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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 7:21 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Flyers juggle lines in Giroux's absence

PHILADELPHIA -- In the absence of leading scorer Claude Giroux, the Flyers reconfigured all four of their forward lines for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils.

Zac Rinaldo replaces Giroux, who is serving a one-game suspension for his hit to the head of New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus in the second period of Game 4 on Sunday. It's Rinaldo's first game since Game 4 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Flyers also will have a new face on defense, as Andrej Meszaros will play his first game since March 1. He had surgery March 21 to remove a disc fragment that was impinging on a nerve root in his lower back. Tuesday marks one day shy of seven weeks since the procedure; the original prognosis for recovery was 6-8 weeks.

The Devils will have one lineup change, as Ryan Carter returns after sitting out Game 4 after a bout of food poisoning.

Here are the lineups the teams play Game 5 with:

FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Matt Read - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk - Eric Wellwood - Wayne Simmonds
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot

Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andrej Meszaros - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

DEVILS

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

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 5:50 PM

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

Big day for two Nolans

EL SEGINDO, Calif. -- Kings rookie Jordan Nolan scored his first career playoff goal Sunday. On the other side of the globe his father, Ted, coached Latvia to a 3-2 victory over Germany in the World Championship in Stockholm.

Jordan Nolan said his father was able to call him at about 10 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday night, and his father gave him the message of "Congratulations. You're working hard out there. Keep it up,'" Jordan Nolan said.

Jordan Nolan gave L.A. a 1-0 lead in Game 4 by snapping home a loose puck near the inside edge of the right circle. It was only his third goal since he was recalled from Manchester of the AHL on Feb. 10.

"A lot of excitement," Jordan Nolan said. "I didn't want to celebrate too much, though."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 5:18 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Flyers want to channel emotion heading into must-win

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Kimmo Timonen stripped off his hockey gear after practice Tuesday to reveal a T-shirt that read "Play Angry."

Teammate Wayne Simmonds said that's not a bad philosophy to have going into a win-or-go-home Game 5 Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) in their conference semifinal series.

"You've got to go into the game desperate," he said. "We've got to play the best hockey we played all year. I think we know that. I think every man in here is ready."

Scott Hartnell said he wasn't sure anger was the right path to travel, but adding emotion to their game definitely was something his team needs.

"I don't know if its play angry, but play with emotion," he said. "Play angry, that's when you might cross the line or something like that. We definitely have to have that emotion. Definitely after the whistles, they're not even looking us in the eyes, they're skating to the bench, so we're not looking for that stuff after the whistles. We've got to do our talking between the whistles."

Coach Peter Laviolette said it would take more than a catchy slogan to help his team extend its season.

"I think it's just a shirt," he said. "I would like to see our team compete and play hard, do a lot of the things we've done for a majority of the year. A couple bad games that stick out recently, but this team knows how to compete. They know how to play with a lot of energy, a lot of pride, a lot of success. I expect that tonight.

"I don't think we're going to hang Kimmo's T-shirt behind the bench, or rally behind that."

Contact Adam Kimelman akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK




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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 5:12 PM

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

Stralman has refined game since joining Rangers

NEW YORK -- John Tortorella didn't know much about Anton Stralman when the Rangers signed the defenseman in November, and he wasn't all that enamored with his game after he watched a few games.

The 25-year-old wasn't offered a contract by the New Jersey Devils after training camp, so Stralman returned to his native Sweden before the injury-riddled Rangers came calling. The offensive-minded blueliner isn't exactly the prototypical player for a Tortorella-coached team, and Stralman knew it.

"I kind of knew right away I had to change my game a little bit," Stralman told NHL.com. "I was all offense, no defense before. I know that's not going to work."

It took months or refining, educating, tearing down and building up, but Stralman has become a reliable portion of the Rangers' secondary blueliners. He usually starts a game paired with Marc Staal, but Tortorella tends to use sixth defenseman Stu Bickel so infrequently that Stralman finds himself with Michael Del Zotto at times.

Stralman's three goals lead all defensemen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I kind of kicked back on the offensive part and worked hard on the defensive part and tried to take it all in and buy into the system we play," Stralman said. "Along the way, when I felt more and more confident, I tried to get back to my old game without sacrificing anything at the other end. It's been a long road and a bit of a struggle, too, at some points. I'm happy with my game right now."

The hardest part for Stralman was developing the physical edge Tortorella holds so dear. It's taken a while, but Stralman has added a hip check to his repertoire that keeps onrushing forwards honest along the boards.

But while those booming hits brought the fans at Madison Square Garden to their feet, Stralman's offensive game began to slip. The hardest part for him was finding a balance, but he said Tortorella making him a healthy scratch later in the season helped him achieve that missing balance.

"That's been the most frustrating part," Stralman said. "I try to peel back on the offensive part and nail the defensive part. Along the way, I kind of lost the offensive part a little bit and that was really frustrating to kind of go look for it and try to find it. There was a lot of frustration going on. I got scratched there for a few games. It was kind of good to look back and try to figure out a way to go. Ever since that, I think I relaxed a little bit more to try to find my own game. It's coming along."

Stralman has two of his three goals in the postseason on the power play, but his goal during the Rangers' 3-2 overtime win Game 5 came at even-strength. Through 12 playoff games -- the first of Stralman's career -- he has three goals, two assists and is plus-2.

That's not too bad for someone who wasn't in the coach's good graces upon his arrival.

"He's been consistent defensively and offensively," Tortorella said. "That was my biggest gripe with him. If one was going well, the other part was stuck. To generalize, he needed to compete harder. That was the inconsistent part of his game. That's why he wasn't a complete player. That's something you can control as a player. I think he has answered that question. He has been a really good competitor for us."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 4:12 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Third period full of missed opportunities for Caps

ARLINGTON, Va. -- If the Washington Capitals fall to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, players and management alike will likely spend the summer wondering how things could have been different had they held on to their 2-1 lead in the final seconds of Game 5.

Beginning with a double-minor high-sticking penalty against Joel Ward with 22 seconds remaining in regulation, followed by Brad Richards' tying-goal with 6.6 seconds to play and Marc Staal's game-winning tally 95 seconds into overtime, the Caps potentially saw their season fall by the wayside in a stunning 3-2 OT loss.

While it is hard to ignore how Game 5 ended and the series of events that led to its conclusion, the Capitals acknowledged Tuesday that their margin of error in the final minute of regulation should never have been so thin.
From the time John Carlson's power-play goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead at 4:20 of the third period, the Caps had ample opportunity to double their lead.

Less than three minutes after Carlson's goal, Nicklas Backstrom broke free from Dan Girardi and went one-on-one against Henrik Lundqvist. Backstrom's backhand attempt grazed off of Lundqvist's shoulder and hit the crossbar.

"I should have scored," Backstrom said Tuesday. "It would have been a different game."

The same can be said if Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin had converted on a two-on-one with seven minutes to play in regulation. Instead, Girardi got a stick in the way of Semin's pass to Ovechkin, and a shot on goal was never even attempted.

Ditto for a Capitals' three-on-one with just over five minutes to play when the trio of Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson failed to get a shot on goal. This time it was Staal who got a piece of Laich's intended pass to Ovechkin as Washington gained the blue line.

"We should've executed better," said Johansson, who has gone seven games without a point and is last among Washington forwards with a minus-6 rating in the playoffs.

"[Backstrom's chance] is just bad luck -- it hits the crossbar. But we had a couple two-on-ones and three-on-ones where we should've scored and we didn't even get a shot on net. That's not good enough. We have enough skill and good hockey players to do something better with that. That's something we have to get better at."

The Rangers outshot the Capitals 38-18 in Game 5, and just as the Capitals are left to wonder what could have been had they converted their third period scoring chances, New York likely would have been wondering the same had Washington held on for a 2-1 win.

"They played really well early on, but as the game wore on I thought we got better," Laich said. "They had more shots, but we might have had the better scoring chances. Nicky [hitting the crossbar] and Alex, and Alex had a two-on-one, and we had a three-on-one which I made a bad play on. So we're going to commit to defense again and try and get the offense, and when we do get those chances we'll try to capitalize on it."

"We need to bear down," said Mike Green, who played a team-high 24:47 in Game 5. "When we get opportunities to score, we've got to put it in the net. I think that would have been the difference in the game… It's just [about] us making the right play. Three-on-one, you should be able to get a shot at least. Their D-men made great plays, but we've got to do better."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 3:18 PM

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

Experience at a premium in West

With longtime western powers Detroit, Vancouver, and San Jose dispatched in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's no wonder the last two teams standing in the Western Conference don't have a great deal of experience playing in the Stanley Cup Final.

While the Kings have little real playoff experience on their roster, there are a couple of notable vets leading the charge. Particularly Rob Scuderi, who won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, and Dustin Penner, who won it with Anaheim in 2007. There's also Justin Williams, who won the Cup with Carolina in 2006, one of seven players on the Kings' active roster who have played in the Stanley Cup Final (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter made it in 2010 when Philadelphia lost to Chicago while Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene appeared with Edmonton in 2006). That's a wealth of experience compared to the Coyotes.

Ray Whitney is the only member of the Coyotes roster to have won the Stanley Cup, having done it alongside Williams in 2006. After him, only Antoine Vermette and Raffi Torres, who is out for the series after being suspended for his hit on Marian Hossa, have played in the final. In years past, that experience may have come from assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, who won a pair of Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Samuelsson left the Coyotes after last season to go become head coach of Sweden's fabled Modo club.

Whichever team does ultimately make it to the Final, they'll certainly be adding plenty of valuable experience to their roster.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps used to bouncing back from tough OT defeats

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Before falling in overtime in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals had already dropped three games in OT in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Following each defeat, though, the Caps have shown the type of resiliency they admit was often missing in playoffs past.

There was a series-opening 1-0 OT loss in Round 1 against the Boston Bruins. The Caps responded with a double overtime win of their own in Game 2.

There was a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6 against the Bruins, in which the Caps blew an opportunity to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions on home ice. The Caps responded with an overtime win in Boston in Game 7.

Then there was a 2-1 triple overtime loss against the Rangers in Game 3 of their second-round series, in which Washington came up short in the third-longest game in franchise history. The Caps responded with a home win in Game 4 three days later.

While Washington's first three OT losses this postseason were all disheartening in their own right, Monday's 3-2 loss in New York may top them all.

The Caps held a 2-1 lead in the final minute of Game 5 before a double-minor high-sticking penalty against Joel Ward sent the Rangers to the power play. New York's Brad Richards tied the game with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation, while Marc Staal netted the game-winning-goal just 95 seconds into OT.

"We were close, but we can't think that way," said defenseman John Carlson, who was on the ice for both the game-tying and winning goals. "We're all still positive here. We know that in the last series we missed an opportunity in Game 6 to close it out at home. [Monday] we missed an opportunity to go up in the series 3-2. But all we're worried about right now is winning [Wednesday]."

The Capitals met at their Northern Virginia practice facility Tuesday to watch video, but did not skate. Of the six players made available to the media, all six echoed the sentiments of coach Dale Hunter and said of the Game 5 loss that "stuff happens," and "that’s hockey."

No matter when or how they have lost in these playoffs, the Capitals have been quick to brush off any disappointment, and dating back to the regular season they have not lost back-to-back games since March 22-23.

"I think we control our emotions a little better," said forward Brooks Laich who has played in all 49 of Washington's playoff games since 2008.

"Even when we win, we're not bouncing off the ceiling -- it's more of a business atmosphere. And when we lose, we know that we can bounce back. We have a very good hockey team, so we never get too high, we never get too low, we just stay pretty composed. A lot of that comes from Dale … he's not panicking."

Added Hunter: "We have to [respond]. It's hockey. The guys are ready to battle [in Game 6] and that's what it's all about when you play in the Stanley Cup  playoffs. ... The guys are resilient; they'll bounce back and have a great game."

Now the Capitals have no choice but to come back from their latest OT setback. The Caps must beat New York in Game 6 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC) to extend the series. Game 7 would be Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"We've just got to put it behind us and come out harder," said Nicklas Backstrom who added that this latest OT loss may be tougher than the triple OT loss in Game 3.

"I think so, but you've just got to forget about it. It's bad luck, I think, it's just six seconds left and the puck was bouncing all over the place. I guess that happens in hockey sometimes, and you've just got to bounce back."
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 2:41 PM

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

The wonder of Marty Brodeur

The Devils' timely scoring and amazing forecheck are two of the biggest reasons they're leading this series, but we also can't forget how Martin Brodeur has played, and the fact that he won Game 4 on his 40th birthday is just incredible.

I think Marty is one of the remarkable stories in the NHL. Goaltenders notoriously develop later and here's Marty coming in and being a star when he's young, staying in the same city all these years, which doesn't happen anymore, and being as good as he has for so many years. His longevity is just as remarkable considering how physical and big the NHL has become and how they crash the nets now. It's amazing he's been hurt so few times.

We also can't forget how amazing he's been playing the puck. The NHL changed the rules of the game because of Brodeur. I always say that that's a sign of greatness, when they change the rules because of you. The trapezoid is behind every net because of Marty Brodeur.

I think we're talking about one of the five or six greatest talents that has ever played in the NHL, and with the Devils getting this far in the playoffs, it's definitely time to talk about them as a legitimate Stanley Cup threat. If they managed to win the Cup this year, it would be pretty remarkable both because they were unexpected and because of what kind of a sendoff that could be for Brodeur. A lot has been made of how he has been getting older and how this could be his last season. It's very difficult to watch the greats get older and to see them hang on for as long as they do sometimes.

I will say this from my perspective. I don't want to watch Marty Brodeur be a good goaltender. I want to watch him be a great goaltender. I don't want to watch Marty being OK. I don't want to see great players hang on to be OK. It's OK for guys like me to hang on and play as long as they can, but I don't want to see great players hanging on just to be average. I don't think that's right. No one wants to see the greats of our game look like Willie Mays falling down in the outfield. I would have loved to play until I was 40, too, but I just think players like Marty are too special to see them play beyond when they're great anymore. I hope they know when to hang them up.

If the Devils wind up winning the Stanley Cup this June, seeing Marty skate with the Cup one last time and then head off into retirement would be an appropriate ending. I won't say this from his shoes because he has to make his own decisions, but if that happens, I hope he decides to call it a career. I want my last picture of Marty Brodeur to be him carrying the Stanley Cup around. I think that is the ultimate, ultimate way to go out. It's like John Wayne in "The Shootist." I want to remember Marty at his greatest.

I would love to see him carry the Stanley Cup around his last time on the ice.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

Melrose: Devils are shocking the Flyers

When New Jersey and Philadelphia began their playoff series I'm sure most people had their predictions for how it would go -- mine was Flyers in six or seven -- but I'm not sure many people thought we would see it this way. The Devils have a chance to close out Philly in Game 5 at Wells Fargo Center tonight and the fact that New Jersey is in this position, and the way the Devils have gotten there, really isn't a surprise.

It's a complete shock.

Coming off their first-round win against Pittsburgh the Flyers looked like world beaters and Claude Giroux looked like he might be the best player on the planet right now. The Devils, meanwhile, escape the weakest division winner in the East on a double-overtime goal in Game 7 and had to play two games facing elimination to advance.

Now it looks as if the roles are completely reversed. Giroux won't even be in the lineup Tuesday because of his one-game suspension for a high hit on Dainius Zubrus, but he's been struggling in this series anyway. Giroux has just three points in four games of this series after having 14 points in six games against the Penguins.

Philadelphia's power play was so good against Pittsburgh that it's still the best-ranked unit in the playoffs, but against New Jersey the power play has looked terrible. Just look at Game 3, when the Flyers had not one, but two power plays in overtime, and mustered all of one shot on net.

This is even crazier considering New Jersey, though it had one of the greatest penalty-killing units in NHL history, was abysmal against Florida's power play in the first round. This time around New Jersey's defense has looked great. And what's wildest about this is that Bryzgalov has been great this series. The only way this should conceivably be 3-1 for the Devils right now is if Bryzgalov has been terrible and Marty Brodeur has been good, but it's been the other way around. Marty has still been good, but Bryzgalov has been great and his teammates and his defense have been terrible.

I'm very surprised that the Flyers look so slow compared to the Devils whereas the Flyers looked so fast compared to Pittsburgh, and if you know hockey, you know Pittsburgh is one of the fastest teams in the NHL. The Flyers were dominant in the first round, getting on the puck first and finishing checks first, but now they're being totally outworked and outcompeted by the New Jersey Devils and their tremendous forecheck.

The Flyers still have a chance to come back and win this series, but with this deficit, I don't think I see it happening. You don't come back from down 3-1. It happens once in a while, and the Flyers know that as well as anyone after their historic comeback against Boston in 2010, but generally you don't come back from 3-1 -- and I have a hard time seeing it in this series.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 1:56 PM

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

Exciting season series bodes well for conference final

Every season series between division rivals is a hard-fought six-game standoff. But this past season's games between Phoenix and Los Angeles were so closely matched that it could serve as an exciting preview for a potentially explosive Western Conference Final.

The season series between these Pacific Division rivals started October 20 in the season's second week. That night in Glendale, Jonathan Quick made 28 saves in a 2-0 win. Compared to the five series games that followed, that score was a blowout win for the Kings.

The teams met again in Glendale just nine days later in a game that saw the Kings and Coyotes go back and forth, combining for 72 shots. The hard-fought affair ended with Daymond Langkow's overtime winner from in close on Quick to give the Coyotes a 3-2 overtime win.

By the time the regular season was wrapped up, the Kings would hold a 3-1-2 advantage in the series, outscoring the Coyotes 13-11. Every game but the opener was won by a single goal in a season matchup that saw three shutouts, two overtimes, a shootout, and even a scrap between captains Shane Doan and Dustin Brown. The shootout took place in the teams' final matchup on February 21, a 5-4 Coyotes win in Glendale won by Mikkal Boedker's pretty shootout tally on Quick.

If that wild season series, not to mention the first month of the playoffs, is any indication, the 2012 Western Conference Final could be a good one.
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