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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Projected lineup as Flyers go for 2-0 stranglehold

PITTSBURGH -- The Flyers have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in a seven-game series 17 times in their history. They have gone on to win the series every single time.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have been tied 1-1 in a series 32 times. They are under .500 in those series with a record of 15-17.

Those are two interesting little stats heading into Game 2 Friday, when the Flyers will be looking to take a 2-0 series lead back to Philadelphia. But they're also two meaningless stats to the orange and black.

"Game 1 is done and now it's another game. It's about playing Game 2," Flyers forward Maxime Talbot said. "The stats and all these things that happened, I don't really believe in that. Every year is a chance to make a new story, and tonight is one game and we'll treat it like that."

The stat that does matter to the Flyers is the amount of times they have fallen behind in games recently. They have been down by at least two goals in nine of their last 13 games.

Sure, they've come back to win three of them, including Game 1 on Wednesday, but it's not exactly a trend they want to keep going with.

"Not that we're afraid (of any deficit), but we'd rather not put ourselves in that position," Danny Briere said. "Obviously we go down and we have that belief we can come back, but at the same time we realize in the playoffs you're not going to make that happen as often in the regular season. You have to find a way to be better at the start, compete and weather the storm."

Here is the expected lineup that will be given the task of avoiding yet another slow start:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Eric Wellwood - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:56 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Cleary returns to 'heavy' style despite knee injury

NASHVILLE – As recently as last week, Red Wings right wing Dan Cleary said his left knee was only at 50 percent.
Without giving away too much, Cleary said Friday that improved medication is helping him in the playoffs. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he thought that Cleary was one of the team’s better forwards in Detroit’s 3-2 loss in Game 1 and that Cleary played a “heavy” game and not a “light” game on the periphery, as he was forced to do during the regular season when the knee bothered him.
Cleary played 15:49 and posted an even rating. Cleary was one of only four Red Wings not to be a minus in Game 1 and one of those four was center Darren Helm, who endured a playoff-ending laceration to his forearm and played only 3:06.
“How do I phrase this the right way? The medicine helped a lot,” Cleary said of Game 1. “It’s a little different in the playoffs. … The dose is a little better. It allowed to me to be able not to feel [the pain], so I felt like normal. It’s good.
“Let’s put it this way, medicine certainly helped -- like a lot. The type that you take in the playoffs is a lot different. It was a huge difference. I felt like normal. I could skate.” 
Cleary normally kills penalties with Helm so he said he did not think he would see more time on the penalty kill. But he said Helm’s loss was a blow to the team. Helm underwent surgery Wednesday.
“His loss is felt for sure,” Cleary said.
He said he had spoken to Helm and was asked about Helm’s spirits.
“How would you be, you know?” he said. “He’s pretty down, but at least he’s -- in a way -- healthy. You know, there’s no nerve damage, so that was a huge thing but his loss is going to be felt, huge, huge loss.”
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:56 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers' power play has its work cut out

SUNRISE, Fla. -- A year after producing the worst power play in the NHL, the Florida Panthers finished the 2011-12 regular season tied for seventh with the man advantage by scoring at an 18.5 percent clip.

They'll be hard-pressed to duplicate that kind of success in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the best penalty-killing team in the League.

"They have skilled players who can read the plays," said veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson, who plays the right point on the Panthers' first power-play unit. "They have shot-blocking guys and a good goalie. That's a good mix. They read off each other and when they pressure, they pressure hard. We know what we're up against and we have to play good."

The Panthers were 1-for-11 (9.1 percent) on the power play in the four regular-season meetings against New Jersey. Florida wasn't the only team that struggled with the Devils' PK, as New Jersey set a modern-era record with an 89.6 success rate.

The Devils also led the NHL with 15 shorthanded goals, one of which came against the Panthers. Even though that was an empty-net goal by Ilya Kovalchuk at the end of New Jersey's 5-2 home victory on Jan. 6, the Panthers are well aware of the Devils' attacking mentality even down a man.

"We've got to be careful at the blue lines," said Stephen Weiss, who centers Florida's first power-play unit. "They've got good sticks and their forwards at the top are very quick. We've got to make sure we're coming back when the puck turns over because they'll push offensively, too."

The Panthers likely will need for their power play to contribute if they are to advance to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history and the first since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

Florida scored only 203 goals in the regular season, the second-lowest total among playoff teams ahead only of Los Angeles' 194.

So while the Panthers recognize and respect the Devils' penalty-killing prowess and ability to score shorthanded, they also know they can't hold back on the power play.

"You can't be careful on the power play," Samuelsson said. "You're going to think twice about it? Maybe. We know we're up for a challenge. At the same time, if we start off good, you never know where momentum is going to take you. In the past, we had a great PK and power play in the regular season, but when it came to the playoffs it wasn't that good. A lot of things change during the playoffs. It's always good to play good in the regular season, but it doesn't have to be that way because they usually do it."
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:52 PM

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

No weak links for Bruins in title defense

BOSTON – Andrew Ference obviously has another role besides second-pair defenseman for the Boston Bruins.
He’s also the team’s “designated shopper” and one of the caretakers of the team’s excellent chemistry.
It was Ference’s eBay shopping that produced last year’s atrocious-looking Bruins jacket that the team handed out to the player of the game after every postseason win en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. This year, Ference went to a local hardware store and purchased a 2-pound metal chain.
“Earlier in the year we talked about, when things weren’t going so great – a lot of teams probably could say it – but we have our success when everybody’s going and doing their role, so we had talked about not being a weak link and having a lot of pride,” Ference said after the Bruins practiced at TD Garden Friday. “Our guys kind of thrive on that. You know we have a lot of proud guys in this room. So it’s just kind of from that and being goofy. Not necessarily trying replicate the jacket but it’s kind of a fun thing to do after games.”
Chris Kelly, who scored the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Thursday, was the first winner of the chain. Kelly will be responsible for awarding it to the winner after Boston’s next victory. Game 2 of the series is Saturday at the Garden.

The chain also has a padlock on it with a Bruins spoked-B logo that Ference engraved himself with a kit in five minutes. The plan is to put a notch in the lock after every playoff win. Last season, as the playoff run went longer and longer, the jacket took on added meaning – first with Nathan Horton returning while injured to award it to Rich Peverley, and then with the Bruins giving it to the retiring Mark Recchi as a parting gift after the championship run.
Regardless of how the Bruins fare this postseason, the chain will be another representation of the Bruins’ unity and ability to not take things too seriously.
“It’s not like you want to put too much significance on fun things like that. They’re fun, kind of goofy things to do,” Ference said. “But in the bigger picture, it’s like one of those ingredients that goes into having a good environment to work in. It doesn’t matter if it’s hockey or business, I mean employees that have fun and enjoy goofing around and don’t take themselves so seriously, I think we found a lot of success in that. Even with our success last year, I think that we’d like to think that we take some pride in remaining somewhat true to our roots and kind of what’s the sport’s all about. I think that once you lose that, you kind of lose the soul of what hockey is pretty proud of.”
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Blues sticking with Halak as Game 2 starter

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock announced after Friday's optional skate for the team that they will stay with Jaroslav Halak in goal for Saturday's Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks.

The Blues dropped the opener 3-2 in double overtime on Martin Havlat's goal.

Halak stopped 31 shots and could not be faulted for any of the three San Jose goals.

"He was like our team," Hitchcock said of Halak. "He had some real good moments and then some time, we'd like him better. He was just like our team."
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Penalty killers have been game changers for Flyers

PITTSBURGH -- Their No. 1 goal is to stay out of the penalty box Friday in Game 2, but should the Flyers find that task to be impossible, they have complete confidence in a penalty kill that looked downright dominant in Game 1 against the Penguins.

While the talk in the Penguins dressing room since late Wednesday night has been about making adjustments on the power play, the talk in the Flyers room Friday was about staying consistent with what obviously worked so well.

After falling into a 3-0 hole early in Game 1, Philadelphia stole momentum with a PK that was perfect on three opportunities and gave up only five shots on goal. The Flyers killed off two penalties in the second period, including one when the score was still 3-0, and another early in the third when the deficit stood at 3-1.

Philadelphia was 17th in the League on the PK in the regular season (81.8 percent), but 19-for-22 in six games (86.4 percent) against the Penguins.

"Specialty teams always factors into a game, so if you look at it in that sense it definitely factored," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought at the end of the second we got better and in the third I really liked our period. I'm not sure if that was a direct result of the penalty kills, but if you think about it the penalty kills, if they let one through, that lead maybe becomes too big. It was big enough as it was."

The Flyers were successful on the PK in Game 1 because they did not give the Penguins' power play much room to operate. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was also good when called upon, but it was the time and space the Flyers took away from guys like Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal that led to their success and to the Penguins' lack of pressure in the attacking zone.

"We have a PK system and we try to do the same thing," Flyers forward Maxime Talbot said. "We know whatever element they put on the ice we have to try to contain him and do the best we can to try to kill the penalty. Yes we have to know who is there, who is left-handed and right-handed, who is a passer and shooter, but we have a way of killing and we have to do it right."

Talbot said the system does not change against the Penguins even though their attack includes superstars like Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Neal.

"You know they're dangerous weapons and instead of trying to fly at them you might contain him more, but in general it doesn't change that much," Talbot said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:18 PM

By John Manasso - Correspondent / - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Predators' Gill rules himself out for Game 2

NASHVILLE – Predators defenseman Hal Gill ruled himself out on Friday for Game 2 of his team’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit because of a lower-body injury that continues to plague him.
Nashville acquired the 6-foot-7 defenseman in February for his penalty-killing and shot-blocking abilities from Montreal in preparation for their Stanley Cup Playoff run, but Gill has yet to be available. He skated before the team’s optional skate Friday at Bridgestone Arena but did not feel well enough to go. He said the decision was made in conjunction with the coaching and training staffs.
“It’s getting better,” the 37-year-old Gill said, meeting with the media for the first time since the injury occurred April 5 against Dallas. “It’s something I have to take it day by day and test it without pushing too hard.”
Then he ruled himself out.
“I’m going to give it some more time,” Gill said. “At this point, I don’t think I can help the team so we have some good players that can play, so I’ll let that go.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he would dress seven defensemen again for warm-ups, as he did in Game 1, and then make his decision as to who would be in the lineup – either Jack Hillen, who played in Game 1, or rookie Ryan Ellis. Hillen, 26, seems the likely choice.

Beyond the team’s first pair with Shea Weber, the defense corps is not big. Hillen and Ellis both stand 5-foot-10, but Hillen outweighs Ellis officially by 11 pounds and is a bit more muscular. He played 8:20 and was plus-1 while taking a minor penalty Wednesday.
Nashville had to kill eight penalties in its 3-2 victory in Game 1 and Detroit scored two power-play goals, so Gill’s presence – and his 105 career playoff games -- was missed.
“To win is awesome, I don’t care how it happens,” Gill said, “but those are the games that you want to be a part of. Those are the fun ones. Playoff hockey is the most exciting thing that I’ve ever had in my life so it’s tough not to play.”
Gill said to try and play right now would be foolish and that he just has to be patient.
“There’s being tough and then there’s too much pride and right at this point it would be too much pride to play,” he said. “So, like I said, we got good players, we can win with them.”
Gill refused to handicap his odds for Game 3 on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, but said he would travel with the team Saturday for the trip. He said he has been staying in shape, exercising, waiting until he is ready. Game 4 is Tuesday and then the teams have two days off before Game 5, if necessary, back at Bridgestone Arena on April 20, giving him potentially more time to heal.
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:02 PM

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent / - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Projected Game 1 lineups

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As he indicated earlier this week, Florida coach Kevin Dineen's goalie decision for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey Friday will come down to the wire.

"You know what, all year long I've waited till the end, so we'll give it a couple more hours and give it a good gut check and go from there," Dineen said after the Panthers' morning skate at the BankAtlantic Center.

Dineen has to decide between Jose Theodore, who was the team's No. 1 goalie all season but gave up nine goals in his last two starts, or Scott Clemmensen, who was solid as the backup but tremendous in his last four starts when he went 3-0-1 with a .962 save percentage.

The starting goalie wasn't the only lineup decision Dineen said he still needed to make before the 7 p.m. opening faceoff.

Veteran forward Marco Sturm skated for a second consecutive day after missing practice on Monday and Wednesday, but Dineen wasn't ready to say whether he would take his place on the line with John Madden and Tomas Kopecky.

Krystofer Barch, who was a healthy scratch for the last four regular season games, skated with the Madden line at practice all week.

"He's a big, physical guy, but more importantly he can skate," Dineen said of Barch. "When you're playing a team as skilled as the Devils, you're going to need to be able to move your feet. That's an advantage we've had over the course of the season is we have a lot of guys that move their feet well. We like to think of ourselves as being able to put some speed at teams and Barchy would be a good addition in that way."

Sturm, acquired along with fellow veteran Mikael Samuelsson in the October trade that sent David Booth to Vancouver, battled injuries a good part of the season and appeared in only 48 games for the Panthers.

For the Devils, coach Peter DeBoer confirmed before his team's optional skate that rookie defenseman Adam Larsson would not be in the lineup Friday.

The fourth pick in the 2011 NHL draft, Larsson was a healthy scratch for five of the Devils' last six regular season games.

Larsson had 18 points in 65 games during the regular season, but his minus-7 rating was the worst among the seven New Jersey defensemen currently on the roster.

Here are the projected lines for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Devils and Panthers:

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

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Alan Robinson - Correspondent / - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Pens not fazed by having to play from behind in series

PITTSBURGH -- They've done it in the past, now they need to show they can do it again. The Pittsburgh Penguins understand they must prove they can play from behind.
It's been the playing while ahead part that’s been difficult for them.
Twice during their Stanley Cup run in 2009, the Penguins rebounded from 2-0 deficits to win series -- against Washington in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final. They also bounced back from losing the first game against Ottawa in the 2010 conference quarterfinals to win in six games.
But the Penguins couldn't hold a 3-2 series lead against Montreal in the 2010 conference semifinals or a 3-1 series lead against Tampa Bay in the conference quarterfinals last season. And they couldn't hold a 3-0 lead in the first period during their 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series Wednesday night.
Detecting a theme?
While every team and every season is different, the core group of Penguins has remained the same since 2008-09 -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang and Matt Cooke.
"I think experience from playing games before," Fleury said Friday of the Penguins' bounce-back tendencies. "And the best thing is to forget about it (a loss), the quicker the better. The next day's a new day and I think everybody is excited to have another shot at it."
Of course, in a short series, the "next days" dwindle quickly once the losses start to mount. Hence the Penguins' belief that they must play with a sense of desperation in Game 2, lest they go down 2-0 heading into Game 3 Sunday in Philadelphia.
"I think there's a sense of that in every game. Everyone always talks about the scenarios, the way a series works out. The reality is, everyone's desperate every game," Crosby said. "That's the way it is. There's obviously more emphasis when you've lost a game to bounce back and get the momentum. That's the case in every series. That's the case here tonight. We want to make sure we bounce back."
Even if those outside their room keep focusing on how the Penguins couldn't hold onto a seemingly safe lead in their own arena, Crosby said a hockey team can't do that.
"You lose a game, you have to bounce back. In the regular season, we've had to do that. The playoffs aren't any different," the Penguins captain said. "You have to have a short memory and forget it and move on. The way you play doesn't change. If anything, you should be even more desperate coming off a loss. I don't see that really being an issue."
During the Crosby-Malkin era, the Penguins are 15-8 following a loss in the playoffs.
In 1996, the Penguins lost the first two games at home against Washington in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals only to rebound to win the next four games, but that was long before any of these players' careers had begun.
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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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