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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 10:51 PM

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

Success in playoffs means thicker beards for Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes have gone farther in the playoffs than ever before, and they have the playoff beards to prove it.
 
Keith Yandle
Defense - PHX
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 7
SOG: 12 | +/-: 7
Defenseman Keith Yandle spent most of an interview scratching his facial hair and when asked about how he was enjoying the hockey rite of spring, he wasn't shy.
 
"It's awful. I spend all day picking things out of it. Food, loose objects, everything," Yandle said. "I love it because it's a sign we're still around fighting for the Stanley Cup. But it's not one of my favorite things."
 
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 9:41 PM

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

Coyotes forced to play Game 5 without Klesla

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Already without winger Raffi Torres for the rest of the playoffs, the Phoenix Coyotes will try to eliminate the Nashville Predators on Monday night with another player sitting out a suspension.

Rostislav Klesla
Defense - PHX
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 6
SOG: 19 | +/-: 1
Defenseman Rostislav Klesla will miss Game 5 after being suspended for one game for his boarding infraction against Nashville's Matt Halischuk in Game 4 on Friday night. Klesla was penalized on the play, but the League's Department of Safety ruled that Halischuk was defenseless as he chased a puck to the sideboards in part because Klesla grabbed his jersey before administering his check.

Klesla will likely be replaced by David Schlemko -- the only other defenseman to see time in the playoffs so far -- when they take a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 at Jobing.com Arena. Klesla's usual partner is Adrian Aucoin, but Schlemko skated with several partners during Sunday’s practice and the pairings could change.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 7:22 PM

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

Flyers' Couturier will play in Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier will play in Game 4 of the team's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils.
 
Sean Couturier
Center - PHI
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 4
SOG: 15 | +/-: 2
Couturier sustained a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 3 on Thursday, but did not look restricted in the morning skate Sunday, took line rushes in pre-game warm-ups in his usual spot, between forwards Maxime Talbot and Eric Wellwood.
 
Couturier, the eighth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, has three goals and an assist in nine playoff games, but has developed into the team's best defensive center.
 
"Sean is an important piece of the team," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said following the team's skate Sunday morning. "He looked good skating out there. He's smiling, that's always good."
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 5:50 PM

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

Sestito to make postseason debut for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils left wing Tim Sestito will make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on Sunday on the fourth line when his team plays host to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
Sestito will replace Ryan Carter in the lineup. The official announcement came via the Devils' Twitter account almost two hours prior to the opening faceoff. Carter was receiving treatment earlier on Sunday during the team's morning optional skate at Prudential Center.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:49 PM

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

Hagelin still searching for elusive first goal

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carl Hagelin and John Tortorella are on the same page when it comes to how the young Swedish forward has been playing.

Both say he's been good.

"Yeah, he's been on pucks," Tortorella said.

"Yeah, I feel like I'm playing good," Hagelin told NHL.com. "I've been on pucks, created chances. I'm doing a good job winning battles in the corner and trying to find guys in the slot."

All that's missing is a tangible result.

Hagelin had an assist in Game 1 against Ottawa, but he's pointless with a minus-2 rating and nine shots on goal in the seven games he's played since. Hagelin missed three games in the Ottawa series due to a suspension.

"You hope he scores a goal. You hope he makes a good pass to help score a goal," Tortorella said. "I don't think that's happened, but as far as his forechecking and creating puck possession for us, he's done a good job of that."

Hagelin, of course, would love to chip in offensively. He is, after all, a top-six forward who has played mostly on a line with Brad Richards and sometimes Marian Gaborik for a reason.

The Rangers could also use some production out of him considering they're not getting enough of it elsewhere. They have only nine goals in four games against the Capitals and of the eight teams still playing in the playoffs they're dead last with 2.09 goals per game.

"We haven't scored that many goals in general, but that's the way we play," Hagelin said. "We want to make sure we play well defensively. I feel strong and I feel I'm in condition. It's just that getting that goal would be nice.

"My mindset is to always keep working hard and good things will happen, so hopefully I get one here soon. If not, the most important thing is that we win games."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:10 PM

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

Caps doing their best to block shots

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers at their own game Saturday, blocking 26 New York shots, while having just seven of their own blocked by the Rangers.

The Caps beat the Rangers 3-2 to even their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at two games apiece. Game 5 is Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"We know that they can block shots very well and they create offense from blocking it too," Caps coach Dale Hunter said Sunday. "When we get it blocked, they go down the other way on an odd-man rush. So we say that you just have to miss the first guy and get it by them, and if you miss the net so be it as long as it doesn't get blocked."

In Game 4 the Caps kept the Rangers from getting in the shooting lanes by creating space in the offensive zone with plenty of puck movement. Specifically, the Capitals looked to their blue liners.

"They like to play tight in their D-zone," Troy Brouwer said, "their forwards collapse a little bit and so our D-men have a little bit more time at the points. So if we can get pucks back to the point and go D-to-D and stretch them out a little bit, it gives our D-men a better lane to the net. If we have nothing, we can just throw it down behind the net and try to get a little more room on the cycle."

The Capitals acknowledge that they have relied on their cycle game and their play below the goal line more against the Rangers than they did in the first round against the Boston Bruins.

Washington's first two goals in Saturday's Game 4 win -- tallies from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom -- both came from sustained offensive zone pressure that resulted in the Rangers collapsing down low.

Ovechkin opened the scoring seconds after Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson battled for possession in the corner with Ryan Callahan and Chris Kreider. Kreider eventually turned the puck over to Ovechkin who made it 1-0 Washington. 

"Callahan was in the corner, Kreider was right down in the pile, both D-men were in the pile, and I think that [Brian] Boyle was the lone guy in the slot," Brouwer said. "That leaves a lot of room in the slot. So it was a timely turnover that the guys caused and Ovi just happened to be in a good spot."

While the Caps' combination of puck movement from their defensemen and the play of their forwards below the faceoff circles kept the Rangers from blocking more than seven shots, the Capitals themselves also got in the way of 26 shots from New York.

Jeff Schultz led the Caps with nine blocked shots, as Washington passed New York for the overall team lead in blocked shots this post-season (244-232).
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:05 PM

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

Hunter sticking with same lineup for Game 5

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Not looking to change a winning formula, Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter is expected to go with the same lineup in Game 5 against the New York Rangers that produced Saturday's 3-2 win.

The Eastern Conference Semifinal series is even at two games apiece with Game 5 Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

When the series returned to Washington for Game 3 last Wednesday, Hunter had Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom skate on the same line for the first time this postseason. While Hunter was satisfied with their production, the experiment was short-lived.

In Game 4, Brooks Laich returned to Hunter's No.1 line alongside Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson, while Backstrom was back on the second line with Jason Chimera and Alexander Semin. The trios are expected to stay the same for Game 5.

"Brooksie and Ovi have been working pretty well together," Hunter explained. "I put Nicky there and they had some good scoring chances, but I thought that Nicky, [Chimera] and Semin, three games ago had a good game so I thought I'd go back to them."

Both lines came through offensively in Game 4 as sustained pressure from Laich and Johansson led to Ovechkin's fourth goal of the playoffs, while Chimera found Backstrom open in the slot in the second period for his second goal of the postseason. Backstrom's tally snapped a personal seven-game goalless drought.

"Playing with [Backstrom], it felt like he was back to his old self, cycling the puck down low and getting some chances," Chimera said. "With any luck, he could have had three or four goals [Saturday]. I think that was his best game since returning [from a 40-game absence March 31]. He needs that. He needs some confidence. That's a game that could spur us on and ultimately help us out, too."

While Backstrom continues to find his game, his countryman Marcus Johansson remains on the Capitals' No.1 line despite a six-game pointless streak. Johansson is also last among Washington forwards with a minus-five rating in 11 playoff games.
Below are the Capitals lines from Sunday's practice prior to the team's flight to New York.

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinBrooks LaichMarcus Johansson
Jason ChimeraNicklas BackstromAlexander Semin
Matt HendricksJay BeagleTroy Brouwer
Mike Knuble- Keith AucoinJoel Ward
Mathieu PerreaultJeff HalpernMattias Sjogren

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson
Roman HamrlikMike Green
Jeff SchultzDennis Wideman
John ErskineDmitry Orlov

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 2:58 PM

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

Lineups for Kings-Blues Game 4

St. Louis is expected to bring in Ryan Reaves on the fourth line, in place of B.J. Crombeen, and Ian Cole on defense in place of Carlo Colaiacovo.

Cole practiced with Kevin Shattenkirk while Alex Pietrangelo was with Barret Jackman in practice, although that could change. Cole and Shattenkirk have played together on U.S. developmental under-17 and under-18 world junior teams.

Brian Elliott will take the net again after he allowed four goals in Game 3. He is 0-3 with a 3.75 goals-against average and .845 save percentage in the series. Coach Ken Hitchcock on Saturday declined to talk about Elliott bouncing back.

"I don't want to go there," Hitchcock said.

Chris Stewart voiced his support behind Elliott.

"He had one bad game and he's battled for us all year," Stewart said. "If it wasn't for him or [Jaroslav Halak] we wouldn't be in the position we are this year. I don't think one bad game is going to sum up our year. We're going to battle for him."

BLUES

Andy McDonald - David Backes - Matt D'Agostini
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Alex Pietrangelo - Barret Jackman
Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

KINGS

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

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

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 1:27 PM

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

Flyers hoping for continued road success

NEWARK, N.J. -- History shows the Philadelphia Flyers are not in a good situation right now. In the 28 times in team history the Flyers have trailed 2-1 in a series, they've won just seven times. They've lost the last five series they've trailed 2-1, dating to the first round of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs after three games, but rallied to win the series in seven.

However, this current group of Flyers isn't affected by that bit of history. They point to their League-best 25-13-3 regular-season road record, which includes a 2-1-0 mark at Prudential Center.

"I think that we're comfortable either way," coach Peter Laviolette told NHL.com. "It hasn't really seemed to affect this group. We don't seem to get intimidated by circumstances or surroundings, so I don't see that being an issue."

Scott Hartnell said home or away, the Flyers need to improve in every area of their game if they want to win Game 4 Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"It's not rocket science," he said. "You work hard, you win the battles, you're more than likely to win the game. … It's us winning the battles in the [defensive] zone, having good breakouts, having good dumps, keeping them away from [Martin] Brodeur. It's not just one thing we have to focus on. It's not going to be our power play, it's not going to be our penalty kill -- it's every aspect of our game that has to be picked up."

Hartnell said in his case, it's getting to the net and creating havoc in front of Brodeur.

"I've got to get to the net," he said. "That's where all my goals come from, that's where all the stuff happens. It's been way too easy for Marty to make the saves that he's had to make. Especially paying with Jags [Jaromir Jagr] and G [Claude Giroux], or whoever we're playing with. Got to make it harder on him. Can't stop what you can't see. If he gets frustrated he'll get off his game. Got to make it hard on him. Just have to be skating. I have to do what I do that makes me a good player out there."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 12:52 PM

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

Flyers rule Meszaros out for Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros has been ruled out for Game 4 of the team's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Meszaros hasn't played since March 1, and is 6.5 weeks removed from March 21 back surgery to remove a disc fragment that was impinging on a nerve root. He's been skating with the team for more than a week, and Saturday went through what he said was his hardest day on the ice. He took part in the full morning skate Sunday, but prior to leaving the arena, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said Meszaros would not play.

The only Flyers missing from Sunday's practice were center Danny Briere and defenseman Kimmo Timonen, but that's a usual occurrence; both are healthy and will be in the lineup.

The Flyers didn't skate in line combinations for defense pairings, but with Meszaros out and rookie center Sean Couturier a game-time decision but likely to play, here's how Philadelphia could look when they hit the Prudential Center ice:

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

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers