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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 12:02 PM

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

Devils focus on pushing series with Panthers to seven

NEWARK, N.J. -- A season full of promise will hinge on how badly the New Jersey Devils want it on Tuesday when they host the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Prudential Center.
"I anticipate a strong effort from everybody … there's a lot of pride and character in that room, and I expect this to be our best game," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said Tuesday morning following his team's optional skate at Prudential Center.
"The message [Tuesday morning] was that we're not going to win this series [Tuesday night]," DeBoer said. "We have to win one game, and then both will be in the same position … that's the focus."
The Panthers own a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven matchup in which all games were there for the taking at some point. Momentum, key mistakes and players rising to the occasion proved to be the difference for the victor in each of the first five contests.
"We're not done yet," Devils right wing Ilya Kovalchuk said. "We can win two in a row. We did it a lot this year. But they're a good team. They work hard. They do what they're best at. Like I said a lot of times, they're there for a reason, but if we want to win the series, we've got to take care of ourselves."
The Devils have put themselves in a situation where they need to win two straight playoff games in order to advance -- something they haven't accomplished since 2007 when they won three straight to take their quarterfinal-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. While the Devils have gone 27 straight playoff games without experiencing two straight postseason wins, it isn't as if they haven't won consecutive contests this season.
New Jersey won two or more in a row on 13 different occasions during the season. They actually closed out their 82-game schedule with a season-high six straight victories.
"I'm sure I'll be nervous entering tonight," Parise said. "There's a lot on the line and I'm sure a lot of guys will be nervous, and that's OK, we'll be ready to play. I guess it's kind of pointless and adds a little more stress to think about two at a time. We can't win them both [Tuesday]. I think the last game was their best game and we weren't on top of ours. So, we have to be a lot better in areas that we were better at earlier in the series."
That recipe includes playing with more desperation and greater ferocity on the forecheck. It also means staying out of the penalty box, shooting more and collecting rebounds.
"I think all of us, we've got to shoot the puck more and we've got to create more traffic," Kovalchuk said.
For the record, the Devils have averaged 29 shots in five playoff games against the Panthers. The team averaged 27.5 shots in the regular season. Florida yielded 30.5 shots per game during the regular season.
"I think as a group we have to get more shots," DeBoer said. "You look at the stats [in Game 5] and I think our defensemen as a group had one shot [Mark Fayne]. That's not enough. I think we passed up some opportunities to shoot some pucks as a group too, not just the defense. It was across the board. You look at the goals scored around the League at this time of year and a lot of them are generated off shots and rebounds."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:44 AM

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

Theodore not on ice for Panthers' morning skate

NEWARK, N.J. -- There is no sign of Florida Panthers goalie Jose Theodore on the ice during the team's morning skate on Tuesday in preparation for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils.
Additionally, defenseman Jason Garrison and forward Tomas Fleischmann are also not on the ice. Fleischmann missed practice prior to Game 4 at Prudential Center as well, but did start the game. Garrison will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury and will be replaced in the lineup by Tyson Strachan.
Theodore stopped 30 shots in Game 5 to lead the Panthers to a 3-0 victory that enabled the team to grab a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Scott Clemmensen and Jacob Markstrom were the goalies on the ice during Tuesday's practice.

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said that Theodore still could play Tuesday night.
"We decided to give Theo the morning off and see where he's at tonight," Dineen said. "He's a little bit tender right now so we'll evaluate as the day moves on see if he's ready to play tonight or not. We'll always try to lean toward the side of precaution if there is something that somebody is a little bit tender with. We felt we needed an extra backup and that's why you see Jake out there."
If Theodore can't go, former Devil Scott Clemmensen figures to make his second career playoff start for the Panthers. Clemmensen was called upon to start Game 4, stopping 23 of 27 shots in a 4-0 loss in Newark.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:20 AM

By Matt Kalman - Correspondent / - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bergeron not on ice as Bruins practice

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron did not practice Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, where the team prepared for Wednesday's Game 7 against the Washington Capitals in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Asked if he had any concerns Bergeron would not play in Game 7, Bruins coach Claude Julien replied, "None at all."

Bergeron was banged up in Game 5 last Saturday. He played Sunday in Game 6, but was limited to just one third-period faceoff after he finished second in the NHL in faceoff percentage during the regular season.

The Bruins did not practice Monday and Bergeron did not reveal what was ailing him during a media scrum to discuss his selection as a finalist for the Selke Trophy. In six games of this series, Bergeron has totaled two assists and an even plus/minus rating. In Game 6, he recorded an assist in 19:41 of ice time.

In six career Game 7s, Bergeron has recorded two goals and three points.

Bergeron was the only Bruins regular missing from practice.

Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:28 AM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers prepare for ninth Game 7

"The World's Most Famous Arena" will be hosting its fourth Game 7 on Thursday night.

Thanks to the work of youngsters such as Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider -- along with world-class goaltender Henrik Lundqvist -- the Blueshirts managed to stave off elimination Monday night and force a seventh game with a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

The victory means the Rangers will be participating in their ninth Game 7 in franchise history, and the fourth to be played at Madison Square Garden. It will also be the first Game 7 on Broadway since the Rangers won their only Stanley Cup championship in the last six decades, when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in a dramatic seventh game in 1994.
Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 11:48 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Lundqvist irate about Spezza's goal

OTTAWA -- It didn't affect the outcome of the game, but it certainly affected the mood of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist afterward.

With the Rangers leading Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators 3-1 in the final minutes, Jason Spezza ripped a shot on net that was stopped by Lundqvist. During the ensuing scramble around the net, the puck was jarred loose and swept into the net to cut the lead to 3-2.
Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 9:59 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYR @ OTT 19:21 of the third period

At 19:21 of the third period in the Rangers/Senators game, video review was used to determine if Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil kicked the puck into the New York net.  Video review was inconclusive in determining if Chris Neil's left skate propelled the puck into the net. Call on the ice stands, good goal Ottawa.
Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Predators looking like Cup contenders

We're getting close to the end of the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there is still plenty to be decided, and there are still plenty of storylines coming out of what has been an entertaining tournament so far. For my money, however, one of the biggest stories is the way Nashville knocked out the mighty Detroit Red Wings in just five games, and it raises a pretty real question:

Are the Predators the team to beat?

When the playoffs began two weeks ago, I think if you weren't one of the people that thought this team had a chance to win, then you didn't know much about hockey. This is a heck of a hockey team, plain and simple, and its win over Detroit shows it. The interesting thing about this matchup was that it was something of a changing of the guard in the West. The Predators will tell you that their model for this team is Detroit. They want to build their team like Detroit, build their organization like Detroit -- they even throw fish on the ice like Detroit fans throw octopi. They want a tradition just like the Red Wings have.

If you look at how they're built, the Predators have great goaltending and maybe the best goaltender playing in the playoffs right now. Brian Elliot has been good for St. Louis, but he hasn't faced the shots that Pekka Rinne has, and Jonathan Quick has been good for Los Angeles, but other than those two, I can't think of a goalie who has played as well as Rinne.

Then you look at Nashville's defense, which has two studs on the top pair with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, but it's also got this kid Kevin Klein, who had two goals in the series and played great defense. And this is all without Hal Gill, who hasn't been in the lineup. If you look at their forwards, they have four lines that can all play, their special teams are very good and they have a very good defensive system to go along with a great goaltender. This team is for real.

I think the last piece to the puzzle was getting Alexander Radulov, because they didn't have that one pure goal scorer. They had a lot of guys who can score like Mike Fisher or Martin Erat, but the one pure goal scorer that only needs one chance -- Radulov is that goal scorer now, and we saw that in that last game against Detroit.

I picked Nashville to beat Detroit, so I thought they were ready to come out of their shell and go to the prom, but I didn't think it would be five games -- and I didn't think the Predators would beat the Red Wings in Game 5 giving up just 22 shots. When you can do that to a team like Detroit, with the talent level and history Detroit has, it sends messages to the rest of the League.

Beating Detroit in five games was impressive, but how they did it, with tight checking, great defense, controlling Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for the most part, making Detroit's defense look average at times -- it all adds up to a pretty dominant win. Any series that ends in five games is a dominant win, but things like only giving up 22 shots in the last game, that's a message sender. That makes teams look at the tape and think, "Wow, how are we going to get through the neutral zone and get our chances?"

They're just solid from top to bottom.

Of course, we're only through one round right now. If Nashville is going to win the Cup they've got three more rounds to get through, but I like the way the draw shapes up for them. With St. Louis locked into facing Los Angeles in the second round, the Preds are going to face whoever wins between the Coyotes or the Blackhawks.

If you watch the way Phoenix and Chicago play, both have some question marks. Phoenix is up in the series, but they're giving up a bunch of shots and they were basically outshot 2-to-1 for a while in Game 5 Saturday night. It's not a case of Phoenix dominating Chicago. Mike Smith has been unbelievable and Corey Crawford can't stop the puck in overtime. That's the only reason this series has gone this far. Phoenix is a team that stresses defense and goaltending, very much like Nashville. Chicago will give the Predators a lot of offensive weapons to deal with, but if Marian Hossa's still out, that's a big weapon gone.

The Preds have two different matchups waiting for them, each with its own share of problems, but I think with the Predators' system, goaltending and depth, they match up well against both of them.

If Nashville gets through the second round it might very well face its division rival St. Louis. To me these are the two best teams playing in the West right now, and that would be a very difficult series for each -- and a very difficult one in which to see goals. Both of them look good, but Nashville's first-round win against Detroit has shown me something. When the playoffs began, I had Chicago coming out of the West, but with the way the field is shaping up and the way the Predators are playing, seeing them facing off in the Stanley Cup Final wouldn't surprise me one bit.
Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 4:08 PM

By Matt Kalman - Correspondent / - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Last year's Game 7 success no guarantee for Bruins

BOSTON -- With a roster made up of mostly players who went 3-0 in Game 7 situations en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship, the Boston Bruins should be teeming with confidence heading into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Wednesday.

"Last year's last year. I think we quickly realized that in October, when we went 3-7," center Chris Kelly said Monday. "In the same breath, it's nice to have played in Game 7s before to have that to reflect upon and look back on, but this is a whole new year and a whole new challenge, and one of those things that we're all looking forward to."

The Bruins did not skate Monday at TD Garden on the first of two off days before the series finale. The time off should give the Bruins opportunity to rest, especially center Patrice Bergeron, who's battling an upper-body injury that prevented him from taking more than one faceoff in Boston’s season-saving Game 6 victory Sunday.

The time off could also be an opportunity to drum up a whole bunch of emotions. But center Gregory Campbell says that last season taught him the correct approach to take when it comes to Game 7.

"I think for Game 7s, what I've learned so far in my short playoff career, is that it's got to be a balance," Campbell said. "You've got to be ready. Game 7s are usually most intense games because everything's on the line. But I think you've got to control your emotions and you have to walk that line where you're ready to go, your energy and enthusiasm is high, but you can make plays under pressure. Obviously it's a pressure-packed situation and it's usually the team that can make those plays and perform under pressure is the team that wins."

Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 3:39 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Coyotes' sacrifice blocking shots paying off

CHICAGO -- Shane Doan grabbed a scoresheet following Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series and smiled.

After looking at the 'blocked shot' category for his Phoenix Coyotes, he held up a hand for a high five from defenseman Keith Yandle -- after informing his teammate they'd combined to stop 10 Chicago Blackhawks shots from even getting to goalie Mike Smith.

It was a good snapshot of the Coyotes' entire series against the Hawks, who've outshot them by a wide margin and still trail 3-2 after the previous five games were all decided in overtime.

"We talk all the time about [how] we have to do whatever it takes to win," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "And [we say] if the other team is shooting the puck a lot, we'd better be in the lanes as much as we can."

Mission accomplished on that front, so far.

Heading into Monday night's Game 6 at United Center, Phoenix has blocked 109 of Chicago's shots -- which ranks fourth most in the playoffs and is the most of any Western Conference team so far. Conversely, the Blackhawks have blocked just 53 shots -- but also faced far fewer pucks shot toward them.

Chicago is second overall in shots and first in the West with 202, while the Coyotes have launched just 139 shots at Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford -- the second-lowest amount among Western Conference teams, ahead of just Nashville.

That includes just 19 shots total in each of the past two games -- an overtime win in Game 4 followed by an OT loss in Game 5 at home Saturday night. The Coyotes might look to pick up the tempo at least a little bit for Game 6, as their offensive numbers in those last two games were even difficult for them to see.

"I think the whole game we played too conservatively," Yandle said of the Game 5 loss. "I don't know if we expected them to give us a win or it just to be handed to us, but I think the whole game we were a little behind the eight ball and I think tonight we've just got to push the pace a little more and forget about last game."

As long as they don't forget about getting in the shooting lanes defensively and sacrificing their bodies to stop shots, Tippett will be OK with that rationale.

"[Coyotes development coach] Dave King has a great saying and it's, 'Loose pucks and ice bags,' and if we didn't have ice bags on after the game we didn't play hard enough," Tippett said after the Coyotes morning skate. "That includes blocking shots."
Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Hossa visit provides Hawks with extra motivation

CHICAGO -- There is no shortage of motivations to pick from in this Western Conference Quarterfinal series for the Chicago Blackhawks.

There's the spot they put themselves, getting down 3-1 in the series and trying to overcome the odds of being eliminated when they face the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday in Game 6 (9 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN).

There's last season's first-round exit in overtime of Game 7 in Vancouver that's still a bitter memory. And then there's star teammate Marian Hossa, who will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

Hossa, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher in Game 3 after an illegal hit by now-suspended Phoenix forward Raffi Torres, visited his teammates Monday for the first time since the incident happened.

Apparently, just seeing Hossa's face was all the motivation some players needed.

"He's our teammate and me ... I'm close with him," forward Michael Frolik said. "He's from Slovakia, so we are close friends. When it happened, we said in the room, 'We have to play for him,' and you don't want to see things like that. It maybe gets us closer and ... for sure, we're trying to win for him."

Viktor Stalberg took it a step further by saying the Hawks also want to win the series just to extend the playoffs and see if Hossa possibly could return from his injury to play again.

"You never want to see a guy go down like that," Stalberg said. "We'd certainly like to have him in the lineup. He's been our best player all season long. It definitely hurts us, but hopefully he's getting better and you never know, we might get him back at some point if we keep progressing. I think that's the ultimate goal ... to get him a chance to get back here."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said there is no news to report as far as Hossa's injury condition, but believed just getting back around the team was a positive for all parties.

While Hossa won't be returning anytime soon, Chicago will get rookie forward Andrew Shaw back for Game 6 after he served a three-game suspension for running into Phoenix goalie Mike Smith behind the net in Game 2.

Shaw said he doesn't think the incident will change the intensity that allows him to overcome a perceived size disadvantage to be a pest for opponents at both ends of the ice.

"I'm just going to play my game and not change a thing," Shaw said. "Those things happen once in a while. Accidents do happen, but I'm just going to stick to my game and do the best that I can do."

He's also thrilled to get what he called a "second chance at the playoffs" after watching the Hawks win Game 5 in Phoenix in overtime -- which gave him the opportunity to get back in his first postseason series.

"I'm so excited," Shaw said. "When [Toews] scored there in overtime, I was hooting and hollering all around the [locker room], just excited to get another chance to play in the playoffs."
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Quote of the Day

Yeah, it was a pretty special moment for me. Today was my Dad's [55th] birthday. I have a lot of family in town, so it was a special moment for me to score my first one today. A win definitely would have capped it off, but you can't have everything.

— Sabres rookie Jack Eichel after scoring a goal in his National Hockey League debut
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