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Posted On Friday, 05.25.2012 / 10:34 AM

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

Devils sticking with same lineup

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will go for their third straight win and a berth in the Stanley Cup Final on Friday with the same lineup that was good enough to win Games 4 and 5. The lines will not change, either, as the Devils look to close out the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Devils are 2-0 in the playoffs when they have an opportunity to close out a team, having beaten the Panthers in Game 7 of the first round and the Flyers in Game 5 of the conference semifinals.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer changed his lines after the team failed to score a goal in Game 3, and his re-shuffling worked as they won 4-1 in Game 4. He stuck with it in Game 5 and it was good enough for a 5-3 win, even though the Devils felt they were outplayed for large portions of the game and were lucky to get out of Madison Square Garden with a win.

The Devils' fourth line contributed two goals, one each from Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter. Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias and Zach Parise also scored. The only line that did not contribute a goal or a point was the third line of Jacob Josefson, Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson. However, Ponikarovsky and Josefson each had an assist in Game 4.

Here is the Devils expected lineup for Game 6:

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Peter Harrold - Anton Volchenkov

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 5:33 PM

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

Handshake line still in Kings' players thoughts

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes weren't considered to be fierce rivals before this season, but it probably won't be the same from here on out.

The teams staged an entertaining Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals that turned scary with Dustin Brown's hit on Michal Rozsival. Phoenix seemed still to be in shock at the play when Dustin Penner scored the series-clinching overtime goal.

Penner called it a "recipe" for what happened next, as the Coyotes' Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan gave Brown a piece of their mind in the post-series handshake line. It still was a topic two days later.

"Yeah, I've never seen that before," Penner said. "I got chirped in line, too, for my headlock I put on [Antoine] Vermette in Game 2. He wanted to rehash that. I was a little surprised."

Did Penner say anything back?

“I was really surprised," Penner said. "[I said] 'I don’t have time to talk, right now, about this. I've got a flight to catch.'"

Did Penner send a BlackBerry message to Vermette?

"We didn't exchange PIN numbers," he said.

Willie Mitchell was too caught up in emotion to notice the handshake incidents, but he was diplomatic about it.

"It's different, but hey, I know their side of it," Mitchell said. "We put so much into it and they're the same way. They put so much into the preparation, the work, to get to that point. There's a lot of emotion involved and I'm sure they were more emotional at the time because their season ended and sometimes stuff gets a little bit heated and that's why hockey's so heated. The intensity level is high. I was surprised by that, but I also understand it."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter had the same feeling about it when he was asked Wednesday.

"It's an emotional time for everybody," he said. "A lot of times there's handshakes done behind closed doors. You leave it at that. The traditional handshake is wonderful. But lots of things happen behind closed doors ... Shane Doan's an awesome player and an awesome captain and I wish he were playing -- just not at our expense."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 5:30 PM

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

JR: Kings played great, but give Coyotes their due

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 put a wrap on the Western Conference Finals and dove into some of the details that have the Devils within one win of meeting the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

Congrats to the Kings, praise for the Coyotes

I don't think any team has been as impressive this spring as the Los Angeles Kings, especially being perfect on the road. They symbolize what we talk about in playoff teams -- how they are supposed to play, rising to occasions, normal people doing abnormal things, getting contributions from everybody. That is them. That is the Kings.

But we have to give the Phoenix Coyotes a standing ovation for their season, the way that they battled and the way that they came together as a team, especially after the All-Star break.

It's as if they came together and decided as a team that they were going to do it, do it hard and do it together. I feel Dave Tippett is one of the best coaches in the NHL, and general manager Don Maloney did a great job of piecing together parts that were really important for this playoff run -- for instance, getting Antoine Vermette was a great addition and he played very well with them.

Maloney did it all while staying within a cap for a team that doesn't have an owner -- and Tippett had this team just going along as business as usual every single day.

It was impressive to watch this team play together. They played the system together. They won by committee, and when you win by committee the way they did you have a lot to be proud of.

Unfortunately the series ended in a heated controversy, with what Phoenix thought was an illegal hit by Dustin Brown. Look, there is really no need to prolong the discussion of whether Brown's hit was illegal or legal, because the Coyotes need to hold their heads high and go to the offseason proud of what happened, not thinking about a controversial call.

The Kings played great. The Kings deserved to win. Their goaltender was fantastic, but Mike Smith also deserves a lot of attention right now because he has put himself into the upper echelon of goalies in the NHL. All of the Phoenix players feel he is the key of their team, the focal point of their team, and it's nice to see them support him for an absolutely fantastic season.

The controversy they should be talking about is the fact Smith isn't up for any year-end awards for how well he played.

Moving forward into the Cup Final, I think if the Kings had a choice, just looking at matchups and matchups only, they would pick the New York Rangers as their opponent because the Rangers struggle to score goals. When you're a team that struggles to score goals playing against a goalie like Jonathan Quick and a team that is playing as well defensively, especially on the PK, as the Kings, it's just a recipe for disaster.

The Devils are pretty close to playing at the level that the Kings are playing with their hard forechecking, in-your-face, physical brand of hockey. I don't think the Kings want to see a team that emulates their success and style of play.

Plus, the Rangers have played a lot of hockey, and they would need to win a third straight Game 7 to make the Final. New York would have to be blowing some serious gas, and that would benefit the rested Kings.

DeBoer and his Devils, but look out for Lundqvist

Peter DeBoer has created a mindset in that Devils locker room that has gotten this team back to respectability, back to being the powerful Devils.

Last year they had one of the worst starts in franchise history and they had to make a valiant comeback just to try to get into the playoff race after being one of the worst teams in the League. You look at them one year later and DeBoer has come in and changed the philosophy and mentality. He's gotten guys like Ilya Kovalchuk to buy into a team system.

Kovalchuk is now doing all the little intangible things that team players do.

DeBoer has matched up lines really well. He's been a great bench coach. He's had a calmness that has filtered through this team. They want to play for this guy and play hard.

I've said it before, Zach Parise could be the hardest-working guy in the National Hockey League. He epitomizes everything you want in a captain. He has had big games in big situations. He just has come up big.

You can't say enough about Stephen Gionta, the little guy, plus Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier. That fourth line has been chipping in. When this team needs someone to chip in, someone usually does, and it usually comes from players on their second, third and fourth lines.

There is not one line that is carrying this team. This team is being carried by four lines.

The Devils have players on their defense corps who are sacrificing the body and staying within themselves. There are no superstars on this defense. You look at this defense and you would think your eyes would light up and your mouth would foam, but they finish hits, block shots, do what they have to do as units of two. They are playing very well.

How about Bryce Salvador? He's become an offensive dynamo in a contract year. He's proving he's worth another good contract.

The Devils' forecheck is as intimidating and frustrating as we've seen in a long time, and it's so much better than that old awful trap system they played in the '90s -- so much better.

So my hat is off to DeBoer for what he has instilled in the dressing room and on the ice.

That said, I think Henrik Lundqvist is going to have himself a great night Friday night and let's just say I hope it goes to Game 7, because between Jersey and the Rangers, that will be epic.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 4:20 PM

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

Zuccarello healthy, still hoping for a chance

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello is healthy and ready to go. The only problem for the diminutive forward is finding a opening in the lineup.

"If they need me, I'll be ready," Zuccarello said following Rangers practice Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Zuccarello has not played since breaking his wrist March 23. He had surgery that cost him the rest of the regular season, but he has recovered to the point where he believes he can play. He has been skating with the Rangers' black aces of late, but his wrist is back at full strength.

Rangers coach John Tortorella made a lineup tweak before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, inserting Brandon Dubinsky in place of John Mitchell. Dubinsky missed 11 games with a lower-body injury suffered during Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals, but was playing regularly before the injury. Zuccarello had 2 goals in 10 regular-season games and spent most of the season playing for the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.

Barring injuries or suspensions, Zuccarello will likely be watching from the press box for Game 6 and beyond during the playoffs.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 4:16 PM

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

Rangers no strangers to fighting for playoff lives

NEW YORK -- The Rangers will take a "been there, done that" approach into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Facing a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven series against the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers will fight for their postseason lives Friday night at Prudential Center. They faced the same situation in the first round against the Ottawa Senators and won two straight to avoid the upset.

"It was a tough day that day losing at home and having to travel to Ottawa," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "You could see the group is a lot looser today going through the same situation. That's how you grow, you build on everything you've done in your career. We've been fortunate to get a lot of those games this year already."

After staving off elimination twice against Ottawa, the Rangers won another Game 7 in the conference quarterfinals against the Capitals to improve to 3-0 with their season on the line. The Rangers entered the postseason filled with playoff neophytes, but they have become a far more grizzled team that relishes the pressure.

"We've been through these situations a lot this year, including in the playoffs," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "So I'm very comfortable as far as our mindset. Today was a good day for us. As we approach our game, I'm very comfortable in where we're going to go. It's a good group. It's a group that stays with it. So there's not a lot of panic there. They just go about their business and we're a pretty good hockey team.

"This is all really good stuff for our team as you go through. This is how you gain experience, by going through it. We've played a number of playoff games. Some guys have thrived in it, some guys haven't. These are all situations you look at as an organization as far as what guys are in these types of situations. So the more you're in it, the more situations that you go through, the better. That's how you gain experience."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 2:16 PM

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

Devils know they need to be better in Game 6

The Devils feel they got away with one Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. They'd rather not tempt fate Friday at Prudential Center when they host the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"We don't want to go back to Madison Square Garden [for a Game 7]," Patrik Elias said Thursday. "They play a little bit different hockey there. They feed off the crowd and the excitement there. We've got to play better than we did [in Game 5]."

New Jersey won Game 5 on Wednesday 5-3 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, but the Devils can't shake the feeling that they stole a victory away from the Rangers, who controlled play and were able to be aggressive with puck possession for the middle 45-50 minutes.

The problem for the Rangers is New Jersey had a three-goal outburst in the first 10 minutes of the game, a result of a rebound, a deflection and a heavy wrister that most times would have been stopped by Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist. With the score tied 3-3 late in the third period, the aggressive Rangers had a defensive breakdown that led to Ryan Carter's winning goal with 4:24 remaining.

But in between the Devils were the team chasing and giving up goals to Brandon Prust, Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik.

Why did it happen?

"I don't think there is one answer to that," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think it's a combination of things. When you have a 3-0 lead -- especially that early in the game -- you don't have that desperation that you have in a one-goal game and you change the way you're going to play. On the other side, the other team, and we've been there before, you loosen the strings. Your defensemen are up the ice, playing a little bit reckless, and a lot of times that puts the other team on their heels. The good news is I like the way we responded in the third period."

How do the Devils avoid having to respond that way again in the third period?

"Just play the same way that we know we can play," Elias said. "Be aggressive and dictate the tempo of the game. Try to out-work them, obviously."

Oh, and one more thing…

"Don't get too ahead of ourselves," Elias said. "Keep plugging away, doing the simple stuff and sticking with the game plan, and not worry about what is going to happen at the end of the night."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 12:59 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Top prospects set for NHL Scouting Combine

After the Memorial Cup final is staged at Centre Bionest in Shawinigan on Sunday (May 27), it's off to Toronto for the start of the NHL Scouting Combine!

The first day of the Combine should be a relatively slow one while players are interviewed by NHL teams within the Bristol Westin Hotel near Pearson Airport. NHL.com will be here all week, with daily stories and video to be accessed off the site. This event is a great appetizer for the draft, which is just over a month away.

The NHL Scouting Combine, which gives NHL clubs a chance to evaluate 105 of the top North American and European hockey prospects in the world, will be held May 28 through June 2 in Toronto, Ont. The NHL Draft is slated June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Here is an alphabetical list of the players attending this year's NHL Combine.

Follow Mike Morreale at the Combine on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 12:29 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Gretzky enjoying Kings' run to Final


One Los Angeles Kings fan is having an especially fun time watching the team's run to the Stanley Cup Final.

"It's been unreal what they've done and what they've accomplished so far," Wayne Gretzky told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "It's been unreal for the organization and it's been great for hockey in California and L.A. We live in L.A., so we're seeing it first-hand how fans are rallying around the Kings and hoping that they bring home the Stanley Cup."

Gretzky was the Kings' marquee player in 1993, the only other time the Kings played for the Stanley Cup. He had two goals and five assists as the Kings lost in five games to the Montreal Canadiens.

Out of the game since leaving the Phoenix Coyotes organization in 2009, Gretzky is more than happy to watch games from the comfort of his home. He said he's been very impressed by the way Kings GM Dean Lombardi has built the team, both through the draft and via trades.

"Over the last five years they made some really good, quiet deals on the side as far as stockpiling draft picks and being patient with players," Gretzky said. "And when you're able to draft a guy like Anze Kopitar or Drew Doughty and you're able to trade a couple of really good, young players like Brayden Schenn and Jack Johnson to fill voids that you need on your hockey club."

He also said coach Darryl Sutter, hired to replace Terry Murray in December, was the perfect candidate to merge Murray's defensive philosophies with Sutter's high-intensity forechecking style.

"He played hard every game whether it was in October or whether it was in May and I think that's what he instilled in this hockey club," Gretzky said. "I think the previous coach, Terry Murray, did a tremendous job in establishing the team system and I think from my point of view that Darryl tweaked it a little bit and that he's much more aggressive and [emphasizes] much more forechecking and on the puck, a lot like the way he coached in Chicago and Calgary.

"He took nothing away from their team defense, which is as strong as any team in the National Hockey League, and yet they pursue the puck, and create turnovers offensively to give them more time in the offensive zone, which creates less time in the defensive zone."
Gretzky said watching this Kings team, it would be no contest if it had to face his 1993 team -- the 2012 model would win.

"We played with heart and grit and played a system that the coach established and we had a good goalie. We kind of got on a run," he said. "This team, they're a much better team than we were in '93, so I think their chances of winning the Final are a little bit better than ours were in the sense that we definitely lost to the better team. The better team won the Stanley Cup that year."

Gretzky, retired for 13 years, still showcased some of his elusiveness when asked who he would root for if the Kings' final opponent was the New York Rangers, the team he spent the final three seasons of his career with.

"Both are great cities and the good thing for me is I've got friends in both organizations. I loved playing in both cities and I just hope it's a great final and whoever wins, good for them," he said. "I have so much love and respect for how I was treated in both organizations that I want the best for both of them."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 11:41 AM

By Jacob Trouba -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Jacob Trouba draft blog

Top draft prospect Jacob Trouba set for NHL Combine

Jacob Trouba is a defenseman for the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program of the United States Hockey League. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound native of Rochester, Mich., was the youngest player on the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta. He also won his second straight gold medal for Team USA at the Under-18 World Championship in Czech Republic, connecting for one goal, three points and a plus-5 rating in six games. Trouba has agreed to give fans a players' perspective while attending the 2012 NHL Combine, scheduled May 28-June 2, by blogging his experiences for NHL.com.

Since the hockey season officially ended when we (the U.S. National Under-18 Team) skated to a 7-0 victory over Sweden for the gold, I've been working hard to stay in shape. It was important for me to continue my normal routine with lifting. And I've added a little bit more running to my workout on top of that. At this point, I think whatever I've done in the past month won't drastically change my scores at the NHL Scouting Combine. I'm relying on the work I've put in the last two years at the National Team Development Program to help me through these drills.

I'm really looking forward to the experience of participating in something I've worked so hard for (the Combine) since I knew I wanted to be a pro hockey player. It's an honor to be invited to this event and it is something few people get to do. I want to soak it all in because it will be a memory I hold with me the rest of my life. I want to show everyone what I can do at these tests. It should be fun; a challenge.

I've heard some horror stories about the bike test, but despite all of the talk, it's not keeping me up at night. I'm actually looking forward to it. I can't worry about it. That's not me. At the end of the day, I have little control over who picks me in the draft. Whether I go early or not, I'm still going to be the same player I was going into the draft. What excites me most is the opportunity to meet a lot of cool people along the way. Because in the end, it's all about the experience!

Follow Jacob Trouba on Twitter at: @jacobtrouba

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Posted On Thursday, 05.24.2012 / 12:37 AM

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

Staal: 'It'll just take us a little longer'

NEW YORK -- It wasn't quite worthy of being called a guarantee a la Mark Messier following Game 5 against New Jersey in 1994, but Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in his own quiet way did make an emphatic statement following the 5-3 loss in Game 5 Wednesday night.

Marc Staal
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 28 | +/-: 1
"We'll regroup and get back and get the next one," Staal said in the somber home dressing room at Madison Square Garden.

Staal was then asked if the Rangers should have some hope going into Game 6, or if they should be crushed because they finally exerted their will and played the way they wanted to play against New Jersey and still could not come up with the victory.


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