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Penguins save chance for revenge against Rangers

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Rangers vs Penguins - 2015 SCP First Round

NHL.com

The Eastern Conference First Round series between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins pits the Presidents' Trophy winners against a team that slumped to the finish line and didn't clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until the last day of the season.

That's one way to look at it.

The other way is, it's a rematch of one of the most memorable series from last season's playoffs.

The Rangers rallied from 3-1 down against the Penguins to win the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series in seven games.

The Penguins, who needed a 2-0 win Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres to get into the 2015 playoffs, have to be thinking about revenge.

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Canadiens' Subban thrives in villain role

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- P.K. Subban doesn't understand where it comes from, but he's not complaining.

Almost every time the Montreal Canadiens defenseman plays in a visiting NHL rink he is booed, a phenomenon that grows in intensity during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And Subban thrives on it.

Except if you ask him about the booing, Subban acts like an innocent victim.

An innocent, perfectly willing victim.

"We always use Boston because we have the most games against them in the playoffs, but I didn't go there and ask them to boo me," Subban said. "I didn't ask them to do that. They started doing that. I didn't ask them to hate me."

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More mature Fleury X-factor for Penguins

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Rangers vs Penguins - 2015 SCP First Round

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

The Pittsburgh Penguins face plenty of questions entering the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But for once, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is not among those concerns.

Throughout a season filled with injuries, inconsistency and upheaval, Fleury has been arguably Pittsburgh's most consistent player. The Penguins, considered one of the NHL's more potent offensive teams, struggled to routinely score three or more goals following a hot first two months, which they finished 16-5-2. Pittsburgh dropped off considerably since that start but was able to hold on to a playoff berth thanks in large part to Fleury's impressive play.

"I think that [Fleury] is maybe the most talented goalie I've ever played with," said defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who was traded back to the Penguins from the Anaheim Ducks at the NHL Trade Deadline. "Incredibly athletic, fun to play in front of, works very hard. And he's a great teammate and guy. I think you can see his maturity level since I've been back. I don't want to say [he's] more focused, but I feel like he does a better job letting go if something goes wrong.

"The other team is trying really hard all the time. They really want to score on him. It's a hockey game. You're going to try to win 3-2 most nights, and I think he's realized other teams are going to get one. They might get two, and I think that he's much more stable and ready to bounce back."

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Forward Eller X-factor for Canadiens

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

The snow in Montreal has thawed, and so has Lars Eller's game.

The Montreal Canadiens center completed a regular season remarkably similar to the previous one in terms of his disappointing offensive production.

Now Eller is hoping he also can perform as well in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as he did last season. If he does, he could be the difference between an early exit and another deep run for the Canadiens.

Eller was ninth in scoring last season for the Canadiens with 26 points in 77 games but led their forwards with 13 points in 17 playoff games, helping to propel Montreal to the Eastern Conference Final.

This season, he finished ninth in scoring with 27 points in 76 games.

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Coyle's physical play X-factor for Wild

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Blues vs Wild - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle isn’t playing the way he’s supposed to, he knows he’s going to hear it from his coach.

That coach? His dad, Chuck, sitting on his couch back home in East Weymouth, Mass.

"He was my coach every team I played for up until high school," Coyle said. "Even now, he’s still my coach. I talk to him after every game. He likes to keep his distance and let me do my thing, but he likes to pitch in and I like it when he does. He knows the game, he watches every game and he sees what I’m doing out there. He helps me a lot."

When Coyle is at his best, he plays a grinding, physical style that suits his 6-foot-3 frame. That’s not to say he isn’t skilled. His goal on Jan. 27 against the Edmonton Oilers, when he raced down the left wall, around a defenseman and past the goaltender, only to reach back and tuck it inside the post from behind the net is one of the impressive goals scored all season.

But it all starts with physicality. If he’s using his body, the rest seems to fall into place.

"For some reason, when I do that, I just get engaged in the game," Coyle said. "Everything picks up after that."

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Streaky Hoffman X-factor for surging Senators

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Chris Stevenson - NHL.com Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Rookie forward Mike Hoffman led the Ottawa Senators with 27 goals this season, and that was after being demoted to the fourth line at times down the stretch.

The Senators are going to need the 25-year-old, who was chosen in the fifth round (No. 130) of the 2009 NHL Draft, to give them scoring depth if they are going to have success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That might sound like a funny thing to write about Ottawa’s leading goal-scorer, but consistency and play away from the puck have been issues for Hoffman.

When he hasn't been going hard to the net or paying enough attention to defense, that's when coach Dave Cameron has shuffled the lines.

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Capitals, Islanders set for first series in 22 years

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Capitals vs Islanders - 2015 SCP First Round

NHL.com

One of the great old Patrick Division rivalries is back on center stage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 22 years.

The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders haven't met in the playoffs since the 1993 Patrick Division Semifinals, a series most remembered for Dale Hunter's hit on Pierre Turgeon late in Game 6, which the Islanders won to eliminate the Capitals.

The Islanders have won five out of the six playoff series between the two teams, including three straight from 1983-85. New York won the Stanley Cup in 1983, the last of its run of four straight championships. The Islanders also advanced to the Final in 1984.

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Why the Flames will win the Stanley Cup

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Canucks vs Flames - 2015 SCP First Round

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Calgary Flames are not supposed to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They weren't supposed to contend in the season after picking fourth in the 2014 NHL Draft. They weren't supposed to get enough offense from their top forward line of 20-year-old Sean Monahan, rookie Johnny Gaudreau, and veteran Jiri Hudler.

The Flames weren't supposed to stay in the playoff race when they lost captain Mark Giordano, their best defenseman, to injury. When Giordano sustained a biceps injury on Feb. 25, the Flames were not in a playoff position.

Calgary hasn't let everything it wasn't supposed to do stop it from making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so why stop now? The Flames will parlay riding the momentum of playing a quarter of the season fighting for a spot in the playoffs into winning the Stanley Cup.

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Why the Ducks will win the Stanley Cup

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Ducks vs Jets - 2015 SCP First Round

David Satriano - NHL.com Staff Writer

Not much went wrong for the Anaheim Ducks this season. They won the Pacific Division for the third consecutive season and finished as the top seed in the Western Conference with 109 points and 51 wins.

Anaheim hasn't advanced to the Western Conference Final since 2007, when they won the Stanley Cup. Last season, the Ducks were the top seed in the West but lost in the second round to the Los Angeles Kings; but this team is much improved and will win the Stanley Cup this time.

Playoff teams need to win close games, and the Ducks have proven they can do that. Anaheim was 33-1-7 in one-goal games this season.

"We certainly want bigger and better things for our group," coach Bruce Boudreau said April 1 after the Ducks defeated the Edmonton Oilers to win the division. "We know it’s not going to be easy, but that's what we're striving for. … I'll be happy, believe me, if we win our last playoff game."

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Yzerman's Lightning take on Red Wings in first round

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Lightning vs Red Wings - 2015 SCP First Round

NHL.com

Steve Yzerman is a hockey icon because of his career with the Detroit Red Wings. Now he’s built a team that will try to topple his former franchise.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, with Yzerman as general manager, will face the Red Wings in an Eastern Conference First Round series.

Tampa Bay set a Lightning record with 108 points and finished second in the Atlantic Division. Detroit has qualified for the playoffs 24 consecutive seasons, or two more than the Lightning have been in existence. The Red Wings reached 100 points for the 17th time since 1992-93 and finished third in the Atlantic.

One of the marquee matchups in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is sure to be Steven Stamkos against Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Stamkos finished with the second-most goals in the NHL but he is likely to encounter a lot of two of the best defensive forwards in the sport.

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Quote of the Day

Hockey means everything to people here [Winnipeg]. They take their team's success to heart. We've had an incredible year and they've given us incredible support.

— Jets center Mathieu Perreault after losing to the Ducks in Game 3 of their playoff series on Monday