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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 11:30 AM

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

LaFontaine has enjoyed watching Salerno's growth

In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, coach Pat LaFontaine talks about the improved play of stay-at-home defenseman Aidan Salerno (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) of Long Beach, N.Y. Salerno, the biggest defenseman on the team, has been coached by LaFontaine the last four seasons.


The first time I saw Aidan, he had this long hair from Long Beach and I was wondering whether he was going to be a surfer or a hockey player. He wasn't ready mentally or physically, so I challenged him; I wanted to see how hard he would push himself and how badly he really wanted it. He was just out of house-league hockey and learning the game and I saw a young kid who was progressing and learning.

I can tell you, he's one of the hardest-working kids I've ever met. He never gave up and just kept working at it, on and off the ice. His parents are extremely committed and have made huge sacrifices for him to get to where he is and I know he appreciates that.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 4:44 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames' Comeau out with upper-body injury

CALGARY -- Though the Calgary Flames have welcomed back Curtis Glencross, David Moss and Derek Smith to the lineup, their injury woes continue.

Forward Blake Comeau is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Comeau originally suffered the injury in Calgary's 3-2 loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

As a result of Comeau's injury, the Flames are expected to go with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen, meaning Anton Babchuk will see his first action since Jan. 17. Babchuk has been a healthy scratch for 18 consecutive games.

Here is the Flames' projected lineup:

Alex Tanguay - Michael Cammalleri - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman
Lance Bouma - Roman Horak

Derek Smith - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich
Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson

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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 3:27 PM

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

Projected Blackhawks-Red Wings lineups

DETROIT -- The starpower will be noticeably down when the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks take the ice on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, but that didn't stop their last game from being any less exciting.

The Hawks won the last meeting 3-2 on Feb. 21 in Chicago in a game that didn't feature injured star centers Jonathan Toews or Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk. Neither of those two will play on Sunday either, plus the Red Wings will also be missing legendary captain Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) on the blue line.

"There's so many weapons they have," Quennville said.  "Even though they're missing some key pieces, they're still very effective."

The Hawks have had some success against the Wings the past couple years, including a 2-0-2 mark in the first four matchups this season. That includes that one-goal victory in their last game, in which Chicago got goals from rookies Marcus Kruger and Jimmy Hayes -- two of five rookies who will suit up for Sunday's tilt because of injuries to two defensemen and ineffectiveness by forward Michael Frolik.

Having so many rookies, a couple of whom will be playing their first game at Joe Louis Arena, it shouldn't be hard for the Hawks to get up for the game. The Red Wings, however, have a similar situation because of their own rash of injuries.

"I know it's easy to get excited when you're playing this team," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said prior to the game on Sunday. "We've got to do a lot of things right to be in the game or on top at the end of it. We got a real big win [against] them last time. It was an emotional game, getting back home and it was important for the standings ... and we're going to have to be the same type of team today."

Here's a look at how Chicago and Detroit will likely lineup on Sunday afternoon:

BLACKHAWKS

Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bollig

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Dylan Olsen - Sami Lepisto

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford

RED WINGS

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Danny Cleary - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi/Johan Franzen
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Johan Franzen/Chris Conner
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton-Jan Mursak

Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
Brendan Smith - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard
Joey MacDonald

Note: Bertuzzi will be a gametime decision with a groin issue, which
he will test out during pre-game warmups. If he doesn't play, Chris
Conner will draw into the lineup, likely on the third line with
Franzen moving up to the second forward unit.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 1:59 PM

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

Capitals projected lineup

WASHINGTON -- It's hard to quantify just how much the Washington Capitals have missed Nicklas Backstrom since their No.1 center suffered a concussion Jan.3.

The Caps have won 11 of the 26 games he has missed and they have been held to two goals or less 15 times over that stretch.
But nowhere has Backstrom's absence been felt more of late than on Washington's woeful power play -- a unit that has gone 2-for-34 over its last ten games.

"Our power play is killing us," said Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman. "We're making wrong reads, we're not backing each other up when there's a bouncing puck. We're giving up breakaways and goals every game and we're not scoring or even creating chances. Our power play is absolutely killing us."

Following Friday's 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils -- a game in which the Caps' power play went 0-for-2 while allowing a shorthanded goal against -- coach Dale Hunter spoke of the challenge in trying to replace Backstrom on the half wall on the Caps No.1 PP unit.

"We have to play safer," Hunter said, "get it down low and just get pucks to the net… We're looking for a half board guy; you can see us trying different guys on the half board with Nicky out. He was our half board guy for years and we're still looking."

Hunter hopes that half wall position can be successfully filled by Alex Ovechkin beginning tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Ovechkin has spent much of his power play time this season at the left point but with four capable defensemen in Wideman, Mike Green, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, Hunter has decided to shift Ovechkin to the half wall and will go with two defensemen on each power play unit.

The decision to go with two defensemen on the power play could also have to do with the troubling trend which has seen the Capitals allow four shorthanded goals in their last ten games -- the same stretch in which they have scored just two power play goals of their own.

"They can defend a one-on-one better," Hunter explained. "They're just calmer back there than having [Brooks Laich] or Ovi back there. It's tougher on a forward because you're not comfortable and so we'll put them up front and we've got four pretty good offensive D so we'll use it."

In addition the changes on the power play, former Flyer Mike Knuble will also return to the Capitals' lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch in four straight games in 7 of 11 overall.

Michal Neuvirth is expected to make his fifth straight start, with Braden Holtby serving as the backup. Holtby was recalled from AHL Hershey this morning, with Tomas Vokoun sidelined day-to-day with a lower body injury.

Washington's projected lineup for tonight's game against the Flyers is included below:

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinMarcus JohanssonTroy Brouwer
Jason ChimeraMathieu PerreaultAlexander Semin
Matt Hendricks- Brooks LaichMike Knuble
Jay BeagleJeff HalpernJoel Ward

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson
Jeff SchultzMike Green
Dmitry OrlovDennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Braden Holtby
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 1:55 PM

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

Flyers look to solve first-goal problem against Caps

WASHINGTON -- The Philadelphia Flyers have allowed the first goal in a staggering nine-straight games and in 12 of their last 13 games overall.

The notoriously slow-starting Flyers have led just once in the last 36 games at the ten-minute mark of the first period.

"It's not something we're proud of," said forward Daniel Briere ahead of tonight's game against the Washington Capitals. "We keep talking about it, but for some reason it keeps happening over and over again so it's something that we're trying to fix. I don't know exactly what's wrong."

Briere is in an 18-game scoreless drought -- his longest since 1998-99- but if there is a team best equipped to play from behind this season, it may be the Flyers. Peter Laviolette's team is averaging a league-best 3.3 goals-per-game, and Philadelphia's 76 second period goals are tops in the NHL.

"I'd rather fix the problem," Laviolette said of having to come back from early deficits. "Coming back is a wear mentally and physically on your team. It's nice to have a team that competes and doesn't quit, but you'd rather go out and jump on an early lead and build that up. So it shows a little bit of resiliency, but we'd rather fix the problem."

The Flyers are 4-5-0 while allowing the first goal in their last nine games and they have not won back-to-back games since a pair of one-goal wins over the Hurricanes and Islanders Jan.10-12.

Philadelphia begins the day in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 77 points, but the Flyers could drop to seventh with a regulation loss today and wins by the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators.

The Capitals have also made falling behind early a common occurrence. The Caps have allowed the first goal in 9 of their last 11 games overall and compared to Washington teams of the past; this year's edition has found it difficult to play catch up.

Under coach Dale Hunter the Caps have won 16 of the 20 games in which they have scored first. They have also lost 18 of the 22 games in which they have allowed the first goal under Hunter.

Ilya Bryzgalov (23-13-6) will make his season-high eighth straight start tonight for the Flyers while the Capitals are expected to start Michal Neuvirth (9-10-3) for a fifth straight game.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 1:48 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild, Avalanche

ST. PAUL -- Just six days after coming to the Minnesota Wild organization from the Boston Bruins, defenseman Steven Kampfer will make his debut with his new team tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

Initially sent to Minnesota's AHL affiliate in Houston to learn the system and get his feet wet, Wild General Manager figured Kampfer's feet were wet enough when watching his team get blown out 6-0 Friday night Detroit. With a bevy of defensive breakdowns in front of goaltender Josh Harding, the Wild decided the time was now to add a seventh defenseman to the mix. Minnesota, which had been playing with seven, or even eight, for much of the season, had decided to go with six since the trade deadline last Monday.

"We've had a chance to look at some of his shifts in the NHL," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "He moves well, passes the puck well, so we're anxious to see if he can come in and fit right in."

The Ann Arbor, Mich. native and former Michigan Wolverine was a fourth round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2007 NHL draft. He was acquired in the deadline day deal that sent veteran blueliner Greg Zanon to Boston.

"It was definitely a surprise that [the call] came this quick," Kampfer said. "I talked to Chuck yesterday and the plan was to play a couple of games [in Houston], get acclimated with the system, play in some games then come up. But I was excited to get the call and I'll be ready to go out there tonight."

Kampfer didn't play in any games with Houston, but was able to participate in two practices with the Aeros, which he said helped him learn a little bit about the systems the Wild use. And with Minnesota's playoff hopes essentially D.O.A. at this point, Kampfer has an opportunity to show Yeo and his staff what he can do in game situations.

"I think you're on tryout everyday when you're in the NHL," Kampfer said. "I don't think it really matters who you are, you have to prove yourself everyday and show that you're making the most of your opportunities. I definitely think this is an opportunity to show the coaches and management that I can play, and I can play in the NHL every night."

Kampfer will be paired tonight with another Wild newcomer, Tom Gilbert, also acquired on deadline day. Gilbert is still looking for his first win in a Wild sweater.

"Both guys move the puck well," Yeo said. "If we can get those guys executing well, it'd be nice to throw those guys out there with a [Cullen] line or a [Brodziak] line. Hopefully their execution can help those guys create a little bit more, whether it's off the rush or even just getting to the offensive zone."

Kampfer's debut is about the only thing certain for a very uncertain Wild team right now. He will take the place of veteran Kurtis Foster, who, along with being a little banged up, was on the ice for three goals against the Red Wings.

Winger Cal Clutterbuck will be a game-time decision after a hard collision with Justin Abdelkader in Detroit. Fellow wing Nick Palmieri, also injured in Detroit, is out with an upper body injury and Yeo had no timetable for his return.

If Clutterbuck does play, Yeo will have to choose between veteran Erik Christensen, who has been scratched of late, or recent call-up Chad Rau, who has scored two game-winning goals for the Wild in just seven games this season -- one coming on Hockey Day Minnesota in January and the other a couple of weeks ago on Hockey Day Across America.

No word yet on if the Wild have petitioned any local municipalities to declare a Hockey Day holiday in their city.

Even Minnesota's starting goaltender for tonight is uncertain. Harding allowed all six goals in Detroit before giving way to Matt Hackett for a large chunk of the final period. Veteran Niklas Backstrom is out 2 to 4 weeks with a groin injury.

Like most teams, it's easy to tell who the starting goaltender will be based on how they come off following the morning skate. Yeo had both goalies come off at the same time.

"We're going to keep that a surprise, we don't do that often," Yeo said.

The smart money is on Hackett making just his second career start tonight. In five games with the Wild this season, Hackett has been brilliant, posting a 2-0 record with a 0.63 goals against average while stopping 98 percent of shots faced. Viewed by many as the franchise's goaltender of the future, it would be Hackett's first career start at Xcel Energy Center.

Colorado, which lost 5-1 to Pittsburgh last night at the Pepsi Center, did not arrive until early in the morning and did not skate Sunday. Steve Downey was injured against the Penguins and the Avs called up winger Mike Connolly, a former University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog.

Connolly led the Bulldogs to a national championship 11 months ago in this building, and if he plays tonight, will also make his NHL debut here. He was acquired in the deal that sent Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi to San Jose last Monday. In 42 games in the AHL this season, Connolly has 10 goals and 20 assists.

WILD

Nick Johnson - Kyle Brodziak - Dany Heatley
Devin Setoguchi - Matt Cullen - Darroll Powe
Matt Kassian - Chad Rau - Cal Clutterbuck
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Tom Gilbert - Steven Kampfer
Justin Falk - Nate Prosser

Matt Hackett
Josh Harding

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Mike Connolly
Jamie McGinn - Mark Olver - David Jones
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Peter Mueller

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliot

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Finns clash in key game for Dallas, Flames

Trailing the Dallas Stars by just four points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames will turn to Miikka Kiprusoff when the two teams meet Sunday afternoon.

In a rare day off, Kiprusoff watched from the bench as the Flames dropped a 3-2 contest to the Anaheim Ducks Friday.

Kiprusoff is enjoying one of his best seasons on record, posting a 28-19-7 with a 2.35 goals against average and .921 save percentage in 56 games.

He'll have to be at his best to counter Kari Lehtonen. The Dallas goaltender has an identical save percentage to Kiprusoff, while his 2.30 goals-against edges his Finnish counterpart.

With points at a premium as teams enter the playoff push, both will be at their best.

CALGARY FLAMES

Alex Tanguay - Michael Cammalleri - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma - Roman Horak - Tim Jackman

Derek Smith - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson

DALLAS STARS

Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribiero - Michael Ryder
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Adam Burish
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Ryan Garbutt - Tom Wandell - Tomas Vincour

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Alex Goligoski - Philip Larsen
Mark Fistric - Trevor Daley

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 1:12 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators-Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kaspars Daugavins had a season-high two points in Ottawa's last visit to the BankAtlantic Center, but he won't get the chance to duplicate that performance against the Florida Panthers Sunday.

Senators coach Paul MacLean said after the optional morning skate that Daugavins would be a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game. Center Zack Smith, meanwhile, will be scratched for the first time this season.

"We can only play 20 and you have to play well to play," MacLean said. "At this point in the season, people are playing better and that's why they're not playing. You have to earn the right to play in the league and you have to play well on a game-by-game basis. We evaluate on a game-by-game basis and at this point the other 12 forwards are playing better."

MacLean also said that rookie Robin Lehner would make his fourth consecutive start in net. Lehner is 3-1 with a 1.50 GAA, his only defeat coming Friday night when he stopped 37 of 39 shots in a 2-1 loss against Chicago.

For the Panthers, defenseman Ed Jovanovski is expected to return to the lineup after being given what Coach Kevin Dineen called a "maintenance day" Saturday and sitting out the 3-1 loss against Nashville.

With Florida carrying seven defensemen, Dineen will have a decision to make when it comes to who to sit. Rookie Erik Gudbranson didn't play in the last 13 minutes of Saturday's game after he was involved in a bad line change that led to the final goal.

OTTAWA SENATORS

Forwards
Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Colin Greening - Zenon Konopka - Erik Condra

Defensemen
Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Goalie
Robin Lehner

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Forwards
Sean Bergenheim - Stephen Weiss - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Wojtek Wolski
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Marco Sturm - Jerred Smithson - Mike Santorelli

Defensemen
Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Brian Campbell
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Goalies
Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 12:38 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Callahan out today against Boston

NEW YORK -- Rangers captain Ryan Callahan will miss Sunday afternoon's contest with the Boston Bruins due to a bruised foot, the third straight game Callahan will sit out.

Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who was absent from Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Lightning due to a hip injury, is back after a one-game absence.

Forward Ruslan Fedotenko took a shot off his left foot during the first period of Friday's game and sat out practice Saturday along with defenseman Dan Girardi, but both will be in the lineup against the Bruins.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in search of his 31st win of the season.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 12:35 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Klinkhammer gets into Sens lineup for the first time

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Three months after being acquired in a trade with Chicago, forward Rob Klinkhammer will play his first game for the Ottawa Senators Sunday at Florida.

It will be the second NHL game overall for Klinkhammer, who was called up from Binghamton of the AHL on Saturday.

Klinkhammer, acquired Dec. 3 for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2013, made his NHL debut on Dec. 8, 2010 with the Blackhawks.

"I'm just super excited," Klinkhammer said after Ottawa's optional morning skate. "I'm just glad to be here, so thankful to get an opportunity and I'm just going to try to make the most of it and have some fun and try not to be too nervous."

Klinkhammer, who will start off playing on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Kyle Turris against Florida, had 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 35 games with Binghamton. Prior to the trade, he had only six points in 18 games for Chicago's AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

"He's worked real hard, can really skate, can make plays, and his work ethic is probably his best attribute," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "We like that. We're still looking for depth on our team and we're going to give him the opportunity to be a part of it."

Another Binghamton player soon will be joining Klinkhammer in Ottawa, with MacLean saying goalie Ben Bishop would get a start for the Senators before too long.

Bishop was acquired from St. Louis on Feb. 26 in exchange for a second-round pick. In his first two starts in Binghamton, Bishop stopped 82 of 85 shots for an exceptional .965 save percentage.

With Craig Anderson out with a hand injury, rookie Robin Lehner has started the last three games for Ottawa and he'll again get the call against Florida Sunday.

"We do have plans for Ben Bishop that we want to see him play in some games," MacLean said. "Obviously it's not tonight. That could change after that or moving forward next week. With this injury to Craig Anderson, we fully plan to take a look at Ben Bishop. We want to make sure he's comfortable and he's ready to come up and play a game before we do anything. He's playing well down there, Robin is playing well up here, so we're going to monitor it and evaluate it on a daily basis."
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— Islanders captain John Tavares after a 4-1 win against the Penguins tied the teams atop the Metropolitan Division standings
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