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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 2:33 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Kings have chance to put Blues on the ropes

The Kings beating the Canucks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was a big surprise -- but it wasn't a surprise to me. I pegged L.A. to win against the Presidents' Trophy winners and sure enough, here are the Kings in Round 2 instead of Vancouver.

But I did not think the Kings would beat the Blues.

St. Louis has looked like one of the strongest teams in the League all season to me ever since Ken Hitchcock took over, and I expected the Blues to be able to move on to the Western Conference Finals and maybe win the West, but after dropping Game 1 to the Kings on Saturday -- and not in a fluky way -- it's starting to look like the Blues could be in trouble, and they'll be in serious trouble if they wind up losing Game 2 Monday night.

I was surprised Saturday at how well L.A. handled St. Louis physically. St. Louis is a team that prides itself on being able to beat you up physically and battling physically, but I didn't see that in Game 1 against L.A. I saw at best a draw on the physical side of the game, and at worst for St. Louis, I thought maybe the Kings were the more physical team. That wasn't supposed to happen, so I think that's certainly something that has shocked St. Louis and that will have to change if they're going to turn the series around in Game 2 and once it goes to California.

I went into this series thinking, "Yeah, L.A. beat Vancouver, but I don't think Vancouver was nearly as good as St. Louis." I left the game thinking the Kings could beat the Blues -- probably for the first time this year.

Saturday night, everything clicked for L.A. Anze Kopitar was excellent, Dustin Brown started the play that led to the shorthanded goal with a strong move and Jonathan Quick, as always, was unbelievable. What's more is I really liked the L.A. defense. It's a very unknown group aside from Drew Doughty, but it's very good -- and very big. Matt Greene is 6-foot-3, Alec Martinez is 6-1, Doughty is 6-0 and Willie Mitchell is 6-3. That's a big defense, and they can handle that St. Louis forecheck. I was very impressed with the Kings in Game 1, even more so than I was in the series against Vancouver. Against the Canucks, I thought Quick won that series with his play, but Saturday night the Kings were every bit as good as the Blues.

If the Blues want to even the series Monday night and find a way to advance to the conference finals, they need to find a way to get to Quick. Vancouver was only able to do that once, so it's a tall order. When the Blues see the tape, they'll see they need that second shot on Quick to go upstairs. Quick is a butterfly goaltender.

Andy McDonald's chances in the first period of Game 1 were a prime example. McDonald had three chances and he hit the pads with all three shots. That second shot has to go under the bar, because Quick has those legs down on the ice taking away the bottom of the rink. You're not going to score against him down on the ice. The next one's got to go upstairs, so I think that's one thing the Blues can take out of it.

Also, they'll need to score some ugly goals. You're not going to score beautiful goals on Quick, so you've got to get in front of him, screen him and top it in, just like the Blues' first goal in Game 1. Quick never saw that shot. It hit Perron's stick, went up a little bit, and he just never saw it. That's how you've got to score on a great goaltender like Quick.

Every few years a goalie goes on a remarkable run and takes a team to the conference finals or beyond. It happened in 2010 with Jaroslav Halak in Montreal and it happened in 2003 with Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim. There's a chance we could be seeing that right now in the West with Quick and Mike Smith in Phoenix. This is a pair of teams riding hot goaltenders, which could easily lead them to the Cup Final.

The difference with L.A., however, and perhaps the reason St. Louis should be most concerned, is that it's not just Quick on that team. The Kings have to score goals for Quick and they've got a good cast of characters. I love their defense, I think Kopitar and Dustin Brown have been great, and you add in Jeff Carter and Justin Williams and that's a heck of a hockey team. The Kings have a great top two lines and they've got some great bangers and crashers on the third and fourth line.

In Game 1, the Kings looked like they really came into their own, and they have a deep lineup that can cause a lot of problems for the Blues when St. Louis isn't able to play its physical game. The Blues may be in for a bigger challenge than they expected in Round 2. And if St. Louis can't salvage a split at home tonight, it could be panic time for the top remaining seed in the West.
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 1:42 PM

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

Projected Game 2 lineups

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lineups for Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

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

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

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Forwards Kyle Clifford (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip) once again sit out. Healthy scratches include forwards Andrei Loktionov and Kevin Westgarth as well as defenseman Davis Drewiske, all of whom sat out Game 1.

BLUES
Andy McDonald - David Backes - Alex Steen
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Matt D'Agostini
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

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

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

Goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower body) is still out for Game 2 and Pietrangelo (undisclosed injury) will be a gametime decision. Healthy scratches include forwards Chris Stewart, Ryan Reaves, Chris Porter and Jaden Schwartz along with defensemen Kent Huskins and Cole will be a healthy scratch if Pietrangelo plays.
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:42 PM

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

Projected Game 2 lineups

NEW YORK -- The only question surrounding the Rangers' lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals is Brian Boyle, who has missed three games with a concussion but took part in the game-day skate Monday.

Boyle said he couldn't say for sure if he would play, but forward Brandon Dubinsky didn't participate in the practice and won't be in the lineup.

If Boyle feels ready, he'll return to the lineup in his customary role of third-line center. If not, the Rangers will probably ice the same lineup they did in Game 1 with defenseman Steve Eminger on the fourth line and John Mitchell moved up to Boyle's spot.

So here's an educated guess as to what the Rangers' lineup will look like if Boyle is back in the lineup.

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

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

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

As for the Capitals, Dale Hunter kept Alexander Semin on the fourth line for a second consecutive practice. Defenseman Jeff Schultz, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, will replace Karl Alzner for Game 2. Schultz had played in Game 7 against Boston after sitting for three straight contests.

Hunter swapped wingers Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin on the top line, but Brouwer said afterward they will be in their normal spots. Here's what the Capitals will likely go with trailing 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.

CAPITALS

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

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 Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:10 PM

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

Rangers have responded to Tortorella's coaching style

NEW YORK -- When Rangers coach John Tortorella arrived in February 2009, he was replacing Tom Renney, who has a well-earned reputation as a players' coach with a kindly demeanor that can endear him to those in the locker room.

Tortorella has been described as blustery, strict and strong in his beliefs, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist remembers meeting him for the first time and wondering how much of his reputation was true and how much was exaggerated rumors.

"Most of it was true," Lundqvist said. "Just how passionate he is. He can challenge you. I like that. I like to be challenged sometimes. It was refreshing to have a different style. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Just that first time he walked in and the first meeting. That's something I remember."

Tortorella guided the Rangers to the top of the Eastern Conference in his third full season with the club after an eighth-place finish last season and missing the playoffs two seasons ago. For that accomplishment, Tortorella was nominated for the Jack Adams Award on Monday along with Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators.

The 53-year-old Tortorella spent seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, guiding them to a Stanley Cup in 2004. He was dismissed following the 2007-08 season and briefly served as an analyst with TSN before coming to the Rangers for the final 21 games of the 2008-09 season.

Since then, Tortorella has sculpted a team in his image -- tough, physical, detail-oriented and willing to do whatever it takes to win. According to the Rangers' Brad Richards, who was with Tortorella during his entire time with the Lightning, very little has changed in his coaching style.

"The details and structure are all the same," Richards said. "Different personnel, but how the day-to-day things are ran and the accountability issues, all that's identical. You guys know him enough -- he's not going to change his ways too much."

Rangers center Brian Boyle came to the club before the start of Tortorella's first full season in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. Since his arrival, Boyle has developed into a reliable third-line center with above-average goal-scoring ability. The 27-year-old had just four goals in 71 games in his first year with the Rangers but has 32 goals over the past two seasons.

"He had a vision, an idea of how he wanted to run the team when he first got here," Boyle said. "I wasn't there for that, but his first full year I was here for. I think we responded pretty well. We understand him pretty well and I think he understands us pretty well. He's helped my game a lot obviously. He turned me into an NHL player. He's very deserving."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 11:42 AM

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

Boyle skates, status for Game 2 uncertain

NEW YORK -- Brian Boyle, who has missed the past three games with a concussion, took part in the Rangers' game-day skate Monday but could not say for sure if he would play in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals.

"I feel pretty good," Boyle said. "I have no idea what's going to happen. This is my first time through it. Honestly, I don't know. It's ultimately my call, I think, to let them know I'm ready to play. After that, it's (coach John Tortorella's) call what the lineup is."

Boyle suffered his concussion during the first round against the Ottawa Senators when Chris Neil hit him early in the third period of Game 5. Boyle has been practicing during this series but he did not participate in the morning skate before Game 1 against Washington.

"It's tough to say right now. It's tough to tell," Boyle said. "It's tough because you don't want to focus too much on it and stress yourself out."

Boyle, who had three goals in the first round against Ottawa, pointed out the Rangers are doing just fine without him.

"Well, we're 3-0 since I've been out," Boyle said. "So it hasn't been that difficult (without him playing). It's stressful to watch, but the guys are doing a great job."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:47 AM

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

Playoffs are Briere's time to shine

There are certain players who simply step up their game at this time of year. Danny Briere is at -- or at least near the very top -- of that list.

Danny Briere
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 10
SOG: 18 | +/-: -2
Just moments after having an overtime goal waved off, Briere scored the 46th goal of his postseason career to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.

Briere -- who scored twice Sunday afternoon -- now has 106 points in 104 playoff games. He is now tied with Claude Giroux for the playoff lead with seven goals, and ranks second behind only Giroux with 10 points.

His overtime tally was his 14th goal on his last 18 playoff games. He now has 36 goals and 69 points in 64 postseason contests with Philadelphia.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 6:15 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NJD @ PHI - 2:13 of Overtime



At 2:13 of the first overtime in the Flyers/Devils game, video review determined that Philadelphia forward Daniel Briere kicked the puck with his left skate into the net. According to rule 49.2 "A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net." No goal Philadelphia.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 3:16 PM

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

Devils and Flyers lineups for Game 1

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- It appears as though New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer and Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will do a little line shuffling for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
On Saturday, DeBoer moved Alexei Ponikarovsky from third-line duty to the top line alongside center Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise from the first line to the second with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus; and Petr Sykora from the second to third line with center Adam Henrique and David Clarkson.
 
During Flyers practice on Saturday, Laviolette broke up the productive trio of Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, giving Briere a new pair of wingers -- James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. Schenn moved from left wing to center, where he was flanked by Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers will also have Nicklas Grossmann returning to the lineup for the first time in three games after he sat out Games 5 and 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
Here are the probable line combinations for both teams on Sunday:
 
FLYERS

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
James van Riemsdyk - Danny Briere - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
 
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Andreas Lilja - Erik Gustafsson
 
Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky
 
DEVILS
 
Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexei Ponikarovsky
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
David Clarkson - Adam Henrique - Petr Sykora
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
 
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 2:38 PM

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

Holtby looks to 'learn' for Game 2

NEW YORK -- In his young yet stellar career, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby has lost two games in a row just once, when he went 0-2-1 in his fourth, fifth and sixth games in the NHL.

Since that hiccup, Holtby is 16-6-2 including the playoffs and hasn't dropped two straight. The 22-year-old will look to avoid his second straight loss to the Rangers after a poor performance in a 3-1 setback in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Saturday.

"One of the things I've always been taught is bad games happen," Holtby said. "The key to consistency is not letting it happen twice. Bad things happen, but always be prepared for the next one."

All three goals allowed by Holtby were stoppable shots. Artem Anisimov beat him on a wraparound in the second period, Chris Kreider's long slap shot eluded Holtby's catching glove, and Brad Richards squeezed a shot through the goaltender's legs from a sharp angle near the left post.

Holtby said he was treating the situation as a learning experience.

"You learn way more from losing than you do from winning," Holtby said. "There's a lot to learn from that game, not only mentally but technically on some of the goals. It's just a matter of inches how I played them. It could've been a different game."

The goal Holtby lamented the most was the game-winning goal by Kreider, who said he fired a long shot instead of using the open ice to for a breakaway chance because he was exhausted at the end of the shift. Holtby attacked Kreider expecting the 1-on-1 chance, but wasn't ready for the slap shot.

"It surprised me," Holtby said. "I was out further thinking he was going to come in on a half-breakaway type thing. He released it, had a shot that fooled me, good placement, but one I definitely want to have."

Game 1 marked just the second time Holtby played at Madison Square Garden, which is notorious for having dim lighting in comparison to other NHL arenas. It didn't affect Holtby in the regular-season finale when he made 35 saves in a 4-1 victory, and the goaltender said that can't be an excuse for not playing well.

"Most of the new buildings are really bright and really white," Holtby said. "It is harder for a goalie, but both teams play with it. It’s not like (Rangers goaltender Henrik) Lundqvist at the other end has better sights than I do. It's hard, but both teams deal with it."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 2:27 PM

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

Semin skates with fourth line at Caps' practice

NEW YORK -- Alex Semin was an effective player for the Capitals during their first-round, seven-game series win against the Boston Bruins. He had three goals in the series and was showing a commitment to the defensive side of the game.

Semin was out of sorts Saturday during the Capitals' 3-1 loss to the Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, however. He took two penalties, one of which was a retaliatory penalty after he was hit by Rangers captain Ryan Callahan that negated a power play, had zero points and was on the ice for Chris Kreider's game-winning goal in the third period.

On Sunday, Semin found himself demoted to the fourth line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin at practice. Coach Dale Hunter said he was not sending a message with the move and defended his player's penalties.

"No, just mixing the lines up," Hunter said. "The one, he went for the puck and he hit a skate. The other one, both of them should've went. It was a cross check. If you watch the replay, the guy cross checked him first. But you can't retaliate. You just can't retaliate. The ref, he called one. He could've easily called two. But that's the way it goes."

Semin nearly scored during a second-period power play, but his wrist shot deflected off the arm of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the crossbar. Hunter said he expects Semin to continue to have an impact on the power play.

Defenseman Jeff Schultz, a healthy scratch for Game 1, was back with Dennis Wideman at practice with John Erskine out of the top-six mix.

Here are the rest of the line combinations from practice, none of which are guaranteed to hold during Game 2 of the series Monday night.

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

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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Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday