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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.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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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."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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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."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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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.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 1:30 PM

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

Rangers practice minus Callahan, who gets day off

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers captain Ryan Callahan did not practice Wednesday at the team's suburban training facility, but coach John Tortorella said he was just given an extra day off and he will take the morning skate Thursday prior to Game 7 against Ottawa (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
 
Callahan blocked a Chris Phillips shot with his hand in the third period of Game 6 on Monday. He still played 30 shifts totaling more than 24 minutes of ice time.

John Scott was filling in for Callahan on a line with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.

Brian Boyle (concussion) was the only other player missing from Rangers practice. He has not been on the ice since Game 5, when Senators forward Chris Neil hit him hard in the open ice.

Here were the Rangers' lines and defense pairs during practice Wednesday:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - John Scott (for Callahan)
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brandon Dubinsky - Brandon Prust
Artem Anisimov - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:25 AM

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

Brodeur fights through downtime

NEWARK, N.J. -- Martin Brodeur was ice cold and even admitted he had to fight his mind from wandering.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 3-2-0
GAA: 2.22 | SVP: 0.911
It's a good thing he won that fight, because the Devils' season might be over had he not.

Despite facing only four shots in the second period and just three in the third, Brodeur had to come up with a season-saving save on Mikael Samuelsson with 2:31 left in regulation Tuesday night at Prudential Center.

Mark Fayne whiffed on a clearing attempt, turning the puck over inside the defensive zone. Samuelsson got the puck, cut across the slot and tried to beat Brodeur at the right post. However, Brodeur came out well past the elbow of the blue paint, made himself big, and gobbled up the shot.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:30 PM

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

Projected Game 6 lineup for Panthers

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida coach Kevin Dineen said he still has a few decisions to make regarding his lineup for Game 6 Tuesday against the Devils at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS). He has to get a medical report on Jose Theodore before deciding on a starting goalie, and he's not sure what defenseman Keaton Ellerby's status is just yet.

Theodore did not practice Tuesday morning, but Ellerby was on the ice after missing Game 5 with a lower-body injury.

Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen basically said he was going to start Game 6, so we'll take him on his word and put him in the lineup. If Ellerby is able to play, Tyson Strachan will likely come out of the lineup.

Here is what the Panthers lineup could look like for Game 6:

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

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Tyson Strachan/Keaton Ellerby

Scott Clemmensen
Jacob Markstrom

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:24 PM

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

Panthers believe they have found close-out mentality

NEWARK, N.J. -- Several of the Panthers veteran players have been in this situation before; up 3-2 in a playoff series with the potential of closing out the opponent in Game 6. However, as a team they are entering that very situation for the first time Tuesday night at Prudential Center against the New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

If recent history is an indicator, the Panthers understand that nothing is guaranteed when you're closing in on something special.

Florida had several opportunities to capture the Southeast Division title late in the regular season, but still had to go down to the very last day of the season to get the job done. The Panthers let Washington hang around and even have a chance to win the division on the last day of the season by going 1-3-5 in the nine games prior to their regular-season finale against Carolina.

The Panthers finally got the job done on April 7, when they beat the Hurricanes 4-1 to win their first division title.

"I think after 10 years of not making the playoffs and you're constantly getting bombarded with that everyday, there's no doubt that it weighed on our shoulders in the last two weeks of the season," Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. "You look back on it now and it's easy to say that yeah, we were squeezing our sticks. We wanted to do it so bad for each other, for the organization, for the fans."

The Panthers don't anticipate the pressure of potentially closing out the series to be an issue Tuesday, but Devils coach Pete DeBoer has already reminded his team of how much of a struggle Florida had down the stretch when it controlled its own destiny.

"When the pressure is on to finish somebody off, it's a different game," DeBoer said.

The Devils know all about it. Three years ago they were up 3-2 on Carolina heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. They went into Raleigh and got beat 4-0.

The Devils also lost Game 7 at home.

"It's a hard game (when you're the team leading 3-2)," Devils left wing Zach Parise told NHL.com. "I remember when we were up on Carolina, we went down there and they kicked our butts. It was a really hard game. Their fans were crazy and they just blew us out of the rink. Then all of a sudden Game 7 is a crapshoot."

Obviously the Panthers don't want to gamble with a Game 7, even though it would be in their own building. That's why they feel thinking back to the difficult time they had at the end of the regular season can serve as a motivator now.

"We made the playoffs and I think we learned from it, that it is hard to close out games," veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson told NHL.com. "I think this group, even if guys have been around, as a group you learn what it takes to close out games. We did it in the end. That was big. We ended on a good note. The last game (against Carolina) for us was good."

The Hurricanes, though, were only playing for pride on April 7. The Devils are playing to keep their season alive Tuesday.

"The key is not to focus on that," Weiss said. "It's just to go out and go through your gameday routine, do the same things you've been doing all year. You know in the back of your mind there's a little bit more on the line, but the key is not to worry about, 'Hey, we've got a chance to move on.' You've got to go through your routine … and at the end of the night hopefully the result is what we want it to be."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 7:24 PM

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

Pens need help on the blue line

PHILADELPHIA -- Two summers ago, the Penguins signed defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek to five year contracts, and last season they traded for Matt Niskanen. But, in their first-round series loss to the Flyers it became obvious -- painfully at times for the Penguins and their fans -- that they still need help on the back end.

Pittsburgh gave up 30 goals in the six-game series loss to the Flyers, including 12 on the power play, and not all of them can be attributed to the inconsistent play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

The Penguins won the Stanley Cup three years ago with Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi anchoring the defense and the penalty kill. They didn't have anybody as sturdy and consistent as those two against the Flyers and they got burned to the tune of five goals against per game.

Kris Letang and Niskanen are the exact type of offensive, puck-moving defensemen that a team with speed and talent up front like the Penguins need, but Brooks Orpik and Michalek didn't get enough help in the defensive role from guys like Deryk Engelland and Brian Strait.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma even tried to compensate by dressing seven defensemen for the last three games with Martin out with an undisclosed injury, but Simon Despres didn't have much of an effect on the games. And, in the two games he played, Ben Lovejoy showed he was not the answer as he struggled defensively and had a costly turnover.

If the Penguins are going to address a need in the offseason, it's on the blue line with a stay-at-home, solid, sturdy, and powerful defenseman. They needed a guy like that against the Flyers.

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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 10:41 AM

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

Projected Penguins lineup

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins defenseman Paul Martin will sit out for the third straight game with an undisclosed injury and the rest of Pittsburgh's lineup will be a gametime decision, coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday morning prior to Game 6 against the Flyers.

However, don't be surprised to see the Penguins go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen again as they try to stave off elimination for a third time and force a Game 7. They are 2-0 when they play seven blue-liners, and Bylsma said he likes it because it forces him to give his top three centers, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, more ice time to potentially allow for better matchups even on the road, where he does not have the last change.

He doesn't have to necessarily worry about rolling four lines because he is essentially using only three lines with extra forwards Craig Adams and Eric Tangradi taking the odd shift here and there. Adams also plays a key role on the penalty kill.

"Depending on the situation we've seen one of those centermen has played with the two extra forwards to make up a line," Bylsma said. "Yeah, I like going to our big guys as much as we can in a situation like this."

Using the extra defensemen also enables Bylsma to have the option to use an extra body on the power play. It also does not tax his top-four defensemen.

Simon Despres played only 5:33 in Game 5, but he was used a bit on the power play. Brian Strait played eight minutes, but he got some time on the penalty kill.

"Each guy gives an element that is important," Bylsma said.

If Bylsma goes with seven defensemen again, here is what the Penguins lineup should look like for Game 6:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Zbynek Michalek
Brian Strait - Deryk Engelland
Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins