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X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

X-Factor: Dwight King is the toast of L.A.

Saturday, 05.26.2012 / 12:32 AM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

Dwight King
Left Wing - LAK
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 5
SOG: 20 | +/-: 1

Only the most diehard Kings fans -- those who follow the fortunes of the team's American Hockey League franchise in Manchester, N.H. -- knew about Dwight King when the Stanley Cup Playoffs started in April.

Today, as June looms, King is the toast of Hollywood.

King was called up during the season to give the Kings a dose of size as the team fought for its playoff life down the stretch. In 27 regular-season games, he managed five goals.

X-Factor: Defensive stalwart Salvador adding points

Friday, 05.25.2012 / 11:50 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

When the hype machine for the Vancouver-Boston Stanley Cup Final was kicking into high gear last May, Bryce Salvador had just arrived in Minnesota, where he has a summer home, still with no guarantees that he would ever be able to resume his playing career.

Salvador sat out the entire 2010-11 season with a concussion. The Devils missed him as they failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs thanks to a gruesome first half of the season when they went 10-29-2.

Fast forward to now, and Salvador is preparing to play in his first Stanley Cup Final without missing a single game this season. He's not only worked his way back to his pre-concussion form of being a solid, reliable defender on the blue line, but Salvador has shown in these playoffs that he can throw his weight around in the attacking zone, too.

X-Factor: Richards' experience could propel Rangers

Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 10:08 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

It may seem redundant calling a Conn Smythe Trophy winner a key piece for the New York Rangers as they enter the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils.

Brad Richards
Center - NYR
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 10
SOG: 51 | +/-: -1
But in a postseason that has seen its share of unbelievable moments, Rangers center Brad Richards has had a knack for being in the right place. It's something he's done throughout his career.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have crowned numerous big-game heroes, but few players left in this year's postseason have had more clutch performances than Richards. It's easy to lose sight of that because he's competing in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, when he led the Stars to the Western Conference Finals, but his career has been full of big plays.

Richards' flair for the dramatic started during his Stanley Cup run with Tampa Bay in 2004. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Philadelphia, Richards assisted on both goals in a 2-1 Bolts win.

X-Factor: Clarkson brings grinding, tenacious style

Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 10:06 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

David Kalan - NHL.com Staff Writer

As the New Jersey Devils eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, the goal that clinched their Game 5 win was emblematic of the series as a whole.

David Clarkson
Right Wing - NJD
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 8
SOG: 28 | +/-: 6
As Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov looked to play the puck from his crease with 7:15 to go in the first period, he was frozen by a New Jersey forechecker and hastily attempted a pass that bounced off the forechecker's stick and ended up in the net.

The Devils' voracious forecheck is the reason they didn't just defeat the Flyers, but did so convincingly, and few have done it better than David Clarkson, the man on the spot in that exact moment. That ability to apply pressure and knack for producing offensively is what makes Clarkson the X-Factor for the Devils as they go for their first Stanley Cup Final berth in nine years.

X-Factor: Vermette offers Coyotes more than scoring

Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 6:27 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

When the Phoenix Coyotes acquired Antoine Vermette from Columbus in late February, they expected him to add depth and playmaking to a group of forwards that had been having trouble scoring. But he's provided much more than offense during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Before this spring, Vermette's last playoff win had come in Game 3 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, which his Senators lost in five games to Anaheim. Vermette recorded no points and was minus-8 in eight playoff games with Columbus in 2008 and Ottawa in 2010 -- all losses. But with Phoenix, Vermette has been an unlikely offensive catalyst for a team that has won its first two series since moving to the desert from Winnipeg in 1996.

Antoine Vermette
Center - PHX
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 9
SOG: 17 | +/-: 1
In the first round against Chicago, Vermette was a major contributor, scoring three power-play goals, including one in Game 6 that effectively wrapped up the series for the Coyotes. That hot play continued against the Nashville Predators, as the eight-year veteran opened the second-round series with three points in two games. His best all-around performance may have come in Game 2, when he collected a goal and an assist while winning 13 of 20 faceoffs in a 5-3 win. After going scoreless in Games 3 and 4, the first time all postseason he had gone without a point in consecutive games, Vermette again made big plays in Game 5, assisting on Derek Morris' opening tally, a goal that put the Coyotes on their way to a 2-1 victory and their first trip to the conference finals since entering the NHL in 1979

X-Factor: Scuderi could be Kings' difference maker

Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 4:31 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

David Kalan - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Kings have been lighting the lamp to the impressive tune of three goals per game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but for a team that scored the second-fewest goals in the League during the regular season and is about to face an opponent -- and a goalie -- that hasn't been giving up very many lately, that seems almost certain to change in the Western Conference Finals.

That means Los Angeles is going to have to win with its defense, and while Jonathan Quick has been stellar in net his defensemen will still need to put him in position to succeed. Out of all the blueliners on the Kings, just one has a championship pedigree. That kind of experience, as well as his role on the Kings' top defensive pair, makes Rob Scuderi the X-Factor for L.A. as it looks to reach its first Stanley Cup Final in 19 years.

Rob Scuderi
Defense - LAK
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 1
SOG: 6 | +/-: 5
Scuderi has known both the ecstasy and the agony of a Stanley Cup Final, reaching the championship round in both 2008 and 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He wasn't known for his offensive contributions during those postseason runs, notching a total of eight points over a combined 44 games, and that's still the case as Scuderi has just one point this spring. But in 2008 and 2009 Scuderi was a defensive force, helping to shut down opposition forwards while putting together a solid plus-5 rating in each postseason.

X-Factor: From BC to Rangers' lineup for Kreider

Friday, 04.27.2012 / 5:59 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

When the Rangers asked 20-year-old Chris Kreider to forego his senior season at Boston College to join the club just before the start of the postseason, there were no expectations for him to make an immediate impact.

Coach John Tortorella admitted he knew nothing about the kid but was excited to have him in the fold. But with the Rangers entering the playoffs as the Eastern Conference's top team and injury free, there wasn't an opening for Kreider.

A three-game suspension to Carl Hagelin opened the door for Kreider, and he has stormed through it. He had the winning goal in Game 6 with the Rangers trailing the Senators 3-2 in the best-of-seven series and was a factor in the Rangers' first goal in a Game 7 win.

X-Factor: Gustafsson pushing for permanent spot

Friday, 04.27.2012 / 4:13 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Erik Gustafsson
Defense - PHI
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 2 | +/-: 3

Flyers rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson spent his first professional season learning the route between Philadelphia and Glens Falls, N.Y., home of the Flyers' American Hockey League team, the Adirondack Phantoms.

Called up five different times, Gustafsson had one goal and four assists in 30 games. However, each time he earned a return trip to the AHL

With the performance he had in Game 6 of the Flyers' first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he might have earned permanent residency in the NHL.

In his second game filling in for the injured Nicklas Grossmann, Gustafsson played 22:09, blocked a team-high seven shots and scored a long goal that served as a dagger to the heart of the Penguins.

X-Factor: Semin showing two-way ability for Caps

Friday, 04.27.2012 / 12:21 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Alexander Semin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 3
SOG: 16 | +/-: -3

The Washington Capitals beat the defending champion Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs with great defense and goaltending. They didn't score a lot, but they scored enough.

While Braden Holtby was the breakout star for Washington, Joel Ward was the Game 7 hero in overtime and Alex Ovechkin drew plenty of attention for his seven-contest war with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, someone else was quietly the team's best two-way player for most of the series.

Alexander Semin has typically only received attention in the playoffs for what he wasn't doing -- he didn't score a goal in Washington's second-round loss to Pittsburgh in 2009 and followed that up with an 0-for-44 shooting percentage in an upset loss to Montreal the following year.

X-Factor: Zajac a solid Devils-Flyers rivalry addition

Friday, 04.27.2012 / 11:16 AM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

Travis Zajac
Center - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 15 | +/-: 0

As Atlantic Division rivals, the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers played their customary six games during the 2011-12 regular season, with each team winning three times.

One player the Flyers didn't see in any of those meetings was Devils center Travis Zajac.

When the teams faced off on opening night, Zajac was in the middle of rehabbing an Achilles injury that required surgery over the summer. During their second-half matchups, Zajac again was out of the lineup -- he returned for eight games in late December and early January, but then was forced to miss an additional 37 games -- on top of the 30 he sat out at the start of the season -- after the injury flared up again.

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