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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:08 PM

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

Lightning get Hedman back to face rival Capitals

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals get back to work Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and the work at hand for both teams is securing a playoff spot.

The Capitals, with 55 points, are tied for the top spot in the Southeast Division, but with several clubs nipping at their heels they are far from a lock for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is looking up at the pack, currently nine points away from it needs to be to qualify.

"I told the players that we need a rock climber's mentality," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "You don't want to look down and you don't want to look up. Looking up can be discouraging and looking down can be scary, so look at the rocks in front of us and the things in the past don't mean anything. Tonight is all about Washington."

That's more than enough, considering the Capitals are 21-3-1 in their last 25 regular-season meetings with Tampa Bay, including wins in both match-ups this season.

But the Lightning, riding a season-high four-game win streak, have reason for optimism since several of their injured players return to action on Tuesday. Tom Pyatt, Ryan Shannon, JT Wyman and, most importantly, Victor Hedman are expected to play. After missing 13 games with a concussion, Boucher cautioned that Hedman will have to work his way back to the level he played before the injury.

Hedman, however, had some different thoughts.

"It's been a while, but I'm 100 percent now," Hedman said. "I don't know how many minutes I'll get, but I hope it's about 30. I'll take the first shift and go from there. Today's a special day because I'm getting back to the game."

Both teams have had less than overwhelming success on the power play of late, with Washington going 1-for-16 and Tampa Bay chugging along at an anemic 5-for-54 with the extra man.

In the game prior to the All-Star break, Boucher used defensemen Brendan Mikkelson and Bruno Gervais on the point and indicated that he planned to continue that combo on the power play.

"They move quickly and they keep it simple," Boucher said. "They have accurate shots on net. I thought they played well. I liked the fact that Mikkelson is real mobile and he has a terrific shot. Gervais keeps things simple. Since we have injuries, we've been mixing it up. We've been trying everyone, basically, on power plays. We've got to find solutions."

Boucher was amused to see that Steven Stamkos won the All-Star shootout competition, especially in light of the fact that Stamkos has yet to connect on a shootout attempt during Boucher's tenure as the Lightning coach, going 0-for-3 this season and blanking last season.

"I don't know what to think," Boucher said. "He hasn't scored one for us this season yet and then he goes out there and wins the shootout contest. He hasn't scored last year, too. Guess he's putting pressure on me to put him out there. He hasn't scored a shootout goal for me in two seasons. I guess I'm the problem."

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

CAPITALS
Marcus Johansson - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Mike Knuble
Joel Rechlicz - Cody Eakin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - John Carlson
John Erskine - Dmitry Orlov

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth

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

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

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 1:02 PM

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

Biron start breaks Lundqvist streak of facing Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in more than five years, Henrik Lundqvist won't be in net for the New York Rangers against the New Jersey Devils.

Backup Martin Biron will get the start for the Rangers against New Jersey's Martin Brodeur on Tuesday night at Prudential Center, snapping a string of 32 consecutive starts by Lundqvist against their cross-river rivals that dates to Dec. 17, 2006. Lundqvist participated in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game this past weekend in Ottawa.

"I thought about it yesterday when (coach John Tortorella) told me I wasn't playing today," said Lundqvist, who is third in the NHL in goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.937). "It's been a while since I watched a game against this team. It'll be different."

Biron was scheduled to start the Rangers' final game before the break last Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets, but he became ill following the team's morning practice and had to give way to Lundqvist.

With the Rangers playing Wednesday night in Buffalo, it made sense to let Biron get a start after the long layoff.

"You come back and have a back-to-back after the All-Star break, you kind of have an idea you're going to get one of the two, but I didn't know which one," Biron said. "I didn't care which one. I just wanted to get myself ready as soon as I got back. I was disappointed not being able to get a game before the break. Stuff like that happens. The very next day, you start feeling better, your mind is looking forward to the next game. The break was great, but you want to get going and play some games."

Biron has been the busiest backup the Rangers have had since Lundqvist became the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender in 2006-07. In 12 games (11 starts), Biron is 9-2-0 with a 1.88 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Lundqvist has owned the Devils during his career. He is 23-9-5 with a 1.82 GAA and .937 save percentage, but Tortorella had his mind made up long before Tuesday.

"I made this decision before the All-Star break," Tortorella said. "I wanted to make sure (Lundqvist) got two practices under his belt. I thought he was only going to take one, because I didn't think he was going to skate yesterday, but he wanted to. We talked about this prior to the All-Star break that we were going to go this way."

Lundqvist said he arrived at practice Monday because he assumed he'd be facing the Devils on Tuesday, but he understands the importance of getting an extra day of rest as the Rangers head down the homestretch.

"I'm so used to playing against this team that I thought I was playing," Lundqvist admitted. "I think it's good for me to get an extra day. I could feel yesterday that it's been a lot of hockey and talk about hockey this weekend. Just to sit on the bench today and relax a little bit is going to help me prepare for tomorrow."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:56 PM

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

Horton not yet ready to rejoin Bruins' lineup

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins will open the post-break portion of the schedule tonight at TD Garden with their lineup still missing a key component.

Nathan Horton, who suffered a concussion Jan. 22 in Philadelphia and missed Boston's last game before the All-Star break, will continue to sit out when the Bruins host the Ottawa Senators. Horton has been visiting the Garden for medical treatments, according to coach Claude Julien, and he'll be held off the ice another few days.

Horton's latest concussion comes eight months after the one he suffered in the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins are expected to start Rich Peverley in Horton's spot on the right wing of a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic.

"Well for now, that's the situation. You know, Richard Peverley did a great job, I think, in stepping in last year when Horts got hurt. I think what he brings is that speed ... he’s got good hands, good speed," Julien said after the morning skate at the Garden. "And even his game, I think he wants to be a little bit better than he has been lately. So, he'd like to elevate his game a little bit. If he does that I think he'll be a great guy to be in that position for now. But that's the decision that we think is the best one so far, and we'll certainly hope that it works. But if not, then we'll look at moving some other guys around."

Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said he doesn't expect any lineup changes from the group he used heading into the break. Defenseman Brian Lee continues to recover from a lower-body injury and could be back by the end of the week.

Craig Anderson is scheduled to start in net for Ottawa. He'll have started every Sens game in January. It's unknown whether the Bruins will turn to Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask.

Here are the projected lineups for tonight’s game:

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
Adam McQuaid - Steven Kampfer

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

SENATORS
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Erik Condra

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

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

 
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:36 PM

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

Islanders turn to Poulin for start vs. Hurricanes

The New York Islanders will have American Hockey League callup Kevin Poulin between the pipes against the Carolina Hurricanes when the teams meet Tuesday night at the RBC Center. Poulin, who made 51 saves in Bridgeport's 6-2 win over Adirondack Friday night, is making his third start of the season for the Islanders.

Here's how the lineups for both sides are projected to look:

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

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

Kevin Poulin
Evgeni Nabokov

HURRICANES

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

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Derek Joslin - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Justin Peters

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Parise's focus on ice, would like to stay in New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils captain Zach Parise is close with Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, and he got a good laugh during the All-Star break when he learned Suter's comments about not wanting to negotiate a new contract prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline became big news.

Parise, though, is smart enough to realize he's in the same position as Suter, since both are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and thus could be subject to trade rumors.

Parise told NHL.com on Tuesday that he'd like to remain in New Jersey and he's willing to begin negotiations on a new contract, but he doesn't expect Devils GM Lou Lamoriello to initiate talks during the season.

The only time under the current CBA that Lamoriello has signed one of the Devils' potential unrestricted free agents during the season was back in January of 2006 when he got Martin Brodeur to sign a six-year, $31.2 million extension.

"I know that Lou has always been the type to not do it (negotiate contracts) during the season because it's going to be a distraction, and I understand that," said Parise, who avoided arbitration this past summer by signing a one-year, $6 million contract on July 29. "It can be stressful, which it already is without having any talks. So, I just know that that's the way they've done it around here."

Parise said he understands his name could come up in trade rumors between now and the trade deadline, but he's hopeful that if the Devils remain in the race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference he won't have to worry about any of the rumors coming true. He added that he's not worried about the potential for rumors because there's so much going on with the team, the season and the playoff chase to keep his focus.

"That's people's jobs, to try to make rumors and say this could happen or this could happen," Parise said. "Really only here (in the dressing room) and people in the office know what is going on, so I don't pay attention to the rumors. I know just from working with Lou, unless it comes out of his mouth I don't believe anything when it is a rumor with our team because everything is so in-house and closed doors.

"Sometimes it's out of your hands, but hopefully we'll be in the mix and we won't have to have that conversation."

Parise admitted that the possibility of getting to July 1 without a new contract is something he thinks about.

"But I think there is a lot of time from when the season ends, even if you go to the Cup Final," he said. "There is time once the season ends to worry about that, but who knows. Something could happen tomorrow. I don't really know right now.

"We just haven't gotten to that point yet."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:14 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No easing in to stretch run as Devils face Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- Zach Parise got to go home to Minnesota over the All-Star break to work on some of the planning for his summer wedding. He hopefully got a lot of it done, because for the foreseeable future his focus is going to be squarely on the Devils' playoff chase.

It resumes Tuesday night against the New York Rangers at Prudential Center. Martin Brodeur will get the start against Rangers' backup Martin Biron.

"I don't think the intensity part is going to be missing," Parise said after the Devils brief morning skate. "When you come back from a long layoff games can be sloppy, there's no question, and sometimes you have that feeling out first period. But I think it helps that we're playing these guys. These games bring out the best in both teams."

Asked if the Rangers were the perfect first opponent for the Devils coming out of the long break, coach Pete DeBoer said "absolutely."

"For us, listen, they're all intense and we can't take anyone lightly, but obviously the rivalry with the Rangers and where they're at, it definitely makes the motivating speech the coach has to use a lot shorter than on a normal night," DeBoer said.

New Jersey got some good news Tuesday morning when defenseman Andy Greene said he was good to go for the first time since Dec. 6, when he broke his left foot.

DeBoer hinted that he maybe would have preferred to keep Greene sidelined one more game due to the fact that he had only one practice with the team (Monday). But since the Devils are also missing Henrik Tallinder (blood clot), Travis Zajac (sore Achilles) and Adam Henrique (sore groin), DeBoer said they didn't have the luxury to keep Greene out another game once he was cleared to play.

Steve Bernier, who was called up Sunday from AHL Albany, will make his Devils debut on the third line.

"(Greene's) been skating for a week, his conditioning will be good, but he hasn't been in the battles, been bumped, and done those things yet," DeBoer said. "So I'm sure there is going to be some adjustment coming back into that, but other than that I don't have any (reservations)."

The Devils need Greene and all the healthy bodies they can get. They come out of the break in eighth place in the Eastern Conference due to a games-played tiebreaker over the ninth-place Maple Leafs.

Eleven of their last 34 games will come against the three teams ahead of them in the Atlantic Division standings, including five against the Rangers.

"That's 10 points right there, and we need every point we can get right now," Parise said of the games against the Rangers. "We know how well they're playing, but if we want to find ourselves in the top eight at the end of the season these games are going to be really important against the Rangers."

Here were the Devils' lines and D pairs that were listed on the whiteboard inside the team's dressing room Tuesday morning:

Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Zach Parise - Dainius Zubrus - Ilya Kovalchuk
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - Steve Bernier
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Brad Mills

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Kurtis Foster

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:10 PM

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

Penguins resume play looking to extend streak

PITTSBURGH -- NHL players enthusiastically await the All-Star break, a much-welcomed respite from the grind and travel of a long season and a chance to enjoy some midwinter time with family and friends, often in warm weather.
 
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, however, their week-long break between games came during a seven-game winning streak they will take into the front end of a home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
 
Players generally prefer to keep playing when they're on a roll. The streak is the Penguins' longest since they won 12 in a row last season.
 
Get away from it all during a week-long break, or keep the momentum going by continuing to play? It's a tough choice.
 
"It's yet to be seen. We'll see how it goes tonight," defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "I think the break helps everyone in the long run. It's a tough season and we played a lot of games (four in six days) before the break and everyone was feeling a little tired, not just physically but mentally. To get some time off for a few days, just forget about hockey, I think it helps you."
 
Welcoming the break was goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (26-12-2), who will start Tuesday during his 23rd consecutive appearance -- 21 of them starts. Coach Dan Bylsma said backup Brent Johnson, who has won only once since Oct. 18, will play at least 20 percent of the time in the 32 games that remain after Tuesday.
 
"It was nice to relax, get some sleep and get re-energized," Fleury said. "Ready to go."
 
The Penguins and Maple Leafs play again Wednesday night in Toronto, the first of four sets of back-to-back games for Pittsburgh in three weeks, a scenario that should give Johnson more playing time. The Penguins have another set this weekend, meeting Boston on Saturday and New Jersey on Sunday.
 
"It's two big games for us coming out of the break," Bylsma said.
 
Fleury already has played in 42 games, with 33 remaining in the regular season. His career high is 67 games, a figure he has reached twice previously. Fleury said there is no set number of games that he prefers to play.
 
Bylsma said the coaching staff sketches out a goaltender schedule at the start of each month and rarely alters it. However, Fleury got some extra time recently because of the way the Penguins were playing and because the break was upcoming.
 
With Arron Asham (concussion) still out, the Penguins recalled forward Colin McDonald from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. McDonald played in the AHL All-Star Game in Atlantic City on Monday night and did not make it to Consol Energy Center in time for the morning skate.
 
McDonald has 12 goals and a career-high 26 assists in 41 games at Wilkes-Barre. He was a plus-1 in two games for Pittsburgh earlier this season.
 
McDonald's addition is the only change in the Penguins' line combinations since they last played a week ago, beating St. Louis 3-2 in a shootout on Jan. 24.
 
The Penguins' probable lineup:
 
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Dustin Jeffrey - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Richard Park - Matt Cooke
Colin McDonald - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
 
Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
 
Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:08 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Devils get Greene back from broken foot

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils are getting defenseman Andy Greene back in time to get him up to speed for the sprint to the finish line of the 2011-12 regular season.

Greene, who missed the last 22 games due to a broken left foot, will be in the lineup Tuesday night against the Rangers at Prudential Center. He hasn't played since Dec. 6.

"There's no better game to get right back into it," said Greene, who has 9 assists and is averaging 18:24 of ice time in 23 games this season. "It's going to be an exciting game (against the Rangers), some playoff-type action. Pretty much all the games from here on out are, but this one being the Rangers will obviously have more intensity and it means a little bit more."

Greene didn't practice with the Devils until Monday, but said he spent the All-Star break skating with a few of his teammates. He feels he's in game shape, but he knows that he'll have to focus on keeping things simple Tuesday night because he still has to get his timing back.

"I think we're going to probably have to manage his ice time," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "We'll see how he is. A lot of times these guys come back in this situation and the first game on adrenaline they're really good and then they hit the wall a day or two down the road, so it may be something we might have to watch as the week goes on. I expect him to be fine (Tuesday night)."

DeBoer said he still isn't sure who Greene will play with to start the game, but he was listed next to Mark Fayne on the whiteboard inside the Devils' dressing room.

"After a few shifts I think I'll be back up to speed," Greene said, "but I have to keep it simple and try not to get caught in bad situations."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:45 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Prospects to undergo tough on-ice testing

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Long before those top players from the Canadian Hockey League will hear their names at the NHL Entry Draft, they'll undergo a series of on- and off-ice tests that will provide scouts and general managers an instant user profile of each player.

On Tuesday morning, those 2012 draft-eligible stars of the CHL will be put through those tests at Prospera Place, home to Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets.

The on-ice component, which will have 70 individual measurements extracted from 14 on-ice tests that break each player's game down into the essentials of skating, puck handling and reaction time, will be conducted by a representative from Next Testing. Next Testing, a provider of testing and reporting services for understanding athletic performance, has served as the testing provider for the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game since 2008.
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Posted On Monday, 01.30.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Ryan Murray -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Ryan Murray draft blog

Murray excited for Top Prospects Game

Defenseman Ryan Murray is captain of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League. The 6-foot, 182-pound native of Saskatchewan was recently named captain for Team Cherry at the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna, B.C. He recently won a bronze medal playing for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Despite the busy schedule, Murray continues to provide a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hi everyone!

  Ryan Murray (Credit: Christopher Mast)
First of all, I'm really looking forward at having the chance in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. It is going to be a lot of fun and a great opportunity for myself as well as other players in the CHL to showcase themselves. It is going to be an intense game, like it always is, and I think that will make it even more fun.

They haven't told me what skill I am going to do yet, so I'm getting a little bit nervous for that. I did the passing into the six nets at the NHL RDO camp in August, and that was pretty tough. I would like to have another crack at that one. I think that is the one that I would be best at, since I consider passing one of the key elements to my game.
 
It was a pretty eventful month for me. The World Junior Championship was an amazing experience. Hockey Canada took great care of us for the entire month, and there was a great group of guys on that team.

The fans [in Edmonton and Calgary] were absolutely incredible, I have never seen anything like it. You couldn't hear yourself think sometimes during those games. There are not enough good things that I can say about the experience, and playing at home was extremely special.

The game against Russia for me isn't one to forget, but one to remember. It was one of the biggest hockey lessons I have learned in my life. Three pucks deflected in off me, and one bounced off my skate right to a Russia player wide open in the slot. It was the hardest thing to overcome in my career. I learned that no matter how bad things get, I have to move on from them and can't dwell on the past. It was great that we could regroup as a team after that game and come home with a bronze medal ... something that was very important to all of us. The medal is now in my room, and will probably get put in a frame later on.
 
Here in Everett, we have had a tough season. The first half was full of injuries and inconsistencies and we never could get rolling. The second half so far has been much better, as we are all learning what it takes for us to be successful and the effort that success demands. With all of our first year players, I think a lot of them are beginning to realize how you need to play every single night in order for our team to be successful. We are currently in a hunt for the playoffs with 4 teams, and it is going to be a very exciting second half.
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