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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Monday, 04.16.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Projected Game 3 lineup for Rangers

OTTAWA -- Rangers coach John Tortorella is famous for his propensity to shuffle lines, but he hasn't had to do much of that since the middle of March.

He will have no choice but to make some changes for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators, which is tied at 1-1. Carl Hagelin, a staple of the team's top line for the past month, will begin serving his three-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2 on Saturday.

The Rangers held an optional practice Monday morning and did not reveal any line combinations, so what follows is complete guess work. Both Chris Kreider and John Scott, forwards who have been healthy scratches the first two games of the series, were off the ice early. Usually, healthy scratches will stay on late and put in extra work with the coaches.

So here's some pure speculation on the Rangers' line combinations. Kreider played a little bit with Derek Stepan during the World Junior Championship in 2010, so that could be a landing spot for him if he plays. Check back during pregame warmups, set to start around 7 p.m. ET, for something more substantial.

Artem Anisimov - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust
 
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel
 
Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Sens need better game from Karlsson

NEW YORK -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs have no bearing on whether Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson wins the Norris Trophy this season, but the 21-year-old looked like anything but one of the NHL's best blueliners Thursday night.

Karlsson was on the ice for two of the New York Rangers' first three goals, including Brian Boyle's game-winner in the second period. Karlsson was beaten to a loose puck by forward Artem Anisimov and was unable to block Boyle's shot from the slot.

With the Senators down 1-0 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, Karlsson knows he and his teammates have to be better in Game 2 on Saturday.

"We have to step it up a bit here if we want to be a contender to win this series," Karlsson said. "We didn't skate enough. We didn't compete enough. They out-battled us in a lot of areas. We have to be a lot tougher going into their net and making it hard for Rangers goaltender (Henrik Lundqvist) to make saves. It's one of those games where it didn't click for us and hopefully we can play better tonight."

Senators coach Paul MacLean said Karlsson can be better with and without the puck.

"He needs to skate. When Erik skates, he's a dominant player," MacLean said. "That's his No. 1 strength. We need to make sure he's skating."

In Game 1, Karlsson had zero points, three shots and was minus-1 in 24:23 of ice time. It was just the 11th time this season he was held scoreless and finished the game as a minus player; Rangers All-Star defenseman Dan Girardi accomplished that 17 times.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

MacLean considering loading up top line

NEW YORK -- Senators coach Paul MacLean felt his team played a solid 54 minutes in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Rangers on Thursday, save for a six-minute stretch in which the Rangers scored three goals to roll to a 4-2 victory.

MacLean won't make any lineup changes for Game 2 on Saturday night because of that showing, but he is considering loading up his top line.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson was on the team's top line with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek during the morning skate while Erik Condra was moved up from the fourth line to play with Kyle Turris and Nick Foligno on the second line

Spezza, Michalek and Alfredsson were the Senators' three top scorers among forwards, combining for 96 goals and 107 assists, but they rarely played together during the regular season. The lack of familiarity won't be a problem if they play together against the Rangers, according to Spezza.

"We've played together at times this year and we have instant chemistry," Spezza said. "Me and Alfie played a lot of years together and we don't always play together now to start games, but we do a lot of times throughout games. He's a real smart player. We read real well off each other. If that's what we go with, there's never adjustment needed."

Foligno believes shuffling the lines will also serve to make the other three lines more dangerous.

"I think it makes the other team be more aware of our first line. They're pretty potent offensively," Foligno said. "It spreads it out a little more. We have a lot of depth and guys can step in. It shows the depth we have on this team. We're looking to have a really good night with Condra and Turris and hopefully all the other lines can step up as well."

MacLean said even if he doesn't open the game with the lines he showed at practice, he could go to them later.

"We're not certain yet if we're going to start the game that way," MacLean said. "We're looking at that, but it's also something we can go to during the game that we're comfortable with."

If the Senators decided to put their big three on a line, they can expect to face Rangers shut-down defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on every shift. Both Senators goals in Game 1 came with Rangers defenseman Marc Staal on the ice.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:37 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Senators, Rangers stick with same lineups

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators will go with the same lineups in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Rangers coach John Tortorella was asked in the morning where the Rangers needed to be better in Game 2 after winning 4-2 in Game 1.

"Everywhere," he responded.

Even goaltending?

"Everywhere," he quipped again.

Senators coach Paul MacLean will also ice the same lineup, but he shuffled his forward lines at practice.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 11:16 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Boyle regains scoring touch at right time

NEW YORK -- Brian Boyle was so desperate to score a goal this season that during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 13 that he tried to redirect a knee-high slap shot with his skate.

After scoring a career-best 21 goals last season, he slumped to 11 this season, saying he felt like there was a "force field" on the net at times.

The third-line center has figured out a way to break through that force field of late. His game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night was his sixth goal in his past 10 games.

Boyle said he came into this season not just looking to match his 21 goals last season.

"I wanted to exceed it," he said. "But it's tough when it doesn't happen. But it's been good the last few weeks, offensively anyways. I want to keep building. There's other areas of my game that I can still improve upon."

Boyle said while he was snake-bitten at times, he didn't start playing his best hockey until later in the season.

"The second half of the year, there were some tough bounces," Boyle said. "The first half, I could've played a lot better."

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POSTED ON Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:30 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Kreider studying Hagelin, waiting for opportunity

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Chris Kreider was given an assignment while watching Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators -- study Carl Hagelin.

The 20-year-old Kreider, who joined the Rangers on Wednesday after winning a national championship with Boston College as a junior, won't likely be in the lineup anytime soon. The Rangers' coaching staff is working with Kreider to improve his game away from the puck, and coach John Tortorella felt there was no better to observe than Hagelin.

The rookie used his speed to close the gap on Ottawa's Nick Foligno in the third period and steal the puck to set up Brad Richards for a goal that made it 4-0. It was one of the many things that caught Kreider's eye at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

"He makes defensemen uncomfortable," Kreider said. "He's got an unbelievable first step. He's the best skater in the League. He did a really good job of harassing the defensemen. It led to two goals. It definitely works."

Hagelin didn't pick up a point on Marian Gaborik's second-period goal that made it 2-0, but his pressure led to a turnover by Jared Cowen that resulted in the goal. It was the type of play that Kreider took note of -- literally.

"I was just trying to jot down whenever he used his speed off the puck to pressure the defensemen and get up ice," Kreider said. "He used it in various situations. I went back today and looked at it on tape in a couple of situations."

Kreider said it was the first time that he can remember being a healthy member of a team and not participating in the game. He also said he felt nervious throughout the Rangers' Game 1 victory.

"I found myself jumping out of my seat too when we were scoring," Kreider said. "I feel emotionally invested."

Coach John Tortorella isn't answering questions about Kreider, but it appears the winger is a long way from getting into a game barring injury. The Rangers received contributions throughout the lineup in Game 1, getting goals from each of their top three lines.

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POSTED ON Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:16 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Despite early edge, Rangers wary of Senators

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- One thing was certain among the New York Rangers on Friday -- they expect the Ottawa Senators to be better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1.

That could be disconcerting, as the Senators didn't play poorly in the series opener.

The Rangers used three quick strikes to blow open a one-goal game and roll to a 4-2 victory Thursday in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. But up until that offensive outburst, the Senators were pressing for the tying goal midway through the second period and were a goal away from changing the complexion of the contest.

That tightness of Game 1 wasn't lost on Brad Richards.

"They played really well last night," Richards said. "There was a momentum swing in the game we were able to grab, but they could've grabbed it too. We have to realize we're going to have to be a lot better.

"They had the puck a lot in the second period. If they score a goal and make it 1-1, it might be different."

The Senators held a 22-12 shots advantage at the halfway point of the game and fired home two goals in the third period to make things interesting. The game had long since been decided by the time the Senators made the score respectable, but that late surge combined with the first half of the game definitely grabbed the Rangers' attention.

"They have a great team over there," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "They've got five or six guys that are world-class talents and can be dangerous with the puck. We expect them to be at their best tomorrow. We have to be ready to elevate our game and match their intensity."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Rangers didn't allow trying first half to distract them

NEW YORK -- There wasn't an NHL team that had more of a chance to use distractions as an excuse for poor play this year than the New York Rangers.

They opened the season with a two-week trek through Europe as part of the NHL Premiere Series. Upon their return to the United States, their home, Madison Square Garden, was still undergoing renovations, which meant another long road swing through Western Canada.

That wasn't the end of it, as the Rangers welcomed HBO's "24/7" cameras into their lives for a month in the buildup to the Winter Classic, another event that takes players out of their routines.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said Thursday that when his team's hockey life finally returned to normal in January and there wasn't a letdown, he knew he was involved in something special.

"When they left, that's when we gained some normalcy in our room," Tortorella said. "We still have three and a half months to play, and I just watched how our guys went about their business. I was worried about a letdown when the cameras left. I was happy with the way we won (the Winter Classic). That really helped our confidence, and then we just kept on going. That's when I felt we could do something."

The Rangers went on to win the Atlantic Division and capture the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Tortorella said it all started with the trip to Europe to open the season.

"I think that really helped us as a team and to speed up the process of trying to win consistently and being consistent," Tortorella said. "I thought we were consistent in how we went about our gameday business. That's one thing about this group. Not once this year -- and coaches do it all the time -- did we have to go out there and kick the hell out of them because you didn’t get enough out of them the night before to just make sure you get the message across."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Neil happy if Canada wants to get behind Senators

NEW YORK -- Are the Ottawa Senators "Canada's Team?"

Only two teams from Canada reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year -- the Senators and the Vancouver Canucks. If Canada is looking to pull for one of the two, forward Chris Neil is fine if the nation wants to get behind the Senators.

"We've been there before, going to the Cup Final in '07, so it's fun whenever the whole country gets behind you and cheers for you," Neil said. "We don't really look at it like that. It's the group of guys in here that we pay attention to. You try not to pay attention to what's going on on the outside, who's cheering for who. You just hope when you go out, you're going out and working hard. If you're doing that, fans will come out and support you and cheer loud and get them on your side."

Neil said he didn't get a chance to see the Canucks lose 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their series late Wednesday night.

"I was in bed," Neil said. "I didn't even really watch it. I was getting rested up for tonight."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Projected Game 1 lineups

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers will ice the same lineup as they did in their regular-season finale, while the Ottawa Senators will insert Chris Neil into the lineup for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday.

The goaltending matchup will be Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers against the Craig Anderson of the Senators.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

SENATORS
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Zack Smith - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil
Erik Condra - Jim O'Brien - Kaspars Daugavins

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Sergei Gonchar - Jared Cowen
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Craig Anderson
Ben Bishop

RANGERS
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust
 
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel
 
Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery