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Blackhawks know penalty kill must be better vs. Wild

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 5:26 PM / Blackhawks vs Wild - 2015 SCP Second Round

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Penalty killing was a big reason the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the Stanley Cup Playoffs the previous two years.

It might be key again heading into a third straight postseason series between the Central Division rivals, which starts at United Center on Friday in Game 1 of a Western Conference Second Round series (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2).

The Blackhawks, who struggled to kill penalties at the end of the regular season, didn't improve in their Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators. They rank 13th among playoff teams, allowing six power-play goals in 22 times shorthanded (72.7 percent) and know they have to improve quickly. The Wild scored four power-play goals in 12 opportunities against the St. Louis Blues in the first round and their 33.3 percent success rate leads playoff teams.

"When it doesn't work you always try to make some adjustments," Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger said Wednesday after practice. "We're not happy with how that series went in [the penalty-killing] aspect, but we have a new chance here playing Minnesota. They've got a good power play, so we have to get better in that area to be successful."

Assertiveness makes Johansson Capitals' X-factor

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 4:45 PM / X-Factor

Katie Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz gave a simple piece of advice to forward Marcus Johansson: Shoot the puck more.

It worked. Johansson set NHL career highs in goals (20) and points (47) this season.

"I've always kind of been a pass-first guy, but I think shooting more, that creates more room for myself," Johansson said. "It's been fun. Scoring is fun and I don't mind doing it."

Coming off last season season when he scored eight goals, two at even strength, Johansson was frustrated, but Trotz, in his first season with Washington, knew he could help.

"One of the things I thought with Marcus is he needed to shoot more," Trotz said. "I thought Marcus had more to give in his game. He's a tremendously talented, very, very bright player."

Matchups make Vanek Wild's X-factor vs. Blackhawks

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 3:54 PM / Blackhawks vs Wild - 2015 SCP Second Round

Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks are not strangers when it comes to Stanley Cup Playoff hockey.

Wild forward Thomas Vanek, however, is new to the matchup, and could be a difference-maker.

For the third consecutive season, the Central Division rivals will play in the postseason, this time in the Western Conference Second Round for the second consecutive year.

Game 1 is Friday at United Center in Chicago (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Blues players, management bracing for change

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 3:51 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It's a question the St. Louis Blues were hoping to avoid after past Stanley Cup Playoff failures but one that became unavoidable following another defeat in the Western Conference First Round.

What's next?

That's the lingering question the Blues can't seem to shake following a third straight defeat in the first round, this one against the Minnesota Wild, who will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.

According to players, they expect personnel change, which made saying goodbye tougher.

"More saying goodbye to everybody when you know that there's guys that won't be here next year in the locker room," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "You just kind of have to deal with that harsh reality that things are going to change. It's never easy to really to deal with that."

Canadiens' Beaulieu out at least next four games

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 3:33 PM / Canadiens vs Lightning - 2015 SCP Second Round

Sean Farrell - NHL.com Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu will miss at least the first four games of their Eastern Conference Second Round series.

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin made the announcement after practice Wednesday as the Canadiens prepare for Game 1 on Friday, when they will host the winner of first-round series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game 7 of that series is Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, NBCSN, TVA Sports 2, FS-D, SUN).

Beaulieu missed the final three games of Montreal's six-game first round win against the Ottawa Senators because of an upper-body injury sustained in the second period of Game 3.

Leddy, Boychuk, Halak find stability with Islanders

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 2:47 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders' three most important acquisitions last offseason, defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk and goaltender Jaroslav Halak, cleaned out their lockers Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum, still numb from the 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round two days earlier.

After the Islanders failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, Leddy, Boychuk and Halak sparked a resurgence that led to 47 regular-season wins and a third-place finish in the Metropolitan Division.

The three will be integral pieces moving forward. Halak has three years remaining on the contract he signed last May. Leddy and Boychuk, acquired in trades one week before the season started, each signed a seven-year contract to remain in New York.

Islanders' Lee looking ahead, not back at ending

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 1:13 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Anders Lee may have been a rookie, but the New York Islanders left wing played a major role this season for a team that had 101 points and finished third in the Metropolitan Division.

Yet with New York's season on the line in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, Lee, who scored 25 goals during the regular season, was a healthy scratch.

The Islanders survived Game 6 with a 3-1 win at Nassau Coliseum but had 11 shots on goal in a 2-1 loss at Verizon Center in Game 7 on Monday. It was a helpless feeling for Lee, who watched his teammates fail to generate any offense in their biggest game of the season.

"I can't really explain it," Lee said Wednesday at the Coliseum, where the Islanders were cleaning out their lockers permanently as they prepare for their move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season. "It's really hard."

Senators' Murray plans on returning to GM job

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 12:57 PM / News

Chris Stevenson - NHL.com Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Bryan Murray, who is battling Stage 4 colon cancer, said he will continue as general manager of the Ottawa Senators.

Murray, 72, will be entering his ninth season as Senators GM this fall. The Senators have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in five of the eight seasons Murray has been in charge.

"I'm keeping going," he said Wednesday. "I've talked to the doctors, I've talked to my family, I talked to ownership, and if my health holds up and everything, I feel I can keep doing this job. It's better than sitting on the couch at home, I think."

Murray said he offered a contract extension to coach Dave Cameron on Monday, the day after the Senators were eliminated from the Eastern Conference First Round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens in six games.

Goaltender Matchup: Inside Hiller vs. Andersen

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 11:11 AM / Ducks vs Flames - 2015 SCP Second Round

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. NHL.com decided to break down a compelling matchup in the Western Conference Second Round, which starts Thursday when the Calgary Flames visit the Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports): Jonas Hiller against Frederik Andersen, one of the young goaltenders who made Hiller expendable to the Ducks after last season.

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 the regular season with the help of a program from Double Blue Sport Analytics. The graphics showing where goals went in and shots were taken from on the ice 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.

Islanders' Hamonic, de Haan disclose injuries

Tuesday, 04.28.2015 / 10:30 PM / News

NewYorkIslanders.com

After weeks of speculation, Islanders defensemen Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan disclosed their injuries at Tuesday's locker clean-out day.

Hamonic told reporters that he suffered a grade-3 tear of his left MCL on April 10 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The injury did not require surgery.

"You could see my facial expression that I knew," Hamonic said of suffering the injury. "It was immediate. I tried to get off the ice as fast as I could. I was in a lot of pain."

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Quote of the Day

There's standards that this team is going to play to and there are expectations. We're going to hold these guys accountable to high standards.

— Coach Dave Lowry on Canada's junior team, the defending IIHF World Junior champions