NHL Playoff Update: Big Day Ahead

I generally don’t like being the melodramatic type, but today is a pretty huge day for playoff jockeying. I’m not going to go off the deep end and call it an “epic” day, but there’s a lot of things that can get squared away in both conferences.

eastplayoffs.jpg Things get started early this afternoon for the Atlanta Thrashers as they continue their schedule from hell to try and muscle their way into the playoffs and take on the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Luckily for the Thrashers, the Pens have been less-than impressive of late losing five of their last eight games.

Tonight, Montreal will try to keep things going against Buffalo. With the Habs’ win over Philadelphia last night, they were able to keep down another team looking to make the playoffs and improve their own standings in the race.  Montreal currently sits in sixth place in the East, two points ahead of both Boston and Philadelphia.  The Bruins face off with the Maple Leafs tonight as the Leafs will continue to try and play spoiler.

The Rangers are in Sunrise, Florida to take on the Panthers and after beating the Lightning in convincing fashion last night, one has to wonder if perhaps the Rangers are getting warm at the right time. I won’t say they’re hot because no one in this playoff race in the East is hot, but if anyone can even get lukewarm a playoff spot could be had.

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In the Western Conference, Calgary helped get themselves back into the playoff picture by beating the Avalanche.  As for others still jockeying for position, Detroit takes on Nashville in a game where one point can clinch a playoff spot for the Predators, meanwhile a win in regulation for the Red Wings could vault them ahead of the Predators for fifth place in the meantime.

Los Angeles can make life for themselves a lot less stressful if they can beat the Ducks later tonight. The Ducks come into the game with nothing but pride to play for but have won seven of their last ten games. Meanwhile, the Kings have lost six of their last ten games but are coming off a definitive 8-3 win over Vancouver on Thursday night.

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    Bergeron may need surgery for sports hernia

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    Patrice Bergeron says he may need offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia that he dealt with all year.

    Bergeron missed the Bruins’ first three games of the 82-game schedule with a lower-body injury; however, he managed to play the next 79, plus six more in the playoffs as Boston fell to Ottawa in the first round.

    Typically, a sports hernia is first treated with rest and physical therapy. Then, if that doesn’t solve the problem, surgery may be required.

    It was a frustrating start to the season for the 31-year-old center. Bergeron had just 24 points in 49 games before the All-Star break, but he finished with a respectable 53 points in 79 games, including 21 goals.

    Bergeron could win his fourth Selke Trophy in June. He’s a finalist for the award, along with Ryan Kesler and Mikko Koivu.

    In other Bruins injury news, Brandon Carlo had a concussion and Torey Krug an MCL injury. Neither d-man was able to suit up for the B’s in the postseason, though Krug was close to returning.

    Defenseman Adam McQuaid, hurt in Game 2 against the Sens, had a neck injury.

    No Patrick Kane for U.S. at Worlds

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    Tough day for USA Hockey.

    After learning that prized Toronto rookie Auston Matthews was skipping the World Hockey Championships, the organization was informed Chicago star Patrick Kane would also be passing on the event.

    Kane hasn’t often been able to participate in the Worlds, given he and the Blackhawks have advanced past the first playoff round in five of the last nine years. In fact, the last time Kane played at the Worlds was in 2008, when Chicago missed the playoffs entirely.

    (Kane had 10 points in seven games for the Americans that year, en route to a sixth-place finish.)

    Matthews cited fatigue as one of the main reasons he passed on this year’s tourney, and it’s safe to assume Kane did the same. He appeared in all 82 games for the ‘Hawks this year, four more in the playoffs, and also represented the U.S. at the World Cup of Hockey.

    USA Hockey did manage to secure the services of two important players last week, however. Both Calgary sniper Johnny Gaudreau and Buffalo sophomore Jack Eichel agreed to come aboard.

    Gaborik has procedure for ‘chronic’ knee issue, questionable for camp

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    Yesterday, new Kings GM Rob Blake told reporters the club wouldn’t be buying out Marian Gaborik’s contract, because the veteran winger had undergone a medical procedure.

    Today, the club shed more light on the situation.

    L.A. announced that Gaborik recently underwent an “in-depth medical procedure for a chronic issue related to his left knee,” adding the 35-year-old would be questionable for the start of training camp.

    Gaborik’s had left knee problems dating back to 2013, when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He missed nearly 20 games during the ’13-14 campaign, then had more knee troubles at the tail end of ’15-16 (with the Kings).

    Since injured players can’t be bought out of their contracts, Gaborik could very well open the year on LTIR, providing the Kings with some much-needed cap space.

    And though Blake said next season would “be a clean slate for Marian to come in and prove himself,” there has to be some question if he’ll return.

    Gaborik struggled through this season, scoring just 10 goals in 56 games while missing extensive time with a foot injury suffered at the World Cup. Health issues have dogged him throughout his 17-year career, and he’s only dressed in 110 of 164 games over the last two seasons.

    Because of this, his contract has become an albatross. Signed by ex-GM Dean Lombardi, Gaborik’s seven-year, $34.125 million deal still has four years remaining, at a $4.875M cap hit. Gaborik would be 39 by the time the deal expires on July 1, 2021.

    In other L.A. injury news, three players also underwent medical procedures recently. Tyler Toffoli and Derek Forbort had knee surgery, while Alec Martinez had “a minor medical procedure for a chronic issue related to his groin.” All three are expected to be ready for camp, however.

    Blackhawks’ Anisimov suffered high-ankle sprain in mid-March

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    Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov was not himself in the playoffs, and by the fourth game against the Predators his ice time was limited to just 14:18.

    It turns out he had a pretty good excuse. Anisimov suffered a high-ankle sprain on March 14 against the Montreal Canadiens, and that’s a tough injury to overcome in less than a month.

    Anisimov missed the rest of the regular season with the injury. He returned for the playoffs but failed to register a single point in four losses to Nashville.

    “Being away for that time period and coming right back into the playoffs, obviously you’re not as sharp as you want to be,” Anisimov’s agent told the Daily Herald’s John Dietz.