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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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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:30 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Devils, Panthers eager to finally get series started

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Martin Brodeur will begin his 17th playoff run Friday, but he doesn’t remember ever having to wait this long to get going.

Six days after wrapping up the regular season, the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers finally get to start their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at the BankAtlantic Center.

It's the last series to get going, as three series started Wednesday and four more began Thursday.

"It's extremely exciting, to say the least," Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson said after his team's morning skate. "The long wait that we had made it even better for us to jump on the saddle and get ready to go here. We're extremely excited in the room here and ready to get going."

If there's such a thing as carrying momentum into the playoffs, the Devils probably would have wanted to start the series as early as possible.

While Florida endured a season-high five-game losing streak before clinching the Southeast Division title by beating Carolina in the regular season finale, the Devils streaked into the playoffs by finishing with six consecutive victories.

It was the longest winning streak in the NHL at the end of the regular season.

"We had some guys that were carrying some injuries that it's good to get them that extra couple days off," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "But, yeah, when you're playing well and feeling good, you always want to be keep playing that next day. In the long run, it was good for us to get a little rest and heal some guys."

New Jersey went 12-4-1 in its 17 games, but coach Peter DeBoer isn't sure that will mean much once the series begins.

"I talked to Lou [Lamoriello], he's probably the greatest resource for me on playoff hockey with his success, and he's had teams that stumbled in and won and teams that lit things up the last 10 games and lost," DeBoer said. "I don't know if there's a right formula. I can tell you I would rather have won six in a row than not heading in. Hopefully that sets the table for us. But it doesn't guarantee anything."

Starting the series so late gave both teams plenty of practice time. There's also been a lot of playoff watching.

"It's definitely a fun part of the year," Panthers forward Kris Versteeg said. "It's a fun time to be a player and a fan of the game as well. ... We're fortunate enough to have made the playoffs. We've been on a long wait, but now it's here and now we're excited about it."

The last time the Panthers hosted a playoff game was April 20, 2000, and the BankAtlantic Center was known as the National Car Rental Center then.

If nothing else, the late start to the series gave the Panthers and their fans more time to savor the team's first-ever division title.

"It's been a good week," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Watched some games and everything's been so close, three overtime games last night. It's been an enjoyable week for us to be able to reflect on our full season, but we're certainly ready to put that in the rearview mirror and get going in the playoffs."
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:06 PM

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

Bourdon not part of Flyers' morning skate

PITTSBURGH -- Flyers rookie defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon did not take part in the morning skate Friday at Consol Energy Center, an indication that the upper-body injury he sustained in Game 1 will keep him out of the lineup for Game 2.

Pavel Kubina, a healthy scratch in Game 1, will draw into the lineup if Bourdon indeed can't play. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette does not update his lineup or talk about injuries.

Kubina had four assists and was a minus-3 in 17 games with Philadelphia after coming in a trade from Tampa Bay on Feb. 18. He missed seven games with an injury in March.

"It's always tough when you get traded and obviously it takes a little time to get used to everything, the new system, the new teammates and everything else," Kubina said. "I've been here two months now so I should be used to everything now."

Kubina, who won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, said he was disappointed that he was a healthy scratch in Game 1, but he is not holding any type of grudge.

"It's always hard when you're not playing and obviously everybody wants to play, but I do understand it," he said. "Hopefully I can help the team in the future."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:02 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Filppula happy for Rinne's rise, but not right now

NASHVILLE – Each team in this Western Conference Quarterfinal series has one player from Finland -- forward Valtteri Filppula for Detroit and Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
 
Filppula has played against Rinne in his homeland and often as foes in the Central Division. He said in the NHL that Rinne is one of the few goalies who will have a chat with him during the game, though none of that has gone on in the playoffs.
 
“You have a little bit of a Finnish connection and any time you face a Finnish guy, usually say hi to him and what’s going on there,” Rinne said. “He’s a nice guy, but now it’s a different time of the season but he’s pretty laid-back guy and I’m usually that way, too.”
 
Filppula said that part of what makes the 6-foot-5 Rinne successful is that he’s an excellent athlete. Filppula said he played against Rinne some back home, but more now in the NHL.
 
“Now you get to see him more and obviously he’s become better as you would hope,” Filppula said of Rinne. “He’s always been good size and really fast and I think that’s the biggest thing as to why he’s really good. He’s really quick and obviously never gives up and makes a lot of good saves after you think it should be a sure goal. He comes back and makes those key saves. Definitely, it’s a fun goalie to follow and hope for all the best, but not so much in this series.”
 
Rinne was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last year but he does not have a star personality. He’s fairly low-key off the ice. Filppula said that as a result Rinne does not exactly have rock-star status in Finland.
 
“Well, I think for the Finnish audience, it’s tougher since he didn’t play that much back home,” Filppula said. “He came over here pretty early but I think now people see him play more and I think he’s definitely one of the top Finnish players to play. He’s really earned that right and everyone knows he’s a great goalie now. I don’t think he acts that way, which is a good thing.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:00 PM

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

Projected lineup as Flyers go for 2-0 stranglehold

PITTSBURGH -- The Flyers have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in a seven-game series 17 times in their history. They have gone on to win the series every single time.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have been tied 1-1 in a series 32 times. They are under .500 in those series with a record of 15-17.

Those are two interesting little stats heading into Game 2 Friday, when the Flyers will be looking to take a 2-0 series lead back to Philadelphia. But they're also two meaningless stats to the orange and black.

"Game 1 is done and now it's another game. It's about playing Game 2," Flyers forward Maxime Talbot said. "The stats and all these things that happened, I don't really believe in that. Every year is a chance to make a new story, and tonight is one game and we'll treat it like that."

The stat that does matter to the Flyers is the amount of times they have fallen behind in games recently. They have been down by at least two goals in nine of their last 13 games.

Sure, they've come back to win three of them, including Game 1 on Wednesday, but it's not exactly a trend they want to keep going with.

"Not that we're afraid (of any deficit), but we'd rather not put ourselves in that position," Danny Briere said. "Obviously we go down and we have that belief we can come back, but at the same time we realize in the playoffs you're not going to make that happen as often in the regular season. You have to find a way to be better at the start, compete and weather the storm."

Here is the expected lineup that will be given the task of avoiding yet another slow start:

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Eric Wellwood - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:56 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Cleary returns to 'heavy' style despite knee injury

NASHVILLE – As recently as last week, Red Wings right wing Dan Cleary said his left knee was only at 50 percent.
 
Without giving away too much, Cleary said Friday that improved medication is helping him in the playoffs. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he thought that Cleary was one of the team’s better forwards in Detroit’s 3-2 loss in Game 1 and that Cleary played a “heavy” game and not a “light” game on the periphery, as he was forced to do during the regular season when the knee bothered him.
 
Cleary played 15:49 and posted an even rating. Cleary was one of only four Red Wings not to be a minus in Game 1 and one of those four was center Darren Helm, who endured a playoff-ending laceration to his forearm and played only 3:06.
 
“How do I phrase this the right way? The medicine helped a lot,” Cleary said of Game 1. “It’s a little different in the playoffs. … The dose is a little better. It allowed to me to be able not to feel [the pain], so I felt like normal. It’s good.
 
“Let’s put it this way, medicine certainly helped -- like a lot. The type that you take in the playoffs is a lot different. It was a huge difference. I felt like normal. I could skate.” 
 
Cleary normally kills penalties with Helm so he said he did not think he would see more time on the penalty kill. But he said Helm’s loss was a blow to the team. Helm underwent surgery Wednesday.
 
“His loss is felt for sure,” Cleary said.
 
He said he had spoken to Helm and was asked about Helm’s spirits.
 
“How would you be, you know?” he said. “He’s pretty down, but at least he’s -- in a way -- healthy. You know, there’s no nerve damage, so that was a huge thing but his loss is going to be felt, huge, huge loss.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:56 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers' power play has its work cut out

SUNRISE, Fla. -- A year after producing the worst power play in the NHL, the Florida Panthers finished the 2011-12 regular season tied for seventh with the man advantage by scoring at an 18.5 percent clip.

They'll be hard-pressed to duplicate that kind of success in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the best penalty-killing team in the League.

"They have skilled players who can read the plays," said veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson, who plays the right point on the Panthers' first power-play unit. "They have shot-blocking guys and a good goalie. That's a good mix. They read off each other and when they pressure, they pressure hard. We know what we're up against and we have to play good."

The Panthers were 1-for-11 (9.1 percent) on the power play in the four regular-season meetings against New Jersey. Florida wasn't the only team that struggled with the Devils' PK, as New Jersey set a modern-era record with an 89.6 success rate.

The Devils also led the NHL with 15 shorthanded goals, one of which came against the Panthers. Even though that was an empty-net goal by Ilya Kovalchuk at the end of New Jersey's 5-2 home victory on Jan. 6, the Panthers are well aware of the Devils' attacking mentality even down a man.

"We've got to be careful at the blue lines," said Stephen Weiss, who centers Florida's first power-play unit. "They've got good sticks and their forwards at the top are very quick. We've got to make sure we're coming back when the puck turns over because they'll push offensively, too."

The Panthers likely will need for their power play to contribute if they are to advance to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history and the first since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

Florida scored only 203 goals in the regular season, the second-lowest total among playoff teams ahead only of Los Angeles' 194.

So while the Panthers recognize and respect the Devils' penalty-killing prowess and ability to score shorthanded, they also know they can't hold back on the power play.

"You can't be careful on the power play," Samuelsson said. "You're going to think twice about it? Maybe. We know we're up for a challenge. At the same time, if we start off good, you never know where momentum is going to take you. In the past, we had a great PK and power play in the regular season, but when it came to the playoffs it wasn't that good. A lot of things change during the playoffs. It's always good to play good in the regular season, but it doesn't have to be that way because they usually do it."
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:52 PM

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

No weak links for Bruins in title defense



BOSTON – Andrew Ference obviously has another role besides second-pair defenseman for the Boston Bruins.
               
He’s also the team’s “designated shopper” and one of the caretakers of the team’s excellent chemistry.
               
It was Ference’s eBay shopping that produced last year’s atrocious-looking Bruins jacket that the team handed out to the player of the game after every postseason win en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. This year, Ference went to a local hardware store and purchased a 2-pound metal chain.
               
“Earlier in the year we talked about, when things weren’t going so great – a lot of teams probably could say it – but we have our success when everybody’s going and doing their role, so we had talked about not being a weak link and having a lot of pride,” Ference said after the Bruins practiced at TD Garden Friday. “Our guys kind of thrive on that. You know we have a lot of proud guys in this room. So it’s just kind of from that and being goofy. Not necessarily trying replicate the jacket but it’s kind of a fun thing to do after games.”
               
Chris Kelly, who scored the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Thursday, was the first winner of the chain. Kelly will be responsible for awarding it to the winner after Boston’s next victory. Game 2 of the series is Saturday at the Garden.

The chain also has a padlock on it with a Bruins spoked-B logo that Ference engraved himself with a kit in five minutes. The plan is to put a notch in the lock after every playoff win. Last season, as the playoff run went longer and longer, the jacket took on added meaning – first with Nathan Horton returning while injured to award it to Rich Peverley, and then with the Bruins giving it to the retiring Mark Recchi as a parting gift after the championship run.
               
Regardless of how the Bruins fare this postseason, the chain will be another representation of the Bruins’ unity and ability to not take things too seriously.
               
“It’s not like you want to put too much significance on fun things like that. They’re fun, kind of goofy things to do,” Ference said. “But in the bigger picture, it’s like one of those ingredients that goes into having a good environment to work in. It doesn’t matter if it’s hockey or business, I mean employees that have fun and enjoy goofing around and don’t take themselves so seriously, I think we found a lot of success in that. Even with our success last year, I think that we’d like to think that we take some pride in remaining somewhat true to our roots and kind of what’s the sport’s all about. I think that once you lose that, you kind of lose the soul of what hockey is pretty proud of.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:50 PM

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

Blues sticking with Halak as Game 2 starter

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock announced after Friday's optional skate for the team that they will stay with Jaroslav Halak in goal for Saturday's Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks.

The Blues dropped the opener 3-2 in double overtime on Martin Havlat's goal.

Halak stopped 31 shots and could not be faulted for any of the three San Jose goals.

"He was like our team," Hitchcock said of Halak. "He had some real good moments and then some time, we'd like him better. He was just like our team."
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