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Posted On Friday, 05.17.2013 / 1:02 PM

By Chris Adamski - Correspondent / - Penguins-Senators series blog

Spezza return could come as early as Game 3

PITTSBURGH -- It won't be for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday night, but Jason Spezza continues to inch closer to a return to the Ottawa Senators lineup.

The team won't rule out the chance his 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs debut will come Sunday.

Coach Paul MacLean said he expects Spezza to join the team for what figures to be an optional practice in Ottawa on Saturday. Spezza, who hasn't played since Jan. 27 because of a back injury that required surgery, has been skating on his own in Ottawa in recent days and MacLean reported the center is making progress.

"We will see him [Saturday] and we'll go through [Saturday's] practice and the pregame skate for Sunday and we'll see where it is," MacLean said after the morning skate Friday at Consol Energy Center. "But if he's available to us, you know, it's Jason Spezza. We're going to have him in the lineup if he's available."

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Posted On Friday, 05.17.2013 / 12:25 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor / - Penguins-Senators series blog

Bylsma supports MacLean as Jack Adams winner

PITTSBURGH -- Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean is one of the finalists for the Jack Adams Award, joining Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks and Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks in contention for the NHL's coach of the year award.

The coach MacLean is facing in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Pittsburgh Penguins head man Dan Bylsma, said he believes MacLean might be the most-deserving of the finalists.

"He deserves it," Bylsma said Friday morning before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. "I wasn't casting a vote, but certainly what he's done, you talk about last year coming into an Ottawa Senators team that he didn't know what to expect or where they would be at, he did a great job last year.

"But this year, different challenges for his team and group and they've dealt with some injuries and still consistently been a good hockey team without some of their key guys and with some of their key guys, and I would have cast a vote for him as well."

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Posted On Friday, 05.17.2013 / 11:50 AM

By Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor / - Penguins-Senators series blog

Letang, Adams not present for Pens' morning skate

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins created a bit of intrigue Friday morning at their morning skate when neither top defenseman Kris Letang nor checking forward Craig Adams took the ice for the 35-minute session.

Their status for Game 2 against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night at the Consol Energy Center is unknown.

There was no reason provided for the absences, but it should be noted each took part in a long -- and high-paced -- practice Thursday.

"The people on the ice this morning and our injuries are a non-discussion," coach Dan Bylsma said after the morning skate.

With Letang missing, Mark Eaton slid into the rotation on the blue line. Forward Jussi Jokinen took Adams' spot. Each played in the first-round victory against the New York Islanders before being replaced by injured players returning to the lineup.

This is how the Penguins looked during the morning skate:

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Posted On Friday, 05.17.2013 / 11:15 AM

By Staff -  / - Penguins-Senators series blog

Vokoun set to start Game 2 for Penguins

Tomas Vokoun confirmed Friday morning he will be back in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, RDS, CBC).

Since taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury, who played the first four games of the first round against the New York Islanders, the veteran Vokoun has won all three starts while posting an NHL-best postseason save percentage of .962 and a goals-against average of 1.28 that is second only to the Chicago Blackhawks' Corey Crawford (1.27).

Coach Dan Bylsma, as per his policy, did not discuss the Penguins' lineup at his morning press conference, nor would he address the reason defenseman Kris Letang and forward Craig Adams did not participate in the morning skate. Both players practiced fully on Thursday.

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Posted On Thursday, 05.16.2013 / 8:05 PM

By Matt Kalman - Correspondent / - Bruins-Rangers series blog

Ference, Seidenberg, Redden out for Bruins

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien was right to be pessimistic Thursday morning about having any of his injured defenseman in the lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers (NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

"They weren't on the ice this morning. Doesn't look good," Julien said after his team's morning skate at TD Garden.

In place of Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden, the Bruins inserted rookies Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton against the Rangers, and Torey Krug, who is making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.

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Posted On Thursday, 05.16.2013 / 5:31 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Detroit defensemen see need to improve

CHICAGO – Entering the Western Conference Semifinals, the Detroit Red Wings' hopes of upsetting the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks hinged on the play of their defensemen, especially in the defensive zone.

The Red Wings knew it. Yet there they were in the last 40 minutes of Game 1 on Wednesday night at United Center with pretty much all of their worst nightmares coming to fruition.

They turned over the puck too much against an endless wave of fresh Blackhawks forecheckers. They got stuck on the ice for long stretches and felt their legs turn to jelly. They couldn't complete those desperately needed first passes to the forwards in order to exit the defensive zone for a rush up the ice.

They also wound up hanging goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 38 saves in the contest, out to dry on a night in which he battled hard to keep them in the game. Now it's up to the Red Wings -- especially their blueliners -- to fix things for Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m., NBC, CBC).

"I think it took way too long for us to get out of our own zone, and when we get out we don't have any energy to attack, so we had to [take chances]," said Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who played on Detroit's top pairing with Niklas Kronwall. "We have to do a much better job in the [defensive zone] and the [defense] has to do a better job of getting the pucks up and the forwards have to do a better job being open."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.16.2013 / 5:00 PM

By Chris Adamski - Correspondent / - Penguins-Senators series blog

Neal, Iginla show flexibility in switching wings

PITTSBURGH -- While outsiders fret over the thought putting usual right wings James Neal and Jarome Iginla on the same line, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has a quick quip of a retort.

"The best thing I can tell you is that James Neal never played the right side when he got here," Bylsma said. "He said, 'I only play the left.' I said, 'That's great, that's four or five minutes a game you won't be playing with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.'

"He circled back around and he said, 'Hey, I'll try the right.'"

Bylsma's point was that forwards can make it work if put in the right situation -- even if on an unfamiliar wing. And with the Penguins tending to stick with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis as Crobsy's wings, that leaves Neal and Iginla for Malkin.

Nice consolation prize. From one Hart Trophy winner to another as your center.

"I've been really lucky to get a chance to play with both Sid and Geno," said Iginla, who was acquired from the Calgary Flames in a March 28 trade. "The lines do shake up however the flow of the game is gong. We're prepared to play whatever the dynamic is."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.16.2013 / 4:44 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Stalberg scratch not about ice-time complaint

CHICAGO -- The Viktor Stalberg saga took another little turn Thursday afternoon at United Center, when Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville met with reporters a day after Chicago's 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings in the opening game of the Western Conference Semifinal series.

Quenneville denied the accuracy of a report Wednesday by the Chicago Tribune that Stalberg, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, was being punished. The report, citing an unidentified source, said Stalberg approached an unnamed Blackhawks coach about his diminished role on the power play in the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Minnesota Wild.

After logging more than two minutes a game on the man-advantage during 47 games of the regular season, Stalberg averaged 11 seconds of power-play time while playing all five games against the Wild. Quenneville, who did have a conversation with the speedy third-line wing about the situation, was asked directly about the report Thursday by the Tribune's Chris Kuc. The coach categorically denied its validity.

"First of all, that story is 100 percent inaccurate," Quenneville said. "Viktor didn't play and he knows the reasons why. It had nothing to do with anything about our conversation. It was strictly nothing to do with that at all."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.16.2013 / 4:33 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Blackhawks' Kruger learning lessons from Toews

CHICAGO -- Marcus Kruger sits next to Jonathan Toews in the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room at United Center, so he doesn’t have to go far to seek advice from his captain.

That works inversely as well. Toews can turn and speak to the 22-year-old Swedish forward when something’s on his mind.

“Every game I get in his ear and tell him to shoot the puck or just go to the net and he's going to get an ugly one, so he scored a nice one last night,” Toews said.

The nice one he was referring to was a goal that put the Blackhawks in front 3-1 against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

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Posted On Thursday, 05.16.2013 / 4:30 PM

By Chris Adamski - Correspondent / - Penguins-Senators series blog

Senators look to Latendresse for physical spark

PITTSBURGH -- Over the 48 hours since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean has taken virtually any opportunity to talk about how his team's competition level and physicality needed to improve if they had a chance of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Enter 6 feet, 2 inches and 230 pounds of competition level and physicality.

Guillaume Latendresse was with the Senators' third line during practice Thursday and appears poised to be part of Ottawa's lineup for Game 2 of the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I'm pretty excited, that's for sure, and very happy to have a chance to play again and be part of the team," Latendresse said.

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Quote of the Day

I definitely think going back down helped me, I had a lot of confidence down there, I played a lot of minutes and I think that helped me a lot. With the 37 games up here, that gave me experience as well. I know what it takes to play in the NHL and now it's time for me to show that I'm capable of being a full-time NHL player.

— Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl on finishing the 2014-15 season in juniors after playing 37 games with Edmonton to begin the season