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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 3:16 PM

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

Devils and Flyers lineups for Game 1

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- It appears as though New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer and Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will do a little line shuffling for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
On Saturday, DeBoer moved Alexei Ponikarovsky from third-line duty to the top line alongside center Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise from the first line to the second with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus; and Petr Sykora from the second to third line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
During Flyers practice on Saturday, Laviolette broke up the productive trio of Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, giving Briere a new pair of wingers -- James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. Schenn moved from left wing to center, where he was flanked by Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers will also have Nicklas Grossmann returning to the lineup for the first time in three games after he sat out Games 5 and 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for both teams on Sunday:
 
FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
 
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson
 
Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
 
DEVILS
 
Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexei Ponikarovsky
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
David Clarkson - Adam Henrique - Petr Sykora
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Holtby looks to 'learn' for Game 2

NEW YORK -- In his young yet stellar career, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby has lost two games in a row just once, when he went 0-2-1 in his fourth, fifth and sixth games in the NHL.

Since that hiccup, Holtby is 16-6-2 including the playoffs and hasn't dropped two straight. The 22-year-old will look to avoid his second straight loss to the Rangers after a poor performance in a 3-1 setback in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Saturday.

"One of the things I've always been taught is bad games happen," Holtby said. "The key to consistency is not letting it happen twice. Bad things happen, but always be prepared for the next one."

All three goals allowed by Holtby were stoppable shots. Artem Anisimov beat him on a wraparound in the second period, Chris Kreider's long slap shot eluded Holtby's catching glove, and Brad Richards squeezed a shot through the goaltender's legs from a sharp angle near the left post.

Holtby said he was treating the situation as a learning experience.

"You learn way more from losing than you do from winning," Holtby said. "There's a lot to learn from that game, not only mentally but technically on some of the goals. It's just a matter of inches how I played them. It could've been a different game."

The goal Holtby lamented the most was the game-winning goal by Kreider, who said he fired a long shot instead of using the open ice to for a breakaway chance because he was exhausted at the end of the shift. Holtby attacked Kreider expecting the 1-on-1 chance, but wasn't ready for the slap shot.

"It surprised me," Holtby said. "I was out further thinking he was going to come in on a half-breakaway type thing. He released it, had a shot that fooled me, good placement, but one I definitely want to have."

Game 1 marked just the second time Holtby played at Madison Square Garden, which is notorious for having dim lighting in comparison to other NHL arenas. It didn't affect Holtby in the regular-season finale when he made 35 saves in a 4-1 victory, and the goaltender said that can't be an excuse for not playing well.

"Most of the new buildings are really bright and really white," Holtby said. "It is harder for a goalie, but both teams play with it. It’s not like (Rangers goaltender Henrik) Lundqvist at the other end has better sights than I do. It's hard, but both teams deal with it."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 2:27 PM

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

Semin skates with fourth line at Caps' practice

NEW YORK -- Alex Semin was an effective player for the Capitals during their first-round, seven-game series win against the Boston Bruins. He had three goals in the series and was showing a commitment to the defensive side of the game.

Semin was out of sorts Saturday during the Capitals' 3-1 loss to the Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, however. He took two penalties, one of which was a retaliatory penalty after he was hit by Rangers captain Ryan Callahan that negated a power play, had zero points and was on the ice for Chris Kreider's game-winning goal in the third period.

On Sunday, Semin found himself demoted to the fourth line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin at practice. Coach Dale Hunter said he was not sending a message with the move and defended his player's penalties.

"No, just mixing the lines up," Hunter said. "The one, he went for the puck and he hit a skate. The other one, both of them should've went. It was a cross check. If you watch the replay, the guy cross checked him first. But you can't retaliate. You just can't retaliate. The ref, he called one. He could've easily called two. But that's the way it goes."

Semin nearly scored during a second-period power play, but his wrist shot deflected off the arm of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the crossbar. Hunter said he expects Semin to continue to have an impact on the power play.

Defenseman Jeff Schultz, a healthy scratch for Game 1, was back with Dennis Wideman at practice with John Erskine out of the top-six mix.

Here are the rest of the line combinations from practice, none of which are guaranteed to hold during Game 2 of the series Monday night.

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joel Ward
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Alexander Semin

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 1:26 PM

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

Boyle feeling better, still not sure about Game 2

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers coach John Tortorella offered "no updates" on the status of injured forwards Brian Boyle (concussion) and Brandon Dubinsky (lower-body) after the team's optional practice Sunday.

Boyle appeared much closer to returning than Dubinsky, who was seen walking with crutches toward the training room once the media was allowed to enter the dressing room.

Dubinsky hurt himself in Game 7 against Ottawa and did not play in Game 1 against Washington Saturday.

Boyle went out of the lineup with a concussion prior to Game 6 against Ottawa, but said he is "feeling better each day." He skated hard Saturday morning and responded well. He was one of only 12 players on the ice Sunday.

Boyle said he has not had any setbacks, but he's not sure of what his status is for Game 2 Monday.

"It's progressed, but they're (concussions) not consistent with each guy," Boyle said. "Each guy feels different symptoms. So, I'm just trying to be honest with myself."

Boyle couldn't answer a question about if he would be able to play in Game 2 because he still has to talk with trainer Jim Ramsay as well as Tortorella.

"I wouldn't have really skated if I still felt foggy," he said. "I'm feeling better and better, so we'll see."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 1:19 PM

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

Flyers hope week off did them some good

PHILADELPHIA -- After a week away from the intensity of a Stanley Cup Playoff game, the Philadelphia Flyers will return to the ice Sunday against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

During their seven-day layoff, the Flyers practiced all but one day, as coach Peter Laviolette did his best to keep his team active.

"We tried to work on things we needed to work on," Laviolette told NHL.com. "Spend a lot of time on the power play, systems, skating. We didn't take any days off; we just kept pushing forward. We got a little bit healthier. We're hoping that we can take the rest and the time that we had off and put it to good use and be ready at the start of the hockey game."

Whether that health extends to defenseman Nicklas Grossmann remains to be seen. Grossmann sat out Games 5 and 6 of the first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with an upper-body injury that one teammate called a concussion. However, Grossmann skated with the full group at practice Friday and Saturday, and went through drills with Braydon Coburn, his regular defense partner.

Laviolette, as is his rule, refused to address injury or lineup questions. If Grossmann does play, it's believed Pavel Kubina would be a healthy scratch, with rookie Erik Gustafsson, who had a goal and a team-high seven blocked shots in Game 6 against the Pens, staying in.

With the early start time here at Wells Fargo Center, the team did not have a morning skate. Here is the way the Flyers' lines looked at practice Saturday; whether those lines and pairings carry into the game, however, won't be known until the puck drops

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

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

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Forwards Zac Rinaldo and Jody Shelley will be healthy scratches. If Grossmann can't play, Pavel Kubina would return to the lineup. Kubina was a healthy scratch in Game 1 against the Penguins. He returned to the lineup for the final five games after Marc-Andre Bourdon was injured, but averaged just 10:35 of ice time per game, the fewest of any Philadelphia blueliner.

In four games against the Devils in the regular season, Bryzgalov was 3-0-0 with a 0.29 goals-against average and .987 save percentage -- he allowed one goal on 76 shots.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 1:16 PM

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

DeBoer not revealing lineup combinations

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer refused to show his hand two hours before faceoff in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
 
DeBoer switched his top three lines around during the team's Saturday practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion in Newark, N.J., in preparation for the Flyers but would not reveal to the media during his post-game availability whether or not those combinations would stick.

The coach promoted Alexei Ponikarovsky from third-line duty to the top line alongside center Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise from the first line to the second with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus; and Petr Sykora from the second to third line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
"We're going to get through warm-ups and see how everyone feels and then make some decisions," DeBoer said. "I feel comfortable and think our group feels comfortable with where we're at, and we're excited to start."
 
When asked if his team is dealing with health issues, DeBoer smiled.
 
"You're always dealing with health issues this time of year," he said. "This will be a totally different series [than against Florida]. I know that we're familiar with each other and each knows the strengths and weaknesses. For me, that team with the most composure and smarts will win."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 10:37 AM

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

Bryzgalov looms as a challenge for Devils

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has owned the New Jersey Devils in three regular-season meetings this season.
 
In fact, he's allowed just one goal on 76 shots.
 
Is that a concern for Devils coach Pete DeBoer?
 
"This is a whole different [time] of year, so regular season stats don't mean a heck of a lot," DeBoer said. "There's a different type of pressure, so I don't put a whole lot of stock in what happened in the regular season."
 
The hockey world will find out if Bryzgalov really does have the Devils number Sunday afternoon when the teams face off in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series here at Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m., NBC, CBC, RDS).
 
Bryzgalov finished 3-0-0 against the Devils in the regular season with a ridiculous 0.29 goals-against average, two shutuouts, and .987 save percentage. The Flyers consider that reassuring.
 
The Devils' players consider it a challenge they'll have to overcome.
 
"He's a big goalie and covers a lot of net with his butterfly style, so we have to create traffic and score that way," Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "He's great but we must find a way to score. It'll be interesting because we have the best goalie of all time … we'll see."
 
The only Devil to score on Bryzgalov this season was Alexei Ponikarovsky in a 4-1 loss on Jan. 21 in Newark, N.J. For his career, Bryzgalov is 4-1-0 with a 1.28 GAA and .950 save percentage; his only loss coming as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
"I haven't seen him play too much over his career since he was out West," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "I know he's been up and down, but we also know he can put some good games together and when [they] counted, he played well. We'll have to be conscious of him to make his life hard in net."
 
Despite leading the Flyers to a six-game series victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round, Bryzgalov sported a hefty 3.89 GAA and unimpressive .871 save percentage.
 
Kovalchuk feels those statistics may be deceiving since the Penguins did lead the League with 3.33 goals-per game during the regular season.
 
"He's in his first season in Philly … it's different than Phoenix where there wasn't as much pressure and focus," Kovalchuk said. "I don't think he played that bad against Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has a great offense and people there know how score goals; we have to do the same thing."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 12:00 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

NHL statement on Dwight King hit

Kay Whitmore, NHL supervisor of officiating for Blues-Kings series, answered questions from a pool reporter on the hit by Kings' forward Dwight King on St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the second period. King was assessed a minor penalty on the play:

Q: What did the officials see on Dwight King's hit, and what went into the decision to give King a two-minute minor?

Whitmore:
Their judgment of the degree of violence ... they deemed it a minor penalty and that's why they called it a minor. It's their judgment. They see the whole play unfold and they didn't deem in this instance obviously that King drove [Pietrangelo] into the boards. It was a hit, he was in a vulnerable position, but they didn't deem it violent enough to call a major."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 11:11 PM

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

Kreider is the toast of the town

Three weeks after leading Boston College to the NCAA championship, Chris Kreider is the toast of New York.

Kreider signed with the Rangers after BC's title game victory on April 7, and he's one of the big reasons New York beat Ottawa in the first round and leads Washington 1-0 in the second. In his six games as a pro, Kreider has a pair of game-winning goals -- including the winner in Saturday's 3-1 victory against the Caps -- making him the first Rangers rookie to get more than one in the same year since Mike Allison in 1981 to get more than one.

Kreider, the first player since John Byce in 1990 to go directly from winning an NCAA championship into the playoffs, had the winning goal and an assist in the Rangers' 3-2 win in Game 6 against Ottawa, then did the same thing on Saturday against the Caps. The 20-year-old is the youngest Ranger to score a playoff goal since Niklas Sundstrom in 1996; he's just the third player ever to score a playoff goal for New York before playing in a regular-season game for the Rangers.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 6:31 PM

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

Lineup tweaks possible for both teams in Game 2

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Neither the Phoenix Coyotes nor the Nashville Predators will skate Sunday morning due to the 5 p.m. local time start for Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal series. But both coaches hinted that lineup changes could be coming.

The Coyotes may make a change on defense with David Schlemko or Michael Stone subbing for either Adrian Aucoin or Derek Morris. Marc-Antoine is also an option up front.

Nashville could go with Colin Wilson, who has yet to make his first postseason appearance but took the pregame skate on Friday for the first time. He skated with the scratches on Saturday, but Predators coach Barry Trotz said Wilson would be the first player in if he makes a change, with Craig Smith (9:29 of ice in Game 1) most likely to be replaced.

Ray Whitney's goal 14:04 into overtime gave the Coyotes a 4-3 win in Game 1.

Here is what the lineups for the Coyotes and Predators could look like for Game 2 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS):

Predators

Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Andrei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Yip - Paul Gaustad - Craig Smith/Craig Wilson

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Hal Gill

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Coyotes

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Lauri Korpikoski
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Shane Doan
Kyle Chipchura - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris/David Schlemko
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin/Michael Stone


Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera


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Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players