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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 8:14 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHI @ PIT - 7:37 of the first period



At 7:37 of the first period in the Penguins/Flyers game, video review was initiated to determine if the puck shot by Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang crossed the goal line. Video review confirmed the call on the ice that the puck did not cross the goal line. No goal Pittsburgh.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 6:04 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Canucks will let their play speak for them

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks are pledging to let their play do the talking the rest of the Western Conference Quarterfinals after admitting their mouths got too involved during a Game 1 loss to Los Angeles.

Vancouver engaged in a lot of post-whistle activity in the series opener on Wednesday night, spending so much time trying to get the Kings off their game that it took away from theirs instead. It was uncharacteristic of a team that preached discipline and a whistle-to-whistle focus all season -- and looked more like the one that lost track of both en route to a loss in the Stanley Cup Final against Boston last year.

"We need to stay away from it," Ryan Kesler said. "We haven't been doing it as much all year and with the excitement of playoffs we got caught up a little too much in it. We need to stick to our game plan, which is whistle to whistle."

Kesler was in the middle of a lot of it with Game 1 hero Mike Richards, who had a goal and two assists in the 4-2 win. While Kesler's two assists represented his first multi-point game since Dec. 26, the focus after was more on his post-whistle antics, the snow shower on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick that started a run of three straight penalties, and a couple of apparent embellishments.

Coach Alain Vigneault hinted while talking with reporters on Thursday that it would be discussed before Game 2. It sounded Friday morning like Kesler got the message.

"When the excitement of playoffs is here, and the real season starts you're going to try get any advantage," Kesler said, "But we got caught up in it."

The Canucks also got caught up trying to be a bit too physical, which led to some of the Kings' eight power plays -- and two power-play goals. But Vigneault and Kesler both warned they couldn't back off too much.

"We're going to keep hitting," Kesler said. "We can't play soft. We can't play timid. We'll kill penalties like that. It's the other ones we have to stay away from."

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 5:42 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Keith Ballard set for return

VANCOUVER -- With all the attention on leading scorer Daniel Sedin's attempts to return from a concussion, Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard has been able to fly slightly under the radar in his own recovery from a head injury.

Not anymore.

"I guess you get thrown in the fire and see how you do," Ballard said after taking the morning skate on Friday in preparation to play Game 2 against the Kings.

It's a big ask of Ballard, who hasn't played in more than two months since coming out of the lineup Feb. 7. He was shut down completely for several weeks during that time after experiencing dizziness and headaches -- and sometimes sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day. But he's been skating since mid-March, rejoined the team later in the month and feels he's as ready as he can be to return.

"I know it's going to be fast, it's going to be intense and I'm ready for that," Ballard said. "From my perspective I've done everything I could physically and mentally to prepare so I go from there. My legs feel great. My skating feels great. It's just a matter of putting it all together. It's not psyching yourself up, the building and the atmosphere and what's at stake gets you emotionally ready. It's the mental part that is a huge part of hit, getting your mindset right."

Ballard has battled the mental side since coming to the Canucks two summers ago. He never became the top-pair defenseman Vancouver touted when they traded Michael Grabner and a first-round pick to Florida as part of a five-player package to acquire him on the eve of the 2010 NHL Draft. But he remains a great skater, and after struggling to recover from offseason hip surgery and another concussion last season was playing well before getting hurt in February.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault hopes his ability to skate the puck out his own end pays off against a Kings forecheck that pinned them in the Vancouver zone several times.

"Skate and move the puck, make smart decisions and a bit of a physical side, that's the strength of my game so that's what I gave to do," Ballard said. "If I play to my capabilities, I definitely think I can make a positive impact."

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 5:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Senators shake up routine in search of Game 2 spark

NEW YORK -- The Ottawa Senators broke away from the normal routine Friday following a tough loss Thursday in order to refresh and prepare for a long series.

Instead of holding practice at Madison Square Garden the day before Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the New York Rangers on Saturday, the Senators skated at Chelsea Piers on Friday afternoon.

While it was a fun experience for the players, coach Paul MacLean also put his team through a pretty intense, hour-long workout.

"It was a good, sharp practice," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "It was a different atmosphere to practice in, with the open concept with the windows, but it was a really focused practice. I think you can tell we wanted to make sure we were sharp, and we worked on some things we wanted to do better. But I thought the guys were really crisp … it was more of a workmanlike day."

Still, for some players, like goalie Craig Anderson, a pair of sunglasses would have probably come in handy.

"It was interesting since there was a glare of the sun off the ice, but it was fun," Anderson said. "It was good to get out there, get some confidence and enjoy ourselves. We wanted to keep working on our game. Work on the little things that, going forward, will help us get to where we want to be.

"But I must say, the guys were taking advantage of the goalies with that glare on the ice."

Spezza feels that MacLean's coaching philosophy all season will only help the team in a tight series against the Rangers.

"I think Paul tries to get us to play a game that correlates well to playoff hockey," Spezza said. "We like to get pucks deep, bang the body and get in on the forecheck and that's why we feel comfortable playing playoff games. I don't feel like we have to change too much because that foundation we've been building as a team all season is how we want to play in the playoffs."

That's something that, perhaps, wasn't evident in years' past.

"Maybe we were a little more run-and-gun and scored a lot of goals in previous years," Spezza said. "You're not going to have a lot of high-scoring games in the playoffs, so we're used to playing tight games. We're not used to blowing teams out, so we're comfortable in those tight games."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:57 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Canucks' Ebbett eager to offer versalitity, stay healthy

Vancouver Canucks forward Andrew Ebbett couldn't help but cringe a little when he watched Washington star Alexander Ovechkin collide with Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg while watching the playoffs on television Thursday night.

It was eerily similar to his impact with the sturdy Bruins blueliner on Jan. 7, a ferocious hit that broke Ebbett’s collarbone badly in two places.

So seeing a similarly explosive collision on the eve of making his own playoff debut brought back memories for Ebbett, who will replace the suspended Byron Bitz for Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.

“It definitely reminded me of the hit for sure, just seeing the impact these two had,” Ebbett said. “It brings back memories from when he hit me.”

Ebbett still has a four-inch plate and nine screws in his shoulder and a jagged scar across the front of his collarbone from two fractures the surgeon in Boston called the worst he’d seen. So the fact he’s back for the playoffs after working to return for the final four games of the regular season, means that much more.

“I had doubts the first two weeks when I was in bed and on the couch but once I got here and in the gym and talking to doctors and trainer we knew this was our goal and it's nice to achieve it,” Ebbett said.

Ebbett will take the place of Bitz, who received a two-game suspension for driving Kyle Clifford face first into the boards in Game 1, on the fourth line. But the versatile Ebbett could also see some second unit power-play time, and with five goals in just 18 games this season, adds another scoring touch.

More than anything, he’s just happy to be back after a regular season that also included missing more than a month after breaking his foot while blocking a shot against the Kings on Nov. 10, a game in which he also scored.

“It's been a long year, it’s been a little frustrating at times, but those three months of working the gym and rehabbing, this is what I’ve been working for to get back to here,” he said. “I’m going to play as well as I can to hopefully stay in.”

And stay healthy for a change.

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:36 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Senators keen to limit turnovers, breakdowns

NEW YORK -- Players for the Ottawa Senators pointed to breakdowns at critical moments Thursday against the New York Rangers as the primary reason for their opening-game loss at Madison Square Garden.

"We have to be better with the puck," goalie Craig Anderson told the media following practice Friday at Chelsea Piers. "We didn't manage the puck well when it was on our stick and we didn't make good plays. Turnovers will cost you."

The Senators committed eight giveaways in the 4-2 loss. In the final half of the second period, the Rangers outshot the Senators, 8-2, and outscored the visitors, 2-0.

"We feel like we can play with them," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "I think we just played pretty good at times, and kind of got away from our game and that's when they took over -- that's what makes them the best team in the East."

The Rangers entered their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Senators as the top seed in the conference. The underdog Senators were seeded eighth.

"They were probably more consistent than us but the feeling is optimism," Spezza said. "You have to be prepared to lose games to win in the playoffs, and we're not going to win them all, so we're optimistic we can make this a series and beat these guys. We just have to play a little better."

Anderson, who allowed four goals on 31 shots, admitted he must also play better.

"There will be breakdowns every game, and it's my job to step up and make the save for the guys," Anderson said. "The less mistakes you make, the fewer chances we give and we gave them chances [in Game 1] and they capitalized."

Senators coach Paul MacLean knows if his team has any chance of advancing in the playoffs, it must learn to play a full 60-minute game.

"We weren't horrible for parts of the game, but in the playoffs, you need to be good the whole game," MacLean said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:30 PM

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

Kreider studying Hagelin, waiting for opportunity

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Chris Kreider was given an assignment while watching Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators -- study Carl Hagelin.

The 20-year-old Kreider, who joined the Rangers on Wednesday after winning a national championship with Boston College as a junior, won't likely be in the lineup anytime soon. The Rangers' coaching staff is working with Kreider to improve his game away from the puck, and coach John Tortorella felt there was no better to observe than Hagelin.

The rookie used his speed to close the gap on Ottawa's Nick Foligno in the third period and steal the puck to set up Brad Richards for a goal that made it 4-0. It was one of the many things that caught Kreider's eye at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

"He makes defensemen uncomfortable," Kreider said. "He's got an unbelievable first step. He's the best skater in the League. He did a really good job of harassing the defensemen. It led to two goals. It definitely works."

Hagelin didn't pick up a point on Marian Gaborik's second-period goal that made it 2-0, but his pressure led to a turnover by Jared Cowen that resulted in the goal. It was the type of play that Kreider took note of -- literally.

"I was just trying to jot down whenever he used his speed off the puck to pressure the defensemen and get up ice," Kreider said. "He used it in various situations. I went back today and looked at it on tape in a couple of situations."

Kreider said it was the first time that he can remember being a healthy member of a team and not participating in the game. He also said he felt nervious throughout the Rangers' Game 1 victory.

"I found myself jumping out of my seat too when we were scoring," Kreider said. "I feel emotionally invested."

Coach John Tortorella isn't answering questions about Kreider, but it appears the winger is a long way from getting into a game barring injury. The Rangers received contributions throughout the lineup in Game 1, getting goals from each of their top three lines.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo


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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:20 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Sens might deploy top forwards together more

NEW YORK -- Don't be surprised to see the trio of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek on the ice a lot more when the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers resumes Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

After all, whenever Senators coach Paul MacLean needed an offensive spark at any point this season, he usually had the team's top-scoring forwards leading the charge.

"They bring a lot of experience and it's definitely a line that can generate offense on a consistent basis," MacLean told the media following his team's practice Friday at Chelsea Piers.

"If we do that, we'll have to juggle things a little bit; we might do it within the game or before the game. I haven't decided yet."

Sitting out the optional practice were captain Alfredsson, forward Chris Neil and defenseman Erik Karlsson. MacLean said all three players were just resting and will be in the lineup Saturday.

In a 4-2 loss Thursday to the Rangers in Game 1, Spezza spent a majority of the game centering Colin Greening and Michalek. Alfredsson, meanwhile, was alongside center Kyle Turris and left wing Nick Foligno. MacLean did put Alfredsson, Spezza and Michalek on the same line at certain points in the game in an attempt to ignite the attack.

In addition to adding some offensive punch, MacLean also expects his team to play with more of an edge.

"I would expect the physical side of the game to increase anyway in the second game … our physical side of the game needs to improve and we welcome that," MacLean said.

Spezza said the team did their normal off-day routine, watching video and discussing ways they could improve.

"We did a better job of getting the middle of the ice in the third period, getting guys driving on their goalie and just trying to make it harder for them," Spezza said. "They do such a good job of blocking shots and collapsing, that we have to use our points and try to spread the rink a little bit. Some of the stuff we did toward the end of the game got us [two] goals.

"I think another key is having composure with the puck," Spezza continued. "It's easy to say to be composed and take your time, but when you get out there, things are exciting and jumpy. Getting that first game under our belt was good; I feel we'll be a little more composed moving forward."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:16 PM

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

Despite early edge, Rangers wary of Senators

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- One thing was certain among the New York Rangers on Friday -- they expect the Ottawa Senators to be better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1.

That could be disconcerting, as the Senators didn't play poorly in the series opener.

The Rangers used three quick strikes to blow open a one-goal game and roll to a 4-2 victory Thursday in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. But up until that offensive outburst, the Senators were pressing for the tying goal midway through the second period and were a goal away from changing the complexion of the contest.

That tightness of Game 1 wasn't lost on Brad Richards.

"They played really well last night," Richards said. "There was a momentum swing in the game we were able to grab, but they could've grabbed it too. We have to realize we're going to have to be a lot better.

"They had the puck a lot in the second period. If they score a goal and make it 1-1, it might be different."

The Senators held a 22-12 shots advantage at the halfway point of the game and fired home two goals in the third period to make things interesting. The game had long since been decided by the time the Senators made the score respectable, but that late surge combined with the first half of the game definitely grabbed the Rangers' attention.

"They have a great team over there," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "They've got five or six guys that are world-class talents and can be dangerous with the puck. We expect them to be at their best tomorrow. We have to be ready to elevate our game and match their intensity."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:00 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Sutter still wants more from Kings' Penner

Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn't sound overly impressed with Dustin Penner, who scored the winner late in Game 1 against the Canucks on Wednesday.

So the chances of Penner being back up on the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to start Game 2 of Western Conference Quarterfinals on Friday night may be slim. Penner’s promotion had more to do with a rotation that started when forward Kyle Clifford was knocked out of the game, so don’t be surprised if rookie Dwight King is there with Penner back on the third line.

Sutter made it clear he needs more from the big, enigmatic Penner.

“He can be a whole lot better for all three periods,” Sutter said of Penner, who only scored seven goals in the regular season. “We’re talking about him because he scored one goal. If it’s just about scoring I don’t think we’re going to beat this team 5-4 or 6-5. You have to be very good 200 feet, everywhere on the ice.”

Sutter did confirm forward Andrei Loktionov, who was called up from the American Hockey League when Brad Richardson needed an appendectomy Monday, would go in for Clifford. Clifford didn't play after having his head driven into the boards by Byron Bitz in Game 1. Bitz was given a two-game suspension Thursday.

“He’s pretty familiar with everything he needs to do," Sutter said of Loktionov, who played 39 games with the Kings this season, but will be making his NHL playoff debut. "He's pretty familiar with the players. The players are pretty familiar with him. He's pretty familiar with the system. He gives us some versatility.”

With the Canucks making changes in their lineup – Andrew Ebbett in for Bitz and defenseman Keith Ballard returning after missing two months with a concussion – and talking about needing to improve their discipline, their battle level and their power play, Sutter was asked what the Kings need to adjust.
 
Los Angeles outshot Vancouver 39-26 in Game 1, including a decisive 29-14 edge through 40 minutes, so maybe there’s not much to change.
 
“They don’t give up many opportunities five-on-five so you gotta to finish,” Sutter said. “I don't think you coach that. If you are creating your opportunities, you worked for your opportunities so the next part is reward your work.”

Here are the rest of the expected lines for the Kings in Game 2:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Andrei Loktionov - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez
 
Jonathan Quick is back in goal, with Jonathan Bernier backing up.
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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh