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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:33 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Dan Rosen gives his first-round picks

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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bergeron praises strides made by sophomore Seguin

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron isn't at all surprised with the sudden success of linemate Tyler Seguin.

Seguin this season became the youngest player ever to the lead the Bruins in scoring when he connected for 29 goals and 67 points in 2011-12. He won honors at 20 years, two months and seven days.

Ironically, he passed Bergeron, who led the club in points at 20 years, eight months and 22 days. In 2005-06, Bergeron had 31 goals and 73 points in 81 matches.

"He gained a lot of experience in his first year, winning a Stanley Cup," Bergeron said. "That's experience you really can't buy, and I think it helped him heading into this year. He gained a lot of confidence over the summer and from the run we had. The kid is getting better and better, and he accomplished a lot this year. He's a big part of our team and big part of our offense, and he wants to get better. He wants to learn, so that's important."

Seguin scored 11 goals and 22 points in 74 games as a rookie in 2010-11.
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Canucks gained experience from last season's run

The sting of a seven-game series loss in the Stanley Cup Final last spring isn't really on the mind of Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler as his team prepares for its opening-round series against the Los Angeles Kings this week.

And the reason is simple -- experience.

"Obviously, we have most of the same guys back and we fell one game short last year and that was hard, but we know what it takes, so we're amped up and ready to go," Kesler told the media during a conference call on Monday. "What did we learn from last year? I think experience comes to mind … the experience of going through something like that and knowing what it takes."

Fact is, Vancouver has 19 players on the roster that played a part in last year's Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Additionally, Samuel Pahlsson played a big role in the Anaheim Ducks' championship run back in 2007. Pahlsson was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Canucks in February.

After winning the Presidents' Trophy for the second straight season, the Canucks will once again get home-ice advantage for however long they last in the playoffs. Can they reach the top of the mountain this year?

"I think we're going to figure that out in the next couple of months, but we know, as a team, we'll be judged on how we do in the playoffs, so now the real season begins," Kesler said. "It'll be a good test, for sure."

Vancouver finished the season with a seven-game home winning streak on the way to a 27-10-4 record at Rogers Arena. The club will play the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round for the second time in three years -- in 2010, the Canucks triumphed in six games. The teams split the four-game season series this season.
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 3:52 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Neil skates, status for series opener 'looking good'

KANATA, Ont. -- The Ottawa Senators took to the ice Monday morning in preparation for their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers, which begins on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Chris Neil, who did not play during the last game of the regular season against New Jersey due to an upper-body injury, skated alone prior to practice and participated in the first 15 minutes of drills before leaving the ice. MacLean anticipates that Neil will be ready for Thursday, as does Neil himself.

"I feel pretty good -- went out early, did about 45 minutes … things are looking good for Thursday," he said.

Here are the lines from Monday's practice:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Colin Greening
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Zack Smith - Jesse Winchester - Chris Neil
Erik Condra - Jim O'Brien - Kaspars Daugavins

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar

Craig Anderson
Ben Bishop

Defenseman Matt Carkner did not participate in practice.

"We're obviously excited to get back in the playoffs as you can tell," Jason Spezza said. "We had a great practice today -- there's a little bit more jump out there and we're just looking forward to getting started. [As for losing the last three games of the regular season], playoffs wipe everything clean. Now it's just looking forward to the first game and getting the momentum."

After completing his season with Djurgårdens IF of the Swedish Elite League, Mika Zibanejad arrived in Ottawa on Sunday and took part in the morning practice. Zibanejad will to report to Binghamton to play in the team's final two games of the season, however, MacLean said "there's a consideration -- [Zibanejad] would be allowed to play for us [in the postseason] … we just have to be sure that's the right thing to do."
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 3:45 PM

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

Flyers getting healthy at the right time

Danny Briere wasn't allowed to say as much, but after a full practice, it appears likely he'll be able to play when the Philadelphia Flyers open the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN).

"To be honest, I'm not allowed to speak on any injuries or the roster or if I'm going to play or not," Briere said following the team's workout at Virtua Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. "All I can tell you is -- and you saw it -- I'm practicing and working to get ready. That's all I’m allowed to say at this point."

Briere missed the final three games of the regular season with a back contusion that he said was causing spasms. The injury came on a hit by the Penguins' Joe Vitale in the third period of the teams' April 1 game.

Getting a healthy Briere in the lineup would be a huge advantage for the Flyers. Briere had seven goals in 11 playoff games last season, and has 19 goals and 39 points in his last 34 playoff games.

"It's the best time of the year," said Briere. "There's nothing like playoff hockey. It's kind of the time that we're all waiting for. It's one thing you work hard all season to get in the playoffs, but this is another level."

Defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, also injured on a Vitale hit in that April 1 game with the Penguins, said he will be in the lineup for Game 1. He collided with Vitale in the first period of that game and suffered what the team called a lower-body injury. Grossmann was seen with a brace on his right knee last week, matching the one he wears on his left knee.

Like Briere, he sat out the final three regular-season games, but told reporters following Monday's practice that he'll be ready to go Wednesday.

"I've done this before, so hopefully, it won't be a problem," Grossman said of playing with two braces. "It's just getting used to it. This was a good day. It was nice to get out with the boys. I've been skating. I'm ready. I feel good."
 
Grossmann said he didn't feel the braces would change how he plays, or limit his mobility.
 
"No, it doesn't change," he said. "You can't go out and think about stuff like that or it won't make you successful. You just got to keep playing the game and do things you can contribute."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelamn@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 3:22 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Beauchemin to require surgery for torn labrum

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin said Monday he will need surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Beauchemin said the issue got worse from the beginning of the season and he wasn't able to be as physical toward the end. The recovery will take about three to four months.

"It's been bothering me for a few weeks," Beauchemin said on Anaheim's day of exit meetings.

"A few months, actually … I'll take care of it now and then. I've got all summer to get it better, rehab it and everything."

Beauchemin was perhaps the team's best defenseman for much of the season and excelled after he signed a three-year contract extension Jan. 20.

Selanne's decision:
Teemu Selanne had no update on his impending decision to retire or return for a 20th season.

Selanne has said he will inform general manager Bob Murray his decision by July 1, his 42nd birthday. Selanne has typically delayed that decision until at least August although that happened last year because of knee surgery.
That’s not an issue this time around.

"I'm really thankful that the knee is holding up so well and I had no real issue," Selanne said.

Selanne said coach Bruce Boudreau didn't try to persuade him into returning.

"We had a good meeting," he said. "Obviously he's going to respect my decision either way. He said he's really open arms welcoming back if I want to come back. That’s really good news."

Selanne and Saku Koivu both said they are undecided about playing for Finland in the World Championship.

Visnovsky OK: Lubomir Visnovsky said he's OK from a hit he took last Thursday in Edmonton in which he was upended and banged his head.

"I had the test (for) concussion symptoms and I was OK," he said. "I'll be OK."

Visnovsky said he was quite disappointed with his season, so much so that he contemplated retirement.

"I was very mad in the season because I don't feel comfortable," he said. "I think it was (my) worst season ever for me. My confidence was very low."

Visnovsky said he is "retired" from the Slovakian national team and won't play in the worlds. The tournament was held in Slovakia last year and Visnovsky wanted to end it there.

"That was my world championships," he said.

Ducks headed to the Worlds:
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry confirmed they will play for Canada in next month's World Championship. Bobby Ryan said he will suit up for the U.S. and indicated that Cam Fowler and Nick Bonino will join him.
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 3:10 PM

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

Practice, rest on tap for Florida until series starts

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Florida coach Kevin Dineen ended up changing his practice schedule on the fly after he found out his team would be among the last two to play its first playoff game.

The Panthers will open their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the New Jersey Devils on Friday at the BankAtlantic Center. That announcement came after Dineen said he was told the Panthers would begin play Thursday and later was told that it would be Wednesday.

Dineen held a practice Monday that lasted about 90 minutes and decided to give his team Tuesday off before getting back on the ice the next day.

"For us, the rest is really important right now," Dineen said. "I'm going to give them a day off tomorrow, which is not an easy thing to do in the playoffs. But I feel that day off, they're going to come in nice and fresh on Wednesday, we'll get a good skate Wednesday, Thursday and I think that'll be beneficial in the long run.

"Unfortunately, in the playoffs things are going to happen pretty fast and furious. But we feel it's a worthy day off. It has been a very tough month of March and April. We worked hard and there's been a lot of scratching and clawing and the mental break, as much as the physical break, will make a difference."

As much as they want to get started in the playoffs, Panthers players didn't seem to mind the delay.

"When you finish preseason games and you have a week of practices, that's where you're able to get sharp," goalie Jose Theodore said. "We played so many games lately, we hardly practiced. It's kind of hard to stay sharp when you don't practice. Having a full week of practice, you can work on details, you can work on technical stuff, so it's actually easier to stay sharp when you practice every day like we're going to have this week."

Veteran forward Marco Sturm and rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson didn't take part in Monday’s practice. Dineen called their absence a "maintenance day."

Sturm didn't play in the third period of Saturday's 4-1 division-clinching victory against Carolina after getting 7:19 of ice time in the first 40 minutes. Gudbranson played 14:10 against the Hurricanes.

Dineen said both players would be re-evaluated Wednesday.
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 2:56 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets envision Winnipeg as player destination

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel believes working in the NHL's smallest market will prove to be no hindrance in attracting top-flight talent.

"I think that we've got a good thing going here," Noel said during his season-ending press conference. "For one second, I will not take a backseat to anyone else. This is a great place to play. It's going to be a destination."

Captain Andrew Ladd signed a five-year contract shortly after the club relocated to Winnipeg. The Jets dominate the city's newspapers, radio and television, and Jets apparel is easy to spot across the city of 750,000. The club sold out all 41 home games, a long season-ticket waiting list is in place, and Jets players have been very vocal about the reception and treatment that they have received from the fans and the organization.

Winnipeg's reputation has spread across the NHL as opponents have made their first visits to the city and the cozy 15,004-seat MTS Centre, the League's smallest rink. Players find various locales attractive for an assortment of reasons, but the Winnipeg dressing room believes that the city's all-hockey mentality could prove to be a valuable recruiting tool.

"Guys talk," Ladd said. "We have friends all over the League. Just talking to guys who have played in the building this year, they're impressed with the excitement and electricity in the building. It's fun to be a part of on a consistent basis and know that when you're playing home games that every time you step out onto the ice that is the reaction you're going to get."

Noel compared Winnipeg to football-mad Green Bay, Wisc., a city he visited during his time as coach of the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.

"Green Bay wins," Noel said. "What is in Green Bay? I've been to Green Bay, and it's a nice town. For me, Winnipeg is going to be a good place to play. I think players like it. The response that we get from our players is that they love playing here."

Noel also revealed that Hockey Canada has not contacted him about a role at the upcoming 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championship that begins in May. Noel will spend the next few weeks reviewing the season, but he will have something else on his mind.

"I have fly-fishing trout on the brain," Noel said. "It keeps going through my brain. I see the trout just calling my name. I see rivers, and I pull over."
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 2:49 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ladd, Kane to play for Team Canada at Worlds

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets will begin to scatter across the globe this week, but more than a handful of players might reconvene when the IIHF 2012 World Championship begins next month in Finland and Sweden.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd indicated that he will play for Canada after participating last spring at the event in Slovakia. Canada finished fifth in the 2011 tournament. Ladd will join Evander Kane, who led the Jets with 30 goals this season, as returnees from last season’s Canadian team.

“I had a great experience last year with it,” Ladd said. “Hockey Canada treats you very well, and it's fun to be a part of.”

Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec led the Czech Republic to a bronze medal last year, but his status for this year remains to be determined.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian will not play for the United States, as he battled late-season injuries. Dustin Byfuglien still is considering playing for the U.S. team, but Blake Wheeler seems unlikely to participate.

Other Jets who may be possibilities for the tournament are Nik Antropov (Kazakhstan), Alexander Burmistrov (Russia), Tobias Enstrom (Sweden), and Antti Miettinen (Finland).
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 2:44 PM

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

Dineen mum on which Panthers goalie starts Game 1

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Florida coach Kevin Dineen was talking about his philosophy on dealing with the media Monday when he used a hot topic with his team to make a point.

"I've got goaltending decisions to make, and I want to give it a couple of days and I'll give it a gut check," Dineen said. "I haven't talked to my belly yet."

That means Dineen still hasn't decided whether Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen will be starting in net for the Panthers when they open their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

And Dineen says he won't have an answer until Friday.

"You know what, for me I've got a really exciting decision to make," Dineen said after the Panthers went through a 90-minute practice at the Saveology.com Iceplex. "I don't look at it as a burden. I look at it as something that I can't go wrong either way and it'll be something that we'll wait for a few days.

"I don't think I've changed my stance on that all year. I certainly haven't tried to play coy, but certainly our goalies have been excellent for the most part and that makes for a quality choice when we do get going."

Theodore started 51 games in the regular season for the Panthers, while Clemmensen had 25 starts.

But it's Clemmensen who has been the better goaltender of late, going 3-0-1 with a .962 save percentage in his last four starts.

It was Clemmensen who was in net Saturday when the Panthers clinched their first-ever division title with a 4-1 victory against Carolina.

Theodore, meanwhile, allowed a combined nine goals in his last two starts and was pulled for 91 seconds after giving up a third goal in a 4-2 loss at Washington Thursday.

The former Hart Trophy winner, who signed with the Panthers as a free agent last July, said he would take the same approach in terms of preparation as he did during the regular season.

"It's nothing really new," Theodore said. "Usually, we know the day before or so. Pretty much it was like that all season and we had success like that. There's nothing new or nothing to adapt to for me or Clem. It's pretty much the same we've been doing all season and it worked for us."

Theodore finished with better overall numbers than Clemmensen during the regular season. He had a 2.46 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage, compared to Clemmensen's 2.57 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski, for one, said Theodore was the Panthers' MVP during the regular season.

Should he get the start, Theodore can start erasing some bitter playoff memories from his two seasons with the Washington Capitals. Theodore was replaced by Semyon Varlamov both years as the Capitals failed to advance past the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

After going 30-7-7 in 2009-10, Theodore was pulled after giving up two goals on the first two shots he faced in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Montreal in 2010 and didn't play again while the Capitals lost the series in seven games.

"What happened in Washington, I'll say it again, it's out of your control," Theodore said. "The first year I played one game, then I don't play. It's really not something that I look [at] like I didn't achieve or I didn't get the job done, I just didn't have the chance to play. So I really don't think about Washington too much at this point. It's a totally different group, different situation. I'm just going to prepare myself to play and take it from there."

For Clemmensen, getting the start against New Jersey would represent an opportunity to face his former team.

Clemmensen, who spent parts of five seasons with the Devils and recorded a 25-13-1 record in 2008-09 subbing for an injured Martin Brodeur, has had great success against New Jersey, with a 3-0-1 record in five starts.

That includes a 3-1 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 11. That could be one factor that might influence Dineen.

"I feel good about my game," Clemmensen said after the division-clinching victory against Carolina. "Regardless if I start that game on [Friday] or not, I'm going to be ready to play, whether it's that game or Game 2 or whatever the case is. I'm going to be ready to play every minute, every game. I don't know what the situation is going to be or who's going to start, but I'm going to be ready, that's it."
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Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential