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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:59 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Capitals ready to rely on 'unflappable' Neuvirth

ARLINGTON, Va. -- No player in the Washington Capitals dressing room has spent more time with Michal Neuvirth than defenseman Karl Alzner, so it fair to say he's got a pretty good handle on the goaltender's personality.

"He's seems to be kind of be unflappable," Alzner said. "He's very calm on and off the ice. I think that in this situation, that's going to be pretty good for him. It has proven well for him in the playoffs in Hershey a couple of times. He's just a guy that if he gets scored on, he doesn't really let it get to him too much."

That demeanor will be put to the test Wednesday night at Verizon Center when Neuvirth is in net for his first career NHL playoff game against the New York Rangers. Neuvirth and fellow 2006 draft pick Semyon Varlamov have spent this season jostling for the No. 1 job in Washington, with fellow young netminder Braden Holtby also squeezing his way into the competition.

Varlamov entered the year with more NHL postseason experience than Neuvirth, but the 23-year-old from the Czech Republic was able to stay healthy longer and that proved to play a big role in the derby.

"Right now, he's played way more games. He's won 27 games for us," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's not my thought only -- it is a collaboration of all the coaches. We thought he was the guy who has played the most games down the stretch and he's played the big games down the stretch and he's won the big games that we've needed to win."

While Varlamov has played in 19 postseason games for Boudreau, twice beginning the playoffs as Jose Theodore's backup before supplanting the veteran, Neuvirth has built a formidable postseason resume of his own. He helped Plymouth to an Ontario Hockey League title and Memorial Cup berth in 2007, and has won back-to-back Calder Cup championships with Washington's AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

Neuvirth was named the Calder Cup MVP in 2009, and he might have been even more valuable in 2010. He won 30 postseason games in that span, and defeated some elite goaltending prospects (Tuukka Rask, Cory Schneider and Jonathan Bernier) along the way.

"We were in control of every series pretty much the first year, but the second year not so much," defenseman John Carlson said. "We went down to Manchester, we were down to Texas, but he kept us in there and made it so we could battle back and win.

"He's a big-game goalie. He likes to be in that moment. He elevates his game when he's in that moment, it seems. For a defenseman it makes you feel pretty comfortable. He's had so much success and you feel good in front of him."

Boudreau was once Hershey's coach and maintains strong relationships with members of the Bears organization. He spent parts of those two Calder Cup runs watching at Giant Center with Hershey general manager Doug Yingst and other personnel evaluators in the organization after the Captials were knocked out of the NHL playoffs.

"I saw a lot of games in the playoffs last year," Boudreau said. "His demeanor when it is crunch time was outstanding. Championships are not only very difficult to win at any level, it takes something special to win them. He's done both. I don't classify him as a rookie. This is his third year pro. We thought he was our guy."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:52 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Detroit-Phoenix Live Blog

Detroit still dangerous without Zetterberg

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was asked on Wednesday how the Red Wings not having star forward Henrik Zetterberg (lower body) for Game 1 changes the approach to defending Detroit -- if at all.

He pointed to the Red Wings' scoring depth -- seven players other than Zetterberg with more than 15 goals scored -- and said the 'Yotes can't relax just because one star is missing.

"They have some pretty good players even though Zetterberg's out," Tippett said. "If we think we're going to have it any easier, we're wrong. Zetterberg is an excellent player. That goes without saying. But they have good depth on their club. They're still a very good team."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:49 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

This was no rookie mistake

VANCOUVER -- Canucks rookie Cody Hodgson spent the morning before his first NHL playoff game working out off the ice while most of his veteran teammates were on the ice at Rogers Arena going through a typical morning skate.

What's this again? A rookie not skating the morning of Game 1? How dare he?

"It was an optional skate and I was just making sure everything is good for tonight so I'm ready to go," Hodgson said.

Yeah, but he had to catch some serious heat from his teammates, right? They couldn't possibly like the fact that this kid, all of 21 years old, didn't join them in the pre-game workout.

Not true.

"I talked to them (Tuesday) and made sure it was alright in playoff time, and I got a unanimous yes from every single person I asked," Hodgson said. "The guys I asked all said the same thing, 'Do what you need to do for playoffs.' "

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault certainly didn't mind that Hodgson chose to workout off the ice. Heck, Vigneault wasn't even on the ice Wednesday morning.

"For me, optionals are optionals," Vigneault said. "I'm just not a believer in morning skates. The twins usually don't go out. A player's job is to do what he believes is going to get him ready for that game at night. The players decide what is best for them and I respect that."

It's not as if Hodgson was lounging on the couch watching NHL Network. He was sweating as he spoke in front of his stall inside the Canucks' dressing room because he had just finished his rigorous dry land workout.

Hodgson has battled back issues in his short career and he said he has a routine that will allow him to loosen up and get ready for the game. His usual gameday routine does not include pregame skates.

"I just do a long workout before and with the pregame skates it can be a little much," he said. "I just take it the way I do everyday and I will be ready tonight. Obviously I worked hard the last couple of weeks preparing for this and I'm feeling ready already."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:48 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Detroit-Phoenix Live Blog

Coyotes Morris out for Game 1

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said veteran defenseman Derek Morris would miss the quarterfinal series opener against Detroit on Wednesday night with an upper body injury and is day-to-day for a return.

Morris, who had five goals and 16 points in 77 games, spent a lot of time on the blue line with Keith Yandle this season. That means Tippett will be forced to find a comparable partner to pair with his offensive star in the top pairing.

Joining the active lineup will either be 23-year old David Schlemko (4 G, 14 points) or 19-year old rookie Oliver Ekman-Larsson (1 G, 11 points).
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:15 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Wideman out for series; Caps to match lines?

WASHINGTON -- Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau offered a grim outlook Wednesday for defenseman Dennis Wideman's chances of playing in this series against the Rangers.

"I don’t expect him back for this series, but he’s a really determined young man," Boudreau said. "He’s coming along. He’s walking now. He’s rehabbing it pretty hard right now. He’s a lot better today than he was yesterday. I don’t know if that means anything. If that rate of recovery is good, then it wouldn’t surprise me if in three weeks he’d be ready."

Boudreau didn't get into specifics when he came to matchups for Game 1, but he said he's got an idea for how he wants to go about it.

"We’ll see how it works out," Boudreau said. "Listen, it is so easy to match defense against forwards. Whether you are at home or on the road, it is very simple quite frankly. If they’re matching somebody against one of our lines, especially when the D can go out every second pair and they can get off the ice on any won or lost faceoff in the neutral zone, we’re not going to be too worried about that. It is forwards matching up against forwards that we’ve got an idea of what we want to do."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:02 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Tortorella: 'By no means do we fear them'

WASHINGTON -- Rangers coach John Tortorella has never been one to talk about the opposition, be it in the regular season or the playoffs. His mantra is the focus remains on what's happening in his locker room, not his opponents'.

As the No. 8 seed in this series with the Caps, the Rangers are unquestionably the underdogs. But Tortorella made sure to let everyone know about his team's mindset entering the Wednesday's Game 1 at Verizon Center.

"We respect this hockey club," Tortorella said. "By no means do we fear them."

And why would they? The Rangers won the season series 3-1 and delivered thumpings of 6-0 and 7-0 along the way. Of course, Tortorella said none of that matters now.

"Doesn't matter," Tortorella said. "I'm just going to talk about our club. I think that's the most important thing. The way we're trying to go about our business is just take care of our business each and every day. Washington's gone through their process, we're going to go through our process and that's our main concentration."

The Rangers have had their share of woes at Madison Square Garden the past two seasons, but they've been solid on the road. They finished tied for the ninth-most road points this season at 49, but of course, none of that matters to Tortorella.

"We don't care where we're playing. We're good," Tortorella said. "We're good with our mindest, we're good in our skin. We're just going to play. We need to play. We're ready to play. The road, away, we have an understanding how we're going to play, what's expected out of the opposing team, and now, we'll let the players play.

"There's not going to be a bunch of changes from this hockey club. We know who we are, and we're going to try to be who we are. I think that's the most important thing."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 1:57 PM

NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Penguins prepare for Game 1 without Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will miss a Stanley Cup Playoffs game because of injury for the first time in his career.

Crosby, who helped lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup two years ago, took part in the Penguins' pregame skate in advance of Wednesday night’s game against Tampa Bay. But he has not yet been cleared for contact work in practice, a step he must take before he can play.

Coach Dan Bylsma said there was no change in Crosby’s condition.

"No update on Sid," Bylsma said. "Nothing has changed. He has not moved on in his progression."

Crosby hasn't played since Jan. 5 against Tampa Bay, when he was driven into the boards by a hit from defenseman Victor Hedman. The game before, he absorbed a hard hit from Washington’s David Steckel.

Crosby has 30 goals and 52 assists for 82 points in 62 career playoff games. The Penguins reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and 2009 with Crosby on their top line, beating Detroit in seven games in the 2009 Final.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 11:52 AM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Boston-Montreal Live Blog

Miracle on ice?

With an eye toward alleviating some of the attention associated with playing the Canadiens in Montreal, the Boston Bruins have come up with a unique solution.

With two days off between Monday's Game 3 and Thursday's Game 4, it seemed natural that Boston might head back to Boston for two days of practice before returning to Montreal on Wednesday night. Instead, the Bruins cut the distance they will have to travel by setting up two days of practice in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The team will practice at the Team USA rink at the Olympic training facility, the same rink that hosted the 1980 Olympics and the thrilling gold-medal triumph by the Americans.

The Bruins don't have many Americans on their roster, but that shouldn't dilute the specialness of this side trip. It will be especially fulfilling for goalie Tim Thomas, the only full-time American on the roster. Thomas grew up as a big fan of the Miracle on Ice team.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 9:00 AM

By Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins draft blog

Nugent-Hopkins dishes on CSS No. 1 ranking

Hi everyone. It was a pretty exciting day on Monday, to say the least. I'm in Medicine Hat (Alberta) right now with my teammates preparing for Games 3 and 4 of our playoff series.

My mum was the first person to text me Monday morning with the news that I received the No. 1 ranking on the Central Scouting list. The text read, 'Congratulations for being ranked No. 1.' So that was the first time I found out about it. It's definitely a big honor for me. It was even cool to be up near the top at the mid-term, so being ranked No. 1 was a great honor and I'm very excited about it.

I think being ranked near the top is really cool and I don't think it'll make that much of a difference if you're ranking up there anyone. Every team has their own preference. But I know I have to keep working on some things and just keep on getting better. I'm just motivated and determined to do whatever it takes to improve my overall game. I can tell you that I did like watching the Oilers play quite a bit when I was younger.

As for right now, though, I'm just focused on helping our team, Red Deer, get back into our playoff series with Medicine Hat. We're down 2-0 in the series (while being outscored, 14-1) with Games 3 and 4 set for Tuesday and Wednesday.

How can we get back into this series? I think our special teams need to get better. They have quite a few goals on their power-play and we haven't been able to capitalize on our power-play so we need to improve on our special teams and try getting those pucks to the net and get in front of the net and really work hard to get the rebounds.
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Posted On Monday, 04.11.2011 / 11:30 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin advises top prospects

Boston Bruins rookie forward Tyler Seguin knows what it's like to play the waiting game following the release of NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top draft-eligible North American and European players.

Seguin experienced it just last year. He moved from No. 2 to No. 1 on the final list and was later selected second overall by the Bruins at the Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

Seguin was asked on Sunday that if he could sit down all the top prospects in one room to offer some advice, what would it be?

"I'd tell them to just relax, take it all in and have fun with it," he said. "That's all you can do. Obviously, you're going to get a little nervous before the Draft. I obviously was, but the overall experience comes and goes so quickly that you just need to take it all in and have fun with it. It's going to be a life-changing experience for all of them."

It's pretty hard to fathom that last year at this time, Seguin was playing for the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers in the playoffs. Now, he's with the Bruins, preparing for the rival Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"There are so many positives I've taken from this season," Seguin said. "I have grown as a player and matured as a person. I came in here and found new best friends and it's been a whirlwind and a great experience. I'm happy to get the playoffs going and to see how far we can go.

"As far as the NHL play … the physical grind, the speed, all that stuff is so much better," he added.

That being said, those draft eligible stars certainly have a lot to look forward to, and obviously prepare for.
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