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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 3:21 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jones has fresh start in Calgary

It’s been a crazy 24 hours for Blair Jones.

Woken up by a call from Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman indicated he’d been traded to the Flames on Friday, Jones was on a plane bound for Calgary just two hours later.

Twenty-four hours after that, Jones was skating in his first game day skate with the ‘Flaming C’ on his chest.

“It was kind of weird yesterday morning,” said Jones, who will make his Flames debut Saturday against Minnesota. “I was sleeping in and woke up, Stevie was calling me and that was that. I woke up a little foggy and was like, ‘Oh.’ I didn’t know what to say. He said Calgary would be in touch with me shortly and two hours later I was on a plane.”

Flames captain Jarome Iginla did his best to welcome Jones into the Calgary locker room.

“We all introduced ourselves, go over everything as quickly as you can and it’s game time,” Iginla said. “It’s definitely a little different transition being in the middle of the season.”

Even the climate is changing on Jones, but going from the heat of Florida to the bitter winter of Alberta hasn’t soured Jones. In fact, he’s welcoming the change.

“This is a bit of a different look than in Tampa,” said Jones, who was acquired in exchange for defenseman Brendan Mikkelson. “I’m definitely excited being back in Canada where hockey is the No. 1 game.”

With Tampa Bay sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference sporting a 17-19-3 record, Jones knew something was going to happen soon. He just didn’t realize it would involve him.

“I thought with the way things were going there something was probably going to happen sooner or later but you never think it might be you,” Jones said. “It’s part of the game and I’m excited to be in Calgary.”

Though it’s an entirely new organization, Jones isn’t tasked with a new coach. The Central Butte, Saskatchewan native played under Flames coach Brent Sutter for three seasons as a member of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels.

“He’s a big guy that was a good center iceman in junior hockey,” Sutter said of the team’s newest member. “He’s a big center iceman and we could use some size down the middle.”

That’s not all he brings, said Sutter, who faced Jones and the Lightning back on Dec. 15. Jones left an impression.

“When we played him in Tampa Bay here recently, the first five-to-10 minutes he had five big checks,” Sutter said. “He uses his size to his ability. It’s something we can use down the middle. He’s got good skills and good hands and a really good shot.”

He’s also got an opportunity.

With three forwards – David Moss, Matt Stajan and Alex Tanguay - on Calgary’s injured reserve list and Brendan Morrison out with an upper-body injury, Jones will get the chance to jump head-first into some playing time with Calgary.

“I’m excited,” Jones said. “Nervous too.”
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 3:13 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild lose Bouchard but welcome back Stoner

The Minnesota Wild will be without Pierre-Marc Bouchard as they look to right the ship Saturday night against the Flames in Calgary.

Bouchard suffered a lower-body injury in a 3-0 loss Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks.

“He’s not in, he’s going to be out today,” Wild coach Mike Yeo confirmed. “He’ll get re-evaluated when we get back to Minny.”

The loss is a big one for Minnesota. Bouchard sits fourth in team scoring with nine goals and 22 points this season.

Hoping to ease the pain of Bouchard’s absence is the return of defenseman Clayton Stoner, who was activated off injured reserve Friday and will be in the lineup against Calgary.

“The body is feeling good and I’m excited to get back up in the lineup,” Stoner said.

Stoner rejoins a Wild team that has won just once in its last 11 games after winning seven in a row.

“We’ve had a tough stretch where we’re not playing our best every night,” Stoner said. “If I can come in and be consistent and do whatever I can it’ll help the team.”

Though he’s been out of the lineup since Dec. 22, Stoner feels just as much a part of the losses as his teammates.

“It’s tough,” Stoner said. “You feel for them. You know what you’re going through. I still feel a part of it. Obviously it’d be nice if we won all those games but we didn’t and we’re just trying to build as a team.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Wild:

Dany HeatleyMikko KoivuDevin Setoguchi
Darroll PoweKyle BrodziakCal Clutterbuck
Casey WellmanMatt CullenNick Johnson
Colton GilliesWarren PetersBrad Staubitz

Marek ZidlickyNick Schultz
Jared SpurgeonMarco Scandella
Clayton StonerJustin Falk

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 3:05 PM

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

Leafs have reinforcements for battle with Wings

The Toronto Maple Leafs will have some new faces in the lineup Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings and will also have the services of their captain Dion Phaneuf, whose status was up in the air after being hit in the face with a puck Thursday against Winnipeg. 

“Nothing got broke, he didn’t lose any teeth, most hockey players I know would be back and Dion is no different.  We need Dion in the lineup, not just for leadership, he is easily our best defenseman.” said Toronto coach Ron Wilson after the morning skate. “When you are playing a team like Detroit, you want to make sure you have as many hands on deck as possible.”

Forward Mike Brown will return to the lineup for the first time since November 15th, while oft-injured Mike Komisarek is back on defense after missing 21 games with a broken arm.  He is expected to be partnered with Cody Franson.

“Unfortunately I have been in this position a few times where I have been hurt and had to battle back,” said Komisarek, who has played 127 games as Leaf in three seasons since signing as a free agent in the summer of 2009. “The good thing about this time was I had the opportunity to skate early on when I was recovering from the injury. Your first game back you always play really simple.”

While healthy bodies return for the Leafs, Detroit will remain without two key cogs in Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm because of groin injuries.  In their place are forwards, Gustav Nyquist, who recorded his first NHL point in the Wings’ last game Tuesday at Dallas and Chris Connor, who has three points in six games this season.  He last played on Dec. 13.

The Wings boast the second most home wins in the NHL but are below .500 on the road. 

“Why is that?” asked Detroit coach Mike Babcock rhetorically.  “If I had the answer we’d fix it. The bottom line is we think our game is getting better and continues to grow and so it has to continue to grow and tonight is a big part of that.”

Jimmy Howard, whose 24 wins leads the NHL, will aim for his 100th career victory tonight and relishes the opportunity to do so in front of a sell-out crowd in Toronto and with the large audience that comes with a nationally televised Saturday night game.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 2:49 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

More key players out for Flames against Wild

CALGARY -- If getting beat  9-0 by the Boston Bruins on Thursday wasn’t enough, the Calgary Flames also lost two key contributors.

Both Scott Hannan and Brendan Morrison will not be in the lineup for Calgary as the Flames take on the Minnesota Wild in their first home game since Dec. 22.

“They’re both dealing with upper-body injuries,” coach Brent Sutter said. “They are going to need some time. How long each guy will be will determine by how quickly they heal. You take two guys out of your lineup, but it gives two other guys opportunities. It is just part of it. You can’t do anything about it.”

Lance Bouma and newly acquired Blair Jones will have the opportunity to step into the lineup. Bouma was recalled Saturday morning, while Jones was acquired Friday in exchange for defenseman Brendan Mikkelson. Defenseman Clay Wilson will also make his season debut on the blue line.

Hannan joins Mark Giordano (hamstring), Matt Stajan (ankle), David Moss (ankle), Derek Smith (lower body), Henrik Karlsson (knee) and Alex Tanguay (upper body) on the injured reserve list.

“It’s definitely difficult, we have some key guys out,” captain Jarome Iginla said. “Teams go through that. We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves or make excuses. We have to win games. We just keep moving forward. Teams go through things they can’t control and injuries at different times. Hopefully some of the guys will get back sooner than later.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Flames:

Curtis GlencrossOlli JokinenJarome Iginla
Lee StempniakMikael BacklundLance Bouma
Paul ByronBlair JonesBlake Comeau
Tom KostopoulosRoman HorakTim Jackman

Jay BouwmeesterChris Butler
T.J. Brodie – Anton Babchuk
Clay WilsonCory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 2:43 PM

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

Fleury to face idol Brodeur in milestone contest

PITTSBURGH— Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is only 27, yet he will play in his 400th career game when he opposes the New Jersey Devils and longtime idol Martin Brodeur at Consol Energy Center on Saturday night.
 
Brodeur, who respects what Fleury has done in a career that already is a lengthy one yet doesn’t appear to be close to being over, believes Fleury is reaching a major milestone.
 
“Won’t he get a leather jacket from the NHLPA?” Brodeur said following Saturday’s morning skate.
 
Fleury, who was in net for the Penguins’ third consecutive loss Friday, a 3-1 defeat to the first-place New York Rangers, probably would take a victory over Brodeur rather than a commemorative piece of clothing.
 
“I think he definitely is aware of who the other goaltender is when it’s Martin Brodeur,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He definitely gets a little charged up about playing against him.”
 
There are additional reasons, of course, for Fleury to want to play well.  The Penguins haven’t lost four consecutive games since they were 0-2-2 from Feb. 20-26, and they haven’t dropped four straight in regulation since a five-game slide from Dec. 27, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010.
 
There’s also this: If the Devils (22-16-2) beat the Penguins (21-1-4-4) for the second Saturday in a row – they won 3-1 at Prudential Center on New Year’s Eve – they will move past Pittsburgh and into third place in the Atlantic Division standings.
 
Only a month ago, on Dec. 8, the Penguins led the overall Eastern Conference standings, while the Devils weren’t n the top eight. Since then, New Jersey is 9-4-1 while Pittsburgh is 5-6.
 
The Devils are 0-3-1 in their last four trips to Pittsburgh and haven’t won there since Dec. 21, 2009. Pittsburgh took all three home games in the season series a year ago.
 
New Jersey forward Travis Zajac (Achilles’ tendon) and defenseman Anton Volchenkov (lower-body injury) did not make the trip to Pittsburgh. Volchenkov was placed on the injured reserve list to open up a roster spot for forward Nick Palmieri, who had 4 goals and 3 assists in 23 games earlier this season.
 
Brodeur, 3-1-1 in his last five starts, will be back in net after Johan Hedberg made 22 saves in beating Florida 5-2 on Friday night. Ilya Kovalchuk, who had two goals against the Panthers, scored on a penalty shot against Pittsburgh last weekend.
 
This will be the sixth set of back-to-back games for the Penguins and the ninth for the Devils. Pittsburgh is 6-4-1 overall in back-to-back games and 3-1-1 in the second half. New Jersey is 9-7-1 in back-to-back games and 5-3 in second games.
 
Both teams held optional practices at Consol Energy Center on Saturday, and here’s how they could line up Saturday night will feature the third of six meetings this season. They split the first two games. Pittsburgh will be without center Jordan Staal, who sustained an apparent left knee injury during a 3-1 loss to the Rangers on Friday night. Forward Arron Asham is expected to sit out again with a knee injury that occurred in New Jersey.
 
DEVILS

Zach PariseAdam HenriqueIlya Kovalchuk
Petr SykoraPatrik EliasDainius Zubrus
Tim SestitoSteven ZalewskiDavid Clarkson
Eric BoultonRyan CarterCam Janssen
 
Bryce SalvadorAdam Larsson
Mark FayneHenrik Tallinder
Kurtis FosterMatt Taormina
 
Brodeur is 43-25-5 with nine career shutouts against the Penguins. Hedberg will be the backup.
 
PENGUINS

Chris KunitzEvgeni MalkinJames Neal
Steve SullivanRichard ParkTyler Kennedy
Matt CookePascal DupuisCraig Adams
Steve MacIntyreJoe Vitale – Craig McDonald
 
Brooks OrpikMatt Niskanen
Paul MartinZbynek Michalek
Ben LovejoyDeryk Engelland
 
Fleury remains tied for second in the League with 19 wins. Backup Brent Johnson is expected to play next in one of the back-to-back games against Ottawa on Tuesday and at Washington on Wednesday.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 2:22 PM

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

Blues welcom streaking Avalanche to St. Louis

ST. LOUIS – The Blues (23-12-5) will have to continue their impressive home play (16-3-2) if they want to beat the red-hot Colorado Avalanche, who have suddenly thrust themselves into the Western Conference playoff race by winning nine of their last 10, 10 of 12 and 13 of 18.

The Avs (23-18-1) are coming off an impressive 4-0 win at Chicago on Friday night.

"They're a very fast, energetic, physical team," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "If we want to beat them tonight, we'll have to match that and maybe initiate that speed and physicality."

Hitchcock agreed.

"They're all on the same page," Hitchcock said. "They've got speed and when they play with speed, they have speed without the puck, which has created problems for everybody. If you're not ready for their pressure, their forechecks and their physical play, you're going to be surprised, in trouble and on your heels. You look at their hit totals in the last 10 games, it's really high. When you're playing physical, that means you're skating. When you're hitting people that means they're on the outside and you're on the inside, and that's what they're doing. That means they're playing very physical."

Hitchcock said this will be a game of gaining success in the dirty areas.

"It's going to have to be. You're not going to get anything easy," he said. "They're not giving you odd-man rushes now. They're not giving you easy opportunities. Chicago had one odd-man rush yesterday. They're making it hard on the opposition and if you're not ready to pay the price, then they're going to beat you every time.

"I told the players today you're going to get checked hard. How you react to getting checked hard is going to determine how long you stay in the game. They've pushed some really good hockey clubs right out because of their hard play."

Here are the probable lineups for tonight's game between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Ryan Reaves - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Cade Fairchild - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

The Blues are without F Andy McDonald (concussion), LW Alex Steen (concussion symptoms), D Kent Huskins (ankle), D Kris Russell (groin) and D Ian Cole (suspension), who is eligible to return Tuesday at Montreal. Expected scratches include LW Evgeny Grachev and F Chris Porter. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said there was a good chance Reaves (hip) would be taken off injured reserve today but if he's not available, Porter or Grachev would be inserted into the fourth line LW slot.
 
AVALANCHE

TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

The Avalanche, coming off a 4-0 win at Chicago Friday, chose not to skate today. Only Varlamov, RW Brandon Yip and D Ryan Wilson were on the ice for the optional. On injured reserve for the Avs include C Matt Duchene (knee) and C Peter Mueller (concussion). Both are out indefinitely. Wilson missed 13 games with a concussion but was taken off IR on Friday. Wilson, Yip and Hunwick are expected to be healthy scratches.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 2:06 PM

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

Lineups in flux for Lightning, Canadiens

MONTREAL – The lineups for both the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning are difficult to project ahead of tonight’s game.

Neither team went through line rushes at their morning skate and both teams are considering dressing seven defensemen, but for entirely different reasons.

In the Lightning’s case, the possible return of Ryan Malone from an upper-body injury that has cost him two games and the arrival of newly-acquired defenseman Brendan Mikkelson from the Calgary Flames give coach Guy Boucher the option of going either way, depending on Malone’s status come game time.

The loss of former Habs prospect JT Wyman to an upper-body injury in Ottawa on Thursday is mitigated by the return of Brett Connolly from the Canadian national junior team. Minor-league call-up Pierre-Cedric Labrie, a native of Baie-Comeau, Que., will play his first NHL game.

For the Canadiens, coach Randy Cunneyworth will have captain Brian Gionta available after an 11-game absence with a groin injury. He also said he may dress seven defensemen, but that decision would be based on how successful the team was with that lineup in their 7-3 win against Winnipeg on Wednesday.

Cunneyworth did not tip his hand either way, but it would appear he will be going with seven defensemen tonight based on what some of the players said. If that’s the case, one of Mathieu Darche or Michael Blunden would have to come out, and considering Blunden has seen his role increase considerably since Cunneyworth took over behind the bench eight games ago, Darche could be the odd man out.

Cunneyworth also said defenseman Alexei Emelin, who took a puck in the face at practice Friday, is expected to play with a full cage depending on how he felt after participating fully in the morning skate.
Just about the only thing set in stone is the goaltending matchup, with Boucher electing to go with former Habs goalie Mathieu Garon to face Carey Price, who starts for the 15th time in 16 games.

Here are the very tentative lineups for tonight’s game:

CANADIENS

Michael CammalleriTomas PlekanecBrian Gionta
Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisErik Cole
Travis MoenLars EllerAndrei Kostitsyn
Michael BlundenPetteri Nokelainen
 
Josh GorgesP.K. Subban
Alexei EmelinRaphael Diaz
Tomas KaberleChris Campoli
Hal Gill

Carey Price
 
LIGHTNING

Martin St. LouisSteven StamkosSteve Downie
Dominic Moore (Ryan Malone) – Vincent LecavalierBrett Connolly
Tom PyattNate ThompsonTeddy Purcell
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Dana Tyrell
 
Eric BrewerPavel Kubina
Brett ClarkMatt Gilroy
Marc-Andre BergeronBruno Gervais
Brendan Mikkelson (If Malone is out)

Mathieu Garon
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 1:54 PM

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

Bylsma: Injuries not derailing Penguins

PITTSBURGH— Jordan Staal was limping only slightly as he left Consol Energy Center following the morning skate Saturday, and that might have been the best news possible for the injury-hobbled Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
While coach Dan Bylsma said it’s still too early to tell how long Staal will be out with a left knee injury, the fact that he isn’t on crutches and is walking on his own likely is a positive sign.
 
Normally, a player who sustains a serious knee injury – a torn anterior cruciate ligament – isn’t as able to maneuver as well as Staal did only 12 hours or so after being hurt. If the injury is to the medial collateral ligament, Staal’s absence could be a relatively short one.
 
However, if there is swelling involved, as there often is with such an injury, doctors may wait a day or two before ordering an MRI exam that will determine exactly what is wrong.
 
“You saw him leave the game with an apparent knee injury,” Bylsma said Saturday. “At this point in time, it’s too early to tell the significance of the injury. Maybe in the next few days we’ll have an update on what the timetable will be for that.”
 
Staal, a skilled two-way center enjoying one of the best offensive seasons of his career, appeared to be in significant pain after absorbing a knee-to-knee hit from friend and former teammate Mike Rupp late in the New York Rangers’ 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Friday night. Rupp drew a kneeing penalty.
 
For a team already reeling with injuries – the Penguins are currently without superstar center Sidney Crosby and ace defenseman Kris Letang – Staal’s injury initially looked to be another major setback. It also looked to be a major setback as the Penguins scramble to maintain their Eastern Conference playoff positioning.
 
The Penguins (21-14-4), who were atop the Eastern Conference standings as late as Dec. 8, went into Saturday night’s home game against the New Jersey Devils (22-16-2) in sixth place in the conference – and only two points removed from being out of a playoff spot.
 
While forward Dustin Jeffrey appears to be close to returning after missing all but six games this season with a knee injury, the Penguins aren’t close to being healthy.
 
 Letang, who last played on Nov. 26, resumed skating only Friday and is not yet ready to practice.
 
 Crosby, the player who makes everything go in Pittsburgh, is sidelined for the second time this season with concussion-related injuries and there is no speculation when he might return. The Penguins remain hopeful he can play again this season but, since he left the lineup Dec. 5 after playing in eight games, Crosby has been restricted to light exercise.
 
Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin, Ben Lovejoy, Richard Park and Tyler Kennedy also have missed more than a few games this season for a team that is 11-11-1 since it began the season with a 10-3-3 record.

A year ago, the Penguins preserved to put together a 106-point season even while being without Crosby (Concussion) and Staal (foot injury, broken hand) for half a season and Malkin for the final two months and the playoffs. This time, they are below .500 (5-6) since Crosby left the lineup -- a possible sign that the recurring injuries might make it difficult for them to repeat last season's success.
 
“I don’t sense the team being down or there being dips in our team because of the injuries,” Bylsma said, pointing to the effort expended as the Penguins outshot the Rangers 38-21 on Friday yet still lost. “I think we’ll keep playing games exactly like that for another 42, 43 games and we’ll take our record.”
 
While Staal missed five games earlier, he has 15 goals and 6 assists in 34 games and is on pace to top the 29 goals he had as a rookie in 2006-07. The Penguins also will miss his scoring touch against the Devils; Staal has nine career goals against them, two of them during a 4-1 win on Oct. 22.
 
“You’re talking about a guy who does a lot of different things in a lot of different areas,” offensively, defensively, penalty kill-wise especially, faceoffs, going against other teams’ top lines,” Bylsma said. “In addition to that, he has scored a nice clip of goals and (is) adding punch to our team in that regard. It’s a big part of our team right now that’s not going to be in the lineup.”
 
Pascal Dupuis, who had never played center before being temporarily shifted there from right wing earlier this season, will fill in for Staal against the Devils and perhaps the stretch of games that follow. The Penguins play another set of back-to-back games Tuesday (Ottawa) and Wednesday (at Washington) before playing at Florida on Friday and Tampa Bay on Jan. 15.
 
Park missed nine games with a broken foot, then returned Friday only to get cut under the right eye.  The injury will not keep him out against New Jersey.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 1:41 PM

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

Projected lineups for Red Wings, Maple Leafs

Here are the projected lineups for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. They meet tonight at Air Canada Centre:

MAPLE LEAFS
 
Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski -Nikolai Kulemin
Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Nazem Kadri
Darryl Boyce - David Steckel - Mike Brown
 
Keith Aulie - Dion Phaneuf
Carl Gunnarsson - Luke Schenn
Cody Franson - Mike Komisarek
 
Jonas Gustavsson
 
RED WINGS
 
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valteri Filppula -Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyquist - Corey Emmerton, Chris Conner
 
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kind - Jonathan Ericsson
 
Jimmy Howard

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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 1:29 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets need improvement away from home

BUFFALO – Whether the Winnipeg Jets can resolve their road woes figures to go a long way toward determining just exactly where they fit in the Eastern Conference playoff mix.

The Jets will hit the halfway point of their season Saturday night when they visit the First Niagara Center to meet the Buffalo Sabres. They will do so fresh off consecutive losses in Montreal and Toronto in which they were outscored by an 11-3 margin. Those losses come right after the Jets had outlined much better road play as a key goal for the second half of the season.

“We’ve got to find a way,” captain Andrew Ladd said after a 4-0 loss Thursday night to the Leafs.

Those two losses may have taken a bit of the luster off a franchise-best month of December in which they ran off a 9-2-1 mark in 12 games at MTS Centre. The Jets’ 14 home wins are third-most in the League, tying them with the likes of Chicago, Washington and Boston.

“You’re always going to be a bit more comfortable in your own arena,” injured center Bryan Little said. “It definitely helps with the energy.”

On the road, however, the Jets just 26th in the NHL with a 5-10-4 road mark. Away from Winnipeg, the Jets have only two wins since Nov. 3 when they had just won their third consecutive game in the midst of a seven-game road trip.

“I think that it’s just a matter of trying to bring that energy and that work ethic to the road,” Little said. “It’s hard. You play in front of your own fans and you’ve got 15,000 loud fans right on your back. We’ve got to find a way to play like that on the road, too.”

With seven of their remaining 11 games in January on the road, the Jets will need to rectify their road difficulties in order to mount a serious push toward a playoff spot. Veteran goaltender Chris Mason believes that a much more concerted approach toward road hockey is needed.

“We have to sit down and look at ourselves,” Mason said.

After an optional practice on Friday afternoon at the First Niagara Center, coach Claude Noel attempted to frame the Jets’ road woes as one more obstacle that needs to be addressed in the long NHL season.

“To me, there is no panic, there is no crisis, there is no nothing,” Noel said. “You guys can determine that. This is all part of the season. If you look at it, we’ve played 40 games. You’ve got 82 that you’ve got to play. This is how the ebb and flow of the season happens.”

Rather than focus solely on the road problems, perhaps the Jets can take solace that they are still in the playoff mix even with their poor road play, to hear Noel’s perspective.

“How do we manage this?” Noel asked rhetorically. “Is it adversity? How do we deal with it? Those are the challenges, and that’s great. That’s why you have the big rewards when you do make the playoffs, and if you can win in the end, because you invest so much.”

“There is no manual,” Noel continued. “There is no right way. There is no wrong way. It is, ‘Does it work?’” That’s what our job is, and that’s what makes the job really interesting.”

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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery