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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 11:59 AM

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

Devils happy to be home

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils are hoping some home cooking will produce favorable results Tuesday when they host the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN).
The fact the Devils closed the regular season with an 8-1-1 mark in their last 10 home games certainly plays into their advantage. But the team is just 4-9-0 in their last 13 postseason home games.
The club actually is 3-7 in playoff games at Prudential Center since moving to Newark in 2007-08.
"We have to create energy … it just doesn't come naturally," Devils forward Patrik Elias said following practice Tuesday. "For the fans, they need to experience something special and we need to give them a reason to feel special."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer isn't overly concerned by the fact home teams are a combined 8-14 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring.
"I don't know why [home teams have struggled], but we're looking forward to playing at home and getting that last change, being able to play in front of our home crowd," DeBoer said. "It's something we're certainly not looking to avoid. I don't think we play any differently whether we're home or on the road.
"I know our preparation isn't any different on the road than it is at home. Our identity is an in-your-face, take-away-time-and-space, be-on-top-of-you type of team. I can't speak for other teams, but that won't change for us."
DeBoer will keep the same lineup he used for the opening two games of the series, meaning rookie defenseman Adam Larsson will be a healthy scratch for the eighth time in the last nine games, dating back to the regular season.
Here is the projected lineup for the Devils 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 Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 10:00 AM

By John Kreiser - Columnist / - Bracket Challenge Blog

Road warriors having their way in playoffs

After a one-night interruption, the road-ice advantage in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs was back in evidence on Monday night.

Home teams won three of four games on Sunday. But the guys in the white sweaters were in charge again on Monday, winning all three games to give visitors 14 wins in the 22 games played so far. Home teams have won exactly one game in each of the eight series.

Contrast that to the regular season, when home teams were 687-399-144, a winning percentage of .551.

Road teams appear to be on their way to winning more than half of the first-round games for the third year in a row. Home teams haven't been over .500 in the first round since going 24-20 in 2008-09.
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 8:57 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYR @ OTT - 8:52 of the second period

At 8:52 of the second period of the Rangers/Senators game, video review was initiated to determine if the puck shot by Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko crossed the goal line. Video review upheld the call on the ice that the puck never crosses the goal. No goal New York.
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:16 PM

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

Sharks feel Blues just as dangerous with Elliott in net

SAN JOSE -- St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak missed practice Monday morning with a lower-body injury and, as expected, won't suit up for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks.

Brian Elliott will be in goal for the St. Louis with Jake Allen, a call-up from Peoria of the American Hockey League, on the bench as his backup, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock said he doesn't know how long Halak will be sidelined.

"He's out today. He's day-to-day, and we'll just see how he feels tomorrow and see if we're going to get him back in any short period of time. We're not really sure," Hitchcock said. "It gets better quickly, but obviously not enough to skate today."

Halak was injured early in the second period of Game 2 when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman accidently skated into him, knocking him hard to the ice. Elliott took over and completed the Blues' 3-0 shutout.

Both Blues goaltenders put up stellar numbers this season, and both went 2-0 with a shutout against the Sharks in the regular season. Despite having similar stats, Halak and Elliott aren't clones, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.

"Elliott's bigger," he said. "I think there's an obvious size difference there. Less experienced. You look at what Halak had done in Montreal. Some of the wins he provided that franchise were incredible, really, but other than that they're both tremendous goaltenders. They know that. I don't think they miss a beat one bit by starting Brian Elliott tonight."

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said Elliott made some key saves "using his long legs" in Game 2.

"I thought he came in last game and we probably gave him a chance to feel comfortable," Clowe said. "We didn't get much action on him early. Tonight if we can sustain pressure and get some chances -- some second chances more than anything -- early, you're going to score. We got to try to get to him."

Elliott had nine shutouts during the regular season, while Halak had six. Elliott posted a 1.56 goals-against average to 1.97 for Halak.

"We have confidence in both our goalies," Blues defenseman Kris Russell said. "They both play the puck well, they both talk to us very well. I feel as a D corps with those goalies we have a connection there. We've done well talking together and working plays out. We have confidence in both those goalies. That's why we have been successful."
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:13 PM

By Tim Cronin - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Toews working through effects of long absence

CHICAGO - Jonathan Toews showed he had lost none of his touch when the Chicago Blackhawks center scored the first goal of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix on Thursday night. A flick of the wrist from a deep angle and goalie Mike Smith was fishing the puck out of the back of his net just 4:04 into Game 1.

But Toews, while mentally recovered from a concussion that caused him to miss the last 22 games of the regular season, is still feeling a bit creaky from the two-month layoff. Skating prior to returning brought his legs back, but not everything.

"For the most part, it's timing and speed; it's energy," Toews said Monday. "It's all those things, and it'll keep coming. I felt a did a few things better in the second game, whether it was faceoffs or chipping pucks out, options on the power play. Little things I improved on."

Toews played nearly 20 minutes (of nearly 70) in Game 1, and more than 17 minutes in Game 2, which also went halfway into the first overtime.

He's taking his usual role on the power play, was a combined plus-4 in the first two games, and appears to have not missed a beat. But he's a tough judge.

"I feel my game is slowly going to come together," Toews said. "It definitely wasn't all there the first two games, but I feel it'll keep improving."

Toews must be feeling well. He even half-cracked a smile when asked what the answer to keeping the momentum after scoring the game's first goal would entail.

"Probably trying to score the next one would be a solution to that," quipped Toews.

A funny line from Captain Serious in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Go figure.

Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:10 PM

By Tim Cronin - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Bollig: First time for everything

CHICAGO -- A first NHL goal is a lifelong memory for any hockey player. It's that much sweeter when that first goal comes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Check Brandon Bollig's blood-sugar level, then, for he scored goal No. 1 of his career in Game 2 of the Blackhawks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix.

"That it came in the playoffs and it tied the game up is an amazing feeling," Bollig said of scoring the Hawks' second goal in Saturday's 4-3 overtime win in Glendale, Ariz. "It was great to see the activity on my phone from people happy for me."

Bollig, an undrafted free agent signed by the Hawks two years ago, played 18 regular-season games and collected neither a goal nor an assist. Considered an enforcer, he plays that role well, but knows
he'll have to show more, or the next young kid who comes along will take his spot.

"Obviously what got me here was that physical side, that enforcer-type role, but yeah, I think what's going to make me stick is bringing more to the game than just that," he said. "That's what I'm trying to

Timely goals in playoff games will do that. For Bollig, just breathing before Game 1 was a triumph.

"Being a part of (the playoffs), I almost had to have the doc check my heart rate, it was so high," Bollig said. "It's definitely fun to be a part of games like that. You get a lot more amped up."

Whatever happens next, he'll have both the memory and evidence of it. The puck he got past Mike Smith will be mounted on a plaque for him.
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:00 PM

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

Franzen unapologetic for incident with Preds bench

DETROIT -- Johan Franzen is clearly unhappy with the officiating in the Western Conference Quarterfinals series between his Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators.

Prior to Detroit's 3-2 loss on Sunday in Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings power forward chastised the calls and non-calls from Game 1 and Game 2, in which he says some stick work in the first game and an elbow in the second left him with the black eye he's currently sporting.

Franzen then picked up a pair of slashing penalties in the second period on Sunday, with the second one leading to a 4-on-4 situation that eventually got the Wings their first goal by Pavel Datsyuk.

Franzen went to check Ryan Suter near the Predators bench and only got a piece of him before slamming into the boards right in front of the Nashville bench. Predators center David Legwand was then spotted holding Franzen's sweater with a tug -- which prompted the Red Wings forward to yank free and drive his stick toward Legwand on the bench in a spearing motion.

Did the heat of the moment cause his temper to boil over into making a bad decision?

“No," Franzen said. "He held me. If he does it again, I’m going to do it again. He got called for it and I’m happy for that. We're a good team 4-on-4, so if he's going to do that again, I'm happy to do it. Maybe I'll drag him out onto the ice and sit on him, I don't know ... maybe do something else."

Franzen said that by jabbing his stick in retaliation, he feels that led officials to look into what happened to start the incident in the first place -- which resulted in a bench interference minor called against Nashville.

"The ref wouldn't have called him if I wouldn't have done that," Franzen said. "He needed help from his [linesmen] and his partner to figure that out, so that would never have been called otherwise."

It also happened to create 4-on-4 play, which has shown in this series to help Detroit's top offensive stars -- like Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg -- create more scoring chances.

"I would take that any day," Franzen said. "If I could get [Datsyuk] and [Zetterberg] out there playing 4-on-4 instead of 5-on-5, you'd play like that all day if you could. [There's] a lot more room to create stuff on."

Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom doesn't necessarily agree with his Swedish countryman's logic. Lidstrom talked at length on Monday about the Red Wings not taking bad penalties and putting themselves at a disadvantage either in numbers or taking key players off the ice for however long the infraction is worth.

Lidstrom was asked about Franzen's incident with the Nashville bench and said it was a good example of what the Wings cannot do in the remaining games of this series.

"That's where you have to try and stay disciplined, and it's hard sometimes," Lidstrom said. "It's very hard. You're in the heat of the moment and your heart rate is going [really fast]. You're so into the game, so it's hard sometimes. But that's when you get sucked into those kinds of penalties. You can still react to it, but you have to be aware of it and you have to have that in the back of your mind that you can't do certain things now."

Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:55 PM

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

Stuart says experience key to overcoming mistakes

DETROIT -- Brad Stuart isn't getting off the kind of start to these Stanley Cup Playoffs that he'd hoped to, but he's not going to dwell on the negatives that have happened to him or the Detroit Red Wings thus far.

Detroit trails its Western Conference Quarterfinal series 2-1 to the Nashville Predators, and every game has finished with a 3-2 score -- including Sunday's Game 3, in which Stuart was on the ice for two of the goals allowed. In all, he's also been on the ice for six of the eight goals Nashville has scored so far and is tied with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin with a League-worst minus-4 rating.

"This time of year, any type of mistake can be the one that costs you the game," Stuart said on Monday. "The players that dwell on that are the ones that kind of tighten up and don't play their game. The other ones, who just go out and play, are the ones who have success this time of year. Mistakes are going to be made. There's no question. It's how you respond and how you deal with it that's important."

Stuart said he and his teammates who've been part of some mistakes in the first three games should be able to brush them off -- especially with Detroit's lineup featuring a lot of playoff-savvy veterans.

"This time of year the little things get talked about -- every little play, every little mistake could be the difference," Stuart said. "So, if you've had experience in dealing with that and know how to put it behind you, it's a lot more effective than dwelling on something and letting it affect the rest of your game."

Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:54 PM

By Erin Nicks - Correspondent / - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Senators captain Alfredsson will miss Game 3

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will not be in the lineup for Game 3 of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Monday night against the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC).

There was no immediate indication as to who would dress in Alfredsson's place.

The Senators captain admitted he received a concussion after Carl Hagelin elbowed him in the head during Game 2 on Saturday. Alfredsson left the ice and did not return. However, Monday saw the 39-year-old take part in a full skate. Alfredsson said he would gauge how he felt in the hours between the skate and the game, and if he felt up to it, he would be in the lineup.

"We'll see -- we'll decide at game time if I'm playing or not," Alfredsson said. "I have felt better. [Sunday] was better than Saturday. Bike ride yesterday -- I felt pretty good throughout the day … was active at home with the kids … felt pretty good this morning. Next step obviously is to skate today, which I did this morning, and we'll see what happens."

When asked about his previous concussion history, Alfredsson said he has to play it by ear.

"Every situation is different, you take it as it comes, it is what is," Alfredsson said. "You can't force something like this -- you feel what you feel. I find [it's best] to just relax and go with the flow. If it's good, it's good. If it's not, it's not. You can't do anything about it. The less stress you put on yourself, the more you help yourself."

Despite being taken out of the game, Alfredsson holds no ill will against Hagelin, who received a three-game suspension for the incident.

"It's hard -- I don't think [Hagelin] is that kind of guy," Alfredsson said. "With the intensity and the things that go on in a playoff game, things happen. He gets an elbow up; maybe he wouldn't if it's not a playoff game. If there's one thing that the League is preaching, it's blows to the head. I'm sure they went through [the video] a lot of times and I'm sure they did the right thing in watching.

"I'm not the type of guy who's going to hold a grudge. It's playoff hockey. If it needs to be disciplined, the League will take care of that and move on."
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Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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