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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:25 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Probable lineups for Blackhawks vs. Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The projected lineups for Tuesday night's Central Division battle between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks from Scottrade Center.

BLUES
Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak, who went 5-0-0 on the Blues' recent six-game trip with a 1.55 goals-against average and .939 save percentage, will get the nod for the sixth time in seven games.

Alex Steen (concussion), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot), and Kris Russell (concussion symptoms) are all on injured reserve. Defenseman Kent Huskins has a bruised left hand and is day-to-day. Center T.J. Hensick is a healthy scratch.

BLACKHAWKS
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bollig

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Dylan Olsen - Sami Lepisto

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford

Center Jonathan Toews (upper body), defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) and defenseman Steve Montador (upper body) are out with injuries. Winger Daniel Carcillo (lower body) is on long-term injured reserve. Healthy scratches include defenseman Sean O'Donnell, center Brendan Morrison and winger Michael Frolik.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:18 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Preds debate Ellis vs. Hillen on defense

NASHVILLE -- Defenseman Kevin Klein is expected to miss his fourth straight game on Tuesday when Nashville hosts Los Angeles. The team is calling Klein's injury an upper-body injury.

When Klein went down, the Predators called up rookie Ryan Ellis, who has yet to get back in the lineup. Ellis played 22 games with the Predators earlier this season, totaling 3 goals, 6 assists and a plus-8 rating. Ellis was sent down after Nashville acquired defenseman Hal Gill from Montreal.

Since Klein got hurt, however, Predators coach Barry Trotz has preferred to go with veteran Jack Hillen. Hillen has played in 49 games this season, but had played relatively sparingly since early January. He had been a scratch for 14 games since the start of the new year. He has played played the past three, going plus-1 in two of them and even in the other.

Trotz would not reveal his lineup for Tuesday, but hinted that Ellis might get in the lineup, saying Nashville might have "one of each" --a new forward and defenseman -- in its lineup.

Brandon Yip and Matt Halischuk were the scratches at forward in Nashville’s last game, as the Predators suited up new forwards Paul Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn, both acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, for the first time in the same game. Gaustad missed his first game afterhis acquisition because of an upper-body injury.

Trotz described the options involved in playing Ellis or Hillen.

"They're a little bit different," Trotz said. "What you get with Jack is a good defender, get some veteran presence. He's a guy that subtly is able to get the job done. He sort of goes under the radar a little bit, but he's pretty efficient.

"With Elly, you get a real good dynamic, puck-moving guy. Competes pretty well. Defends, actually, pretty well, too, so just a little bit different. You get a little bit more of the offense with Ellis than you do with Hillen, but you get a little bit more of the defensive side with Hillen. He'll give you a little more penalty killing. He's a little more of a transporter. Ellis has really great dynamic thought process, stick, passing. Those are all intangible."

With Los Angeles being the League's lowest-scoring team, it will be interesting to see which direction Trotz goes.

The Predators entered Tuesday with the League's No. 2-ranked power play, but they haven't scored a power-play goal in their past three games -- mostly because they’ve only had one chance in each.

"We can't tell if it's any good anymore," Trotz quipped of the unit, "because we never get any" chances.

He thinks with the Stanley Cup Playoffs in sight and so many teams fighting for their lives or positioning, that teams are playing more disciplined.

"I just think everybody's ramped up defensively," he said. "They know the importance of the games … during the playoffs sometimes that's what happens. Everyone's pretty disciplined, but it's good, clean, physical hockey, and no one's taking any penalties."
 
Projected lines:
 
Sergei Kostitsyn-Mike Fisher-Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn-David Legwand-Patric Hornqvist
Colin Wilson-Nick Spaling-Jordin Tootoo
Gabriel Bourque-Paul Gaustad-Craig Smith
 
Ryan Suter-Shea Weber
Hal Gill-Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon-Jack Hillen/Ryan Ellis
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
 
Out: Brian McGrattan, Matt Halischuk, Brandon Yip
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:15 PM

By Dennis Ryan -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bruins wait to see if veteran Turco clears waivers

TORONTO -- With backup goaltender Tuukka Rask out four-to-six weeks with a groin/abdomen strain, a position of strength for the Boston Bruins has turned into a concern. Rask had been expected to see significant action in the final month of the regular season in order to keep starter Tim Thomas fresh for the playoffs.

With the Bruins scheduled to play 18 games in the next 33 days, the plan to lighten the load on Thomas is in jeopardy -- especially considering the Bruins have struggled recently and sit just three points ahead of Ottawa in the Northeast Division standings. General manager Peter Chiarelli signed veteran Marty Turco to a one-year deal Monday to fill the void; Turco must clear waivers Wednesday before officially joining the Bruins.

"It's an unfortunate injury at a real bad time of year, but we hope to have Turco with us by tomorrow," coach Claude Julien said. "He'll give us that experience and the type of backup goaltender that we need to keep moving forward down the stretch."

After a disappointing season with the Blackhawks in 2010-11, when he went 11-11-3 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .897 save percentage, Turco did not sign with an NHL team leading into this season.  He has stayed sharp by playing in the Spengler Cup for Team Canada, and more recently a 10-game run with EC Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian First Division. 

Julien is optimistic about the potential addition of Turco.

"When you're in that position where you're past the trade deadline, you've got to find solutions," Julien said. "There's no doubt if Turco comes to us tomorrow it will be a great solution to a tough situation."

Julien was guarded when asked about how many games he would like to see Thomas play in the coming month.

"I go day by day, I've always said that. We'll see how everything turns out, we don't know whether Marty is going to be with us, so for me to answer that, I can't."

Thomas will start tonight against the Maple Leafs in Toronto, with Michel Hutchinson called up from Providence to back him up.

And if all goes well for the Bruins, they will add an experienced backup to the fold on Wednesday.

Here are tonight's projected lines:
 
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brian Rolston - Patrice Bergeron - Brad Marchand
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Jordan Caron
Lane MacDermid - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
 
Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Greg Zanon - Adam McQuaid
 
Tim Thomas
Michael Hutchinson
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:10 PM

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

Staal looking to match NHL season-high point streak

WASHINGTON -- Eric Staal will look to match the longest point streak in the NHL this season, as the Carolina Hurricanes try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they visit the Washington Capitals tonight at Verizon Center.

Staal is on an 11-game point streak (7 goals and 13 assists), one shy of John Tavares' season-high 12-game point streak set in January.

"Not only has he been going very strong, but he's made guys around him better as well," said coach Kirk Muller. "Certainly not to take anything away from the other players, but he's really taken this team on his shoulders and played some really good hockey. Playing really well with and without the puck, a really good two-way forward, he takes on a lot of ice time, he's our leader and he's been leading us in the right direction."

The Hurricanes are 5-2-4 during Staal's 11-game point streak, but they remain 10 points behind eighth place Winnipeg as they begin a season-high five-game road trip.

Staal has also tied Dave Keon's 32-year-old franchise record with a 10-game assist streak.

"He's big, he's fast, he has good hands and he generates speed very, very well," said Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, who along with defense partner John Carlson will be among those responsible tonight for limiting Carolina's No. 1 line.

"He uses the other four players on the ice and it turns him into a pretty deadly player. When he comes wide on you, you better time it right, or else you're not going to have a chance to stop him. He's very tough."

Among those that have benefitted from Staal's play of late have been linemates Jiri Tlusty and Anthony Stewart. Tlusty has 12 points in 13 games, while Stewart is coming off his first multi-goal game of the season.

"Staal is a top-tier player in the League," Stewart said. "He's always out there making things happen, so when you're out there with him, you're just going to do whatever you can to get him the puck and let him do his thing and hopefully bang a couple of goals in."

Stewart has been given the chance to stick with the top line while Tuomo Ruutu remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.

"That's kind of our group -- everyone just kind of contributing in different ways," Muller said. "At one time we had five injuries and so guys had to jump into different roles and take on different responsibilities, and I thought the guys really adjusted well.

"Guys have really stepped up, and Stewey is one of them -- he's jumped up, played with Stalsey, he's been producing, skating and playing hard, and that's what we need guys to do."

Playing with Staal and Tlusty is also an opportunity not lost on Stewart.

"I have to make the most of it," he said. "Playing fourth line most of the year, you don't really have a chance to show what you can do -- you just have to keep it as simple as possible. But now with the increased playing time, I can get a little more comfortable and confident, and I'm just trying to contribute any way I can."
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:50 PM

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

Complacency not a concern for Tortorella

NEWARK, N.J. -- With the Rangers sitting atop the League standings, eight points clear of the Penguins and 12 points ahead of the Bruins with less than 20 games to play, it wouldn't be out of the question for complacency to set in with a young team.

Rangers coach John Tortorella, however, doesn't see that being a problem at all over the final month of the season.

"Not with this team," said Tortorella, whose Rangers will face the Devils at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night. "This team is a group that understands that if we're going to continue to compete, we need to work every day. I trust the group understands that. We've got a lot of things to work on."

Tortorella admitted that all of his teams haven't been free of lackadaisical play. Without naming the specific team, Tortorella said that was a problem when he was coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning when they were a young team still learning about what it takes to win consistently in the NHL.

"I will say early on with the last team I coached, there were some struggles understanding how to keep your level up, but that's part of a process with a young team," said Tortorella, who is now coaching one of the youngest teams in the NHL. "I think our team has gone through a process. The best way I can put it -- I trust our guys. Our leadership group and how they've worked with their identity and the level of play that needs to be there at all times in the season. I trust them.

"I think you're going to have some struggles here and there. I think you need to be really careful when a team starts losing some games, everyone says the readiness isn't there. There's a lot of different ways you lose and win hockey games. I can only speak on my behalf."

Tortorella said the Rangers, who are 13-3-3 in their last 19 games, had an extensive film session before taking the ice for practice Tuesday morning.

"You have to," Tortorella said. "I'm being honest. I think if you don't continue to work on even the good parts of your game, let alone the ones you're struggling with, it slips. We just spent 40 minutes with tape this morning as far as some of the details of our game that I feel has slipped. That's the way this coaching staff operates. We want to continue to get better and stay consistent."

There's always lessons for young teams that when you win five or six, you can't get complacent. You need to keep it level. "

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist spoke of the different feeling at this time of the season compared to the previous two, when the Rangers were fighting just to get in the playoffs.

"When you just think about what you have to do, a lot of times you get more points because you play better," Lundqvist said. "Your mindset is not, you have to get points. It just get, get your game better and improve your game and the rest will take care of itself. I think our mindset has been good all year."

Brad Richards, who played under Tortorella in Tampa during all seven of their seasons there, said the Rangers have been in nearly the same spot for three weeks, so if complacency was going to show up, it would have already.

"We could've done that for a little while now and put ourselves back in a battle," said Richards, who cited that Pittsburgh has been playing very well of late. "We've been aware of that. It can still happen very quickly. A bad week with the amount of hockey we're playing -- we're playing pretty much four games a week in March (17 games total) -- you put in a bad week of work and you don't know what can happen."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:48 PM

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

Eminger draws into lineup for Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- With Ryan Callahan likely back in the lineup for the Rangers on Tuesday night, the team will be back to nearly full strength when they face the New Jersey Devils.

One lineup change will be the insertion of defenseman Steve Eminger in place of Anton Stralman, who will likely be a healthy scratch based on the defense pairings. Stralman was benched for the third period of Sunday's game against the Bruins and had a turnover that led to a goal in the first period.

Here's what the lineup will likely look like tonight:

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Carl Hagelin
Michael Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Steve Eminger
Marc Staal - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:37 PM

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

Panthers says Versteeg won't play next two games

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — The Florida Panthers have been without leading scorer Kris Versteeg for their past four games, and they’ll almost certainly be without him for their back-to-back set at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Thursday and Friday.

Versteeg has been out with a lower-body injury, with The Miami Herald reporting that it’s a hip problem.

“I don’t think we’re very confident that we’ll have him back this week,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said after practice Tuesday. “I hate being so vague, but that’s really where we are. It’s a little beyond day-to-day, but it’s certainly not considered a long-term injury. We don’t expect him for our next couple of games and then we’ll re-evaluate at that time. We’re kind of in that stage right now. We’re looking at it in three- and four-day increments.”

Following the two games in Pennsylvania, the Panthers return home to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

Versteeg leads the Southeast Division-leading Panthers with 49 points, including a team-high 22 goals.

Prior to sitting out Florida’s 5-3 victory at Toronto on Feb. 28, Versteeg had gone six games without a goal.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:35 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bolts could get Hedman back for 'must-win' vs. Sens

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Ottawa Senators tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and for the Lightning, much more than just their four game home win-streak is on the line.

"Every game now is a 'must-win.' Yeah, they are," Tampa Bay goalie Mathieu Garon said. "This team (Ottawa) is sitting ahead of us and the next game, too (against Washington on Thursday). They are all really important, and it’s going to be that way until the end of the year."

With the Lightning sitting just four points out of the final playoff position, each remaining game takes on an increased level of urgency, and Tuesday's opponent makes the task that much more difficult.

"They have our number and always find a way to get us," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "It's been real tough to play against them."

Tuesday's game is the fourth and final meeting between the Lightning and the Senators this season, and Ottawa has won all three previous games, holding Tampa Bay to only three goals total.

"Every game is a new game, and every game you try to bring something new," Boucher said. "We do adjustments during the periods and between periods. There has to be and there will be."

The report on the injury front for Tampa Bay was mixed. The Lightning have been without captain Vincent Lecavalier, sidelined with a fractured hand for the last seven games, and Victor Hedman, out with an upper-body injury for the previous four. It appeared likely that at least one of the pair would return Tuesday.

"Hedman? I hope he plays," Boucher said. "We're waiting for the OK from the doctor. But he feels great and he's ready to go."

Hedman said that he was anxious to get back on the ice, but he sounded a cautious note.

"We'll see. We're 99.9 percent certain, but there is still a chance I might not play. We'll see after this afternoon," he said. "I'm excited to play, but still, we have to make sure that I'm really 100 percent before I play. These are important games and you can't be halfway. I feel 100 percent, but we'll see after this afternoon."

The news for Lecavalier was not as optimistic.

"Vinny is not ready yet at all," Boucher said. "When? I couldn't say, to be honest with you. As much as I would love to spend time waiting for Vinny, I think right now we have to focus on the players who are here and the ones who have come up from the AHL to help us."

Also out with an upper-body injury is defenseman Bruno Gervais.

The Senators have enjoyed a six-game winning streak and another run of nine games without a regulation loss during the season, but they arrive in Tampa with back-to-back losses.

Ben Bishop, just recalled from Ottawa's AHL affiliate in Binghampton, will make his debut in the net for the Senators. Bishop was obtained for a second-round pick in the 2013 draft in a trade deadline deal with the St. Louis Blues.

"I'm excited," Bishop said. "It's nice to meet everyone, but I have to get down to business in a couple of hours. If someone tells you that they are not nervous in this situation, they'd be lying to you. But once the puck drops, I'll be fine."

Tuesday's morning skate was the first time Ottawa coach Paul MacLean got a live look at his new goaltender.

"He's a big guy," MacLean said of the 6-foot-7 netminder. "He's got good hands and covers lots of the net. We're looking forward to having him play and seeing what he can do."

Erik Karlsson reacted to his $2,500 fine for his hit on Sean Bergenheim during Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.

"It is what it is," Karlsson said. "I can't change it right now. It was a bad play by me."

Karlsson said he spoke with Brendan Shanahan, NHL Senior VP for Player Safety, about the fine.

"I told him I understood," Karlsson said.

Here's how tonight's lineups project:

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

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Ben Bishop
Alex Auld

LIGHTNING

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - JT Wyman
Tom Pyatt - Adam Hall - Brett Connolly
Ryan Shannon - Tim Wallace

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brian Lee - Mike Commodore
Brendan Mikkelson - Brett Clark
Keith Aulie

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:30 PM

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

Excitement building for Howe's big night

PHILADELPHIA -- Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe will have his No. 2 retired by the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Howe spent 10 seasons with the Flyers and is regarded as the best blueliner in the team's history.

It's fitting the opponent on the night of the ceremony is the Detroit Red Wings, the team for which Howe currently works as director of pro scouting.

"It's a great honor for Howeie, well deserved," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "He was a great Flyer, had an unbelievable career. He's worked for us for 19 years, started three years as a player. He's been involved in two really great organizations to finish his career. I think he's proud of that fact, we're proud of him. We're honored and thrilled to be sharing it with him tonight."

Matt Carle, in his fourth season with the Flyers, was too young to see the best part of Howe's career -- he was born in 1984 -- but said he's been doing his homework on Howe recently. 

"I was reading about him in the last week when they were gearing up for this night," Carle said, "some of the statistics he threw up were mind-blowing. He was plus-85 one year (1985-86). It's a huge honor for him. It'll be fun for us to be here for it."

One of the newest Flyers, Nicklas Grossmann, also is looking forward to watching the Howe ceremony.

"Growing up you see all these players when you're a kid that you idolized and now you play with some of them and you see some guys retire and their jerseys (retired), so it's pretty cool to be around," he said. "He was a spectacular player that played for a long time. You're here, you see on the walls, the good old players that used to play. It's pretty cool to be part of an organization like that. It's going to be a pretty special thing."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:26 PM

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

Canes must win on road to keep last-gasp hopes alive

WASHINGTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes begin a season-long five-game road trip tonight as they visit the Washington Capitals in a Southeast Division matchup at Verizon Center.

The Hurricanes are 10 points behind eighth place Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference and will play five road games in the next eight days against the Capitals, Sabres, Lightning, Panthers and Rangers.

"It's definitely going to be make or break," Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart said of the trip. "It's going to be a dogfight and we can't get too far ahead of ourselves looking at the standings. We just have to win one game, and it's at that point in the season where one point or an overtime loss isn't acceptable. We have to start getting two points, and hopefully it starts tonight."

The Hurricanes have made a habit of earning just one standings point, dropping three of their last five games overall after regulation.

The more disturbing trend for Kirk Muller's team is that the Hurricanes held a third period lead in all three games -- a pair of shootout losses to Anaheim (Feb. 23) and Florida (Feb. 25) and an overtime loss to Tampa Bay last Saturday.

"On our home stretch we had a couple of tough points that we lost in different ways," Muller said, "but our games have been good, we've been strong and aggressive, but we have to play that same way going on the road."

Carolina has won an NHL-low seven games on the road this season (7-14-8). Cam Ward is expected to start tonight, but with a pair of back-to-back games scheduled on the road trip, backup Brian Boucher is likely to earn his first start since Dec. 3 sometime in the next few days. Boucher was activated over the weekend after missing three months with a lower-body injury.

Below are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Capitals and Hurricanes:

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

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

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

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

Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

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