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Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 12:18 PM

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

Neal, Orpik out of Pittsburgh lineup

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Neither wing James Neal nor defenseman Brooks Orpik accompanied the Pittsburgh Penguins for the team's pre-game warmups prior to Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the New York Islanders. Their absence means they will not dress for the game and that Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will stick to mostly the same lineup that fell 4-3 to the Islanders in Game 2 at Consol Energy Center Friday night.

The only lineup change will be on defense, where Simon Despres will replace Deryk Engelland

Neal skated briefly on Saturday and Orpik worked with team strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar Sunday morning, but neither appears ready to return from their respective lower-body injuries.

Here are the projected lines for the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday afternoon against the New York Islanders:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Beau Bennett - Evgeni Malkin - Jarome Iginla

Brenden Morrow - Brandon Sutter - Matt Cooke

Tanner Glass - Jussi Jokinen - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Douglas Murray - Matt Niskanen

Mark Eaton - Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tomas Vokoun

Scratched: Deryk Engelland, Tyler Kennedy, Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Hartzell

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body), James Neal (lower body), Joe Vitale (lower body)

Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 12:05 PM

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

Buzz spreading prior to Game 3 at Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders haven't played a home playoff game since 2007, so you can hardly blame the team's fans for lining up outside Nassau Coliseum at 7 a.m. for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Just one problem: the parking lot didn't open until 8 a.m.

Hours before puck drop, there was still a modest turnout in the parking lot, with loyal fans enjoying what would be an abbreviated tailgate experience before the early noon ET start. Even before ticketholders were allowed in the building, there was a palpable buzz throughout the arena.

"It's going to be sick," one young security guard said.

"I don't think I've ever seen it this busy," one usher said to another as spectators started to file into the building.

Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 10:50 AM

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

Status of Neal, Orpik for Game 3 remains unknown

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, who is nursing a lower-body injury and has not played since April 23, participated without equipment in solo skating and puck-handling drills with Pittsburgh strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar for at least 30 minutes prior to Pittsburgh's Sunday matinee against the New York Islanders.

Orpik didn't appear to show any major strain or discomfort in the drill but his status remains uncertain for Game 3 of Pittsburgh's Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Islanders. While Orpik skated, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma refused to divulge any information about his lineup, only saying that the game's 12 pm E.T. start (NBC) would not affect his players or his decisions.

"Obviously no morning skate today. But we have and do play a fair amount of odd-timed games," Bylsma said. "This is as early as you get, but we're somewhat accustomed to playing games at a different time."

Pittsburgh saw the return of captain Sidney Crosby on Friday in a 4-3 loss Friday in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Consol Energy Center. And while Crosby scored twice in his first game action since March 30, the team was still without Orpik and James Neal, who played a bit more than eight minutes in Game 1 against the Islanders before leaving with a suspected ankle injury.

Byslma would not comment on the status of either player.

More will be known about the status of these players - as well as forward Joe Vitale, who has been out since April 20 with a lower-body injury - closer to game time.

Just to have some fun with the press, Neal pretended to use a hockey stick as a crutch and walked with a mock limp as he passed by members of the media prior to Bylsma's press conference.

Posted On Wednesday, 05.01.2013 / 12:41 PM

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

Quick start from top line has been key for Rangers

Any line featuring a captain partnered with the squad's leading scorer and one of the NHL's fastest skaters would be looked to for scoring and leadership on every shift. But for the New York Rangers' top line of captain Ryan Callahan, leading scorer Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin -- who won the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition at the 2012 All-Star Game -- a good start has been just as critical as a good finish.

Posted On Saturday, 04.27.2013 / 2:02 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Devils face Rangers squad looking to climb standings

NEW YORK -- With a long offseason awaiting the New Jersey Devils after the season finale Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, coach Peter DeBoer was adamant his team wouldn't be a pushover against the New York Rangers.

As for their rivals from across the Hudson River, New York clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth Thursday and are jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference.

"We came to win the game. You just want to finish the right way," DeBoer said Saturday. "I think we have enough professionalism that I don't see that being an issue. The big thing we've talked about is not letting our play drop because of the situation we're in. We've played some very good hockey the last three weeks."

Posted On Sunday, 04.21.2013 / 2:29 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Rangers icing same lineup against Devils

NEW YORK -- Last summer the New York Rangers' season ended against the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They now have an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge, as they can eliminate the Devils from postseason contention with a win Sunday at Madison Square Garden (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

They'll go about doing that by icing the same lineup that has scored 14 goals in the past two games, including a franchise-record five goals in a span of 2:58 Friday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals on 28 shots in Buffalo, but he will be back in the crease Sunday for his eleventh straight start. Before the Rangers' 8-4 win Friday, Lundqvist had allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of his past 15 games.

Here is the projected lineup for the Rangers:

Posted On Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 6:08 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Kreider replaces Boyle in Rangers lineup

NEW YORK -- With his team slated to play three games in four nights heading into the final stretch of the regular season, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella confirmed that forward Brian Boyle would not be in the lineup for any of those contests, starting with Thursday's home matchup against the Florida Panthers.

Replacing Boyle will be 21-year-old Chris Kreider, who the Rangers called up Wednesday from Connecticut of the American Hockey League. In the past month, Tortorella has voiced his reluctance to stifle the development of players such as Kreider and prospect JT Miller, both of whom have seen action with the Rangers this season. But in the end, he saw Kreider's speed as an asset for his team.

"There were a number of players we talked about [calling up]. What we settled on was his speed," Tortorella said. "I'm still not crazy about bringing a kid here. We felt with his assets, his speed especially, that's what we would go with."

Boyle was ruled out for Thursday's game with a leg injury. In 17 games with the Rangers this season, Kreider has two goals and three points.

Posted On Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 3:36 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Kreider back with Rangers, focused on wins

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Since the beginning of the NHL season, forward Chris Kreider has had three separate stints with the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League. But after being called up Wednesday, Kreider is excited to be back with the New York Rangers in April.

It was around this time last season the Boston College product saw his first NHL action, contributing five goals in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games as the Rangers advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. After collecting three points in 17 games this season, Kreider would love nothing more than to make a similar contribution in the postseason.

"I think it was around this time that I got that opportunity," Kreider said following Thursday's optional team skate. "That being said, it's an entirely different situation. I'm looking forward to trying to seize that opportunity."

Posted On Wednesday, 04.10.2013 / 6:51 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Van Riemsdyk, Franson draw on playoff experience

Sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference with 48 points entering Wednesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs have put themselves in a favorable position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

And with each game growing more and more important as the season winds down, playoff experience is proving important for a team that doesn't have a lot of it.

One of the League's youngest teams, Toronto has 15 players on its roster who have never played in an NHL playoff game. And for the two players who have seen postseason action in the past two years -- James van Riemsdyk and Cody Franson -- there's an implicit understanding of how important Wednesday's game will be against the Rangers, who sit eighth in the East with 42 points.

"[Games] always get tight going towards the end of the season. Teams are trying to make a push or hold a spot. We're trying to put ourselves in a good position," said Franson, who saw playoff action in 2011 with the Nashville Predators. "You're going to see a lot of one-goal games coming down the stretch. That's just the way it's going to be. We're prepared for that."

Posted On Wednesday, 04.10.2013 / 6:44 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Tortorella wants Rangers stronger in front of own net

Coming off a 4-3 loss Monday night against a Toronto Maple Leafs squad that has given teams trouble with its aggressive forecheck, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella on Wednesday stressed the importance of his team being stronger in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"We need to defend better. Certainly around our net," Tortorella said before the rematch at Madison Square Garden. "Our D have moved away from our net. So we need to straighten that out."

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It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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