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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 3:20 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues sign Schwartz to entry-level contract

CHICAGO -- There will be no seasoning in the American Hockey League for Jaden Schwartz.

The Blues announced the signing of their first-round pick (No. 14) from 2010, who left Colorado College after his sophomore season, to a three-year, entry-level contract on Monday. Schwartz joined the Blues in Chicago on Monday and will be available to play against the Blackhawks at the United Center on Tuesday night.

Schwartz, 19, completed his second season with the Tigers, picking up 15 goals and adding 26 assists in 30 games after a 17-goal, 47-point season with Colorado College his freshman year, where the left wing led the nation among freshmen in scoring average at 1.56 points per game.

Turning pro was a whirlwind experience for Schwartz and a decision that came rather quickly.

"This opportunity popped up and you can't turn down an opportunity like this," Schwartz said after he arrived at the team hotel. "It's a tough decision. Our season (at Colorado College) ended pretty unexpectedly and this opportunity popped up pretty quick. I didn't have too much time to think about it, but I wanted to turn pro if the opportunity came. For me, it did and I feel very fortunate."

For a family that has struggled with the tragic loss of Mandi Schwartz, Jaden's sister, in the past year, it was welcomed news for Jaden's parents Rick and Carol Schwartz.

"They're super-excited," Schwartz said of his parents. "That's an understatement to say the least. They sacrificed a lot for our family. Hockey's a big part of our lives. We've been through some hard times lately. This is something that definitely makes them smile and I know they're extremely excited for this."

Schwartz was picked to return to Team Canada for the 2012 World Junior Championships in Edmonton and Calgary, being named the team captain, after getting an invitation in 2011 but having that tournament cut short because of a broken left ankle.

He had 2 goals and 5 points in six games, including one goal against Russia in the semifinals when he was named Canada's Player of the Game.

"A tournament like that playing for Canada, there's so many good players to pick across from Canada," Schwartz said. "When you make a team like that and you play an important role, it's going to give you confidence."

The Blues had a decision to make once Schwartz announced his intentions to turn pro -- send him to Peoria and play in the AHL or immediately bring him to St. Louis.

After consideration and consultation with the teams scouts and personnel surrounding the Wilcox, Saskatchewan native while he played at the collegiate level, the Blues decided this is where he belonged.

"We looked at all the options," said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. "When Jaden said he was ready to turn pro, we could have either sent him to Peoria for the rest of the year, or bring him right to the NHL and we had to make a decision. We just felt with his skill-set and our injuries, we thought it was worth signing him and bringing him into St. Louis and keeping him with our team the rest of the year."

How much of that is also based on the concussion injuries to Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini? Armstrong wouldn't say, only stating that the Blues have been consistent with the concussion protocol and that the players haven't told the team they're ready to come back.

Steen has not played since Dec. 27 (34 games), while D'Agostini has been out since Feb. 7 (18 games).

"Obviously with the injuries to D'Agostini and Steen maybe expedited this process," Armstrong said. "If they were healthy, we may not have gone this route. You have to deal with the cards you're playing with and right now, we think that Jaden has a chance to come in and prove to his teammates and the coaches he can help us now."

The Blues did take a gamble in signing Schwartz so late in the season, taking one of three years off his NHL entry-level status (if in Peoria, it would have began next year). But it was a gamble they felt like was worth it.

It also may be telling in that the Blues didn't feel comfortable bringing someone up from the Rivermen to fill a void, if necessary.

"We've had our scouts monitor him closely," Armstrong said of Schwartz. "We've talked to the contacts in his league and talked to all of our scouting staff, and we just felt that where he's at in his career, where he's at in his game and where we're at in our season and with our personnel, it was worth the risk to bring him onto our team."

Then Armstrong caught himself and added: "I don't believe it's a risk because he's going to have a leg up on what to expect in the NHL nest year."

It'll ultimately be up to coach Ken Hitchcock whether Schwartz plays, perhaps as soon as Tuesday against the Blackhawks, but from the sounds of it, the Blues plan to bring him in without throwing Schwartz in the fire.

"We'll want to make him comfortable in the environment before we throw him in," Armstrong said. "Ultimately that will be Ken's decision on when he believes he's ready to play an NHL game. We don't want to put him in a situation that we don't think he can succeed in."

"I was prepared for anything, whether it was the (AHL) or here," Schwartz said. "... It's been a busy couple days, but it's been very exciting.

"It's a dream come true to be in this spot. I'm very thankful to join a team like this that's doing so well and is such a great organization. It's pretty special."

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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 2:05 PM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Oilers

With just two wins in their last 13 games (2-8-3), the San Jose Sharks enter Monday's game in Edmonton (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN) 11th in the Western  Conference, but they're just one point behind eighth-place Calgary, and three behind seventh-place Phoenix.

The Oilers are out of the playoff hunt, but they're relishing their role as potential playoff spoiler.

"You play for pride, for sure," Oilers forward Jordan Eberle told "I think everyone in here is competitive and they’re going to go out here and give their best. I think when it comes down to it you have to find things that motivate you, and personally it's fun to be the spoiler, to try and upset teams and upset what they're trying to do."

Here are the projected lineups the Sharks and Oilers could put on the ice when the teams meet Monday at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Daniel Winnik
Tommy Wingels - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
T.J. Galiardi - Andrew Desjardins - Benn Ferriero

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Jason Demers

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

Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smythe - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Ales Hemsky
Ben Eager - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones
Lennart Petrell - Eric Belanger - Linus Omark

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Ryan Whitney - Nick Schultz
Theo Peckham - Corey Potter

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal, with Nikolai Khabibulin the backup. Dubnyk's last start was March 6, when he stopped 28 of 30 shots in a 3-2 shootout win against the Sharks.
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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 1:16 PM

By Staff -  / - At the Rink blog

Vanek back in lineup for Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have a chance to move into ninth place in the Eastern Conference on Monday when they play the Montreal Canadiens, and they'll get a bit of help in that quest when they get Thomas Vanek back in the lineup.

If the Sabres beat the Canadiens tonight in Buffalo (7 p.m. ET, TSN), they'll jump ahead of idle Winnipeg for ninth place, and move within four points of eighth-place Washington.

Vanek sat out Saturday's game against the Senators after getting hit hard into the boards Thursday by Boston's Johnny Boychuk.

Vanek skated with the Sabres at Monday morning's practice, the first time he'd been on the ice since getting rammed into by Boychuk.

"Each day I got a little bit better," Vanek told the Buffalo News. "Obviously the first couple of days after, just tight and stiff and sore. The last two days, I came a long way so I feel pretty good. I would like to play (Monday); especially this time of year it hurts missing games and watching them. We're not in a position to sit back and relax, obviously."

Vanek is second on the team with 23 goals and 50 points, but in 27 games since the calendar flipped to 2012, he has just 5 goals and 11 points.
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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 11:50 AM

By Matt Dumba -  Special to / - Matt Dumba draft blog

Dumba: Still pushing hard to finish season

Matt Dumba is a defenseman for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. The 5-foot-11.75, 183-pound defenseman was named WHL Rookie of the Year after scoring 15 goals and adding 11 assists in 62 games. He also had a tournament-high 12 points -- all assists -- to help Canada Pacific win the bronze medal at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. This summer, he played for Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament and also took part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Dumba has offered to maintain a monthly blog for that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

It's been a rough month for us here in Red Deer, but it's nice to finally be home.

With the Scotties here in Red Deer -- it's the Canadian women's curling championship -- we got kicked out of our rink for two and a half weeks. So we made our swing out west and then back east. We played some really good teams and we're happy with the record we had on the road. Lately we've been .500, but the team's been working hard and it's been good to see.

We won't be making the playoffs this season -- we were eliminated over the weekend -- but with three games left, it's a matter of working hard and competing in the situation we're in and making the most of it.

Being on the road, it's tough. It wears on you, your body. Every game we played, we came out and worked and battled as hard as we should have and gave ourselves an opportunity to win almost every game. The coaching staff was happy about that and we're happy we showed that consistent work ethic.

And we were able to play well with so many guys injured. It's almost a joke. We laugh about it, how many injuries we have. Eight or nine regulars have been out. We only had four defensemen for about a month or something and we've been playing with five defensemen ever since. But it's been fun logging those minutes and I'm happy I'm helping my teammates out the best I can.

I'm pretty happy with my game. I think it's been really consistent. Throughout the games on the road there were times where there were a couple games where as a team we weren't playing our best hockey and I had one game in there where I didn't play my best. But beside that, the last month has been really good. I've been feeling really good, been battling and competing, doing all the little things my team has asked for.

We did have some fun on the road. We had a 20-hour bus ride from Vancouver to Prince Albert, and some of the older guys, the second-year veterans and some of the other guys, we stayed up and got our shaving cream and got a bunch of the guys while they were sleeping.

Our focus right now is taking it one day at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time. That's what we emphasize around here. If you win or lose, the big thing is knowing that you went out there and gave your all. Be able to look your teammates in the face and look in the mirror at the end of the night and be satisfied with your effort, know you couldn't have done any more.

Thanks for reading.
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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 10:58 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to / - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: March 12

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

Wins to
earn 8th
8th 69 76 13 89 8

9th 69 72 13 84 10
10th 69 72 13 84 10
11th 68 69 14 82 11
12th 69 68 13 79 12
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 69 76 13 88 8

9th 69 76 13 88 8
10th 70 76 12 88 8
11th 67 75 15 90 9

The skinny: Buffalo finds itself in the thick of a Stanley Cup Playoff race, four points behind the Washington Capitals, who currently hold the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Beating the teams below you in the standings and those with whom you are competing for a playoff spot becomes paramount at this point of the season.

While the projection may look daunting for the Sabres, they control their destiny with a game against Montreal on Monday (7 p.m. ET, TSN), followed by Florida and Tampa Bay before meeting Montreal again in nine days.

That run of games is pivotal for the Sabres because they play the Capitals on March 27, but it will not be a game of meaning if Buffalo doesn't obtain points in this critical stretch of games, which include three contests against teams currently out of the playoff picture.

San Jose finds itself out of the playoff picture as the week opens -- when was the last time that was the case?

The perennial Pacific Division champions have entered into a fight for their playoff lives.

That being said, the Sharks still project to the No. 8 position in the Western Conference -- largely based on having games in hand against the other teams in contention.

One of those games is Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN), a team well below them in the standings. A win can give the Sharks a bit of breathing room as they head to Calgary to face the surging Flames on Tuesday.

Two wins by the Sharks and they can re-enter the race for first in the Pacific.

That's how fast things can change as the regular season enters its final stage.

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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 9:00 AM

By Pat LaFontaine -  Special to / - Making of a Royal

LaFontaine talks about the N.Y. State Tournament

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, head coach Pat LaFontaine talks about the upcoming N.Y. State Tournament in Buffalo. On March 16, the Long Island Royals face the Hamburg (N.Y.) Hawks and the following day, the Syracuse Nationals.

As a 15-year-old team last year, we went to the final game and lost to the Buffalo Regals. We had beaten them in the first game but then ended up getting three or four kids injured, and ended up beaten up at that time. It was kind of a learning experience for the kids at 15, and we almost won it.

As coaches, we want to see the growth and the kids climb individually and collectively as a team and you do that through experience and adversity and through practice in trying to work hard, get better and improve all the time. Looking back, everything started in May and June in off-ice workouts and we got off to a good start and that carried over. We finished 49-5-3 and had a few bumps in the road, but through it all, we had a lot of learning experiences.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 8:37 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

STL @ CBJ 17:28 of the Third Period

At 17:28 of the third period in the Blues/ Blue Jackets game, video review confirmed the referee's call on the ice that Rick Nash's shot never crosses the goal line. No goal Columbus.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 7:47 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYI @ NYR - 11:15 of the First Period

At 11:15 of the first period in the Islanders/Rangers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck deflected off John Tavares  and entered the net in a legal fashion. Good goal Islanders.

According to rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body , in any manner, the goal shall be allowed."
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 7:34 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CAR @ FLA -17:00 of Third Period

At 17:00 of the third period in the Hurricanes/Panthers game, video review was used to determine that Jerred Smithson kicked the puck into the net with his left skate. No goal Florida.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 6:06 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - At the Rink blog

Bobrovsky to start against Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will get his first start in almost a month on Sunday when the Philadelphia Flyers visit Prudential Center for an Atlantic Division showdown against the New Jersey Devils.
The Flyers scored a 1-0 shootout victory less than 24 hours earlier behind Ilya Bryzgalov's fifth shutout of the season. It was Bryzgalov's 11th straight start between the pipes. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told the media prior to faceoff that Bobrovsky would get the nod -- Bryzgalov is the likely starter on Tuesday in Philadelphia when the Flyers close out the home-and-home set with the Devils.
Bryzgalov is 8-2-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and three shutouts in Philadelphia's last 11 games -- including a no-decision. He's posted a 0.99 GAA and two of the shutouts during the Flyers' current five-game winning streak.
"We talked about this, looking at the schedule and what was coming up," Laviolette said. "The back-to-back and the fact Bryz has played 11 in a row, every other night, pretty much. It's a chance to get a fresh goaltender in there."
Bobrovsky, who last started Feb. 18 in a 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, is 12-8-1 with a 2.99 GAA and .900 save percentage in 24 appearances for the Flyers this season. He is 1-1-1 with a 4.71 GAA and .864 save percentage in three career games against New Jersey.
"You look at the schedule and what you have available, we got a guy who has been waiting and wants to get in there and play and this is a perfect spot to get him in there, as opposed to running Bryz down," Laviolette said.
Bobrovsky had lost four of the five starts he made in February.
The Flyers are 2-0-1 against the Devils in 2011-12 and have won five of eight and eight of the last 12 meetings. New Jersey has won its last two at the Wells Fargo Center, including a 4-3 shootout decision when the teams last met on Nov. 3.
The Devils will counter with Martin Brodeur in goal. Brodeur is 44-29-9 in 83 career games against the Flyers with a 2.50 GAA, .904 save percentage and nine shutouts.
Here are the projected lineups for each team:
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Steve Bernier
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky
Brodeur will start and Johan Hedberg, who earned a 23-save, 2-1 victory on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, will serve as backup.
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Max Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo
Jody Shelley - Eric Wellwood - Brayden Schenn
Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Erik Gustafsson
Brandon Manning - Andreas Lilja
Bobrovsky gets the start in goal, with Bryzgalov serving as backup.

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