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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 11:34 AM

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

Expect a lot of Malkin vs. Chara at TD Garden

BOSTON – Evgeni Malkin’s line with Chris Kunitz and James Neal on the wings has been the hottest in the NHL.
               
In Pittsburgh’s last 22 games, that trio has combined for 34 goals and 72 points. For the first time since their recent hot stretch commenced, however, they’ll have to face one the best defenseman in the NHL – Zdeno Chara.
               
Malkin can expect to have to have Chara in his face most of the day today during Pittsburgh’s first game in Boston of the 2011-12 season. Back in December, the Bruins beat Pittsburgh, 3-1, and coach Dan Bylsma said that even then it was difficult to separate his best players from Boston’s best defenders.
               
“They did, in the first game, they always have a pretty concerted effort to get the matchup they want, especially on the back end. And even at home, in Game 1 against them, they were maybe the best team in the League so far at getting the changes they needed to try and get the matchups they wanted,” said Bylsma some two hours before puck-drop. “We’re on the road. I don’t think it’s going to be any easier for me. The one thing you can hope for and you really try to do, if you can extend shifts by the other lines, you can start to get matchups that are in your favor. If that’s the case, if we can get good shifts in the offensive zone, if we can extend shifts for players that are on the ice for Boston, then maybe the matchups are something you can try to get.”
               
Bylsma said newly acquire center Cal O’Reilly will make his Pittsburgh debut on a trio with Steve Sullivan and Tyler Kennedy.
               
While the Penguins have won eight of their last nine, the Bruins are just 4-4-1 over that same stretch of games. Boston emphasized playing as five-man units during its up-tempo practice Friday, so now the Bruins will try to carry that over into game action.
               
“Just doing those simple things, working on our breakouts, regroups, everything,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said about his team’s main focuses. “When we do it together we’re an unbelievable team and when we don’t, things fall apart. That’s what usually happens.”
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 12:42 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Subban solid in return from groin injury

Malcolm Subban, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American goalie, stopped 34 of 37 shots tonight, his first game in more than a month due to a groin injury.

The Belleville Bulls goaltender hadn't played since Dec. 17.

Subban leads the Ontario Hockey League with a 1.98 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. In 20 games, he's 14-6-0 with two shutouts.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 9:45 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CHI @ CGY - 12:24 of the second period



At 12:24 of the first period in Blackhawks / Flames game, video review confirmed that Olli Jokinen's shot crossed the goal line in a legal fashion. Good goal Calgary.
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 4:54 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Loss of Higgins could leave Canucks' lines scrambled

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks rushed out of the rink after practice Friday morning, eager to get to a charter flight bound for Colorado ahead of a snowstorm that was already causing plenty of flight problems ahead of their early Saturday afternoon game against the Avalanche.

The problem is second-line winger Chris Higgins wasn't with them to kick off a four-game road trip after missing Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to Detroit with the flu. And according to coach Alain Vigneault, the Canucks may not be able to call up 6-foot-5 winger Byron Bitz from Chicago of the American Hockey League in time because the weather has cancelled commercial flights in and out of Denver.

If Bitz can't make it, Mason Raymond will again move up to the second line -- they were scrambled in the third period Thursday after being badly outplayed, with Daniel and Henrik Sedin split up, but back together at practice. But instead of defenseman Andrew Alberts dressing as a spare part forward on the fourth line again, it appears fellow defender Keith Ballard will move up this time and play third line left wing.

As for Higgins, Vigneault said it was not a return of the staph infection that cost the winger five games over two separate stints in December and six games in Florida last season, but admitted the medication Higgins was taking because of it may have left him more susceptible to the flu. He said Higgins, who struggled with fatigue because of the medication and didn't score in January, could join the team on the road.

Vigneault also said Roberto Luongo would start again in goal.
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 4:43 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Habs face reality of being sellers at deadline

The Montreal Canadiens will play host to the Washington Capitals in a Hockey Night in Canada Saturday matinee in February, but the franchise is in a position it is not accustomed to.

Montreal is 19-23-9 and with 47 points the Canadiens are in a three-way tie for the least in the Eastern Conference. As a dashing run towards a postseason berth becomes more and more improbable, Montreal is likely to face the reality of becoming a seller at the trade deadline. 

Here’s what NHL.com’s Arpon Basu wrote earlier today on the subject for the League’s French website:

While a playoff spot is a distant 11 points away, the Canadiens find themselves just two points out of 29th in the League standings. The situation has many of the team’s fans openly excited about the prospect of landing a top-five pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, and it also positions the Canadiens as potential sellers leading up to the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

With both the deadline and the standings serving as potential distractions for his players, coach Randy Cunneyworth will have quite a job to do to keep the Canadiens focused over the coming weeks.

“What I look at – and what I hope my players look at – is what’s in front of us today, maybe tomorrow, but beyond that it doesn’t matter at this time. What matters is today,” Cunneyworth said. “To look beyond today or tomorrow would be too overwhelming.”

The Canadiens have a few players set to hit unrestricted free agency who could be attractive to contending teams looking to shore up at the deadline.

Rugged forward Travis Moen and penalty killing specialist Hal Gill are both former Stanley Cup winners who have excelled in the playoffs with the Canadiens.

Gill has played a more limited role with the club this season, but his ability to shutdown opposing teams’ top players becomes a very valued commodity in the playoffs when matchups become so much more important.

As for Moen, he is just two goals and five points shy of his career highs in each category while still serving as a top-end penalty killer for the Canadiens. He is currently out with an upper body injury, but Cunneyworth said he hopes to have Moen back next week.

Then there is defenseman Chris Campoli, who has dressed in just 10 of the 19 games Cunneyworth has coached.

Signed late in the summer to add a veteran presence to a young defense group, Campoli tore a hamstring on opening night. Then after his second game back, head coach Jacques Martin was fired and Campoli has not been able to grab a regular spot on a Canadiens defense that is not loaded with star power.

Campoli was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks prior to last season’s trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators and he played an important role with them, which is why he is convinced he can still do the same.

Except he hopes he gets that chance in Montreal.

“The most frustrating thing is I’m capable of more. Playing top-four minutes in Chicago last year, I know I’m capable of more,” Campoli said. “But my focus day by day is trying to get back in this lineup. As far as future opportunities are concerned, that’s not what I’m focused on.

“Having said that, if someone thinks enough of you to trade for you, it’s tough moving on but from my past experience it’s something you would have to be excited about. But again, my focus is on being a Montreal Canadien and trying to get back in this lineup.”

For Campoli’s teammates, it is keeping that same focus of playing for the pride that comes with wearing a Canadiens sweater that will be challenging. And in Lars Eller’s eyes, simply talking about it has become very tiresome.

“It’s very frustrating because there’s been so much talk,” he said. “Too much talk on what’s not being done right, and this or that, blah, blah, blah. The focus has been on the wrong things. There should be less talk and more acting out there. That’s the short story.”
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:47 PM

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

Jets will monitor Byfuglien in back-to-back after injury

SUNRISE, Fla. — Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien didn’t exactly ease back into things when he returned to the Winnipeg Jets lineup.

After missing 16 games because of a knee injury, Byfuglien led the Jets with 25:36 of ice time during a 2-1 overtime victory Thursday at Tampa Bay.

Byfuglien will be in the lineup again Friday night against the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, but the Jets will be careful to make sure they don’t ask for too much too soon.

“We’ll watch how he does and how his fatigue factor is, but you know the thing is he’s a big man but he has power,” Jets coach Claude Noel said Friday morning. “I remember talking to the Chicago strength and conditioning guy and he said this guy is just not like the normal guys, he really has power in the way that he conducts things. And you can see that. When the guy goes to hit him, it’s like the guy hit a wall.

“It’s just the way he handles things. He hasn’t skated with us too much but our strength guys have done a reallly good job in keeping his conditioning up and it looks like he’s in a pretty good place.”

Truth be told, the Jets weren’t planning on having Byfuglien log as much ice time as he did in his first game back since Dec. 23.

Byfuglien hit the crossbar on an end-to-end rush in the second period and had an assist on Kyle Wellwood’s overtime game-winner.

“I thought that he managed the game fairly well,” Noel said. “He was really pretty active in the second period, got out there for some long shifts, which is a concern, but I thought his play through the shifts was better than I had anticipated. So when we were watching him we thought, well, you know, he’s doing OK, so let’s just see how we are doing in the third period.”

For his part, Byfuglien said after the game he didn’t feel any rust and would have no problem seeing as much ice time against the Panthers.

“I felt real good,” Byfuglien said after the game Thursday. “A lot better than I thought I would. It didn't take too long to get back in the mix of things.”
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:46 PM

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

Jackets get Carter back, Ducks have Blake

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jeff Carter comes full circle just in time to help the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Carter will return to the lineup from a separated shoulder on Friday night in Anaheim, where he suffered the injury from a hit by Francois Beauchemin on Jan. 8.

"It's just kind of the way the schedule worked out," Carter said. "But it will be nice to get back on the ice no matter where it is. The guys have been playing hard here, so I'm going to try and help out a bit."

Judging from the morning skate, Columbus interim coach Todd Richards kept his top line intact and put Carter on the second line with Vinny Prospal and Colton Gillies.

Carter missed 10 games. He said he isn't limited and can take faceoffs.

"I think I should be pretty good," Carter said. "I think it's an injury that you're always going to feel a little bit. I'm sure it will last kind of through the end of the season but I don't think it's anything that is going to hold me back."

Asked if he'll keep his head up for Beauchemin, Carter smiled and said, "Yeah, if I see him coming."

The Jan. 8 meeting also saw Jean-Francois Jacques earn a three-game suspension for an elbow to RJ Umberger. There were also a combined five penalties for boarding, roughing and slashing.

Beauchemin acknowledged Columbus is chippy but said there won't be any carryover.

"We want to win games and we need those points, so we're not really worried about what happened last game," Beauchemin said. "Maybe we can expect them to come a little bit more aggressive, but we have to stay composed and be focused on what we have to do to win the game."

Said Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, "I think our focus is in the right place. I think we've reined in our penalties. We know what we have to do and we can't do it from the penalty box."

Clockgate:
Richards made a point to put behind Wednesday night's controversial ending against Los Angeles where the clock stopped long enough for Drew Doughty to score the game-winning goal in the final seconds.

"For me, it's done," Richards said. "It's gone. I'm preparing for Anaheim, and I think that's how the players are, too."

Boudreau, who has playfully taken an anti-Kings stance, was asked if he feels for Columbus.

"I would preferably not feel for them, but because it was (against) LA, I feel for them," Boudreau said. "It shouldn't happen. In today's world, that shouldn't happen."

Blake returns:
Jason Blake will return to the lineup from a foot injury and is expected to go back into the third line left wing spot beside Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano.

Blake was hit by Lubomir Visnovsky's shot and was grateful the foot wasn't broken. It has been that kind of a season for Blake, who missed 34 games because of a severe cut above his left wrist when San Jose's Brent Burns accidentally stepped on him.

"I'm very anxious," Blake said. "Obviously the year has been very frustrating and disappointing -- missing 35 games and getting hit with a shot. It's like, when's it going to end? When you're not playing, especially my age, it's the game that I love and I want to play. I'm very excited."

Does Visnovsky owe Blake dinner?

"He owes me a lot more than dinner," Blake said, joking. "I told him he owes me big."
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:44 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game at the Honda Center between the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets:

BLUE JACKETS
R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Colton Gillies - Jeff Carter - Vinny Prospal
Antoine Vermette - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Ryan Russell - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Brett Lebda
Grant Clitsome - Marc Methot
John Moore - Aaron Johnson

Curtis Sanford
Steve Mason

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

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

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:26 PM

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

Jets take another crack at back-to-back success

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets finally experienced some success on the road this week. Now comes the tough part.

The Jets take on the Florida Panthers on Friday night in the second half of back-to-back games and they'll be looking to reverse an ugly trend.

It's the ninth set of back-to-back games for Winnipeg this season. The first eight games on the back end of a back-to-back produced these results: 4-1 loss at Ottawa; 3-0 loss at the New York Rangers; 4-2 loss at Boston; 7-1 loss at Detroit; 4-1 loss at home against Pittsburgh; 4-0 loss at Toronto; 5-1 loss at New Jersey; 3-0 loss at the New York Rangers.

Do the math and it adds up to an 0-8 record, with three shutout losses and the Jets outscored 34-6.

"I don't particularly think that the players concern themselves so much with back-to-back," Jets coach Claude Noel said Friday before he joined six of his players at the BankAtlantic Center for an optional morning skate. "It is what it is. You play the game. I really don't know that they can sit there, and they sit and blame fatigue. It just happens that we haven't won those games. I don't think that there's something there that we're afraid of. Certainly I never bring it up and I'm not afraid of it."

On the contrary, Noel might bring up the fact that the last time the Jets faced the Panthers, Jan. 21 at Winnipeg, Florida emerged with a 4-3 shootout victory after playing the night before in Chicago.

Of course, it must be pointed out that the Jets lost that game despite outshooting the Panthers 44-23.

"Last time we played these guys they had the back-to-back and we end up serving up some pizzas and lost the game," Noel said. "It was disappointing for us because we played pretty well, we outshot them, outplayed them, didn't give them too many chances and found a way to lose against a division rival. So we've just got to be better. We've got to find a way to get it done."

Friday night's game is the next-to-last in a six-game road trip that began Jan. 23 and wraps up Sunday afternoon in Montreal. The Jets won at Philadelphia and at Tampa Bay this week after returning from the All-Star break following a stretch of six losses in eight road games.

With the Jets playing their third game in four nights, Noel said he would go with Chris Mason in net against the Panthers. Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 30 of 31 shots in Thursday's 2-1 overtime victory over the Lightning, will be back in net Sunday at Montreal.

Here is tonight's projected lineups for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Wellwood - Nik Antropov - Eric Fehr
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Alexander Burmistrov - Aaron Gagnon - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Mark Stuart

Chris Mason
Ondrej Pavelec
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:21 PM

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

Kolanos thankful for another NHL opportunity

CALGARY -- Krys Kolanos has waited nearly three years for another opportunity – two years, 10 months and 4 days to be exact.

After signing a two-year, two-way contract Wednesday with the Calgary Flames, Kolanos was one step closer to returning to National Hockey League ice.

That step will be taken Friday night.

Kolanos, whose last NHL outing came on March 31, 2009, as a member of the Minnesota Wild, will draw into the Flames lineup Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks at Scotiabank Saddledome.

“I feel very blessed and very thankful,” Kolanos said. “I’ve worked hard for a second opportunity. It’s been a long process, no question. Never in my mind did I doubt that I’d make this step and then keep it going.”

Kolanos was summoned by Flames general manager Jay Feaster after learning forward Lee Stempniak would be lost for an indeterminate amount of time with a lower-body injury.

That is a bit ironic, considering Kolanos’ journey almost ended in part to what would be considered a lower-body injury. Kolanos missed half of the 2009-10 season and all of 2010-11 recovering from micro-fracture surgery on his hip nearly two years ago.

“It was a five-hour surgery so it was pretty major,” Kolanos said. “The doctor did a great job in Nashville and he said ‘if you stay with the process and work every day over that time period, there’d be a good chance’. I was able to do that so I’m very grateful for that.”

It was perseverance in the face of adversity that fueled Kolanos’ comeback.

He joined the Abbotsford Heat – Calgary’s American Hockey League affiliate – in September on a professional tryout basis. After earning AHL All-Star honors with 18 goals and 40 points in 34 games, the Flames decided the Calgary native had done enough to warrant a contract.

“It was about a 22-month process coming into this season,” Kolanos said. “It was definitely something I had to stay patient with and stay disciplined with through the whole thing to even get to this point.”

Current Flame and former Heat teammate, Lance Bouma, said it was nice to see Kolanos get a second lease on his hockey life.

“I think it’s huge for him,” Bouma said. “He’s battled through a lot of things over the past couple years.

He’s really worked hard to get back here and it shows a lot about him as a person that he’s been able to come back and get through all the stuff he was dealing with in his life. It’s exciting for him.”

Added Kolanos: “That word is an understatement. It’s been a very emotional time. It’s another step in the journey here for me.”

A step he is taking in his hometown, no less.

“It’s an unbelievable experience and feeling,” the Calgary product said. “I grew up a Flames fan and watched them win a Cup when I was eight years old. It just feels like it’s a part of me. It’s hard to describe.”

Make no mistake about it, Kolanos will have a lot of support. The former first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes will have a few supporters – to say the least – in the crowd tonight.

“It’ll be over 100, so it will be pretty big here tonight,” Kolanos said. “I’ve got a great support system here in town so it’s going to be really exciting to play in front of them.”

And accomplish the goal he set out for himself 22 months ago.

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