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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:46 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lupul skates, laments season-ending shoulder injury

TORONTO -- Ahead of their last home game of the season, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul was on the ice Thursday morning. He skated for the first time since succumbing to a shoulder injury on March 6. He will not be in the lineup against Tampa and will also miss the final game of the season in Montreal.

"Hopefully another week or so of rehab and working on some things and I'll be ready 100 percent," said the 28-year-old Lupul, who was arguably Toronto's most valuable player this season before the injury. He had a career-high 67 points in 66 games.

Lupul, who has faced his fair share of set backs throughout his career, feels the timing of the injury could not have been worse.

"It was extra tough because we we're still in the midst of a playoff chase," he said. "We had been struggling right before I went out, and then to watch what happened over the next couple of weeks was pretty difficult. ... Everything went wrong, we didn't get the job done as a team."

Fellow Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski, who is recovering from a leg laceration suffered this past Saturday, also hit the ice but is not expected to play Thursday evening.

Tampa did not hold a skate after playing last night in Montreal, falling to the Canadiens, 5-2.

Here are the Maple Leafs' projected lines:

Matt Frattin - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Joey Crabb
Tim Connolly - David Steckel - Mike Brown
Jay Rosehill - Carter Ashton - Colby Armstrong

Dion Phaneuf - Mike Komisarek
John Michael-Liles - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Ben Scrivens
Jonas Gustavsson
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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:30 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators, Bruins

KANATA, Ont. -- Here are the projected lineups for the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place:

SENATORS
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Colin Greening
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Zack Smith - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer - Jesse Winchester - Erik Condra

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

Ben Bishop
Craig Anderson

Alex Auld, Zenon Konopka, Bobby Butler, Matt Gilroy and Kaspars Daugavins are the healthy scratches. Kuba and Karlsson did not participate in the morning skate, but coach Paul MacLean insisted that both would play.

BRUINS
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Brian Rolston - Jordan Caron
Lane MacDermid - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Dennis Seidenberg - Andrew Ference
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

Anton Khudobin
Marty Turco

Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara did not travel with the team -- all three are resting in preparation for the playoffs. MacDermid was recalled from Providence on Wednesday and will start on the fourth line. The Bruins said defenseman Johnny Boychuk is day-to-day after sustaining a knee strain against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Goalie Tuukka Rask (lower body) is anticipated to be back in time for the postseason. Mike Mottau is a healthy scratch.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:24 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rinne likely to return to Predators net against Stars

NASHVILLE -- After not dressing for the Predators' game on Tuesday because of an illness, No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne practiced Wednesday and participated in the team’s morning skate for its regular season home finale on Thursday against Dallas.
 
Coach Barry Trotz said that "he's probably in, yeah," in reference to a question as to whether Rinne would start on Thursday. Rinne said on Wednesday that he had an IV to help him rehydrate.
 
Here's tonight's projected lineup for the Predators:
 
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Paul Gaustad - Jordin Tootoo
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
 
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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 11:46 AM

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

Sabres stick with same lineup vs. Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Buffalo Sabres had an optional skate Thursday morning here at Wells Fargo Center. Most of the healthy players were on the ice, with the notable exception of forwards Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, and goaltender Ryan Miller.

Jhonas Enroth was the only goaltender on the ice.

It's the Sabres' first visit to Philadelphia since Feb. 16, when they suffered one of their worst losses of the season, a 7-2 defeat that saw the Flyers score the game's final seven goals.

However, since then the Sabres are 15-4-4, which has put them right in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. A win against the Flyers and a Capitals regulation loss to the Panthers would boost the Sabres into the eighth spot.

Here is the lineup the Sabres likely will put out against the Flyers when the teams meet Thursday in a crucial game for Buffalo. It's the same lineup the team used in Tuesday's 6-5 overtime win against the Maple Leafs.

Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Ville Leino - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Corey Tropp - Cody Hodgson - Thomas Vanek
Nathan Gerbe - Cody McCormick - Patrick Kaleta

Robyn Regehr - Jordan Leopold
Brayden McNabb - Alexander Sulzer
Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

Forward Brad Boyes and defenseman TJ Brennan will be the scratches, along with injured defensemen Christian Ehrhoff (knee) and Tyler Myers (foot). Forward Matt Ellis has been cleared to play following a knee injury that's kept him out since March 10, but will not dress Thursday.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 11:42 AM

By Kurt Dusterberg -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Canadiens, Hurricanes

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Montreal Canadiens pay a visit to PNC Arena to face the Carolina Hurricanes:

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Louis Leblanc
Blake Geoffrion - Lars Eller - Mike Blunden
Aaron Palushaj - Gabriel Dumont - Brad Staubitz
 
P.K. Subban - Josh Gorges
Frédéric St-Denis - Andrei Markov
Chris Campoli - Alexei Emelin
 
Peter Budaj
Robert Mayer

Montreal did not skate Thursday morning, coming off a 5-2 home win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Derek Joslin - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart
 
Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain
Jaroslav Spacek
 
Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

Carolina forward Andreas Nodl skated with the team Thursday morning, but Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said he is unlikely to dress. He has missed seven games recovering from a concussion. Instead, Spacek will join the lineup as the seventh defenseman.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 8:51 AM

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

Updated playoff projections: April 5th

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
7th 80 92 2 94
8th 80 88 2 90 2

9th 80 88 2 90 2
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
6th 80 98 2 100
7th 80 93 2 95 1
8th 80 92 2 94 2

9th 80 89 2 91 3
The skinny: At the Trade Deadline, the projections for the No. 8 spots in the Eastern and Western Conference was 89 points and 91 points, respectively. The total points required for Stanley Cup is going to be at least 92 in the West and could be as high as 92 in the East. Time for a little recap of what the projection was on Feb. 27 and what has transpired entering action Thursday.

Eastern Conference (Feb. 27)

Standings Points Projected wins Actual record since Feb. 27
3. Florida 70 10 8-5-6
9. Washington 67 11 9-6-3
12. Buffalo 62 14 12-4-2
Western Conference (Feb. 27)

Standings Points Projected wins Actual record since Feb. 27
3. Phoenix 73 10 8-6-4
7. San Jose 71 11 9-7-3
8. Dallas 70 11 9-7-1
9. Los Angeles 68 12 12-5-1
10. Colorado 68 12 9-6-2
Florida has benefitted from gaining a single point in six games, an equivalent of three wins. So, as the Panthers prepare to play Washington on Thursday, they need a single point to qualify.

Washington has earned close to the original projection, but with a higher actual point total now necessary it will need at least one more win to qualify. If the Caps beat the Panthers Thursday night, they will still be alive for Southyeastern Division title and the No. 3 seed in the West when the season concludes with all 30 teams playing Saturday.

On Feb. 27, Buffalo needed to go on a tear and it did; but it still may not be enough. The Sabres must win in Philadelphia to keep their playoff hopes vibrant and need a Panthers win against the Caps to gain control of their own playoff destiny entering the final game of the season. If the Capitals win out, Buffalo can not pass them.

In the West, the Kings were true to projection and reeled off the necessary wins to put them in the driver's seat and on the brink of playoff qualification. Now, the Kings just need one of four points in its home and home against San Jose to close the season.

Dallas and Colorado will be rooting hard for the Kings to beat the Sharks in theses two games because both the Stars and Avs must help themselves and get help to qualify for the postseason. Dallas and Colorado have both fallen short of the needed wins and equalling the projection looks to leave one or both short of the playoffs.

Phoenix, meanwhile, has met the wins total, or points equivalent. One more point guarantees the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive year for the Coyotes.

The math tells a very accurate story, but ultimately it falls to the teams to win their games. Win and the points add up. Lose and you are looking at all kinds of combinations and permutations to get you to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 2:43 PM

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

Sabres lose Myers for last two games

The Buffalo Sabres' road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs just got a bit harder with the news that top defenseman Tyler Myers will be out for the team's final two games with what coach Lindy Ruff called a "bad foot."

"He won't be on the trip," Ruff told reporters Wednesday. "Tyler's out. It'll be a period of time. What time frame that is? It's more than just this week."

Myers already has missed two games with the injury, and Buffalo already is without blueliner Christian Ehrhoff with a knee injury, leaving the Sabres shorthanded defensively at the most critical time of the season.

The other blueliners have been forced to play expanded roles, part of which could be the reason the Sabres have allowed 14 goals in three games without Myers and Ehrhoff.

They'll need to tighten up defensively Thursday against the Flyers, a team that beat them 7-2 the last time they played, on Feb. 16. The Sabres need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“We went through that game [Tuesday's 6-5 overtime win against the Maple Leafs], we went through the first period, went through the chances, and emphasized the importance of staying inside some of the mistakes we made," said Ruff. "Some of it was lack of communication. Some of it was the coverage. But we do have to tighten up, there's no secret. That's on myself and my staff to make sure that we tighten up those areas so it's not a game where you give 16 or 17 [chances]. We've got to get it back to the norm, which is somewhere around 10 or 11, in that area. And not give up the high quality.

"We worked hard on that [Wednesday] morning, went through that with the players. We understand that we know how to play, and we know how to play in our own end. It should be an easier fix. Some of it is adapting to the players we have in. Some of it is just system related."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 1:46 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Red Wings trying to get back into pre-injury rhythm

ST. LOUIS -- The Detroit Red Wings, who are 0-5-2 in their last seven road games, will play away from the confines of Joe Louis Arena in the regular season for the final time tonight.

And much like their counterparts tonight in the St. Louis Blues, the Red Wings are getting healthy and looking to gear their game towards an NHL-best 21st straight playoff run.

"Going through that injury stretch messed with the rhythm and timing of things, but now that we've got our full lineup back minus (Darren Helm) and (Patrick Eaves), it should give us a good chance the last three games getting our game just right heading into the playoffs," said goalie Jimmy Howard, who has had three stretches this season out with injuries.

The Wings have missed at one time or another guys like Helm, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Danny Cleary, Ian White, Todd Bertuzzi and Jonathan Ericsson. They have managed to stay up to speed, just like the Blues. Depth has been key.

"I think it's good for us in the long run," center Justin Abdelkader said of the team's depth. "Guys have played more expanded roles and gotten more minutes. When everyone's healthy, hopefully it's helped taken us in the right direction and our depth has come through. Hopefully we're ready to make a run here in the playoffs."

------------

The Wings, with 99 points and a record of 47-27-5, can reach the 100-point mark tonight for an NHL-record 12th consecutive season with at least an overtime/shootout loss.

It's quite a feat, especially since there is so much parity in the NHL these days and the man-power teams deal with, particularly with so many injuries.

"That is pretty impressive since the last month and a half here hasn't been too kind to us with the injury bug," Howard said. "The guys stepped up and we got ourselves a chance to do it again.

"It just shows you do a lot of winning throughout the years. ... It's difficult. It's not easy by any means, especially with the parity throughout the League. Anyone can beat anyone now on any given night. To be able to hit 100 points here again tonight if we get the opportunity, it would be pretty sweet."

Abdelkader, a part of two of those 100-point seasons and looking for his third, said there were difficult times for the team when it went through a 1-6-2 stretch before winning three of five.

"We tried to sustain what we had going, but it was tough," Abdelkader said. "Our play kind of declined there for a while. When you have so many injuries like that, it's tough to maintain it, but now's the time to get everyone healthy and everyone's been coming around. That's good for us.

"It is an accomplishment (reaching 100 points) and it's a tribute to the owners, the management, the scouts that do all the work. Bringing the teams together each year, I think they've done a tremendous job."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blues looking to play up to poential entering playoffs

ST. LOUIS -- Instead of solely focusing on finishing in a particular position as the season winds down, the Blues are more geared towards getting their game in order and playing their best hockey when all is said and done by the end of the night Saturday.

From then on, let the chips fall where they may.

"I think that's what we're thinking now, just get back to how we play," center Patrik Berglund said before the Blues faced the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. "I think everybody's been talking about that stuff (top seed in the Western Conference and Presidents' Trophy) for so long and we've come off it for a little bit. That's why we're focused on that team game and play solid hockey overall."

Added winger Chris Stewart: "We can't worry about anyone else right now. It's all about the St. Louis Blues. We control our own fate. We're going to take it one game at a time and we've got three tune-up games before the big dance. We've got a big opponent tonight in Detroit, then Phoenix and Dallas. Those are all teams fighting for their lives. Those will be good tests for us."

For Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, the task is keeping his lineup focused while evaluating who plays more when the playoffs roll around.

With the Blues an injury-free team, the bodies are plenty but only so many spots in the lineup.

"This is the deepest we've been. This is the most potential," Hitchcock said of his 48-21-10 team. "This is a chance to get to another level than where we're at, but there is going to be some short-term pain going through this trying to see if we can get these guys up to speed. This lineup that's playing tonight, this is the highest skill level we've been able to put on the ice since I've been here. This is it.

"That's our big focus right now: to get our game in order defensively and puck management-wise ... puck management more than anything. can we get on the same page again. The second thing is where are these guys up to that are coming back? Can we play them where they were up high in the lineup, are they good enough to play there, do they have the energy, do they have the moxie to go there again or do we need to scale them back. We're trying to evaluate that right now."

------------

One of the players being evaluated is winger Matt D'Agostini, who will play his second game since returning from a concussion that forced him to miss 25 games. D'Agostini, who played on a fourth line with Stewart and Scott Nichol on Saturday, will be elevated to play with Berglund and Andy McDonald against the Red Wings (47-27-5).

"I'm just going to try to go out there and skate," D'Agostini said. "I think my game goes right when I'm moving my feet and getting to the places I need to be. Those guys will put in the work. If we play hard and we move our feet, as a line we're pretty quick and can protect the puck and have some success.

