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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 4:44 PM

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

Kings focused on keeping Smith in net

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mike Smith has had a great postseason, and the Los Angeles Kings saw in Game 4 of this Western Conference Finals how he can affect a game both by stopping shots and by stopping the forecheck with his outlet passes.

The objective for the Kings in Game 5 Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) will be simple, but not something that always is easy to execute: Make Smith work more in his crease and less outside of it. Los Angeles had 36 shots in Game 4, but many were from the perimeter and few came after the initial attempt.

"Some of them were [quality shots], some of them were from the outside," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "Sometimes even the outside shot seems harmless, but it can be dangerous. The second and third chances off that shot are the most important. We've got to make sure we keep making him work and get some guys in front of him."

Added forward Dustin Penner: "We need to put more traffic towards their goaltender, get more second and third opportunities. Not so many one-chance-and-done kind of things."

The other facet of Smith's game that frustrates opponents is his ability to play the puck. Los Angeles loves to wear teams down on the forecheck, and the Kings have had success doing that against the smaller Coyotes. Not so after the early stages in Game 4, however, and Smith's ability to get the puck out of danger before the L.A. forwards arrive was a big part of that.

As Kopitar put it, when the Kings send the puck into the Phoenix end they need to "either fire it really hard or try to make sure it doesn't end up in the trapezoid area."

"Smith can handle the puck with the top goalies in the League," forward Dwight King said. "We try to keep our dumps away from him, realizing that he can make plays with [the puck]. We definitely know what he is capable of doing to us and we need to keep that in our mindset."

The Kings have lost only twice in this postseason, both times being a Game 4 with a chance to sweep the opponent. Los Angeles responded in Game 5 against Vancouver with an overtime victory at Rogers Arena.

They will be going for their eighth consecutive victory away from Staples Center when they face the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.

"We've had to be [a good road team]. That's a fact," coach Darryl Sutter said. "You're not a home-ice team, you've got to be. When you're a team that doesn't score many goals, you've got to be. You've got to manufacture and find different ways to do it. We found it.  

"I know what the talk is, because of our road record. When you look at all the different ways the team's won, it's won by your goalie being great, or your power play, or the other team taking a bad penalty, your penalty killing, overtime. There's so many different ways to it. It's not just, 'That's how you did it, that's how you do it.' There's so many different ways of doing it. The biggest thing we do is, win or lose, try and play the same way. That's the most important thing."

Here is the projected lineup for the Kings, who aren't expected to make any changes from Game 4:

Justin Williams - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarrett Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Jordan Nolan - Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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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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Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff