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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 10:51 AM

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

It only took 77 years ...

Halley's Comet comes around every 76 years -- or almost as often as the Boston Bruins win a playoff game 1-0 in overtime.

The Bruins did just that in their playoff opener on Thursday, beating the Washington Capitals on Chris Kelly's goal 1:18 into overtime after the teams battled through 60 scoreless minutes of regulation. The last time Boston won 1-0 in overtime in a playoff game was 77 years ago -- March 25, 1935, when Dit Clapper scored 3:26 into the second extra period.

It was the first 1-0 overtime game involving the Bruins since they lost 1-0 to New Jersey in the first round in 1995 -- and the first one ever for the Caps.

One reason for the Bruins' victory was their continuing ability to shut down Alex Ovechkin, who entered Thursday with the fourth-highest points-per-game average in playoff history. Ovi led the Caps with seven hits but had only one shot on goal and has now managed just one goal in his last nine games against Boston since the start of the 2010-11 season.

Tim Terrific -- Tim Thomas started the 2012 postseason the way he ended the playoffs last year -- perfect.

Thomas wasn't severely tested in the Bruins' win against Washington, but he was flawless in stopping all 17 shots he faced before Chris Kelly's game-winner 1:18 into overtime. It was the sixth playoff shutout of his career and his second in a row -- he ended last season by putting up a zero in Boston's 4-0 win at Vancouver in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Thomas, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner this past spring, has stopped the last 58 shots he's faced in a span of 123 minutes and 44 seconds since Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre scored with 2:26 remaining in Game 6.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 8:41 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Dineen to lean on ex-Devils for advice

Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen hadn't announced as of Thursday night whether Scott Clemmensen would get the start over Jose Theodore in Game 1 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Friday against the New Jersey Devils.

Meanwhile, as a fourth-line center, John Madden's ice time figures to pale in comparison to that of top forwards like Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss.

Regardless of how much they play, however, Clemmensen and Madden have the ability to have a different kind of impact on this series as ex-Devils who might provide valuable information on some of their former teammates' tendencies.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 8:39 PM

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

Kings apologize for post-game tweet

The Los Angeles Kings were all a-Twitter on Thursday.

Unfortunately it had less to do with their Game 1 victory in Vancouver the night before, and more to do with a line that went out on the popular social media network afterwards.

Sent from the team's official Twitter account, @LAKings, shortly after the 4-2 win, it read: "To Everyone in Canada outside of BC, you're welcome," a reference to the Canucks perceived status as one of hockey's most hated teams.

The Kings quickly apologized Thursday morning.

"We encourage our digital team to be creative, interactive and to apply a sense of humor whenever possible," Mike Altieri, the Kings vice president of communications and broadcasting, said in a statement. "To anyone who found it offensive, we sincerely apologize."

Vancouver players dismissed it, saying they are used to the wearing the black hat ever since last year's run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final cast them in the villain's role -- even in Canada.

"You laugh about it a bit, but we're used to it," backup goalie Cory Schneider said. "Everyone's kinda doing that stuff to us, so it doesn't really bother us a whole lot. We have bigger, more important things to worry about than what their team is putting on Twitter."

Los Angeles players and coach Darryl Sutter also dismissed it for the most part, stressing that it didn't come from anyone in the locker room.

"It's irrelevant to the guys in the room," captain Dustin Brown said. "As players we're all smart enough to know bulletin board material at this time of the year is not a good idea and as players we all understand that. Maybe someone who is control of the Twitter feed needs to understand that as well."

As for perceptions of the Canucks, Brown said it should be considered a compliment.

"When you've been the best team the last two years, you automatically get the role of the most hated team," Brown said. "I mean you look at other sports, you look at the Yankees who have dominated baseball on and off, they are probably the most hated team in baseball. That goes with the territory of being the best."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 8:31 PM

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

Bitz accepts responsibility for suspension

VANCOUVER -- Canucks forward Byron Bitz accepted responsibility for the dangerous hit that knocked both him and Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford out of Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series on Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-5 Canucks forward will have more time to think about after Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's Vice President of Player Safety, announced late Thursday that Bitz was suspended for two games for the dangerous hit.

"I don't feel very good about it," Bitz said before a phone hearing with Shanahan.

Clifford had his back to Bitz, who was skating along the goal line before planting his shoulder into the Kings' forward, driving his face hard into the boards. Bitz received a five-minute major for boarding, during which the Kings scored a goal, and a game misconduct. Clifford returned the bench during the ensuing power play but never got back on the ice and didn't return for the third period.

"I had no intention of targeting the head or injuring anybody," said Bitz, who has not been disciplined before. "That's not the way I play. It was an unfortunate play. The referees made the call and it cost our team a goal. It's my fault."

Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said Clifford wouldn't play Game 2 on Friday.

"You guys know the old standard, 'upper-body injury,' and he's out," Sutter said.

"I don't want to not tell the truth. I'll just leave it at that"

As for who might take Clifford's place in the lineup with Brad Richardson already out after an appendectomy Monday, Sutter only joked he was, "talking to Bernie Nichols about it, but he doesn't know if he's quite game ready."

The candidates include big wing Kevin Westgarth and smaller center Andrei Loktionov, a top prospect who was sent down to the AHL in February because there was no room behind Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser.

"I have to be ready," Loktionov, a Russian, said in choppy English of possibly playing his first playoff game. "It's so much quickly than in season, everyone try to hit you. I have to keep my head up and keep move my feet. It's different."

The Canucks also have options to replace Bitz, including Dale Weise, who plays a similar physical role, and Andrew Ebbett, an undersized center who can also help on the second unit of a power play that was 0-for-5 in Game 1.

"I'd be kidding if I'd say we don't need the power play," coach Alain Vigneault said. "You need that as a weapon to make sure the other team stays honest on the ice and obviously our power play needs to be better. We have the personnel for it to be good. Right now they need to execute better."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 7:44 PM

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

Richards steps up as leader for Kings

VANCOUVER -- How good was Mike Richards in his first playoff game for the Los Angeles Kings?

Forget scoring his team's first goal on a 5-on-3 power play, pouncing on a turnover to set up the go-ahead goal with 3:14 left or adding a third point by assisting on an empty-netter in the dying seconds of L.A.'s 4-2 Game 1 victory in Vancouver on Wednesday.

The true measure of Richards’ effectiveness came when Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was asked about his matchup with his own second-line center Ryan Kesler, who also happens to be the reigning Selke Trophy winner.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 5:20 PM

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

Blackhawks like experience of O'Donnell on blue line

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In his 17th NHL season and closing in on his 41st birthday, Sean O'Donnell hasn't committed to this being his last NHL season.
 
But it could be, and Thursday he will play his 105th Stanley Cup Playoff game against one of the nine teams he's played for in his career, the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
O'Donnell played in 51 games this season and his role and ice time has been more muted. But a second Stanley Cup to bookend the one he raised in 2007 with Anaheim would be a great way to leave the stage. After sitting out the season finale against Detroit, he was tabbed to play alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson in Game 1.
 
"Unless you are an elite player, every game in this league is a tryout," said O'Donnell, who got the nod over rookie Dylan Olsen with Steve Montador still out with a concussion. "I think I've survived in this League for awhile playing a certain style. Just because it's the playoffs, I'm not going to change that. Keep it simple and do your job has worked real well."
 
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said it's that grit and experience -- on the road in the hostile atmosphere of the White Out in Arizona -- that led him to go with O'Donnell.

"Down the stretch he came in there and did a real nice job for us," he said. "We like his experience, we like his size and we like his thought process right off the bat."
 
Quenneville said he expected Montador to be on the ice as early as Thursday or perhaps this weekend, but said it was tough to say if he would be available in the series.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 5:17 PM

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

Daniel Sedin doesn't skate again for Canucks

Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin was not on the ice Thursday.

He wasn’t alone.

It was an optional practice for both the Kings and Canucks after Los Angeles, with most of the top players taking the day off leading into Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series Friday night.

Still, with Sedin not skating for a second straight day it seems highly unlikely he will return to help Vancouver try and even the series after losing the opener 4-2 on Wednesday night. Out since March 21 with a concussion, there was optimism when Sedin practiced with the team Monday. But it faded when he skated with a small group after practice Tuesday, and stayed off the ice the next two.

Sedin, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer last season, led the Canucks with 30 goals and was second in points with 67 despite missing the final nine games of the regular season after an elbow from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith, who was suspended five games for the hit.

As for an optional skate after losing an opener for first time in eight playoff series, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said areas of concern – and they had several, most notably an ineffective power play – would be address in meetings.

“Just felt it was the right thing to do to make sure our guys are ready for tomorrow,” Vigneault said of the off day for most. “We’re working on a lot of things right now, so you don’t need to worry about that.”
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 4:52 PM

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

Quenneville stayed calm in season's tumultous stretch

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Winning a Stanley Cup in a big city doesn't earn you much rope as a coach.
 
Less than two years removed from winning the first Cup since 1961 in Chicago, an 0-8-1 slump that spanned over three weeks in January and February led to rumblings that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville's job might be in danger. But Chicago went 15-5-4 down the stretch and rolled up 101 points to safely land a playoff spot -- taking press off Quenneville that his players felt never should have been there.
 
"That was tough for the players to listen to," said winger Patrick Sharp, who had eight of his 33 goals in the stretch run. "Everyone has their opinion, and they have a right to voice it, but I know in our locker room there was no one asking for that or even he wasn't thinking about that.
 
"He's our leader. He's a guy we look to in every situation. He's got the experience. We won a Stanley Cup with him, and then you're hearing things that he might be fired?
 
"If that would have happened, all of us would have been upset with ourselves because we were the ones on the ice controlling the situation."
 
Sharp said Quenneville's calm demeanor during the skid, while fans and media stoked the fires, was a big reason why the players didn't panic as well.
 
"That's the thing that impressed us during the streak," Sharp said. "He didn't waver too much from his beliefs. We changed a few things, but he wasn't stressed out. He wasn't coming in with a beard like he hadn't shaved. He was getting his sleep. He was still the same old Joel -- just being patient and knowing we'd be a better team for it."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:50 PM

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

Projected Game 1 lineups

Here's how the lineups project for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes set for Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena:

BLACKHAWKS

Patrick Kane - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette


Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Sean O'Donnell

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - Michal Rozsival

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera


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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:24 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Flyers know they need better starts

PITTSBURGH -- Although they've made a habit of getting down early in games and coming back, the Flyers understand it's not exactly the greatest formula for success in the playoffs, especially against a team with as much firepower as the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So what do they have to do to combat what has been a problem for a large portion of the season but has seemed to swell in the last month?

Well, it's simple really.

"We have to find a way to be ready from the get-go," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "That hasn't been the case the last few weeks. Games are getting tighter and tighter and we have to find a way to get better starts. That's why I say we got lucky [Wednesday], because against a really good team, down 3-0, you don't usually get back into the game."

For the third time in the last month the Flyers came back to beat the Penguins after falling into an early hole. This time it was 3-0. The last two times it was 2-0.

Philadelphia, though, now has won four games this season after trailing by at least three goals and has come back to win 10 games when trailing by at least two.

"It says a lot about the youth and firepower on our team that we can score goals and never be out of a game," Scott Hartnell said. "But I've said it once and I'll say it a hundred times, we can't be down 2-0 or 3-0 and expect to win."

The Flyers fell behind 3-0 in Game 1 because the Penguins took it to them with their speed. Granted, the Flyers had six rookies in the lineup and maybe that was a reason why they seemed to have that deer-in-the-headlights look in the first, but Timonen said that argument isn't valid because everybody had that look.

"Everybody was standing still," he said. "We were looking around and waiting to see what is going to happen. That's not a way to start the game. We need to come at these guys and make sure we're the ones to dictate the pace. [Friday] we have to be totally different from the first period on."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers