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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 9:41 AM

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

Howson won't comment on Nash rumors

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson declined to comment on a report by French-language TV station RDS that Jackets captain Rick Nash has been placed on the trading block.

Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline, citing his sources, said Nash is not being shopped, nor is the club intent on moving him. However, he adds, the Jackets have reached a point where every player on the roster could be available for the right price and that includes Nash.

Nash has a no-movement clause in his contract, and told the newspaper late last month that he has no desire to leave Columbus.

"I love Columbus. I love being here. I love being a Blue Jacket," Nash said. "The city of Columbus deserves a winner and deserves a good product on the ice. If it comes to that -- like you said, all speculation -- but if they don't want me here, they want to move me? I’m not going to do something where it's going to hurt the franchise just because I have that in my contract."

Howson, speaking with NHL.com Saturday in Philadelphia, said he wouldn't be commenting on any trade rumors leading into the deadline, but said he's determined the path the team wants to take.

"I'm not going to disclose what we're going to do, but we certainly have a plan in place," Howson told NHL.com. "We're working on it, we're talking to teams. We'll see … it's not just a pre-deadline plan. It's a plan leading up to the draft and leading into next season. We'll see what happens before the 27th and we expect to be active."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 10:08 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Morris scratched with groin injury

VANCOUVER -- Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris was a surprise late scratch for Monday night's game at Rogers Arena with a groin injury.

Spotted talking on his cell phone outside the arena just 35 minutes before the game, Morris had a good chuckle when asked if it had anything to do with the impending trade NHL deadline. The 33-year-old took the morning skate and was expected to play.

"Just old, bumps and bruises," Morris told NHL.com before confirming the groin injury.

Morris, under contract another two seasons with a $2.75-million salary cap hit, has one goal, nine points and minus-10 rating 48 games.

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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 9:19 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

SJ @ WSH - 19:59 of the Second Period



At 19:59  of the second period in the Sharks/Capitals game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Dmitry Orlov's shot crossed the goal line with 0.9 seconds left in the period. Good Goal Washington.
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 5:42 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ballard still out, still being evaluated

VANCOUVER -- The Canucks aren't sure why yet. All they know Keith Ballard is out indefinitely.

The veteran defenseman missed the final two games of Vancouver's four-game road trip after a hit led to headaches -- and the possibility of a concussion -- and still wasn't back on the ice as the team prepared to host the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night.

Coach Alain Vigneault said Ballard was still being evaluated.

"We're not sure if it's neck-related or concussion-related, so docs are checking into the neck and if that's causing the headaches that he has now and then, or if it's as simple as it being a concussion," Vigneault said. "He's out until we figure out exactly what we got."

The line between head and neck injuries -- and relationship between the two -- has been blurred of late, with news Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby was suffering from a soft tissue injury in the neck, which could have masked themselves as the post-concussion symptoms first believed to have sidelined him.

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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 5:28 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Higgins skating, eager to return to Canucks' lineup

VANCOUVER -- Chris Higgins rejoined the Canucks for Monday's morning skate -- at least what's left of him.

Higgins has lost more than 10 pounds in his ongoing fight with staph infections, which caused him to twice miss games in December and left him unable to play the last five games because a poor reaction to medication made it hard to keep any food down.

The good news for Higgins, who also missed games while with Florida last season with a staph infection, is the latest absence was more about treating the infections than another return of them. That has him feeling somewhat confident the worst is past.

Higgins, who skated on his own three times before joining teammates, won't play against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night, but could return as early as Wednesday against the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

"It was just something that could have happened due to the medication I was taking for the back-to-back staph infections," Higgins said. "It was one of the reactions that was possible from taking medication for such a long time."

Higgins, who was among the Canucks' best forwards early this season, missed two games in early December when his foot swelled up after a three-point night for him and an eight-point outing for the second line. He returned for eight games before missing another three when the infection returned, but struggled with his energy levels after that, failing to score in 11 games in January while battling the draining effects of medication.

Higgins talked about finally getting back to normal before being a surprise late scratch in the last game of a recent home stand, and then missing all four games on the road.

"I'm just glad it's behind me, and looking forward to feeling normal again, like I did before the staph infections in December, and even the month of January was pretty tough for me physically. Hopefully my energy and weight comes back quickly," he said.

Higgins has already regained most of the lost weight -- a relatively enjoyable rehab.

"Going up in weight is more fun that trying to shed it," he said. "I'm enjoying desert after meals and don't have to worry too much about how many calories I'm taking in."

Now he's only focused on shedding his reputation the last two months.

"I don't want to be known as the sick guy, that's kind of sticking with me," said Higgins, who has 10 goals and 26 points in 45 games. "I want to shed that image."

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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 4:20 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes go for sixth straight with LaBarbera in net

VANCOUVER -- Mike Smith is the hottest goaltender in the League and the NHL's First Star of the Week, but the Coyotes will try to continue their sizzling streak without him Monday night, turning instead to backup Jason LaBarbera against the Canucks, who are on a roll of their own.

LaBarbera is 4-1-0 against a Vancouver team he played nine games for in 2008-09, but Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said the decision was more about getting Smith some time off to work with Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke. Smith, who hasn't lost in five February games while posting a 1.19 goals-against average and .962 save percentage, has started 11 straight, and 16 of 17 since returning from injury on Jan. 3.

"It's a combination of a four day break mentally and physically and two days to work with Sean Burke and tune things up," said Tippett, whose Coyotes don't play again until Thursday in Los Angeles. "It's important for any goaltender, and when you are playing so many in a row it's hard to find those times where you can tweak your game."

Phoenix has used its first five-game win streak of the season to move into eighth place in the tight, tough Western Conference, but has little margin for error against a Canucks team that hasn't lost in regulation since mid-January amid a 6-0-3 run of their own.

LaBarbera knows how dangerous their attack can be, but looks forward to facing it.

"I don't know about local knowledge, it's just exciting for me to play here," he said of past success. "I grew up here, got to play here and it's a fun building to play in."

For the Canucks, defenseman Keith Ballard will miss a third straight game with what could either be a concussion of neck injury -- coach Alain Vigneauilt said the team still isn't sure -- and Chris Higgins is skating again but not quite ready to return after an adverse reaction to medication for recurring staph infections caused him to lose more than 10 pounds.

So expect the Canucks to start against the Coyotes the same way they finished in a 3-2 shootout loss in Calgary on Saturday, though the way Vigneault has been playing Yahtzee with his forward lines, they may not finish that way.

Here are the projected lineups:

COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Shane Doan
Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Taylor Pyatt
Raffi Torres - Kyle Chipchura - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
Michal Rozsival - Derek Morris

Jason LaBarbera
Mike Smith

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Jannik Hansen - Cody Hodgson - Byron Bitz
Mike Duco - Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Andrew Alberts - Aaron Rome

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

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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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