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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:36 PM

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

Senators keen to limit turnovers, breakdowns

NEW YORK -- Players for the Ottawa Senators pointed to breakdowns at critical moments Thursday against the New York Rangers as the primary reason for their opening-game loss at Madison Square Garden.

"We have to be better with the puck," goalie Craig Anderson told the media following practice Friday at Chelsea Piers. "We didn't manage the puck well when it was on our stick and we didn't make good plays. Turnovers will cost you."

The Senators committed eight giveaways in the 4-2 loss. In the final half of the second period, the Rangers outshot the Senators, 8-2, and outscored the visitors, 2-0.

"We feel like we can play with them," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "I think we just played pretty good at times, and kind of got away from our game and that's when they took over -- that's what makes them the best team in the East."

The Rangers entered their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators as the top seed in the conference. The underdog Senators were seeded eighth.

"They were probably more consistent than us but the feeling is optimism," Spezza said. "You have to be prepared to lose games to win in the playoffs, and we're not going to win them all, so we're optimistic we can make this a series and beat these guys. We just have to play a little better."

Anderson, who allowed four goals on 31 shots, admitted he must also play better.

"There will be breakdowns every game, and it's my job to step up and make the save for the guys," Anderson said. "The less mistakes you make, the fewer chances we give and we gave them chances [in Game 1] and they capitalized."

Senators coach Paul MacLean knows if his team has any chance of advancing in the playoffs, it must learn to play a full 60-minute game.

"We weren't horrible for parts of the game, but in the playoffs, you need to be good the whole game," MacLean said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:20 PM

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

Sens might deploy top forwards together more

NEW YORK -- Don't be surprised to see the trio of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek on the ice a lot more when the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers resumes Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

After all, whenever Senators coach Paul MacLean needed an offensive spark at any point this season, he usually had the team's top-scoring forwards leading the charge.

"They bring a lot of experience and it's definitely a line that can generate offense on a consistent basis," MacLean told the media following his team's practice Friday at Chelsea Piers.

"If we do that, we'll have to juggle things a little bit; we might do it within the game or before the game. I haven't decided yet."

Sitting out the optional practice were captain Alfredsson, forward Chris Neil and defenseman Erik Karlsson. MacLean said all three players were just resting and will be in the lineup Saturday.

In a 4-2 loss Thursday to the Rangers in Game 1, Spezza spent a majority of the game centering Colin Greening and Michalek. Alfredsson, meanwhile, was alongside center Kyle Turris and left wing Nick Foligno. MacLean did put Alfredsson, Spezza and Michalek on the same line at certain points in the game in an attempt to ignite the attack.

In addition to adding some offensive punch, MacLean also expects his team to play with more of an edge.

"I would expect the physical side of the game to increase anyway in the second game … our physical side of the game needs to improve and we welcome that," MacLean said.

Spezza said the team did their normal off-day routine, watching video and discussing ways they could improve.

"We did a better job of getting the middle of the ice in the third period, getting guys driving on their goalie and just trying to make it harder for them," Spezza said. "They do such a good job of blocking shots and collapsing, that we have to use our points and try to spread the rink a little bit. Some of the stuff we did toward the end of the game got us [two] goals.

"I think another key is having composure with the puck," Spezza continued. "It's easy to say to be composed and take your time, but when you get out there, things are exciting and jumpy. Getting that first game under our belt was good; I feel we'll be a little more composed moving forward."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:40 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Larsson expects to return to lineup soon

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman Adam Larsson does expect to get into the lineup at some point during his team's best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers that begins Friday.
 
It just won't be Game 1 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
 
"For sure [we expect Larsson will play at some point]," Devils coach Peter DeBoer told the media following his team's practice on Thursday. "There's an opportunity for him to play. We've got seven defenders here and the way playoff hockey works, there's no doubt in my mind we're going to have to use all seven at different points."
 
Larsson was on the ice for practice Thursday, but told NHL.com he doesn't expect to suit up against the Panthers on Friday. The rookie Swede has been a healthy scratch for five of the team's last six regular-season games, as New Jersey has won six consecutive contests.
 
"The coaching staff told me that I hadn't come up to my level that I was before after my injury so it was couple of points they made defensively," Larsson told NHL.com. "I had a good talk with them and now I'm trying to prepare myself to get in there."
 
Larsson missed 10 games from Feb. 4-24 with a bruised lower back after taking a hit from Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban in a Feb. 2 game at Prudential Center.
 
He did play in the team's 4-2 regular-season finale against the Ottawa Senators on April 7, earning 12:39 of ice time on 17 shifts.
 
"I do believe I'll play in this series," Larsson said. "You know, after one game, we could be down one or two defensemen because of injury, so I need to stay focused and in good shape and wait for my chance."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Clarkson ready to go, just wants to play his game

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson is ready for the NHL's second season.
 
Following the team's practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion at Prudential Center on Thursday, Clarkson declared himself ready to go after being sidelined for two of the team's last three regular-season games with a lower-body injury.
 
The Devils will open their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers on Friday at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
 
"I'm going to go Game 1," Clarkson said. "Everything is good and I'm ready."
 
Only Ilya Kovalchuk (37) and Zach Parise (31) have scored more goals than Clarkson for the Devils this season. The rugged 6-foot-1, 200-pound wing had 30 goals and accrued 138 penalty minutes in 2011-12 while averaging 16:21 of ice time through 80 games. He also ranked second on the team in hits (169), third in shots (228) and sixth in takeaways (32).
 
Does Clarkson feel the need to produce offensively now that he's hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career? After all, he has just two playoff goals in 20 career postseason games.
 
"You always want to be an impact player, but I think if I just stick to what I'm doing, it's going to happen," Clarkson said. "I'm not going to get ahead of myself to think I need to do this or that. I'm just going to go out there and play that hard-nosed hockey.
 
"If you watched Wednesday night's [playoff] games, you saw there was a lot of hitting and lot of little plays made; getting into those areas around the net," he continued. "That's what has made me successful this season so far and I'm going to do that throughout the playoffs."
 
Clarkson will likely open the series on a line with left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky and rookie center Adam Henrique.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Devils get in intense practice ahead of trip to Florida

NEWARK, N.J. -- It has now been five days since the New Jersey Devils last played a game -- a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
 
Needless to say, the players are chomping at the bit. The Devils will open their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers on Friday at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
 
"We thought we were going to play Wednesday or Thursday [when the schedule initially came out], but that's how 21st century TV dictates everything," Ilya Kovalchuk said. "It's OK, though. We'll take the extra day because we played a lot of hockey in March."
 
The Devils went 10-5-2 in the month of March, their busiest month of the season.
 
The players practiced for approximately 60 minutes on Thursday at AmeriHealth Pavilion at Prudential Center before heading back to the locker room. The team departs for Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday afternoon.
 
During Thursday's session, which was run by a boisterous head coach Peter DeBoer, Stephen Gionta was centering the fourth line between Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier. According to Parise, Thursday's practice was as intense a session as DeBoer has managed this week.
 
"I would say that was the most [intense]," Parise told NHL.com. "He's been talking for a while now about really taking care of details and not letting anyone off the hook. I think [Thursday] was a good example of that, and I thought our intensity out there was good."
 
DeBoer not only was directing his team, but passing pucks to players in order to spring drills throughout the session.
 
"Let's see someone get to the net here!" the coach barked at one point.
 
"I think we pushed for game speed out there and that's what we're looking for … the guys responded well," DeBoer told the media after practice. "It's been a long week waiting around and I don't know if there's an exact formula for making sure you're ready to go at top speed when the puck drops, but I think we managed it the best we could and the guys look ready."
 
Defenseman Adam Larsson was the ice and will travel with the team to Florida, but will not play in Game 1. Larsson was a healthy scratch for five straight games before earning 12:39 of ice time on 17 shifts in New Jersey's victory over Ottawa in the season finale on April 7.
 
The line combinations during Thursday's practice included:
 
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Extras: Eric Boulton, Cam Janssen
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold

Extra: Adam Larsson
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bergeron praises strides made by sophomore Seguin

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron isn't at all surprised with the sudden success of linemate Tyler Seguin.

Seguin this season became the youngest player ever to the lead the Bruins in scoring when he connected for 29 goals and 67 points in 2011-12. He won honors at 20 years, two months and seven days.

Ironically, he passed Bergeron, who led the club in points at 20 years, eight months and 22 days. In 2005-06, Bergeron had 31 goals and 73 points in 81 matches.

"He gained a lot of experience in his first year, winning a Stanley Cup," Bergeron said. "That's experience you really can't buy, and I think it helped him heading into this year. He gained a lot of confidence over the summer and from the run we had. The kid is getting better and better, and he accomplished a lot this year. He's a big part of our team and big part of our offense, and he wants to get better. He wants to learn, so that's important."

Seguin scored 11 goals and 22 points in 74 games as a rookie in 2010-11.
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Canucks gained experience from last season's run

The sting of a seven-game series loss in the Stanley Cup Final last spring isn't really on the mind of Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler as his team prepares for its opening-round series against the Los Angeles Kings this week.

And the reason is simple -- experience.

"Obviously, we have most of the same guys back and we fell one game short last year and that was hard, but we know what it takes, so we're amped up and ready to go," Kesler told the media during a conference call on Monday. "What did we learn from last year? I think experience comes to mind … the experience of going through something like that and knowing what it takes."

Fact is, Vancouver has 19 players on the roster that played a part in last year's Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Additionally, Samuel Pahlsson played a big role in the Anaheim Ducks' championship run back in 2007. Pahlsson was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Canucks in February.

After winning the Presidents' Trophy for the second straight season, the Canucks will once again get home-ice advantage for however long they last in the playoffs. Can they reach the top of the mountain this year?

"I think we're going to figure that out in the next couple of months, but we know, as a team, we'll be judged on how we do in the playoffs, so now the real season begins," Kesler said. "It'll be a good test, for sure."

Vancouver finished the season with a seven-game home winning streak on the way to a 27-10-4 record at Rogers Arena. The club will play the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round for the second time in three years -- in 2010, the Canucks triumphed in six games. The teams split the four-game season series this season.
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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 1:45 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

A special dinner with Mr. Jim Gregory

The highlight of my weekend stay with NHL Central Scouting was, without question, Saturday night.

After being told a table for seven at a local steak establishment would take approximately 45 minutes, Hall of Famer Jim Gregory, 77, took out his cell phone and began punching in numbers while sitting in the driver's seat of his white Cadillac.

I'm thinking to myself, "This is going to be good."
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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 1:27 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

Who's your goalie?

Before I left the meetings for the flight back to New York, Central Scouting's Al Jensen was given the floor just prior to the lunch break to discuss the top North American goalies he had locked in on the draft board.

Keep in mind, the top eight goalies are usually invited to the NHL Combine in May.

Here are the numbers for the top five North American goalies  that Central Scouting had listed on their midterm rankings.

1-Malcolm Subban, Belleville, OHL, 39 games, 2.50 GAA, .923 save percentage
2-Matthew Murray, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL, 36 games, 4.08 GAA, .876 save percentage
3-Brandon Whitney, Victoriaville, QMJHL, 36 games, 2.74 GAA, .896 save percentage
4-Jon Gillies, Indiana, USHL, 48 games, 2.76 GAA, .916 save percentage
5-Jake Paterson, Saginaw, OHL 42 games, 3.42 GAA, .904 save percentage

Jensen went one by one, starting from the top. Many of the scouts, who obviously were involved with keeping tabs on skaters for much of the year, also watched a few of the top goalies ranked.

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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 11:17 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

Expectations for the top 2013 draft prospects

The scouts at Central Scouting had an interesting discussion on Monday morning regarding expectations of certain underage players in the season leading up to their draft year.

  Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads
Halifax forward Nathan MacKinnon, for instance, is regarded as a top five pick for the 2013 Draft. MacKinnon, who centered 2012 draft eligible wing Martin Frk most of the season, finished the regular season with 31 goals, 78 points and a plus-11 rating this season for the Mooseheads.  

Needless to say, expectations for the 16-year-old, 5-foot-11, 179-pounder will be through the roof in 2012-13. Add to that the fact MacKinnon is from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, the home to Sidney Crosby. He also played at Shattuck-St. Mary's, where Crosby spent some of his early years.

"It really isn't fair to put those expectations on Nathan," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "It's a tough label to carry. You're comparing him to Crosby, who has been the premier player in the NHL in the last number of years and probably the foreseeable future. That's tough."
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