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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Devils hope record-setting PK back in control

SUNRISE, Fla. — After finally shutting down the Florida power play in Game 4, the New Jersey Devils are hoping they have gotten their record-setting penalty kill back on track.

The Devils, who set a modern-era record with an 89.6 percent efficiency rate on the PK in the regular season, watched Florida go 6-for-10 on the power play in the first three games.

But New Jersey killed off all six Florida power plays Thursday in a 4-0 victory in Game 4.

“It seems like special teams has played a huge part in this series,” Devils captain Zach Parise said Saturday morning. “Their power play has beaten us single-handedly in some games. It was really important for us to get that first kill last game. Everyone on the penalty kill relaxed a little bit after we got that one.”

Florida, which finished tied for seventh in power-play efficiency in the regular season at 18.5 percent, went 5-for-7 with the man advantage in Games 2 and 3.

Not surprisingly, the Panthers won both games to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

In Game 2 at BankAtlantic Center, Devils defenseman Andy Greene was called for a tripping penalty 11 seconds into the game and Stephen Weiss scored on the power play just 23 seconds in to give Florida a quick lead.

Weiss added a second power-play goal 1:12 into the second period and the Panthers went on to win 4-2.

The Panthers’ 3-for-3 performance on the power play in Game 3 was the difference in their 4-3 comeback victory after they trailed 3-0 after only 6:16.

Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said the big difference for the penalty-killing units in Game 4 was playing more under control.

"In the first two, three games, we tried to do too much,” Kovalchuk said. “We tried to do somebody’s job and got out of position because of the emotions. But in Game 4 it was really focusing on your own job, what you’ve got to do to get the job done. That’s why we were good.”

While New Jersey shut out the Panthers power play in Game 4, its own power play went 2-for-4.

The first goal of the game, and ultimately the game-winner, came when Zach Parise tipped Marek Zidlicky’s shot from the point with the man advantage in the second period.

“You look at the four games and for the most part whoever’s won the special teams battle has ended up winning the game,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “That happens everywhere in the league. We knew going into the series how good their power play was. I’m hopeful that we found a way to shut it down and that it’ll continue."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:36 PM

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

Rangers need more from Gaborik

NEW YORK -- Marian Gaborik has been extremely quiet during the Eastern Conference Quartefinals with one goal and two assists in four games against the Ottawa Senators.

Three points in four games sounds plenty good on the surface, but Gaborik's only even-strength point came on a goal in Game 1 and he picked up both assists during a pair of first-period power plays in Game 4.

Driving the net and scoring from the high-traffic areas were hallmarks of Gaborik's 41-goal regular season and he said Saturday morning before Game 5 against the Senators that he needs to be better in that regard.

"We have to do more," Gaborik said, "myself and everybody else."

Since jumping to a 4-0 lead in a Game 1 victory, the Rangers have been dominated at even strength with the Senators holding a 6-2 scoring advantage during 5-on-5 play. Both goals were scored by forward Brian Boyle while regular-season leading scorers Gaborik, Richards and Ryan Callahan have been unable to generate anything at even strength over the past three games.

Gaborik said it's about getting back to what made himself and the team effective in the regular season -- going to the net and scoring dirty goals.

"It's very tight," Gaborik said. "It's been tight for these four games and it's going to be even tighter tonight. It's going to come down to battles and whoever puts more pucks on the net and tries to find those rebounds and gets some ugly goals.

"You have to battle for every inch of the ice out there. It's going to be the same tonight. We just have to do it. Everybody has to go out there and work hard and try to win those battles and create some offense. It's not going to be a lot of odd-man rushes, 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s, so we just have to get some zone time and find something there."

Gaborik and Richards haven't been the same since linemate Carl Hagelin was suspended after his elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2. Hagelin, who worked well with the duo by tracking down the pucks and driving back defenders with his speed, won't be eligible to return to the lineup until Game 6.

"We obviously miss him," Gaborik said. "We have to find a way to generate more offense. We have to get in on the forecheck and try to be more aggressive. We have to try to hunt the pucks down and get some zone time."

Coach John Tortorella has mixed and matched his lines over the past two games and will likely break up Gaborik and Richards at the start of Game 5. During practice Friday, Gaborik was on a line with Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov while Richards was centering Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, combinations that generated pressure during the third period of Game 4.

Those units comprised the Rangers' top two lines during the early part of the season, and Gaborik hopes the magic he had with Stepan and Anisimov is there again.

"We had some good chemistry during the year," Gaborik said. "We have to get that started tonight, especially 5-on-5, create some offense and be responsible defensively. We have been successful with our forecheck, with our zone time when we played together, that's what we have to do tonight."

Gaborik said his two assists on two power-play goals in the first period of Game 4 were encouraging, but he hopes it carries over to 5-on-5, where the Rangers have been ineffective of late.

"Power play was good. Hopefully we can build on it," Gaborik said. "5-on-5, that's where we have to be better and try to get some offense there. Its' going to be a good game tonight and we're going to be ready."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:26 PM

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

Projected lineups for Game 5

NEW YORK -- Here's a look at the projected lineups for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Sens forward Jesse Winchester (upper-body) is out with Mark Stone likely making his NHL debut in his place. The Rangers shuffled their lines a bit during practice Friday but should have no lineup changes, but defenseman Steve Eminger (ankle) said he is now day-to-day and could return at any time.

SENATORS

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Erik Condra - Kyle Turris - Nick Foligno
Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Mark Stone - Jim O'Brien - Zenon Konopka

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Ben Bishop

RANGERS

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Chris Kreider - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:14 PM

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

Stone could make NHL debut for Senators

NEW YORK -- Mark Stone called his first trip to Manhattan a "culture shock."

He hopes his first NHL game, which will likely be Saturday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, won't be quite as jarring or unsettling.

The 19-year-old who has spent the past four seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL is likely to make his professional debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with this best-of-seven series tied at 2-2. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound winger was taken in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Draft and was recalled by the Senators on Monday with no expectations of cracking the lineup.

But an upper-body injury to forward Jesse Winchester during Game 4 opened a spot in the lineup which will likely be filled by Stone, who skated on the team's fourth line at practice with Jim O'Brien and Zenon Konopka.

"I came to Ottawa with no expectations," Stone said. "I just wanted to be around that playoff atmosphere and if I can get in, that'll be something special for me. I just want to help the team the best I can."

Coach Paul MacLean wouldn't confirm his lineup, but talked about what Stone would bring to the table.

"We're keeping everything open at this point," MacLean said. "He's a good young player and has had a big year. He has a big scoring ability, good size. If we choose to use him, I'd like to have him on the power play."

Stone participated in the 2012 World Junior Championships for Team Canada and finished fourth in scoring with seven goals and three assists in six games. Stone's early time in Brandon was marred by a concussion and thumb injury during the 2008-09 season that limited him to 39 games.

Stone broke out in a big way over the next two seasons, with 37 goals and 69 assists in 71 games in 2009-10 and 41 goals and 82 assists in 66 games this season.

Making the jump from junior hockey to the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be daunting, but teammate Nick Foligno believes Stone has the temperament to do it.

"I remember doing it and I had a little more time with training camp and things like that, but he's been thrown in to the fire so to speak with the NHL playoffs," said Foligno, who went from the OHL to the NHL with a 28-game stint in the AHL in between at the start of the 2007-08 season. "He doesn't have a lot of break-in time. He's handled it really well. He's a quiet guy and he's a happy-go-lucky kid who's enjoying being here. I think that will bode well for him."

Foligno's advice, despite Saturday night being the most pressure-packed game of the season for the Senators, is to relax and enjoy the situation as much as possible.

"I think sometimes you come in and try to do too much," Foligno said. "I think we want to see him play the way that got him here. It's the only offer I can give him and just have as much fun with it as possible because it's a blast. There's a lot of pressure, but if you can get some fun out of it, it makes it really enjoyable and hopefully he'll do really well."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 12:46 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Projected lineups for Game 5

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the projected lineups for Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday night between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks from Scottrade Center:

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

The Sharks' healthy scratches include D Jason Demers, D Jim Vandermeer, LW TJ Galiardi, C Dominic Moore and LW Benn Ferriero.

BLUES

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

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

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

Goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower-body) is still day-to-day after being injured in Game 2. Healthy scratches include forwards Matt D'Agostini, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defenseman Kent Huskins and Ian Cole.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 12:31 PM

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

MacLean: Alfredsson making progress

NEW YORK -- Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean said Saturday morning that captain Daniel Alfredsson skated and is making progress in his recovery from a concussion.

Alfredsson did not join the Senators for their trip to New York and will not play in Game 5 of the Senators' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Rangers.

Alfredsson has not played since absorbing an elbow to the head from the Rangers forward Carl Hagelin during the second period of Game 2. Hagelin was suspended three games for the hit and is eligible to return to the lineup for Game 6 on Monday.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 11:45 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers' Garrison questionable, Strachan recalled

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers once again could be without key defenseman Jason Garrison in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Saturday.

Garrison, who was a late scratch in Game 4 on Thursday because of a lower-body injury, did not take part in the Panthers’ morning skate Saturday and coach Kevin Dineen said his availability will be determined after pregame warmups.

“He’s still a possibility,” Dineen said. “To put him out there for a 13-minute skate didn’t make a lot of sense this morning. We’ll see where he’s at. He’s questionable for tonight. We’re cautious and we’ll see where we end up.”

The Panthers, who also will be without Keaton Ellerby for Game 5, still had six defensemen on the ice at the morning skate after calling up Tyson Strachan from San Antonio of the AHL.

Ellerby, playing his first game since March 15 as Garrison’s replacement, sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Game 5.

The 27-year-old Strachan played in 15 regular season games for the Panthers after being called up in January, recording three points and a plus-1 ratio, and was signed to a one-year contract extension the following month.

“He’s played some really strong stretches of hockey, so if needed, certainly he can go in and do the job for us,” Dineen said. “The organization has faith in him. We signed him to a contract after a month here and I think that was very deserving that he came in and showed that he can play a regular shift in the NHL. And if he can do it in the regular season, he can do it in the playoffs.”

Strachan has appeared in 82 NHL games during his career, but has yet to play in a playoff game.

He played in San Antonio’s 5-4 overtime victory against the Chicago Wolves on Thursday in Game 1 of their AHL playoff series and flew to South Florida on Friday.

“There’s mixed emotions about that,” Strachan said of leaving his Rampage teammates behind. “Obviously you want them to be winning down there, but at the same time the chance to be up here and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a hard one to pass up. Just excited to be here and help out if they need me.”

Garrison, who led all Florida defensemen in the regular season with 16 goals and logged the second-most ice time behind Brian Campbell, clearly is an important player for the Panthers.

But the Devils said they weren’t concerning themselves with Garrison’s status.

“I don’t know exactly who’s in and not in,” captain Zach Parise said. “I don’t know if Garrison (is playing) or who they’ve got in. Regardless, our approach is going to be the same. It’s always been try to make it hard on their D, get it below them, forecheck hard. They’ve got offensive guys that want to jump in the rush, so we’ve got to make it harder for them to do that.”

Teammate Ilya Kovalchuk was more succinct: “It’s their problem, it’s not our problem. We just have to think about our game if he’s playing or not.”

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 10:49 AM

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

Melrose's Mullet of the Week

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 10:48 AM

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

Barry's Best of the Week

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 12:43 AM

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

Penguins one step closer to making history

The Pittsburgh Penguins had never won a Game 5 in a series when they trailed 3-0 until they beat Philadelphia 3-2 on Friday night. They're hoping for some more firsts in the next few days.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 8
SOG: 10 | +/-: 0
Now that they've won two games after losing the first three games of a series, they'll try to pull even on Sunday (noon ET; NBC, CBC). If they do, they'll get a chance to become only the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0.

Including Pittsburgh and Vancouver this year, 170 teams have lost the first three games in a best-of-seven series. The Penguins are just the 15th to get as far as a sixth game -- Vancouver will try to do it against Los Angeles on Saturday.

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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh