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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:14 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

LOS ANGELES -- The Phoenix Coyotes will try to get back into this Western Conference Finals series against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 at Staples Center on Thursday night, but they will have to do so without center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Adrian Aucoin.

Hanzal is suspended after a hit from behind in Game 2 on Kings captain Dustin Brown, and Aucoin remains out with an injury.

Here's the projected lineup for both teams:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Daymond Langkow - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Mikkel Boedker
Gilbert Brule - Kyle Chipchura - Marc-Antoine Pouliot

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Michael Stone

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Brad Richardson - Jordan Nolan

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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POSTED ON Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 12:15 AM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Hunter won't talk about his future with Caps

NEW YORK -- Moments after the Washington Capitals lost Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series to the New York Rangers, coach Dale Hunter was asked about his future with the organization.

"[It's] not the time right now," Hunter said.

That time is going to come pretty soon, though. When Hunter agreed to replace Bruce Boudreau as the team's coach in November, he reportedly signed a one-year deal through the remainder of the 2011-12 season.

That means he and the organization have a decision to make. Several players have said they would like to see Hunter return next season, as has general manager George McPhee.

Hunter left the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League to coach in the NHL for the first time. He and his brother Mark are co-owners of the team. Before taking this job, Dale Hunter was the coach and vice president of the Knights while his brother was the team's president. Mark Hunter replaced Dale behind the bench, and the Knights will begin play in the Memorial Cup later this week.

"We do our best and it's probably best team I played [on]," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "You know, group of guys and atmosphere, everybody was - it's unbelievable to play and I hope everybody gonna stay here 'til next year."

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POSTED ON Friday, 05.11.2012 / 4:04 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Capitals have mostly avoided injury bug in playoffs

ARLINGTON, Va. -- When a team plays in as many close games as the Washington Capitals have this postseason, there is bound to be some luck involved.

One area where the Capitals have had some good fortune is in the trainer's room. Every team has players dealing with minor injuries at this point of the season, but when Jay Beagle missed Game 6 against the New York Rangers, he became the first player to miss a contest because of injury this postseason.

"Guys have been playing hard, and it is a little surprising," veteran forward Mike Knuble said. "That Boston series was a physical series. It just seems like there is always somebody tweaking something and missing a game or two here or there. Knock on wood, we've avoided the big one, and Jay is the first guy to go down."

Dealing with injuries goes beyond man-games lost in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Capitals know that as well as any team. Past postseason failures have been littered with guys, often critical guys, trying to play through an injury because that's what hockey players do at this time of the year.

Brooks Laich played through a postseason with a broken foot. Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom have played with a broken thumb. Mike Green has had multiple postseasons marred by multiple injuries, and he did finally miss time at the end of the series against Tampa Bay last year because of a shoulder ailment. Even Alex Ovechkin, who just scored his 30th goal in 50 career postseason games, has played through injury in years' past.

Some of the Capitals are certainly playing through pain right now as they prepare for Game 7 against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. But both Knuble and Karl Alzner admitted the team has had better luck with injuries than in years' past, and the club is relatively healthy -- sans for Beagle, who didn't skate again Friday and seems doubtful for Game 7.

"We are [healthier]," Alzner said. "I think we're very fortunate with the style of hockey we've been playing that we don't have as many injuries as we've had in the past. I mean, guys are taking care of themselves really well and the trainers are making sure everybody is healing up. We're very, very fortunate that is the case right now.

"It is very nice. We just hope that nothing goes the wrong way. That's all you can really do. Injuries are going to happen, and teams that are the deepest are going to figure it out the best."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 1:04 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Carlson shakes 'sophomore slump' during playoffs

ARLINGTON, Va. -- There were flashes of the dreaded "sophomore slump" for Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson this season, but he's picked the right time to be playing some of his best hockey.

Carlson had a fantastic rookie campaign in 2010-11, his first full season in the NHL, teaming up with fellow young defenseman Karl Alzner to form the team's most trusted pairing, while also racking up seven goals and 37 points.

He finished this regular season with nine goals and 32 points, but his work in the defensive end eroded. Plus-minus isn't a tell-all stat, but Carlson's drop from plus-21 to minus-15 was jarring. Carlson did score in the season finale against Florida, but that ended one of two droughts of six weeks or more without a tally.

"I think towards the end of the season I started getting my legs back under me, felt a lot better about myself and my game," Carlson said. "I think it is just a progression thing. I was confident that I could do it and get back to where I needed to be and I think that I'm playing good now."

Carlson's play has been much improved this postseason. He has two goals and five points in the 13 games, but four of the points have come in the past seven.

He's also played more than 20 minutes in every postseason game but one, and more than 30 minutes twice. Paired every night with Alzner, they are again back to being Washington's shutdown pairing.

"He's been playing really well," Hunter said. "He's been physical and jumping up in the play and creating offense. But also they got a tough job of dealing with the top line every night. Him and [Alzner] are doing a great job."

Added Carlson: "I don't know. I think it seems like I'm getting some bounces, getting some breaks. It feels like I am seeing the rush a little bit more and trying to join the play if I can if it is not detrimental to my team."

Carlson did get a nice bounce in Game 6. His shot from the right point went off Nicklas Backstrom's skate and skipped toward the left post -- just where Jason Chimera was waiting for an easy tap-in goal.

He isn't the only young defenseman with elite potential to struggle at times during his second full NHL season. Montreal's P.K. Subban also struggled at times this season. So too did Los Angeles' Drew Doughty during his sophomore campaign.

Carlson does appear to have figured it out, and has moved on.

"It's over now, so it doesn't matter," he said.

Added Hunter: "I think every player goes through it; it's a long season. When it counts in the playoffs, he's been a horse for us."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Status of Beagle for Game 7 is uncertain

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter said checking-line center Jay Beagle is "day-to-day" after missing Game 6 with lower-body injury and didn't say if he would return to the lineup for Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

"We don't know for sure yet," Hunter said when asked if Beagle might join the team for practice Friday.

Beagle didn't skate Tuesday or Wednesday before Game 6, but Hunter said before the game that he would play. Mike Vogel, senior writer for capitals.nhl.com and reporter for Caps 365, reported on Twitter that Beagle was in the dressing room putting his equipment on but the injury "did not repsond as he and team had hoped."

Jeff Halpern replaced Beagle in the lineup. Brooks Laich said he didn't know Beagle was out until the team was on the ice for warm-ups. Beagle blocked a shot in Game 5 with his right leg, which is likely what caused the injury.

Beagle has become one of Washington's most critical players and one of Hunter's most trusted guys, often logging big minutes against top competition in this postseason.
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.07.2012 / 6:54 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Wilson to start on top line for Preds

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Colin Wilson has been in this position before.

Wilson, a high draft pick filled with promise but lacking in high-end results, was a healthy scratch at the beginning of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs before dressing for the final three games and offering a glimmer of hope for future success.

Colin Wilson
Center - NSH
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 3 | +/-: 0
This year he played in only two of the final 12 games of the regular season and not at all against Detroit in the first round of the playoffs. He came back into the lineup for the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of this Western Conference Semifinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes, and in three contests has earned a promotion to the top line.

Maybe, just maybe, Wilson is starting to figure it out at the NHL level.

"An epiphany?" Wilson said. "Yeah, I think just the more throughout my career I've realized that nothing is being given to me in terms of ice time and just motivates me to play that much harder. Whatever they are telling me, I'm going to take it in, soak it in. That's what I've been doing lately, and I have been playing harder defensively. I have tried to step up my game after being healthy scratched." 
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.07.2012 / 5:40 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Predators seek defining moment, series comeback

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Every team that wins the Stanley Cup has some defining moments along the way. Last year, it was a pair of overtime goals for Nathan Horton, a can-you-believe-it stick save by Tim Thomas and even when Horton was knocked out of the Cup Final by an illegal hit.

As fictional baseball manager Lou Brown put it, "All we need is something to bring it all together." The Nashville Predators are on the precipice of elimination Monday night, so if they're going to forge an improbable journey to a Stanley Cup championship, one of those series-shifting, season-defining events could happen in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series.

"We've got to look forward," coach Barry Trotz said. "Tonight is our chance to get a win in Phoenix so we can live another day. We think we have a really good group. I know we have a good leadership group in there. We've had to go through some things. I don't think any team that has done anything special in sport or has won anything hasn't gone through some adversity. Well, this might be our adversity. There are moments that pass you by that you look back 20 years from now and say, 'That was the moment.' You can make a difference, and tonight might be their moment.

"We can get back in the series a little bit and get it to 3-2. That's all we can do. We're not going to win the series tonight. No team has ever won three games in one night in the NHL that I know of. We've just got to win a hockey game. It is going to be a moment-to-moment situation."

The big story leading into Game 5 is the return of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn after missing the past two games. Radulov, the team's leading scorer with six points, and Kostitsyn, the joint goals leader with three, were held out of the lineup for Game 3 for a violation of team rules, which was reportedly breaking curfew the night before the last game here, Game 2.

They were also healthy scratches for Game 4 after the team played well in a 2-0 win in Game 3. The Predators were shut out in Game 4 by Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, so the duo could be a spark for the offense.

"I have something to prove, basically not to [the media] or to somebody; first of all, it's to myself, and that's about it," Radulov said.

Radulov and Kostitsyn will skate on a line with Nick Spaling, at least to start the contest. Colin Wilson is expected to start on the top line after playing well the past two games. Kostitsyn's brother, Sergei, will drop to the fourth line.

"We practiced yesterday. Before that, we've had a few shifts together," Radulov said of playing with Spaling. "At this time of year, it basically doesn't matter who you play with. You just have to go out there and do your best and show effort and just try to win. We're down 3-1, so we don't have much. We just have to play hard and go out there and win the game."

Added Trotz: "[Radulov] is a pretty proud guy. He wants to be part of this series. He's going to be part of this series. He wants to make a difference. I think we'll talk to him and say, 'This is what we expect and you've got to be part of the format.' He can make a difference. ... I'm glad they want this challenge. It is a big challenge for them. They're coming into a situation where we're behind the eight ball, if you will. They can make a difference tonight. If they do, it might be the thing that changes the whole series."

Trotz said he told the two skilled forwards that they would be back in for Game 5 the morning after Game 4. Nashville had a sparsely-attended optional skate Saturday morning with an extra day off before Game 5, but Radulov and Kostistyn skated and Trotz told them afterwards.

"I just told them, 'You're back in and you can make a difference,'" Trotz said. "I told them, 'It is not going to be easy. People aren't going to let you off the hook. You're going to be judged. You're going to be weighed. All of those things.' I needed to tell them early so they could be in the right frame of mind that, 'Hey, I've got a big task in front of me and I know it is going to be challenging. I know I'm going to get questioned.' I wanted them to have the opportunity to prepare for success, and not just at the last minute say, 'Hey, you're in.' I don't think that would have been fair to them."

Here is the projected lineup for the Predators in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series against Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena:

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Andrei Kostistyn - Nick Spaling - Alexader Radulov
Sergei Kostistyn - Paul Gaustad - Matt Halischuk/Jordin Tootoo/Craig Smith

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Kevin Klein - Francis Boullon

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
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POSTED ON Friday, 05.04.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Being merely good wasn't good enough for Coyotes

NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes played pretty well for about 58 1/2 minutes Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Some nights, that will be enough to mask a couple of glaring errors in the other 90 seconds or so.

A road game in the Western Conference Semifinals is not just "some nights," though. The Nashville Predators took advantage of the Coyotes during that blip and captured a 2-0 victory in Game 3.

Phoenix has another chance to assert its control of this series Friday night in Game 4, but the Coyotes want to limit the gaffes and apply more pressure in the offensive zone.

"We've talked about it. We didn't play a bad game. We were OK, but OK isn't going to win on the road in the playoffs. We have to be better than that," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said Friday morning. "We gave them ... both goals were not normal mistakes that we've had throughout the playoffs, and we've got to limit them. If we can limit those and play the game that we want to play -- a little bit harder, a little bit more direct at the net. If we do that, good things should happen."

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said he wasn't expecting to make any lineup changes after Game 3, but also didn't rule it out. One missing guy who isn't expected to return is Lauri Korpikoski, who has been absent for the past two contests in this series with an undisclosed injury.

Center Boyd Gordon did not skate Thursday at practice or Friday during a very optional morning workout, but if Tippett does make a change, it could be if he was unable to play after blocking a Shea Weber slap shot at close range Wednesday.

"There's adjustments to make, but we’ve got some healthy people and some non-healthy people," Tippett said. "We'll look at all the options. I'm not ruling out a change, but right now it looks like it will be the same."

Tippett made it clear Thursday that goaltender Mike Smith was not the primary player at fault when Nashville's David Legwand scored after Smith's pass behind his net was intercepted. The second goal came after Martin Erat stripped the puck from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has probably been Phoenix's top defenseman in this postseason, and set up Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher for a 2-on-0 at point-blank range.

Phoenix missed its own opportunities. Rostislav Klesla hit the far post with a shot during an odd-man rush, and the Coyotes squandered a 5-on-3 in the third period.

"There's some areas that we can clean up," Tippett said. "I thought the two goals we made some mistakes, and I would classify those as unearned chances for them, so there's some areas you got to clean up. There's always subtle little tweaks here and there to grab an advantage. If you take those two goals out, it was a pretty tight game. You're looking for a player to make a big play, or a line to have a great shift.

"There's ways to win. We've been a pretty good club at finding ways to win in tight situations. We just have to try to get back to that."

Here’s what the Coyotes lineup could look like for Game 4:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Marc-Antoine Pouliot
Kyle Chipchura - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera


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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Coyotes' skate: Gordon absent, Korpikoski present

NASHVILLE -- Boyd Gordon did not skate Thursday for the Phoenix Coyotes after stepping in front of a Shea Weber slap shot Wednesday night.

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after Game 3 that Gordon was fine. Gordon left the game after dropping to one knee and appearing to take the blast off his arm from close range, but did return.

"There's some guys ... that's just what they do," Tippett said. "Sometimes you wonder why all guys don't do that, but that's [Gordon]. That's why he's such a valuable player for us."

Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith called Gordon "a warrior." This is Gordon's first year with the Coyotes after signing in the offseason. He's been a top faceoff/penalty-killer in the League after carving out that role with the Washington Capitals.

He also has a knack for being on the receiving end of big hits and hard shots, and Wednesday night was no different.

"I have gear on and I'm scared sometimes," Smith said.

Gordon is expected to skate Friday morning before Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena.

Another injured Coyotes forward, Lauri Korpikoski, did practice Thursday. Korpikoski has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury. He also skated Wednesday morning before Game 3.

"It's been a couple days, a few days. Yeah, always day-by-day I am feeling better," Korpikoski said. "It is good. I think I've been game-time [decision] for a while now, so it is the same. We'll see how it goes."

Added Tippett: "We're just day-to-day. We'll continue tomorrow. He's out there and trying to get himself going."

Korpikoski had 17 goals and 37 points this season for the Coyotes while playing in all 82 regular-season games. He also missed two contests during the opening round against Chicago because of an upper-body injury.

"I missed a couple in the first series and it wasn't fun," he said. "To miss a couple again, it is tough. I feel a lot more tired than if I was playing. It is not fun to watch those games, but hopefully I can get back soon."




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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 2:57 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Fisher doesn't mind a little bit of luck

NASHVILLE -- Mike Fisher has put shots on net this postseason that he thought were going in, so naturally his first goal of this postseason came on a pass.

Fisher gave the Nashville Predators a 2-0 lead in Game 3 of this Western Conference Semifinal on Wednesday, which helped his team cut Phoenix's series lead to 2-1 and snapped a personal goal drought that had reached 16 postseason games.

"Yeah, it is always nice to get one. It had been a while," Fisher said Thursday after practice at Bridgestone Arena. "I was getting some chances, they just hadn't gone in. Hopefully that will be a little monkey off the back and I can get going now."

Martin Erat started the play by stripping Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and then he sent a pass to Sergei Kostitsyn, who was alone in front of goaltender Mike Smith. Kostitsyn one-touched the puck to Fisher, who probably was in a less enviable scoring position.

When Fisher tried to send the puck back to Kostitsyn, it deflected off Smith's outstretched stick and knuckled over his right shoulder into the net.

"He kind of had his back turned so he was in a different position," Fisher said. "He gave it to me right away and I was just trying to go back to him back door and got a lucky bounce. I'll take it. It usually evens itself out. Some you think you should score and you don't, and others you just get lucky. That's just the way it goes sometimes."

Added Erat: "With Sergei, I'm not surprised with anything. I get used to it. He made the great play and it ends in up the net. That's most important. ... Mike does a lot of good things. It is not all about the scoring. In the playoffs, you've got guys who are going to score. Third-line, fourth-line guys are going to score, but it is all about the 60 minutes and Mike puts the effort every night on the ice."

Fisher's playoff drought dated back to the middle of the first round of last year's playoffs. He went without a goal in the Predators' second-round loss to the Vancouver Canucks and didn't have one in the first seven games of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There were some extenuating circumstances last year, however. While Fisher scored three goals in the first three games against Anaheim in the opening round, he played the entire postseason with an ailing shoulder -- an injury that needed surgery to correct in the offseason.

"I wasn't able to be physical as I wanted to, and I wasn't able to have that same impact," Fisher said. "At the same time, I was able to play, but definitely I feel much better this year. Especially in the last half, it has been much stronger and the physical part of the game has been much better.

"It was an ongoing thing I had been dealing with for quite a long time. I had just lost a lot of strength and wasn't able to do certain things, especially physically, defensively and use it the way I wanted to. I'm obviously glad I got it done."
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I didn't think it would actually work, but it ended up working, so I'm thanking my lucky stars tonight.

— Columbus forward Nick Foligno on scoring the overtime goal after telling the Blue Jackets in the locker room that he would win the game