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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 7:03 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Aucoin to miss Game 1 for Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz . -- The Phoenix Coyotes will be without veteran defenseman Adrian Aucoin when they finally take on the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference final Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

The 38-year-old Aucoin, whose 61 NHL playoff games rank second to Ray Whitney among the Coyotes, skated on Saturday for the first time since leaving early in Monday's Game 5 win over the Nashville Predators. It was a light, morning-skate type of workout in advance of a 5 p.m. MT faceoff in Arizona. But Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said Aucoin would not be available for Game 1 and that David Schlemko will make his fourth start of the postseason against the Kings. Schlemko also played on Monday in place of the suspended Rostislav Klesla, who will return on Sunday.

Aucoin has two assists in 10 games during this postseason.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 6:04 PM

NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Phoenix Coyotes' projected Game 1 lineup

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With David Schlemko replacing Adrian Aucoin on the blue line, here is the Phoenix Coyotes' projected lineup for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday night:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski

Kyle Chipchura - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Michal Rozsival - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
David Schlemko - Rostislav Klesla


Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 2:44 PM

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

Kovalchuk not worried about next oppnenet yet

NEWARK, N.J. -- It makes no difference to New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk who the next opponent will be in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning on Monday.
 
Still, a series against the Washington Capitals and fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin would make for a pretty neat storyline.
 
"It would be nice … the first time ever [that both players meet in the playoffs]," Kovalchuk told the media after practice on Saturday. "He's one of the best players in the League and it's nice to play against those guys, but that's something we'll talk about [on Sunday] if it even happens."
 
Kovalchuk said it wouldn't motivate him even more to face Ovechkin in the next round.
 
"You don't need anything else … you're in the conference finals," Kovalchuk said. "I'm sure everybody will be pumped up and ready to go. It doesn't matter. For sure, it'll be nice. We're both Russian and the same age. I think if they win, that'll be their first time in conference finals so I'm pretty sure it'll be special for both of us."
 
For the record, Kovalchuk turned 29 years old on April 15; Ovechkin is 26.
 
Kovalchuk wasn't too concerned when asked his opinion on Ovechkin's limited ice time in the postseason. The Capitals captain has averaged 19:46 on the ice in 13 postseason games.
 
"That's their business and their problems," Kovalchuk said. "I'm pretty sure they're winning and that's all that matters at the end of the day."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said everyone's ice time is limited this time in the season.
 
"Coaches are playing four lines a game, and I think this time of year, almost everyone's minutes are down a little bit," DeBoer said. "Ovi's are down more significantly, but they have enough depth with that type of player there, with [Nicklas] Backstrom and [Alexander] Semin where they can do that."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 2:37 PM

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

DeBoer happy for his Devils to rest

NEWARK, N.J. -- There's never too much rest for the weary.
 
After going the distance against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he wouldn't trade places with anybody to be playing another Game 7.
 
"For me, the longer the better," DeBoer said.
 
After needing just five games to dispose of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Conference Semifinals, DeBoer's team is now four days into a five-day break before kicking off Game 1 of the conference finals on Monday. The Devils will play the winner of a Game 7 on Saturday between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
 
Is the five-day break too much?
 
"Like I've said all along, I don't think there's such a thing as too much rest this time of year," DeBoer said. "We have to stay sharp. That's our job to manage the schedule and the days off, so that we're ready to go Game 1. That's on the coaching staff to manage it properly, but I wouldn't want to trade spots with somebody playing Game 7 right now."
 
DeBoer has been on a regular routine during the playoffs this spring. He has provided the club with the necessary time off and has had them skate hard as well. It has certainly worked wonders. DeBoer worked his team through two practice sessions on Saturday at AmeriHealth Pavilion.
 
"The guys are excited and we got through a good practice [on Saturday] and we worked on a lot of stuff," DeBoer said. "Again it's managing the five days off and making sure we build and are ready for Monday.
 
"I think all year we've tried to make sure we've had a good ration of rest and practice," he continued. "My feeling is if we practice, we practice hard. If we don't need to practice, you should be resting both mentally and physically away from the rink. I think the guys have enjoyed that part of it and we came back [Saturday] in a good frame of mind after having [Friday] off."
 
The second session was dedicated primarily to specialty teams. The Devils first power-play unit had Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias up front and Ilya Kovalchuk and Marek Zidlicky on the points. The second unit had forwards Petr Sykora, Adam Henrique and David Clarkson with defensemen Andy Greene and Mark Fayne.
 
DeBoer said that whichever team he faces next, the challenge will be a little different than against the Panthers and Flyers.
 
"Both the Rangers and Capitals play a different style than the first two teams we faced in the playoffs," DeBoer said. "I don't think it's any tougher and I don't think easier. I just think it's a different style of play you're dealing with, but we've made the appropriate adjustments for that."
 
DeBoer said the minute he learns of his next opponent on Saturday, he'll reach out to his video coaches "as soon as the game ends."
 
DeBoer was asked if his wife would offer any advice regarding his next opponent on Mother's Day?
 
"No. She will steer clear," he said, laughing.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 1:22 PM

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

Rangers, Caps try to stay loose before Game 7

NEW YORK -- Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman hurled three wadded up balls of tape in the general direction of Jason Chimera, who at the time was surrounded by media and doing an on-camera interview at his locker

The atmosphere wasn't as relaxed in the Rangers' room, but it wasn't exactly filled with human beings who were on edge and biting their nails.

What, the Caps and the Rangers worry about playing in a Game 7?

The decisive game Saturday in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series doesn't appear to placing any added stress on these teams, who were both a loose bunch following their game-day skates at Madison Square Garden.

"It's important to be loose and joking around," said Rangers forward Mike Rupp, who will play in his sixth career Game 7. "Our team has a lot of that going on. I've found when I was younger I'd gauge off the older guys how relaxed they were. I think you can go out and be a little too fired up, so you have to channel that emotion in a certain way."

Once the throng of reporters cleared from Chimera, he fired the balls of tape back in Wideman's direction but hit fellow defenseman Mike Green, who fired a stern glare back at Chimera before cracking a smile.

Caps defenseman John Carlson walked toward his locker after leaving the ice to find center Nicklas Backstrom in his spot, fielding questions from journalists. The 22-year-old jokingly asked for a public-relations person to clear Backstrom from his locker before forcing him out of the area.

"I think we always like to have fun," Carlson said. "Everyone goes out and their morning-skate routines are different. Some guys need to take some things out of it, some people want to work on other things. I think everyone just goes out there and gets what they need to feel the best that night, and I think that for some guys, that's being relaxed."

If these teams are nervous about their seasons being on the line, they certainly aren't showing it.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 12:59 PM

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

Caps, Rangers boast wealth of Game 7 experience

NEW YORK -- The Capitals and Rangers both went through Game 7s in the first round, so playing another one Saturday night for the right to play in the Eastern Conference Final isn't anything new or jarring.

Each team has a few players that bring a "been there, done that" attitude.

Washington's Roman Hamrlik will play in his ninth Game 7, while Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin will suit up for the sixth Game 7 of their Capitals careers -- all in the past five seasons.
 
New York's Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp will also play in their sixth Game 7. Rupp is 2-3 in his Game 7 appearances, while Fedotenko is a perfect 5-0 with three goals and an assist in those contests.

"I heard one of those guys talking about it yesterday, that it's one of those special days," Rupp said. "It just feels different, like a birthday. It's a special day on the calendar. It's not an ordinary game. You approach it the same way, but we all know what a special night and opportunity it is to play in a Game 7."

Backstrom, Green, Laich and Ovechkin were part of the 2009 squad that rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Rangers in the conference quarterfinals. They were also there two weeks ago when the Capitals won Game 7 in Boston to eliminate the Bruins in the first round.

"We're calm, but we're excited," said Laich, who has a goal and three assists in five Game 7s. "We're ready to play. This group has been through a lot of them. This is our sixth and some people don't play three in their entire career. For whatever reason, we seem to find ourselves in these situations. You have to just trust your stuff and don't overcomplicate things."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 12:51 PM

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

Lundqvist absent, but Tortorella says he's 'just dandy'

NEW YORK -- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and forward Marian Gaborik were the only two Rangers who didn't participate in the optional morning skate Saturday. Lundqvist has been known to take skip game-day skates if there is a full practice the previous, but this is the first time he's done it in the playoffs.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said Lundqvist is "just dandy" and will play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

Rangers forwards Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) and Mats Zuccarello (wrist) are out. Dubinsky made a brief appearance in the locker room this morning without the aid of a boot or crutches and said he, "defers all questions to Torts" about his injury status. Dubinsky did not participate in the optional skate.

The only true question mark in terms of availability is Caps forward Jay Beagle, who will be a game-time decision due to a lower-body injury. He missed Game 6 of the series and did not participate in the morning skate Saturday.

Here are the projected lineups for Game 7:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Joel Ward - Matt Hendricks - Troy Brouwer
Keith Aucoin - Jeff Halpern - Mike Knuble

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

RANGERS

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Ruslan Fedotenko - 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, 05.12.2012 / 12:44 PM

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

Zidlicky, Volchenkov return to practice for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov were both a welcome sight at New Jersey Devils practice here at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Saturday.
 
Both players had been off the ice since the team's Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. According to the team, each player was "resting" after being shaken up in the series-clinching win.
 
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told the media on Wednesday that Zidlicky was "day-to-day" with an unspecified injury he sustained in the second period of Game 5 against the Flyers on Tuesday.
 
Zidlicky, who was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24, was shaken up 8:14 into the second after taking a crunching hit from Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds in the left-wing corner. He did return to the game and played four more shifts but sat out the entire third period.
 
Volchenkov took a hard hit from Zac Rinaldo in the opening period and, despite taking several minutes before returning the bench, was able to finish the game.
 
Right wing Dainius Zubrus, who practiced with the team on Thursday, was also skating hard on Saturday. The veteran forward sustained a charley horse on a hit from Rinaldo in the second period on Tuesday.
 
Devils coach Peter DeBoer conducted a double session on Saturday in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday.
 
The Devils will either play host to the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center or visit Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers. New Jersey's opponent will be determined on Saturday when the Capitals and Rangers play in Game 7 in Manhattan.
 
Here were the line combinations during the first session of Devils practice on Saturday:
 
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen.
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Matt Taormina - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
 


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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 12:33 PM

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

Beagle unlikely for Caps in Game 7

NEW YORK -- It appears as though Capitals forward Jay Beagle will not be in the lineup for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers on Saturday night, although coach Dale Hunter said "game-time" when asked about Beagle's status.

Beagle missed Game 6 of the series with a lower-body injury and did not participate in the game-day skate at Madison Square Garden. He was replaced in the lineup by Jeff Halpern, who had been a healthy scratch since March 23. Halpern was a minus-1 in 10:23 of ice time in the Caps' 2-1 win. Beagle hasn't skated with the team since blocking a shot with right leg during Game 5.

Capitals forward Alexander Semin was also absent from the team's optional practice, but Hunter said he Semin will be in the lineup.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 05.11.2012 / 5:59 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Aucoin status for Game 1 up in the air

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin was unable to practice for a second straight day, leaving in doubt his availability for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Los Angeles on Sunday.

Aucoin, who was injured early in Phoenix's 2-1 series-clinching win against Nashville on Monday, hasn't returned to the ice since.

"He was going to skate a little before practice but it didn't happen," coach Dave Tippett said. "Call him day-to-day."

Aucoin missed a game due to injury earlier in the playoffs but has averaged more than 18 minutes a game during the postseason. David Schlemko, who has filled in for Aucoin, Michal Rozsival and Rostislav Klesla once each during the playoffs, played very well in the clincher against the Predators and would be the likely replacement if Aucoin can't go.

"We have more depth on this team that in the past. That's a real plus for us," Tippett said.

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