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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 1:02 PM

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

Lineups for Flyers, Bruins

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins wore green warm-up jerseys Saturday at TD Garden prior to their game with the Philadelphia Flyers.
               
They might need a little luck of the Irish to snap their four-game losing streak. However, they have won two of their previous three meetings with the Flyers.
               
Tim Thomas will make the start in net for Boston – his 12th straight appearance in goal, including two relief appearances. The Flyers counter with Ilya Bryzgalov trying to extend his personal seven-game winning streak.
               
Here are the projected starting lineups for both clubs:

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

FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Eric Wellwood - Daniel Briere - Jakub Voracek
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Max Talbot
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds

Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 12:00 PM

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

Canadiens, Islanders battle to avoid East's basement

MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens welcome the New York Islanders to Bell Centre tonight in what amounts to a battle for last place in the Eastern Conference.

The Islanders (28-32-11) enter the game in 15th place in the conference, one point behind the Canadiens (28-32-12), who have played one more game.

Montreal is on a bit of a hot streak of late with a 3-0-2 record in its last five games after a 2-1 overtime loss Friday night in Ottawa. The Islanders, on the other hand, have been in free fall with a 0-3-2 record in their last five games and just two wins in their past 10.

The Canadiens did not skate Saturday morning, so it is unknown if defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Andrei Markov will be able to play after both missed Friday night with upper-body injuries. Kaberle had missed Montreal’s previous game to attend the birth of his son, while coach Randy Cunneyworth had expressed reservations about playing Markov on back-to-back nights so soon after his long-awaited return from knee surgery before he was declared out in Ottawa.

Scott Gomez remains out with a suspected concussion.

The Islanders will be missing defenseman Steve Staios, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Here are the expected lineups for tonight:

ISLANDERS

Matt MoulsonJohn TavaresKyle Okposo
Josh BaileyFrans NielsenPA Parenteau
Michael GrabnerCasey CizikasDavid Ullstrom
Nido Niederreiter – Marty ReasonerMatt Martin

Mark StreitDylan Reese
Travis HamonicAndrew MacDonald
Milan JurcinaMark Eaton

Al Montoya

CANADIENS

Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisErik Cole
Rene BourqueTomas PlekanecRyan White
Mike BlundenLars EllerLouis Leblanc
Brad StaubitzPetteri Nokelainen
 
Josh GorgesP.K. Subban
Andrei MarkovAlexei Emelin
Tomas KaberleChris Campoli
Yannick Weber
 
Peter Budaj
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 11:42 AM

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

Bylsma wants to see more of Crosby-Staal combo

NEWARK, N.J. -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma liked what Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal looked like together on the same line Thursday night. Now he wants to see more of it starting Saturday against the Devils at Prudential Center.

"I'd like to see it a handful of times," said Bylsma, whose team is going for its 11th straight win. "Depending on how the game goes, depending on what matchups they're striving to get, that will maybe depend on how many times we're able to do that. But, I'd like to continue to see them get chances to play together and what that is going to look like."

Crosby played on Staal's wing for three shifts in the second half of a 5-2 win Thursday over the Rangers. They did not produce any points, but Bylsma said he liked how the dynamic looked with Staal using his big body to make plays in the defensive zone and Crosby able to read off that to get up the ice quickly.

Bylsma couldn't recall a time before that Crosby and Staal played together at even strength.

"The one thing that you see with Jordan is his ability to end plays in the defensive zone, and it's not that hard to tell when that is coming so as a winger out there with Jordan you can take advantage of that situation," Bylsma said. "You know he's going to win a puck and then you can read off that. That's something we talked about in the summer time and watching it this year it's even more evident from upstairs (in the press box) that being the case. Being the winger allows you the ability to get some speed and get to an area if that is going to be a case."

Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start opposite Martin Brodeur. Bylsma would not say if Fleury is also going to start Sunday in Philadelphia. Fleury has won nine straight starts and has 38 wins this season.

The Penguins will have to play without Arron Asham, who missed practice Friday because he was sick. Eric Tangradi will likely draw into the lineup for his size and toughness on the fourth line.

The Devils are 7-1 against the Penguins at Prudential Center in the last three seasons. This is the final time they will play host to Pittsburgh this season.

Bylsma touched on Pittsburgh's struggles here in New Jersey.

"I really think maybe more than any other team at any other place it's been our inability to maintain poise in playing the way we need to play, the way we want to play," he said. "I think we've been frustrated and gotten off our games at times in the last three years here. Really that's something we pride ourselves in as our trademark, playing the same way no matter where we are. This is one team we've been really unable to do that against."

Here are the expected lines and defensive pairings for the Saturday matinee:

DEVILS

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

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

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Tyler Kennedy
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Eric Tangradi

Kris Letang - Paul Martin
Zbynek Michalek - Brooks Orpik
Deryk Engelland - Matt Niskanen

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 11:36 AM

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

Bruins hope standings slide is wakeup call

BOSTON – For the first time since Nov. 30, the Boston Bruins woke up this morning out of first place in the Northeast Division.
               
In fact, the nature of the Eastern Conference standings is such that after Ottawa’s win against Montreal last night, the Bruins not only fell into second place behind the Senators in the division, but they also dropped all the way to seventh in the East.
               
So if the motivation to snap the team’s first four-game losing streak in more than two years wasn’t enough for the Bruins today when they play host to Philadelphia at TD Garden, the unfavorable spot in the standings should provide added incentive.
               
“I think it’s definitely a wake-up call for us,” said forward Brad Marchand a few hours before the matinee’s puck drop. “We put ourselves in a position where it’s obviously not where we want to be. It just shows we really have to turn things around if we want to be in the playoffs this year.”
               
A better start would go a long way toward turning things around for the Bruins. They have allowed the first goal in seven straight games. But even if they don’t get on the scoreboard first, the Bruins need to respond accordingly.
               
“I think that right now it’s really important that we don’t put our head down as soon as we get scored on, even if it’s in the first or we trail by one going into the third,” forward Jordan Caron said. “I think we’ve got to keep pushing and keep our heads up. We’ve got a good team; everybody knows it. We just need to stay positive and keep pushing in the same direction.”
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 11:13 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Matchup: Sabres at Panthers

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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 11:12 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Mullet of the Week: Sidney Crosby

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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 10:50 AM

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

Updated playoff projections: March 17th

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 71 78 11 89 7

9th 71 76 11 87 8
10th 71 75 11 85 8
11th 70 71 12 82 10
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
8th 73 81 9 90 6

9th 70 80 12 92 7
10th 71 80 11 91 7
11th 72 80 10 89 7

The Skinny:
The Buffalo Sabres found a new ally Friday night in the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets defeated the Capitals, keeping the Sabres within three points of the eighth playoff spot. 

As it stands entering action on Saturday, the Sabres are projected to need 15 points from their 11 remaining games to make the playoffs. Seven wins and an overtime or shootout loss doesn't seem that daunting, but a loss Saturday night to the Florida Panthers and that task becomes more difficult when thinking about 15 points in 10 games. When a team has the opportunity to take advantage of their own situation, it becomes like a "must-win" game because failing to do so leaves teams looking for the "luck of the Irish" for help.

Pittsburgh continues to look at the top of the Eastern Conference and the New York Rangers, who are only four points ahead and the Penguins have a game in hand. A win in New Jersey will put the Devils six points behind the Penguins and almost certainly assure the Devils of opening the playoffs on the road. Barring a complete collapse by the Penguins -- and that isn't going to happen -- the Devils would have to gain seven more points than Pittsburgh in the remaining games to pass them.

To the west we look and Colorado continues to hold a playoff spot, but keep in mind they have played more games than the teams they are battling with for the last two spots. Colorado is going to need at least six wins in their remaining nine games to be in position to qualify and a loss to the Rangers will make the uphill battle a lot steeper. Winning six of eight games at any time of the season is never easy. Good luck charms are never the way to go to qualify for the playoffs so taking care of your own business has to take precedence.
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 6:41 PM

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

Datsyuk close to return; Franzen leaves practice early

The Detroit Red Wings are preparing to welcome back top-line center Pavel Datsyuk for Saturday night's game at San Jose -- but they may be without Johan Franzen against the Sharks.

Franzen left the ice early at Friday morning's practice, complaining of low back pain as the team skated at the Sharks' training facility. His status for Saturday is uncertain.

Franzen said that he's experienced back problems in the past, but nothing quite this bad.

"I never had this before. Not like this," the team's leading goal-scorer told the Wings' website. "Can't play like this."

Franzen, center Henrik Zetterberg and defenseman Niklas Kronwall are the only Wings to appear in all 71 games this season.

"When I started skating it started to spasm up and got worse and worse, tried to skate through it," Franzen said. "I had to get off, I couldn't really move.

"We're going to do some treatment tonight and get back on it tomorrow."

Datsyuk, who's recuperating from arthroscopic knee surgery and hasn't played since Feb. 19, sounded a lot more positive about being in the lineup as the Wings try to avoid being swept on their four-game road trip.

"Looking forward to playing tomorrow," he said.

Assuming he's back in the lineup, Datsyuk will have 11 games to work out any rust prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next month.

"Every time is different," he told the Wings' website. "I hope so tomorrow it be back, kind of everything. But after every injury, it takes more time or less time -- it's hard to say."

Coach Mike Babcock hopes Datsyuk will be ready to go.

"He's talented and he's a hard worker," Babcock said. "I think he's the best two-way player in the game, so he's a huge part of what goes on and we haven't been very good."
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 3:26 PM

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

Palmieri could slot in for Perry on first line again

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Corey Perry is moving closer to a return, but signs indicate that the reigning Hart Trophy winner might miss another game.

Perry took part in all of Anaheim's morning skate, but was last in line during the drills and appeared to be slightly holding back. Perry is recovering from a sore shoulder from a hit by Stephane Robidas of Dallas. He said he is a game-time decision against rival Los Angeles.

Friday is the first of three games in four nights for Anaheim, and it would be reasonable for the club to be cautious in bringing Perry back.

"It's a tough decision," Perry said. "You don't like sitting out, but you also don't know how it's going to feel taking a check, and the possibility of playing three in four -- it's a lot of hockey and a lot of banging. It's playoff hockey and it's going to be tough out there, but we'll see how it is."

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau sounded cautious with Perry and Luca Sbisa, who is recovering from back spasms.

"They're starting to skate and practice," Boudreau said. "But it looks sooner than later. It's not another week, as far I know. It looks like before the San Jose game (on Monday) they'll play."

That the Ducks are facing slim odds at a postseason berth provides justification for more rest. Also, Kyle Palmieri scored two goals in place of Perry on Wednesday.

"It's really a double-edged sword," Boudreau said of Palmieri, who led the AHL with 32 goals at the time of his recall.

"We'd love to see him here to take a good look at him. At the same time, he's fighting with a team all year that's two points out of a playoff race there and he's arguably their best player. He's the best scorer in that league. You've got to weigh one versus the other.

"You've got to think about Anaheim first, but at the same time, do we know him well enough to know where we slot him in next year? If he keeps doing what he did the last game, he's not going nowhere."

This is unusual territory for Perry, whose streak of 272 consecutive games played ended Monday.

"It's tough," he said. "It's been a long time since I've missed a game -- especially in the dogfight we're in trying to catch up and try to make a push for the playoffs in the last 11 games. It's definitely not fun watching, riding the bike and watching it on TV. It isn't what you really enjoy doing."

Sbisa said he's progressing but also said he's a game-time decision.

"I don't want to say I'll be in 100 percent," Sbisa said. "If you want to play, you got to be 100 percent. You can’t make a selfish decision and just go out there for two or three shifts and realize it's not good enough for a game, right? But it still felt pretty good."

Perry on Stamkos: Perry, the NHL's only 50-goal scorer last season, wasn't the least surprised that Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay already reached the mark.

"Not the way he scores goals," Perry said. "He puts the puck in the net with the best of him. He's got a (great) shot. He's got skill and he's got speed, so he uses all of those to his advantage. Fifty is tough and 60 would be a tremendous feat. There's not too many guys that can do that."

Boudreau on Sutter:
Boudreau played with Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter on the 1978-79 New Brunswick Hawks of the AHL and briefly with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1980s.

"He had a great wrist shot for his time," Boudreau said. "He was a skinny young guy and he actually played in Japan and nobody knew him other than the fact his last name was Sutter, but at that time only Brian was playing.

"He took no crap from anybody. He wasn't a fighter, but at the same time, stood up for himself all the time. To me, he was a great teammate. He'd do anything he had to do for the team to win, and that's how he continued doing what's he doing as a coach."
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 3:20 PM

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

Workhorse Hiller set for 31st consecutive start

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jonas Hiller is expected make his 31st consecutive start tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Los Angeles Kings, which would match Buffalo’s Ryan Miller for the second-longest streak in the past two seasons.  Antti Niemi of San Jose started 34 straight from Jan.15, 2011 to April 4, 2011.

Hiller has played and started in 65 of Anaheim's 71 games. He is on track to break Guy Hebert's franchise record for most games played (69) and most starts (68).

Jonathan Quick is expected to start for Los Angeles. Quick is 2-3-1 with a 3.47 goals-against average in his past six road games and is 4-4 in nine career appearances in Anaheim.

Here's how the lineups project:

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

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

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Lubomir Visnovsky - Nate Guenin
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers
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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