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Posted On Wednesday, 05.01.2013 / 12:41 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Capitals-Rangers series blog

Quick start from top line has been key for Rangers

Any line featuring a captain partnered with the squad's leading scorer and one of the NHL's fastest skaters would be looked to for scoring and leadership on every shift. But for the New York Rangers' top line of captain Ryan Callahan, leading scorer Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin -- who won the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition at the 2012 All-Star Game -- a good start has been just as critical as a good finish.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 4:15 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canadiens-Senators series blog

Senators' Michalek, Phillips given day of rest

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators hit the ice Tuesday for the first time since the end of the regular season, but there were two key pieces missing.

Defenseman Chris Phillips and forward Milan Michalek did not skate, but coach Paul MacLean said the veterans were taking maintenance days and were expected to practice Wednesday in Montreal. Their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Canadiens starts Thursday at Bell Centre.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 3:37 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Ducks-Red Wings series blog

Beauchemin-Souray pairing split for Game 1

ANAHEIM -- Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin were arguably the most effective defensive pairing in the NHL this season. They are a combined plus-38 and accounted for 13 of the 17 goals scored by Anaheim Ducks defensemen.

That's what makes it difficult to understand why coach Bruce Boudreau would split up the pair for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But that appears to be the case; Souray continued Tuesday to work with Ben Lovejoy while Beauchemin was with Cam Fowler.

Boudreau switched the pair a couple of practices ago but wouldn't say why, although there is some thought that one of them needs to be with a fast skater like Fowler to counter the Detroit Red Wings' skilled forwards.

"I'm not going to speculate or say why I'm doing things at this stage, but whatever we do there's a reason," Boudreau said Monday. "We're just not throwing names in a hat and pulling them out. We have a thought process that goes into everything. Trial and error, and you hope it works."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 3:09 PM

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

Scandella excited to make Stanley Cup Playoff debut

CHICAGO -- After playing one regular-season game with the Minnesota Wild this season, 23-year-old defenseman Marco Scandella was recalled from Houston of the American Hockey League Monday. He will play alongside Jared Spurgeon in Game 1 of the Wild's series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) in a whirlwind couple of days that took him from the American Hockey League playoffs to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I'm super-excited," said Scandella, who has 89 games of NHL experience but will skate in his first NHL playoff game. "I've been watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs my whole life and I've been playing hockey to be a part of it. I was just focused on playing the [AHL] playoffs … so it's not like I saw it coming. I was just happy about it and I'm ready."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 3:08 PM

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

Capitals hoping to have Ward back for opener

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Forward Joel Ward could return to the Washington Capitals' lineup for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, according to coach Adam Oates.

Ward missed the final nine games of the regular season with a left knee injury he suffered April 7 after blocking a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Sami Salo.

Ward is targeting a return for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday against the New York Rangers and practiced with his teammates Tuesday for the second straight day.

"You know what, it was really encouraging that he took a full practice at full speed," Oates said. "He said he felt good. As long as there are no setbacks [Wednesday], yeah, I expect him."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 2:56 PM

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

Kane's mullet returning, and this time it's not alone

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have been asked quite a few important questions in the past few weeks leading into the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but one got answered for good Tuesday at United Center.

Patrick Kane decided he would grow his annual playoff mullet, complete with steps shaved into each side, like he first did to start the 2010 postseason run that ended with him scoring the winning goal in overtime of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Final.

Only this time, Kane isn't alone. Rookie right wing Brandon Saad is mimicking Kane's "business up front, party in the back" look for his second go-round in the postseason -- steps in the side an all.

"It's pretty short right now," Kane said. "Hopefully, it will have some time to grow in. We have myself and a new addition to the team this year that wanted to do it too. Saad joined in on the mullet trend and his looks pretty good. It's a little fun."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 2:44 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Ducks-Red Wings series blog

Boudreau has two goalies, and isn't afraid to use both

ANAHEIM -- The common thinking is that a team needs to ride one goalie to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But Bruce Boudreau's experience is not common.

Boudreau switched between Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov when he was coach of the Washington Capitals. In Boudreau's second season with the Anaheim Ducks, he has the option of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth.

Hiller will get the start for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Detroit Red Wings, although Boudreau coyly said, "I haven't stated that I'm going with Hiller yet" at the Tuesday morning skate.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 2:15 PM

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

Hitchcock opts for experience in Game 1

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock wouldn't play his card Monday. He did Tuesday: T.J. Oshie will return to the St. Louis Blues lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings.

Who will Oshie replace? It was assumed one of the fourth-line players would be taken out, with Adam Cracknell at the top of the list. But Hitchcock will instead sit rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, at least for the first game.

"I've always believed that the first kick at the can in playoffs is for veteran players," Hitchcock said. "You give them a go. Tarasenko, [Dmitrij] Jaskin will probably get some time during the playoffs, but you want to give the veterans a chance to prove -- unless they've really underperformed -- they want to take the ball and run with it. That's what we're going to do. If somebody under performs, then we won't hesitate to replace and move from there."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 2:13 PM

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

Wild's Pominville out for Game 1 vs. Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville will not play against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday at United Center in Game 1 of the teams' Western Conference Quarterfinals series (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Pominville has an upper-body injury that stems from an illegal hit to the head by Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown during a game April 23 at Xcel Energy Center. Brown was suspended two games for the hit, and Pominville hasn't played since.

He was able to practice at left wing on the third line Monday, but Pominville didn't get the clearance to play in Game 1.

"[He's] just not quite ready," Wild coach Mike Yeo said following Minnesota's morning skate. "This is a big game, but you've got to look at the big picture and we've got to make sure that when we get him back in, we get him back in for good."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 1:35 PM

By Matt Sitkoff -  NHL.com Contributor /NHL.com - NHL Live blog

Gretzky on Cisco NHL Live as playoffs get started

The puck drops on the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night and Cisco NHL Live with Steve Mears and E.J. Hradek, at 5 p.m. ET on NHL Network, will get you ready for the first night of action. We'll talk to "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, as the Los Angeles Kings get set to defend the Cup against the St. Louis Blues. We'll also get a live preview of the game on our Cisco NHL Arena Cam with Darren Pang.

The Presidents' Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks begin their Stanley Cup journey vs. the Minnesota Wild, and we'll be joined by Pierre McGuire from inside the United Center to break down the matchup. We'll also get an update from the West Coast when Ducks analyst Brian Hayward joins us to discuss Game 1 between Anaheim and Detroit.

Don't forget to submit your #AskEJ questions through Twitter via @NHLNetwork or @EJHradek_NHL, and stick around for the shootout as EJ picks all three playoff games being played Tuesday night.

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He's, believe it or not, actually one of my favorite guys, and I've ended up trading him twice. I appreciate what he's done. He was one year away from being an unrestricted free agent, and I felt with this opportunity, that it was a chance that we were able to get somebody for him in Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening.

— Penguins GM Jim Rutherford on forward Brandon Sutter