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April 4, 2012

Rangers flip Flyers, clinch conference crown
"The champagne will wait but there is no doubt the Rangers — the Eastern Conference champion Rangers, if you please — are the toast of New York. And on the night the Blueshirts clinched their status on top of the heap and kings of the regular-season hill with a 5-3 victory over the Flyers, it could not have been more fitting that it was Henrik Lundqvist, King of the Crease, whose spectacular performance carried his team from start to finish. "It's just a [reminder] of how important Hanky has been to our success as a team all season," captain Ryan Callahan said following the match in which the goaltender's superior work allowed the Rangers to build a 4-0 lead within the first 18:38 and then"
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith notches 3rd shutout in a row with 54 saves over Columbus
"Whether he was in his crouch or standing to let his 6-foot-4 frame cover the expanse of the net, it didn't matter. From each position, Mike Smith was unbeatable. That's been the trend as of late, and it couldn't have come at a more opportune time for the Coyotes. With their playoff hopes unclear only a week and a half ago, Smith grabbed that possibility and deemed it a clear reality with his play. Thanks to another perfect effort Tuesday, this time a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in front of 13,263 at Jobing.com Arena in the home finale of the regular season, the Coyotes inched one step closer to booking a postseason berth."
Briere's playoff status uncertain
"Danny Briere couldn't play Tuesday night and will miss the Flyers' final two regular-season games, too. Being ready for the start of the playoffs is no sure thing, either. Darned back spasms. Missing games this time of the season is extra frustrating for Briere, who had just settled into a hot streak after an extended slump. Missing games due to a hard open-ice hit that he believes came from a player who had an intent to injure is making the healing process that much worse."
San Jose Sharks beat Dallas Stars, move closer to NHL playoffs
"Logan Couture could not have picked a better time to end his 10-game scoring drought. His game-winning goal late in the second period -- coupled with a game-saving stop by goalie Antti Niemi late in the third -- paced the Sharks to a 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night that significantly improved San Jose's chances of reaching the playoffs. "A little bit," Couture responded when asked if he felt any personal relief in notching his first goal in three weeks. "But you can't sit here and pat yourself on the back. We're still battling for a playoff spot.""
Toews hoping to return Thursday
"Jonathan Toews hopes to return to the Blackhawks lineup Thursday. He just won't offer a guarantee that he will, and he'll take as much time as possible before deciding. "I haven't made that decision for Thursday yet," the Hawks captain said Tuesday. "We have another full day before that and another practice with the guys. We'll see how that goes, and come Thursday, we'll make a decision." Toews has missed 20 games as he recovers from a concussion, and he said he's waiting for the "gut instinct" to tell him he's ready. He has been cleared for contact since early in the week, and though no one deems it a driving factor, getting some game action before the postseason would be an important"
Johnny Boychuk injured as Bruins lose to Penguins
"The outcome of the game didn't matter for the Bruins. How they played did. And the most important part of all: staying healthy. In that third area, last night may have been a disaster, as the B's saw key defenseman Johnny Boychuk helped off the ice with a left knee injury early in the third period of a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Garden."
Hawks' Keith returns refreshed after suspension
"During his involuntary sabbatical, Duncan Keith put on a few. He weighed in at 200 pounds Tuesday, and to demonstrate it was all muscle and the mass effect was ultimately good, the Blackhawks defenseman took a moment to flex in front of his locker stall. Keith is a free man now, his five-game NHL suspension over and essentially more of a refresher course than anything. His strength is up. His legs are recharged. For one of the busiest blue-liners in the league, that is promising, even if he shrugged it off."
Oilers head coach Renney fined $10,000 for comments after loss to Kings
"Add Edmonton Oilers head coach Tom Renney to the list of miscreants being held to account by the National Hockey League. Renney was fined $10,000 Tuesday for comments made following the Oilers 2-0 loss to the Kings in Los Angeles on Monday night. Asked after the game about what some regarded as uneven officiating during the game, Renney told reporters: "I'm not sure (why). Maybe (they) need Hollywood in the playoffs. I'm not sure." The NHL habitually has low to zero tolerance when it comes to criticism of its on-ice officials, so it was not surprising the league levied the fine."
Sabres display wow factor
"Tyler Ennis, his face flushed red from excitement with beads of sweat dripping off his cheekbones, had a smile that couldn't get wider. "Wow," he said Tuesday night. "That was something." There are plenty of words to describe Buffalo's 6-5 overtime victory over Toronto, a leap-from-the-grave comeback that had the faithful believing anything can happen. "Wow" is as good a place to start as any. The Sabres, left for dead by thousands of fans in First Niagara Center and countless more throughout Sabreland, rallied from the depths of near-elimination to keep their season alive. Buffalo scored twice in the final 5:03 of regulation and got the game-winner from Derek Roy with 1:31 left in"
Devils top Islanders, lose Josefson
"Players mean more than points to the Devils now. With the playoffs opening next week, Jacob Josefson's broken wrist turned Tuesday night's victory into a net loss. The Devils will have to reach the semifinals to regain the often-injured 21-year-old first-rounder. Josefson, accidently sticked by former Devil Jay Pandolfo in the second period of New Jersey's 3-1 victory over the Islanders at the Prudential Center, will be out 4-6 weeks. "It's a tough hand to be dealt, for him, and for us because he was becoming a real valuable piece for us," coach Pete DeBoer said."
Milbury offers apology to Penguins, but it is limited
"NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury apologized to the Penguins Tuesday. He apologized to their fans, too. But he never mentioned the two members of the organization, center Sidney Crosby and coach Dan Bylsma, he skewered and belittled during an interview with a Philadelphia radio station Monday."
Eric Nystrom returns to Stars' lineup
"Standing on the bench before Tuesday's game, native New Yorker Eric Nystrom could be seen singing the Star-Spangled Banner. That's enthusiasm you can't fake. So Nystrom's return to the lineup after missing three games with a leg laceration was a huge boost. "His details of the game are so true and honest, and you can trace that to his bloodlines," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of the son of former Islanders great Bob Nystrom. "He's a really solid player, and he does things right night in and night out. That's a good thing to get back in the lineup.""

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