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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 3:40 PM

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

Tough times have shaken Crawford seeking answers

CHICAGO -- Veteran Ray Emery will get the start for the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators and it looks like he has the inside track on the starting job over Corey Crawford for the remaining 17 games of the regular season.

Crawford was pulled from his second straight start on Wednesday after just one period, which was his seventh time being pulled this season. Needless to say, the second-year goalie who was so impressive and consistent a year ago is struggling to locate where his game and confidence went.

"It's a tough time right now, where I can't even finish a game," Crawford said on Thursday after a practice at the United Center. "I battled hard in practice today and I just got to keep working hard and stay focused. I don't want it to get worse than it is right now."

Crawford, who has a 2.94 goals-against average and .900 save percentage, is beating himself up over his turbulent season. The last two tough starts in particular are especially weighing on his mind, after being pulled after the first period in each one.

"I've never been through this since I started playing goalie," Crawford said. "I've gone on streaks where they're a little bit tougher, but to be up and down this drastically … I'm trying to find answers. Maybe I'm thinking too much. It's just not acceptable. I've got to be better for us. We're fighting for a playoff spot and I've got to find a way to make big saves. It doesn't matter the situation."

Crawford continues to work with Blackhawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite, but Quenneville had his own words of encouragement for the 27-year old who signed a three-year contract extension last summer.

"We'll work at it in practice, whether it's technical adjustments ... but mentally, physically, you know, fight through it," Quenneville said of Crawford's shaken confidence. "Don't give in to it. Look forward and find the confidence you had before. It can be restored quickly and I think that's what we're up to."

Quenneville said opposing teams studied Crawford's tendencies over the past year and likely know them better this year than a year ago -- when Crawford ascended to the starting position as a rookie and played strong.

"He's had good stretches this year," Quenneville said. "Maybe we're comparing him to that standard he had last year, when he was real good for us and instrumental in getting us in the playoffs. He had a real good playoffs, as well. He was relied upon at a critical time of the year and delivered and that was his rookie year. Maybe the expectations and standards were even elevated up off of those levels."

Maybe it's now time for Crawford to readjust to opposing teams by identifying and removing those tendencies they might've picked up. It's all just part of the continual advance-scouting battle that happens in all professional sports, hockey included.

"Every goalie ... the players might [become] a little bit familiar," Quenneville said. "They go through their routines and they're starting to know him, like it goes the other way around. It's part of the learning curve and I know Corey's like a student with how he approaches the game."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 3:39 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

New look for McGinn in first home game with Avs

DENVER -- Jamie McGinn will be wearing a new uniform and a new number tonight when he makes his Colorado Avalanche debut.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound left wing, who was acquired from the San Jose Sharks on Monday, has traded in the No. 64 he wore with the Sharks for parts of four seasons for No. 11, which he'll don against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday at the Pepsi Center.

"Sixty-four was a training camp number," McGinn said after Thursday morning's practice. "I never picked that number and I didn't want that number. It was just a number that they gave me and I wasn't able to switch it.  Every (previous) number I've worn has been a double-digit, so I figured I'd try this one."

McGinn will skate on the Avalanche's third line, with center Mark Olver and right wing David Jones, and he also will be used in penalty-killing situations.

"Jonesie is a proven goal scorer and Ollie is quick up the middle, so I'm excited to get going and to get to know them better," he said. "I've got to do what Colorado wanted me here for. I have to continue to do those things and I'm sure we'll jell just fine."

McGinn arrived in town Tuesday and took part in his first practice Wednesday, but still is adjusting to the mile-high altitude.

"All the guys in the locker room have warned me about it," he said. "I felt it a little bit at practice yesterday, but I felt good this morning. I'm just going to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated and get some sleep and I'll be ready to go tonight. If I can stay on top of that, I hope it will be an easy transition. But I can't use that as an excuse tonight. I have to give it my all and do what makes me successful."

McGinn, who has 12 goals and 12 assists in 61 games, is replacing Daniel Winnik on the third line and as a penalty killer. Winnik was dealt to the Sharks with T.J. Galiardi and a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

"We're looking for energy and for him to be a strong, physical player who can really create havoc on the forecheck and use his size and use his energy to be hard to play against, to be abrasive up front," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "The biggest thing for him is to use his feet and not get paralyzed by thinking too much; just play your game. He's got 12 goals, so certainly he's got the capability to score."

McGinn said he has gotten over the shock of the trade, but added: "Tonight will be a big game for me; reality will hit. I'm really excited to be here. It's going to be a real good opportunity for me. It's going to be a fun month with this playoff push just to make the playoffs. It's an exciting time of the year and I'm ready to tackle it."

The Avalanche have won four games in a row and are 7-2-2 in their past 11 games to pull within one point of eighth-place Dallas in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars are idle tonight, so a Colorado win would give it sole possession of that spot, at least for a day.

The Avalanche won the first two meetings with the Blue Jackets this season, both in Columbus, and have won nine of the past 10 games between the teams.

This is the first of a two-game road trip for the Blue Jackets, who have lost three games in a row and are 30th in the NHL standings with 18 wins and 43 points.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 3:36 PM

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

Toews 'progressing,' status remains day-to-day

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews won't be on the plane with the Chicago Blackhawks when they fly to Ottawa on Thursday, but coach Joel Quenneville left open a glimmer of hope for those tracking the injured star's health status.

Asked if Toews might be able to join the Hawks at some point after Friday's game in Ottawa -- the first of a three-game road trip -- Quenneville answered: "Hope so, but we'll see."

Toews has been out for five straight games with an upper-body injury that's believed to be a concussion, including Wednesday night's 5-4 home win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Considering how long Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has been sidelined by concussion-like symptoms, people in Chicago are beginning to worry that Toews' ailment might be more serious than it sounds.

However, the Hawks have listed Toews as "day-to-day" ever since the injury first came to light and Quenneville is sticking by that assessment. He said Toews is "progressing," and even mentioned the star captain might get back on the ice for individual skating work sometime in the near future.

"I think we mentioned [on Wednesday], you're not sure exactly [how] to give a timeline of where he's going to be," Quenneville said after a brief practice at the United Center on Thursday. "But we said day-to-day and we're still on that timeline. So, hopefully it's sooner. I think that he's progressing, so I think it's going to be pretty soon here we'll get him on the ice."

Does he think Toews will require any additional medical testing to diagnose the situation?

"No," Quenneville said. "I think he's getting the proper attention and he's working with our trainers and doing his routine and he's progressing."

Also showing progress with an upper-body injury believd to be a concussion is defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson -- who will miss a fourth straight game against Ottawa and has sat out 10 of the last 11 contests.

Hjalmarsson will make the trip to Ottawa with the team and might be able to return to action either Sunday in Detroit or Tuesday in St. Louis. Hjalmarsson thought he might be ready to return against the Dallas Stars last week, but almost immediately felt the symptoms that kept him sidelined for the previous seven games.

"Hammer felt really good today, so he's going to come on the trip," Quenneville said. "He's out for tomorrow, but we hope that he'll be playing [soon]."

Other than Toews, defenseman Steve Montador and forward Viktor Stalberg missed Thursday's practice. Montador also won't make the trip and continues to be sidelined with what's believed to be a concussion that's held him out for 11 straight games, but Stalberg is good enough to keep playing despite taking a hard shoulder-first check into the end boards in the second period on Wednesday night and gingerly skating to the bench.

The speedy Swedish forward played the third period and Quenneville said Thursday's day off was just a "maintenance day."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 3:03 PM

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

Herman Liv visits Red Wings practice

The Detroit Red Wings had a special visitor at practice Thursday -- Herman Liv, the 5-year-old son of former goaltending prospect Stefan Liv, who was one of 44 people killed in the Lokomotiv team plane crash in Russia in September.

The Liv family -- mother Anna, Herman and 3-year-old son Harry -- have been visiting from Sweden and staying with Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson for the past month. Ericsson and Stefan Liv became close as teammates with the Wings' AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

"It's nice for them to get away, to get off the focus at home," Ericsson told reporters. "It's been a lot for them, throughout everything. So it's nice to think about something else for a while.

"The kids are fine. They're too young, I think. But Anna has her up-and-down days, of course. So it's nice to think about something else and do something else for a while."

Liv was a 2000 fourth-round pick of the Red Wings but played just one season in North America, 2006-07, which he split between Grand Rapids and the ECHL's Toledo Storm. The rest of his career was spent in his native Sweden. This season was going to be his first playing in the KHL.

Fellow Swede Nicklas Kronwall, who played on Swedish national teams with Liv, said Herman, "Reminds you non-stop of Stefan."

"You're happy to see them and it's fun to see the kids running around," added Kronwall. "They're just like him."

Kronwall said he had only good memories of Liv.

"He was always one of those guys you hung out with, went to dinner with," said Kronwall. "One of those guys you always wanted to be around because you were having a good time. He'd always make you smile. You'd always be in a good mood around him.

"It's tough looking back, especially when you see (his kids)."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:50 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

BLUE JACKETS
RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Russell - Derek MacKenzie - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Ryan Johansen

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

INJURIES: RW Jared Boll (foot), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion) and D Marc Methot (jaw) are out.

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

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

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: RW Chuck Kobasew (back) and D Ryan O'Byrne (knee) are out.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:41 PM

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

Potential lineups for Islanders, Flyers

Here is what the teams could look like when the Islanders and Flyers skate tonight in Philadelphia.

The Flyers didn't practice line combinations, but with a healthy Danny Briere and coming off a mostly solid effort in a 1-0 loss in San Jose Tuesday, coach Peter Laviolette could stick with the same lineup Thursday.

The Islanders will stick with the same lineup they used Tuesday against Washington, which means rookie forward Nino Niederreiter again will be a healthy scratch.

Here are the likely lineups for each team:

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
David Ullstrom - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - Kyle Okposo
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jay Pandolfo

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Milan Jurcina - Mark Eaton

Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal, with Anders Nilsson the backup. The last time Nabokov faced the Flyers, he stopped all 45 Flyers shots in regulation and overtime, and then two more in the shootout in a 1-0 Islanders win.

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Matt Read - Maxime Talbot - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Brayden Schenn - Jakub Voracek
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Danny Briere

Matt Carle - Braydon Coburn
Kimmo Timonen - Pavel Kubina
Nicklas Grossman - Andrej Meszaros

Ilya Bryzgalov will make his seventh straight start for the Flyers, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:30 PM

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

Panthers have enjoyed success at MTS Centre

WINNIPEG -- The Florida Panthers look to tighten their grip on the Southeast Division lead further tonight when they visit the Winnipeg Jets.

Visiting teams have experienced difficulty in Winnipeg this season, but the Panthers (30-20-12) have found success in Manitoba this season. Along with the New York Islanders, the Panthers are the only team that has come into the MTS Centre and taken two wins this season. The Panthers also have assembled a 5-1-1 mark over seven games in Canada this season.

A regulation win tonight for the Panthers, who have won three straight games, would extend Florida's divisional lead on the Jets to six points and five points on the Washington Capitals. A win would also tie the club's franchise record of five consecutive on the road, set during the 2008-09 season. The 17 points that the Panthers accumulated in February matched a franchise record for the month.

However, the Panthers will be without Kris Versteeg (lower-body injury), who has lit up the Jets for 5 goals in two games on Winnipeg ice this season.

Jose Theodore is expected to start in net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Panthers:

Sean Bergenheim - Stephen Weiss - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Tomas Kopecky - Wojtek Wolski
Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:26 PM

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

Jets face virtual must-win against first-place Panthers

WINNIPEG -- Tonight's date with the Florida Panthers at the MTS Centre figured to be a critical game for the Winnipeg Jets.

But a home loss that featured a third-period meltdown to the Edmonton Oilers earlier this week means that tonight's game takes on even greater importance for the Jets (30-27-8). Winnipeg trails Florida by four points, and the Jets cede three games in hand to the Panthers. A regulation loss would set the ninth-place Jets six points behind Florida and leave them stuck one point behind the eighth-place Washington Capitals, who will also hold three games in hand after tonight.

While eight of the Jets' final 17 games are against Southeast Division opponents, a season-high eight-game homestand has yielded Winnipeg wins in only three of its first six games. The Jets will have a rare weekend off before concluding the homestand against the Buffalo Sabres early next week.

Aiding Winnipeg will be the return of defenseman Zach Bogosian after an upper-body injury cost him a seven-game absence. With Bogosian's return, the Jets, who have lost 244 man-games to injury this season, have a completely healthy roster. Newcomer Grant Clitsome, whom the Jets acquired via waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, will not dress.

Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start in net.

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
Zach Bogosian - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:22 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Geoffrion honoring family's Habs history

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens will attempt to avoid their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Minnesota Wild tonight.