"Both their styles, they're easy to play with. Bergy's good at holding onto the puck and using his big body down low. Mac's just good with his speed and he's a smart player all over the ice. Both guys complement my game well. ... They have that they-can-draw-guys-to-them-thing, get defenses on the wrong side. Whenever there's space opened up for me, it's always a better thing and more room for me to handle the puck and move my feet."

Hitchcock said D'Agostini is effective on the go.

"I think just awareness and playing give-and-go ... this is Game 2 for him, let's see how much further he's up to speed so we can evaluate him," Hitchcock said of D'Agostini. "I think the right side makes him more comfortable. He uses his speed more. He sees the ice better."

D'Agostini is still getting his game in gear after missing so much time. He feels he's getting up to speed.

"We've had a lot of practices to kind of get back into the swing of things," D'Agostini said. "I've been feeling better day in, day out. With the game shape thing, it takes a while to play a couple games to get into the mix. Hopefully I can get into one tonight."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 1:27 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Canucks quietly becoming West's best as Stars fade

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Last week I made some points on teams in the Eastern Conference, specifically the Buffalo Sabres and the Winnipeg Jets. This week, with the races still white-hot, I'm moving back out west to focus on two teams going in completely opposite directions with the end of the regular season only four days away:

What's clicking?

The Vancouver Canucks are the one team that everybody has not been watching or paying attention to. Especially in the U.S., with the Rangers, Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Sabres, the Capitals, the Kings and everybody in the Pacific Division, it seems like no one has noticed that the Vancouver Canucks have won seven in a row and quietly have found themselves right near the top of the National Hockey League again.

It doesn't surprise me. This team has been remolded, readjusted. They have built a tougher team, and that was one of the knocks against Vancouver last season. People were saying the Canucks weren't tough enough in the playoffs, especially in the Stanley Cup Final, when they got pushed around by the Bruins.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 20-7-1
GAA: 1.93 | SVP: 0.938
This season they're tougher physically, tougher mentally, and they're a better all-round team despite the fact that Daniel and Henrik Sedin are below their average in production for a season.

The big positive for the Canucks has been the emergence of backup goalie Cory Schneider. He really has put the pressure on Roberto Luongo to perform at a higher rate.

Schneider is one of the best young goalies in the NHL and will be a starter if not next season, then very soon. He has done everything a backup goaltender is supposed to do.

He's won four in a row, allowing less than one goal per game with a save percentage of .972. He has Luongo looking over his shoulder and everyone questioning whether Luongo should or will be in net for the playoffs.

A friendly rivalry like that is great for goaltenders. You see what it has done in St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Look at how well that team has done with their goals-against.

It may sound absurd, but I'm calling the Canucks a sleeper in the Western Conference even though they are right at the top because nobody has been talking about them. That is always a dangerous situation. The Canucks could quietly get up there, pounce, kick some teams in the butt and find themselves right back in the Stanley Cup Final.

It wouldn't shock me at all.

What's missing?

I hate to say it, because he was one of their best players, but it appears that Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen has hit the skids and so has his team.

Lehtonen has looked tired lately. He certainly isn't moving the way he had been for the previous couple of months. And when your goaltender gets tired, it's very difficult for a team to maintain a high level of play, especially when the teams you're playing also are in playoff mode.

Kari Lehtonen
Goalie - DAL
RECORD: 32-21-4
GAA: 2.34 | SVP: 0.922
I give Lehtonen a huge amount of respect for the level he's played at for most of the season, but unfortunately when you come down to the nitty-gritty, when the races are going on and you're playing as much as Lehtonen has lately, and you get as much action as he gets, something is going to give.

The Stars are letting in too many goals and they haven't found a way to put the puck in the back of the net. Loui Eriksson, the Stars' leading scorer, has only three goals in his last 13 games and none in the past seven.

It's no surprise the Stars have lost three in a row at the most crucial time of the season.

The Stars had a fantastic run, especially from late February to the middle of March, when they went 10-0-1 in a span of 11 games, but nobody expected them to make the playoffs earlier in the season and now it looks like those predictions are going to come true.

It's simple math, really. When you're battling for those final precious few playoff spots with three or four teams, you can't afford to lose three games in a row. The parity is too great right now, teams are nipping at your heals every single day, every single game. With as many points that are being distributed because of the system there are too many teams in the run for the playoffs that you can't afford to lose three straight.

I feel bad for the Stars. I feel bad for Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow. But, it looks like they're going to have to get ready to play some golf.
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Quote of the Day

I was surprised. I knew I got it. It's tough. You never know how hard it is until it registers on the gun. I got pretty much all I could into and you just hope for the best.

— Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber after winning the AMP NHL Hardest Shot event at the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition