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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 4:06 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils players having a blast during postseason

NEWARK, N.J. -- If you never considered how infectious winning was to a locker room, all you needed to do was listen to the comments made from the two sides involved in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.
 
The Devils scored a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers in Game 3 on Thursday to grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Sunday at Prudential Center.
 
What does Flyers forward Scott Hartnell think?
 
"I think everyone's frustrated. I know me, personally, I'm frustrated," Hartnell said. "Whether it's losing a puck battle at the wrong time or whatever, it seems like it's almost contagious right now."
 
Meanwhile, farther north and over in Devils camp:
 
"It's been awesome," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "We're having fun as a team and having a blast. We're excited for everyone when we score … we're having a blast and that's making us play better. We're enjoying being here."
 
Patrik Elias, who snapped a six-game goal-less drought in Thursday's victory, knows exactly what Parise is talking about.
 
"It's a looser locker room and, in a way, we have the right approach, we're mentally committed," Elias said. "We're taking some days off, but we're still mentally and physically [engaged]. We're having fun and enjoying it."
 
Forward Ilya Kovalchuk and goalie Martin Brodeur credit coach Pete DeBoer and his assistants for providing the perfect setting this season.
 
"It's a great atmosphere … the atmosphere in the room is unbelievable and we enjoy playing for each other and that's very important to be successful," Kovalchuk said. "We know we didn't win anything yet. But we've played the way we expected to play, and we have a long way to go.
 
"I think Pete and his coaching staff has been unbelievable. We have great communication between coaches and players and the door is always open. We communicate a lot and it's made a big difference, and we have a great mix of guys who are all really excited to be in this position."
 
Brodeur, who turns 40 on Sunday, said it's been a while since stability has really set in within the locker room. Of course, he's referring to the fact that since the 2004-05 work stoppage, DeBoer is New Jersey's seventh coach in seven seasons, with Jacques Lemaire and GM Lou Lamoriello each holding the position twice.
 
"We're trying to build something together and we're having a lot of fun," Brodeur said. "It's a little more relaxed as far as guys being around and doing the things we're doing. We're well-organized, and nothing is hidden. It's wide-open and constructive all the time, and that makes it a lot different than before when maybe there was a little more private side when things were going wrong."
 
Brodeur feels that's a direct reflection of the coaching staff.
 
"Everyone has a part in that, but definitely the coaching staff," he said. "I think they put us at ease and don't try to embarrass. There's no blame and everybody wants the best of everybody, and that line of communication has been tremendous.
 
"As long as I've been in this organization, it's as good as I've seen it."
 
While DeBoer is ecstatic to hear his players are having a blast, he realizes times are a little more stressful right now for the men behind the bench.
 
"That's the difference between a player and a coach," DeBoer said, laughing. "[The players] should be having fun. They shouldn't be thinking about anything other than showing up and executing and being ready to play their next game. When they have down time, they should enjoy their down time. It's a different mindset with [coaches]. That's why it's a lot more fun to be a player."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Being merely good wasn't good enough for Coyotes

NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes played pretty well for about 58 1/2 minutes Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Some nights, that will be enough to mask a couple of glaring errors in the other 90 seconds or so.

A road game in the Western Conference Semifinals is not just "some nights," though. The Nashville Predators took advantage of the Coyotes during that blip and captured a 2-0 victory in Game 3.

Phoenix has another chance to assert its control of this series Friday night in Game 4, but the Coyotes want to limit the gaffes and apply more pressure in the offensive zone.

"We've talked about it. We didn't play a bad game. We were OK, but OK isn't going to win on the road in the playoffs. We have to be better than that," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said Friday morning. "We gave them ... both goals were not normal mistakes that we've had throughout the playoffs, and we've got to limit them. If we can limit those and play the game that we want to play -- a little bit harder, a little bit more direct at the net. If we do that, good things should happen."

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said he wasn't expecting to make any lineup changes after Game 3, but also didn't rule it out. One missing guy who isn't expected to return is Lauri Korpikoski, who has been absent for the past two contests in this series with an undisclosed injury.

Center Boyd Gordon did not skate Thursday at practice or Friday during a very optional morning workout, but if Tippett does make a change, it could be if he was unable to play after blocking a Shea Weber slap shot at close range Wednesday.

"There's adjustments to make, but we’ve got some healthy people and some non-healthy people," Tippett said. "We'll look at all the options. I'm not ruling out a change, but right now it looks like it will be the same."

Tippett made it clear Thursday that goaltender Mike Smith was not the primary player at fault when Nashville's David Legwand scored after Smith's pass behind his net was intercepted. The second goal came after Martin Erat stripped the puck from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has probably been Phoenix's top defenseman in this postseason, and set up Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher for a 2-on-0 at point-blank range.

Phoenix missed its own opportunities. Rostislav Klesla hit the far post with a shot during an odd-man rush, and the Coyotes squandered a 5-on-3 in the third period.

"There's some areas that we can clean up," Tippett said. "I thought the two goals we made some mistakes, and I would classify those as unearned chances for them, so there's some areas you got to clean up. There's always subtle little tweaks here and there to grab an advantage. If you take those two goals out, it was a pretty tight game. You're looking for a player to make a big play, or a line to have a great shift.

"There's ways to win. We've been a pretty good club at finding ways to win in tight situations. We just have to try to get back to that."

Here’s what the Coyotes lineup could look like for Game 4:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Marc-Antoine Pouliot
Kyle Chipchura - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera


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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 2:20 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Kings are rolling at the right time

If we've learned one thing in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's that there is no home-ice advantage anymore. Yes, one second-round series has seen the home team win each of the first three games entering Friday, but road teams have still won 60 percent of the games in the playoffs this spring. That is down slightly from 65 percent in the first round.

If we're going to talk about home-ice disadvantage, we need to talk about the Los Angeles Kings, who are 5-0 on the road and 7-1 overall in the postseason. In order to win the Stanley Cup, you need a team that gels and goes on a roll at the right time. I don't think there is a team in the National Hockey League right now that fits that description better than the Kings. They snuck into that eighth spot at the end of the year when it looked like they could possibly miss the playoffs. Then they started Game 1 against Vancouver, with nobody giving them a chance to win, which made them a dangerous team. When you have no expectations and everybody is expecting you to lose, you can just play hard and prove everyone wrong. That’s a good situation to be in.

I don't think there is a team in the League that is working in all facets of the game harder than the Kings in all three zones. Their feet are moving faster than anybody else's, their positioning is bang on, their puck movement has been fantastic. Defensively, they've been sound and their goaltender is the best goaltender in the National Hockey League right now, bar none. Nobody even close.

I've watched Jonathan Quick and his mechanics are so sound. His concentration on the puck is so intense and I don't see the kid breaking. With the way he is playing, he is very quickly moving himself up to the superstar level in the National Hockey League. It's always nice to see an American kid do well in the National Hockey League and I'm biased to the New England area because I grew up there. You like seeing guys who come from the United States system do really well and I think Quick is the upper echelon of American hockey right now.

A lot of it has to do with Darryl Sutter and what he implemented coming into Los Angeles. His mentality has been, "Listen, we're going to do it my way and we're going to do it hard or you're not going to play."

Whether he has scared the guys into doing it or the respect is naturally there for Darryl Sutter, this team is clicking at the exact right time. They're 7-1 in the playoffs, they haven't lost a game on the road yet, and they're doing it against two teams that everyone thought would blow them out. Not only are they doing it, but they're making it look easy.

Bringing in Sutter was a turning point for this team, but they also brought in Jeff Carter at the NHL Trade Deadline, a guy who has been a proven goal scorer for a long time. Dean Lombardi needed a goal scorer. The Kings were No. 30 in scoring for most of the season and ranked No. 29 by the end of the season.

When you need something and your GM goes out and fills that void, that sends a message to your team. Especially with a guy like Carter, who has a big salary. That shows dedication from management.

The guy some people thought the Kings might trade at the deadline, Dustin Brown, has also raised his game. I've played with Dustin and I've watched him for the last three or four years, but this is the best I've seen him play. And when your captain does that, everyone else has to follow.

One last thing that people don't understand is that the Kings have a great fan base. Staples Center is not a very cozy arena to play in because it's so vast and so big, but the Kings pack it every single game. People in that area don't get enough credit for the support they give the Kings. Before this year, the Kings hadn't had too much playoff success, yet their fans continued to come back day in and day out. I don't think there were any empty seats when I played there in 2005-06 and there haven't been any in the last couple of years.

That great fan base is important now that the Kings are playing the way they are.
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:44 PM

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

Hornqvist capitalizing on additional ice time

NASHVILLE -- Even before he was moved up to the Predators' second line when Alexander Radulov was held out of the lineup in Game 3 for violating team rules, right wing Patric Hornqvist started earning more ice time.
 
It’s a statement about Nashville's depth that coach Barry Trotz could take a player who led the team in goals with 27 during the regular season and put him on the third line for the first seven games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
Hornqvist admits that being on the third line changed his role somewhat to be more of a checking one than a scoring one.
 
"If you're on the third or fourth line, you have to make sure you don't get scored on," Hornqvist said. "Of course you want to create some offense, but first thought is always not to get scored on, and I think we did a really good job against Detroit (in the first round). Our line, we didn't get scored on, so, plus-3. Now, I just have to get on the board here, and think we really get going last game, so hopefully we can do the same here tonight."
 
Hornqvist has one goal in eight games so far, but his three assists in this Western Conference Semifinal series with Phoenix lead the team. He also was on ice for the Preds' first goal in Game 3, as his forechecking set up his linemates for the score, even though he did not earn an assist on the play.
 
Trotz said he has begun to increase Hornqvist's ice time. The Swede did not play more than 15:49 in the first round but has topped 16:29 in each of the first three games of this round, including 20:18 in Game 1, which went to overtime.
 
"I just think Patric is one of those guys who is capable of elevating his play all the time, and he is one of the most caring players that you'll find," Trotz said. "He is full of energy. He brings everything he's got every night, and when it's playoff time he brings a different level. I just felt that he needed to move up and be a bigger part of our success."
 
Trotz admitted that Hornqvist's ice time suffered as he was trying to get more time for others. That would be the late-season arrivals of Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn.
 
"I think I can't really control my ice time, that's about the coaches," Hornqvist said. "Against Detroit, I didn't play that much and I didn't play that good, and now this series I'm playing better and I play more. It's all about me, if I play good he put me out there."
 
While no one on the Preds would want to say it aloud, Hornqvist is perhaps the primary beneficiary of Radulov's being out of the lineup. He is the only change to Nashville's second line, which is centered by David Legwand and has Gabriel Bourque at left wing.
 
"I think we have a good line," Hornqvist said. "We play together before Rads come here and play really good. We have to get on our forecheck and get the puck deep and work their (defense). I think we did a great job with that last game."
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:22 PM

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

Rangers lines at Friday's practice

WASHINGTON -- The Rangers had a different look to their lines in their first practice Friday since winning in triple overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Capitals.

The Rangers hold a 2-1 best-of-seven series which will continue Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center in preparation for Game 4 (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC). This is what coach John Tortorella showed at their final practice before Game 4:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Chris Kreider
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrk Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:16 PM

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

Caps back at practice knowing season not over yet

Despite what Brooks Laich thought when he woke up Thursday morning, the Capitals are still alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I woke up and for some reason I thought the season was over. I had a deep sleep, a long, deep sleep," Laich told reporters after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. "I woke up and thought the season was over. And it refreshed in my mind: we only lost one hockey game and it's two to one [in the series]. We're still in a good position."

The Capitals returned for a full practice Friday, two days after losing 2-1 in triple overtime to the Rangers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. Despite losing a marathon game on home ice, the wind isn't out of the players' sails. They know they were in this position in the first round against the Boston Bruins and rallied to win the series in seven games.

"We're in the same position we were in, in round one," Laich told reporters. "Somebody's going to win that hockey game and somebody's going to lose. Unfortunately we didn't win it; all it's going to do is motivate us more to win Game 4."

Coach Dale Hunter didn't have any changes in his lineup at practice from what he used in Game 3. Here's what the lines looked like Friday:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:02 PM

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

Mitchell relieved to finally get some pucks on net

WASHINGTON -- While most people were focused on the eight-game goal drought of Marian Gaborik heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Rangers and Capitals, there was another flying under the radar.

In eight games, Rangers fourth-line forward John Mitchell not only had zero goals, but he had zero shots on goal.

Gaborik ended his slump by scoring in the third overtime, and Mitchell snapped out of his funk with five shots on goal. Based on their reactions, it's almost as if Mitchell felt the biggest relief from getting off the schneid.

"After probably Game 4 in Ottawa, I was like, 'Hey, I've got no shots,'" Mitchell said. "Then before you know it, another four games go by and I can't get a shot on net. It was nice. It was almost like a weight came off my shoulders when I got I shot on net. I was like, 'Oh, finally.' I was even thinking to myself, 'Maybe my first shot will go in.' It was kind of wearing on my mind."

Mitchell went into the overtime with the belief there are no bad shots at that stage of the game. He put one on net from long range during the second overtime, but it was a difficult save for Caps goaltender Braden Holtby.

"Yeah, you never know," Mitchell said. "I had a really good opportunity to put the puck on net and it hit his shoulder. I'm just going to try to keep firing. That seems to be the theme in overtime or just in playoffs in general. Throwing the puck at the net, it seems like shots could be going right along the ice and it finds its way in. Throwing the puck at the net is never a bad idea in any period."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 12:50 PM

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

Rangers pay visit to Arlington National Cemetery

WASHINGTON -- After a triple-overtime marathon Wednesday night, no one would be upset if members of the New York Rangers simply drew the shades in their hotel rooms, put a do not disturb sign on the door and slept into the early afternoon Thursday.

It was certainly a day of rest for most of the team, but forward Brian Boyle and about a dozen players and staff members spent part of their day at Arlington National Cemetery, a 624-acre military cemetery in the nation's capital. About 14,000 servicemen and women have been laid to rest there, and the cemetery conducts about 30 funeral services per day.

Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh were also part of the group.

"We're worried about winning and losing," Boyle said. "We put our heart and soul into it with everything we have. It means a lot to us, but it puts things in perspective when you see all those gravestones as far as you can see, all the lives that have been laid down for us to be doing what we're doing right now.

"We're pretty fortunate to get that opportunity. It's tough to describe. There's not a lot of words said while we're at the cemetery. Just taking it all in, and we really didn't know what to say to each other. It was impressive, for sure."

Coach John Tortorella said he has changed the way he uses his words in the locker room out of respect for members of the armed forces.

"I don't even like comparing what we do, and we shouldn't compare what we do," Tortorella said. "I've even tried to change my language in the locker room because I think it's wrong. I don't like talking much about anything outside the game, but that's a whole different realm. They cast a shadow over us. We're playing a sport because they allow us to. I don't even like comparing to what we do on the ice what some of those men and women have gone through."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 11:42 AM

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

Radulov, Kostitsyn out of lineup again for Game 4

NASHVILLE -- Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn will remain out of the Nashville Predators' lineup Friday for Game 4 against the Phoenix Coyotes, coach Barry Trotz said Friday morning.
 
"As long as we're winning, (Kostitsyn and Radulov) are OK," Trotz said. "We have to win. If someone doesn't play or we have an injury. They handled it quite well. They're top players all their life. They're not used to this."
 
Radulov had told the media earlier that he did not expect to be back in the lineup for Game 4 after he and Kostitsyn sat out Game 3 for a violation of team rules.
 
Trotz had said that if Nashville won -- and it did, 2-0 on Wednesday -- he would likely maintain the same lineup. That indication continued on Thursday when Radulov skated in practice with Kostitsyn and rookie Craig Smith, who was a healthy scratch for the game.
 
"I don't think so," Radulov said after an optional skate on Friday. "They said they don't want to change the lineup."
 
Trotz said he would use the same lineup, which means that right wing Jordin Tootoo and left wing Matt Halischuk will remain in the lineup. Trotz said he liked the physical impact that Tootoo made on the game. Tootoo drew a cross-checking penalty in the third period on Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris.
 
Halischuk also drew a penalty and was on the receiving end of a dangerous hit. He went head-first into the boards on a play in which Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin received an interference call. Halischuk went to the locker room after the play for further examination and said he was taken to a "quiet room," where players who are feared to have suffered a concussion are brought. Nonetheless, Halischuk, after the team said that his status was questionable, returned to the game and practiced on Thursday.
 
"I felt that the group responded really well and I expect the group to respond again," Trotz said. "(Radulov and Kostitsyn) are ready. When I told them, obviously, they want to be in, they want to have some vindication, if you will, but at the same time they were really good about being good pros. ... They understand they're ready to do whatever it takes to get back in."
 
Trotz said after watching the game film that it was "undeniable" that Nashville played much better in Game 3 than it had in the previous two with the different lineup. He said at this point, the decision was purely made as a hockey decision, whereas earlier it was a disciplinary decision.
 
Radulov said virtually the same words as Trotz -- that he was fine with it, as long as the team is winning. Since rejoining the Preds in March after four years in the KHL, he has tried to take the focus off of himself and put it onto his team, which he did again on Friday morning.
 
"Well, yeah, guys play well so I think they made the right change, the right decision," Radulov said. "So I stick up for them. They deserve it. That's the main thing."
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:49 AM

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

Brodeur enjoying overtime success this spring

Success in overtime during the playoffs has been one of the few things that has eluded Martin Brodeur during his career -- he entered this year's playoffs with a record of 12 wins and 21 losses. But as he prepares to turn 40 on Sunday, Brodeur is having the most successful overtime spring of his career.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 6-3
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: 0.917
Brodeur got the win Thursday night when Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal gave the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers and a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. It was the fourth time in their last five games that the Devils have gone to OT -- and the third victory, all with Brodeur in goal.

The three overtime wins are the most Brodeur has ever had in a single playoff year. Thursday's win was also Brodeur's first in four playoff overtime games against the Flyers, who beat him in 1995 and 2010 before doing it again in a 4-3 victory on Sunday.
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