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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 12:44 PM

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

Long-time jersey snafu finally made right for Flyer

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossman might be the nicest player on the ice, but he's pretty cordial when it comes to the equipment guys.

Now in his sixth season in the NHL, he's never corrected any of the folks who took care of his jersey in Dallas or Philadelphia -- even though it's had his name misspelled since he arrived in the League.

Tuesday against the Red Wings, Grossman for the first time will wear his name spelled correctly on his jersey -- Grossmann.

"I just started off and they put it on the wrong way and I just kept it like that," he told reporters following the Flyers' morning skate. "My dad said something a while ago, why is it spelled wrong, and I said that's the way it came and I didn't change it."

It was Flyers Director of Team Services Bryan Hardenbergh who noticed recently that Grossman's name was spelled one way on his jersey and a different way on his passport.

"He (Hardenbergh) came up to me and said I notice your name (on your jersey) is a little different than what's in your passport and I said that (the passport) is what it should be," Grossman said. "He said we can change it for you, so I said OK."

Grossmann said he never said anything early in his career. Since then, he's just gotten used to it.

"When I was young coming up I didn't want to say anything," he said. "I was just happy to have a jersey with my name on it."

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


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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 12:38 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Carlyle calls Leafs' play against Bruins 'embarrassing'

TORONTO -- Randy Carlyle spoke candidly Tuesday morning about the Maple Leafs abysmal record this season against the Boston Bruins. He used the word "embarrassing" to describe the Leafs' four losses by a combined 23-6 score against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Carlyle, of course, was not around for any of Toronto's own Boston massacre. It didn't change his thinking.

"When you're with a team, it's we, it's not I, so I'm part of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and to tell you as a head coach of the hockey club and to look at the record, we are embarrassed," said Carlyle, who will make his debut behind the home bench at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. "We want to make a change in that. As we stated, we have to play the game to a higher level on the road and in this building. This is our building. We want to make it as difficult as possible for teams to come in here and have success against us. That's a fact."

Carlyle put the Leafs through two rigorous practices Sunday and Monday that occupied a combined three and a half hours. There was plenty of teaching going on in each session. He said the key to beating Boston on Tuesday is to basically put into play what he implemented over the last two days.

"The message was we better be prepared to play the type of hockey that is going to be necessary to win the little battles that are out there, to win the 50-50 pucks, the one-on-one battles, or we're going to be embarrassed," Carlyle said. "We can't be embarrassed in our own building.

"We want to try to be first on the puck, use the skating game that we're capable of, be conservative from a standpoint where you don't give up and don't make the Hail Mary plays, and keep as many people above the puck when you don't have it," he later added. "And when you have opportunities to go, you're a transition team and you skate. I've said it numerous times, we've got to get on our horse and get going."

Sticking to his superstitious ways, Carlyle would not verbally announce the starting goaltender for Tuesday's game. But Jonas Gustavsson was the first off the ice and Carlyle said if a guy is playing well he's going to stick with him.

Gustavsson made 21 saves in Toronto's 3-1 win over Montreal on Saturday. He has a 5.44 goals-against average and .852 save percentage in three appearances against Boston this season.

"You've got to play well to earn the next chance. That doesn't change if you get a new coach," Gustavsson said. "I try to make the most of every chance I get. Then, if I get another chance I'll try to do the same thing there. My thinking didn't really change with the new coach. It's just about doing the same thing."

Carlyle did have some lineup news to announce. He said Mike Brown, who aggravated a previous hand injury late in Monday's practice, will not play and John-Michael Liles is a gametime decision. Liles developed a temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit late Monday night.

"We thought it would be best suited for him not to come here this morning," Carlyle said. "He will visit with the doctors prior to the game, before everybody gets here, and we'll make an assessment on whether he's available to us or not."

Here is what Toronto's lines and D pairs could look like Tuesday:

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Matt Frattin
Nikolai Kulemin - David Steckel - Colby Armstrong
Jay Rosehill - Tim Connolly - Matthew Lombardi

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles or Cody Franson - Mike Komisarek
Luke Schenn - Jake Gardiner

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 12:32 PM

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

Shot to hand won't keep Parise from facing Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise declared himself good to go on Tuesday following his team's morning practice at Prudential Center in preparation for the New York Rangers.
 
In the second period of a 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, Parise was struck in the left hand with a shot by Isles defenseman Milan Jurcina. While he was able to finish the game, he appeared a bit uncomfortable at times and was ultimately taken for X-rays. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello informed the local media on Monday that the results were negative and showed no broken bones.
 
"Yeah, it would take a lot for me to miss this game," Parise told reporters. "I wouldn't want to miss this game … I'll be alright.

"Everyone is hurt and sore one way or another, and that's just how it is in March and April. Probably 15 or 20 guys are dealing with some type of injury, so it's nothing really."
 
The Devils are certainly going to need all hands on deck in their fifth meeting against their Atlantic Division rival this season. The Rangers are 2-1-1 against the Devils, scoring a 2-0 victory in the most recent meeting on Feb. 27 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have outscored the Devils, 9-5, including a 6-2 advantage in the third period. Additionally, 12 of the last 16 meetings have been decided by two goals or less.
 
"It's great rivalry," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "If you can't get up for this game … they're leading the conference. They're a team we're trying to close the gap and a team we might see in the playoffs at some point. It's two critical points for us where we're sitting in the standings, so all that factors in, and then you have the rivalry. The games we've had with them have been great; emotionally and from a hockey point of view, so it's exciting."
 
Meanwhile, left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who has skated the last two days after missing the last two games with a right knee injury, will be sidelined again. An MRI on Ponikarovsky's knee on Saturday revealed no damage.
 
"I did some conditioning and skating," Ponikarovsky said. "I'm doing well and [the knee] feels much better right now. It's been three days since it happened and I'm taking it day by day. I'll practice again [Wednesday] and see how it goes. I'm definitely not going [Tuesday]."
 
On defense, Andy Greene, who sat out Sunday's game after suffering back spasms during his pre-game stretching routine, did practice but admitted he'll be a game-time decision against the Rangers.
 
Martin Brodeur will face the Rangers in the regular season for the 94th time in his career. He sports a 45-28-20 mark with a 2.11 goals-against average, nine shutouts and a .919 save percentage.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for the Devils:
 
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Steve Bernier - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Cam Janssen
 
Adam Larsson - Matt Taormina
Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky

Game time decision: Andy Greene
 
Brodeur will start and Johan Hedberg will serve as backup.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hall declares himself fit to play for Oilers

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall pronounced himself fit to play Monday after going through the morning skate pain free at Honda Center.

Hall hurt his shoulder on a cross-check by Mark Fistric of Dallas on Friday night. He was held out of practice Sunday and was thought to be questionable for Monday night's game against Anaheim.

"It was a little sore when I woke up yesterday," Hall said. "(They) kind of recommended not to practice and we took that time to get the swelling down. Going out there today is usually the thing that would hurt it and didn't it at all, so I don't see why I can't play tonight. If (coach) Tom (Renney) has anything else to say, that's fine, but I think I should be in."

Hall might have to address the area during the offseason with a possible procedure but he said he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it.

"There's no question that throughout the season you're going to have little nicks and scrapes, and you have to take care of them when the season’s done," he said. "That's something we're going to have to re-visit."

Omark up:
Edmonton recalled Linus Omark in case Hall couldn't go, but Omark figures to get another look at some point anyway.

Renney said Omark is a game-time decision. It would be the fourth game in four nights for Omark, who played all three games over the weekend for the Oklahoma City Barons.

How will his legs feel?

"I don't know," Omark said. "I don't remember (ever doing) that. Of course it's a chance, so I'm glad to be here. I got to find a way to have fresh legs."

Omark was initially sent down in October to find his scoring touch, but he suffered a broken ankle with the Barons and was out for three months. He has 5 goals and 9 points in 11 games with Oklahoma City since he returned, and this is something of a tryout because he is an impending free agent.

"Where this ends up going, it's hard to say," Renney said. "I think he can contribute to our team, our organization. I think there's an opportunity for him, should he come back and have a real strong training camp and make some noise for himself again. Obviously, he needs to get traction."
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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 4:10 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boudreau: Ducks 'still eligible' to chase playoffs

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Anaheim's locker room was quite sullen and silent after Saturday's loss to the rival Kings, the Ducks' third loss in four games.

Captain Ryan Getzlaf said afterward that they still believe, and coach Bruce Boudreau says it can still be done.

"I've looked at every team's schedule many times over and if we do what we're supposed to do -- there's still 98 points on the boards if we win them all -- I don't think it's going to take 98 points to make the playoffs but we're still  eligible to play," Boudreau said.

So what will it take to make it?

"Not 98," he said.

Brookbank finds his role:
Sheldon Brookbank has quietly put together a statement season in that he has become a regular on the back end of the defense.

Brookbank is two games shy of his career-high 66 games played. He's had three goals in nine games after he went 167 games without scoring.

After spending six years in the minors, he's become a regular.

"You don't have to play thinking that if you make a mistake, you're sitting in the press box, you know?" Brookbank said. "You can't make a bunch of mistakes, but they give you a little bit of rope."

Brookbank has beaten Martin Brodeur, Ray Emery and Jonathan Quick for his career-high three goals.

"The pucks are going in right now," he said. "I'll take every one I can get."

Special teams struggle:
Anaheim has allowed seven power play goals in the last seven games, and Boudreau sees a pattern he would like discontinued against Edmonton's top-ranked power play.

"They're always at the end of the penalty kill," Boudreau said. "We're killing off a minute and 40 seconds and then we make a mistake and then it seems to be in our net. That's something we have to fix. We've sort of figured out a few things and hopefully we apply them tonight. The League's best power play is not the ideal situation coming in, but if you're going to get any confidence from doing something well you might as well start against the best."

Boudreau ripped the officiating after Saturday night's game but said he wasn't fined by the League.
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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 4:04 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Oilers, Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Edmonton Oilers visit the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center:

OILERS
Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Lennart Petrell - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ben Eager
Darcy Hordichuk - Eric Belanger - Ryan Jones

Ryan Whitney - Corey Potter
Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Nick Schultz - Andy Sutton

Nikolai Khabibulin
Devan Dubnyk

DUCKS
Niklas Hagman - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jason Blake - Rod Pelley - Matt Beleskey

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Lubomir Visnovsky - Luca Sbisa
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers
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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 2:42 PM

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

Buffalo riding workhorse Miller during improbable run

WINNIPEG -- The Buffalo Sabres' improbable march back into the Eastern Conference playoff race continues tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

A 6-0-2 run has pulled the Sabres (30-27-8) into ninth place, two points behind the Jets. A regulation win tonight would slide Buffalo ahead of Winnipeg for the East's eighth spot. The Sabres have not occupied eighth place since Dec. 19. The Sabres wrap up their five-game road trip that has criss-crossed North America fresh off a 5-3 win at Vancouver on Saturday night.

"We've been treating every game as a playoff game," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

But Ruff expects a tough test in Winnipeg, where the Sabres suffered a 4-1 loss on Jan. 19.

"This team here is one of the better home teams," Ruff said, "and has really played well in this building. We're going to have to play well. We're going to have to execute. We're going to have to make plays."

Ruff will start goaltender Ryan Miller for the 19th time in Buffalo's past 20 games. Miller has spun an 11-2-3 mark over his past 17 games to go with a 1.70 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. The Sabres also expect to regain Robin Regehr, who missed Saturday's game with a lower-body injury.

Thanks in no small part to Miller's play, the Sabres have been able to shore up defensive problems that plagued them earlier in the season. The Sabres have allowed only seven goals over their past five games, and Miller ran a 106-minute shutout streak earlier in the road trip.

"I think we're playing much better defensively," Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. "We're making teams work hard to get their opportunities. I still think we're playing an aggressive style, but we're there to back each other up."

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Sabres:

Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Ville Leino - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Brad Boyes - Corey Tropp

Jordan Leopold - Tyler Myers
Christian Ehrhoff - Robyn Regehr
Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth
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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

Jets can push Sabres back in race for eighth

WINNIPEG -- Every game going forward for the time being is crucial for the Winnipeg Jets.

But now the Jets (31-27-8) have company in tonight's game with the Buffalo Sabres at the MTS Centre that concludes an eight-game homestand. Written off some time ago, the Sabres have rolled off a 6-0-2 run and can pass the Jets tonight with a regulation win and take over eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Jets have managed a 4-1-2 homestand so far, piling up 29 goals in the process, but have yet to be able to put distance between themselves and the Sabres, Washington, Tampa Bay and Toronto. The Florida Panthers have extended their Southeast Division lead over the Jets to four games. Five of Winnipeg’s final 16 games will pit them against Southeast Division clubs still jostling for playoff positioning.

Jets coach Claude Noel knows that his club will be facing a tough Buffalo opponent riding a wave of confidence.

"They're in a good place right now when you watch them play," Noel said. "They look like they play with confidence. They look like they're feeding off their goaltender. They look like they're certainly feeling good about things. They're a dangerous group."

Defenseman Zach Bogosian, who returned for last Thursday's 7-0 win over Florida after a seven-game absence (upper body), will again miss action due to a lower-body injury. Grant Clitsome will make his Jets debut and take Bogosian's spot in a pairing with Ron Hainsey.

Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets.

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 - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Grant Clitsome
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 2:36 PM

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

NHL R&D camp benefitted Tippett, Bylsma

PITTSBURGH -- The last two Jack Adams Award winners, Dave Tippett of Phoenix and Dan Bylsma of Pittsburgh, will coach against each other for the one and only time this season Monday. It was a matchup both coaches have looked forward to for months.
 
They didn't discuss strategies or philosophies in advance of the game, of course, but they did so last summer while taking part in the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Toronto.
 
The summer session allows the League to test various rules proposals and potential changes to the game, and gain instant input from coaches and general managers. The players utilized were some of the top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft, and they tested such concepts as three-minute, 3-on-3 overtime, hybrid icing and minor penalties that must be served in full even if a goal is scored.
 
Generally the coaches have opposite approaches to the game -- Tippett is all about playing skillfully in the defensive end, minimizing scoring chances and turning defense into offense, while Bylsma emphasizes puck possession and getting to the offensive zone as much as possible.
 
At the R&D camp, however, Tippett and Bylsma discovered that their seemingly different ways of competing are very similar.
 
"As a coach, you very seldom get into a game where you can throw caution to the wind and try a lot of different things,” Tippett said Monday. “I really liked what the NHL does; they bring those young players in and you get a look at them. And Dan I had a great time trying to concoct rules and try different things that might help the game. Any time you can spend time around other coaches, it benefits everybody.”
 
Especially when you discover that a coach shares much of the same philosophy as you do, yet implements it in a different way.
 
Talent, of course, has something to do with the way each coach goes about his business. With players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, Bylsma understandably wants to keep the pressure on opponents at all times. Tippett doesn’t have as much offensive skill in Phoenix, so he must make certain the Coyotes play with discipline and determination and turn an opponent’s mistakes into goals.
 
That’s evident from the statistics. The Penguins are a plus-40 in goal differential (207-167) despite a succession of injuries to key players; the Coyotes are only plus-5 (170-165), yet Phoenix went into Monday’s games with 75 points, only six fewer than Pittsburgh.
 
“It's always interesting because most conversations when it comes to their team is that their team plays on the other side of the puck. When you read their clippings and their articles, they tend to talk about the defensive side," Bylsma said. "If you read ours, you probably tend to talk about the other side. But I know they're cognizant of the other side of the puck as well. They're a very aggressive team, both on their forecheck and in the neutral zone. It's not sit back and play defense or trap and wait for the other team to come at you."
 
When Tippett and Bylsma talked, it turned out that the words "be aggressive" appear frequently in each coach's conversations with his players.
 
"While they do talk about the other side of the puck more than our team does, they are a very aggressive team and are going to come at you both forechecking-wise and in the neutral zone," said Bylsma. "I think it's a key to how they play the game, very similar to the way we play the game, being aggressive and coming at you."
 
Both coaches would like to attend another Research and Development Camp in the future. Tippett called it "a great experience," in part because coaches gain insight into how others prepare and motivate their teams and implement strategy.
 
"Both of us tried some interesting things there," Bylsma said. "I don't think we'll see any of those things tonight in the game. (Tippett) did do some interesting things, but I'm not sure I've seen any of it in the two full games I've watched of his team. That was more experimenting than anything."
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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 2:08 PM

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

Injured forward Backstrom takes respite in Sweden

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom is in Sweden to spend time with his family, a team spokesman confirmed to NHL.com Monday.

The Capitals' No. 1 center has been sidelined with a concussion since taking an elbow to the head from then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque on Jan. 3.

Backstrom has skated for just five minutes over the past 58 days -- an attempt on Jan. 23. He has since been limited to riding a stationary bike.

According to the team, Backstrom is not seeing any medical specialists in Sweden, and the return home is strictly to see family and to spend some time away from hockey.

Backstrom spoke to reporters last month and acknowledged the frustration in coming to the practice facility on a daily basis but being unable to join his teammates on the rink.

The 24-year-old flew to Sweden last week as the Caps began a season-long five-game homestand. He is expected to return to Washington on Sunday.

Backstrom's spending time at home is a measure not unlike one Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby took last season when he spent time in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, while recovering from his concussion.

Capitals general manager George McPhee said last Monday that while he remains hopeful Backstrom will return this season, there is still no timetable for a full recovery.

"I don't have an answer for you on that," McPhee said after the NHL Trade Deadline. "I wish I did. It's a lot easier to plan if you have an answer. But we don't have an answer."

The Caps have won 11 of the 27 games Backstrom has missed, and Dale Hunter continues to search for answers for a power-play unit that is 2-for-34 since Feb. 12, and 6-for-68 since Jan. 13.

"I certainly think we're capable of making the playoffs with this team right now," McPhee said. "If Nicky Backstrom came back it certainly would improve our chances of being able to win a Cup. We can make the playoffs with this team, and if he comes back we can beat anybody in this conference."

Backstrom remains the Capitals' second leading scorer this season with 42 points in 38 games.

The Capitals begin the week in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the eighth-place Winnipeg Jets. The Caps close out their five-game homestand this week with games against Carolina on Tuesday and Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Vokoun Returns: Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun returned to practice today after sitting out this past weekend with a lower-body injury. The 35-year-old says he hopes to be fully recovered and available for tomorrow’s game against Carolina.

Michal Neuvirth has gone 3-3-0 in starting the last six games for the Caps. Braden Holtby was recalled from AHL Hershey yesterday and dressed as Neuvirth’s backup last night against Philadelphia.

All three goalies took part in Dale Hunter's Monday practice, but Holtby was later reassigned to Hershey.
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