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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 9:48 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues-Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the San Jose Sharks face the St. Louis Blues at HP Pavilion:

Vladimir SobotkaDavid BackesT.J. Oshie
Andy McDonaldPatrik BerglundChris Stewart
Chris PorterJason ArnottChris Stewart
B.J.Crombeen – Scott NicholRyan Reaves

Carlo ColaiacovoAlex Pietrangelo
Barret JackmanKevin Shattenkirk
Kent HuskinsRoman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock juggled his top three lines in order to spread his firepower throughout the lineup. McDonald moved from the first line to the second, with Sobotka jumping from the third to the first. Stewart dropped from the second to the third line.

Ryane CloweJoe ThorntonLogan Couture
Daniel WinnikPatrick MarleauJoe Pavelski
TJ GaliardiDominic MooreTorrey Mitchell
Brad WinchesterMichal HandzusJim Vandermeer

Marc-Edouard VlasicDan Boyle
Brent BurnsDouglas Murray
Jason DemersColin White

Sharks coach Todd McLellan will miss his third straight game after suffering a concussion Sunday at Minnesota when he was hit by a stick, the team announced. Assistants Jay Woodcroft and Matt Shaw will fill in behind the bench. The Sharks had an optional skate Saturday morning, so there were no line rushes, and Woodcroft said the lines had yet to be set. Couture is expected to return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower body injury, and Murray might be back after missing eight games since being hit in the throat with a puck.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 9:11 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

CBJ @ PHX - 5:18 of the Second Period

At 5:18 of the second period in the Blue Jackets/Coyotes game, the Toronto situation room initiated a review because Rick Nash's shot crossed the goal line. Video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that the puck crossed the goal line prior to the net becoming dislodged. Good Goal Columbus.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 8:01 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Coyotes shake up struggling power play

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Looking to jump-start the League's worst power-play, the Coyotes make two tweaks to their starting lineup for tonight's game with Columbus.

Defenseman David Rundblad, who had collected six goals and 10 points in 15 games with the AHL's Portland Pirates, has been recalled and will replace Michael Stone in the Phoenix lineup. Rundblad, acquired from Ottawa in December in the Kyle Turris deal, has played only two games with the Coyotes, registering an assist in each game.

The Coyotes will also have Gilbert Brule back in the lineup for the first time since he took a hit to the head from Kyle Clifford of the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21. Brule has three goals -- one on the power play -- and seven points in the 17 games he played for Phoenix since being acquired on waivers from Edmonton on Jan. 10. Brule will replace enforcer Paul Bissonnette in the lineup.

The Coyotes have just 26 power-play goals this season in 196 chances (13.3 percent) and are the worst in the League at home, converting just 14 times in 106 chances (13.0 percent). They were 1-for-6 in Thursday's 4-2 home loss to Calgary and are 1-for-13 over the last four games.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 5:52 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues, Sharks savoring Saturday's test

SAN JOSE – It’s safe to say that the St. Louis Blues have had San Jose’s number this year.

The Blues are 3-0 against the Sharks entering the fourth and final game of the series Saturday night at HP Pavilion. They beat the Sharks 4-2 in San Jose when Davis Payne was still the coach, and they shut them out 1-0 and 3-0 in St. Louis under coach Ken Hitchcock.

The numbers don’t lie, but the Blues are approaching Saturday night’s game as if they were looking up at San Jose in the Western Conference standings rather than the other way around. Hitchcock said there’s zero chance of his team having a letdown on the final leg of its six-game road trip because of the “respect” it has for the Sharks.

“San Jose plays us tough,” Hitchcock said after the Blues’ morning skate at HP Pavilion. “They’re a hard team for us to play against. They’ve got weight, they’ve got size up front. They lean on you pretty hard. They get our attention all the time. In a lot of ways, I know they’re a difficult opponent, but our players really like playing against them because it really tests your competitiveness.

“I think both teams play with similar structure, we use similar terminology, we use a similar style of game. We measure ourselves. Any time it’s Vancouver, Detroit, San Jose or Chicago, we measure ourselves to see if we’re ready for the test, so any time we play these teams, those four teams, we get pretty excited.”

The Blues enter Saturday night’s game with 87 points and the fourth spot in the West – three places ahead of San Jose, which has gone 3-6-1 in its past 10 games and is coming off a 1-0 loss Thursday night to Buffalo. St. Louis is 4-1 on its road trip, but suffered a 2-0 loss Thursday at Vancouver.

The Sharks see Saturday night’s game against St. Louis as a chance to prove they’re still one of the West’s elite teams, despite their recent slide.

“They’ve been the hottest team in the League since Hitch took over there,” Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. “We need a game like that tonight to get us back on track, just a sound game against a real good team. It’s going to be a great test and we all know that. We got to pass that test. If we can create some chances and prove to ourselves that we are a dominant team, too. Especially if we get power-play opportunites – they’ve had our number in that area. We got to get that going tonight if we get those opportunities.”

During their 3-0 loss on Feb. 12 at St. Louis, the Sharks went 0-for-4 on the power play while the Blues scored a pair of power-play goals. The Blues killed all six penalties during their 1-0 win against San Jose on Dec. 10. The Blues PK units come into the game on a hot streak. St. Louis has killed 24 straight penalties during a span of nine-plus games.

Jaroslav Halak was in goal for the Blues during that Feb. 12 shutout, and he’ll be in goal Saturday night against San Jose and goaltender Antti Niemi. Halak has six shutouts this season to go with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Niemi (2.43, .914) has five shutouts and allowed just one goal in his past two games, snapping out of a slump.

In other words, goals should be scarce, as they usually are when St. Louis plays. The Blues lead the NHL in goals-against per game (1.91) shots-against per game (26.2) and shutouts (12). St. Louis will face a Sharks team that has scored just 15 goals in its past eight games and just one in its past two games.

“They’re a tough team to play,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “They come hard on the forecheck. Great defensive team, haven’t given up very many goals all year. To beat them you have to play one of the best games that we’ve played all year and step up tonight.”

Former Shark Scott Nichol, now a fourth-line center for St. Louis, said the Blues are “really buying into” Hitchcock’s defense-first system.

“We all just kind of stick together, playing a hard game, a heavy game,” Nichol said. “It’s been working out for us.”

Hitchcock said he expects to see the Sharks at their best, especially on a Saturday night at HP Pavilion.

“Teams that have been there before, they know when the light’s at the end of the tunnel,” Hitchcock said. “They’ll be there at the end. They’ll play at a high level. It’s hard for teams that keep going back to the same well year in and year out. The players know when to crank it up. There’s a month left in the season, I’m sure they’re going to crank it up and go to another level. That’s why we want to test ourselves. We think they’re going to play at that level now, and we want to test ourselves.”

Here’s how the lineups could look Saturday night:


Ryane CloweJoe ThorntonLogan Couture

Daniel WinnikPatrick MarleauJoe Pavelski

TJ GaliardiDominic MooreTorrey Mitchell

Brad WinchesterMichal HandzusJim Vandermeer

Marc-Edouard VlasicDan Boyle

Brent BurnsDouglas Murray

Jason DemersColin White

Sharks coach Todd McLellan will miss his third straight game after suffering a concussion Sunday at Minnesota when he was hit by a stick, the team announced. Assistants Jay Woodcroft and Matt Shaw will fill in behind the bench. The Sharks had an optional skate Saturday morning, so there were no line rushes, and  Woodcroft said the lines had yet to be set. Couture is expected to return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury, and Murray might be back after missing eight games since being hit in the throat with a puck.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 5:43 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Ex-mates pepper Hodgson with good-natured barbs

Cody Hodgson may receive a warm welcome back to Vancouver from the fans that quickly warmed to him during this Rookie of the Year candidate season. His ex-Canucks teammates weren’t so kind.

With all the hype on Hodgson and Zack Kassian playing their former teams just five days after the promising former first-round picks were swapped for each other as part of a four-player deal at the NHL Trade Deadline, the best material after the morning skate came from the rest of the Canucks, who were having a good time with Hodgson’s quick return as a Buffalo Sabre – not to mention his large head and fashion sense.

“Slow feet, big head,” joked defenseman Kevin Bieksa when asked if he had a scouting report on facing Hodgson. “No, he’s a good player. … I feel we put a lot of time into him this year and he’s in a lot better place now than he was at the beginning of the year. He’s dressing a lot better now.”

Vancouver goaltender Roberto Loungo was asked about facing Ryan Miller at Rogers Arena for the first time since the 2010 Olympic gold-medal game.

“I’m a bit more worried about their superstar, Cody,” Luongo said, before delivering his own scouting report in a perfect deadpan. “He’s got a huge head. Apart from that, he’s very skilled, good vision, quick release.”

Hodgson was able to laugh off jokes he probably knew were coming.

“They like to make fun of me for that,” Hodgson, who is known for his smarts on the ice, said of his head size. “Hopefully I put it to good use tonight.”

As for Kassian, he admitted there is extra motivation playing the Sabres.

“Definitely I feel I have something to prove to the Sabres and to Vancouver,” he said. “As a young player in this League you have to make a name for yourself and being traded away from Buffalo I want to play well and show them what I could have been and I want to show Vancouver they didn’t make a mistake.”

That includes being physical – even against ex-teammates and good friends – something Kassian said he wouldn’t hesitate to do Saturday night.

“Once the game is over you go back to being friends,” he said.

The same goes for Hodgson’s ex-teammates.

“Once the puck drops there’s no friends out there,” Bieksa said. “I don’t know if you’ll see a couple guys take a run at Cody or not, but it will be all in good fun.”

It may just hurt a little more than the jokes about head size and shirt choice.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 5:43 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Chicago's Toews ruled out for at least two more games

DETROIT -- There seemed to be a slim glimmer of hope from Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Thursday regarding injured star Jonathan Toews, who's out with an upper-body injury that's believed to be a concussion.

Quenneville replied, "hopeful," earlier in the week when asked then whether Toews might join the Hawks at some point during their current three-game road trip -- which began Friday night in Ottawa with a big win and continues Sunday in Detroit before concluding Tuesday night in St. Louis.

Jonathan Toews
Center - CHI
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 57
SOG: 185 | +/-: 17
On Saturday in Detroit, Quenneville said Toews will not make it on the trip at all, which means he'll miss at least two more games -- Sunday against the Red Wings and Tuesday against the Blues -- before his status is re-evaluated for Friday's home game against the New York Rangers.

"No change," Quenneville said of Toews' day-to-day status. "Still progressing, but no change. He's not going to be on the trip."

Quenneville was also asked if he's concerned the Toews' injury might become more long-term.

"We're saying day-to-day and we're seeing progress," Quenneville said.  "So, we're kind of optimistic on the bright side that he's going to be back."

Also out for Sunday's game with what's believed to be concussion-related issues is defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who participated in Saturday's practice.

Hjalmarsson appears to be close to returning to action, after missing seven games and possibly returning too quickly.

Sunday's game will be the fifth he's missed in a row and 12th in the past 13 games, so getting his conditioning back up might be one of the last hurdles to clear.

"He's had a couple conditioning skates here and he's really progressing," Quenneville said. "He's real close."

Hjalmarsson is a possibility to suit up on Tuesday in St. Louis, but he's remains day-to-day in the eyes of the Hawks.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 5:35 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Datsyuk remains on track in knee rehab

DETROIT -- Pavel Datsyuk has yet to begin skating on his own after having arthroscopic knee surgery nearly two weeks ago, but he continues to make progress rehabbing off ice and feels like he's still on track to return with the two- to three-week timeline.

Datsyuk is targeting Detroit's road trip that will start on March 10 in Nashville before heading West to play the three California-based teams for his return to action. He might not be ready at the start of the trip, but plans to be on the team plane when it leaves.

"That's what we're looking [at], but for sure I take sun cream for California trip," Datysuk said, smiling. "Hoping to practice with team before that trip. Definitely I want to go to California. I go to Hollywood."

How does the knee feel now?

"Much better every day, my movement, I can do bike, I do everything almost," Datsyuk said. "But I need time. I wish I had some magic pills.''

He also doesn't know exactly when he'll get back on the ice to start skating and test it out on his own.

"Nothing planned," he said. "[Sunday] we're thinking about."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sabres turn to German connection on D

The irony wasn’t lost on Alexander Sulzer.

It took a trade away from the Canucks for the seldom-used defenseman to finally get back into a game in Vancouver.

Dealt to Buffalo just before Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline as part of the four-player deal that also landed the Sabres Rookie of the Year candidate Cody Hodgson in exchange for promising power forward Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, Suzler will make his debut with his new team against his old one Saturday night in Vancouver.

“It’s kind of ironic and that’s what makes it really exciting,” said Sulzer, who played six of 12 games all season in Vancouver, and none since Jan. 15. “I’m really pumped for the game, especially in Vancouver. "I’m excited to play against the boys.”

Sulzer is replacing Robyn Regehr (lower-body injury) in the lineup Saturday. According to BuffaLo coach LIndy Ruff, Regehr rode the bike Saturday and will be re-evaluated Sunday before the Sabres' wrap up a five-game road trip Tuesday in Winnipeg.

In the meantime, Buffalo filled out the roster by calling up 20-year-old forward Marcus Foligno from Rochester of the American Hockey League

Suzler is almost as excited about his defensive partner, Christian Ehrhoff, who will also be playing his first game against the Canucks after being traded last summer when it became clear they couldn’t re-sign the free agent. With only six Germans in the entire NHL, it’s noteworthy for two to be on the same pairing.

“It’s obviously a great pairing with both Germans,” joked Sulzer, who was on past Olympic and World Championship teams with Ehrhoff -- they even roomed together at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver -- but rarely played with him.

Kidding aside, Sulzer was happy to land in Buffalo, even if he’s seventh on the Sabres depth chart and watched the first two games as a healthy scratch. It's better than being eighth -- arguably ninth -- in the Canucks’ pecking order.

“It’s tough to get in the lineup when you are the odd-man out if there aren't a whole lot of injuries,” Sulzer said, “And here it's only seven guys, so if one guy goes gown you are in right away and that makes it easier too.”

Vancouver’s defensive depth also made it easier for the Canucks to let Ehrhoff, coming off a 14-goal, 50-point season, depart as a free agent, trading him to the New York Islanders for a fourth-round draft pick before he hit the open market. The Islanders then dealt him to the Sabres for another fourth-round pick, and he signed a 10-year, $40-million deal in Buffalo rather than test the market.

“I was disappointed to leave,” Ehrhoff said. “I made it clear all last season I would like to stay, but obviously it didn’t work out financially here and that's a business decision (GM Mike Gillis) made and I accept that and I’ve moved on.”

Now that he’s back in Vancouver, Ehrhoff isn’t sure what to expect from the fans, joking they might boo him. More likely they’ll be too preoccupied with the return of Hodgson, who was a fan favorite as a rookie, and Ehrhoff will fly under the radar.

“Maybe,” Ehrhoff said. “And that’s not too bad.”

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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 4:06 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Probable lineups for Sabres vs. Canucks

The Buffalo Sabres will have to continue their stingy play without one of their best shutdown defenders, as Robyn Regehr won’t play Saturday night in Vancouver after suffering a lower-body injury during Thursday's 1-0 win in San Jose.

Regehr is listed as day-to-day as the Sabres try to extend their shutout streak to three games after also blanking Anaheim 2-0 on Wednesday. Alexander Sulzer, who came to Buffalo with Cody Hodgson as part of the four-player trade that sent Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver on Monday's Trade Deadline day, will make his Sabres debut against his old team in Regehr’s place.

Here are the  anticipated lineups as the 29-27-8 Sabres try to close the four-point gap on the last Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the 41-16-8 Canucks try to increase their narrow lead atop the entire NHL:


No changes for a Canucks team that is 16-1-3 during the past 19 games and settling into a seven-game home stand that started with a tight 2-0 win Thursday night against the equally hot St. Louis Blues:

Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows

Mason RaymondRyan KeslerDavid Booth

Chris HigginsSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen

Manny MalhotraMaxim LapierreZack Kassian


Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa

Alexander EdlerSami Salo

Marc-Andre GragnaniAaron Rome


Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider



Other than the switch on defense to replace the injured Regerh with Sulzer, the Sabres will also maintain the status quo as they try to continue a 5-0-2 run the past seven games and 10-3-3 stretch the past 16 to get into the Stanley Cup Playoff race:

Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville

Tyler Ennis - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford

Nathan Gerbe - Ville Leino - Patrick Kaleta

Matt Ellis - Brad Boyes - Corey Tropp


Jordan Leopold - Tyler Myers

Alexander Sulzer - Christian Ehrhoff

Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

Miller, who stopped al 82 shots in California, will make his eighth-straight start appearance and 19th consecutive appearance in goal. He relieved backup Jhonas Enroth on Feb. 16 and hasn’t had a full game off since Jan. 18. But after a slow start to the season is looking more like the Vezina Trophy winner from two seasons ago behind a Buffalo team that hasn’t given up more than two goals in regulation during the past six, and just seven goals overall during that stretch.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:51 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Nashville influence sprinkled throughout Florida roster

SUNRISE, Fla. — Because of Dale Tallon, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky, much has been made of the influence the Chicago Blackhawks have had on the success of the Florida Panthers.

To a lesser degree, the Panthers can also thank Saturday night's opponents, the Nashville Predators.

Tallon's right-hand man is Assistant GM Mike Santos, who spent four seasons as Nashville's director of hockey operations before joining the Panthers in 2010.

The Florida roster also includes four former Predators players — Mike Santorelli, Marcel Goc, Scottie Upshall and Jerred Smithson, who was obtained Feb. 24.

Asked about the Panthers' surprising run to the top of the Southeast Division this season, Nashville coach Barry Trotz mentioned the role of his organization.

"There's a lot of Chicago parts, there's a lot of Nashville parts sprinkled all over the Panthers roster," Trotz said after Saturday's morning skate. "Those are two pretty good organizations that you want to get people from. We've been a pretty diligent organization, we've been a competitive team, we've got good growth, good culture and I think Chicago does. They won a Stanley Cup. Dale was very familiar with the parts they brought from Chicago and Mike's very familiar with the parts they got from Nashville. Getting good people, which they have, gives them a real good chance to do what they've done so far."

First-year Panthers coach Kevin Dineen expressed his admiration for the Nashville organization, which has never had a head coach other than Trotz.

Dineen can appreciate that kind of stability, having worked for the Sabres organization before joining Florida. The only coach in the League with a longer tenure than Trotz is Buffalo's Lindy Ruff.

"(GM) David Poile and Barry Trotz have really been a good tandem," Dineen said. "Coming from the stability of a Buffalo organization where Lindy and (GM) Darcy (Regier) have been in the same situation for that length, I think what it does is it takes away a lot of outside excuses, it gives people a chance to go out and do their work.

"It's not a feeling of comfort, but there's this feeling of trust. You know the San Antonio Spurs are the same way. They're
organizations that are built where you bring in quality people and you let them go do their job. Things don't happen overnight, and we're certainly in that stage now. Nashville certainly is an organization that you can pick up some things from."

While the Panthers are trying this season to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2000, Nashville appears headed for its seventh postseason trip in the past eight seasons.

The Predators haven't experienced a lot of postseason success, but they're shooting for a deep playoff run after acquiring veterans Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad at or around this year's trade deadline.

"They're trying to make a statement on and off the ice," Dineen said. "They've been consistently a good hockey team, they go out, they play a very well-structured style of game and they are a hard-working team. You know those expectations are there and in addition to that at the trade deadline they brought in a few players. Paul Gaustad, I was associated with him in the Buffalo organization, so I certainly know what he can bring to the table. I think it's a statement to their fan base and their players that they're serious about being a contender."

Saturday's game will be the only meeting between Florida and Nashville this season.

With the teams in different conferences, Trotz said he wanted to see the Panthers do well, given the former members of the 
organization on the team.

"There's a real good connection with the Preds here," he said. "Other than tonight, I wish them a lot of good luck.

"They want our people, people that have been in our organization. I do take pride in that. Tonight I have no friends on the Panthers side. We have friends, but we want to get the two points."
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Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins