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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:14 PM

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

Panthers lines in practice

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Here are the lines the Florida Panthers used in practice Thursday:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Krys Barch - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen occupied the nets.

The Panthers had an extra line of forwards, with Jerred Smithson centering Marco Sturm and Mike Santorelli.

Keaton Ellerby skated as the extra defenseman.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:08 PM

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

Clarkson ready to go, just wants to play his game

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson is ready for the NHL's second season.
 
Following the team's practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion at Prudential Center on Thursday, Clarkson declared himself ready to go after being sidelined for two of the team's last three regular-season games with a lower-body injury.
 
The Devils will open their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers on Friday at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
 
"I'm going to go Game 1," Clarkson said. "Everything is good and I'm ready."
 
Only Ilya Kovalchuk (37) and Zach Parise (31) have scored more goals than Clarkson for the Devils this season. The rugged 6-foot-1, 200-pound wing had 30 goals and accrued 138 penalty minutes in 2011-12 while averaging 16:21 of ice time through 80 games. He also ranked second on the team in hits (169), third in shots (228) and sixth in takeaways (32).
 
Does Clarkson feel the need to produce offensively now that he's hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career? After all, he has just two playoff goals in 20 career postseason games.
 
"You always want to be an impact player, but I think if I just stick to what I'm doing, it's going to happen," Clarkson said. "I'm not going to get ahead of myself to think I need to do this or that. I'm just going to go out there and play that hard-nosed hockey.
 
"If you watched Wednesday night's [playoff] games, you saw there was a lot of hitting and lot of little plays made; getting into those areas around the net," he continued. "That's what has made me successful this season so far and I'm going to do that throughout the playoffs."
 
Clarkson will likely open the series on a line with left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky and rookie center Adam Henrique.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:08 PM

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

Time has come for Holtby's postseason debut

BOSTON – All the days of hype are through and it’s time for Braden Holtby to face the reality.
               
The Washington Capitals rookie goaltender is going to be the starter in net for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday night.
               
After playing in six of the nine games he dressed for during Washington’s late-season push for a playoff spot, Holtby is trying to just keep everything about his preparation consistent prior to his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.
               
“Not much, I’m just trying to go about my usual ways. If you start changing things up, you get too wrapped up in everything. I just want to go have fun,” said Holtby after his team’s morning skate.
               
Coach Dale Hunter said there’s not much he can say to Holtby to prepare the 22-year-old.
               
“He’s been kind of in the fire for the last two or three weeks here playing some tough games. So you know he’s a confident kid and you know he can’t wait to play,” Hunter said.
               
Center Jay Beagle didn’t skate, but according to Hunter it was an optional skate. Injured goaltender Michal Neuvirth was on the ice but he doesn’t figure to dress.

Here is the Capitals’ projected lineup:

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

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Dany Sabourin

If Beagle doesn't play, expect veteran Mike Knuble to earn a sweater in his place.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:04 PM

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

Bruins' Boychuk expected to play, but not McQuaid

BOSTON – Although Bruins coach Claude Julien said Thursday morning he would dress 22 skaters for his team’s pregame warmup and then make his lineup decisions, all signs have pointed toward the return of Johnny Boychuk to Boston’s lineup against Washington for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden.
               
Boychuk skated on a pair with Andrew Ference during the morning skate, after he practiced three consecutive days in preparation for the playoffs. The veteran blueliner has been out since he sprained his knee in a game April 3.
               
While Boychuk should be back, Adam McQuaid remains out with an upper-body injury. That leaves Greg Zanon and Joe Corvo as Boston’s third pair. Julien is certain the Bruins can overcome McQuaid’s absence.
               
“I feel very confident. Everyone that we have here is very capable of playing ... they’ve all done a great job, so if anything I feel extremely confident," Julien said. "I think [general manager] Peter [Chiarelli] did a great job of solidifying that position for us, because it’s position that we needed to solidify and the two guys he brought on in – you look at Zanon and [Mike] Mottau have both played extremely well for us in the games that they’ve played.”
               
Julien will also have a decision to make up front because the Bruins have 13 healthy forwards. Based on practices, that choice seems to be between Daniel Paille and Jordan Caron.
               
Tuukka Rask stayed on the ice after his teammates vacated the area, so it appears he won’t be ready to back up Tim Thomas. Anton Khudobin will dress as the backup.
               
Here’s the Bruins’ projected lineup:

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

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

Tim Thomas
Anton Khudobin
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:02 PM

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

Uncommon ground for Sharks starting on road

ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks, who come in as the seventh seed and on uncommon ground in the opening round, will start on the road for the first time in an opening-round playoff series since 2007. They will look to take advantage of a situation by trying to wrestle home-ice advantage away from the St. Louis Blues.

"We haven't had that in the four years that I've been there and certainly longer in the organization," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Opening up on the road is new to us. I think it's something that we need to take advantage of. That may sound strange, but the pressures that go with being a one or two [seed] are different that being a seven and an eight team. We can spin that any way we want. We can say it's coaches playing mind games and all that type of stuff, but it's real. It is what it is.

"As a coach, I feel that playoff intensity but I feel different right now than I have in some of the other series, and that may be a really good thing for our team; it may be a bad thing. That's why we have to play it."

Center Logan Couture agreed.

"It's a different feeling. We're used to starting at home, but it's a different opportunity for us," Couture said. "This is a tough building to come in and win in. We're looking forward to that challenge. ... We want to get off to a good start. You want to get the lead in the first game. We're going to try to get the start going and hopefully get the first goal."

------------

The mental hurdle of going 0-4 against the St. Louis Blues this season is something the Sharks will look to overcome as these playoffs start.

The Blues outscored San Jose 11-3, but the Sharks, with their advantage in experience, hope to overcome the challenges and look to prove they can beat the Blues.

"You remember those games, but you also can't forget about them as well," Couture said. "It's 0-0 right now, it's a brand new season. We know we didn't play our best when we played these guys in the regular season. We've got a chance to prove to ourselves that we can beat them."

So what did the Sharks learn from those games against the Blues?

"We know they check tight, they check smart," winger Ryane Clowe said. "Some teams you feel like you get a little more space, but against them, it's more congested and they're in your face. ... At the start, everyone's hyped up. They're going to come out with a lot of energy."

Added Couture: "They forecheck really hard. They're a fast team, they don't turn pucks over, so we really have to bear down on our chances when we get them because they're so good defensively."

The Sharks skated with an edge this morning in anticipation of the beginning of the playoffs.

"I think there's an energy that comes with playoffs," McLellan said. "It's not just our group; I watched them skate a little bit. They had some energy and some excitement in their game as well. That happens in the first round.

"All that early emotion exists. You'd like to have a controlled emotion. Probably after five-six minutes, everybody settles in and starts playing. But there is an excitement. It's a shortened season now, it's a 28-game year. You know what you're playing for. Everybody's at the starting line. Excitement's spread out amongst the 16 teams."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:57 PM

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

Panthers' Sturm back on the ice

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Forward Marco Sturm returned to practice Thursday after missing the Florida Panthers' first two workouts of the week.

Coach Kevin Dineen said Sturm is questionable for Friday's series opener against New Jersey (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) because of lower-body soreness.

Sturm skated Thursday on a line with Mike Santorelli and Jerred Smithson, who were regular scratches for the Panthers in the last few games of the regular season.

Krys Barch again skated in Sturm's usual spot, alongside John Madden and Tomas Kopecky.

Defenseman Jason Garrison left practice early Thursday after being hit in the face by a deflected puck. Garrison, who was cut, did not return.

Dineen said Garrison would get some stitches on his nose, but would be fine.

Veteran forward Matt Bradley, who has been out with a concussion since Feb. 19, skated on his own for a third consecutive day.

"It is very encouraging," Dineen said. "Big, strong right winger is a real nice quality for us as a team to have without [injured] Jack Skille for the rest of the season. Again, that's a medical situation that needs to play out. We certainly have not had any kind of indication that there's any close return."

Asked whether he could rule out Bradley playing at any point during the New Jersey series, Dineen replied: "I don't know the answer to that, but I'm not counting on it."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:56 PM

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

Devils get in intense practice ahead of trip to Florida

NEWARK, N.J. -- It has now been five days since the New Jersey Devils last played a game -- a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
 
Needless to say, the players are chomping at the bit. The Devils will open their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers on Friday at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
 
"We thought we were going to play Wednesday or Thursday [when the schedule initially came out], but that's how 21st century TV dictates everything," Ilya Kovalchuk said. "It's OK, though. We'll take the extra day because we played a lot of hockey in March."
 
The Devils went 10-5-2 in the month of March, their busiest month of the season.
 
The players practiced for approximately 60 minutes on Thursday at AmeriHealth Pavilion at Prudential Center before heading back to the locker room. The team departs for Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday afternoon.
 
During Thursday's session, which was run by a boisterous head coach Peter DeBoer, Stephen Gionta was centering the fourth line between Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier. According to Parise, Thursday's practice was as intense a session as DeBoer has managed this week.
 
"I would say that was the most [intense]," Parise told NHL.com. "He's been talking for a while now about really taking care of details and not letting anyone off the hook. I think [Thursday] was a good example of that, and I thought our intensity out there was good."
 
DeBoer not only was directing his team, but passing pucks to players in order to spring drills throughout the session.
 
"Let's see someone get to the net here!" the coach barked at one point.
 
"I think we pushed for game speed out there and that's what we're looking for … the guys responded well," DeBoer told the media after practice. "It's been a long week waiting around and I don't know if there's an exact formula for making sure you're ready to go at top speed when the puck drops, but I think we managed it the best we could and the guys look ready."
 
Defenseman Adam Larsson was the ice and will travel with the team to Florida, but will not play in Game 1. Larsson was a healthy scratch for five straight games before earning 12:39 of ice time on 17 shifts in New Jersey's victory over Ottawa in the season finale on April 7.
 
The line combinations during Thursday's practice included:
 
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Extras: Eric Boulton, Cam Janssen
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold

Extra: Adam Larsson
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:52 PM

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

Blues lack Sharks' experience, but ready for postseason

ST. LOUIS -- It will be eight years to the day since the St. Louis Blues franchise last won a playoff game. It came against the same opponent these Blues will face when this Western Conference Quarterfinals series starts Thursday night.

But when the Blues open the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks (7:30 p.m. EST on CNBC), memories of years past will not be a factor.

Only Barret Jackman remains from the Blues' 2004 team that lost to the Sharks in five games, so that drought is insignificant to the remaining 25 players on this roster.

The Blues, who finished the regular season at 49-22-11, are the Western Conference's No. 2 seed, and San Jose (43-29-10), which has made it to the conference finals in each of the last two seasons, comes in as the No. 7 seed.

The Blues, who won all four meetings with the Sharks this season and outscored them 11-3, will face a team with more than 1,000 games of playoff experience compared to the Blues' 484.

But after three hard days of practices leading into this series opener, it's time to draw the battle lines and drop the puck.

"I think we were excited and focused today, which is a very good sign," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Usually one of the days, you have a really poor outing and we didn't have that, which is a great sign. We wanted the temperature turned up from a compete standpoint and they responded. But I think they're tired of practicing and they want to get playing. Both teams will be more than ready. I think both teams will come at each other like nobody's business."

The Blues will have three skaters (Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Reaves) on the ice in the postseason for the first time; Tommy Wingels will be the lone Shark to make his NHL postseason debut. But for a younger team looking to make its mark and one that wants to prove that the regular season was no fluke, expect the Blues to come out flying.

"This is my first playoff and I'm excited to be a part of it," Shattenkirk said. "I've been getting lots of text messages and calls from around the league from buddies who are out of it but said they're pulling for me and our team. It's a nice position to be in when you're still playing."

Added veteran Andy McDonald: "It's exciting, I think. Just being disappointing the last three or four years, it's been a work in progress, just a lot of ups and downs. We've kind of gotten better together, so that's why I think tomorrow is such an important game, important series, important start to something big. We've gone through it together and now everyone is excited about it."

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal for the Blues after going 26-12-7 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in the regular season. With Brian Elliott missing part of practice Tuesday and Wednesday with an upper-body injury, the decision Hitchcock was anticipated to make became an easy one.

"Whoever got the start, we know is really going to play well," Jackman said. "I don't know if it's going to be a 1-2 rotation or ride the hot hand, but no matter what happens between the pipes, we have confidence in both guys."

And there was no bad choice in the matter, as Halak and Elliott combined to help the team win the Jennings Trophy, given for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL this season. They allowed 155 non-shootout goals in 82 games, which equals 1.89 goals per game.

"They're playing really good hockey right now," Blues winger T.J. Oshie said of the Sharks, who finished the regular season winning seven of nine, including four in a row. "Most of their players have been to the playoffs before more than once and they know how to play this time of the year.

"They're going to try to have the confidence to come in and try to push us out, but with us knowing how to beat them in the regular season, we've just got to apply that and stick to our game. We don't have to do anything spectacular. We've just got to play as a team."

The Blues continue to play with a healthy lineup. They have 26 players on the active roster and have a number of skaters at Hitchcock's disposal to choose from. The 20 guys that will skate in the opener are what Hitchcock calls guys playing "in the now." Those guys "in the now" are players that can elevate this team offensively, which ranked 21st in the NHL during the regular season.

"I really believe this. I really believe that we have another gear offensively," Hitchcock said. "I think we're better offensively than we get credit for."

The Blues appear to be ready. When the puck drops at Scottrade Center, which will be buzzing for playoff hockey, the Blues will buzz right along with it.

"Playoffs is all about passion and emotion for the game and growing up, back home, we played street hockey and we played for the fake Stanley Cup," winger David Perron said. "Now we're playing for the real one. Every single guy, that's why we started to play hockey. It's to play in the NHL and hopefully win the Cup. That's what it's going to be all about."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:34 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks at Scottrade Center.

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Kent Huskins - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

The Blues are injury-free and their healthy scratches include forwards Matt D'Agostini, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Porter and B.J. Crombeen as well as defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Ian Cole. Elliott, who has been nursing an upper-body injury the last couple days, was back on the ice Thursday morning after missing a day and a half and has been deemed 100 percent by coach Ken Hitchcock.

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
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

The Sharks' healthy scratches include D Jason Demers, D Jim Vandermeer, LW Brad Winchester, RW James Sheppard, LW Benn Ferriero and C Michal Handzus.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 11:32 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Helm undergoes surgery, out for rest of playoffs

The Detrot Red Wings announced Thursday that forward Darren Helm underwent successful surgery Wednesday night to repair lacerated tendons in his right forearm and will miss the rest of the playoffs.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Douglas Weikert at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Helm is expected to make a full recovery and return for next season's training camp.

Helm suffered the injury with just over eight minutes remaining in the first period of the Red Wings' 3-2 loss to the Predators in the series opener.



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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 series-winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round