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Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 2:55 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Rangers believe better breakouts are a must

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- We already know that coach John Tortorella insists the Rangers are not a tired team despite playing back-to-back seven-game series, but they do get tired during shifts, especially when they're working so hard just to get the puck out of the defensive zone and into the attacking zone.

Brad Richards said the key for Game 3 Saturday is cleanly moving the puck up the ice. If they can do that, then the Rangers feel they will be able to keep the Devils hemmed in their zone.
 
It sounds obvious, like something every team in every game wants to do, but through two games in the Eastern Conference Finals, turning breakouts into offensive-zone time has been a difficult task for the Rangers to accomplish.

"We've got to get pucks down there, get them working in their zone and tire them out down there," Richards said. "It's a lot easier to play in the offensive zone, and we spend the first part of our shifts trying to get out of the zone. We just have to get down there."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 2:49 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Rangers swap lines to get 'heavier'

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Considering the Rangers have struggled along the boards against the Devils through two games, it's not all that surprising that coach John Tortorella was experimenting with a new line of Brian Boyle between Mike Rupp and Artem Anisimov in practice Friday.

Size matters when you want to win battles along the boards, and the Rangers don't have any three bigger forwards (John Scott is not an option) -- Boyle is 6-foot-7; Rupp is 6-foot-5; Anisimov is 6-foot-4.

If Boyle, Rupp and Anisimov are together, they will be tasked with pounding the Devils along the walls. New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer talked Thursday about how his team is a "heavy team" on the puck, with their sticks, in the corners and on the walls, and the Rangers haven't adequately been able to match that yet.

"Our game all year has been hold onto pucks in the offensive zone and play in those tough areas," Rupp said. "New Jersey is doing the same and right now we're losing that battle. We need to find ways to hold on to pucks in those areas. That's what I know I'm going to look to do in the next game, and a bunch of us will look to better that."

Added Tortorella: "No matter who it is, when you're at this point in the season, you're playing against teams that we're playing against, Jersey, and the other two teams playing in the West, that's a big part of playoff hockey," Tortorella said of strong board play. "That's a big part of who we are, and we certainly have to be more consistent with that part."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 2:02 PM

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

Seeking size, Rangers move Rupp to third line

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Rangers had been icing the identical lineup and combinations to start a game since the end of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but that all changed Friday afternoon at practice.

Coach John Tortorella moved Mike Rupp from the fourth line to the third line and dropped Ruslan Fedotenko to the fourth line. The third line now features more size and strength with the 6-foot-7, 244-pound Brian Boyle in the middle, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Artem Anisimov on the left wing and the 6-foot-5, 243-pound Rupp on the right.

The Rangers felt they lost too many puck battles along the wall in their 3-2 loss to the Devils in Game 2 of the conference finals. Adding more beef to the checking line could help solve that problem.

"That's a big part of how we play," Tortorella said. "Big, small or medium build, we play hard along the boards. Obviously that was void the other night."

Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Prudential Center, so there will be no morning skate before the game. These are the lines the Devils can expect to face when the puck is dropped with the series tied 1-1.

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

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

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 1:54 PM

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

Dubinsky back at practice, no timetable for return

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky practiced Friday for the first time since April 27 while wearing an orange non-contact jersey.

Dubinsky suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators and has been out since that time.

The 26-year-old stayed on the ice for about 20 minutes Friday before exiting to the locker room. Rangers coach John Tortorella offered no timetable for Dubinsky's return.

"He was on the ice," Tortorella said. "Other than that, there's no update."

Dubinsky has one assist in seven games this postseason.

In other injury news, forward Mats Zuccarello (wrist) is no longer skating with the regular group and is instead practicing with the black aces called up from Connecticut of the AHL. Zuccarello is still not ready to play, but his skating with the healthy scratches is a strong indicator that even when he's healthy, he won't crack the lineup barring an injury to a teammate.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 1:14 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Quick having a spring for the ages

Though Jonathan Quick is a Vezina Trophy finalist, few people would have mentioned him in the same breath with Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk before the playoffs started. But the two now share an accomplishment that no one else achieved in a six-decade span.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 11-1-0
GAA: 1.41 | SVP: 0.951
Quick has won 11 of his 12 starts this spring while leading the Los Angeles Kings within one victory of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993. Thursday's 2-1 victory against Phoenix marked the eighth consecutive game in which Quick won without allowing more than two goals. The last goaltender to put together that kind of streak was Sawchuk, who went 8-0 while leading Detroit to a sweep in the 1952 playoffs -- a stretch of brilliance in which he allowed just five goals and posted four shutouts.

Quick wasn't quite that good -- he allowed 10 goals in the eight wins -- but he's been the best goaltender to take the ice so far this spring. In 12 games, Quick has 11 wins, a 1.41 goals-against average, a .951 save percentage and two shutouts -- putting him first in all four categories.
Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 4:06 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Coyotes comfortable with Langkow in Hanzal's spot

LOS ANGELES -- This won't be the first time the Phoenix Coyotes have faced a critical 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff contest without Martin Hanzal, so consider them prepared for the situation.

Hanzal won't play Thursday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals series against Los Angeles (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) because of a hit late in Game 2 on Kings captain Dustin Brown. He also missed three games in the first round against Chicago because of injury, and the Coyotes won two of those three games.

"Obviously we want him in the lineup, no doubt about that. We've been in this situation, facing adversity and missing a couple guys like Marty," Coyotes center Antoine Vermette said. "I think it is a team play -- with or without him we have to be strong in support of each other.

"I think generally when we're successful that is how we approach it. We have every line doing their same things, play the same ways. Some nights it is different lines that can score. We feel confident that we can generate some offense from different lines."

For Game 3, Daymond Langkow will move from the fourth line into Hanzal's spot between Radim Vrbata and Taylor Pyatt. Marc-Antoine Pouliot will replace Hanzal in the lineup and play somewhere on the fourth line.

Langkow has no goals and six points in 13 playoff games, but he had at least 50 points in eight straight seasons earlier in his career. If the grey flecks in his beard weren't enough of a clue, he's a veteran of 72 postseason games and more than 1,000 in the regular season.

"Yeah, I've been there before," Langkow said. "We've got to work hard as a group and play our game and get the job the done. I haven't played with [Vrbata] at all except for a little bit in the third [period] at the end of last game. I've played with [Pyatt] a little bit. I know what kind of players they are. [Pyatt] is real good down low and obviously [Vrbata] is a great shooter. We just need to work hard and make things click."

Added Pyatt: "He [Langkow] is a real solid veteran centerman that can make a lot of plays. He'll step in and do a real good job."

There may be more of an onus on the Vermette line to provide offense, but the Coyotes have been a goals-by-committee club for much of the past three seasons. That said, the team's top two scorers during the regular season, Vrbata and Ray Whitney, have gone five games without a point.

Hanzal is tied with Pyatt for second on the team in goals in the playoffs with three, and has played at least 17:31 in every playoff game that he's finished for the Coyotes.

"He's strength in the middle. He's a big guy that, for most of the year, has centered our top line," coach Dave Tippett said. "It is what it is. We've got to focus on the players that are coming in, on a game plan that we feel we can be successful with. Certainly like to have Marty in there, but it's not a factor tonight, so we have to concentrate on the other options."
Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:46 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Coyotes embracing underdog role

LOS ANGELES -- The Phoenix Coyotes are in a tough spot, down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals and facing two games on the road, starting with Game 3 of the series here at Staples Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, CBC).

The odds are stacked in the Los Angeles Kings' favor, and finding people who expect the Coyotes to win this series outside the Phoenix dressing room could be a difficult task.

In other words, it's a normal day for the Coyotes.

"We were joking about how obviously everyone is picking the Kings to win this now, and that's a good thing because pretty much everyone has been picking against us for three years," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "The moment people start picking us is when we have to be worried. We just have to find a way to rally around something."

Few pundits expected the Coyotes to return to the playoffs this season after losing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the summer. Not only are they back in the playoffs, but they have reached the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

While the Coyotes were the higher seed in each of their first two playoff series this year, Chicago and Nashville had amassed more points during the regular season and were the favorites. Even though Phoenix eked out the Pacific Division title, finishing ahead of San Jose and Los Angeles, the Kings were a heavy favorite against the Coyotes.

Now that the Kings have won the first two games in Phoenix and the Coyotes will be without center Martin Hanzal because of a suspension and defenseman Adrian Aucoin because of an injury, there won't be many people expecting a victory for the road team on Thursday.

"Somebody sent me an e-mail [Wednesday] about being picked 15th going into the conference [this season]," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We're finding ways to overcome the adversity and we'll continue to try to find that. That's kind of the way it's been for a long time for us, so that doesn't seem to bother us too much."

Added Doan: "We've been pretty good at blocking things that are going on around us and just finding a way to win. That's all we've got to do [Thursday]  -- find a way to win one game."
Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:14 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

LOS ANGELES -- The Phoenix Coyotes will try to get back into this Western Conference Finals series against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 at Staples Center on Thursday night, but they will have to do so without center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Adrian Aucoin.

Hanzal is suspended after a hit from behind in Game 2 on Kings captain Dustin Brown, and Aucoin remains out with an injury.

Here's the projected lineup for both teams:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Daymond Langkow - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Mikkel Boedker
Gilbert Brule - Kyle Chipchura - Marc-Antoine Pouliot

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Michael Stone

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Brad Richardson - Jordan Nolan

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:04 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Clifford staying in lineup

LOS ANGELES -- Kyle Clifford will stay in the lineup for the Los Angeles Kings for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday at Staples Center ( 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Colin Fraser remained in Canada for a family matter, although he was expected to return in the afternoon, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. However, he said Clifford will play.

Clifford didn't know he would play in Game 2 until a few hours before the game. He said it wasn't too much of an adjustment even though he had not played since Game 1 of the first round, April 11.

"Definitely the emotions were there, so it was fun," Clifford said.

Clifford will play left wing on the fourth line again, with Brad Richardson at center and rookie Jordan Nolan on the right side when L.A. attempts to take a 3-0 series lead on the Phoenix Coyotes.

"I think your adrenaline carries you most of the way," Clifford said. "We're a high-energy line so we've just got to get pucks in, finish checks and keep it simple."
Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Day off has Kings' Brown feeling fine for Game 3

LOS ANGELES -- Dustin Brown was intact and seemingly ready to go for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) at the Kings' morning skate.

The Los Angeles Kings captain probably was the most appreciative of the day off between Games 2 and 3 after he was the recipient of a slash from Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith and a boarding penalty from Martin Hanzal that earned the Coyotes center a one-game suspension.

What hurt more?

"Probably the hit," Brown said. "The slash, my leg went numb. … You're used to getting slashed every day.

"Going into intermission, my foot was sleeping, maybe a little numb. When I came out for the third, I had pretty much full feeling in my leg."

Hanzal boarded Brown when Brown chased his own chip to the end boards in the third period of Game 2. Brown stayed in the game, and if he was hurt, he is showing no effects from it.

"I got my arms up, so that's probably the best scenario considering the play," Brown said.

That Brown was not hurt factored into the one-game suspension levied by the NHL Player Safety Department. Also, Hanzal does not have a history of over-the-line play.

"I know these games are probably worth more," Brown said. "I thought he was going to get two [games]. But it's not an easy decision to make considering we're in the Western finals. As a player, you don't really worry about length. I guess the media really likes talking about the state of the game right now. Right now they've got one of their top centers out and we've got to be ready to go."

Brown sounded more irked at the diving penalty he was given on the full-swing slash by Smith.

"Quite surprised, I guess," Brown said. "I don't really understand it. It came down from over his head. I'm not sure. I still don't understand it. Most refs haven't been slashed on the back of the leg, either."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter only said of the suspension, "That's what the League valued it as. I'm thankful [Brown] didn't get hurt."
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Quote of the Day

That group is not satisfied until we win a Stanley Cup. When we do win that Stanley Cup, I don't think we'll be satisfied then either. We're going to want another one. We have the group to do it. We have all the pieces. We just need to put them together.

— Ducks forward Ryan Kesler after signing a six-year extension with Anaheim this past July