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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:19 PM

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

Sharks' McLellan sees pressure for Blues, too

ST. LOUIS -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who has been on the other side of 3-1 series leads with his team on multiple occasions, said there is not only pressure on his team to extend this series but also on the Blues to end it.

Why? Because once the team with its backs against the wall wins, there's some confidence that grows and they get to take the series back home with hopes of extending it to a winner-take-all game.

"When we're in Detroit [last season], we're in that series and we're in the LA series, we come home against LA, we're up 3-1, there's some pressure to win," McLellan said. "There really is some pressure to win.

"We didn't win that one and now you get into their building and they really believe and they've got the crowd going. The pressure builds to close the series out when you have the lead. That may sound strange because there can't be any more pressure than on our group tonight to actually win the game. But there is pressure on that close-out team."

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't buying it.

"I don't know. To me, pressure leaves after one shift," Hitchcock said. "You just play. Both teams are playing well. At this time when you get into situations where the series is getting close to the end, you just narrow your focus. It actually becomes more fun for everybody. You're not worrying about anything but playing ice hockey and that's all that matters.

"Paying the bills waits, returning phone calls waits, even returning texts waits, but obviously tweeting doesn't. For me, it just narrows your focus. I know it's a crooked way of saying it, but I think it's a fun time. They know where they stand, we know where we stand."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:12 PM

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

Colaiacovo bounces back after sitting out

Just like teammate B.J. Crombeen, Carlo Colaiacovo had to sit and watch the opening game of this series between the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks. And like Crombeen, Colaiacovo didn't like it but had the best interests of the team.

The Blues' roster is at 26 players. Somebody has to sit. But when Colaiacovo got the opportunity to get back in, he's made the most of it with arguably three of his best games of the season.

"Going back to Game 1 was something hard to swallow," said Colaiacovo, who has three assists in the series -- all in Game 3. "Obviously it's a learning experience for me. You battle all year with a group of guys and then when it's time to elevate your game and time to play during the best time of the year and you're not in there, it doesn't sit well with me, and it wouldn't sit well with anybody. At this time of year, you've got to be at your best. Your game has to be raised to another level. The emotions are higher and everything more's at stake. I think that brings the best out of you.

"When you get that chance to play, you want to be at your best and do whatever you can to help the team win. I feel I've been able to do that the last three games and I just want to continue to focus on the positives and continue to move forward and don't take anything for granted."

Colaiacovo may have struggled somewhat down the stretch but instead of using of sulking, he chose to get better from the experience. It's paid off.

"There's no time to waste energy to sit and pout," Colaiacovo said. "Hockey's a team game, it's not an individual game. You're a part of the team and as a team, you're trying to accomplish one goal. You obviously hope to be in there to do that, but in my case when I wasn't, it hurt, it stung, it didn't sit well. You're supposed to feel like that. But at the same sense, you've got to be there for your teammates. You can't cry out for "poor me.

"You've got to take the good with the bad and focus on the positives and wait for your turn to get back in there and try to contribute any way possible."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:04 PM

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

Projected lineups for Game 5

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins skated with the same lines during the warmup before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday at TD Garden against Washington as they skated in practice Friday.
               
The new-look lines included a new union between left winger Daniel Paille, center Patrice Bergeron and Rich Peverley. Based on share of the Bruins’ offense (seven goals) through the first four games of the series, that trio could be considered Boston’s top line because it has accounted for three of the goals (two by Peverley, one by Paille).
               
Normally a fourth-line energy player on a unit with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, Paille said before the game he didn’t want to change much in his game even though he was going to play on a more offense-minded unit.
               
“For me I think I’ve got to kind of stay the same way, especially in the playoffs here,” he said. “I find in the past I tried to change a little too much and kind of got off my game. So it’s best that I stay with what I’m doing best right now and keep that up.”
               
With Nicklas Backstrom back from his one-game suspension, Mathieu Perreault looks to be the healthy scratch for the Capitals. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth is back from injury and backing up starter Braden Holtby.
               
