With predictions coming from every angle on who will win the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, the Miss USA pageant saw a unique opportunity. On the eve of the Final, the organizers polled the 51 contestants in the 2012 edition of the contest to see who they favored to win the Cup.
Miss California, Natalie Pack, and Miss New Jersey, Michelle Leonardo, weren't shy about favoring their home-state teams, even posing for photos wearing their respective team's jersey.
One Los Angeles Kings fan is having an especially fun time watching the team's run to the Stanley Cup Final.
"It's been unreal what they've done and what they've accomplished so far," Wayne Gretzky told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "It's been unreal for the organization and it's been great for hockey in California and L.A. We live in L.A., so we're seeing it first-hand how fans are rallying around the Kings and hoping that they bring home the Stanley Cup."
Gretzky was the Kings' marquee player in 1993, the only other time the Kings played for the Stanley Cup. He had two goals and five assists as the Kings lost in five games to the Montreal Canadiens.
Out of the game since leaving the Phoenix Coyotes organization in 2009, Gretzky is more than happy to watch games from the comfort of his home. He said he's been very impressed by the way Kings GM Dean Lombardi has built the team, both through the draft and via trades.
"Over the last five years they made some really good, quiet deals on the side as far as stockpiling draft picks and being patient with players," Gretzky said. "And when you're able to draft a guy like Anze Kopitar or Drew Doughty and you're able to trade a couple of really good, young players like Brayden Schenn and Jack Johnson to fill voids that you need on your hockey club."
He also said coach Darryl Sutter, hired to replace Terry Murray in December, was the perfect candidate to merge Murray's defensive philosophies with Sutter's high-intensity forechecking style.
"He played hard every game whether it was in October or whether it was in May and I think that's what he instilled in this hockey club," Gretzky said. "I think the previous coach, Terry Murray, did a tremendous job in establishing the team system and I think from my point of view that Darryl tweaked it a little bit and that he's much more aggressive and [emphasizes] much more forechecking and on the puck, a lot like the way he coached in Chicago and Calgary.
"He took nothing away from their team defense, which is as strong as any team in the National Hockey League, and yet they pursue the puck, and create turnovers offensively to give them more time in the offensive zone, which creates less time in the defensive zone."
Gretzky said watching this Kings team, it would be no contest if it had to face his 1993 team -- the 2012 model would win.
"We played with heart and grit and played a system that the coach established and we had a good goalie. We kind of got on a run," he said. "This team, they're a much better team than we were in '93, so I think their chances of winning the Final are a little bit better than ours were in the sense that we definitely lost to the better team. The better team won the Stanley Cup that year."
Gretzky, retired for 13 years, still showcased some of his elusiveness when asked who he would root for if the Kings' final opponent was the New York Rangers, the team he spent the final three seasons of his career with.
"Both are great cities and the good thing for me is I've got friends in both organizations. I loved playing in both cities and I just hope it's a great final and whoever wins, good for them," he said. "I have so much love and respect for how I was treated in both organizations that I want the best for both of them."
New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello informed local reporters on Wednesday that defenseman Marek Zidlicky is "day-to-day" with an unspecified injury he sustained in the second period of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
According to The Star-Ledger, Lamoriello refused to reveal the nature of Zidlicky's injury but said he should be fine for the conference finals.
When asked if the injury should be a concern, Lamoriello said "No."
Zidlicky, acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24, was shaken up 8:14 into the second period after taking a crunching hit from Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds in the left-wing corner. He did return to the game and played four more shifts, but sat out the entire third period.
Zidlicky has been a key cog along the Devils blue line in the playoffs, producing one goal, six points and a plus-3 rating in 12 games.
"Zid brings more mobility to our defense," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "He's balanced our defense even more and that's why it was so important to pick up a guy like that, especially when you lose a guy like [Henrik Tallinder]. That created a hole that Zid was able to fill pretty good."
Kay Whitmore, NHL supervisor of officiating for Blues-Kings series, answered questions from a pool reporter on the hit by Kings' forward Dwight King on St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the second period. King was assessed a minor penalty on the play:
Q: What did the officials see on Dwight King's hit, and what went into the decision to give King a two-minute minor?
Whitmore: Their judgment of the degree of violence ... they deemed it a minor penalty and that's why they called it a minor. It's their judgment. They see the whole play unfold and they didn't deem in this instance obviously that King drove [Pietrangelo] into the boards. It was a hit, he was in a vulnerable position, but they didn't deem it violent enough to call a major."
Grossmann practiced Thursday in a regular jersey, meaning he was able to take contact, for the first time since suffering what is reportedly believed to be a concussion in Game 4 against the Penguins.
Defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who is recovering from back surgery, skated toward the end of practice.
Also, Flyers forward Maxime Talbot was hit in the mouth early in practice and had to leave. His injury is not believed to be serious.
Philadelphia won't find out its next opponent until after the Game 7s are completed Thursday. The Flyers will face one of Florida, New Jersey, Washington or Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
As a one-time player, coach and broadcaster, who better to size up the second-round matchup between the Kings and Blues than Barry Melrose? Never mind the fact that he was Los Angeles’ head coach for three seasons, guiding them to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. In his latest video, Barry breaks down a series between two teams that share some interesting similarities.
Ottawa forward Milan Michalek will not face supplemental discipline for using his skate to shove Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi during a pile-up of players in the crease late in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Monday night at Scotiabank Place.
Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan issued a warning that similar behavior will not be tolerated from Michalek in a phone call to Ottawa GM Bryan Murray on Tuesday afternoon.
The Rangers won the game, 3-2, to even the series at three games each. Game 7 is Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
According to an article by Henrik Sjoberg on Expressen.se, Ottawa Senators forward Jakob Silfverberg will make his NHL debut in Game 6 against the New York Rangers on Monday at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC). Ottawa has a 3-2 lead in the series and can close the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with a win against the top-seeded Rangers.
"I'm playing," Silfverberg says in the article.
Silfverberg is fresh from helping Brynas capture the Swedish Elite League championship April 19. The 21-year-old led Brynas players in postseason scoring with 20 points, including a new league-high of 13 goals (surpassing Daniel Alfredsson's 2005 record of 12).
Alfredsson, who has missed the past three games with a concussion, also is in the Game 6 lineup for the Senators.
Silfverberg took part in the morning skate Monday, seeing time on the top line with Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza. After the skate, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said he still was considering the possibility of playing Silfverberg.
The player, though, said the decision already has been made.
"I'm slated to play with Spezza and Michalek but I'm pretty sure they'll shuffle the lines quite a bit so we'll just see," Silfverberg said in the Expressen.se article.
Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson told reporters Monday morning that he would make his return to the lineup for Game 6 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers on Monday night (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
Alfredsson took part in the team's optional morning skate, and told reporters he felt good enough to play. He had been out since Game 2 of the series, when he was elbowed in the head by the Rangers' Carl Hagelin and suffered a concussion.
Hagelin was given a three-game suspension for the hit.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette later confirmed Grossmann did not make the trip to Pittsburgh, and that rookie Erik Gustafsson will make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.
Grossmann was hit hard twice in Game 4 on Wednesday. He was elbowed in the head by Penguins center Evgeni Malkin less than four minutes into the game, and then was rocked by forward Tyler Kennedy with 8:21 left in the period. That hit forced Grossmann to skate slowly off the ice and spend time on the bench. He returned, but played just four shifts in the second period, leaving the game for good with 9:20 remaining.
After the game, the Flyers listed Grossmann as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.
— Jordan Eberle on taking his game and the Edmonton Oilers to the next level