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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 5:19 PM

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

Five reasons the Canucks are in trouble

It may pain them to do so, but when it comes to inspiration after losing the first two playoff games on home ice, the Vancouver Canucks need look no further than the team that bullied them into submission to win the Stanley Cup in June, the Boston Bruins.

That’s right, Vancouver’s new rival can now be looked upon as a role model, a team that recovered from the same hole the Canucks now find themselves in their Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Kings -- and the Bruins went on to hoist the Cup after falling behind two-zip to Montreal.

Boston also dropped the first two in the Final in Vancouver before winning four of the last five. Of course they also proved to be a better team than the Canucks in that Final.

Maybe that explains why players looked elsewhere for inspiration.

“We are not going to do everything the same way as last year, cruise to the Stanley Cup Final,” defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “We are going to make it interesting. Last year we were up three against Chicago and then we let them come back. This year we will spot them a couple and see what happens.”

Vancouver nearly blew that 3-0 lead over the Blackhawks in the first round before needing overtime in Game 7 to advance, eventually to the Final.

Coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t interested in history, however.

“I’m not going to give you a rundown of all the teams that have come back in the past and da-de-da because that would be standing up here and trying to be real positive,” he said. “Reality is we’re down by two and we got to win [Game 3 on Sunday]. That's it. All the other stuff doesn't matter.”

Maybe that’s because a lot of that other stuff doesn’t bode well for a Canucks team facing at least five good reasons it will be tough to secure four more wins:

1) THE NHL’s WORST BEST POWER PLAY: There will be no shortage of talk about the ongoing absence of leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin, who did not travel with the team to Los Angeles on Saturday. But the reality is Vancouver’s power play problems started long before Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith concussed the Canucks’ leading goal scorer and last year’s NHL scoring champion Sedin with an elbow on March 21. On top of the League by a wide margin through early January, the Canucks slump started almost immediately after going 4-for-11 to win the Cup rematch in Boston on Jan. 7. They finished fourth in the NHL, but are just 10-for-130 since, a 12.3 per cent success rate that ranks well below the worst power play in the League.

In addition to being 0-for-10 through two games against Los Angeles, they gave up two shorthanded goals to the Kings in Game 2. Despite not having Daniel Sedin the last nine games of the regular season, the Canucks were still experimenting with new combinations at practice Saturday, and a lack of cohesion that cost them the night before.

“We can’t expect to score every time but we’ve got to gain some momentum for us and we did the opposite,” Captain Henrik Sedin said.

2) TOUGH TO PUSH AND BE PATIENT:
Vancouver’s lack of scoring against the Kings extends beyond the power play, and even this series. Since Darryl Sutter took over as the coach in Los Angeles mid-season, the Canucks are just 1-3-1 and have only managed to score eight goals in those five games. Further complicating things is the Kings’ stifling style, which can punish impatience if you try to force things, and create odd-man rushes the other way.

“They're a very stingy team, they don’t give up a lot so it's very important to stick to our game plan and not try to overdo things and when the opportunities arise make sure we try to capitalize,” forward Manny Malhotra said.

It may be easier to say than do, especially if they fall behind in Game 3.

3) KINGS BETTER THAN AN EIGHT SEED: For all the focus on the Kings’ above-mentioned defensive play, the discussion about their offense has been largely misdirected. It centered largely on finishing 29th in goals this season, and not on averaging more than three a game after acquiring Jeff Carter in a pre-deadline blockbuster. That’s more than half a goal better per game than the Canucks over that same stretch, and despite stereotypes the Kings sit back and defend, they have become much more aggressive under Sutter, with a lot more puck possession and a forecheck that is causing the Canucks defense fits.

"I'm sure people aren't going to be expecting us to score goals but I know in here we all think differently," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said.

4) TWO NOT BETTER THAN NO.1 IN GOAL: Vigneault wouldn’t confirm it until he told the goaltenders themselves, but there is growing speculation the Canucks could change things up between the pipes, with impressive second-year backup Cory Schneider taking over for Roberto Luongo in Game 3. Schneider finished second in the NHL with a .937 save percentage, and despite the fact Luongo has actually been very good the first two games, especially Game 1, there is a sense the Canucks may not want to try that change before it is too late.

“We haven't given him a lot of help on a lot of these goals and kind of hanging him out to dry on a few of them,” Schneider said of Luongo. “It's not my decision. Maybe give the team a new look, shake up the team.”

It won’t matter if neither goalie can best Kings’ crease counterpart Jonathan Quick, who made 46 saves in Game 2 and is coming off a Vezina Trophy-worthy regular season.

“Give him credit, he was real good,” Vigneault said.

5) ROAD RECORD WON’T MEAN MUCH IN L.A.: Vancouver had the best road record in the Western Conference at 24-12-5 in the regular season, and finished second only to Philadelphia in the entire NHL. The Kings were just ninth in the West and 19th in the League at home at 22-14-5. But with Game 3 just hours after the Lakers play at Staples Center on Sunday, the ice could be soft, and the speed advantage the Canucks forwards were supposed to enjoy in this series – and it has been evident at times -- will be largely negated.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 4:33 PM

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

Blackhawks happy with PP despite results

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Chicago Blackhawks' power play has been a disappointment all year and finished 0-for-10 to end the season. The Phoenix Coyotes ranked eighth in the NHL in the penalty kill this season and ended the season on a string of 25 straight penalty kills during a five-game winning streak.
 
But the Blackhawks felt they had some good chances during their four power plays in a 3-2 overtime loss Thursday in Game 1 to Phoenix. And they are hoping their special teams will help them get even as this Western Conference Quarterfinals series resumes tonight.
 
“All year our power play wasn’t good, but [in Game 1] we spent lots of time in their zone and we had good plays.” Chicago winger Marian Hossa said. “We just need to get an ugly goal and get it going.”
 
Hossa needs to get going as well. He hasn’t scored a goal since Mar. 20 at Columbus, a span of nine games.
 
The Blackhawks had two power-play chances in the third period when they took the play to Phoenix, but came up empty while trailing 2-1. Brent Seabrook saves them with a last-gasp goal with 14.2 second left in regulation to force overtime before Martin Hanzal won it for Phoenix.
 
“We had some decent looks. We had some pucks at the net and some second opportunities,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “We have to find a way to get those ugly goals that we had some chances on.”
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 4:29 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Wings' White misses practice, expects to play

DETROIT -- They haven't allowed a power-play goal 12 opportunities with the man-advantage for the Nashville Predators during the first two games, but the Detroit Red Wings might have paid a price for it anyway.

Defenseman Ian White missed the team's brief practice Saturday in Detroit with a foot injury that happened while killing a Nashville power-play late in the second period of a 3-2 win Friday at Bridgestone Arena.

White blocked a hard, one-timed slapshot by Predators defenseman Roman Josi with the instep of his left skate with just 6:01 left in the period and was immediately slowed. White managed to finish the game, but couldn't get his foot into the skate boot on Saturday morning for practice.

White and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, however, expect him to play in Game 3 on Sunday of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series (noon, NBC) -- which is knotted at one game apiece with the next two in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.

"Just a little tender," White said. "Just take the day off and let it rest."

White, who raised his foot off the ice to stop the puck, also said X-rays weren't necessary.

“No, I’ve been hit in the foot by a puck many times, so I was pretty sure it wasn't broken," he said. "It was just one of those things that when you take a puck in the foot, it’s gonna hurt.”

White also got stuck on the ice during a high-tempo sequence after getting hit in the foot and hobbled around as best he could until he could get to the bench.

“We were out there killing for a while," White said. "You take that puck in the foot and you’re already tired and you can’t skate and you have to go battle some more, but that’s how it goes.”
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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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Quote of the Day

The old saying in hockey is 'weather the storm.' I put the notion in their heads that we don't want to weather the storm, we want to push just as hard and matched their work ethic. I thought our guys exceeded that in the first period.

— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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