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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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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:28 PM

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

Projected Game 4 lineups

CHICAGO -- Injuries to key players for both the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes have forced coaches Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett to mix and match their forward lines for Thursday night's Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series at the United Center.

They're likely to call on some new faces who just recently arrived from the minors, as well -- or junior hockey in the case of Chicago's Brandon Saad, who could find himself playing a role in the Blackhawks' top six group in place of injured Marian Hossa.

Here is a look at how both teams could line up when they take the ice at the Madhouse on Madison. Some of it, however, is just guesswork because neither team skated their forward line combinations during the morning skate sessions.

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

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

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Viktor Stalberg
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bllig

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

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:10 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Gill back at practice, status for Game 5 uncertain

NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Hal Gill participated in a full practice on Thursday for the first time in two weeks after suffering a lower-body injury, but his status for Game 5 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena remains up in the air.
 
Gill said he would speak to trainers later in the day to address the situation. Predators coach Barry Trotz said the team would know more on Friday.
 
With Gill out, the team's top defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber played more than 30 minutes apiece in the Preds' 3-1 win in Game 4 over Detroit. Trotz said he is not worried about Suter and Weber playing too many minutes, as "they're young," he said.
 
Gill was the team's shot-blocker and leader in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season. Jack Hillen played in the first two games of the series in Gill's spot and rookie Ryan Ellis played in Games 3 and 4, but neither has played more than 10 minutes in a game. Gill averaged 18:02 with Nashville during the regular season after being acquired in February from Montreal.
 
Nashville can close out the series with a win on Friday, as the Preds hold a 3-1 series lead.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:58 PM

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

Coyotes again without services of Hanzal, Korpikoski

CHICAGO -- The Phoenix Coyotes will again be without two key forwards on Tuesday night at the United Center for Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Center Martin Hanzal and forward Lauri Korpikoski will both miss their second straight game with undisclosed injuries -- meaning the Coyotes will again have to rely on their depth in an effort to extend their 2-1 lead in the series.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said the way the series has played out has confirmed his gut feeling that Phoenix has enough depth to last for a deeper run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"You hope you have that depth," Tippett said. "You don't know what you have until it actually gets thrown in there, so we're certainly getting tested right now. We've got some players that just finished up in Portland [of the Western Hockey League] and are with us now. They've been up and down a couple times this year throughout injuries, so hopefully that experience they got with our team will benfit us."

Phoenix just recently called up centers Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Alexandre Bolduc prior to Game 3 on Tuesday, so one or both could draw into the Coyotes' lineup somewhere. If they do, Tippett said he's comfortable with the kind of effort his team will get.

"They recognize this is going to be a very intense game," Tippett said. "Every play in the game is going to count and we expect them to jump in and do the job for us."

Hanzal (lower body) said he's feeling better and participated in the morning skate. He initially told reporters that he'd be a game-time decision, but Tippett pronounced him out not long afterward. Korpikoski (upper body) did not skate.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:56 PM

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

Van Riemsdyk ready to return in Game 5 if called upon

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk is preparing, both physically and mentally, to play in Game 5 Friday at Consol Energy Center. Nobody is saying if he will just yet.

"He looked good on the ice, and through discussions with everybody involved, if he's ready to play we'll consider playing him," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday before his team flew to Pittsburgh carrying a 3-1 lead in the series. "He's looked better every day, and at some point I guess we'll make that decision."

Van Riemsdyk has been out since March 1, when he broke his foot blocking a shot by Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina. He still uses a walking boot and he's wearing plastic shields on both of his skates, but he said he's ready to go if called upon.

If practice Thursday is any indication, there's a good chance he will be.

Van Riemsdyk was skating on a line with Matt Read and Jakub Voracek while Zac Rinaldo was on a line with black aces Tom Sestito and Matt Ford. Rinaldo has played in every game of the series, but he is averaging less than five minutes per game of ice time and has 46 penalty minutes.

"You know what, obviously we have the luxury of being up and the team was playing great without me so you want to keep that rolling," van Riemsdyk, who had 24 points in 43 games during the regular season, told NHL.com. "I have to be a good teammate and wait for my chance and go from there."

"It's tough to not be in the lineup, but I'm just trying to feel better everyday so I can get out there and contribute."

Laviolette said he would not be opposed to making a lineup change if need be.

"Lineup changes are made all the time, constantly made," he said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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