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X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

X-Factor: Preds needs offense from Kostitsyns

Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 11:08 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

The Nashville Predators acquired Andrei Kostitsyn from Montreal at the trade deadline with the hope that playing with his younger brother Sergei would reinvigorate him.

The move worked, as Andrei clicked upon arrival in Nashville, totaling 12 points in 19 regular-season games. He added a goal and an assist in five playoff games against the Detroit Red Wings.

Now the Predators hope Sergei Kostitsyn can re-discover his scoring touch.

X-Factor: Hanzal puts more bite in Coyotes' attack

Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 10:11 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

It's no surprise that two of the Phoenix Coyotes' best offensive games in the first round were in Games 1 and 6. Those were the two games the Coyotes had top-line center Martin Hanzal healthy from beginning to end.

Martin Hanzal
Center - PHX
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 6 | +/-: 0
Hanzal started the Coyotes rolling to their first-round series win against the Chicago Blackhawks by using his two biggest strengths in Game 1. With 10:37 left in overtime, Hanzal beat the Hawks' Marcus Krueger on a faceoff to the right of the Chicago goal. He won the puck back to Rostislav Klesla, who shot wide, but the rebound went to Adrian Aucoin, who fired a shot from the right point. Hanzal parked his 6-foot-6, 236-pound body in the low slot and deflected the shot past Corey Crawford the winning goal.

But in Game 2, he left after just three shifts with a lower-body injury that kept him out for Games 3, 4 and 5. He returned in Game 6, and while he didn't get on the scoresheet, he kept Crawford from seeing Oliver Ekman-Larsson's shot for the game's first goal en route to a 4-0 series-clinching win.

X-Factor: Blues a better team when Perron chips in

Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 5:20 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

When David Perron joined the Blues' lineup in December after getting over his concussion issues, it invigorated the team's offense.

For the Blues to advance past the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Semifinals, he'll have to make a similar impact.

Perron was second on the team with 21 goals while playing just 57 regular-season games, but contributed just one goal and two assists in the Blues' five-game first-round series win against the San Jose Sharks.

The goal was a big one, however. Just 45 seconds after Jamie Langenbrunner scored at 11:16 of the third period to tie Game 5, Perron fed a pass to Alex Pietrangelo at the right point in the San Jose end, and then skated through the high slot to redirect Pietrangelo's shot past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi for the go-ahead goal with 8:59 left in regulation.

The hope is he can rediscover that flair for the dramatic in the second round.

X-Factor: Kings need Penner to play to his potential

Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 4:33 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Dustin Penner
Left Wing - LAK
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 6 | +/-: 2

Dustin Penner only said what a lot of hockey people have thought for a while when he recently told a Los Angeles Times reporter, "I don't know if you watched me but I used to be a good player."

He was a pretty good player in the Kings' five-game Western Conference Quarterfinal series win against the Vancouver Canucks. He scored the winning goal in Game 1, and he set up Trevor Lewis' goal in Game 2. He also threw his 6-foot-4, 222-pound body around for 11 hits.

It was a pretty good contribution, one the Kings certainly could use more of if they hope to lengthen their stay in the postseason.

X-Factor: Coburn has developed into glue on blue line

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

When Braydon Coburn arrived in Philadelphia in 2007, he was viewed as big, rangy, offensive-minded defenseman with outstanding skating ability.

Five years later, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Coburn has emerged as the Flyers' top shut-down defenseman, using his world-class speed to blanket opposing scorers and skate the puck out of trouble in the defensive zone.

Coburn's performance against the best players from other teams has been a major reason for Philadelphia's success this season. It has also been an absolute necessity in the absence of Chris Pronger, who has been out for all but a few games this season and has been ruled out of returning during the postseason.

X-Factor: Smith's breakout year could be difference

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

Solid goaltending is always vital in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Mike Smith has provided that for the Coyotes throughout this season.

Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 38-18-10
GAA: 2.21 | SVP: 0.930
While many thought Phoenix would take a step back after Ilya Bryzgalov headed to Philadelphia for greener pastures, Smith stepped in and saw to it that Phoenix didn't even miss a beat.

Bryzgalov, you'll recall, won 130 games during the course of four seasons in the desert and helped the Coyotes make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2010 and 2011. He was ultimately replaced by Smith, who had never won more than 14 games in a season at the NHL level.

X-Factor: Radulov's return adds to Preds' offense

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

John Manasso - Correspondent

Alexander Radulov's return to the NHL has been a whirlwind.

In a stunning turn of events, Radulov, playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, was allowed to return to the NHL after the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline -- and without having to pass through waivers -- because he was still under contract to the Nashville Predators, the team on which he had walked out on four years earlier. With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Radulov didn't get a ton of time to acclimate.

Nonetheless, he has made the most of his opportunity. In his first eight games, Radulov had points in five (three goals, three assists) and in one of the two in which he did not he conjured the shootout winner.

X-Factor: Cooke's new mindset key for Penguins

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

Matt Cooke has changed his game and his mindset. Perhaps in doing so, he has begun to alter the once very negative perception of him around the NHL.

To Cooke, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward who has long had the reputation of being a player with a pronounced edge and nastiness to his game, it's encouraging that he has made others around the League realize he does more than look for the big hit.

What Cooke would most like to do is be a game-changer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he has had mixed success. Cooke's ability to shift roles seemingly from shift to shift -- he can transform instantly from a goal scorer to a blanketing defender -- might just allow him to be an impact player during the postseason.

X-Factor: A healthy Higgins plays key role for Canucks

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

If Chris Higgins has learned one thing during a nomadic eight-year NHL career, it's the importance of not changing his game despite changing addresses.

It's a lesson that served the wing well while bouncing up and down -- and often on both sides of -- the Canucks' forward lines this year. Despite the ever-changing circumstances and an 11-game absence caused by staph infections, higgins approached the 20-goal plateau.

X-Factor: Pavelski's dirty work should help Sharks

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM / X-Factors - 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

Sharks captain Joe Thornton calls forward Joe Pavelski a "dirty player." And yes, that's a huge compliment.

"He just gets in dirty areas," Thornton said. "He wills himself in front of the net. A lot of guys don't want to necessarily go there. But he's made a living going to the front of the net."

Pavelski doesn't command as much of the Sharks' spotlight as Thornton, Patrick Marleau or first-time All-Star Logan Couture, but he could make a huge impact in San Jose's first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series with his gritty play and knack for getting the puck on his stick in front of the opponent's net.

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