Here are the projected lineups for the two teams:

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille - Patrice Bergeron - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Anton Khudobin

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

John Erskine - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
John Carlson - Karl Alzner

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:53 PM

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

St. Louis' second line producing primary offense

One of the many successes for St. Louis in this series has been the play of Patrik Berglund, Alex Steen and Andy McDonald on the Blues' second line.

While the Sharks have been able to somewhat neutralize the top unit of David Backes, T.J. Oshie and David Perron, the Berglund line has accounted for 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in four games.
And to think, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock didn't throw this group together until the last game of the regular season in Dallas.

"I think pretty early," Steen said when asked when the chemistry came together. "We use the strength of the line very well. I think [MacDonald] and myself use our speed down low and [Berglund] kind of with his big body creates a lot of space for the two of us.

"We talk a lot about plays on and off the ice, on the bench as soon as we get a chance ... where we'd like each other to be in certain situations. We have triggers in our game now that we've played enough together enough times where we see if one guy does something, it triggers another guy to do something else. It kind of gets in sync that way. We're a hard-working line. We check well."

Both Steen and McDonald have shared the duties on both wings, with Steen most recently playing the right side.

"It's a little different for me, but I've done it before," Steen said. "It didn't take very long, and now I'm comfortable. I think if you watch the games, both [MacDonald] and myself read off each other pretty well. When one guy's on one side, we'll have a peek at each other and say alright, we'll just stay for now. ... We need to stay humble and keep working."

Hitchcock said it's all about each player playing to their respective strengths.

"I think we have the puck in the right people's hands," Hitchcock said. "I think [Berglund] has played great because he's deferred to the other two guys and he's played to his strengths. I think each guy's playing to his strengths right now, and it's allowed us to be a better line. I think [Berglund]'s figuring out as a center iceman that you don't have to have the puck all the time to be an effective center iceman in the NHL anymore. The new wave of NHL center icemen has that element now. ... He's learning that it's a give-and-go game. He's been much better because he's played with two guys that handle the puck well, have great patience and allows him to get into the right spots to shoot and score."

Hitchcock continued: "I really believe one of the reason's we're up in the series is [Backus and] Oshie killing penalties, negating top players has helped us out a lot. I can guarantee that this is the first time that San Jose hasn't started with the puck in a long time. Somebody told me [Joe] Pavelski's percentages are down 20, which is incredible for us. We thought if we were close to 45 percent, we'd be doing good, but to be in the 50s is terrific for us right now."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:44 PM

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

Jackman hopes for another series clincher

ST. LOUIS -- Only one player that sat in the St. Louis Blues' locker room Saturday morning was part of the last playoff series in 2002.

Defenseman Barret Jackman, who only played in one game for the Blues in that playoff season when the Blues beat Chicago in five games in the opening round before succumbing to Detroit in five in the conference semifinals, remembers it fondly.

"It was exciting. The city was buzzing," Jackman said of the Blues' 5-3 win over the Blackhawks in Game 5. "The team was very confident and playing very well but really understood how important it is to get that last clinching game. It was a hard-fought game. It was exciting all-around."

Jackman's hoping for a repeat performance Saturday when the Blues, who lead the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, can close out the series with a Game 5 win.

"We really respect our opponent," Jackman said. "We really respect the game that we play against them. I don't think any of the games that we've won, we've been hooting and hollering after it. I think we realized the work that was put in. We still have another game and you never know what can happen in the playoffs and in the NHL. These teams are so close. It's a matter of bounces and we know that."

A standing room-only crowd of 19,500 is expected to pack Scottrade Center in hopes that the Blues will wrap up the series in five and not have to make that cross-country trip back to San Jose for a potential Game 6 Monday night.

"Their building is pretty loud, but I still think our crowd matches one of the loudest crowds I've ever been in," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "I'm so excited. But we have to focus on what needs to be done and be ready for their best game of the series."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:09 PM

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

Panthers don't expect any more help from Brodeur

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers saw Martin Brodeur struggle against them earlier this week, only to bounce back with a more Brodeur-like performance.

And while they’d love nothing more than to get a few more soft goals in Game 5, they know the odds of Brodeur letting that happen again aren’t good.

“He’s a world-class goalie,” Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said after the morning skate Saturday. “The game when he got pulled, he wasn’t at this best, but the last game we played him he was on top of his game. He stopped every shot. We just have to keep putting pucks on net. Eventually it’s going to go in, we know that.”

Brodeur was pulled after giving up three goals in Game 3 when the Panthers rallied from a quick 3-0 deficit to win 4-3.

But in Game 4, Brodeur stopped all 26 shots he faced to set an NHL record with his 24th career playoff shutout.

“You play against a goalie like that, you don’t expect him to let in weak goals, but at the end of the day he’s human,” Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. “If you keep shooting pucks at him and keep getting traffic in front of him, you’re going to find a way to score some goals. If he sees it without any traffic, he’s going to save it, so we’ve got to get bodies in front of him and try and get screens and rebounds, second and third chances. That’s the way you’re going to score.”

For New Jersey, Brodeur’s impressive performance Thursday is one big reason to feel confident heading into Game 5.

“We always expect him to play like that,” captain Zach Parise said. “For whatever reason, things just didn’t go well in Game 3 and he bounced back and had a great game in Game 4. We all expect the same thing tonight. Not putting any pressure on him or anything, that’s just the way we expect him to play game in and game out."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:03 PM

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

Prjoected lineups for Game 5

SUNRISE, Fla. — After going with Scott Clemmensen in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey, it appears Florida coach Kevin Dineen will go back to Jose Theodore in net for Game 5.

As is his custom, Dineen made no announcement about his starting goalie after the morning skate, but Theodore worked out at the net normally featuring the starter.

Theodore started the first three games, but was pulled only 6:16 into Game 3 after New Jersey quickly took a 3-0 lead.

Clemmensen stopped all 19 shots he faced in relief of Theodore, helping the Panthers rally for a 4-3 victory and earning his first career playoff start in the process.

Dineen said he never has to worry about his goalies’ state of mind when making his decisions.

“They’re always guys that not just this year, it’s in years past, they understand the situation,” Dineen said. “Nothing has to be painted out to them and we expect them to go out and do the job like they have their whole careers.”

Injured defensemen Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby were among the only three players not taking part in the morning skate. The other was forward Tomas Fleischmann, but Dineen explained that the Panthers were “trying to save all his energies for the game.”

For the Devils, coach Pete DeBoer indicated his lineup will be the same as it has been for the first four games of the series.

The Devils held an optional skate on Saturday, and five players took to the ice. The group included Ilya Kovalchuk, backup goalie Johan Hedberg, and the three healthy scratches — Adam Larsson, Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen.

Kovalchuk and rookie Adam Henrique were the only two Devils players who didn’t take part in practice Friday in New Jersey.

Here are the projected lineups for Game 5 between the Devils and Panthers:

DEVILS

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

PANTHERS

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

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:52 PM

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

Devils hope record-setting PK back in control

SUNRISE, Fla. — After finally shutting down the Florida power play in Game 4, the New Jersey Devils are hoping they have gotten their record-setting penalty kill back on track.

The Devils, who set a modern-era record with an 89.6 percent efficiency rate on the PK in the regular season, watched Florida go 6-for-10 on the power play in the first three games.

But New Jersey killed off all six Florida power plays Thursday in a 4-0 victory in Game 4.

“It seems like special teams has played a huge part in this series,” Devils captain Zach Parise said Saturday morning. “Their power play has beaten us single-handedly in some games. It was really important for us to get that first kill last game. Everyone on the penalty kill relaxed a little bit after we got that one.”

Florida, which finished tied for seventh in power-play efficiency in the regular season at 18.5 percent, went 5-for-7 with the man advantage in Games 2 and 3.

Not surprisingly, the Panthers won both games to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

In Game 2 at BankAtlantic Center, Devils defenseman Andy Greene was called for a tripping penalty 11 seconds into the game and Stephen Weiss scored on the power play just 23 seconds in to give Florida a quick lead.

Weiss added a second power-play goal 1:12 into the second period and the Panthers went on to win 4-2.

The Panthers’ 3-for-3 performance on the power play in Game 3 was the difference in their 4-3 comeback victory after they trailed 3-0 after only 6:16.

Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said the big difference for the penalty-killing units in Game 4 was playing more under control.

"In the first two, three games, we tried to do too much,” Kovalchuk said. “We tried to do somebody’s job and got out of position because of the emotions. But in Game 4 it was really focusing on your own job, what you’ve got to do to get the job done. That’s why we were good.”

While New Jersey shut out the Panthers power play in Game 4, its own power play went 2-for-4.

The first goal of the game, and ultimately the game-winner, came when Zach Parise tipped Marek Zidlicky’s shot from the point with the man advantage in the second period.

“You look at the four games and for the most part whoever’s won the special teams battle has ended up winning the game,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “That happens everywhere in the league. We knew going into the series how good their power play was. I’m hopeful that we found a way to shut it down and that it’ll continue."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:36 PM

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

Rangers need more from Gaborik

NEW YORK -- Marian Gaborik has been extremely quiet during the Eastern Conference Quartefinals with one goal and two assists in four games against the Ottawa Senators.

Three points in four games sounds plenty good on the surface, but Gaborik's only even-strength point came on a goal in Game 1 and he picked up both assists during a pair of first-period power plays in Game 4.

Driving the net and scoring from the high-traffic areas were hallmarks of Gaborik's 41-goal regular season and he said Saturday morning before Game 5 against the Senators that he needs to be better in that regard.

"We have to do more," Gaborik said, "myself and everybody else."

Since jumping to a 4-0 lead in a Game 1 victory, the Rangers have been dominated at even strength with the Senators holding a 6-2 scoring advantage during 5-on-5 play. Both goals were scored by forward Brian Boyle while regular-season leading scorers Gaborik, Richards and Ryan Callahan have been unable to generate anything at even strength over the past three games.

Gaborik said it's about getting back to what made himself and the team effective in the regular season -- going to the net and scoring dirty goals.

"It's very tight," Gaborik said. "It's been tight for these four games and it's going to be even tighter tonight. It's going to come down to battles and whoever puts more pucks on the net and tries to find those rebounds and gets some ugly goals.

"You have to battle for every inch of the ice out there. It's going to be the same tonight. We just have to do it. Everybody has to go out there and work hard and try to win those battles and create some offense. It's not going to be a lot of odd-man rushes, 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s, so we just have to get some zone time and find something there."

Gaborik and Richards haven't been the same since linemate Carl Hagelin was suspended after his elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2. Hagelin, who worked well with the duo by tracking down the pucks and driving back defenders with his speed, won't be eligible to return to the lineup until Game 6.

"We obviously miss him," Gaborik said. "We have to find a way to generate more offense. We have to get in on the forecheck and try to be more aggressive. We have to try to hunt the pucks down and get some zone time."

Coach John Tortorella has mixed and matched his lines over the past two games and will likely break up Gaborik and Richards at the start of Game 5. During practice Friday, Gaborik was on a line with Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov while Richards was centering Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, combinations that generated pressure during the third period of Game 4.

Those units comprised the Rangers' top two lines during the early part of the season, and Gaborik hopes the magic he had with Stepan and Anisimov is there again.

"We had some good chemistry during the year," Gaborik said. "We have to get that started tonight, especially 5-on-5, create some offense and be responsible defensively. We have been successful with our forecheck, with our zone time when we played together, that's what we have to do tonight."

Gaborik said his two assists on two power-play goals in the first period of Game 4 were encouraging, but he hopes it carries over to 5-on-5, where the Rangers have been ineffective of late.

"Power play was good. Hopefully we can build on it," Gaborik said. "5-on-5, that's where we have to be better and try to get some offense there. Its' going to be a good game tonight and we're going to be ready."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:26 PM

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

Projected lineups for Game 5

NEW YORK -- Here's a look at the projected lineups for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Sens forward Jesse Winchester (upper-body) is out with Mark Stone likely making his NHL debut in his place. The Rangers shuffled their lines a bit during practice Friday but should have no lineup changes, but defenseman Steve Eminger (ankle) said he is now day-to-day and could return at any time.

SENATORS

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Erik Condra - Kyle Turris - Nick Foligno
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Mark Stone - Jim O'Brien - Zenon Konopka

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Ben Bishop

RANGERS

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

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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I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the OT winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round