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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 1:26 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flames, Stars

DALLAS -- Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center:

FLAMES
Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Tom Kostopoulos - Michael Cammalleri - Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma - Roman Horak - Krys Kolanos
Paul Byton - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester - Chris Butler
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving

Scratches: Anton Babchuk

Injuries: Mikael Backlund (upper body), Curtis Glencross (knee), Blair Jones (ankle), David Moss (foot), Lee Stempniak (ankle), Derek Smith (ankle)

Notes: The Flames head into Thursday's game in Dallas after an impressive 5-1 win over Toronto on Tuesday, a game where Kiprusoff turned back 41 shots by the Maple Leafs. Calgary is currently riding a two-game winning streak with impressive home victories over the Canucks last Saturday and the Leafs just two days ago. The Flames are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games but are only 11-14-6 away from the Saddledome this season. Jokinen has been on a hot streak lately with 13 points (6-7-13) over his last 10 games.

STARS
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Tomas Vincour
Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Philip Larsen - Mark Fistric

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Scratches: Adam Pardy, Toby Petersen

Injuries: Brenden Morrow (upper body), Sheldon Souray (foot)

Notes:  Dallas is just two days removed from a 3-1 loss at Detroit, making it the 21st straight team the Red Wings have beaten at Joe Louis Arena, a new NHL record. The Stars have dropped two straight at home, most recently a 4-2 loss to the Kings on Sunday and Dallas is just 2-3-1 in their last six games at American Airlines Center. Tonight marks the first of four meetings between the Stars and Flames this season. Two Dallas players have ties to Calgary. Pardy was with the Flames for the last three seasons before joining the Stars last summer as a free agent. Nystrom started his NHL career in Calgary and spent his first three seasons there before joining the Wild last year. Nystrom joined the Stars in a trade with Minnesota last October. 

 
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 1:22 PM

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

Blackhawks face Biron looking to snap skid

NEW YORK -- When a team is riding a nine-game losing streak, any breaks are welcome. The Chicago Blackhawks may be catching a minor one Thursday night against the Rangers.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the current favorite for the Vezina Trophy, will get the night off after playing three games in four days. Instead, backup Martin Biron will be in net for the Rangers.

It's not that much of a break, though. Lundqvist is 27-11-4 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, but Biron is 10-2-1 with a 2.03 GAA and .919 save percentage.

The goaltender they'll face won't matter much to the Blackhawks, as they know they're facing one of the best teams in the League.

"They're one of the best teams in the League, if not the best," forward Patrick Kane said. "They play a really hard-working game and have some skill up front we have to be aware of. They're having a great season, and it's nice for them and nice for the League that they've turned it around this year. It's always fun playing the Eastern Conference teams. The game is more up-and-down, fast-paced. Hopefully we can put a few more on the board than them tonight."

Corey Crawford will be in net for the Blackhawks, while defenseman Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson are out. Brendan Morrison and Michael Frolik will be the scratches.

For the Rangers, Ruslan Fedotenko will likely miss his fourth straight game, which means another game up front for defenseman Stu Bickel.

Here are the likely line combinations for each team:

BLACKHAWKS
Patrick Shark - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Brunette - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Viktor Stalberg
Andrew Shaw - Jamal Mayers - John Scott

Duncan Keith - Dylan Olsen
Nick Leddy - Brent Seabrook
Sean O'Donnell - Sami Lepisto

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

RANGERS
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Stu Bickel

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Steve Eminger

Martin Biron
Henrik Lundqvist

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Struggling Crawford will get the nod vs. Rangers

NEW YORK -- Corey Crawford hasn't played since allowing five goals on 27 shots in the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss in San Jose on Friday night.

The goaltender has spent the past five days on the bench as the Blackhawks' losing streak has reached an unwieldy nine games. When asked what he needs to do to get his game on the right track, he gave a straight-forward answer.

"Stopping pucks," Crawford said. "It's as simple as that."
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 11:49 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Lightning to sit Kubina, explore trade options

The Tampa Bay Lightning are holding defenseman Pavel Kubina out of the lineup, and he’s been asked which teams he would be willing to accept a trade to, the team announced Thursday.

Kubina is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and he has a limited no-trade clause. General manager Steve Yzerman told reporters Thursday morning that a trade is not imminent, but Kubina will be scratched from the lineup for the time being.

A 34-year-old defenseman, Kubina has three goals and 11 points for the Lightning this season. He’s in the second of a two-year contract that carries a $3.8 million cap hit. Kubina has played parts of 14 seasons in the NHL and has 953 career games on his resume. He also won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Lightning.

Tampa Bay is currently in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and 10 points out of a spot in the top eight. The Lightning recently had a 6-0-1 stretch that offered a glimmer of hope, but they’ve lost four of five since then.

Yzerman told Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday that he was prepared to make moves for the future.

“We have to look at any opportunity that makes us a stronger organization moving forward based on where we stand today," Yzerman said to Cristodero.

“We're not going to just give our guys away. But if there is an opportunity that makes us a better organization, we're going to consider it.”

One of the biggest holes in the long-term future for the Lightning is the lack of a franchise goaltender. Dwayne Roloson was great last season but has struggled this campaign and is 42 years old, and there isn’t a top goaltending prospect in the system.

Yzerman told reporters Thursday not to expect a solution in the next 11 days though. He called the deadline a “time to replenish [organizational] depth, so prospects, draft choices are [the] priority,” according to Cristodero, and also said the goaltending quandary is “a likely summer project.”
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 9:46 AM

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

Melrose Matchup: Blackhawks at Rangers

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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 9:08 AM

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

Melrose Place: The Detroit Red Wings

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 10:13 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avs' Mueller scratched

VANCOUVER -- Colorado forward Peter Mueller was a late scratch for the Avalanche against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with a torso injury.

Mueller, who has 5 goals and 7 points in his last nine games, missed practice in Colorado on Tuesday for what was described as a maintenance day. He took the pre-game skate Wednesday night before being scratched.

Mueller missed all of last season and 40 games this season because of a concussion. The 23-year-old returned to action on Jan. 12.

Colorado is also still without top forward Matt Duchene, though he is travelling with the team and close to coming back from a Dec. 29 knee injury.


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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 9:42 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ FLA - 4:25 of the Third Period

At 4:25 of the third period in the Senators/Panthers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Brian Campbell's shot went into the net in a legal fashion. Good goal Florida.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 5:11 PM

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

Ex-Caps star Kolzig critical of Ovechkin's game

ARLINGTON, Va. – Even before Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin declined his invite to the NHL All-Star Game while serving a three-game suspension, there were whispers that the former Hart Trophy winner wasn’t deserving of a trip to the midseason classic in the first place.

For the second straight season, Ovechkin’s numbers are well below his career averages. The four-time 50-goal scorer is on pace for 34 goals and a career-low 65 points and the team he captains remains on the outside of a playoff position.

“I think a lot is frustration,” said Ovechkin’s former teammate Olaf Kolzig, now the Capitals’ associate goaltending coach. “Obviously he's not scoring at the clip that he's accustomed to. Part of that is not having Nicklas Backstrom (sidelined since Jan.3 with a concussion) in the lineup.”

While Backstrom’s injury may have something to do with Ovechkin’s recent slide, an argument can be made that Ovechkin has played below expectations for the last year-and-a-half.
 
Along the way, Ovechkin’s ice-time has dropped, new systems have been implemented and coaches have come and gone. The once high flying Capitals have been replaced by a team that aims to win low-scoring contests. Still, Kolzig says the onus is on Ovechkin himself to return to his old form.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 4:57 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks still looking for right third-line mix as Higgins returns

VANCOUVER -- Canucks forward Chris Higgins returns to the lineup after missing six games and losing more than 10 pounds because of a bad reaction to medication for back-to-back staph infections. But he won’t be back on the American Express line -- at least to start.

Rather than return to a second line with fellow U.S.-born forwards Ryan Kesler and David Booth, a trio that has done well in limited time together, Higgins will debut on a new-look third line with Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen.

How long that lasts, however, remains to be seen.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has juggled lines consistently while looking to both spark a team that hasn’t played as well as its current 7-0-3 run might indicate -- only two wins since Jan. 7 have come in regulation -- and trying to find a playoff-worthy third line capable of playing more of a checking role.

"If you look at our template from last year, which was pretty effective, we had two offensive lines with (Henrik) Sedin and Ryan Kesler and a real strong line with Manny (Malhotra) and whoever would play with him," Vigneault said Tuesday, adding he had "a couple more weeks" before the trade deadline to figure it out.

"That enabled me to play them head-to-head against one of the other team's top lines, which freed up either Ryan or Hank to play against a third or fourth line. When we're capable of doing that, it can make it real challenging for the opposition. So we're still trying to figure out where the pieces fit, whether that's the ideal way of doing things or if there is something else out there."

Part of the problem this season is Malhotra has struggled coming back from a career-threatening eye injury that required more surgery and limited offseason training. The other problem is what to do with promising rookie Cody Hodgson, who added an offensive element as the third line center (tied for fourth among first-year scorers with 31 points and second with 15 goals despite playing just 12:45), but has been spending more time on the fourth line of late.

Here are the rest of the expected lines as the Canucks try to extend a 12-0-2 run against the Avalanche that included a shootout win in Colorado 11 days ago:
 
CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Maxim Lapierre - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Cody Hodgson - Byron Bitz
 
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Andrew Alberts - Aaron Rome
 
Roberto Luongo is back in goal and hoping to avoid a seventh-straight shootout, a run that includes beating the Avalanche in the post-overtime tie-breaker. Cory Schneider is the back up.
With Higgins back -- he said he's put gained eight of the 11 or 12 pounds he lost -- the Canucks sent energy forward Mike Duco back to the American Hockey League. Dale Weise also returned to practice Tuesday after missing three games after blocking a shot, only to take a puck off the face and be forced to leave early for stitches. He was back on the ice for an optional morning skate Wednesday wearing a visor, but won’t return against the Avalanche.
 
There hasn’t been much of an update on Keith Ballard, who will miss a fourth game with what is either a concussion or neck injury. He has been riding an exercise bike the last couple of days.
 
AVALANCHE

David Jones - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Peter Mueller
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - T.J. Galiardi
 
Kyle Quincey - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O’Byrne
Shane O’Brien - Tyson Barrie
 
Jean-Sebastien Giguere is back in net after Semyon Varlamov stopped a career-high 41 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis on Sunday.
Colorado center Matt Duchene returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering a knee injury Dec. 29 and joined the team for its three-game road trip, but won’t play when it kicks off in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Ryan Wilson played as a seventh defenseman against the Blues on Sunday, with T.J. Galiardi out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and just 11 forwards in it. But Galiardi will get back into action as the Avalanche try to avoid being shut out by Vancouver for a third time this season after losing 3-0 and 6-0 in their first two matchups. Wilson is expected to sit against the Canucks, allowing rookie Tyson Barrie to play his fourth NHL game in front of more than a dozen family and friends ferrying over from Vancouver Island.
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Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery