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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 4:44 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils split on if they'll follow Rangers-Caps Game 7

NEWARK, N.J. -- By the time Game 7 between the Rangers and Capitals ends Saturday night, the Devils will finally know whom and where they'll be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals. But with four days off before that series finale even starts, not all of the Devils will be enjoying that evening watching on television.

"If I start watching the game, I'll start thinking we're going to play this team next. Then the next period I'll think I'm going to play the other team," said Petr Sykora, who won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2000 and has no plans on watching. "I'm going to worry about my own game and myself. The next day we'll have a meeting about who we're going to play. Mentally I'm going to try to recharge and just get ready for whomever we play."

For younger players experiencing their first prolonged playoff action, the opportunity to watch the game seems more appealing. But don't expect them to hover around the television anticipating their next opponent.

"I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be at home with the game on, watching parts of it at least," winger David Clarkson said. "I might not watch the whole game, but I'll definitely watch some of it."

For one member of the Devils' staff, having the opportunity to rest and watch two teams battle for a spot in the conference finals is a luxury. But not because Game 7s are typically so exciting.

"Absolutely," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said when asked about watching the big game. "More with a coaching hat on than a fan's perspective. Every Game 7 is great, but from my perspective it's for pre-scouting both teams. So when we wake up Sunday morning we can hit the ground running based on who we're playing."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 1:10 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils have spirited practice minus two defensemen

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who left Tuesday's Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period after suffering an undisclosed injury following a hit from winger Wayne Simmonds, was held out of practice Thursday in Newark, along with fellow defenseman Anton Volchenkov.

When asked about both defensemen, Devils coach Peter DeBoer described their day off as a "rest day" and said he expected them both to be available for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Devils went through a high-impact practice in anticipation of the next round of the playoffs, which will see them face either the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final.

"We had a work day today," said DeBoer. "I think you have to stay in the rhythm of pushing your bodies every other night. That's the NHL playoffs."

Zidlicky has six points in 12 games this postseason and has quarterbacked New Jersey's power play since being acquired from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24. New Jersey dressed just six defensemen for practice on Thursday, including Matt Taormina, who has yet to make an appearance in this year's playoffs and hasn't dressed for the Devils since March 27. Peter Harrold, who has not dressed since Game 2 against the Flyers, could be called into duty if the Devils found themselves short a defenseman.

Volchenkov was on the receiving end of a hard hit from Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo early in the Game 5 win over the Flyers, but managed to finish the game.

The Devils will hold an optional off-ice workout tomorrow before getting back on the ice for practice on Saturday.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 1:04 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Carlson shakes 'sophomore slump' during playoffs

ARLINGTON, Va. -- There were flashes of the dreaded "sophomore slump" for Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson this season, but he's picked the right time to be playing some of his best hockey.

Carlson had a fantastic rookie campaign in 2010-11, his first full season in the NHL, teaming up with fellow young defenseman Karl Alzner to form the team's most trusted pairing, while also racking up seven goals and 37 points.

He finished this regular season with nine goals and 32 points, but his work in the defensive end eroded. Plus-minus isn't a tell-all stat, but Carlson's drop from plus-21 to minus-15 was jarring. Carlson did score in the season finale against Florida, but that ended one of two droughts of six weeks or more without a tally.

"I think towards the end of the season I started getting my legs back under me, felt a lot better about myself and my game," Carlson said. "I think it is just a progression thing. I was confident that I could do it and get back to where I needed to be and I think that I'm playing good now."

Carlson's play has been much improved this postseason. He has two goals and five points in the 13 games, but four of the points have come in the past seven.

He's also played more than 20 minutes in every postseason game but one, and more than 30 minutes twice. Paired every night with Alzner, they are again back to being Washington's shutdown pairing.

"He's been playing really well," Hunter said. "He's been physical and jumping up in the play and creating offense. But also they got a tough job of dealing with the top line every night. Him and [Alzner] are doing a great job."

Added Carlson: "I don't know. I think it seems like I'm getting some bounces, getting some breaks. It feels like I am seeing the rush a little bit more and trying to join the play if I can if it is not detrimental to my team."

Carlson did get a nice bounce in Game 6. His shot from the right point went off Nicklas Backstrom's skate and skipped toward the left post -- just where Jason Chimera was waiting for an easy tap-in goal.

He isn't the only young defenseman with elite potential to struggle at times during his second full NHL season. Montreal's P.K. Subban also struggled at times this season. So too did Los Angeles' Drew Doughty during his sophomore campaign.

Carlson does appear to have figured it out, and has moved on.

"It's over now, so it doesn't matter," he said.

Added Hunter: "I think every player goes through it; it's a long season. When it counts in the playoffs, he's been a horse for us."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Status of Beagle for Game 7 is uncertain

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter said checking-line center Jay Beagle is "day-to-day" after missing Game 6 with lower-body injury and didn't say if he would return to the lineup for Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

"We don't know for sure yet," Hunter said when asked if Beagle might join the team for practice Friday.

Beagle didn't skate Tuesday or Wednesday before Game 6, but Hunter said before the game that he would play. Mike Vogel, senior writer for capitals.nhl.com and reporter for Caps 365, reported on Twitter that Beagle was in the dressing room putting his equipment on but the injury "did not repsond as he and team had hoped."

Jeff Halpern replaced Beagle in the lineup. Brooks Laich said he didn't know Beagle was out until the team was on the ice for warm-ups. Beagle blocked a shot in Game 5 with his right leg, which is likely what caused the injury.

Beagle has become one of Washington's most critical players and one of Hunter's most trusted guys, often logging big minutes against top competition in this postseason.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 11:21 PM

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

Capitals don't let OT losses get them down

Braden Holtby
Goalie - WSH
RECORD: 7-6
GAA: 1.95 | SVP: 0.935
The Washington Capitals are nothing if not resilient.

The Caps have lost four times in overtime during this year's playoffs, including a pair of excruciating losses to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- a triple-OT loss in Game 3 and a 3-2 loss in Game 5 in which they were 6.6 seconds away from winning.

But the Caps have refused to feel sorry for themselves. They rebounded from each of the first three overtime losses with victories, then did it again on Wednesday by beating the Rangers 2-1 in Game 6 -- sending the series to the limit and becoming the first team in NHL history to won four straight times after an overtime loss in a single playoff year.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 11:03 PM

NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Border rivals begin duel on Monday

The Rangers host their neighbors from New Jersey in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final Monday night at 8pm ET (NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:47 PM

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

Whitney a reluctant birthday boy

GLENDALE, Ariz, -- Ray Whitney turned 40 years old on Tuesday and thought he might have escaped the wrath of his teammates since it was an off-day for the Coyotes.

No chance. His locker was dressed up with presents on Wednesday, including a walker -- adorned with a blue bow -- tubes of Ben Gay and denture cream, laxative, batteries and a magnifying glass with which to read the latest copy of Oprah Winfrey's "O" Magazine.

Whitney, who will dodge any camera possible even on most normal days, had no interest in coming out to view the display while media was in the room. But his teammates didn't mind commenting -- especially suspected ringleader Shane Doan.

"I'm way young younger than a few people on this team -- and Ray Whitney is way older than everyone else," the 35-year-old Doan was only too happy to point out, "We fixed him up with a 40-year-old survival kit just to make sure he has everything working."

Whitney had everything working during the regular season, leading the Coyotes in assists (53) and points (77) while pumping in 24 goals. He's added six points in 13 playoff games -- showing he's not quite ready for a walker.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:10 PM

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

Kings getting contributions up and down lineup

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals saw Los Angeles Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov and veteran blueliner Matt Greene each score his first career playoff goal.

Game 3 saw rookie Dwight King pot his first playoff goal. Game 4? King's rookie roommate, Jordan Nolan, snapped home a loose puck for his first playoff goal.

Fifteen of 18 skaters have scored a goal for L.A. in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and 17 have recorded a point. The team's third and fourth lines have scored six goals. In other words, it's precisely the dynamic of championship teams.

"I think you look at lines three and four -- everybody's outscoring their opposition," Justin Williams said.

"Our third line has scored more than their line. Our fourth line has scored more than their fourth line. We're going to need solid contributions from everybody. That's what playoffs is. Sometimes if there's a couple of lines, they offset each other and it's the so-called unsung heroes who get the stuff done."

Williams and a handful of other Kings players that have won the Stanley Cup would know, having been on teams that got scoring depth throughout the lineup.

It's not just the forwards. Greene, who had four goals and 15 points in 82 regular season games, has one goal and four points in nine playoff games. He had more points (four) in the semifinal series victory against St. Louis than Blues winger Andy McDonald (three).

Willie Mitchell has a goal and an assist, and of course Drew Doughty leads the defensemen with one goal and six assists, including a three-point game in Game 4 against St. Louis. The only player that hasn't recorded a point is Colin Fraser.

"The other team can't just say, 'Well, if we shut down the top two lines we have a good chance of winning' because we have two other lines that score," Penner said. "But for us, if all four lines that can score, we've got D that can score … that's what you need to go deep in the playoffs, is contributions from every position."

If there's any surprise to the offensive output, it's that of Nolan and King, who were recalled from the American Hockey League on Feb.10. Both were brought up for their size -- Nolan is 6-foot-3, 227 pounds and King is 6-3, 234 -- and they weren't necessarily depended on for scoring.

But both have chipped in, in a fourth-line role for Nolan and a second- and third-line role for King. Nolan is the son of former NHL head coach Ted Nolan, while King is brothers with NHL forward D.J. King.

Sutter said he wasn't surprised at how they've adjusted to playoff-level hockey.

"They have handled it really well," Sutter said. "The best part about those two kids is probably their background. As we've gone along we've had to manage their minutes, obviously, because there is a more intense environment, but they've done a good job of giving us those minutes."

King and Nolan are still living in a hotel near the team's practice facility. Nolan is doing the cooking, although King said "we've been going out more" recently.

Penner said he's been impressed by their maturity and that it hasn't gone unnoticed in the dressing room.

"I think there's a sense of pride for the older guys watching the young guy come along that quickly, and buy in and appreciate where they are now," Penner said. "They've earned their keep."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:08 PM

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

Former teammates on Cup champ are now rivals

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the connections between the Kings and the Coyotes is that Los Angeles forward Justin Williams played with Phoenix forward Ray Whitney on the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes team that beat the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup.

Asked what he remembered about Whitney, Williams said, "He wasn't 40 -- putting up a lot of points as he is right now. But he was a big part of our team in '06, and certainly a huge part of their team right now. He's going to demand a lot of our attention. We're going to have to be hard on him, because he's a guy that can certainly have an impact on the series."

Whitney has two goals, including one game-winner, and six points in the playoffs.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:02 PM

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

Coyotes present familiar challenge for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Western Conference Semifinals were supposed to be a clash of similar styles with the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues both based on defense, goaltending and physical play.

The Phoenix Coyotes present more of the same, although there might be more even-strength play between the teams considering that the Coyotes average the fourth-fewest penalty minutes per game (9.5). They also entered Wednesday with the second-most five-on-five goals (22).

One aspect is that the teams have not played since Feb. 21, and the Kings know the Coyotes have since changed.

"They're very similar to us in the way that they play from a structure standpoint -- strong defense, strong goaltending," Brown said.

"The game plan is no secret that we need to get in on the forecheck. It's going to be the same as playing St. Louis … maybe we exposed St. Louis' goaltending a little bit, but at this time of year, it's about hard work, getting on the forecheck, making it hard on their guys that play a lot of minutes. [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson plays 30 minutes a game. It's important for us to get on him. We have to wear on guys like that throughout the series, and the other guy we got to really make it hard on is Mike Smith."
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— Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after scoring his 1,000th career point on Thursday night in Ottawa
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