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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 2:34 PM

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

Sykora likely to be a healthy scratch for Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- Petr Sykora has played in every game this season for the Devils after not playing in the NHL at all last season. It's a run of 97 straight games played that Sykora says he's quite proud of.

It's also a streak that will likely come to an end Monday.

Sykora is expected to be a healthy scratch in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers. Jacob Josefson is healthy again after fracturing his wrist on April 3 and in all likelihood will take Sykora's place in the lineup as the Devils try to even the series at Prudential Center.

"It's kind of fresh to me right now," Sykora said after staying on the ice for an extra-long workout after practice Sunday. "I haven't really had time to think about it. Just come in (Monday), stay in shape and just wait until I get a chance again."

Sykora has no points in the last four games and just two goals and two assists in 15 playoff games. He had a goal and an assist to help the Devils win Game 4 against Philadelphia, but has been silent since with only six shots on goal.

"Those are some of the tough decisions you have to make in the playoffs," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer, who also noted the lineup is not finalized yet.

That said, it certainly seems likely that Sykora will not play in Game 4. He was asked how he thinks he has played in the first three games against the Rangers, but Sykora said it's not a fair question for him to answer.

"It's hard to judge yourself the way you play, because you always think you're playing good," Sykora said. "Other people should judge how you play because they see you from the top and they see how you play."

DeBoer and his coaching staff must not have liked what they've seen from Sykora of late.

"I didn't miss a game, but that doesn't mean anything right now," Sykora said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

DeBoer mixes up lines, expects to have Josefson back

NEWARK, N.J. -- After getting shut out in Game 3, the Devils changed up their top three lines at practice Sunday complete with a new addition to the lineup for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday.

The Rangers lead the series 2-1 after winning 3-0 on Sunday. The Devils had 36 shots on goal, but couldn't solve Henrik Lundqvist.

"It's been fairly common practice for us to move people around when we haven't had success scoring goals," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's a little different situation. I thought we generated a lot of quality chances (in Game 3). The easy thing would be to stick with it, hope you come out next game do the same thing and score. But, we've decided to shuffle some things around and I think we'll get some results from that."

Jacob Josefson, who hasn't played since fracturing his left wrist against the Islanders on April 3, said he will play Monday. Petr Sykora is expected to come out of the lineup to make room for Josefson, who will likely center the Devils third line between Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson.

"He's been an effective guy for us and we missed him while he was out," DeBoer said of Josefson.

Adam Henrique should move up to center the second line between Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias. Kovalchuk was playing with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac and Elias was in the middle between Dainius Zubrus and Sykora.

However, Elias will likely move to the left wing and Kovalchuk, although it appeared he was playing on the left side in practice Sunday, expects to stay on the right wing, where he has played for virtually the entire season.

DeBoer admitted moving Elias to the wing could take some of the pressure off of him. He has zero points in the last five games and just five points in 15 playoff games.

"It takes some of the responsibility off him to work low in our end and to create offense at the other end," DeBoer said. "Hopefully that translates to some offense."

The top line now has Zajac in between Parise and Zubrus. That has been a line for the Devils in the past, before DeBoer even got to New Jersey.

"Two seasons ago we played with Zubie a little bit, me and Zach, but I don't think we have to read into it too much," Zajac said. "I don't think at this time it matters who you are playing with. We have been playing well and if we do the right things we are going to be successful, get our chances."

The only line that stayed the same was the fourth line of Stephen Gionta between Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter.

Here is an easy rundown of the Devils expected lineup for Game 4 with lines, defense pairings and goaltenders:

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jacob Josefson - 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 Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 1:36 PM

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

Dubinsky back on the ice at Rangers practice

NEW YORK -- Brandon Dubinsky, who hasn't played since Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals, was on the ice Sunday for the Rangers' optional practice at Madison Square Garden.

It's the second time Dubinsky has practiced since injuring his ankle and first time he wasn't wearing a non-contact jersey.

"It's nice to be back with the guys," said Dubinsky, who offered no timeline for his return. "It's nice to shoot some pucks on a goalie. It just feels good to be around and actually get a chance to jump on the ice."

If Rangers' forward Brandon Prust is suspended for his hit to the head of Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday, coach John Tortorella isn't sure what that will do to his lineup for Game 4 Monday night.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with the lineup," Tortorella said. "I don't think he should be suspended. So I really haven't gone that far, because I don't think he should be."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 1:33 PM

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

Tortorella fires back on 'headhunter' comment

NEW YORK -- On Saturday, Devils coach Peter DeBoer referred to the Rangers' Brandon Prust as a "headhunter" after his blow to the back of the head of defenseman Anton Volchenkov.

On Sunday, Rangers coach John Tortorella responded to that comment by defending Prust and accusing the Devils of embellishing calls and setting illegal picks during their power plays.

"He's probably one of the most honest players," Tortorella said, before launching into a a big chunk of gamesmanship. "I look at (Dainius Zubrus') elbow to (Anton) Stralman. I look at (Zach) Parise launching himself at (Michael) Del Zotto. Maybe if our players stay down on the ice, we'll get something. We tell our players don't stay down on the ice, get up.

"The picking on the power play. If we want to start discussing officials with the media, I've got a long list here. That's a set play by Jersey -- picking so we can't get to (Ilya) Kovalchuk to block his shot. There's some gamesmanship right there, huh?"

The hit by Prust did not draw a penalty, but it did earn him a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety Sunday morning. He explained the hit following an optional practice at Madison Square Garden, saying Volchenkov ducked into the hit at the last moment.

"I was just trying to get in a check before I was at the end of a shift," Prust said. "I was skating over for a routine check to rub him out and get off the ice and he bailed out of it and turned and kind of went low. It's just kind of a reaction when you're off-balance and your arms go up. I didn't want to do a face-plant into the boards. I had no intent to hit him in the head there."

In regards to the intentional interference with the Devils on the power play, Tortorella was referencing Kovalchuk's goal in Game 2. The puck was moved quickly from the right side of the zone to the left side, and a wide-open Kovalchuk was able to snap a shot over the catching glove of Henrik Lundqvist.

One of the reasons Kovalchuk was all alone was the Devils' Patrik Elias getting in the way of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.

"There's been a few times when they try to get in the way in front of the net," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's obviously something they've talked about and they're trying to do. We're trying to do our best to get around that, but sometimes you can't and it creates an opportunity for their team. It's more noticeable against these guys. For us as 'D' you want to try to stay loose in case something breaks down. Hopefully this gets the radar up a little bit and helps us out."

As for the notion that the Devils are trying to buy calls by staying down on the ice, Prust said he was surprised that Volchenkov didn't get up right away.

"I didn't even know I elbowed him," Prust said. "I went to the bench and thought maybe I caught him with my knee, maybe charlie-horsed him. I didn't hit him that hard. I think I just grazed his helmet and it slid up. For sure, he's trying to get a penalty when your helmet comes up. It's just natural trying to sell that."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 12:29 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Updated order for first round of 2012 NHL Draft

With the conference finals going on, it's time to take a look at how the first half of the playoffs has affected the order of the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

The first 14 picks were set by the results of the NHL Draft Lottery held in April. Now that the first two rounds of the playoffs are completed, all but the final four picks are set.

The 12 teams eliminated from the playoffs make up the next set of picks. Non-division winners are placed in inverse order of points. Division winners next are slotted in through the same process. That's why the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had the fourth-most points in the League, have a better draft spot than the Florida Panthers, finished with nine fewer points but won the Southeast Division.

The teams that lose in the conference finals will take picks 27 and 28; the loser in the Stanley Cup Final will pick No. 29; the Stanley Cup winner will take No. 30.

Three teams have multiple first-round picks: Tampa Bay will pick 10th and 19th; Washington has the Nos. 11 and 16 picks; and Buffalo will pick 12th and 21st.

Columbus also could have two first-round picks. They currently have the No. 2 pick and hold an option to take Los Angeles' pick, which can be no worse than No. 27. The Blue Jackets acquired the rights to the pick in the Jeff Carter trade, and either can take the Kings' first pick this year or next.

Three teams currently will sit out the first round: Colorado, which sent it's pick to Washington in the Semyon Varlamov deal; Detroit, which traded it's pick to Tampa Bay as part of the Kyle Quincey trade; and Nashville, which dealt it's pick to Buffalo in exchange for Paul Gaustad.

Also, New Jersey has the option of forfeiting its pick, which can be no worse than 28th, as penalty for circumventing the salary cap in signing Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010. The Devils have to surrender their top pick in either the 2012, 2013 or 2014 draft.

Here's the order as of now. We don't know the how the final four picks will play out, but for fans wondering, the Kings and Coyotes will pick either No. 27, 29 or 30; the Devils and Rangers can pick No. 28, 29 or 30.

1. Edmonton
2. Columbus
3. Montreal
4. N.Y. Islanders
5. Toronto
6. Anaheim
7. Minnesota
8. Carolina
9. Winnipeg
10. Tampa Bay
11. Washington (from Colorado)
12. Buffalo
13. Dallas
14. Calgary
15. Ottawa
16. Washington
17. San Jose
18. Chicago
19. Tampa Bay (from Detroit)
20. Philadelphia
21. Buffalo (from Nashville)
22. Pittsburgh
23. Florida
24. Boston
25. St. Louis
26. Vancouver
27. Conference finals loser
28. Conference finals loser
29. Stanley Cup Final loser
30. Stanley Cup champion

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 05.19.2012 / 8:51 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Veteran Coyotes not worried about what future holds

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There has been plenty of uncertainty for the Phoenix Coyotes around this time of year in recent seasons. When the Coyotes were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in each of the past two postseasons, they've had to answer questions about the future whereabouts of the franchise.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who came to the desert with the organization from Winnipeg after his rookie season, has had to answer those types of questions more than anyone. As the Coyotes face elimination from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, there is a different kind of uncertainty for Doan.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.19.2012 / 6:55 PM

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

L.A. preparing for wild sports Sunday

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Earlier in the season, Drew Doughty and Mike Richards probably wouldn't have garnered much recognition or cheers by showing up at a Los Angeles Lakers game. But this is no ordinary time to be a sports fan in Los Angeles.

The two were shown on the big screen Friday night for the Lakers-Oklahoma City playoff game and the basketball fans gave the Staples Center co-tenants a proper acknowledgment. While the Kings are playing this deep into spring for the first time in 19 years, the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are also in the playoffs in an unprecedented smash-up of local sports on Sunday.

"I think it's great for the city," Rob Scuderi said. "Especially the Kings and the Lakers have been very successful … but for the Kings, it's been kind of a long drought as far as the postseason goes and postseason success. It's fun to see the city kind of rally around it and get into it. It's something that doesn't happen very often. Hopefully all three teams can go even farther."
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Posted On Saturday, 05.19.2012 / 6:18 PM

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

Devils to work on special teams before Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- Are the New Jersey Devils losing their "special" swagger against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals?
 
It would certainly appear that way.
 
Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 13
SOG: 47 | +/-: -6
"I think specialty teams have been the different in this series," Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "They score on their power play and we don't, so we have to work on that [Sunday] at practice."
 
The Rangers opened a 2-1 series lead on the Devils on Saturday at Prudential Center following a 3-0 victory. New Jersey not only allowed at least one power-play to the Rangers in the loss, but finished 0-for-5 on the power play.
 
"We just have to create the lanes and get the puck in the net," Kovalchuk said. "We got some good chances and good looks, but we got a couple stick breaks at the wrong time and we hit the post. I had some chances … we just have to keep working."
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Posted On Saturday, 05.19.2012 / 6:09 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Make it three in a row for Kreider

Chris Kreider has quickly made a name for himself this postseason.

Less than two months after finishing up his collegiate career at Boston College, the talented rookie tied a franchise mark with the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

Chris Kreider
Left Wing - NYR
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 7
SOG: 22 | +/-: -2
Kreider, 21, notched his fifth goal in 15 postseason games in New York's 2-0 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Prudential Center. The 6-foot-3 rookie has now scored in three straight contests, becoming the first Rangers' rookie to do that during the postseason since Don Maloney accomplished the feat back in 1979.

Kreider also set a new record for most playoff goals from a player who has never played in a regular-season game. Montreal's Eddie Mazur had four.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.19.2012 / 6:00 PM

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

DeBoer: 'We gotta find a way to score a goal'

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Pete DeBoer had no interest in analyzing Game 3 by the plays that made the difference in the Rangers' 3-0 win Saturday.

After giving Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist full credit for being the difference in the Rangers grabbing a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, DeBoer was asked if the couple of shifts prior to Dan Girardi's power-play goal 3:19 into the third period hurt the Devils.
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