NASHVILLE -- With Detroit facing elimination on Friday, coach Mike Babcock was asked once again if this could be the final game for defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, the seven-time Norris Trophy winner who will be 42 in a number of days.
First, Babcock was asked if Lidstrom is still bothered by an ankle injury that kept him sidelined late in the regular season.
"The great thing about that is you can ask Nick, so that gets me off the hook," he said. "… I think Nick Lidstrom retires when he thinks he's not a good player anymore, but I think he's been a pretty darn good player. I don't know what could possibly be more fun than playing hockey at a high level on a great team. And I know his wife, so she doesn't want him around, for sure. Why wouldn't you keep playing?"
Babcock was asked a follow-up.
"I say this every year so this is seven years for me I've answered this question," he said. "I always say the same thing: He's too good to quit."
Rinne stopped 81 of 84 shots in the Predators' two victories in Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena, and generally has the Red Wings searching for answers. Detroit has scored only eight goals in the four games.
The first goal in particular has been critical in this series, as the team scoring it has won every game. Cleary was asked if Nashville plays any differently when it has the lead.
"Yes and no," he said. "They're a really good defensive hockey team and they're disciplined. This is not a rush-chance opportunity series. There's no 2-on-1s. There's hardly any 3-on-2s. I mean, they've always got guys back and they're blocking everything and they've got like a wall built in front, and so we've got to come in from the sides. It's just a tight series. Right now we're a little stymied, for sure.”
Part of the problem in creating second chances, Cleary said, is that Rinne "catches everything" with his glove, so the Red Wings need to be mindful of keeping the puck away from his glove hand, which is easier said than done.
Babcock said the Red Wings "can't be impatient."
"I don't think we got too impatient last game at all," he said. "I thought we stuck with it. To me, we need some second chances on their goaltender. The puck's not coming off him very much because he catches a lot of things, so we've got to figure out a way to get some second chances and be determined and understand it's going to be tight-checking and there's not going to be a lot of room. ... We need to fight for seconds."
Their dreadful special-teams performance is endangering the Penguins’ season going into Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Friday night.
The Flyers’ power play is converting at a 60-percent success rate (9-of-15), a remarkably high percentage that dwarfs the next best in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (the Panthers and Blues are at 37.5 percent). The Penguins, except for their 10-3 win Wednesday in Game 4, can’t seem to stay out of the penalty box -- and, when they do occupy it, the puck can’t seem to stay out of their net.
For the first time since the Penguins owned a 3-0 lead in Game 1, before they went on to lose 4-3 in overtime and set the tone for the all-Pennsylvania series, they tightened up their special-teams play by holding the Flyers scoreless in the final two periods of Game 4.
If the Penguins are to keep playing in a series in which their next loss ends their season, coach Dan Bylsma said it’s evident what must happen.
“Our penalty kill is going to have to win us a game,” Bylsma said Friday.
Bylsma said it’s not as if the Flyers have dramatically altered what they do with the man advantage.
“We know exactly what the Flyers have done all year long. There are other teams that have power plays that are very similar. We know what to expect,” Bylsma said. “They’ve found ways to get goals on rushes, they’ve gotten goals on scrambles, coming out of scrambles and their set up. A little bit of that is more mental than anything. … We have to keep the momentum (from Game 4) and win a game special teams-wise.”
Bylsma dressed a seventh defenseman for Game 4 and may do the same Friday to help lessen the manpower load on an under-siege penalty kill.
Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek said the Flyers present problems that not all teams do. He didn’t detail all of them, but it’s evident that the Flyers’ speed, their deep group of forwards and their determination to succeed on special teams have perplexed the Penguins.
“Like I’ve been saying all along, they’re a good team. They work hard, they put the puck deep and they finish checks,” Michalek said. “They’re going to make it hard on us. We’ve got to make sure we take care of the puck better, don’t turn the puck over and now we’ve got to go out there and execute all those things.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby suggested a strong special-team effort in Game 5 could begin to swing the momentum of a series that, except for Game 4 and the start of Game 1, has belonged to the Flyers. During the season, the Penguins’ penalty-killing unit was the third-best in the League with an 87.8-percent success rate.
“Every team kind of goes through tough stints where it feels like every chance a team gets, it goes in your net,” Crosby said. “I think the PK still has a lot of confidence in what it needs to do. They know when the time comes, it’s the timing of the penalty kills that are the most important sometimes. We know we can depend on them for a big kill when we need it.”
NEWARK, N.J. -- An obvious hole needed to be filled when center Jacob Josefson suffered a fractured wrist late in the season, altering the lineup plan for New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Looking back, DeBoer admits the one name that kept coming up as a more-than-capable replacement was 5-foot-7, 185-pound Stephen Gionta.
"He hadn't played center in probably a year, but came in and has seamlessly jumped into that spot and given us everything we could ask for … I can't say enough about him," DeBoer told the media following his team's 4-0 victory over Florida on Thursday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
The Devils conducted an optional workout at Prudential Center on Friday before departing for Sunrise, Fla., for Game 5 on Saturday at BankAtlantic Center. The best-of-seven series is tied, 2-2.
"Stephen's been a great, great story," DeBoer continued. "Here's a kid who never even had a game all year with us, but has come in and given us a real spark. He's enthusiastic and dependable."
Strange, but it almost sounds like DeBoer is referring to the elder Gionta, Brian, who just happens to be the 33-year-old captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
"He has a lot of the same traits as his brother, and his brother has a history of rising to the occasion in the playoffs," DeBoer said. "I think Stephen is one of those types of guys."
Gionta, who was recalled from Albany on April 6 for the second time in three days, had six goals and 16 points in 56 games in the American Hockey League this season. The 28-year-old undrafted forward out of Boston College has been with the organization since the 2005-06 season. The move to bring him up is certainly paying off right now.
"I try to bring energy to the team when I get an opportunity," Gionta told NHL.com. "Hopefully, I can give the team quality minutes out there when I do get that opportunity."
As you might expect, Gionta, who averages 6:41 quality minutes each game in the playoffs, does communicate with big brother quite frequently.
"We stay in touch pretty good and we've talked quite a few times since the original call-up, so it's been nice and he's shown great support," Gionta said. "He just told me to go out, have fun and play my game and let the chips fall."
Right now, Gionta is playing a key role centering the club's fourth line alongside left wing Ryan Carter and right wing Steve Bernier.
"I don't know if I'm surprised [to see how well Gionta has played], but it's nice to see," Carter told NHL.com. "A guy enters a scenario where he's playing playoff games right off the bat, and having confidence. That says a lot about the guy, and he's enjoying it, too."
Through four games in this series, Gionta's line has produced three goals, five points, a plus-7 rating and 15 shots on goal. Gionta has also delivered six hits, including three crunching blows in Game 4 that generated plenty of excitement on the bench.
"I think we're finding success in not trying to do too much," Carter said. "We're trying to keep the puck behind their goal line, wear them down a little bit. We just want to make it difficult on them. Our game right now is making them go 200 feet and forcing them to battle."
"That fourth line has done a great job for us," DeBoer said. "They've chipped in a couple of goals and have generated momentum."
Gionta has played five games since his recall from Albany. He scored his first NHL goal in the season finale and has a goal and an assist in the playoffs being moved from wing to center.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
Ellerby sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Thursday's 4-0 loss at New Jersey in Game 4 when he was checked by Devils center Stephen Gionta into the Devils bench where the open door meets the stanchion. Ellerby was making his first appearance since March 15.
Ellerby was in the lineup because Garrison was a late scratch because of a lower-body injury. Dineen said the Panthers were "cautiously optimistic" Garrison would be able to play Saturday.
Dineen said the Panthers might call up a defenseman from the AHL's San Antonio Rampage, with the most likely candidate being Tyson Strachan.
NEWARK, N.J. --New Jersey Devils rookie center Adam Henrique didn't appear too surprised when asked if he expected to be named one of three finalists for this year's Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year.
But he's certainly honored to be in the mix.
"I was excited," Henrique told the media following practice on Friday. "Obviously, it's a big honor to be nominated and be a part of the group, so it's something I'm very excited about and proud of."
Henrique remained off the ice on Friday, along with Ilya Kovalchuk, for some rest, but both will be in the lineup on Saturday when the Devils play the Florida Panthers in Game 5 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
Henrique is actually the first Devil to be voted a Calder finalist since Scott Gomez won the award in 2000. Martin Brodeur also won it for the Devils in 1994.
"It's a great honor, the Calder is one of these trophies that's once in a lifetime, so for you to be part of the top rookies is special," Brodeur said. "He's had a heck of a season, and played like a veteran out there. He was responsible, being on the power-play, penalty-kill and in five-on-five situations while playing on the top line.
"Sometimes, when you play on teams expected to win, it's a little tougher, but to play as a rookie, he adjusted really well."
The 22-year-old Henrique, selected in the third round (No. 82) by the Devils in 2008, earned a full-time spot in the lineup this season after Jacob Josefson fractured his right clavicle on Oct. 21. The Devils were already without center Travis Zajac, who was coming off Achilles surgery in August, so the need for a quality center became of the utmost importance.
"I think things started to click when early while playing with Zach and Kovy," Henrique said. "Once we started playing well, it gave me extra confidence to be here and stick around. That was a big confidence boost for me.
"Due to the injuries, this was something I wanted to take advantage of and prove to the staff and everyone here that I could play and fit in with those guys. Once things started going, it carried through the year."
The Brantford, Ontario native finished first among all first-year players with 35 assists and third with 51 points in 74 games. He also tied for the League lead with four shorthanded goals. Henrique finished one point behind Landeskog (22 goals, 52 points) and Nugent-Hopkins (18 goals, 52 points) for the rookie scoring lead.
"It was a hard thing to do at his age," Parise said. "In your first year, there's pressure and sometimes it's tough to cope with when you go through those funks. He never really changed his game whether the points were coming or not, though, and that was key."
Henrique led all rookies with 501 faceoff wins on 1,026 draws (48.8 percent). He ranked 10th among rookie forwards with 83 hits, third with 57 blocked shots and second with 49 takeaways during the regular season.
"He worked the entire season to be in that group, and it's a special group of players he's mentioned with there and deservedly so," DeBoer said. "He's skilled and a good kid, but I think the biggest thing is he doesn't have an ego. He got sent back at first, coming out of training camp, and I've seen that effect that could have on a player -- some feel sorry for themselves. But because he has no ego, he got another chance very quickly and made the most of it."
After being selected by the Devils at the draft, Henrique spent two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Windsor Spitfires and one more with the American Hockey League's Albany Devils.
Despite the fact he doesn't have a goal through four games in the playoffs and has gone 11 straight games without a score, he remains positive.
"I think you got to chip in any way you can," Henrique said. "It's the playoffs, and we've had offensive contributions from the fourth-line guys and the top guys are producing offensively, so that's another area where I need to try to do more.
"At the same time, we have to take care of other aspects of the game like playing solid defensively. I thought, as a [third] line, we had our best game in Game 4. We skated well, were on the puck. If you're not scoring, you need to be doing other things to contribute to the win."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
PITTSBURGH -- If the Flyers want to close out the series in Game 5 Friday, they know they have to be better in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. It would, of course, help if Bryzgalov was better as well.
Bryzgalov was pulled 3:07 into Game 4 after giving up his fifth goal on 18 shots. He has a 4.95 goals-against average and .844 save percentage in the series, but the Flyers remain confident that he will give them a series-clinching performance in net Friday.
"I'm not worried," Flyers center Claude Giroux said. "He's a professional. He's a veteran. He knows what to do. I think he'll be great tonight."
Bryzgalov certainly looked loose at the morning skate. Prior to leaving the ice, he was doing snow angels around his net.
"I've got a feeling," Giroux added. "He's focused and he wants to win. He can't wait for tonight."
"I don't think it's fair just to say that Bryz has to have a good game," Laviolette said. "He certainly does. We have great veteran players and you can count on them for a win. We've got great youth in the locker room and you can count on them. We have all year. It's a team sport. If we don't play well in front of Bryzgalov it's going to be more difficult.
"We need big performances out of everybody."
The question is will one of those players be forward James van Riemsdyk? He says he's ready to play for the first time since March 1, when he broke his foot blocking a shot, but van Riemsdyk was not on the ice Friday morning.
Neither was Danny Briere, but Laviolette made the morning skate optional for his players.
Provided Briere plays and van Riemsdyk does not, here's is what the Flyers lines and defense pairs will look like:
OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators held their final practice on Friday morning prior to departing for New York without captain Daniel Alfredsson. The Sens will face off against the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series Saturday night.
Here are the lines as they appeared during practice:
Stone and Hoffman saw time on the second line and coach Paul MacLean confirmed that Stone would be traveling to New York with the team.
“We’re keeping all of our player options open,” he said.
Alfredsson (concussion) did not skate, and MacLean informed the media that the captain would remain in Ottawa, along with Jesse Winchester (upper body). There has been no change in the conditions of either player.