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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 2:25 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bergeron admits he had oblique injury

BOSTON – Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron told reporters Friday that he played most of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with a strained or torn oblique muscle.

There has been no MRI yet and Bergeron probably will not require surgery.

The veteran said the injury occurred in Game 3 and a twist he made in the second period of Game 5 made it worse. Although his ice time didn't decrease in Games 6 and 7, Bergeron was limited in what he could do to try to prevent the Bruins from losing to Washington.

"Obviously faceoffs. I've done two of them and it was because I had no other choice, they were big faceoffs and we had no other centers on the ice," Bergeron, who won both of those late-game draws, said. "But I really couldn't do it, honestly. It was really painful. I couldn't reach out. Everything you do with reaching out, try to battle with being strong on the stick, I couldn't really do that. I couldn't get full speed. It's your core, so it's pretty much everything, so everything was affected by it."

The Bruins were not done with all their medical examinations as of Friday afternoon. Bruins forward Tyler Seguin might require surgery on a knuckle on his left hand. Forward Nathan Horton and defenseman Adam McQuaid, both of whom are dealing with concussions, are expected to make full recoveries, according to general manager Peter Chiarelli.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:56 PM

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

Projected Game 7 lineup for Capitals

BOSTON -- Jeff Schultz has watched the past three games for the Washington Capitals, but he expects to be back in the lineup for Game 7 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Wednesday night at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins.

John Erskine replaced Schultz in the lineup for Games 4, 5 and 6, but Schultz skated with Dennis Wideman on Washington's third defense pairing in practice Tuesday, and Erskine stayed on the ice for extra work Wednesday morning.

"It will be great," Schultz said. "It was tough watching, but [Erskine] did a great job after not playing for a long time. Now is it is key for me to come back and fill in for him. It is just a matter of going out there and playing. It isn't about worrying about mistakes or playing time -- just go out there and play and do what you do best and do your job."

Alexander Semin did not take part in the morning skate, but coach Dale Hunter said it was optional and he is fine to play. The Capitals are not expected to make any other changes to the lineup.

Here's how the Capitals should look Wednesday night:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Matt Hendricks
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Caron prepared as last-minute addition to lineup

BOSTON -- Sometimes players perform better when they're surprised.

That's what Boston Bruins forward Jordan Caron found out Sunday, when he learned after warmup that he would be in the lineup for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington.

Caron, who hadn't played since April 7 in the Bruins' regular-season finale, made his NHL playoff debut in Boston's 4-3 overtime win. Luckily, over the course of his first full season in the NHL, he's gotten used to going long stretches where he's had to stay sharp even when he wasn't going to play.

"I think it's just a lot of it is mental. I think you just need to prepare even if you don't know if you're playing a lot. You've just got to be ready to jump in and do your job," Caron said Wednesday after the Bruins' morning skate.

Caron probably won't find out about his status for Game 7 until after warmup again. Caron and veteran forward Shawn Thornton, who was the healthy scratch in Game 6, rotated in on Boston's fourth line with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell during line drills at TD Garden.

In Game 6, Caron's ice time was limited to 4:56 and he and his linemates finished the afternoon with a minus-1 rating. But he threw a big hit that created a scoring chance for Campbell, and during his sporadic playing time he looked like the solid two-way player he was during his 48 games in the regular season. He finished the season with seven goals and 15 points, while skating time on pretty much all of Boston's four lines.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he spoke with Caron before the start of the series about being on-call.

"Well we talked to him before the series started, because I thought if anything, he was a real good player for us in that last stretch of the regular season. And it was tough to take him out but we went with some experienced guys, first and foremost," Julien said. "The one thing that we said to him -- we said you've got to stay ready because there's going to come a point where we're going to need you, and obviously we did last game."

While Julien would not disclose the reason he made a lineup change up front for the first time in the series, it's widely believed that Boston did not know how much it would get out of an injured Patrice Bergeron. Caron's skill set and versatility made him a better option for the Bruins if they needed someone to play up in the lineup.

