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Neutral Zone Wrap: Get ready for the finals

by | Rotowire.com
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Assuming no one saw this coming. A six seed taking on an eight seed, but it's not as if either finalist finished way behind heading in to the postseason. Let's just call this the usual wackiness that happens this time of the year. For those who don't normally follow hockey, these playoffs have been as easy to predict as guaranteeing which team Rick Nash will end up with this summer. (Spoiler alert: It won't be Columbus).

Congrats to both the Devils and the Kings for reaching hockey's pinnacle. And to that one guy's dog who filled out the only correct playoff bracket on the planet. But enough about fictitious Fantasy glory. Let's see what these two have to do to get a clue. Or win it all. Whatever comes first.

Stanley Cup Finals Preview

New Jersey (No. 6 seed in the East) vs. Los Angeles (No. 8 seed in theWest)

Season series: New Jersey 2-0

Guess Ilya Kovalchuk (now on top in postseason scoring with 18 points) is really worth all that $100 million ... After heating up the first two series, Travis Zajac (10 in 11) fell back to Earth (two in seven)... Paging Patrik Elias (only six, with a lone goal in the Rangers series). Would someone please find out to where he has disappeared? ... Not bad when your fourth line (Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter, and Steve Bernier combining for 19 points) becomes a regular contributor ... Marek Zidlicky (eight, including four on the power-play) may be the blueliner everyone expects to produce but Bryce Salvador not only leads Jersey defensemen in points (11) but can claim the best plus-minus (plus-10) of any Devil...Is there anything Dustin Brown (leads or is tied for first with plus-13, 24 penalty minutes, 49 shots on goal, 67 hits, two short-handed goals) can't do? ... After their adventures in Philly, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (totaling 20, including four power-play goals) have been able to chip in very nicely ... Never really heard much from Trevor Lewis (13 in 72) during the regular season, but way to step it up lately -- especially against Phoenix (four in five) ... Another surprise up front has been rookie Dwight King (four in five), who posted solid numbers in two different leagues (14 in 27 in the NHL and 29 in 50 in the AHL) ... There is life beyond Drew Doughty (10) on defense, although neither Slava Voynov (three) nor Willie Mitchell (two) has regularly found the scoresheet.

Prediction: Both head-to-head meetings (2-1 and 3-0) were way back in October, so you can't really take much from them...The Devils' roster may contain more playoff experience, but there's no discounting how well the Kings have worked as a unit. The two sides have increased momentum as the rounds have progressed, so no advantage there. The city of Los Angeles has been waiting for a local winner since the franchise began 45 years ago (sorry, Anaheim doesn't count), although many residents still think the Kings play out of Sacramento. So, yeah, I'll stick to the boring pick of ... Kings in six.

The Conn Smythe candidates become increasingly obvious at this stage. You could almost swap any of these players at any spot in the following Top 5: 1. Dustin Brown; 2. Jonathan Quick; 3. Martin Brodeur; 4. Ilya Kovalchuk; 5. Adam Henrique. (Henrique may not possess the eye-popping stats (11), but you can't argue with two overtime game-series winning goals.)

Well, it's been an exciting season. But, as you well know, hockey never sleeps. There's the draft next month, but the real excitement begins July 1 when free agent season opens for business. So after the on-ice activity has concluded, sit tight and dream about the players your team will acquire (or jettison). I will return soon. Promise.

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Player News
Martin Havlat
Devils' Havlat Tests Negative For Mumps
Martin Havlat, RW, NJ
12:05 AM
News: Martin Havlat's test results for the mumps have come back negative, but he will be unavailable for Saturday's game against the Rangers, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Martin Havlat is still dealing with a virus that will keep him out of Saturday's game at a minimum, making his next eligible return date Monday against the Penguins. The Devils will go into Saturday with a maximum of 12 healthy forwards, though it's possible the team will add someone before the game.

Patrik Elias
Devils' Elias (Illness) Placed On Injured Reserve
Patrik Elias, LW, NJ
12/26/2014
News: Patrik Elias (illness) was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Analysis: Patrik Elias was confirmed to have a case of the mumps when his test results came back Friday, and the Devils decided to move him to injured reserve as a result. He last played in a game well over a week ago anyway, meaning the move will just temporarily open a roster spot and he should be able to return when he's ready. The winger has already been ruled out for Saturday's contest, so his next possibility to return will be Monday against the Penguins.

Brendan Woods
Hurricanes Recall Woods
Brendan Woods, LW, CAR
12/26/2014
News: Brendan Woods was called up by the Hurricanes on Friday.
Analysis: Brendan Woods was sent down to AHL Charlotte for the duration of the NHL's holiday break. Woods has accumulated 13 points and 64 PIM through 29 games this season with AHL Charlotte.

Petteri Lindbohm
Blues Recall Lindbohm
Petteri Lindbohm, D, STL
12/26/2014
News: The Blues recalled Petteri Lindbohm from AHL Chicago on Friday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: With Carl Gunnarsson still dealing with symptoms of a concussion, Petteri Lindbohm has been called up to serve as a seventh defenseman for the Blues while Gunnarsson recovers. Lindbohm has one assist and six PIM through eight games with St. Louis this season.

Micheal Haley
Sharks Recall Haley
Micheal Haley, RW, SJ
12/26/2014
News: Micheal Haley was recalled by the Sharks on Friday, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: With John Scott (suspension) and Mike Brown (leg) both out of the lineup, Micheal Haley has been called up to provide some much needed depth at right wing. Haley has tallied 13 points and 60 PIM through 27 games with AHL Worcester this season.

Corey Potter
Flames Recall Potter
Corey Potter, D, CGY
12/26/2014
News: Corey Potter was recalled from AHL Adirondack on Friday, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The FAN reports.
Analysis: Corey Potter was sent back to the AHL Tuesday, but was recalled again Friday, likely indicating Ladislav Smid isn't ready to return. It also could could signify that one of the six blueliners on the active roster is dealing with an injury or illness. Regardless, Potter will take his spot back with the Flames, though it probably won't be for an extended period of time.

Alex Biega
Canucks Reassign Biega
Alex Biega, D, VAN
12/26/2014
News: Alex Biega was reassigned to AHL Utica on Monday.
Analysis: Alex Biega was recalled Dec. 16 but hasn't played a game with the Canucks since being recalled. he will head back to AHL Utica, where he has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 25 games this season.

Brandon Sutter
Penguins' Sutter Tests Negative For Mumps
Brandon Sutter, C, PIT
12/26/2014
News: Brandon Sutter has tested negative for the mumps virus, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Brandon Sutter missed two games earlier this week with an illness, but it turns out he is not dealing with the mumps virus that is bothering a couple of his teammates. Sutter will likely be available for Pittsburgh's next game Saturday, but an official call on his status may not come until after the team's morning skate.

Thomas Greiss
Penguins' Greiss Dealing With Mumps
Thomas Greiss, G, PIT
12/26/2014
News: Thomas Greiss has been diagnosed with the mumps, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: A mumps test performed on Thomas Greiss last week came back negative, but it turns out he is actually dealing with the same setback that has affected numerous NHL players over the last several weeks. Jeff Zatkoff figures to serve as the backup goaltender behind Marc-Andre Fleury until Greiss is able to resume playing sometime in the next week or two.

Steve Downie
Penguins' Downie Diagnosed With Mumps
Steve Downie, RW, PIT
12/26/2014
News: Steve Downie has been diagnosed with the mumps, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Steve Downie first started showing mumps symptoms earlier this week, and it turns out he is the latest to come down with the disease that is sweeping through the NHL. He will remain isolated from his teammates until he has recovered, but figures to resume playing sometime in the next week or two.

 
 
 
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