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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 8:14 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHA @ FLA - 10:34 of the First Period

At 10:34 of the first period in the Flyers/Panthers game, video review was used to determine if the net came off the pegs prior to Brayden Schenn's shot crossing the goal line. The video review was inconclusive, therefore the call on the ice stands. Good Goal Philadelphia.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 5:49 PM

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

Melrose: Who I like in the All-Star Skills Competition

With All-Star Weekend coming up in Ottawa there are so many great events we'll get to watch. One of the best is the annual NHL All-Star Skills Competition, which will happen Saturday night at Scotiabank Place. Because the captains haven't drafted their teams yet, it's hard to predict who will win each event, but for the more individual competitions, I know who I like.

Here are the people I expect to shine Saturday night:

Hardest shot: There are a lot of people who can slap the puck pretty hard, but to me there are just two guys that matter in this competition: Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara. It came down to those two last year and it was Chara that took it all, breaking his own record for the win at 105.9 miles per hour. This time around though, I like Weber to win the rematch, and I'll take him in the hardest shot competition.

Fastest skater: There are plenty of guys to watch out for here, but I know who I like and it's the local boy, Erik Karlsson from the Senators. This kid can fly, and kid might be the key word there. With these events, a lot of older guys don't want to do it, so I'm leaning toward the younger guys. If Marian Gaborik was in it, I would think he'd be one of the guys that would be right there, as would someone like Marian Hossa or Brian Campbell. But I think the younger guys are the ones who will get the spotlight -- after all, last year's final round was between Michael Grabner and Taylor Hall. I could see someone like Tyler Seguin getting in the mix, too, but I think it's Karlsson in this one.

Shooting Accuracy: I really like this event. I think it's more of a hockey contest than just some made-up drill, because you have to catch the pass, shoot the puck, and your timing is definitely involved, too. For this one I'm going to go out on a little bit of a limb and say Jason Pominville. I don't think anyone is talking about Buffalo unless we're talking about negative stuff, but Pominville is definitely one of the bright lights for the Sabres. If you watch his goals, they all go at an area. They're upstairs and they're rockets over the goalie's shoulder. Guys who can shoot like that are the ones who do well here -- guys like Jarome Iginla or Claude Giroux. I like Pominville this time around.

The Breakaway Challenge and Elimination Shootout are hard events to predict, but if I was going to pick a forward to watch in those I think my first guy would be Patrick Kane. He's just awesome. I know he's not scoring goals like he normally does this season, but if you saw that move he made on Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom in the shootout recently, you know he's still got it. That was tremendous. He might be the most dangerous guy on a breakaway in the League. I like the moves Tyler Seguin has, too, and of course Pavel Datsyuk has to be in the mix, but if I really wanted to pick one guy to look out for it would be Patrick Kane.

As for the Challenge Relay, without knowing who is on Team Alfredsson and who is on Team Chara, it's impossible to know who can win, but the guys I would look for in those events are the quick, smaller guys. Bigger players like Chara are mobile, but sometimes their mass is just too large and they can't turn quick enough to make a difference. The smaller, shorter guys who have a low center of gravity and not as big an area to turn are the ones to look out for, and I really think Phil Kessel is a guy who would be great in this kind of event. Datsyuk and Kane are also players to look out for in an event like this, but for a guy his size with those skills and the way he's playing this season, I think Kessel will be a huge factor.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 5:26 PM

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

Toews will be missed in faceoff circle as well

CHICAGO -- Not having Jonathan Toews will definitely be a challenge on Tuesday night for the Chicago Blackhawks, but for more reasons than just his outstanding leadership and offensive skill.

Toews also leads the League in winning faceoffs (61.1 percent) and usually takes the most important draws on a nightly basis. So, how will the Hawks cope in the faceoff circle without him against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night?

For starters, there likely will be more responsibility placed on the wingers to get to pucks off the draw first.

"I think you've got to tie up the puck, tie up the centermen and look for help," said Jamal Mayers, Chicago's veteran fourth-line center who's won 55.6 of the draws he's taken this year. "(Toews) is the best in the League for a reason, because he works at it. He's committed to starting with the puck. It's better to start with it than to chase it and I think that obviously it's going to be a group effort to win those draws tonight."

Thanks largely to Toews' efforts, the Hawks are the third-ranked team in the NHL in faceoff percentage (52.1 percent), while the Predators are 20th with a success rate of 49.5 percent.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 5:24 PM

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

Filling Toews' spot, Bolland could get offensive

CHICAGO -- He's known as the ultimate checking-line center, who can make plays at both ends of the rink but especially irritate stars on opposing top lines by harassing them defensively.

That's what Dave Bolland is for with the Chicago Blackhawks, along with being a nightmare for the Vancouver Canucks and their uber-talented Sedin twins.

But, his reputation precedes him so much that it's easy to overlook what Bolland contributes in the offensive zone. He's tied for fourth on the Hawks in goals with 14 goals through 45 games heading into Tuesday night's matchup against the visiting Nashville Predators and has potted six of them in the past eight outings.

Now Bolland will try to help the Hawks make up for the loss of captain Jonathan Toews -- who will miss at least the Nashville game and the All Star Game because of an upper body injury. Bolland will center Chicago's top line between Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Kane, which could help bring out his offensive side even more.

"I've played with him a few times before and I think he's an awesome player,"  Stalberg said. "He makes smart plays out there. If you get open, he'll find you. He's not too much different than (Toews) that way. He's just not put in that position too often."

Looking at his career, Bolland has usually responded well when he has been put into that position before -- especially in 2005-06 for his last season of junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights.

That was two seasons after the Hawks selected him in the second round (32nd overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft and Bolland's offensive stats skyrocketed. He'd scored 37 and 34 goals in his previous two seasons with the Knights, but tallied a whopping 57 goals and 73 assists for 130 points in 2006, before racking up another 15 goals and 9 assists in 15 playoff games.

He also scored three goals and added a pair of assists for Canada in six games at the World Junior Championship that year. Granted, that wasn't the NHL and Bolland was playing a much different role than he does for the Hawks. Still, 130 points in just 59 games?

That's impressive and possibly an indication of how much offensive ability Bolland still has left in him at the NHL level.

"I put up big numbers (in junior)," Bolland said after Tuesday's morning skate at the United Center. "Things come and things go. When I'm playing that third-line role, I might not get those (offensive) chances or that time to get those chances. When it comes, you've got to sort of roll with it and take charge. At the same time, you just want to play your game and be sure that you're helping out the team and doing anything you can to help get the win."

That's the kind of talk that Hawks coach Joel Quenneville hopes to hear from Bolland, who's found a good measure of offensive success in the League by simply playing great defense.

"We don't want him to change his game or play like Johnny [Toews]," Quenneville said. "Just play your own game. Offensively or defensively, Bolly has some good skills and good play recognitions in both areas and that line doesn't have to change their focus on how they want to play. We all have a rhyme or reason with and without the puck and your job description going up there doesn't really change at all."

Backing Quenneville up are the team-high three short-handed goals that Bolland's scored this season, which often happen as the direct result of a defensive play he makes to kill off a power play.

"There are some times you do want to get into that offensive role and [go] forward with it, but for myself it's just sticking to my same game," Bolland said. "Hopefully Toews is not out that long and it's just a minor thing. When a guy goes down, everybody's got to step up. It's just the way it goes. It's not changing our game. Let's just keep our game the same and keep playing hard."

It's hard not to look at Bolland's skill level, however, and not wonder if the second-line center that Chicago's said to be looking for isn't already wearing a No. 36 Hawks uniform. His ability at both ends of the rink haven't been overlooked by his teammates, and the more exposure he gets playing "up" with the top six forward group, the better chance he'll have of shining offensively.

