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Posted On Wednesday, 05.21.2014 / 4:00 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Canadiens-Rangers series blog

Rangers backup Talbot marveling over Lundqvist

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot couldn't name something specific that has changed in teammate Henrik Lundqvist since the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Well, maybe one thing.

"He has risen to a new level since Game 5 of the Pittsburgh Penguins series," Talbot said with a grin.

Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round was the first of what has become five straight victories for the Rangers, during which Lundqvist has allowed six goals. He is 10-6 with a 1.93 goals-against average and NHL-leading .934 save percentage in 16 postseason games.

Game 3 against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final is Thursday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.

"He's the same focused and intense guy in the dressing room; I couldn't pinpoint one thing that he's changed drastically about his game or attitude, other than the fact that he may be more focused when the game is on the line," Talbot said of Lundqvist. "But I think everyone has taken their game to the next level in the playoffs, as has [Lundqvist]."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.21.2014 / 2:56 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Canadiens-Rangers series blog

Rangers forward Brassard practices, still day-to-day

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers center Derick Brassard remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will likely be a game-time decision against the Montreal Canadiens for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, NBCSN).

The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.

Brassard, who missed Game 2 at Bell Centre in Montreal with an injury sustained in the first period of Game 1, was on the ice for the first time in five days on Wednesday practicing with his teammates at MSG. He skated on a line with Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller, who was filling in for usual partner Benoit Pouliot (rest).

"Nothing has changed with Derick, he's day-to-day," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.21.2014 / 11:06 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2014 NHL Draft blog

Pawloski helps Indiana Ice to Clark Cup championship

The Indiana Ice celebrated their second Clark Cup championship of the United States Hockey League on Tuesday following a 3-2 victory in Game 5 against the Waterloo Black Hawks before 3,500 at Young Arena in Waterloo, Iowa.

Alex Talcott, who is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, and Washington Capitals prospect Brian Pinho scored goals in the third period when Indiana rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the best-of-5 series. The Ice won their first league title since 2008-09. Waterloo was seeking its first championship since the 2003-04 campaign.

Indiana goalie Jason Pawloski, who was No. 34 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of the top North American goalies eligible for the 2014 draft but failed to make the final list in April, made 33 saves to notch his eighth win of the playoffs. He finished with a 1.80 goals-against average and .928 save percentage on the way to being named most valuable player of the 2014 Clark Cup Playoffs.

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Posted On Friday, 05.16.2014 / 10:40 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2014 NHL Draft blog

Top 2014 prospects highlight USHL All-Star teams

Top 2014 NHL Draft prospects Brandon Montour of the Waterloo Black Hawks, Jacob Randolph of the Omaha Lancers and Matheson Iacopelli of the Muskegon Lumberjacks were recognized Thursday as First Team All-Stars by the United States Hockey League.

The USHL All-Star Teams were determined by a vote of league coaches and general managers. Seven different teams were represented on the First and Second All-Star teams.

Montour, No. 92 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for this year's draft, was named the USHL player of the year and best defenseman for 2013-14. He finished ninth in scoring with 62 points (14 goals, 48 assists). Montour put together an 18-game point streak, a span that saw him total four goals and 27 points as Waterloo went 16-1-1. The University of Massachusetts recruit ranked sixth in the league with a plus-35 rating.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.14.2014 / 1:44 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2014 NHL Draft blog

Ekblad, Nedeljkovic named OHL First Team All-Stars

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic of the Plymouth Whalers, two top prospects from North America eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, were recognized as First Team All-Stars by the Ontario Hockey League on Wednesday.

The OHL All-Star teams were selected by the league's general managers.

Ekblad, who was named the defenseman of the year in the OHL after finishing with career highs in goals (23), assists (30), power-play goals (16), points (53) and penalty minutes (91) in his third season, is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters. He is projected by many scouts to be the first defenseman off the draft board in the first round on June 27 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.13.2014 / 3:10 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2014 NHL Draft blog

Waterloo defenseman Montour wins top USHL player

Waterloo Black Hawks defenseman Brandon Montour on Tuesday was named the top defenseman and player of the year in the United States Hockey League.

Montour, No. 92 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American players eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, becomes just the third defenseman in USHL history to be named the league's Player of the Year.

"What Brandon did on both ends of the ice this season was phenomenal and a big part of the magical year for the Waterloo Black Hawks," said USHL president and commissioner Skip Prince. "He may have come into the USHL a little under the radar, but he made everyone take notice this season with his tremendous abilities and talent. Congratulations to him on this dual honor and for standing out in a league full of stars."

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Posted On Monday, 05.12.2014 / 12:43 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Penguins-Rangers series blog

Crosby: Penguins need better start in Game 7

NEW YORK -- Now would seem to be the perfect time for Sidney Crosby to break out of his offensive slump if he hopes to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 2014 playoffs haven't come easy for Crosby, who has one goal and nine points and is minus-3 in 12 games. He has one goal and two assists against the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference Second Round series, which is headed for Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

In a 3-1 loss against the Rangers in Game 6 on Sunday, Crosby was penalized for cross-checking an opponent at the end of the second period. It appeared to be a penalty taken out of frustration against Dominic Moore, who was down on his hands and knees when Crosby drove his stick into the New York center's back.

It's something Crosby knows cannot happen in the series finale. It's also why Penguins owner Mario Lemieux paid a little visit to Crosby after the game to provide some support, counseling and, perhaps, advice inside the visiting room at Madison Square Garden.

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Posted On Sunday, 05.11.2014 / 6:50 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Penguins-Rangers series blog

Maatta to play for Penguins in Game 6

NEW YORK -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta will be in the lineup for Game 6 against the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series, 3-2.


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Posted On Sunday, 05.11.2014 / 2:44 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Penguins-Rangers series blog

Rangers, Penguins share fond Mother's Day memories

NEW YORK -- To this day, New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal is amazed how patient and supportive his mother was in a home of four hockey-crazed sons.

"She was a busy mother with the four of us always in need of something," Staal said. "We spent 10 to 15 years inside of a hockey rink, I think. She's a pretty amazing woman and she still wants to take care of us and make sure we're alright."

Those memories were echoed by various players for the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins on Mother's Day prior to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, NBCSN). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

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Posted On Sunday, 05.11.2014 / 2:04 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Penguins-Rangers series blog

Rangers' McDonagh after repeat showing in Game 6

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh is hoping for a repeat of his last game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

McDonagh is arguably coming off his finest effort of this series Friday in a 5-1 victory in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh when he scored his first postseason goal, blocked two shots and had three hits in a team-high 26:53 of ice time.

How was he able to do it?

"I was trying to use my legs a little more," McDonagh said. "Whether it's gap defensively or trying to keep pucks in offensively and get pucks to the net; I'm just trying to do the same out there."

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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic