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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 3:08 PM

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

Umberger back for Blue Jackets

NASHVILLE -- Columbus activated left wing RJ Umberger, who has been one of the League's most durable players over the last few seasons, off injured reserve on Monday and Umberger will get back in the lineup when the Blue Jackets visit the Predators later in the day.

Umberger, who has 7 goals and 11 assists, was out for nine days and five games with concussion-like symptoms. To make room in the lineup, rookie Ryan Johansen, the fourth pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was expected to sit out, coach Todd Richards said.

Johansen has 1 goal in the last 12 games. He has been a healthy scratch five times this season, but not since Dec. 18. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound 19-year-old has 8 goals and 8 assists in 41 games and, at plus-3, is one of only three players with a positive rating on the Blue Jackets.

He had been skating on the Blue Jackets' second line with Derick Brassard and Tomas Kubalik. Umberger will likely slip into that slot.

"It's exciting," Umberger said. "It's obviously a new feeling for me. I was a little anxious and nervous this morning. I'm not used to being a guy who comes back in the lineup, so hopefully I just grab back on to my normal routines and make it a normal game."

Umberger said his goal was to get in front of the Predators' net, and to "be greasy and play a hard game."

Umberger, 29, had played in every game over each of the last three seasons and over the previous six seasons he had missed only eight games. Until the last five games, he had never missed a game as a Blue Jacket -- playing in 206 straight.

He talked about the frightening nature of head injuries.

"You just want to make sure you're getting healthy, you're going to live a normal life again," he said. "Things with the head are just so scary. It's not a fun way to go about every day, so once I started to get signs of coming back around, starting to feel myself,  that makes you feel a little better."

Richards addressed why Johansen would sit.

“A lot of it is his game’s been OK -- he has been OK -- but when you look up and down our lineup, our forwards, it’s tough to pull other guys out for what they bring to our team and what we need as a team, or what we feel as a staff we need, going into certain games,” he said. “The way our top six has gone, they’ve been good and we’re really happy with our third line, (Samuel) Pahlsson, (Derek) Dorsett and (Ryan) Russell.

"Right now, it's just a set of circumstances that he's not in the lineup. And he needs to be better. I think he can be better, but his play has not been bad where we have to get him out of the lineup."

Defenseman Brett Lebda was set to make his season debut after the Blue Jackets signed him on Jan. 17. He was expected to play on their top pair with Fedor Tyutin. Lebda was going to take the place of Nikita Nikitin, who had played in every game but one since Nov. 12 when he arrived with Kris Russell in a trade from St. Louis. Nikitin, who has 2 goals and 16 assists in 38 games, injured his knee on Saturday against Detroit.

Steve Mason was expected to start in goal, his second start in the last three games but only his third in the last 10.
 
Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Tomas Kubalik
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll
 
Fedor Tyutin - Brett Lebda
Marc Methot - John Moore
Grant Clitsome - Aaron Johnson
 
Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Islanders, Maple Leafs

Here's how the lines could look tonight when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the New York Islanders at Air Canada Centre:

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

Mark Streit - Travis Hamonic
Andrew MacDonald - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Dylan Reese

Evgeni Nabokov

MAPLE LEAFS
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connolly - Nazem Kadri
Clarke MacArthur - David Steckel - Mike Brown
 
Dion Phaneuf - Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson - Mike Komisarek
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Jonas Gustavsson
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 1:26 PM

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

Toews out Tuesday, could miss All-Star Game

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will miss Tuesday's game against the Nashville Predators, and his availability for this weekend's NHL All-Star Game also appears in question.

Toews left Saturday's game in Nashville with what the team is calling an upper-body injury during the second period of the Hawks' 5-2 loss.

In speaking with reporters, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said today there wasn't one particular hit that injured Toews. He added that Toews was "not likely" to take part in the All-Star Weekend festivities.

"We have some time off. Have some extra days there," Quenneville said. "Hopefully he gets some rest. We'll get a better assessment after (the All-Star break)."

The Chicago Tribune reported Toews had been slashed on the left hand by Florida's Erik Gudbranson during Friday's game against the Panthers, but there's no word if that injury is connected to Toews' current ailment.

Quenneville said Dave Bolland will move into Toews' top line spot for Tuesday's game. 

"I don't want him to change how he plays," said Quenneville. "He doesn't have to be Johnny or an offensive type of guy. Play to your strength, especially tomorrow, because it will be a tight game."

Patrick Kane, Toews' linemate, said the rest of the team will have to step up in Toews' absence.

"Guys are going to have to step up and try to fill the void," said Kane. "We have to make sure we're focused and worry about the task at hand. He plays in every situation, key player, a guy you definitely miss if he's out of the lineup. You can't replace a player like (Patrick) Sharp or Toews, but there are some guys who can step up, and they have. These are big opportunities for myself and a lot of guys here."

In other Blackhawks news, Patrick Sharp skated for the first time today in his recovery from a left wrist injury. It's anticipated he'll return sometime during the Hawks' road trip after the All-Star break.

Quenneville also noted Corey Crawford will start in goal Tuesday against the Predators.

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

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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:54 PM

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

Mason hopes to continue mastery of Hurricanes

The Jets have had the Hurricanes' number this season, winning the first three games between the Southeast Division rivals. Winnipeg backup goaltender Chris Mason has been in the net for all of them, twice as the starter, once in relief. He has surrendered just four goals in the process.

"I don't really have an explanation," Mason said. "I haven't played against them a ton. I've had the three games against them this year and I've done pretty good. There's other teams I have played against a lot more and I don't have success against, even though I may have a better idea of what guys are going to do."

Given Mason's record against Carolina, Winnipeg coach Claude Noel didn't need to ponder the goaltending choice very long.
 
"If a guy has success against a team and feels comfortable, it's a pretty easy decision," he said. "But there's no guarantees in a game. Carolina's been going good. They've played a lot of low-scoring games. It's going to be all we can handle. Mason's going to have to be good."

Cam Ward will make his eighth straight start for Carolina. In his current stretch of seven consecutive starts, Ward has allowed no more than two goals in any game, good for a 3-2-2 mark.

JETS
Alexander Burmistrov - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Eric Fehr - Patrice Cormier - Antti Miettinen
 
Tobias Enstrom - Ron Hainsey
Johnny Oduya - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones
 
Chris Mason
Ondrej Pavelec
 
HURRICANES
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Jussi Jokinen - Jeff Skinner - Zac Dalpe
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 Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:52 PM

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

Yip's addition making things tough for Trotz

NASHVILLE -- After claiming forward Brandon Yip on waivers from the Avalanche last Thursday, Nashville now has 14 healthy forwards. That's made for some difficult decisions for coach Barry Trotz, as the team is playing well, having won 10 of 12 entering Monday.

On Saturday, the healthy scratches were Brian McGrattan and Matt Halischuk, who has 10 goals and also kills penalties. While McGrattan likely will continue to sit out for the time being, the other scratch will be a tough call on a nightly basis.

Trotz said he did not anticipate a roster move and said the Predators benefit from having the depth.

"The season's going to ramp up a little bit here," Trotz said. "We're going to have the trade deadline (Feb. 27). I think it was a great move picking up on Brandon. He's a player we've liked for a while. Hopefully, a new lease on life. We've had a number of players that's been a real good thing for us.

"It gives us a lot more depth and it allows even (general manager David Poile), if something comes up for the trade deadline and if we have to add or delete, in the past we'd add someone, but by adding someone, you create other holes and then we've had to expend a third- or a fourth-, fifth-round pick to fill that hole. With a Brandon Yip or whatever … you don't have to do that if you have more depth."

Here is what lineup the Predators could put out tonight -- one that includes defenseman Ryan Suter for the first time since Jan. 16.

Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Jordin Tootoo - Nick Spaling - Gabriel Bourque
Jerred Smithson - Craig Smith - Brandon Yip

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Jack Hillen - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne will start in goal, with Anders Lindback the backup.

Matt Halischuk and Brian McGrattan also took shifts on the fourth line, sharing time with Yip.
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:45 PM

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

Suter back in for Predators

NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Ryan Suter will return to the lineup tonight when his team hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets, securing his ability to play in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game.

Suter, who ranks third in the League in average time on ice at 26:30, missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, potentially jeopardizing his ability to play in his first All-Star Game. However, that issue seems to have resolved itself.

"What I said before was if I don't play with my team before the All-Star break, then it's not fair to go and play in something like that," said Suter, who turned 27 on Saturday. "Hopefully, everything goes well in the next couple of days and go have fun."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Suter wanted to play in Saturday's 5-2 win against Chicago, but the team held him out as a precaution.

Suter's return comes at an opportune time for Nashville, as veteran defenseman Francis Bouillon is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Bouillon got hurt Saturday and did not return.
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 12:26 PM

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

Stars sign Goligoski to four-year extension

The Dallas Stars and defenseman Alex Goligoski agreed to terms Monday on a four-year, $18.4 million contract extension.

Goligoski is in the final season of a three-year, $5.5 million contract and would have been a restricted free agent after the season.

"We're very pleased that we were able to sign Alex to this extension," said Stars owner Tom Gaglardi. "We are committed to building a winner here in Dallas and that starts with re-signing your key players and maintaining a solid foundation for your roster."

Goligoski, 26, has 15 points in 34 games, and leads the team with an average of 22:34 of ice time per game. He had 15 points in 23 games after arriving in Dallas in a trade last season.

Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the 2004 Entry Draft, Goligoski has 33 goals and 120 points in 236 games with the Pens and Stars.

"Alex Goligoski is one of our core players and we are very pleased to get him under contract during the prime of his career," said Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "Alex is a character person and one of the anchors of our blue line. He's a big part of our hockey club."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 10:58 AM

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

Caps' Backstrom takes short turn on ice

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who hasn't played since being hit in the head by then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque during a game Jan. 3, skated for the first time today since Jan. 6.

According to the Washington Post, Backstrom skated for five minutes at the team's practice facility wearing warm-up clothes rather than his full equipment, and during his time on the ice he did nothing strenuous.

Backstrom took part in two practices in the three days after the Calgary game, but after a practice Jan. 6 in San Jose, Backstrom suffered a setback which kept him off the ice until this morning. There's still no timetable for his return.

Despite missing the last nine games, Backstrom still leads the Capitals with 42 points.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 10:18 AM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Howard a fan when it comes to shootouts

The shootout is a bit of a polarizing topic among goalies.

They either like the excitement or dislike the fact that  of the hard work they put in to get to that point comes down to a contest of breakaways. Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard is among those who enjoy it.

"I don't mind it," he said of shootouts, following a 3-2 win in the breakaways contest on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. "It's fun. It's fun for the fans. It's intense. You can just see by the reaction of the fans how much they enjoy it. It's just about being patient as a goalie, let them run out of room and have to make a move and just push the puck. It's working on it in practice. It's also having fun out there."

It's also a good thing for the Wings that Howard has that kind of outlook about it.

Heading into Monday night's Central Division showdown with the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena, the Wings have won four of their last six games in shootouts, including their last three in a row. They've also been in five shootouts this season and triumphed in every one -- four won by Howard and one by backup Ty Conklin.

In his four victories, Howard has allowed just two goals, which doesn't surprise his teammates.

"We face him in practice all the time and we know he's a really good goalie when it comes to shootouts," said Valtteri Filppula, who clinched Saturday night’s 3-2 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets by roofing a wrister past Curtis Sanford. "I think it definitely gives us confidence if we score. It always gives us a good chance to win and (Saturday night) was a good example of that."

In that one, Howard made saves against three Blue Jackets shooters and waited out power forward Rick Nash -- who lost the puck as he was going to shoot, with the puck sliding wide of the net. Each save that Howard made, the home crowd got louder and more into the shootout.

Filppula said each save has the same effect on the Wings' bench.

"There's a lot of good shooters on the (opposing) teams and he makes really good saves," Filppula said. "It definitely pumps up the team and we really want to win those games."

If Monday night's game goes to the breakaways, however, the opposing goalie will be the red-hot Jaroslav Halak, who’s 11-0-3 in his last 13 starts and within two more games of tying the team record for consecutive games without a regulation loss.

However, Halak's been in net for all six of the Blues' shootouts and won just one -- allowing five goals.

Here is a look at how the Blues and Red Wings might line up on Monday night:

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - TJ Oshie
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

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

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

RED WINGS
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
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Posted On Monday, 01.23.2012 / 9:00 AM

By Pat LaFontaine -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Making of a Royal

Shattuck-St. Mary's Showcase recap

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, head coach Pat LaFontaine discusses his team's opening game of the Shattuck-St. Mary's Showcase in Faribault, MN. The team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to earn a 5-5 tie against the host school, Under-16 Shattuck-St. Mary's. Brent D'Iorio and Michael Marnell each had two goals apiece and Nicholas Hutchison had a goal and one assist to spark the comeback.


It was great for the kids to experience Shattuck St. Mary's and talk about the hockey tradition it's turned out. If you look at the names of the players who have come out of there, like [Sidney] Crosby, [Jonathan] Toews and [Zach] Parise … it's basically a hockey factory.

Everybody knew where we were at and how special a place it really was. There have been a lot of tremendous hockey players coming out of Shattuck, but it didn't matter whether you flew four hours or sat in a hotel room because come game time, it's all jam. The kids had to put on their game face and be ready to play. We needed to just show up by setting the tempo, moving our feet and getting some shots off.

After the first period, I had to remind the players to stop acting like they were feeling sorry for themselves. They had to play with a purpose and not just go through the motions out there. The players needed to find some energy, some fire in their veins. Probably the hardest thing about coaching, and any coach will tell you this, is motivating and preparing kids to be ready to play at a high level.
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Philadelphia is where I started my NHL career and this is where I want to be so I am really happy. This definitely gives me a lot of confidence by the Flyers showing that they have confidence in me. I know they want to see me get better as a player and this is the place to do it.

— Zac Rinaldo to the Flyers website on signing a two-year contract extension with Philadelphia