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Posted On Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 4:50 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Sykora appears set to return to Devils lineup

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It took three straight losses, but Devils coach Peter DeBoer appears to be ready to tweak his lineup during the Stanley Cup Final.

Forward Petr Sykora will apparently return to the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday night and replace Jacob Josefson, who snagged Sykora's spot in the lineup after Game 2 of the conference finals against the Rangers.

Sykora skated at practice Tuesday afternoon on a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus while Josefson was skating with Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton as part of the extra fifth line. DeBoer wouldn't say for certain Sykora is back, but he said he's considering the switch.

"He's an option for us," DeBoer said. "We're going to consider him. We haven't scored and he's a guy who doesn't need a lot of looks to stick one in the net."

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 4:32 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Sutter's blunt, no-nonsense style clicking in L.A.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There's no ambiguity with Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter.

He's long known as blunt and honest, and he will drop an expletive now and then to get a point across, such as in December when he called Dustin Penner’s play "horse [expletive]."

Sutter reminded everyone of his no-nonsense way of communicating Tuesday when he was asked, on microphone during his off-day press conference, where he was when Kings general manager Dean Lombardi called him about the coaching job.

"I think I was in the barn [in Alberta]," Sutter said. "I wasn't shoveling [expletive]. I remember that. But I had that day."

It was the line of the day for many who are not around Sutter regularly, and even for those who are. For his players, it's just another daily dose of Darryl, who tends a farm in the family's home near Viking, Alberta.

"It doesn’t surprise me at all," Colin Fraser said. "He likes using farming references all the time -- 'strapping the feedbag on' and stuff. He looks intimidating and all that stuff, but he actually has a good sense of humor. I think he's got a good balance of when guys need a kick in the butt and when they need a pat on the back. He's got good timing with both the humor and the seriousness."

Players actually had trouble understanding Sutter when he first arrived because he mumbles. Dustin Brown said they didn't bother going to the grease board in the first few practices, but they eventually learned Sutter's nuances and delivery.

Most players like that he's a throwback-type of coach.

"He's pretty rough around the edges," Rob Scuderi said. "But I think most guys in hockey can kind of appreciate it because we all come from pretty humble backgrounds, so it's more funny than anything."

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 4:28 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings announcers to make 'call' of Game 4

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Longtime Los Angeles Kings television announcers Bob Miller and Jim Fox will get to call a potential Stanley Cup-clinching game after all.

The pair will record a call on their own for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday and the recording will likely be made available later for fans, team spokesman Mike Altieri said.

The Los Angeles Kings will attempt to sweep the New Jersey Devils for their first Cup in franchise history. Kings fans have missed hearing Miller, the play-by-play announcer since 1973, and Fox, the analyst since 1990, call the games on a remarkable 15-2 run by L.A. and they naturally want a Miller-Fox Cup-clinching recording for posterity.

Miller and Fox called the Western Conference Quarterfinals before NBC and its affiliate networks assumed broadcasting rights.

Altieri said Miller and Fox were excited to do it as the plan has been in the works for weeks.

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 4:22 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Gagne's return provided Kings with 'extra jump'

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It was difficult to tell whether Simon Gagne had the desired impact when he returned to the lineup for the first time in five months.

Gagne played fewer than seven minutes of ice time Monday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter wouldn't elaborate on Gagne on Tuesday. Game 4 is Wednesday.

"Well he hadn't played for six months," Sutter said. "He played six minutes. So we'll make that decision tomorrow."

In a stunning move, Sutter activated Gagne in place of Brad Richardson on the fourth line. Gagne had not played since Dec. 26 because of a concussion, but eventually got healthy and, remarkably, became available in late May.

Gagne's teammates were naturally happy to see him return after such a long road back.

"He's been my teammate for a while, and to see him come back from something that didn't look very good for him -- it was a big thing, I think, for our hockey team," Mike Richards said. "It gave us probably a little extra jump to see him in the lineup."

Richards identifies with Gagne, a former Philadelphia Flyers teammate, because Richards also had a concussion in December. Richards only missed eight games and hinted he might have come back too soon. Gagne was out for so long it was thought to be a potentially career-ending concussion.

"A good friend, to come back from an injury like that -- sometimes you don't know with things like that," Richards said. "It was nice to see and I'm sure he enjoyed being on the ice and we definitely enjoyed having him."

By playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Gagne is eligible to get his name engraved on the Cup, although a team can also petition for a player to receive the honor.

Gagne had seven goals and 10 assists in 34 regular season games.

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 1:13 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings' penalty kill does it again

LOS ANGELES -- In the eyes of the Long Angeles Kings, the turning point in Game 3 came early -- when they successfully killed off the Devils' 60-second 5-on-3 power play in the first period.

"Greener [defenseman Matt Greene], I think I saw him block three one-timers from [Ilya] Kovalchuk," forward Dustin Penner said following L.A.'s 4-0 win Monday night. "He chewed him up and spit him out. You could just tell how much it means to the guys in this room. It just excites and pumps everyone up on the bench to watch guys go down and take a shot like that consecutively."

It was actually only two blocks by Greene on Kovalchuk, but you get Penner's point. Greene, Willie Mitchell and Jarret Stoll, playing in front of goaltender Jonathan Quick, limited the Devils to only one shot on goal over the entire 5-on-3.

New Jersey's best chance to grab a lead in this series came and went just like that.</p>

"We've had some 5-on-3s to kill and we've done a good job of communicating, knowing where we are on the ice and knowing where the threats are, where the one-timers are and where they are not," Stoll said. "Kovalchuk is a big threat for them and we wanted to lock him up. Quickie is going to have to make some saves. In a 5-on-3 your goalie is going to have to make some saves, and he did. We just didn't want to give them that great one-timer from a good position."

The Kings' penalty kill as a whole was again impenetrable Monday -- L.A. was a perfect 6-for-6 in 9:01 of power-play time.

Los Angeles hasn't allowed a power play goal in the series, denying all 12 chances for the Devils. L.A. has killed 48 of the last 50 power plays against and is 64 for 69 in the playoffs.

"We've been doing it all year. It is kind of a staple on our team," Mitchell said. "[Assistant coach] John Stevens has been terrific with it as far as details, and it has been a group that takes a lot of pride in it. We feel it makes a difference, and tonight it did."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 7:32 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Messier talks Rangers growth, Gaborik injury

LOS ANGELES -- Mark Messier stayed in the background during the Eastern Conference Finals this year, opting to let the New York Rangers enjoy the spotlight in their showdown with the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils won the series in six games, exacting a small measure of revenge for the 1994 conference finals when Messier's Rangers defeated the Devils in seven games and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Messier was on hand Monday at Staples Center before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to announce the finalists for his leadership award, a trio that included the Rangers' Ryan Callahan, the Kings' Dustin Brown and the Coyotes' Shane Doan, and discussed his emotions while watching the Devils and Rangers renew pleasantries 18 years later.

"It was an incredible time," said Messier, who serves as a special assistant to Rangers GM Glen Sather. "A lot of our teammates were texting back and forth and talking during the series. I was trying to stay out of the way during the series. I really felt the players on both teams earned the right to be in that position and shouldn't have been overshadowed by things that happened prior to that series. My ship had sailed a long time ago."

One of the big reasons the Rangers fell short this year was Marian Gaborik, who played nearly the entire postseason with a torn rotator cuff and had just five goals and six assists in 20 games. Gaborik will be out five to six months while he recovers, meaning he could miss the first couple of months of the 2012-13 season, but Messier has seen him grow since signing with the Rangers three years ago.

"Marian Gaborik is 10 times the hockey player he was when he came to the Rangers," Messier said. "He continues to improve and continues to want to improve."

Despite the disappointment, Messier believes this year's deep run for a young Rangers team could pay dividends down the road.

"I think the last three years have been a real great spark for the team and the organization," Messier said. "I think Glen has really done a great job of getting some key people in the right spots. I think the year that we had this year is a culmination of what we had the last couple years. Going forward, I think this year, you can't quantify what it means for these players to play this string of playoff hockey, to feel what it's like to play that deep in the playoffs. Those are hard lessons to learn unless you experience them. From that standpoint, our team has taken a major leap forward this year."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings excited by mild weather, good ice conditions

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles in June is not exactly what comes to mind when thinking of crisp ice surfaces and fall-like weather conditions. But defenseman Willie Mitchell sounded giddy after the morning skate at Staples Center on a mild, gray Monday.

"I don't want to say it, but it felt like the [Edmonton] Oilers ice in the mid-'90s out there," Mitchell said. "It felt great.  We could have a decent hockey game on our hands -- not too humid. It's cold out there, the ice is nice. You can actually make passes.

"You don't say that about Staples ice too often. It tells you how bad the ice was out in New Jersey. It felt really nice out there and guys were quite excited about it, and I'm sure the Devils will be as well. I think you'll probably get much more up-tempo hockey game because of that."

Both the Kings and Devils are looking forward to a smoother surface for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after they slugged through a humid Game 1 at the Prudential Center. Several players complained about the poor ice causing bouncing pucks as both teams had to play more conservatively.

It's a common issue with hockey in June, no matter the city or venue. Mother Nature seemed to be in compliance in L.A. on Monday as it was expected to be 69 degrees with 71 percent humidity.

A full building will affect the ice slightly, but the Kings players said a Staples surface that isn't known for smoothness felt good.

"It was a lot better -- which is funny considering Staples ice," captain Dustin Brown said. "We complain about Staples ice all year. Granted, it's a lot better when it's an empty building … I think it will be a quicker game because of the ice."

Said Jarret Stoll, "I think the temperature in the building is a difference, for sure. I noticed it during the skate this morning. We expect to be sharp. We expect to be crisp, and we'll go for there."

Home ice hasn't really been kind to the Kings. Their only two losses of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have come at Staples. They have outscored opponents 34-15 on the road and 11-9 at home. They have one power-play goal at home against five on the road.

Those five shorthanded goals by L.A.? All came on the road.

The Kings will otherwise look to feed off their home crowd. Although cavernous, Staples Center is known as one of the louder arenas come playoff time, and the adrenaline level can be elevated for players.

"You got to harness it," Mitchell said. "I think you can't play outside yourself. Just do what we do and do it hard, and kind of find that fine line where you don't get overly excited and use it to motivate you."
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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 2:24 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Brown still seeking first point of Stanley Cup Final

LOS ANGELES -- Kings captain Dustin Brown was the early favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy but the New Jersey Devils have kept him off the score sheet in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.

Brown, who had seven goals and nine assists in the first 14 playoff games, had no shots on goal with four hits in Game 2. He said the Devils have been effective defending his line of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams.

"I think they've done a good job on us," Brown said. "I think it's up to me, Kopi and Williams to make adjustments to be better. I think collectively we had one shot on goal last game, which is not good enough, individually or as a line. And that's up to me, Kopi and Will to find a way to better. I know I can be personally better along the walls. I'm sure if you ask Kopi and Will, they'll say they can be better."

Brown, of course, does other things that count. He had three shots and three hits and a blocked shot in Game 1.

"Brownie does a lot of things that people don't notice," Jarret Stoll said. "He's doing his thing. He's a player that can break out offensively at any moment. He does a lot of things out there that help our team win the game. Every facet, on and off the ice, he's phenomenal."
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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 12:58 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

DeBoer waiting for more from Devils' top players

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- Two games, two goals. As tight as the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final have been, the Devils have only scored one in each of them, making it nearly impossible to win.

The goals have come from defenseman Anton Volchenkov and fourth-line winger Ryan Carter. Through two games, the Devils' best players haven't broken through against Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said before the series, which the Kings lead 2-0 with Game 3 set for Monday night at Staples Center, that David Clarkson was a big-time goal-scorer. Despite Clarkson's missed chances in Game 1 and struggles in Game 2, DeBoer maintains that belief.

"Yeah, for me that hasn't changed," DeBoer said. "I thought Game 1, he was arguably our best forward. I thought he could have had two or three goals. He's a guy on the verge of breaking out, as is (Zach) Parise, as is (Ilya) Kovalchuk.

"I don't think it's any secret -- we have to score more than one goal.  All those guys on that list have to find a way."

Clarkson had a pair of golden opportunities in Game 1, but never got his shot to the net on either of them. In one instance, Quick was well out of position, but Clarkson snapped his shot over the net and off the glass.

Rushed shots and overthinking, however, are two things that come with the territory when facing an elite goaltender like Quick.

"Yeah, he's a good goalie," Clarkson said. "The first one I let get away from me, was trying to go high. I thought maybe he was going to go down. I tried to go up high, missing that one. On the other, there was so much excitement when I saw the open net, I don't know if I hit the guy's skate or what happened.

"But, yeah, he's a goalie that definitely makes you think. You can't do that. This time of the season, we have to put it on net, get back to doing what made us successful and got us here today."

Parise put the puck into the net in Game 1, but did so illegally with his glove. Kovalchuk hit a crossbar in the dying seconds of regulation in Game 2. The two were put on a line together at the end of Game 2 and will likely start that way in Game 3.

"I feel like we had good scoring opportunities," Parise said. "Even in overtime, I know we had two or three good chances there, too. All in all, I thought it was OK.  I mean, we didn't end up putting one in the net, but we had some chances. Hopefully we'll rebound tonight. We've played pretty well together all season. Hopefully tonight will be better."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 12:34 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Early wake-up call as Devils adjust to Pacific time

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- It was a little bit before 8 a.m. local time Monday when Devils coach Peter DeBoer stepped to the podium in a conference room at The Ritz-Carlton hotel, which is about 30 minutes from Staples Center, the site of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Players Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, Zach Parise and David Clarkson addressed the media as well, all before 8:30 a.m. With a 5 p.m. start against the Los Angeles Kings, the Devils had to get up pretty early in the morning to fulfill their responsibilities and address reporters.

"It's one of those things where I didn't really focus too much on it, to be honest," Salvador said. "It hasn't been that big of a deal."

It's a massive change in routine for the Devils in many respects. One, very rarely will a team eschew a morning skate unless it is playing on back-to-back days. Also, this was the first time the Devils boarded a plane since eliminating the Florida Panthers in the first round on April 26.

If the 37-day break from air travel isn't enough, Game 3 of the Cup Final is the Devils' first outside of the Eastern time zone since playing in Winnipeg on Jan. 14.

"We were pretty fortunate for two series to not get on a plane," Greene said. "It feels good to get back into this routine a little bit and get back on the road and get away from home and get back to being focused on just the single thing, it's the game. It's not that we're not focused at home, but on the road, there are a lot less distractions. I think it'll be a big plus for us."

"Hopefully it plays to our advantage, getting that extra rest and not having those long flights," Parise said. "Hopefully as the series moves on, that'll be to our advantage."

Despite the unique game-day schedule, DeBoer said the plan was to get his team adjusted to the Pacific time zone as quickly as possible.

"We had a later dinner," DeBoer said. "We tried to keep the guys up until 10 or 11 o'clock. I don't know if it's realistic, but you want to get on L.A. time as quickly as you can. That's our thought process."

Greene said not having a game-day skate at Staples Center shouldn't be a hindrance.

"I don't think it's that big of a deal," he said. "We had a good practice yesterday after we got off the flight, had good energy out there. Guys were upbeat and ready. It's not like when we skate out there in the morning skate, it's not like we're out there for an hour testing the ice anyways. You're out there for 10 or 15 minutes and done. Get out there in warmups, get a good warmup and be ready for the game.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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