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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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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 2:40 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hall elects to have season-ending shoulder surgery

Edmonton's Taylor Hall will miss the rest of the season, electing to have surgery to fix a chronic injury in his left shoulder.

The first pick in the 2010 Entry Draft was dealing with a concussion since the middle of March, but the team chose to shut Hall down due to a labrum tear that's lingered since before Hall reached the NHL.

"Four years now ... I injured it in junior and it's been wearing away," Hall said. "I've been playing with a pretty bad shoulder for most of this year and I'm excited to see what I can do after it's fixed.

"It's not the way I envisioned my career starting, but I hope to stay healthy after this and be a good Oiler for a long time."

The expected recovery time for Hall is 5-6 months, putting him on track to be ready for the start of the 2012-13 season.

"We're doing the right thing," coach Tom Renney said. "The most important thing is the future of the organization and he's a big part of that."

The 20-year-old finishes 2011-12 with 27 goals and 53 points in 61 games, improving on his rookie season of 22 goals and 42 points in 65 games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 2:30 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

New Bruin Krug finds situation larger than life

BOSTON -- When he arrived at the TD Garden for his first morning skate with the Boston Bruins today, Torey Krug found out he was in the big leagues in more ways than one.

"I don't know if they build these lockers for him," Krug said, referring to 6-foot-9 Bruins captain Zdeno Chara after the practice, "but I can barely reach my helmet on top."

The 5-foot-9 Krug has been overcoming his size disadvantage his whole life, so he'll figure out a way to adjust to the larger amenities at Boston's home rink. After winning the CCHA Player of the Year award this season, the defenseman decided to leave Michigan State to turn pro. Undrafted, he became a free agent last week and on Sunday signed a deal with the Bruins.

Part of Krug's deal called for him to join the Bruins rather than their AHL farm club in Providence. This means he gets to burn a year on his entry-level contract, and he gets to experience life as an NHL player much sooner than he expected.

"It's awesome," said Krug about joining the Bruins. "The last few days have been a whirlwind, that's for sure. A couple days ago I was sitting in East Lansing getting ready to study for a test. Here I am sitting in a locker room full of NHLers. It's been a great past couple days and I'm looking forward to the next couple weeks."

For now, Krug is focused on getting used to professional life and battling his new teammates in practices. Down the road, however, coach Claude Julien might decide to work the 20-year-old into the Bruins' lineup.

"I've heard a lot of good things about this player, and certainly haven't had a chance to see him play, but we can get a pretty good idea just by watching him in practices, and tomorrow he'll get a chance for a full practice with us and we'll see where we go from there," Julien said. "Certainly not going to tell you right now that he's not going to play, but we may give him an opportunity -- depends on how everything goes. But the one thing he gets to do is experience the, I guess the level of competition here at the NHL."

To his credit, Krug's confident he can hold his own at the sport's highest level.

"Yeah, I feel like that," he responded when asked if he's ready to play in the NHL. "Obviously, the coaches will make that decision. But I'm here, my No. 1 goal is just to compete and work 100 percent 100 percent of the time."


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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 2:10 PM

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

Crosby reunited with Dupuis on line at Pens' skate

PITTSBURGH -- Maybe it's a subtle change, maybe it's not. But Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma may be signaling how he plans to roll out his lines when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in two weeks.
 
Bylsma tweaked his combinations during the morning skate Tuesday, reinserting Pascal Dupuis onto the Sidney Crosby line that also includes Tyler Kennedy. Matt Cooke, who has been thriving offensively while playing the last seven games on Crosby’s line, was back with Jordan Staal and Steve Sullivan.
 
The top line of Chris Kunitz (23 goals), Evgeni Malkin (46 goals) and James Neal (35 goals) remains together.
 
Bylsma usually doesn't do such game-day tinkering unless he plans to go with such a lineup that night. The Penguins (47-22-6), just one point behind the New York Rangers in the race for the Eastern Conference lead, take on the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center.
 
"I think more and more in the next seven games you're going to see people who are going to be playing with each other going forward," said Bylsma, who has been trying out different line combinations ever since Crosby returned March 15.
 
Crosby, for example, played at least one shift with every forward except Craig Adams during an 8-4 loss in Ottawa on Saturday. One night later, Crosby not only played a little with the gritty Adams, they both picked up an assist on Dupuis' goal during the second period.
 
Dupuis has played on Crosby's line regularly in the past, usually with Kunitz. Dupuis and Kunitz were Crosby's linemates before Crosby missed the second half of the 2010-11 season with a concussion, and Bylsma put them together again when Crosby returned to play eight games starting Nov. 21.
 
Most recently, Dupuis and Steve Sullivan were playing on Staal's line.
 
"You play with Sid, you play with Jordan, you play with Evgeni, you play with a great player," said Dupuis, who is enjoying a career year with 23 goals and 50 points in 75 games. "You play with a great centerman. When you play on this team, you play with unbelievable talent. It's a matter of clicking together."
 
