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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:36 AM

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

Laviolette focused on Friday

PITTSBURGH -- After winning a thriller Wednesday that probably caused a few too many strands of his hair to turn from brown to gray, a calm and composed Peter Laviolette sat at the podium and confidently talked about tomorrow being bigger, better -- and more important.

"I definitely think we can move forward now," Laviolette said. "We had a lot of first-time experiences today and that's over with and we persevered, so that's a good thing."

Laviolette isn't a believer in momentum in the playoffs because, in his own words, "the playoffs is like a loaf of bread; it's slice-by-slice. Some slices you really like, and some are really moldy."

What he means is Game 2 on Friday will be different than Game 1 was Wednesday, and the Flyers have to make significant changes, especially at the start of the game, if they want to leave Pittsburgh with a 2-0 lead in the series.

"Every day you have to go out and work for your win," Laviolette said. "Whether you win or lose you have to move on to the next game. That'll be the focus, what can we do to be better. It's just one win and now we have to focus on the second game and making sure we're better in a lot of different areas."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 2:32 PM

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

Flyers expect rookies to do their jobs

PITTSBURGH -- Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette offered a hint Wednesday morning, albeit in a round-about way, that he already has spoken to the six rookies expected to be in his Game 1 lineup about playing in the playoff pressure-cooker for the first time.

"We didn't go, 'Oh my god it's your first playoff series,'" Laviolette said with a laugh. "I don't think that would have helped them."

No, probably not. But, the message seems pretty clear.

Laviolette said he expects forwards Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Eric Wellwood, Sean Couturier and Zac Rinaldo, and defenseman , Marc-Andre Bourdon, to be themselves and to play their roles, just as they have all season long.

"Our younger players have been utilized in every situation imaginable to this point," he said. "They got the opportunity to be part of HBO, part of the Winter Classic, and never once has there been any lack of confidence from the organization, our staff and their teammates for that matter. They are contributing factors.

"For me this is not a roll the dice and hope they make it through. This is, 'We need you to do your job, the job you've done all year.' And, they've done it well. This is their first opportunity in the playoffs, but they give us no reason to believe life will be any different than it was yesterday. We count on them for our success."

While the Penguins likely will try to find a way to exploit the rookies, Philadelphia veteran center Danny Briere said he thinks they will give the Flyers an energy boost.

"I know people are probably thinking there are a lot of rookies on this team and you don't know how they're going to answer, but I think these guys will be excited to prove themselves just like they did at the beginning of the year [when they had] to prove they had a place on this team," Briere said. "I think our youth is going to give us energy and take us a long way."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 1:21 PM

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

Flyers to have Briere, Grossmann for Game 1

PITTSBURGH -- Danny Briere and Nicklas Grossman both played coy Wednesday morning and said their status would not be decided until game time. The Flyers didn't want to wait that long to make it official, so shortly after the media session with the players was over, the team revealed on its Twitter page that Briere and Grossmann will play in Game 1 against the Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

The news is not surprising since both players have been practicing this week and they came off the ice with the rest of the regulars after Wednesday's pregame skate.

They each missed the last three regular-season games after being injured in the teams' game April 1, both on plays involving Penguins center Joe Vitale. Grossmann was left with a lower-body injury after colliding with Vitale in the first period. In the game's final moments, Vitale's hard shoulder check on Briere left the Philadelphia center with a back contusion that caused back spasms.

Now with Briere and Grossmann set to go, the Flyers will have their full lineup. Defenseman Pavel Kubina, who played the last 10 games of the regular season, and forward Jody Shelley will be healthy scratches.

Briere is one point shy of being a point-per-game player in his playoff career (96 points in 97 games). He'll center the second line, between Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.

"In the playoffs he's been pretty good and we hope he plays the way he can," Claude Giroux said of Briere. "I have no doubt for him. The last few practices he's been flying out there. He just finds a way to get it done."

Grossmann has been a key addition to the Flyers' lineup since arriving in trade just before the trade deadline. He has been using his 6-foot-4, 230-pound body to clear space in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was the NHL's Player of the Month in March.

Grossmann recognizes how important his job will be against the high-powered Penguins.

"They've got a lot of skill up front, obviously. They have two, I think, real high-skilled lines that can score a lot of goals," Grossmann said. "If everyone is on the same page and doing the right things it's going to make us successful in helping Bryz out."

Here is the Flyers' likely lineup for Game 1:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Jakub Voracek - Matt Read - Eric Wellwood
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Brayden Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 10:41 AM

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

Likely lineup for Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins are on the ice for their morning skate in advance of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Flyers (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN). Here are their expected lines and defense pairs:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Brian Strait/Ben Lovejoy - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:33 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Dan Rosen gives his first-round picks

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Isles focus on strong finish to build for next season

NEWARK, N.J. -- After giving his team what he called a "wake-up call" Sunday by sending five defensemen out for one shift against Ottawa, Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he's now looking for nine solid periods of hockey this week so his club can go into the offseason with a positive feeling.

"We talk about the last nine periods of hockey that we need to play and just making sure that the accountability for one another, the compete level for one another, and playing for one another is important," Capuano said Tuesday in advance of the Islanders' game against New Jersey at Prudential Center. "You can't worry about the scoreboard. I've always told the guys your work ethic will dictate the outcome of the game. We have some young guys playing, guys we're taking a look at, and we want them to work hard."

The Islanders are looking to even the season series against New Jersey. They also play Thursday at home against Winnipeg before closing the regular season Saturday at Columbus.

They had won three in a row, including two straight over Pittsburgh, before dropping the last two on home ice against Boston (6-3) and Ottawa (5-1).

John Tavares said if the Islanders close the season with some good games against the Devils, Jets and Blue Jackets, it will boost morale going into the offseason and, eventually, training camp.

"I think you definitely would have a much better feeling with the way it ended," Tavares said. "Playing well and ending on a positive does a lot for morale. I think it's important and what we have to continue to do. As a group this is the last week we'll be together, so you want to enjoy that, end it on a positive note, and build on some things."

Al Montoya will get the start in net. Here is the rest of the Islanders lineup:

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

Mark Streit - Mark Eaton
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Matt Donovan - Dylan Reese

Al Montoya
John Grahame

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 12:48 PM

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

Oklahoma native Donovan set to make NHL history

NEWARK, N.J. -- Larry and Katherine Donovan were getting ready to head home to Oklahoma from Bridgeport, Conn., on Monday after watching their 22-year-old son Matt play for the Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.

They never left. Matt got in touch with them just in time to deliver an exciting message.

He was headed to the show to play for the New York Islanders.

"They were boarding a flight when I got the call," Donovan said Tuesday morning from Prudential Center, where he will make his NHL debut against the Devils. "They didn't get on the plane. They got their bags off the plane, and they're going to make the drive here."

Donovan, a fourth-round pick by the Islanders in the 2008 NHL Draft, will be paired with Dylan Reese in his NHL debut. Donovan is an offensive defenseman and he leads all Sound Tigers blueliners with 42 points on 10 goals and 32 assists this season.

He's also unique to the NHL in that he is from Oklahoma. He will be the first Oklahoman born, raised, and trained in the state to play in the NHL.

"My dad is from Boston, so he got me into hockey and he runs ice rinks in Oklahoma," Donovan said. "That's how I got into it and I've been a rink rat my whole life."

Donovan left home at 16 to play midget hockey in Dallas. He went on to play for Cedar Rapids in the USHL and then the University of Denver, where he starred for two seasons before signing his entry-level contract with the Islanders. He won gold with Team USA at the 2010 World Junior Championship, scoring 5 points and posting a plus-6 rating.

"Being the first kid from Oklahoma in the World Juniors, I just tried to take it all in and play every game like it was my last," Donovan said.

He said he's going to try to treat the game Tuesday as any other, but said he realizes that will be difficult because of his nerves.

"It really hasn't hit me that tonight is the night that I'm going to be playing my first NHL game, but I'm excited and ready to play," Donovan said. "Just try to do the exact same thing I would in Bridgeport. Keep the same game-day ritual: go back to the hotel, eat, try to take a nap. I don't know how well that is going to go with the nerves going and the excitement, but just try to keep the same routine and hopefully my nerves don't get the best of me."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 11:36 AM

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

Lower-body injury sidelines Clarkson vs. Islanders

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils will be without one of their three 30-goal scorers Tuesday against the Islanders as David Clarkson will miss his first game of the season with a lower-body injury.

