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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 2:30 PM

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

New Bruin Krug finds situation larger than life

BOSTON -- When he arrived at the TD Garden for his first morning skate with the Boston Bruins today, Torey Krug found out he was in the big leagues in more ways than one.

"I don't know if they build these lockers for him," Krug said, referring to 6-foot-9 Bruins captain Zdeno Chara after the practice, "but I can barely reach my helmet on top."

The 5-foot-9 Krug has been overcoming his size disadvantage his whole life, so he'll figure out a way to adjust to the larger amenities at Boston's home rink. After winning the CCHA Player of the Year award this season, the defenseman decided to leave Michigan State to turn pro. Undrafted, he became a free agent last week and on Sunday signed a deal with the Bruins.

Part of Krug's deal called for him to join the Bruins rather than their AHL farm club in Providence. This means he gets to burn a year on his entry-level contract, and he gets to experience life as an NHL player much sooner than he expected.

"It's awesome," said Krug about joining the Bruins. "The last few days have been a whirlwind, that's for sure. A couple days ago I was sitting in East Lansing getting ready to study for a test. Here I am sitting in a locker room full of NHLers. It's been a great past couple days and I'm looking forward to the next couple weeks."

For now, Krug is focused on getting used to professional life and battling his new teammates in practices. Down the road, however, coach Claude Julien might decide to work the 20-year-old into the Bruins' lineup.

"I've heard a lot of good things about this player, and certainly haven't had a chance to see him play, but we can get a pretty good idea just by watching him in practices, and tomorrow he'll get a chance for a full practice with us and we'll see where we go from there," Julien said. "Certainly not going to tell you right now that he's not going to play, but we may give him an opportunity -- depends on how everything goes. But the one thing he gets to do is experience the, I guess the level of competition here at the NHL."

To his credit, Krug's confident he can hold his own at the sport's highest level.

"Yeah, I feel like that," he responded when asked if he's ready to play in the NHL. "Obviously, the coaches will make that decision. But I'm here, my No. 1 goal is just to compete and work 100 percent 100 percent of the time."


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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 2:10 PM

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

Crosby reunited with Dupuis on line at Pens' skate

PITTSBURGH -- Maybe it's a subtle change, maybe it's not. But Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma may be signaling how he plans to roll out his lines when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in two weeks.
 
Bylsma tweaked his combinations during the morning skate Tuesday, reinserting Pascal Dupuis onto the Sidney Crosby line that also includes Tyler Kennedy. Matt Cooke, who has been thriving offensively while playing the last seven games on Crosby’s line, was back with Jordan Staal and Steve Sullivan.
 
The top line of Chris Kunitz (23 goals), Evgeni Malkin (46 goals) and James Neal (35 goals) remains together.
 
Bylsma usually doesn't do such game-day tinkering unless he plans to go with such a lineup that night. The Penguins (47-22-6), just one point behind the New York Rangers in the race for the Eastern Conference lead, take on the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center.
 
"I think more and more in the next seven games you're going to see people who are going to be playing with each other going forward," said Bylsma, who has been trying out different line combinations ever since Crosby returned March 15.
 
Crosby, for example, played at least one shift with every forward except Craig Adams during an 8-4 loss in Ottawa on Saturday. One night later, Crosby not only played a little with the gritty Adams, they both picked up an assist on Dupuis' goal during the second period.
 
Dupuis has played on Crosby's line regularly in the past, usually with Kunitz. Dupuis and Kunitz were Crosby's linemates before Crosby missed the second half of the 2010-11 season with a concussion, and Bylsma put them together again when Crosby returned to play eight games starting Nov. 21.
 
Most recently, Dupuis and Steve Sullivan were playing on Staal's line.
 
"You play with Sid, you play with Jordan, you play with Evgeni, you play with a great player," said Dupuis, who is enjoying a career year with 23 goals and 50 points in 75 games. "You play with a great centerman. When you play on this team, you play with unbelievable talent. It's a matter of clicking together."
 
Dupuis added, "And we play one way. It's not like somebody is going to do different things on the ice, forecheck differently, we all do it the same. Some do it with more skill than the others, but that's what our game looks like."
 
By reinserting Dupuis on Crosby's line, Bylsma is restoring the speed element that was present when Kunitz was on the Penguins captain's line. Returning Cooke to Staal's line with Sullivan means Bylsma could be anticipating using them for defensive purposes against opposing teams' top lines in the playoffs.
 
Cooke is known more for his aggressiveness and physicality than his scoring skills, yet he had 5 goals and 3 assists in seven games on Crosby's line.
 
And while Bylsma wants all of his lines playing the same way, Dupuis said a wing must anticipate anything -- any pass in any situation -- while playing alongside the gifted Crosby.
 
"Jordan likes to hold onto the puck, use his big frame to create space, and Sid is also very strong on his skates and he wants to deke guys and spin on guys," Dupuis said. "With Jordan, you go to the net hard and you expect passes, you make plays. With Sid sometimes it ends up on your stick and it’s like, 'Whoa. How did he do that?' But you can't get mesmerized by what he does out there, you've just got to try to keep up with him."
 
The Penguins' difficult schedule down the stretch may be one reason why Bylsma is starting to look at his potential playoff lines now rather than later. After a home-and-home series with the Islanders that ends Thursday, the Penguins play at Buffalo on Friday, followed by the Flyers at home Sunday and again on April 7, the Bruins on the road April 3 and the Rangers at home April 5.
 
"For us, we want to make sure we're playing well down the stretch here," Crosby said. "Playing divisional games kind of gets a little more rowdy, too. I think it's a good thing."
 
Crosby has scored in each of his last two games, a possible sign that he is fully on his game seven games into his second comeback from concussion-like symptoms this season. Before getting goals Saturday against Ottawa and Sunday against New Jersey, Crosby had gone a career-long 12 games -- albeit it over a span of four-plus months -- without a goal.
 
His goal against the Devils highlighted the improvisational ability that Dupuis talked about.
 
Crosby swung his stick around Marek Zidlicky to control a pass that the defenseman was attempting to intercept. After redirecting the puck around Zidlicky, Crosby skated hard from the blue line as Zidlicky went in the opposite direction and beat Martin Brodeur on a shot that restored Pittsburgh's two-goal lead in the third period.
 
"It's not unlike Sidney Crosby to pull that off," Bylsma said.
 
It's also not unlike Bylsma to joggle and adjust his lines frequently during a game.
 
 
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ovechkin-Miller battle highlights Caps-Sabres

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Two of the NHL’s reigning Three Stars of the Week will meet Tuesday in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup as Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals play host to Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games while the Sabres are 7-1-2 over that same stretch. The teams enter this contest tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference and the play of their superstars is a big reason why.

Since Feb. 19, Miller has gone 13-1-3 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Ovechkin’s hot streak has been a more recent development with 10 goals in his last 10 games.
Ovechkin has also scored in five straight games for the first time in more than two years and has nine goals in his last seven games overall. 

“He gives us energy,” said Capitals coach Dale Hunter, who adds that Ovechkin is doing “the little things like forechecking and finishing his hits and playing with a reckless abandon a little bit. He’s really going in and trying to take the body and trying to drive in with a strong forecheck.”

In a 3-0 win Sunday against the Minnesota Wild, Hunter dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen and double shifted Ovechkin when possible.

Ovechkin went on to play a team-high 26:19, his second highest ice-time total this season, and finished with a goal and an assist. Hunter is expected to dress the same lineup tonight against Buffalo.

“I think everybody wants to play lots of minutes,” Ovechkin said, “and for me personally, the more time I spend on the ice I feel much better because I’m in the game.”

Added Hunter: “He’s in good shape to play that many minutes. I look on the bench and sometimes if you overplay someone they’ve got their head down to try to catch their wind and [with Ovechkin] I look over and he’s ready to play again so that’s why I play him so much.”

Ovechkin also made a sliding defensive play Sunday against Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu to prevent a quality scoring chance. Later that same shift, the Capitals scored and took a 2-0 lead.

“Right now it looks like he’s having a lot of fun,” said linemate Brooks Laich. “That’s the main thing -- it looks like he’s having fun playing the game. When you score, you have fun and when you have fun, you score -- they kind of go hand-in-hand, but it’s tough to do. But goal-scorers love to score goals and you see him -- nobody gets more excited than him.”

Ovechkin’s 10 goals this month are his highest total since he scored 14 times in Oct. 2009 and his 36 goals on the season are tied for fourth-most in the league behind only Steven Stamkos (53), Evgeni Malkin (46) and Marian Gaborik (37).
 
“When he’s in that mode you just follow behind him and just ride his coattails,” Laich said. “When he’s playing at that level he’s got that special ability to elevate his game and when he’s at that level he’s fun to watch and play alongside. It’s incredible.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Gaborik back in Minnesota as Rangers cling to first

ST. PAUL -- Marian Gaborik returns to Minnesota for the second time as a member of the Rangers on Tuesday night when New York faces off with the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

The worries of Gaborik's current team and his former one are completely different as both teams hurdle down the stretch.

New York enters the day just one point ahead of Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division and the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have gained points in nine of their last 10 games, winning eight of those contests.

"Of course we want to stay there, home-ice advantage is good and you definitely want that during the playoffs," said Rangers forward Brandon Prust. "We're just worrying about ourselves right now, taking this one game at a time and keep getting wins."

Gaborik's return will not be as dramatic as his first one last season, a game where he posted an assist and a minus-2 rating. Time has indeed eased the nerves for Gaborik as he returns to the building where he spent much of the first part of his career. He remains the Wild's all-time leader in goals (219), assists (218), points (437), power-play goals (59), game-winning goals (43) and 30-goal seasons (5).

"It's always special to come to this building," Gaborik said. "The first time, I was a little more nervous. Now, it feels a little different. They have great fans here and it's a special place."

What could be the biggest test for the Rangers is their compete level against a Wild team already eliminated from playoff contention. Prust said the Rangers are prepared to bring their best effort.

"We have to be ready. Sometimes, these are the games that bite you," Prust said. "You take your foot off the gas or something, but there's no room for that anymore. We all know that. And we have to be in playoff mode every game right now."

Tuesday's game also marks a homecoming for three other Rangers who are from the area, including defensemen Ryan McDonagh (St. Paul), Stu Bickel (Chanhassen) and Derek Stepan (St. Paul). All three have played in the building during their college years while McDonagh won a state championship here during his junior year in high school at Cretin-Derham Hall.  

Among those in attendance will be McDonagh's high school coach Jim O'Neill and 20 of Stepan's closest family and friends.

Minnesota, meanwhile, is struggling to do much of anything right, having lost two straight road contests over the weekend after winning their final two games of a five-game homestand last week.

While the Rangers battle for the Presidents' Trophy, the Wild are locked in a battle for the second-best odds in the April 10 NHL Draft Lottery, leading Montreal and Edmonton by just a point in the standings.

After playing Buffalo and Washington over the weekend, Minnesota plays four more games this week and seven overall -- all against teams currently in the playoff picture.

"These are important points for them," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "I don't think we're playing a whole lot of teams right now that aren't saying 'We have to win that game.' I'm pretty sure they're saying that [in the Rangers room] right now."

To steal a win, like they did last week in victories over Vancouver and Calgary, the Wild need to score more goals. At just 2.01 goals per game, Minnesota is dead last in the NHL in total offense. It's 3-0 loss to the Capitals on Sunday marked the fifth time in the last 13 games the team was shutout.

More importantly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the loss mathematically eliminated the Wild from playoff contention. Now, all that's left, is playing for pride.

"It's a personal thing for us," said Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck. "We're not going to go down without a fight. We're not that type of group. We've had some unfortunate circumstances and some things unravel for us. It's disappointing. It's not something we're happy about."

Minnesota also announced veteran center Matt Cullen, who injured his right index finger in Saturday's loss to Buffalo, will undergo season-ending surgery to repair the injury.

Chad Rau, called up in his place, will remain in Minnesota for the rest of the season. Also back in the lineup, although in a backup role, is goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Matt Hackett was sent back to AHL Houston to make room.

Here's the projected lineups for tonight's game:

WILD

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Chad Rau - Erik Christensen
Darroll Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Marco Scandella - Tom Gilbert
Kurtis Foster - Steven Kampfer
Clayton Stoner - Nate Prosser

Josh Harding
Niklas Backstrom

RANGERS
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Brandon Prust - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp
 
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Anton Stralman - Stu Bickel
 
Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Montador returns, Toews skating

NEWARK, N.J. -- Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews continues to skate back in Chicago as part of his recovery from a concussion, but has not yet been cleared for contact. He'll miss his 17th straight game when the Blackhawks play the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday at Prudential Center.
 
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville also said defenseman Steve Montador will return to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 7 after sitting out the last 22 games with a concussion. The 32-year-old Montador has 5 goals and 9 assists in 51 games this season. Center Brendan Morrison, who has no points and a minus-3 rating in his last two games, will be a healthy scratch as the Hawks will play with seven defensemen and 11 forwards. 
 
Here are the probable line combinations for the Blackhawks:
 
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Dave Bolland - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Michael Frolik
 
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Sean O'Donnell - Dylan Olsen
Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Carter Hutton
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Projected lineups for Predators, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for a Central Division clash Tuesday night between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators from Scottrade Center.

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Alex Steen - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Vladimir Sobotka - Scott Nichol - Chris Porter

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Kent Huskins

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Elliott, who leads the NHL in goals against average (1.51) and save percentage (.941), is also tied Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick for shutouts with eight. Elliott has back-to-back shutouts and will take a shutout streak of 126:45 into this game.

The Blues' scratches include Andy McDonald (shoulder), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Roman Polak (knee), Ryan Reaves, B.J. Crombeen and Ian Cole.

PREDATORS

Andrei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Sergei Kostitsyn
Alexander Radulov - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Colin Wilson
Brandon Yip - Paul Gaustad - Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Kevin Klein - Hal Gill
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

The Predators' scratches include Martin Erat (upper body), Jordin Tootoo (upper body), Craig Smith, Brian McGrattan, Jack Hillen, and Jack Maclellan.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:37 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hawks' Shaw showing teams what they missed

NEWARK, N.J. -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw knows he won't be in the running for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie at the end of the season.
 
And he's fine with that. But to teammates, his coach and general manager, the 20-year-old Shaw has provided the type of energy and enthusiasm required of any player.
 
"If you look at him right now, there's not much to him, but when he steps on the ice, he's always noticeable," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp told NHL.com. "The other team knows he's there and he goes in the tough areas, takes hits and is smart and confident. His enthusiasm has really helped our locker room."
 
Teammate Patrick Kane agrees.
 
"He just brings a lot of enthusiasm, excitement and energy," Kane told NHL.com. "He's fun to have around the locker room … he's a young kid, and I think when you watch him on the ice, he may be the smallest player out there but he plays like he's one of the biggest.
 
"He's in front on the power play, scores a lot of goals from in front of the net by tipping pucks and using his body. He's a huge part of the team right now."
 
Shaw was passed over in the 2009 and 2010 NHL drafts before the Blackhawks finally selected him in the fifth round (No. 139) last June. He enters Tuesday's game on a five-game point-scoring streak, during which he's totaled 4 goals, 8 points and a plus-5 rating.
 
"It was a little disappointing not being drafted those first two years, but I had no pressure on me after that and went out there and had fun and stuck with my game," Shaw told NHL.com. "Chicago liked what they saw and decided to draft me. At prospect camp I had everything to prove so I just went out there and gave it my all and they came back with an AHL contract. I didn't want to play in the Ontario Hockey League anymore and knew if I did my best, there may be a shot."
 
The Blackhawks signed Shaw to a three-year contract Jan. 3. At the time, his 12 goals and 21 points ranked third for the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. His 80 penalty minutes ranked second.
 
"It's amazing," Chicago Vice President/GM Stan Bowman told the team's website. "He wasn't even on an NHL contract until around Christmastime. He was in the American Hockey League on an AHL deal, and we decided to switch him over. He played really well in Rockford the first few months and we thought we might want to utilize him in the second half of the year.
 
"In order to do that, you have to be on an NHL contract. So we converted his deal to an NHL deal, and here we are. He's got 11 goals in around 30 games and he's been a real difference-maker."
 
Shaw has 11 goals, including two game-winners, 19 points, 31 penalty minutes and 67 hits in 31 games. The loss of forward Daniel Carcillo, who had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left knee Jan. 17, has made Shaw a valuable asset for coach Joel Quenneville.
 
"He's been good for us in a lot of ways; we appreciate the way he competes," Quenneville said. "Offensively, he's got a nice set of hands and he gets rewarded for going into the high-traffic areas. He finds ways to get around the puck through positioning or with his hands. He's getting some assignments against top lines and his line (with center Dave Bolland and left wing Bryan Bickell) has been effective."
 
Shaw posted a career-high 54 points, including 22 goals, in 66 games last season for the eventual Ontario Hockey League champion Owen Sound Attack. He ranked 11th in the league with 135 penalty minutes and was honored at the end of the season as the OHL's Hardest Working Player. 
 
Shaw led all players at the 2011 Memorial Cup with 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in four games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:30 PM

By Dennis Ryan -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Leafs playing for pride on home ice vs. Carolina

TORONTO – A season that once held so much promise for the Toronto Maple Leafs is drawing to a disappointing close with just six games remaining. A regulation loss on home ice to the Carolina Hurricanes tonight would officially end Toronto’s faint playoff hopes.

The Maple Leafs have lost a franchise record nine straight home games (0-6-3), part of a late season collapse that knocked them out of a playoff position and led to the firing of coach Ron Wilson.

Wilson’s replacement, Randy Carlyle, has challenged his team to end the skid.

"We have to demonstrate more will, pride, passion, because it’s gone on long enough," said Carlyle. "That was our message after practice yesterday, that it’s unacceptable to have the home record that we have right now. And that’s what we’re going to ask of our players, and we as a coaching staff have to find a way to motivate this group to play to a higher level. It has to start tonight."

Carlyle, 4-6-2 since taking over on March 2, has put his squad through a number of grueling practices in recent weeks and hopes to see that extra work pay off in game situations.

"When people go into slumps it’s usually hard work that takes them out of it," said Carlyle. "When you’re in pro sports, either a team or an individual, you go back to the basics and you go to work.

"We’re the ones that are responsible for our record. Now it’s time for us to make a statement."

Goaltender James Reimer, who will make his seventh start in eight games, refused to give up on the Leafs playoff hopes, no matter how remote: "We’re trying to focus on winning the game and keeping our chances alive," he said.

Forwards Mike Brown (knee), Matt Frattin (ankle) and Clarke MacArthur (shoulder) are expected to return to action tonight, while Carlyle will likely dress seven defensemen.

Here are tonight’s projected lineups:

HURRICANES
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Patrick Dwyer - Brandon Sutter - Drayson Bowman
Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Bryan Allen - Tim Gleason
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

MAPLE LEAFS
Matthew Lombardi – Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail GrabovskiMatt Frattin
Tim Connolly - David SteckelJoey Crabb
Jay RosehillMike Brown

Dion PhaneufCarl Gunnarsson
John-Michael LilesLuke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson
Mike Komisarek

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:25 PM

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

Panthers hit home stretch trying to wrap up division

MONTREAL -- The Florida Panthers understand they are in the driver's seat, but they can't help themselves from looking in the rearview mirror from time to time.

While the Panthers prepare to face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre tonight riding a 5-1-3 stretch in their last nine games, they are acutely aware of just how hot the Washington Capitals have become and how precarious their own hold on the Southeast Division lead is entering the final stretch of the season.

"It's hard not to (notice)," veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski said of the Capitals' 6-2-2 surge. "We know (Alex) Ovechkin's going crazy right now. But we can control what we can control. We have a three-point lead on them, we're not the ones chasing. So we control what happens to us."

The Panthers have not played significant games this late in the season in years, but securing the franchise's first playoff berth since 2000 is not yet in the bag. The Panthers have a three-point lead on the Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres -- who face each other in Washington tonight -- with a game in hand on both teams.

Still, there's a definite sense of anticipation brewing among the players, coaches and the fans of South Florida.

"Well, seven games (left in the regular season) equals a playoff series, so we still have work to do," coach Kevin Dineen said. "But now that we're in the final stretch, it's exciting. … It's an exciting time to be a Florida Panthers player and fan right now."

A big reason for the Panthers' solid play of late has been goaltender Jose Theodore, who arrives in his hometown riding a 4-1-3 stretch with a .947 save percentage over that span.

"I'd say he's been our team MVP at this juncture," said veteran center John Madden. "We have this belt we give out (for the player of the game), and we can't go three games without him winning it."

However, as great as Theodore's been, he has a poor history against his former team with a 2-2-1 record, 4.62 goals-against average and .861 save percentage in six career games against the Canadiens.

"His record against his previous team, for a guy with his experience, is probably one of the smaller factors," said Dineen, who would not confirm the starting goaltender for the game.

Backup Scott Clemmensen, who left the ice first at the morning skate, is 5-0-0 with a 1.65 GAA and .942 save percentage against the Canadiens in six career starts. It would be surprising if he didn't get the call for this one.

On the Canadiens' side, there is very little to play for other than being spoilers for playoff clubs and auditioning for jobs next season, as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention after Saturday night's 4-1 loss in Philadelphia.

Head coach Randy Cunneyworth confirmed Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Habs.

Here are tonight’s expected lineups:

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Kopecky
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Jerred Smithson - Marco Sturm

Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Mike Weaver - Dmitry Kulikov
Erik Gudbranson - Ed Jovanovski

Scott Clemmensen
Jose Theodore

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Louis Leblanc - Tomas Plekanec - Rene Bourque
Mike Blunden - Lars Eller - Ryan White
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Frederic St-Denis - Chris Campoli

Carey Price
Peter Budaj
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:12 PM

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

Sabres keeping hype to a minimum

WASHINGTON -- It's not that the Sabres are naïve to the situation. Quite the opposite, in fact. They fully understand how big Tuesday's game against the Washington Capitals is for playoff positioning.

The winning team will finish the night in sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with complete control of its own playoff fate heading into the final five games of the season. The losing team will need to win and get some help over the proceeding nine days.

But the Sabres also don't want to overdo it on the hype machine. It's not their style, not what they're about.

"It's a big game for us, we know that and we don't have to hype it up more than it is right now," Derek Roy told NHL.com. "I think guys just want to embrace the challenge, have fun with it."

Asked if this was the equivalent of a playoff game, perhaps similar to one played early in a seven-game series considering neither team will be eliminated after Tuesday's contest, Sabres right wing Drew Stafford said yes, but …

"Every game has been a playoff game for us the past month," he told NHL.com. "It happens to be against the team that is right there with us, but we have been in this mindset, this mode for a long time because we needed to. We were that desperate, and we still are."

The desperation has propelled Buffalo to an 18-5-5 record in its last 28 games. More recently, the Sabres are 6-0-2 in their last eight games.

"We've put ourselves in a position where we're knocking on the door," Stafford said. "Each game is an opportunity to get points and we're trying to empty the tank in each game."

Buffalo will welcome Patrick Kaleta back to the lineup in a fourth-line role. Kaleta missed the last three games with a thumb injury.

"Pat has done a good job of killing penalties with good energy," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.

Nathan Gerbe will sit for his seventh straight game with an upper-body injury. He returned to practice Monday, but Ruff said Gerbe isn't quite ready to draw back in.

"(Monday) was his first full practice and it didn't go as well as we had hoped," Ruff said. "It didn't go bad, but we just felt like we'd push it further along."

The Sabres hope to keep the good times rolling on their power play Tuesday. They are 6-for-18 over the last five games, including 2-for-4 this past Saturday against Minnesota. It was the first time the Sabres scored two power-play goals in a game since Dec. 26, when they beat the Capitals, 4-2, at First Niagara Center.

Buffalo's power play went just 10-for-94 in the 36 games that followed that win over Washington the day after Christmas.

"Pucks to the net," Ruff said when asked what the difference has been on the power play of late. "There's not a lot of pretty goals. When you go around watching teams, it's more that teams are doing a good job of getting some traffic and getting that second opportunity. Even the goal last game (against Minnesota), the first one, it's just (Marcus) Foligno off to the side and we're getting a decent bounce."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Quote of the Day

It's a date that's been circled on my calendar, so it's kind of nice to have it here and get it over with (Thursday). This is a little bit of the closing of the book on the move. That's kind of how I'm looking at it.

— Stars forward Jason Spezza on returning to Ottawa for the first time to face the Senators