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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:14 PM

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

MacLean considering loading up top line

NEW YORK -- Senators coach Paul MacLean felt his team played a solid 54 minutes in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Rangers on Thursday, save for a six-minute stretch in which the Rangers scored three goals to roll to a 4-2 victory.

MacLean won't make any lineup changes for Game 2 on Saturday night because of that showing, but he is considering loading up his top line.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson was on the team's top line with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek during the morning skate while Erik Condra was moved up from the fourth line to play with Kyle Turris and Nick Foligno on the second line

Spezza, Michalek and Alfredsson were the Senators' three top scorers among forwards, combining for 96 goals and 107 assists, but they rarely played together during the regular season. The lack of familiarity won't be a problem if they play together against the Rangers, according to Spezza.

"We've played together at times this year and we have instant chemistry," Spezza said. "Me and Alfie played a lot of years together and we don't always play together now to start games, but we do a lot of times throughout games. He's a real smart player. We read real well off each other. If that's what we go with, there's never adjustment needed."

Foligno believes shuffling the lines will also serve to make the other three lines more dangerous.

"I think it makes the other team be more aware of our first line. They're pretty potent offensively," Foligno said. "It spreads it out a little more. We have a lot of depth and guys can step in. It shows the depth we have on this team. We're looking to have a really good night with Condra and Turris and hopefully all the other lines can step up as well."

MacLean said even if he doesn't open the game with the lines he showed at practice, he could go to them later.

"We're not certain yet if we're going to start the game that way," MacLean said. "We're looking at that, but it's also something we can go to during the game that we're comfortable with."

If the Senators decided to put their big three on a line, they can expect to face Rangers shut-down defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on every shift. Both Senators goals in Game 1 came with Rangers defenseman Marc Staal on the ice.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:01 PM

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

Stewart scratched for Game 2, projected lineups

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks from Scottrade Center.

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Matt D'Agostini

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

The Blues' healthy scratches include forwards Chris Stewart, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defensemen Kent Huskins and Ian Cole

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

The Sharks' healthy scratches include D Colin White, D Jim Vandermeer, LW Brad Winchester, LW Benn Ferriero and C Michal Handzus.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:37 PM

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

Senators, Rangers stick with same lineups

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators will go with the same lineups in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Rangers coach John Tortorella was asked in the morning where the Rangers needed to be better in Game 2 after winning 4-2 in Game 1.

"Everywhere," he responded.

Even goaltending?

"Everywhere," he quipped again.

Senators coach Paul MacLean will also ice the same lineup, but he shuffled his forward lines at practice.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:31 PM

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

Theodore starts strong for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen’s goalie decision figures to be a lot easier for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday against the New Jersey Devils.

Dineen never revealed his Game 1 starting goalie to the media until lineup sheets were distributed shortly before game time, but Jose Theodore figures to have earned another start after a stellar performance Friday.

The Panthers lost 3-2, but Theodore was the reason the score wasn’t more lopsided, as he stopped 35 of 38 shots.

Theodore was particularly impressive in the first period despite allowing three goals. New Jersey peppered him with 26 shots, a franchise playoff record and the highest first-period total in the NHL playoffs since 1997 when Philadelphia recorded 28 shots against Pittsburgh.

“I thought he was really good in the first period,” Dineen said after the game. “You give up three goals in the first period and you’re like, boy, that’s something you’re always questioning about a goalie, but if he doesn’t play the way he did, we’re in trouble. [It was] a solid night for our goaltender.”

Theodore, who got the nod for Game 1 over backup Scott Clemmensen, entered the playoffs having given up nine goals in his previous two starts.

He also had given up a soft goal in each of those games, a 5-4 overtime loss to Winnipeg and a 4-2 loss at Washington.

But none of the three goals Friday could be pinned on him.

“When you have that many shots in the first period and you make a couple of saves right away, I felt pretty good, to be honest,” Theodore said. “During the playoffs, it’s all about winning and losing. We lost the game, so we’ve just got to bounce back. It’s the best I felt [Friday night], let’s say, the last week or so.”

Before Patrik Elias opened the scoring at 6:31, Theodore had stopped him on a breakaway after the Panthers were caught in a bad line change.

Theodore also stopped Zach Parise on a breakaway midway through the third period to keep the Panthers within a goal after they had scored twice in the second period to pull to within 3-2.

“We created a lot of offense, if it wasn’t for Jose, it could have been a lot different,” said Martin Brodeur, who recorded his 100th playoff victory to join Patrick Roy as the only goalies to reach triple digits. “He played unbelievable. He made some big saves and, even in the third stopping Zach on the breakaway, kept them in the game.”

Theodore’s performance was a far cry from his last playoff outing.

That came in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the top-seeded Washington Capitals and eighth-seeded Montreal. After the Canadiens had taken Game 1, 3-2 in overtime, Theodore was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau after allowing two goals on the first two shots.

Theodore didn’t play again as Montreal upset the Capitals in seven games.

The game Friday marked Theodore’s 52nd career playoff appearance, and it will go down as one of his best.

Devils forward Dainius Zubrus finished with a goal and an assist, but was impressed with the performance of his former Montreal teammate.

“He weathered the storm,” Zubrus said, “and he kept them in the game.”
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:07 PM

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

Flyers' comebacks have them in control

Maybe the Philadelphia Flyers ought to let the Pittsburgh Penguins just start the game with a couple of goals to get the preliminaries out of the way.

Friday night marked the fourth time in less than four weeks that the Penguins jumped to a multiple-goal lead against the Flyers -- and lost. On Wednesday, they led 3-0 and lost 4-3 in overtime; on Friday, they led 2-0 and 3-1, only to be beaten 8-5.

Three of the Flyers' four comebacks have come in Pittsburgh, where the Flyers are 7-1-0 at the two-year-old Consol Energy Center.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 11:16 AM

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

Boyle regains scoring touch at right time

NEW YORK -- Brian Boyle was so desperate to score a goal this season that during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 13 that he tried to redirect a knee-high slap shot with his skate.

After scoring a career-best 21 goals last season, he slumped to 11 this season, saying he felt like there was a "force field" on the net at times.

The third-line center has figured out a way to break through that force field of late. His game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night was his sixth goal in his past 10 games.

Boyle said he came into this season not just looking to match his 21 goals last season.

"I wanted to exceed it," he said. "But it's tough when it doesn't happen. But it's been good the last few weeks, offensively anyways. I want to keep building. There's other areas of my game that I can still improve upon."

Boyle said while he was snake-bitten at times, he didn't start playing his best hockey until later in the season.

"The second half of the year, there were some tough bounces," Boyle said. "The first half, I could've played a lot better."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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POSTED ON Friday, 04.13.2012 / 9:06 PM

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

Hawks have to make life tougher for Smith

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago Blackhawks were aware they would be dealing with a talented and athletic goalie in Phoenix's Mike Smith during their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

But after watching him make 43 saves and deftly handle their dump-in attempts in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Coyotes, making life tougher on Smith will be a priority for Game 2 on Saturday.

Smith turned lazy dump-ins by the Blackhawks into breakouts for his teammates. His defense kept the crease fairly clear and offered him a good look of most shots. And even on the two occasions when Smith lost his stick, Chicago was unable to get pucks to the net before he was able to regain his paddle.

"You have to be careful of giving him the puck because he's like an extra defenseman back there making plays," said forward Patrick Kane, who had seven of Chicago's 45 shots but came up empty. "We have to keep it away from him and make the defense play the puck."

That means more purposeful dump-ins - off the glass, hard-arounds that are difficult to handle of softer passes to the corners. Smith had 16 penalty minutes this season, the most of all NHL goalies by a wide margin, and can be coaxed out of position at times.

"Whether it's shots on net, second opportunities, keeping (the puck) out of his glove, putting it on the glass rims … he comes out and plays a lot of those pucks and we have to be more efficient and effective in those areas," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had some careless or not really a purpose behind some of our dumps. We have to make sure there is something behind it."

Making only his second career playoff start, Smith admitted to being jittery in the first period -- he gave up a soft goal to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews 4:04 into the game and was staying in his net more than normal. But as the game wore on and he settled down, Smith played the puck more and more and won his sixth straight start.

Smith has allowed only five goals in the last 237 shots he's seen, helping the Coyotes snap a five-game postseason losing streak -- all to the Detroit Red Wings -- dating back to Game 6 in 2010.

The Hawks know they can't make it easy for Smith to play the puck in Game 2.

"He's one of the top goalies in the League, and you have to keep the puck away from him," Chicago center Dave Bolland said. "We have to get bodies in front of him so he can't see that puck. It's a lot of little things that can cost you a game, but things that can help you win. I don't think we're that far away."

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POSTED ON Friday, 04.13.2012 / 8:14 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHI @ PIT - 7:37 of the first period



At 7:37 of the first period in the Penguins/Flyers game, video review was initiated to determine if the puck shot by Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang crossed the goal line. Video review confirmed the call on the ice that the puck did not cross the goal line. No goal Pittsburgh.
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POSTED ON Friday, 04.13.2012 / 6:04 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Canucks will let their play speak for them

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks are pledging to let their play do the talking the rest of the Western Conference Quarterfinals after admitting their mouths got too involved during a Game 1 loss to Los Angeles.

Vancouver engaged in a lot of post-whistle activity in the series opener on Wednesday night, spending so much time trying to get the Kings off their game that it took away from theirs instead. It was uncharacteristic of a team that preached discipline and a whistle-to-whistle focus all season -- and looked more like the one that lost track of both en route to a loss in the Stanley Cup Final against Boston last year.

"We need to stay away from it," Ryan Kesler said. "We haven't been doing it as much all year and with the excitement of playoffs we got caught up a little too much in it. We need to stick to our game plan, which is whistle to whistle."

Kesler was in the middle of a lot of it with Game 1 hero Mike Richards, who had a goal and two assists in the 4-2 win. While Kesler's two assists represented his first multi-point game since Dec. 26, the focus after was more on his post-whistle antics, the snow shower on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick that started a run of three straight penalties, and a couple of apparent embellishments.

Coach Alain Vigneault hinted while talking with reporters on Thursday that it would be discussed before Game 2. It sounded Friday morning like Kesler got the message.

"When the excitement of playoffs is here, and the real season starts you're going to try get any advantage," Kesler said, "But we got caught up in it."

The Canucks also got caught up trying to be a bit too physical, which led to some of the Kings' eight power plays -- and two power-play goals. But Vigneault and Kesler both warned they couldn't back off too much.

"We're going to keep hitting," Kesler said. "We can't play soft. We can't play timid. We'll kill penalties like that. It's the other ones we have to stay away from."

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POSTED ON Friday, 04.13.2012 / 5:42 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Keith Ballard set for return

VANCOUVER -- With all the attention on leading scorer Daniel Sedin's attempts to return from a concussion, Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard has been able to fly slightly under the radar in his own recovery from a head injury.

Not anymore.

"I guess you get thrown in the fire and see how you do," Ballard said after taking the morning skate on Friday in preparation to play Game 2 against the Kings.

It's a big ask of Ballard, who hasn't played in more than two months since coming out of the lineup Feb. 7. He was shut down completely for several weeks during that time after experiencing dizziness and headaches -- and sometimes sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day. But he's been skating since mid-March, rejoined the team later in the month and feels he's as ready as he can be to return.

"I know it's going to be fast, it's going to be intense and I'm ready for that," Ballard said. "From my perspective I've done everything I could physically and mentally to prepare so I go from there. My legs feel great. My skating feels great. It's just a matter of putting it all together. It's not psyching yourself up, the building and the atmosphere and what's at stake gets you emotionally ready. It's the mental part that is a huge part of hit, getting your mindset right."

Ballard has battled the mental side since coming to the Canucks two summers ago. He never became the top-pair defenseman Vancouver touted when they traded Michael Grabner and a first-round pick to Florida as part of a five-player package to acquire him on the eve of the 2010 NHL Draft. But he remains a great skater, and after struggling to recover from offseason hip surgery and another concussion last season was playing well before getting hurt in February.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault hopes his ability to skate the puck out his own end pays off against a Kings forecheck that pinned them in the Vancouver zone several times.

"Skate and move the puck, make smart decisions and a bit of a physical side, that's the strength of my game so that's what I gave to do," Ballard said. "If I play to my capabilities, I definitely think I can make a positive impact."

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Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild