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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:56 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild-Stars

DALLAS – Here are the projected lineups for a game tonight between the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

WILD

Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Darroll Powe - Erik Christensen - Carson McMillan
Matt Kassian - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Nick Schultz - Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk - Nate Prosser
Greg Zanon - Clayton Stoner

Nicklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

Scratches: Mike Lundin, Brad Staubitz, Marek Zidlicky.
Injuries: Clayton Stoner (lower body), Mikko Koivu (shoulder), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), Jarod Palmer (concussion).

NOTES: Minnesota is 0-10-4 at American Airlines Center since 2003. These clubs met on Jan. 21 at the Xcel Energy Center and it was the Wild who took the first meeting of the season by a 5-2 margin. The Wild come into this one on a winning note after a 1-0 victory at Colorado on Thursday night. Mike Yeo’s club is 12-12-4 on the road this season. Saturday figures to mark the Minnesota debut of center Erik Christensen, who was acquired in a trade with the Rangers on Friday.

STARS

Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom - Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson
Tomas Vincour - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Philip Larsen - Alex Goligoski

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Scratches: Mark Fistric, Adam Pardy, Toby Petersen.
Injuries: Brenden Morrow (upper body).

NOTES:  Dallas placed captain Brenden Morrow on injured reserve on Friday and he is expected to miss about a week. Morrow has been recently bothered by a neck and shoulder issue and didn’t play in the final game before the All-Star break against Anaheim on Jan. 24. Center Tomas Vincour has been recalled from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League to give Glen Gulutzan a full roster. The Stars split their two-game road trip to Anaheim and San Jose earlier this week, beating the Ducks 6-2 on Wednesday but falling 5-2 to the Sharks on Thursday, keeping them winless on the tail end of back-to-backs so far this season.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:41 PM

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

Panthers, looking for third straight win, face Lightning

TAMPA - The Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers visit the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night to complete their six-game season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning hold the edge, three wins to two, but the Panthers, with the chance of post-season play after 10 seasons, have come out of the All-Star break with two wins and can equal a season-high three-game win streak with a victory against the Lightning.

Tampa Bay, nine points from a playoff berth, will look to close that gap after having a season-long five-game winning streak halted Thursday when the Winnipeg Jets beat them in overtime, 2-1.

Just prior to the start of that game, rookie Brett Connolly was informed that he would be scratched. Connolly, Tampa Bay’s first-round draft pick in 2010, made the roster out of training camp and began the season with lots of fanfare.  Initially, Connolly made that decision look like a good one as he collected four goals and two assists in his first 18 games, including back-to-back goals Nov. 1 against Carolina and Nov. 4 against Chicago while routinely logging 15 minutes or more of ice time.

Connolly missed 11 NHL games while playing with Team Canada in the World Juniors and scored five goals and six points en route to a bronze medal, but since his return on Jan. 7, he hasn’t had a point in 10 games and has seen his time-on-ice shrink to less than eight minutes per game.

“I found out (about being scratched) right after warm-ups,” Connolly said. “It’s the first time ever in my life anywhere that I’ve been scratched. It’s a learning experience.”

And a learning experience that Connolly has apparently taken to heart.

“I have to work even harder now and make it tough for them to take me out of the lineup,” he said. “I want to push the older guys and I’ve got to be better every day.”

Connolly cited his defensive lapses as the main reason he sat out, but Lightning coach Guy Boucher, who started 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Jets, then took a different approach to sitting Connolly.

“One, he was expecting it,” Boucher said, “and, two, he understands it. What effect will this have on his confidence? Well, look at Stamkos who lived the same thing as a rookie and is looking pretty good. These are moments that they have as a 19-year-old that they have to go through and learn and take a breather sometimes, like last game.

“I told him not to necessarily change his game now, we just needed a bigger body in the line-up, like (Pierre-Cedric) Labrie and (Ryan) Shannon had played well the previous game and I didn’t want to take him out. Sometimes it’s not necessarily about the player himself, it’s the fact that there are other players out there that are doing well.”

Florida arrived in Tampa after defeating Winnipeg 2-1 in Sunrise, Fla., on Friday night and had an optional skate Saturday morning. As a result, more of the players kicked a soccer ball around below the stands than actually took the ice. Scott Clemmensen gets the call in net for Florida, and he will become the first Panther goalie to start on consecutive nights this season.

NOTE: Just prior to the All-Star break, while the Lightning were mired in a seven-game losing streak which threatened to ruin their season, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos asked a long-time Lightning employee, Tom Gilbert, to give then a pep-talk after the morning skate. Gilbert’s words of encouragement had the desired effect, as Tampa Bay put a halt to their skid with a 5-3 win against the Boston Bruins, with Stamkos scoring a goal and St. Louis picking up an assist.

A ritual was born and Gilbert, who collects audio sound bites for the team’s website, was called on to address the entire club after the morning skate during the next two home games, which the Lightning won. Gilbert, who cited Rocky Balboa running down the beach and other inspirational images, also spoke before the Winnipeg game on Thursday, which Tampa lost in overtime.
But when the magic is gone, it’s gone, and Gilbert was nowhere to be seen after Saturday’s morning skate.

PANTHERS

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

Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster

LIGHTNING

Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - JT Wyman
Nate Thompson - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Pavel Kubina - Matt Gilroy
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson
Matt Gilroy

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:39 PM

By Steve Hunt -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Nystrom expected to replace injured Morrow for Stars

DALLAS – On Friday night, the Dallas Stars (26-22-2, 54 points) announced they had put Brenden Morrow on injured reserve with a neck and shoulder issue, which means Glen Gulutzan's team will be without their captain for at least the next week.

"I don't have much on Brenden. His neck was bothering him again, shoulder. He's going to go see the doctor here today and go from there," Gulutzan said. "That's all I know."

And with a vacancy on Dallas' second line alongside center Mike Ribeiro and All-Star left wing Loui Eriksson, it looks like third-line winger Eric Nystrom will be the one to move up as a fill-in for Morrow.

It's a challenge his coach feels he's ready for.

"He's a worker and I think that's going to help (Ribeiro) there too a little bit. With our captain being out, we've got to have other guys step in and do things," Gulutzan said. "When you get injuries, you've got to mix and match and put guys in places that you think they can succeed."

When asked about skating with two new linemates for tonight's game with Minnesota (25-19-7, 57 points), Nystrom, who spent last season with the Wild, admits it's an opportunity he welcomes. His 15 goals currently rank third on the Stars.

"I'm just excited. It'll be fun. It's a good opportunity to play with a guy like that (Ribeiro). He really loves to dish," Nystrom said. "I've just got to make sure my game stays the same-staying around the net, getting in on the forecheck, playing physical and creating space for (Ribeiro) to do his thing."

Dallas also recalled center Tomas Vincour, who has played 18 games in the NHL this season, from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League to fill the open roster spot. Vincour will fill Nystrom's spot on the third line alongside Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak.

"He's just going to work," Gulutzan said of Vincour. "It's an opportunity for him to get on a line that likes to work and grind. It's an opportunity for him to play some good, significant minutes."

This game comes just 13 days after these clubs met at the Xcel Energy Center, a game the Wild won 5-2 after scoring three goals in less than a minute. Dallas expects a similar effort from Minnesota tonight in their building.

"Extremely hard-working team, good defensive team and they're well coached for sure," is how Gulutzan characterized the Wild. "They're going to bring energy into this building that's for sure. They come to work every night and that's the key for us. We're coming to work too."

Stars right winger Michael Ryder, who is tied for the team lead in goals with 18 and will skate in the 600th game of his career tonight, remembers that loss in the Twin Cities well but expects a much better effort this time around at American Airlines Center.

"It was a tough game and we definitely don't forget that. It's getting to the point in the season where we need to get on a little roll and get some points every night. We can't wait until the end of the year. We need to do it right now," Ryder said.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:11 PM

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

Nashville's Trotz juggling crowded forward group

NASHVILLE – On Tuesday, Predators forward Brandon Yip posted a goal and an assist, finished plus-two in a 5-4 win against Minnesota and yet found himself a healthy scratch in his team’s next game on Thursday.

Such is life these days for the Nashville Predators. With 14 healthy forwards, coach Barry Trotz has juggled his lineup on a regular basis since picking up Yip via a waiver claim on Jan. 19.

Almost like an NFL coach assembling his game-day roster of 45 players from a 53-man roster with a specific game plan in mind, Trotz said he is now picking his 12 forwards based on the specific opponent. Entering Nashville’s 4-1 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday, the Predators had won 13 of 15.

“I look at our individual opponent and say, ‘I think this is our best lineup for this individual opponent,’” Trotz said. “It’s not about who’s playing good, who’s playing bad right now because everyone’s playing OK.”

Trotz said the extra players have been both a “blessing and a curse.” Matt Halischuk was scratched initially to make room for Yip on Jan. 21 but since returning he has a four-game points streak (two goals, three assists). Jerred Smithson, another player who has had to sit out, is one of Nashville’s best faceoff men and penalty killers.

“There hasn’t been any passengers at all,” Trotz said. “Everybody’s bringing their ‘A’ game in their roles. Right now, my biggest challenge is to continue winning and to keep everybody sharp.”

Nonetheless, that message is not easy for a player like Yip when he has to sit out. Trotz said it’s best just to be honest with the player.

“But he understood the reason he was going in was because I wanted to integrate him before the (All-Star) break there,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a balancing act.”

Trotz did not say whether Yip is going back on for a key Central Division game Saturday with St. Louis, but it’s possible as the Blues have a big lineup and Yip is 6 feet 1, 195 pounds. Nashville is just a point behind the second-place Blues.

Here is Nashville’s projected lineup for Saturday night:

Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patrick Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Matt Halischuk - Craig Smith - Brandon Yip

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Out: Brian McGrattan, Jerred Smithson, Jack Hillen
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 12:59 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs-Senators

KANATA, Ont. – Here are the projected lineups for Saturday night’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.

The Leafs held an optional skate, while the Senators, after a 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders on Friday, also went with an optional practice.

SENATORS

Milan MichalekJason SpezzaErik Condra
Nick FolignoKyle TurrisDaniel Alfredsson
Colin GreeningZack SmithChris Neil
Kaspars DaugavinsZenon Konopka – Jim O’Brien

Filip KubaErik Karlsson
Jared CowenSergei Gonchar
Chris PhillipsMatt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

On Friday, Jim O’Brien was called up from Binghamton as “insurance” for an ailing Spezza, who is battling the flu. Spezza played against the Islanders, but O’Brien still went into the lineup, replacing Bobby Butler, who was a healthy scratch. On Saturday, coach Paul MacLean said that there would be no changes to the lineup.

MAPLE LEAFS

Joffrey LupulTyler BozakPhil Kessel
Clarke MacArthurMikhail GrabovskiNikolai Kulemin
Matthew LombardiTim ConnollyJoey Crabb
Colby ArmstrongDavid SteckelMike Brown

Carl GunnarssonDion Phaneuf
John-Michael LilesCody Franson
Jake GardinerLuke Schenn

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson

Darryl Boyce (back) remains out while Jay Rosehill and Mike Komisarek are the healthy scratches.



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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lineups for Penguins-Bruins matinee

BOSTON – Despite the announcement that they recalled forward Jordan Caron from their Providence (AHL) farm club this morning, the Boston Bruins are going with the same lineup today that dropped a 3-0 decision to Carolina on Thursday night.
               
Caron will go with the Bruins on their trip to Washington for a game Sunday afternoon after their TD Garden matinee with Pittsburgh. Tim Thomas starts in goal for Boston, while Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins a few nights after snapping his streak of 23 straight starts.
               
Here are the projected lineups for both the Bruins and Penguins:

Bruins

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Zach Hamill
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Penguins

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Dustin Jeffrey - Pascal Dupuis
Steve Sullivan - Cal O’Reilly - Tyler Kennedy
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Richard Park

Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 12:41 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sabres, Isles

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have an opportunity to get back to the .500 mark as they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Isles (21-22-7) pulled within a game of .500 Friday night when Mark Eaton ended a 120-game goalless drought in overtime to lift New York to a 2-1 victory at Ottawa. The Islanders -- who haven't been a .500 club since Nov. 5 -- enter tonight's action nine points behind Toronto for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We're a confident bunch right now," said Isles winger PA Parenteau, who had two more assists Friday night to give him 36 on the season. "We play with a lot of passion and we know what's at stake in the next two weeks. Nothing's impossible for us. … A lot of guys are playing well. It's only nine points and there's a lot of games left."

Buffalo (21-24-6) is also 2-0-1 in its last three games and has allowed only two goals over that span. The Sabres couldn't solve Henrik Lundqvist in a 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Rangers at the First Niagara Center on Wednesday night. The Sabres have been somewhat fortunate to earn points in three of their last four games considering they've only scored five goals.

"I know it'll come … we still have to score," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "I don't want to talk about chances any more. You've got to create them to get them. The more you create, the better chance you're going to have. The less you give up, the easier it is for your goaltender. I think we've played harder in some situations, which has made a difference."

Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:

SABRES
Ville Leino - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Paul Gaustad - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Luke Adam - Cody McCormick

Christian Ehrhoff - Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr - Jordan Leopold
Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller gets the start in goal. The Sabres' netminder has stopped 83 of 85 shots over the last three games while boasting a 0.63 goals-against average. Jhonas Enroth will be the backup.

Buffalo will be without sniper Thomas Vanek, who suffered an upper-body injury during Tuesday's 3-1 win at Montreal. Ennis and Stafford are both expected to play after battling the flu. Jochen Hecht and T.J. Brennan are out with concussions. Zach Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani are expected to be healthy scratches.

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Rhett Rakhshani - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Tim Wallace - Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina

The Islanders did not skate this morning after arriving home late from Ottawa. With the quick turnaround, it's likely Al Montoya will start in goal. Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves in Friday's victory.

Rick DiPietro (lower body), Mike Mottau (concussion) and Marty Reasoner (hand) are out for New York. Dylan Reese and Brian Rolston are the likely healthy scratches.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 11:52 AM

By Kurt Dusterberg -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Hurricanes, Kings

Here are the projected lineups for Saturday night when the Los Angeles Kings visit RBC Center to take on the Carolina Hurricanes:

Kings
 
Dustin BrownAnze KopitarJustin Williams
Kyle CliffordMike RichardsDustin Penner
Brad RichardsonJarret StollTrevor Lewis
Trent HunterColin FraserKevin Westgarth
 
Rob ScuderiDrew Doughty
Willie MitchellSlava Voynov
Jack JohnsonMatt Greene
 
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
 
Hurricanes

Jiri TlustyEric StaalTuomo Ruutu
Jussi JokinenRiley NashJeff Skinner
Andreas NodlBrandon SutterPatrick Dwyer
Drayson BowmanTim BrentAnthony Stewart
 
Tim GleasonBryan Allen
Jay HarrisonJustin Faulk
Jaroslav SpacekJamie McBain
 
Cam Ward
Justin Peters

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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 11:34 AM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Expect a lot of Malkin vs. Chara at TD Garden

BOSTON – Evgeni Malkin’s line with Chris Kunitz and James Neal on the wings has been the hottest in the NHL.
               
In Pittsburgh’s last 22 games, that trio has combined for 34 goals and 72 points. For the first time since their recent hot stretch commenced, however, they’ll have to face one the best defenseman in the NHL – Zdeno Chara.
               
Malkin can expect to have to have Chara in his face most of the day today during Pittsburgh’s first game in Boston of the 2011-12 season. Back in December, the Bruins beat Pittsburgh, 3-1, and coach Dan Bylsma said that even then it was difficult to separate his best players from Boston’s best defenders.
               
“They did, in the first game, they always have a pretty concerted effort to get the matchup they want, especially on the back end. And even at home, in Game 1 against them, they were maybe the best team in the League so far at getting the changes they needed to try and get the matchups they wanted,” said Bylsma some two hours before puck-drop. “We’re on the road. I don’t think it’s going to be any easier for me. The one thing you can hope for and you really try to do, if you can extend shifts by the other lines, you can start to get matchups that are in your favor. If that’s the case, if we can get good shifts in the offensive zone, if we can extend shifts for players that are on the ice for Boston, then maybe the matchups are something you can try to get.”
               
Bylsma said newly acquire center Cal O’Reilly will make his Pittsburgh debut on a trio with Steve Sullivan and Tyler Kennedy.
               
While the Penguins have won eight of their last nine, the Bruins are just 4-4-1 over that same stretch of games. Boston emphasized playing as five-man units during its up-tempo practice Friday, so now the Bruins will try to carry that over into game action.
               
“Just doing those simple things, working on our breakouts, regroups, everything,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said about his team’s main focuses. “When we do it together we’re an unbelievable team and when we don’t, things fall apart. That’s what usually happens.”
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 12:42 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Subban solid in return from groin injury

Malcolm Subban, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American goalie, stopped 34 of 37 shots tonight, his first game in more than a month due to a groin injury.

The Belleville Bulls goaltender hadn't played since Dec. 17.

Subban leads the Ontario Hockey League with a 1.98 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. In 20 games, he's 14-6-0 with two shutouts.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres