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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 2:14 PM

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

Help on the way for Flames

CALGARY -- With the Calgary Flames holding the slightest of edges in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, help is on the way.

While forward Curtis Glencross and defenseman Derek Smith will not be at coach Brent Sutter's disposal tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, their returns are nearing. Both took part in Calgary's morning skate.

"Whenever you can start getting your group of guys that have been on your team for a while and a big part of your success, getting these guys back on the ice and skating with the group is huge," Sutter said.

Glencross, who hopes to be back in the lineup sometime next week, said it was a relief to be back amongst his teammates on the ice.

"It not only feels better to just go skate with the guys, but better on your mind, too," he said.

The two remain on the injured reserve list alongside Mikael Backlund, Blair Jones, Lee Stempniak and David Moss. Most are expected back in early March -- just after the trade deadline.

"Any team out there that has injuries that haven't been participating with the team for a while and you're getting them back around the trade deadline or shortly thereafter, those are some of the best trades you can make," Sutter said. "It's cliché but it's true."

Here's the projected lineup for the Flames:

Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Tom Kostopoulos - Michael Cammalleri - Blake Comeau
Lance Bouma - Roman Horak - Krys Kolanos
Paul Byron - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 2:10 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Opponents getting physical with Malkin

PITTSBURGH -- Opponents aren't exactly using gimmick defenses or radically adjusting the way they play when they go against NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
But since the Penguins' star enjoyed a midseason stretch in which he piled up 17 goals in 17 games, he has been held without a goal in his last three games, although he had a pair of assists.
 
Teams appear to be taking a more physical approach with Malkin, a tactic that has worked at times in the past. The Buffalo Sabres, for example, shadowed Malkin with the 6-foot-5, 212-pound Paul Gaustad during their 6-2 victory on Sunday.
 
"That's something he has to deal with," coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's something to be aware of when certain teams play those types of players against him."
 
To be successful against such defenses, Bylsma wants Malkin to continue to use his own size -- he's 6-3 -- and his speed to create room to operate.
 
"I think he's done a really good job with the way guys have targeted him physically," Bylsma said. "In past years he may not have responded, or responded after the whistle in a way that was detrimental to his game. (This season) he's really been focused and not really gotten into that type of scenario. He wins the physical battle a lot of times."
 
Former Penguins forward Mike Rupp, now of the Rangers, said controlling Malkin is a priority. Malkin has three goals in three games this season against the Rangers, even though New York has allowed a League-low 116 goals. Despite Malkin's success against them, the Rangers are 2-1 against Pittsburgh going into Tuesday night's Atlantic Division matchup at Consol Energy Center.
 
With 32 goals and 39 assists for 71 points, Malkin owns a three-point lead over Claude Giroux of Philadelphia in the NHL scoring race.  The Flyers play at Winnipeg on Tuesday night.
 
Malkin has 15 goals and 12 assists in 33 career games against the Rangers, including two goals during Pittsburgh's 4-1 win at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19. That effort came during a stretch in which the 2009 Art Ross Trophy winner scored eight goals in five games.
 
"He's playing at a level that you don't see too often," Rupp said. "He's a talented guy that we've seen for a long time. This year is another feather in his cap as far as elevating his game. He's a guy that, I think, a lot goes off him and the team seems to do very well with him leading the way."
 
Even with star Sidney Crosby out of the lineup for all but eight games, Malkin has helped keep the Penguins among the Eastern Conference leaders with 71 points, only one fewer than reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston.
 
Malkin recently scored at least one goal in eight consecutive home games. However, Pittsburgh has dropped two of its last three and is 4-4-1 since ending an eight-game winning streak.
 
Crosby (concussion-like symptoms), as usual, worked out in advance of the Penguins' morning skate on Tuesday. He is not yet cleared for contact or for full practice, and his return remains indefinite.
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 2:02 PM

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

Bryzgalov injures hand in morning practice

WINNIPEG -- Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov departed the club's morning skate at the MTS Centre with an apparent injury to his left hand.

A shot hit Bryzgalov in the glove (left) hand during practice and he headed to the Philadelphia dressing room. Bryzgalov was at his locker stall when local media entered the dressing room later, but he did not speak to reporters.

Philadelphia's Comcast Sportsnet reported that Bryzgalov went for X-rays. His immediate status is not known, and Flyers coach Peter Laviolette declined to announce his starting goaltender for tonight's game with the Winnipeg Jets. However, CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio reported Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said of Bryzgalov: "He is fine."

Bryzgalov has gone 20-11-6 with a 2.79 goals-against average in 40 games this season with the Flyers. He joined the club this past summer from the Phoenix Coyotes after agreeing to a nine-year contract.

If Bryzgalov can't play, Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start tonight.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:58 PM

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

Preds expect Fisher back, Hornqvist getting closer

NASHVILLE -- After missing Sunday's game with an illness, Predators center Mike Fisher was expected back in the lineup for Tuesday's game against Vancouver.

On Sunday, the Predators dressed seven defensemen, as they had only 11 healthy forwards, forcing them to play without their two leading goal-scorers. Fisher and right wing Patric Hornqvist, each with 17 goals, were both out. Hornqvist, who has an upper-body injury, was expected to miss his fourth straight game, but skated on Tuesday morning and Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he is getting closer to returning.

Nashville recalled forward Chris Mueller from Milwaukee (AHL) on Tuesday as insurance in case another player gets sick. Trotz said David Legwand had a touch of the flu, but did not miss any action, so the Predators want to be prepared. Mueller has played in four games in Nashville with no points and a minus-1 rating this season. 

With a healthy complement of forwards, that means Nashville likely will return to playing six defenseman. Rookie Ryan Ellis played only 3:56 in Sunday's 3-2 win over Dallas, a result, Trotz said, of being skated hard in the morning, as the team was not going to play him until Fisher took ill.

"It's hard going with seven 'D' sometimes," Trotz said. "We tried to do it with seven through the first period, but it just took away all the rhythm so I said to (associate coach Peter Horachek), who changes the 'D', let's just get into a little bit of a rhythm. That seventh guy is affecting everyone."

That meant less ice time for Ellis, who could be the odd man out on Tuesday.

After trading for defenseman Hal Gill last Friday, the Predators will have to figure out how to configure their defense on a nightly basis, as they are carrying eight healthy defensemen. Unless they elect to make a roster move, that means scratching two healthy players on a regular basis.
 
Projected lines:
 
Colin Wilson - Craig Smith - Brandon Yip
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Matt Halischuk - David Legwand - Gabriel Bourque
Jerred Smithson - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
 
Out: Chris Mueller, Jack Hillen, Ryan Ellis
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:33 PM

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

Flyers hope road cures February ills

WINNIPEG -- The Philadelphia Flyers look to turn around their month when they begin a four-game road trip tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

Just 3-5-1 in February, the Flyers arrived in Winnipeg on Monday after a 6-4 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon in which starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov allowed three goals on just 13 shots before exiting the game in the second period. Philadelphia has lost 10 of the past 11 meetings with the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise, and the Jets have taken all three games this season. The Flyers continue their trip this week with visits to Edmonton and Calgary.

Philadelphia management has worked to retool the club's blue line over the past week, adding Nicklas Grossman from Dallas and Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina in trades. Grossman had team-highs of eight hits and three blocked shots in his Philadelphia debut on Saturday.

The trades also allowed the club to return youngsters Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson to the American Hockey League for further development.

"I think it adds depth, experience and size," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of bringing aboard Grossman and Kubina.

Bryzgalov left the ice early and was taken for X-rays after being hit in the glove hand with a shot during the team's morning skate at MTS Centre. Laviolette would not indicate who would start in net for the Flyers, but CSNPilly.com quotes GM Paul Holmgren as saying of Bryzgalov, "He is fine."

We had the Jets linup earlier; here is the projected lineup for the Flyers:

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

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

If Bryzgalov can't start in goal, backup Sergei Bobrovsky would get the start.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:32 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Tortorella likes off-ice chemistry Rangers are building

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers' 38-14-5 record -- the best in the Eastern Conference going into Tuesday night's play -- signals to the rest of the NHL that they are a very good team on the ice.
 
Off the ice, coach John Tortorella said, the Rangers remain a work in progress.
 
The addition of Stanley Cup-winning veterans Brad Richards and Mike Rupp has greatly added to the Rangers' locker room chemistry, Tortorella said before Tuesday night's game against Atlantic Division rival Pittsburgh.
 
"That's one of the positives out of this year, our locker room is growing," Tortorella said.
 
Still, Tortorella isn't ready to call his team a finished product, not with more than one-quarter of the regular season and the playoffs remaining.
 
Does he like what he sees -- and, most importantly, what he hears? Most definitely. But Tortorella said there remains work to be done, even if there is every suggestion this is a tight-knit and cohesive group.
 
"If teams are going to be successful, the locker room needs to grow and self-sustain," Tortorella said. "I think we're still in the middle of that. I've talked to a lot of coaches after the season's over, guys that have won the Stanley Cup, and you hear about how coaches say the room takes over itself. I think that's a very important characteristic. It's not (all) about the play on the ice; how the locker room is conducted and how people handle themselves there sometimes is more important that some of the things that go on on the ice. Most successful teams have that."
 
Tortorella had it in 2004, when the Tampa Bay Lightning -- with Richards in the lineup -- won the Stanley Cup.
 
Rupp points to team leaders such as Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi as helping unite these Rangers. A season ago, the Rangers earned the conference's eighth and final playoff spot, winning 44 games; this season, the Rangers already have 38 victories with 25 games remaining.
 
"They sacrifice their bodies every night for the team. It goes a long way when your leaders are doing that," said Rupp, who won a Stanley Cup with the Devils. "It brings the team together. We're willing to make sacrifices to get team wins, so it's good."
 
The Rangers held an optional skate in advance of their second game in Pittsburgh this season. They won 3-1 on Jan. 6, their fourth consecutive victory there since Consol Energy Center opened last season.
 
Among those skating was former Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who has missed the last five games with a head injury.
 
The Rangers' projected lineup:

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Ruslan Fedotenko
 
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Steve Eminger
 
Henrik Lundqvist, who is 8-1 with a 1.20 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage and three shutouts in his last nine games, is expected to be in goal, with Martin Biron as the backup.
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:25 PM

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

Win would put Jets in division lead

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets' bid to join the upper reaches of the Eastern Conference continues tonight at the MTS Centre with a visit from the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Jets (29-26-6) have used three consecutive wins and the struggles of the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals to elbow their way into the playoff discussion.

The Flyers-Jets season series has seen Winnipeg take all three meetings this season, including a 6-4 win at the MTS Centre on Nov. 19. A win tonight in the third contest of an eight-game homestand would push the Jets ahead of the Panthers and into first place in the Southeast Division and third place in the Eastern Conference.

However, the Panthers will hold four games in hand on the Jets after tonight, and Jets coach Claude Noel is placing little stock in what leading the Southeast Division at this point in the season would mean.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian will miss his fourth straight game tonight while forward Eric Fehr will remain in the Winnipeg lineup.

"I think it has the potential to be longer," Noel said of Bogosian's status. "We're hoping for Thursday (at home against Tampa Bay). It is day-to-day."

Ondrej Pavelec will start in net for the Jets once again after backstopping the Jets to home wins against Boston and Colorado this past weekend.

Here is the projected lineup 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 - Eric Fehr

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny Oduya - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal, with Chris Mason the backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:21 PM

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

Datsyuk to miss at least 2 weeks

Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk, currently ninth in the League in scoring, reportedly will miss the next two weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee Tuesday morning.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock updated Datsyuk's status following his team's practice in Chicago in preparation for Tuesday's game against Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), who will be without captain Jonathan Toews due to an upper-body injury.

"Everything is real good," Babcock told The Detroit News. "(Datsyuk) had a fragment in his knee, an old thing we wanted to clear up prior to playoff time."

The Red Wings will not call up anyone from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids to take Datsyuk's spot in the lineup. Datsyuk leads the team with 59 points in 59 games.

Babcock told reporters that Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm and Cory Emmerton will be the team's centers in Datsyuk's absence.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:12 PM

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

Likely lineups for Devils, Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Here is what the lineups could look like when the Devils and Maple Leafs take the ice tonight at Air Canada Centre:

DEVILS
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Dainius Zubrus - Steve Bernier
Eric Boulton - Jacob Josefson - Nick Palmieri
 
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Matt Taormina - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur will start in goal, with Johan Hedberg the backup.
 
MAPLE LEAFS
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connolly - Joey Crabb
Darryl Boyce - David Steckel - Mike Brown
 
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn

Jonas Gustavsson will start in goal, with James Reimer the backup.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:09 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Life without Lecavalier latest challenge for Lightning

TAMPA -- The loss of captain Vincent Lecavalier from the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup is just another blow the team must try to overcome in fighting to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We've been getting slapped all year, so why change it now?" Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "It's not for the next two or three days, it's more than that. He's out indefinitely because we can’t put a date on when he’ll be back, but it certainly won't be tomorrow."

The Lightning captain sustained an upper-body injury during Tampa Bay's win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, and was unable to practice on Monday. Tests left no doubt as to the severity of the injury.

"There is no gray area," Lecavalier said. "Obviously when I come back is kind of a gray area, but the tests showed definitely that there are no gray areas."

For the Lightning, the timing couldn't be worse. The team wraps up a homestand Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks during which they made strides to close the gap to qualify for postseason play. Tampa Bay has gone 9-3-2 over the last 14-game stretch and is currently just six points out of the final playoff spot. That’s as close as the Lightning have been to a playoff spot since Dec. 31.

The Lightning have been plagued by injuries all season, at one point playing a month without nine of their regulars. But through the team's resurgence and playoff push, their big three of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier have been a constant presence.

Now, that's changed.

"Obviously, the biggest thing is that we're playing really well as a team right now and everyone has stepped up his game in this last month," Lecavalier said. "Obviously the beginning of the season wasn't what we wanted, but we've really pulled together, it seems, since January. That's the part of the year that you want to be part of something and there with the guys; every single game is a playoff game so you want to be part of that. Unfortunately, I won't be able to."

The Ducks are an equally hungry opponent who are on the periphery of the Western Conference playoff picture, but they have been making some strong advances of late.

"They did the same thing last year," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They're good players and they realized the situation and rallied."

Anaheim arrives at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with a 15-2-4 record in the past 21 games and has climbed to within five points of a playoff berth. The Ducks are on the tail end of an eight-game road trip, their longest of the season, during which they have managed to snag at least a point in each game. Tuesday night they will be after their first 10-game point streak since 2007. If they get it, the points will come at the expense of a Tampa Bay club that is scrambling.

"Our lines will change; our lineup is thinner so the danger, obviously, is that the other team wears you out, so we'll have to manage our top guys and the third and fourth lines so that we have energy but don't get worn out come the third period," Boucher said. "Stamkos and St. Louis are going to sleep on the ice, that's obvious, but we'll try to manage it so that they can maintain 60 minutes of solid play."

Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game:

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

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

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers

LIGHTNING

Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Nate Thompson - Adam Hall - Brett Connolly

Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

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— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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