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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 5:21 PM

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

Carter happy for rest, hopes play keeps improving

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Sitting around for three days is probably not the ideal routine in a Stanley Cup Playoff series unless a team needs to get healthy.

For Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter, the time is beneficial for healing his ankle and detrimental in that he’s coming off a good game and would have like to get back to playing sooner.

“I would have rather have played every other day,” Carter said Saturday before the Kings left for Vancouver for Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday.

“But it can be good for us, I guess. We got some guys that are a little banged up – bumps and bruises or whatnot – so the extra couple days will definitely help in that way.”

A talking point at the beginning of the series, Carter and linemate Mike Richards each have no points with a minus-3 rating over the past three games.

Carter missed the last five regular season games with a bone bruise in his ankle and returned in time for the start of the series. He said the injury didn’t affect his performance.

“It’s been getting better every game, I think, so it’s not a big issue,” Carter said.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter was typically blunt when asked about what he’s seen from Carter lately.

“I think he’s playing through an injury and I think his last game was his best game,” Sutter said. “What are his strengths? His speed and puck skills. When you’re not playing quite 100 percent it does make a difference.”

Carter had a game-high seven shots on goal and four hits in Game 4. He looked as active and visible as he has in the series, and if he shows his scoring capability he will be the factor that Los Angeles wished for when they acquired him before the trade deadline.

“It was probably the best that I’ve felt in this series,” Carter said. “I was skating and getting on pucks. When you’re doing that, you’re creating chances, so it was a step in the right direction.”

Carter had six goals in 16 regular season games since he came to L.A. in a Feb.23 trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who got Jack Johnson and a first round draft pick in return. Outside of a two-goal game against the Anaheim Ducks on March 3, he really hasn’t had a signature game or goal of real significance.

Carter has also been quiet in recent playoffs. He is on a six-game point-less streak, dating to last postseason with Philadelphia.

Richards was also encouraged by Game 5 and knows what his former Philadelphia teammate is capable of doing.

“I talked to him after [Game 4],” Richards said. “He said he felt good. He’s said he it was the best he felt in a long time. Hopefully we can improve on it and get opportunities and chances and shots. He’s got a good enough a shot where the goalie can make the save once in a while but eventually it’s going to go in.”

Mitchell on Vancouver:
Defenseman Willie Mitchell is a knowledgeable source on how to defend the Canucks and he has served as a sort of analyst during the series.

Mitchell played four seasons with Vancouver and against them in the Northwest Division when he was with the Minnesota Wild. He had a detailed take on defending a “new” Canucks team with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

“Everyone has their own way or own belief of how you play them,” Mitchell said. “Personally, I think you deny them the puck, so that means when other players on their team have the puck, you make sure they don’t get it. So [it’s] meeting them before the puck gets there. If they get the puck, it’s not about eliminating time and space, in my opinion, because if you’re too aggressive against them there’s going to be ice open up in the middle of the ice, and that’s where it always goes.

“They make those blind passes and they just know. Their whole game is about creating 2-on-1s, just bringing the guy into you … so it’s a fine line – being aggressive when they don’t have it, and if they happen to get possession, sometimes you got to sit because they’re not Steven Stamkos. They don’t have that world class shot. But they are world-class playmakers.”

Sutter kept beating the drum that Game 4 was his team’s best game of the series and he reiterated that they’re still the underdog even though they have a 3-1 series lead.

He sounded as if he needed a lot more from his team.

“I liked our five-on-five play [in Game 4] but we’re not going to beat the Vancouver Canucks unless everybody plays to their (level) because of the skill set that they have,” Sutter said. “If we have three or four guys that don’t try to play to their skill set then we’re not going to beat them.”

Clifford remains out:
Kyle Clifford (upper body) did not skate for a third consecutive game, which all but rules him out from returning anytime soon.

Clifford was hit by Byron Bitz on Game 1. It is called an upper-body injury but the team is taking the same protocol they would for a concussion.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:57 PM

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

Korpikoski could return for Coyotes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Coyotes winger Lauri Korpikoski took part in the morning skate Saturday and Phoenix coach said Dave Tippett will be a game-time decision for Game 5 against Chicago.
 
Center Martin Hanzal was on the ice but did not take part in the team skate. Tippett said he was doubtful to play in Game 5 after his injuries were re-evaluated on Friday. The Coyotes will also be without Raffi Torres who was slapped with a 25-game suspension by the league Saturday.
 
Korpikoski left Game 2 last Saturday with an apparent lower-body injury in the third period sustained in a collision with Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith. He did not play in Games 3 and 4 and did not return to the ice until Friday, when the team returned from Chicago.
 
“It was a good skate. I feel good so we’ll see,” Korpikoski said. “It’s been so painful to watch … I can’t do it. I just want to be out there. The toughest thing to do is watch and not be able to help. Chicago is a fun city but it was a good road trip for me. It took a year off my life.”
 
Mikkel Boedker, who took Korpikoski’s spot on the line with Taylor Pyatt and Boyd Gordon, had the winning goal in overtime in each of the last two games – leaving Tippett to joke that Korpikoski might have lost his spot.
 
“Tipp’s kind of playing some mind games with me,” Korpikoski said. “(Boedker’s) doing a good job. He scored some big goals.”
 
If Korpikoski plays, he would replace either Marc-Antoine Pouilot or Paul Bissonnette in the Phoenix lineup.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:43 PM

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

In Bryz they trust

VOORHEES, N.J. -- After watching Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury steal Game 5 for his team, the Philadelphia Flyers would like to see their goaltender do the same thing in Game 6 on Sunday (Noon ET, NBC, TSN).

"Give credit to their defense and Fleury played a great game in Pittsburgh," Scott Hartnell said. "We had to fight for opportunities and when we had them he was there to make the save. I think it's time for our defense and our goalie to win us a game."

Hartnell quickly added that he thought Bryzgalov was playing well, saying, "You need a goalie who can make those stops. Not that Bryz has played bad, but we'd love to win 1-0 and get a shutout and move on and get some rest and get some guys healthy."

Bryzgalov had a solid outing Game 5, stopping 20 of 23 shots in the 3-2 loss. It was a far cry from his poor performance in Game 4, when he allowed five goals on 18 shots and was pulled early in the second period.

The belief in the team is Bryzgalov can reach the same level as Fleury in Game 6.

"Bryz has made some great stops in the first few games," Hartnell said. "It's 3-0 [in Game 1] and it could have been 4-0 or 5-0 and they could have had that first game in their books. … We believe in Bryz, our organization believes in Bryz, and more importantly, the fans believe in Bryz. We're going to get it done."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:42 PM

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

Is faster or slower better for Flyers?

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Flyers and Penguins stood out because it was the first one that felt like a real playoff game.

After combining to average more than 11 goals per game in the first four games, Game 5 featured just five goals and 49 shots in the Penguins' 3-2 victory.

Despite losing, however, the Flyers were happy with the pace of the game, saying they preferred a low-scoring game to a track meet.

"They have some offensive players that can score a lot of goals," Claude Giroux said. "Anytime the score can be lower that's good for us."

"I like these low-scoring games that are tight and every play means a lot," Scott Hartnell added.

Coach Peter Laviolette, thought, said the final score in Game 6 on Sunday (Noon ET, NBC, TSN) was inconsequential.

"We need to win a game," he said. "If its 8-5, it's 8-5. If it's 1-0, it's 1-0. I don't really care how we win. I want to win a game. We want to limit the amount of chances we give them, that's part of it, but if we score eight goals, 10 goals, 20 goals, I don't care. We need to win a hockey game. It's irrelevant how it happens."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:39 PM

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

Even-strength play has been Flyers' weakness

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers have gotten ahead in their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins thanks in part to their special-teams play. However, if they want to close the series, they'll need to be better at even-strength.

The Flyers haven't scored a five-on-five goal since Claude Giroux scored 27 seconds into the third period of Game 3. That's a span of 139:33 of game time, and they've been outscored 8-0 the last two games at even strength. The first three games, the Flyers outscored the Pens 11-9 in five-on-five play.

Coach Peter Laviolette said he didn't see anything different that the Penguins had done the last two games to win the even-strength battles.

"We had chances [in Game 5] at even strength," he said, "we just couldn't get it by them."

Claude Giroux agreed, saying he thought it was more about what the Flyers weren't doing to be successful rather than anything the Penguins were doing better.

"We haven't been skating like we can," he said. "We're a fast team. We got a lot of guys that can skate pretty fast. That's why we're first on the puck usually. We have to go back and be first on the puck, pay the price to want the puck."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:37 PM

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

Grossmann back on the ice

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Only 10 players took the ice here at Virtua Flyers Skate Zone on Saturday, but one was of particular interest -- defenseman Nicklas Grossmann.

Grossmann sat out Game 4 with an upper-body injury he sustained in Game 3, and still is listed as day-to-day. However, Grossmann took two short spins on the ice with volunteer assistant coach Blair Betts -- he skated early with the extra players and then again with the regular group. If he's skating so soon after what teammate Claude Giroux called a concussion, there has to be hope for a rapid recovery, and possibly even a return for Game 6 on Sunday (Noon ET, NBC, TSN).

Since arriving in Philadelphia just before the trade deadline, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder has provided the Flyers with a strong, steady, shot-blocking presence in the defensive zone. Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said a lack of blocked shots was a big reason the team lost Game 5 on Friday.

With Grossmann in the lineup, the Flyers blocked an average of 16.5 shots per game in the first four games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In Game 5, they blocked just 10.

"He's been great for us," Giroux said. "Defensively he plays against the best lines on the other side. He's a solid teammate. He's a guy that we rely on on the penalty kill and he racks up a lot of minutes on the ice. We'll see [if he plays]. It's good to have him on the ice."

The other players skating with the regular group were defensemen Andreas Lijla, Brandon Manning, Erik Gustafsson and Pavel Kubina, forwards Jody Shelley, Zac Rinaldo and Tom Sestito, and goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:21 PM

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

JVR feeling OK

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The day after his first game in about seven weeks, Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk said he felt pretty good.

In his first game since breaking a bone in his right foot blocking a shot in a game March 1, van Riemsdyk played 11 shifts totaling 7:31 in ice time in the 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite the loss, van Riemsdyk said he was feeling good.

"All things considered, not too bad," he said. "It's the time of year you want to do everything you can to get in the lineup and do everything you can to contribute."

Coach Peter Laviolette said he would have given van Riemsdyk more opportunities to contribute, but couldn't because of all the special-teams play in the first two periods. Five of van Riemsdyk's 11 shifts came in the third period.

"[van Riemsdyk] was good," said Laviolette. "There were quite a few penalties right off the bat both ways, situational play that came up and if you don't factor into that, it's difficult to get into the roll of the game right away. We used him a bit more in the third period, and I thought he got going in the third. It wasn't his fault he didn't get the ice time in the first few periods, just the situations, the way they arose."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.  Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:30 PM

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

Sharks find motivation in Penguins' victory

The Sharks are using the energy the Pittsburgh Penguins drew from winning a Game 5 to extend their series with the Philadelphia Flyers as a means to motivate themselves.

The Sharks are 0-4 all-time in series when they trail it 3-1 but feel like they can feed off past teams that have done it.

"Growing up watching it, you see it has happened all the time," Pavelski said. "When you watch that game in the Pitt-Philly series and you see Pitt win that second game, now there's Game 6 and now there's doubt in Philly's mind. We realize if we come out here and play a good game, play a strong game, make St. Louis come back with us, it's going to put a little doubt in everyone's mind. We'll gain a little confidence and we'll have to do it again then."

So how does that happen?

"It's just one day at a time," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "You've got to get through today to get to tomorrow. You've got to play with desperation, emotion and ultimately win the game tonight.

"We want to extend the series, so we've got to win here tonight to bring it back to San Jose for Game 6, but really just got to focus on one game and one game only."

The Sharks played desperate hockey at the end of the season when they won seven of nine and four in a row to end the regular season to get into the playoffs. Their backs were against the wall then, as they are now.

"We've talked about that. When you look at our season, we needed to work hard to get in, and the last four games -- two against Dallas and two against LA -- were must wins and we were able to get all four," coach Todd McLellan said. "We played well as a team with our backs up against the wall. We can do that here again tonight."

Added winger Ryane Clowe: "We've been in this position on the other side the last couple years where we've had a chance to close it out at home. It's not like there's extreme pressure, but you just want to go back on the road again. It's the thought that you don't want to go back to San Jose. You want to rest as much as possible and all that stuff. ... I know we've got a lot to lose but play like we're loose and we are playing for our lives."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:26 PM

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

Blues stifling Sharks star Pavelski, Marleau

The Blues' ability to neutralize star Sharks Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau (zero points in eight games dating back to the regular season against St. Louis) has been a big reason why the Blues have held San Jose to 10 goals in eight games this season.

The duo combined for 61 goals and 125 points in the regular season, which speaks volumes for what the Blues have done to them all year. That doesn't mean to let up off the accelerator.

"They're coming hard," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said of the pair. "They have the world-class talent. It can burn you if you give them any kind of room. We've got to continue to stay on them and really not give them opportunities to be difference-makers."

Pavelski, who is 42.2 percent on the faceoff dot, down from the 58.8 percent in the regular season, has a simple remedy.

"I think a lot of it's execution and just being ready," Pavelski said. "Obviously chances come at a premium here but we are getting them. You've got to get that one early and get in the game and we'll go from there."

Marleau was asked if the Blues have done anything to force some of the Sharks' stars to play out of their element.

"In the playoffs, you might have to do some things you wouldn't normally do," Marleau said. "On the other side of it, we have been getting chances. It's an inch here or there. It's that fine line, but you've got to stay positive and believe it's going to happen for yourself or the team."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:19 PM

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

Sharks' McLellan sees pressure for Blues, too

ST. LOUIS -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who has been on the other side of 3-1 series leads with his team on multiple occasions, said there is not only pressure on his team to extend this series but also on the Blues to end it.

Why? Because once the team with its backs against the wall wins, there's some confidence that grows and they get to take the series back home with hopes of extending it to a winner-take-all game.

"When we're in Detroit [last season], we're in that series and we're in the LA series, we come home against LA, we're up 3-1, there's some pressure to win," McLellan said. "There really is some pressure to win.

"We didn't win that one and now you get into their building and they really believe and they've got the crowd going. The pressure builds to close the series out when you have the lead. That may sound strange because there can't be any more pressure than on our group tonight to actually win the game. But there is pressure on that close-out team."

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't buying it.

"I don't know. To me, pressure leaves after one shift," Hitchcock said. "You just play. Both teams are playing well. At this time when you get into situations where the series is getting close to the end, you just narrow your focus. It actually becomes more fun for everybody. You're not worrying about anything but playing ice hockey and that's all that matters.

"Paying the bills waits, returning phone calls waits, even returning texts waits, but obviously tweeting doesn't. For me, it just narrows your focus. I know it's a crooked way of saying it, but I think it's a fun time. They know where they stand, we know where we stand."
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Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure