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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 12:50 AM

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

Fourth line comes up big for Devils

NEW YORK -- Once again, the fourth line of the New Jersey Devils provided the necessary spark at the most opportune time.
 
With the second period winding down and the New York Rangers seemingly in control and clinging to a one-goal lead, Ryan Carter deflected a shot past Henrik Lundqvist with just 1:51 left to pull the visitors into a tie and provide just the impetus required in an eventual 3-2 triumph in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 12:06 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Tight games continue to be the rule this spring

The hardest thing to get in this spring's playoffs is a big lead.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 9-4
GAA: 2.05 | SVP: 0.921
New Jersey's 3-2 victory against the Rangers in New York on Wednesday night got the Devils even in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into Game 3 in Newark on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). It also marked the 44th time in 73 games this spring that the winning margin was a single goal -- and in eight other games, the two-goal margin of victory included an empty-netter.

There have already been more one-goal games this spring than there were in all of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 playoffs. Last spring's playoffs had 48 games decided by one goal, a total that's a pretty good bet to be exceeded as well. The most one-goal games in the past 10 years came in 2007, when there were 51.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 6:16 PM

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

Kings' Fraser could miss Game 3

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It appears that Los Angeles Kings center Colin Fraser could miss another game of the Western Conference Finals.

Fraser is attending to a family matter, according to the Kings, and missed Game 2 on Tuesday. Asked about Fraser on Wednesday, coach Darryl Sutter said Fraser was "back in Alberta."

Brad Richardson moved from wing to center Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan. It was Clifford's first action since Game 1 of the quarterfinals, when he was hit by Byron Bitz of the Vancouver Canucks and left with a concussion.

Fraser is an integral part of the Kings' grinding fourth line, but if can't play in Game 3 on Thursday, Sutter will likely turn back to Clifford, a big physical forward with a slight scoring touch. He was a surprise standout of the playoffs last season for L.A. when he played on a line with Richardson and Wayne Simmonds.

"Quite honestly, he was the logical guy to go in for [Fraser] because he brings the same sort of thing," Sutter said. "You can't take penalties and he's got to play hard and he's got to be responsible on the right side of the puck. If he does that, he gets a chance to play."

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 1:09 PM

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

Melrose's PHX-LAK Game 3 Preview

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 12:49 PM

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

Rangers keeping things the same for Game 2

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers likely will ice the same lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) as they did in Game 1.

The Rangers have shuffled lines, but they have used the same personnel since center Brian Boyle returned from a concussion for Game 2 of the conference semifinals against the Washington Capitals.

Here's what to expect when the team takes the ice:

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

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 12:19 PM

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

Devils could have different look for Game 2

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer adjusted his line combinations Wednesday in an effort to present a different look against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
 
The Devils, who generated their lowest shot total of the playoffs (21) in a 3-0 loss to the Rangers in Game 1 on Monday, are looking to even this best-of-seven series.
 
In addition to moving captain Zach Parise back to the top line with center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk, DeBoer had rookie Adam Henrique centering Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson, and Patrik Elias between Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora.
 
It would mark the first line adjustments made by DeBoer since Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
 
"Obviously, we didn't score a goal last game, so on offense, shuffling guys around has been something we've done all year," DeBoer said. "We're definitely not married to those combinations, and I'm not even sure we're going to start with those combinations. It's just how we decided to skate [Wednesday] morning."
 
The fourth line remained untouched -- Stephen Gionta centering Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter.
 
"Poni [Ponikarovsky] is a big guy down low and is hard to push off the puck," Clarkson said. "It'll be good. We'll have to get the puck down low and do some cycling and grinding in the corners, and I think sometimes when you move things around a little bit, it's a good thing."
 
Elias agreed.
 
"We played with these line combos most of the year," he said. "Pete feels he needs to do something with the lines to get some momentum going. We have no issues and we know each other on the ice, so we'll be OK. You adjust … no one is looking into it too much."
 
In addition to the changes up front, it appears as though DeBoer will re-insert defenseman Peter Harrold, likely in place of rookie Adam Larsson.
 
"There's a chance," DeBoer said of the defensive switch. "We're going to look at some different things there, too. Obviously, we have the luxury of some depth on defense here, and we've got guys that bring different strengths to the table, so [Harrold] is an option."
 
Harrold played the opening nine games of the playoffs, totaling four assists and a plus-2 rating, before being replaced by Larsson in Game 2 of the conference semifinals against the Flyers.
 
"It looks like [I'll play]," Harrold said following Wednesday's 30-minute practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion. "We'll see. It would certainly be a lot better than watching, but I'm just hoping to get pucks through and make a difference on the offensive end. I think we played well for 40 minutes [in Game 1] and kind of got off our game a little bit."
 
Larsson has one goal and a plus-3 rating in five playoff games.
 
DeBoer said that if Larsson is a healthy scratch, it is not because of poor play.
 
"I really liked how Larsson has played since he's gone back in," DeBoer said. "So if we do move Larsson out, it's not a reflection on how he played; it's just getting a different type of element in there."
 
Parise said he wasn't fazed by the line adjustments.
 
"I've played with every centerman and Kovy [Kovalchuk] and I have played together, and Travis and Kovy play together," Parise said. "Patty, Sykora and Zubie [Zubrus] have been together most of the year. Hopefully, it'll produce some goals."
 
Here were the line combinations from Wednesday's practice:
 
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
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 12:00 PM

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

Devils: Brodeur's comments were 'off-the-cuff'

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils on Wednesday clarified a comment made by goalie Martin Brodeur that appeared in a story in the New York Post on Wednesday morning.

Following his team's Game 1 loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday, Brodeur was asked by a reporter about the Rangers' propensity to block shots. His response, as printed in the newspaper, read: "Hopefully, we'll be able to hurt a few guys [by] getting one-timers in the foot or their head or something …"

The portion of the quote not included in the newspaper story, and said immediately afterward, was "but [the Rangers] are paying the price to win and that's what hockey is all about."
 
Following Devils coach Peter DeBoer's press conference with the media Wednesday, the Devils' public-relations department said Brodeur's comments in the Post had no malicious intent.
 
"Obviously, those were not the intent of his comments at all," Devils assistant director of communications Pete Albietz told the media. "He said he would never even think like that. It was just an off-the-cuff comment. He was just referring to trying to get pucks through [on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist], and that's it."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Plenty of candidates for Conn Smythe

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" touches on all things related to the NHL. This week, Roenick decided to offer his early Conn Smythe Trophy favorites on the four teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
There are some good candidates on each team, but I'm narrowing the field of Conn Smythe Trophy candidates. Here goes:
 
COYOTES
 
It's pretty much a lockdown, easy shot with Phoenix. It's Mike Smith.
 
He's been a feel-good story this season, putting himself in the star category of the National Hockey League. He probably could be named as the most improved player in the NHL, as well. This is a guy who was a backup and now he's a focal point of a team in the Western Conference Finals.
 
Smith is by far the easy choice for the Coyotes.
 
KINGS
 
This is not so clear cut. I think there are two very close candidates for this. Time will tell.
 
Leading the charge is Jonathan Quick because of his numbers and because of the way he has dominated every single game. His save percentage is off the charts. His goals-against average is excellent.
 
Dustin Brown
Right Wing - LAK
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 14
SOG: 38 | +/-: 11
Yes, the Kings are scoring more than three goals a game in the playoffs, but even if they were struggling to score like they did in the regular season, it wouldn't matter because Quick can win a game for you if you give him just one goal. He can win a game by himself. He has shown he can do it.
 
However, Dustin Brown is without question beating down his door and could dethrone him.
 
To say Brown has been a beast would be a huge understatement considering how he has elevated his game. Defensively, offensively, physically -- everything you can ask for in your captain, he has delivered. He has raised his level so high this postseason that his stock has tripled -- quadrupled -- for how he has played.
 
That's a tough call for L.A. between those two guys.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 12:48 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Los Angeles now Kings of the road

The Los Angeles Kings were among the poorest road playoff teams in NHL history -- until now.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 10-1
GAA: 1.45 | SVP: 0.951
Before this spring, the Kings had won just 29 of 95 playoff games away from L.A. since entering the NHL in 1967 -- and that included wins in their last two games at San Jose during their six-game loss to the Sharks in 2011. The back-to-back wins matched the longest road winning streak in the franchise's playoff history.

But the Kings have been flawless away from home this spring. They improved to 7-0 on the road Tuesday night by dominating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The seven straight wins match a single-season record for consecutive road wins last accomplished by the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 8:53 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Aucoin out for Coyotes; Fraser to miss game for L.A.

Colin Fraser
Center - LAK
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 8 | +/-: -1
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury when Phoenix takes on Los Angeles in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday.

Phoenix rookie defenseman Michael Stone will make his NHL playoff debut and be paired with Rostislav Klesla.

The Kings will be without fourth-line center Colin Fraser, who had to attend to a family matter. Kyle Clifford will play for Fraser on the Kings fourth line. He hasn't played since logging 2:29 of ice time in Game 1 against Vancouver. Brad Richardson will move to center.
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For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory