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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 4:28 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Pens not looking back as Game 3 approaches

PITTSBURGH--Losing all those multiple-goal leads against the Philadelphia Flyers was bad enough for Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. Dealing with them might be just as difficult.

With Game 3 against the Flyers coming up on Sunday, Bylsma said the Penguins must shove aside the bad memories and focus on what they need to do to correct the numerous mistakes they made while losing the first two games of their Eastern-Conference Quarterfinals series.

The Flyers rolled into Pittsburgh and withstood a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 in overtime in Game 1 Wednesday. On Friday, they shook off Penguins leads of 2-0 and 3-1 to win 8-5 and take a firm grip on the series. After stealing home-ice advantage, they can now lose once in Philadelphia and still win the series.

"If you're asking does it affect the mindset? It does," said Bylsma, whose team has led the Flyers by two goals or more in five games since March 18, losing all but one. "You can say that losing 4-3 is a 4-3 loss no matter how it goes down; but in an overtime game, it's painful for anyone who is losing 4-3."

The Penguins also led 2-0 in Philadelphia on March 18, only to lose 3-2 in the final second of overtime -- thereby ending their NHL season-long 11-game winning streak. They also lost 6-4 in Pittsburgh on April 1 in a game they led 2-0.

"I think we understand we had leads, and 3-0 leads and two-goal leads, and they were able to come back," Bylsma said Saturday. "We knew they were going to be able to play and I don't think there have been a lot of surprises in that regard. I think it's difficult to deal with those losses and, at the same time, we have to put it behind us. We have to get ready for one game, which is Sunday at 3'oclock in Philly."

While the Flyers are 7-1 in Pittsburgh since the Consol Energy Center opened -- with the only loss coming in a nonessential game last weekend --the Penguins are 10-4-1 in their last 15 in Philadelphia.

"It's not what we planned to start with," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said of the 2-0 deficit. "But at the same time we can't panic right now. We have to play hard, play our best and get some wins."

Defenseman Kris Letang said, "You don't want to [be down 2-0]. Sometimes in life you're forced to go through adversity and that's what we're facing right now."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 4:24 PM

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

Flyers trying to stay humble despite series lead

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers may be up 2-0 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the players and coaches know they haven't really won anything yet.
 
Falling behind by two goals in the first period of each game is enough to keep any team humbled regardless of the final result.
 
"We're OK with the eight goals," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's the five and the first 20 minutes. … I think we look at that and try to be better at that. Certainly they're going to get chances, they're a dangerous team. They have talented players. But I think a lot of it has to do with our attitude in the first period.
 
"I think there's things we can do better."
 
Better starts have been a focal point for the last month. In nine of their last 14 games going back to the regular season, they've trailed 2-0 or worst. That they've gone 8-4-2 in those games speaks to the resiliency of the team. However, they know there's a limit to how many times you can dig into that reserve.
 
"It's not easy to come back," Claude Giroux said. "All year we've been doing it, being able to come back every game. Guys don't quit [but] we've got to find a way to put ourselves in a better situation because at the end of the day we won't be able to come back against this team too many times. We have to make sure we do better."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 3:28 PM

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

D. Sedin out for Game 3, status unchanged

Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin will not travel to Los Angeles with the team for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday night.

"He's not flying with us today and nothing has changed," coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Saturday.

Vigneault would not confirm a report on Twitter from earlier in the day that Sedin, out since March 21, would not play the rest of the first-round series.

"There's no timeline in these injuries," Vigneault said. "I can't tell you more than he's not skating with the team and he's not coming to LA."

The Canucks trail the Kings two games to none in the best-of-seven series and miss their leading goal scorer, especially on the power play. Vancouver is 0-for-10 with the man advantage without Sedin, and gave up two shorthanded goals in a second straight 4-2 loss in Game 2 on Friday night.

Daniel Sedin skated on his own -- in full gear but at a light pace -- an hour before the rest of the Canucks regulars took the ice for the morning skate Friday. It was the third time he's been on the ice this week, but there was no indication he was any closer to a return. Vigneault bristled when asked to compare Sedin's health since Monday.

"How would you compare the sun today to the sun a couple of days ago? How am I supposed to answer that question?" he responded. "Nothing's changed guys. I can't tell you anything more."

Sedin, who hasn't played since Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith elbowed him in the head with 10 games left in the regular season, skated at least once on his own before rejoining the team at practice on Monday.

The 2011 Art Ross Trophy winner took his regular spot on the first line and top power play unit with twin brother Henrik Sedin, and even stayed through a long conditioning skate at the end of practice. But he didn't come out with the team the following day, instead going out after practice on Tuesday with the extra players.

There was a report from a Swedish media outlet the following day, citing an interview with the Sedin's father, that Daniel experienced headaches after the Monday session and wouldn't play Game 1. He didn't and, despite the short skate prior to Game 2, still wasn't ready on Friday night, when the Canucks' power play he helps anchor went 0-for-5 and gave up two shorthanded goals in a 4-2 loss that left the Canucks down two games in the series.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 3:00 PM

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

Past, present residents of Chez Briere excelling

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Last season, Flyers center Claude Giroux moved into the house teammate Danny Briere shares with his three sons. This season, Giroux moved into his own home and rookie forward Sean Couturier has moved in.
 
That trio has accounted for eight of the Flyers' 12 goals in the first two games of the series.
 
So is there something in the water at the Briere home?
 
"I don't know," Couturier, who at age 19 years, 128 days old became the youngest player since 1945 to have a hat trick when he scored three in Game 2, said with a laugh. "It's not the food, for sure. We don't eat."
 
Giroux also had a hat trick in Game 2, after Briere scored twice in Game 1.
 
"I don't know how to explain it," Briere told NHL.com. "It's pretty cool. It's cool to see both Claude and Sean take over the game [Friday]. You put a special touch on it."
 
There's been no word on any team-wide sleepover parties at the Briere home.
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:48 PM

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

No Gill at Preds practice, still hopeful for Sunday

NASHVILLE – Predators defenseman Hal Gill, who has missed the first two games of his team’s Western Conference Quarterfinals series with Detroit, did not participate in a brief practice Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
 
Asked if he had a chance to play in Game 3 on Sunday, Gill responded “hope so.”
 
Predators coach Barry Trotz said Gill, 37, is “getting closer.”
 
“One of the things with certain injuries here, sometimes you’re better off not to skate in terms of that and let it settle down,” Trotz said. “Every day that goes by, he’s getting closer and we felt that we can just keep him off today. He did some stuff a lot earlier before everybody got here and we’ll see where it is.”
 
Gill led Nashville in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season and was the team’s top shot-blocker.
 
Power play struggles
 
Nashville has not scored a power play goal in its first 12 chances through Games 1 and 2, but Trotz is not getting discouraged. That is because the Preds are generating plenty of chances, but they’re just not finishing them off.
 
Trotz said there would be a tendency to “reinvent the wheel” if the unit were not generating chances.
 
In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Predators lost their opening-round series with eventual champion Chicago in six games in part because they did not score a power-play goal through the first five games.
 
“The difference in that power play was in that we got no chances,” Trotz said. “That’s the biggest thing. We just weren’t getting any chances or very, very little. That’s not the case here. … I remember that well, by the way.”
 
0-for-Detroit
 
The Preds have never won a postseason game in Detroit, failing in all six chances in their two previous meetings with the Red Wings. If they want to win this series, they will need to do so.
 
“Obviously, it’s a tough place to play,” Ryan Suter said. “We have to if we want to win the series, we’re going to have to win a game there. Going into it, you’re looking at it as, ‘Oh, geez, we’ve never won there. We gotta win.’ But it’s just more of a fact that if we play the way we’re capable of playing we have a good chance to win.”
 

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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:43 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Sharks not satisfied with split in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Teams starting on the road in the playoffs may think a best-case scenario is splitting the first two games and returning with home-ice advantage for Games 3 and 4.

For the San Jose Sharks, why split? Be selfish and go for the gusto.

They have that opportunity Saturday, a chance to head back to HP Pavilion with a 2-0 series lead.

"Coming into here, we didn't want to split," defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "You want to concentrate on the first game. You don't want to come in here thinking you can get a split. You want to win the first one, and we did that, and now we want to win the second one. You have to have a winning mentality, so we want to win tonight as well."

Center Logan Couture agreed.

"You come into Game 1 wanting to win Game 1 and you come into Game 2 wanting to win Game 2," he said. "You go into every game wanting to win. You don't expect it, but you go in wanting to. Going up 1-0, we [now] want to go up 2-0."

But defenseman Justin Braun expects the Blues to come at the Sharks with full vigor.

"I expect, if not the same, a little more from them," Braun said of the Blues. "They crashed our forecheck hard. I expect them to do the same tonight.

"You can't really think about it one and one. Take one game at a time and that's your opportunity to get the win. Take advantage of that every chance you get."

The Sharks, winners of five straight games and eight of 10 going back to the regular season, feel they have an edge just because they've been in playoff mode for weeks fighting for their playoff lives.

San Jose has been used to clinching early in seasons past, but was not guaranteed a spot among the Western Conference's top eight until the final week.

"I know we've been in that playoff mode for a little while," coach Todd McLellan said. "We've tried to keep as much of a normalcy around our team as we've had around that push. We didn't go to extremes for preparation or anything like that. We wanted to keep it as familiar as it was. We'll continue to do that and evaluate from game to game. ... In our situation, that's all we've done."

It's been the right frame of mind for the players.

"You want to clinch it as early as you can, but I feel like we've been in the mindset of playoffs for the last three weeks," Braun said. "It's been a huge advantage so far."

Added Couture: "I think going into the playoffs, we went in the right way ... playing well and playing hard, really fighting for a spot. That helped us out a little bit. We're focused on this series now. We've put the regular season behind us. We've got a big game tonight."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Blues' Stewart understands reasons for benching

ST. LOUIS -- The biggest surprise may have been for St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock to finally pull the trigger on forward Chris Stewart, who has had an off-year by his standards.

Stewart will be a healthy scratch Saturday when the Blues play host to the San Jose Sharks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

After dropping to 15 goals following back-to-back 28-goal seasons, Hitchcock feels there's more that could be had from the Toronto native.

"We need more from him," Hitchcock said. "This is certainly not based on one hockey game. We just need more.

"From that position on our hockey club, that third line role, we need more tenacity, more determination, more second and third effort on the puck. We need all of that from that position. I think the opposition got in from their positioning and we need to get it from ours if we expect to change the outcome."

Stewart, who dressed in Game 1 and played on the team's third line with Jason Arnott and Vladimir Sobotka, was visibly disappointed after the morning skate.

"My number wasn't on the board. My play wasn't good enough last game," Stewart said. "We're fighting for our lives every day. I had the opportunity to step up and didn't get the job done. At the end of the day, it is what it is. This isn't the time of the year to pout or get down on yourself. We're a team, we've got to stick together and they're going to need me eventually in this series, and when I get the chance again, I'll be ready."

Teammates are on full alert: don't produce and your name could also be missing from the lineup card.

"I think it's a little bit of a message, but I think [Hitchcock] also has his game plan and the way he wants us to play," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think he's going to try to implement players in here, whether we're at home or on the road from a game to game basis and see what he can change up.
"That's another reason why they're in the lineup. You look at the guys coming in, there's some energy players there that can skate, hit, keep us on track as far as the way we can play and keep us sticking to our game plan."

It's a position Stewart's not familiar with, though.

"No. But you can understand," Stewart said. "I understand the game well, so I do get where [Hitchcock's] coming from. I do hope I get a chance to get back in there and show him that I can play. Now, I'll just wait for the time.

"There's obviously more to give. Also, you do need the opportunity. I didn't get the most ice time in the world last game [15:22], but it's up to me to earn it. I've got to go out there with the ice time I do get and show them that I deserve more. You look at our team and our depth, there's guys that demanded the ice time and I wasn't one of them. That's why am I where I am right now."

"It's a pretty bad feeling, but like I said, this is the time of year that it's no time to pout or be down on yourself," Stewart added. "We're all professionals here, and we're all a team. It's one game at a time."


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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:30 PM

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

van Riemsdyk practices, not quite ready for return

VOORHEES, N.J. -- James van Riemsdyk was on the ice early for extra skating and for all of practice Saturday in his recovery from a broken left foot, but the Flyers' forward said it was highly unlikely he would return in time for Game 3 of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN).
 
"I don't think I'm going to do that," van Riemsdyk said after the workout at Virtua Flyers Skate Zone. "We're taking it day by day and we'll go from there."
 
Van Riemsdyk last played March 1, and has been skating for about a week. He said watching games -- especially games as exciting as the first two in this series -- has been difficult, but he's trying to be patient and let things heal.
 
"It's pretty brutal when you're sitting at home by yourself without the guys, and they're on the road, they're playing in these exciting games, and big games, and you want to do anything to be out there with them," he said. "It's a good step in the right direction, being on the ice with the guys today. Have to keep building off that and go from there."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK






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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:30 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Hitchcock makes three lineup changes after loss

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock said to expect changes for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

He wasn't kidding around.

The St. Louis Blues will make three lineup changes when they play host to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday after losing 3-2 in double overtime Thursday night.

Carlo Colaiacovo will replace Kent Huskins on defense and be paired with Alex Pietrangelo, while forwards Matt D'Agostini and B.J. Crombeen are in and Chris Stewart and Ryan Reaves come out for a pivotal game in which the Blues need if they want to avoid what is staring at Pittsburgh and Vancouver: heading on the road down two games in a series.

"When you lose in a hockey game, whether you’ve lost by one goal, whether you’ve lost in overtime or whatever, if you go into the next competition thinking that everything should the same and expect a different outcome, I think that’s a huge mistake," Hitchcock said. "I don’t believe in that statement, 'Keep doing it over and over again and don’t change anything.' I think we're obligated to change. And I don’t mean dramatic changes, but there are things that as a series moves on, whether you’re having success or not, you have to look in the mirror and do better. There are things that we did very well, and there are things that we have to do better so we addressed both yesterday and today and just emphasizing the things that we did well.

"There are obvious things in our eyes just from our own game standpoint that you need to do better. I think as any series goes on, it really just becomes about you and your game and not so much the opposition. They are what they are and they play the way they play. I think everybody in the National Hockey League knew that when push came to shove, a team like San Jose would turn up the temperature when it was time because of their experience and their expectations. We knew that. We expect them to play well tonight, we just need to play a little better."

Colaiacovo missed the last game of the regular season in Dallas and Thursday night. He wasn't thrilled to be on the sidelines but was supportive of a team deep in the talent pool, as the Blues must sit six players each night with a healthy unit.

"At this time of year, you never want to be a spectator, especially with so much on the line," Colaiacovo said. "It's unfortunate with the results of the last game. I think we deserved a better fate, but that's going to make us hungrier for tonight. We're in a hole right now against a really good team and we're in a place where we've been really good all year -- at home. We need to get that hunger and that energy back and find a way to win tonight because we don't want to put ourselves down going into their building. I don't expect anything different from our team. We've been good at responding all year.

"The decision obviously didn't sit well with me, but I'm getting the opportunity tonight to get back in there. The biggest thing is when you're part of a team like this, it's a right feeling to be pissed off and to be upset about not playing but you're still here for the team. You're still part of a team of 26, cheering the guys on and doing whatever you can to help us get a win. That's been my motivation. My motivation's been to continue to work hard, not be happy with the decision but be ready when my chance comes."

Hitchcock said of Colaiacovo: "He wasn’t healthy at the end of the year. He’s healthy now so, just get back to the game he can play. They’re a good tandem. They play well together. He’s healthy now. He’s a good puck mover. They move the puck around with each other well. He’s good on transition, he’s a good first outlet player, passes it well. By getting healthy and getting rested, I think we’ll get a good player."

Crombeen replaces Reaves, who in only 8 minutes, 1 second gave the Blues plenty of life, energy and tremendous grit. But Hitchcock has a plan in mind.

"We consider [Crombeen]  and [Reaves] to be the same type of player, both high-energy guys," Hitchcock said. "One guy's got a little bit more experience and can play up the lineup a little bit higher if we need it."

Crombeen was scratched for nine of the last 10 regular season games as well as Game 1 on Thursday. He said when you get the chance, players better make it stick.

"I think everyone knows with the depth we have on our team, there's some guys that are sitting out that don't want to be," Crombeen said. "I don't think anyone ever wants to sit out, especially with this team. When you get the chance, you're definitely looking to take advantage of it. I've got to go out and let my play do the talking and make sure that he can't take me out.

"Obviously no one's happy sitting out. Everyone's pissed off, but you can't bring that to the rink. You can't bring that around the guys. You've got to be encouraging the guys and just working your hardest to make sure that you're ready when you do get the chance. ... I'm not going in trying to reinvent the wheel. Just go in and try to play my game and do what I do."

Hitchcock called D'Agostini "the wildcard."

The Blues are still trying to find out just how much D'Agostini can give them. He missed 25 games late in the season with a concussion. He played in a couple games down the stretch.

"I'm just excited to get out there and do my part and try to contribute to what we've got going on here," D'Agostini said. "You're obviously going to be a little upset when you're not playing. You try not to be too much of a downer around the guys. It does take a little bit of a toll on you, but at the same time, we've got one of the deepest teams in the playoffs. You've got to go with the flow when you're not in. Hopefully I just get out there and play my game and stick in the lineup."

"D'Agostini for me is a real wildcard," Hitchcock said. "He's a player that, when healthy, is a very effective player. He's got speed, he's got a great shot and again, he's another player when push comes to shove, can play higher up the lineup, too."





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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:26 PM

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

Vrbata will play for Coyotes in Game 2

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Radim Vrbata, Phoenix’s leader this season with 35 goals, took part in the morning skate Saturday and will play against Chicago in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
 
“He’s going to play,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said.

 Vrbata was injured Thursday in the first shift of a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 when he took a hard hit along the boards from Chicago’s Andrew Shaw. Vrbata went down hard and skated off the ice in a crouch.

But the man who was responsible for one out of every six Phoenix goals this season took part in the morning skate at Jobing.com Arena and is ready to go as the Coyotes seek to take a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for the first time since moving to Arizona in 1996.
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