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Features

Rangers face pressure of being top seed in playoffs

Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 5:20 PM / Rangers vs Penguins - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Being the team with the best record in the NHL entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs is new for the New York Rangers. It's not for coach Alain Vigneault, who doesn't think the Rangers have any reason to feel differently than they did in the regular season.

"I believe that we've been hunted since Day One," Vigneault said. "Any time you've got the Stanley Cup champions or the Stanley Cup finalists, any team playing against them, and I used to do the same thing, you're telling your team, 'We've gotta use them as a benchmark.' I'm sure that's what the other 28 teams were doing when they were playing against us."

Vigneault speaks from experience. Twice he took the Vancouver Canucks into the playoffs after they won the Presidents' Trophy; the second time he did it the season after they reached the Stanley Cup Final.

The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Final last season after finishing second in the Metropolitan Division with 96 points. This season, New York won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 1993-94, when it last won the Cup, and set Rangers records for wins (53) and points (113).

What did 53 wins and 113 points get the Rangers? The opportunity to face Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series that starts Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, ROOT, MSG).

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Lack to start Game 1 for Canucks against Flames

Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 3:42 PM / Canucks vs Flames - 2015 SCP First Round

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER – Goaltender Eddie Lack will make his first Stanley Cup Playoff start for the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Calgary Flames (10 p.m. ET; CBC, USA, TVA), coach Willie Desjardins confirmed after the morning skate.

Most expected Lack to start because No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller is not fully recovered from a knee injury sustained on Feb. 22, but Desjardins wouldn't confirm it earlier in the week.

Now that he has, the questions shift to Lack not having any playoff experience. The easygoing Swede isn't worried about it.

"Not yet, no," Lack said when asked if he felt any extra nerves. "I've been trying to prepare as I have all season here and obviously there's a little more media in here but other than that I kind of feel normal."

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Wild's Dubnyk set for first Stanley Cup Playoff game

Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 2:38 PM / Blues vs Wild - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk has done a lot of things during his hockey career. One thing he hasn't: played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

That will change Thursday when Dubnyk starts for the Wild against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series at Scottrade Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-N, FS-WI, FS-MW).

It's a game that has been a long time coming for Dubnyk, who has played in 231 NHL games since entering the League in 2009, including 39 with the Wild since being acquired in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14.

The Wild were in 12th place in the Western Conference at the time of the trade, but a 27-9-2 stretch helped catapult the Wild to the top wild card.

Dubnyk will see what playoff hockey is like for the first time since six games with the Stockton Thunder in the ECHL playoffs in 2007.

"It's great, but you try not to think about it too much during the last stretch," Dubnyk said. "I've tried to embrace it a little bit this week, but at the same time, I think the most important thing is to just keep the same approach that we've had all year."

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Blues to start goalie Allen in Game 1 against Wild

Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 2:30 PM / Blues vs Wild - 2015 SCP First Round

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jake Allen was named as the St. Louis Blues' starting goaltender for Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round Series on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-N, FS-WI, FS-MW).

The 24-year-old, who has 1:07 of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a relief appearance in Game 2 of the 2012 Western Conference Second Round against the Los Angeles Kings, has been in a strong 1-2 tandem with veteran Brian Elliott all season.

But Allen's play of late -- he was 5-1-1 in his past seven starts with a 1.14 goals-against average and .957 save percentage -- was a deciding factor for Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. Allen has given up two goals or fewer in his past seven starts and one goal or fewer in eight of his past 12.

"It’s his turn," Hitchcock said. "Both guys earned our healthy respect. We made the decision to go with Jake. He's going to play in Game 1.

"Jake got really hot down the stretch, which was good for us because we needed it. Just his overall development and the way he played in the last month, we want to give him a chance to go in the playoffs. Both guys earned the right to play in the playoffs, both guys need to stay sharp."

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Rangers' Nash misses practice because of flu

Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 1:46 PM / Rangers vs Penguins - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers forward Rick Nash missed practice Wednesday because of the flu, a team spokesperson said.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he expects Nash will be able to play Thursday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA, ROOT, MSG).

"He'll be fine [Thursday]," Vigneault said. "He just wasn't feeling well."

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Canadiens' Pacioretty won't play Game 1 vs. Senators

Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 12:42 PM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Sean Farrell - NHL.com Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens will not have leading scorer Max Pacioretty in their lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA, ROOT, MSG).

Montreal coach Michel Therrien confirmed Pacioretty will not play after the Canadiens morning skate at their suburban practice facility.

Pacioretty led the Canadiens this season with 37 goals and 67 points and had a plus-38 rating that tied for the NHL lead. Therrien said it was possible the 26-year-old left wing would be able to return for Game 2 on Friday.

"Like I said at the beginning of the week, we'll take him when he's back at 100 percent," Therrien said. "It was possible that it would have been [Wednesday], but that's obviously not the case. It could be Friday, it could be Sunday, so as soon as we get the OK from the medical team we'll be very happy to have him back in the lineup."

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Goaltender Matchup: Inside Price vs. Hammond

Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 12:00 PM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. NHL.com decided to break down perhaps the most interesting goaltending matchup in the Eastern Conference First Round: Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens vs. Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators.

Much like many goaltending coaches will do before a playoff series, NHL.com correspondent Kevin Woodley, the managing editor of InGoal Magazine, charted every goal scored against each goalie in this matchup this season with the help of a program from Double Blue Sport Analytics. The graphics showing where the goals went in are nice, but the real value is tracking and analyzing the types of plays that led to them, and whether they reveal strengths, weaknesses and tendencies that can be targeted.

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Sense of humor helps Senators coach Cameron

Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Chris Stevenson - NHL.com Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Dave Cameron is a funny guy.

No, really, he is.

The Ottawa Senators coach often projects an all-business approach behind the bench, eyes steely behind his metal-framed glasses, with a couple of fiery rants thrown in during the unprecedented late-season run to a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

When the Senators clinched with a win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, Cameron unleashed an enthusiastic fist pump.

He was asked if he was pretty emotional at that moment.

"I'd say human? I am human," he said. "You don't see it, but we show it a lot. That's one of the things in this business is that you get portrayed a certain way because people see you periodically. Unless you spend every day with somebody, you really don't really know what they're like. My perception has always been that I'm real stern. I call it matter-of-fact. I tell you what I think.

"I think if you talk to most people they'd tell you one of my biggest strengths is my sense of humor."

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Canucks back dealing with playoff goalie questions

Tuesday, 04.14.2015 / 10:24 PM / Canucks vs Flames - 2015 SCP First Round

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- It wouldn't be the Stanley Cup Playoffs here without questions about goaltending.

With memories of Roberto Luongo-Cory Schneider controversies lingering, first-year Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins wouldn't reveal his starting goalie for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday (10 p.m ET; CBC, USA, TVA Sports).

All signs point to Eddie Lack starting ahead of Ryan Miller, if for no other reason than Miller said he is not fully recovered from spraining his right knee Feb. 22. Desjardins said Miller is ready to play when needed, but the coach isn't about to reveal whether that will be in Game 1.

"It makes a difference knowing which goaltenders are going to start, and this time of year you look for all the advantages you can get," Desjardins said. "It's not that you don't want to share information, but you want to win, so you try to find every edge."

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First playoff trip for most of Flames roster

Tuesday, 04.14.2015 / 9:12 PM / Canucks vs Flames - 2015 SCP First Round

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

CALGARY -- It's about enthusiasm, not inexperience. Open minds, not star-struck eyes.

It's the message Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley delivered to his players about to skate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time.

"Our team is built on passion. Willingness to compete, willingness to suffer, and that's our DNA, that's our culture," Hartley said. "I wish I could go to the local pharmacy and buy some experience, but I can't. You have to earn this, but that's the only part missing. On the other side, we have great leadership and we have great will. That's been our story all year and we're not going to change it."

The Flames, in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, have little experience on their side heading into Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; CBC, USA, TVA Sports).

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Quote of the Day

I think everyone left it out there. Every game this season, regular season and playoffs, we played as hard as we could. We're not out of the playoffs right now because of lack of effort, and that's all that we can ask of each other.

— Predators defenseman Seth Jones after Nashville was eliminated by Chicago in Game 6 on Saturday