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Stanley Cup final: Devils extend series

LOS ANGELES -- The Devils were a loss from getting swept Wednesday night, a deep trouble by any standard, but they didn’t see the situation as grounds for panic. Rather than make any drastic changes, they decided to stick what the style that carried them into the Stanley Cup final in the first place.

Adam Henrique scored the winner in the third period of a tight game to lead the Devils to a 3-1 victory over the Kings to avoid getting swept. Los Angeles still has a 3-1 series lead with the best-of-seven matchup shifting back to New Jersey. The Kings have a 10-0 record on the road and already clinched two of the first three series away from Staples Center.

"We feel we’ve been playing really well with zero result," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "It’s hard, but you don’t change for the sake of change. We wanted to keep playing the same. We’re happy to live another day. [But] we know the road ahead is going to be difficult."

Although the Devils didn't make major alterations -- veterans Henrik Tallinder and Petr Sykora were inserted into the lineup -- certain things did change. They scored the first goal for the first time in this series, marking their first lead. They also had goals from Henrique, Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk after all three had been silent in the first three games.

“”We wanted them to jump on a plane to New Jersey,’’ Brodeur said. “”We had to go back anyway, so we might as well have a game. I’m sure they’re not happy to make that trip. Hopefully, we’ll make it miserable for them again."

--- Bucky Gleason

Stanley Cup final: Tallinder playing tonight

LOS ANGELES -- Former Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder will make his 2012 Stanley Cup playoff debut tonight when he suits up for the Devils in Game Four against the Kings. Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed the change while meeting with the media this morning.

Tallinder is being thrust into the biggest game of the year with the Devils trying to avoid being swept. He hasn't played since Jan. 17, when he was sidelined with a dangerous blot clot in his left leg. He'll be matched up against the hard-charging Kings, who have outscored the Devils, 8-2, while winning the first three games. So much for easing back into the lineup.

"I feel pretty comfortable in practice, but it's practice," Tallinder said. "Stanley Cup Final, how do you prepare for that? Excitement. A lot of jump in your legs. And try not to think too much."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer also is inserting veteran forward Petr Sykora into the lineup for Game Four. He had been a healthy scratch for the first three games. DeBoer is looking for anything that can kick-start New Jersey's struggling offense.

"We need to find a way to get some goals," DeBoer said.

--- Bucky Gleason

Stanley Cup final: Kings' approach isn't changing

LOS ANGELES -- The Kings barely cracked a smile after winning Game Three last night in Staples Center to take a 3-0 series lead over the Devils in the Stanley Cup final. They weren't about to start celebrating today after an optional workout and a session with the media.

Los Angeles could become the first eighth seed to win the Cup. The Kings also could match the 1988 Oilers for the best record in the playoffs. Edmonton finished 16-2 in the postseason that year while being led by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.

"We haven't been very good in these situation," Kings center Mike Richards said. "We're 1-2 when [holding a 3-0 series lead]. It's something we have to improve on obviously. We still know that we can play better and be better."

L.A.'s approach is a reflection of no-nonsense coach Darryl Sutter, who arrived in December with a salty attitude and a strong work ethic. He has demanded the Kings keep things in perspective. He was a win away from winning it all with Calgary in 2004, lost Game Six on a controversial no-goal and ended up dropping Game Seven in Tampa Bay.

The Kings couldn't have asked for a better performance than the one they had last night, when they coasted to a 4-0 victory. They limited the Devils to just 22 shots and dominated for the final two periods. They're chasing their first Stanley Cup in the 45-year history of the franchise.

Only the 1942 Maple Leafs have come back from a 3-0 deficit in the finals. The 1975 Islanders and the 2010 Flyers came back from the same hole earlier in the playoffs. New Jersey last night looked more like a team bracing to get swept than capable of winning a single game.

"We're just trying to win a hockey game," said goaltender Jonathan Quick, the favorite to win the Conn Symthe Trophy as playoff MVP. "Same thing we've been doing for about eight months now. We're going to continue to try to do that. It doesn't count any more than the rest of them did. It's one game. We're just going to play our game."

--- Bucky Gleason


Stanley Cup sweeps week? Plus goalie talk and Sabres' draft party

The Kings have been unbeatable on the road. If they play the same way in Los Angeles, this could be the final week of the 2011-12 season.

The Kings host New Jersey tonight in Game Three of the Stanley Cup finals, and the folks in L.A. are eager for a sweep.

"That's probably one of the loudest rinks I've ever played in, and it's going to be even louder," Kings center Mike Richards said.

The Kings won the opening two games in overtime, so the Devils made the trip to the West Coast feeling they are plenty capable of sending the series back east after Games Three and Four.

"We all can be better, and we will be," Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "I really believe so. We really care about each other, and that's what's going to make us better - the team. Not one guy, not two guys, all of us have to stick together and grow as a team."

Former Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said he's ready to return for the Devils after being out since January, but coach Pete DeBoer said he's not planning any lineup changes.

In other NHL news:

*The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired goaltender Tomas Vokoun from the Washington Capitals and promptly signed him to a two-year, $4 million contract today. He will back up Marc-Andre Fleury, who tired while dominating the workload in front of Sabres whipping boy Brent Johnson.

*Boston goalie Tim Thomas announced over the weekend that he will sit out this season.

"At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected," Thomas said on his Facebook page Sunday. "That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F's. Friends, Family, and Faith."

(The best comment I heard was the ultra-conservative Thomas is sitting out to get ready for the "doomsday" end of the world on Dec. 12. David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail has a more realistic thought: Thomas wants a trade out of Boston and a new contract.)

*The Sabres will once again welcome fans to First Niagara Center for a free party to celebrate the opening night of the NHL draft.

Fans can head to the arena at 5 p.m. June 22 to watch the first round on the HD video board and participate in family friendly entertainment. The night will feature player autograph sessions and floor hockey events on the arena floor. Children 12 and under will be required to wear a helmet to participate.

Admission to the party is free, and the team is also offering complimentary parking in the arena ramp. The Sabres Store will offer fans a discount of 42 percent off their entire purchase, a sale commemorating the team’s upcoming 42nd season in the NHL.

---John Vogl

Stanley Cup final: Look for signs of disdain in Game Two

NEWARK, N.J. -- Mike Richards emerged from the visitors' dressing room today after the Kings' morning skate knowing it was just a matter of time before emotions run high between Los Angeles and New Jersey in the Stanley Cup final. The intensity level could increase tonight in Game Two.

The Kings and Devils were tentative and might have shown too much respect for one another, which made for a forgettable opener. Neither team wanted to make a mistake and came out flat in the first  period before gradually picking up the pace. All it takes is one cheap shot, Richards said, and it will turn into an emotional series.

"In the second period, it started to heat up," Richards said. "As the series goes on, you expect what you expect and get that little hatred for some of their players out there. A couple hits that you might not like or you don't think is clean, you start getting that hatred and it builds from there.''

Richards played for the Flyers in 2009-10, when they lost to the Blackhawks on Patrick Kane's overtime winner in Game Six. Philly and Chicago quickly grew to despise one another and has passionate fans supporting them, which made for an intense series. Devils fans were excited Wednesday but not nearly to the same degree.

One reason is the two teams hadn't played one another since October. The Devils were the first team the Kings faced after opening the season with two games in Europe. Players on both sides barely remember the games. They shouldn't have any problem this time around.

"Within the conference, you play each other four times," Richards said. "There's always one or two plays that you don't really like that you go into a series thinking about one guy or one play. It's been a while since we played each other. We're not very familiar with them. It's different when you don't have that hatred for one another, where you're trying to take his head off with a clean hit."

--- Bucky Gleason

Stanley Cup final: No changes for Devils in Game Two

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed after their morning workout that he's not making any personnel changes tonight for Game Two of the Stanley Cup final. There was speculation he might tweak his lineup after the Kings won the first game in overtime.

DeBoer hinted that former Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who has been sidelined since Jan. 17 with a blood clot behind his left knee, could be inserted at some point. Tallinder was a top two defenseman but played only 39 games during the regular season. He has been skating for nearly three weeks after getitng medical clearance. 

"You might see him if as the series goes forward here," DeBoer said.

DeBoer confirmed Tallinder will travel with the Devils to Los Angeles for the third and fourth games of the series, which raised questions about whether flying would be a concern. Blood clots have been associated with sitting for long stretches, which is common when you travel.

"Sure, you worry about it," DeBoer said. "Our doctors and trainers and him have a comfort level or he wouldn't be travelling with us. It's definitely an issue. I think a lot of people point to airplane flight as a cause for that."

--- Bucky Gleason

Stanley Cup final: Richards on Sutter

NEWARK, N.J. -- Kings center Mike Richards has deep respect for coach Darryl Sutter and his work in turning Los Angeles into a contender after taking over for Terry Murray, but there's no disputing that Sutter has can irritate players when they don't meet his expectations.

Murray was popular with players but some didn't think he was tough enough when it came to disciplining them. Sutter will never be accused of being too soft. He has little patience and a reputation for unleashing his wrath when he sees sloppy play, particularly turnovers in the defensive zone.

There were nights in which Richards wanted to snap back at him on the bench but kept his mouth shut. Now, he understand Sutter's barking.

"On the bench, he’s an intense guy," Richards said. "He wants to get every single drop out of you, and that’s what you want. It’s not good to have an off night. It’s something you have to push and drive through. Some nights, you might be grinding your teeth at him, but at the end of the day, you know he’s trying to get the best out of you. You can’t expect anything more from a coach."

You can't argue with the results, either. The Kings had struggled for much of the season before coming together in the playoffs. They had struggled to score goals under Murray. Sutter has them scoring more without compromising a sound defensive system they played under Murray.

Their style and goaltender Jonathan Quick have contributed to the Kings' 13-2 record in the postseason and 1-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup final going into Game Two tomorrow night in the Prudential Center. The Kings have won all nine road games in the postseason, a record.

"He gives you free reign to do what you need to do on the ice," Richards said. "Everybody is here for a reason. They have the skill set to make some plays. If you see it, make it. Just make sure it’s not a turnover going the other way because you’re definitely going to hear about it."

--- Bucky Gleason 


Sabres decline to sign three 2010 draft picks

The Sabres have decided to part with three members of their 2010 draft class, sending the trio of forwards back into this year’s pool of draft-eligible players.

Buffalo declined to offer contracts to center Steven Shipley and wingers Gregg Sutch and Cedrick Henley by today’s deadline. The Sabres selected Shipley in the fourth round, Sutch in the fifth and Henley in the sixth.

All three skaters played in the Canadian junior leagues, which meant the Sabres had two years to sign them. They declined. All three can be re-selected by any team during the NHL draft being held June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.

Buffalo picked nine players in 2010 and has signed five: defensemen Mark Pysyk, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Matt MacKenzie, and forwards Kevin Sundher and Riley Boychuk. Seventh-round selection Christian Isackson, a freshman at the University of Minnesota, doesn’t need to be signed until he completes his collegiate career.

Shipley, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound center, had the best numbers of the three players not signed. He recorded 22 goals and 27 assists in 63 games with Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League, and he added five goals and nine points in 20 playoff games. However, there have been questions about his compete level.

Sutch is the most well-known of the trio because of his off-the-ice triumphs. Born with a severe hearing disability, the 6-2, 201-pound grinder reads lips and uses hearing aids while skating. He battled through numerous injuries throughout his junior career. He finished with nine goals and 21 points in 57 games with Barrie of the OHL, then put up two goals, three points and 16 penalty minutes in 10 playoff games.

Henley, 6-5 and 196 pounds, had 13 goals and 39 points in 53 games with Val d’Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He also had one goal and two assists in four postseason appearances.

If they are not picked this month, the Sabres could elect to bring them to training camp in the fall as free agents. The last draft pick the Sabres chose not to sign was defenseman Jordon Southorn, a fourth-round selection in 2008.

The most infamous players sent back into the draft pool by Buffalo were Dennis Wideman (eighth round, 2002) and Mike Zigomanis (second round, 1999). Wideman was an All-Star for the Washington Capitals this season. Zigomanis is notable because he was released following a deadline/fax machine mistake with his contract.

---John Vogl

Stanley Cup final: Where's Kovy?

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk emerged after practice today, marking the first time anybody noticed him since he had scored one goal and set up another when they knocked out the Rangers in the conference finals.

Kovalchuk was virtually absent Wednesday night against the Kings in Game One of the Stanley Cup final and was unavailable for comment a day later. He had a heavy dose of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and record just one shot on goal over 21 minutes of ice time.

"The last game we didn’t win, so I feel bad," Kovalchuk said today. "I didn’t create much. If we would win, then I’ll feel great."

New Jersey is going to need its star winger, who signed a 15-year contract worth $100 million before last season, if they plan to beat the Kings. Kovalchuk had 37 goals and 83 points this season and has seven goals and 18 points in 18 postseason games.The Devils are 6-1 in the postseason when he scores a goal.

He expect to see more of Doughty, the best two-way defenseman on the two remaining teams. Doughty played more than 28 minutes and was on the ice against Kovalchuk every time the Kings had a chance to match their defense pairings with the Devils' lines.

"I don’t think that was a part of that," Kovalchuk said. "[I] don’t take anything away from him, he’s a good defenceman, but I played against some good ‘Ds’ and found a way how to go through them. There are some things I’m supposed to do so that’s what I try, to do them the next game."

--- Bucky Gleason


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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

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Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

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