Dupuis added, "And we play one way. It's not like somebody is going to do different things on the ice, forecheck differently, we all do it the same. Some do it with more skill than the others, but that's what our game looks like."
 
By reinserting Dupuis on Crosby's line, Bylsma is restoring the speed element that was present when Kunitz was on the Penguins captain's line. Returning Cooke to Staal's line with Sullivan means Bylsma could be anticipating using them for defensive purposes against opposing teams' top lines in the playoffs.
 
Cooke is known more for his aggressiveness and physicality than his scoring skills, yet he had 5 goals and 3 assists in seven games on Crosby's line.
 
And while Bylsma wants all of his lines playing the same way, Dupuis said a wing must anticipate anything -- any pass in any situation -- while playing alongside the gifted Crosby.
 
"Jordan likes to hold onto the puck, use his big frame to create space, and Sid is also very strong on his skates and he wants to deke guys and spin on guys," Dupuis said. "With Jordan, you go to the net hard and you expect passes, you make plays. With Sid sometimes it ends up on your stick and it’s like, 'Whoa. How did he do that?' But you can't get mesmerized by what he does out there, you've just got to try to keep up with him."
 
The Penguins' difficult schedule down the stretch may be one reason why Bylsma is starting to look at his potential playoff lines now rather than later. After a home-and-home series with the Islanders that ends Thursday, the Penguins play at Buffalo on Friday, followed by the Flyers at home Sunday and again on April 7, the Bruins on the road April 3 and the Rangers at home April 5.
 
"For us, we want to make sure we're playing well down the stretch here," Crosby said. "Playing divisional games kind of gets a little more rowdy, too. I think it's a good thing."
 
Crosby has scored in each of his last two games, a possible sign that he is fully on his game seven games into his second comeback from concussion-like symptoms this season. Before getting goals Saturday against Ottawa and Sunday against New Jersey, Crosby had gone a career-long 12 games -- albeit it over a span of four-plus months -- without a goal.
 
His goal against the Devils highlighted the improvisational ability that Dupuis talked about.
 
Crosby swung his stick around Marek Zidlicky to control a pass that the defenseman was attempting to intercept. After redirecting the puck around Zidlicky, Crosby skated hard from the blue line as Zidlicky went in the opposite direction and beat Martin Brodeur on a shot that restored Pittsburgh's two-goal lead in the third period.
 
"It's not unlike Sidney Crosby to pull that off," Bylsma said.
 
It's also not unlike Bylsma to joggle and adjust his lines frequently during a game.
 
 
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ovechkin-Miller battle highlights Caps-Sabres

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Two of the NHL’s reigning Three Stars of the Week will meet Tuesday in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup as Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals play host to Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games while the Sabres are 7-1-2 over that same stretch. The teams enter this contest tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference and the play of their superstars is a big reason why.

Since Feb. 19, Miller has gone 13-1-3 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Ovechkin’s hot streak has been a more recent development with 10 goals in his last 10 games.
Ovechkin has also scored in five straight games for the first time in more than two years and has nine goals in his last seven games overall. 

“He gives us energy,” said Capitals coach Dale Hunter, who adds that Ovechkin is doing “the little things like forechecking and finishing his hits and playing with a reckless abandon a little bit. He’s really going in and trying to take the body and trying to drive in with a strong forecheck.”

In a 3-0 win Sunday against the Minnesota Wild, Hunter dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen and double shifted Ovechkin when possible.

Ovechkin went on to play a team-high 26:19, his second highest ice-time total this season, and finished with a goal and an assist. Hunter is expected to dress the same lineup tonight against Buffalo.

“I think everybody wants to play lots of minutes,” Ovechkin said, “and for me personally, the more time I spend on the ice I feel much better because I’m in the game.”

Added Hunter: “He’s in good shape to play that many minutes. I look on the bench and sometimes if you overplay someone they’ve got their head down to try to catch their wind and [with Ovechkin] I look over and he’s ready to play again so that’s why I play him so much.”

Ovechkin also made a sliding defensive play Sunday against Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu to prevent a quality scoring chance. Later that same shift, the Capitals scored and took a 2-0 lead.

“Right now it looks like he’s having a lot of fun,” said linemate Brooks Laich. “That’s the main thing -- it looks like he’s having fun playing the game. When you score, you have fun and when you have fun, you score -- they kind of go hand-in-hand, but it’s tough to do. But goal-scorers love to score goals and you see him -- nobody gets more excited than him.”

Ovechkin’s 10 goals this month are his highest total since he scored 14 times in Oct. 2009 and his 36 goals on the season are tied for fourth-most in the league behind only Steven Stamkos (53), Evgeni Malkin (46) and Marian Gaborik (37).
 
“When he’s in that mode you just follow behind him and just ride his coattails,” Laich said. “When he’s playing at that level he’s got that special ability to elevate his game and when he’s at that level he’s fun to watch and play alongside. It’s incredible.”
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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic