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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:57 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Canucks' Ebbett eager to offer versalitity, stay healthy

Vancouver Canucks forward Andrew Ebbett couldn't help but cringe a little when he watched Washington star Alexander Ovechkin collide with Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg while watching the playoffs on television Thursday night.

It was eerily similar to his impact with the sturdy Bruins blueliner on Jan. 7, a ferocious hit that broke Ebbett’s collarbone badly in two places.

So seeing a similarly explosive collision on the eve of making his own playoff debut brought back memories for Ebbett, who will replace the suspended Byron Bitz for Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.

“It definitely reminded me of the hit for sure, just seeing the impact these two had,” Ebbett said. “It brings back memories from when he hit me.”

Ebbett still has a four-inch plate and nine screws in his shoulder and a jagged scar across the front of his collarbone from two fractures the surgeon in Boston called the worst he’d seen. So the fact he’s back for the playoffs after working to return for the final four games of the regular season, means that much more.

“I had doubts the first two weeks when I was in bed and on the couch but once I got here and in the gym and talking to doctors and trainer we knew this was our goal and it's nice to achieve it,” Ebbett said.

Ebbett will take the place of Bitz, who received a two-game suspension for driving Kyle Clifford face first into the boards in Game 1, on the fourth line. But the versatile Ebbett could also see some second unit power-play time, and with five goals in just 18 games this season, adds another scoring touch.

More than anything, he’s just happy to be back after a regular season that also included missing more than a month after breaking his foot while blocking a shot against the Kings on Nov. 10, a game in which he also scored.

“It's been a long year, it’s been a little frustrating at times, but those three months of working the gym and rehabbing, this is what I’ve been working for to get back to here,” he said. “I’m going to play as well as I can to hopefully stay in.”

And stay healthy for a change.

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:36 PM

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

Senators keen to limit turnovers, breakdowns

NEW YORK -- Players for the Ottawa Senators pointed to breakdowns at critical moments Thursday against the New York Rangers as the primary reason for their opening-game loss at Madison Square Garden.

"We have to be better with the puck," goalie Craig Anderson told the media following practice Friday at Chelsea Piers. "We didn't manage the puck well when it was on our stick and we didn't make good plays. Turnovers will cost you."

The Senators committed eight giveaways in the 4-2 loss. In the final half of the second period, the Rangers outshot the Senators, 8-2, and outscored the visitors, 2-0.

"We feel like we can play with them," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "I think we just played pretty good at times, and kind of got away from our game and that's when they took over -- that's what makes them the best team in the East."

The Rangers entered their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators as the top seed in the conference. The underdog Senators were seeded eighth.

"They were probably more consistent than us but the feeling is optimism," Spezza said. "You have to be prepared to lose games to win in the playoffs, and we're not going to win them all, so we're optimistic we can make this a series and beat these guys. We just have to play a little better."

Anderson, who allowed four goals on 31 shots, admitted he must also play better.

"There will be breakdowns every game, and it's my job to step up and make the save for the guys," Anderson said. "The less mistakes you make, the fewer chances we give and we gave them chances [in Game 1] and they capitalized."

Senators coach Paul MacLean knows if his team has any chance of advancing in the playoffs, it must learn to play a full 60-minute game.

"We weren't horrible for parts of the game, but in the playoffs, you need to be good the whole game," MacLean said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:30 PM

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

Kreider studying Hagelin, waiting for opportunity

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Chris Kreider was given an assignment while watching Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators -- study Carl Hagelin.

The 20-year-old Kreider, who joined the Rangers on Wednesday after winning a national championship with Boston College as a junior, won't likely be in the lineup anytime soon. The Rangers' coaching staff is working with Kreider to improve his game away from the puck, and coach John Tortorella felt there was no better to observe than Hagelin.

The rookie used his speed to close the gap on Ottawa's Nick Foligno in the third period and steal the puck to set up Brad Richards for a goal that made it 4-0. It was one of the many things that caught Kreider's eye at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

"He makes defensemen uncomfortable," Kreider said. "He's got an unbelievable first step. He's the best skater in the League. He did a really good job of harassing the defensemen. It led to two goals. It definitely works."

Hagelin didn't pick up a point on Marian Gaborik's second-period goal that made it 2-0, but his pressure led to a turnover by Jared Cowen that resulted in the goal. It was the type of play that Kreider took note of -- literally.

"I was just trying to jot down whenever he used his speed off the puck to pressure the defensemen and get up ice," Kreider said. "He used it in various situations. I went back today and looked at it on tape in a couple of situations."

Kreider said it was the first time that he can remember being a healthy member of a team and not participating in the game. He also said he felt nervious throughout the Rangers' Game 1 victory.

"I found myself jumping out of my seat too when we were scoring," Kreider said. "I feel emotionally invested."

Coach John Tortorella isn't answering questions about Kreider, but it appears the winger is a long way from getting into a game barring injury. The Rangers received contributions throughout the lineup in Game 1, getting goals from each of their top three lines.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo


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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:20 PM

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

Sens might deploy top forwards together more

NEW YORK -- Don't be surprised to see the trio of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek on the ice a lot more when the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers resumes Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

After all, whenever Senators coach Paul MacLean needed an offensive spark at any point this season, he usually had the team's top-scoring forwards leading the charge.

"They bring a lot of experience and it's definitely a line that can generate offense on a consistent basis," MacLean told the media following his team's practice Friday at Chelsea Piers.

"If we do that, we'll have to juggle things a little bit; we might do it within the game or before the game. I haven't decided yet."

Sitting out the optional practice were captain Alfredsson, forward Chris Neil and defenseman Erik Karlsson. MacLean said all three players were just resting and will be in the lineup Saturday.

In a 4-2 loss Thursday to the Rangers in Game 1, Spezza spent a majority of the game centering Colin Greening and Michalek. Alfredsson, meanwhile, was alongside center Kyle Turris and left wing Nick Foligno. MacLean did put Alfredsson, Spezza and Michalek on the same line at certain points in the game in an attempt to ignite the attack.

In addition to adding some offensive punch, MacLean also expects his team to play with more of an edge.

"I would expect the physical side of the game to increase anyway in the second game … our physical side of the game needs to improve and we welcome that," MacLean said.

Spezza said the team did their normal off-day routine, watching video and discussing ways they could improve.

"We did a better job of getting the middle of the ice in the third period, getting guys driving on their goalie and just trying to make it harder for them," Spezza said. "They do such a good job of blocking shots and collapsing, that we have to use our points and try to spread the rink a little bit. Some of the stuff we did toward the end of the game got us [two] goals.

"I think another key is having composure with the puck," Spezza continued. "It's easy to say to be composed and take your time, but when you get out there, things are exciting and jumpy. Getting that first game under our belt was good; I feel we'll be a little more composed moving forward."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:16 PM

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

Despite early edge, Rangers wary of Senators

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- One thing was certain among the New York Rangers on Friday -- they expect the Ottawa Senators to be better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1.

That could be disconcerting, as the Senators didn't play poorly in the series opener.

The Rangers used three quick strikes to blow open a one-goal game and roll to a 4-2 victory Thursday in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. But up until that offensive outburst, the Senators were pressing for the tying goal midway through the second period and were a goal away from changing the complexion of the contest.

That tightness of Game 1 wasn't lost on Brad Richards.

"They played really well last night," Richards said. "There was a momentum swing in the game we were able to grab, but they could've grabbed it too. We have to realize we're going to have to be a lot better.

"They had the puck a lot in the second period. If they score a goal and make it 1-1, it might be different."

The Senators held a 22-12 shots advantage at the halfway point of the game and fired home two goals in the third period to make things interesting. The game had long since been decided by the time the Senators made the score respectable, but that late surge combined with the first half of the game definitely grabbed the Rangers' attention.

"They have a great team over there," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "They've got five or six guys that are world-class talents and can be dangerous with the puck. We expect them to be at their best tomorrow. We have to be ready to elevate our game and match their intensity."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:00 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Sutter still wants more from Kings' Penner

Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn't sound overly impressed with Dustin Penner, who scored the winner late in Game 1 against the Canucks on Wednesday.

So the chances of Penner being back up on the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to start Game 2 of Western Conference Quarterfinals on Friday night may be slim. Penner’s promotion had more to do with a rotation that started when forward Kyle Clifford was knocked out of the game, so don’t be surprised if rookie Dwight King is there with Penner back on the third line.

Sutter made it clear he needs more from the big, enigmatic Penner.

“He can be a whole lot better for all three periods,” Sutter said of Penner, who only scored seven goals in the regular season. “We’re talking about him because he scored one goal. If it’s just about scoring I don’t think we’re going to beat this team 5-4 or 6-5. You have to be very good 200 feet, everywhere on the ice.”

Sutter did confirm forward Andrei Loktionov, who was called up from the American Hockey League when Brad Richardson needed an appendectomy Monday, would go in for Clifford. Clifford didn't play after having his head driven into the boards by Byron Bitz in Game 1. Bitz was given a two-game suspension Thursday.

“He’s pretty familiar with everything he needs to do," Sutter said of Loktionov, who played 39 games with the Kings this season, but will be making his NHL playoff debut. "He's pretty familiar with the players. The players are pretty familiar with him. He's pretty familiar with the system. He gives us some versatility.”

With the Canucks making changes in their lineup – Andrew Ebbett in for Bitz and defenseman Keith Ballard returning after missing two months with a concussion – and talking about needing to improve their discipline, their battle level and their power play, Sutter was asked what the Kings need to adjust.
 
Los Angeles outshot Vancouver 39-26 in Game 1, including a decisive 29-14 edge through 40 minutes, so maybe there’s not much to change.
 
“They don’t give up many opportunities five-on-five so you gotta to finish,” Sutter said. “I don't think you coach that. If you are creating your opportunities, you worked for your opportunities so the next part is reward your work.”

Here are the rest of the expected lines for the Kings in Game 2:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Andrei Loktionov - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez
 
Jonathan Quick is back in goal, with Jonathan Bernier backing up.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 3:28 PM

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

Healthy, productive Havlat adds to Sharks' weapons

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock certainly knows a thing or two about San Jose Sharks winger Martin Havlat.

Hitchcock saw plenty of Havlat when the Czech Republic native was breaking into the NHL with the Ottawa Senators. Hitchcock was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers at the time and saw a high-flying skater with big-time scoring punch.

He retouched on those points earlier in the week leading up to the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Blues and Sharks.

"I've coached against Havlat where he was the best player in every game ... it wasn't even close," Hitchcock said. "He was better than [Marian] Hossa. So I know what he can do."

Those points came to fruition Thursday night. Havlat became a thorn in Hitchcock and the Blues' side with two goals, including the game-winner in the second overtime of a 3-2 victory by San Jose, giving the seventh-seeded Sharks a 1-0 series lead.

Havlat came into the game with 28 points [12 goals, 16 assists] in his last 26 playoff games. After a tumultuous time in Minnesota, he was acquired by the Sharks before the season for this very purpose.

"Marty's a goal scorer," teammate Ryane Clowe said. "Goal scorers find ways."

Havlat found a way to open the scoring for San Jose, then ended it by taking a Clowe backhand feed and one-timing a shot from the high slot past Jaroslav Halak for the third playoff overtime goal of his career.

"I'm just trying to enjoy the time in the playoffs," said the 30-year-old Havlat, who has 21 goals and 51 points in 68 career playoff games. "I'm just trying to do my best and help my team. I think everybody else is trying to do the same thing."

Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan: "He has that reputation [of a clutch performer]. That's one of the reasons why he was acquired.

"We're very lucky that he had the type of game that he had."

It's been a tough year for Havlat, who is playing for his fourth NHL team. He missed four games at the start of the season because of offseason shoulder surgery, then missed 39 more games in the middle of the season after suffering a freak hamstring injury. He finished with a career-low seven goals and had 27 points in 39 games.

The Sharks were certainly a better team with Havlat in the lineup, going 25-11-3 with him in the lineup, 18-18-7 without him.

Havlat dressed for the final 13 games and was productive leading into the postseason, finishing with five goals and 12 points.

"It had to be taxing on him," McLellan said of Havlat. "You have to remember that he's only played 13-14 games returning from his injury. To go 4 1/2 periods -- give him credit. He managed himself well."

Sharks captain Joe Thornton called Thursday's game by Havlat "a big performance from a big-time player."

Now, with Havlat in the top-six mix for a deep and talented Sharks forward crop, San Jose becomes even more dangerous. For a team that reached the conference finals the last two seasons, that only bodes well moving forward.

"I'm just happy that I could be back before the end of the regular season and help the boys in the hunt for the playoffs," Havlat said. "Now I've played a few games before [the playoffs] and I'm happy for that.

"I got to know the boys a little more on the ice. I was ready for the first game. Now that we've made the playoffs, I'm excited to be in the playoffs."

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 3:09 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Holtby penalty a message about crease tresspassing

BOSTON – Somewhat lost in Braden Holtby’s 29-save performance in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut Thursday was the roughing penalty the rookie goaltender was called for against Boston center Chris Kelly.
               
Holtby and the Washington Capitals killed the penalty but when on to lose the game, 1-0, on a Kelly overtime goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden. However, the message Holtby sent about not trespassing on his territory might be beneficial as the series that continues Saturday goes on.
               
“That’s my game. That’s where I like to [be]. It’s my crease,” said Holtby, who conceded he shouldn’t have taken the penalty. “I don’t really like to let anyone in there because I want to fight as hard as I can to find the puck and to make saves.”
               
Holtby’s always been a feisty goaltender, according to coach Dale Hunter. And that the penalty occurred in the same crease Boston goaltender Tim Thomas decked Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin in the Stanley Cup Final last year was not lost on the 22-year-old netminder.
               
“It was funny actually, when I was at home [last June], my buddies and stuff were saying that that was a play that I would make,” Holtby said. “So it’s good to see and it’s a good competitive game out there.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:54 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Canucks make changes for Game 2, but D. Sedin unlikely

Daniel Sedin skated on his own an hour before the rest of the Canucks, but there was no update on his condition or possible return from a concussion for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

It seems unlikely that the Canucks get their leading goal scorer back, but they will have one player return from a concussion as they try an even the best-of-seven first round series against the Kings.

Keith Ballard, out since Feb. 7, will make his playoff debut in the hopes his ability to skate the puck out of trouble helps negate a Kings’ forecheck that had Vancouver pinned in its own end for prolonged periods. Aaron Rome appears to be the odd-man out on the back end based on the morning skate, with the Canucks expected to go back to the top-four pairings from last playoffs.

The Canucks will also use versatile forward Andrew Ebbett in place of Byron Bitz, who was suspended two games for the hit that knocked Los Angeles forward Kyle Clifford face first into the boards and out for at least Game 2, if not longer.

Ebbett, who will play on the fourth line at even strength, has also worked on the second unit power play and could help after the Canucks went 0-for-5 with the man advantage in s 4-2 loss Wednesday to the Kings.

Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t confirm it after the morning skate, but there’s also a good chance he switches up his top-six forward mix, dropping the ineffective Mason Raymond out of Daniel Sedin’s spot alongside Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows. Maxim Lapierre, who is normally an agitating fourth-line center, had three goals and five points in four games on the top line, but started the playoffs on a struggling second unit with Ryan Kesler and David Booth.

Here is the projected lineup for the Canucks in Game 2:
 
Maxim LapierreHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Mason RaymondRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Chris HigginsSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Manny MalhotraAndrew EbbettZack Kassian
 
Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Keith Ballard – Chris Tanev
 
Roberto Luongo is back in goal, with Cory Schneider backing up.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Caps prove commitment to blocking shots

BOSTON – The stiches above Marcus Johansson’s left cheek tell only part of the story.
               
The Washington Capitals were credited with 22 blocked shots in their 1-0 overtime loss to Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday night. And the notches in Johansson’s face were the result of one of his two big blocks.
               
“You just try to stay in the shooting lane, and sometimes you have bad luck, and the puck came high a couple times,” Johansson said after the Capitals practiced at TD Garden on Friday in preparation for Game 2 on Saturday. “But right now it’s just a matter of blocking a shot and it’s not that bad. It hurts a little but it’s OK.”
               
Washington was ninth in the League in total blocked shots during the regular season. But the commitment to risking life and limb was part of an overall defensive improvement that pushed the Capitals into the playoffs in the last week of the regular season.
               
“We’ve been sacrificing a lot down the stretch here,” Caps coach Dale Hunter said. “We blocked a lot of shots. We know it hurts and stuff, but the guys are doing it to save some of the shots on net. It’s a sacrifice by the guys.”
               
Roman Hamrlik led the Caps with five blocked shots, while Troy Brouwer recorded four.
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