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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 10:26 AM

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

Brodeur makes 40th birthday a night to remember

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur got his birthday wish on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
In addition to turning back 20 shots in securing a 4-2 victory on the day he turned 40 years old, he also added an assist for a little icing on the cake. The Devils now lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1.
 
Brodeur, who said the day would have been even sweeter had he been able to post a shutout, also established another hockey standard. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brodeur became the first goalie in NHL history to appear in a playoff game in his teens and his 40s.
 
Brodeur's first postseason game came as 19-year-old when he replaced Chris Terreri in an 8-5 loss to the New York Rangers on April 27, 1992. His victory on Sunday before 17,625 was the 106th of his illustrious career. He is now 2-2 all-time in games played on his birthday.
 
"A shutout would have been better, but that's all right," Brodeur said. "It's great. The guys played awesome. It started a little rocky, but apart from that we were really good. We were on the puck, we were physical and we did the good things to win hockey game tonight."
 
Midway through the first period, backup goalie Johan Hedberg, who turned 39 on Saturday, and Brodeur had their names displayed on the center ice scoreboard to the delight of those in attendance. The ovation was loud, but Brodeur said he didn't see his name until the last second.
 
Brodeur assisted on an empty-net goal by Dainius Zubrus with 44.4 seconds remaining in the third period. The helper enabled him to become the oldest player in NHL history to record a playoff assist on his birthday.
 
"The guys played really well in front of me," Brodeur said. "It's nice to win the game. A lot of people talked about me turning 40 today. I was kind of center stage for whatever reason that is, but it's kind of nice to pull out a win."
 
He now has 12 career playoff points on one goal and 11 assists, moving him ahead of Patrick Roy into second place all-time among goaltenders behind only Grant Fuhr, who had 14 career playoff points (all assists).
 
Devils rookie center Adam Henrique was asked after the game if the team sang "Happy Birthday."
 
"No 'Happy Birthday,' just a big win and that's extra special," he said.
 
Zach Parise said the team presented Brodeur with the best gift possible this time of the year.
 
"A win … that was it," Parise said, grinning.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 12:18 AM

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

Kings finally head back to Conference Finals

Jonathan Quick's remarkable season will continue in the 2012 Western Conference Finals.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 8-1-0
GAA: 1.55 | SVP: 0.949
Quick, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy after notching a League-high 10 shutouts, helped the Los Angeles Kings complete a sweep of the St. Louis Blues with Sunday's 3-1 win at the Staples Center. With Quick leading the charge, the Kings are headed to the conference finals for the first time in almost 20 years.

Not since 1993 has Los Angeles made it this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Sunday's victory, the Kings also became the first team to eliminate the top two seeds in a conference since the NHL adopted the format prior to the 1993-94 season.

Quick is 8-1 this postseason and has stopped 260 of 274 shots for a .949 save percentage. With his help, the Kings killed off all 17 power plays the Blues received in the series.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 10:51 PM

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

Success in playoffs means thicker beards for Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes have gone farther in the playoffs than ever before, and they have the playoff beards to prove it.
 
Keith Yandle
Defense - PHX
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 7
SOG: 12 | +/-: 7
Defenseman Keith Yandle spent most of an interview scratching his facial hair and when asked about how he was enjoying the hockey rite of spring, he wasn't shy.
 
"It's awful. I spend all day picking things out of it. Food, loose objects, everything," Yandle said. "I love it because it's a sign we're still around fighting for the Stanley Cup. But it's not one of my favorite things."
 
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 9:41 PM

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

Coyotes forced to play Game 5 without Klesla

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Already without winger Raffi Torres for the rest of the playoffs, the Phoenix Coyotes will try to eliminate the Nashville Predators on Monday night with another player sitting out a suspension.

Rostislav Klesla
Defense - PHX
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 6
SOG: 19 | +/-: 1
Defenseman Rostislav Klesla will miss Game 5 after being suspended for one game for his boarding infraction against Nashville's Matt Halischuk in Game 4 on Friday night. Klesla was penalized on the play, but the League's Department of Safety ruled that Halischuk was defenseless as he chased a puck to the sideboards in part because Klesla grabbed his jersey before administering his check.

Klesla will likely be replaced by David Schlemko -- the only other defenseman to see time in the playoffs so far -- when they take a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 at Jobing.com Arena. Klesla's usual partner is Adrian Aucoin, but Schlemko skated with several partners during Sunday’s practice and the pairings could change.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 7:22 PM

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

Flyers' Couturier will play in Game 4

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier will play in Game 4 of the team's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils.
 
Sean Couturier
Center - PHI
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 4
SOG: 15 | +/-: 2
Couturier sustained a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 3 on Thursday, but did not look restricted in the morning skate Sunday, took line rushes in pre-game warm-ups in his usual spot, between forwards Maxime Talbot and Eric Wellwood.
 
Couturier, the eighth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, has three goals and an assist in nine playoff games, but has developed into the team's best defensive center.
 
"Sean is an important piece of the team," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said following the team's skate Sunday morning. "He looked good skating out there. He's smiling, that's always good."
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 5:50 PM

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

Sestito to make postseason debut for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils left wing Tim Sestito will make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on Sunday on the fourth line when his team plays host to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal at Prudential Center.
 
Sestito will replace Ryan Carter in the lineup. The official announcement came via the Devils' Twitter account almost two hours prior to the opening faceoff. Carter was receiving treatment earlier on Sunday during the team's morning optional skate at Prudential Center.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:49 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Hagelin still searching for elusive first goal

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carl Hagelin and John Tortorella are on the same page when it comes to how the young Swedish forward has been playing.

Both say he's been good.

"Yeah, he's been on pucks," Tortorella said.

"Yeah, I feel like I'm playing good," Hagelin told NHL.com. "I've been on pucks, created chances. I'm doing a good job winning battles in the corner and trying to find guys in the slot."

All that's missing is a tangible result.

Hagelin had an assist in Game 1 against Ottawa, but he's pointless with a minus-2 rating and nine shots on goal in the seven games he's played since. Hagelin missed three games in the Ottawa series due to a suspension.

"You hope he scores a goal. You hope he makes a good pass to help score a goal," Tortorella said. "I don't think that's happened, but as far as his forechecking and creating puck possession for us, he's done a good job of that."

Hagelin, of course, would love to chip in offensively. He is, after all, a top-six forward who has played mostly on a line with Brad Richards and sometimes Marian Gaborik for a reason.

The Rangers could also use some production out of him considering they're not getting enough of it elsewhere. They have only nine goals in four games against the Capitals and of the eight teams still playing in the playoffs they're dead last with 2.09 goals per game.

"We haven't scored that many goals in general, but that's the way we play," Hagelin said. "We want to make sure we play well defensively. I feel strong and I feel I'm in condition. It's just that getting that goal would be nice.

"My mindset is to always keep working hard and good things will happen, so hopefully I get one here soon. If not, the most important thing is that we win games."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps doing their best to block shots

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers at their own game Saturday, blocking 26 New York shots, while having just seven of their own blocked by the Rangers.

The Caps beat the Rangers 3-2 to even their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at two games apiece. Game 5 is Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"We know that they can block shots very well and they create offense from blocking it too," Caps coach Dale Hunter said Sunday. "When we get it blocked, they go down the other way on an odd-man rush. So we say that you just have to miss the first guy and get it by them, and if you miss the net so be it as long as it doesn't get blocked."

In Game 4 the Caps kept the Rangers from getting in the shooting lanes by creating space in the offensive zone with plenty of puck movement. Specifically, the Capitals looked to their blue liners.

"They like to play tight in their D-zone," Troy Brouwer said, "their forwards collapse a little bit and so our D-men have a little bit more time at the points. So if we can get pucks back to the point and go D-to-D and stretch them out a little bit, it gives our D-men a better lane to the net. If we have nothing, we can just throw it down behind the net and try to get a little more room on the cycle."

The Capitals acknowledge that they have relied on their cycle game and their play below the goal line more against the Rangers than they did in the first round against the Boston Bruins.

Washington's first two goals in Saturday's Game 4 win -- tallies from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom -- both came from sustained offensive zone pressure that resulted in the Rangers collapsing down low.

Ovechkin opened the scoring seconds after Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson battled for possession in the corner with Ryan Callahan and Chris Kreider. Kreider eventually turned the puck over to Ovechkin who made it 1-0 Washington. 

"Callahan was in the corner, Kreider was right down in the pile, both D-men were in the pile, and I think that [Brian] Boyle was the lone guy in the slot," Brouwer said. "That leaves a lot of room in the slot. So it was a timely turnover that the guys caused and Ovi just happened to be in a good spot."

While the Caps' combination of puck movement from their defensemen and the play of their forwards below the faceoff circles kept the Rangers from blocking more than seven shots, the Capitals themselves also got in the way of 26 shots from New York.

Jeff Schultz led the Caps with nine blocked shots, as Washington passed New York for the overall team lead in blocked shots this post-season (244-232).
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:05 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Hunter sticking with same lineup for Game 5

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Not looking to change a winning formula, Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter is expected to go with the same lineup in Game 5 against the New York Rangers that produced Saturday's 3-2 win.

The Eastern Conference Semifinal series is even at two games apiece with Game 5 Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

When the series returned to Washington for Game 3 last Wednesday, Hunter had Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom skate on the same line for the first time this postseason. While Hunter was satisfied with their production, the experiment was short-lived.

In Game 4, Brooks Laich returned to Hunter's No.1 line alongside Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson, while Backstrom was back on the second line with Jason Chimera and Alexander Semin. The trios are expected to stay the same for Game 5.

"Brooksie and Ovi have been working pretty well together," Hunter explained. "I put Nicky there and they had some good scoring chances, but I thought that Nicky, [Chimera] and Semin, three games ago had a good game so I thought I'd go back to them."

Both lines came through offensively in Game 4 as sustained pressure from Laich and Johansson led to Ovechkin's fourth goal of the playoffs, while Chimera found Backstrom open in the slot in the second period for his second goal of the postseason. Backstrom's tally snapped a personal seven-game goalless drought.

"Playing with [Backstrom], it felt like he was back to his old self, cycling the puck down low and getting some chances," Chimera said. "With any luck, he could have had three or four goals [Saturday]. I think that was his best game since returning [from a 40-game absence March 31]. He needs that. He needs some confidence. That's a game that could spur us on and ultimately help us out, too."

While Backstrom continues to find his game, his countryman Marcus Johansson remains on the Capitals' No.1 line despite a six-game pointless streak. Johansson is also last among Washington forwards with a minus-five rating in 11 playoff games.
Below are the Capitals lines from Sunday's practice prior to the team's flight to New York.

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinBrooks LaichMarcus Johansson
Jason ChimeraNicklas BackstromAlexander Semin
Matt HendricksJay BeagleTroy Brouwer
Mike Knuble- Keith AucoinJoel Ward
Mathieu PerreaultJeff HalpernMattias Sjogren

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson
Roman HamrlikMike Green
Jeff SchultzDennis Wideman
John ErskineDmitry Orlov

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 2:58 PM

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

Lineups for Kings-Blues Game 4

St. Louis is expected to bring in Ryan Reaves on the fourth line, in place of B.J. Crombeen, and Ian Cole on defense in place of Carlo Colaiacovo.

Cole practiced with Kevin Shattenkirk while Alex Pietrangelo was with Barret Jackman in practice, although that could change. Cole and Shattenkirk have played together on U.S. developmental under-17 and under-18 world junior teams.

Brian Elliott will take the net again after he allowed four goals in Game 3. He is 0-3 with a 3.75 goals-against average and .845 save percentage in the series. Coach Ken Hitchcock on Saturday declined to talk about Elliott bouncing back.

"I don't want to go there," Hitchcock said.

Chris Stewart voiced his support behind Elliott.

"He had one bad game and he's battled for us all year," Stewart said. "If it wasn't for him or [Jaroslav Halak] we wouldn't be in the position we are this year. I don't think one bad game is going to sum up our year. We're going to battle for him."

BLUES

Andy McDonald - David Backes - Matt D'Agostini
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Alex Pietrangelo - Barret Jackman
Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

KINGS

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

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

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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I might have blacked out. I was pretty pumped.

— New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid on his first NHL win Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning
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