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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:16 PM

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

Rupp well-schooled in Rangers-Devils rivalry

NEW YORK -- Mike Rupp has experienced the Rangers-Devils rivalry from both sides of the Hudson River, and he distinctly remembers the first time he realized how heated it was as a rookie in New Jersey even before playing against New York.

Rupp scored two goals in his first NHL game on Jan. 13, 2003, against the Florida Panthers at Continental Airlines Arena, but he immediately picked up on how much Devils fans hated the Rangers during that contest.

"I just remember the chants when I was playing in New Jersey, the old famous chant when you're playing the Florida Panthers and they're saying, "Rangers (stink)!" Rupp said. "That's the one thing I remember the most, so I thought there must be something to it. It's obviously something special."

Rupp signed with the Rangers this past summer and has experienced six games from the other side of the rivalry this season. He'll take part in a seventh Monday when the Rangers and Devils open their Eastern Conference Finals series at Madison Square Garden.

The 32-year-old enforcer, just like every player who will lace up the skates for this series, said while it's fun for the fans, the opposition doesn't matter when a trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line.  

"I don't know. I think if you were facing them in the first round, maybe it would feel more like it, if that makes sense," Rupp said. "Right now, we're four wins away from getting to where you've been working so hard to get to as a team. I don't really think about that. I really don't. I don't look at them as me playing for them or one of our biggest rivals. That's kind of nonexistent right now. Now it's about winning hockey games. It doesn't matter who it's against."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:18 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings continue to shine on the road

As the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings knew they'd have to find ways to win on the road in order to be successful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Three rounds into the 2012 postseason, they still haven't lost away from Staples Center.

With Sunday's 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Jobing.com Arena, the Kings improved to 6-0 on the road this postseason and 9-1 overall.

Dating back to last year, Los Angeles has won eight straight away from home in the playoffs. No team has accomplished that since the New Jersey Devils from 1995-97.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 7:30 PM

NHL.com - Melrose Minute

In an evenly-matched series, I'm taking the Kings

I would be lying if I didn't admit I was pulling for Los Angeles to beat Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals this season. Being an ex-coach of the team and having had success there, I'll always have a soft spot for L.A. and I still have friends in the organization.

That said, despite my own emotional connection, I have a hard time seeing any differences between these teams. They're basically even in every category. Each team has been phenomenal lately and they're both great stories. I think L.A. is a little better offensively, but I think Phoenix is a little better defensively, and the goaltending is basically a push.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 8-1-0
GAA: 1.55 | SVP: 0.949
Even if the goaltending of Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith is a push, those are the two guys that seem certain to take center stage in this series. The Kings and Coyotes have the hottest goaltenders in the playoffs and each of them has gotten stronger each round. Both of them have had tremendous seasons and outstanding postseasons and that should continue this time around, though there might be some rust. Rust is going to be a problem for both sides, of course. Each team has been off for a while, but the goalies are the people who I'm really going to keep my eye on for that reason. Both Smith and Quick finished their previous series on such a hot note that as a coach, you hate not playing right away when your goalie is playing that well. When your goalie is playing so well and so confidently like each of these guys are right now, you just wish you could keep playing every two days from then on so they do lose the momentum.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 5:23 PM

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

Dubinsky still not ready to return to the lineup

Brandon Dubinsky strolled through the Rangers locker room Saturday morning without the aid of a walking boot or crutches, but his lower-body injury doesn't seem to have healed enough to allow him to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Dubinsky said Sunday he is still not ready to return to action against the New Jersey Devils Monday night at Madison Square Garden. He was back in the walking boot but itching to play against the rival Devils.

"It's exciting to watch us win and move on to the next round, and it gives me hope and allows me to have something to keep working for, looking forward to coming back and helping this team," Dubinsky told reporters in Greenburgh, N.Y. "It's unfortunate not being able to play, but lucky enough for me the team is winning without me in the lineup. But I think I can still help this team, so it's just a matter of getting back as fast as I can."

Dubinsky suffered his injury during Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators and missed the entire second-round series against Washington Capitals. In seven games against the Senators, Dubinsky had one assist.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Parise doesn't expect repeat of MSG brawl

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise was reminded on Sunday of the brawl that took place at Madison Square Garden back in March against the New York Rangers in the finale of their season series.
 
There wasn't a player in the locker room that didn't.
 
Just three seconds after the opening faceoff, New Jersey's Cam Janssen, Eric Boulton and Ryan Carter of the Devils were each given five minutes for fighting and defenseman Bryce Salvador a 10-minute misconduct as a third-man in.
 
For the Rangers, Mike Rupp, Stu Bickel and Brandon Prust were given fighting majors. Salvador's misconduct came when he interjected in the Carter-Bickel battle at which time Carter was cut and bleeding on the ice.
 
Parise said he doesn't expect that to happen at any stage of their upcoming series against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals that begins Monday in Manhattan.
 
"The intensity will be there between the teams, but, in the playoffs, you don't see line brawls like that too often or fighting, period," Parise said. "That doesn't mean the rivalry isn't there. We have to play whistle-to-whistle. As far as the fights go, I could be wrong, but you just don't see those very often in the playoffs."
 
Devils wing David Clarkson expects a good, hard-fought series.
 
"I think it is a big rivalry, that's no secret," Clarkson said. "Over the years, it's become heated at times, but at the end of the day, you've got to win and put some things on the side … play disciplined. And that's what we intend to do."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 2:32 PM

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

Devils' Gionta plenty familiar with rivalry

NEWARK, N.J. -- While New Jersey Devils forward Stephen Gionta will be experiencing his first playoff series against the New York Rangers, he certainly is no stranger to the rivalry.
 
Gionta's brother, Brian, spent seven seasons in New Jersey and played a key role in the team's only playoff series triumph over the Rangers in 2006 during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The elder Gionta, who is now captain for the Montreal Canadiens, scored two game-winning goals during a four-game sweep of New York that year.
 
"I don't remember that series, but I know about the Rangers' rivalry and look forward to [Monday's] game," Gionta told NHL.com. "I haven't talked to [Brian] since [Sunday's] game, but I'm sure I'll talk to him [Monday]. It's a divisional opponent, so it should make for a fun series."
 
The Devils outscored the Rangers, 17-4, in their four-game annihilation of the Rangers that spring. Stephen Gionta, who was signed by the Devils as a free agent in August, 2010, was 23-years-old at the time.
 
Gionta, who has played a key role on the team's fourth line in the opening two series, said remaining disciplined will be a key against the Rangers.
 
"You always have to keep your emotions in check and we don't want to get into that same type of game that Philly likes to play," Gionta said. "We have to stay disciplined because they can hurt you on the power play. If we find ourselves in that position, it could turn out to be a problem."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 2:28 PM

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

Devils ready for Game 1 against Rangers

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in five days, the New Jersey Devils began practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Sunday afternoon with the benefit of full disclosure.
 
In order to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in eight seasons, New Jersey will have to eliminate the rival New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals slated to begin Monday with Game 1 at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
 
"We know where we're at and what's at stake," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "We've had our share of disappointments in the past, missing the playoffs last season, but, for me, it's been a while to be in this position. We're focused, loose and enjoying the moment. You have to have a special group to get this far and I believe we have that here."
 
The Rangers have won four of the previous five playoff series between the teams -- New Jersey earned a four-game sweep in the conference quarterfinals in 2006. The only other time the teams met in the conference finals was 1994, when Stephane Matteau's goal in the second overtime of Game 7 against Martin Brodeur gave the Rangers the victory.
 
"The key against the Rangers is getting pucks by [Henrik] Lundqvist … they're a very defensive team," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "They pressure you all over the ice but they do break down from time to time and he's there to bail them out. So we've got to get some pucks by him."
 
The Rangers are a much different type of opponent than the Devils have already faced in the playoffs. The offenses for the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers looked to finesse their way into the offensive zone and that played right into New Jersey's hands, particularly against the Flyers in the conference semifinals.
 
The Rangers have proven to be quite the defensive juggernaut in these playoffs, allowing just 1.86 goals-per game in 14 matches. They've also allowed 28.4 shots-per game; New Jersey has yielded 27.4 shots over 12 playoff contests.
 
The biggest discrepancy between the clubs is the offensive firepower displayed in the playoffs. The Devils have averaged three goals per game and the Rangers are hitting at a 2.07 goals-per game clip.
 
When playing five-aside, no team in the playoffs has scored more goals than the Devils (24). The Rangers have connected for 19 goals playing 5-on-5.
 
"Playing five-aside is our strength and it's been that way through both [previous] series," Parise said. "It's going to be important when we get possession of the puck in the zone, to not throw it away or necessarily look for a play right away, because they come back and collapse pretty low and put five guys right in front of the net.
 
"They're waiting for you to turn it over so they can jump up into the rush," Parise continued. "For us, we have to protect the puck well in the offensive zone."

The Rangers, meanwhile, are tops among the four remaining playoff teams in blocked shots (267); the Devils have 131.
 
"I think it's a matter of our defense getting shots off quickly," Parise said. "I think when you find you wind up for those big slappers, that gives them time to get into the lane and block shots. If they can get the shots off quickly, their forwards play pretty low, so getting them off quickly will benefit us. Get it past the first guy and giving our forwards a way to get the puck back if it's not going to get on net.
 
"I don't think it changes our game plan or mentality though. A lot of teams block shots nowadays and you just have to find ways through it."
 
Here were the line combinations during Devils practice on Sunday:
 
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Petr Sykora - Adam Henrique - Dainius Zubrus
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Extras: Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Extras: Matt Taormina - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 12:23 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Coyotes and Kings projected lineups for Game 1

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Kings have waited since dispatching the Blues exactly one week ago. The Coyotes have been idle since advancing past the Predators last Monday.

Sunday night at Jobing.com Arena they finally get to play another game as the Western Conference Finals get under way at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Due to the early local start time (5 p.m.), there are no morning skates in advance of Game 1. However, both teams practiced Saturday and with Coyotes coach Dave Tippett offering that defenseman Adrian Aucoin will not play in Game 1, the picture for both lineups became crystal clear.

Here are the expected lineups, including lines, defense pairs and goaltending depth for both the Kings and Coyotes:

KINGS

Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Justin Williams - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Jordan Nolan - Colin Fraser - Brad Richardson

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

COYOTES

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

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
David Schlemko - Michal Rozsival

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 05.13.2012 / 12:15 AM

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

Hunter won't talk about his future with Caps

NEW YORK -- Moments after the Washington Capitals lost Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series to the New York Rangers, coach Dale Hunter was asked about his future with the organization.

"[It's] not the time right now," Hunter said.

That time is going to come pretty soon, though. When Hunter agreed to replace Bruce Boudreau as the team's coach in November, he reportedly signed a one-year deal through the remainder of the 2011-12 season.

That means he and the organization have a decision to make. Several players have said they would like to see Hunter return next season, as has general manager George McPhee.

Hunter left the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League to coach in the NHL for the first time. He and his brother Mark are co-owners of the team. Before taking this job, Dale Hunter was the coach and vice president of the Knights while his brother was the team's president. Mark Hunter replaced Dale behind the bench, and the Knights will begin play in the Memorial Cup later this week.

"We do our best and it's probably best team I played [on]," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "You know, group of guys and atmosphere, everybody was - it's unbelievable to play and I hope everybody gonna stay here 'til next year."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 11:24 PM

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

Rangers advance despite lack of firepower

There are two ways to win in the postseason: You can try to outgun your opponent (think Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh in the first round), or you can try to play shutdown defense, get great goaltending and hope to get enough offense.

The New York Rangers have opted for Plan B -- and they're playing it to perfection,

The Rangers survived Game 7 for the second time in as many series by beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Saturday night. It marked the NHL single season-record 14th consecutive playoff game -- every one they've played this spring -- in which the Rangers held the opposition to three goals or less.

Of course, it's not like the Rangers are filling the net. After scoring four times in their playoff opener against Ottawa, the Rangers have gone 13 straight games without getting more than three goals in a game.
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Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins