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Posted On Tuesday, 05.21.2013 / 1:13 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Bruins-Rangers series blog

Rangers rely on more Madison Square Garden magic

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers went 3-0 at Madison Square Garden in advancing past the Washington Capitals in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Now, down 2-0 to the Boston Bruins entering Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), the Rangers will need that hometown advantage if they hope to get back in this series.

Just don't ask them to explain their remarkable record at home.

"Really, I don't know. It confuses me why some pucks go in at home when they don't go in in certain situations on the road. Who knows why?" Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I think today's game is a lot different from back in the '70s, when there was a real distinct advantage to playing at home. I don't think there is [an advantage today]. But there must be. The record shows it."

Posted On Tuesday, 05.21.2013 / 1:00 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Bruins-Rangers series blog

Rangers hope Brassard at point sparks power play

NEW YORK -- Since being acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline from the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers forward Derick Brassard has done practically everything asked of him.

In 13 regular-season games with New York, he had five goals and 11 points. He then added nine points in the final five games of the Rangers' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, helping them rally past the Washington Capitals.

With New York down 2-0 in their conference semifinal series with the Boston Bruins heading into Game 3 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), Brassard may have his most difficult task yet: Bringing the Rangers' dormant power play back to life.

Brassard briefly played the point on the Rangers' first power-play unit in Game 2 and continued to practice his point play with New York's defensemen in an optional skate held Tuesday morning. It's not the first time he's quarterbacked his team's power play, but he admits the dynamic of playing the point with the man-advantage is a significant change from playing down low.

Posted On Tuesday, 05.21.2013 / 12:25 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Bruins-Rangers series blog

Rangers' Staal, Powe skate but not likely to play

NEW YORK -- Defenseman Marc Staal and forward Darroll Powe, neither of whom has played for the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Boston Bruins, were among 14 players who participated in an optional team skate Tuesday. However, it remains unlikely either will play in Game 3 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Staal played 17:17 in New York's 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series but has not played since. Following an optional skate that wasn't overly strenuous, Staal's locker stall remained mostly empty.

Powe hasn't played since a collision with Washington's Joel Ward in Game 3.

"I feel good," Powe said. "It's good to be back out on the ice skating with the guys. I'm just trying to do skating, work out and try to get back in the lineup. It's all part of the process, just getting back on the ice and playing hockey again. That's where I'm at right now."

Posted On Sunday, 05.12.2013 / 9:15 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Capitals-Rangers series blog

In tight series, bad bounces play large role

NEW YORK -- In the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals' evened-up Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Capitals hold a slim 12-11 scoring advantage in what has been the closest series so far of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two games have ended overtime and most contests have been decided by the slightest of bounces.

Heading into Game 7 Monday night in Washington, that likely means that one player's bad bounce could mean the difference between advancing to the second round and going home for the summer.

That was the case in Sunday's Game 6, as Derick Brassard's point shot deflected off the glove of Capitals rookie Steve Oleksy and into the Capitals’ net. That one bad bounce would be the deciding play in New York's 1-0 victory.

Posted On Sunday, 05.12.2013 / 3:24 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Capitals-Rangers series blog

Capitals look to withstand early Rangers attack

NEW YORK -- Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates revealed on Sunday that he would not be making any changes to his lineup heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers.

Sporting mostly the same lineup that has given the team a 3-2 series lead, Oates acknowledged that the Capitals' chances of closing out this opening-round series could hinge on the opening moments in front of what figures to be a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd.

"Obviously it's their building. They're going to feel good in front of their home crowd. We need a good start to get into the game," Oates said. "We expect them to come hard. We just need to handle all the decisions you need to make early to get into the game. We can't give them any more ammo."

Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 2:59 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Vokoun, Kennedy provide enviable depth for Penguins

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- With the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins tied 2-2 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the underdog New York Islanders, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma decided it was time to make changes to his lineup. Fortunately for him, his team's deep roster included the kind of veteran players any team would want.

The big move was naming veteran backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun the team's starter for Game 5 on Thursday in Pittsburgh. The switch was made after regular starter Marc-Andre Fleury struggled badly in Pittsburgh's 6-4 Game 4 loss.

For any team, naming a new starting goaltender midway through a Stanley Cup Playoff series would be controversial. But not every team has a backup goaltender with 300 career NHL wins under his belt.

Vokoun made 31 saves for the shutout in Pittsburgh's Game 5 win and will start again for the Penguins in Game 6 Saturday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

"Throughout this season for us, he's been a guy who, not only in the games but off the ice as well, has been a leader," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of Vokoun. "When he's gotten in there, he tends to have a calming influence with how he plays and dictates the game. He's been that for us and I thought in Game 5 he gave that for our team."

Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 1:55 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Penguins looking to close out Islanders in Game 6

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A convincing 4-0 win against the New York Islanders in Game 5 on Thursday at home shifted momentum squarely toward the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins.

But coach Dan Bylsma made it very clear before Game 6 here Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) he had no intention of bringing their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series back to Pittsburgh for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday.

"That is our mentality. We don't have six periods, we just have three," Bylsma said following the team's morning skate Saturday. "The fourth game is the hardest to win and we expect the very best from their team [Saturday]. We have to be ready for that."

Posted On Wednesday, 05.08.2013 / 2:12 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Capitals-Rangers series blog

Holtby's puck-handling proving key in series

NEW YORK -- As in any series, the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers has come down to the play of both teams' starting goaltenders. Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby have come up with remarkable saves at the timeliest of moments, but when it comes to one aspect of this series, which Washington leads 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Wednesday (NBCSN, TSN, RDS2), Holtby does hold one sizeable advantage over the defending Vezina Trophy winner.

Against an aggressive Rangers team that has been keyed by its energetic forecheck, Holtby's puck-handling skills have been vital to the Capitals' potent breakout. While Lundqvist never has been known for playing the puck, Holtby occasionally has seen fit to fire a two-line pass down the wing, squashing any opportunities for the Rangers to set up in the Capitals' zone.

"It's been huge," defenseman Mike Green said of Holtby's puck-handling. "He's been great at it all year. Especially being a defenseman, it really helps out. It's another utility that we can use. Also, we don't have to go back and pick up pucks behind the net. He's making plays. Not many goalies can do that. It's impressive."

Posted On Wednesday, 05.08.2013 / 1:54 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Capitals-Rangers series blog

Laich skates, still no timetable for return

NEW YORK -- After being limited to nine games this season and dealing with an aggravation of an injury that held him out of the first two months of the 2012-13 season, Brooks Laich's first practice in over a month didn't get off to a smooth start.

The Washington Capitals forward, who hasn't played since April 4, lost an edge and stumbled into the boards at the beginning of the team's morning skate prior to Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers, which the Capitals lead 2-1.

Laich and his teammates got a nice chuckle out of the fall.

"That was the first contact I've taken in a while. It felt good to get into that," Laich said following the skate. "It was a bit of a wake-up call, maybe. The guys had a good laugh at it. I had a good laugh at it too."

Posted On Tuesday, 05.07.2013 / 8:27 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Neal and Orpik return for Penguins in Game 4

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Defenseman Brooks Orpik and forward James Neal are in the Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup Tuesday night for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

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Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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