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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:47 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Playoffs are Briere's time to shine

There are certain players who simply step up their game at this time of year. Danny Briere is at -- or at least near the very top -- of that list.

Danny Briere
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 10
SOG: 18 | +/-: -2
Just moments after having an overtime goal waved off, Briere scored the 46th goal of his postseason career to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.

Briere -- who scored twice Sunday afternoon -- now has 106 points in 104 playoff games. He is now tied with Claude Giroux for the playoff lead with seven goals, and ranks second behind only Giroux with 10 points.

His overtime tally was his 14th goal on his last 18 playoff games. He now has 36 goals and 69 points in 64 postseason contests with Philadelphia.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:28 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers prepare for ninth Game 7

"The World's Most Famous Arena" will be hosting its fourth Game 7 on Thursday night.

Thanks to the work of youngsters such as Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider -- along with world-class goaltender Henrik Lundqvist -- the Blueshirts managed to stave off elimination Monday night and force a seventh game with a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

The victory means the Rangers will be participating in their ninth Game 7 in franchise history, and the fourth to be played at Madison Square Garden. It will also be the first Game 7 on Broadway since the Rangers won their only Stanley Cup championship in the last six decades, when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in a dramatic seventh game in 1994.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 11:26 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Road teams continue to reign supreme in OT

The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is still ongoing, but there have already been 13 games that have gone past regulation.

So far, that has been bad news for the home teams.

The visiting squad won both games that required overtime on Sunday, as Boston's Tyler Seguin and Jarret Stoll of Los Angeles lit the lamp in the extra session. With the victories, the road team is now 10-3 in overtime games this postseason.

Los Angeles won a playoff series for the first time in 11 years and became just the 10th team that finished eighth in the conference to eliminate a No. 1 seed since the National Hockey League adopted the format in 1993-94, and the sixth to upset a Presidents' Trophy winner. Vancouver finished the 2011-12 regular season with an NHL-best 111 points.

The Canucks lost all three games they hosted at Rogers Arena and have been ousted in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 2-4-0
GAA: 4.63 | SVP: 0.834
Nothing special -- The subpar goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury certainly is a big reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins' season has ended prematurely. But perhaps an ever bigger reason is special teams.

The Philadelphia Flyers set a new franchise record with 12 power-play goals in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Pens, which ended with Sunday's 5-1 decision at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers finished the series 12-for-23 with the man advantage, an astonishing 52.2 percent.

Pittsburgh's penalty kill ranked third in the League during the regular season with a success rate of 87.8 percent. But for these six games against its arch nemesis, it was nowhere to be found.

It's now 8-8 -- Sunday marked the 16th playoff game between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins.

And, after Seguin scored 3:17 into overtime, each team has now won eight games.

This is the third time in history the Caps and Bruins have faced each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the teams will need a Game 7 to determine the winner. Alex Ovechkin erased a 3-2 deficit late in the third period Sunday, but Seguin -- who is only 20 years old -- won it for Boston early in the extra session.

Seguin led the Bruins during the regular season with 29 goals and 67 points, but was scoreless in the playoffs until notching two points on Sunday.

Wednesday marks the fifth Game 7 for Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and the first for Washington's Braden Holtby. Thomas is 3-2 with a 2.04 goals-against average in Game 7s.

It will be the 10th Game 7 for Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. He has won five of nine in his career.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 1:06 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Blues advance for first time in a decade

Not since 2002 had the St. Louis Blues advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But on Saturday night, Ken Hitchcock's club changed all that.

Going up against a team that had reached the Western Conference Final the last two years, the Blues disposed of the San Jose Sharks in five games with Saturday's 3-1 win at the Scottrade Center. Including the regular season, the Blues won eight of nine against the San Jose.

In those nine games, the Sharks scored a total of 11 goals.

Jamie Langenbrunner, David Perron and Andy McDonald scored for the Blues, who were 6-7 when Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne behind the bench. St. Louis also entered the season having not qualified for the postseason since 2009.

Special teams played a huge role in the series, as the Blues killed 15 of San Jose's 17 power plays. The Sharks went 0-for-2 with the man advantage Saturday night.

Craig Anderson
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 3-2-0
GAA: 1.79 | SVP: 0.943
Anderson does it again -- Craig Anderson was spectacular again for the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.

The Ottawa Senators goaltender made several phenomenal saves to lead his team to a 2-0 win against the top-seeded New York Rangers in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. Anderson, who finished with 41 saves, lowered his goals-against average to 1.79. Through the first five games of the series, Anderson is boasting a .943 save percentage.

The Rangers have scored only three goals in the past three games, including a 1-0 victory in Game 3. Anderson, meanwhile, improved to 8-1-1 lifetime at MSG.

Since the Blueshirts took a 2-0 lead in the first period of Game 4, Anderson has gone 116 minutes, 32 seconds without allowing a goal.

Theodore bounces back -- Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen had complete faith that goaltender Jose Theodore would respond after allowing three goals in the first 6:16 against the New Jersey in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal last Tuesday.

All Theodore did Saturday night was stop all 30 shots he faced for his second career postseason shutout as the Panthers moved within a win of the second round with a 3-0 victory at the BankAtlantic Center.

It's been 16 years since Florida has won a playoff series, but Theodore's ability to respond has the Devils on the brink of elimination when the series resumes Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.

Theodore went eight years in between postseason shutouts -- his first one came back on April 19, 2004, when the Montreal Canadiens blanked the Boston Bruins in a 2-0 win.

Dennis Seidenberg
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 11 | +/-: 2
Struggling to score -- Goals have been hard to come by for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

When Dennis Seidenberg beat Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby at 17:21 of the second period on Saturday afternoon, it was the Boston Bruins' first goal in 84 minutes, 9 seconds. Rich Peverley had Boston's lone goal in the opening period of Thursday night's 2-1 loss.

The Bruins' lack of offense is a huge reason why the club is playing with its season on the line Sunday afternoon, when the series shifts back to Washington.

Make it five -- For the first time in 61 years, a playoff series has opened with five consecutive overtime games.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes reached an extra session for a fifth time Saturday night, as Nick Leddy erased a 1-0 deficit midway through the third period before captain Jonathan Toews won it in overtime as the Hawks staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory at Jobing.com Arena.

Saturday night marked the first time a series opened with five straight overtime games since the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs battled in the 1951 Stanley Cup Final.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:01 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Three straight overtimes for Coyotes, Blackhawks

When it comes to the Western Conference Quarterfinal between the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks, 60 minutes just haven't been enough.

Mikkel Boedker
Right Wing - PHX
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 9 | +/-: 2
After a wild third period, the clubs played overtime for a third straight game Tuesday night before Mikkel Boedker gave the Coyotes a 2-1 series lead when he beat Corey Crawford from a sharp angle at 13:15 in a 3-2 win at the United Center.

Overtime was needed again after the teams traded three goals during a 65-second span in the third period. Michael Frolik gave Chicago a 2-1 lead almost immediately after Rostislav Klesla had tied it for Phoenix, but Ray Whitney evened things up again for the Coyotes just 32 seconds later.

The victory has Phoenix halfway towards its first postseason series victory in 25 years. In 1987, the Winnipeg Jets ousted the Calgary Flames in six games.
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Can Kings complete improbable sweep?

It's happened only eight times in 19 years, but the Los Angeles Kings are a solid 60-minute effort away from becoming No. 9.

Thanks to a 41-save performance from Jonathan Quick and another tremendous effort from team captain Dustin Brown, the Kings -- who haven't won a playoff series since 2001 -- took a 3-0 lead on the Vancouver Canucks in their Western Conference Quarterfinal with a 1-0 win at the Staples Center on Sunday night.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 3-0-0
GAA: 1.33 | SVP: 0.965
Only eight teams that finished eighth in the conference have managed to knock off a No. 1 seed since the National Hockey League adopted the format in 1993. But the Kings, who didn't even know they were playing the Canucks until the final night of the regular season, can eliminate the Canucks with another victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Vancouver's special teams have struggled in this series, as the Canucks clearly miss injured winger Daniel Sedin. Vancouver went 0-for-4 on the power play Sunday night and is now 0-for-14 in the series.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, treated its fans to something they hadn't seen in quite some time -- a playoff victory on home ice. With Sunday's win, the Kings snapped a five-game playoff skid at Staples Center.

A long time coming -- Fifteen years since their last playoff victory, the Florida Panthers had reason to celebrate after Sunday's 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at the BankAtlantic Center.

When Tomas Fleischmann scored an empty-net goal in the game's final second, it sealed Florida's first postseason win since a 3-0 triumph against the New York Rangers on April 17, 1997 -- a span of 5,478 days.

Sunday's win didn't come easily for the Panthers. The club held a 3-0 lead, but the Devils scored twice in the third period and nearly tied it with just under 10 seconds to go before Fleischmann's tally helped Florida even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

It's probably a good thing Florida won Sunday, too -- New Jersey is 10-0 all-time when it wins the first two games of a playoff series.

Fleury of goals
-- What's happened to Marc-Andre Fleury?

Marc-Andre Fleury
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 0-3-0
GAA: 6.34 | SVP: 0.798
Easily one of the top goaltenders in the League during the regular season, the Pittsburgh Penguins' netminder has struggled mightily against the Philadelphia Flyers and was pulled after allowing six goals on 28 shots in the first two periods of Sunday's 8-4 loss at Wells Fargo Center.

Fleury won 42 games during the regular season while boasting a 2.36 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. But, in three appearances in the playoffs, he has a 6.34 GAA and .798 save percentage.

Seventh time's a charm -- The Nashville Predators finally won a playoff game at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday.

After going winless in their first six postseason games in Detroit, the Predators squeaked out a 3-2 victory against the Red Wings in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Nashville now has a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series, with Game 4 to be played in Motown on Tuesday.

The Preds also finally experienced some success on the power play against the Wings. Nashville was 0-for-12 with the man advantage in the series before captain Shea Weber found the back of the net 2:48 into Sunday's contest.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 7:16 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flyers' Meszaros out 6-8 weeks

When the Philadelphia Flyers open the postseason next month, it appears they'll be without another one of their top defenseman.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced Monday that Andrej Meszaros will undergo surgery to remove a small disc fragment in his lower back on Wednesday and will be out 6-8 weeks. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Alex Vaccaro at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

Meszaros, 26, has 7 goals, 18 assists and a plus-6 rating in 62 games this season. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound blueliner hasn't played since March 1 against the New York Islanders, when he had a goal and two assists.

Philadelphia is also without Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) for the remainder of the season. Pavel Kubina (upper body) and Andreas Lilja (throat) are day-to-day.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 8:42 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Report: Sharks have interest in Nash

Will Rick Nash soon be a member of the San Jose Sharks?

NHL Network hockey insider Darren Dreger reported Tuesday night that the Sharks are a strong contender for Nash's services. Sources have told Dreger that the Columbus Blue Jackets wanted Logan Couture in return, but that was quickly rejected by Sharks general manager Doug Wilson.

Nash and Sharks captain Joe Thornton are apparently good friends and have performed well together in international competitions.

Nash, 27, has a no-trade clause and will ultimately determine where he ends up.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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Posted On Saturday, 02.18.2012 / 11:28 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Hurricanes, Isles


UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders look to renew their playoff push against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight as the teams meet at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Islanders (24-25-8) are returning home after splitting a pair of road games this week. New York suffered a 5-1 loss at St. Louis on Thursday night after earning a 3-1 victory in Winnipeg on Tuesday. The Isles enter today's action eight points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina (22-25-11) is coming off a 3-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks at the RBC Center last night to move within a point of the Islanders in the standings. The Hurricanes have earned at least one point in 14 of their last 15 games against New York (10-1-4).

Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:

HURRICANES
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Jerome Samson
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Drayson Bowman
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward gets the start in goal. He is 14-3-3 with a 2.26 goals-against average in 21 career appearances against the Islanders. Justin Peters will be the backup.

Chad LaRose is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Hurricanes will also be without Tuomo Ruutu (upper body), Joni Pitkanen (concussion) and Brian Boucher (lower body).

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Brian Rolston
Jay Pandolfo - Marty Reasoner - Nino Niederreiter

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Aaron Ness

Kevin Poulin, who was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on an emergency basis Friday, gets the start for the Islanders tonight. Al Montoya will serve as the backup, while Evgeni Nabokov continues to recover from the flu.

"It's good," said Poulin, who made 21 saves for the Isles in a 5-2 win at Carolina on Jan. 31. "I was supposed to play at Bridgeport (tonight), but now I'm playing here. This way, I don't have to change anything."

Rick DiPietro (lower body), Mike Mottau (concussion) and Dylan Reese (leg) are out for New York. Tim Wallace and Ty Wishart will be healthy scratches.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 12:40 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Islanders start crucial stretch by hosting Canadiens

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have an opportunity to get over the .500 mark as they host the Montreal Canadiens tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Isles (22-22-8) are a .500 club this late in the season for the first time in five years after Evgeni Nabokov guided them to a 1-0 victory at Philadelphia on Tuesday night. New York enters tonight's action nine points behind the Ottawa Senators for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Isles have four games in hand. Ottawa plays host to Nashville tonight.

"We've got to try to win hockey games right now," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "It's a crucial two-week stretch for us."

Montreal (21-24-9) is seeking its third straight win after earning a 3-2 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night. The victory allowed the Canadiens to move within 10 points of Ottawa, although the Habs have only two games in hand.

"Everybody's in the race," Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "Everybody's got something to play for each and every night. We have to be on our game. We've built some good work of late, but that's not good enough. We can't rest on any laurels. We want to keep it going."

Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Tomas Plekanec - Travis Moen
Andrei Kostitsyn - Scott Gomez - Rene Bourque
Louis Leblanc - Lars Eller - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin

Carey Price gets the start in goal. Peter Budaj will be the backup.

Diaz returns to Montreal's blue line after missing the last two games. Cunneyworth said it will be a game-time decision as to who Diaz will replace in the lineup. The Canadiens promoted Palushaj from AHL Hamilton on Wednesday as Yannick Weber is out with a leg injury.

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Rhett Rakhshani - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Tim Wallace - Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Aaron Ness

Nabokov, who stole a 1-0 shootout victory for the Islanders in Philadelphia on Tuesday night in a remarkable 45-save performance, gets the start in goal. Al Montoya will be the backup.

Travis Hamonic (nose), Rick DiPietro (lower body), Mike Mottau (concussion), Marty Reasoner (hand) and Dylan Reese (knee) are out for New York. Jurcina is returning to the lineup after missing the last two games with a laceration on his elbow. Brian Rolston will be a healthy scratch for a fifth straight game.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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Quote of the Day

I don't care how big the goalies' equipment is, when you're taking a shot like Ovechkin took [Wednesday], it's going to go in.

— Former player Mike Bossy on Capitals' Alex Ovechkin being the fifth player in NHL history to score 30-plus goals in 10 straight seasons