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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 7:15 PM

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

Garrison late scratch for Panthers

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison will be sidelined for Game 4 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Garrison was a late scratch with what the team called a lower-body injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Keaton Ellerby, who will be making his playoff debut this season.

Garrison has been a lynchpin in the Panthers' lineup this season and, in particular, the playoffs. He has one goal and two points in three games against the Devils. Garrison scored his first playoff goal and totaled 20:15 of ice time in Florida's 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:30 PM

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

Larsson still sits as Devils stick with Volchenkov

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer did admit prior to the playoffs that rookie defenseman Adam Larsson could at some point receive an opportunity to crack the lineup.
 
It just hasn't happened in the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers. DeBoer told the media that his lineup will remain status quo for Thursday's Game 4 at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TSN2, RDSI).
 
There was speculation among the media contingent following Game 3 that perhaps DeBoer would replace struggling defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the lineup. Volchenkov has a minus-2 rating in this series and has been on the ice for nine of Florida's 10 goals through three games.
 
DeBoer didn't seem close to entertaining any thoughts, however, of replacing his veteran defender in the lineup.
 
"You look at [Volchenkov's] situation, he's had some bad luck and bad timing," DeBoer said. "He's been on the ice for nine of their 10 goals. He's had a bad run and I feel for him. It's Murphy's Law … whatever can go wrong is going wrong for him right now, and he's got to battle through that.
 
"He's a guy who has risen in the past in playoffs in Ottawa, and he's battle-tested this time of year. We need him in the lineup."
 
Meanwhile, Larsson has been a regular at practices for New Jersey during the playoffs, but, dating back to the regular season, has been a healthy scratch in eight of the last nine games. In 65 games this season, Larsson has two goals, 18 points and a minus-7 rating. He notched one assist and a plus-1 rating in three regular-season appearances against the Panthers in 2011-12.
 
Larsson missed 10 games from Feb. 4-24 with a bruised lower back after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban in a Feb. 2 game at Prudential Center. The talented Swede would produce just two assists and a minus-1 rating over the next 16 games before DeBoer opted to have him sit, watch and learn.
 
"The Larsson question isn't really a factor ... he's ready to play, and we know what he can do," DeBoer said. "He's a good player and he can help us, no doubt."
 
He did play in the team's 4-2 regular-season finale against the Ottawa Senators on April 7, earning 12:39 of ice time on 17 shifts.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale



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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 12:56 PM

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

Clemmensen set for first career playoff start

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen is set to earn the first playoff start of his career on Thursday when he faces his former team, the New Jersey Devils, in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Prudential Center.
 
While Panthers coach Kevin Dineen wouldn't commit to either Clemmensen or Jose Theodore following his team's morning skate at Prudential Center, Clemmensen did skate off the ice first. The first goalie off the ice at a game-day skate is usually the starter.
 
Getting the playoff nod in the state where it all began and against one of the greatest goalies in League history will certainly be a humbling experience for Clemmensen.
 
"I think there's always a little bit of nerves regardless of the situation," Clemmensen told reporters after practice. "I believe the crowd will be rocking tonight and you can always feel the atmosphere here, so if I'm the starter, I'll be ready for that as well.
 
"It's a building that I like playing in," he continued. "I like these fans. It's always a lot of fun. I don't care how loud they boo me … I love them."
 
Clemmensen stopped 19 shots in a spectacular relief stint as his team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to earn a 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday to grab a 2-1 series lead.

Florida coach Kevin Dineen, who wouldn't tip his hand as to which goalie would start, did praise Clemmensen for the quality work he provided the team down the stretch.
 
"For two months now, Clem has been an excellent goaltender, maybe one of the top guys in the League," Dineen said. "What he does have is a tremendous amount of respect from the coaching staff, from his teammates and I think from people that know him. You can tell just from the response from the people here in Jersey that he's a hard guy to dislike, and I think as a teammate that would fit his character."
 
In addition to subbing for Jose Theodore (three goals allowed on six shots) just 6:16 into the first period on Tuesday, Clemmensen's only other playoff appearance was in relief of Martin Brodeur in Game 1 of a 6-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals in Raleigh. He would play the final 6:53 of that game, turning aside all three shots he faced.
 
Not only is Clemmensen 5-0-0 against the Devils in his career, including Tuesday's win, but he has yet to allow a playoff goal in two relief stints totaling 60:37 of playing time.
 
Despite his lack of playoff experience in 10 NHL seasons, Dineen wasn't at all concerned.
 
"I have no doubt that he would play well," Dineen said. "Here's a guy who's been around a long time and has played with Marty Brodeur and Tomas Vokoun, and now Jose Theodore. A guy like [Panthers goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom] could learn a heck of a lot from a guy like Scott Clemmensen. It's nice having guys not only game ready, but extremely mature professional players. It's been a pleasure dealing with all the goalies this year."
 
Some have said he has an advantage over the Devils, a team he spent five seasons with from 2001-02 through 2006-07 as a backup to Brodeur.
 
Does he think so?
 
"Maybe. I do probably know a little bit more of their tendencies having played with them, but I don't think that's a huge difference-maker," Clemmensen said. "This time of year, everyone is fighting so hard that it just comes down to winning. I think my unbeaten record against the Devils is mostly coincidence.
 
"I don't think I prepare any differently playing against these guys, want to win any more or try any harder than I do against other teams. It's so hard to win in this League, I don't care who you're playing. You go over everything at pre-scout meetings anyway … it's not something I know and am keeping to myself."
 
Devils forward Zach Parise feels Clemmensen is an even better goalie now than when he played for New Jersey.
 
"I think technically, he is," Parise said. "He played great when he was with us, but I think he's technically a better goalie now. He plays well against us, too. We'll have to make life a little harder for him."
 
Brodeur also praised Clemmensen.
 
"He's a great guy, worked really hard and is a good goalie," Brodeur said. "When I got hurt [during the 2008-09 season], he came in and, even though he didn't start the season with us, got himself back here and did really well for us. He earned a nice contract in Florida and now he's taking advantage of that."
 
Here is the probable Game 3 lineup for the Panthers:
 
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Jerred Smithson
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky
 
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
 
Scott Clemmensen
Jose Theodore
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 12:37 PM

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

Brodeur has no doubts he'll be better in Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- When New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur officially is announced as the starter Thursday in Game 4 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN), it will mark his 174th consecutive postseason start.
 
"I expect to play every game, all the time, especially in the playoffs," Brodeur said. "It might not happen the rest of my career, but right now until I don't play, I expect every day that I'm going to play. That's one thing with having your own confidence."
 
Following his team's practice at Prudential Center on Thursday morning, Brodeur was asked if the Devils are facing a bit of adversity trailing the series 2-1 entering Game 4.
 
"It is definitely adversity," he said. "After six minutes and taking that lead on Tuesday, we should have had a better result and now we face adversity and we'll have to deal with it. We have to erase what we did last game and get back at it.
 
"As a team, we have to pay attention to details and special teams and individual players have to be better. Our overall team effort needs to be at a higher standard."
 
For the record, there was little to no speculation within the Devils' locker room that Brodeur wouldn't get the nod for Game 4, despite being pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in 22:18.
 
"It wasn't really a decision," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "This is a guy, he carried us the entire second half of the season here. He's been fantastic and it really wasn't a lot of thought put into that. I knew the moment I pulled him [in Game 3 Tuesday] that we would be going back in there [Thursday]."
 
When DeBoer pulled Brodeur just 2:18 into the second period, it marked the first time he had been yanked from a playoff game since allowing six goals on 35 shots in 53:07 in a 6-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
 
"For me, I know what I can do and what I can bring and I'll try my hardest all the time," Brodeur said. "I've played a long time in this League not to have doubts in my mind when I'm coming down to the end here."
 
DeBoer is confident Brodeur, who turns 40 May 6, will rebound to help the Devils even this best-of-seven series.
 
"Marty's been through everything," DeBoer said. "I think if you ask anyone how's Marty Brodeur going to respond to adversity, I think we all know the answer to that."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 11:59 AM

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

Devils see Game 4 as a must-win situation

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils realize the importance of squaring their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers on Thursday in Game 4 at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN).
 
Veteran goalie Martin Brodeur feels the team has put itself in a must-win situation after losing 4-3 in Game 3.
 
"You don't want to bank on making the historical comeback when you go down 3-1 in a series," Brodeur said. "It's tough to come back from that, there's no doubt. You have to address these games as do or die and just go out and put in a good effort."
 
Does Brodeur feel getting the early lead is important? After all, the team that has taken a 3-0 lead in the previous three games has struggled to hold that advantage.
 
Florida, however, was the first to go down by three and rally for a victory, which they did in Game 3 on Tuesday. In Game 1, New Jersey opened a 3-0 lead and hung on for a 3-2 win. In Game 2, the Panthers surged to a 3-0 advantage before winning 4-2 triumph.
 
"I don't know about [getting that big lead]," Brodeur said. "It depends on how big. The game will be played the way it's played, and we'll react to it."

Devils forward Dainius Zubrus said he believes the team has dealt with adverse situations this season and this is no exception.
 
"You reach certain points where you lose two in a row and it happens throughout the season, but I don't want to say we've been there, because this is the playoffs and it's a little different," Zubrus told NHL.com. "But we can respond … we have done it. It's not the situation we want to be in after winning the first game, but this is how it is.
 
"There are things we can do better and clean up, and saying that, the belief is still there. [Thursday] is a huge game because we don't want to go down and then go on the road."
 
The only Devils not on the ice for Thursday's optional skate were Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky. Devils coach Peter DeBoer said there would be no lineup changes, meaning rookie defenseman Adam Larsson would be a healthy scratch for the ninth time in the last 10 games.
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Devils for Game 3:
 
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

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

Gudbranson having fun with first playoff experience

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson admits his experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been better than expected.
 
"I think it's more than what people think," the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Gudbranson told NHL.com. "It looks a lot different on TV than when you're actually playing the game. You see the little hits and the bumps that guys get and in playoffs, and they leave a mark.
 
"In the playoffs, guys are going all out and the passion and intensity out there certainly picks up, so it's been absolutely a lot of fun."
 
Gudbranson, who was taken with the third pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, has yet to register a point through three playoff games, but he tied for third on the team with 10 hits. On top of that, he's been receiving plenty of mentoring from veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski.
 
Jovanovski not only has a locker stall right beside Gudbranson for both home and away games, but the two are also paired together.
 
"I think the biggest thing with him is trying to relate to myself personally, and he did it at the same age that I am now," Gudbranson told The New York Times. "It's nice to be able to relate to someone with so much experience, and he does it for the whole team. He's always there for me whenever I have a question, and he's taught me to become an overall defenseman and to know when and where to be physical while also playing composed."
 
But Jovanovski isn't the only mentor. In the locker room following Florida's 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Tuesday, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was explaining to his prized defender when not to engage an opponent and, rather, "skate away."
 
"The season has been great … I've been happy my rookie season and it's been better just because of the guys we have in this room and the success we've had as a team," Gudbranson told NHL.com. "For a team that hasn't been in the playoffs for 10 years, to come out and compete like we have the past three  games to put ourselves in a good position, is fantastic. But we need to keep going here."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:11 PM

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

Night after collapse, Devils back at practice

NEWARK, N.J. -- After suffering an excruciating loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Tuesday, the New Jersey Devils were back on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion Wednesday with the hope of restoring some sense of order.
 
The Devils opened a 3-0 lead 6:18 into the first period only to have the Panthers register four unanswered goals en route to a 4-3 triumph. Devils coach Pete DeBoer put the team through a pretty rigorous workout in preparation for Thursday's critical Game 4 at Prudential Center.
 
"I liked practice [Wednesday]," DeBoer said. "We came out in a good frame of mind, we were confident. Now we just need to get a win here [Thursday] night and keep moving forward."
 
The first-year coach said he didn't really need to rehash what transpired Tuesday night.
 
"We talked before playoffs that anytime you go down a playoff road, you will face adverse situations, so you need to expect them," DeBoer said. "You just don't know when, but when they come, you welcome them and handle them properly. We knew we'd be in this spot, eventually, and I think we're prepared for it."
 
DeBoer was asked if his team would be a tad concerned if they were to open a lead at any point in the remainder of the series.
 
"I'll take a 3-0 lead in a game any day," he said. "I don't care how many we've blown. You want to give me three goals, I'll take them. You have to give Florida credit, coming back like we did the other night even though we didn't do it all the way.
 
"There's really no rhyme of reason to these momentum swings," he continued. "That's the way the series is coming down. But the team that can fix those issues the quickest, is probably going to win this series so that's on us to do."
 
Ilya Kovalchuk, who has one goal and one assist in three games in the series, thought the players were sharp at practice Wednesday morning.
 
"It was good ... a nice and short practice," Kovalchuk said. "We cleaned up what we wanted to and worked on our forecheck a little bit. We'll see tomorrow."
 
Devils forward Dainius Zubrus, who has a goal and one assist in three games, feels the team will respond well, as it has the entire season.
 
"You reach certain points where you lose two in a row and it happens throughout the season, but I don't want to say, we've been there, because this is the playoffs and it's a little different," Zubrus told NHL.com. "But we can respond ... we have done it. It's not the situation we want to be in after winning the first game but this is how it is.
 
"There are things we can do better and clean up and, saying that, the belief is still there," he continued. "[Thursday] is a huge game because we don't want to go down and then go on the road."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 8:56 PM

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

Brodeur, Theodore pulled from Game 3

NEWARK, N.J. -- Both starting goalies for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers are now on the bench.
 
Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 1-1-0
GAA: 2.54 | SVP: 0.898
The Devils forced Panthers coach Kevin Dineen to pull starter Jose Theodore just 6:16 into the first after the veteran netminder allowed three goals on six shots.
 
The Panthers, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit to open a 4-3 lead through two periods, chased New Jersey starter Martin Brodeur in favor of Johan Hedberg 2:18 into the second after the future Hall of Fame goalie yielded three goals on 12 shots.
 
The last time Brodeur was pulled from playoff game was in a 6-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the 2006 conference semifinal round.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 1:08 PM

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

Zajac feels healthy, contributing for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Despite missing the majority of the regular season with an Achilles injury, New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac admits he's feeling as good as ever.
 
The 26-year-old top-line center was limited to just 15 games by a sore left Achilles tendon during the regular season. He had surgery in August, missed training camp and didn't play until Dec. 16, only to be sidelined again after playing against Ottawa on Jan. 2.
 
Zajac is certainly glad to be part of the team at an important time in the season.
 
"I feel like nothing is holding me back on the ice, whether I'm bumping or turning … anything like that," Zajac told NHL.com. "I don't feel anything, and that's a positive. There's no pain or soreness or anything like afterwards, either, so I'm good. It's playoff hockey, so I think there's going to be a few guys playing through injuries during this time of the year."
 
In two playoff games, Zajac has one goal and a team-leading 65.6 percent efficiency on faceoffs, winning 21 of 32 draws.
 
Zajac was asked what the Devils need to correct in Game 3 in order to regain the series lead.
 
"We need to stay off the penalty-kill … we took some unnecessary penalties [in Game 2], but other than that we need to take the play to them," Zajac said. "I think we're good when we're aggressive and controlling the play. We're not a fancy team by any means, and our skill will take over when we get the puck down low and make plays down there. So that's where we have to make the plays against them."
 
Zajac also believes it's only a matter of time before linemate Zach Parise is rewarded with a goal for all his hard work.
 
"I think he's had plenty of shots, but Zach does it all," Zajac said. "He's not scoring, but he does a lot of good things away from the puck in the defensive zone. He has so much skill, the goals will come. The thing is, everyone has to contribute this time of year to help him out."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 12:54 PM

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

Panthers' Smithson to make series debut

NEWARK, N.J. -- In an effort to remain strong in the faceoff circle, Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen has decided to do a little line tinkering for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN).
 
Dineen has opted to insert Jerred Smithson into his lineup for the first time this series. The 33-year-old Smithson, who was acquired from the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25, led the Panthers with a 56.1-percent faceoff winning percentage (345 for 615) during the regular season. He'll replace Wojtek Wolski in the lineup.
 
"We're always tinkering with our options and deciding what's best for the team," Dineen told reporters after his team's practice Tuesday. "The little adjustments here and there over the course of a series are going to happen, and that's how we feel now."
 
Smithson had one goal and six points in 69 regular-season games this season, but had just one assist in 16 games with the Panthers. 
 
"Jerred has given us good minutes since he's been here," Dineen said. "When you get healthy, you have all these quality options so you spend a day evaluating and sometimes you make game-time decisions like this.
 
"The faceoff circle is an area we concentrated on, especially when you see a guy like [Devils forward] Travis Zajac out there taking draws for them … he's big and strong and does a good job."
 
Here is the probable Game 3 lineup for the Panthers:
 
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Jerred Smithson
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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