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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 4:09 PM

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

Projected lineups for Canucks, Oilers

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Vancouver Canucks host the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena:

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Mason Raymond - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Aaron Rome

Roberto Luongo is in goal for a fifth straight start, a bit of a surprise given backup Cory Schneider has only played three times in more than five weeks -- and won them all -- and, with the break, will have gone three weeks without a start by the time he next plays.

No changes up front, though the top line is hoping to be better than the last few games, with Henrik Sedin on his first three-game drought of the season. Thankfully for Canucks fans, Hodgson continues to roll, with 2 goals, including the winner, in his last game, and a team-high 9 points in January. And a reunited second line is showing signs of the promise demonstrated before Booth's sprained knee split them up for six weeks. He has 2 goals since returning three games ago, and with Higgins feeling like himself after antibiotics to cure a staph infection robbed him of energy, Kesler, who also scored Saturday, now has better options on the wing.

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle
Teemu Hartikainen - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Eric Belanger - Magnus Paajarvi
Lennart Petrell - Anton Lander - Ryan Jones

Ladislav Smid - Ryan Whitney
Theo Peckham - Corey Potter
Andy Sutton - Jeff Petry

Devan Dubnyk gets a second-straight started ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin, and the chance to build off an impressive 44-save, 2-1 shootout win over San Jose Tuesday.

"You want to be a No. 1 in this league, you have to nail a couple of these together to get your team going," coach Tom Renney said Monday night after Dubnyk also stopped three of four in the shootout. "This is a good one to feed off of and build off of. He has to seize the moment."

The forward lines, still missing top rookie scorer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, should be the same as against San Jose the night before as there is no indication Hemsky will face further discipline for the kneeing major that knocked San Jose defenseman Brent Burns out of Monday night's game with a knee injury.

Taylor Chorney is the likely scratch on defense with Whitney's return, with Petry dropping down from a pairing with Smid to play alongside Sutton, who was suspended the last time these teams met in Vancouver on Dec. 26.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 4:04 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators, Coyotes

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Ottawa Senators visit the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena:

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

Injuries
C Peter Regin (shoulder), indefintely
C Jesse Winchester (concussion), indefinitely
D Brian Lee (lower body), indefinitely
 
Turris will make his return to Phoenix for the first time since a Dec. 17 trade with the Senators. He was booed while he was a Coyote, so don't expect that to change tonight. Anderson was pulled in Monday's loss to the Kings, but is expected to start tonight.

COYOTES

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

Keith Yandle - Rostislav Klesla
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Michal Rozsival - Chris Summers

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Injuries
D David Schlemko (foot), out for the rest of the season
D Derek Morris (lower body), day-to-day
C Daymond Langkow (face), questionable
 
Phoenix will get Aucoin back on defense -- just in time to replace the injured Morris. Langkow is a game-time decision and would replace Marc-Antonie Pouliot in the lineup if he can go, moving between Korpikoski and Doan with Gordon dropping down to the third line.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:24 PM

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

Blues get another stiff test heading into break

ST. LOUIS -- Playing their fourth game in six nights, the St. Louis Blues haven't gotten any free passes heading into the All-Star break.

After a playoff-type intensity for 60 minutes in a 3-1 loss at Detroit Monday, the Blues jumped on a plane and headed back home, where they have the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins awaiting for tonight's matchup at Scottrade Center.

The Penguins (27-17-4) have reeled off six wins in a row after dropping six. In the six games they've won, the Pens have picked it up offensively with 25 goals. They scored only six in the previous six losses in a row.

"Pittsburgh's playing really well," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've got the good winning feeling going. We're in the same position when we went into Pittsburgh. We played very well there, so if we can duplicate the game there we played in Pitt, it'll be really good for us. That was a jumping off point for us. We really took the ball from there and played well for about a month. That's what we want to do is keep building on the good things we're doing and address some of the things we need to get better in."

The Blues won 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 23, which was Sidney Crosby's second game back from a concussion, on an overtime goal by Alex Pietrangelo. It started a string of four straight wins for the Blues, and the Penguins remember it quite well.

"They're a formidable challenge," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They play a physical, aggressive game. They have been tough to score against, they haven't given up a lot of goals, they've gotten good goaltending, and they're a team that takes the attack to the other team as well, quickly and with aggression. They're playing well on the road and at home."

The Blues (29-13-6) went on a 9-1-2 run starting with the win over the Penguins, a game they used as a building block to what Hitchcock is trying to preach to his squad.

"We want to do the things they do," Hitchcock said of the Penguins. "They're one of the best north-south teams in the League. They have been for four years now. We want to learn to play that way. It's a hard way to play, it's very demanding but very successful.

"We played that way for the most part against Pitt and were very successful. It helps selling it down the line in other games. We were able to use that game for over a month as a reference point that this is how you have to play to win hockey games in the League now."

The Blues will have the challenge of facing the scorching-hot Evgeni Malkin, who leads the NHL with 58 points (26 goals, 32 assists) in 41 games.

Malkin has 15 points in nine games coming into tonight, and combined with James Neal's 26 goals and 20 assists, the Penguins will throw a lot at the Blues' top line, led by captain David Backes.

"I think when you play against teams who are good offensively, they challenge you defensively," Hitchcock said. "They're a little different opponent. They play a different way, but it'll be a good challenge for us."

------------

The St. Louis Blues' loss at Detroit on Monday night marks their third and final time playing at Joe Louis Arena this season. They went 0-3 there, and those defeats are the Blues' only regulation losses in their last 15 games (10-3-2).

"They dialed up their ability to play defense and didn't give us much and created a lot on the transition," Backes said of the Western Conference-leading Red Wings. "Rather than having a good response to it and staying with our game, putting pucks in and going on the forecheck, we kind of tried to play a finesse game and tried to play an easier game. You can't respond that way or else they take advantage. They create a lot of penalties and capitalized on a lot of their chances."

Hitchcock agreed.

"They don't dial up their skill, they dial up their checking," Hitchcock said of the Red Wings. "They dial up the checking and they pushed a few of our guys out. Lessons learned.

"We're a young team trying to learn to win. We're getting closer and closer. There's going to come a time when we're going to beat them, whether it's in a series or whatever, we're going to end up beating them. But we're going to have to learn the lessons. ... All the games were very similar. We had an advantage early, they had the advantage late and they ended up beating us. The same thing happened here, too. They had the advantage early in both games here and then we took it over. They're up 3-2 in the series, but it's their checking that dialed it up yesterday. They pushed us out from that aspect and got some guys discouraged. We dealt with it today and it's going to make us better moving forward."

------------

The game against Detroit changed for the Blues late in the first period on Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart's check on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

The Blues were leading 1-0 at the time and the jolt along the right boards seemed to spark the Wings. They went on to score twice in the second and late in the third.

The Blues' Chris Stewart took exception to Stuart's hit, came off the bench on a line change and challenged Stuart. Stewart went on to drop Stuart in a fight but got 17 minutes in penalties, including an instigator penalty that led to Pavel Datsyuk's game-tying power play goal.

Still, the Blues had no issues with Stewart sticking up for a teammate.

"I loved it. No problem," Hitchcock said. "What he did was a teammate's response. No issue."

Backes added: "We need to be able to kill off that penalty and pick a guy up. Maybe he took an extra penalty, but he stood up for a teammate. We're going to stick together and go through the battles together. He gets a lot of respect and admiration from our team; we don't think that was a poor play at all."


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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:22 PM

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

Crosby remains in California after visiting specialist

ST. LOUIS -- The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to try to give daily updates on star center Sidney Crosby, but coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday that he's in California after visiting with Dr. Robert S. Bray, a neurological spine specialst, to continue to treat the lingering effects of concussion-like symptoms, which will force Crosby to miss his 21st straight game tonight after playing in eight upon his return.

So in essence, no new real information.

"Not a timetable because it's possible he could stay there for a little bit of a break as well," Bylsma said of Crosby. "Not a definitive day back in Pittsburgh because he'll be staying on the beach for a little bit."

Crosby first went to Atlanta to pay a visit to Ted Carrick, the chiropractic Neurologist who treated the 2009 NHL MVP for his concussion symptoms last summer.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:15 PM

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

Homecoming for Missouri native Vitale

ST. LOUIS -- Tonight's game against the Blues isn't just a run-of-the-mill hockey game for Pittsburgh Penguins center Joe Vitale. It's a chance to play at home.

Vitale, from nearby Sunset Hills, Mo., will make his first appearance on Scottrade Center ice since his senior year in high school, when he helped CBC High School knock off De Smet in the Missouri Mid-States State Championship game in 2004.

"I had some good memories here when I was a kid and playing two periods at Blues games," said Vitale, who has 2 goals and 9 points in 41 games this season. "I obviously played in playoff state championships here. To play here and come back and play (against) the Blues, it's pretty crazy, but I'm pretty sure it'll sink in sometime later this week when I'm on break."

Vitale will have a plethora of family and friends in attendance, to which he said: "I lost count. They got about three boxes. I let them have at it with that. People keep asking for tickets, but I finally had to shut my phone off. It's gameday and I'm trying to focus now."

His dad helped him in that aspect, but he's just glad to see a dream come true for a local kid.

"Twenty years ago, this wasn't really a hockey hotbed," said Vitale, who played most of his youth hockey at the local Affton Ice Rink. "So the expectations were pretty low. I was just kind of out there having fun. So it's definitely exciting being out there.

"I glanced at (the schedule), but I was hopeful that I would be here. Around Christmas time, I thought I had a shot to play here. I really started getting excited then."

Vitale's teammates know the feeling.

"It's a great thing to have your family, siblings in the stands and all your friends you grew up with," defenseman Kris Letang said. "To have them get the chance to see you play live, it's pretty amazing that he has a chance to do that.

"I'm from Montreal, so when we play in Montreal, there's always a little something about it because I grew up watching (the Canadiens) play. It's always special to play in your hometown."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:14 PM

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

Projected lineups for Penguins, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Here's how tonight's lineups could look for the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Dustin Jeffrey - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke - Richard Park - Steve Sullivan
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Eric Tangradi

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

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

The Penguins' inactives include center Sidney Crosby (concussion symptoms), winger Arron Asham (concussion), center Jordan Staal (knee) and defenseman Simon Despres (knee). Defenseman Ben Lovejoy and winger Steve MacIntyre are expected to be healthy scratches.

BLUES
David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Patrik Berglund - Matt D'Agostini
Jamie Langenbrunner - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

It will mark Elliott's first start since Jan. 12. Halak played the previous five games.

The Blues' inactives include forward Andy McDonald (concussion), winger Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) and defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle). Winger Chris Porter is a healthy scratch, while defenseman Ian Cole has been assigned to AHL Peoria.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:04 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Wild, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

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

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

Niklas Backstrom will start in goal, with Josh Harding the backup.

Injuries: RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), C Mikko Koivu (shoulder), LW Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and RW Jarod Palmer (concussion) are out.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - Peter Mueller
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - David Jones
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Chuck Kobasew

Erik Johnson - Shane O'Brien
Kyle Quincey - Ryan Wilson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start in goal, with Semyon Varlamov the backup.

Injuries: LW Matt Duchene (knee) is out.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 2:57 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps need supporting players to step up

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Playing against the Boston Bruins can be tough enough at full strength, but the Washington Capitals will do so tonight without their three best players.

Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green are injured, and Alex Ovechkin will join them as spectators as he serves the first game of his three-game suspension for a charging incident with Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek during Sunday's game against the Penguins.

"I think when you lose top guys, you sort of go into survival mode," said Brooks Laich. "You want to be in close hockey games. You want to be right there at the end of the game where you have a chance to win. If you can, just get it to overtime and see what happens -- just try and survive it. They play a lot of minutes, but we're going to have to find a different way to win now."

The Capitals have played without Ovechkin in the past, and actually done a fine job without their franchise player and captain. Two seasons ago, Ovechkin missed 10 games because of injury and suspension, but Tomas Fleischmann filled in on the top line and scored a bunch of goals in the games Ovechkin missed.

Washington also has had some success without Green, but not having all three at the same time will be quite the challenge.

"It is tough," said Mathieu Perreault. "Those are your best players and we need them on the ice. At the same time, it is a good opportunity for guys to step up. We have confidence in our group here. Even without those guys, we can out-work and out-play other teams."

Perreault will center the Capitals' top line against the Bruins, flanked by Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson. Perreault had a strong game against Pittsburgh on Sunday as he played on Ovechkin's line.

The Capitals will need members of their supporting cast to move into leading roles without the trio of stars for the next three games, which includes contests against Tampa Bay and Florida following tonight's game.

"It is an opportunity for other guys -- Matty Perreault and Marcus (Johansson) are going to get more minutes and they're excited about that," Laich said. "Other guys are going to get chances on the power play, but obviously those are three big guys for our team. You're never going to replace them, but you have to try and pick up some of the slack. You have to do that by committee."

Added Perreault: "Just last game I ended up playing over 16 minutes and it was a career high for me. Obviously when you get more minutes, you get more chances to score points. It is a good chance for me to show what I can do with more minutes."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 2:36 PM

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

Ducks want to keep the wins coming

DALLAS -- The Anaheim Ducks (18-22-7, 43 points) will look to continue their nine-game unbeaten streak with a win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. Bruce Boudreau's club is 8-0-1 over its last nine games, a run of positive results that includes a 5-2 win over the same Stars on Jan. 10 at the Honda Center.

Anaheim's coach has no illusions about how rare such a good run of form is in today's National Hockey League.

"I think it has more to do with staying at a level to win, which is difficult. That's why there's not a lot of winning streaks of this nature during the course of a year," Boudreau said. "It's tough to win. Early on, teams said we're playing the Ducks. Now teams say they're playing pretty well. We'd better be ready for them. We want to be the ones to end it."

For Ducks forward Corey Perry, the 2011 Hart Trophy winner, his club's recent streak is something he chalks up to one simple fact.

"Yeah, I think everybody's starting to buy into the system. Everybody's buying into what Bruce is preaching every day," Perry said. "You look at the way we've been winning games and it starts right in our own zone -- playing tight defense and eliminating the turnovers we had in the first half of the year."

The Ducks head into tonight's game two days removed from a 3-2 win over Colorado, a game where starting goaltender Jonas Hiller stopped a season-high 43 shots to pick up his fifth straight win between the pipes.

"I don't think we played our best, but Hiller did. This was a game the goalie needed to steal you one," Boudreau said. "We just hope it doesn't become a trend. I just thought our guys looked a little tired, maybe a little more mentally tired than they were physically tired, but Jonas came up and played tremendous for us."

Tonight's game coupled with Anaheim's first two after the break against Phoenix and a second meeting with Dallas figure to be big should the Ducks hope to climb back into the playoff race, something everyone in the room is aware of.

"We talked about that this morning. It's division opponents and teams you're trying to catch in the standings," Perry said. "These are three huge games for us. Six points are on the line. You could even say 12 points are on the line because it's our division and division teams. We have to be ready to play. We want to get the two points tonight before the six-day break that we have and go into the break on a high. It'd be a good feeling if we could do that."

His coach agrees, but is also keeping things in proper perspective.

"We just want to focus on one thing at a time, and tonight's the only thing we want to focus on," Boudreau said.

But the veteran head coach did admit he and his staff are on guard to prevent his players from looking past tonight's game to the pending All-Star break.

"Yeah, I think we alluded to that this morning a little bit and we'll do it again tonight. We'll do some talking about that for sure," Boudreau said.

   

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 2:15 PM

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

In need of win, Stars hope for boost from Ribeiro

DALLAS -- It's no big secret that the Dallas Stars (24-21-2, 50 points) need a win in a big way. Dallas is currently on a five-game winless streak, a run that has seen both their record at home and on the road fall below .500.

The Stars have also not won at home since Jan. 7, going 0-2-1 in their last four at American Airlines Center and making tonight's game with the Anaheim Ducks pretty huge.

"We've played a few games here through this stretch with some good intensity. The way Anaheim's playing we're going to have to come out hard," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We're looking for a 60-minute effort from all our guys."

Dallas will get a boost from the return of top centerman Mike Ribeiro, who has missed the last seven games with a knee injury.

Gulutzan said Ribeiro is ready to go, but the veteran center wasn't quite so sure.

"Good, it feels good out there. Just see after the warm-up (before the game)," Ribeiro said. "This morning, it was a little tight when I got up. First 10 minutes, it's tight and then after I'm warmed up, it felt better."

And the one thing the veteran center wants to bring is energy to his club.

"You need to win no matter what or get a point here and there, scratch it out. It's going to be important before the break to get a win to boost the team with a positive before the break. February's going to be crazy for us," Ribeiro said. "It's going to be important to finish (the first half) the right way. It's important for us to win to just get that positive vibe back. If I can play tonight, hopefully I can bring energy for the guys and get guys excited for the game."

However, the Stars will be without captain Brenden Morrow, who is currently bothered by a neck issue, something that reared its head earlier this season and put him out for six games.

With Morrow out, Dallas called up Matt Fraser from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League who had 21 goals and 35 points in 40 games in the AHL. Fraser will skate on the Stars' fourth line alongside Jake Dowell and Tomas Vincour.

"It's exciting," Fraser said of making his NHL debut. "You dream of this day since you start playing hockey. Obviously, it's a step in the right direction for me personally. It's just a small taste. My goal is to be a professional in the NHL."

Dallas will also still be without center Jamie Benn, who will miss a fourth straight game after having his appendix out nine days ago. Benn however will likely skate in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday in Ottawa.

While the Stars players know they want more than anything to head into the All-Star break on a winning note, they also realize they’re facing a Ducks team that is unbeaten in their last nine (8-0-1).

"Obviously, they've got those big three guys (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan), those three righty skill players, big guys," Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "More importantly, they're playing really good, something like 8-1-1 in their last 10. They're playing obviously their best hockey of the year. Got off to a tough start, but they're kind of rounding into form I guess. It'll be a good test for us tonight."
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