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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 3:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers shoot for season-best four-game win streak

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers have regained first place in the Southeast Division thanks to their current three-game winning streak. But they'll be going for a rare feat Wednesday night when they play host to the Ottawa Senators.

A victory would give Florida its first four-game winning streak since March of 2008, when the Panthers won seven in a row in a futile late attempt at a playoff run.

To put in perspective just how long it’s been, the only current Panthers player who was on that team was center Stephen Weiss.

"It would be nice," Weiss said. "Those are where you really make ground up or separate yourself when you can string together five-plus games in a row. That would be huge. But as soon as you start thinking about it, your feet stop moving and your head takes over. We've just got to play as if we've lost three in a row and have that killer instinct and make sure we're ready to go for our first shift and take it from there."

More important than the streak, a victory Wednesday night would increase the Panthers' lead over Washington in the Southeast Division to six points, with a matchup between the teams looming Friday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

"We've got to keep the ball rolling," said center Shawn Matthias, who played four games for the Panthers in 2007-08 but was back in the AHL during the long winning streak. "That was the last time they made a real good push at the end. We're getting near the end here and we've got to keep pushing strong and we need to put a little streak together here to secure ourselves some space between us and the rest of the teams in our division."

In putting together their 27-17-11 record, the team's best 55-game mark since 2000, the Panthers have had three three-game winning streaks, including this one.

The first two ended with overtime losses, against Tampa Bay at home in November and at Buffalo in December.

While Coach Kevin Dineen isn't focusing on the winning streak, he is happy with the way his team has been playing of late.

"We get players that are feeling good about themselves, it makes our job easier," Dineen said. "Our video meeting (Tuesday) morning was really positive and you're able to build up on a lot of things. You're not searching for things, either, it's there and it shows up on the scoreboard and it shows up in their play. There's some positives to keep working on right now."

Dineen said after Wednesday's morning skate he hadn't decided whether to go with Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen in net to try to extend the streak.

Theodore returned Sunday after missing eight games with a knee injury and allowed only one goal on 27 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Islanders. Clemmensen, meanwhile, also gave up only one goal in the first two victories of the current winning streak -- against Los Angeles and at New Jersey.

Here is the Panthers' projected lineup for Wednesday night:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Jack Skille - John Madden - Matt Bradley

Brian Campbell - Mike Weaver
Keaton Ellerby - Erik Gudbranson
Colby Robak - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 3:44 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ex-Babcock assistant MacLean lauds Red Wings' feat

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As he talked to reporters while most of his players took advantage of an optional morning skate to engage in a friendly soccer competition, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean was asked about the Detroit Red Wings' record 21-game home winning streak.

MacLean is in his first season with the Senators, who take on the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night, after spending the previous six years as an assistant with the Red Wings.

With MacLean helping out Mike Babcock behind the bench, the Red Wings accomplished many things during those six seasons -- including winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 -- but he had to watch this one from the outside.

"It's disappointing ... I guess they haven't missed me," MacLean joked before reflecting on his former organization's latest feat.

"Anytime you can set new recrods for an organization like that that's been around so long and has set so many records, it's a testament to the continuity of the players and the continuity of the whole thing, from Mr. Ilitch (owner Mike Ilitch) all the way down to the training staff. A lot of people have been there a long time, and continuity and loyalty has a lot to do with it."

MacLean, who also spent one of his 11 seasons as an NHL player with the Red Wings (1988-89), said he wasn't surprised by Detroit's success despite an aging roster. The Red Wings sit atop the overall League standings with 80 points.

MacLean was asked how long he thought the Red Wings could remain contenders, and he pointed to seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom.

"It's hard to say," MacLean said. "When No. 5 decides not to play anymore, I think there could be a difference in their team at that point because of the element that he brings and the leadership that he brings. It's pretty huge. But they have some other quality people that are there, so who knows? At this point in time, I wouldn't be betting on them taking a nosedive anytime soon."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 3:24 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Things change, but Sens' streak vs. Panthers remains

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Players and coaches have changed over the last two years, but what has remained constant is Ottawa's dominance over the Florida Panthers.

When the teams meet Wednesday at the BankAtlantic Center, the Senators will try to make it nine in a row in the series.

Ottawa already has beaten Florida twice this season at home, a last-minute 4-3 victory Oct. 27 and a 4-3 overtime win Dec. 22.

The streak is tied for third-longest active run by one team against an opponent.

Boston has beaten Edmonton 10 consecutive times; Calgary has nine-game streaks against Edmonton and Colorado; and Vancouver has won its last nine games against Toronto. In addition to Ottawa's run against Florida, Montreal has an eight-game win streak against Phoenix and San Jose has an eight-game win streak against Philadelphia.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was asked whether he could provide an explanation for the dominance.

"No, I can't," he said. "There's been a few different coaches the last few years here. I've been through times where we couldn't buy a win in this building, either. We know they're a feisty team and we're ready for that. We don't expect it to be an easy night and we know we have to put our work boots on to have a chance. We haven't played them here this year and we know they play really well at home. This will be a really tough challenge for us to keep that streak going."

The last time the Panthers beat Ottawa was Jan. 9, 2010, when Tomas Vokoun stopped 24 shots in a 3-0 victory. Rostislav Olesz had two goals and Nathan Horton had the other.

Vokoun now plays for Washington, Horton is with Boston, and Olesz is playing for the Chicago Blackhawks' AHL team.

"You know what? I didn't even know they beat us eight in a row until you told me," said Panthers center Shawn Matthias. "We don't really pay attention to those things. As a player, you don't want to. Obviously, we know they're a very good opponent and we know what has happened this year against them in those two games at their rink. We know we've got to put a full 60 minutes in and if you take any time off against these guys or get in the penalty box, they're deadly."

Craig Anderson was in net for Ottawa for both of the Florida games, and he's enjoyed great success on his own against his former team.

Vokoun's backup in 2008 and 2009, Anderson has faced the Panthers eight times with Colorado and Ottawa in the past three seasons. He's 6-0-1 in those eight games against Florida. His 2.22 goals-against average against the Panthers is more than half a goal better than his career GAA of 2.81.

"It's a building where I've played a lot," Anderson said of BankAtlantic Center. "You get comfortable in a spot where you know you're just going to play well. Hopefully that continues.

"Most of the guys I've played with on this team are no longer here. It's tough to really know the guys. Obviously I know the area, I know the building, I know the fans, but players always change. It's just another game, another two points against a team we need to beat to get into the playoffs."

For Coach Kevin Dineen, the streak is irrelevant.

"It's not something that we really concern ourselves with," he said. "It's really our next game. If you look back historically, there's a lot of changeover in personnel, including our coaching staff. It makes for a very respectful opponent, but certainly we feel that when we play Panthers hockey that we can be a successful team."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 2:46 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Kostitsyn hasn't asked Canadiens for a trade -- yet

BROSSARD, Que. -- Impending unrestricted free agent Andrei Kostitsyn says he has not asked the Montreal Canadiens to trade him in spite of greatly diminished ice time that bottomed out at a season-low 4:20 in Monday night's loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

But he says he might just do that if his situation does not change soon.

"Not yet," Kostitsyn said Wednesday when asked if he's requested a trade. "But we'll see in the next couple of games."

Kostitsyn just turned 27 on Feb. 3 and is playing out a contract that pays him $3.25 million. He scored 26 goals in his first full NHL season in 2007-08 but has never been able to match that total, though he topped the 20-goal mark in two of his previous three seasons.

He also brings a physical dimension to the game, topping 100 hits in each of the past four seasons and leading the Canadiens with 140 last season.

This season Kostitsyn has 12 goals and 12 assists in 47 games but he has hit a major dry spell with just 1 goal and 1 assist in his last eight games. Over his last four games, Kostitsyn's ice time has gone from 14:30 to 12:08 to 11:15 and finally to 4:20 on Monday.

"It's tough when you sit on the bench, you just (watch) the game. … You're freezing on the bench," Kostitsyn said. "I can't do anything in four minutes. If he gives me more ice time, I can show how I can play."

"He" is Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth, who explained the reason Kostitsyn was benched Monday night was because he committed turnovers on three consecutive shifts.

"The coach is probably thinking I'm the one guy on the team that (commits) turnovers or loses the puck," Kostitsyn said. "That's why maybe he put me on the bench."

Cunneyworth said he wants Kostitsyn and his center Scott Gomez to "play the right way" if they want to earn more ice time.

"I understand what he wants," Kostitsyn said. "He wants us to chip the puck and put the puck behind the defensemen and play in their zone. I tried to do that last game, but I still stayed on the bench. Nothing different."

Cunneyworth would not confirm whether Kostitsyn or Gomez would suit up for Wednesday night's game against the Boston Bruins.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 2:34 PM

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

Boudreau faces Pens for first time since joining Ducks

PITTSBURGH -- The Anaheim Ducks' record has improved substantially since Bruce Boudreau took over as coach on Nov. 30, and that doesn't surprise Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke in the least.
During the last five years, the Penguins and Boudreau's former team, the Washington Capitals, maintained one of the NHL's best and most competitive rivalries outside of division play.
With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading Pittsburgh and Alex Ovechkin a threat to score in every game for Washington, Capitals-Penguins games often were among the highlights of every regular season.
Pittsburgh's come-from-behind victory in a memorable seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal in 2009, when the Capitals won the first two games at home and Game 6 in Pittsburgh, yet couldn't win the series, helped propel the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup in 17 years.
The Penguins won't see Boudreau nearly as much now that he is coaching in the Western Conference, but they know what to expect Wednesday night at the Consol Energy Center.
The Ducks are 16-11-5 since Boudreau replaced former Stanley Cup winner Randy Carlyle as coach following a 6-13-4 start. They are 13-2-3 in their last games, gaining at least a point in 16 of 18 games, and they've moved to within eight points of the Western Conference's final playoff spot.
"They're in desperation mode. They are making a push to get into the playoffs. They didn’t have the start that they wanted, but they've played unbelievable the last 18-20 games," Cooke said. "I give Bruce credit and the team credit for responding to a new coach. We're going to have to be at our best to beat them."
Before Dale Hunter replaced him in Washington, Boudreau's Capitals beat the Penguins 3-2 in overtime Oct. 13 at Consol.
The Ducks, who are 6-1-3 in their last 10 road games, won 2-1 at Minnesota on Tuesday night. They did not practice in advance of their first game in Pittsburgh over the last two seasons.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has opposed Boudreau's teams regularly, dating back to their time together when Bylsma coached for the Penguins' Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) farm club and Boudreau was with Hershey.
"I see some Bruce Boudreau coaching in their team, how they are playing," Bylsma said. "They've always been tough games. I think Bruce has had great teams and great success. You see that now in his record. His teams are playing really hard and playing really well. … We're expecting a team that’s playing really well and coming at you in a lot of different ways."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 2:29 PM

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

Oilers' Smyth not going anywhere

The Edmonton Oilers might have some trades to make in the next couple of weeks, but veteran forward Ryan Smyth will not be a part of them.

Smyth met Wednesday with Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, according to several reporters in Edmonton, and made sure it was known that he doesn’t want to go anywhere.

"It was nice to clear the air and settle everything. I'm staying put," Smyth said, according the team’s official Twitter feed. "I came back (to the Oilers) for a reason. As a family, we're happy here and I love being an Oiler. Family is the most important thing."

Added Tambellini: "I have no plans to move Ryan Smyth. Ryan has made it clear that he wants to stay here and play for the Oilers."

Smyth, who turns 36 next week, has a no-movement clause and can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He returned to Edmonton this past summer in a trade from Los Angeles after spending two seasons with the Kings, two in Colorado and part of one with the New York Islanders.

Before that, Smyth played his first 11 seasons with Edmonton, and collected four 30-goal seasons before leaving the first time. He has 16 goals and 36 points this season, and has proven to be a valuable mentor to the team’s emerging stars.

"My ultimate goal is to sign a new contract with the Oilers, ideally before the trade deadline," Smyth told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal. "Yeah, I want that."

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 2:10 PM

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

Bylsma marvels at play of ageless Selanne

PITTSBURGH -- To Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne isn't aging as he approaches his 42nd birthday. Rather, his play suggests he is ageless.
No matter the era, no matter the opponent, no matter the arena.
During an NHL career that began 20 years ago, Selanne has scored in a remarkable 52 arenas -- or nearly every rink in which the League has played during that time. He's missed out only on the Prudential Center in Newark, the MTS Centre in Winnipeg and Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Selanne can't cross Winnipeg off his list during this regular season; he had a pair of assists but did not score a goal when his Ducks played their only game of the season there Dec. 17, losing 5-3.
But he has a chance this week to score in both Consol and the Prudential Center as the Ducks continue an eight-game road trip that takes them to Pittsburgh on Wednesday and New Jersey on Friday.

Anaheim did not play in Pittsburgh last season, when Consol replaced the Civic Arena as the Penguins' home rink.
Selanne's scoring touch has not disappeared even though he is only five months away from his 42nd birthday; he ranks 19th in the League in scoring with 18 goals and 33 assists for 51 points in 56 games. He also is a plus-5.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, himself a former Anaheim player, is the same age (41) as Selanne, yet he hasn't played in the NHL since the 2003-04 season.
"I've watched, played against, played with and then went back to watching Teemu," Bylsma said Wednesday. "I think when things changed in the game, it allowed him not to have to adjust. Since the (2004-05) lockout, when the rules changed and the speed of the game (increased), it looks like he's gotten faster at the ripe old age of 38, 39, 40, 41. He was able to utilize some of the things that maybe I saw him do when he was a Duck and I was playing with the Kings."
To Bylsma, Selanne is one of those rare players whose skills seem to improve the longer they play.
"He's got a rare gift of speed and shooting and scoring ability," Bylsma said. "He's also a guy who if you didn't think he's a physical player, you're wrong. He doesn't run you over, but he can play physically down low, he can reverse-shoulder you and knock you off your feet. He can drive the net. He's got a lot of power in his game. And that is not real evident when you see the guy flying up the ice."
Bylsma also suggested that Selanne may have benefitted from the transition from the traditional wooden stick to the now-popular composite stick.
"I know we used to give him a lot of grief for having a muffin of a shot," Bylsma said. "We used to scream 'Muffin!' He had a wood stick then and his shot wasn't the greatest, but he's got a goal scorer's touch. His shot's pretty lethal now. The stick maybe helped him out a little bit there, but he's always that goal-scoring touch."
Selanne has had plenty of success against the Penguins, getting 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points in 20 career games. He also is a plus-11.
Selanne also has a couple of other milestones awaiting him; he needs one goal to match Brendan Shanahan for 12th place in career goals (656) and is two from tying Luc Robitaille for fourth place in career power-play goals (247).
Selanne has 15 points, including 7 goals, as Anaheim has gone 13-2-3 in its last 18 games. The Ducks rallied to win 2-1 at Minnesota on Tuesday, scoring twice twice in the third period.
"Teemu Selanne, it's a marvel to watch him skate up the ice still," Bylsma said. "He's leading them in points. He's dangerous, and the team is playing very well right now."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 2:04 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Senators want to follow up on Tuesday's solid effort

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Coming off an impressive 4-0 victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean saw no need to make any lineup changes for the back end of the Florida trip Wednesday night.

That means that Craig Anderson, who stopped 28 shots against the Lightning, again will be in net against the Panthers, a team for which he played from 2006-09.

Ottawa will go into the game against Florida with a solid 5-4-3 record in the second of back-to-back games, and the easy victory over Tampa Bay was the perfect setup.

"For back-to-back games, I'm not sure it could have been better, the way things went for us, having a lead and being able to play everybody and not chasing the game," MacLean said. "We were ahead the whole game and we were able to manage minutes way better than if you were chasing the game. Tonight our expectation is that we should be up and running and ready to go."

The Senators have been up and running since a seven-game losing streak where they managed one goal or less five times. Ottawa is 2-0-1 in its last three, with a victory over Nashville and an overtime loss against Edmonton.

In those three games, the Senators scored 11 goals, two more than during their losing streak.

"We've talked about it," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We've always struggled getting off to good starts. We've been doing that the last few games. We're up and the other team has to go a little bit more on offense and that opens up more chances. So getting that first goal is a big reason why."

The Senators will try to wrap up a memorable father-son trip against the Panthers. MacLean invited the fathers into the locker room for his pregame speech Tuesday night, but he wasn't sure whether he'd do it again on Wednesday.

One of those parents on the trip is Mike Foligno, father of Nick Foligno and a longtime NHL player. Mike Foligno's 14-year career, incidentally, ended with a 39-game stint with the Panthers in their inaugural season in 1993-94.

"I just thought it was a great opportunity for the dads to really see what their sons have to go through when it comes to gettting prepared for a game and the detail that goes into it," MacLean said. "It's not just put your skates on and tape the stick and go out and play. There's a lot more work involved in the preparation part of playing in the National Hockey League."

Alfredsson said preparation could make the difference against the Panthers.

"We know that we're not a superstar team where we can go on three out of six cylinders and win," he said. "We have to fire on five or six to win games, and then really pay attention to details. Playing last night as well, it's even more important when it's back-to-back games. Mentally, our focus has to be really good for us to have a chance to win."

Here is Ottawa's projected lineup:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Jared Cowen - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 1:58 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Isles' Parenteau wants to focus on wins, not contract

TSN is reporting New York Islanders forward PA Parenteau, who is fifth in the League with 39 assists, will table any talk of a contract extension until after the season.

"This contract is going to be my only big one left," Parenteau recently told Newsday. "I want to make sure I'll be paid at my value. Having said that, I love it here and I've said all along I'd love to stay here."

Parenteau, who signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract over the summer, is second on the team with 51 points, two shy of matching the career-best 53-point output he had last season.

Parenteau's agent, Allan Walsh, told TSN that while his client would rather focus on winning hockey games than talking contract, they would listen if the Islanders made a contract proposal between now and the end of the regular season. He added the goal is to have a deal in place before July 1.

"He's made it very clear from the outset that he's highly motivated to stay with the New York Islanders," Parenteau's agent, Allan Walsh told TSN.ca via e-mail. "The Islanders gave him his first real opportunity to thrive in the NHL, he has a fantastic relationship with his teammates, the coaches, (GM) Garth Snow and the fans. Most importantly, PA sees the Islanders trending up and believes they will be a contending team for many years to come.

"With that being said, the Islanders are currently six points out of a playoff spot. Now is the time to play hockey, not to discuss or focus on contracts. When the season is over, I'm sure both parties will work diligently towards an agreement that will insure a mutual long term commitment to one another."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 1:23 PM

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

Lineups for rare Ducks visit to Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- Wednesday's game will be Anaheim's first in the Consol Energy Center, and the first matchup between the franchises since Anaheim won 3-2 on Nov. 5, 2010 at the Honda Center, getting goals from Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu and Bobby Ryan.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, however, has plenty of first-hand information about the Penguins, having started the season as the Washington Capitals' coach. The Boudreau-coached Capitals beat the Penguins 3-2 in overtime at Consol on Oct. 13
While they play infrequently, the Penguins are 5-1-1 in their last seven against the Ducks, who have dropped four straight in Pittsburgh since last winning there Oct. 6, 2001.
Bylsma shook up his defense pairings following an 8-5 win against Winnipeg on Saturday, breaking up the Paul Martin-Zbynek Michalek duo that had played together much of the last two seasons. Bylsma paired Martin with Engelland and Michalek with Matt Niskanen in Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he is expected to stay with that configuration against Anaheim.
While the Penguins had an optional morning skate Wednesday that was attended by 12 players, the Ducks stayed off the ice following the late-night flight from Minnesota after their win there Tuesday.
The projected lineups:
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - George Parros
Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank
Jonas Hiller will start in goal, with Jeff Deslauriers the backup. Hiller is 1-2-0 with a 3.70 goals-against average in three career games against Pittsburgh.
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Cal O'Reilly - Dustin Jeffrey
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Richard Park
Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Zbynek Michalek
Paul Martin - Deryk Engelland
Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal, with Brent Johnson the backup. Fleury will be playing for the 28th time in 30 games, although Johnson started twice in the previous six games.  Fleury is 15-9-1 during that stretch, twice taking over for Johnson during losses.
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Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players