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Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 12:24 PM

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

Parise, Zubrus enjoying chance to be linemates

NEWARK, N.J. -- When told that linemate Dainius Zubrus referred to him as "a little energy ball" following a herculean effort in Game 4 against the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise shook his head and began laughing.
He also had this response following his team's 40-minute practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Wednesday.
"How do I describe Zubie?" Parise asked, tongue in cheek. "How about, dead weight."
Obviously, Parise and Zubrus are having a little fun at a time when the tension heading into a critical Game 5 at Madison Square Garden can be cut with a knife. But keeping it loose and fun is important this time of the season.
Still, it's hard to ignore the impact that Parise had alongside center Travis Zajac and Zubrus in Game 4. In addition to generating nine of the team's 30 shots, the trio produced three goals, five points and a combined plus-1 rating in a 4-1 victory.
As expected, the line will remain intact for Game 5.
"You know how [Zubrus] will play every game, you know he'll play hard and know he will protect the puck down low," Parise said. "You know he's not going to do anything fancy, but that's a good thing. He's going to play up and down and play smart. He's low-risk, and I think that's an easy guy to play with. You know what you're going to get, and you can predict what he's going to do with the puck."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 12:10 PM

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

Game 5 lineup remains the same for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer and his players were back on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Wednesday, making final preparations prior to boarding the team bus for Game 5 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Devils scored a 4-1 victory in Game 4 on Monday to even this best-of-seven, 2-2. New Jersey's final home game of the series will be Game 6 on Friday at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The team hopes to be up by a game with a chance to move on against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final by that time.
DeBoer told the media after practice that the Devils will not make any lineup adjustments from Game 4, after outshooting (30-29), blocking more shots (13-12) and generating more takeaways (10-4) than their Atlantic Division rivals. The Devils were the first team in the playoffs to score more than three goals against the Rangers in a game this postseason.
It was the first time, in fact, where it appeared the Devils actually drained the will right out of the Rangers. Devils captain Zach Parise was asked how they were able to do that and if it's something that can be repeated in Game 5.
"We just have to score," Parise said. "We were able to get some pucks past [Henrik] Lundqvist and we did a good job in our D-zone … didn't give them a lot of time. They had a couple good attacks and a couple good rushes, but for the most part our defense and forwards did a good job of coming back.
"That's frustrating, as an offensive guy, when every time you have the puck you feel like you have five guys in front of you and there's always someone getting a stick on a pass. We did a good job of that. Whether or not that kind of built up and frustrated them, I don't know, but collectively we did a good job defensively."
DeBoer said that he can sense, at times, when one team is really beginning dictate momentum. It's something he hopes can continue.
"You definitely feel that momentum, and you thrive off that momentum," he said. "You're also very aware that the teams that are left in the playoffs here are very resilient, including the one we're playing, and capable of turning that momentum very quickly. We want to push the pace and dictate and play our game and, when we are, that's when we're at our best. We're also very aware that these teams can turn that on you very quickly."
Here are the probable line combinations for Wednesday:
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 12:05 PM

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

Game 5 lineup for Rangers could see Dubinsky back

NEW YORK -- Getting a coach to reveal his lineup on a game day during the Stanley Cup Playoffs is akin to getting a government official to hand over top secret documents that could destroy national security.

So while Rangers coach John Tortorella didn't lay out his line combinations Wednesday morning for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, he admitted change might be good for his slow-starting team in this dead-even series.

"We need something to happen for ourselves," Tortorella said. "We'll try different things, I'll give you that. But it's still a matter of getting it done. At least that's how I feel about it. So we'll see where it goes."

Brandon Prust will definitely return to the lineup after his one-game suspension and replace Stu Bickel, who is likely to return to his spot on the blue line and send Steve Eminger back to the press box. There's also the potential for the return of forward Brandon Dubinsky, who hasn't played since Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators.

Dubinsky suffered a lower-body injury that cost him the entire second-round series with the Washington Capitals, but he has practiced four of the past five days. He also exited Wednesday's optional morning skate early while forward John Mitchell remained on the ice with the healthy scratches, a sign Tortorella is going to swap the pair.

Dubinsky had just one assist in seven games against the Senators, but he could help in the faceoff circle. During the regular season, he won 51.9 percent of his draws. During the postseason, the Rangers have won 48 percent of faceoffs, 15th out of 16th teams -- only the Devils have won fewer faceoffs.

Here's a best guess at the Rangers' lineup for Game 5 against the Devils:

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

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 Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 1:52 AM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Los Angeles is Kings of the road

The Los Angeles Kings will have the road-ice advantage when the Stanley Cup Final starts next week.

Most teams would rather open a series at home, but the Kings will take the longest road winning streak in Stanley Cup history with them when they open in New York or New Jersey on May 30. The Kings made it 8-for-8 on the road this spring and 10 in a row away from the Staples Center overall by beating Phoenix 4-3 on Tuesday to close out the Western Conference Finals in five games.

The Kings' 10th straight road win moved them past the New York Islanders of 1982 and '83, who won nine straight road games on the way to the last two of their four consecutive Stanley Cups. 

Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 1:11 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Kings' success brings back memories of 1993

I remember one morning I walked into the office in 1993 and I saw Kings owner Bruce McNall and he looked completely dejected and I said to him, "Bruce, what the heck's wrong? We're going to the Stanley Cup Final!"

"I just got requests for 500 tickets for Hollywood," he said. "And I've only got 300 available."

That was Bruce's biggest problem. He had to find 200 extra tickets for the Stanley Cup Final for Hollywood stars. It was an unbelievable time to be part of the Los Angeles Kings. Every night, there were stars all over the place. President Reagan and his wife Nancy were at all of our games and they were in the dressing room after the game meeting the players. After a game, I would walk into the dressing room and Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn would be in my office with Goldie's daughter Kate Hudson, who was just 14 then. The dressing room would always be full of Hollywood stars wanting to meet the players, outside limos would be lined up along the Forum to pick up guys at the Forum Club after the game, and the Forum Club was just a who's who of Hollywood stars. James Woods, was a big hockey fan and he was at all the games. Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight was a huge hockey fan and she was always there both in the regular season and the playoffs. During the Final that year the Forum was the place to be, the place to go and the place to be seen at.
Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 10:51 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

LAK @ PHX - 16:23 of the Second Period

At 16:23 of the second period in the Coyotes/Kings game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Taylor Pyatt's cross-ice pass deflected off Keith Yandle's shin pad and into the Kings' net. According to rule 78.4 "if an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed." Good Goal Phoenix.
Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 8:50 PM

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

Aucoin to miss Game 5 for Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes will be without Adrian Aucoin for the fourth time in their five Western Conference Finals games after the veteran defenseman did not take part in the skate prior to Game 5 on Tuesday night.
David Schlemko, who has not played since Game 1 of the series, will replace Aucoin in the lineup. Schlemko was a mainstay among the top six defensemen before severing a tendon on top of his right leg on Jan. 5. He was expected to miss the rest of the season following surgery, but returned in late March and has played sporadically since then. He has no points in four postseason games.
Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 5:09 PM

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

Doan has friend experienced in comebacks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When you're doing something that's rarely been done in the history of your sport, it's always nice to get some encouragement from a friend who has been there and done that.
Trying to become just the fourth team in NHL history to dig out of a 3-0 hole in a playoff series, Phoenix captain Shane Doan engaged in a series of texts with good friend and former teammate Danny Briere after he scored the only goals in a 2-0 Coyotes win in Game 4 to allow his team to live for another day.
Briere played a lead role in 2010 when the Philadelphia Flyers rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Coyotes still have a long road to travel if they want to join the Flyers, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders as the only teams to win a series after trailing 3-0.
"I talked to him. We sent each other texts all the time," Doan said of Briere, who played parts of six seasons in Phoenix. "When we found a way to get a win there [in Game 4], he wished me luck. I sent him one back. We got to texting about how it can be done. It's hard, but you can do it. It would be nice to have someone like Danny be on your team ... but it's one of those things, when you talk to him, you realize it's doable. I think it gives you a little more confidence."
Doan said Briere told him that his team's comeback taught him that you're never done until you're actually done.

"They get down three games and they pull it together, then they got down 3-0 in Game 7 and they pull it together ... it's like the (Black Knight character) in Monty Python (and the Holy Grail) ... I'm not dead yet."
Doan said the Coyotes have talked about taking a tournament approach to the task ahead.
"It's like we're in the quarterfinals and we have to win to get to the semifinals," he said. "Once you get to the semifinals, you have to win that to get to the finals. It you want to win it all, you have to win all three. It sounds kind of cheesy, but you try to find any analogy to make it sound doable. That's where we're at."
Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 4:44 PM

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

Kings focused on keeping Smith in net

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mike Smith has had a great postseason, and the Los Angeles Kings saw in Game 4 of this Western Conference Finals how he can affect a game both by stopping shots and by stopping the forecheck with his outlet passes.

The objective for the Kings in Game 5 Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) will be simple, but not something that always is easy to execute: Make Smith work more in his crease and less outside of it. Los Angeles had 36 shots in Game 4, but many were from the perimeter and few came after the initial attempt.

"Some of them were [quality shots], some of them were from the outside," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "Sometimes even the outside shot seems harmless, but it can be dangerous. The second and third chances off that shot are the most important. We've got to make sure we keep making him work and get some guys in front of him."

Added forward Dustin Penner: "We need to put more traffic towards their goaltender, get more second and third opportunities. Not so many one-chance-and-done kind of things."

The other facet of Smith's game that frustrates opponents is his ability to play the puck. Los Angeles loves to wear teams down on the forecheck, and the Kings have had success doing that against the smaller Coyotes. Not so after the early stages in Game 4, however, and Smith's ability to get the puck out of danger before the L.A. forwards arrive was a big part of that.

As Kopitar put it, when the Kings send the puck into the Phoenix end they need to "either fire it really hard or try to make sure it doesn't end up in the trapezoid area."

"Smith can handle the puck with the top goalies in the League," forward Dwight King said. "We try to keep our dumps away from him, realizing that he can make plays with [the puck]. We definitely know what he is capable of doing to us and we need to keep that in our mindset."

The Kings have lost only twice in this postseason, both times being a Game 4 with a chance to sweep the opponent. Los Angeles responded in Game 5 against Vancouver with an overtime victory at Rogers Arena.

They will be going for their eighth consecutive victory away from Staples Center when they face the Coyotes at Arena.

"We've had to be [a good road team]. That's a fact," coach Darryl Sutter said. "You're not a home-ice team, you've got to be. When you're a team that doesn't score many goals, you've got to be. You've got to manufacture and find different ways to do it. We found it.  

"I know what the talk is, because of our road record. When you look at all the different ways the team's won, it's won by your goalie being great, or your power play, or the other team taking a bad penalty, your penalty killing, overtime. There's so many different ways to it. It's not just, 'That's how you did it, that's how you do it.' There's so many different ways of doing it. The biggest thing we do is, win or lose, try and play the same way. That's the most important thing."

Here is the projected lineup for the Kings, who aren't expected to make any changes from Game 4:

Justin Williams - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarrett Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Jordan Nolan - Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser

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

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 4:30 PM

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

Rangers expect boost from return of Prust

NEW YORK -- After serving a one-game suspension for a hit on the Devils' Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Rangers forward Brandon Prust will be back for Game 5 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

With Prust out of the lineup, defenseman Stu Bickel dressed as a forward in Game 4, but Bickel was back practicing with his fellow blueliners Tuesday. Prust has been a valuable part of the Rangers' checking line and penalty-killing unit, both of which were victimized for goals during the Devils' 4-1 victory Monday night that evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2.

"Prust does a lot for us, killing penalties, brings a lot of energy, hard on the forecheck," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "We need to get our forecheck going. It's good to get him back."

There's no statistic for time of possession when it comes to which team has the puck more in a given contest, but the Devils have been controlling the puck for this entire series. They were at their best in that regard at times during Game 4, as the Rangers couldn't get out of their own end and were unable to muster any type of sustained forecheck.

It's hard to blame the lack of Prust for the power-play goal by Zach Parise in the third period, as the goal came four seconds into the man-advantage with regular penalty-killing forwards Boyle and Callahan on the ice. The Rangers killed five of six penalties in the game, but many of them featured the Devils seemingly more interested in burning clock than going for a fourth goal.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Quote of the Day

We don't know how long Carey will be out, but for us, it's business as usual.

— Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien on goaltender Carey Price, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury
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