Breaking - Crosby is on the ice with full face shield. Also, James Neal and Paul Martin are on the ice skating.

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The best update I can give you on James Neal is to tell you what I did with my weekly lineup for midnight Sunday, after an exhaustive search for the latest news. I kept him on the bench. My lead is slim and I chose to dress the likes of Fleischmann and Bailey rather than benching one of them and risking Neal. That being said, most NHL teams would stay mum about progress at this time of year, and then he starts skating Monday and is back in the lineup by Thursday.

In other concussion news, Artem Anisimov suffered one (allegedly - nobody is admitting it yet) Saturday. That would probably bump Mark Letestu up to the Gaborik line - or possibly Ryan Johansen. Either way, Johansen gets an upgrade in linemates, the alternative being Cam Atkinson who, given his play of late, is a great upgrade. Charlie Coyle could get suspended for the hit.

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If I were to name five coaches least likely to give significant ice time to a youngster playing his first game, Barry Trotz would be on that list. So the fact that he gave Filip Forsberg 18:37 in ice time in his NHL debut tells me two things - one, that the kid can play and play Trotz hockey, and two that the Preds admit they're finished. If they went 6-0 they had a marginal shot at a playoff spot at best, but the loss to eighth place Detroit Sunday all but made it official. Forsberg was minus-2 and managed two shots.

Line combos:

Beck - Legwand - Forsberg

Kostitsyn - Smith - Spaling 

 

 

Bang - Watson - Butler

Clune - Halischuk - Mueller

Each line seems to indicate "tryout for next year". Does Watson stick? Can Butler earn a contract? Has Smith regressed too far? Where does Forsberg fit in? Can Spaling hold his own on a scoring line? You'll see Trotz look to answer as many of these questions as he can in the final five games. My answers, if I were to guess, are - no, no, no, Milwaukee, and no.

Taylor Beck has one point in his last six games and is minus-3 in that span. Prior to that, in the first eight games of his NHL career, he had six points and was plus-6. Just keep that in mind when you look at Dallas rookie sensation Alex Chiasson, who is off to a similar hot start to his NHL career.

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After being scratched twice, Benoit Pouliot has points in each of his last two games. In fact, he has 18 in his last 24 games and so it's a troubling sign that he was scratched to begin with. You keep seeing glimpses of 'sleeper' and then he keeps giving your reasons not to believe. Of course, most sane poolies were done with this guy five years ago…

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Mike Babcock gets kudos from me for sticking with Damien Brunner through thick and thin early on, which eventually helped him blossom into what looked to be a star forward. But now that Detroit has to win every game they can, it's interesting to see Brunner's ice time disappear. They say he's playing with a sore hip, which may be true. But his last five games he's seen less than 12 minutes of ice time and he's off the Zetterberg line.

Danny DeKeyser picked up his first career NHL point, an assist, last night. He's been playing 18 or 19 minutes of late, but he's not an offensive guy. DobberProspects profiles him here.

It's also interesting to see Gustav Nyquist playing with the Red Wings, even in a lesser capacity, when the team needs wins. I gauge a coach's trust in a young player by the ice time he is given during crunch time.

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Case in point - Matt Bartkowski. He's a seventh-round pick and you so rarely see a seventh-round pick get into the lineup over a Golden Boy. Yet Dougie Hamilton is getting scratched in favor of Bart when it counts.

Patrice Bergeron is symptom-free and could return to the Boston lineup tonight. And prospect Carl Soderberg has been cleared to come and play in the NHL, though I doubt he gets into the lineup tonight.

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Bryan Bickell has five points and is plus-5 in his last six games. His ice time is still low, but he's on this "Zeus Line" with Stalberg and Handzus. The 6-3 Stalberg is the short guy on the line.

Brandon Saad was white hot for so long, but now he's pointless in three games. Still, it must be nice for the 'Hawks to put out the quality players that they do and get results when the big guns struggle.

 With the shutout last night, Corey Crawford's GAA is now 1.92…closing in on Ray Emery's 1.90.

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The Sabres keep throwing Jhonas Enroth out there and he keeps winning. The problem is, I think they want him to lose. They need to run the table in order to get into the playoffs. Anyway, with three straight games Enroth has found a rhythm and making a statement that he doesn't want to be written off as a career backup, as my colleague Justin Goldman opines that he will be. Time will tell. He's still only 24. When Ryan Miller was 24 he had played 18 career NHL games and was 6-11-1.

Sabres rookie Brian Flynn has 10 points in his last 18 games and saw 18:32 of ice time last night. He also has five points in seven games and is plus-7 in that span. The 24-year-old undrafted prospect signed in March of last year out of Maine and he had 32 points in 45 games for Rochester this year. His profile on DobberProspects can be found here.

Meanwhile, Kevin Porter is on a four-game points streak and has seven points in seven games.

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The Coyle hit on Anisimov, followed by Dubinsky fighting Coyle. Clean?

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Beauty tic-tac-toe from Saturday:

 

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