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Posted On Monday, 06.03.2013 / 2:10 PM

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

Melrose: Blackhawks are back in a groove again

What a difference a week makes. Last time I wrote, the Chicago Blackhawks were on the brink of elimination against the Detroit Red Wings and now they're just two wins away from ousting the defending champion Los Angeles Kings and returning to the Stanley Cup Final. The conference finals have tons of storylines, but with two games done out West and Game 2 coming Monday night in the East, this is what I've noticed so far.

THE BLACKHAWKS ARE BACK

Chicago didn't look quite the same over the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but after two wins to start the Western Conference Final against Los Angeles, the Blackhawks are starting to look like the team that dominated in the first half of the season. They've won the last two games against the best defensive team in the Western Conference and they did it with a remarkable amount of composure. Chicago outplayed L.A. badly in the first period and still ended up trailing when the Kings scored first. That could have easily escalated in frustration, but the Blackhawks continued doing what they do. They didn't panic. They attacked Jonathan Quick, they looked faster than L.A., they were much more in control and they just kept shooting and going to the net and they got rewarded.

Posted On Monday, 06.03.2013 / 1:04 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Bruins series blog

Penguins show no signs of panic, lineup changes

PITTSBURGH -- Throughout the Pittsburgh Penguins' dressing room, a common theme was repeated: Stay the course, play the way we did over the first two periods of Game 1, things will be OK.

Be it a subtle message to his players along those lines or a simple evaluation leading to the same result, coach Dan Bylsma appears to agree when it comes to the personnel.

Judging by the line combinations and defense pairings during the morning skate, Pittsburgh will go with the same lineup it used for Saturday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final when it takes the ice for Game 2 against the Boston Bruins 8 p.m. Monday at Consol Energy Center.

"I don't think our mindset changes; I think we want more of the same," veteran forward Craig Adams said. "There's just some things we can do better, and we'll try to do those better."


Posted On Monday, 06.03.2013 / 12:14 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Bruins series blog

Vokoun remains Penguins starter for Game 2

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was asked if he had given any thought to making a goalie change heading into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.

"I watch the NHL Network, so I've heard it talked about," Bylsma said. "So yes."

When pressed further on if he'd considered going back to erstwhile starter Marc-Andre Fleury after starting Tomas Vokoun for the previous eight games, Bylsma said, "I heard people talk about it on the NHL Network, so it did cross my mind."

Other than listening to commentators on television, though, not nearly enough to make a switch.


Posted On Sunday, 06.02.2013 / 6:10 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Kings remain confident heading into Game 2

CHICAGO – The Los Angeles Kings lost their first two games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road against the St. Louis Blues, but still won that Western Conference Quarterfinals series in six games.

After dropping Game 1 of the Western Conference Final in a 2-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at United Center, the defending Stanley Cup champions are again faced with a possible 0-2 hole should they lose the second half of back-to-back contests in Game 2 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Don’t, however, ask Kings coach Darryl Sutter if his team’s first-round experience might be something to draw confidence from if they’re flying home again down two games to none.


Posted On Sunday, 06.02.2013 / 5:49 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Penguins-Bruins series blog

B's faceoff dominance leaves Pens seeking answers

PITTSBURGH – Prior to the start of the Eastern Conference Final, it was no secret the Boston Bruins held a decided edge over the Pittsburgh Penguins in winning faceoffs.

It just wasn't clear how dramatic that edge would be.

The Bruins as a team won 32 of 48 faceoffs in Game 1 Saturday night, including 22 of 30 at even strength, giving them an opportunity to start with the puck two thirds of the time.

The Penguins have not been a great faceoff team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sitting at 48.2 percent, but the dominance in other areas of their game allowed them to perhaps sweep that weakness under the rug.

Now, facing a series deficit for the first time this postseason, this one wart in Pittsburgh's game is a bit more exposed and it's something the Penguins want to improve on for Game 2 Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

Posted On Sunday, 06.02.2013 / 4:26 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Bruins series blog

Bylsma not losing faith in Vokoun after Game 1 loss

PITTSBURGH -- When Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma made a switch of goalies early in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he did it with no preconceived notions on how long it would last.

It's been 25 days so far.

And just because Tomas Vokoun finally lost his second game -- his first while allowing more than two goals -- it doesn't mean Bylsma is prepared to turn back to erstwhile starter Marc-Andre Fleury, who lost his spot after Game 4 of the first round against the New York Islanders.

"We don't get this win, (but) the win and the loss isn't necessarily an indicator of what we're going to do with the goaltending situation," Bylsma said early Sunday afternoon, about 14 hours after the Penguins lost, 3-0, to the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Posted On Sunday, 06.02.2013 / 1:31 PM

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

Blackhawks' Bickell having breakout postseason

CHICAGO -- Bryan Bickell was a popular interview subject Sunday morning at United Center.

Bickell has been a breakout star for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring five goals in the first two rounds and being a physical force on a new-look top line in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday before Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings he could see this type of player in Bickell a long time ago -- during his first extended time with the team during the 2009-10 season.

"We played him with [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick Kane] that year," Quenneville said. "We gave him a little bit more opportunity with the Nashville series, played a little bit. There's ability there. You like his size, his speed. He can shoot and be physical. He's got all the elements that you look for in a power forward. Putting it all together has been a process."

Posted On Sunday, 06.02.2013 / 12:49 AM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Penguins-Bruins series blog

Ference solid in return to Bruins' lineup

PITTSBURGH -- Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference wasn't sure he was ready to join the Eastern Conference Final after being idled three weeks with an injury.

But, he was eager to give it a try Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 at Consol Energy Center.

It turned out he was ready. Ference played a little more than 17 minutes and assisted on the game-opening goal by David Krejci in a 3-0 victory.

“It’s kind of like jumping on a moving train obviously to come in at this point in the season," Ference said.


Posted On Saturday, 06.01.2013 / 10:29 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks' Hossa says hello to friends back home

CHICAGO Marian Hossa had quite the night Saturday at United Center.

The Slovakian star forward scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final -- but he also did something noteworthy before the game started.

As the Blackhawks’ starting five skaters lined up on the blue line during the singing of the national anthem, Hossa looked into a TV camera that panned across them and gave a wink. It was shown live on the scoreboard’s big screen, but the intended targets for it were located much farther away.

“Lots of my friends back home were watching at the bar,” Hossa said. “I was just giving them some signal. They called me before the game, said they were going to watch. Hopefully they got the signal.”

Posted On Saturday, 06.01.2013 / 10:07 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Kings' Stoll glad to be back for Game 1

CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll already felt confident he was healthy enough to play in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, but it didn't bother him that roughly five minutes into the game he took a hard hit in the corner from Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw.

Stoll, who missed the final six games of the conference semifinals with a concussion, popped right back up and skated back into the play. He played 15:14 in his return after missing six games after being injured by a high hit from San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres.

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Quote of the Day

He is, in my opinion, one of the best defensemen in the NHL and continuing to grow. I think his game, from an offensive standpoint, he continues to drive our offense... I think there's still tremendous upside for Oliver.

— Coyotes GM Don Maloney on defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson