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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 3:26 PM

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

Young Rangers get passing grade from Tortorella

Eight Rangers got their first taste of postseason hockey Wednesday, and without going through each individual player to break down their performance, John Tortorella said he liked what he saw from his young guys.

"Overall, the young guys, I was happy," Tortorella said. "Some guys in certain parts of the game, you could see there was some anxiousness, but that's to be expected. This is why we are happy that we're in. This gets some of the young group some experience. They'll be better the next game. They're going to have to be, because they're a big part of our club. A big part of our success is our youth."

A few of the highlights for players making their debuts included: All-Star Derek Stepan was on the ice for Alex Ovechkin's tying goal and lost his stick on the play, but his 25:07 was third-most among Rangers forwards.

Lineup change? -- Tortorella isn't about to give away lineup information during the postseason, but it's possible Mats Zuccarello could be a scratch for Game 2.

He played just 7:34 during Game 1 and was sharing time on a line with Sean Avery during Thursday's practice.

These are obviously subject to change, but these were the line combinations at Verizon Center this afternoon:

Gaborik-Christensen-Prospal
Dubinsky-Stepan-Fedotenko
Wolski-Boyle-Prust
Drury-Anisimov-Avery/Zuccarello

Avery was a healthy scratch quite a bit down the stretch, but Tortorella may want to change things up after a Game 1 loss.

Defending well -- While a couple of the offensive lines were shuffled a bit, don't expect to see much changed in terms of line combinations on the blue line.

Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer played the bulk of the minutes, but Bryan McCabe was acquired at the trade deadline of his power-play talents and Matt Gilroy scored the Rangers' lone goal. Overall, Tortorella was pleased with his club's overall play defensively.

"I thought for a lot of the game, our defending wasn't bad," Tortorella said. "I wouldn't say it was great. We're going to have to be better. I thought our best period was our third period. I thought we were playing our best hockey with the lead.

"I thought for good portions of the game, it was good. But it's going to have to be better as the series keeps on going."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 3:14 PM

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

Savard still on Bruins' minds as playoffs open

Marc Savard, sidelined with a concussion, may be away from the Bruins, but he is not far away from the thoughts of the team as the playoffs are about to begin.

Thursday morning, Boston coach Claude Julien said that he speaks to the play-making center every week or so.

"We communicate, and things haven’t changed in his case, and it’s unfortunate for him," Julien said. "I'm sure he's going to be sitting at home and watching these games and wishing he could be part of it because as a player that part of you will never leave.

"And this is the most exciting time of the year, and I know he loved the times that he was in the playoffs. And he was obviously a pretty important part of the success of our hockey club; so will we miss his play? Absolutely. You don't lose an elite player like him and not feel it."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:53 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Will Zherdev play?

The Flyers didn't do line rushes during Thursday's morning practice, so it's unclear what the exact forward lines could look like, but what was noticeable were the final three players off the ice -- forwards Nikolay Zherdev and Jody Shelley, and defenseman Nick Boynton.

Generally the players who come off last this time of year have stayed out longer to get extra skating in because they won't be playing.

Zherdev had been a healthy scratch for 19 of 23 games between Feb. 13 and March 31, but had played the final five regular-season games, mostly on a line with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux. He had a goal and 2 assists in that time and looked possibly to have earned his way back into the lineup.

Coach Peter Laviolette has a policy of not discussing lineups or playing decisions, so there's no knowing which way he's leaning. But if Zherdev does sit out, it's possible James van Riemsdyk joins Carter and Giroux, and Daniel Carcillo plays alongside Mike Richards and Kris Versteeg.

The other line combinations likely will be Danny Briere with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, and Blair Betts centering Darroll Powe and either Andreas Nodl or Shelley.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:30 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Sabres' Sekera out; Grier probable

While Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera skated this morning at Wells Fargo Center, he will not be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

Sekera missed the final two regular-season games and was limited in practice this week because of an upper-body muscle strain. Forward Mike Grier, on the other hand, also skated well and is a good bet to be making his first
Buffalo Sabres' Mike Grier, top, and Philadelphia Flyers' Mike Richards vie for a loose puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
appearance  in eight games because of a knee injury.

Against a team like the Flyers, Grier's physical style and ability to block shots would certainly go a long way.

"Yeah, this type of team suits my style," Grier told NHL.com. "This time of year, the hockey is fun to play in. Especially for the bigger guys and grinders … you can kind of have more of an effect on a game and the outcome than in the regular season. I'm looking forward to it. They have a great team with some skill over there, so it's a real challenge for us."

Sabres second-year defenseman Tyler Myers would certainly welcome Grier's presence back to the lineup.

"He's been a very important part of our team," Myers said. "He's a big body who work teams down low and does a lot of little things that sometimes go unnoticed. A lot of young guys look up to him; he's a great guy to have in the lineup."

In 73 games this season, Grier produced 16 points in 73 games, but his presence away from the puck in collecting 112 hits, 48 blocked shots and 26 steals was far more valuable.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:02 PM

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

Zetterberg skates, considered day-to-day

DETROIT -- Any progress is good for injured Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg, and what the star did on the ice at Joe Louis Arena Thursday morning qualified as such.

Two days earlier, Zetterberg met with reporters after Detroit's practice and didn't sound upbeat about the prospect of getting back in time from an undisclosed lower-body injury to play in this Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Now, he's at least one step closer to making it happen after skating by himself on Thursday morning and taking part in light stickhandling and shooting activities. It was the first time on the ice for Zetterberg since he was injured in Carolina in an April 6 game.

"I was out there for 15 minutes, maybe," said Zetterberg, who missed the final two games of the regular season and Wednesday night's 4-2 Red Wings win in Game 1 with what's believed to be a knee injury. "It was fun to be out there (and) feel the puck again. I didn't expect that a few days ago, even though I didn't do, basically, anything out there -- just stickhandling, shooting and moving around a little bit."

Zetterberg, who was driven by golf cart to the Red Wings' locker room while wearing a bulky brace on his leg Tuesday, still played it cautious on Thursday when asked about the prospect of playing in Game 2 on Saturday after noon.

"Day by day," he said. "We'll see (how it feels Thursday)."

As for skating again on Friday, that will be determined by how his body reacts to the work he put in on Thursday.

"We'll see how it reacts after today," said Zetterberg, Detroit's leading point-scorer in the regular season. "It bumped up a little bit in the workout room today, too. (We) just have to see how it will respond and regroup tomorrow."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock also left the door ajar as to Zetterberg's return timetable.

"There's always a chance," Babcock said, when asked about the Swedish star's availability for Game 2. "He's day-to-day."


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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:01 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Ennis saw Nugent-Hopkins' talent early

Tyler Ennis a loyal Buffalo Sabre, but there's another team very close to his heart -- the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers.

He spent four seasons with the Tigers, including 43 goals in his final two seasons there. He still wears a spandex Medicine Hat shirt under his Sabres jersey, and is following them now in the WHL playoffs. The Tigers beat the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round, and took a 3-0 lead on the Red Deer Rebels in the second round before losing 1-0 on Wednesday.

Red Deer is the home team of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Central Scouting's top-rated North American forward for the 2011 Entry Draft. Ennis remembered playing against Nugent-Hopkins in the WHL. It was during the 2008-09 season, Ennis' final season, while Nugent-Hopkins was a 15-year-old call-up to Red Deer.

Ennis said it was obvious right away what kind of talent Nugent-Hopkins had. "Sick passes, sick plays with the puck," Ennis recalled for NHL.com.

Ennis, an Edmonton native, had some advice for his hometown NHL team, which holds the first pick in June's Draft.

"He'd be my pick if I was making it," he said.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:54 PM

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

Poti 'sore', misses practice

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti has had a frustrating year because of a reoccurring groin injury, and his return might not be anytime in the near future.

The Capitals had an optional practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but Poti was missing because coach Bruce Boudreau said he was "sore" after his on-ice workout Wednesday. Poti was playing in a game of sideways 3-on-3 with the guys who would eventually be healthy scratches that night for Game 1 of this series when he was involved in a collision.

Poti stayed down on the ice for a few seconds and did not appear to be comfortable when he got back up. Assistant coach Bob Woods took his place in the game.

Boudreau said there might not be a place in the lineup waiting for the veteran Poti even when he is healthy enough to play.

"He hasn't played in four months now and I think our defense is playing pretty well," Boudreau said. "So it'd be pretty hard for him, unless there's injuries, to get back in."

The Capitals have six healthy defensemen in front of Poti right now, plus trade deadline addition Dennis Wideman could be back during the second round to add another body to a crowded blueline corps.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:52 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

No better place for Ennis than Philadelphia

Count Buffalo Sabres rookie forward Tyler Ennis among those who agree with W.C. Fields, who once said, "All things being equal, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

Ennis played his first NHL game here, Nov. 14, 2009, and scored his first goal in that game, and he had a goal and an assist here in a 5-3 Sabres win on March 5.

He's back Thursday looking to add to those numbers.

"I scored my first goal here in my first game, that was really exciting for me," he told NHL.com. "I know this place is going to be rocking pretty good, the fans are pretty crazy so we're all pretty excited. It's going to be loud and crazy, going to be a competitive series. Both teams play hard. We're going to have to try to shut them down. They play really offensive, so we're looking forward to it."

His job will be a bit easier without Philadelphia's All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger, but not that much easier.

"They have a really strong team without him," said Ennis. "He's a great player and a very important part of their team. But they have a lot of great D-men. He plays hard but a lot of (their) guys play hard, too. We just have to play the same way we've been playing."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Flyers hoping to put power in power play

With their array of talent up front, you would think the Philadelphia Flyers' power play would run with precision and efficiency.

That didn't happen, however, as Philadelphia was just 19th with man-advantage during the regular season, with a 16.6-percent efficiency.

"It's been an issue all year," defenseman Matt Carle told NHL.com. "That's just one of those things. It seems like we've been answering those questions all season."

The struggles were no more obvious than down the stretch, as the team as a whole struggled. In their last 23 games, they were just 10-for-72 (13.9 percent) on the power play, while team went just 8-8-7.

"I think a lot of that (power-play struggles) the last couple weeks goes hand in hand with where we were (as a team) the last couple of weeks," said coach Peter Laviolette. "Just inconsistent."

It's a fine line between a successful power play and a wasted opportunity, but no one's been able to spot the one or two things that might need to be fixed.

"It's always different," said Danny Briere. "There's days where the breakout might not work or we don't retrieve pucks or we're forcing plays. Usually it's one little thing that you need to fix. On the power play you need everything to go right for you to score a goal. You need a good breakout, you need to retrieve the puck, need to set it up, have people in position and find a way to get the puck to the net, have guys in front. There's all kinds of little things. If one thing is off, the puck goes down the ice and you have to start over again."

Part of the problem could be the fact that the Flyers have so many talented offensive players to use and not enough power-play time to use them. Who does Laviolette pick to center the two units -- Mike Richards and Jeff Carter? Or Claude Giroux and Briere? If you shift one to the wing, where does that leave Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino, James van Riemsdyk, Nikolay Zherdev and Kris Versteeg?

In the absence of injured defenseman Chris Pronger, Laviolette has tried using a fourth forward to play the point, at times going with Richards, van Riemsdyk and Versteeg.

Nothing, however has seemed to work, no matter how much Laviolette has juggled.

"I think he's going to try different groups and try to get some chemistry going with whatever is going to work," said Carle. "We haven't really had a consistent group all year that's been working. It's just one of those things that I think he's trying to see how it goes."

The Flyers have spent their off-time since the regular season ended attempting to solve their power-play problems, and the players feel they'll see the benefit of that work starting Thursday.

"Everything the last couple days has been positive," said Carle. "That's the way we're feeling after this week. We kept everything positive and we're looking forward to the start tomorrow."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:33 AM

By Dhiren Mahiban -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 WCQF: Vancouver-Chicago Live Blog

Canucks play a physical game

In order to be the best, you've got to beat the best.

After being knocked out of the playoffs two years in a row at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, Canucks GM Mike Gillis went out and improved his depth among his forwards.

Gillis acquired the likes of Victor Oreskovich (free-agent signing) and Max Lapierre (trade-deadline acquisition) to bolster his bottom-six forwards and add some much-needed grit.

On Wednesday night, both showed up vividly on the score sheet as Oreskovich and Lapierre combined for 12 of the team's 47 hits in a 2-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. Lapierre also went 5-for-7 in the face-off circle, while linemate Tanner Glass chipped in with three hits of his own, including a solid hit on former teammate Ryan Johnson, who was clearly shaken up as a result.

"We definitely wanted to establish a physical presence especially on their defense," said coach Alain Vigneault. "We know their 'D' are a very big part of their team, all six of those defensemen love to jump up on the attack whether it'd be on the rush or in our end and we got to make their life challenging."

Lapierre, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the deadline for Joel Perrault and a draft pick, was a physical presence for the Montreal Canadiens last spring on their surprise run in the playoffs.

"Max played a good game for us tonight, he brought the energy we expect, he brought the discipline and the physical game we expect from him," Vigneault said. "He had some real good experiences especially last year with Montreal, where he had a big role in the playoffs."

Oreskovich, who spent last season between the Florida Panthers and AHL Rochester, had four hits in the win – including a check on Blackhawks forward Tomas Kopecky in the first period. Kopecky left the game with what the team called an upper-body injury and did not return.

"I thought everyone played real physical – you look at the hits at the end of the game and I think that might've been the difference in the game," Oreskovich said. "Just trying to be real tough to play against tonight."

For their part the Blackhawks had 21 hits, 18 of which came in the first 40 minutes.

"They took it to us physically tonight," admitted Patrick Kane. "We got to make sure we're better in that respect – try to play physical on their defense, try to wear them down a little bit.

"I know they got some guys back there who have been injured for a while and maybe played a couple games since they've been injured so try to get on them, hit them and maybe that can make the difference."
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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh