No one wants to face Detroit in the first round

holmstromscreen.jpgLast year, an eighth-place Ducks team loaded with talent from Pronger to Getzlaf to Hiller knocked the San Jose Sharks out of the first round 4-2. This year, the Detroit Red Wings could play a similar spoiler role as a team with way too much talent to be in the conference’s final playoff spot.

Now, there’s still plenty of time for a variety of things to happen. It is possible that even though the Red Wings widened their lead over Calgary last night, the Flames could still conceivably overtake Detroit for the last spot. On the other hand, the Red Wings are only one point behind Nashville, four points behind Colorado and five points behind the Los Angeles Kings. The team could absolutely be in a different spot after they get through the last 13 games of their season.

But if things hold true and the Red Wings stay in the eighth spot, the Sharks or Blackhawks may in fact be wise to let the Conference’s top spot “slip away.”

Sure, the Red Wings have struggled at times this season and may indeed have lost a few miles per hour on their fastball that they’ll never get back. That being said, this team still has Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Both Jimmy Howard and “Mr. Playoff Light Switch” Chris Osgood could give the team some good goaltending in the playoffs. In other words, there are still plenty of the elements that made them the elite team in this league.

You have to think that the Red Wings would relish the role of being the “underdog” after many seasons of being a top-3 seed. Could it be that for the second year in a row, winning the Western Conference’s top spot could really be like stumbling on a dangerous booby trap?

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    2016 Lady Byng finalists: Barkov, Eriksson and Kopitar

    Slovenia forward Anze Kopitar, left, and Sweden forward Loui Eriksson battle for the puck in the second period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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    The low penalty minutes and high point totals are in, and thus we have the 2016 NHL Awards’ three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy: Aleksander Barkov, Loui Eriksson and Anze Kopitar.

    OK, the actual definition for the award is that it goes “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

    Same difference, eh?

    Barkov really made a breakthrough this season with the Florida Panthers, scoring 59 points versus just eight penalty minutes. He only has 34 PIM in 191 career regular season contests.

    You can see Eriksson and Kopitar representing their respective countries in this post’s main image. Eriksson enjoyed his best (and maybe last?) season with the Boston Bruins while Kopitar hopes to win the 2016 Selke as the Los Angeles Kings’ defensively adept – yet apparently courteous – forward.

    It’s unclear who wins this “fight,” but one would assume it wouldn’t be a dirty one.

    WATCH LIVE: Game 2 of Islanders – Lightning, Penguins – Capitals

    Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) starts to celebrate his goal against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) and Kris Letang (58) during the second period of Game 1 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday, April 28, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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    The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    Can Sidney Crosby and the Penguins even things up against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals? Will the Lightning avoid dropping both games at home against the Islanders? We’ll find out on NBC.

    NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

    Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

    Some reading to get you pumped up:

    – The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media(reportedly).

    Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

    T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

    – Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

    Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win

    With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2

    Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43) takes control of the puck in front of St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 3-0. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Patrick Eaves won’t be able to play for the Dallas Stars against the St. Louis Blues in their upcoming Game 2.

    The last time we saw Eaves, he was leaving the ice by gliding on one foot after being hit by a teammate’s shot. He needed help to the locker room and was seen on crutches according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.

    The bad news is that Eaves cannot go. The good news is that the Stars can replace him with a player who boasts considerable offensive skill, as Valeri Nichushkin will take Eaves’ place.

    Nichushkin wasn’t very effective in five postseason games so far, failing to score a point and only managed three shots on goal.

    Still, if the frenetic pace of Game 1 carries on through this series, Nichushkin could very well make an impact.

    Update: the Stars have other options at forward after making recalls:

    Sheary’s in for Penguins in Game 2; Kunitz is a game-time decision

    Pittsburgh Penguins' Conor Sheary (43) is greeted by teammates Brian Dumoulin (8) and Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring his first NHL goal, in the first period of the Penguins' hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Pittsburgh. Bruins' Brad Marchand is at lower right. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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    Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might look a little different in Game 2 on Saturday after that blistering Game 1.

    As the team down 1-0, it’s not too surprising that the Penguins boast the more significant lineup questions, although they lean toward health concerns rather than performance tweaks.

    Conor Sheary was able to return during Game 1 after Tom Wilson‘s controversial knee-to-knee hit, and he appears to be in for tonight’s contest as well. Chris Kunitz isn’t quite a guarantee, as he’s currently labeled a game-time decision.

    For what it’s worth, Kunitz himself believes he’ll be in. Whether he plays on Saturday or not, it sounds like Kunitz is taking extra safety measures going forward.

    The Penguins stayed vague with Marc-Andre Fleury, merely claiming that he’s making “progress.”

    Generally speaking, Matt Murray has been playing well for the Penguins. Of course, the scrutiny will rise if Pittsburgh loses Game 2 on Saturday.

    The Capitals are also considering a tweak. CSN Mid-Atlantic reports that Barry Trotz is pondering replacing Dmitry Orlov with Taylor Chorney.

    “They told me to be prepared as if I’m going to be playing,” Chorney said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

    As you may notice, Chorney isn’t the only one in wait-and-see mode heading into Game 2, which you can watch on NBC.