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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 1:51 AM

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

Another line in the record book for Brodeur

Martin Brodeur took over another line in the NHL record book on Thursday night.

The NHL's all-time regular-season leader in wins and shutouts added the record for most Stanley Cup shutouts to his Hall of Fame resume by stopping all 26 Florida shots in New Jersey's 4-0 victory in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Shutout No. 24 broke a tie with Patrick Roy that had existed since Brodeur blanked Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was just his fourth in the last nine years since a 3-0 victory against Anaheim in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. That shutout was the last of seven he had while leading the Devils to their third championship in nine years.
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 12:40 AM

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

Ovechkin sits for most of third period

WASHINGTON -- Braden Holtby was the star Thursday night for the Washington Capitals, stopping 44 of 45 shots in a 2-1 victory against the Boston Bruins to even their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at two games each.

One guy who was surprisingly missing for much of the third period as the Capitals tried to hold off the Bruins was captain Alex Ovechkin, who played only 1:58 in the period. Ovechkin took four shifts in the period, but played only 54 seconds in final 17:20 and only 15 seconds in the final 14:00.

Ovechkin played 15:03 in the first two periods -- more than all of Washington's skaters save for Mike Green, who was on ice for 15:25 through 40 minutes. The Capitals' captain took a 64-second shift that ended 2:40 into the third, then his final three shifts lasted 39, two and 13 seconds.

He spoke to the media after the game, and no injury was mentioned by Ovechkin nor coach Dale Hunter. The two-second shift happened because he came on the ice during play and then the puck went into the netting two seconds later. Hunter went with a different line for the ensuing faceoff. The same thing happened on his final shift -- a stoppage in play led Hunter to choose other players for the faceoff.

Former coach Bruce Boudreau often played Ovechkin in the final minute of games when the Capitals were leading, and Boudreau often said he trusted his captain to play in those situations. Boudreau actually benched Ovechkin for one shift near the end of a game earlier this season when Washington was trailing by a goal and it became a national story in the United States and Canada for multiple days.

Ovechkin wasn't the only star player on the team to not play much in the third period. Green played only 3:24 in the final 20 minutes, while Alexander Semin logged only 3:03. But every Washington skater saw at least three minutes of ice time -- except for Ovechkin.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 7:15 PM

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

Garrison late scratch for Panthers

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison will be sidelined for Game 4 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Garrison was a late scratch with what the team called a lower-body injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Keaton Ellerby, who will be making his playoff debut this season.

Garrison has been a lynchpin in the Panthers' lineup this season and, in particular, the playoffs. He has one goal and two points in three games against the Devils. Garrison scored his first playoff goal and totaled 20:15 of ice time in Florida's 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 5:22 PM

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

White lending playoff expertise to Sharks' blue line

SAN JOSE -- When the San Jose Sharks made the playoffs this year, it was like a homecoming for defenseman Colin White, a free-agent pickup.

White made the playoffs his first 10 NHL seasons with the New Jersey Devils before missing out last season. He won the Stanley Cup in 2000 with New Jersey as a rookie and again in 2003. In 2001, the Devils reached the Stanley Cup Final but lost in seven games to Colorado.

Overall, White has played in 112 NHL playoff games.

"I missed the playoffs last year for the first time in my career, so it's nice to be back in the playoffs this year," White said Thursday morning after the Sharks' optional skate at HP Pavilion. "It's just great to be back in this atmosphere where it's fun."

White was a healthy scratch the first two games of San Jose's series against St. Louis in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but he was in the lineup for Game 3 on Monday night and scored his third career playoff goal during the Sharks' 4-3 loss.

White will likely be in the lineup again Thursday night for Game 4 at HP Pavilion, paired with Justin Braun. In such a pivotal game, the Sharks can use White's wealth of experience in pressure situations.

"It's been great all year," Braun said. "We've had good chemistry for most of the year, and I feel like that's carried over. We're usually on the same page for most plays, and if something doesn't go right, we talk about it. He stays calm and helps me stay calm throughout the game. We're down in the series, but he keeps the boys positive."

White said he hasn't addressed the team during the playoffs, but he has passed along plenty of stories during the season about his career, that started at the pinnacle.

"The first year I was on a great team," White said. "I had a very small role on that team, but it's still a role. I think that's the biggest thing I learned that year, was no matter if you were playing 11, 12 minutes a night, it was a very important 11, 12 minutes. I think the next time we won I was playing more minutes, but I realized there were guys still playing 11, 12 minutes that were very important.

"I think over my career that's the biggest thing. Come playoff time you need everybody and everybody's going to get a shot because with injuries and whatnot throughout the playoffs, it takes everybody on a team to win. I think that was the biggest thing I've learned over the years. It takes a commitment by 25 guys, all pulling in the same direction, all believing in the same goal and trusting the guy next to you."

 

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:46 PM

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

Projected Game 4 lineups

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the St. Louis Blues at HP Pavilion in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series:

BLUES
David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

SHARKS

Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Martin Havlat
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
Daniel Winnik - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Colin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Blues playing with proper edge in San Jose

SAN JOSE -- Ken Hitchcock said there's a simple reason why the St. Louis Blues have gone 3-0 at HP Pavilion this season, beating San Jose twice in the regular season and then in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series on Monday night.

"Scared to death," Hitchcock said Thursday after his team's optional morning skate. "I think fear gets your attention. I think this has been a grave site for a lot of teams for a lot of years. I think you just get to a point where you're so afraid of getting blitzed that you get ready and you play on the edge, and I think we're better when we play like that.

"I think when you have a healthy respect, like our players do for their players, you play on the edge. We play better when we're uncomfortable, and we're uncomfortable in this building. It really gets our attention, and I think our players respond the right way."

The Blues built a 4-1 cushion, then held on for a 4-3 victory Monday night at HP Pavilion, giving them a 2-1 series lead entering Game 4 on Thursday night.

"We've got to win," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We're down 2-1. We need to win this home game. That's the bottom line."

Based on how the Sharks practiced Wednesday, they'll likely insert third-line center Michal Handzus and fourth-line wing Brad Winchester into the lineup in place of Dominic Moore and TJ Galiardi. It's also likely that first-line wing Patrick Marleau will move to center on the second line, swapping places with Logan Couture.

"Potentially," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of those changes. "We've got some options we can use as far as injecting some new people into the lineup as well as shuffling lines around a little bit. We're looking for a little more sustained offensive zone time in 5-on-5 situations, a little more finish when we do get some opportunity, and we'll need that to have any type of success."

Hitchcock said he's had plenty of time to prepare for a new look from San Jose's top lines, with Joe Thornton and Marleau split up.

"I don't know how this is going to work. I don't know if [McLellan's] going to stay with it, but we've had a couple days to prepare for it if that's the way he's going to go," Hitchcock said.

"I think we're going to keep the same 12 forwards in, but don't be too surprised if there's tweaks in the lineup that impact the way we are. I like some of the things we did down the lineup, third and fourth lines, but I think we can even help them a little bit more, so depending on how this thing looks through the first rotation, the players are prepared to make a couple of small adjustments and get ready for it. We already know what we're going to do, and we'll be ready for it."

The Blues have a chance to go up 3-1 and put a hammerlock on the series, which returns to St. Louis for Game 5 on Saturday. Any possibility of the Blues being overconfident probably ended when they gave up two goals in the final three-plus minutes in Game 3.

"We're still in a series here against a very good team and we can't take anything for granted," Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "For us, this is the most important game of the series. We're going to expect a very desperate game from them. It's a matter for us to respond and handle it and play the way we can."

As important as Game 4 is, McLellan didn't come close to calling it a must-win for the Sharks.

"Well, the last time I checked, you have to win four," he said. "So, I don't know what that means to you guys, but it still means four to me. It would be great to be 2-2. Three-one is better for them, but four is the magic number.

"If there's a team that should know that, it's us. We just went through a seven-game series after being up 3-0," he added, referring to the Sharks' semifinals victory last year over Detroit. "So you can (put) it anyway you want. I still know that the playoffs are about four games, and we're still three away."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 3:56 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Bryzgalov leaves practice early

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov left practice early Thursday, but it was unclear if he was bothered by any nagging injury or just cut his workout short as he sometimes does on days before games.

Michael Leighton, who recently was recalled from Adirondack of the American Hockey League, finished practice for Bryzgalov. Sergei Bobrovsky was in the other net.

Bryzgalov played in only two of the final six games of the regular season due to a chip fracture in his right foot. He has a 4.95 goals-against average and .844 save percentage in the series against Pittsburgh.

Bryzgalov was pulled 3:07 into the second period of Game 4 Wednesday after giving up five goals on 18 shots. Bobrovsky allowed five goals on 18 shots in relief in the Flyers' 10-3 loss.

Leighton was one of the three goalies that played for Philadelphia in the playoffs last year, and also was the goalie that led them to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2010.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 3:29 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers still feeling good despite Game 4 rout

VOORHEES, N.J. -- "It's just one loss," is how the Flyers were talking about the 10-3 drubbing they received at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 Wednesday.

"Today is a new day," Flyers center Danny Briere said. "The great thing is we're up 3-1 in the series. We've put ourselves in a good position. We had a bad day and we didn't come prepared to play the same way they did. Now it's time to fix that."

The Flyers skated Thursday for roughly 30 minutes at their practice facility here in southern New Jersey before departing to Pittsburgh for Game 5 Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

They aren't trying to forget what happened Wednesday, when they gave up eight unanswered goals after taking a 3-2 lead, but instead they're hoping to learn from the errors of their ways.

They gave Pittsburgh nine power plays that totaled only 12:26 because the Penguins scored on four of them. In a game that was officiated tightly, the Flyers were whistled for 12 two-minute minors.

"One of the things that we did a really good job of since the beginning of the series was staying composed and disciplined," Briere said, "and those two things we completely threw out the window [Wednesday]."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was just as blunt.

"Let's leave [Wednesday] to the side and just come out and say that we were beat bad by a very good hockey team, and there's a lot of things we have to do better," he said. "We're trying to defend a good hockey team. {Wednesday] we failed miserably."

The Flyers, though, are confident heading into Pittsburgh. They are 7-1 in Consol Energy Center since the building opened its doors last season.

"If you look at Games 3 and 4, they're the exact opposite for both clubs," Laviolette said. "Why didn't their Game 3 resemble Game 4? They churned up their desperation level and they came out and they were quicker and executed better and they won a hockey game. We're looking to get back on track with how we play games."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:54 PM

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

Bruins' power play struggling again in playoffs

WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins showed last spring that they can win the Stanley Cup with a mediocre power play. The Bruins' power play went 10-for-88 in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including 0-for-21 in their seven-game first round series win against the Montreal Canadiens.

Three games into their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals, the Bruins are following a similar script with a power play that has gone 0-for-11.

"We've had 10 scoring chances, I think, since the beginning of the series, but we haven't capitalized," Bruins coach Claude Julien said ahead of Game 4 Thursday at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"You've heard me say that before, the finish seems to be a bit of a struggle right now. Sometimes [it's about] pouncing on those loose pucks and getting a little bit better in the finishing area, so those are things we're going to continue to work on."

The Bruins' power play finished 15th in the regular-season, and it remains the only power-play unit this postseason still searching for its first goal. Since March 22, Boston's power play is 2-for-32 in 16 games.

"We definitely want to score on the power play, but if you don’t score at least create some momentum and create some chances, and I think we started to do that last game," center David Krejci said. "Then the next shift you go for five-on-five, you at least have the momentum. We worked on it [ahead of Game 4] and hopefully our PP is going to be better and hopefully we'll get some goals."

Added Patrice Bergeron: "I think it's about us creating some openings for each other and talking on the ice and taking what's being given to us and not forcing plays. We have to keep things simple, I think too often you're trying to make the perfect play, but it's not always how it works."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:42 PM

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

Erskine excited to be back in the lineup

ARLINGTON, Va. -- John Erskine has played a total of eight minutes and 31 seconds of NHL hockey since Jan. 31, so he’s probably more than a little excited to get back in the lineup for the Washington Capitals for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Given Erskine’s disposition when he’s on the ice, it is exactly what the Capitals are looking for. Neither Erskine nor coach Dale Hunter would confirm it Thursday morning, but all signs point to the rugged defenseman replacing Jeff Schultz next to Dennis Wideman on the team’s third defensive pairing against the Bruins.

“If I do play [Thursday], I think I just have to go out and play a simple game and not try to do much and let come the game to me. Don’t be lunging at people and stuff like that,” Erskine said after the team’s morning skate. “Playoffs are an exciting period, but yeah, it is a lot of ... having not played in a couple months, I’ll be going.”

Added Hunter: “We just want him there because he plays the body. After the whistles, I think they’re going to clamp down on and we don’t want no penalties. We want to play through the whistle and skate away. We’ll play hockey between the whistles. We just want him there to finish more hits on Boston.”

Erskine was last in the lineup Feb. 12, and before that it was Jan. 31. He’s spent much of this season as a healthy scratch after it started late for him because of offseason shoulder surgery. He missed the final 27 games of the regular season, first as a healthy scratch and then near the end of the season with a lower-body injury.

A season after playing in a career-best 73 games and establishing himself as a consistent top-six defenseman for the Capitals, he played only 28 games in 2011-12, his lowest total since joining the organization before the 2006-07 season.

Despite not playing for so long, Erskine said he isn’t worried about his conditioning.

“I’ve been bag skating for two months now, so I think I’ll be good like that,” he said. “Whenever you get thrown into a game, though, it is a different kind of conditioning. It will take me a few shifts to get going. ... I’m not going to change my game -- my game is to play physical, play tough in front of the net and just play a simple game.”

The physical play, both between the whistles and after them, ramped up significantly in Game 3 of this series. Boston was credited with 58 hits, and the Bruins baited the Capitals into more jostling after goalies made saves and before faceoffs.

Those are the areas where Erskine can provide the Capitals with an extra bit of snarl. He is also a willing combatant, should one of Boston’s tough guys, like Milan Lucic or Shawn Thornton, be interested in a round of fisticuffs.

“He’s physical and a tough guy to play against,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Erskine. “He’s got that heavy, heavy shot when he can let it go from the point. It is tough for goalies to handle. He’s just one of those guys that you really like having in your lineup.”

Added Erskine: “I’ve been like that since Game 1. It is definitely my style of game -- physical and with the ruggedness of the series.
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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres