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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 12:22 PM

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

Thiessen might spell Fleury, earn NHL debut Sunday

PITTSBURGH— A day off for Marc-Andre Fleury? It really might happen.
 
On Sunday, Brad Thiessen could become the first Pittsburgh Penguins goalie other than Fleury and Brent Johnson to start a game in more than two years.
 
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is leaning towards starting Thiessen – who is up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) for the second time in a week – against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. Thiessen, a 25-year-old former Northeastern University goalie, hasn’t played in an NHL game.
 
Thiessen is 20-14-2 with a 2.88 goals-against average at Wilkes-Barre after having a superlative season in 2010-11, when he was 35-8-2 with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
 
Johnson, the Penguins’ backup, was injured in practice Thursday – two days after an undisclosed illness prompted Pittsburgh to bring up Thiessen for a 2-0 victory over the Rangers. Thiessen did not play in that game, but was back in uniform for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
 
Fleury has had an exceptionally heavy workload – the Tampa Bay game was his 31st appearance in Pittsburgh’s last 33 games, including three games in which he replaced an ineffective Johnson.
 
With the Penguins playing at a more than every other day pace for the next month – 18 games in 35 days – Bylsma wants to give Fleury some time off as the playoffs grow closer.
 
Fleury, enjoying a second consecutive strong season and the Penguins’ MVP a year ago, has 31 of the team’s 34 victories this season. He is 31-14-3 and has 2.36 goals-against average.
 
Johnson is 3-7-2 and has won only once in six appearances since Dec. 3.
 
Only once in the last three seasons has a goalie other than Fleury or Johnson started for Pittsburgh. John Curry stopped only nine of 14 shots during an emergency start at Vancouver on Jan. 16, 2010, a game in which amateur callup Alexander Pechurski finished up by stopping 12 of 13 shots. Both Fleury and Johnson were unavailable that night.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 11:45 AM

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

Lineups for Bruins, Senators

KANATA, Ont. – Here are the projected lineups for Saturday night when the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins meet at Scotiabank Place. The Senators held a full practice, while the Bruins, coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to Buffalo on Friday night, did not skate.

SENATORS

Milan MichalekJason SpezzaBobby Butler
Colin GreeningKyle TurrisDaniel Alfredsson
Kaspars DaugavinsZack SmithErik Condra
Nick Foligno – Jim O’Brien – Chris Neil

Filip KubaErik Karlsson
Chris PhillipsSergei Gonchar
Jared CowenMatt Carkner

Alex Auld
Robin Lehner

Zenon Konopka and Brian Lee are the healthy scratches.

Robin Lehner was called up from Binghamton on Friday, while Craig Anderson (hand) is out indefinitely. Alex Auld has started just seven games this season, going 2-3-2 with a 3.28 goals-against average and a .883 save percentage. His last start was Feb .9 against Nashville – a game the Senators won 4-3.

“Personally, I’m excited to have the opportunity to help the team,” Auld said. “I’ve been in this situation a couple of times where you have to fill in for injury, and I’ve been in situations where you have to play every night as well. It’s fun – it’s why you play the game. I’m really looking forward to it.”

BRUINS

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronTyler Seguin
Milan LucicChris KellyDavid Krejci
Daniel Paille - Gregory CampbellShawn Thornton
Benoit PouliotCarter CamperJordan Caron

Zdeno CharaJohnny Boychuk
Dennis SeidenbergJoe Corvo
Andrew FerenceAdam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Rich Peverley (knee) and Nathan Horton (concussion) are out, while Andrew Bodnarchuk and Josh Hennessy are the healthy scratches.  

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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 10:14 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Matchup: Capitals at Maple Leafs

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 8:50 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

VAN @ NJD - 11:30 of the Second Period



At 11:30 of the second period in the Canucks/Devils game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck deflected off David Clarkson's skate and entered the net in a legal fashion. Good goal New Jersey.

 According to rule 49.2 "A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal."
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 6:40 PM

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

Jets ready for tough test from Blues

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets might finally control the Southeast Division's top spot, but the challenges will keep coming for coach Claude Noel's club.

The St. Louis Blues visit the MTS Centre on Saturday afternoon and will present the Jets with another stiff challenge in the fifth of a season-long eight-game homestand. The Jets are 3-0-1 during their current stay at home and sit one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead.

"It will be a really good challenge for our team," Noel said of his team's final game before the NHL Trade Deadline. "They've got a pretty good team. They've got some good elements when you look at their team."

"It's very clear that they will manage the puck well and will check, check, check," Noel said of the Blues. "You're going to have earn every inch of ice, especially up the ice."

Noel will be matching up against Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, his long-time mentor in the Dallas and Columbus organizations.

"It will be interesting. That's good. It raises the bar, makes it fun," he said.

Noel said after practice on Friday that he has not yet determined his starting goaltender for Saturday's game. Ondrej Pavelec has started Winnipeg's past four games, including a 55-shot barrage from the Philadelphia Flyers this past Tuesday night.

"There are a lot of reasons why you wouldn't want to move off Pavelec," Noel said.

Zach Bogosian will miss his sixth consecutive game on the Winnipeg blue line. What was expected to be a brief absence has lasted longer than expected, and he will not return until at least next week, Noel said.

The Jets also placed forward Antti Miettinen on waivers on Friday. Winnipeg claimed the Finnish veteran on waivers from Tampa Bay on Dec. 13, but the move has not panned out for the Jets. Miettinen has not scored, managed just four assists and been a healthy scratch four times.

"I think that with Miettinen I would like to see more of his play, a little bit better play," Noel said. "I've spoken with him about that."

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 6:37 PM

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

Blues are all smiles as they prepare for Jets

WINNIPEG -- The St. Louis Blues landed in Winnipeg early on Friday morning feeling good about themselves.

The Blues (37-17-7) earned a 3-2 shootout win on the road against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night in a bounce-back effort after a tough home loss to the Boston Bruins a night earlier. The win leaves St. Louis 7-3-0 in its past 10 games.

"To come back and get two points off a back-to-back was really impressive for us," coach Ken Hitchcock said after the Blues practiced at the MTS Centre on Friday afternoon in preparation for Saturday's matinee against the Winnipeg Jets.

Leaving previous efforts in the past, be they wins or losses, has been strength for the Blues this season, Hitchcock explained. The veteran coach attributes the club's ability to recover and refocus on a strong veteran core that includes Jason Arnott, Barret Jackman and Jamie Langenbrunner.

"I think the young guys have responded," Hitchcock said of the role that the veteran leadership plays inside the St. Louis dressing room.

"We're different from a lot of teams in that our skill base is all young," Hitchcock said. "It's a young core. We're asking a lot of 22- and 23-year-old players to carry the day emotionally and physically. So, it has been trying at times for them, and the veteran guys have really helped those guys stabilize."

Now the Blues find themselves in Winnipeg to begin the Western Canada leg of a six-game trip. The MTS Centre has quickly become one of the most difficult buildings for visiting clubs. With the Jets entrenched in the heart of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Hitchcock expects an imposing environment for his club.

"They've got a great feel in the building," Hitchcock said of the Jets, who have won 19 of their 31 home dates this season. "We've got to find a way to pull the crowd out of the building if we can. It's going to be hard to do, but I think the teams that have a little bit of success here quiet the crowd down."

"One way that you can to do that is to make them play defense," Hitchcock continued. "We're going to come with a heavy, hard forecheck and see where we go."

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 5:06 PM

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

Quincey says remarks about Avs 'came out wrong'

DETROIT -- During his first media session in the Detroit Red Wings' locker room on Thursday morning, newly-acquired defenseman Kyle Quincey sounded an awful lot like he was ripping his former team, the Colorado Avalanche, which traded him as part of a three-team deal that also involved the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings.

Quincey said a lot of Colorado's players "had their bags packed" and were waiting to get dealt like he did -- and were probably upset they weren't part of a package deal with him. About 24 hours later, the 26-year old Quincey was asked about the comments, especially since the Avs are coming into Detroit to play the Red Wings on Saturday night.

"That was taken out of context and I didn't mean any of that," Quincey said. "It wasn't all in Colorado, it was the whole League. Everyone until Monday at [3 p.m.] is pretty anxious. That goes for everybody, not just Colorado. Everybody in the League. I don't want to put any of my former teammates in hot soup. I regret saying the stuff that I did, but it wasn't towards them."

He then had some glowing remarks for two-plus years spent with the Avs.

"Colorado is an unbelievable place to play," Quincey said. "I had a great time there. I love it there. I bought a house there and that's my home now. So, the last thing I want to do is get them upset with me."

Quincey said he hadn't been contacted by any of his former teammates about the comments, but it does give a new twist to Saturday's matchup at Joe Louis Arena.

"I haven't talked to any of them at all, but they know me and they know that I'm not a negative person at all … so they know that I didn't mean that at all," said Quincey, who scored a goal in first game after the trade that returned him to the team that drafted him in 2003. "Obviously, being [in Colorado] for three years and how much I liked that organization and what they did for me, I have nothing but positive things to say and those things came out wrong."

Is the former Avs defenseman looking forward to facing his old teammates so quicky?

"It's going to be weird," Quincey said after Friday's practice. "I remember the first time I came back here [to Joe Louis Arena], I was squeezing the stick pretty hard. I think the biggest challenge is going to be going back to Pepsi Center, but I'm looking forward to it."

As for that first game back in a Red Wings uniform since leaving via the waivers process in 2008, it was kind of a roller coaster for Quincey. He put the Vancouver Canucks on the power play with a pair of minor penalties in the second period, then scored a goal early in the third for a 2-1 lead before finding himself on the ice when Daniel Sedin sent it to overtime with just 15.4 seconds left in regulation.

"The second period with the two penalties, I'd like to have those back," Quincey said. "They were weak penalties, not very good penalties by myself, and I wanted to get that back … and scoring that goal was just an unbelievable feeling. I was hoping that it was going to be the game-winner, but you have to give [Vancouver] credit. They're a great team. They played well going down the stretch and they didn’t give up. They did the same exact thing to us two weeks ago in Colorado and I was like, 'This is déjà vu.'"
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 3:21 PM

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

Blues' Russell sent home with concussion-like symptoms

The St. Louis Blues may be dealing with yet another concussion after defenseman Kris Russell was sent home following a 3-2 shootout win Thursday at Nashville to be evaluated for concussion-like symptoms.

Russell may have been injured on a play where he may have taken an elbow to the head from the Predators' Colin Wilson after being stripped from behind with the puck with 12 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blues, who completed the first leg of a six-game trip that takes them to Winnipeg on Saturday, have recalled defenseman Ian Cole from Peoria.

Russell, who has already missed nine games earlier this season with a groin injury, has three goals and three assists in 36 games with the Blues.

If Russell in fact has a concussion, he would be the the sixth player to have dealt with a concussion since the start of the season, joining David Perron, Andy McDonald, Carlo Colaiacovo, Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini. Perron's absence carried over from a concussion last season.

Cole would be making another trip back to St. Louis on recall this season. He has a goal and six points in 18 games for the Blues this season and nine points in 44 career games.

The team is likely to reinsert Kent Huskins into the lineup against the Jets on Saturday but coach Ken Hitchcock likes Cole and could use him at times for the remainder of the trip.
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 2:14 PM

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

Winning now imperative for Capitals, Canadiens

WASHINGTON -- Two teams in desperate need of a win meet tonight at Verizon Center as the Washington Capitals host the Montreal Canadiens.

The Capitals have lost three straight and six of seven overall; the Canadiens have lost two straight and four of five overall.

Washington has dropped four points behind the Southeast Division leading Winnipeg Jets, while Montreal enters play tonight in the Eastern Conference basement.

"We just have to win," said Caps captain Alex Ovechkin, who is expected to play tonight after missing Wednesday's game in Ottawa with a lower-body injury.

"We have to play better offensively, defensively, and our goaltending has to be better. We can't point to one guy. All guys on the ice and on the bench have to be ready 100 percent, especially in this situation. We can't give up."

The Capitals have hurt themselves of late thanks in part to slow starts. Washington has allowed the first goal in six straight games, fallen behind 2-0 in three straight games, and trailed 4-0 in the past two games.

"It's imperative that we get a win tonight," said Capitals forward Troy Brouwer. "We're just keying in on our start now. That's what's been killing us. On that last [four-game] road trip we got outscored 7-0 in the first period, so that has to change if we want to have success coming down the stretch here."

Not only have the Capitals fallen behind early, but in most cases they have struggled to come back. In the last six games -- covering 360 minutes of hockey -- the Caps have led for just 6 minutes and 33 seconds.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, are coming off a 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars and have not scored against the Capitals in more than 216 minutes.

Washington has blanked the Canadiens in three straight games dating to last season (oddly enough with three different starting goalies), and in four of their last six meetings overall.

Michal Neuvirth (6-9-3) will start for the Caps while Carey Price (22-22-9) goes for Montreal. Neuvirth made 31 saves in a 3-0 win in Montreal on Jan. 18. He will be making his first start at Verizon Center since Dec. 20.

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Marcus Johansson - Mike Knuble
Jay Beagle - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Lars Eller - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Ryan White - Scott Gomez - Rene Bourque
Petteri Nokelainen - Louis Leblanc - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Raphael Diaz - Alexei Emelin
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Yannick Weber

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

Notes: Mathieu Darche remains sidelined with flu. … One of Nokelainen, Leblanc or Palushaj will likely sit as Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth is expected to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Markov skates, still hopes to play this season

WASHINGTON -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov skated with his teammates this morning for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Dec. 5.

Markov has not played since Nov. 13, 2010, but says he hopes to return to the Canadiens lineup before the end of this season.

"That's my goal," said Markov, who has yet to take part in contact drills. "I can't tell you exactly the time and the date [for a return], but I try to push and feel better every day."

Markov's return to practice is a sliver of good news for a Canadiens team that has lost two straight and four of five overall to drop to last place in the Eastern Conference.

This morning's skate came ahead of Montreal's game tonight against the Washington Capitals.

"It feels great. It was a long time that I didn't play or practice with the team, so I feel good and I'm happy to be back with the team," Markov said.

Markov, who signed a three year contract with the Canadiens last summer, has played just seven games since the start of the 2010-11 season. His absence has been most noticeable on Montreal's power play, which ranks 29th in the NHL at 13.8 percent.

With Markov quarterbacking the Canadiens' power play for parts of five seasons from 2005-2010, Montreal finished among the top five in power play efficiency four times.

"It's not easy," Markov said of watching the Canadiens struggle just to stay in playoff contention. "Especially with our team, with the history and our fans and with [the media] putting pressure on us, it's not easy but we have to find a way to be better as a team, as a group and hopefully we're going to play better tonight and the rest of the games."

Markov underwent knee surgery in Dec. 2010 and was close to returning to the Montreal lineup in late November when he accompanied the team to California. The 33-year-old suffered a setback, though, requiring another operation.

With the Canadiens eight points out of a playoff position, both Markov and the organization are taking every precaution to assure that when he does return to the lineup he'll be there to stay.

"It's a tough recovery for me," he said. "I don't want to play just one game and have another injury or another surgery. I want to continue to play all of next season and feel healthy.

"I think that both sides understand. Nobody is pushing me to be back too early. They're giving me time to recover and to be 100 percent. The hockey rule is that if you step on the ice you have to give 100 percent every night so I don’t want to play at 75-percent, I want to give my best every night."

Markov is expected to remain with the Canadiens as they head south for games Monday and Wednesday against Florida and Tampa Bay.

"I think it's a step in the right direction, it's part of the process," Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "The next thing we can look forward is a little bit of contact -- we don't have a timetable for it -- so we're just going to proceed forward everyday, and as he feels good we're going to get to that point where he can take a little more on and be more physical."


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Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff