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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 11:42 AM

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

Radulov, Kostitsyn out of lineup again for Game 4

NASHVILLE -- Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn will remain out of the Nashville Predators' lineup Friday for Game 4 against the Phoenix Coyotes, coach Barry Trotz said Friday morning.
 
"As long as we're winning, (Kostitsyn and Radulov) are OK," Trotz said. "We have to win. If someone doesn't play or we have an injury. They handled it quite well. They're top players all their life. They're not used to this."
 
Radulov had told the media earlier that he did not expect to be back in the lineup for Game 4 after he and Kostitsyn sat out Game 3 for a violation of team rules.
 
Trotz had said that if Nashville won -- and it did, 2-0 on Wednesday -- he would likely maintain the same lineup. That indication continued on Thursday when Radulov skated in practice with Kostitsyn and rookie Craig Smith, who was a healthy scratch for the game.
 
"I don't think so," Radulov said after an optional skate on Friday. "They said they don't want to change the lineup."
 
Trotz said he would use the same lineup, which means that right wing Jordin Tootoo and left wing Matt Halischuk will remain in the lineup. Trotz said he liked the physical impact that Tootoo made on the game. Tootoo drew a cross-checking penalty in the third period on Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris.
 
Halischuk also drew a penalty and was on the receiving end of a dangerous hit. He went head-first into the boards on a play in which Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin received an interference call. Halischuk went to the locker room after the play for further examination and said he was taken to a "quiet room," where players who are feared to have suffered a concussion are brought. Nonetheless, Halischuk, after the team said that his status was questionable, returned to the game and practiced on Thursday.
 
"I felt that the group responded really well and I expect the group to respond again," Trotz said. "(Radulov and Kostitsyn) are ready. When I told them, obviously, they want to be in, they want to have some vindication, if you will, but at the same time they were really good about being good pros. ... They understand they're ready to do whatever it takes to get back in."
 
Trotz said after watching the game film that it was "undeniable" that Nashville played much better in Game 3 than it had in the previous two with the different lineup. He said at this point, the decision was purely made as a hockey decision, whereas earlier it was a disciplinary decision.
 
Radulov said virtually the same words as Trotz -- that he was fine with it, as long as the team is winning. Since rejoining the Preds in March after four years in the KHL, he has tried to take the focus off of himself and put it onto his team, which he did again on Friday morning.
 
"Well, yeah, guys play well so I think they made the right change, the right decision," Radulov said. "So I stick up for them. They deserve it. That's the main thing."
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:49 AM

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

Brodeur enjoying overtime success this spring

Success in overtime during the playoffs has been one of the few things that has eluded Martin Brodeur during his career -- he entered this year's playoffs with a record of 12 wins and 21 losses. But as he prepares to turn 40 on Sunday, Brodeur is having the most successful overtime spring of his career.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 6-3
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: 0.917
Brodeur got the win Thursday night when Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal gave the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers and a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. It was the fourth time in their last five games that the Devils have gone to OT -- and the third victory, all with Brodeur in goal.

The three overtime wins are the most Brodeur has ever had in a single playoff year. Thursday's win was also Brodeur's first in four playoff overtime games against the Flyers, who beat him in 1995 and 2010 before doing it again in a 4-3 victory on Sunday.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 5:51 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Laviolette expects better effort in Game 3

NEWARK, N.J. -- After a Game 2 that saw them manage just 20 shots on net -- including just two in the second period -- Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he expects a better effort from his team in Game 3 on Thursday night -- not just because he's demanding it, but because that outing was a shot to their pride.

"I don't think anybody likes not playing their game," he said. "We're looking to right some wrongs. We didn't have a good effort; the guys know that. [Thursday] is a crack at playing a better hockey game."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said earlier in the week that he thought the pressure in the series was on the Flyers as the higher seed. However, Laviolette called that opinion "irrelevant."

"Who somebody says the pressure is on is irrelevant," he said. "New Jersey has a good team, the Flyers have a good team. It's 1-1 in the series. The team who plays the best on the ice has the best chance of winning the hockey game.

"I'd like to think that our strides are more meaningful tonight. … Nobody wants to go down 2-1 in this series."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 5:05 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry's Best: Best of Second Round

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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Coyotes' skate: Gordon absent, Korpikoski present

NASHVILLE -- Boyd Gordon did not skate Thursday for the Phoenix Coyotes after stepping in front of a Shea Weber slap shot Wednesday night.

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after Game 3 that Gordon was fine. Gordon left the game after dropping to one knee and appearing to take the blast off his arm from close range, but did return.

"There's some guys ... that's just what they do," Tippett said. "Sometimes you wonder why all guys don't do that, but that's [Gordon]. That's why he's such a valuable player for us."

Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith called Gordon "a warrior." This is Gordon's first year with the Coyotes after signing in the offseason. He's been a top faceoff/penalty-killer in the League after carving out that role with the Washington Capitals.

He also has a knack for being on the receiving end of big hits and hard shots, and Wednesday night was no different.

"I have gear on and I'm scared sometimes," Smith said.

Gordon is expected to skate Friday morning before Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena.

Another injured Coyotes forward, Lauri Korpikoski, did practice Thursday. Korpikoski has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury. He also skated Wednesday morning before Game 3.

"It's been a couple days, a few days. Yeah, always day-by-day I am feeling better," Korpikoski said. "It is good. I think I've been game-time [decision] for a while now, so it is the same. We'll see how it goes."

Added Tippett: "We're just day-to-day. We'll continue tomorrow. He's out there and trying to get himself going."

Korpikoski had 17 goals and 37 points this season for the Coyotes while playing in all 82 regular-season games. He also missed two contests during the opening round against Chicago because of an upper-body injury.

"I missed a couple in the first series and it wasn't fun," he said. "To miss a couple again, it is tough. I feel a lot more tired than if I was playing. It is not fun to watch those games, but hopefully I can get back soon."




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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 4:30 PM

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

Smith venture out to play the puck proved costly

NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes were still assessing blame one day after yielding a critical goal on a play in which goaltender Mike Smith came far out of his net to handle the puck in a 2-0 loss to the Predators in Game 3.
 
Coach Dave Tippett blamed his defense for not getting back fast enough on the play while Smith blamed himself. Smith raced out above the goal line and then reversed the puck behind his net. Tippett said a defenseman should have been there. None was. Instead, the Predators' Gabriel Bourque was and he fed David Legwand in front for the game's first goal. It was the first time in the series Nashville led after losing the first two games. Thus far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Preds have not lost a game in which they have scored first.
 
"It's probably a bad read on my part," Smith said. "I made that play a hundred times this year. It's worked out most times. Last night it was probably a bad read. I should've gone forehand up the boards with it."
 
If Smith had played it up the boards, he still could have risked that Nashville would have intercepted the puck in the neutral zone or that he could've gotten the attempt blocked with him still out of position. That's why Tippett laid blame on his defense. Adrian Aucoin and Rostislav Klesla were the defensemen on the ice at the time.
 
"That's not Mike's mistake," Tippett said. "That's two defensemen. One could've got back quicker. The other (defenseman) should've been in that corner. That's not on Mike. Watch how many times that deters the forecheck. He's the best in the League at it by far, so we have to use that asset."
 
As for Nashville's second goal, Mike Fisher scored while practically standing on the goal line from near the corner. He threw the puck at the net and it glanced off Smith's outstretched goal stick and then popped high into the net. Smith said he had "no idea" how that goal went in.
 
"It's scientifically impossible for that to happen," he said. "I've looked at it and (goaltending coach Sean Burke)'s looked at it a hundred times. I still don't know how it goes from that angle."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:40 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Kings want road success to translate to home ice

LOS ANGELES -- In order to feel more like home, the Kings are staying in a hotel downtown and practically treating Thursday like a road game.

L.A. hardly ever has a morning skate at Staples Center, which also hosts the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers. But coach Darryl Sutter wanted his players get more familiar with their game rink. The Kings have not played at home since April 18, more than two weeks ago.

"I haven't been downtown very much," Sutter quipped when asked about changing the routine.

L.A.'s home record isn't a laughing matter, though. The Kings, whose 5-0 road playoff record matches the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning, are only 1-1 at home in the playoffs. They were 22-14-5 at Staples Center in the regular season, which ranked 19th in the League.

"I personally liked it," Jarret Stoll said. "The ice is a little bit different than our practice facility so it's good to get on the ice, get your edges going and just snapping the puck around in a kind of a familiar setting. I don't mind it."

Sutter on Doughty:
Sutter had an interesting take on Drew Doughty, who seems to elevate his game for the postseason after a somewhat quiet regular season.

Doughty, 22, is known for his offensive dynamic, and Sutter said the other part of his game can come around.

"I think he's learning how to be better defensively," Sutter said. "I'm not saying he's miscast or anything like that, but for a kid that plays that many minutes, it was probably forced on him a little bit. … He has all the natural ability … it's just a matter of knowing when to use it and when not to use it. From a defensive standpoint, he's probably got a long ways to go."

Sutter added that, "From my standpoint … I think that he's just scratching the offensive part of it -- when to use it and how to use it."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:36 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

LOS ANGELES -- Here are the projected lineups for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN):

BLUES
Andy McDonald - David Backes - Matt D'Agostini
Alex Steen - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart
Scott Nichol - Jamie Langenbrunner - B.J. Crombeen

Alex Pietrangelo - Carlo Colaiacovo
Kevin Shattenkirk - Barret Jackman
Roman Polak - Kris Russell

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie MitchellSlava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Forward Kyle Clifford is available, but coach Darryl Sutter didn't say if he would play. Clifford has been out with a concussion since Game 1 of the quarterfinals.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:26 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Pietrangelo back in lineup for Blues

LOS ANGELES -- The St. Louis Blues will get a direly needed addition back in their lineup when defenseman Alex Pietrangelo returns from a lower-body injury (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

Coach Ken Hitchcock said after Thursday's morning skate that Pietrangelo is ready for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings.

"He's in. He'll play," Hitchcock said. "He's ready to go."

Pietrangelo was injured in Game 1 and St. Louis hasn't looked the same because the defenseman plays a vital role on special teams and even strength.

Hitchcock didn't understate the effect of Pietrangelo's return.

"[Game 1] was 1-1 and we're probably playing better than they are, and then he goes out and this whole thing changes," Hitchcock said. "It's hard to believe that one player makes that big a difference, but obviously, in our game, he did. So we're hoping that the whole stability part gets back to our team where we've got the right players playing in the right situations.

"There's going to be no tie-down on allowing him to play the minutes. He's going to have to play big minutes. He knows that. We waited 'til the last possible minute that he could play without any reservations. He's there now. This series changed dramatically with that one play and for whatever reason we haven't been able to get back up to speed back there, but I think you'll see us play very well tonight."

Pietrangelo did not speak to the media. He has been skating the past two days and Los Angeles is preparing for a different Blues team with him.

"He's an impact player because of the minutes played and special teams so it makes a huge difference," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It's exactly what Hitch says -- we have [Drew] Doughty and they have him."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:12 PM

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

Torts on fatigue, Lundqvist, Callahan and more

WASHINGTON -- The Rangers were granted a day off Thursday after their four-hour, triple-overtime 2-1 win against the Capitals that actually ended early Thursday morning. They hold a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series, with Game 4 set for Saturday at Verizon Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

Coach John Tortorella spoke on a conference call about a wide-ranging assortment of topics, including the fatigue factor that comes with playing such a long game, the well-rested Henrik Lundqvist and how that's translating in his postseason play and Ryan McDonagh's mental toughness.

Here's everything Tortorella had to say:

Q: Is it possible for a team to have a cumulative fatigue in the playoffs or can you recover from game to game?

TORTORELLA: This is playoff hockey. To me, it's no big deal. There will be no problems with our club.

Q: You've talked about Marian Gaborik gets it -- he's a star player, but he understands the way he needs to play. Have you had to have any conversations with him during this playoff run or do you have faith he's going to turn it around like he did at the end last night?

TORTORELLA: I have conversations with a lot of players throughout the playoffs. That's part of my job and Gabby [Gaborik] is one of them. I've had conversations not just about scoring goals, but a lot of different things, like I do with all the players.

Q: You said after the game last night that all this win means is the Rangers have a 2-1 series lead. But can a game like that galvanize the club moving forward?

TORTORELLA: I think any time you win a game in the playoffs you swing momentum your way. Is it galvanizing? I don't think our team needs to be galvanized. I think it is. I don't think teams that are playing at this time of year don't have that. We found a way to win a game last night and we have a little momentum on our side because we won a game. Now we're just going to go about our business tomorrow and try to keep it on our side as long as we can.

Q: Besides giving the team a day off today, is there anything you can do as a coach to make sure there's no emotional hangover from a draining game like that.

TORTORELLA: No. I trust the team. I think our team has handled the ups and downs all year long and throughout the regular season with some of the things we've gone through as team, so there's not going to be any conversation on that at all. We'll report tomorrow for practice and just get ready for our next game.

Q: Can a win last night be something you can draw on in terms of overcoming adversity in the playoffs?

TORTORELLA: I think it helps for some of the younger guys who had never been in the situation and haven't played in much playoff hockey and going through a game of attrition like last night. I think that's a small scope of what needs to be done in the playoffs because playoffs is about trying to outlast your opponents and keeping momentum on your side. I think we found a way and did something really good things and had some struggles in some other areas. It's a good, positive note to get on the right side of it, so maybe down the road you lean on that. Again, it's one game. We did some good things.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a game like the one last night that involved stamina and the will to win?

TORTORELLA: I can't off the top of my head date it and put the games on, but I think all of us have been involved in those situations. Again, I'm happy the team found a way. I'm happy the way they handled themselves. I'm not surprised the way they handled themselves. They'll probably have to do it again, and they'll probably have to do it again in this series. It's a win for us. I just don't want us to get too carried away because this is part of it. This is what you have to do. I don't think it's anything special. It's a good lesson for us early.

Q: Do you think the extra rest that Henrik Lundqvist was afforded in the regular season can manifest itself in a game that lasts as long as that one did?

TORTORELLA: Sure. I think that Henrik's in a good spot. I think our team's in shape. I think we're mentally rested. I think what we did with Henrik during the year in those situations is why. I'm sure it helped him last night and he'll recover today just like everybody else on the team. This will not affect us. Can he get through it? You have to. This is just a little blip as far as what we had to go through last night. Most of that is a mental strain, not a physical strain.

Q: Would you have been as confident in balancing the two-goalie system without someone like Martin Biron as the other goalie?

TORTORELLA: That's why we signed Marty. The reason why we get to a situation where we're able to play a Game 7 in our building [against Ottawa in the first round] is really because of Marty Biron. He found a way to not only understand his role on the team and play the amount of games he played to give our number-one guy rest, but to also win. That's the important thing. We're not looking for a guy just to spell Hank. We need the goalie to win and that was huge for us this year.

Q: There were a lot of incredible performances from your team last night, but was Ryan Callahan leading by example?

TORTORELLA: That's what he does. I'm not sure if Ryan Callahan said two words on the bench last night during the game. It's what he does on the ice. He had a couple of huge blocks, he scores a power-play goal by being around the blue. He's finishing his checks. I say it over and over again -- that's who he is. One thing I did notice was in between periods it's one voice I could hear when we were going to those overtimes -- his. I think that's part of the maturity of him being a captain. I don't know if two years ago he would've felt comfortable in that situation, but he knows he has a responsibility. In between periods in that locker room, his voice was heard.

Q: John Mitchell had five shots last night after having none in the postseason. Was he noticeably better?

TORTORELLA: I know he concentrated on shooting the puck more. A couple of them were off-angle and not really good scoring chances, but especially in overtime, you're trying to put the puck to the net. I thought the biggest contribution he made was when there was on odd-man rush coming back in our end zone and somehow he had a major block. This was before we scored the winner. Forget about what you saw with shots on goal and faceoffs. He had a huge block. That line gave us some good minutes in the first 60 and through the overtimes. Mike Rupp had the best chance and he hits Brian Boyle right in the [rear end]. I mean, he settles the puck down and it's in the net, but he hits Brian Boyle in the [rear end]. They gave us some good minutes.

Q: Ryan McDonagh played 53 minutes last night and he's just a second-year player, but when did you start having that kind of trust in him?

TORTORELLA: He's probably our best-conditioned athlete. He played a lot of minutes, but he could've gone on for more. The most impressive part of him that made me put trust in him right away as a coaching staff was his mental approach. He makes a mistake or something doesn't go right, for a young player, it usually takes some time to get it out of his head, but he comes right back out there and makes that play at the same time. He's not afraid to make mistakes and recovers so very well if there is a problem. The next shift he's right back at it. He's turning into a top-notch defenseman for us and it will continue.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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