 72 82 10 92 6
10th 72 82 10 92 6
11th 73 81 9 89 7
The skinny: Tuesday night in the NHL should be billed as "The Race for Eighth."

After the games Monday night, my projection for points needed to qualify for the playoffs is 93 in the West and 90 in the East. Let's look first at the West. Dallas is in first place in the Pacific Division as they play host to Phoenix, but they are tied in points. The Coyotes have played one more game, so this one takes on added importance, if that was possible.

Should the Stars win in regulation, it would force Phoenix to need six wins in their remaining eight games to reach 95 points and feel safe about avoiding tiebreaker scenarios. A Dallas win moves them to 85 points and makes winning five of their remaining nine games a lot more manageable.

San Jose, after losing at home Monday to Anaheim, travels to Los Angeles to take on the Kings. This will be the first of three remaining games between the two clubs so the outcomes of these games will have a direct bearing on each club's playoff hopes.

You can bet on one thing -- the other teams in the race are hoping there are not three-point games. Calgary takes on Colorado in Denver and a loss will make their task of qualifying for the playoffs extremely difficult. With eight games remaining after Tuesday, the Flames would need six wins to get into comfortable playoff position. Colorado has a similar situation facing them and a loss will force them to win six of their last seven games to surpass the projected cut line at 93 points. This is a game that has serious repercussions for the loser, and may in fact ensure that team of being outside the top eight at the conclusion of play on April 7th.

The East is not without its own interesting scenarios Tuesday. Winnipeg visits Pittsburgh to try and keep pace with Washington and Buffalo, who both won Monday night. A loss by the Jets, and it will be closer to striking midnight on their season than anybody in Winnipeg would like. They would need to win seven of the last nine games to get to 90 points.

Florida visits Philadelphia and the Panthers are feeling the heat from the Capitals in the race for first in the Southeast. The Panthers do need only four wins to surpass the 90-point mark, so they are in a great position to end their long playoff absence. They also have a very forgiving schedule.

Can't forget about the Penguins and Flyers -- they are both trying to gain a foothold on fourth in the conference and home ice in the first round of the playoffs, while also keeping their hopes of catching the N.Y. Rangers for first in the East very much alive.
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 11:56 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

ANA @ SJ - 0:36 of the Third Period



At 0:36 of the third period in the Ducks/Sharks game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Corey Perry's shot did not cross the goal line. No Goal Anaheim.
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 7:56 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NJ @ NYR - 4:35 of the First Period



At 4:35 of the first period in the Rangers/Devils game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Ruslan Fedotenko's backhand shot never crossed the goal line.   No Goal Rangers.
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 7:16 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers' Meszaros out 6-8 weeks

When the Philadelphia Flyers open the postseason next month, it appears they'll be without another one of their top defenseman.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced Monday that Andrej Meszaros will undergo surgery to remove a small disc fragment in his lower back on Wednesday and will be out 6-8 weeks. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Alex Vaccaro at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

Meszaros, 26, has 7 goals, 18 assists and a plus-6 rating in 62 games this season. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound blueliner hasn't played since March 1 against the New York Islanders, when he had a goal and two assists.

Philadelphia is also without Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) for the remainder of the season. Pavel Kubina (upper body) and Andreas Lilja (throat) are day-to-day.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 6:54 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bruins, Thornton agree on two-year extension

BOSTON – Now that he's in his fifth season with the Boston Bruins, gritty forward Shawn Thornton probably has some casual fans that just jumped on the team's bandwagon while the team was on the cusp of its 2011 Stanley Cup championship or just after.

Considering Thornton has personified what it means to play "Bruins hockey" – with a combination of grit and determination that goes with skill – and his year-round presence in the Hub, Thornton has transformed himself into Boston's adopted son.

Now he'll be sticking around at least two more years beyond this season. The Bruins officially announced Monday that Thornton signed a two-year contract extension. The deal is reportedly worth $1.1 million per season. Thornton was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"My family's happy not having to move and all that stuff (and) not having to wait around for July 1 to see what was going to happen," Thornton said. "I wasn't too concerned, but I'm very happy to get it done."

Although he was imported from Anaheim as a free agent prior to the 2007-08 season to provide the Bruins with some missing truculence, Thornton has been so much more than just a tough guy or energy player. Last season, he posted career highs with 10 goals and 20 points. So far this season, he has four goals and 12 points in 70 games. In addition, he leads the League with 19 fighting majors.

Thornton is also one of the team's more vocal leaders and last season was responsible for getting the Bruins' training staff to hang motivational pictures of Bruins championship teams of the past during the postseason run.

"Since we got Shawn, I don't know how many years ago, every year, to me, he's improved as a player, and I think that’s what's allowed him -- that and his conditioning has allowed him to be a good fourth-line player in this League and then a good catalyst in his own way," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "You see some of the skill that he has when he scores, when he makes some plays, but most importantly, you see the enthusiasm and the vigor that he brings to the rink every day, and that's important for this team and his character's important for this team.

"I'm happy to get him signed and I believe he just takes so much pride in his conditioning, and that's gotten better over the time when I've seen him. I think, without question, he'll be able to play well for two more years."

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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 5:13 PM

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

Projected Ducks, Sharks lineups

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle will reach a bit of a milestone Monday when the Sharks host the Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN), playing his 300th game with the team.

"I didn't know that," Boyle said of the milestone. "It's been fun. It's been a challenge, but I've been lucky to be with a very good organization and some great players, so it's been fun.''

After missing one game with an upper-body injury, Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman will return to the lineup against San Jose, said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau.

Sharks forward Tommy Wingels (upper body) will miss his fourth straight games and forward TJ Galiardi will miss his second straight.

Here's how the lineups could look Monday when the San Jose Sharks face the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Benn Ferriero

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi will be in goal, with Thomas Greiss the backup.

DUCKS
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Bobby Ryan - Nick Bonino - Kyle Palmieri
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - Devante Smith-Pelly

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller likely will be in goal, with Jeff Deslauriers the backup.
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