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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 4:07 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avs' Duchene back skating with teammates

Matt Duchene, who hasn't played since Dec. 29 due to a left knee injury, skated in practice for the first time since getting hurt.

According to the Denver Post, he was wearing an orange (non-contact) jersey, Duchene at least was happy to be back on the ice with his teammates.

On his personal Twitter account, Duchene posted: "Felt great to skate with the boys again after 6 1/2 weeks! Can't wait to get back in the lineup now."

That might not happen for at least a bit. The newspaper reports that it's unlikely he plays in the Avs' next game, Wednesday in Vancouver, but he will be on the team's three-game road trip, that includes stops in Edmonton and Winnipeg.

In 39 games, Duchene has 12 goals and 12 assists. The Avalanche, who started the week 10th in the Western Conference, two points out of a playoff spot, certainly could use another gifted offensive player in the lineup.

"He looked good out there," Paul Stastny told the newspaper. "It's good to see him with a smile on his face, and hopefully he can be back with us real soon."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 3:48 PM

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

Noel trying to get Jets 'over the hump'

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel spent his day off Sunday stewing over his club's 8-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon.

"It was really disappointing for me," Noel said Monday. "That was a hard game to watch, coach, to be a part of. I was really disappointed. It was not a good plane ride home."

Typically a defensively sound team that struggles to score, the Jets posted five goals against the Penguins but lost in trying to keep up with the Penguins in a run-and-gun affair.

"I didn't like the game for a lot of reasons," said Noel. "I wasn't quite sure what we were doing. I didn't get it there."

But Noel’s mood had brightened by the time the Jets reconvened at the MTS Centre on Monday morning for a lengthy -- and animated -- practice session. The Jets who trail the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead by seven points and the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs by four points, will host the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

The Washington Capitals sit in ninth place, three points ahead of the 10th-place Jets. The Capitals and Panthers each have two games in hand on Winnipeg, while the Maple Leafs have played one fewer game than the Jets. With two weeks to go before the NHL trade deadline, and the Panthers and Capitals threatening to pull away, the Jets do not have much of a luxury of allowing themselves time to resolve their problems.

"It is perplexing to a degree," Noel said of the Jets' performance in Pittsburgh, "but I think I understand it, so I'm trying to solve it."

If the Jets are to continue their playoff push, they will need a strong performance at home this week. After Thursday's game at Minnesota, the Jets will remain in Winnipeg for an eight-game homestand that will span nearly three weeks. After meeting the Wild, the Jets will play 11 of 13 games at the MTS Centre.

However, despite having won two of their past three games, the Jets have not been able to cross into the Eastern Conference's top eight, nor have they been able to assemble any semblance of consistency since their franchise-record 10-3-1 mark in December.

"The disappointing thing for me is that we're at the hump," Noel said, "and we can't get over the hump. I keep trying to push us over the hump. But we can't, and that is the frustrating thing for me, trying to get over that hump, and that is the challenge."
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 3:32 PM

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

Detroit's Franzen misses Monday practice

DETROIT -- A day after scoring the game-winning goal and adding an assist in a historic win for the Detroit Red Wings, forward Johan Franzen missed Monday's practice at Joe Louis Arena.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked about Franzen's status after practice, and said the skilled Swedish power forward was "fine."

Franzen, however, was seen with his ankle taped in the locker room. He also had an ankle injury in a first-round playoff series last spring against the Phoenix Coyotes, which he said gave him problems all summer while trying to do conditioning work.

In his place on Monday, Babcock had fourth-line right wing Tomas Holmstrom play on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi, while defenseman Mike Commodore took Holmstrom's shifts on the fourth line.

Franzen leads Detroit with 22 goals and leads the NHL with 10 game-winning goals -- including a goal early in the third that held up as the winner in Sunday's 4-3 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers that gave the Wings their NHL record-tying 20th straight home win.

The 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers also won that many in a row in one season. As for Franzen’s goal, it remained a topic of conversation a day later for its sheer beauty.

Set up by crisp passes from fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, it was a tic-tac-toe play that finished with Franzen streaking to the back side of the net and tapping home a perfect pass from Lidstrom.



"I know (Franzen) is there when (Zetterberg's) got the puck," said Lidstrom, whose perfectly placed one-time snap pass went right onto Franzen's stick blade. "The play started in their left corner, so that's when I sort of slid down their back side and I knew 'Mule' (Franzen) was standing there. As soon as I saw the puck coming to me, I saw their (defenseman) sort of leaving him, too. I just tried to put it in there. It could've been close to his skate and he could've missed it, too. I tried to get it there quick, so the goalie didn't have a chance to get back."

Everything worked perfectly, of course, and looking back on it a day later was fun to admire. It was one of those pretty goals that players love and coaches are leery of -- for fear their team will start trying for them all the time rather than getting "dirty" goals off tips and rebounds.

"It is fun," Lidstrom said of the goal. "It doesn’t happen all that often where you can make plays like that, but the opportunity was there and we took advantage of it."
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 3:30 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames' Backlund out 4-6 weeks

The Calgary Flames, two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, will have a bit of a harder time making up that ground now with center Mikael Backlund expected to miss 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury.

The team made the announcement today, but did not say when Backlund was injured. According to the Calgary Herald, the injury could have occurred in the second period of Saturday's game against the Canucks, when Backlund challenged Vancouver's Andrew Alberts to a fight after Alberts hit linemate Blake Comeau. Backlund played just 7:05 in the game, and sat out the final 15:30 of the second period and all of the third.

Backlund has four goals and seven assists in 41 games this season.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 3:20 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Habs aim for fifth straight win vs. resurgent Canes

MONTREAL -- The Carolina Hurricanes will look to prevent the Montreal Canadiens from establishing a new season high with a fifth straight win when the two clubs meet tonight at Bell Centre.

The game marks the return of Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek to Montreal, while Canadiens defenseman Tomas Kaberle will also be facing his former teammates for the first time since the trade involving he and Spacek on Dec. 9.

The Hurricanes come in on a nice roll of their own with a 6-2-4 record in their last 12 games, and aside from long-term casualties Brian Boucher in goal and Joni Pitkanen on defense, they are also arriving healthy.

The Canadiens' lineup for this game will be a lot of guesswork beyond starting goaltender Carey Price, who will face Cam Ward in the Hurricanes net.

A lower-body injury to Yannick Weber and Travis Moen re-aggravating an upper-body injury last week that had previously cost him five games led the Canadiens to call up Ryan White and Ian Schultz from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL on Sunday evening.

White has missed the whole season recovering from hernia surgery in training camp, but he played three games in three days while on a conditioning stint in Hamilton and playing Monday would be his fourth game in as many days. Still, he appeared determined to go even though coach Randy Cunneyworth called his status a game-time decision.

Schultz's status is the same after his surprise call-up left the Canadiens with 13 healthy forwards. The most likely scenario would see White return and Schultz left aside while one of Chris Campoli or Raphael Diaz would be scratched on defense. Or Cunneyworth could go with seven defensemen as he has for much of this winning streak and also scratch Aaron Palushaj along with Schultz up front.

Frankly, all scenarios are equally possible for the Canadiens, so with that in mind here are the possible lineups for tonight's game:

HURRICANES

Tuomo Ruutu - Eric Staal - Jiri Tlusty
Jussi Jokinen - Jeff Skinner - Jerome Samson
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Chad LaRose

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Justin Peters

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Tomas Plekanec - Rene Bourque
Ryan White - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Andrei Kostitsyn - Scott Gomez

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Chris Campoli

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 2:52 PM

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

Wings say Hawks still dangerous

DETROIT -- Their own team is atop the NHL standings and riding a League-record 20-game home winning streak, but Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom and coach Mike Babcock have noticed what's happening in the Windy City.

The Chicago Blackhawks have gone winless in eight straight games (0-7-1). In that span they've fallen from the top spot in the Western Conference -- and top of the League at one point -- all the way to sixth in the West and fourth in the Central Division.

That slide has rumors about the status of Hawks coach Joel Quenneville swirling, but Chicago GM Stan Bowman told Comcast SportsNet Chicago on Monday that Quenneville's job is safe and he's the guy going forward.

In Detroit on Monday, Lidstrom and Babcock each said it was alarming to learn Quenneville's job status even was in question
 
"I haven't even thought about that," Lidstrom said. "I would be surprised (if he was fired)."

Babcock was even more resolute. Asked if he'd be stunned to see Chicago remove Quenneville as coach because of the current winless skid, the Red Wings coach emphatically responded: "Absolutely … 100 percent."

The Red Wings also are fully expecting their rivals to the West to pull out of their current funk at some point and make a strong push up the Western Conference standings again. Lidstrom and Babcock both said Chicago is far too talented and well-coached to let the current losing trend take it out of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture.

"Let's not get carried away," Babcock said. "Joel Quenneville's the coach. They've got real good players. Things aren't going the way they wanted right now. They're still a very dangerous team. A few weeks ago, everyone thought Chicago was going to win the West. I mean, I wouldn't get in a big panic."

Only, he would -- sort of.

"Now, if I was them I would be in a panic because that's what you do when you're the coach there … not in a panic, but it'd be urgency," Babcock said. "And I'm sure Joel's feeling that right now. You'd rather it was them than you, but a little adversity never killed anybody. It's just how you respond to it."

Lidstrom and his teammates know exactly what it's like to respond from it, because back in October they went on a six-game winless skid of their own that had people wondering if Detroit's 20-season playoff string was in jeopardy.

"You're going to have your ups and downs in a season and you've just got to fight your way through it and get out of it," Lidstrom said. "They're a team with a lot of skill and a lot of skilled players, so I’m sure they’ll find a way to get out of it. They could turn it around and start winning (a lot of) games, too. I think they have that good of a team to be able to do that. They have the players, the material, to get up and play real well."

Lidstrom also said these are the times when Chicago's core group of stars -- all of whom helped lead them to the 2010 Stanley Cup -- needs to draw from that memorable run to a League championship.

"I think that helps them, knowing what it takes to win and knowing what they did when they were winning and when they were playing well," Lidstrom said. "We've been on those losing streaks, too. You have to find a way out of it. That's the bottom line."
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 1:29 PM

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

Bowman: Quenneville not going anywhere

With his team mired in an eight-game winless skid, Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman says he has zero intention of changing coaches.

Bowman told Comcast SportsNet Chicago that Joel Quenneville, who guided the Hawks to the Stanley Cup in 2010, is "absolutely the guy" moving forward and that he's happy with adjustments the coaching staff is making to try to snap the skid.

The Hawks enter the week sixth in the Western Conference with 65 points. Prior to the winless skid, which started Jan. 21, the Hawks were first in the League standings with 64 points.

One reason for the Hawks' skid has been subpar play in net by the combination of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. Crawford hasn't won since Jan. 18 and has allowed five goals in each of his last two games. Emery has lost three straight and has allowed three or more goals in each of his last four games.

While the GM said he is working on bolstering the roster, he said trading for another goaltender "is not a priority."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 1:03 PM

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

Ducks, Jets exchange minor-league forwards

The Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets swapped minor-league forwards Monday, with the Ducks sending Maxime Macenauer to the Jets in exchange for Riley Holzapfel.

Macenauer, 23, had a goal and three assists in 29 games with the Ducks earlier this season, the first NHL action of his career. He also has four goals and two assists in 13 games with the Ducks' American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. He was a 2007 third-round pick by Anaheim.

Holzapfel, 23, was a 2006 second-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers. He's in his fourth AHL season, and first with the St. John IceCaps. In 29 games this season, he has eight goals and seven assists.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 12:48 PM

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

Neuvirth expects to earn second straight start

WASHINGTON -- Michal Neuvirth is expected to make his second straight start tonight when the Washington Capitals host the San Jose Sharks at Verizon Center (NBC Sports Network at 7:30).

With Tomas Vokoun suffering from the flu, Neuvirth was a last-minute addition to the Caps' starting lineup in yesterday's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers.

Vokoun did not take part in Washington's optional skate this morning and Neuvirth (6-9-3, 3.07 goals-against average, .894 save percentage) told NHL.com he expects to start against San Jose. Coach Dale Hunter said that Vokoun remains a game-time decision and that there was no immediate plan for any call-ups.

"[Neuvirth] is a young guy," Hunter said, "and he wants to play as many games as he can. If he gets in tonight, he'll be ready to play."

Mike Knuble remained on the ice for extra work following Washington's optional skate and will likely be a healthy scratch for the third straight game.

The Caps enter tonight's game four points behind the Southeast Division leading Florida Panthers and one point behind the eighth place Toronto Maple Leafs.

This will be the Capitals' final home game before embarking on a four-game road trip. Washington is tops in the Eastern Conference with a 19-7-2 record at home, but 14th in the conference on the road at 9-15-3.

The Sharks will be playing their second game in as many nights after falling 3-0 last night in St. Louis. San Jose allowed a pair of 5-on-3 power-play goals and a late goal on an empty net as it fell for the third time in four games.

Last night's loss also ended San Jose's streak of scoring at least one power-play goal in five straight games. The Sharks' power play enters tonight's game ranked fourth in the NHL at 20 percent.

"The message is going to be to stay out of the penalty box," Caps forward Matt Hendricks said. "Don't give these guys opportunities. If you need to take penalties, then you need to take penalties, but let's not be taking lazy penalties 200 feet from our end. I think that's probably going to be the message, and if they do get their opportunities, we have to do everything we can to shut them down -- blocking shots and getting pucks all the way down."

The Pacific Division-leading Sharks visit one point clear of second place Los Angeles, although San Jose has played four fewer games.

Thomas Greiss (7-4-1, 1.98 GAA, .925 save percentage) will make a rare start for the Sharks, who are playing the second game of their season-long nine-game, 16-day road trip.

Here are the Capitals' and Sharks' projected lineups for tonight's nationally televised game at Verizon Center:

CAPITALS

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

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Roman Hamrlik
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

SHARKS

Ryan Clowe - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - John McCarthy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Thomas Greiss
Antti Niemi
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 12:09 PM

By Pat LaFontaine -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Making of a Royal

LaFontaine on his outdoor 'Rink of Dreams'

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, head coach Pat LaFontaine discusses how his 'Rink of Dreams' came about in the backyard of his cottage in New York. The 120' x 65' rink, called 'The Barn', has turned into a real winter wonderland and special place where family and friends have an opportunity to share the outdoor rink experience.

When I retired after my time with the Rangers, [actor] Tim Robbins invited me and the family to his place to skate and play -- I was only 33- or 34-years-old at the time. Daniel [LaFontaine] was young, I'm guessing 4-years-old, and we'd go over in the winter and a few times in the summer and play ice hockey and roller hockey. Every time we'd come back, I would turn to my wife and tell her how much skating at Tim's place reminded me of Williams Lake [in Michigan] when I was a kid. So if we ever got the chance to create this outdoor environment, I would love to do it.

We were able to acquire this piece of property and started developing a cottage and a place where a sport court and hockey rink could go. In the process, we were able to make this environment ... this rink of dreams with locker rooms and a scoreboard. It's a rink for almost four months each winter, there's a mini-Zamboni and kids practice. When I was 13-years-old, I actually worked at a rink for three years. I used to sweep locker rooms and sharpen skates every day at a rink after school. Never did I envision upon retirement that I'd be doing the same thing.

Jimmy Johnson, a good friend of mine and executive director of the Companions In Courage Foundation, named it 'The Barn.' He called it that because he said that's what every hockey player called a rink they were playing at. As hockey players would say, "We're going to be playing in their barn." We've had amazing memories and experiences day after day and night after night playing hockey in the winter time. It's been a very special place. I spoke to all the kids I've coached over the years and you could ask any of them their favorite memory of playing youth hockey growing up, and they'll say playing at 'The Barn'. We do a 3-on-3 once a week with the kids and Sunday mornings are special at the house.

It all stems from my younger years playing outdoors at Williams Lake in Michigan when my dad, brother and sister skated and my mom would bring out hot chocolate. We would be out there every day after school and we would come out and turn the lights on. On weekend nights, we'd have a hockey game or two and on Saturday, we'd play for hours before mom would have to turn the lights off at midnight. But we'd sneak in and turn them back on. We lived out on the lake playing outdoor hockey, so to create that environment for my kids, friends and family, has been great. This is the ninth year we've had the rink.

The great thing about it is, it doubles as a sport court, basketball court, tennis court, and roller hockey rink, so we get year round use out of it. There's nothing better than being outdoors and playing hockey and watching your family and friends. For the last eight years, the Long Island Royals Under-16 team practiced there once a week beginning in December through March. We'd play 3-on-3 games. I think these kids are involved in so many controlled practices where they're told what to do, but they're able to have some fun. We basically have three teams of six or seven kids and it's back and forth; all out. We keep standings and the winner will take the Royals Cup Trophy. It's a great format for these kids, since they're skating in tight quarters and need to turn and pass quickly. We tell them to work hard on their skating and passing. It usually last two hours and the kids are wiped out afterwards. That's when everyone grabs a slice of pizza and all the Royals leave with big smiles on their faces.
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