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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."

Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:01 PM

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

Devils aiming for return to home playoff success

NEWARK, N.J. -- Now that the Florida Panthers have earned their first Stanley Cup Playoff victory in more than a decade, the New Jersey Devils believe it's time to hold serve and notch their first home postseason triumph in two years.
The Devils will host the Panthers on Tuesday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series here at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN). Florida evened the series Sunday with a 4-2 victory at BankAtlantic Center. It was the team's first playoff win since beating the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals April 17, 1997.
"We're all looking forward to playing at home," Devils captain Zach Parise said via a conference call Monday. "Playing in front of our fans … we know it'll be a great atmosphere. To be honest, though, none of us really minded starting on the road and we got a split. Now we will have the excitement of playing in our building."
The Devils on Tuesday will be looking for their first postseason victory at Prudential Center since April 16, 2010, when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 in Game 2 of the conference quarterfinals.
"All the good teams play well on home ice," forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "They use their home-ice advantage. If you want to be considered one of the elite teams in the NHL, you have to play better on home ice. In the playoffs, it's important to play better on home ice, that's for sure."
The Devils did not practice Monday after flying north from Florida in the morning. Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Sunday that rest is invaluable for his team, which has the oldest average age in the NHL at 30.3 years.
DeBoer, who said there will be no lineup changes for Tuesday, was asked how he might be able to bottle that energy the team exhibited in the final period of Game 2 for a full 60 minutes.
"That's the waves of momentum that you ride in the playoffs … you see it everywhere," DeBoer said. "I don't know why. When we had the 3-0 lead in Game 1, we couldn't come back with another period like that and I'm sure [Florida coach] Kevin Dineen would say the same thing about their third period on Sunday but that's playoff hockey.
"Overall, I like our game, I like where we're at. We made mistakes on Sunday and they made us pay, but we feel confident moving forward."
Here is the Devils' projected lineup for Game 3:
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 3:52 PM

By Ben Raby - Correspondent / - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins find offense stymied by Holtby, Capitals

WASHINGTON -- The NHL's second-highest scoring team during the regular season is finding out that scoring against the Washington Capitals is not as easy as it used to be.

As the Capitals and Boston Bruins prepare for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC), the Caps are a confident bunch embracing coach Dale Hunter's system.

The Bruins are searching for ways not only to beat goalie Braden Holtby, but also to get pucks past any Washington players throwing their bodies in front of oncoming rubber.

Holtby has turned aside 72 of 74 shots for a .973 save percentage, while his teammates have combined to block 49 others.

"Every team in the playoffs comes out of their comfort zone and they know what they have to do extra," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's not surprising. It's just that the commitment is there and they've got a good commitment as far as [shot blocking] is concerned right now. [The] New York [Rangers are] probably the team that we can identify as the team blocking the most shots [in the regular season], but now everyone is jumping on board with that."

Washington's commitment to defense has the Bruins on the verge of their lowest three-game offensive output of the year. Only once during the regular season did the Bruins score fewer than five goals combined in any three-game stretch (Boston was held to four goals in three games from Dec. 5-8).

Through two games against the Capitals, the Bruins have been held to just two goals. None of Boston's top-six forwards have found the back of the net.

"They definitely surprised us," said Boston's No. 1 center, David Krejci. "We all know that they're a great team offensively, but they showed us in the last two games that they can also play really good hockey defensively. So we were looking at those last two games, working on a few things, and we hope that it works tonight."
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 3:16 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Hartnell got a kick out of seeing Timonen mix it up

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Scott Hartnell added some humor Monday into what really is a nasty series between two of the fiercest in-state rivals.

Hartnell drew more than a few laughs from the large media contingent when he talked about Kimmo Timonen fighting Kris Letang in the first period. Hartnell has been with Timonen since their days together in Nashville, and they both came to the Flyers before the 2007-08 season in the same trade for Peter Forsberg.

"In 12 years I haven't seen that guy with his heartbeat over 140, and the guy is over there scrapping with a tough guy like Letang," Hartnell said. "It's great to see."

He was asked about his orange and black necklace, which got yanked off by either Craig Adams or Sidney Crosby late in the third period.

"It's a Phiten bracelet that pitchers use in baseball," said Hartnell, who was wearing it Monday. "I don't know much about it, but it makes me feel good. I've been wearing it for half the year now. Obviously I didn't know it came off there, but when you're attacked from behind like that by a scrappy animal, something is going to go."

As for his hair getting pulled in that same sequence, Hartnell said, "I don't know what the rule is in the NHL rulebook about hair pulling, but maybe you should look into that. Letang has some nice hair over there on the other team and I'm sure he wouldn't like it if someone pulled his hair either. I'm definitely going to have to call Shanny about that."

He also offered a slight dig at Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has allowed 17 goals on 84 shots in the series.

"Obviously eight goals a night is usually going to get you a win," Hartnell said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Crosby comments met by smiles, silence from Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Sidney Crosby made a point of saying after the game Sunday that he does not like anybody on the Flyers. A smiling Claude Giroux responded in kind Monday.

"I guess we've got to be doing something right if he hates us, right?" Giroux said.

Giroux was also asked if the feeling is mutual from the Flyers to the Penguins.

"Well, with the first three games it's gotta be hard to like them," he said. "Obviously we're not big fans of them and that's why this series is so entertaining for the fans."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette predictably did not take the bait when he was asked for his thoughts on Crosby's comments.

"We're just trying to focus on the next game," he said. "I haven't thought much about it."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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