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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:
 
DUCKS
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.
 
PENGUINS
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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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 1:18 PM

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

Hot Ducks try to end Pens' success against West

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins keep running into teams that wouldn't make the playoffs if they started now, yet are playing better than most teams in the NHL.
 
On Sunday, they were 4-2 winners against Tampa Bay, which came into the contest with the League's best record over the previous 10 games (7-1-2).
 
Now, they meet the Anaheim Ducks, who went into Wednesday's games eight points out of the Western Conference's final playoff spot. However, the Ducks have earned at least a point in six consecutive games and are 13-2-3 in their last 18 games.
 
The Ducks' 13-3-3 record (29 points) since Jan. 1 ties them with the New York Rangers for the second-best record during this calendar year; the Red Wings have earned 31 points while going 15-4-1.
 
Anaheim also is 2-0-1 during an extended road trip in which it plays eight games in 15 days.
 
Corey Perry, who has a team-leading 27 goals, had a hat trick Sunday against Columbus and has five goals in his last four games. Teemu Selanne, at age 41, has seven goals and 15 points during that 13-3-3 run.
 
"They've got a lot of size up front, good hands and good speed, so you've got to keep them in front of you and play physical on them," Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland said. "You've got to limit their time and space in the zone and get the puck started moving forward so you can go to work."
 
Playing physically also means playing smart, he said.
 
"You can't run out of position to try to get a bit hit on them, because they can make you look awfully bad with the skill they have," Engelland said.
 
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is well aware of the dangers of playing an opponent that knows it can afford very few losses the rest of the way if it is to mount a legitimate run at the playoffs.
 
"Right now they're playing as well as and are as hot as anybody in the League," Bylsma said. "They come at you with a very good goaltender right now in Jonas Hiller, who I expect to see tonight, and they certainly come at you with a lot of speed and power. They're tough."
 
Hiller needed to make only 17 saves as Anaheim clamped down defensively in winning 2-1 at Minnesota on Tuesday. Niklas Hagman, who didn't have a point in nine games, and Perry scored in the third period for the Ducks, who won for the first time all season (1-21-1) when trailing after two periods.
 
Bylsma has some knowledge of the Ducks, of course; he was a forward on their 2003 Stanley Cup finalist team that lost to New Jersey in seven games, a Final in which the home team won every game. Bylsma had 10 goals and 22 assists in 209 regular-season games with Anaheim.
 
The Penguins have been good home and away against the Western Conference, going 8-1-3. 

"I don't have an explanation for that, but I've seen that and I know what our record is," Bylsma said. "We played some very good teams early on and our focus was there."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 1:12 PM

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

Days after first goal, Strachan gets contract extension

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Tyson Strachan's memorable week got even better on Wednesday.

Three days after scoring his first NHL goal in his 75th career game, the 27-year-old Strachan signed a one-year contract extension. And for the first time in his career, it's a one-way deal.

Asked after Florida's morning skate Wednesday whether his week could get any better, Strachan replied: "I didn't buy my lottery ticket, so I don't think so. It's been a huge week. I get a huge goal and that's obviously a huge, exciting moment for me, and then to get the phone call a couple of days ago about a contract and get everything worked out there and just know that they're thinking of me in the plans for the future is an exciting thing for me.

"I'm just excited. That's about the only word that describes it. I'm excited to be part of it and excited to keep moving forward and to get some wins down the stretch."

Strachan, who played 67 games for the St. Louis Blues over the past three seasons, signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Panthers last July. He was recalled in January when injuries starting hitting the Florida blue line.

In eight games with the Panthers, Strachan has 1 goal and 2 assists along with a plus-3 ratio.

"It's deserved," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Tyson Strachan has proven in the last couple of weeks that he certainly doesn't look uncomfortable out there at the NHL level. He has some experience. He's played in a quality organization in St. Louis and has come in here and played in the minors and when the opportunity arose he was certainly prepared for it. Well-deserved contract extension for Tyson Strachan."

Florida will face Ottawa on Wednesday night without regular defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hand), Dmitry Kulikov (knee) and Jason Garrison (lower body). In addition to Strachan, the Panthers also will have recent call-up Colby Robak in the lineup.

Robak played 14:40 in his NHL debut in Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Islanders and finished a plus-2.

"I thought he was fine," Dineen said. "I thought he looked comfortable out there. I thought he responded to a lot of the Islanders' pressure well."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink 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 / 12:33 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: An exciting weekend for hockey in America

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Hockey Weekend Across America and the Columbus Blue Jackets' Jeff Carter are on my mind this week:

What's clicking?

Hockey Weekend Across America is coming up this weekend, and to be honest, I don't know why they didn't start this years ago. This is a great way to introduce hockey awareness to sports fans in the Unites States.

USA Hockey really has moved leaps and bounds ahead of where they were in the 1980s and '90s in their push to make hockey a much more popular sport. To get the awareness of hockey out there has been at the forefront of their mission, which I think is so important. Now NBC has pushed to get kids interested not only in the game, but the rivalries in the game, the logistics in the game, the competition.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 11:12 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Kelowna's Colton Sissons suffers concussion

Might as well add Kelowna Rockets captain Colton Sissons to the long list of coveted 2012 draft prospects suffering from injury or illness this season.

According Dubnation Magazine, Sissons will be sidelined at least one month with a concussion.

The 6-foot-1, 189-pound forward, who is NHL Central Scouting's No. 14-ranked skater in North America, is first in goals (26) and second in points (41) for the Rockets this season. He also has a team-leading 13 power-play goals, and has produced two shorthanded goals.

Sissons was injured in the team's 3-2 loss to the Kamloops Blazers on Feb. 11 at Prospera Place in Kelowna.

There are some scouts who feel Sissons might just be the best two-way forward available in the upcoming draft.

"I definitely look up to a guy like Ryan Kesler," Sissons told NHL.com at the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Feb. 1. "I like watching Mike Richards also. I like those type of guys who are reliable in their own zone and put up numbers in the offensive zone. They're always working and they're always moving their feet. Kesler and Richards are definitely guys I look up to and want to be like one day in the NHL."

Sissons said he could be put in any situation on the ice.

"I could pretty much play any position … wing or center," he said. "I'd prefer center, no doubt about that, but I've been adjusting to wing a lot in my career."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 10:31 AM

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

Report: Five possible destinations for Nash

If the Columbus Blue Jackets were to follow through on any rumored deal for team captain Rick Nash, the Columbus Dispatch lists five potential landing spots.

According to beat writer Aaron Portzline, the teams that have shown the most interest are the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.

Nash has a full no-movement clause in his contract.

Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson has refused to respond directly to any rumors, but told the Dispatch, "We're open to all options to try to improve the team."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 10:04 AM

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

Report: No deal yet for Wild's Zidlicky

Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher on Wednesday told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the club has not asked defenseman Marek Zidlicky to waive his no-trade clause for any specific trade.

The newspaper, along with TSN, reported earlier Wednesday morning that Zidlicky had waived his no-trade clause so the Wild could send him to the New Jersey Devils.

"I haven't asked Zid to waive his no-trade for any specific trade," Fletcher told the newspaper's Mike Russo. "I haven't called him and said anything's close. I can tell you for sure I'm planning on talking to other teams. We haven't traded Zid, we haven't made the decision to trade Zid at this point. I have not formally asked him to do anything because at this point I honestly don't have anything to take to him, I don't have anything for him to say yes or no to."

Fletcher said a deal with New Jersey for Zidlicky could still happen anytime between now and the Feb. 27 deadline, but he just as likely could move Zidlicky to another team, or hold onto him and move him over the summer, or wait even longer.

"Maybe he's here next trade deadline and we're having the same conversation," Fletcher said.

The 35-year-old Zidlicky reportedly has been unhappy with how he's been used by first-year coach Mike Yeo, including being a healthy scratch four straight games between Jan. 21 and Feb. 2. According to the Star Tribune, after the third benching, Jan. 31, Zidlicky told Fletcher he would waive his no-trade clause for a move to the right team.

In 39 games this season, Zidlicky has no goals, 13 assists and a minus-7 rating. He has one year and $4 million remaining on his contract.

The Devils certainly could use a player with Zidlicky's skill set. While he doesn't have any goals this season, 42 of the 60 he's scored in his eight NHL seasons have been on the power play. In the absence of Henrik Tallinder and Adam Larsson, the Devils' power play has slipped to 17th in the NHL at 17.0 percent.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 9:58 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

STL @ CBJ - 19:56 of the Third Period

At 19:56 of the third period in the Blues/Blue Jackets game, video review concluded that David Perron gloved the puck into the net. No goal St. Louis.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 9:29 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYR @ BOS -10:01 of the Third Period

At 10:01 of the third period in the Rangers/Bruins game, video review was used to determine that Dennis Seidenberg's shot never enters the net. No goal Boston.

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I'm hoping Bob [Murray] didn't go out and get Dany Heatley just to get someone. I'm sure he's excited and motivated.

— Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on general manager Bob Murray's decision to sign Dany Heatley