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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 6:02 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Is this it for Brodeur and Parise in New Jersey?

NEWARK, N.J. -- It has come to that time of the hour where the New Jersey Devils might have to contemplate life without goalie Martin Brodeur and captain Zach Parise if the season does indeed come to a sudden halt on Tuesday at Prudential Center.
 
The Devils need to win the final two games of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Florida Panthers if they have any intention of extending their season in 2011-12.
 
At the same time, both Brodeur and Parise will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. While the chances of Brodeur signing with another team seem rather unlikely at his age, that will not be the case with Parise.
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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 / 2:20 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Gionta proving to be a hit centering Devils' fourth line

NEWARK, N.J. -- An obvious hole needed to be filled when center Jacob Josefson suffered a fractured wrist late in the season, altering the lineup plan for New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
Looking back, DeBoer admits the one name that kept coming up as a more-than-capable replacement was 5-foot-7, 185-pound Stephen Gionta.
 
"He hadn't played center in probably a year, but came in and has seamlessly jumped into that spot and given us everything we could ask for … I can't say enough about him," DeBoer told the media following his team's 4-0 victory over Florida on Thursday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
 
The Devils conducted an optional workout at Prudential Center on Friday before departing for Sunrise, Fla., for Game 5 on Saturday at BankAtlantic Center. The best-of-seven series is tied, 2-2.
 
"Stephen's been a great, great story," DeBoer continued. "Here's a kid who never even had a game all year with us, but has come in and given us a real spark. He's enthusiastic and dependable."
 
Strange, but it almost sounds like DeBoer is referring to the elder Gionta, Brian, who just happens to be the 33-year-old captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
 
"He has a lot of the same traits as his brother, and his brother has a history of rising to the occasion in the playoffs," DeBoer said. "I think Stephen is one of those types of guys."
 
Gionta, who was recalled from Albany on April 6 for the second time in three days, had six goals and 16 points in 56 games in the American Hockey League this season. The 28-year-old undrafted forward out of Boston College has been with the organization since the 2005-06 season. The move to bring him up is certainly paying off right now.
 
"I try to bring energy to the team when I get an opportunity," Gionta told NHL.com. "Hopefully, I can give the team quality minutes out there when I do get that opportunity."
 
As you might expect, Gionta, who averages 6:41 quality minutes each game in the playoffs, does communicate with big brother quite frequently.
 
"We stay in touch pretty good and we've talked quite a few times since the original call-up, so it's been nice and he's shown great support," Gionta said. "He just told me to go out, have fun and play my game and let the chips fall."
 
Right now, Gionta is playing a key role centering the club's fourth line alongside left wing Ryan Carter and right wing Steve Bernier.
 
"I don't know if I'm surprised [to see how well Gionta has played], but it's nice to see," Carter told NHL.com. "A guy enters a scenario where he's playing playoff games right off the bat, and having confidence. That says a lot about the guy, and he's enjoying it, too."
 
Through four games in this series, Gionta's line has produced three goals, five points, a plus-7 rating and 15 shots on goal. Gionta has also delivered six hits, including three crunching blows in Game 4 that generated plenty of excitement on the bench.
 
"I think we're finding success in not trying to do too much," Carter said. "We're trying to keep the puck behind their goal line, wear them down a little bit. We just want to make it difficult on them. Our game right now is making them go 200 feet and forcing them to battle."
 
"That fourth line has done a great job for us," DeBoer said. "They've chipped in a couple of goals and have generated momentum."
 
Gionta has played five games since his recall from Albany. He scored his first NHL goal in the season finale and has a goal and an assist in the playoffs being moved from wing to center.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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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 Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Henrique excited, honored by Calder nomination



NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils rookie center Adam Henrique didn't appear too surprised when asked if he expected to be named one of three finalists for this year's Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year.
 
But he's certainly honored to be in the mix.
 
"I was excited," Henrique told the media following practice on Friday. "Obviously, it's a big honor to be nominated and be a part of the group, so it's something I'm very excited about and proud of."
 
Henrique remained off the ice on Friday, along with Ilya Kovalchuk, for some rest, but both will be in the lineup on Saturday when the Devils play the Florida Panthers in Game 5 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
 
The League announced on Friday that Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers were named finalists for the Calder. The winner will be announced in Las Vegas on June 20.
 
Henrique is actually the first Devil to be voted a Calder finalist since Scott Gomez won the award in 2000. Martin Brodeur also won it for the Devils in 1994.
 
"It's a great honor, the Calder is one of these trophies that's once in a lifetime, so for you to be part of the top rookies is special," Brodeur said. "He's had a heck of a season, and played like a veteran out there. He was responsible, being on the power-play, penalty-kill and in five-on-five situations while playing on the top line.
 
"Sometimes, when you play on teams expected to win, it's a little tougher, but to play as a rookie, he adjusted really well."
 
The 22-year-old Henrique, selected in the third round (No. 82) by the Devils in 2008, earned a full-time spot in the lineup this season after Jacob Josefson fractured his right clavicle on Oct. 21. The Devils were already without center Travis Zajac, who was coming off Achilles surgery in August, so the need for a quality center became of the utmost importance.
 
Henrique was certainly up to the challenge.
 
Devils coach Pete DeBoer decided to insert the youngster between Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk and he would flourish.
 
"I think things started to click when early while playing with Zach and Kovy," Henrique said. "Once we started playing well, it gave me extra confidence to be here and stick around. That was a big confidence boost for me.
 
"Due to the injuries, this was something I wanted to take advantage of and prove to the staff and everyone here that I could play and fit in with those guys. Once things started going, it carried through the year."
 
The Brantford, Ontario native finished first among all first-year players with 35 assists and third with 51 points in 74 games. He also tied for the League lead with four shorthanded goals. Henrique finished one point behind Landeskog (22 goals, 52 points) and Nugent-Hopkins (18 goals, 52 points) for the rookie scoring lead.
 
"It was a hard thing to do at his age," Parise said. "In your first year, there's pressure and sometimes it's tough to cope with when you go through those funks. He never really changed his game whether the points were coming or not, though, and that was key."
 
Henrique led all rookies with 501 faceoff wins on 1,026 draws (48.8 percent). He ranked 10th among rookie forwards with 83 hits, third with 57 blocked shots and second with 49 takeaways during the regular season.
 
"He worked the entire season to be in that group, and it's a special group of players he's mentioned with there and deservedly so," DeBoer said. "He's skilled and a good kid, but I think the biggest thing is he doesn't have an ego. He got sent back at first, coming out of training camp, and I've seen that effect that could have on a player -- some feel sorry for themselves. But because he has no ego, he got another chance very quickly and made the most of it."
 
After being selected by the Devils at the draft, Henrique spent two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Windsor Spitfires and one more with the American Hockey League's Albany Devils.
 
Despite the fact he doesn't have a goal through four games in the playoffs and has gone 11 straight games without a score, he remains positive.
 
"I think you got to chip in any way you can," Henrique said. "It's the playoffs, and we've had offensive contributions from the fourth-line guys and the top guys are producing offensively, so that's another area where I need to try to do more.
 
"At the same time, we have to take care of other aspects of the game like playing solid defensively. I thought, as a [third] line, we had our best game in Game 4. We skated well, were on the puck. If you're not scoring, you need to be doing other things to contribute to the win."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 9:30 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Garrison absence proves pivotal for Panthers

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Florida Panthers were minus a key cog on defense against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday when Jason Garrison was listed as a late scratch for Game 4 at Prudential Center.
 
According to Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, Garrison, who took part in the team's morning skate Thursday, had two lower-body issues and is listed as day-to-day. Garrison had missed five games during the regular-season (Feb. 12-23) with a lower-body injury.
 
"We not only missed Jason on the power-play … we missed him, period," Panthers forward Stephen Weiss said. "Not just on the power-play, but five-on-five and on the penalty kill, as well. He's a big part of our team."
 
The Panthers entered Game 4 with a power play clicking at 60-percent efficiency with Garrison in the lineup, connecting for six power-play goals on 10 chances in the first three games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. With the 6-foot-2, 218-pound defenseman sidelined Thursday, however, the Panthers went 0-for-6 with the man advantage.
 
Garrison, who set a franchise record for defensemen with 16 goals in the regular season, was replaced in the lineup by Keaton Ellerby, who played his first game since March 15.
 
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Ellerby was forced to leave the game midway through the second period after New Jersey center Stephen Gionta checked him into the Devils bench where the open door meets the stanchion. It appeared as though Ellerby injured his left leg on the play.
 
Ellerby's status will be updated later Friday in Florida. The Panthers will host the Devils on Saturday in Game 5 at BankAtlantic Center (6:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN). The best-of-seven series is tied, 2-2.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure