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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 11:59 AM

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

Devils see Game 4 as a must-win situation

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils realize the importance of squaring their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers on Thursday in Game 4 at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN).
 
Veteran goalie Martin Brodeur feels the team has put itself in a must-win situation after losing 4-3 in Game 3.
 
"You don't want to bank on making the historical comeback when you go down 3-1 in a series," Brodeur said. "It's tough to come back from that, there's no doubt. You have to address these games as do or die and just go out and put in a good effort."
 
Does Brodeur feel getting the early lead is important? After all, the team that has taken a 3-0 lead in the previous three games has struggled to hold that advantage.
 
Florida, however, was the first to go down by three and rally for a victory, which they did in Game 3 on Tuesday. In Game 1, New Jersey opened a 3-0 lead and hung on for a 3-2 win. In Game 2, the Panthers surged to a 3-0 advantage before winning 4-2 triumph.
 
"I don't know about [getting that big lead]," Brodeur said. "It depends on how big. The game will be played the way it's played, and we'll react to it."

Devils forward Dainius Zubrus said he believes the team has dealt with adverse situations this season and this is no exception.
 
"You reach certain points where you lose two in a row and it happens throughout the season, but I don't want to say we've been there, because this is the playoffs and it's a little different," Zubrus told NHL.com. "But we can respond … we have done it. It's not the situation we want to be in after winning the first game, but this is how it is.
 
"There are things we can do better and clean up, and saying that, the belief is still there. [Thursday] is a huge game because we don't want to go down and then go on the road."
 
The only Devils not on the ice for Thursday's optional skate were Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky. Devils coach Peter DeBoer said there would be no lineup changes, meaning rookie defenseman Adam Larsson would be a healthy scratch for the ninth time in the last 10 games.
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Devils for Game 3:
 
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 Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:28 AM

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

Penguins-Flyers series a goaltender's nightmare

Conventional wisdom is that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about tight checking and great goaltending. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers obviously didn't get the message.

After a season in which the average NHL game saw a combined total of roughly 5.3 (non-shootout) goals, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have shattered the record for the most goals scored in the first four games of a series. The Penguins' 10-3 win on Wednesday brought the total to 45 -- one more than the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks scored in the first four games of the 1985 Campbell Conference Finals.

But the Oilers and Hawks played run-and-gun in a free-scoring era -- the average regular-season game in 1984-85 featured nearly 7.8 goals per game, nearly 50 percent more than this season's average. To have two teams averaging nearly double the number of goals scored in the regular season in such a tight-checking era is nearly incomprehensible.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 8:41 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NYR @ OTT - 19:56 of the First Period



At 19:56 of the first period in the Senators/Rangers game, the Toronto situation room initiated a video review following a scrum in front of the Rangers net. The referee determined that he had blown the whistle to declare the play dead.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 8:35 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PIT @ PHI - 16:19 of the First Period



At 16:19 of the first period in the Penguins/Flyers game, video review conclusively determined that the point shot by Pittsburgh's Matt Niskanen was deflected and entered the Philadelphia net in a legal fashion. Good Goal Pittsburgh.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 7:47 PM

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

Game 4 lineups for Flyers and Penguins

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins entered Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers with a new-look lineup due to the suspensions of forwards Craig Adams, Arron Asham and James Neal. In addition, defenseman Paul Martin sat out with an undisclosed injury.

The Penguins opted to dress seven defenseman and 11 forwards, while the Flyers' lineup remained the same from Game 3.

Here's how the teams lined up for Game 4:

PENGUINS:

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Tyler Kennedy

Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Eric Tangradi - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke

Joe Vitale - Richard Park

Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik

Zbynek Michalek - Matt Niskanen

Deryk Engelland - Brian Strait

Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Brent Johnson

FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr

Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds

Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood

Zac Rinaldo - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek

Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle

Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn

Andreas Lilja - Pavel Kubina

Ilya Bryzgalov

Sergei Bobrovsky

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 7:26 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Sharks won't be only desperate team in Game 4

SAN JOSE - St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the San Jose Sharks won't have a monopoly on desperation Thursday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series.

The Sharks trail St. Louis 2-1 in the series and desperately want to avoid digging themselves into a 3-1 hole. But Hitchcock said Wednesday that the last thing he or his players want is to let the Sharks pull even and turn this series into a long, brutal battle filled with travel nightmares and little time for rest.

"If this thing goes 2-2 then it's, 'Who's got the best bus and who's got the best plane?' -- and that's not good for either team," Hitchcock said after the Blues' practice at HP Pavilion. "We're looking at this the same way they are. They want this thing going where they could start taking it over and we're looking at it as it gets scary after tomorrow. You're talking long flights, not much sleep, [a game] every other day, and who's got the best plane and who's got the best bus will be a big factor here. So we're looking at it like they are too. It's a big factor.

"I was in a lot of these [series] coming in and out of Dallas and they were not easy series. When it got to Games 5, 6 and 7 they were not easy for players, for coaches, for sleep patterns and they really impacted the next series."

After splitting the first two games in St. Louis, the Blues beat the Sharks 4-3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion. St. Louis took a 4-1 lead early in the third period before the Sharks rallied for two late goals.

'The biggest thing for us is knowing that we could win a playoff game on the road," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We have a lot of young guys who haven't had that much experience. We know we can win in this barn; we did it in the regular season. But it's a tough place to win in the playoffs."

Hitchcock said he's still not sure when injured goaltender Jaroslav Halak will be healthy enough to play. Halak hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury early in the second period of Game 2 when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman accidentally knocked him to the ice. Halak skated Tuesday for the first time since being injured but didn't skate or practice Wednesday, and he will miss Game 4. Brian Elliott will make his second straight start.

"We'll keep him working toward getting back at some time," Hitchcock said of Halak, "but right now he's not available so Brian is the guy."

Elliott went 23-10-4 during the regular season with nine shutouts and led the NHL with a 1.56 goals against average and .940 save percentage.

"We've had confidence in him since Day 1," Hitchcock said. "For us it just feels like one guy is playing a few more games than the other one. I think if it lasts, if it ever went where you stayed with the same guy for a month then it would seem different. I think most teams have this scenario going where they just stay with one guy. It's still early in the picture and we're fully expecting Halak to be a player, hopefully."

Hitchcock said that Elliott impressed him earlier in the season by how competitive he was in practice. Now that Elliott is carrying the full load, Hitchcock is trying to rein him in.

"We're constantly having to [do] like we did today -- stop him, kick him off the ice," Hitchcock said. "He has to get in the mindset that the games are everything, less is more, get enough of your practice in and once your reps are done, get off the ice. He's one of those guys that wants to hang out there until the last shot."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 7:14 PM

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

Alfredsson to miss Game 4

OTTAWA -- As expected, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will not be in the lineup Wednesday night for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers.

Daniel Alfredsson
Right Wing - OTT
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 6 | +/-: -2
The 39-year-old hasn't skated since Monday morning, but coach Paul MacLean didn't rule him out for Game 4 on Wednesday morning. Alfredsson did not participate in the team's pregame skate Wednesday.

Alfredsson suffered a concussion from an elbow to the head from Rangers forward Carl Hagelin during the second period of Game 2. Hagelin received a three-game ban for the infraction.

The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:28 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Hawks ready to channel anger

CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs can be an exercise in anger management. The Western Conference Quarterfinal series between Phoenix and Chicago is becoming a graduate course in the subject.

Players and coaches on both sides tried to rein in their emotions Wednesday, less than a day after the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa was taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Coyotes' Raffi Torres hit Hossa's chin with his shoulder early in Game 3 at the United Center.

Phoenix went on to win 3-2 on an overtime goal from Mikkel Boedker. Game 4 is Thursday.

Hossa, who was released from the hospital Tuesday night, will miss at least Game 4. Torres has been suspended indefinitely pending an in-person hearing at the League office on Friday.

A night after tempers ran high in the Blackhawks' locker room, they were a bit more measured on Wednesday. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews ruled out retaliation against a random Coyote.

"Getting into that garbage isn't going to win the series for us," Toews said.

Said defenseman Duncan Keith, "We've got to play hockey and play the right way."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who has to revamp a lineup that now is without Hossa and the suspended Andrew Shaw, wants his players to channel their emotions properly.

"I think retaliation in the best form is trying to win the hockey game," Quenneville said. "I think we want to channel a little positiveness to looking forward to the game and doing something about it."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Nearing unchartered territory for Coyotes

CHICAGO -- One more overtime game, and the Phoenix Coyotes go into uncharted territory. They've never played four overtime games in a playoff year, much less a playoff series, and that goes back to their identity as the original Winnipeg Jets.

Now they've played three in a row, winning twice, in the first three games of their series with Chicago.

Only once before did the Coyotes engage in overtime three times in a series. They lost two of three overtime games in a seven-game set with St. Louis in 1999, the Blues winning Game 7 in regulation. The franchise's only back-to-back overtime games before this series came in games 6 and 7 of the 1993 series against Vancouver. Teemu Selanne won Game 6 for the Jets, but the Canucks won Game 7.

This is more old hat for the Blackhawks. They played four overtime games, winning the first two and losing the last two, against Colorado in the second round of the 1996 playoffs.

The Hawks have even played three overtime games in a row before, doing so against the Minnesota North Stars in the second round of the 1985 playoffs. Including the last two games of last year's first round series with Vancouver, they've played five straight overtime games, a team record.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Overtime a study in contrasts for two sides

CHICAGO -- The two schools of thought on how to play overtime were on display again in Game 3 of the Phoenix-Chicago Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

The Blackhawks were skating, trying to force the issue. The Coyotes played it tight, waiting for a break.

The Coyotes' method worked for the second time in three sudden-death sessions. Mikkel Boedker's shot, and Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford's admitted misplay, gave Game 3, and a 2-1 series lead, to the Coyotes.

That's how overtime has to be played, Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said.

"In overtime, you're trying not to make mistakes," Yandle said. "One shot and it can be over. So you play tight defensively and cash in when you get the chance."

Getting those changes, whether in overtime or regulation, will be harder to find as the series progresses. Cement in the legs became common in the minutes jest before Boedker scored.

"The first couple of games, there's a lot of adrenaline," said Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who played for the Hawks for two seasons. "As a series progresses, it starts taking its toll on players. And in overtime, you try to end it on every shift. That takes a toll."

Aucoin sees a long series.

"We're two different teams, but we're matched well," he said.

What he didn't have to mention was the hex the Coyotes have on the Hawks in the United Center. Phoenix is 3-0 on West Madison St. this season, winning both games in the regular season.
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