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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 4:44 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Ekman-Larsson: 'I was terrible' in series opener

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson pulled no punches about how he felt he played in Game 1 Sunday.

"I was terrible," Ekman-Larsson told NHL.com.

OK, then. Well, let's analyze it and see if he's right.

Ekman-Larsson was a minus-3 over his 24-plus minutes of ice time, though one of those came when he was on the ice for Dwight King's empty-net goal. He got caught too high in the neutral zone when Slava Voynov found Dustin Brown with a stretch pass that led to the winning goal. And with the Coyotes just getting going on a power play midway through the third, Ekman-Larsson was called for interference on Mike Richards.

"I didn't skate good or with the puck very well," he said. "I made some bad passes. I have to be more physical and play more with the puck. I have to make better plays and skate harder."

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett wasn't about to argue with his 20-year-old blueliner, but he was pleased to hear Ekman-Larsson's self-evaluation.

"That's probably a great indication of where he's at," Tippett said. "He evaluates his own game very honestly and he knew he could be better (Sunday) night. Him and his partner (Rostislav) Klesla were not near as good as we needed them to be and they were at the front of quite a few chances against. Those guys recognize that today, and I expect them both to be better (in Game 2)."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Defense, goaltending point toward Rangers in 6

When I look at this matchup between New Jersey and New York in the Eastern Conference Finals, there's one thing that clearly sticks out to me: One of these teams was supposed to be going into the third round and one was not.

Anyone who has watched hockey this season knows which one is which, and I for one am unbelievably impressed that the Devils have gotten this far, especially considering how they played against Florida. After going seven games in the first round, I didn't think they had a hope of beating the Flyers, but the Devils didn't just beat them -- they dominated them. I'm very impressed by New Jersey and if you told me they could beat Philly without Marty Brodeur being unbelievable, I'd have laughed at you. Marty didn't have to be unbelievable. The Devils are just peaking at the right time and getting better and better. Against Philadelphia the Devils were great everywhere on the ice -- their six-man defensive unit was great, and their stars played great. Ilya Kovalchuk is playing some of the best hockey he's ever played, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias are great just like you'd expect them to be, but Petr Sykora's playing well, Travis Zajac is fired up and David Clarkson looks good.

The Devils are just awesome right now. The style of play is great -- it's an aggressive style, but you give up nothing. Right now they might be the most aggressive forechecking team of the four teams left, and they're definitely more aggressive than the Rangers. This team is fun to watch, playing great and generally a total departure from what the New Jersey Devils used to be.

That said, however, if the Rangers play in this series like they did Saturday in Game 7 against Washington, I don't think the Devils can beat them. That game I just sat back and watched and it was darn near perfection. The forwards were awesome, there was no space for Washington, the Capitals had no time to make plays and the Rangers won all the physical battles. The defense joined the rush and was great in its own end, the first pass most of the night was right on, and when there was a breakdown -- which was very rare -- Henrik Lundqvist made the saves. It was their best game of the playoffs and by far the most impressed I've been with them all playoffs. If they can string together a number of these games, it will cause a lot of problems for the Devils. They were great Saturday. I just sat, watched and thought, "This is how hockey should be played."

Most importantly, you knew it was good because Rangers coach John Tortorella actually was sort of happy at his press conference at the end of the game.

I like the Rangers to keep playing like this and win the series in six games, but there definitely are some things you need to watch out for if you're New York and New Jersey. Perhaps most importantly, the Rangers scored very early in Game 7 against Washington and that allowed them to sit back and play defense the rest of the game. Any team that's great defensively wants to score first. How many times have we seen New Jersey win the Stanley Cup with that same premise over the years? Dallas was that same way when they won in 1999. If they scored first, the game basically was over. That's definitely got to be part of New Jersey's game plan. The Devils have to score first to put the pressure on New York because if you don't score first against the Rangers, they can really clamp down on you. We've seen it over and over again and it's certainly something they did in Game 7. That's something the Devils have to be talking about. Any time you play a defense-first team, you've got to score first. It changes the dynamic big time, and while I don't know if it will be a weakness for the Rangers in that they have to score first, defensive hockey is what they're going to live and die by. And if you noticed, the team that scored first won every game in the Rangers-Capitals series.

The other big thing to note is that the Rangers play a tough, physical style, and they've also gone seven games in each of the first two rounds and won't have much rest before the start of this series. That's something New Jersey needs to take advantage of. There have to be guys that are hurting in that Rangers dressing room, especially after how physical that Capitals series was. If the Devils can come out and jump on the Rangers, I think they can take advantage of that. They've got to play a physical series and keep pounding these guys because they've played so many games in such a short period of time. That's got to be part of the game plan and I'm sure the Devils are talking about that -- making the Rangers play a high tempo game and forcing them to play wide open.

When I was coaching in L.A., I would talk to Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri and Marty McSorley and I'd ask them about their Edmonton days and what made them special and why they were able to win all those years. One of the things they always said was important was that in the early rounds they won quick. They thought it really helped them in later series to have that extra energy. It was always important to win in five games or four games in the early rounds while the teams they wound up playing later on already had gone seven or six. You have to wonder if after 14 games there will be a point at which the Rangers run out of gas. The longer this series goes the more it favors the Devils, who have had a big rest, gotten their guys healthy and are ready to go.

No team ever has won two Game 7s in the first two rounds and won the Cup, which is strange since to win two Game 7s you have to be a good team. It makes you think there has to be a reason, and the physical toll just might be it.

It will be a long, hard-fought series, but I still think it will come down to goaltending and defense. In this case I think the Rangers have the better goaltender because Henrik Lundqvist is in his prime and Brodeur isn't. It's just a fact -- and it may be the first time I've ever said that in a Rangers-Devils series. That will be a factor if the games are tight, but as I watched Saturday, I couldn't ignore New York's defense. It makes me wonder how guys like Adam Henrique or Sykora will get to the net. Clarkson and Parise will because that's their game, but you have to wonder about the other guys. Also, after watching how well the Rangers handled Backstrom and Ovechkin, why won't Kovalchuk have trouble finding space?

Because of all those factors, I think the Rangers will win this in six games.
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 1:06 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Projected Game 1 lineup for Rangers

NEW YORK -- Here are the potential line combinations and defense pairings the Rangers will employ for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, which should be what they used two nights ago when they eliminated the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) was seen walking through the locker room Monday morning and working out, but he remains out of the lineup and has not practiced in more than two weeks. Mats Zuccarello (wrist) is still working his way back to 100 percent, but he hasn't been taking shots at full strength during practices. Both won't be in the lineup for Game 1.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:52 PM

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

Long-time NHLer J.P. Parise has advice for son

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise said his dad, J.P. Parise, did talk with him to discuss the excitement and fanfare that will accompany the first Eastern Conference Finals contest of his career in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
 
"Yeah, we talked [Sunday]," Parise said. "He made it to the conference final once or twice, and he just said how excited he was. He said he thought we had a good chance with only four teams left. He kept saying, 'You guys have a great chance to do it.'"
 
The elder Parise spent 14 seasons in the League, including six seasons and parts of two others in Minnesota. He played a key role for the New York Islanders during the 1975 season, helping the club to their first playoff berth and into the Stanley Cup semifinal round. Parise played four seasons on Long Island.
 
Devils coach Peter DeBoer knows his captain will be ready to go once the puck drops in his first conference finals appearance.
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:32 PM

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

All-American captains Parise, Callahan set to battle

NEWARK, N.J. -- There's a lot to like about All-American captains Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils and Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers.
 
Parise, of Minneapolis, Mn., and Callahan, of Rochester, N.Y., were actually teammates for the silver-medal winning U.S. Olympic Team during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
 
"He plays the game hard and finishes checks," Parise said. "He's very reliable and I'm pretty sure they play him in all situations. I got the chance to play with him in Olympics. I know how good a player he was going against him, but once you play with him, I think you appreciate more what he does. He's a good player."
 
As is Parise.
 
"I've never played with Callahan, but I like the way he plays … hard and tough," Devils forward David Clarkson said. "Zach is a leader here. It's unbelievable with the way he works, how hard he is on the puck and how fast he skates. He's that full-package player. I don't know Callahan personally, but from watching him, he also works hard in different zones and does a lot of things for them."
 
Both captains have certainly proven their mettle in the postseason. Parise has four goals and eight points in 12 games. Callahan has three goals and six points in 14 contests.
 
Expect both players to be in the thick of the action once again on Monday when Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals takes center stage at Madison Square Garden.
 
"Playing the Rangers makes for a great story," Parise said. "They've been on top all year and on top of the conference, so it'll be a good challenge for us. It just happens to be our rival, too."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:28 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Past history, stats hardly a concern to Rangers

NEW YORK -- Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format for all four rounds in 1987, no team has won the Stanley Cup after playing 14 games over the first two rounds.

The New York Rangers will play their 15th game of the postseason Monday night when they host the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Not surprisingly, coach John Tortorella, to put it nicely, doesn't lend much credence to that statistic.

"That's a bunch of (hogwash)," he said Monday morning.

Statistics that extend 25 years into the past can either be looked at as having deep meaning or so old that they are completely irrelevant. Last season the Boston Bruins won their first-round series in seven games and went on to win the Cup, becoming the first team to accomplish that feat since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992.

The always insightful Ruslan Fedotenko, who is 6-0 in Game 7s in his career and scored twice in Game 7 when the Lightning won the Cup in 2004, offered his thoughts on what statistics mean to him.

"Statistics are all in the past. It doesn't matter what we did in the past," Fedotenko said. "I scored two goals in Game 7, but does that matter? Did I score last two games? No, it doesn't really matter. What's in the past is in the past and there's always a record to break and always a new record to set and things to do. To me, it doesn't matter.

"Each round is different. Each team is different. There's different circumstances, different things. I don't believe in stats, or, 'Oh, I'm 6-0, that means for sure I'm 7-0.' No, it's absolutely not. It doesn't matter what's in the past. It's good in the past I was able to be on the winning side, but it doesn't matter going forward. That's my point of view."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:26 PM

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

Projected Game 1 lineup for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- While New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer refused to tip his hand as to his opening lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers on Monday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC), it's pretty safe to assume it will be status quo.

During Monday morning's optional skate here at AmeriHealth Pavilion, every player was accounted for with the exception of Petr Sykora, who decided to sit out in preparation for the start of the series at Madison Square Garden.

Additionally, Cam Janssen, Eric Boulton, Tim Sestito and Peter Harrold, who have been frequent healthy scratches, remained on the ice long after majority of the team left the ice.

"I haven't decided [on a lineup]," DeBoer told the media. "We'll decide that at game time."

Forwards Zach Parise and David Clarkson are looking forward to hitting the ice after waiting five days following their Game 5 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

"Playing in MSG … you know it's going to be louder and more hostile in there, but it's all the same in Philly," Parise said. "It is a very hard building to play in, too, but it's a good atmosphere. I would expect them to have a great start. Maybe a little carryover from their Game 7 [against Washington on Saturday]. We just need to keep doing what we've been doing."

Clarkson has shown great discipline throughout the playoffs and knows that must continue against the Rangers. While he does lead the team with 20 penalty minutes, that total ranks 12th in the playoffs.

"I think it's one thing the coaching staff and Pete have instilled in me … stay out of the box and keep away from the after-the-whistle stuff," Clarkson said. "The whole team has been told that.

"It's tough because sometimes you get bumped the wrong way or something like that when on the forecheck. But there's a bigger picture of winning, and if that's all I have to do to help this team win … pull back the reins a bit, so be it. I'll continue to make plays. Sometimes it's tough, but at the end of the day, it's what needs to be done to win and it's been working."

Here is the team's probable lineup for Monday:

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:16 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Rupp well-schooled in Rangers-Devils rivalry

NEW YORK -- Mike Rupp has experienced the Rangers-Devils rivalry from both sides of the Hudson River, and he distinctly remembers the first time he realized how heated it was as a rookie in New Jersey even before playing against New York.

Rupp scored two goals in his first NHL game on Jan. 13, 2003, against the Florida Panthers at Continental Airlines Arena, but he immediately picked up on how much Devils fans hated the Rangers during that contest.

"I just remember the chants when I was playing in New Jersey, the old famous chant when you're playing the Florida Panthers and they're saying, "Rangers (stink)!" Rupp said. "That's the one thing I remember the most, so I thought there must be something to it. It's obviously something special."

Rupp signed with the Rangers this past summer and has experienced six games from the other side of the rivalry this season. He'll take part in a seventh Monday when the Rangers and Devils open their Eastern Conference Finals series at Madison Square Garden.

The 32-year-old enforcer, just like every player who will lace up the skates for this series, said while it's fun for the fans, the opposition doesn't matter when a trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line.  

"I don't know. I think if you were facing them in the first round, maybe it would feel more like it, if that makes sense," Rupp said. "Right now, we're four wins away from getting to where you've been working so hard to get to as a team. I don't really think about that. I really don't. I don't look at them as me playing for them or one of our biggest rivals. That's kind of nonexistent right now. Now it's about winning hockey games. It doesn't matter who it's against."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:18 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings continue to shine on the road

As the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings knew they'd have to find ways to win on the road in order to be successful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Three rounds into the 2012 postseason, they still haven't lost away from Staples Center.

With Sunday's 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Jobing.com Arena, the Kings improved to 6-0 on the road this postseason and 9-1 overall.

Dating back to last year, Los Angeles has won eight straight away from home in the playoffs. No team has accomplished that since the New Jersey Devils from 1995-97.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 7:30 PM

NHL.com - Melrose Minute

In an evenly-matched series, I'm taking the Kings

I would be lying if I didn't admit I was pulling for Los Angeles to beat Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals this season. Being an ex-coach of the team and having had success there, I'll always have a soft spot for L.A. and I still have friends in the organization.

That said, despite my own emotional connection, I have a hard time seeing any differences between these teams. They're basically even in every category. Each team has been phenomenal lately and they're both great stories. I think L.A. is a little better offensively, but I think Phoenix is a little better defensively, and the goaltending is basically a push.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 8-1-0
GAA: 1.55 | SVP: 0.949
Even if the goaltending of Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith is a push, those are the two guys that seem certain to take center stage in this series. The Kings and Coyotes have the hottest goaltenders in the playoffs and each of them has gotten stronger each round. Both of them have had tremendous seasons and outstanding postseasons and that should continue this time around, though there might be some rust. Rust is going to be a problem for both sides, of course. Each team has been off for a while, but the goalies are the people who I'm really going to keep my eye on for that reason. Both Smith and Quick finished their previous series on such a hot note that as a coach, you hate not playing right away when your goalie is playing that well. When your goalie is playing so well and so confidently like each of these guys are right now, you just wish you could keep playing every two days from then on so they do lose the momentum.
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Quote of the Day

I was going nuts and I saw [Subban], he was going crazy, and the ref had no idea where to go. [Subban] was skating to me, and I was skating to him and the ref was right in between us and I don't know, I kind of hit him pretty hard, I thought, but those were some emotions and I'm pretty sure he understands that.

— Montreal forward Alex Galchenyuk on the celebration following his OT goal against Ottawa in Game 2