Devils coach Pete DeBoer said Clarkson injured himself Saturday during the Devils' 5-0 win at Carolina. After an off day Sunday, Clarkson was not able to practice Monday and he stayed off the ice Tuesday morning as well.

Since the Devils already have a playoff berth locked up, DeBoer said it's better to be safe than sorry with Clarkson, who scored his 30th goal of the season in that win Saturday.

New Jersey has won three straight games.

"You show up at the rink, a guy is dealing with something, you always assume the next day he's going to be a lot better," DeBoer said. "We got to today and not that he wasn't improved, but he can't play."

Cam Janssen will draw into the lineup for the first time in seven games and play on the fourth line. Steve Bernier will bump up to take Clarkson's spot on the third line with Adam Henrique and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Janssen has been a healthy scratch for six straight games and 11 of the last 13.

"He's been working hard in practice. He keeps himself ready," DeBoer said. "He's a great team guy. I think he's handled the role he's had this year with our group as well as anyone could. You have no doubt that he injects some energy in the lineup when he comes in."

The Devils will secure at least the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference if they beat the Islanders and Ottawa loses to Carolina. If Philadelphia picks up at least one point and Florida wins, the Devils will be locked into a 3 vs. 6 series against the Panthers.

More than seeding, though, DeBoer simply wants to see his team continue to play the way it has since a 2-1 shootout win over Chicago on March 27. He has liked what he has seen and said he believes the Devils are playing the brand of hockey they need to be playing with three games left before the playoffs.

"But that's all subject to health and everything else," DeBoer said. "You get a couple of injuries and the whole mix gets thrown into flux. I like where we're at mentally. I like where we're at system-wise. I like how we're playing. We just have to keep it together and hope for some luck on the injury front."

Johan Hedberg will get the start in net Tuesday. He has played in only five games since the All-Star break, but he's 4-0-1 in them. He made 23 saves in a 2-1 win over the Islanders on March 10.

Here is the Devils' full lineup for the game against the Islanders:

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier
Ryan Carter - Jacob Josefson - Cam Janssen

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold

Johan Hedberg
Martin Brodeur

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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."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Sabres know full team effort needed vs. Ovechkin

WASHINGTON -- If Washington was icing a normal lineup with 12 forwards and six defensemen, odds are Buffalo's new shut-down line of Cody Hodgson with Derek Roy and Ville Leino would be responsible for Alex Ovechkin all night.

Washington, though, will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the second straight game, so Sabres coach Lindy Ruff figures his team is going to see a lot of Ovechkin on Tuesday, meaning the responsibility for stopping the red-hot Capitals captain will fall on more than just a handful of shoulders.

"We're going to need two lines," Ruff said. "They've got Ovechkin playing on two lines, they're double-shifting him, and he's playing 25-plus minutes. We know what he's capable of doing, and if you give him space and time, anything on the rush, he's a dangerous player."

Ovechkin, who played over 26 minutes in Sunday's 3-0 win against Minnesota, has been piling up the goals, with seven during his five-game scoring streak. He has 10 goals in 13 games this month.

Ruff thinks he knows why.

"He's shooting more," Ruff said of Ovechkin, who is averaging 4.38 shots per game this month (57 in 13 games). "He's shooting from a lot of different places. He's caught some breaks. When you shoot more, good things happen."

Ruff compared Ovechkin's run to that of his own player, right wing Drew Stafford, who has 4 goals and 12 points in the last seven games.

"Stafford is shooting more and he's shooting in some situations that he (previously) passed off, and more pucks are going into the net," Ruff said.

An obvious key to limiting Ovechkin's chances, especially off the rush, is keeping the puck away from him. The Sabres can do that by continuing their dominance in the faceoff circle.

Buffalo has won the faceoff battle in seven of its last eight games. Not coincidentally, the Sabres are 6-0-2 in those games, with a 29-16 edge in non-shootout goals.

Roy and Cody Hodgson have been the catalysts, going a combined 154-129 in the circle (54.4 percent).

"We've gone up against some tough faceoff teams and we've garnered the edge," Ruff said. "It's a big part of the game. When you're not chasing the puck around all night, when you can start with the faceoff, it gives you an opportunity to get it down ice and in the offensive zone. It's a part of the game that sometimes people overlook, but if you can get the edge in the faceoff circle you've got the edge in puck possession."

They'll need it against Ovechkin and the Capitals on Tuesday.

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