With the playoffs highly unlikely -- and everyone on the team seemingly resigned to that fact -- things like halting a five-game losing streak or improving their League-worst .333 winning percentage on home ice (11-14-8) are what the Canadiens players are focusing on for motivation.

"You play for pride and the logo on the front of your jersey," center Lars Eller said. "That means a lot. So you have to keep that in mind."

Someone who will be feeling a great sense of pride tonight is newcomer Blake Geoffrion, who will play his second game in a Canadiens uniform, but his first at home.

Geoffrion is wearing No. 57 to honor two members of his family who are legends in the Canadiens organization -- his grandfather, Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion (No. 5) and his great-grandfather, Howie Morenz (No. 7).

Another new Canadiens addition has a bit of extra motivation as well, as Brad Staubitz will face the team that placed him on waivers on Feb. 27.

"I really hope I can get my first goal of the year," Staubitz said with a smile.

He last scored a goal April 10, 2011, a span of 44 games. Although he'd probably settle for an assist -- his last point of any kind came on that goal. Better known for physical play, his 90 penalty minutes are the most on the Canadiens.

His former Wild teammates expressed regret that Staubitz was no longer with them, but they have little doubt that should he be called upon to fill play that extra-physical role Thursday, there will be no hesitation.

"I know what a great pro he is, so he's going to go out and play his game and do his job," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We expect him to play a very hard game, but having said that I'm sure he'd rather have that role and that responsibility against a team he's not as close with."

Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth would not tip his hand as to who will be in his lineup for the game, though he did suggest he would go with seven defensemen once again.

The matchup in goal will pit Carey Price against Niklas Backstrom.

We had the likely Wild lineup earlier; here’s the most likely Canadiens lineup:

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Ryan White - Tomas Plekanec - Blake Geoffrion
Aaron Palushaj - Lars Eller - Rene Bourque
Scott Gomez - Brad Staubitz
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Yannick Weber

With Price starting in goal, Peter Budaj will be the backup.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 1:35 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Palmieri enjoying opportunity with Wild

MONTREAL -- Nick Palmieri has waited all season for an opportunity like he will be getting Thursday when the Minnesota Wild face the Montreal Canadiens.

Palmieri was identified by Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher as the key piece that came back from the New Jersey Devils in the trade for defenseman Marek Zidlicky, and as soon as Palmieri arrived he could see why.

Coach Mike Yeo had Palmieri playing on the second line with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck for his first two games, but Thursday Palmieri will get bumped to the top line, alongside Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley.

"I've been very impressed so far," Yeo said of Palmieri. "The first day you see him he looks like an NHL player. He's got the size, the strength, the way he passes and shoots the puck. Every game that he's played for us -- he's played two now -- he's generated some quality scoring chances. We kind of eased him in, but he's earned himself some more opportunity on that top line and he's a guy we'd like to see on the power play, as well."

Palmieri, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-wing who's just 22 years old, readily admits he was starting to find his role difficult to take in New Jersey. After playing at least 10 minutes in all but one of his first 18 games with the Devils, Palmieri did not reach that mark once in his final 11 games, dating to Nov. 23, a span that included three return trips to the AHL.

"They had their lines pretty much set there, so there wasn't much room for me," said Palmieri. "But that's the way it goes. I'm just excited to play more minutes, no matter who I'm playing with."

Palmieri was getting decent minutes earlier in the season, but the production was slow to come in his second NHL season. Next thing he knew, he was a fourth-line player.

"I kind of got behind the eight-ball early in the year and started to feel the pressure," he said. "When they move you to the fourth line you kind of start to play more passive. You play to not make mistakes instead of trying to make a play."

He certainly will get that opportunity Thursday.

One player who won't, however, is Erik Christensen, who will be a healthy scratch for the first time since he was acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 3. Christensen does not have a point in 12 games with Minnesota, and he is a minus-5 in his last three games.

"It's one thing to not be getting goals and to not be getting assists, but if the puck is going in (our) net when you're on the ice, then it doesn't add up," Yeo said. "Some guys can go out and they might not score a goal but they can still be effective, they can still bring momentum or they can still be solid defensively. That's what we have to make sure of with Erik is the next time you're in the lineup, you might score or you might not, but just make sure you play a good game."

Here's how the Wild are expected to look like tonight:

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

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk - Tom Gilbert
Nate Prosser - Kurtis Foster

Niklas Backstrom will start in goal, with Josh Harding the backup.
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