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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 11:15 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Ellerby back on ice, Garrison remains out

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers' defensive corps remained in flux after their practice Monday.

Jason Garrison didn't take part in the short practice, but Keaton Ellerby was back on the ice after missing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey.

Garrison was a late scratch for Game 4 Thursday and also sat out the Panthers' 3-0 victory in Game 5 with a lower-body injury.

Coach Kevin Dineen said Garrison would be making the trip to New Jersey, where the team will meet Tuesday in Game 6.

"It's day-to-day," Dineen said. "We're encouraged that he may get a skate in tomorrow and see if he has a chance of playing tomorrow night."

Ellerby, meanwhile, sat out Game 5 after sustaining a lower-body injury when he was checked into the New Jersey bench by Stephen Gionta. Ellerby, who was in the lineup in Game 4 in place of Garrison, was seeing his first action since March 15.

Dineen said Ellerby's status would be determined by how his body will react to skating on Monday.

With Garrison and Ellerby both out, Tyson Strachan played in his first NHL playoff game in Game 5 after being recalled from San Antonio.

Strachan, who played 67 regular season over parts of four seasons with the St. Louis Blues, appeared in 15 games for the Panthers in 2011-12.

Strachan played 13:26 in Game 5 and finished with a plus-1 ratio.

"He stepped right in and kept things simple," Dineen said. "He created some offense with his powerful shot. That's the advantage of having a guy that's played 15 games during the regular season. He's got a little bit of familiarity with our group, and I thought he did a good job for us."

Along with Garrison, the other player who didn't practice Monday was forward Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann played in Saturday's game after not being on the ice for the morning skate.

"Just keep giving him maintenance days," Dineen said. "He seems to react very well to days off. That's the thinking with him."

Fleischmann's place on the Panthers' top line in Monday's practice was taken by Wojtek Wolski, who has been a healthy scratch the last three games.

Here were the Panthers' practice forward lines:

Wojtek Wolski - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Shawn Matthias - Jerred Smithson - Scottie Upshall
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Extras:

Krystofer Barch
Mike Santorelli
Matt Bradley (injured)
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 6:32 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Garrison scratched for Game 5

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers again will be without defenseman Jason Garrison for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey.

Garrison was a late scratch Thursday because of a lower-body injury and coach Kevin Dineen said Saturday morning a decision on his status for Game 5 would come after warmups. But Garrison wasn't on the ice for warmups.

His status was described by the team Thursday as "day-to-day."

Taking Garrison's place on defense Saturday is Tyson Strachan, who was called up from San Antonio.

The 27-year-old veteran, who played 15 regular season games for the Panthers this season and has played 82 career games, will be making his playoff debut.

Keaton Ellerby, who replaced Garrison in the lineup Thursday but sustained a lower-body injury in the second period, also was among the Panthers scratches Saturday.

Jose Theodore is starting in net for the Panthers after Scott Clemmensen got the nod in Game 4.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:09 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers don't expect any more help from Brodeur

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers saw Martin Brodeur struggle against them earlier this week, only to bounce back with a more Brodeur-like performance.

And while they’d love nothing more than to get a few more soft goals in Game 5, they know the odds of Brodeur letting that happen again aren’t good.

“He’s a world-class goalie,” Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said after the morning skate Saturday. “The game when he got pulled, he wasn’t at this best, but the last game we played him he was on top of his game. He stopped every shot. We just have to keep putting pucks on net. Eventually it’s going to go in, we know that.”

Brodeur was pulled after giving up three goals in Game 3 when the Panthers rallied from a quick 3-0 deficit to win 4-3.

But in Game 4, Brodeur stopped all 26 shots he faced to set an NHL record with his 24th career playoff shutout.

“You play against a goalie like that, you don’t expect him to let in weak goals, but at the end of the day he’s human,” Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. “If you keep shooting pucks at him and keep getting traffic in front of him, you’re going to find a way to score some goals. If he sees it without any traffic, he’s going to save it, so we’ve got to get bodies in front of him and try and get screens and rebounds, second and third chances. That’s the way you’re going to score.”

For New Jersey, Brodeur’s impressive performance Thursday is one big reason to feel confident heading into Game 5.

“We always expect him to play like that,” captain Zach Parise said. “For whatever reason, things just didn’t go well in Game 3 and he bounced back and had a great game in Game 4. We all expect the same thing tonight. Not putting any pressure on him or anything, that’s just the way we expect him to play game in and game out."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:03 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Prjoected lineups for Game 5

SUNRISE, Fla. — After going with Scott Clemmensen in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey, it appears Florida coach Kevin Dineen will go back to Jose Theodore in net for Game 5.

As is his custom, Dineen made no announcement about his starting goalie after the morning skate, but Theodore worked out at the net normally featuring the starter.

Theodore started the first three games, but was pulled only 6:16 into Game 3 after New Jersey quickly took a 3-0 lead.

Clemmensen stopped all 19 shots he faced in relief of Theodore, helping the Panthers rally for a 4-3 victory and earning his first career playoff start in the process.

Dineen said he never has to worry about his goalies’ state of mind when making his decisions.

“They’re always guys that not just this year, it’s in years past, they understand the situation,” Dineen said. “Nothing has to be painted out to them and we expect them to go out and do the job like they have their whole careers.”

Injured defensemen Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby were among the only three players not taking part in the morning skate. The other was forward Tomas Fleischmann, but Dineen explained that the Panthers were “trying to save all his energies for the game.”

For the Devils, coach Pete DeBoer indicated his lineup will be the same as it has been for the first four games of the series.

The Devils held an optional skate on Saturday, and five players took to the ice. The group included Ilya Kovalchuk, backup goalie Johan Hedberg, and the three healthy scratches — Adam Larsson, Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen.

Kovalchuk and rookie Adam Henrique were the only two Devils players who didn’t take part in practice Friday in New Jersey.

Here are the projected lineups for Game 5 between the Devils and Panthers:

DEVILS

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Shawn Matthias - Jerred Smithson - Scottie Upshall
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Devils hope record-setting PK back in control

SUNRISE, Fla. — After finally shutting down the Florida power play in Game 4, the New Jersey Devils are hoping they have gotten their record-setting penalty kill back on track.

The Devils, who set a modern-era record with an 89.6 percent efficiency rate on the PK in the regular season, watched Florida go 6-for-10 on the power play in the first three games.

But New Jersey killed off all six Florida power plays Thursday in a 4-0 victory in Game 4.

“It seems like special teams has played a huge part in this series,” Devils captain Zach Parise said Saturday morning. “Their power play has beaten us single-handedly in some games. It was really important for us to get that first kill last game. Everyone on the penalty kill relaxed a little bit after we got that one.”

Florida, which finished tied for seventh in power-play efficiency in the regular season at 18.5 percent, went 5-for-7 with the man advantage in Games 2 and 3.

Not surprisingly, the Panthers won both games to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

In Game 2 at BankAtlantic Center, Devils defenseman Andy Greene was called for a tripping penalty 11 seconds into the game and Stephen Weiss scored on the power play just 23 seconds in to give Florida a quick lead.

Weiss added a second power-play goal 1:12 into the second period and the Panthers went on to win 4-2.

The Panthers’ 3-for-3 performance on the power play in Game 3 was the difference in their 4-3 comeback victory after they trailed 3-0 after only 6:16.

Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said the big difference for the penalty-killing units in Game 4 was playing more under control.

"In the first two, three games, we tried to do too much,” Kovalchuk said. “We tried to do somebody’s job and got out of position because of the emotions. But in Game 4 it was really focusing on your own job, what you’ve got to do to get the job done. That’s why we were good.”

While New Jersey shut out the Panthers power play in Game 4, its own power play went 2-for-4.

The first goal of the game, and ultimately the game-winner, came when Zach Parise tipped Marek Zidlicky’s shot from the point with the man advantage in the second period.

“You look at the four games and for the most part whoever’s won the special teams battle has ended up winning the game,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “That happens everywhere in the league. We knew going into the series how good their power play was. I’m hopeful that we found a way to shut it down and that it’ll continue."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 11:45 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers' Garrison questionable, Strachan recalled

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers once again could be without key defenseman Jason Garrison in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Saturday.

Garrison, who was a late scratch in Game 4 on Thursday because of a lower-body injury, did not take part in the Panthers’ morning skate Saturday and coach Kevin Dineen said his availability will be determined after pregame warmups.

“He’s still a possibility,” Dineen said. “To put him out there for a 13-minute skate didn’t make a lot of sense this morning. We’ll see where he’s at. He’s questionable for tonight. We’re cautious and we’ll see where we end up.”

The Panthers, who also will be without Keaton Ellerby for Game 5, still had six defensemen on the ice at the morning skate after calling up Tyson Strachan from San Antonio of the AHL.

Ellerby, playing his first game since March 15 as Garrison’s replacement, sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Game 5.

The 27-year-old Strachan played in 15 regular season games for the Panthers after being called up in January, recording three points and a plus-1 ratio, and was signed to a one-year contract extension the following month.

“He’s played some really strong stretches of hockey, so if needed, certainly he can go in and do the job for us,” Dineen said. “The organization has faith in him. We signed him to a contract after a month here and I think that was very deserving that he came in and showed that he can play a regular shift in the NHL. And if he can do it in the regular season, he can do it in the playoffs.”

Strachan has appeared in 82 NHL games during his career, but has yet to play in a playoff game.

He played in San Antonio’s 5-4 overtime victory against the Chicago Wolves on Thursday in Game 1 of their AHL playoff series and flew to South Florida on Friday.

“There’s mixed emotions about that,” Strachan said of leaving his Rampage teammates behind. “Obviously you want them to be winning down there, but at the same time the chance to be up here and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a hard one to pass up. Just excited to be here and help out if they need me.”

Garrison, who led all Florida defensemen in the regular season with 16 goals and logged the second-most ice time behind Brian Campbell, clearly is an important player for the Panthers.

But the Devils said they weren’t concerning themselves with Garrison’s status.

“I don’t know exactly who’s in and not in,” captain Zach Parise said. “I don’t know if Garrison (is playing) or who they’ve got in. Regardless, our approach is going to be the same. It’s always been try to make it hard on their D, get it below them, forecheck hard. They’ve got offensive guys that want to jump in the rush, so we’ve got to make it harder for them to do that.”

Teammate Ilya Kovalchuk was more succinct: “It’s their problem, it’s not our problem. We just have to think about our game if he’s playing or not.”

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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:12 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Garrison could return for Game 5, but Ellerby out

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers could have defenseman Jason Garrison back for Saturday's Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against New Jersey, but coach Kevin Dineen said Keaton Ellerby will not be available.

Ellerby sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Thursday's 4-0 loss at New Jersey in Game 4 when he was checked by Devils center Stephen Gionta into the Devils bench where the open door meets the stanchion. Ellerby was making his first appearance since March 15.

Ellerby was in the lineup because Garrison was a late scratch because of a lower-body injury. Dineen said the Panthers were "cautiously optimistic" Garrison would be able to play Saturday.

Dineen said the Panthers might call up a defenseman from the AHL's San Antonio Rampage, with the most likely candidate being Tyson Strachan.


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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:41 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Projected lineup for Panthers

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Here is the projected lineup the Panthers will use when the puck drops for Game 3 Tuesday (7 p.m. ET NHLN-US, TSN) against the Devils at Prudential Center:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:01 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers seeking quicker start

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida coach Kevin Dineen partly blamed himself for his team’s poor first period in Friday’s Stanley Cup Playoff opener against New Jersey, and he expects things to be much different in Game 2 on Sunday.

The Panthers fell behind 3-0 to the Devils after being outshot 26-9 in the first period, and that was the difference in New Jersey’s 3-2 victory.

Dineen said he and his players learned their lesson about what the focus needs to be early on.

“Controllables,” Dineen said Sunday morning. “What can you control during the game, and how you react to adversity and things that happen during the course of the game? That’s what I told them, ‘Hey, you’re dealing with a rookie coach.’ I think what happened during that game is I got my focus in the wrong direction early and I think the players read off that a little bit.

“It’s a matter of all of us keeping the focus directed into what you can control, which is what’s going to happen the next time you step on the ice, killing the penalty if that’s the situation, going out there and reacting to both positives and things that may not go your way and just keeping a little more even keel.”

While they’re hoping to avoid a repeat performance of the first period, the Panthers head into Game 2 with some confidence because of the way they responded across the final two periods

Even though the comeback attempt fell short, Florida out-shot New Jersey 17-12 during the final two periods. The Panthers were particularly impressive in the second period when they scored both of their goals while out-shooting the Devils, 11-6.

“You’ve got to run on the confidence we got in the second and third,” said wing Kris Versteeg, who scored Florida’s second goal with 4:18 left in the second. “We know we can play with these guys. They’re obviously a very skilled and very defensively sound team at the same time, but when we play our game, we’re a very good team, too. We got the confidence that we can play with these guys and now it’s about going out there and putting a full 60 (minutes) together.”

The Devils fully expect a better first-period effort from the Panthers on Sunday, but they’re not looking to change much from what they did.

“I would expect them to be a little more aggresssive,” captain Zach Parise said. “But we’ve got to give ourselves some credit, too. We had a great first period. Regardless of what they did right, what they did do wrong, we just had a good first period. There’s no way around that. But I’m sure they’ll play a little more relaxed. On both sides, there’s always first-game jitters. I expect them to be a little more relaxed and at the same time try to dictate the first 5-10 minutes of the game, which you always expect in the playoffs.”

It sure wasn’t lack of intensity that got the Panthers in trouble in the first 20 minutes of Friday’s game. Florida got the first two shots on goal and delivered some big hits.

If anything, maybe the Panthers were too amped.

“They’re going to play harder, but they tried to do that early in the first,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. “But we fed off of that and got turnovers and were able to counteract what they were trying to do. They might be more patient, who knows? They might think, let’s stay in the game and let’s grind it out. That’s what playoff hockey is all about. You can’t just throw everything at once at the other team. It’s 60 minutes and maybe plus.

“We expect the best out of them. We’ve been in that position before to lose the first two games. Mentally, it’s hard to come back. We’re going to try to create that separation in the series, but it’s going to be a tough one.”

The Panthers, whose franchise is on a nine-game playoff losing streak dating back to 1997, will look to avoid joining Vancouver and Pittsburgh as teams in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs to lose the first two games at home.

The Devils, on the other hand, will be looking to go up 2-0 in a series for the 11th time in franchise history. New Jersey is a perfect 10-0 when winning the first two games.

This also would be the fourth time the Devils have taken the first two games on the road. The first three times occurred in the 1995 playoffs when New Jersey won the first of its three Stanley Cup titles.

“It would be great for us to go back to our own rink up 2-0,” Parise said. “That’s the plan. We didn’t come down here with the mind-set of let’s go for a split, like people think. We came down with the intent to win two games. We got off on the right foot. But we have to play even better. We really do. We have to be better in a lot of areas because we know they’re going to be.”

For the Panthers, the biggest improvement clearly has to come in how they start the game.

“We certainly looked like we were overwhelmed,” Dineen said. “The Devils came out flying and our response wasn’t very good. Lesson learned. They’ve been a good starting team all year. It’s something we talked about. Now we’ve seen it live. It’s how you respond. We expect a better response tonight.”
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 5:45 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Brodeur's passing ability causing Panthers problems

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers said they were aware of Martin Brodeur’s passing prowess before the start of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey.

They’re even more cognizant after what happened in Game 1.

“You’ve got to be aware every time,” Panthers wing Kris Versteeg said. “Obviously we talked about it with his quick ups. He’s pretty dangerous obviously. Probably the best goaltender in the League at handling the puck, so we’ve got to be aware of him again tonight. He made us pay last game and obviously it was a big goal.”

Brodeur made 24 saves Friday to record his 100th career playoff victory, but it was his tremendous passing ability that was responsible for perhaps the biggest play in New Jersey’s 3-2 victory.

The Panthers were seconds away from killing off a four-minute Devils power play to keep their deficit at 1-0 when they iced the puck and went for a line change.

After stopping the puck in front of his net, Brodeur didn’t hesitate and fired a perfect pass to teammate David Clarkson at the Florida blue line near the boards. The Panthers never were able to set up defensively and Clarkson flipped the puck inside to Dainius Zubrus, who skated in alone on Jose Theodore and beat him with a wrist shot.

Ryan Carter would score 45 seconds later for a 3-0 lead that would hold up.

“If nobody is in my face, I’m able to make some decent passes,” Brodeur said. “It just worked out that Jose did such a great job killing that penalty almost by himself making seven or eight saves on that power play. When they dumped the puck, they just wanted to change, they didn’t really pay attention. I just caught them off guard. I’m sure it’s going to be harder to do now. I’m sure they’ll be aware of it.”

If nothing else, the Panthers learned the hard way they can never relax when Brodeur has the puck.

“You have to pay attention to their goalie,” Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “He is the best in the League at moving the puck and he can catch you sleeping, absolutely. Getting the puck in deep and getting hard to the bench is extremely key and being extremely aware of when he has the puck and where you’re placing it as you’re dumping it in.”

The Panthers have plenty of company when it comes to getting burned by Brodeur’s passing.

Friday’s assist was his ninth in the playoffs. He also has a goal, a rink-long wrister into an open net at the end of a 5-2 victory against Montreal on April 17, 1997.

Brodeur had four assists in the just-completed regular season to match his career high.

“I feel like I’ve seen it a thousand times,” Devils captain Zach Parise said. “I can’t say I’m surprised about it. It’s a great play because if you’re an opposing team you can’t relax on a change and I think that’s what they did a little bit there. He’s got a great ability to pass it up and counteract and we were able to catch them. It’s a nice weapon for us to have.”

It’s inevitable that Brodeur will wind up playing the puck at other times in this series. The Panthers just don’t want to make it too easy on him.

“You have to put the puck into a place,” Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. “The game is easy when Marty can go back there and make the kind of direct tape-to-tape passes he can. So it’s more placement, where you end up putting the puck before you actually get in on the forecheck.”
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