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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 3:39 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Coyotes' sacrifice blocking shots paying off

CHICAGO -- Shane Doan grabbed a scoresheet following Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series and smiled.

After looking at the 'blocked shot' category for his Phoenix Coyotes, he held up a hand for a high five from defenseman Keith Yandle -- after informing his teammate they'd combined to stop 10 Chicago Blackhawks shots from even getting to goalie Mike Smith.

It was a good snapshot of the Coyotes' entire series against the Hawks, who've outshot them by a wide margin and still trail 3-2 after the previous five games were all decided in overtime.

"We talk all the time about [how] we have to do whatever it takes to win," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "And [we say] if the other team is shooting the puck a lot, we'd better be in the lanes as much as we can."

Mission accomplished on that front, so far.

Heading into Monday night's Game 6 at United Center, Phoenix has blocked 109 of Chicago's shots -- which ranks fourth most in the playoffs and is the most of any Western Conference team so far. Conversely, the Blackhawks have blocked just 53 shots -- but also faced far fewer pucks shot toward them.

Chicago is second overall in shots and first in the West with 202, while the Coyotes have launched just 139 shots at Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford -- the second-lowest amount among Western Conference teams, ahead of just Nashville.

That includes just 19 shots total in each of the past two games -- an overtime win in Game 4 followed by an OT loss in Game 5 at home Saturday night. The Coyotes might look to pick up the tempo at least a little bit for Game 6, as their offensive numbers in those last two games were even difficult for them to see.

"I think the whole game we played too conservatively," Yandle said of the Game 5 loss. "I don't know if we expected them to give us a win or it just to be handed to us, but I think the whole game we were a little behind the eight ball and I think tonight we've just got to push the pace a little more and forget about last game."

As long as they don't forget about getting in the shooting lanes defensively and sacrificing their bodies to stop shots, Tippett will be OK with that rationale.

"[Coyotes development coach] Dave King has a great saying and it's, 'Loose pucks and ice bags,' and if we didn't have ice bags on after the game we didn't play hard enough," Tippett said after the Coyotes morning skate. "That includes blocking shots."
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Hossa visit provides Hawks with extra motivation

CHICAGO -- There is no shortage of motivations to pick from in this Western Conference Quarterfinal series for the Chicago Blackhawks.

There's the spot they put themselves, getting down 3-1 in the series and trying to overcome the odds of being eliminated when they face the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday in Game 6 (9 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN).

There's last season's first-round exit in overtime of Game 7 in Vancouver that's still a bitter memory. And then there's star teammate Marian Hossa, who will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

Hossa, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher in Game 3 after an illegal hit by now-suspended Phoenix forward Raffi Torres, visited his teammates Monday for the first time since the incident happened.

Apparently, just seeing Hossa's face was all the motivation some players needed.

"He's our teammate and me ... I'm close with him," forward Michael Frolik said. "He's from Slovakia, so we are close friends. When it happened, we said in the room, 'We have to play for him,' and you don't want to see things like that. It maybe gets us closer and ... for sure, we're trying to win for him."

Viktor Stalberg took it a step further by saying the Hawks also want to win the series just to extend the playoffs and see if Hossa possibly could return from his injury to play again.

"You never want to see a guy go down like that," Stalberg said. "We'd certainly like to have him in the lineup. He's been our best player all season long. It definitely hurts us, but hopefully he's getting better and you never know, we might get him back at some point if we keep progressing. I think that's the ultimate goal ... to get him a chance to get back here."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said there is no news to report as far as Hossa's injury condition, but believed just getting back around the team was a positive for all parties.

While Hossa won't be returning anytime soon, Chicago will get rookie forward Andrew Shaw back for Game 6 after he served a three-game suspension for running into Phoenix goalie Mike Smith behind the net in Game 2.

Shaw said he doesn't think the incident will change the intensity that allows him to overcome a perceived size disadvantage to be a pest for opponents at both ends of the ice.

"I'm just going to play my game and not change a thing," Shaw said. "Those things happen once in a while. Accidents do happen, but I'm just going to stick to my game and do the best that I can do."

He's also thrilled to get what he called a "second chance at the playoffs" after watching the Hawks win Game 5 in Phoenix in overtime -- which gave him the opportunity to get back in his first postseason series.

"I'm so excited," Shaw said. "When [Toews] scored there in overtime, I was hooting and hollering all around the [locker room], just excited to get another chance to play in the playoffs."
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Projected Game 6 lineups

CHICAGO -- Here is a look at how the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks might line up on Monday night at United Center for Game 6 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Chicago will get rookie Andrew Shaw back from a three-game suspension and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he will draw into the lineup somewhere. However, at the morning skate Shaw wasn't among the top four lines and skated instead with Brandon Bollig and Jamal Mayers -- who are expected to be healthy scratches again.

Phoenix center Martin Hanzal, who's missed the last three games of the series with a lower-body injury, skated in the morning and will be a game-time decision for Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. Phoenix leads the series 3-2 and is looking to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup Playoffs series since 1987.

COYOTES

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

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

BLACKHAWKS

Bryan Bickell - Jonathan Toews - Viktor Stalberg
Patrick Sharp - Patrick Kane - Andrew Shaw
Brendan Morrison - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Marcus Kruger - Jimmy Hayes

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Sean O'Donnell

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 2:14 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Julien explains decision to sit Thornton in Game 6

BOSTON -- Prior to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday, Bruins coach Claude Julien had to make a difficult decision about his lineup.

He hadn't changed any of his forwards through the first five games, but for Game 6 against Washington he opted to insert rookie Jordan Caron and sit out veteran Shawn Thornton.

"Well, it certainly wasn't related to play. It was related to a decision I had to make just before the game," Julien said Monday during his team's first off day prior to Game 7 on Wednesday. "Those are -- [it's] hard for me to give you that reason right now because it would probably open up a can of worms, so I'm going to leave it at that. It's certainly not because of Thornton's play; it's because of necessity."

It's assumed that Julien's "can of worms" refers to the injury Patrice Bergeron played through. The Bruins veteran center was second in the NHL in faceoff percentage during the regular season, but he only took one draw in Game 6. It's assumed Bergeron is battling through an upper-body injury from Game 6.

Based on the nature of the injury, Julien probably didn't know how much Bergeron would be able to give the Bruins in Game 6 and needed someone of Caron's skill set in the lineup instead of Thornton.

"He's a competitor and he's a really valuable player to our team. I know he handled the situation well, but I'm sure it's killing him to not be able to play," said Gregory Campbell, Thornton's frequent linemate. "We'll see what happens Wednesday. He's always ready."



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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 2:11 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Report: Silfverberg in Game 6 lineup

According to an article by Henrik Sjoberg on Expressen.se, Ottawa Senators forward Jakob Silfverberg will make his NHL debut in Game 6 against the New York Rangers on Monday at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC). Ottawa has a 3-2 lead in the series and can close the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with a win against the top-seeded Rangers.

"I'm playing," Silfverberg says in the article.

Silfverberg is fresh from helping Brynas capture the Swedish Elite League championship April 19. The 21-year-old led Brynas players in postseason scoring with 20 points, including a new league-high of 13 goals (surpassing Daniel Alfredsson's 2005 record of 12).

Alfredsson, who has missed the past three games with a concussion, also is in the Game 6 lineup for the Senators.

Silfverberg took part in the morning skate Monday, seeing time on the top line with Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza. After the skate, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said he still was considering the possibility of playing Silfverberg.

The player, though, said the decision already has been made.

"I'm slated to play with Spezza and Michalek but I'm pretty sure they'll shuffle the lines quite a bit so we'll just see," Silfverberg said in the Expressen.se article.
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 1:28 PM

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

Brodeur: 'Scoring first would help' Devils in Game 6

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur feels getting that first goal of the game in a must-win situation might help alleviate some pressure.
 
Add in the fact the Devils were shut out in Game 5 on Saturday by the Florida Panthers, working for that opening goal could instill some needed confidence.
 
"Scoring first would help," Brodeur said. "I think just for the psyche of players and especially coming from a game where we didn't score. You just don't want to get their goalie in a rhythm again, so you try to get goals on him as quick as possible.
 
"But sometimes it might not happen and you just work through that."
 
The team scoring first in this best-of-seven series has gone on to win four of the five games so far. The only time the team scoring first couldn't hold the lead was Game 3 in Newark, when the Devils opened a 3-0 lead and ultimately lost, 4-3.
 
"It would be nice [scoring first], but I don't think we'll get off the ice and leave if we don't," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We'd love to get the crowd into the game early and make it a tough atmosphere for Florida to play in. If the game is zeroes, we're going to keep playing the same way, whether we're up or down two goals because, in this series, you have seen three-goal leads disappear quickly. If it doesn't happen, that's alright."
 
DeBoer said it certainly wouldn't create a sense of chaos on the bench if the Panthers struck first on Tuesday in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. The Panthers hold a 3-2 series edge.
 
"It's not necessarily important that we score first," DeBoer said. "We just have to play a solid game, that's what we have to do. If we're playing well, and they end up with the first goal, I'm not concerned about the outcome."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 1:17 PM

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

Devils' Sykora has hit a wall

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils left wing Petr Sykora was certainly one of the surprise additions to the roster out of training camp this season.
 
He turned out to be a key cog in New Jersey's regular-season turnaround, connecting for 21 goals, 44 points and a plus-4 rating in 82 games. But Sykora has hit the proverbial wall through five playoff games as the only forward on the team not to produce a single point in his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers.
 
"Right now, I'm not really scoring but hopefully that will turn around and I'll put some points on the board," Sykora told NHL.com. "I just want to finish strong and go as far as possible and who knows, we may get pretty far."
 
The Devils will host the Panthers at Prudential Center Tuesday in Game 6 of a best-of-seven series they now trail, 3-2.
 
The 35-year-old Sykora split the entire 2010-11 campaign between HC Plzen in his native Czech Republic and Dynamo Minsk in the KHL before entering training camp with the Devils on a tryout basis last summer. He'd ultimately sign and earn a spot as third-line center, but his solid play would soon have him playing second-line wing with Dainius Zubrus and his old pal, Patrik Elias.
 
It was really the one line coach Pete DeBoer kept intact the entire regular season. Following Monday's practice, DeBoer was asked if he has expected more out of the Elias line in this series.
 
"No, I've been satisfied," he said. "It's gone in spurts and waves, and different guys have stepped up at different times. I think from an offensive point of view, we've gotten contributions from just about everyone up front at different points and that's all you could ask for."
 
Sykora has been grateful to be given another chance with the Devils.
 
"It's been a blast ... it's been a long time coming but you play with good players and you earn your ice time and everything kind of falls in place," Sykora said. "I'm fortunate to be playing with great players this year, mostly with Patty [Elias] and Zubby [Zurbus]. We've been clicking throughout the whole season and now we're in the playoffs, so it's been good."
 
Still, one could sense a bit of disappointment in Sykora's voice over his lack of production on offense in the opening-round series. After all, Sykora has reached the 20-goal mark in 11 of his 15 NHL seasons. He is seeking his first postseason goal since 2008, when he struck for six goals and nine points in 20 playoff games as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
Sykora would gladly trade goals for wins at this stage in the season, though. He feels the team just needs to get back to the determined effort it put forth in Game 4, when it scored a 4-0 victory.
 
"When the team is clicking and going the way you want to go, it's always easier to play," Sykora said. "I think it's way tougher when it's not going well. In Game 4, everything kind of clicked, the penalty-kill, power-play and five-on-five play. You can feel it on the bench when everything is clicking, the energy is better and everything kind of falls in place."
 
DeBoer knows it takes more than one player or one line to be successful this time in the season.
 
"We haven't been a one line team and have had different contributions from different guys at different points," DeBoer said. "I think the key over the last two games is to get multiple lines going on the same night, that's the key."
 
The Devils will need to be clicking on all cylinders Tuesday if they have any intention of extending their season.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 1:12 PM

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

DeBoer expects Devils' best in must-win situation

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils hit the ice on Monday for the first time since their loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, skating hard and with a purpose at AmeriHealth Pavilion.
 
All the players were on the ice, including rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who has been a healthy scratch for 10 of the team's last 11 games, including the regular season. Coach Pete DeBoer had the usual line combinations intact as his team went through a brisk, businesslike, 40-minute workout in preparation for the Panthers. The coach also told the media not to expect any line adjustments for Game 6 on Tuesday, in which the Devils are facing elimination, down 3-2 in the series.
 
"I think we needed to ramp up our intensity [at practice]," DeBoer said. "It was one area we felt wasn't high enough last game, and that was part of the focus [Monday]. It was short and was a hard practice, and that's how we have to play [Tuesday] night."

Goalie Martin Brodeur, who will likely make his 176th straight playoff start on Tuesday, doesn't believe the extra day off will effect either team at this point in the series.
 
"If we don't win, we're not playing anymore," Brodeur said. "It's a tough situation to be in, but we have to embrace it."
 
DeBoer anticipates his team to be playing their best in a must-win situation.
 
"I expect we'll be very good," he said. "When our backs have been up against the wall at different points or the pressure has been on this season, we've responded in a positive fashion every time. That's what I expect.
 
"Pressure comes with playoffs. I don't think you have to say anything about it. The guys understand the situation they're in. They can count, and they know we've got to win."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise said there's pressure on everyone to contribute in a game of this magnitude, and he expects that to happen.
 
"We had a good skate, up-tempo practice," Parise said. "We did some things we needed to work on, and hopefully we'll be better. There's pressure on everyone … everyone has to have their best game. This isn't an individual sport and it never will be."
 
If the Devils are eliminated in either six or seven games, would Brodeur consider it one of his most disappointing playoff setbacks?
 
"I'll be honest, losing in the Stanley Cup Final [in 2001] was probably the hardest thing I ever went through and, then, losing to the Rangers in the conference final [in 1994] was probably the second hardest," Brodeur said. "When you're so far from the goal and you lose, it's hard at the moment, but I think you go over it but look at the team that had success and played you and realize what they were able to do. But when you're so close, and go through adversity and success, you're like one of the other 29 teams … you're not going to win the Stanley Cup. But it's worth giving it a shot. I was lucky to win three of them, and the upside is a lot better than the downside."
 
Here are the projected lineups for the Devils in Game 6:
 
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 12:42 PM

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

Game 6 lineup for Rangers

OTTAWA -- It appears the only lineup change for the New York Rangers heading into Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Ottawa Senators will be the insertion of Carl Hagelin in the place of Brian Boyle, who is out with a concussion.

Hagelin was suspended the past three games for an elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2.

Hagelin will likely return to his place on the left wing with center Brad Richards and right wing Marian Gaborik on the top line. With Boyle out, the Rangers could turn to Brandon Dubinsky to center the team's third line, which has matched up with Ottawa's top line that features Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.

As is customary in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, lineups are subject to the change, but this is likely what the Rangers will look like at Scotiabank Place.

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brandon Dubinsky - 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 Monday, 04.23.2012 / 12:37 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Alfredsson 'looking forward' to returning

OTTAWA -- After missing three games with a concussion, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson is ready to return to the lineup for Game 6 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers on Monday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Alfredsson was injured midway through Game 2 when he was elbowed in the head by the Rangers' Carl Hagelin.

"I feel good," Alfredsson said. "[Sunday] went well, and I expected to feel good. I'm looking forward to [Monday]."

Alfredsson knows his return will be noted by the Rangers, but doesn't feel like coming back from injury makes him a target.

"I don't think I'm any more of a target than anyone else," he said. "I can't put a stop sign on the back of my jersey. I think everyone knows that if you're going to play in the playoffs, you're going to be expected to be treated the same as everyone else. I feel physically fine to be able to handle the physical play."

The captain downplayed the fact that his re-joining the team coincides with the Senators' first chance to close the series. Ottawa currently leads the best-of-seven matchup 3-2.

"It's just another game," Alfredsson said. "As you go deeper into series, the magnitude gets bigger and bigger -- we expect nothing but the best from the Rangers, and we're going to have to play our best, battle for 60 [minutes] or whatever it's going to take."

Coach Paul MacLean said he's grateful to have his team's leader back in the lineup, and hopes he can help out on special teams.

"[Alfredsson] is the captain, he's been here a long time, I think it means a lot to us to have him back in the lineup," MacLean said. "I think he can make the power play better, and just having him in there is going to be a good shot for our team."

Added Jason Spezza: "[Alfredsson] is our leader and we tried to hold things up pretty well while he was away, but we're always happiest when he's out on the ice with us."
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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