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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:08 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Smith among players missing from Coyotes practice

Before the Coyotes and Blackhawks started their playoff series on Thursday, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett announced that his entire roster was healthy and ready to go for Game 1.

Four days and two games later, that picture had changed dramatically.

Goalie Mike Smith, center Martin Hanzal and left wing Lauri Korpikoski were all injured in Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2 and all three did not practice with the team on Monday at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. Tippett wasn't interested in talking about their status for Tuesday night when the series resumes with Game 3 in Chicago.

"Our health is just fine. We have everyone under evaluation and that's where we're at. That's not a concern to us," Tippett said. When asked specifically about Smith, he said, "We're not talking about injuries. He's fine."

Smith was hit in the head by Chicago's Andrew Shaw in the second period of Game 2. He was attended to on the ice for several minutes but was able to stay in and finish the game. Shaw was given a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct, and will learn today at a hearing if he faces further discipline from NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shannahan.

If Smith can't play, the Coyotes will turn to backup Jason LaBarbera -- who played in only 19 games this season (3-9-3) and allowed five goals on 35 shots in a 5-2 loss to Chicago on Oct. 18 in Glendale. LaBarbera's last regular season win can Dec. 21 at Carolina -- he is 0-6-3 since.

Hanzal, who had the overtime game-winner for Phoenix in Game 1 on Saturday, appeared to suffer a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 2 and left the arena for further evaluation and treatment while the game continued. Hanzal plays between leading scorers Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata on Phoenix's top line and is also a big part of the power play and penalty-kill units as well as checking opposing top lines.

Before Game 2, Phoenix captain Shane Doan called Hanzal "probably our most valuable forward." If Hanzal can't play, Antoine Vermette, who leads all scorers in the series with three goals and had a pair in Game 2, would center the top line with veterans Boyd Gordon and Daymond Langkow seeing increased ice time and face-off duty.
Korpikoski was injured early in the third period when he was checked along the boards during a Phoenix power play. Korpikoski is also a key member of the Coyotes, seeing time in the power play and a key penalty killer who leads the team with three shorthanded goals this season.
Gilbert Brule, who was a healthy scratch in Game 2, would be the likely replacement if Korpikoski can't go.

On Monday night, the Coyotes announced that forwards Alexandre Bolduc and Marc-Antoine Pouliot were recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League, along with goaltender Justin Pogge. Portland did not qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:55 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Lidstrom paired with White once more for Red Wings

DETROIT -- It happened during Game 3 Sunday of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock put 41-year-old star captain Nicklas Lidstrom back together with Ian White as the Wings' top defense pair, which had been the case for most of the season. After Lidstrom was injured blocking a shot and missed 11 games in March, White was forced to work with others on the blue line and wasn't a shoe-in to work with Lidstrom after he returned.

In fact, Babcock had been using the bigger Jonathan Ericsson with Lidstrom as the top pair after he also returned from a lengthy injury. That changed mid-game Sunday, though, with White taking the right point beside Lidstrom on the left once again -- which also was how they lined up during Monday's practice at Joe Louis Arena.

Babcock, however, cautioned against trying to predict how his lineup will look before or during the game.

"We like Ericsson and Lidstrom together on match-ups, too," Babcock said. "When we need the puck moved a little crisper … we thought [White] was having a good game."

Prior to Lidstrom's injury, he and White had plus/minus ratings in the upper 20s and were sitting near the top of the League in that stat.

In other apparent lineup switches Monday, veteran Danny Cleary worked as a top-six forward with star center Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen on the second line. That moved Todd Bertuzzi to the third line at right wing to work with center Justin Abdelkader and rookie Gustav Nyquist.

"All these questions you're asking about -- who's playing with who -- I'm going to go to the game and I'm going to watch, and whoever plays the best is going to play the most," Babcock said. "It doesn't matter to me what their name is.''
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:51 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Red Wings hope alarm clock rings for Game 4

DETROIT -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's most common terminology for getting off to a good start in games is "starting on time," but lately his team seems to be starting games by repeatedly hitting the snooze button.

Detroit has fallen behind in eight of its last night games, including the regular season and two of the first three games in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators. As a result, the Wings find themselves down 2-1 in the series heading into Game 4 Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC), a building where they lost 3-2 in Game 3 on Sunday after falling behind 2-0 before making a furious effort to come back.

"I thought someone told me it was like 80 percent of the time during the regular season when you score first you win, so I don't think that's any different now," Babcock said after Monday's practice. "It's a priority for everyone. You want to get started on time. We lost the first four faceoffs last night. That led to forechecks … any way you look at it, that leads to momentum. That probably leads to you taking a penalty and more momentum, so you got to start on time for sure and it's a priority each and every night.''

The Predators owned the faceoff battle early in Game 3, winning 75 percent of the draws through the first 15 minutes of the game and taking a 1-0 lead on Shea Weber's power-play goal just 2:48 into the game.

The Red Wings again struggled with committing early penalties in that game and it wound up costing them with not only Weber's goal, but lost puck possession and offensive flow. Johan Franzen was called for two slashing penalties in the second period, with the second one leading to a five-on-three Nashville power play.

The Red Wings killed it and actually gained some momentum from it, but that's not the ideal way Babcock wants his team to get its offense going -- especially playing without injured penalty-killing forwards Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm.

"When I look at the tape those are both penalties," Babcock said of the infractions by Franzen and Kyle Quincey to create Nashville's 23-second two-man advantage. "Stay out of the box. Real simple. It takes a ton of energy to play four against five. Normally we could have [Eaves and Helm]. They eat up a ton of those minutes, so now [Pavel Datsyuk] and [Henrik Zetterberg] are doing it. I'd rather have them shooting it in the net than keeping it out of the net, so it's a waste of energy just because I was careless with my stick. But the great thing about this stuff is we control all of it and we're going to fix it.''

If they don't, it could be more of the same as the two losses to the Predators -- both of which saw Detroit fall behind early while trying to find its footing following multiple penalties. That's why with a pivotal Game 4 on tap Tuesday, the Red Wings really are focusing on hearing the alarm this time.

"Both teams right now have teams that can really frustrate the opposing team [with a lead]," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. "It seems like right now, whoever scores first has the momentum throughout the game."
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:41 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Projected lineup for Panthers

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Here is the projected lineup the Panthers will use when the puck drops for Game 3 Tuesday (7 p.m. ET NHLN-US, TSN) against the Devils at Prudential Center:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:32 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Predators playing with lineup decisions

DETROIT -- Despite winning the third game of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday and taking a 2-1 series lead, Nashville coach Barry Trotz appeared to send a message in Monday's practice.

David Legwand, who had been centering the Predators' second line, was dropped to the fourth unit, with Matt Halischuk and Brandon Yip, with Nick Spaling moving to center of the second line, with Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov.

Forward Jordin Tootoo, who played his first game of the series Sunday, also appears to be out of the mix for Game 4 Tuesday in Detroit (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC).

"We might just look to change things a little bit, a little different plan," Trotz said.
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:30 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Preds getting good production from their blue line

DETROIT -- Coming into this Western Conference Quarterfinal series, one of the key areas between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators was on the back end.

Both teams tout active, productive two-way defense corps led by stars in the top pairing. So far, though, it's been the Predators receiving the bigger edge from their blue line. Nashville has gotten three goals and two assists from its defense, led by captain Shea Weber's two goals, while Detroit has gotten just one goal, by Ian White, and three assists.

It hasn't just been offensively, however. Weber and Ryan Suter are logging a lot of minutes without injured veteran Hal Gill playing, and the second two pairings also have contributed big plays and points.

"We try and chip in whenever we can," said Kevin Klein, who had a goal and an assist in Game 3, and also saved a sure game-tying goal by deflecting a shot with the shaft of his stick. "Obviously [Suter and Weber] carry most of the load offensively. They create so many opportunities while playing solid defense. They're two of the best defensemen in the world and we're lucky to have them."

Not just for the obvious reasons, either.

"It's nice for the next four or five guys to just fly under the radar and do our thing and let them get all the praise," Klein said. "It's good. It keeps the pressure off the young guys, too."

Star goalie Pekka Rinne helps the Predators' defense as well, but said Monday that it's a two-way street -- especially in Nashville's defense-oriented system.

"They've been our backbone for a long, long time and they're always there for us," Rinne said of his defensemen. "They're creating offense as well as making a lot of great defensive plays and blocking shots and giving our forwards pucks at full speed for good breakouts and all that stuff. It's a really big part of our team."
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:26 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Gill skates with Preds, still day-to-day

DETROIT -- Hal Gill skated in a full team practice Monday, the first time the Nashville Predators defenseman has done that since sustaining a lower-body injury blocking a shot in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

The 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill -- who was acquired in February for his postseason experience and penalty-killing ability -- skated for about 30 minutes before leaving the ice at Joe Louis Arena prior to drills that involved more contact.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Gill is feeling better, but didn't shed much light on whether Gill will play in Game 4 of the Predators' Western Conference Quarterfinals series with the Detroit red Wings on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC).

"He'll be just day-to-day and we'll see where he is [Tuesday]," Trotz said. "He said he felt a lot better. I said, 'Don't push it too hard.' He was fine. He actually stayed out there for quite a while."

Gill has missed the first three playoff games, plus the last game of the regular season, with the injury. Gill didn't speak with reporters following practice, but his teammates said they were hoping to get him back in the lineup for a pivotal game in the series, which Nashville leads 2-1.

"Hopefully he's feeling pretty good and he can get back in there and play for us soon," Predators center Mike Fisher said. "We're hoping."

When Gill was on the ice he was paired with Jack Hillen, while Francis Bouillon was teamed with rookie Ryan Ellis, who filled in for Gill in Game 3 Sunday. Kevin Klein and rookie Roman Josi worked Monday as Nashville's second pairing, behind the top duo of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:25 PM

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

DeBoer expects Devils' special teams will improve

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer isn't too concerned over the fact his team is losing the special teams battle through two games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers.
Still, he expects the penalty-killing and power-play units to be running full throttle on Tuesday in front of the hometown faithful for Game 3 at Prudential Center.
The Devils established a post-expansion NHL record with an 89.6 percent penalty-killing efficiency during the regular season, but suddenly find themselves struggling to contain the Panthers' power-play.
Through two games, the Panthers have gone 3-for-7 (42.9 percent), including 2-for-4 in Sunday's series-tying triumph. The Devils' power play, meanwhile, is 1-for-8 in the series, finishing 0-for-2 on Sunday while generating just a single shot with the man advantage.
DeBoer was asked if he is disheartened knowing the club is losing the special teams battle at this stage.
"I anticipate a turnaround [at home], but you have to give [Florida] some credit," DeBoer said. "They've done a good job in both those areas. I think if you look around the League, there are battles in every round across the board. We didn't expect anything less, so I don't think disheartened is the right word for it. We expected it would be tough, and this is going to be a good, long series."
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur knows one or two games doesn't make a series.
"We're not looking at playoff games, we're looking at a playoff series," he said. "Three of the next four games will be in our building, so we're in a good position and we just have to take advantage of that."
Brodeur feels that the veterans on the team, including Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, Petr Sykora and Ilya Kovalchuk, must show the younger players the way.
"When you've been through the battles, you understand the ups and downs," Brodeur said. "I think we've accomplished what we wanted to do in Florida [with the split]. We have to build on that, especially on our third period [in Game 2], and take that momentum we had there into Tuesday's home game."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:09 PM

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

Parise creating chances, still searching for first goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise said he is feeling fine after taking a shot from defenseman Bryce Salvador in his team's Game 2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
"My back was a little sore after that one," Parise said while laughing. "But I'm fine."
The only thing that discouraged Parise on Sunday was the fact he couldn't find a way to put the puck in the net despite the numerous chances he created and had on Florida veteran keeper Jose Theodore.
Parise logged 21:49 of ice time on Sunday and generated a team-high six shots while delivering five hits.
"I've had some great opportunities and it's frustrating, but other than that, I like the way I've been playing," Parise told reporters on Monday. "As long as [the chances] keep coming, eventually they'll start going in."
Parise said that while it would have been nice to take both games in Florida, earning a split was the next best thing. The Devils and the Panthers will play Game 3 on Tuesday at Prudential Center.
"We'd love to be up 2-0 right now, but that's not the case," he said. "I'm not going to say it's a blown opportunity. I've had some good opportunities and they'll go in, but it is frustrating when they're not going in."
It doesn't surprise Devils coach Pete DeBoer that Parise would put that type of pressure on himself to contribute on the offensive end.
"He wants to be a difference maker, but he knows it'll come," DeBoer said. "He's been through these situations before and, for me, it's about the chances he's creating. If he wasn't creating chances, then we might worry, but he's created a handful and it's just a matter of time."
Parise said that the Panthers generate plenty of momentum off their power-play and that the Devils just need to remain disciplined.
"That's something we have to be better at," Parise said. "I think they get a lot of momentum off their power play. I feel 5-on-5, we've done a great job."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:04 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Stewart back in lineup, hears message 'loud and clear'

SAN JOSE -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock sent an unmistakable message when he pulled third-line forward Chris Stewart from the lineup Saturday night for Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals against San Jose.

Hitchcock sent another clear message Monday morning when he announced that Stewart would be back in the lineup for Game 3 at HP Pavilion.

"He's going to play today," Hitchcock said. "Need him. Need his 'A' game. When he's playing, he's a hard guy to play against. He can play physical. He plays a lot like Milan [Lucic] does in Boston. So we need him in. He's got good hands and can score from the inside. He's a guy that gives us a chance to get way more five-on-five scoring chances, which we're going to need on the road. We're not getting enough of those. So he's going to help us there hopefully."

When he made Stewart a healthy scratch in Game 2, Hitchcock said he needed "more tenacity, more determination, more second and third effort from that position."

Stewart said that after the Blues beat San Jose 3-0 in Game 2, knotting the series at 1-1, he didn't expect the lineup to change. He welcomed the chance to redeem himself.

"The message was sent. It was received loud and clear," Stewart said. "I'm going to go out there and I'm going to work my [tail] off. You see the last game. Those are the games you dream about. End of the game you win and there's line brawls and stuff like that. That's stuff you want to be a part of. I'm obviously disappointed I didn't get to experience that, but that's the good thing about this game, you get a chance right now tonight to redeem yourself. It's, 'What have you done for me lately?' I'm going to go out there and show 'em."

Hitchcock said he hadn't decided which forward Stewart would replace, but during line rushes in the morning skate, Matt D'Agostini appeared to be the odd man out. Stewart skated with center Jason Arnott and wing Vladimir Sobotka. Fourth-line center Scott Nichol skated with Jamie Langenbrunner and B.J. Crombeen.

Hitchcock was asked how much Stewart could elevate his game, just two days after being scratched.

"A lot," Hitchcock answered. "I think we'll get a good player tonight."

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I first met him when I was 19 years old and he coached me for 13 consecutive years. I don't know how many athletes who have had that pleasure. Al Arbour was a man that left us not only feeling like champions, but left us with a lot of great memories that we can carry on through life.

— Islanders Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin on former coach Al Arbour, who passed away Friday at the age of 82