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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Theodore, Garrison part of Panthers' optional practice

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Goalie Jose Theodore and defenseman Jason Garrison were back on the ice Wednesday when the Florida Panthers held an optional practice.

Theodore was scratched for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against New Jersey Tuesday because of what was described as a lower-body injury.

Garrison has missed the last three games of the series after being a late scratch prior to Game 4 Thursday. He hadn't practiced since.

Along with Garrison and Theodore, the only players on the ice for the Panthers on Wednesday were Game 6 healthy scratches Mike Santorelli, Krystofer Barch and Mike Santorelli, along with defenseman Keaton Ellerby, who missed the last two games after sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 4. Ellerby, seeing his first action since March 15, was in the lineup in Garrison's place.

Game 7 is scheduled for Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at the BankAtlantic Center.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 7 lineup for Capitals

BOSTON -- Jeff Schultz has watched the past three games for the Washington Capitals, but he expects to be back in the lineup for Game 7 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Wednesday night at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins.

John Erskine replaced Schultz in the lineup for Games 4, 5 and 6, but Schultz skated with Dennis Wideman on Washington's third defense pairing in practice Tuesday, and Erskine stayed on the ice for extra work Wednesday morning.

"It will be great," Schultz said. "It was tough watching, but [Erskine] did a great job after not playing for a long time. Now is it is key for me to come back and fill in for him. It is just a matter of going out there and playing. It isn't about worrying about mistakes or playing time -- just go out there and play and do what you do best and do your job."

Alexander Semin did not take part in the morning skate, but coach Dale Hunter said it was optional and he is fine to play. The Capitals are not expected to make any other changes to the lineup.

Here's how the Capitals should look Wednesday night:

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

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

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:54 PM

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

Caron prepared as last-minute addition to lineup

BOSTON -- Sometimes players perform better when they're surprised.

That's what Boston Bruins forward Jordan Caron found out Sunday, when he learned after warmup that he would be in the lineup for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington.

Caron, who hadn't played since April 7 in the Bruins' regular-season finale, made his NHL playoff debut in Boston's 4-3 overtime win. Luckily, over the course of his first full season in the NHL, he's gotten used to going long stretches where he's had to stay sharp even when he wasn't going to play.

"I think it's just a lot of it is mental. I think you just need to prepare even if you don't know if you're playing a lot. You've just got to be ready to jump in and do your job," Caron said Wednesday after the Bruins' morning skate.

Caron probably won't find out about his status for Game 7 until after warmup again. Caron and veteran forward Shawn Thornton, who was the healthy scratch in Game 6, rotated in on Boston's fourth line with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell during line drills at TD Garden.

In Game 6, Caron's ice time was limited to 4:56 and he and his linemates finished the afternoon with a minus-1 rating. But he threw a big hit that created a scoring chance for Campbell, and during his sporadic playing time he looked like the solid two-way player he was during his 48 games in the regular season. He finished the season with seven goals and 15 points, while skating time on pretty much all of Boston's four lines.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he spoke with Caron before the start of the series about being on-call.

"Well we talked to him before the series started, because I thought if anything, he was a real good player for us in that last stretch of the regular season. And it was tough to take him out but we went with some experienced guys, first and foremost," Julien said. "The one thing that we said to him -- we said you've got to stay ready because there's going to come a point where we're going to need you, and obviously we did last game."

While Julien would not disclose the reason he made a lineup change up front for the first time in the series, it's widely believed that Boston did not know how much it would get out of an injured Patrice Bergeron. Caron's skill set and versatility made him a better option for the Bruins if they needed someone to play up in the lineup.

The 21-year-old Caron impressed one of his veteran linemates.

"He did really good," Paille said. "Coming in there, stepping in for playing for Bergy possibly as well, I thought he did a good job. Other than getting scored against, I thought we created some opportunities early on. But he did good for his first game."

Once again, Caron will be ready should Julien have the equipment staff hang a No. 38 stall in the rookie's stall for Game 7.

"I think you just got to stay composed and take it as another game. Of course it's different, but you've got to forget about it, jump out there and be confident," Caron said. "I don't know if I'm going to be playing, but if I am I just got to stay calm and do my job."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:06 PM

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

Barry Melrose breaks down Kings-Blues

As a one-time player, coach and broadcaster, who better to size up the second-round matchup between the Kings and Blues than Barry Melrose? Never mind the fact that he was Los Angeles’ head coach for three seasons, guiding them to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. In his latest video, Barry breaks down a series between two teams that share some interesting similarities.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 11:57 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Why I'm picking home teams to win Game 7s

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and normally includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League. However, with three Game 7s upcoming in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, JR switched his format for this week to analyze the games: Washington at Boston; Ottawa at New York; and New Jersey at Florida.

The road teams have dominated in these playoffs so far, but I've got the home teams winning these upcoming Game 7s. Here's why:

Washington at Boston

First off, I think this will be a very low-scoring game. However, I like the Bruins to squeak it out.

They're not going to be nervous. They are coming off a Stanley Cup win and three Game 7s, one of those being in the Stanley Cup Final. They're going to come out flying and feeling good that they got to Game 7 after winning Game 6. And if you want a goalie in the net for a Game 7, you want Tim Thomas.

Thomas is a guy who lives for games like these with the way he plays, his aggression, his style. He likes to be the center of attention, so I think Boston is going to take this just because Thomas is going to try to take over this game himself.

Tyler Seguin getting on the board scoring that overtime goal in Game 6 could spur him as well. He's going to be flying because whenever you're a top guy and you start getting points, score a goal, whatever, that pressure comes off of you and you really start moving better, skating better, making better decisions.

I must admit that I've been impressed with the way Washington has flipped the switch.

The Caps were so back and forth throughout the season with two good games, three bad games, one good game, two bad games. Alex Ovechkin was under scrutiny and Alexander Semin was always under fire and then Nicklas Backstrom was hurt. But all of a sudden, here in the playoffs, they are playing a total team game, which is why they are still in this series and have a chance to win this series.

When you have a guy like Braden Holtby playing so well it sends confidence throughout the team. I think they are playing harder for the kid in net, and that's what Dale Hunter has been trying to get across to this team.

But I just think all that Game 7 experience on Boston's side, especially from the last year, will push them over the top.

Ottawa at New York

I really thought the Senators would win Game 6, but their undisciplined penalties could end up losing the series for them.

When you're on the power play and you take two bad penalties, then you go down 5-on-3, and you let up power-play goals, that is going to kill you every time. As an eighth seed, you can't have an opportunity to close out the No. 1 seed in your own building and then blow a lead to lose it. Ottawa has lost their chance to win this one.

You've got to go with the goaltender, and Henrik Lundqvist has been the best goalie all year and I think he will be the best goaltender in Game 7.

I've also been impressed with the kid, Chris Kreider. He played his best game Monday since he came in in Game 3.

Kreider finally moved his feet, got into the play, used his speed and size, and showed his talent. The kid has good hands for a big guy. He was involved. He wasn't standing on the outside waiting for something to happen. He made things happen and then scored a big goal. I would expect him to be just as good with having a big game under his belt.

But I like the Rangers because of Lundqvist.

New Jersey at Florida

I have no problem saying that this is probably the least intriguing series of the playoffs, and probably the least exciting in terms of the fighting, the physicality and the speed.

However, it is exciting that Florida keeps battling back from deficits. The Panthers go down 3-0 and battle back to win Game 3. They're down 2-0 in Game 6 and battle back to tie it only to lose in overtime.

I just think it's the Panthers' turn. It's their year. They haven't won a series since 1996 and this team is resilient. But they have to play more intense and be more aggressive than they were in Game 6. They sat back. They tried to not make mistakes and it ended up burning them in the end.

Home-ice advantage will be huge for them and getting Jose Theodore back in net, if his injury is healed, is also big.

Scott Clemmensen played well in Game 6, but he wasn't tested much. A lot of the shots were from the outside, from the corner, pucks just thrown at the net. I don't think he was tested all but two or three times, and he let up a weak goal to Steve Bernier and probably could have had the winning goal by Travis Zajac. I guess all in all he played pretty sound, but if Jose can go, he should be in the net.

Dale Tallon has put together a team that might be able to get this done. It's a 51-49 shot for me and I'm going to the home ice.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 10:52 AM

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

Projected Game 7 lineup for Bruins

BOSTON -- Bruins center Patrice Bergeron took the morning skate with his teammates Wednesday and skated in his usual lineup spot between wingers Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley, as the team prepared for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Capitals at TD Garden.

Bergeron did not practice Tuesday due to an undisclosed injury he's been battling through since the second period of Game 5 last Saturday. He played in the Bruins' win in Game 6 Sunday, but was off with the rest of his team Monday and then didn't hit the ice Tuesday. After practice Tuesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he had no concerns about Bergeron missing a game.

When asked if Bergeron would play in Game 7, Julien said: "Yes, I think so."

It's believed Bergeron's injury is of an upper-body nature because he was only able to take one faceoff in Game 6.

The rest of the Bruins' lines were the same as well. Julien will make a game-time decision between veteran Shawn Thornton and rookie Jordan Caron for the 12th forward position. Caron skated in Thornton's place in Game 6.

Here's the Bruins' projected lineup:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton/Jordan Caron

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Mike Mottau

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 1:02 AM

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

Game 7 could be last for Caps' Knuble

ARLINGTON, Va. – It remains to be seen whether Washington Capitals forward Mike Knuble will return to the NHL for a 17th season of professional hockey. Knuble becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1- three days before he turns 40 -- and he's coming off his least productive season since the 2001-02 campaign.

Mike Knuble
Right Wing - WSH
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 1 | +/-: 1
After eight straight 20-goal seasons, Knuble was held to six goals and 18 points in 72 games this season. He also missed 10 games as a healthy scratch and finished with a career-worst minus-15 rating.

Knuble is expected to skate on Washington's fourth line Wednesday when the Capitals face the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Game 7 will in fact be Game 1,098 in Knuble's career (regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined). Should the Bruins win, it may also be his last.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:25 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Brodeur fights through downtime

NEWARK, N.J. -- Martin Brodeur was ice cold and even admitted he had to fight his mind from wandering.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 3-2-0
GAA: 2.22 | SVP: 0.911
It's a good thing he won that fight, because the Devils' season might be over had he not.

Despite facing only four shots in the second period and just three in the third, Brodeur had to come up with a season-saving save on Mikael Samuelsson with 2:31 left in regulation Tuesday night at Prudential Center.

Mark Fayne whiffed on a clearing attempt, turning the puck over inside the defensive zone. Samuelsson got the puck, cut across the slot and tried to beat Brodeur at the right post. However, Brodeur came out well past the elbow of the blue paint, made himself big, and gobbled up the shot.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:59 PM

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

Plenty of overtime again this spring

If playoff overtime is your thing, this year's opening round has been a moveable feast.

New Jersey's 3-2 victory against Florida on Tuesday marked the 14th time in 45 games so far during this spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs that the teams were unable to decide matters in the regulation 60 minutes. That equals the number of first-round overtime games a year ago, which ended with 22 of the 89 games being decided in OT. It's also the same number of first-round overtimes as 1993, which ended with a record 28 games going into OT.

Extra time has not been kind to home teams this spring. The Devils became only the fourth home team in the 14 OT games to win when Travis Zajac scored at 5:39 of the first overtime. 
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 5:33 PM

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

Hunter enjoys 'one game takes all' situation

ARLINGTON, Va. -- It has been 24 years since Dale Hunter scored one of the biggest goals in Washington Capitals history -- a Game 7 overtime winner against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinals.

The win against the Flyers came in the first of four Game 7s Hunter would play for the Caps, but the only one in which he left a winner.

Wednesday at TD Garden, Hunter will seek his second career Game 7 win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his first as an NHL coach, when the Caps meet the Boston Bruins in the deciding game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"As a player, I enjoyed them. It was fun. One game takes all," Hunter said. "As a player, you prepare yourself the same way, get ready for the game. And as a coach, you can't get too hyper. You've got to know who's on the ice and who's not. It changes from coach to player, but it’s exciting to be in a Game 7 like this and playing the Boston Bruins."

Hunter coached in five Game 7s with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights (posting a 2-3 record), but his coaching counterpart for Boston, Claude Julien, has been behind an NHL bench for seven Game 7s (4-3 record).

"As a coach, you've got to prepare the guys and then they have to go out and execute," he said. "As a player, you've got to prepare yourself to be ready to play and do the right things. Don't get too high, don't get too low. Just go out and keep it the same."

Like their coach, five current Capitals have also played in four Game 7s with Washington only to come up short three times.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Mike Green will all be appearing in their fifth Game 7 in as many years. This will be their first Game 7 on the road and their first without former coach Bruce Boudreau.

"The only difference is I think we play better defensively this year than previous years," Backstrom said. "It's a good challenge for us to be going to Boston and playing a Game 7 there against the Stanley Cup champions. I think everybody's prepared and we know what's coming."
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We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff