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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 4:56 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Sens guardedly optimistic about Alfredsson

KANATA, Ont. – Ottawa coach Paul MacLean played it close to the vest after Sunday afternoon’s optional skate at Scotiabank Place. The news was guardedly positive on Daniel Alfredsson, who received a blow to the head from the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin during Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Saturday.

“[Alfredsson] was feeling good today,” MacLean said. “He’ll be further evaluated and we’ll see what he’s like [on Monday]. At this point, I don’t know [if he’ll take part in the morning skate]. I don’t have an opinion on [the hit] at any time. It’s playoff hockey. It’s Brendan [Shanahan’s] job.”

Carl Hagelin does face a disciplinary hearing with Shanahan on sunday for the elbow, which was penalized by a five-minute major.

MacLean was also happy with the way his team played in Game 2 after appearing to struggle with the pace and intensity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 1.

“I think the whole game, we played physical. The puck contests were physical. I thought we handled momentum in the second game better, and we handled the 60 minutes [well], not like the first game where we had a four or five minute lull. We need to keep that going.”
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 4:49 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Sens enjoy day of rest

KANATA, Ont. – The Ottawa Senators held an optional practice Sunday afternoon, with only a handful of  players taking a twirl on the ice.

Colin Greening, Chris Neil, Craig Anderson and Jim O’Brien were witnessed playing a spirited game of soccer in the halls of Scotiabank Place. Kaspars Daugavins, Matt Carkner, Bobby Butler, Rob Klinkhammer, Alex Auld and Ben Bishop were the few who chose to lace up the skates.

“Today is just going to be a rest day for us, and try and get away from the game a little bit,” Jason Spezza said. “Eat well, sleep well … tomorrow we regain our focus. We went over the video of [Saturday’s] game; stuff we did [well], stuff we need to improve on. Now we park that game.”

After tying their series with the Rangers 1-1 at Madison Square Garden, the Sens are content to get back in their own building.

“We’re happy to be home now in front of our fans,” Spezza said. “We’re excited to see the reception we get here. Now we have the opportunity to use the crowd to our advantage. Hopefully they’ll come support us and give us that extra little bit of energy.”
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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.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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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.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 5:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Senators shake up routine in search of Game 2 spark

NEW YORK -- The Ottawa Senators broke away from the normal routine Friday following a tough loss Thursday in order to refresh and prepare for a long series.

Instead of holding practice at Madison Square Garden the day before Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the New York Rangers on Saturday, the Senators skated at Chelsea Piers on Friday afternoon.

While it was a fun experience for the players, coach Paul MacLean also put his team through a pretty intense, hour-long workout.

"It was a good, sharp practice," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "It was a different atmosphere to practice in, with the open concept with the windows, but it was a really focused practice. I think you can tell we wanted to make sure we were sharp, and we worked on some things we wanted to do better. But I thought the guys were really crisp … it was more of a workmanlike day."

Still, for some players, like goalie Craig Anderson, a pair of sunglasses would have probably come in handy.

"It was interesting since there was a glare of the sun off the ice, but it was fun," Anderson said. "It was good to get out there, get some confidence and enjoy ourselves. We wanted to keep working on our game. Work on the little things that, going forward, will help us get to where we want to be.

"But I must say, the guys were taking advantage of the goalies with that glare on the ice."

Spezza feels that MacLean's coaching philosophy all season will only help the team in a tight series against the Rangers.

"I think Paul tries to get us to play a game that correlates well to playoff hockey," Spezza said. "We like to get pucks deep, bang the body and get in on the forecheck and that's why we feel comfortable playing playoff games. I don't feel like we have to change too much because that foundation we've been building as a team all season is how we want to play in the playoffs."

That's something that, perhaps, wasn't evident in years' past.

"Maybe we were a little more run-and-gun and scored a lot of goals in previous years," Spezza said. "You're not going to have a lot of high-scoring games in the playoffs, so we're used to playing tight games. We're not used to blowing teams out, so we're comfortable in those tight games."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:36 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Senators keen to limit turnovers, breakdowns

NEW YORK -- Players for the Ottawa Senators pointed to breakdowns at critical moments Thursday against the New York Rangers as the primary reason for their opening-game loss at Madison Square Garden.

"We have to be better with the puck," goalie Craig Anderson told the media following practice Friday at Chelsea Piers. "We didn't manage the puck well when it was on our stick and we didn't make good plays. Turnovers will cost you."

The Senators committed eight giveaways in the 4-2 loss. In the final half of the second period, the Rangers outshot the Senators, 8-2, and outscored the visitors, 2-0.

"We feel like we can play with them," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "I think we just played pretty good at times, and kind of got away from our game and that's when they took over -- that's what makes them the best team in the East."

The Rangers entered their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators as the top seed in the conference. The underdog Senators were seeded eighth.

"They were probably more consistent than us but the feeling is optimism," Spezza said. "You have to be prepared to lose games to win in the playoffs, and we're not going to win them all, so we're optimistic we can make this a series and beat these guys. We just have to play a little better."

Anderson, who allowed four goals on 31 shots, admitted he must also play better.

"There will be breakdowns every game, and it's my job to step up and make the save for the guys," Anderson said. "The less mistakes you make, the fewer chances we give and we gave them chances [in Game 1] and they capitalized."

Senators coach Paul MacLean knows if his team has any chance of advancing in the playoffs, it must learn to play a full 60-minute game.

"We weren't horrible for parts of the game, but in the playoffs, you need to be good the whole game," MacLean said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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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.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo


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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:20 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Sens might deploy top forwards together more

NEW YORK -- Don't be surprised to see the trio of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek on the ice a lot more when the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers resumes Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

After all, whenever Senators coach Paul MacLean needed an offensive spark at any point this season, he usually had the team's top-scoring forwards leading the charge.

"They bring a lot of experience and it's definitely a line that can generate offense on a consistent basis," MacLean told the media following his team's practice Friday at Chelsea Piers.

"If we do that, we'll have to juggle things a little bit; we might do it within the game or before the game. I haven't decided yet."

Sitting out the optional practice were captain Alfredsson, forward Chris Neil and defenseman Erik Karlsson. MacLean said all three players were just resting and will be in the lineup Saturday.

In a 4-2 loss Thursday to the Rangers in Game 1, Spezza spent a majority of the game centering Colin Greening and Michalek. Alfredsson, meanwhile, was alongside center Kyle Turris and left wing Nick Foligno. MacLean did put Alfredsson, Spezza and Michalek on the same line at certain points in the game in an attempt to ignite the attack.

In addition to adding some offensive punch, MacLean also expects his team to play with more of an edge.

"I would expect the physical side of the game to increase anyway in the second game … our physical side of the game needs to improve and we welcome that," MacLean said.

Spezza said the team did their normal off-day routine, watching video and discussing ways they could improve.

"We did a better job of getting the middle of the ice in the third period, getting guys driving on their goalie and just trying to make it harder for them," Spezza said. "They do such a good job of blocking shots and collapsing, that we have to use our points and try to spread the rink a little bit. Some of the stuff we did toward the end of the game got us [two] goals.

"I think another key is having composure with the puck," Spezza continued. "It's easy to say to be composed and take your time, but when you get out there, things are exciting and jumpy. Getting that first game under our belt was good; I feel we'll be a little more composed moving forward."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Quote of the Day

[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.

— Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Mathieu Perreault, who scored two goals in win against Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday