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Stanley Cup final: Brodeur still evolving

NEWARK -- Devils goalie Martin Brodeur figures he's still evolving as a goaltender even though he has nearly 1,200 regular-season, some 200 postseason games and three Stanley Cups behind him. He has played better during the playoffs than he had in recent years.

Brodeur, 40, said this afternoon that a shift in equipment has improved his movement around the crease. He's always worn pads that were well below the specifications and for years has been an advocate of smaller pads for all goalies in an effort to increase scoring.

"I changed the makeup of where my knee sits," Brodeur said of his pads. "I changed the size of them. I got them a little bigger, a little wider – within the rules, I promise. I still have a lot of room to get them bigger. It’s a couple of little things. All year, I was tweaking them. It’s been working out good.

"They’re still small, trust me, compared to other guys. I still have a lot of room to wiggle if I really wanted to. I just don’t feel comfortable getting a lot bigger [pads] than this."

He changed shoulder pads this year, chucking a pair he wore for 12 years in exchange for Pekka Rinne rejects. The shoulder pads still had Rinne's name stitched on them when they arrived. The Devils' training staff removed the stitching after a few weeks.

Brodeur is hoping to add coming back from an 0-3 deficit to win a title to his list of accomplishments in a Hall of Fame career. The quest continues tomorrow night with Game Five in the Prudential Center. The Kings had a 3-0 series lead before the Devils' 3-1 win Wednesday night in Staples Center.

"We still believe," Brodeur said. 

--- Bucky Gleason

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: 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 
 

 

SCF: Kings expect more from Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Kings were bemoaning the fact they were nowhere near their best in Game One but still came away with an overtime victory in the Stanley Cup final. They expect to play better, but they're also bracing for the Devils to come with much more than they showed in the opener.

“Nobody wants to be down 2-0 whether you’re on the road or at home, either way," Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said. "They’re going to come out and fight hard. We have to bring the game we know we can bring. We didn’t bring it last night. I don’t think they brought theirs either. The pace is going to be a little quicker, and it’s going to be more physical.”

New Jersey was uncharacteristically flat early in the game and afterward blamed nerves for slowing them down through the first two periods. Los Angeles spent the first 40 minutes trying to gain their legs after an eight-day layoff between series. Both teams played better in the third period, which should carry over into Saturday's game.

The Kings' success largely has come from getting strong starts. Los Angeles has been tied or in the league seven times during their nine game winning streak on the road. The Kings have a 7-1 record overall when scoring the first goal, which they did last night. But they also have played well late in games, outscoring their opponents, 16-4, in the third period and overtime.

"I thought they played as hard as anybody we’ve seen in the playoffs so far," Kings center Jeff Carter said. "They have a great forecheck, they get on you quick and they have a lot of speed up front. They provide a lot of pressure. I expect them to be better next game, too. I expect the next game to be ramped up a little more."

--- Bucky Gleason

SCF: Tallinder on Lidstrom and more

NEWARK, N.J. -- Old friend Henrik Tallinder spoke about countryman Nicklas Lidstrom with reverence this afternoon after the Red Wings legend retired this morning after 20 seasons. Lidstrom was the standard for all Swedes, particularly defensemen.

"He’s been an icon in Sweden for so long," Tallinder said. "Two decades is a long time playing in the best league in the world. The things he has accomplished is remarkable. In my eyes, he’s the best Swedish player we had over here. No offense to [Peter] Forsberg and [Mats] Sundin, but with four Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies, that says it all."

Lidstrom was one of the classiest players I've ever been around in any sport. The way he carried himself and the respect he had for the game and the people around him will stand out as much as anything he accomplished on the ice. Lidstrom played 1,564 games and had 264 goals and 1,142 points in his career. He'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame with no questions asked.

“For me, growing up, he wasn’t my biggest idol because I was too young," Tallinder said. "Once he started to make it in this league, who doesn’t look up to him? He’s an icon and everyone wants to be like him, play like him, offensively, defensively, you name it. He does it all.

"Just watching him play is almost like – I think you described it once – is almost like a symphony.”

I did? Not exactly, but it's remarkable what players remember sometimes. Even I had to look it up.

Tallinder was referencing a column from May 2009 -- more than three years ago -- about the Red Wings in which I wrote, "Nobody is better than Detroit at its best. The Wings aren't a machine, but a symphony, an art form to be appreciated." It was about the Red Wings, but the same could be said about Lidstrom. They were one in the same.

Tallinder, by the way, is anxious to get into the lineup in the Stanley Cup finals. He's back to full strength after suffering from a scary blood clot behind his left knee that limited him to only 39 games. He researched the damage a blood clot could cause and had fears it could travel to his heart, which could be fatal. He has been skating for a while and is ready to play if called upon. 

"I'm good," he said. "I'm ready. I don't know. The coach [Peter DeBoer] has to make the call, but I feel physically fine. I don't have any issues. I've been practicing for two or three weeks now and feel good. If I get the chance, it's a dream come true. This is where you want to play."

Tallinder laughed when I told him Sabres owner Terry Pegula suggested his and Toni Lydman's departure in 2010 was more devastating than when Chris Drury and Daniel Briere split town in 2007. He hadn't heard Pegula thought so highly of him.

"That's a compliment, but that's B.S.," Tallinder said. "When we lost Danny and Dru, that was a kick in the butt. That's where we lost it. Nothing against Pegula, but that's where Buffalo lost a lot as a city and as a team." 

--- Bucky Gleason

SCF: Devils find different beast in Kings

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils found a hungry and well-coached but underskilled team in Florida in the first round, a battered but talented team with weak goaltending in Philadelphia in the second round and a deep and disciplined but low-scoring team in the Rangers in the third round in the postseason.

The Devils today were saying the Kings were a different beast because they have all the best qualities of their first three opponents and very few weaknesses. Los Angeles is fast and physical, balanced and deep, and they have the goaltending to match any they faced so far in the playoffs.

"They’re a different team than the Rangers and the other teams we’ve faced so far," rookie center Adam Henrique said after the Devils lost, 2-1, in overtime in Game One. "They bring a little bit of all those teams into one. They’re a deep team. They have puck-moving defensemen and solid goaltending, but that’s to be expected. They’re here for a reason. We need to focus on our game and how we need to play. There’s a lot of room for improvement on our side."

The Devils took comfort knowing they pushed Game One into overtime despite playing poorly in the first two periods. They admitted being nervous in the first period and sloppy in the second. The good news for them was that they still had a chance to win. They missed several opportunities in the game that would have changed the outcome, and the complex of the series, had they converted.

"We didn’t play our best," forward Travis Zajac said. "We were a little nervous in the first period, a little tentative. You could see that. We weren’t making plays. We were throwing the puck away a little too much, and we weren’t moving our feet and getting in on the forecheck like we usually do. We felt me missed an opportunity."

The Devils did not skate today as a team. Instead, they took the day off and will resume workouts tomorrow in preparation for Game Two on Saturday night in a game they desperately need. The team that loses the first game in the Stanley Cup final has lost the series 76 percent of the time. New Jersey lost the first game against Philadelphia and the Rangers before storming back to win both series.

"One of the areas that's cropped up in every round is we've been a little tentative in the first game, kind of felt our way and then jumped in with both feet in Game Two," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think that's hopefully what we'll do here again."

--- Bucky Gleason

SCF: Kings 2, Devils 1, OT

NEWARK, N.J. -- Anze Kopitar has scored 20 goals in each of his six NHL seasons, so he knew what to do tonight when he found himself with a breakaway against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. He faked Brodeur to the ice and lifted a shot past the fallen goaltender.

The result was a 2-1 overtime victory over the Devils in Game One of the Stanley Cup finals. The eighth-seeded Kings assumed command for the fourth straight series with the win. They have won nine straight road games in the postseason and earned the split they wanted when they arrived in Newark.

"It feels great," Kopitar said afterward. "Any time you get a chance to finish off a game in overtime, especially against a world-class goalie like Marty, it feels good."

Kopitar busted loose after drifting toward center ice and accepting a blind pass from Justin Williams that landed right on his tape. Colin Fraser also scored for the Kings. Anton Volchenkov was given credit for the Devils goal after his shot bounced off Slava  Voynov and landed behind Jonathan Quick.

If you didn’t have a rooting interest, the game Wednesday could have been mistaken for a Wednesday night game in November. OK, so there were a few big hits and scoring chances, but little would have told you they were playing for the Cup other than the clutching and grabbing allowed by the officials.

"There wasn’t much going on offensively for either team," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It’s tight quarters out there. I think both teams would say that."

Game Two is set for 8 p.m. Saturday in the Prudential Center.

--- Bucky Gleason

 

SCF: Kings are tired of resting

NEWARK, N.J. -- Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown this morning said he had no problem sleeping last night, the eve of Game One of the Stanley Cup final, but he's ready to start the best-of-seven series against the New Jersey Devils. The opener is set for 8 p.m. in the Prudential Center. 

"I slept fine," Brown said. "The afternoon nap might be a little more difficult. It’s going to be more [emotional] when we get here tonight. It felt like any other morning to me. When we get here tonight, the nerves are going to pick up."

The Kings made quick work of the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes and lost just two games in the first three rounds to reach the finals for the first time since 1994. They've had plenty of time to relax in between series but have effectively been able to regenerate the energy and unity that carried them this far in the first place.

"It has allowed us to enjoy what we accomplish in the series that just ended," Brown said. "On the flip side, a few days later, you hit the reset button and get that work mentality back. You want to keep playing. From a rest standpoint, to get where we are and have the rest that we’ve had, it’s definitely a positive."

Brown, 27, who grew up in Ithaca and played frequently in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse as a kid, is making his first appearance in the finals. It's hardly his first big game. He played for the United States in the 2010 Olympics, losing the gold medal to Canada. He's leading the Kings with seven goals and 16 points and is plus-13 in 14 postseason games.

"It’s important for some guys like myself and some younger guys to understand that we might not have this chance again and be ready to go from a playing standpoint," Brown said. "It’s nice to sit here and pat everyone’s back. At the end of the day, we haven’t done everything."

--- Bucky Gleason

Boucher, not Ward, in goal for Canes

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes have lost six of their last seven and coach Paul Maurice is dealing with daily rumors about his job status. So what does the coach have in store tonight against the Sabres? A surprise in goal.

The Canes didn't skate today and Maurice met the media this evening in the 5 o'clock hour with the announcement that backup Brian Boucher will play goal against the Sabres and not former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward.

Maybe Maurice is playing a hunch off Boucher's work in the playoffs against Buffalo last year, although some of that was certainly spotty. He said it's largely a byproduct of giving Ward a mental break.

Ward is just 6-8-2 with a 3.27 GAA and .904 save percentage. Boucher has yet to start at home and is 0-2-1, 3.86. .864.

Boucher is 3-4, 2.86 in his regular season career against Buffalo, but owns wins in the playoffs in 2000 and 2011. For all that you remember Ward for in 2006, his regular season mark against Buffalo is a pedestrian 7-6-2, 2.89.

The Canes were complete no-shows in Wednesday's 4-0 loss at Montreal but this still seems odd. Your job is at stake and you put it in the hands of the journeyman over the guy with the ring? Whatever.

Join us at 7 for our live blog. The MSG telecast will be run by Kevin Sylvester, Danny Gare and Brian Duff.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Stanley takes a spill on Ryder's day

Summer isn't over yet for the Boston Bruins on their individual tours with the Stanley Cup. Each member of the winning team gets it for a day and today is Michael Ryder's day in his hometown of St. John, Newfoundland. Ryder, who will play for the Dallas Stars this year, is planning a helicopter ride but the day didn't start very well as the Cup got dinged thanks to a tricky table leg.

Check out the video from the St. John Telegram.  Bet there's a nervous Cupkeeper nearby.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

One last chance in Vancouver

Roberto Luongo survived the pressure to win an Olympic gold medal last year in Rogers Arena. He's going to have to defy the detractors again to win the Stanley Cup tonight in his home barn. Here's a look at today's front page from the Vancouver Province, which clearly puts the onus on the Canucks' goaltender to get it done in Game Seven.

The image is from the Today's Front Pages collection of the Newseum.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Province

Game Six Cup pregame chat with Bucky Gleason at 7 p.m.

Game Four pregame Stanley Cup audio

Here is some audio from today:

Canucks forward Manny Malholtra

Download the audio and take it with you

Bruins forward Brad Marchand

Download the audio and take it with you

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault

Download the audio and take it with you

Bruins coach Claude Julien

Download the audio and take it with you

--Bucky Gleason

Pregame updates from Gleason in Boston

Check back to the Sabres Edge blog for audio from today's news conferences and more updates from News NHL Columnist Bucky Gleason prior to Game Four of the Stanley Cup final tonight.

Issues with the wireless setup in TD Banknorth Garden have limited multimedia updates this morning.

Also check back and join Gleason in a live chat at 7 p.m. leading up to tonight's opening faceoff.

Audio: Bruins' Julien, NHL's Murphy

Here is audio from today's news conferences:

Bruins coach Claude Julien


Download the audio and take it with you

NHL Senior VP Mike Murphy


Download the audio and take it with you

--Bucky Gleason

SCF: Horton sidelined, Rome suspended, for season

BOSTON -- Bruins forward Nathan Horton suffered a severe concussion and is sidelined for the rest of the Stanley Cup final after Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome drilled him with a blindside hit in the first period of Game Three in TD Garden.

Rome was handed a four-game suspension, ending his season, in a decision handed down by the NHL this afternoon. Senior Vice President Mike Murphy, who is serving as chief disciplinarian in this series, made the decision and meeting with Rome today.

It was a stiff penalty but one that should have been expected given the crackdown in recent years on hits to the head. Rome's hit met virtually all the criteria for Rule 48, which was added with the intent of eliminating such hits from the game.

Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed in a statement released by the team that Horton will not return before the best-of-seven series is decided. Horton was carted off the ice on a stretcher and spent the night in Massachusetts General Hospital. The Bruins already were without Marc Savard after he suffered a severe concussion.

The Bruins had their media availability this afternoon at Boston University. The Canucks are scheduled to meet with reporters later this afternoon.

--- Bucky Gleason

Canucks: Watching tough for GM Gillis

BOSTON -- Canucks President and General Manager Mike Gillis, who has been given much of the credit for building a Stanley Cup-caliber team, acknowledged he has a difficult time watching Vancouver play because of the emotional roller coaster that comes with the job.

Gillis was hardly relaxing today even though the Canucks won the first two games over the Bruins in the Stanley Cup final and can take full command with another win tomorrow night in Game Three. Both games were extremely tight with neither team holding a lead greater than one goal.

Vancouver won both games by the slimmest of margins, taking Game One when Raffi Torres scored with 18.5 seconds remaining and winning the second one in overtime.

"It's hard," Gillis said. "It's emotional, and it's difficult to watch. You have no control over the outcome, so you're stressing. You're elated when your team is doing well and not so elated when they're not doing so well. It's one of the hardest things in this job, trying to remain calm and not getting too strung out with what's going on out there.

--- 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 | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


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 | mharrington@buffnews.com


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.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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