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Moved to top line, St. Louis is Rangers' X-factor

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 4:50 PM / X-Factor

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It's not new to see New York Rangers right wing Martin St. Louis stay on the ice after practice longer than any of his teammates, as he did Monday and Tuesday. He's built a potential Hall of Fame resume by constantly working on his game, shooting puck after puck after puck to hone his best skill.

This week, though, St. Louis has taken a single-minded approach to the extra work he's putting in before and after practice in preparation for the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Washington Capitals, which begins Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Bolts, Wings cap first round with Game 7 showdown

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 4:13 PM / Lightning vs Red Wings - 2015 SCP First Round

NHL Public Relations

NEW YORK -- The First Round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs reaches a dramatic conclusion Wednesday when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings contest Game 7 in their series finale (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA2). The Lightning will be competing in the fifth Game 7 in franchise history and first since 2011, while the Red Wings will be playing their 25th such game and seventh since 2009.

The winner of Wednesday's game will face the Atlantic Division champion Montreal Canadiens in the Second Round.

Rangers brace for new-look, more physical Capitals

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 3:58 PM / Rangers vs Capitals - 2015 SCP Second Round

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The rivalry between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals is real. There is no denying that.

It's a rivalry built from four meetings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a span of five years from 2009-13. It's a rivalry built from three seven-game series, from comebacks and from six postseason overtime games, including one that went three extra periods.

But it's also a rivalry that likely will take on a different look in the 2015 Eastern Conference Second Round, which begins with Game 1 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Rangers and Capitals have undergone drastic changes in personnel and style since they played in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

"I can't see it resembling anything from two years ago," Rangers left wing Rick Nash said. "New coaches, new systems, and the game evolves in two years."

Late surge has Senators feeling good about future

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 3:46 PM / 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Chris Stevenson - Correspondent

OTTAWA -- The numbness the Ottawa Senators felt after the abrupt end of their season Sunday had given way to optimism by Tuesday.

After an unprecedented rally over the final two months of the regular season to earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the young Senators were eliminated in the Eastern Conference First Round in six games by the Montreal Canadiens.

The Senators were 14 points out of a playoff spot on Feb. 10, but bolstered by the emergence of goaltender Andrew Hammond, a 27-year-old undrafted free agent, they finished the season 23-4-4 to earn the first wild card.

Hammond started his NHL career 20-1-2 in the regular season before giving way to veteran Craig Anderson after the Senators lost the first two games against the Canadiens.

"A lot of great things that happened, but it's always tough coming to the rink when other teams are still playing," Hammond said as the players gathered for exit and media interviews.

Predators optimistic about foundation, future

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 3:31 PM / 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Robby Stanley - Correspondent

NASHVILLE – The Nashville Predators feel this season was the first step in what could be the start of something special.

The Predators lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they believe the experience gained by their young core of players forecasts a bright future. Nashville finished second in the Central Division to qualify for the postseason for the first time in three seasons.

"Through the year and along the way, I think we did a lot of good things," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said Tuesday. "Certainly our regular season, we finished sixth overall in the National Hockey League. Inside of that, there's always highs and lows, but if you look at it and package it into an 82-game season, certainly that's an accomplishment."

Hitchcock to reflect before deciding future with Blues

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 3:08 PM / 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Louie Korac - Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Ken Hitchcock was non-committal about his future as St. Louis Blues coach Tuesday, two days after their latest appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs came to a disappointing end.

Hitchcock does not have a contract beyond the 2014-15 season, his fourth with the Blues. At the end of the three previous seasons, he expressed optimism about returning and making a bigger impact moving forward.

On Tuesday, he did not.

"I need time. I need time to reflect right now," Hitchcock, 63, said. "I need some time to evaluate right now what I've done, what I've accomplished and what's happened to us both positive -- a lot of it -- and the negative, which goes along with the territory. I feel like I've let people down right now and I need to think about that and what needs to improve. I want time and space to evaluate it.

Wild ready for different style of play from Blackhawks

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 2:30 PM / Blackhawks vs Wild - 2015 SCP Second Round

Dan Myers - Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild are preparing for a much different challenge than they faced in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Wild will open their best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Minnesota will jump headfirst into the series Wednesday. The players had off entirely Monday and had an off-ice workout and optional skate Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.

Wild coach Mike Yeo said they escaped their six-game win against the St. Louis Blues relatively healthy, but the days off between the end of that series and the start of the next one will help heal some bumps and bruises.

Rangers set to renew playoff rivalry with Capitals

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 2:25 PM / Rangers vs Capitals - 2015 SCP Second Round

Familiar opponents in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will meet again, this time in the Eastern Conference Second Round. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals will play in a playoff series for the fifth time since 2009.

No teams have played against one another more in the playoffs the past seven seasons.

The Rangers got to the second round by defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games. The Capitals needed a goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov late in the third period of Game 7 on Monday to eliminate the New York Islanders.

The Rangers haven't played since Friday. They took the weekend off and kept waiting and watching to find out who they'd play next. Now that they know it's the Capitals, they'll try to defeat them in a playoff series for the third time in four years. Game 1 is at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Flames goalie Hiller intrigued to face Ducks

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 1:38 PM / Ducks vs Flames - 2015 SCP Second Round

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- After spending seven seasons trying to help the Anaheim Ducks win the Stanley Cup, the opportunity to eliminate the Ducks from the Western Conference Second Round is intriguing to Calgary Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller.

"I can't deny that it's definitely something special," Hiller said with a bit of a grin. "It's going to be different than playing any other team. At the same time, you have to prepare yourself to play as well as you can and hopefully win as many games as possible.

"It's almost like going back to somewhere where you felt at home. You've been away and you come back and it's going to be a different situation, but certain things are going to feel really familiar. Knowing a lot of people in hockey and outside of hockey there, I think that makes it a little special. I don't know if it's different emotion or anything, but it will be different than playing any other team."

Blackhawks' Crawford puts difficult first round in past

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 1:11 PM / Blackhawks vs Wild - 2015 SCP Second Round

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Corey Crawford is ready to move forward.

The Chicago Blackhawks goalie will start Game 1 of their best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round series against the Minnesota Wild on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports), and hitting the reset button is all he cares about.

A turbulent series against the Nashville Predators in the first round is history to Crawford, who was pulled after one period in Game 1, lost his starting job to rookie Scott Darling for four games, and relieved Darling in Game 6 to close the series.

"I think I've answered enough questions about that," Crawford said after practice Monday. "It's done … it's done. We're moving on. Me and Scotty are both pushing each other. We want to push each other to be at our best, and we're just going to do the same thing we've done all year."

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Quote of the Day

Well, for me this one's concerning, the way we performed. Because three games in, playing a desperate team on the road, I was expecting something else than this. Right now, I'm just disappointed. The other games, I thought we did some things that you can build off your game. There wasn't a lot accomplished in tonight's game.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards after a 4-2 loss to the Sabres on Monday dropped Columbus to 0-3-0
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