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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:27 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Top storylines from first week of playoffs

We're just about a week into the postseason and already we've got several exciting series, a number of interesting storylines and many hints for what's to come. Here are some of the things I've noticed so far from the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

ARE THE ISLANDERS CREATING THE BLUEPRINT?

In Game 3 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders, the Isles jumped out to a quick lead and suddenly the Penguins took over. Now, the Islanders came right back before the Pens eventually won in overtime, but there were a few things worth noticing.

First, that quick Pittsburgh rally just shows that team's skill level and how few chances they need to score. The Islanders have had the better chances and more shots, but Pittsburgh gets a chance and it goes in. Douglas Murray gets a chance and he scores. Pascal Dupuis gets a chance and it's in. They're just so talented, and that's the difference. Everybody on that team can score and the Islanders don't have that luxury. Almost nobody does. Only a few teams in the NHL have that kind of luxury and Pittsburgh is by far the best in that area.

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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:22 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Islanders' penalty-killers need to improve

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders were among the NHL's poorest teams at 5-on-5 for much of the regular season, and only their special teams kept them in the playoff race until a late-season improvement at even strength carried them to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After a 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, the Islanders were excellent at full strength in Games 2 and 3 -- only to see their penalty-killers come up short.

Pittsburgh went 2-for-4 in the opener and 1-for-4 in the Islanders' 4-3 win in Game 2. New York jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in Game 3, but two power-play goals in a span of 19 seconds got the Penguins even. They added a third power-play goal on their fifth attempt of the day when Chris Kunitz scored in overtime to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 victory.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:11 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Capitals-Rangers series blog

Capitals stick with winning lineup for Game 3

NEW YORK -- After eliminating the New York Rangers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two of the previous four seasons, the Washington Capitals now bring a two-game lea in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series to Madison Square Garden.

But there was no talk Monday of how a road win in Game 3 would give the Capitals a series stranglehold on a team that beat the Capitals in seven games in last year's conference semis.

"We're just thinking about tonight, we can't get too far ahead," Capitals coach Adam Oates said following Monday's morning skate. "The crowd will be crazy and you've got to enjoy that. As a player, you've got to want that feeling and be prepared for them to be excited about it. You've got to be in control and make good decisions with the puck."

If any NHL coach should be familiar with the MSG crowd during the playoffs, it's Oates. As an assistant with the New Jersey Devils last season, Oates went against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, which New Jersey won in six games. Prior to that series, Oates and the Devils coaching staff scouted New York's second-round series against - of all teams - the Washington Capitals. All those games and all that scouting has sharpened Oates' familiarity with his first-round opponent.

"I think it's very similar," Oates said of this year's Rangers squad compared to last year. "The type of style they play, it's hard hockey, so your team has to be ready for hard hockey. The first two games [in this series], the margin of error was really slim. Both teams played well, both goalies played well."

The Capitals will ice the same lineup for Game 3 in New York that won the previous two games in Washington. Forward Brooks Laich, who has been out of the lineup with a groin injury since April 4, did not participate in the team's practice and remains out, although he did work out on a stationary bike following the skate.

Here is the projected Washington Capitals lineup for Game 3 Monday night against the New York Rangers:

Marcus Johansson -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat -- Mike Ribeiro -- Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera -- Mathieu Perreault -- Eric Fehr

Matt Hendricks -- Jay Beagle -- Joel Ward

Karl Alzner -- Mike Green

John Erskine -- John Carlson

Jack Hillen -- Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jeff Schultz, Wojtek Wolski, Aaron Volpatti, Tom Poti

Injured: Brooks Laich (groin)

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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:06 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Pominville skates at optional practice

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A critical member of the Minnesota Wild's lineup may be on the verge of returning just in time for Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

For the first time in a week, Minnesota right winger Jason Pominville joined his teammates for practice Monday, skating with 14 of his teammates during an optional session at Xcel Energy Center.

Pominville scored four goals and added five assists in 10 games with the Wild after coming over from the Buffalo Sabres in a deal at the NHL Trade Deadline for a pair of prospects and a pair of draft choices.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:06 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Islanders must find way to limit Crosby

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – For all of their hard work in Games 2 and 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders still couldn’t find a way to shut down Sidney Crosby.

Pittsburgh’s captain missed the series opener due to the broken jaw he suffered in a game against New York on March 30. But Crosby had two first-period goals in Game 2, just hours after being cleared to play, then set up three goals – including the overtime winner – in Pittsburgh’s 5-4 victory Sunday.

The Islanders know they can’t let Crosby continue to pile up points if they hope to win the series. But knowing that they need to shut him down and doing it are two different things.

“We have to be aware of him on the ice,” Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said after practice Monday. “He’s hurt us the past couple of games. We have to know where he is at all times and try to play him hard, try to finish our checks.

“We know that he’s going to create opportunities, he’s going to have chances. We have to accept that and make sure those second and third opportunities aren’t there. We’re going to try to take away some of his time and space.”

The Islanders aren’t having any more success against Crosby in the playoffs than they’ve had in the regular season. In 41 games against New York, he has 20 goals and 75 points.

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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 12:54 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Despite win, Maple Leafs want to keep improving

TORONTO -- Good is never quite good enough in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

You might think the Toronto Maple Leafs would be sitting on easy street having defeated the Boston Bruins on Saturday to even their best-of-7 opening round series 1-1, but to hear coach Randy Carlyle speak, you'd think they took a pounding.

"Our message as a coaching staff is we're going to have to be better than we were because we know the Bruins are going to be better," Carlyle said. "Our expectation is we're going to have to play the game to a higher level. There are mistakes we are making with the puck as far as turnovers are concerned that are correctable. We need to cut those mistakes down. I don't think any team can afford some of the turnovers and giveaways that we have committed and expect to continue to have success."


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 12:25 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Ducks-Red Wings series blog

Red Wings move Samuelsson up to top line

DETROIT -- Mikael Samuelsson returned to the lineup for the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 of this Western Conference Quarterfinals series, and it didn't take him long to earn a promotion.

With Justin Abdelkader suspended for two contests, Samuelsson will start Game 4 next to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on Detroit's top line Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks at Joe Louis Arena.

"It is a good opportunity. I'm excited about it," Samuelsson said. "I don't know what makes it easier or harder. Let's see tonight. I've been here before and I've played with good players. I know what they're capable of and I'll try to find some open spots."


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 11:33 AM

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

Clowe calls himself 'game-time decision' for Game 3

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Ryane Clowe isn't sure if he will play in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Monday.

Clowe, who missed the first two games of the series against the Washington Capitals with an undisclosed injury, called himself a "game-time decision." Rangers coach John Tortorella does not provide lineup or injury updates during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Obviously you guys [the media] want to know if I'm going to play," Clowe said after the morning skate at Madison Square Garden. "I'm still not sure about that."


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Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 5:37 PM

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

Martinez makes an immediate impact in return

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – It was difficult not to notice Alec Martinez when he stepped on the ice for an optional skate Sunday.

The sombrero gave him away, for starters. He also wore a green jersey and a red sock and white sock in a presumed homage to the Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo. A few cheers went up from the sparse crowd.

"We obviously had a little fun with that in the locker room," said Martinez, who actually has Spanish heritage on his grandfather's side. "If you can't laugh at yourself, I don't think you can't laugh at all. We had fun with it but it was back to work once we were on the ice."

Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he bought the sombrero at liquor store in the morning, and Martinez gave the line of the day when told about his coach's, um, shopping habits.

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Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 5:32 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Ducks-Red Wings series blog

Boudreau: Conditioning fueling Ducks strong finishes

DETROIT -- A theme has developed in the past two games of this Western Conference Quarterfinal Series between the Anaheim Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings.

Or has it?

In each of the past two contests, the Ducks have rattled off three unanswered goals in the third period. Once, it was to erase a 4-1 deficit and force overtime. The next time, it was to turn a 1-0 advantage into a misleading rout.

The results had members of the media quizzing Red Wings players and coach Mike Babcock about a potential issue developing. Babcock was adamant these were two separate incidents, and shouldn't be lumped together.

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Quote of the Day

I'm very excited about what happened today. We've worked on this deal with Toronto for a month, or over a month. It got a little bit of legs on draft day, but it really heated up last night, and we were able to complete the deal today.

— Penguins GM Jim Rutherford on Phil Kessel, who he acquired from the Maple Leafs in a trade on Wednesday
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