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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 3:07 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Aucoin status won't be determined until pre-game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix will have to wait until the pre-game skate to find out if defenseman Adrian Aucoin is able to go as the Coyotes again face elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference final against the Los Angeles Kings.
 
Aucoin took part in an optional morning skate. The 38-year-old veteran who has appeared in 62 NHL playoff games, second to Ray Whitney on the team, missed the first three games of the conference finals with an undisclosed injury. He returned to the lineup in Game 4 -- the only win by Phoenix in the series -- but left in the third period due to injury and did not skate on Monday.
 
If Aucoin can't play, the Coyotes would likely go with Michael Stone, who played in Games 2 and 3, in Game 5.
 
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett indicated he would likely stick with the fourth line of Kyle Chipchura, Boyd Gordon and Marc-Antoine Pouliot in Game 5. They didn't play much as a trio because the Coyotes took six penalties and had in-game injuries to two forwards, but Pouliot's size and discipline along the walls give him the nod over Gilbert Brule and Paul Bissonnette.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 12:12 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Salvador's two-point night sparks Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Bryce Salvador used to be a sniper -- when he was 10 years old, that is.

"I know I lit it up," Salvador said.

It might be time to call him one again, because Salvador is lighting it up for the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Salvador got the Devils going in their 4-1 win against the Rangers on Monday with his third goal of the playoffs 8:10 into the first period. It was a low wrist shot from the left point that skipped on the ice just before going through Henrik Lundqvist's five-hole.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 12:09 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Brodeur doing it all for Devils

Martin Brodeur made his 186th consecutive postseason start for the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and came within 5:05 of recording his 25th career playoff shutout in a 4-1 win against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Prudential Center.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 10-5-1
GAA: 1.98 | SVP: 0.923
Brodeur was indeed solid in a 28-save performance to help New Jersey even this best-of-seven series at two games apiece. But stopping pucks isn't the only thing Brodeur is doing well this postseason.

The Devils' goaltender also picked up an assist on Zach Parise's empty-net goal with 1:29 remaining in regulation. It was Brodeur's fourth assist of the playoffs -- the most by any goaltender in a single postseason. No goaltender had more than five assists (Nashville's Pekka Rinne reached that mark) during the regular season.

Entering Wednesday's Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, Brodeur -- who now has 109 playoff victories -- will have more points than 92 players this postseason among those who have appeared in at least seven games. He's now averaging a point every four games in these playoffs.
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.21.2012 / 8:18 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

LeGrand taking a liking to playoff hockey

NEWARK, N.J. -- Wearing a neutral white shirt, showing no favoritism to the Rangers or the Devils, Eric LeGrand was just happy to have parked his motorized wheelchair in the area behind Section 17 at Prudential Center to catch some playoff hockey.

LeGrand, the former Rutgers University football player, became paralyzed on the field on Oct. 16, 2010. He is working hard in his recovery and in the meantime is, in his own words, "starting to become a die-hard hockey fan."

The New Jersey native has attended regular-season and playoff games at Madison Square Garden, but Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was his first at Prudential Center.

"I am a Jersey guy, so I have to pull for the Devils a little bit," LeGrand told NHL.com as the Devils and Rangers went through pre-game warmups behind him. "But, you know, I just want to see a good game out here."
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.21.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings in familiar position with Game 5 looming

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Been there, done that?

Well, the Los Angeles Kings have been to Vancouver and done this -- go on the road with a 3-1 series lead and clinch. Now they are in the exact same position, needing to win on the road to eliminate the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Vancouver Canucks got a boost from the return of Daniel Sedin in Game 4 to force the quarterfinals to shift back to Vancouver. In this series, Phoenix got something extra from the returns of Martin Hanzal and Adrian Aucoin to move the finals back to Glendale, Ariz.

Justin Williams said after Game 4 that the Kings have to take the same approach as the Vancouver series. Team captain Dustin Brown concurred that this has the same feel.

"We've worked really hard to give ourselves this advantage early in the series and we let an opportunity slip by not capitalizing and being on home ice," Brown said. "Now it's up to guys to rally their own game and rally collectively to go into Phoenix with that attitude that we're coming out of there with a win."

This is the first sign of a setback the Kings have faced since the Vancouver series. In Game 4 of the conference finals they fell into a two-goal deficit for the first time since Game 4 of the quarterfinals; they recovered from that loss with a club record eight-game playoff winning streak that was snapped in Game 4 against the Coyotes.

"I think this team has handled adversity pretty well, considering the type of year we had," Brown said. "This time of year it's about sticking together. We lost one game, so it's a matter of rebounding."

A rebound win would make history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a win would make the Kings the first team to go unbeaten on the road en route to the Stanley Cup Final under the current playoff format.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter consistently downplays his team's road success and has done a tremendous job of impressing that on his players. Asked about their confidence on the road, Sutter said, "Try to win the next game. It could be in Tucson or Toledo or Los Angeles. To me, that has no bearing on anything."
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.21.2012 / 1:32 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Lundqvist the difference so far for Rangers

The Devils and Rangers will play Game 4 tonight at Prudential Center in Newark, and if New Jersey plays its game it may very well get back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 Wednesday night with a 2-2 series split. One thing might literally stand in the Devils' way, though, and it's the thing that's stood in their way throughout the series' first three games.

Henrik Lundqvist.

There are no words for how good Lundqvist has been in this series, and there's no better example than Game 3 Saturday. New York ended up winning it 3-0, just as it did in Game 1, and if you just looked at the box score you might think the Rangers put together another strong, sound defensive performance, but if you watched the game, you saw it wasn't a good defensive effort. There were tons of breakdowns all over the ice and lucky for the Rangers, Lundqvist was always there to make the stop.

Simply put, the Rangers were greatly outplayed in the first two periods -- New Jersey outshot New York 26-14 through 40 minutes -- and they ended up winning a game they had no business winning because of Lundqvist. If Lundqvist plays two more games like he did in Game 3, this series is over. You can't do anything about it. If he does that for two more games you tip your hat and say, "You were great." You just can't beat a guy who stands on his head for a full series the way Lundqvist has stood on his so far.

That doesn't mean there's no hope for New Jersey, though. I do think the Devils will come out in Game 4 and Henrik will be good, but it will be hard for him to be as good as he was in Game 3. It would be hard for anyone to play like that two games in a row. I think we'll have a 2-2 series coming down to a best-of-three in Games 5, 6 and 7.

We have to remember that the Devils have shown in the first three games that they have the speed and the forecheck to tire out and overwhelm the Rangers. I think we saw in the Ottawa series that if you can skate, you can get chances against the Rangers. The Senators could skate and they attacked the Rangers with speed through the neutral zone and it became pretty obvious that speed bothers the Rangers. I think Washington would have had a better chance to win if it played faster and got the Rangers in foot races in the second round.

The Devils are seeing what Ottawa did against the Rangers and doing the same things now. There were several breakaways in Game 3 and defensive teams aren't supposed to give those up. The speed is bothering New York. The Rangers were lucky in that Lundqvist was there to make up for all the mistakes his teammates made, but it was clear the Devils were pushing the puck and getting the better of the play. They have to do the same thing Monday night, and if the Devils get as many chances in Game 4 as they did in Game 3, you have to think they'll have a good chance of winning.

The other thing you have to notice is that I think the Rangers are starting to show their exhaustion. Remember, New York has now played 17 games in just 38 days. That's a playoff game almost every other day. I think in Game 2 and Game 3 the Rangers all looked tired. No one looks fast except for Chris Kreider, who's younger and hasn't played a full NHL season because he was at Boston College most of the season. Even Carl Hagelin, who is known for his speed, doesn't look fast. I remember how fast Hagelin looked against Ottawa and Washington, and it's not there now.

The whole team is just looking tired. You don't notice it in guys like Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal, guys that play a ton of minutes on defense, because they don't play fast. Their game's not speed. But in guys like Hagelin or Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, guys that play the fast game, you can see it. They have to be tired because they play a very physical style with shot blocking and grinding on the boards. That's very tough on the body. I think they caught a break with the extra day between Game 2 and Game 3, and the fact that there's only one day off before Game 4 means it will be very interesting.

Another important thing to remember for Game 4 is that the Rangers won't have Brandon Prust because of his one-game suspension after elbowing Anton Volchenkov in Game 3. Prust isn't one of the bigger names in the Rangers lineup, but I think they'll miss him big time. He kills penalties and plays a very physical style. That's a big hitter that New Jersey won't have to worry about. He also is very underrated at getting the puck out around the boards consistently. Next time the puck might come out to a guy who'll kick it into the slot. I think Prust is going to be a big loss. I never underestimate guys like him. He may not be a glamorous name, but if you know hockey, you know what guys like Prust bring to the team.

The loss of Prust and the Rangers' general exhaustion is just going to put more pressure on Lundqvist to perform again like he did in Game 3, but this is how the Rangers play. They bend, but they don't seem to break. Whenever they get into a series like this they seem to win it. Whenever they get to a game where it's on the line, the Rangers make the play like they did in the overtime games against Washington and Ottawa.

I still think this is going to be a six or seven-game series, but you never really know. The only thing I know is Henrik Lundqvist has been the star of this series, and maybe the entire postseason so far. If he plays two more games like he played Saturday, the Rangers will be in their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994.
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.21.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Henrique no longer a rookie in DeBoer's eyes

NEWARK, N.J. -- It's gotten to a point where New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer won't think twice about giving rookie Adam Henrique a key role between two veteran players this postseason and for good reason.
 
Henrique, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, spent much of the regular season between captain Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk.
 
In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers on Monday at Prudential Center, he'll work with Patrik Elias and Kovalchuk.
 
"Nothing changes in my game or their game," a confident Henrique told NHL.com. "We're not drawing up a whole new system for this game because we didn't win [Game 3]. We're getting our chances and just have to execute … you have to score goals to win games, and hopefully we will. All the guys like the combinations, so hopefully it gives us a spark."
 
Henrique, 22, was centering the team's third line with Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson. The change comes at a time when DeBoer has decided to give Jacob Josefson an opportunity to make his playoff debut with Henrique's former linemates.
 
For DeBoer, moving Henrique around isn't much of a concern. He has two goals, eight points and a plus-7 rating in 15 playoff games for the Devils.
 
"I think you forget how young he is, at least I do," DeBoer said. "I think it comes down to hockey sense, and responsibility … he's a responsible player. He's won before, which I think has put him in situations where he's had to play on the right side of the puck and put the puck in the right place and do the right thing. I think that those experiences have really quickened the learning curve at this level for me to be able to put him out there. I don't even think about his age now; we're way beyond that. He just gets the job done."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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POSTED ON Monday, 05.21.2012 / 12:22 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Devils not worried about Rangers' lineup

NEWARK, N.J. -- Don't expect the New Jersey Devils to adjust their style of play for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers on Monday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) just because hard-hitting Brandon Prust is out of the lineup.
 
"One guy out, one guy in," Devils coach Peter DeBoer told the media Monday morning. "For us, nothing changes. I'm sure they're going to dress a good lineup and be ready to go."
 
Prust was suspended one game by the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Sunday for elbowing Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 at Prudential Center.

There was no word from the Rangers who they might insert into the lineup, but the Devils players said it wouldn't matter.
 
"At the end of the day, we're not worried about individual parts of their game," Devils forward David Clarkson said. "We've got to focus on ourselves and right now it's to keep getting the shots on net.
 
"We've got to stay out of the [penalty] box, because it's tough to put them in spots like that and when we do get power plays, we have to find a way to score and put those in."
 
The Devils haven't lost two straight games in the playoffs since back-to-back defeats against the Florida Panthers in Games 2 and 3 of the first round.
 
"We've got to come out with our best game and I'm confident we will," DeBoer said.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.21.2012 / 12:14 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Game 4 lineup for Rangers likely to feature Bickel

NEW YORK -- With Brandon Prust out of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a one-game suspension, the Rangers will likely turn to a defenseman to fill the vacated spot at forward.

Stu Bickel, who played four games as a forward in February with the Rangers battling injuries, was dressed as a forward during the Rangers' morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Bickel was a healthy scratch for Game 3, but is ready to make the adjustment to forward to replace Prust.

Bickel wouldn't reveal for sure if he was in the lineup, but said there was a small adjustment to playing as a fourth-line forward.

"I don't know what's going on as far as tonight goes," Bickel said. "It's still the same game. We all know the systems and everything like that. I don't think it was too tough. It maybe took me a couple shifts. I don't remember that far back exactly how it went. I don't think it was too bad."

Forward Brandon Dubinsky practiced for the third time in four days (the Rangers did not have a practice or morning skate before Game 3) but stayed on the ice long after Bickel went to the locker room and will not play in Game 4. Dubinsky's presence would've given the Rangers more flexibility on the penalty kill, a role Prust has played all season but Bickel has not.

With Dubinsky out of the lineup since Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals, the Rangers have sprinkled the shorthanded ice time among forwards between five main guys -- Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko. Dubinsky has played a major role on the PK all season, but his absence leaves the Rangers with just four steady penalty-killing forwards.

The next-busiest penalty-killing forwards after that group of six during the postseason are Brad Richards (20 seconds per game) and Artem Anisimov (19 seconds per game). Should the Rangers find themselves in a lot of shorthanded situations against the Devils, they will likely have to call on their depth to help kill the penalties.

The Rangers found a way to get by during the conference quarterfinals with Carl Hagelin lost for three games due to a suspension, as rookie Chris Kreider filled the opening and is now the Rangers' second-leading goal scorer in the playoffs with five.

With Prust out, someone else will need to step up for one game.

"He's a big guy for us. He plays in a lot of key situations," Callahan said of Prust. "He's a guy who brings energy to us. It's an opportunity for someone to step up and step in. You saw earlier in the playoffs when we lost a guy like Hags and Kreids steps in and he plays big. It's an opportunity for somebody and somebody has to grab a hold of it."

The Rangers did not hold a full practice and therefore did not reveal any potential line combinations. But if Bickel replaces Prust, here's what the lineup could potentially look like against the Devils as the Rangers look to extend their lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-1.

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Stu Bickel

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.21.2012 / 11:52 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Stralman shrugs off alleged illegal hit by Zubrus

NEW YORK -- Rangers coach John Tortorella made a point Sunday to say while Brandon Prust delivered a hit to the head of Anton Volchenkov during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, perhaps the NHL should look at a hit the Devils' Dainius Zubrus had on Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman in the same game.

Prust received a one-game ban for his hit and will be out of the lineup for Game 4 on Monday night, but Zubrus' alleged illegal hit went unpunished. At about the eight-minute mark of the second period of Game 3, Zubrus can be seen knocking Stralman to the ice, but Stralman said Monday morning that he had no recollection of that hit.

"I didn't feel anything," Stralman said. "I haven't seen it. I don't know what it looks like. I'm looking forward to the game tonight."

Stralman is sporting a black right eye, but that was from a hit he received earlier in the playoffs and not from Zubrus.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery