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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 1:18 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets not far off division lead despite recent struggles

WINNIPEG -- Against all mathematical logic, the Winnipeg Jets are somehow within three points of third place in the Eastern Conference.

A 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night earned the Jets their third victory of the month, but a 3-6-0 skid in January has taken much of the luster off a franchise-best month in December in which the Jets spun off a 10-3-1 mark. The Jets' effort in December had them sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference at one point before they tumbled down to their current 10th-place slot.

Thursday's win pulled the Jets to 49 points, putting them just three points behind the third-place Washington Capitals and eighth-place Florida Panthers. After meeting Chicago, the Panthers will visit Winnipeg on Saturday night in a game that suddenly has major implications for the races unfolding in the Southeast Division as well as the Eastern Conference.

"It's a big game for us," Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec said of beating Buffalo, "but now every game is going to be like that. It's going to be kind [of like] playoff games."

With Buffalo behind them, the Jets now must turn their attention toward the Panthers. Saturday's game will be the Jets' last home date before a six-game road trip that will include visits with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. With just seven wins in 23 road outings this year, home games have taken on an even greater importance for the Jets.

"They're not too far in front us," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said of the Panthers. "So they'll definitely be in our sights. Every game is huge right now."
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 1:15 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sabres still seeking answers as road skid hits 12

WINNIPEG -- If the answer to their problems are found in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room, coach Lindy Ruff's club has yet to find it.

A 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night hammered one more nail into the Sabres' rapidly closing playoff hopes. Buffalo now sits nine points behind the eighth-place Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference playoff race and faces a meeting with the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night that threatens to extend its road losing streak to 12 games. If the Sabres are not out of the playoff race, they are at least precariously close to seeing their season come completely undone.

If one shift summed up the Sabres' night, it was a second-period failed penalty kill on which the Jets scored the game-winning goal. On a power play set up by a puck that clipped Drew Stafford on his way to the Buffalo bench and cost the Sabres a bench minor, Patrick Kaleta took a shot off his foot moments before Tobias Enstrom fired a puck past Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller to break a 1-1 tie.

Kaleta's night ended with the goal as he hobbled to the Buffalo bench.

"Well, he couldn't play," Ruff said. "The X-rays were negative from blocking the shot, but he can't walk right now, so it doesn't look good for him."

Everything from a firesale at the trade deadline to replacing Ruff has been proposed by Buffalo media and fans, but no answers have been found so far. Just a few days after Miller shot down the idea of a trade helping the Sabres, defenseman Tyler Myers concurred.

"No," Myers said of whether a trade or a coaching change would jolt the Sabres back into contention. "That's not the problem. Everyone in this room believes in each other."

Whatever the answer may be, the Sabres need to find it fast if they are to have any chance of salvaging their season.

"It's just a matter of working through this," Myers said, "but the clock is ticking. We need to work quick."
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 1:11 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Players to watch at USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

There's no question power-forward Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints will be one player on the radar of NHL scouts and general managers during the inaugural USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game scheduled Tuesday at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Mich.

For more on the big Latvian, who is ranked No. 12 among North American skaters according to NHL Central Scouting's midterm report, click here.

The USHL Top Prospects game will include 40 of the league's top young players. In addition Girgensons, there's Matthew DeBlouw of the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Robert Baillargeon of the Indian Ice, goalie Jon Gillies of Indiana and defensemen Jordan Schmaltz of the Green Bay Gamblers, Mike Matheson of Dubuque and Brian Cooper of the Fargo Force.

Here's a capsule look at a few other players considered to be first or second-round material when the NHL Draft is staged at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22-23.
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 12:45 PM

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

Letang steps right back in, performs for Pens

PITTSBURGH -- So much for easing Kris Letang back into the Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup.
 
Letang, appearing in his first game in nearly two months, played a team-high 24 minutes, 17 seconds in arguably the Penguins' most impressive victory of the season, a 4-1 decision at the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers on Thursday night.
 
Before ending a four-game losing streak against the Rangers, the Penguins had been 0-5 against three of the conference's upper echelon teams, the Rangers, Flyers and Bruins.
 
Letang's return couldn't have gone much better -- he was a plus-2 and assisted on one of Evgeni Malkin's two goals in Pittsburgh's fourth consecutive victory. The Penguins have had an unconventional 14-game run, winning four straight, then losing six in a row before mounting their current four-game streak.
 
They'll try to match their season-longest winning streak of five, which occurred from Oct. 18-27, when they take on the Montreal Canadiens at Consol Energy Center on Friday night during a stretch of three games in four days.
 
Not only are the Penguins playing back-to-back games against conference opponents, they'll have a quick turnaround before taking on the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.
 
Not surprisingly, coach Dan Bylsma called off the scheduled morning skate Friday to give his players a chance to sleep in following the late-night flight home from New York.
 
Letang, though, probably wouldn't have minded going back on the ice given how effective he was in his comeback game. The defenseman had only two morning skates and one off-day practice before playing for the first time since a hard hit from the Canadiens' Max Pacioretty on Nov. 26 in Montreal sidelined him.
 
As Letang cut across the middle, Pacioretty's hard hit broke Letang's nose and caused a concussion that didn't show up for a couple of days. Despite being hurt, Letang returned after being cleared by a doctor and scored the game-winning goal in overtime as Pittsburgh won 4-3, its second victory in as many games against Montreal this season.
 
"You can ask our trainer, Chris Stewart, I'm somebody who's kind of rough with injuries. I don't really pay attention," Letang said. "The first thing I noticed was my nose was not in place, so we took care of that. After that, it was just a question of being able to function. I was pretty pumped to get back out there. I was excited. The adrenaline was still pumping in my veins. I didn't feel anything that night."
 
Pacioretty drew a three-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head.
 
Malkin, now the NHL's leading scorer with 54 points, hopes to build on a streak in which he has scored goals in four consecutive games and six of seven. He has 6 goals in his last three, including a hat trick Sunday at Tampa Bay and the 2 goals against the Rangers.
 
"It's not about my 2 points," Malkin said. "It's the two points for the team that were important."
 
Malkin has 10 goals and 15 assists in 20 career games against Montreal, which is 4-10-1 in its last 15 games. The Canadiens have dropped six of their last seven on the road.
 
Brent Johnson has played in only one of the Penguins' last 15 games, but is expected to be in goal. He has won only once since Oct. 18, beating Carolina 3-2 on Dec. 3. Each of his last two starts came against the Hurricanes. Marc-Andre Fleury has played in 19 consecutive games since that Dec. 3 game, including two in which he took over for Johnson.
 
The Penguins' likely lineup:
 
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Dustin Jeffrey - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Richard Park - Matt Cooke
Eric Tangradi - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
 
Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
 
Brent Johnson
Marc-Andre Fleury
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 12:35 PM

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

Projected lineups for Capitals, Hurricanes

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when Southeast Division rivals Washington and Carolina face off at RBC Center:

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Troy Brouwer
Alexander Semin - Brooks Laich - Jason Chimera
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Mike Knuble
Cody Eakin - Mathieu Perreault - Joel Ward
 
Roman Hamrlik - John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Dmitry Orlov - Tomas Kundratek
 
Tomas Vokoun will start in goal with Michal Neuvirth serving as the backup.
 
HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Jussi Jokinen - Jeff Skinner - Zac Dalpe
Patrick Dwyer - Brandon Sutter - Andreas Nodl
Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Alexei Ponikarovsky
 
Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Derek Joslin - Jamie McBain
 
Cam Ward will start in goal, with Justin Peters serving as the backup.
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 11:06 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Match Up: Rangers at Bruins

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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 10:59 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry Melrose joins CISCO NHL Live via Telepresence

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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 9:30 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry's Mullet of the Week: Evgeni Malkin

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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 2:15 AM

By Pete Jensen -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Fantasy Spin Blog

Fantasy Spin: Turris finding rhythm in Ottawa

Nearly five weeks after being shipped out of the desert, Kyle Turris is producing points in droves for the Ottawa Senators.

Turris, operating on the Senators' second line with All-Star forward Daniel Alfredsson, is playing the best hockey of his career with 3 goals, 2 assists and a plus-4 rating over his last four games. He scored a goal and added an assist in Thursday's 4-1 road triumph in San Jose.

Kyle Turris
Center - OTT
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 13
SOG: 45 | +/-: 11
It's been a refreshing turnaround for the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, who was still seeking an identity following a contract dispute with the Phoenix Coyotes earlier this season. The 22-year-old center signed a two-year deal with the Coyotes on Nov. 22, and made his season debut with the club on Dec. 1. After going pointless with a minus-2 rating in six games, Turris has become a diversified fantasy option for deep leagues with 13 points in 16 games since the trade to Ottawa on Dec. 17.

He has provided the Senators with added depth at his position behind top-liner Jason Spezza, and is also touching on valuable categories with 15 PIMs and a plus-13 rating since the move to Ontario. While he's seen minimal ice time on the man advantage and has not registered a power-play point this season, that doesn't mean Turris (owned in 14 percent of Yahoo! leagues) can't give fantasy owners an offensive spark via free agency.

Turris' stock is rising by the day for the surging Senators, so the time is now for fantasy owners to get on board as the forward approaches point-per-game territory. Whether or not Turris can stick with his current pace is uncertain, but with consecutive multi-point outings, this youngster's game is evolving right before our eyes.
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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 1:20 AM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CGY/LAK - Shootout



In the shootout of the Flames/Kings game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Jack Johnson scored on a rebound. According to rule 24.2 "No penalty shot or shootout goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind ."  No Goal Los Angeles.
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Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery