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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 1:40 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Washington lineup for Game 1

NEW YORK -- The Capitals and the Rangers are meeting for the third time in the last four postseasons. Washington forward Matt Hendricks doesn't think it'll take too long for the teams to get reacquainted.

"Hate is a strong word, but we battle against them," Hendricks said. "This is a team that I think we match up very well with. They're physical, they play a defensive style, they block a lot of shots. When you find teams that are similar with your team you seem to have those tight, close games where you're getting under each other's skin. There is a little bit of a dislike there for each other. We've met in the playoffs here, so it's going to be a good one, I think."

Game 1 is Saturday at 3 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden.

Here is the Capitals' lineup:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Matt Hendricks
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
John Erskine - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Hunter offers more praise for Holtby

NEW YORK -- Capitals coach Dale Hunter predictably did not offer any updates on his lineup during his chat with the media roughly two hours before Game 1 on Saturday. However, Hunter did have some strong words of encouragement for defenseman Jeff Schultz, who played more than 11 minutes in Game 7 against Boston on Wednesday.

"Schultzie gave us a good game," the typically understated Hunter said. "He's a big guy, he moves the puck well, and we need some more size."

If Schultz plays in Game 1 against the Rangers, he'll likely be paired with Dennis Wideman.

One absolute certainty for the Capitals on Saturday is that Braden Holtby will be between the pipes. The 22-year-old rookie goalie got the best of Boston's All-Star Tim Thomas in the first round.

Holtby played every minute for the Capitals, finishing with a 2.00 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. He may have surprised a lot of people in the hockey community considering he was No. 3 on Washington's depth chart for virtually the entire season, but Hunter expected Holtby to be excellent against the Bruins.

"Even down the stretch we were battling for the playoffs he had to go into Detroit, we needed the points, he won," Hunter said. "We went into Philadelphia, we lost in overtime, but we got a point. He's a battler. The kid battles. He's got a great personality about him that he doesn't let stuff bother him."

Holtby's play has drawn comparisons to Ken Dryden, who played in only six regular-season games in 1970-71 before leading the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup championship that spring. Holtby, of course, played in only seven games for the Caps in 2011-12.

Hunter said he isn't concerned about Holtby getting caught up in his own press clippings.

"With this kid you don't have to. He's not like that," Hunter said. "He's one of the hardest working goalies in practice. He just keeps working and he's having fun with it. He has fun playing hockey. It's always much better when you're playing well, but whatever happens he's going to still have his work ethic and he's going to battle."

Since Holtby has already knocked Thomas out of the playoffs, the Capitals believe he can do the same to Henrik Lundqvist, who is a finalist for both the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy.

"He (just) battled against one of the best goalies in the League and now he has to do it again with another one of the top goalies in the League," Hunter said. "He knows it, but he's a battler. He's got a good head on his shoulders."

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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 1:48 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Hart not the trophy Giroux is concerned about

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Claude Giroux cracked a smile as a reporter asked how he felt about not being one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy.

"The Hart Trophy?" Giroux said. "Which one is that?"

MVP, of course.

"Kidding, kidding," Giroux said, smiling bigger now.

So, how does he feel about not being a finalist despite finishing third in the League with 93 points and second with 65 assists?

"I didn't see the news, but at the end of the day that's not the trophy I want," he said. "It's done. It's something I don't really control."

Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos were named the finalists Friday. The Professional Hockey Writers' Association votes on the award.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was in no mood to deal with a question pertaining to the regular season. Like Giroux, he said he hadn't seen the list of finalists, either.

"If you're asking me what I think of Claude Giroux, I think he's a terrific player in this League," he said.

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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 12:49 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Grossmann's status for Game 1 still unknown

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Despite practicing the last two days in a regular, contact jersey, Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann has not been cleared by team doctors to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Devils.

Grossman, who sustained an upper-body injury that at least one teammate called a concussion in Game 4 of the first-round series against the Penguins, still hopes he gets his clearance prior to the series opener on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

"We'll see (Saturday)," Grossmann told NHL.com following practice Friday. "I still have to talk to the doctors and all that. Everything is up in the air, so I don't even know."

Grossmann added that for now he's just happy to be back on the ice with the team. As for his odds of playing in Game 1, he wasn't saying.
 
"It's tough to say how I feel. I don't even know what is normal," Grossmann said. "It's just nice to be on the ice and skate. That's a good feeling. I just take it a day at a time, try to stay positive and go from there."

Fellow defenseman Andrej Meszaros continues to skate and work his way back from mid-March back surgery, but he doesn't appear close to playing yet.

Forward Maxime Talbot, who took a puck to the face in practice Thursday, said he is fine. He has a chipped tooth and a swollen and cut lip, but he participated in the full practice Friday.

"Matty Carle shot it; good thing it was him -- a muffin," Talbot joked. "Actually, Eric Wellwood tipped it, so that's his fault. He's a rookie. I'm going to get him back."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 7:05 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Konopka will play Game 7 for Senators

NEW YORK -- Ottawa forward Zenon Konopka will play in Game 7 Thursday against the Rangers despite not practicing Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning.

Konopka is a key player for the Senators despite being on the fourth line. He leads the NHL with a 69.7-percent success rate in the faceoff circle in the playoffs (46 for 66).

Defenseman Matt Carkner will not play for Ottawa in Game 7 due to an injury. He will be replaced by ex-Ranger Matt Gilroy, who played in Games 1 and 3 but has not dressed in a game since.

Center Brian Boyle is again out for the Rangers with a concussion. He hasn't played since Game 5.

Here were the lines, defense pairings and goaltenders during pregame warmups:

RANGERS

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan

Ruslan Fedotenko - Brandon Dubinsky - Brandon Prust

Artem Anisimov - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist

Martin Biron

SENATORS

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Jacob Silfverberg

Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson

Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil

Zenon Konopka - Jim O'Brien - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson

Jared Cowan - Sergei Gonchar

Matt Gilroy - Chris Phillips

Craig Anderson

Ben Bishop

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Posted On Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 2:06 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Sens believe Norris nomination could boost Karlsson

NEW YORK -- As flattered and happy as Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is to be a finalist for the Norris Trophy, he said it will have no bearing on how he performs in Game 7 Thursday against the Rangers.

"It's totally based on the (regular) season and has nothing to do with playoffs," Karlsson said. "(Game 7) is one of the most important games I've ever played, and hopefully I can play my best hockey today."

Some of Karlsson's teammates, however, believe getting the word only hours before the biggest game of his life could be a confidence builder for Karlsson, who has struggled against the Rangers with only one point in six games. He had 78 points in the regular season, clearing all other defenseman by at least 25 points.

"He's had a great season; he deserves to win the Norris," Ottawa forward Jason Spezza said. "To get nominated on the day of a real important game can be exciting for a guy. I don't think it'll be a distraction. I think it'll give him a little jump."

Ottawa coach Paul MacLean admitted Thursday that he was as surprised as anybody at how Karlsson developed this season. The still 21-year-old Swedish blueliner had 75 points in his first 135 NHL games from 2009-11.

"I just knew that he could skate real good," MacLean said. "I knew if we could get him to be active and to skate he could be a very good player, but I don't know if we felt at that time he'd be good enough to be a Norris candidate. He's certainly played well enough this season to be a legitimate candidate."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 1:24 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Statuses of Carkner, Konopka cloud Senators' lineup

NEW YORK -- Ottawa coach Paul MacLean has a couple of lineup options for Game 7, but even if he has already made them he wasn't about to reveal the final decisions in front of the media Thursday morning at Madison Square Garden.

Senators defenseman Matt Carkner and forward Zenon Konopka did not participate in the optional morning skate after not practicing either of the past two days. MacLean, though, said both Carkner and Konopka -- who are believed to be injured -- are available.

Judging by the morning skate, if Carkner is unable to play then Matt Gilroy will likely take his spot. Gilroy was off the ice well before Mark Borowiecki, who has not played in this series and played in only two regular season games. Gilroy played over 13 minutes in both in Game 1 and Game 3.

If Konopka can't play, look for either Mark Stone or Bobby Butler to take his place. Butler played in Games 3, 4 and 5 while Stone was in the lineup for Game 5 only. They both came out for Game 6 because Daniel Alfredsson returned to the lineup and Jacob Silfverberg made his debut.

"I'm contemplating a lot of things at this moment," MacLean said. "At this point we're keeping our lineup options open. We're looking to ice our best team, the one that gives us the best chance to win the game."

With all the uncertainty about the Senators' lineup, it is impossible to configure their possible line combinations going into Game 7.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 2:15 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Rangers turn to Twitter to ignite fans

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- A pair of well-known Rangers have taken to Twitter to start pumping up the Madison Square Garden crowd in advance of Game 7 Thursday against Ottawa (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Marian Gaborik (@MGaborik10) tweeted Tuesday, "Just got back to NYC. We need the MSG fans to take us to the next level on thursday#bringushome"

It was Gaborik's first tweet of the playoffs.

Brad Richards (@BRichards_1991) also sent his first tweet of the playoffs on Tuesday. It read:

"Get ready fans to rock MSG on Thursday night! We need you to push us to the next level! #NYR"

The Rangers anticipate a wild crowd at the Garden for Game 7. They are just 1-2 in the playoffs at home so far, but they feel with the backing of their boisterous fans they will be able to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

"So far home advantage hasn't really played out that well for anybody, but hopefully our crowd can be the difference to help us push our game here, help us get some confidence right away," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "There is no better feeling to win at home. We've got to do all we can to win this game."

Added Brandon Dubinsky: "To do it at home would be amazing. We're going to need those fans."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 1:58 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Lundqvist focused, feeding off energy of series

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Henrik Lundqvist says he plays better when he's upset.

Well, he can recall only a few times in his career when he was as angry after a game as he was following the Rangers' 3-2 win in Game 6 on Monday night. Lundqvist was beside himself that the officials allowed Chris Neil's goal to stand with 32 seconds left in the game despite the fact that he felt he was interfered with and Neil kicked the puck into the net.

"I was really mad," Lundqvist said Wednesday after practice.

So how does he bring that anger into Game 7 Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS)?

It'll have to happen naturally, but if the Senators continue to crash his crease Lundqvist's blood should start to boil.

"I think it's been a similar style hockey each game, a lot of bodies in front, a little more intense, but that's part of the playoffs," said Lundqvist, who on Wednesday was announced as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. "I expect it to be crowded and a little more physical. I don't mind it. I like when two teams are fighting and competing. I kind of feed from that a little bit. Sometimes I play better when I'm a little upset."

Lundqvist, though, will not go into Game 7 angry. He will instead be focused on anything and everything that is in his power to control.

He's played in enough big games (Game 7 against Washington in 2009, the gold-medal game in the 2006 Olympics, the 2012 Winter Classic) to understand how best to approach this one.

"Mentally you try to block everything you can't control. You focus on the things you can control," he said. "Every time you're in a game where your season is on the line, the mental aspect, it's a bigger challenge. But if you can just control your emotion and focus on the right things, it doesn't have to change. I'm going to approach this game the same way I approached the last game and the game before that."

Lundqvist added that never having won a Game 7 in his career is not at all a factor now. He said he's living in the moment because he wants to win to keep playing.

"You want to go out there and play, enjoy it. It is a great moment," Lundqvist said. "You worked hard all year to be here. I think you have to see it as a great challenge, then you feel more positive about it, don't put too much pressure on it, and just enjoy it."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 1:32 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Neil's comments no bother to Del Zotto

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto had nothing to say when asked for a reaction to Ottawa forward Chris Neil's comment after Game 6 Monday that he's sure he will catch Del Zotto with his head down "one of these times."

"I don't even know what he said," Del Zotto said Wednesday. "I'm just worried about (Game 7 on Thursday). It's a big game for us. We played well last game. It's Game 7 in our building and that's all I'm worried about."

Del Zotto hit Neil hard with 5:37 to play in the third period of Game 6. Neil is the player whose big hit on Brian Boyle gave the Rangers towering center with a concussion. Brandon Prust also fought Neil late in the first period.

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