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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Erskine excited to be back in the lineup

ARLINGTON, Va. -- John Erskine has played a total of eight minutes and 31 seconds of NHL hockey since Jan. 31, so he’s probably more than a little excited to get back in the lineup for the Washington Capitals for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Given Erskine’s disposition when he’s on the ice, it is exactly what the Capitals are looking for. Neither Erskine nor coach Dale Hunter would confirm it Thursday morning, but all signs point to the rugged defenseman replacing Jeff Schultz next to Dennis Wideman on the team’s third defensive pairing against the Bruins.

“If I do play [Thursday], I think I just have to go out and play a simple game and not try to do much and let come the game to me. Don’t be lunging at people and stuff like that,” Erskine said after the team’s morning skate. “Playoffs are an exciting period, but yeah, it is a lot of ... having not played in a couple months, I’ll be going.”

Added Hunter: “We just want him there because he plays the body. After the whistles, I think they’re going to clamp down on and we don’t want no penalties. We want to play through the whistle and skate away. We’ll play hockey between the whistles. We just want him there to finish more hits on Boston.”

Erskine was last in the lineup Feb. 12, and before that it was Jan. 31. He’s spent much of this season as a healthy scratch after it started late for him because of offseason shoulder surgery. He missed the final 27 games of the regular season, first as a healthy scratch and then near the end of the season with a lower-body injury.

A season after playing in a career-best 73 games and establishing himself as a consistent top-six defenseman for the Capitals, he played only 28 games in 2011-12, his lowest total since joining the organization before the 2006-07 season.

Despite not playing for so long, Erskine said he isn’t worried about his conditioning.

“I’ve been bag skating for two months now, so I think I’ll be good like that,” he said. “Whenever you get thrown into a game, though, it is a different kind of conditioning. It will take me a few shifts to get going. ... I’m not going to change my game -- my game is to play physical, play tough in front of the net and just play a simple game.”

The physical play, both between the whistles and after them, ramped up significantly in Game 3 of this series. Boston was credited with 58 hits, and the Bruins baited the Capitals into more jostling after goalies made saves and before faceoffs.

Those are the areas where Erskine can provide the Capitals with an extra bit of snarl. He is also a willing combatant, should one of Boston’s tough guys, like Milan Lucic or Shawn Thornton, be interested in a round of fisticuffs.

“He’s physical and a tough guy to play against,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Erskine. “He’s got that heavy, heavy shot when he can let it go from the point. It is tough for goalies to handle. He’s just one of those guys that you really like having in your lineup.”

Added Erskine: “I’ve been like that since Game 1. It is definitely my style of game -- physical and with the ruggedness of the series.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:28 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Projected Game 4 lineups

CHICAGO -- Injuries to key players for both the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes have forced coaches Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett to mix and match their forward lines for Thursday night's Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series at the United Center.

They're likely to call on some new faces who just recently arrived from the minors, as well -- or junior hockey in the case of Chicago's Brandon Saad, who could find himself playing a role in the Blackhawks' top six group in place of injured Marian Hossa.

Here is a look at how both teams could line up when they take the ice at the Madhouse on Madison. Some of it, however, is just guesswork because neither team skated their forward line combinations during the morning skate sessions.

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Radim Vrbata
Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Mikkel Boedker
Paul Bisonnette - Gilbert Brule - Kyle Chipchura

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - Michal Rozsival

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Viktor Stalberg
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bllig

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Sean O'Donnell

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:10 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Gill back at practice, status for Game 5 uncertain

NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Hal Gill participated in a full practice on Thursday for the first time in two weeks after suffering a lower-body injury, but his status for Game 5 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena remains up in the air.
 
Gill said he would speak to trainers later in the day to address the situation. Predators coach Barry Trotz said the team would know more on Friday.
 
With Gill out, the team's top defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber played more than 30 minutes apiece in the Preds' 3-1 win in Game 4 over Detroit. Trotz said he is not worried about Suter and Weber playing too many minutes, as "they're young," he said.
 
Gill was the team's shot-blocker and leader in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season. Jack Hillen played in the first two games of the series in Gill's spot and rookie Ryan Ellis played in Games 3 and 4, but neither has played more than 10 minutes in a game. Gill averaged 18:02 with Nashville during the regular season after being acquired in February from Montreal.
 
Nashville can close out the series with a win on Friday, as the Preds hold a 3-1 series lead.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:58 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Coyotes again without services of Hanzal, Korpikoski

CHICAGO -- The Phoenix Coyotes will again be without two key forwards on Tuesday night at the United Center for Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Center Martin Hanzal and forward Lauri Korpikoski will both miss their second straight game with undisclosed injuries -- meaning the Coyotes will again have to rely on their depth in an effort to extend their 2-1 lead in the series.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said the way the series has played out has confirmed his gut feeling that Phoenix has enough depth to last for a deeper run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"You hope you have that depth," Tippett said. "You don't know what you have until it actually gets thrown in there, so we're certainly getting tested right now. We've got some players that just finished up in Portland [of the Western Hockey League] and are with us now. They've been up and down a couple times this year throughout injuries, so hopefully that experience they got with our team will benfit us."

Phoenix just recently called up centers Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Alexandre Bolduc prior to Game 3 on Tuesday, so one or both could draw into the Coyotes' lineup somewhere. If they do, Tippett said he's comfortable with the kind of effort his team will get.

"They recognize this is going to be a very intense game," Tippett said. "Every play in the game is going to count and we expect them to jump in and do the job for us."

Hanzal (lower body) said he's feeling better and participated in the morning skate. He initially told reporters that he'd be a game-time decision, but Tippett pronounced him out not long afterward. Korpikoski (upper body) did not skate.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:56 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Van Riemsdyk ready to return in Game 5 if called upon

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk is preparing, both physically and mentally, to play in Game 5 Friday at Consol Energy Center. Nobody is saying if he will just yet.

"He looked good on the ice, and through discussions with everybody involved, if he's ready to play we'll consider playing him," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday before his team flew to Pittsburgh carrying a 3-1 lead in the series. "He's looked better every day, and at some point I guess we'll make that decision."

Van Riemsdyk has been out since March 1, when he broke his foot blocking a shot by Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina. He still uses a walking boot and he's wearing plastic shields on both of his skates, but he said he's ready to go if called upon.

If practice Thursday is any indication, there's a good chance he will be.

Van Riemsdyk was skating on a line with Matt Read and Jakub Voracek while Zac Rinaldo was on a line with black aces Tom Sestito and Matt Ford. Rinaldo has played in every game of the series, but he is averaging less than five minutes per game of ice time and has 46 penalty minutes.

"You know what, obviously we have the luxury of being up and the team was playing great without me so you want to keep that rolling," van Riemsdyk, who had 24 points in 43 games during the regular season, told NHL.com. "I have to be a good teammate and wait for my chance and go from there."

"It's tough to not be in the lineup, but I'm just trying to feel better everyday so I can get out there and contribute."

Laviolette said he would not be opposed to making a lineup change if need be.

"Lineup changes are made all the time, constantly made," he said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Frolik getting chance to contribute with Shaw out

CHICAGO -- Chemistry is as mysterious in hockey as it is in the laboratory.

But Chicago's Dave Bolland sees the right ingredients in the line he'll center with Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik in Thursday's fourth game of the Blackhawks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix.

That's understandable. Frolik, subbing for the suspended Andrew Shaw, scored one of Chicago's two goals in the 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3.

"Bicksie and Fro, we played together last year. This year we had some time together," Bolland said. "We all know what Fro's all about. He's fast, he's got a great shot, a little bit of that Martin Havlat in him, that speed going down the wing. Coming out of our own end, if I throw him the puck, I'm sure it's getting out of our zone."

On the outside, it appears Frolik's speed makes up for Shaw's grit. But Bolland believes Frolik can handle the tough stuff as well.

"He gets in the corner, gets dirty," Bolland said of Frolik, three inches taller and 18 pounds heavier than Shaw. "We use them the same way, but they're different players."

What Frolik wasn't during the season was productive. He scored only five goals and 15 points, and was a minus-10 in 63 games, the reason he was a healthy scratch in 17 of the last 33 regular-season games, and the first two games of the series. The last 10 regular-season scratches came after Shaw was recalled for good from Rockford.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:30 PM

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

Larsson still sits as Devils stick with Volchenkov

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer did admit prior to the playoffs that rookie defenseman Adam Larsson could at some point receive an opportunity to crack the lineup.
 
It just hasn't happened in the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers. DeBoer told the media that his lineup will remain status quo for Thursday's Game 4 at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TSN2, RDSI).
 
There was speculation among the media contingent following Game 3 that perhaps DeBoer would replace struggling defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the lineup. Volchenkov has a minus-2 rating in this series and has been on the ice for nine of Florida's 10 goals through three games.
 
DeBoer didn't seem close to entertaining any thoughts, however, of replacing his veteran defender in the lineup.
 
"You look at [Volchenkov's] situation, he's had some bad luck and bad timing," DeBoer said. "He's been on the ice for nine of their 10 goals. He's had a bad run and I feel for him. It's Murphy's Law … whatever can go wrong is going wrong for him right now, and he's got to battle through that.
 
"He's a guy who has risen in the past in playoffs in Ottawa, and he's battle-tested this time of year. We need him in the lineup."
 
Meanwhile, Larsson has been a regular at practices for New Jersey during the playoffs, but, dating back to the regular season, has been a healthy scratch in eight of the last nine games. In 65 games this season, Larsson has two goals, 18 points and a minus-7 rating. He notched one assist and a plus-1 rating in three regular-season appearances against the Panthers in 2011-12.
 
Larsson missed 10 games from Feb. 4-24 with a bruised lower back after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban in a Feb. 2 game at Prudential Center. The talented Swede would produce just two assists and a minus-1 rating over the next 16 games before DeBoer opted to have him sit, watch and learn.
 
"The Larsson question isn't really a factor ... he's ready to play, and we know what he can do," DeBoer said. "He's a good player and he can help us, no doubt."
 
He did play in the team's 4-2 regular-season finale against the Ottawa Senators on April 7, earning 12:39 of ice time on 17 shifts.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale



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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:13 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

No change in Alfredsson's status

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators took Thursday off after their 3-2 overtime victory against the New York Rangers in Game 4 Wednesday. The Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series now stands tied 2-2, with Game 5 sent for Saturday (7 pm.  ET, NBCSN, CBC) in New York.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson [concussion] remains sidelined and his status for Game 5 is unclear.

"Nothing’s changed. I'm just going to come in [on Friday] and see if he's here," coach Paul MacLean said.  "If he's not, he's not. If he is, that'd be great. But I can't speculate what day or when he's going to be here. It's just one of those things you have to be patient with. I think he's feeling better all the time and he's working out. We're not practicing [Thursday] so he's not skating, either. We're in the process of getting him back. I talked to him really briefly. He was real positive and happy with the team win."

Jesse Winchester is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury, but MacLean wouldn't offer any details on how the injury occurred. The forward left the game Wednesday in the second period and did not return.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 12:56 PM

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

Clemmensen set for first career playoff start

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen is set to earn the first playoff start of his career on Thursday when he faces his former team, the New Jersey Devils, in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Prudential Center.
 
While Panthers coach Kevin Dineen wouldn't commit to either Clemmensen or Jose Theodore following his team's morning skate at Prudential Center, Clemmensen did skate off the ice first. The first goalie off the ice at a game-day skate is usually the starter.
 
Getting the playoff nod in the state where it all began and against one of the greatest goalies in League history will certainly be a humbling experience for Clemmensen.
 
"I think there's always a little bit of nerves regardless of the situation," Clemmensen told reporters after practice. "I believe the crowd will be rocking tonight and you can always feel the atmosphere here, so if I'm the starter, I'll be ready for that as well.
 
"It's a building that I like playing in," he continued. "I like these fans. It's always a lot of fun. I don't care how loud they boo me … I love them."
 
Clemmensen stopped 19 shots in a spectacular relief stint as his team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to earn a 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday to grab a 2-1 series lead.

Florida coach Kevin Dineen, who wouldn't tip his hand as to which goalie would start, did praise Clemmensen for the quality work he provided the team down the stretch.
 
"For two months now, Clem has been an excellent goaltender, maybe one of the top guys in the League," Dineen said. "What he does have is a tremendous amount of respect from the coaching staff, from his teammates and I think from people that know him. You can tell just from the response from the people here in Jersey that he's a hard guy to dislike, and I think as a teammate that would fit his character."
 
In addition to subbing for Jose Theodore (three goals allowed on six shots) just 6:16 into the first period on Tuesday, Clemmensen's only other playoff appearance was in relief of Martin Brodeur in Game 1 of a 6-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals in Raleigh. He would play the final 6:53 of that game, turning aside all three shots he faced.
 
Not only is Clemmensen 5-0-0 against the Devils in his career, including Tuesday's win, but he has yet to allow a playoff goal in two relief stints totaling 60:37 of playing time.
 
Despite his lack of playoff experience in 10 NHL seasons, Dineen wasn't at all concerned.
 
"I have no doubt that he would play well," Dineen said. "Here's a guy who's been around a long time and has played with Marty Brodeur and Tomas Vokoun, and now Jose Theodore. A guy like [Panthers goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom] could learn a heck of a lot from a guy like Scott Clemmensen. It's nice having guys not only game ready, but extremely mature professional players. It's been a pleasure dealing with all the goalies this year."
 
Some have said he has an advantage over the Devils, a team he spent five seasons with from 2001-02 through 2006-07 as a backup to Brodeur.
 
Does he think so?
 
"Maybe. I do probably know a little bit more of their tendencies having played with them, but I don't think that's a huge difference-maker," Clemmensen said. "This time of year, everyone is fighting so hard that it just comes down to winning. I think my unbeaten record against the Devils is mostly coincidence.
 
"I don't think I prepare any differently playing against these guys, want to win any more or try any harder than I do against other teams. It's so hard to win in this League, I don't care who you're playing. You go over everything at pre-scout meetings anyway … it's not something I know and am keeping to myself."
 
Devils forward Zach Parise feels Clemmensen is an even better goalie now than when he played for New Jersey.
 
"I think technically, he is," Parise said. "He played great when he was with us, but I think he's technically a better goalie now. He plays well against us, too. We'll have to make life a little harder for him."
 
Brodeur also praised Clemmensen.
 
"He's a great guy, worked really hard and is a good goalie," Brodeur said. "When I got hurt [during the 2008-09 season], he came in and, even though he didn't start the season with us, got himself back here and did really well for us. He earned a nice contract in Florida and now he's taking advantage of that."
 
Here is the probable Game 3 lineup for the Panthers:
 
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Jerred Smithson
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky
 
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
 
Scott Clemmensen
Jose Theodore
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

No change in Hossa's condition Thursday

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa's physical condition has not changed since being released from a hospital emergency room Tuesday night.

The Chicago Blackhawks' star forward was knocked to the ice on a check in the neutral zone by Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres in Game 3 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series at the United Center and taken off on a stretcher.

He left the hospital under his own power, but is said to have an upper body injury and will not play in Game 4 Thursday night. His prognosis for any further games is also unknown, as Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is keeping information on it closely guarded.

"There's no change," Quenneville said after Thursday's morning skate. "Spoke to him yesterday and he's feeling the same as the last two days. I'm not going to go any further with it than where we are today."
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I watched many times this year the series between the Russians and Canada in 1972, and he was a dominating player there. After I watched the tapes, I respect him a lot more because he turned the series around. He was the guy. In that time, he was the best in the world. It’s a big honor for me to tie him.

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