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Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:09 PM

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

Parise creating chances, still searching for first goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise said he is feeling fine after taking a shot from defenseman Bryce Salvador in his team's Game 2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
 
"My back was a little sore after that one," Parise said while laughing. "But I'm fine."
 
The only thing that discouraged Parise on Sunday was the fact he couldn't find a way to put the puck in the net despite the numerous chances he created and had on Florida veteran keeper Jose Theodore.
 
Parise logged 21:49 of ice time on Sunday and generated a team-high six shots while delivering five hits.
 
"I've had some great opportunities and it's frustrating, but other than that, I like the way I've been playing," Parise told reporters on Monday. "As long as [the chances] keep coming, eventually they'll start going in."
 
Parise said that while it would have been nice to take both games in Florida, earning a split was the next best thing. The Devils and the Panthers will play Game 3 on Tuesday at Prudential Center.
 
"We'd love to be up 2-0 right now, but that's not the case," he said. "I'm not going to say it's a blown opportunity. I've had some good opportunities and they'll go in, but it is frustrating when they're not going in."
 
It doesn't surprise Devils coach Pete DeBoer that Parise would put that type of pressure on himself to contribute on the offensive end.
 
"He wants to be a difference maker, but he knows it'll come," DeBoer said. "He's been through these situations before and, for me, it's about the chances he's creating. If he wasn't creating chances, then we might worry, but he's created a handful and it's just a matter of time."
 
Parise said that the Panthers generate plenty of momentum off their power-play and that the Devils just need to remain disciplined.
 
"That's something we have to be better at," Parise said. "I think they get a lot of momentum off their power play. I feel 5-on-5, we've done a great job."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:01 PM

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

Devils aiming for return to home playoff success

NEWARK, N.J. -- Now that the Florida Panthers have earned their first Stanley Cup Playoff victory in more than a decade, the New Jersey Devils believe it's time to hold serve and notch their first home postseason triumph in two years.
 
The Devils will host the Panthers on Tuesday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series here at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN). Florida evened the series Sunday with a 4-2 victory at BankAtlantic Center. It was the team's first playoff win since beating the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals April 17, 1997.
 
"We're all looking forward to playing at home," Devils captain Zach Parise said via a conference call Monday. "Playing in front of our fans … we know it'll be a great atmosphere. To be honest, though, none of us really minded starting on the road and we got a split. Now we will have the excitement of playing in our building."
 
The Devils on Tuesday will be looking for their first postseason victory at Prudential Center since April 16, 2010, when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 in Game 2 of the conference quarterfinals.
 
"All the good teams play well on home ice," forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "They use their home-ice advantage. If you want to be considered one of the elite teams in the NHL, you have to play better on home ice. In the playoffs, it's important to play better on home ice, that's for sure."
 
The Devils did not practice Monday after flying north from Florida in the morning. Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Sunday that rest is invaluable for his team, which has the oldest average age in the NHL at 30.3 years.
 
DeBoer, who said there will be no lineup changes for Tuesday, was asked how he might be able to bottle that energy the team exhibited in the final period of Game 2 for a full 60 minutes.
 
"That's the waves of momentum that you ride in the playoffs … you see it everywhere," DeBoer said. "I don't know why. When we had the 3-0 lead in Game 1, we couldn't come back with another period like that and I'm sure [Florida coach] Kevin Dineen would say the same thing about their third period on Sunday but that's playoff hockey.
 
"Overall, I like our game, I like where we're at. We made mistakes on Sunday and they made us pay, but we feel confident moving forward."
 
Here is the Devils' projected lineup for Game 3:
 
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 5:01 PM

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

Senators shake up routine in search of Game 2 spark

NEW YORK -- The Ottawa Senators broke away from the normal routine Friday following a tough loss Thursday in order to refresh and prepare for a long series.

Instead of holding practice at Madison Square Garden the day before Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the New York Rangers on Saturday, the Senators skated at Chelsea Piers on Friday afternoon.

While it was a fun experience for the players, coach Paul MacLean also put his team through a pretty intense, hour-long workout.

"It was a good, sharp practice," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "It was a different atmosphere to practice in, with the open concept with the windows, but it was a really focused practice. I think you can tell we wanted to make sure we were sharp, and we worked on some things we wanted to do better. But I thought the guys were really crisp … it was more of a workmanlike day."

Still, for some players, like goalie Craig Anderson, a pair of sunglasses would have probably come in handy.

"It was interesting since there was a glare of the sun off the ice, but it was fun," Anderson said. "It was good to get out there, get some confidence and enjoy ourselves. We wanted to keep working on our game. Work on the little things that, going forward, will help us get to where we want to be.

"But I must say, the guys were taking advantage of the goalies with that glare on the ice."

Spezza feels that MacLean's coaching philosophy all season will only help the team in a tight series against the Rangers.

"I think Paul tries to get us to play a game that correlates well to playoff hockey," Spezza said. "We like to get pucks deep, bang the body and get in on the forecheck and that's why we feel comfortable playing playoff games. I don't feel like we have to change too much because that foundation we've been building as a team all season is how we want to play in the playoffs."

That's something that, perhaps, wasn't evident in years' past.

"Maybe we were a little more run-and-gun and scored a lot of goals in previous years," Spezza said. "You're not going to have a lot of high-scoring games in the playoffs, so we're used to playing tight games. We're not used to blowing teams out, so we're comfortable in those tight games."

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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.

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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."

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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."
 
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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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Quote of the Day

That was something I've been dreaming of, something I've told myself before the third period I was going to do ... It was an amazing feeling. It's hard to describe. I didn't believe it went in at first but when I saw all the reaction and all the fans going crazy and my teammates going crazy, it's just an unbelievable feeling. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know whether to jump or just skate and do a Theo Fleury. I don't think I'm the same caliber player he is so I couldn't do it.

— Flames forward Mikael Backlund on scoring the overtime winner against the Ducks in Gm. 3