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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 5:24 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Kings unfazed by goalie change

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings predictably didn’t have much reaction to the fact that they will see Corey Schneider in net Sunday night.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault announced Sunday afternoon that he is putting Schneider in for Roberto Luongo, whO played the first two games.

The announcement came fater the Kings morning skate on Sunday.

The Kings said it won’t matter much given that both goalies are fully capable. It likely makes for some more video preparation because Schneider has never played against L.A.

“Now that people are talking about him possibly going in, I’m sure we’ll watch some (film),” Drew Doughty said. “But … any goalie in this League is pretty similar. If you’re not getting traffic in front of him, if he’s seeing every shot on net, he’s going to see it. It’s pretty much the same mindset whether Schneider’s in or Luongo’s in.”

Schneider had the NHL’s second-best save percentage in the regular season (.937). But Luongo hasn’t done much to warrant getting pulled, a sentiment shared by at least one Kings player.

“That would be surprising to me [if they changed goalies],” Willie Mitchell said. “It would be really surprising. To be honest with you, I thought [Luongo’s] been their best player over the first two games of the series.”
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Struggles have Canucks facing must-win game

While his teammates danced around the inevitable question about whether Game 3 on Sunday night is a make-or-break game, Ryan Kesler spoke his mind.

“Obviously it’s a must-win game,” Kesler said. “You don’t want to go down, 3-0. We’re going to take it shift by shift tonight and I think improvement on special teams and continuing our improving our five-on-five play.”

As far as special teams, vancouver cOach Alain Vigneault may have had the line of the day when discUssing what he’d like to see differently from his special teams.

“Score a goal and not give up a goal,” he said.

The essence of the series so far is that Vancouver has gone 0-for-10 on the power play and allowed two shorthanded goals and three power-play goals. The Canucks have made tweaks such as moving Chris Higgins from the second power-play unit to the first and replacing Alex Edler with Dan Hamhuis on the first unit.

Vigneault also said that Dale Weise will be inserted in place of Andrew Ebbett on the fourth line.

“There’s obviously a couple of adjustments we need to make here – nothing that we haven’t seen all year,” Vigneault said.  “Give them a lot of credit. They’re putting a lot of pressure on us. They’re taking away our space and time. It’s just a matter of us executing better. We’ve done it at key moments this year, we just haven’t done it so far in this series."

Not only is Edler struggling on the power play, but he has had difficulties in all facets of the first two games, serving up giveaways in Games 1 and 2, including two egregious ones that led to goals. Asked if he gives a sort of pep talk to Edler, Vigneault said, “I think all our players right now are [struggling].

“You look at … [L.A. forwards Anze] Kopitar and [Dustin] Brown and take any one of our top forwards right now. Obviously their guys right now are playing a little bit better than ours. It’s a fine line between a win and a loss and whether it’d be Alex Edler or any one of our other players, everybody needs to know that it’s one game. We don’t need to worry about winning four games here. We need to focus on winning one game.”

Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Mason Raymond - Samuel Pahlsson - Maxim Lapierre
Zack Kassian - Manny Maholtra - Dale Weise

Alex Edler - Sami Salo
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Keith Ballard - Christopher Tanev

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 4:56 PM

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

Sens guardedly optimistic about Alfredsson

KANATA, Ont. – Ottawa coach Paul MacLean played it close to the vest after Sunday afternoon’s optional skate at Scotiabank Place. The news was guardedly positive on Daniel Alfredsson, who received a blow to the head from the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin during Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Saturday.

“[Alfredsson] was feeling good today,” MacLean said. “He’ll be further evaluated and we’ll see what he’s like [on Monday]. At this point, I don’t know [if he’ll take part in the morning skate]. I don’t have an opinion on [the hit] at any time. It’s playoff hockey. It’s Brendan [Shanahan’s] job.”

Carl Hagelin does face a disciplinary hearing with Shanahan on sunday for the elbow, which was penalized by a five-minute major.

MacLean was also happy with the way his team played in Game 2 after appearing to struggle with the pace and intensity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 1.

“I think the whole game, we played physical. The puck contests were physical. I thought we handled momentum in the second game better, and we handled the 60 minutes [well], not like the first game where we had a four or five minute lull. We need to keep that going.”
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 4:49 PM

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

Sens enjoy day of rest

KANATA, Ont. – The Ottawa Senators held an optional practice Sunday afternoon, with only a handful of  players taking a twirl on the ice.

Colin Greening, Chris Neil, Craig Anderson and Jim O’Brien were witnessed playing a spirited game of soccer in the halls of Scotiabank Place. Kaspars Daugavins, Matt Carkner, Bobby Butler, Rob Klinkhammer, Alex Auld and Ben Bishop were the few who chose to lace up the skates.

“Today is just going to be a rest day for us, and try and get away from the game a little bit,” Jason Spezza said. “Eat well, sleep well … tomorrow we regain our focus. We went over the video of [Saturday’s] game; stuff we did [well], stuff we need to improve on. Now we park that game.”

After tying their series with the Rangers 1-1 at Madison Square Garden, the Sens are content to get back in their own building.

“We’re happy to be home now in front of our fans,” Spezza said. “We’re excited to see the reception we get here. Now we have the opportunity to use the crowd to our advantage. Hopefully they’ll come support us and give us that extra little bit of energy.”
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 4:44 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Down two games, Canucks turn to backup Schneider

SANTA MONICA, Calif.-- Cory Schneider will start in goal for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night, coach Alain Vigneault said.

Vigneault said he was satisfied with Roberto Luongo's performance in Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but he wants to change it up for Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings.

"Two great goaltenders -- I've used both of them all year long," Vigneault said. "Obviously being down, 2-0, the way we are right now is not a reflection of the goaltending that we've had so far; but it's time to change the momentum a little bit and this is one of the cards we might have."

Luongo has done a tremendous job handling the puck against the Kings' aggressive forecheck. Schneider is not regarded as good a puck handler, but his teammates reiterated it is about trying to reverse their fortunes.

"I think both goalies have done everything we've asked them to do this year," star forward Henrik Sedin said. "Goaltending is not the problem in this series. We're trying to do something new tonight."

Said forward Ryan Kesler, "Lu's played extremely well for us. Being down, 2-0, coach thought he needed to make a change. Obviously Cory would be a starter on any other team, so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree on that one."

Schneider, 26, may be the No.2 goaltender in Vancouver, but he was also the second-best goaltender in the entire NHL when it came to save percentage during the regular season, posting a .937 that trailed only Brian Elliott in St. Louis. And Schneider's 1.96 goals-against average was third in the League, just .01 behind the Kings starter and Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick.
The only thing missing on Schneider's short NHL resume is extensive playoff success.

He did get a surprise – many would say shocking – start in the first round this past season against the rival Blackhawks, playing Game 6 in a hostile Chicago environment after the Canucks blew a 3-0 series lead. But the rookie turned two puck-handling gaffes into goals, and was forced to leave early after cramping up badly while getting beat on a penalty shot that tied the game.

Luongo went back in for Game 7, backstopped a 2-1 overtime victory and led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final before struggling in Boston, getting pulled in two of three road games.

Perhaps because of that, the Canucks made sure to get Schneider more and tougher starts this season, including a big Cup rematch victory in Boston and another tough win in Chicago. And they were careful to keep the sophomore stopper fresh down the stretch, splitting time with -- and for the most part out-playing -- Luongo during the final six weeks of the regular season.

--Correspondent Kevin Woodley contributed to this report
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 2:10 PM - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NSH @ DET - End of Second Period

At the end of the second period in the Red Wings/Predators game, the official timekeeper determined that time had expired prior to the puck crossing the Nashville goal line. No Goal Detroit.
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 1:33 PM

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

Return for Pens' Niskanen possible in Game 3

PHILADELPHIA -- Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen could become a part of this first-round series against the Flyers on Sunday if he gets through warmups OK.

Niskanen, who has not played since April 3 because of an upper-body injury, will take warmups for the first time in the series prior to Game 3. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called him a gametime decision, but if he is to play he will likely replace Ben Lovejoy, whose turnover led to Sean Couturier's hat-trick goal in Game 2 that made it 7-5.

The Flyers hold a 2-0 lead in the series.

"It's a strength issue," Bylsma said. "We know where he's obviously been at the last few days, and as long as that is there he'll be a possibility to play."

Niskanen, who had 21 points in the regular season, said Saturday that he will play through any pain, but he doesn't want to be restricted. He has missed four straight games.

"It's just killing me being in the press box. It really hurts to watch," Niskanen said. "But I've got to get back when I can, and I have confidence in the guys that we're going to turn it around."

After witnessing the Penguins and Flyers combine to score 20 goals in the first two series, Bylsma said he anticipates Game 3 could be different.

"The one thing about our series is it felt like that game (Game 3) was a Friday the 13th type of game," Bylsma said. "It was an odd game and it happened very fast. I'm not sure I've seen two goals scored in 16 seconds on a power play. You put your head down one second and there's another situation arising. It's been that way for the two games, but you talk about it now and I feel like we might be in for a low scoring affair (Sunday)."

It should be noted that the Penguins came back from 0-2 deficits twice in 2009 en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Their mentality heading into Game 3 Sunday is the same as it was when they were staring at a similar uphill battle against both Washington and Detroit three years ago.

"You can look at a lot of different situations to understand that right now it's about one game, getting one game to make this 2-1," Bylsma said. "You can look at '09. You can look at the Boston Bruins last year. There are other examples. That's the challenge right now, coming out real focused and real galvanized as a group to get a win here in Philly and make it 2-1."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 1:29 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Laviolette holding off on Couturier comparisons

PHILADELPHIA -- After his outstanding performance in the first two games of the series -- especially his Game 2 hat trick -- Flyers rookie center Sean Couturier has become the talk of the postseason in Philadelphia.

The 19-year-old has received rave reviews for his play at both ends of the ice, including the job he's done limiting the League's leading scorer, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, to just two assists in the first two games.

Some have compared Couturier to another tall, lanky defensive-minded center who can chip in offensively -- the Penguins' Jordan Staal. Teammate Jaromir Jagr went even further, comparing Couturier to one of his former teammates -- Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis.

"I don't know if I know any words to describe his game today. Awesome? Maybe something better than that?" Jagr said to reporters after the game. "I would say he's our best defensive forward. Age 18, 19 years old. Ron Francis was kind of like that."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who coached Francis for one season and worked with him for three seasons in Carolina, said it was a bit early to make that comparison.

"Sean is a good player, he's a young player, he's done a good job for us," Laviolette said. "It's his [third] playoff game. For the sake of Sean, let's let him develop into the player he is and maybe hold off on calling him Ron Francis, who's the … fourth-leading scorer in the game.

"[Sean is] doing a real nice job for us. Let's let him grow into his position here in Philadelphia."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 10:58 AM

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

Predators-Red Wings projected lineups

DETROIT -- It's only two games into their Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinals series and already it's been kind of an odd one for both the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators.

Not only was there the well-publicized incident with Shea Weber and Henrik Zetterberg at the conclusion of Game 1 at Bridgestone Arena, but there's also the fact Detroit won Game 2 with both coaches basically agreeing Nashville played a better game.

The Red Wings were limited to just 17 shots on goal in the second game, yet triumphed 3-2 on goals by Ian White, Cory Emmerton and Johan Franzen plus some outstanding work in net from Jimmy Howard (24 saves). The only constant thus far, heading into Sunday's Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena (Noon NBC, CBC, RDS), has been the tight-checking nature of both games -- which both ended in 3-2 scores.

There's no reason to expect any different on Sunday, either.

"I don't think there's been a whole lot of room either way," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We only had [17 ]shots on goal [in Game 2], so we stopped playing the third period -- didn't skate I didn't think [and] got in a protective mode, which isn't the way you want to do it. In saying that, there's just not a lot of room for either team and that's what we expect. They'll go make some adjustments. We'll go make some adjustments. And we'll both try to do better."

Predators coach Barry Trotz didn't sound all that different in his assessment of the series.

"I was more comfortable with our game [on Friday] when we lost than our first game, when it was just a game that broken up through penalties," Trotz said. "It really hasn't been that physical of a series. Last year against Anaheim, that was nasty. This one's just ... you have to grind for inches. It's more of a grinding series than it is physical."

Detroit's Ian White missed practice on Saturday with a sore instep on his left foot as the result of blocking a slap shot in Game 2, but he's expected to play on Sunday. Nashville defenseman Hal Gill, who hasn't played since the end of the regular season, will be a gametime decision.

Here is how each team is likely to start Sunday's game:


Martin Erat - Mike Fisher - Sergei Kostitsyn
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Paul Gaustad - Brandon Yip/Jordin Tootoo

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Jack Hillen/Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback


Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Todd Bertuzzi - Pavel Datsyuk - Johan Franzen
Gustav Nyquist - Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Jonathan Ericsson
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
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Quote of the Day

It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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