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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 10:58 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: March 12

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 69 76 13 89 8

9th 69 72 13 84 10
10th 69 72 13 84 10
11th 68 69 14 82 11
12th 69 68 13 79 12
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 69 76 13 88 8

9th 69 76 13 88 8
10th 70 76 12 88 8
11th 67 75 15 90 9

The skinny: Buffalo finds itself in the thick of a Stanley Cup Playoff race, four points behind the Washington Capitals, who currently hold the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Beating the teams below you in the standings and those with whom you are competing for a playoff spot becomes paramount at this point of the season.

While the projection may look daunting for the Sabres, they control their destiny with a game against Montreal on Monday (7 p.m. ET, TSN), followed by Florida and Tampa Bay before meeting Montreal again in nine days.

That run of games is pivotal for the Sabres because they play the Capitals on March 27, but it will not be a game of meaning if Buffalo doesn't obtain points in this critical stretch of games, which include three contests against teams currently out of the playoff picture.

San Jose finds itself out of the playoff picture as the week opens -- when was the last time that was the case?

The perennial Pacific Division champions have entered into a fight for their playoff lives.

That being said, the Sharks still project to the No. 8 position in the Western Conference -- largely based on having games in hand against the other teams in contention.

One of those games is Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN), a team well below them in the standings. A win can give the Sharks a bit of breathing room as they head to Calgary to face the surging Flames on Tuesday.

Two wins by the Sharks and they can re-enter the race for first in the Pacific.

That's how fast things can change as the regular season enters its final stage.

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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 9:00 AM

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

LaFontaine talks about the N.Y. State Tournament

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, head coach Pat LaFontaine talks about the upcoming N.Y. State Tournament in Buffalo. On March 16, the Long Island Royals face the Hamburg (N.Y.) Hawks and the following day, the Syracuse Nationals.

As a 15-year-old team last year, we went to the final game and lost to the Buffalo Regals. We had beaten them in the first game but then ended up getting three or four kids injured, and ended up beaten up at that time. It was kind of a learning experience for the kids at 15, and we almost won it.

As coaches, we want to see the growth and the kids climb individually and collectively as a team and you do that through experience and adversity and through practice in trying to work hard, get better and improve all the time. Looking back, everything started in May and June in off-ice workouts and we got off to a good start and that carried over. We finished 49-5-3 and had a few bumps in the road, but through it all, we had a lot of learning experiences.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 8:37 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

STL @ CBJ 17:28 of the Third Period



At 17:28 of the third period in the Blues/ Blue Jackets game, video review confirmed the referee's call on the ice that Rick Nash's shot never crosses the goal line. No goal Columbus.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 7:47 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYI @ NYR - 11:15 of the First Period



At 11:15 of the first period in the Islanders/Rangers game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck deflected off John Tavares  and entered the net in a legal fashion. Good goal Islanders.

According to rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body , in any manner, the goal shall be allowed."
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 7:34 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CAR @ FLA -17:00 of Third Period



At 17:00 of the third period in the Hurricanes/Panthers game, video review was used to determine that Jerred Smithson kicked the puck into the net with his left skate. No goal Florida.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 6:06 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bobrovsky to start against Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will get his first start in almost a month on Sunday when the Philadelphia Flyers visit Prudential Center for an Atlantic Division showdown against the New Jersey Devils.
 
The Flyers scored a 1-0 shootout victory less than 24 hours earlier behind Ilya Bryzgalov's fifth shutout of the season. It was Bryzgalov's 11th straight start between the pipes. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told the media prior to faceoff that Bobrovsky would get the nod -- Bryzgalov is the likely starter on Tuesday in Philadelphia when the Flyers close out the home-and-home set with the Devils.
 
Bryzgalov is 8-2-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and three shutouts in Philadelphia's last 11 games -- including a no-decision. He's posted a 0.99 GAA and two of the shutouts during the Flyers' current five-game winning streak.
 
"We talked about this, looking at the schedule and what was coming up," Laviolette said. "The back-to-back and the fact Bryz has played 11 in a row, every other night, pretty much. It's a chance to get a fresh goaltender in there."
 
Bobrovsky, who last started Feb. 18 in a 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, is 12-8-1 with a 2.99 GAA and .900 save percentage in 24 appearances for the Flyers this season. He is 1-1-1 with a 4.71 GAA and .864 save percentage in three career games against New Jersey.
 
"You look at the schedule and what you have available, we got a guy who has been waiting and wants to get in there and play and this is a perfect spot to get him in there, as opposed to running Bryz down," Laviolette said.
 
Bobrovsky had lost four of the five starts he made in February.
 
The Flyers are 2-0-1 against the Devils in 2011-12 and have won five of eight and eight of the last 12 meetings. New Jersey has won its last two at the Wells Fargo Center, including a 4-3 shootout decision when the teams last met on Nov. 3.
 
The Devils will counter with Martin Brodeur in goal. Brodeur is 44-29-9 in 83 career games against the Flyers with a 2.50 GAA, .904 save percentage and nine shutouts.
 
Here are the projected lineups for each team:
 
DEVILS
 
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky
 
Brodeur will start and Johan Hedberg, who earned a 23-save, 2-1 victory on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, will serve as backup.
 
FLYERS
 
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Max Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo
Jody Shelley - Eric Wellwood - Brayden Schenn
 
Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Erik Gustafsson
Brandon Manning - Andreas Lilja
 
Bobrovsky gets the start in goal, with Bryzgalov serving as backup.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 4:25 PM

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

Blues activate Langenbrunner off IR

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The St. Louis Blues announced that they have activated winger Jamie Langenbrunner off injured reserve and he will return tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Langenbrunner suffered a broken left foot blocking a shot on Feb. 19 in a 3-1 loss at Chicago. Langenbrunner has 21 points on four goals and 17 assists in 57 games.

Langenbrunner was originally supposed to be reevaluated in four weeks but will return ahead of schedule after practicing with the team in recent days.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 3:49 PM

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

Sutter: Brown's path on the ice determines his play

CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Kings top-line forward Dustin Brown has a seven-game point streak going into Sunday night's road matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m., NBCSN) at the United Center.

He's recorded assists in three straight games and has five goals to go with six assists during the torrid stretch. Kings coach Darryl Sutter said it's come as the result of Brown's ability to play more of a vertical game with his skating instead of going horizontally, side to side, too often.

"Brown's been really solid," Sutter said after Sunday's optional morning skate. "He's got to play a straight-line game. If you see him going East to West on the ice, you'll know he's not on his game. He's got to play that North-South game."

Why?

"It allows him to play with power," Sutter said of the 6-0, 204-pound Brown. "When he does that, the nets are aligned for him. It's his game and he knows it. When he tries to do too much is when he gets out of his zone."

Brown, who's on the top line with star center Anze Kopitar and right wing Justin Williams, has scored 19 goals and added 23 assists in 68 games for the Kings.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 3:46 PM

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

Injured Hawks defenseman Montador skating again

CHICAGO -- Steve Montador has been out of the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks for the past 15 games with an undisclosed upper body injury and will also miss Sunday night's home game against the Los Angeles Kings.

Montador, however, did participate in Chicago's optional morning skate -- which was his first time working out with teammates on the ice since incurring the injury, which is believed to be concussion-related.

Montador skated on his own a week ago, when the Hawks were on a three-game road trip, but didn't get on the ice this past week with his team at home until Sunday morning.

"I've never been out for this long during the regular season," said Montador, who's playing his 10th NHL season. "It's hard to just sit back and watch, I guess. When you feel like you're getting ready and then you're getting on the ice and have to take some time off, there's some psychological and emotional turbulence that goes with it. Certainly it was a challenge, but the overall trend has been pretty solid, which is exciting and encouraging for me."

How difficult has it been for him to not being around his teammates much and not play at all?

"The situation for me is kind of like any other[injury], although for me it's unique because it's the longest I've ever had throughout the middle of a season," Montador said. "That was just the biggest challenge for me, as far as seeing the guys play and expecting to be out there myself and practicing and being around the guys. Being around the guys was actually harder this time, because you feel like you want to join in and you're kind of left out obviously, because you're injured."

Montador, who said he's dealt with this kind of injury before in his career, was evasive about the nature of the ailment and gave no indication whether the speculation about it being concussion-related was accurate.

However, teammates Jonathan Toews and Niklas Hjalmarsson have also missed time recently with what's believed to be concussion-related injuries and Toews -- who's still out -- said it's been helpful to have a couple of teammates with similar injuries recovering at the same time. Either way, Montador said he's hoping to return before the end of the season -- which only has 13 games left in the regular season.

"That's my plan," he said on Sunday. "We've only got about a month or so left. I can't put an exact timetable on it, but I don't think I'm that far away."

Things might have changed on the Hawks blue line since Montador left the lineup, however. Rookie defenseman Dylan Olsen has stepped in and played very well, which will mean Hawks coach Joel Quenneville will have to make some decisions about who plays once Montador is ready to go again.

"We like tough decisions," Quenneville said. "We've had a couple times this year where we were short on the back end, but it [would give] us another option. He's got some versatility in his game, as well. We will be excited to have him back."
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 3:42 PM

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

Toews skates for fourth straight day, eyes Tuesday

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews skated for the fourth straight day and third in a row with his Chicago Blackhawks teammates on Sunday morning at the United Center, which was another positive sign in his recovery from a concussion.

Toews will miss Sunday night's game against the visiting Los Angeles Kings, which will be his 10th straight game out of action, but he continues to feel optimistic about his eventual return. After Saturday's practice, Toews mentioned that he was hoping to be ready for Tuesday's home showdown against Central Division rival St. Louis, but qualified the statement by saying he was still just taking his availability on a day-to-day basis.

He said the pretty much same thing after Sunday's workout.

"About the same thing," the Hawks captain replied, when asked how he felt on Sunday. "I'm getting closer and closer as far as how I feel injurywise, but definitely can tell my conditioning needs some work. So, we'll work on that, too. I'm feeling better and better every day and more like myself out there. Just got to keep working through it."

As for the possibility of playing on Tuesday against the Blues?

"Like I said, every time we play a game I hope [to return] for that game," Toews said. "I'm not thinking about missing the game on Tuesday. I'm more focused on how this practice went and what I've got to do the rest of the day. I'm obviously not ready to play [right now]. If it comes to Tuesday and I feel the same way, I'll probably be saying the same thing. Let's just take it one day at a time."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville mimicked that sentiment.

"He'll determine a lot of that," Quenneville said of Toews possibly playing on Tuesday. "He's got to pass some hurdles, as well. He's excited getting back on the ice. It was a long time coming for him and not [being] active like he'd like to be is probably frustrating for him. So, he's excited knowing he's out there and he's getting close."

One guy who's excited that Toews isn't quite ready yet is Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who will face the Hawks on Sunday night without having to worry about Chicago's dynamic captain.

"Well, he's kind of one of my favorite players," Sutter said. "So, it'd be nice to see him and not to coach against him.  He's probably the best two-way player in the NHL. [He's] a good faceoff man, good on the power play, good penalty killer, captain, plays 20 minutes, able to play a physical game but also plays the speed game. [It's] pretty tough to find anything like that. Nice to see him, but it's nice not playing him."

Toews said he hopes to get his clearance for contact in practice soon, however. Once that happens, both he and the Hawks ought to better know when he can return to playing in games.

"It's one step at a time," Toews said. "That might be the next step, so hopefully we can get that checked off the list here."

Toews was also asked if he's symptom free right now, which he said was not the case.

 "I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent," Toews said. "If I was, I'd be ready to push myself right to the limit to get back in the lineup. I'm still being smart and not rushing that too quickly, where I'm not quite 100 percent yet."

The fiery Hawks emotional leader is also not spending time getting his teammates fired up before home games that he's not able to play. His nickname is "Captain Serious" and it was assessed to him for a reason.

"If you're not playing, for the most part, you're worried about yourself and what you have to do to get yourself back in the lineup," Toews said. "For the guys [who] are playing, they've got their own routines and things to do to get ready. Kind of the last thing they want to get in the way is an injured guy who might be a little looser and more relaxed because he's not going through that same pressure that getting ready for a game puts on you. So, I'm not really that involved ... not as much as I'd like to be, I guess."
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— Islanders captain John Tavares after a 4-1 win against the Penguins tied the teams atop the Metropolitan Division standings
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