Penguins lead series 1-0
The New York Rangers appear to have escaped a potential devastating injury as they prepare to visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in Game 2 of their best-of-seven first-round series. Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist was forced to exit Wednesday’s 5-2 loss after taking an inadvertent stick to the right eye from teammate Marc Staal.
Lundqvist, who has started 111 consecutive playoff games for New York, was hurt in the final minute of the first period, but he practiced fully on Friday and is a game-time decision. “I felt pretty good,” Lundqvist said. “Saw a specialist. There’s no damage to the eye, it’s the swelling making it uncomfortable.” The Penguins have issues of their own in net with starter Marc-Andre Fleury and backup Matt Murray each dealing with a concussion. Pittsburgh could receive a huge boost, however, as standout forward Evgeni Malkin practiced Friday for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury on March 11.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVAS
ABOUT THE RANGERS (46-28-9, 37-28 O/U): Lundqvist is expected to play as long as there are no adverse effects from Friday’s practice and his importance to New York cannot be overstated – he entered the postseason winning his last four playoff starts at Pittsburgh while surrendering a total of four goals. Plus, the Rangers already have huge injury concerns among their defense corps, with captain Ryan McDonagh (hand) still sidelined and Dan Girardi ruled out after returning to the lineup for the series opener. Derek Stepan scored six times in the final nine games of the regular season and netted both goals Wednesday, prompting New York coach Alain Vigneault to tell reporters: “We need our top end players to play better. It’s time to make a difference.”
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (49-26-8, 37-32 O/U): Third-stringer Jeff Zatkoff made 35 saves in his first start since Feb. 20 while spelling Fleury, who suffered his second concussion of the season on March 31 and said of his availability for Game 2: “I don’t expect it, but I hope so. It feels like it’s been forever.” It has been more than month on the shelf for Malkin, who was scoring at a point-per-game pace prior to his injury and adds another lethal weapon to an already-explosive offense, particularly on the power play. “He’s one of the few players in the world that can change the game single-handedly,” said Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan of Malkin, who was initially expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks. “We have more options with him in.”
* Rangers are 8-0 in their last eight games following a loss of three or more goals.
* Penguins are 4-0 in the last four meetings.
* Over is 5-1-1 in Penguins last seven versus a team with a winning record.
* Over is 6-1-4 in Rangers last 11 road games.
Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals (A: +201, H: -225, 5.0)
Capitals lead series 1-0
After earning a share of the NHL’s single-season wins record, goaltender Braden Holtby didn’t see much work on his plate en route to helping the Washington Capitals draw first blood in their first-round series with the Philadelphia Flyers. Holtby looks to keep the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals cruising along when they host the Flyers in Game 2 on Saturday night.
The likely front-runner for the Vezina Trophy, Holtby prevented Philadelphia from gaining an early advantage by thwarting three first-period power plays and finished with 19 saves for his third career postseason shutout. “With a bunch of PKs, you have to rely on the goaltender quite a bit,” forward Jay Beagle told reporters. “He obviously stood on his head again (Thursday). We had momentum coming (out of) the first.” In addition to the scoreboard, the Flyers sustained a considerable loss as second-line center Sean Couturier suffered a reported AC sprain in his left shoulder and will be sidelined for two weeks, general manager Ron Hextall told reporters on Friday. “Obviously he is a huge piece of our team. He goes down, but someone else has to step up,” fellow forward Wayne Simmonds told the team’s website of the 23-year-old Couturier, who scored 11 goals and set up a career-high 28 others this season.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, TVAS, CSN Philadelphia, CSN-DC (Washington)
ABOUT THE FLYERS (41-28-14, 32-21 O/U): Versatile Brayden Schenn could shift from left wing to center on the team’s second line and 21-year-old Scott Laughton could make his playoff debut in Couturier’s absence. “If (Laughton) does go in, he’s done a good job killing penalties for us so that’s a potential role for him,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “He hadn’t spent a whole lot of time on the power play so I wouldn’t expect that.” Philadelphia has struggled with the man advantage of late, mustering little during its four chances on Thursday to push its run to 0-for-17 in its last five games – excluding a “meaningless” season finale versus the New York Islanders.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (57-18-8, 33-34 O/U): While captain Alex Ovechkin’s crushing hit on Couturier along the boards garnered the majority of the headlines, Washington’s players weren’t shy about putting their bodies on the line throughout the contest. Ovechkin joined defensemen Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov in posting a team-best four hits while 14 of the Capitals’ 18 skaters notched at least one. In addition, Washington recorded 17 of its 23 blocked shots during the second and third periods of Game 1.
* Flyers are 8-2 in their last 10 after scoring two goals or less in their previous game.
* Capitals are 0-4 in their last four games following a win.
* Under is 5-0 in Capitals last five games following a win.
* Under is 3-0-1 in Flyers last four games playing on one days rest.
Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars (A: +182, H: -203, 5.0)
Stars lead series 1-0
The Minnesota Wild knew they were facing a daunting task going up against the Western Conference’s best team and that point was driven home by the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of their best-of-seven postseason series. Dallas breezed to a 4-0 victory on Thursday night and looks to take a commanding 2-0 lead in Saturday night’s Game 2 over the visiting Wild.
Minnesota scored only six goals during a season-ending five-game losing streak and mustered only 22 shots on goal in Thursday’s loss, prompting coach John Torchetti to shuffle his lines at Friday’s practice. “The most important thing we got to understand is we can play with these guys, we can beat these guys,” Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk said after the team’s fifth consecutive postseason defeat. “There’s no reason to think otherwise.” Minnesota’s task could become more daunting with the expected return of Stars forward Tyler Seguin to the lineup. Seguin, who missed the final 10 games of the regular season with a sliced Achilles tendon, finished tied for second on the team with 33 goals.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVAS 2, FSN North/Wisconsin (Minnesota), FSN Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE WILD (38-34-11, 29-36 O/U): Minnesota’s offensive woes are magnified by the injuries to leading goal scorer Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek, who combined for 94 points this season, but forward Erik Haula is planning to return to the lineup after missing the series opener due to a lower-body injury. “It’s a challenge,” said Haula, who has registered 21 points in 27 games since Torchetti took over the coaching reins. “We came here for a split and I think everyone should just be positive and create a positive environment just overall everywhere of being able to accomplish the goal,” he said. Dubnyk was not as practice Friday, although Torchetti said his absence was simply due to “maintenance reasons.”
ABOUT THE STARS (51-23-9, 45-37 O/U): Dallas has won 11 of 13 games since the injury to Seguin, who has amassed 107 goals in his three seasons with the Stars and said his condition is “night and day” since he returned to practice with the club on Monday. “Well, for me there’s no comparison,” coach Lindy Ruff said after Friday’s practice. “Like I said, I thought his first day out on the ice he was OK, and today he just seems to be a lot more fluid, lot more jump, no hesitation. Like I said, those couple extra days are doing him well.” Ruff did not disclose his starting goaltender for Game 2, but Kari Lehtonen’s second career playoff shutout made it a toucher choice between him and the more experienced Antti Niemi.
* Wild are 0-6 in their last six games overall.
* Stars are 7-0 in their last seven home games.
* Under is 5-1 in Stars last six games overall.
* Wild are 4-22 in their last 26 meetings in Dallas.
San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings (A: +129, H: -143, 5.0)
Sharks lead series 1-0
The San Jose Sharks set a franchise record when posting the best road record in the NHL during the regular season, and they continued their success away from home in their playoff opener. The Sharks look to take a firm hold on their first-round series when they visit the Los Angeles Kings for Game 2 on Saturday.
San Jose went 28-10-3 on the road during the regular season in 2015-16, recording the second-most victories away from home in league history, and carried over that success to Game 1 as it skated to a 4-3 victory. The opener featured several quick responses in the second period as Jeff Carter scored 40 seconds after defenseman Brent Burns gave San Jose a 2-1 lead and Los Angeles’ 3-2 advantage lasted only 30 seconds thanks to Tomas Hertl’s tally, before captain Joe Pavelski put the Sharks ahead for good 17 seconds into the third with his second goal of the game. The Kings certainly do not want to head to San Jose down 2-0 in the series but aren’t likely to panic should it happen as they became the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit when these Pacific Division rivals last met in the postseason in 2014. Los Angeles would be wise to be more disciplined in Game 2 after giving San Jose’s power play, which ranked third in the league during the regular season, four opportunities in the opener – one of which was converted.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports, CBC, TVA, CSN California (San Jose), FSN West (Los Angeles)
ABOUT THE SHARKS (47-30-6, 43-33 O/U): It was no surprise that Pavelski, who recorded his sixth two-goal performance of his postseason career, scored the game-winner in Game 1 as he led the league in that category during the regular season with 11. “Big-game guy for us,” coach Peter DeBoer told reporters. “He’s our captain for a reason. He scores a lot of key goals. … He’s been clutch like that for us all season.” Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned to the lineup Thursday after missing the last 12 regular-season contests with a knee injury and was none the worse for wear, logging a team-high 23 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time.
ABOUT THE KINGS (48-29-6, 29-32 O/U): Alec Martinez is a question mark for Game 2 as he left the opener after blocking a shot late in the second period and did not return for the third. The defenseman was playing his first game after missing the final four of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. Trevor Lewis scored a short-handed goal in the opener, Los Angeles’ first in the postseason since Anze Kopitar tallied while down a player in 2012.
* Sharks are 4-1 in their last five games overall.
* Road team is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
* Over is 6-1-1 in Kings last eight Conference Quarterfinals games.
* Under is 7-1-1 in Sharks last nine road games.
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