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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:47 PM

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

Whitney a reluctant birthday boy

GLENDALE, Ariz, -- Ray Whitney turned 40 years old on Tuesday and thought he might have escaped the wrath of his teammates since it was an off-day for the Coyotes.

No chance. His locker was dressed up with presents on Wednesday, including a walker -- adorned with a blue bow -- tubes of Ben Gay and denture cream, laxative, batteries and a magnifying glass with which to read the latest copy of Oprah Winfrey's "O" Magazine.

Whitney, who will dodge any camera possible even on most normal days, had no interest in coming out to view the display while media was in the room. But his teammates didn't mind commenting -- especially suspected ringleader Shane Doan.

"I'm way young younger than a few people on this team -- and Ray Whitney is way older than everyone else," the 35-year-old Doan was only too happy to point out, "We fixed him up with a 40-year-old survival kit just to make sure he has everything working."

Whitney had everything working during the regular season, leading the Coyotes in assists (53) and points (77) while pumping in 24 goals. He's added six points in 13 playoff games -- showing he's not quite ready for a walker.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:10 PM

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

Kings getting contributions up and down lineup

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals saw Los Angeles Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov and veteran blueliner Matt Greene each score his first career playoff goal.

Game 3 saw rookie Dwight King pot his first playoff goal. Game 4? King's rookie roommate, Jordan Nolan, snapped home a loose puck for his first playoff goal.

Fifteen of 18 skaters have scored a goal for L.A. in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and 17 have recorded a point. The team's third and fourth lines have scored six goals. In other words, it's precisely the dynamic of championship teams.

"I think you look at lines three and four -- everybody's outscoring their opposition," Justin Williams said.

"Our third line has scored more than their line. Our fourth line has scored more than their fourth line. We're going to need solid contributions from everybody. That's what playoffs is. Sometimes if there's a couple of lines, they offset each other and it's the so-called unsung heroes who get the stuff done."

Williams and a handful of other Kings players that have won the Stanley Cup would know, having been on teams that got scoring depth throughout the lineup.

It's not just the forwards. Greene, who had four goals and 15 points in 82 regular season games, has one goal and four points in nine playoff games. He had more points (four) in the semifinal series victory against St. Louis than Blues winger Andy McDonald (three).

Willie Mitchell has a goal and an assist, and of course Drew Doughty leads the defensemen with one goal and six assists, including a three-point game in Game 4 against St. Louis. The only player that hasn't recorded a point is Colin Fraser.

"The other team can't just say, 'Well, if we shut down the top two lines we have a good chance of winning' because we have two other lines that score," Penner said. "But for us, if all four lines that can score, we've got D that can score … that's what you need to go deep in the playoffs, is contributions from every position."

If there's any surprise to the offensive output, it's that of Nolan and King, who were recalled from the American Hockey League on Feb.10. Both were brought up for their size -- Nolan is 6-foot-3, 227 pounds and King is 6-3, 234 -- and they weren't necessarily depended on for scoring.

But both have chipped in, in a fourth-line role for Nolan and a second- and third-line role for King. Nolan is the son of former NHL head coach Ted Nolan, while King is brothers with NHL forward D.J. King.

Sutter said he wasn't surprised at how they've adjusted to playoff-level hockey.

"They have handled it really well," Sutter said. "The best part about those two kids is probably their background. As we've gone along we've had to manage their minutes, obviously, because there is a more intense environment, but they've done a good job of giving us those minutes."

King and Nolan are still living in a hotel near the team's practice facility. Nolan is doing the cooking, although King said "we've been going out more" recently.

Penner said he's been impressed by their maturity and that it hasn't gone unnoticed in the dressing room.

"I think there's a sense of pride for the older guys watching the young guy come along that quickly, and buy in and appreciate where they are now," Penner said. "They've earned their keep."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:08 PM

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

Former teammates on Cup champ are now rivals

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the connections between the Kings and the Coyotes is that Los Angeles forward Justin Williams played with Phoenix forward Ray Whitney on the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes team that beat the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup.

Asked what he remembered about Whitney, Williams said, "He wasn't 40 -- putting up a lot of points as he is right now. But he was a big part of our team in '06, and certainly a huge part of their team right now. He's going to demand a lot of our attention. We're going to have to be hard on him, because he's a guy that can certainly have an impact on the series."

Whitney has two goals, including one game-winner, and six points in the playoffs.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:02 PM

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

Coyotes present familiar challenge for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Western Conference Semifinals were supposed to be a clash of similar styles with the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues both based on defense, goaltending and physical play.

The Phoenix Coyotes present more of the same, although there might be more even-strength play between the teams considering that the Coyotes average the fourth-fewest penalty minutes per game (9.5). They also entered Wednesday with the second-most five-on-five goals (22).

One aspect is that the teams have not played since Feb. 21, and the Kings know the Coyotes have since changed.

"They're very similar to us in the way that they play from a structure standpoint -- strong defense, strong goaltending," Brown said.

"The game plan is no secret that we need to get in on the forecheck. It's going to be the same as playing St. Louis … maybe we exposed St. Louis' goaltending a little bit, but at this time of year, it's about hard work, getting on the forecheck, making it hard on their guys that play a lot of minutes. [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson plays 30 minutes a game. It's important for us to get on him. We have to wear on guys like that throughout the series, and the other guy we got to really make it hard on is Mike Smith."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 2:34 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Zidlicky 'day-to-day' with unspecified injury

New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello informed local reporters on Wednesday that defenseman Marek Zidlicky is "day-to-day" with an unspecified injury he sustained in the second period of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
According to The Star-Ledger, Lamoriello refused to reveal the nature of Zidlicky's injury but said he should be fine for the conference finals.

When asked if the injury should be a concern, Lamoriello said "No."
 
Zidlicky, acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24, was shaken up 8:14 into the second period after taking a crunching hit from Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds in the left-wing corner. He did return to the game and played four more shifts, but sat out the entire third period.
 
Zidlicky has been a key cog along the Devils blue line in the playoffs, producing one goal, six points and a plus-3 rating in 12 games.
 
"Zid brings more mobility to our defense," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "He's balanced our defense even more and that's why it was so important to pick up a guy like that, especially when you lose a guy like [Henrik Tallinder]. That created a hole that Zid was able to fill pretty good."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 1:12 PM

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

Ovechkin: 'We just can't go home right now'

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin will all skate in their 50th career playoff games when the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals (7:30 p.m, ET, NBCSN, CBC).

In their first 49 playoff games, all with Washington and all since 2008, Ovechkin, Laich and Semin have faced elimination in a Game 6 three times. The Caps forced a Game 7 in all three instances.

They have no choice but to make it 4-for-4 if they hope to extend their 2012 postseason as they trail the Rangers 3-2 with Game 6 at Verizon Center.

"You don't want the season to start over for next year," Ovechkin said. "And you don't want season be ended tonight. It's going to be do-or-die. Right now everybody knows and everybody understands we just can't go home right now.

"I don't think we deserve to end the season. Everybody knows, I think, we [have a] good hockey club. We beat the Stanley Cup champion in Game 7 at home. … Last game they got a little luck… Tonight is going to be different game and tonight is going to be a much different atmosphere."

The Capitals will look to take advantage of the home crowd just as they did at the start of Game 4 when they outshot the Rangers 14-3 in the first period and led 1-0 at the first intermission.

The Rangers replied with a strong start of their own in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, outshooting the Caps 17-4 in the opening 20 minutes and grabbing a 1-0 lead.

Washington is 6-1 in the playoffs when scoring first; 0-5 when allowing the first goal.

"Tonight being down a game, we’re going to be desperate and we're going to throw everything at them," Troy Brouwer said. "We've played good in the games when we've been down in the series, and tonight especially being at home, we should have a lot of jump, we should have a lot of excitement in the building and we should be able to come out hard."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:40 PM

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

Projected Game 6 lineup for Rangers

WASHINGTON -- The only Ranger who didn't participate in practice at Verizon Center on Wednesday morning was Brandon Dubinsky, who remains out with a lower-body injury. Forward Mats Zuccarello was once again participating, but he told reporters Tuesday that he is still about two weeks away from being ready for a game.

If the lines that Rangers coach John Tortorella used for Game 5 hold, this is what the team will look like when they take the ice for Game 6 with a chance to eliminate the Washington Capitals:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Derek Stepan - Brandon Prust
Chris Kreider -John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:36 PM

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

Richards living up to billing as big-game player

WASHINGTON -- Brad Richards had his ups and downs during the regular season. He had two goals and no assists over 10 games in December and followed that with a stretch of three points in 12 games between January and February.

During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as is his modus operandi, he's been coming up big.

Richards is fifth in postseason scoring with 10 points in 12 games, including what could've been a season-saving goal with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Capitals on Monday night. The Rangers would go on to win in overtime and take a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 scheduled for Wednesday night in Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

In his postseason career, Richards has 72 points in 75 games and had seven-game winning goals during the Tampa Bay Lightning's run to Stanley Cup Final in 2004 when he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Rangers coach John Tortorella is known for his short answers, but it was fitting in this case when he was asked what makes Richards so good in the playoffs.

"He’s got 'it,'" said Tortorella, who coached Richards for seven seasons in Tampa Bay.

"I've known him since he was a kid, when he broke into the League," he said, "and he's made big plays at key times."

With the Rangers staring elimination in the eye in Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators in the conference quarterfinals, Richards put his team ahead for good by uncorking a slap shot during a 5-on-3 power play that ripped past goaltender Craig Anderson.

Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko was Richards' teammate in Tampa Bay four seasons, including 2004, and knows what Richards means to the Rangers' chances of winning a Stanley Cup this year.

"He's a good player. That's why the team got him in free agency -- to help us win the Cup," Fedotenko said. "One guy can't do it, but he's a big piece to the puzzle. He knows how to compete in the playoffs."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:30 PM

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

Fedotenko feels Rangers should come out aggressive

WASHINGTON -- Facing elimination Wednesday night at Verizon Center, the Capitals will most likely come out with a strong push in the first period against the Rangers, who lead the Eastern Conference Semifinal series 3-2.

Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who has played in 100 postseason games, said the key to facing a desperate team isn't weathering the first-period storm; it's actually the opposite.

"I say initiate it and just go for it, not sitting and weathering anything," Fedotenko said. "It's do-or-die. The other team is desperate. That's always the hardest game to win for the team that's trying to close it out. I feel like that's the biggest game for everybody."

The Rangers are one of the League's youngest teams, but they channeled their emotions positively when facing elimination in two instances during the first round against Ottawa. That's nothing new for Fedotenko, who has won two Stanley Cups in his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.

"For me, it's easier to control because I can focus on the bigger picture and whatever's happening, just deal with it," Fedotenko said. "For other people, maybe it's harder to control the emotion. Everybody wants to win."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:00 PM

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

Beagle doesn't practice, but Capitals say he'll play

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals have long described Jay Beagle as a teammate who treats every practice like a Game 7.

But with the Capitals looking to extend their Eastern Conference Semifinal series to a decisive seventh game, Beagle was the lone absentee from Washington's morning skate ahead of Game 6 Wednesday against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"He's fine," coach Dale Hunter said of his third line center. "I'm just resting his legs… He's fine. He's going to play."

Beagle blocked a shot from Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman early in the second period of Game 5 that got a piece of his leg. Beagle was limping after the blocked shot and played under 15 minutes for just the third time in his last 14 games.

"He's been big for us," Troy Brouwer said. "He's been great on the penalty kill, he's our only right-handed centerman and he's taken a lot of draws and done real well in that aspect. He does a great job out there, he kind of gets overlooked on this team, but he deserves a lot of credit for how he's played so far in the playoffs."

Added Karl Alzner: "Jay's been logging tons of minutes and he's been doing all the key things that have been helping us succeed, the little areas that a lot of times go unnoticed but are extremely important. Regardless of what happens, somebody else has a chance to do it now if he's not in the lineup."

While Hunter dismissed the possibility of Beagle missing Game 6, it appears that a contingency plan may be in place.

Veteran Jeff Halpern came off the ice Wednesday morning at the same time as the rest of the Caps' regulars instead of staying out for extra work with the healthy scratches.

Halpern has been a healthy scratch in 19 straight games dating back to the regular-season and in 24 of Washington's last 27 games.

The 36-year-old declined to comment on his status for tonight. If Beagle cannot play, Halpern could serve as the Caps' only right-handed center. Halpern led the Caps and was fifth in the League with a 58.3 faceoff percentage during the regular-season.

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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh