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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 1:20 PM

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

Rangers look to sweep Jets, increase lead in East

WINNIPEG -- The New York Rangers have another opportunity to put further distance between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

The Rangers (48-21-7) will meet the Winnipeg Jets after taking a 3-2 road decision against the Minnesota Wild. The win and a Pittsburgh home loss to the New York Islanders moved the Rangers three points ahead of the Penguins for the Eastern Conference lead. Both clubs have played 76 games, but the Penguins are idle tonight.

All three of the Rangers' meetings with Winnipeg this season have been wins, and the Rangers have allowed only one goal in the season series.

The Rangers did not hold a morning skate at the MTS Centre. But it is expected that Henrik Lundqvist will start again for the Rangers, with Martin Biron backing up. Lundqvist shut out the Jets when the clubs last met at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 24.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Rangers:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Brandon Prust - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp
 
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Anton Stralman - Stu Bickel
 
Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 1:18 PM

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

Jets determined to play hard for home crowd

WINNIPEG -- The process of beginning to wind down the season begins tonight for the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets (35-33-8) will host the New York Rangers at the MTS Centre in their second-to-last home date. A 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators two nights ago effectively ended the Jets' already-thin Stanley Cup Playoff aspirations. They face a four-game road trip that will begin against the Carolina Hurricanes and continue against Tampa Bay, Florida, and the New York Islanders.

"It will be a good test for us against the Rangers," Jets coach Claude Noel said of a season series in which the Jets have gone winless and have managed only one goal in the clubs' three meetings. "They don't give you very much. The games are usually very heavy. Their battle level is high."

Facing the Rangers in front of another sold-out crowd in Winnipeg should prevent any letdowns for the Jets now, Noel believes.

"Out of respect for what they have given us, how could we come up with anything less?" Noel asked. "The fans here in Winnipeg have been a big factor for us having success here and have been like an extra player, so how could we disrespect the fans by not giving all that we have got?"
   
Grant Clitsome will replace Randy Jones on the Jets' third defensive pairing and partner with Mark Stuart. Nik Antropov and Chris Thorburn remain sidelined with injuries, but they will make the upcoming road trip. Dustin Byfuglien is battling a nagging bone bruise, but he will dress against the Rangers.

Ondrej Pavelec will make his 13th consecutive start, with Chris Mason backing up.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen
Tim Stapleton - Ben Maxwell - Spencer Machacek

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Grant Clitsome

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 1:00 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

NHL Central Scouting prepares for final meetings

NHL Central Scouting is ready to roll in Toronto this weekend to determine its final rankings of the top draft-eligible players on the board this June at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

On Saturday, the pro scouts will have a go at it to determine this year's final list of the top 210 draft-eligible skaters and 30 goalies from North America for the 2012 Entry Draft.

NHL.com will also be present for the opening three days of the meetings, providing exclusive coverage. The scouts will no doubt be in heated debate, unveiling the pros and cons of every player from all the major junior leagues throughout North America.

Discussions will heat up almost immediately on Saturday morning as the scouts debate over who should receive the No. 1 overall placement among North American skaters. The top four candidates expected to vie for that position will be Sarnia's Nail Yakupov, Quebec's Mikhail Grigorenko, Everett's Ryan Murray and Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk, who just recently returned to the lineup after undergoing knee surgery in October.

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 12:55 PM

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

Backstrom traveling with Caps, won't play Thursday

One day after one of their tougher losses of the season, the Washington Capitals got some good news Wednesday when the team announced center Nicklas Backstrom will travel with the team when it leaves a game Thursday in Boston (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

However, Backstrom and coach Dale Hunter confirmed the top-line center will not play Thursday.

"No. Not (Thursday)," Backstrom told reporters Wednesday. "We'll see. We take it day-by-day and see how it goes."

Backstrom has been practicing with the team since March 24, and passed a neuropsychological test Tuesday, which was required before he returned to the lineup.

The next step for Backstrom is for him to continue working toward a return to game shape. He hasn't played since Jan. 3, when he was elbowed in the head by then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque.

"I'm close to playing, I think," Backstrom said. "Obviously it takes a while to get back in normal shape. But we don't have too much time, either. I'm feeling good, I've been practicing good the last couple days; been pushing it a little bit, too."

Hunter said the reason he wants Backstrom on the trip is so he continue pushing with the full team.

"We just want him with the team so he can practice," said Hunter. "You see the drills that they're doing with him, all battle drills, that if he gets in, that's how he has to play. They're hard drills out there and every day he's been fine, so it's good news for him."

The Capitals suffered a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday which dropped them to ninth in the Eastern Conference. The Caps held an optional practice Wednesday, with Backstrom, Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern and goalie Tomas Vokoun the only players on the ice with three assistant coaches.

Washington certainly could use Backstrom back in the lineup. In the 39 games he's missed, the Caps are 17-16-6. He was the Caps' leading scorer with 42 points in 38 games at the time he was hurt.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 9:40 AM

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

Updated playoff projections: March 28th

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 77 86 5 91 3

9th 77 84 5 89 4
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 77 87 5 92 3

9th 76 86 6 92 4
10th 78 86 4 90 4
11th 77 85 5 90 4
The skinny: Calgary's Stanley Cup Playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.

A win Wednesday night against a Los Angeles Kings team also clawing to get into the postseason is mandatory. So, expect the Saddledome to be rocking as loud -- if not louder -- than what we witnessed at Verizon Center in Washington on Tuesday night.

The Flames, though, need a very different result than the Capitals managed against Buffalo under similar -- although not quite as dire -- circumstances. A loss to the Kings and what little hope remains for the Flames will be all but be extinguished. If it is going to take 93 points to get into the Top 8 in the West (which is the Wednesday projection), Calgary would need to win its four remaining games after a loss Wednesday to reach that threshold. Yes, three of those four games will be at home, but two of the remaining four games are against a Vancouver team in the hunt for the Presidents' Trophy.

A win by Calgary on Wednesday paints a far rosier picture. The Flames would be right on the heels of Phoenix for the eighth spot and all the teams In the race for the final two spots -- San Jose, L.A., Dallas, Phoenix -- will play each other down the sdtretch. Favorable results for Calgary are possible in that cut-throat battle royale, but the Flames must first help themselves and then look for a 'little help from their friends.'

On the other side of the equation, the Kings can deal an almost fatal blow to Calgary while, at the same time, strengthen their quest for a Pacific division crown. A win in Calgary, coupled with a regulation loss by San Jose (we'll talk more about that in a minute) and the Kings could once again sit in first in the division and third in the conference. I would say that is incentive to chase the two points in what will be a hostile atmosphere.

Up the highway in Edmonton, the Dallas Stars play a depleted Oilers' team before a tough closing schedule that includes two games against San Jose and single games against Vancouver, St. Louis and Nashville. The Stars must gain two points against an Oilers team playing out the string. A win in Edmonton and a loss by San Jose puts the Stars back in control of the Pacific race -- especially with games left against the Sharks. A loss, however, and the slope is a bit more slippery.

Colorado plays in Calgary on Friday, but it will become a meaningless game for them with a loss on Wednesday to the Canucks in Vancouver. The Avalanche sit on the precipice with only four games remaining. A loss and the Avs will only be able to max out at 92 points.

That's not enough, according to my current projection. A valiant attempt to make the playoffs will fall short. The Canucks have added incentive to win as they try to keep pace with the St. Louis Blues for first in the Western Conference.

San Jose visits the Ducks and can maintain its Pacific Division lead with a win. If the Ducks don't end this game with two points, they will be officially eliminated.

How about a little recap?

If the Kings win and the Stars and Sharks lose in regulation, Los Angeles moves into first in the Pacific and third in the conference. If the Stars win and the Sharks get less than two points, the Stars move into the Pacific lead and the Sharks fall to seventh. If the Stars and Kings gain non-shootout victories, but the Sharks lose in regulation, the Sharks fall back to seventh. If Colorado wins in that same scenario, the Sharks actually fall back to No. 8 and the Phoenix Coyotes fall out of the playoff picture.

Those are just a few of the scenarios that could play out Wednesday. And people think this scoreboard watching and figuring out what the results mean in the standings is easy!
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 10:22 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NSH @ STL - 12:52 of the Third Period

At 12:52 of the third period in the Predators/Blues game, the Toronto situation room initiated a review because the puck went into the net. The referee determined that he blew the whistle after Pekka Rinne's save on TJ Oshie's shot.  According to rule 78.5 "Apparent Goals shall be disallowed by the referee when a goal keeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck after the save." No Goal St Louis.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 7:49 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CAR @ TOR - 18:19 of the First Period

At 18:19 of the first period in the Hurricanes/Maple Leafs game, video review conclusively determined that Tim Brent's shot went into the net. Good Goal Carolina.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 5:01 PM

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

Fracture in foot sidelines Bryzgalov



Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has a chip fracture in his right foot, will not play Thursday in Toronto, and is listed by the team as day to day.

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said the injury happened in pre-game warm-ups Monday, when a Jakub Voracek shot hit Bryzgalov in the foot.

The team has recalled Jason Bacashihua from AHL Adirondack to serve as the backup to Sergei Bobrovsky for Thursday's game.

Holmgren said X-rays of Bryzgalov's foot taken before and after Monday's game didn't show an injury; an MRI Tuesday revealed the fracture.

Holmgren added he didn't believe the injury was serious and that Bryzgalov could practice as soon as Friday.

"We're hoping that he'll be back on the ice practicing with the idea that he can play on the weekend," said Holmgren. "It's just going to be a little bit of pain management for Ilya.

"Obviously when you're dealing with something like this, it might be too painful to skate on Friday, but we'll see. He doesn't feel that bad today. We'll see how it is. It's not a thing that surgery is required; it's nothing like (James) van Riemsdyk's broken foot or anything like that. It's a chip off a weight-bearing bone, and the doctor has said it'll be absorbed back into his system, the little chip that's in there, and there's no real risk here at all. It's just he's in a little bit of pain right now.

"Ilya's a tough kid. He wants to play, and we look forward to seeing him on the ice with the team at practice on Friday."

Bryzgalov has been the best goalie in the League in March, going 10-2-1 in 13 games, with a 1.43 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He was named NHL First Star of the Week for the first two weeks of March, and earlier this month set the club scoreless streak record of 249:43.

He also had a streak of 11 straight games allowing two goals or less snapped Monday when he allowed four goals in a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

Holmgren said there never was a thought to pull Bryzgalov from the game Monday.

"Ilya wanted to play," said Holmgren. "To be honest with you, I knew what was going on. I watched the game and I didn't see any issues. The goals they scored were good goals. The last one he wasn't paying attention when Matt (Carle) had the bobble at the side of the net. The other goals were good goals that you can't really fault him on. I didn't have any issues with how he played the game and I don't think his foot was an issue during the game."

Bryzgalov had started 19 of the last 20 games; now Bobrovsky will be pressed into duty. Bobrovsky has played just one game in March, and hasn't won a game since Feb. 9.

The Flyers have six games left, and after Thursday they next play Saturday at home against Ottawa and Sunday in Pittsburgh.

"Ilya wants to play," said Holmgren. "He feels like he'll be OK, but we'll just see how it goes. I think we'll have a better grasp on how he is (Wednesday) ... and then probably more on Thursday and Friday.  As I said, nobody's really concerned. The doctors are not concerned, (trainer) Jimmy McCrossin's not too concerned. He's a little sore right now."

The Flyers also announced that defenseman Kimmo Timonen will not play Thursday and is day-to-day due to an upper-body injury. The team recalled defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon from Adirondack to replace him.

Holmgren said giving Timonen a game off is more of a maintenance issue than any injury, and part of a plan put in place following Timonen's five-game absence earlier this month due to an upper-body injury.

"When Kimmo missed the time earlier, it was kind of a planned thing where we wanted to give him some rest and do some rehab," said Holmgren. "This is also part of the plan. It's just take this day off, he doesn't have to fly up, he doesn't have to play the game. He can rest and rehab and get ready to play on the weekend."

In addition to Timonen, defenseman Andreas Lilja is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He did not play Monday against Tampa Bay.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 3:07 PM

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

Consistency makes Trotz proud as milestone nears

ST. LOUIS -- With a point tonight, the Nashville Predators could become the next team in the League to clinch a playoff berth. Nashville is coming off a 6-1 rout at Chicago on Sunday night and are now 2-1 since getting Alexander Radulov back from the KHL.

It's pretty telling that a team as successful as the Predators have been this season is going into Game No. 77 still looking to ensure a spot in the postseason.

"That shows the parity throughout the League," defenseman Shea Weber said. "Ever since the salary cap, it's been tight every year. We know right from the beginning of the year that games at the start of the year might end up costing you when you get to that 70th-75th game -- that might be the one that could have had you up a spot or two."

With a victory tonight, it will also mark a milestone for Predators coach Barry Trotz.

Trotz is looking for career victory No. 500, quite a feat for a man who has only known one franchise as his employer.

Winning 500 games is quite a milestone, but Trotz will become just the fifth coach in NHL history, joining Al Arbour (New York Islanders), Lindy Ruff (Buffalo Sabres), Billy Reay (Chicago Blackhawks) and Toe Blake (Montreal Canadiens) to win 500 with one team.

And that certainly means something.

"There is, and trust me, you can't do it without leadership like (general manager) David (Poile). The next win that we have, David will be the only general manager in the history of the game that won 500 games with two franchises (Nashville and Washington)," Trotz said. "That's pretty elite. You look at things like that -- those are things I'm proud of. There's times when I was younger, he could have said, 'Hey, I've got to go in a different direction.' And he hasn't. Through thick and thin, David's stood by me and believed in what we do."

But Trotz, who's coached in 1,060 games, was not one for reflection for 500 wins in general.

"The only thing I've reflected on is the last game, or last two games really. Zero reflection," he said. "Whether you bring it up or someone else brings it up, it's the only time I reflect.

"It's gone fast. I'm more proud of the fact that we've been consistent as a franchise. I think we're only one of two teams to have 40-plus wins in the last seven years. I'm more proud about that than actually the number of wins because that shows that we've been consistent, a team that is in the mix. Organizationally, as a hockey community we've grown to be a fantastic hockey community. We've grown to we expect to make the playoffs, we expect to be there every year, and we expect to challenge for the Cup. It's the hardest trophy in the world to win. You just want to be in that position to have that opportunity to compete for it."

Added Weber, who's played for Trotz since 2006: "Obviously he's been here for a long time for a reason. He's done a lot of good things. When we're able to get that 500th win, it's going to be something special for him and I'm sure he'll remember it forever."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 2:54 PM

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

Blues' young defense tandem reaches special mark

ST. LOUIS -- It's not often one can be mentioned in the same breath as former Blues greats Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger.

But after picking up 3 assists Sunday night to go with fellow defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo both have eclipsed the 40-point plateau, becoming the team's first d-pairing to do so since MacInnis (46) and Pronger (47) in 2001-02.

Pietrangelo is third among defensemen with 48 points and now Shattenkirk is 16th with 41 points.

With Shattenkirk (23 years old) and Pietrangelo (22), it seems the Blues will have quite the duo for years to come.

"That's insane. For us, it's a huge honor," said Shattenkirk, who has 32 assists among his 41 points. "Whenever you're talked about with those two guys, it's special. You don't really believe it, but we still have some work to do, obviously. Both of us have stuck to our game. The coaches have just allowed us to play our game, and I think it paves the way for all the rest of the stuff."

Since both have been paired together on the power play, both players have accumulated a plethora of points.

"To have two guys where we are, it's pretty awesome," said Pietrangelo, who has 12 goals and 36 assists. "Whether it's him where I am or I am where he is, it's pretty good for both of us moving forward here, especially if we're going to be here for awhile. It's good to have that in the back end.

"A lot of it's come together lately, especially since we were put together on the power play. A lot of our points have been generated from that. We had two points each last game coming from each other on point shots, and my goal, he passed it over to me. That's been the biggest thing for us is we find each other on the power play. It's been the key."

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

Milestones are meant to be cherished when one's career is done. That's how Blues veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner is looking at career game No. 1,100 tonight when the Blues (47-20-9) host the Nashville Predators (44-24-8) tonight.

"Any time you hit round numbers, you kind of take a look back a little bit," said Langenbrunner, who has 660 points. "It's not something that's big on my radar, no.

"It's definitely something you do when you're done ... at least that's what I'm told. You look back at those sort of things. Right now, I'm in the now and the battle for what this game is and I'm excited for it."

Coincidentally, Langenbrunner's first game in the NHL came with the Dallas Stars ... right here at Scottrade Center in 1995.

"Yeah, it was in St. Louis ... in this building. Long time ago," Langenbrunner said. "I was playing junior with the (Peterborough) Petes (of the Ontario Hockey League) and we just got knocked out, got called up by Dallas to come here.

"I remember walking in the locker room and (the) junior hockey (mentality), dying your hair and stupid stuff like that. My hair was all bleached-blonde or streaked. I remember trying to find a barber shop to try to shave out as much of it as I could for that first game."

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

Allowing only 139 non-shootout goals through their first 76 games, the Blues broke an NHL record for goals allowed in a 76-game season. That mark was set by the 1968-69 Blues, who allowed 157. But the Blues have loftier goals in mind -- like the 82-game record set by the 2003-004 New Jersey Devils, who allowed 164 goals.

"I wasn't really aware of it actually until this past road trip," Shattenkirk said. "It's something that comes from the way we play, it comes from our team defense, our goaltending especially.

"Any time you have a special season like this in terms of goals-against, you have to look at the goaltending. They've probably been the reason why we've let in so few. It's just been a collective effort from everyone. If we were to achieve that, it would be great, but I think we just focus on what we've been doing well all year."

Coach Ken Hitchcock agreed. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have been and are the story.

"The story of our season, no matter what anyone talks about, are our two goalies," Hitchcock said. "They're the story. They've been good all year, and at times taking turns being great. The biggest part of our success ... their save percentages are extraordinarily high. ... Not very often do you say, 'Man, the Blues dominated us, or they outplayed us.' There's stretches during the hockey game where your goalie has to come up big and between the two guys, they've come up big every time. We've benefited from two guys having, I don't want to say career years, but played to their potential every night. At times, Halak's been unbelievable and then Elliott's been unbelievable. It's been the small difference for us."

Elliott and Halak are 1-2 in the NHL in goals-against average (1.52, 1.90) and first and sixth, respectively in save percentage (.941 and .927) as well as first and fourth respectively in shutouts (eight and six).
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Quote of the Day

[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.

— Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Mathieu Perreault, who scored two goals in win against Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday