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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 7:34 PM

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

Luongo: I'm 100 percent behind Schneider

VANCOUVER -- Goaltender Roberto Luongo cut through the four-deep crowd gathered around his locker after practice Friday, looked into the glaring row of camera lights and said all the right things.

Meeting the media for the first time since it was announced that he would be on the bench with his team facing elimination in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the former Canucks' captain threw his support behind replacement Cory Schneider and downplayed talk of his future being somewhere other than Vancouver as premature.

"I'm a competitor, you guys all know that, and it's tough," Luongo said of being benched. "But at the same time, this is about the team and I am not going to put myself ahead of the team. We're in this together, we work hard all year to be in this position and right now I am going to do the best I can to be ready if needed, and 100 percent behind Cory and my teammates."

Luongo never veered off script during his five minutes in the spotlight, saying he hadn't paid any attention to talk the Canucks may need to deal the decade remaining on a 12-year, $64 million contract, which includes a no-trade clause. His insisted his focus is not on the list of teams some are suggesting he could go to, but on a Kings team that Vancouver trails 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

"Right now is not the time to be thinking of that stuff," said Luongo, who played well the first two games, but has watched Schneider stop 62 of 64 shots since starting Game 3.

Luongo, who holds the Canucks franchise record for wins and shutouts, was focused only on getting ready for Game 5 on Sunday. He said he was preparing just in case something should happen to Schneider - the second-year goaltender was forced out of a surprise first-round playoff start last spring after cramping up on a penalty shot -- but not wishing any harm to his crease counterpart.

"We're good friends," Luongo said of Schneider. "He's been behind me 100 percent since Day One he's been here. He works extremely hard in practice, he's always been a great team guy, so I'm going to do the same for him. … I think he deserves what he's getting. Obviously he's going to be a top-notch goalie in this league for a long time. I'm happy for him, and hopefully we can get the job done here."

As for how Luongo is handling the situation, teammates praised him for keeping it out of the locker room. For a goalie once accused of throwing them under the bus by talking about poor defensive play, and a guy who admittedly regrets some comments about Boston's Tim Thomas during last year's Stanley Cup Final, it's a big step.

"Six years ago or five minutes ago?" Luongo responded with a laugh when asked if he has developed thicker skin during his time in Vancouver. "You get to handle things. I think I am much better at it now than when I got here, and I think it's nice that I have been able to take that step and negotiate those things without letting it affect me."

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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 7:28 PM

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

Van Riemsdyk returns to Flyers lineup for Game 5

PITTSBURGH -- Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk will play in Game 5 Friday against the Penguins. Zac Rinaldo is a healthy scratch.

Van Riemsdyk hasn't played since breaking his left foot on March 1 when he blocked a shot by Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina. He has been practicing with the team and was considered a game-time decision; he will make his 2012 playoff debut and start on a line with Matt Read and Jakub Voracek.

The Flyers can close out the series with a win Friday at Consol Energy Center, where they are 7-1-0 since the building opened. 
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 4:19 PM

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

Kings' Clifford still day-to-day

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kyle Clifford did not skate Friday but Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he the forward did not have a setback in his recovery from what is believed to be a concussion he sustained from a hit by Byron Bitz in Game 1.

"It becomes day-to-day," Sutter said. "That's protocol, right? That's what he's allowed to do."

Also, Scott Parse practiced with the team for the first time since he had hip surgery in December. He wore a green no-contact jersey. Asked if he’s ahead of schedule, Parse said, "I'm just happy how I feel. There's no schedule."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 4:17 PM

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

Kings need power play to get hot again

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Vancouver's inefficient power play was the talk of this first-round playoff series, but the Kings are in a 1 for 15 slump over the past three games. That comes after they went 8-for-17 over the last two regular-season games and Game 1 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

The Kings did have eight shots on goal on its first two power plays of Game 4. It had three total power plays, and that's about what Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter expects.

"We're going to get fewer," Sutter said. "That's obvious, I think. There would have to be something changed for us to get more power plays, so we have to get as many quality chances as you can. I think our power play was better in the last game, but you do have to score on them. One thing that's not going to change in the playoffs is goaltending, special teams and performance of the top players."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 4:13 PM

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

Kings clinging to underdog mindset

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Although his team has a 3-1 series lead, Kings coach Darryl Sutter is keeping his underdog mindset.

Sutter said owning three wins in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Canucks is "the only advantage we have right now. If somebody said at the end of the series we beat them three times [then it doesn't matter]. There's five series of the eight that are 3-1. How many of them are cast as an underdog 3-1? That’s what it's about.

"We are the big underdogs. That's based on what they've accomplished."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 4:11 PM

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

Sutter knows stopping Sedins is key for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter faced Vancouver three times in the regular season, but he talked Friday as if he's preparing for a whole new team in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

The addition of Daniel Sedin to Vancouver's lineup has changed the look of the series. Henrik Sedin's game is based on finding brother Daniel for scoring opportunities, and Vancouver essentially got two new players back when Daniel returned for Game 4.

"We got to handle the Sedins better," Sutter said. "They're going to play a lot. As a group, we have to handle them better. It's pretty clear how good a players they are, and they have great instincts when they're together.

"It makes such a difference when they're together. It's clear one impacts the other. It makes sense when you look at it. Their whole career and their whole life is pretty much playing together."

Sutter is not a big matchup coach. In Game 4 he used his top three lines against the Sedin-Sedin-David Booth line, with centers Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll taking turns on the ice against them.

"I don't think he minds who plays against them," Stoll said of Sutter. "He doesn't have a hard matchup kind of a mindset. I'm sure whoever is playing well and doing their thing. The key is winning faceoffs against those guys and making them chase the puck to start their shift. And play the game. Make them play in their zone. Make them play hard minutes.

"They're really good players so they should be different. But we got to be different, too. We got to be better."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 3:40 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Blackhawks will mull switch to Emery for Game 5

CHICAGO -- Could the Chicago Blackhawks make the switch to Ray Emery in goal for Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series in Phoenix on Saturday night?

"We're talking about that," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday, shortly before he and his team departed for Phoenix. "We'll talk about our scenario, but I don't forsee making any announcements [before the game]."

Corey Crawford has started each of the first four games and lost three of them in overtime -- including a pivotal Game 4 at United Center 3-2 on Thursday night. Mikkel Boedker, in fact, beat Crawford in overtime in successive games for the Phoenix Coyotes -- who are on the brink of clinching the franchise's first Stanley Cup Playoffs series in 25 years.

Crawford got the majority of starts in the regular season, but lost the starting job for a couple of six-game stretches with some inconsistent play. Boedker's goal in OT, scored off a partial breakaway by stuffing the puck through the pads, was the only one of the three Crawford allowed that he had a chance to stop.

It just happened to come at the worst time of the game and gave the Coyotes a huge victory. Regardless, the Hawks say they're fine with either Crawford or Emery in net -- and they don't think Crawford should be hanging his head because of the OT losses.

"Goaltending is a position that seems to take most of the responsibility, especially in losing efforts," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "But really, what you don't notice is those little efforts that he does on every play, every shift, and those stops that he's making to keep us in these tight games. Maybe he deserves a little more credit for that. So, we're standing behind him. He's worked as hard, if not harder, than anybody in this series. He deserves our full support, [and] we need to be better and more supportive in front of him."

Defenseman Duncan Keith had similar sentiments.

"Goaltending is a position somewhat like defensemen, who are the last line of defense," Keith said. "Well, the goaltender is the very last line of defense. They can be a hero one day and a goat the next day. Corey's played great all year long, and played great for us in the playoffs last year. He had his best game in the playoffs last year in Game 7 [against Vancouver], when we were facing elimination, so we've got a lot of confidence in him and in both of our goalies."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 3:24 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Julien shakes up all four lines at Bruins practice

BOSTON -- Typically patient with his lines combinations, Bruins coach Claude Julien seemingly has seen enough of his offense through four games to decide it's time for a major revamp.

During a 30-minute practice at TD Garden on Friday to prepare for Saturday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington, Julien shook up all four of his lines, led by Brian Rolston moving to right wing next to Milan Lucic and David Krejci. The other lines featured Patrice Bergeron centering Daniel Paille and Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly centering Benoit Pouliot and Tyler Seguin, and Gregory Campbell skating between Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton. Spare forward Jordan Caron rotated in on the Kelly line.

"Making line changes, that's a part of trying to find solutions and it's as simple as that," said Julien, whose team has scored just seven goals and is tied in the series at 2-2. "You've got to mix up guys who are not getting the results that we'd like to. So, you're trying to make changes that will maybe spark that part of our game."

Defensively, the Bruins have been as sound as the Capitals, who also have scored just seven goals. Only San Jose and Vancouver, two teams in unenviable 1-3 deficits in their series, have scored that few goals.

Last year, only injuries caused Julien to shuffle his lines even when the Bruins were struggling and fell into 0-2 series holes against Montreal and Vancouver. Nonetheless, most of the players said they weren't surprised at the changes, which may not even carry over into Game 5.

"I think maybe you try to jump start a little bit more offensive opportunities with certain guys. I think that's all that was," Kelly said. "I think the defensive part of the game has been good from everyone. By no means is this a scare tactic or a panic tactic ... I think it's just Claude weighing his options. He has lots of options in this locker room."

Peverley said: "It never hurts to have a little change, especially if we're not scoring goals. And we're not scoring enough, so we've done it earlier in the year and it worked. We won a couple games, so why not change?"


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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:48 PM

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

Babcock on Lidstrom's future: 'He's too good to quit'

NASHVILLE -- With Detroit facing elimination on Friday, coach Mike Babcock was asked once again if this could be the final game for defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, the seven-time Norris Trophy winner who will be 42 in a number of days.
 
First, Babcock was asked if Lidstrom is still bothered by an ankle injury that kept him sidelined late in the regular season.
 
"The great thing about that is you can ask Nick, so that gets me off the hook," he said. "… I think Nick Lidstrom retires when he thinks he's not a good player anymore, but I think he's been a pretty darn good player. I don't know what could possibly be more fun than playing hockey at a high level on a great team. And I know his wife, so she doesn't want him around, for sure. Why wouldn't you keep playing?"
 
Babcock was asked a follow-up.
 
"I say this every year so this is seven years for me I've answered this question," he said. "I always say the same thing: He's too good to quit."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:45 PM

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

Wings stress importance of second shots on Rinne

NASHVILLE -- From coach Mike Babcock to defenseman Brad Stuart to forwards Danny Cleary and Drew Miller, the Detroit Red Wings on Friday often discussed the need to get second shots on Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
 
Rinne stopped 81 of 84 shots in the Predators' two victories in Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena, and generally has the Red Wings searching for answers. Detroit has scored only eight goals in the four games.
 
The first goal in particular has been critical in this series, as the team scoring it has won every game. Cleary was asked if Nashville plays any differently when it has the lead.
 
"Yes and no," he said. "They're a really good defensive hockey team and they're disciplined. This is not a rush-chance opportunity series. There's no 2-on-1s. There's hardly any 3-on-2s. I mean, they've always got guys back and they're blocking everything and they've got like a wall built in front, and so we've got to come in from the sides. It's just a tight series. Right now we're a little stymied, for sure.”
 
Part of the problem in creating second chances, Cleary said, is that Rinne "catches everything" with his glove, so the Red Wings need to be mindful of keeping the puck away from his glove hand, which is easier said than done.
 
Babcock said the Red Wings "can't be impatient."
 
"I don't think we got too impatient last game at all," he said. "I thought we stuck with it. To me, we need some second chances on their goaltender. The puck's not coming off him very much because he catches a lot of things, so we've got to figure out a way to get some second chances and be determined and understand it's going to be tight-checking and there's not going to be a lot of room. ... We need to fight for seconds."
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