"I'm sure he's looking at it as an opportunity," veteran Hawks forward Jamal Mayers said of Bolland filling in for Toews on Tuesday. "Anyone who knows the game knows his background and that he does have that skill set, but he has had a certain role on this team and he's relished that role and it doesn't take away anything from what we know he can do."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 5:20 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Jets, Rangers

NEW YORK -- Martin Biron was scheduled to get the start in net for the New York Rangers against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, but he came down with a touch of the flu following morning practice and will sit the game out.

Instead, starter Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes in the Rangers' final game before the All-Star break. Chad Johnson was recalled from Connecticut of the AHL to serve as Lundqvist's backup.

The Jets are playing their third game in four nights as they enter the break. Ondrej Pavelec will be in net for the Jets as Chris Mason made the start Monday night in Carolina.

Alexander Burmistrov suffered an injury in that 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes and won't play against the Rangers. The Jets recalled Aaron Gagnon from the St. John's IceCaps of the AHL to take his spot in the lineup. To make room, the team placed Evander Kane on the injured reserve.

Jets coach Claude Noel said he liked the fact that Gagnon can play center and he's been doing well (8 goals, 12 assists, 32 games) in the minors.

How Noel will stack his lineup remains in doubt, but if Gagnon plugs into Burmistrov's spot, this is how things could look:

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

Tobias Enstrom - Ron Hainsey
Johnny Oduya - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason

RANGERS
Carl Hagelin - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brad Richards - Brandon Prust
Michael Rupp - Artem Anisimov - John Mitchell

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Chad Johnson

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 4:46 PM

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

Critical two points at stake for Avalanche, Wild

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild are running neck-and-neck in a race for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference heading into tonight's meeting at the Pepsi Center.

The teams are separated by one point -- the Avalanche have 54 points in 50 games, the Wild 53 points in 48 games -- and both are hoping to start building some momentum heading into the NHL All-Star break before the season's stretch run.

A couple of veterans will be in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere making his fourth consecutive start for the Avalanche and Niklas Backstrom getting the nod for the Wild. Backstrom has played just once in Minnesota's previous six games, but he missed two of those because of illness.

"They're all big games for us, but obviously we want to go into the break with a nice feeling, kind of how we did in the Christmas break a few weeks ago," Giguere said this morning.

The Avalanche have gone 13-6-1 in the past 20 games and 10-2-0 in the past 12 on home ice, but are coming off a tough 3-2 loss in Anaheim on Sunday when they outshot the Ducks 45-18.

The Avalanche and Wild split two earlier meetings this season, both at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Backstrom outdueled Giguere 1-0 on Nov. 17 and Giguere returned the favor in a 4-2 win on Dec. 26.

The Wild are winless in their past 11 road games (0-9-2), one short of the franchise record set in 2003-04, but Minnesota has gone 8-1-2 in the past 11 games at the Pepsi Center.

"They're a tough team," said Avalanche right wing Peter Mueller, who is from Bloomington, Minn. "We know what's at stake; these two points are huge. It was a tough game in Anaheim, but we're focusing on playing a full 60 here and trying to get the two points. We've got to be ready right from the start."

Neither team has had a great deal of success against Northwest Division opponents, with the Wild posting a 7-8-1 record and the Avalanche a 2-9-0 mark.

"Everybody looks at the standings, everyone's human and you're always checking to see where you are, but at the end of the day there's a certain number that you have to hit as far as reaching points," said Avalanche coach Joe Sacco, who needs one win for 100 in his NHL career, all with Colorado. "What that number is, everyone can argue. It's such a tough conference and these games are all so big and so important. You try to focus on smaller increments. We work on five-game segments. It helps us keep our focus on the smaller picture, not the big picture. Tonight's the start of a new segment."

Defenseman Ryan Wilson will return to the Avalanche lineup after missing two games with a groin injury. He replaces rookie Stefan Elliott, who has 3 assists in his past 11 games.

Except for Backstrom, the Wild is going with the same lineup they used in Saturday's 5-2 win over Dallas. Josh Harding stopped 23 shots against the Stars to end the Wild's four-game winless streak.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 4:19 PM

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

Canucks hope Salo's return gets 'D' back in groove

Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo would prefer to go into the All-Star break feeling good about his health rather than worrying about it.

So the oft-injured blueliner will return from a concussion Tuesday against Edmonton.

The veteran Salo has missed six games and 17 days after getting sent head over heels by a low hit from Boston’s Brad Marchand on Jan. 7. As for the thinking one more missed game would mean an extra week off with the upcoming All Star weekend, the 37-year-old would prefer to go into the break with a game under his belt.

"I just look at like try to get back as soon as I can and get back with the team as soon as I can," Salo said. "There's no better scenario for me. Once I'm ready, I'm ready."

There's little question the Canucks missed Salo's calming influence, despite managing a 3-2-1 record without him. Despite having two extra bodies on the back end, none were comfortable on the right side of Alexander Edler on an important second pairing.

There were long stretches without Salo when they struggled with defensive coverage and getting out of their own end smoothly, leading to the recall of second-year pro Christopher Tanev to play alongside Edler in Saturday's win over San Jose.

"He's able to contribute both offensively and defensively," coach Alain Vigneault said Monday of Salo. "He's such a smart player both with the puck and without the puck that he makes our groove so much better, and that's why he's going to play (against the Oilers)."

The threat of Salo's shot at the point -- once dubbed "The Finnish MacInnis" by Curtis Joseph, he won the Canucks' hardest shot contest Sunday with a 102.7 mile-an-hour blast -- should also help a struggling power play. Still ranked first in the NHL at 23.3 percent, Vancouver has only converted 3 of 21 chances with the man advantage since Salo was hurt -- and two of those goals were scored by the second unit.

"His big shot on the power play really helps our set up," said forward Alexandre Burrows, who filled in for Salo on the point of the top unit. "He's so reliable back there and seems to have that calming influence on everybody, and on the power play you miss that big shot and his poise when dragging that blue line and making plays."

With Salo back, Tanev was sent back to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League -- a short trip since they were playing in nearby Abbotsford -- but Vigneault made it clear he has a future with the big club, possibly by playoff time.

"He confirmed what we knew," Vigneault said of Tanev, who played 29 games as a rookie last season, including five in the playoffs and three in the Stanley Cup Final.

"We know we've got a real strong young man there that is real close to playing in the NHL on a regular basis, and in our minds we think he's got the possibility one day to maybe play in the top-four. But he's only 22. He needs to play a bit more."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 4:10 PM

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

Canucks, Oilers to get veteran defensemen back

The Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers both expect key veterans back on the blue line Tuesday night.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault confirmed after practice Monday that Sami Salo will return to the lineup after missing six games and 17 days as the result of a concussion suffered after a low hit from Boston's Brad Marchand on Jan. 7.

Most Oilers didn't skate in Vancouver on Tuesday morning after a shootout win over San Jose on home ice the night before, but Ryan Whitney did, and said afterward he would return after missing 13 games since Christmas because of lingering tendonitis from an ankle surgery more than a year earlier.

What they are getting back, however, could be very different.

Salo doesn't think it will take long to get back up to speed, which means the Canucks get back a steadying influence on the back end at even strength and on the penalty kill, as well as a powerful point shot for a power play that has struggled in his absence.

There are more questions surrounding Whitney's return, both short- and long-term.

Is it the Whitney who had 27 points and a plus-13 rating in 35 games while playing a team-high 25 minutes a night before the ankle surgery? Or the one that didn't return until five games into this season, missed another 13 with a knee injury, has just 3 assists in 17 games, is minus-6, and averaged just 18:38 of ice time while trying to find his game and health? Whitney sure didn't sound convinced his ankle was back to normal.

"It feels OK, it's kind of one of those things now where we're going to have to figure it out hopefully at the end of the year," Whitney said. "Everyone telling me wait until you are 100 percent, while I don't know if it will ever be 100 percent again, so you gotta just try playing at some point. It feels better than it did a month ago, I've tried taping it a little different and just got to give it a go at some point."

It hasn't been easy for a player counted on to lead the Oilers out of their own end and contribute offensively at the other end.

"It's frustrating, but days like this, when you are playing, I really try not to think about it," he said. "You have to change your game a little bit, but I'm just happy to be playing again. I can't really get frustrated that it hasn't healed as i hoped. It's in the back of my mind, just not on days I am playing."

Even with Whitney back, the banged-up Oilers are still missing two top-four defenders, with Tom Gilbert out since the new year with a knee injury and Cam Barker missing his 34th game since mid-November because of an ankle injury of his own.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 4:09 PM

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

Projected lineups for Canucks, Oilers

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Vancouver Canucks host the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena:

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Mason Raymond - Cody Hodgson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Aaron Rome

Roberto Luongo is in goal for a fifth straight start, a bit of a surprise given backup Cory Schneider has only played three times in more than five weeks -- and won them all -- and, with the break, will have gone three weeks without a start by the time he next plays.

No changes up front, though the top line is hoping to be better than the last few games, with Henrik Sedin on his first three-game drought of the season. Thankfully for Canucks fans, Hodgson continues to roll, with 2 goals, including the winner, in his last game, and a team-high 9 points in January. And a reunited second line is showing signs of the promise demonstrated before Booth's sprained knee split them up for six weeks. He has 2 goals since returning three games ago, and with Higgins feeling like himself after antibiotics to cure a staph infection robbed him of energy, Kesler, who also scored Saturday, now has better options on the wing.

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle
Teemu Hartikainen - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Eric Belanger - Magnus Paajarvi
Lennart Petrell - Anton Lander - Ryan Jones

Ladislav Smid - Ryan Whitney
Theo Peckham - Corey Potter
Andy Sutton - Jeff Petry

Devan Dubnyk gets a second-straight started ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin, and the chance to build off an impressive 44-save, 2-1 shootout win over San Jose Tuesday.

"You want to be a No. 1 in this league, you have to nail a couple of these together to get your team going," coach Tom Renney said Monday night after Dubnyk also stopped three of four in the shootout. "This is a good one to feed off of and build off of. He has to seize the moment."

The forward lines, still missing top rookie scorer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, should be the same as against San Jose the night before as there is no indication Hemsky will face further discipline for the kneeing major that knocked San Jose defenseman Brent Burns out of Monday night's game with a knee injury.

Taylor Chorney is the likely scratch on defense with Whitney's return, with Petry dropping down from a pairing with Smid to play alongside Sutton, who was suspended the last time these teams met in Vancouver on Dec. 26.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 4:04 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators, Coyotes

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Ottawa Senators visit the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena:

SENATORS
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Erik Condra

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

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

Injuries
C Peter Regin (shoulder), indefintely
C Jesse Winchester (concussion), indefinitely
D Brian Lee (lower body), indefinitely
 
Turris will make his return to Phoenix for the first time since a Dec. 17 trade with the Senators. He was booed while he was a Coyote, so don't expect that to change tonight. Anderson was pulled in Monday's loss to the Kings, but is expected to start tonight.

COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Mikkel Boedker
Raffi Torres - Kyle Chipchura - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Rostislav Klesla
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Michal Rozsival - Chris Summers

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Injuries
D David Schlemko (foot), out for the rest of the season
D Derek Morris (lower body), day-to-day
C Daymond Langkow (face), questionable
 
Phoenix will get Aucoin back on defense -- just in time to replace the injured Morris. Langkow is a game-time decision and would replace Marc-Antonie Pouliot in the lineup if he can go, moving between Korpikoski and Doan with Gordon dropping down to the third line.
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