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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:06 PM

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

Struggling Fedotenko will sit a second straight game

NEW YORK -- Ruslan Fedotenko is one of the few veterans with Stanley Cup-winning experience on a young Rangers team poised to make a deep run in this year's playoffs.

Yet for the second game in a row, the 33-year-old will find himself as a healthy scratch when the Rangers close their seven-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden.

Coach John Tortorella wouldn't use specifics Friday morning in discussing Fedotenko, but knows his value in the postseason.

"I'm not going to broadcast it to you guys," Tortorella said. "I want to make a change in the lineup. I still have a tremendous about of faith in Feds, as far as what he does. He's been there. He's been successful there. He understands the intensity of it, how it ratchets up. I think it's something that's important, especially when you're dealing with some guys who haven't done a lot of this.

"Right now I'm looking at different things. He'll play again, and we'll see where we go with it."

Fedotenko has 8 goals and 8 assists and is minus-10 in 65 games after posting 10 goals and 15 assists and a plus-9 in 66 games last season. In his last 25 games, he has 2 goals and 1 assist, and he knows that's why he's currently watching from the press box.

"I had a little dip there and didn't feel like I was producing enough," Fedotenko said. "Obviously I'm not scoring as much. I feel like maybe I'm focusing too much on defense and not enough on offense. I'm not saying I need to sacrifice defense, but I feel like I just need to put the emphasis more on being creative offensively and trying to score the goals. I think that's the bottom line."

Fedotenko knows it's nice to have a history with Tortorella -- the two were together when Tampa Bay won the Cup in 2004 -- but he also knows that doesn't get him any special treatment when he's not playing well.

"It's nice to have that trust, but it's still, if I don't deliver, I'm not going to play. That's the bottom line," Fedotenko said. "You never want to be sitting. It doesn't matter if you have a history or how many years you've been in the League, you always feel like that news is … you can use your own words.

"It's not pleasant, it's not what I'd like to do, but I'm trying to take this time to evaluate the game and figure out what I can improve to go forward and help the team. The ultimate goal is to win the Cup. That's why I came back here and that's what I want to do."

Here's the rest of the Rangers' lineup for Friday's game against the Sabres:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Mats Zuccarello
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Tim Erixon - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 11:54 AM

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

Zajac still clearing mental hurdles in return to lineup

NEWARK, N.J. -- Travis Zajac is close, but not quite ready to return to the New Jersey Devils lineup.

Zajac said after Friday's morning skate at Prudential Center that he doesn't feel any soreness in his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon, and that there is no swelling at all after he skates. But until he is able to overcome the mental hurdle of making sure he's 100 percent comfortable to get back into the Devils lineup, he will stay on the sidelines, working on his hands, timing and conditioning.

Zajac, who had his surgery in August, already returned once this season and suffered a setback, so this time around he's being ultra-careful.

"I came back and it didn't work out, so now coming back for a second time you really want to make sure," Zajac said after the Devils practiced in advance of Friday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. "It is almost more mental than physical at this point. You just have to put yourself in situations where you're going to get knocked around, banged around. Once you know you're alright and healed, I'm sure I'll get back out there and there will be nothing bothering me mentally."

Zajac initially returned in December, but he played only eight games before soreness in his Achilles forced him out of the lineup. He hasn't played since Jan. 2.

Zajac was even shut down from all hockey-related activities for a period of time this winter and went into a walking boot for three-and-a-half weeks. He has been practicing with the team for the last week and hasn't had any setbacks.

"This time I can compare it to how I felt last time when I came back," Zajac said. "I see a difference now. I really have no soreness or tightness or swelling like I did last time.

"If you don't have any of that, now it's just getting comfortable. That's the main thing, I have to be comfortable on the ice to be able to do things that I was doing before I was injured."

Zajac's ideal scenario is to return to the lineup soon (the Devils next play Sunday at Pittsburgh) so he can get in as many games as possible to get back up to speed before the playoffs begin.

"I think he's in a real good spot health-wise," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "When you come back early and it doesn't go well, you have a setback, your mental state is as important as your physical state. We want to make sure both are in the right spot. The key here obviously is that he's ready day 1 of the playoffs and has his game as close to normal as possible."

The Devils will look to snap a dry spell against the Leafs, who have yielded 13 goals in their last two games. New Jersey has scored only five goals in its last five games, but still managed to win two of them by 1-0 scores, including a shootout win over Colorado.

Ilya Kovalchuk has points in the last three games, but linemates Zach Parise and Adam Henrique are both pointless in the last five. Henrique hasn't scored a goal since Feb. 17, a string of 17 straight games. He has just 2 goals in the last two-plus months.

"I think we've been playing the same way, it's been really close every game, but for whatever reason we have nothing to show for it," Parise said. "It's not an excuse. We have to find a way to produce, but I think we're still doing the same things and playing the same way, it's just that right now it doesn't want to go in for us. Hopefully that changes tonight.

"It's a hard time right now and lines go through it, but we have to make sure we're not cheating in different areas and the goals will come back."

Martin Brodeur will get the start in net for the Devils. Here are the rest of their lines and defense pairs:

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 11:04 AM

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

Predators sign Joonas Rask to entry-level contract

Forward Joonas Rask, the younger brother of Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask, has signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Nashville Predators.

The Savonlinna, Finland native was a seventh-round pick (No. 198) by the Predators in the 2010 NHL Draft.
 
Rask, 21, recently completed his fourth season with Ilves of the Finnish League (SM-Liiga), posting 4 goals and 15 points in 29 games. In 156 SM-Liiga games since 2008, the 5-foot-10, 176-pound center has 29 goals, 62 points and 70 penalty minutes.

Rask represented Finland at both the 2009 and 2010 World Junior Championship, and captained his homeland's club at the 2008 Under-18 World Championship, being named one of team's three best players.
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 11:00 AM

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

Updated playoff projections: March 23rd

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 74 81 8 89 5

9th 74 80 8 88 5
10th 73 76 9 84 7
11th 74 75 8 81 8
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 74 85 8 94 5

9th 76 85 6 91 5
10th 74 84 8 92 6
11th 75 83 7 89 6

The skinny:
The end of the work week could see the end of playoff hopes for teams failing to win on Friday night. Beginning with the race for eighth in the Eastern Conference, the Winnipeg Jets must win against Washington on Friday or their playoff dreams will become an end-of-season nightmare. A loss by the Jets will leave them seven points behind the Caps with eight games remaining. Projecting teams to need 90 points at a minimum to qualify, the equation is elementary, two points is the only answer because winning seven of the remaining eight games is highly improbable.

The surging Hurricanes -- we haven't talked about them in a while -- have a faint playoff pulse because of their four consecutive wins. Carolina visits Columbus, and a win there along with losses by the Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres, will have that pulse beating a little stronger.

Carolina needs help but if the Hurricanes can't help themselves, the clock will strike midnight on their playoff hopes. The Sabres are in Manhattan to visit the Rangers and a win, along with a regulation loss by the Caps, would put Buffalo in a playoff position.

We know Washington controls their destiny with a win against the Jets. It will effectively eliminate the Jets, and then they can focus on delivering a similar blow to the Sabres on Tuesday when they play host to Buffalo. Screen-in-screen viewing on NHL GameCenter with Sabres-Rangers and Jets-Capitals is recommended!

Florida plays host to the Oilers and the Panthers need three wins to gain 91 points to feel safe about qualifying for the playoffs, so a win moves them closer to ending their long playoff absence. Don't look now, but Ottawa fans could find their team pulled into the race for eighth. A worst-case scenario sees Ottawa losing to the Canadiens in Montreal while both Washington and Buffalo win, moving them to within one and two points respectively of the seventh-place Senators.

People call this "opening the door" for your opponents. What looked like a race for one playoff spot could become a sprint for two spots if Ottawa fails to beat last-place team in the East. I will have to make room for another game on my screen. Fortunately, NHL GameCenter can accommodate up to four games at one time. Is there another game I should be paying attention to? Perhaps not Friday, but Saturday could be a whole different story!
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Posted On Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:07 AM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Radim Vrbata back for Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes had 30-goal scorer Radim Vrbata back in the lineup for Thursday's showdown with the Colorado Avalanche at Jobing.com Arena.

Vrbata, who hasn't scored a goal in more than a month -- he got No. 30 on Feb. 21 against Los Angeles -- has missed three of the last four games with an undisclosed illness. He will replace Shane Doan, who will begin a three-game NHL suspension tonight for a hit on Dallas' Jamie Benn on Tuesday night.

The ninth-place Coyotes were without forward Taylor Pyatt and defenseman Adrian Aucoin as they attempted to jump over the Avalanche and back into a playoff spot in the jam-packed Western Conference

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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 10:36 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

COL @ PHX - 14:38 of the First Period



At 14:38 of the first period in the Avalanche/Coyotes game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Martin Hanzal's shot was stopped by Semyon Varlamov and never crossed the goal line. No Goal Phoenix.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 10:24 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CGY @ MIN - 12:23 of the Third Period



At 12:23 of the third period in the Flames/Wild game, video review determined that Darroll Powe's shot completely crossed the goal line. Good Goal Minnesota.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 6:46 PM

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

Caps' Semin to sit with lower-body injury

PHILADELPHIA -- Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin will not play Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers and is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Semin sat out practice Wednesday and did not skate with the team Thursday morning, but Capitals coach Dale Hunter said it was for "maintenance" reasons. He added Thursday morning that Semin would take part in the pre-game warm-ups and would be a game-time decision.

Semin's absence allows Joel Ward, a healthy scratch in Monday's game against the Detroit Red Wings, to return to the lineup.

Semin is second on the team with 46 points in 69 games.

In Semin's absence, here's how the Capitals' lineup will look:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Mike Knuble
Jay Beagle - Keith Aucoin - Marcus Johansson
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Jeff Schultz - John Carlson
Mike Green - Roman Hamrlik

Braden Holtby will start in goal, with Michal Neuvirth the backup.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 6:11 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks look for turnaround against Bruins

SAN JOSE -- Two teams headed in opposite directions will collide Thursday night when the struggling San Jose Sharks face the surging Boston Bruins at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks have lost back-to-back games and have tumbled to 10th place in the Western Conference standings. After a four-game skid, the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins have won two straight, including an 8-0 thrashing of Toronto on Monday night, and own the No. 2 seed in the East.

The Sharks, naturally, are in desperation mode, but coach Todd McLellan said they've got find a way to loosen up and stop being so tight on the ice.

"First of all, we understand where we're at," McLellan said after his team's morning skate. "There's an anxiousness around our team which should be there. I feel at times it's a nervousness that holds us back. We have to be able to go out and play free. It's not about one or two individuals carrying the weight of the team on their shoulders, it's about distributing it evenly … and when you do that your team plays well. When you take too much on or not enough on, you have a tendency not to play well."

The Bruins don't have to worry about making the playoffs, but they're fighting to hold off Ottawa, which stands just three points back in the Northeast Division.

"I know they're in a battle for a playoff spot," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the Sharks. "This is a good team across the ice from here. The one thing I do know is that we've gone through the same situation of really struggling to find our game, and eventually when you do, you see what kind of team you really are.

"It's a matter of them doing the same thing, and right now our focus is not to let them have that happen against us - do it against somebody else. But we have to be ready. Everybody's in a fighting mode here and everybody's in a situation where they want to finish as high as they can and some are battling for playoff spots."

Boston will open a three-game California road trip against the Sharks, hoping to build on the strides it made with a 3-2 shootout win against Philadelphia and a rout of the Maple Leafs. Even though they scored eight goals against Toronto, the Bruins pointed to improved defensive play for their two-game turnaround.

"I think we were just playing more Bruins-style hockey, playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulders, going out and competing, winning battles, and I think that's really where we start playing well, when we start competing hard and winning all those little battles wherever they may be," forward Tyler Seguin said. "When we stay consistent with that, after having a good game in Philly, and regardless of the score against Toronto, just to see us competing hard and doing the little things right, that's what makes us happy."

Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said one "challenge" they'll face against San Jose is to avoid being "too high" after their 8-0 win.

"You want to focus on what you did well that game and try to bring it into a game tonight and just build on what you've done well," Seidenberg said. "The last two games have been better. We're still trying to get our consistent game back that we had before our slump the last couple months. Everybody knows we're not out of it yet and we have to keep building."

The Sharks thought they had busted out of their slump when they beat Nashville and Detroit last week. But they followed those two wins with a 5-3 home loss to Anaheim on Monday and a 5-2 loss at Los Angeles the next night.

"We know we're behind the eight-ball and we've got to win some games to get in the playoffs," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, a former Bruin. "It has to start tonight. We're facing a really good team, so we have to be on our toes, ready to go.

"They're just a complete team, right from the goaltender out. They're flying high off that eight-nothing win last game. We'd like to score early, get some confidence and go from there.''

The Sharks beat Boston 4-2 in October during a 5-1 road trip when they were riding high.

"When we have fun, we usually play well," Thornton said. "We've got to get back to that tonight."

Forward Logan Couture said no one in the Sharks' dressing room has lost faith.

"Everyone in this room believes we're going to be in the playoffs," Couture said. "We're going to make this push down the stretch. We've got nine games to play well and make the push."

The Sharks announced that rookie forward Tommy Wingels is the team's nominee for the Masterton Trophy.

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Boston Bruins at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat

Dominic Moore - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Daniel Winnik

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Brent Burns

Colin White - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Niemi, despite back-to-back rough games, will make his 13th straight start in goal for the Sharks. Handzus will likely return to the lineup after missing the past six games with a lower body injury. McLellan said there's a chance Wingels (upper body) could return after missing five games. Forward Ryane Clowe and defenseman Dan Boyle didn't practice Thursday morning but will play tonight, McLellan said.

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jordan Caron

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin

Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg

Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk

Greg Zanon - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas

Marty Turco

  • Thomas, the first goalie off the ice Thursday morning, will start for the 13th time in the past 14 games and make his 14th consecutive appearance. He's coming off his fifth shutout of the season but faced just 13 shots against Toronto.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes may be down two key forwards vs. Avs

The Coyotes could be without their top two right wingers for tonight's huge game with the Avalanche.
 
Shane Doan is definitely out, serving the first of a three-game suspension for his hit on Dallas' Jamie Benn. And Radim Vrbata, who has missed two games and part of a third with an undisclosed illness, took part in Tuesday's optional skate and Wednesday's morning skate, is still a game-time decision.
 
If Vrbata is a no-go, that's more than 50 goals missing from a Phoenix offense that struggles even in the best of times. Winger Taylor Pyatt and defenseman Adrian Aucoin will also miss this game between the eighth- and ninth-place teams in the Western Conference.
 
The Coyotes are 3-1-3 in their last seven games, but have slipped out of a playoff spot and need a win to stay on the heels of Pacific Division-leading Dallas.
 
Colorado will go without defenseman Erik Johnson (back spasms) for a second straight game with a back injury and rookie Tyson Barrie will again get the call. Ryan O'Reilly, who had his nose broken in Tuesday's overtime win over Calgary, will be in the lineup.
 
These are the projected lineups for tonight's game:
 
COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Martin Hanzal - Gilbert Brule
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Radim Vrbata
Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
Michal Roszival - David Schlemko

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

AVALANCHE

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

Shane O'Brien - Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Ryan Wilson

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
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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