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Flyers must answer leadership, defense questions

Monday, 04.13.2015 / 7:32 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers believe a lack of consistency in a number of areas is what doomed them to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Playing harder didn't cure those ills. Instead of more hard play, what they might have needed was more hard talk.

During their final media availability Monday at their practice facility, a number of the players cited the season-long absence and eventual trade of defenseman Kimmo Timonen as a big reason for their inability to fix issues as they arose.

"Kimmo was such a big presence in the locker room," forward Jakub Voracek said. "Since I was here every time things didn't go well, we'd have a meeting about it and he always calmed things down. He was being hard on us as well sometimes. As a team we need to get better and I think that's what we were missing."

Confident Blackhawks excited to begin playoffs

Monday, 04.13.2015 / 7:02 PM / Predators vs Blackhawks - 2015 SCP First Round

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks lost four straight games to end the regular season, but they didn't look or sound like a team in a funk heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs at practice Monday.

Perhaps that was because it was right wing Patrick Kane's first full-contact practice since Feb. 24, when he fractured his left clavicle against the Florida Panthers.

The Blackhawks were a confident group, even several hours before they learned that Kane has been cleared to return for Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday.

"It was a good day today," said veteran center Brad Richards, who will play in Game 1 after missing the final three games with an upper-body injury. "Everybody was chatting, and it was loud out there, and the pace was probably the best pace we've had in a while.

"No matter how beat up you are or how sore you are, this time of year, players that play 82 games, you get through it and there's just a different level of energy for some reason that becomes available to the body. It's amazing what your mind can do with just excitement and a new beginning."

Blackhawks' Kane cleared to return for Game 1

Monday, 04.13.2015 / 6:23 PM / Predators vs Blackhawks - 2015 SCP First Round

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane has been cleared to play in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Nashville Predators, the Blackhawks announced.

Kane, who sustained a fractured left collarbone Feb. 24 against the Florida Panthers, was a full participant in practice Monday. It was the first time since his surgery Feb. 25 that he practiced without wearing a white, non-contact jersey.

“Patrick has been working extremely diligently with his rehabilitation and has recently returned to full-contact practice without any difficulty," Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement. "After discussions with Patrick and the team, and examining Patrick today, we collectively feel it is appropriate, with minimal risk, for him to return to full participation.”

Kane didn't take any full hits in practice Monday. He seemed unsure afterward whether he would be able to join the rest of the Blackhawks for their first game of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN360, CSN-CH, FS-TN).

"I'm not really sure," Kane said. "We're not at that point yet. That's something that has to be discussed with a lot of different people internally, and ultimately at the end I have to feel like I can play and feel good out there. I have to feel safe too. That's probably one of the most important things right now."

Capitals confident with Trotz behind bench for playoffs

Monday, 04.13.2015 / 5:42 PM / Capitals vs Islanders - 2015 SCP First Round

Katie Brown - Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and failing to advance past the Eastern Conference Second Round in six previous appearances, the Washington Capitals believe they have what it takes to go all the way.

"I think we're optimistic that the style we play is more suited to the playoffs than we've ever had in the past," Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said.

When the Capitals host the New York Islanders in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series on Wednesday, they'll be looking to start writing a new page to their history.

Once regarded as a one-dimensional offensive powerhouse, Washington has earned a reputation across the NHL as a tough, hard-hitting team that's still a scoring threat.

"In the past we were maybe sort of a rush team," forward Brooks Laich said. "I don't think we're as high flying, high octane [an] offense as we once were, but I think we're a lot more difficult to play against this way. It should bode well for a sustained playoff run."

Bruins humbled as postseason streak comes to end

Monday, 04.13.2015 / 4:20 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was blunt when asked to assess the season that concluded Saturday because the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins each won their games and eliminated the Bruins from contention for a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Well, what's failed, F? Because you know, if you don't make the playoffs, you've failed," Rask said at TD Garden on Monday. "You know, it doesn't matter what happened, if you don't make the playoffs you've failed. I mean, if we were to make the playoffs, who knows what could have happened. So the line there is very thin, and we really felt like we had a group of guys to make a good run in the playoffs. But we failed because we didn't make the playoffs and we'll never find out."

The Bruins, who held their breakup day Monday, had good reason to believe they might've had a run in them. Most of the core of the team was part of a Stanley Cup championship in 2011, an Eastern Conference title in 2013 and a Presidents' Trophy win 12 months ago. Boston reached the playoffs seven straight seasons before this one.

Hitchcock not revealing Game 1 goaltender for Blues

Monday, 04.13.2015 / 3:07 PM / Blues vs Wild - 2015 SCP First Round

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has kept everyone guessing regarding his starting goalie for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN360, FS-N, FW-MW, FS-WI).

The veteran coach continued the guessing game Monday, but judging by Hitchcock's comments after practice, veteran Brian Elliott may have the slight edge over Jake Allen as to who starts Game 1 at Scottrade Center.

Elliott, who made 23 saves to defeat the Wild 4-2 in the regular-season finale on Saturday, is 7-2-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .895 save percentage with two shutouts against Minnesota. He was 6-0-0 against the Wild before back-to-back losses against them, 3-1 on March 14 and 6-3 on March 21.

Allen, who is 4-1-1 overall in his past six starts, is 1-0-0 with a 2.38 GAA and .920 save percentage in two appearances (one start) against the Wild.

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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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