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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."


Rutherford sees Penguins headed in right direction

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 12:58 PM / 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Wes Crosby - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said he doesn't expect sweeping organizational changes this offseason.

Rutherford said Tuesday he was never concerned with his job status following his first season in Pittsburgh. After replacing Ray Shero in June, Rutherford said he planned on remaining the general manager for a few seasons while younger candidates were groomed.

He now does not have a definite timeline for his stay in Pittsburgh.

"We went through periods of time that were difficult. But it's part of my job," Rutherford said. "But overall, I haven't been here a full year yet and I do have a better lay of the land as to how things work here now. I have a much better handle on the team. How long do I plan on staying here? I don't know.

"But I certainly plan on staying here as we speak, and going into next season."


Five reasons Capitals advanced to second round

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 12:04 PM / Capitals vs Islanders - 2015 SCP First Round

Katie Brown - Correspondent

The Washington Capitals' ability to rebound from losses during the regular season served them well in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Capitals won every game following a loss during their best-of-7 series against the New York Islanders, which Washington won in seven games.

And for the first time since 2012, the Capitals advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they'll play the President's Trophy-winning New York Rangers.

Here are five reasons the Capitals advanced:


Flames doing their homework to prepare for Ducks

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 11:28 AM / Ducks vs Flames - 2015 SCP Second Round

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- After the Calgary Flames eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in six games in the Western Conference First Round, coach Bob Hartley took a moment to savor the victory.

Then he went back to work, scouting the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary's second-round opponent. Game 1 is Thursday at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

"We were at the office all day," Hartley said. "There is no time for celebrations for us. We already started our meetings [Monday]. We're going to have meetings until we leave for California. Our job is to prepare our team. They work so hard for us. Our job is to make sure that we dig for details, try to design a plan that will fit our team the best possible way, and after that, they are the performers.

"They've been the performers all year. It's been fun to watch them, to push them and to be around them. We're not going to change."

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Quote of the Day

It's a great feeling. I can't be more excited to be a part of a team that I absolutely love.

— Center Derek Stepan after agreeing to terms on a six-year contract with the New York Rangers