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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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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 12:12 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers block 26 shots in Game 1

Henrik Lundqvist is undoubtedly one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. Fortunately for the Rangers' goaltender, though, he's receiving plenty of help from his defense.

With Monday night's 3-0 win, Lundqvist has now faced 23 shots or fewer in four straight contests. He went 21-for-21 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden for his ninth win of the postseason.

Dan Girardi
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 9
SOG: 27 | +/-: 3
Lundqvist would have faced more than 40 shots Monday night if not for his relentless defense. Through the first 40 minutes, the Rangers had already blocked 18 shots. Eight more didn't find their way to the net in the third period as New York finished the evening with 26 blocked shots. Ten of those came from the duo of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who had five apiece.

"I thought he played really strong the whole night and helped out in front blocking shots," Lundqvist said of Girardi. "I always know what to expect from him, and it's a great feeling as a goalie."
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 8:59 PM

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

Sutter doesn't expect Gagne to be back

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kings forward Simon Gagne has been cleared for contact for the first time since suffering a concussion on Dec. 26. However, Gagne will not be joining the team in Arizona and a return this season seems impossible, according to coach Darryl Sutter.

"I mean, he hasn't played a game in five, six months. He hasn't practiced with the team literally since, when was it …," Sutter said. "Anything is highly unlikely really when you think about it. It's a head-issue injury.

"We played Vancouver in that first round, (Daniel) Sedin had been out then for a month to the day, look how it affected him," Sutter continued. "This guy (Gagne) hasn't played in five months. He hasn't played in 2012."

Gagne had 17 points in 34 games.

The Kings play Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against Phoenix on Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 8:52 PM

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

Quick responds properly to long goal

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kings goalie Jonathan Quick reacted to Derek Morris' 98-foot goal the same way he would have reacted if the Coyotes' defenseman had scored from two-feet out on a rebound.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 9-1-0
GAA: 1.59 | SVP: 0.947
He looked back in his net, thought about the goal for a second, brushed it off and started thinking about making the next save.

"It doesn't matter whatever the play is, it's only one goal, that's it," Quick told NHL.com. "You move on. It's still a tie game, you move forward."

Quick's response to that goal is similar to his response to the 4-2 win in Game 1. He made 25 saves that he now considers irrelevant because they don't mean anything unless he wins Game 2 to allow the Kings to bring a 2-0 series lead back to Los Angeles.

"It's not just this time of year, it's any time of year; a game is only good if you win the next one," Quick said. "All year long you try your hardest, try to get a 'W' and then you move forward."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 4:44 PM

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

Ekman-Larsson: 'I was terrible' in series opener

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson pulled no punches about how he felt he played in Game 1 Sunday.

"I was terrible," Ekman-Larsson told NHL.com.

OK, then. Well, let's analyze it and see if he's right.

Ekman-Larsson was a minus-3 over his 24-plus minutes of ice time, though one of those came when he was on the ice for Dwight King's empty-net goal. He got caught too high in the neutral zone when Slava Voynov found Dustin Brown with a stretch pass that led to the winning goal. And with the Coyotes just getting going on a power play midway through the third, Ekman-Larsson was called for interference on Mike Richards.

"I didn't skate good or with the puck very well," he said. "I made some bad passes. I have to be more physical and play more with the puck. I have to make better plays and skate harder."

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett wasn't about to argue with his 20-year-old blueliner, but he was pleased to hear Ekman-Larsson's self-evaluation.

"That's probably a great indication of where he's at," Tippett said. "He evaluates his own game very honestly and he knew he could be better (Sunday) night. Him and his partner (Rostislav) Klesla were not near as good as we needed them to be and they were at the front of quite a few chances against. Those guys recognize that today, and I expect them both to be better (in Game 2)."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Defense, goaltending point toward Rangers in 6

When I look at this matchup between New Jersey and New York in the Eastern Conference Finals, there's one thing that clearly sticks out to me: One of these teams was supposed to be going into the third round and one was not.

Anyone who has watched hockey this season knows which one is which, and I for one am unbelievably impressed that the Devils have gotten this far, especially considering how they played against Florida. After going seven games in the first round, I didn't think they had a hope of beating the Flyers, but the Devils didn't just beat them -- they dominated them. I'm very impressed by New Jersey and if you told me they could beat Philly without Marty Brodeur being unbelievable, I'd have laughed at you. Marty didn't have to be unbelievable. The Devils are just peaking at the right time and getting better and better. Against Philadelphia the Devils were great everywhere on the ice -- their six-man defensive unit was great, and their stars played great. Ilya Kovalchuk is playing some of the best hockey he's ever played, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias are great just like you'd expect them to be, but Petr Sykora's playing well, Travis Zajac is fired up and David Clarkson looks good.

The Devils are just awesome right now. The style of play is great -- it's an aggressive style, but you give up nothing. Right now they might be the most aggressive forechecking team of the four teams left, and they're definitely more aggressive than the Rangers. This team is fun to watch, playing great and generally a total departure from what the New Jersey Devils used to be.

That said, however, if the Rangers play in this series like they did Saturday in Game 7 against Washington, I don't think the Devils can beat them. That game I just sat back and watched and it was darn near perfection. The forwards were awesome, there was no space for Washington, the Capitals had no time to make plays and the Rangers won all the physical battles. The defense joined the rush and was great in its own end, the first pass most of the night was right on, and when there was a breakdown -- which was very rare -- Henrik Lundqvist made the saves. It was their best game of the playoffs and by far the most impressed I've been with them all playoffs. If they can string together a number of these games, it will cause a lot of problems for the Devils. They were great Saturday. I just sat, watched and thought, "This is how hockey should be played."

Most importantly, you knew it was good because Rangers coach John Tortorella actually was sort of happy at his press conference at the end of the game.

I like the Rangers to keep playing like this and win the series in six games, but there definitely are some things you need to watch out for if you're New York and New Jersey. Perhaps most importantly, the Rangers scored very early in Game 7 against Washington and that allowed them to sit back and play defense the rest of the game. Any team that's great defensively wants to score first. How many times have we seen New Jersey win the Stanley Cup with that same premise over the years? Dallas was that same way when they won in 1999. If they scored first, the game basically was over. That's definitely got to be part of New Jersey's game plan. The Devils have to score first to put the pressure on New York because if you don't score first against the Rangers, they can really clamp down on you. We've seen it over and over again and it's certainly something they did in Game 7. That's something the Devils have to be talking about. Any time you play a defense-first team, you've got to score first. It changes the dynamic big time, and while I don't know if it will be a weakness for the Rangers in that they have to score first, defensive hockey is what they're going to live and die by. And if you noticed, the team that scored first won every game in the Rangers-Capitals series.

The other big thing to note is that the Rangers play a tough, physical style, and they've also gone seven games in each of the first two rounds and won't have much rest before the start of this series. That's something New Jersey needs to take advantage of. There have to be guys that are hurting in that Rangers dressing room, especially after how physical that Capitals series was. If the Devils can come out and jump on the Rangers, I think they can take advantage of that. They've got to play a physical series and keep pounding these guys because they've played so many games in such a short period of time. That's got to be part of the game plan and I'm sure the Devils are talking about that -- making the Rangers play a high tempo game and forcing them to play wide open.

When I was coaching in L.A., I would talk to Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri and Marty McSorley and I'd ask them about their Edmonton days and what made them special and why they were able to win all those years. One of the things they always said was important was that in the early rounds they won quick. They thought it really helped them in later series to have that extra energy. It was always important to win in five games or four games in the early rounds while the teams they wound up playing later on already had gone seven or six. You have to wonder if after 14 games there will be a point at which the Rangers run out of gas. The longer this series goes the more it favors the Devils, who have had a big rest, gotten their guys healthy and are ready to go.

No team ever has won two Game 7s in the first two rounds and won the Cup, which is strange since to win two Game 7s you have to be a good team. It makes you think there has to be a reason, and the physical toll just might be it.

It will be a long, hard-fought series, but I still think it will come down to goaltending and defense. In this case I think the Rangers have the better goaltender because Henrik Lundqvist is in his prime and Brodeur isn't. It's just a fact -- and it may be the first time I've ever said that in a Rangers-Devils series. That will be a factor if the games are tight, but as I watched Saturday, I couldn't ignore New York's defense. It makes me wonder how guys like Adam Henrique or Sykora will get to the net. Clarkson and Parise will because that's their game, but you have to wonder about the other guys. Also, after watching how well the Rangers handled Backstrom and Ovechkin, why won't Kovalchuk have trouble finding space?

Because of all those factors, I think the Rangers will win this in six games.
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Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp