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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 7:26 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Sharks won't be only desperate team in Game 4

SAN JOSE - St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the San Jose Sharks won't have a monopoly on desperation Thursday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series.

The Sharks trail St. Louis 2-1 in the series and desperately want to avoid digging themselves into a 3-1 hole. But Hitchcock said Wednesday that the last thing he or his players want is to let the Sharks pull even and turn this series into a long, brutal battle filled with travel nightmares and little time for rest.

"If this thing goes 2-2 then it's, 'Who's got the best bus and who's got the best plane?' -- and that's not good for either team," Hitchcock said after the Blues' practice at HP Pavilion. "We're looking at this the same way they are. They want this thing going where they could start taking it over and we're looking at it as it gets scary after tomorrow. You're talking long flights, not much sleep, [a game] every other day, and who's got the best plane and who's got the best bus will be a big factor here. So we're looking at it like they are too. It's a big factor.

"I was in a lot of these [series] coming in and out of Dallas and they were not easy series. When it got to Games 5, 6 and 7 they were not easy for players, for coaches, for sleep patterns and they really impacted the next series."

After splitting the first two games in St. Louis, the Blues beat the Sharks 4-3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion. St. Louis took a 4-1 lead early in the third period before the Sharks rallied for two late goals.

'The biggest thing for us is knowing that we could win a playoff game on the road," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We have a lot of young guys who haven't had that much experience. We know we can win in this barn; we did it in the regular season. But it's a tough place to win in the playoffs."

Hitchcock said he's still not sure when injured goaltender Jaroslav Halak will be healthy enough to play. Halak hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury early in the second period of Game 2 when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman accidentally knocked him to the ice. Halak skated Tuesday for the first time since being injured but didn't skate or practice Wednesday, and he will miss Game 4. Brian Elliott will make his second straight start.

"We'll keep him working toward getting back at some time," Hitchcock said of Halak, "but right now he's not available so Brian is the guy."

Elliott went 23-10-4 during the regular season with nine shutouts and led the NHL with a 1.56 goals against average and .940 save percentage.

"We've had confidence in him since Day 1," Hitchcock said. "For us it just feels like one guy is playing a few more games than the other one. I think if it lasts, if it ever went where you stayed with the same guy for a month then it would seem different. I think most teams have this scenario going where they just stay with one guy. It's still early in the picture and we're fully expecting Halak to be a player, hopefully."

Hitchcock said that Elliott impressed him earlier in the season by how competitive he was in practice. Now that Elliott is carrying the full load, Hitchcock is trying to rein him in.

"We're constantly having to [do] like we did today -- stop him, kick him off the ice," Hitchcock said. "He has to get in the mindset that the games are everything, less is more, get enough of your practice in and once your reps are done, get off the ice. He's one of those guys that wants to hang out there until the last shot."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 7:14 PM

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

Alfredsson to miss Game 4

OTTAWA -- As expected, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will not be in the lineup Wednesday night for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers.

Daniel Alfredsson
Right Wing - OTT
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 6 | +/-: -2
The 39-year-old hasn't skated since Monday morning, but coach Paul MacLean didn't rule him out for Game 4 on Wednesday morning. Alfredsson did not participate in the team's pregame skate Wednesday.

Alfredsson suffered a concussion from an elbow to the head from Rangers forward Carl Hagelin during the second period of Game 2. Hagelin received a three-game ban for the infraction.

The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:28 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Hawks ready to channel anger

CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs can be an exercise in anger management. The Western Conference Quarterfinal series between Phoenix and Chicago is becoming a graduate course in the subject.

Players and coaches on both sides tried to rein in their emotions Wednesday, less than a day after the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa was taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Coyotes' Raffi Torres hit Hossa's chin with his shoulder early in Game 3 at the United Center.

Phoenix went on to win 3-2 on an overtime goal from Mikkel Boedker. Game 4 is Thursday.

Hossa, who was released from the hospital Tuesday night, will miss at least Game 4. Torres has been suspended indefinitely pending an in-person hearing at the League office on Friday.

A night after tempers ran high in the Blackhawks' locker room, they were a bit more measured on Wednesday. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews ruled out retaliation against a random Coyote.

"Getting into that garbage isn't going to win the series for us," Toews said.

Said defenseman Duncan Keith, "We've got to play hockey and play the right way."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who has to revamp a lineup that now is without Hossa and the suspended Andrew Shaw, wants his players to channel their emotions properly.

"I think retaliation in the best form is trying to win the hockey game," Quenneville said. "I think we want to channel a little positiveness to looking forward to the game and doing something about it."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Nearing unchartered territory for Coyotes

CHICAGO -- One more overtime game, and the Phoenix Coyotes go into uncharted territory. They've never played four overtime games in a playoff year, much less a playoff series, and that goes back to their identity as the original Winnipeg Jets.

Now they've played three in a row, winning twice, in the first three games of their series with Chicago.

Only once before did the Coyotes engage in overtime three times in a series. They lost two of three overtime games in a seven-game set with St. Louis in 1999, the Blues winning Game 7 in regulation. The franchise's only back-to-back overtime games before this series came in games 6 and 7 of the 1993 series against Vancouver. Teemu Selanne won Game 6 for the Jets, but the Canucks won Game 7.

This is more old hat for the Blackhawks. They played four overtime games, winning the first two and losing the last two, against Colorado in the second round of the 1996 playoffs.

The Hawks have even played three overtime games in a row before, doing so against the Minnesota North Stars in the second round of the 1985 playoffs. Including the last two games of last year's first round series with Vancouver, they've played five straight overtime games, a team record.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Overtime a study in contrasts for two sides

CHICAGO -- The two schools of thought on how to play overtime were on display again in Game 3 of the Phoenix-Chicago Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

The Blackhawks were skating, trying to force the issue. The Coyotes played it tight, waiting for a break.

The Coyotes' method worked for the second time in three sudden-death sessions. Mikkel Boedker's shot, and Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford's admitted misplay, gave Game 3, and a 2-1 series lead, to the Coyotes.

That's how overtime has to be played, Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said.

"In overtime, you're trying not to make mistakes," Yandle said. "One shot and it can be over. So you play tight defensively and cash in when you get the chance."

Getting those changes, whether in overtime or regulation, will be harder to find as the series progresses. Cement in the legs became common in the minutes jest before Boedker scored.

"The first couple of games, there's a lot of adrenaline," said Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who played for the Hawks for two seasons. "As a series progresses, it starts taking its toll on players. And in overtime, you try to end it on every shift. That takes a toll."

Aucoin sees a long series.

"We're two different teams, but we're matched well," he said.

What he didn't have to mention was the hex the Coyotes have on the Hawks in the United Center. Phoenix is 3-0 on West Madison St. this season, winning both games in the regular season.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 3:52 PM

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

Booth could join Sedins on Canucks' top line

LOS ANGELES -- David Booth practiced on a line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin on Tuesday and if that holds for Game 4 it would be the first time Booth has played with the twins.

The Canucks have tried Booth with Ryan Kesler and it hasn’t really worked because both have to play with the puck. Booth was looking forward to the new combination.

"They're the best two in the League in my opinion, and I think a lot of people say the same thing," Booth said. "It's definitely exciting for me."

The projected lineups for each team:

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - David Booth
Alexandre Burrows - Ryan Kesler - Mason Raymond
Chris Higgins - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Maxim Lapierre - Manny Malhotra - Zack Kassian

Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Kevin Bieksa - Dan Hamhuis
Keith Ballard - Chistopher Tanev

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo

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

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:55 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Schneider starts for Canucks; Sedin game-time decision

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault announced after the morning skate on Wednesday that Cory Schneider would be the Game 4 goalie for the Canucks. He also said that Daniel Sedin, who is trying to come back from a concussion, will be a game-time decision.

Sedin took part in the morning skate and "looked good," according to Vigneault.

Vancouver announced Monday that Sedin, out for a month, was fit to re-join practicing with the team. Sedin practiced Wednesday and did not commit to playing in Game 4.

"We'll see," he said Tuesday. "We'll take it day-by-day. Today felt good and we'll see how it is tomorrow morning."

There is enormous pressure for Sedin to return. Vancouver trails 3-0 in this best-of-seven series and is on the verge of being eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after claiming the Presidents' Trophy.

Schneider, the young understudy to No. 1 Roberto Luongo will be in the net again. SchneIder played in Game 3 and allowed the only goal in a 1-0 loss that has put the Canucks on the brink of elimination.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

Gudbranson having fun with first playoff experience

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson admits his experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been better than expected.
 
"I think it's more than what people think," the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Gudbranson told NHL.com. "It looks a lot different on TV than when you're actually playing the game. You see the little hits and the bumps that guys get and in playoffs, and they leave a mark.
 
"In the playoffs, guys are going all out and the passion and intensity out there certainly picks up, so it's been absolutely a lot of fun."
 
Gudbranson, who was taken with the third pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, has yet to register a point through three playoff games, but he tied for third on the team with 10 hits. On top of that, he's been receiving plenty of mentoring from veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski.
 
Jovanovski not only has a locker stall right beside Gudbranson for both home and away games, but the two are also paired together.
 
"I think the biggest thing with him is trying to relate to myself personally, and he did it at the same age that I am now," Gudbranson told The New York Times. "It's nice to be able to relate to someone with so much experience, and he does it for the whole team. He's always there for me whenever I have a question, and he's taught me to become an overall defenseman and to know when and where to be physical while also playing composed."
 
But Jovanovski isn't the only mentor. In the locker room following Florida's 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Tuesday, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was explaining to his prized defender when not to engage an opponent and, rather, "skate away."
 
"The season has been great … I've been happy my rookie season and it's been better just because of the guys we have in this room and the success we've had as a team," Gudbranson told NHL.com. "For a team that hasn't been in the playoffs for 10 years, to come out and compete like we have the past three  games to put ourselves in a good position, is fantastic. But we need to keep going here."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:25 PM

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

Jeffrey ready for first taste of playoff action

UPDATE: Jeffrey was made a healthy scratch by coach Dan Bylsma. He chose to dress seven defensemen instead.

PHILADELPHIA -- As he was unstrapping both of his knee braces, Dustin Jeffrey spoke about his level of excitement and anticipation heading into what will could possibly be his first career NHL playoff game.

Jeffrey played in 26 regular-season games, but he was limited this season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL last April. He's good to go now, and the Penguins need him with three forwards suspended.

"It's been an intense series, lots of action both ways with physical stuff and the goals," Jeffrey told NHL.com. "To jump in is pretty exciting."

Jeffrey insisted that he will not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment, the crowd, or the speed of the game.

"One of my biggest attributes is my hockey sense and being able to read plays," he said. "It's going to be fast and physical, but once you get that first shift under your belt you should be able to read the plays."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl



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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:11 PM

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

Night after collapse, Devils back at practice

NEWARK, N.J. -- After suffering an excruciating loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Tuesday, the New Jersey Devils were back on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion Wednesday with the hope of restoring some sense of order.
 
The Devils opened a 3-0 lead 6:18 into the first period only to have the Panthers register four unanswered goals en route to a 4-3 triumph. Devils coach Pete DeBoer put the team through a pretty rigorous workout in preparation for Thursday's critical Game 4 at Prudential Center.
 
"I liked practice [Wednesday]," DeBoer said. "We came out in a good frame of mind, we were confident. Now we just need to get a win here [Thursday] night and keep moving forward."
 
The first-year coach said he didn't really need to rehash what transpired Tuesday night.
 
"We talked before playoffs that anytime you go down a playoff road, you will face adverse situations, so you need to expect them," DeBoer said. "You just don't know when, but when they come, you welcome them and handle them properly. We knew we'd be in this spot, eventually, and I think we're prepared for it."
 
DeBoer was asked if his team would be a tad concerned if they were to open a lead at any point in the remainder of the series.
 
"I'll take a 3-0 lead in a game any day," he said. "I don't care how many we've blown. You want to give me three goals, I'll take them. You have to give Florida credit, coming back like we did the other night even though we didn't do it all the way.
 
"There's really no rhyme of reason to these momentum swings," he continued. "That's the way the series is coming down. But the team that can fix those issues the quickest, is probably going to win this series so that's on us to do."
 
Ilya Kovalchuk, who has one goal and one assist in three games in the series, thought the players were sharp at practice Wednesday morning.
 
"It was good ... a nice and short practice," Kovalchuk said. "We cleaned up what we wanted to and worked on our forecheck a little bit. We'll see tomorrow."
 
Devils forward Dainius Zubrus, who has a goal and one assist in three games, feels the team will respond well, as it has the entire season.
 
"You reach certain points where you lose two in a row and it happens throughout the season, but I don't want to say, we've been there, because this is the playoffs and it's a little different," Zubrus told NHL.com. "But we can respond ... we have done it. It's not the situation we want to be in after winning the first game but this is how it is.
 
"There are things we can do better and clean up and, saying that, the belief is still there," he continued. "[Thursday] is a huge game because we don't want to go down and then go on the road."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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