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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Plenty of candidates for Conn Smythe

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" touches on all things related to the NHL. This week, Roenick decided to offer his early Conn Smythe Trophy favorites on the four teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
There are some good candidates on each team, but I'm narrowing the field of Conn Smythe Trophy candidates. Here goes:
 
COYOTES
 
It's pretty much a lockdown, easy shot with Phoenix. It's Mike Smith.
 
He's been a feel-good story this season, putting himself in the star category of the National Hockey League. He probably could be named as the most improved player in the NHL, as well. This is a guy who was a backup and now he's a focal point of a team in the Western Conference Finals.
 
Smith is by far the easy choice for the Coyotes.
 
KINGS
 
This is not so clear cut. I think there are two very close candidates for this. Time will tell.
 
Leading the charge is Jonathan Quick because of his numbers and because of the way he has dominated every single game. His save percentage is off the charts. His goals-against average is excellent.
 
Dustin Brown
Right Wing - LAK
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 14
SOG: 38 | +/-: 11
Yes, the Kings are scoring more than three goals a game in the playoffs, but even if they were struggling to score like they did in the regular season, it wouldn't matter because Quick can win a game for you if you give him just one goal. He can win a game by himself. He has shown he can do it.
 
However, Dustin Brown is without question beating down his door and could dethrone him.
 
To say Brown has been a beast would be a huge understatement considering how he has elevated his game. Defensively, offensively, physically -- everything you can ask for in your captain, he has delivered. He has raised his level so high this postseason that his stock has tripled -- quadrupled -- for how he has played.
 
That's a tough call for L.A. between those two guys.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 12:48 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Los Angeles now Kings of the road

The Los Angeles Kings were among the poorest road playoff teams in NHL history -- until now.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 10-1
GAA: 1.45 | SVP: 0.951
Before this spring, the Kings had won just 29 of 95 playoff games away from L.A. since entering the NHL in 1967 -- and that included wins in their last two games at San Jose during their six-game loss to the Sharks in 2011. The back-to-back wins matched the longest road winning streak in the franchise's playoff history.

But the Kings have been flawless away from home this spring. They improved to 7-0 on the road Tuesday night by dominating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The seven straight wins match a single-season record for consecutive road wins last accomplished by the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 8:53 PM

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

Aucoin out for Coyotes; Fraser to miss game for L.A.

Colin Fraser
Center - LAK
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 8 | +/-: -1
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury when Phoenix takes on Los Angeles in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday.

Phoenix rookie defenseman Michael Stone will make his NHL playoff debut and be paired with Rostislav Klesla.

The Kings will be without fourth-line center Colin Fraser, who had to attend to a family matter. Kyle Clifford will play for Fraser on the Kings fourth line. He hasn't played since logging 2:29 of ice time in Game 1 against Vancouver. Brad Richardson will move to center.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 4:23 PM

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

Rangers call up six players

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers announced that six players will join the club from Connecticut of the American Hockey League for the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- defensemen Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath, goaltender Cam Talbot and forwards J.T. Miller, Kris Newbury and Casey Wellman.

Only Erixon and Newbury have spent time with the Rangers this season. The group will serve as spare players -- the Black Aces -- and likely practice separately from the rest of the team going forward.

The 19-year-old Miller was the Rangers' first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2011 Entry Draft. Prior to joining the Whale, where he had one point in eight playoffs games, he played 61 games with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, totaling 25 goals and 37 assists.

McIlrath, 20, made his professional debut with Connecticut on April 9 against Bridgeport, and skated in two regular-season games with the Whale. The Rangers' 2010 first-round pick also appeared in five playoff games with Connecticut.  Prior to joining Connecticut, McIlrath had three goals and a career-high 20 assists in 52 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League.

Talbot, 24, posted a 14-15-1 record with a 2.61 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and four shutouts in 33 games with Connecticut.

Wellman, 24, split the season between Connecticut and the Houston Aeros, totaling 23 goals and 24 assists in 57 games. Wellman joined Connecticut on Feb. 3 after the Rangers acquired him from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Erik Christensen and a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 3:00 PM

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

Brodeur finding game-day silence to be beneficial

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has never been one to shy away from the media, game day or otherwise.
 
But during the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, the future Hall of Fame goalie has decided to refrain from speaking to reporters on game days. He admitted on Tuesday during his morning press conference that the decision has been beneficial.
 
"You know, in the past, I think there was negative stuff talked to me in the morning," Brodeur said. "I felt early on in the series against Florida, everything I talked about was defending my team, not winning two games in a row, not winning a series since 2007. On game days, I don't need to have that aggravation in my head."
 
Brodeur is 8-4 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 13 playoff appearances.
 
"I figure, you know what, I'm going to let it be for a time being in morning skates," Brodeur said. "It's been working out good. I've been a lot more positive and not had bad thoughts in my mind."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 2:58 PM

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

Kings prepared for bigger push from Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After controlling play in the first period of Game 1, the Kings expect the Coyotes to come out much stronger, faster, harder and more desperate to start Game 2 Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).
 
The key for L.A. is not just to match it, but try to have the same type of fast start it had in Game 1, when it jumped to a 1-0 lead 3:53 into the game. Despite playing to a 1-1 tie after 20 minutes, the Kings still held a 17-4 advantage in shots on goal and all the momentum heading into the second.
 
They won the game 4-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals.
 
"It was tied after the first [in Game 1], but getting the lead or playing with the lead is a lot easier than chasing it," Kings center Anze Kopitar said Tuesday. "We want to come out the same way, but we know they're going to come out stronger than they did in Game 1 so we have to make sure we're ready."
 
The Kings are aware that Phoenix consistently has hung around in these rope-a-dope games, like it did in Game 1. The Coyotes have been outshot 10 times in the playoffs, but they are 7-3 in those games.
 
The key is not to let any frustration creep in, because that's usually when the opportunistic Coyotes pounce. The Kings did a good job of that in Game 1 despite going into the second intermission locked in a 2-2 tie.
 
They expect to have to have the same composed attitude in Game 2.
 
"Within the last game that we played we told ourselves we couldn't get down, we couldn't get frustrated because we weren't leading 3-0 or 2-0," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "It was a close game right to the end and that's kind of what they've been doing -- they've been able to hang around in games and get big goals from big players because they're capable of doing that. We need to keep pushing ahead, keep pushing forward, and not get frustrated if we can't get the puck in the net."
 
Here is the Kings projected lineup for Game 2:
 
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
 
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 2:58 PM

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

Power play one area where Kings can still improve

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If there is one area where the Kings can say they have not gotten the job done in the postseason it's on the power play. They are 9-1 in the playoffs and are scoring 3.10 goals per game despite being 4-for-51 on the power play.

"But we feel like we moved the puck pretty well in Game 1 and we got some shots," Anze Kopitar said. "Now it's a matter of finishing it off."

The Kings did get off six shots over their 5:36 of power play time. However, they have scored just one power-play goal over their last eight games after going 3-for-12 in the first two against Vancouver.

It hasn't hurt them yet, largely because their penalty kill has been perfect (22-for-22) since the start of the series against St. Louis, but the Kings would rather not keep playing with fire.

"I think you should try to be in every game a plus on the special teams," forward Justin Williams said. "Our penalty kill has obviously been pretty good. We need to keep going. We can't let up on that. I thought our power play gave us some decent chances, some decent looks, and we hit a couple of posts (in Game 1). Hopefully we can get going on that."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 2:50 PM

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

Injured Josefson hopeful of playing again this season

NEWARK, N.J. -- Injured New Jersey Devils center Jacob Josefson put in a solid workout at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Tuesday with the hope of rejoining the team at some point during its postseason run.
 
Josefson, who missed 37 regular-season games earlier this season with a broken clavicle as well as two more late in the season and the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs to this point with a fractured left wrist, was in pretty good spirits following his 40-plus minute on-ice instruction given by strength and conditioning coach Michael Vasalani.
 
Does he expect to return to the ice soon?
 
"That's my goal," Josefson said. "I'm working hard right now and there's an opportunity. It's tough to say where I'm at. I'm not 100 percent yet, but it's getting better and better every day and the strength [in the wrist] is almost back. The motion is almost normal, so its progress every day and I'm happy with that."
 
Josefson said Tuesday's workout was the hardest since the injury.
 
"It was probably the hardest on the ice, but working with the bike and running off the ice … that was even harder," he said. "I did learn a lot watching every game. It's good to watch and see what it's all about."
 
No timetable has been set for Josefson's return to the lineup.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 1:08 PM

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

Coyotes defenseman Aucoin a game-time decision

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin remains a game-time decision for Game 2 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) as they look to even the Western Conference Finals with the Los Angeles Kings.
 
Aucoin hasn't played since leaving during the first period of Game 5 of the conference semifinals on May 7. He was able to take part in a full practice on Monday for the first time.
 
The 38-year-old Aucoin has played in 61 NHL playoff games, second-most to Ray Whitney among the Coyotes. If Aucoin is able to play, the Coyotes would likely sit David Schlemko and pair Aucoin with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who stuggled mightily (minus-3) in a 4-2 Kings win in Game 1. That would also allow Rostislav Klesla and Michal Rozsival, a very effective pair for the Coyotes in the postseason, to be reunited.
 
Phoenix trails in a playoff series for the first time in the postseason and is looking to avoid falling behind 0-2 to the Kings on home ice -- the same fate that befell both Vancouver and St. Louis in previous rounds.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 12:16 PM

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

Team meeting, no practice for Devils day after loss

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer gave his players a day off the ice on Tuesday as they go back to the drawing board to devise a strategy on how to get pucks behind New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
 
The Devils, who dropped a 3-0 decision to the Rangers on Monday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, will look to even this best-of-seven series on Wednesday back at Madison Square Garden.
 
While no player in Monday's lineup was on the ice on Tuesday here at AmeriHealth Pavilion, healthy scratches Peter Harrold, Tim Sestito, Cam Janssen, Eric Boulton and Matt Taormina were skating with the call-ups from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Albany.
 
Additionally, defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who has been sidelined since Jan. 17 with a blood clot in his lower leg, and Jacob Josefson (wrist), both did some stretching exercises and drills on the ice.
 
DeBoer will speak with the media following a team meeting slated for 12:30 p.m. ET.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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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