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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 4:30 PM

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

Rangers expect boost from return of Prust

NEW YORK -- After serving a one-game suspension for a hit on the Devils' Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Rangers forward Brandon Prust will be back for Game 5 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

With Prust out of the lineup, defenseman Stu Bickel dressed as a forward in Game 4, but Bickel was back practicing with his fellow blueliners Tuesday. Prust has been a valuable part of the Rangers' checking line and penalty-killing unit, both of which were victimized for goals during the Devils' 4-1 victory Monday night that evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2.

"Prust does a lot for us, killing penalties, brings a lot of energy, hard on the forecheck," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "We need to get our forecheck going. It's good to get him back."

There's no statistic for time of possession when it comes to which team has the puck more in a given contest, but the Devils have been controlling the puck for this entire series. They were at their best in that regard at times during Game 4, as the Rangers couldn't get out of their own end and were unable to muster any type of sustained forecheck.

It's hard to blame the lack of Prust for the power-play goal by Zach Parise in the third period, as the goal came four seconds into the man-advantage with regular penalty-killing forwards Boyle and Callahan on the ice. The Rangers killed five of six penalties in the game, but many of them featured the Devils seemingly more interested in burning clock than going for a fourth goal.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo


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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 4:06 PM

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

Brodeur getting yeoman's work from defense corps

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was reminded of the Stanley Cup years on Tuesday afternoon.
 
He was asked if it's difficult to ask this year's defensive corps to live up to the standards set by retired standouts Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko.
 
All three players, who had their jerseys retired by the organization, played a part in three Stanley Cup titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
 
The three-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie does believe that this year's defense is, indeed, unnecessarily living in the shadows of those former stars in the Garden State.
 
"Definitely," Brodeur told the media on Tuesday. "And I don't think you can do it. I think these guys are … one is in the Hall of Fame [Stevens], one will be in the Hall of Fame soon [Niedermayer], and Dano is in his own Hall of Fame. It's tough to compare other defensemen, and even for the fan's point of view also to see how solid we were before." 
 
While the names Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, Mark Fayne, Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov may not have the same intimidating effect as the aforementioned trio, Brodeur believes they've set their own standards -- and have succeeded.
 
"We have guys that are into it, are living something that they never lived before, and I think they're taking up the challenge as good as anybody could have done," Brodeur said. "I had my best confidence [in Game 4 on Monday]. I'm glad these guys are having success, and it's well-deserved because they've been working really hard at it and paying attention to a lot of small details that makes them successful."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 3:40 PM

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

Torts left to pray top-six forwards see fortunes turn

NEW YORK -- The Rangers looked like they didn't have a prayer against the Devils during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, a 4-1 win by New Jersey on Monday night that evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2.

It appears Rangers coach John Tortorella is willing to explore a more religious avenue to get his team going.

Following a brief practice at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Tortorella was asked what he can do to get top-six forwards like Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin going during the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tortorella's one-word answer was, "Pray."

The Rangers have nine goals through four games of this series -- two are empty-netters, three are from defensemen and three are from rookie Chris Kreider. Callahan, Richards, Gaborik and Hagelin have combined for one goal and four assists, with Gaborik and Hagelin failing to register a point.

When coaching isn't getting the job done, perhaps it doesn't hurt to turn to a higher power.

"I don't know what else to tell you," Tortorella said. "We're going to keep on trying to play, pray, and hopefully something good happens tomorrow."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 3:32 PM

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

Heat is on -- literally -- as Coyotes return to Phoenix

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Temperatures are expected to hit 108 degrees in Phoenix today, setting what is believed to be the record for the warmest temperature ever for an NHL playoff game. But while some players and fans might disagree, Phoenix's Canadian-born coach Dave Tippett doesn't have an issue as the mercury rises.
 
"I have no problem with the temperatures. It's 108, but it's a dry heat," Tippett said with a smile. "We had a game two weeks ago in Nashville, I think it was in the mid-90s with humidity. So I'll take 108 and dry over humidity -- not that I'm saying Nashville is a bad place."
 
Coyotes center Daymond Langkow said the ice conditions at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale can't be any worse than they were for the last two games in Los Angeles, where the ice was covered at Staples Center for basketball games on Friday and all-day Saturday between Games 3 and 4, making for nasty conditions on Sunday afternoon.
 
Defenseman Derek Morris has played seven of the last nine years in Arizona and has adapted well to the heat -- although he's usually gone for the summer before the 110-degree days set in.

"I'm fine, but guys like (defense partner) Keith Yandle, they don't deal with it too good," Morris said. "He's got all that hot Boston blood running through him. He's always complaining and that beard he's got now doesn't make it any better."
 
If the Coyotes are able to rally in the series and force a Game 7 here on Saturday night, things will be much more tolerable. A "cold front" is expected to hit the Valley of the Sun for the weekend, with temperatures expected to plunge to 90 or under with high winds.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 3:07 PM

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

Aucoin status won't be determined until pre-game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix will have to wait until the pre-game skate to find out if defenseman Adrian Aucoin is able to go as the Coyotes again face elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference final against the Los Angeles Kings.
 
Aucoin took part in an optional morning skate. The 38-year-old veteran who has appeared in 62 NHL playoff games, second to Ray Whitney on the team, missed the first three games of the conference finals with an undisclosed injury. He returned to the lineup in Game 4 -- the only win by Phoenix in the series -- but left in the third period due to injury and did not skate on Monday.
 
If Aucoin can't play, the Coyotes would likely go with Michael Stone, who played in Games 2 and 3, in Game 5.
 
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett indicated he would likely stick with the fourth line of Kyle Chipchura, Boyd Gordon and Marc-Antoine Pouliot in Game 5. They didn't play much as a trio because the Coyotes took six penalties and had in-game injuries to two forwards, but Pouliot's size and discipline along the walls give him the nod over Gilbert Brule and Paul Bissonnette.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 12:12 AM

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

Salvador's two-point night sparks Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Bryce Salvador used to be a sniper -- when he was 10 years old, that is.

"I know I lit it up," Salvador said.

It might be time to call him one again, because Salvador is lighting it up for the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Salvador got the Devils going in their 4-1 win against the Rangers on Monday with his third goal of the playoffs 8:10 into the first period. It was a low wrist shot from the left point that skipped on the ice just before going through Henrik Lundqvist's five-hole.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 12:09 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Brodeur doing it all for Devils

Martin Brodeur made his 186th consecutive postseason start for the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and came within 5:05 of recording his 25th career playoff shutout in a 4-1 win against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Prudential Center.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 10-5-1
GAA: 1.98 | SVP: 0.923
Brodeur was indeed solid in a 28-save performance to help New Jersey even this best-of-seven series at two games apiece. But stopping pucks isn't the only thing Brodeur is doing well this postseason.

The Devils' goaltender also picked up an assist on Zach Parise's empty-net goal with 1:29 remaining in regulation. It was Brodeur's fourth assist of the playoffs -- the most by any goaltender in a single postseason. No goaltender had more than five assists (Nashville's Pekka Rinne reached that mark) during the regular season.

Entering Wednesday's Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, Brodeur -- who now has 109 playoff victories -- will have more points than 92 players this postseason among those who have appeared in at least seven games. He's now averaging a point every four games in these playoffs.
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Posted On Monday, 05.21.2012 / 8:18 PM

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

LeGrand taking a liking to playoff hockey

NEWARK, N.J. -- Wearing a neutral white shirt, showing no favoritism to the Rangers or the Devils, Eric LeGrand was just happy to have parked his motorized wheelchair in the area behind Section 17 at Prudential Center to catch some playoff hockey.

LeGrand, the former Rutgers University football player, became paralyzed on the field on Oct. 16, 2010. He is working hard in his recovery and in the meantime is, in his own words, "starting to become a die-hard hockey fan."

The New Jersey native has attended regular-season and playoff games at Madison Square Garden, but Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was his first at Prudential Center.

"I am a Jersey guy, so I have to pull for the Devils a little bit," LeGrand told NHL.com as the Devils and Rangers went through pre-game warmups behind him. "But, you know, I just want to see a good game out here."
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Posted On Monday, 05.21.2012 / 5:10 PM

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

Kings in familiar position with Game 5 looming

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Been there, done that?

Well, the Los Angeles Kings have been to Vancouver and done this -- go on the road with a 3-1 series lead and clinch. Now they are in the exact same position, needing to win on the road to eliminate the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Vancouver Canucks got a boost from the return of Daniel Sedin in Game 4 to force the quarterfinals to shift back to Vancouver. In this series, Phoenix got something extra from the returns of Martin Hanzal and Adrian Aucoin to move the finals back to Glendale, Ariz.

Justin Williams said after Game 4 that the Kings have to take the same approach as the Vancouver series. Team captain Dustin Brown concurred that this has the same feel.

"We've worked really hard to give ourselves this advantage early in the series and we let an opportunity slip by not capitalizing and being on home ice," Brown said. "Now it's up to guys to rally their own game and rally collectively to go into Phoenix with that attitude that we're coming out of there with a win."

This is the first sign of a setback the Kings have faced since the Vancouver series. In Game 4 of the conference finals they fell into a two-goal deficit for the first time since Game 4 of the quarterfinals; they recovered from that loss with a club record eight-game playoff winning streak that was snapped in Game 4 against the Coyotes.

"I think this team has handled adversity pretty well, considering the type of year we had," Brown said. "This time of year it's about sticking together. We lost one game, so it's a matter of rebounding."

A rebound win would make history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a win would make the Kings the first team to go unbeaten on the road en route to the Stanley Cup Final under the current playoff format.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter consistently downplays his team's road success and has done a tremendous job of impressing that on his players. Asked about their confidence on the road, Sutter said, "Try to win the next game. It could be in Tucson or Toledo or Los Angeles. To me, that has no bearing on anything."
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Posted On Monday, 05.21.2012 / 1:32 PM

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

Melrose: Lundqvist the difference so far for Rangers

The Devils and Rangers will play Game 4 tonight at Prudential Center in Newark, and if New Jersey plays its game it may very well get back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 Wednesday night with a 2-2 series split. One thing might literally stand in the Devils' way, though, and it's the thing that's stood in their way throughout the series' first three games.

Henrik Lundqvist.

There are no words for how good Lundqvist has been in this series, and there's no better example than Game 3 Saturday. New York ended up winning it 3-0, just as it did in Game 1, and if you just looked at the box score you might think the Rangers put together another strong, sound defensive performance, but if you watched the game, you saw it wasn't a good defensive effort. There were tons of breakdowns all over the ice and lucky for the Rangers, Lundqvist was always there to make the stop.

Simply put, the Rangers were greatly outplayed in the first two periods -- New Jersey outshot New York 26-14 through 40 minutes -- and they ended up winning a game they had no business winning because of Lundqvist. If Lundqvist plays two more games like he did in Game 3, this series is over. You can't do anything about it. If he does that for two more games you tip your hat and say, "You were great." You just can't beat a guy who stands on his head for a full series the way Lundqvist has stood on his so far.

That doesn't mean there's no hope for New Jersey, though. I do think the Devils will come out in Game 4 and Henrik will be good, but it will be hard for him to be as good as he was in Game 3. It would be hard for anyone to play like that two games in a row. I think we'll have a 2-2 series coming down to a best-of-three in Games 5, 6 and 7.

We have to remember that the Devils have shown in the first three games that they have the speed and the forecheck to tire out and overwhelm the Rangers. I think we saw in the Ottawa series that if you can skate, you can get chances against the Rangers. The Senators could skate and they attacked the Rangers with speed through the neutral zone and it became pretty obvious that speed bothers the Rangers. I think Washington would have had a better chance to win if it played faster and got the Rangers in foot races in the second round.

The Devils are seeing what Ottawa did against the Rangers and doing the same things now. There were several breakaways in Game 3 and defensive teams aren't supposed to give those up. The speed is bothering New York. The Rangers were lucky in that Lundqvist was there to make up for all the mistakes his teammates made, but it was clear the Devils were pushing the puck and getting the better of the play. They have to do the same thing Monday night, and if the Devils get as many chances in Game 4 as they did in Game 3, you have to think they'll have a good chance of winning.

The other thing you have to notice is that I think the Rangers are starting to show their exhaustion. Remember, New York has now played 17 games in just 38 days. That's a playoff game almost every other day. I think in Game 2 and Game 3 the Rangers all looked tired. No one looks fast except for Chris Kreider, who's younger and hasn't played a full NHL season because he was at Boston College most of the season. Even Carl Hagelin, who is known for his speed, doesn't look fast. I remember how fast Hagelin looked against Ottawa and Washington, and it's not there now.

The whole team is just looking tired. You don't notice it in guys like Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal, guys that play a ton of minutes on defense, because they don't play fast. Their game's not speed. But in guys like Hagelin or Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, guys that play the fast game, you can see it. They have to be tired because they play a very physical style with shot blocking and grinding on the boards. That's very tough on the body. I think they caught a break with the extra day between Game 2 and Game 3, and the fact that there's only one day off before Game 4 means it will be very interesting.

Another important thing to remember for Game 4 is that the Rangers won't have Brandon Prust because of his one-game suspension after elbowing Anton Volchenkov in Game 3. Prust isn't one of the bigger names in the Rangers lineup, but I think they'll miss him big time. He kills penalties and plays a very physical style. That's a big hitter that New Jersey won't have to worry about. He also is very underrated at getting the puck out around the boards consistently. Next time the puck might come out to a guy who'll kick it into the slot. I think Prust is going to be a big loss. I never underestimate guys like him. He may not be a glamorous name, but if you know hockey, you know what guys like Prust bring to the team.

The loss of Prust and the Rangers' general exhaustion is just going to put more pressure on Lundqvist to perform again like he did in Game 3, but this is how the Rangers play. They bend, but they don't seem to break. Whenever they get into a series like this they seem to win it. Whenever they get to a game where it's on the line, the Rangers make the play like they did in the overtime games against Washington and Ottawa.

I still think this is going to be a six or seven-game series, but you never really know. The only thing I know is Henrik Lundqvist has been the star of this series, and maybe the entire postseason so far. If he plays two more games like he played Saturday, the Rangers will be in their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994.
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