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Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 5:55 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - Canucks-Sharks series blog

Sharks get boost from improved special teams

VANCOUVER -- There is little doubt in Dan Boyle’s mind why the San Jose Sharks lasted only five games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season: Porous penalty killing.

The Sharks gave up six goals on 18 chances against the St. Louis Blues and bowed out earlier than any of their nine-straight postseason appearances.

“Our PK let us down and we were out,” Boyle said bluntly.

The veteran defenseman is confident it won’t happen again, not after the Sharks’ penalty killing unit went from 29th in the NHL at 76.9 percent last season to sixth in the League this year, killing off 85 percent of the chances they gave up.

That success continued in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday, with San Jose surrendering three shots on two chances for the Vancouver Canucks. Aggressively pursuing the puck in their own end, and seemingly not afraid to overload on one side, the Sharks kept the Canucks off balance and never really let them get set up and comfortable.

“One guy goes, everybody goes,” Boyle said. “Our unit as a whole has done a very good job all year and it’s just as important as the power play. It’s huge.”

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 5:27 PM

By Staff -  / - Canadiens-Senators series blog

Canadiens' Eller released from hospital

The Montreal Canadiens announced Friday that center Lars Eller has been released from the hospital.

Eller was removed from the ice on a stretcher during the second period of Game 1 of the Canadiens' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators after he was hit by Ottawa's Eric Gryba.

The team announced Thursday that Eller had been hospitalized after sustaining a concussion, facial fractures, loss of consciousness and had teeth knocked out after the hit and falling face-first to the ice.

Gryba was assessed a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct for the hit, and has been suspended for two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 5:13 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - Canucks-Sharks series blog

Canucks, Sharks battle over faceoffs

VANCOUVER -- The San Jose Sharks were the second best faceoff team in the NHL during the regular season and continued that dominance on the draw against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Led by Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, San Jose won 40 of 70 faceoffs (57 percent) in the opener of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday, but Canucks coach Alain Vigneault takes issue with how the Sharks did it.

“Instead of trying to beat some of those guys clean, the way they cheat and are allowed to cheat, it makes it more challenging,” Vigneault said when asked about the faceoff discrepancy. “They got quite a few guys that can take draws.”

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 4:22 PM

By Kevin Woodley - Correspondent / - Canucks-Sharks series blog

With Havlat out, Torres moves up for Sharks

VANCOUVER -- San Jose Sharks forward Martin Havlat won't play in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Friday (10 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN, RDS) after taking a stick in the groin from Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa in the series opener.

Havlat left with nine minutes left in the first period of San Jose's 3-1 win Wednesday, and replays of his last shift show Bieksa lifting his stick up into Havlat's groin area as he turned to box out for a rebound in front of the Vancouver net.

"Havlat? I don't remember," Bieksa said after the Canucks' optional morning skate Friday. "I don't know. I'll have to watch it over again to see what you are talking about."

Havlat was seen walking gingerly in the hallways of Rogers Arena but did not take part in the Sharks' skate Friday. Coach Todd McLellan didn't provide an update on the injury or have much to say about the incident that caused it.

"Marty is not playing [Friday] and I guess that is all that is important," McLellan said. "If there was a situation that somebody crossed the line, it could have been dealt with on the ice or after."

Asked if it was addressed at the League level, he said, "Not that I am aware of."

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 4:06 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Practice day is homecoming of sorts for van Riemsdyk

BOSTON -- Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk was all smiles when asked about making a return to Beantown and having the opportunity to practice at Walter Brown Arena on the campus of Boston University the past two days.

After all, van Riemsdyk's first collegiate goal for the University of New Hampshire came against Boston University before 6,037 fans at nearby Agganis Arena on Oct. 19, 2007. It was the first of 11 goals that season for van Riemsdyk, who also notched an assist in the contest.

"I've always had good memories playing here since I had my first college goal at the rink next door, so it's definitely a special place to be back at," van Riemsdyk said with a grin.

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 3:33 PM

By Staff -  / - 2013 NHL Draft blog

Top draft prospects leading teams in to CHL finals

Six teams are fighting for three spots at the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup, hosted this year by the Saskatoon Blades.

Leading those teams is a number of top 2013 NHL Draft prospects.

As NHL Network analyst Craig Button breaks down some of the top stars, among them defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater, whose team will face Curtis Lazar and the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League final. The series begins Friday in Portland.

In the Ontario Hockey League, the London Knights will have forwards Max Domi and Bo Horvat and defenseman Nikita Zadorov leading them against the Barrie Colts. That series begins Friday in London.

And in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final, the Halifax Mooseheads boast an incredible array of talent, led by forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, as well as Central Scouting's top-rated North American goaltender, Zachary Fucale. Their opponent in the league final, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar is led by forward Valentin Zykov. The series begins Friday in Halifax.

The Memorial Cup runs May 17-26, with the three league champions joining Saskatoon in the round-robin tournament to crown Canada's top junior team.

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 2:53 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Carlyle needs Maple Leafs' best players to step up

BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were back on the ice at Walter Brown Arena on the campus of Boston University on Friday in an attempt to formulate a better game plan for heading into Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS).

While game-planning and strategy is all well and good, Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said he knows his best players need to earn their keep if his team has any shot at defeating the Bruins in the best-of-7 series.

That means Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, Dion Phaneuf and James Reimer need to step up their games, or the organization's first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in nine years will be a short one.

"In the playoffs you're tested daily, maybe shift-to-shift or period-to-period, and that's what it is," Carlyle said. "It's going out there and earning their space and delivering in pressure situations. That's what it's supposed to be. It's not supposed to be an easy game. This game is tough … it's played with big men out there moving at a quick pace. You're playing for keeps now."

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 2:47 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Wild confident Harding can stay sharp

CHICAGO – The Minnesota Wild hope to even their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night at United Center (9:30 pm E.T., NBCSN, CBC, CSN-CH, FS-N) but won't have starting goalie Niklas Backstrom or defenseman Clayton Stoner.

Backstrom will miss his second straight game after incurring a lower-body injury in warmups prior to Game 1 on Tuesday, and Stoner is out with an unspecified injury that happened early in the first period of the series opener on a big hit by Chicago's Andrew Shaw.

Josh Harding, who played well when pressed into service at the last second because of Backstom's injury, will get the start again. Justin Falk will enter Minnesota’s lineup in place of Stoner. Before Tuesday's games, Harding hadn't made an NHL start since Jan. 30, when he played at home against the Blackhawks and got pulled in the first period after allowing two goals on four shots.

After making 35 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 on Tuesday, Harding is looking to have another strong performance Friday night.

"I'd sure like to hope so," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "For him, there are a lot of positives to take out of the game, and I think as much as anything else, it's the confidence of going out and playing well in a game like that. For a guy who's missed a lot of hockey, he's played good hockey and it's just kind of a statement to himself that, 'I'm getting my game [back].'"

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 2:43 PM

By Matt Kalman - Correspondent / - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Peverley hoping for chance to play Game 2

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- After he was a healthy scratch for one of 48 games in the regular season, Boston Bruins forward Rich Peverley didn't expect to be sat out of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Maybe the only perk of his situation was that Peverley got to watch the Bruins' 4-1 win Wednesday from a prime viewing area.

"We have a lot of depth on this team. And whatever which way it takes to win the game, that was, from watching that game, that was one of the best games we played all year," Peverley said after practice Friday here at Ristuccia Arena. "We were talking, the guys up there. That was fun to watch. So whatever it was, we did a great job, and let's just focus on winning."

Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 2:29 PM

By Matt Kalman - Correspondent / - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Julien won't commit to Ference's Game 2 replacement

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- With the one-game suspension the NHL assessed to defenseman Andrew Ference on Thursday, the Boston Bruins know they will have to play Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS) without the player who ranked fourth on the team in ice time during the regular season at 19:29 per game.

The Bruins returned to the ice for practice Friday here at Ristuccia Arena after taking a day off Thursday. While coach Claude Julien wouldn't commit to any set lineup the day before facing the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 2, he split up his playoff shut-down pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg for the session. Chara skated with Adam McQuaid while Seidenberg worked with Ference's usual partner, Johnny Boychuk, during 5-on-5 drills.

"We mix and match a lot of times," Julien said. "So that's not an issue."

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Quote of the Day

That group is not satisfied until we win a Stanley Cup. When we do win that Stanley Cup, I don't think we'll be satisfied then either. We're going to want another one. We have the group to do it. We have all the pieces. We just need to put them together.

— Ducks forward Ryan Kesler after signing a six-year extension with Anaheim this past July