The 21-year-old Caron impressed one of his veteran linemates.

"He did really good," Paille said. "Coming in there, stepping in for playing for Bergy possibly as well, I thought he did a good job. Other than getting scored against, I thought we created some opportunities early on. But he did good for his first game."

Once again, Caron will be ready should Julien have the equipment staff hang a No. 38 stall in the rookie's stall for Game 7.

"I think you just got to stay composed and take it as another game. Of course it's different, but you've got to forget about it, jump out there and be confident," Caron said. "I don't know if I'm going to be playing, but if I am I just got to stay calm and do my job."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 10:52 AM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 7 lineup for Bruins

BOSTON -- Bruins center Patrice Bergeron took the morning skate with his teammates Wednesday and skated in his usual lineup spot between wingers Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley, as the team prepared for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Capitals at TD Garden.

Bergeron did not practice Tuesday due to an undisclosed injury he's been battling through since the second period of Game 5 last Saturday. He played in the Bruins' win in Game 6 Sunday, but was off with the rest of his team Monday and then didn't hit the ice Tuesday. After practice Tuesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he had no concerns about Bergeron missing a game.

When asked if Bergeron would play in Game 7, Julien said: "Yes, I think so."

It's believed Bergeron's injury is of an upper-body nature because he was only able to take one faceoff in Game 6.

The rest of the Bruins' lines were the same as well. Julien will make a game-time decision between veteran Shawn Thornton and rookie Jordan Caron for the 12th forward position. Caron skated in Thornton's place in Game 6.

Here's the Bruins' projected lineup:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton/Jordan Caron

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Mike Mottau

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 1:02 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Game 7 could be last for Caps' Knuble

ARLINGTON, Va. – It remains to be seen whether Washington Capitals forward Mike Knuble will return to the NHL for a 17th season of professional hockey. Knuble becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1- three days before he turns 40 -- and he's coming off his least productive season since the 2001-02 campaign.

Mike Knuble
Right Wing - WSH
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 1 | +/-: 1
After eight straight 20-goal seasons, Knuble was held to six goals and 18 points in 72 games this season. He also missed 10 games as a healthy scratch and finished with a career-worst minus-15 rating.

Knuble is expected to skate on Washington's fourth line Wednesday when the Capitals face the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Game 7 will in fact be Game 1,098 in Knuble's career (regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined). Should the Bruins win, it may also be his last.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 5:33 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Hunter enjoys 'one game takes all' situation

ARLINGTON, Va. -- It has been 24 years since Dale Hunter scored one of the biggest goals in Washington Capitals history -- a Game 7 overtime winner against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinals.

The win against the Flyers came in the first of four Game 7s Hunter would play for the Caps, but the only one in which he left a winner.

Wednesday at TD Garden, Hunter will seek his second career Game 7 win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his first as an NHL coach, when the Caps meet the Boston Bruins in the deciding game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"As a player, I enjoyed them. It was fun. One game takes all," Hunter said. "As a player, you prepare yourself the same way, get ready for the game. And as a coach, you can't get too hyper. You've got to know who's on the ice and who's not. It changes from coach to player, but it’s exciting to be in a Game 7 like this and playing the Boston Bruins."

Hunter coached in five Game 7s with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights (posting a 2-3 record), but his coaching counterpart for Boston, Claude Julien, has been behind an NHL bench for seven Game 7s (4-3 record).

"As a coach, you've got to prepare the guys and then they have to go out and execute," he said. "As a player, you've got to prepare yourself to be ready to play and do the right things. Don't get too high, don't get too low. Just go out and keep it the same."

Like their coach, five current Capitals have also played in four Game 7s with Washington only to come up short three times.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Mike Green will all be appearing in their fifth Game 7 in as many years. This will be their first Game 7 on the road and their first without former coach Bruce Boudreau.

"The only difference is I think we play better defensively this year than previous years," Backstrom said. "It's a good challenge for us to be going to Boston and playing a Game 7 there against the Stanley Cup champions. I think everybody's prepared and we know what's coming."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 4:49 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Capitals rested, ready for Game 7

ARLINGTON, Va. – After winning Game 4 of their 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Montreal’s Bell Centre, the Washington Capitals boarded the team’s charter flight for what was supposed to be a routine trip back to Washington’s Dulles Airport. 

But as the fate of the Presidents’ Trophy winners was about to grow cloudy against Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens, the sky before them grew increasingly foggy.

The fog forced the Caps’ flight to detour twice before eventually landing in Baltimore. By the time customs officials processed the team, it was nearing four in the morning. Some players wouldn’t arrive home until close to 6 a.m.

It turned out the Capitals themselves would become a little foggy in the days ahead -- a tired bunch left scratching their heads, wondering how they could beat Halak and the Canadiens.

One day after their early morning landing, the Caps lost 2-1 in Game 5 on home ice. Captain Alex Ovechkin was on the ice for both goals, and both came from an area of the ice he is expected to defend.

Five days later, the Caps became the first No. 1 seed to blow a 3-1 first-round series lead as the Canadiens beat Washington 2-1 in Game 7.

Two years later, things seemed a whole lot clearer for the Capitals as they prepared Tuesday morning for their first Game 7 since that loss to Montreal.

As the Caps flew to Boston on Tuesday – on a sunny afternoon -- they did so as a rested (two days between Games 6 and 7) and energized group with the experience of multiple Game 7 disappointments and a better understanding of what it takes to win.

“I think it’s a lot different,” said Jason Chimera, who was also part of the 2010 team. “I think it’s a different team. We’re playing the way you have to play in the playoffs and that makes this year different. In other series the past few years we were trading chances, but this year we’ve kept them in check pretty good.”

The Capitals are preparing for their fifth Game 7 in as many years, having gone 1-3 in the previous four. But this is the first Game 7 with Dale Hunter as coach, and he has the Capitals buying into his system and playing a responsible brand of hockey that could be better suited for the postseason.

“When it comes playoff time, you've got to play playoff style hockey,” Hunter said. “That's hard hockey, grinding it out. Limit your turnovers and you've got to go to the net hard. Goals are scored around the blue paint, and that's where you want to score.”

Added Mike Knuble: “In the past when our offense went away or it was a struggle to score goals it was like ‘Now what?’ You’re thinking a little bit ‘Now what are we going to do?’… But this year has just been a little more conservative and a defense-first approach. In the past it was always that we were the team that was going to try and out-score you. We’ve tried to change it around.”
 
Seven current Caps have been with the team for each of Washington’s last four Game 7s, including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Mike Green, John Erskine and Jeff Schultz.
The Caps beat the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but lost in Game 7 one round later against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps also lost in Game 7 of the first round in 2008 against the Philadelphia Flyers and again in 2010 against Montreal.

“Mentally, right now, we are getting better and better all the time. This is the most important thing,” said captain Alex Ovechkin who has two goals and four points in four career Game 7s. “When you play against a Stanley Cup champion in Game 7, you have to [be] clear mentally and you have to be fresh… I think everybody right now is focusing, and everybody knows what exactly they have to do.”

For the Capitals that means sticking to a simple game plan and limiting mistakes. In a Game 6 loss Sunday to Boston, Washington turnovers led to the Bruins’ third and fourth goals in their 4-3 overtime win.

“We definitely don't want to be in a track meet with these guys,” Laich said. “We want to keep the game tight and keep pucks to the outside and chip and chase. It makes their D-men go back and get it… It almost becomes just a game of mistakes. The team that makes the least is probably going to win.”

The Capitals may not have as much playoff experience as the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins, but they don’t seem overwhelmed by the moment either. The Caps have embraced the role of the road underdog- a recent development for a team that hosted its last four Game 7s- and have bought into a system that could be the difference between a Game 7 win or another playoff disappointment.

“Guys are comfortable and confident and that’s what you want going into Game 7,” Knuble said. “You look around the room and know that everybody’s going to be in this game and everybody’s going to show up."


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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Marchand knows what it takes to win a Game 7

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- When the stakes were their highest last June for Game 7, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand came through to make sure his team was the one that raised the Stanley Cup in Vancouver.

Marchand, then a rookie, scored two goals in the final game of the Stanley Cup Final, as the Bruins won the third Game 7 of their historic run. So if anyone knows how to prepare for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington on Wednesday, it's Marchand.

"You just realize and continue to tell yourself that you're fighting for the Stanley Cup and that last effort. And you just leave it all on the ice," Marchand said after an hour-long practice at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday. "It's the same as [Wednesday]. It's either do or die, so we have to prepare the same way and realize that if we want another opportunity we have to win tomorrow."

After scoring 28 goals during his second NHL regular season, Marchand has been uncharacteristically quiet offensively through six games against the Capitals with just one goal and one assist. After he scored that goal and fired five shots on net in Game 5 on Saturday, he landed just two shots on goaltender Braden Holtby in a point-less effort Sunday in Game 6.

"I didn't have a ton offensively, but it was still a decent game. It really doesn't matter now. We won and that's all that matters," he said.

Marchand is one of a handful of Bruins who've played in multiple Game 7s but never lost. He's going to have to produce more like he did against Vancouver than he has against the Capitals to make sure that streak of success continues.




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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:20 AM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bergeron not on ice as Bruins practice

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron did not practice Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, where the team prepared for Wednesday's Game 7 against the Washington Capitals in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Asked if he had any concerns Bergeron would not play in Game 7, Bruins coach Claude Julien replied, "None at all."

Bergeron was banged up in Game 5 last Saturday. He played Sunday in Game 6, but was limited to just one third-period faceoff after he finished second in the NHL in faceoff percentage during the regular season.

The Bruins did not practice Monday and Bergeron did not reveal what was ailing him during a media scrum to discuss his selection as a finalist for the Selke Trophy. In six games of this series, Bergeron has totaled two assists and an even plus/minus rating. In Game 6, he recorded an assist in 19:41 of ice time.

In six career Game 7s, Bergeron has recorded two goals and three points.

Bergeron was the only Bruins regular missing from practice.

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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 4:08 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Last year's Game 7 success no guarantee for Bruins

BOSTON -- With a roster made up of mostly players who went 3-0 in Game 7 situations en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship, the Boston Bruins should be teeming with confidence heading into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Wednesday.

"Last year's last year. I think we quickly realized that in October, when we went 3-7," center Chris Kelly said Monday. "In the same breath, it's nice to have played in Game 7s before to have that to reflect upon and look back on, but this is a whole new year and a whole new challenge, and one of those things that we're all looking forward to."

The Bruins did not skate Monday at TD Garden on the first of two off days before the series finale. The time off should give the Bruins opportunity to rest, especially center Patrice Bergeron, who's battling an upper-body injury that prevented him from taking more than one faceoff in Boston’s season-saving Game 6 victory Sunday.

The time off could also be an opportunity to drum up a whole bunch of emotions. But center Gregory Campbell says that last season taught him the correct approach to take when it comes to Game 7.

"I think for Game 7s, what I've learned so far in my short playoff career, is that it's got to be a balance," Campbell said. "You've got to be ready. Game 7s are usually most intense games because everything's on the line. But I think you've got to control your emotions and you have to walk that line where you're ready to go, your energy and enthusiasm is high, but you can make plays under pressure. Obviously it's a pressure-packed situation and it's usually the team that can make those plays and perform under pressure is the team that wins."


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