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Penguins can advance to conference final with win

by Adam Kimelman


(Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series 3-1)


Big story: The Pittsburgh Penguins are close to a return trip to the Eastern Conference Final, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma knows his team needs one more strong effort before booking plans for the next round.

"It's only three wins and that gives you nothing," Bylsma said Thursday. "We have an opportunity back home in Game 5. We need to be as desperate as we've been all playoffs to get this fourth win."

The New York Rangers spent time on their off-day going over their mistakes in Game 4 in order to be better in Game 5.

"A lot of our mistakes [in Game 4] were execution and our execution, we've proven in the past, can be a lot better than it was and that's what we're banking on," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Thursday. "We've been a solid road team all year long. We've been able to win in that building, so we need to win one game and that's what we're going to try to do."

Team Scope:

Rangers: In hope of generating more offense, Vigneault shuffled his forward lines at practice Thursday. A new-look top trio featured Derek Stepan centering Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello, with Derick Brassard centering Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis. Another line featured Brad Richards between Rick Nash and Daniel Carcillo, although Carcillo's spot likely will go to Carl Hagelin for Game 5; Hagelin did not skate Thursday.

Stepan, Nash and St. Louis have combined for zero points and a minus-5 rating in four games. That trio was broken up when Kreider returned to the lineup in Game 4, but he had one shot and a minus-1 rating in his first game since March 24.

"I'm looking at all possibilities right now," Vigneault told The (Bergen) Record. "We've had a fair amount of success by being consistent [with the line combinations]. With [Kreider] coming in [for Game 4], we basically mixed two lines; [Kreider] went in on one and we took Marty off that line. So we did make some changes [Wednesday] and those didn't work out to our advantage. So we've got the whole night to think about it and try and come up with a plan."

The status for St. Louis for Game 5 is unknown; his mother France died unexpectedly Thursday.

Penguins: One area in which Pittsburgh has been able to control the series against the Rangers is in the faceoff circle. The Penguins have dominated on draws, including a 31-18 advantage in Game 4.

Among the Penguins' big winners Wednesday were Sidney Crosby (10-for-15), Joe Vitale (7-for-11) and Brandon Sutter (8-for-13).

"Our matchups have been better in terms of the faceoff circle," Bylsma said. "Jussi [Jokinen] hasn't taken a lot of draws, but he has a good percentage against some of the Rangers so he's jumped into the left dot to take some draws. Marcel [Goc] is strong on the left dot, Brandon on the right dot. Sid has been good in the circle as well. We've been able to utilize different guys in different matchups to hopefully try to gain an advantage in the circle."

Who's hot: Hagelin's goal in the second period of Game 4 snapped New York's scoring drought at 145:30 and tied him for the team playoff lead with three goals. … Jokinen has points in eight straight games for the Penguins; he's totaled five goals and three assists in that span.

Injury report: The Rangers have no announced injuries. … The Penguins likely will be without defenseman Brooks Orpik (undisclosed), who returned Wednesday after missing five games but left late in the first period and didn't play again.


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