2010 NHL playoffs: Eastern Conference seedings update

Here’s the latest Eastern Conference standings, as three teams fight
for two playoff spots.

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There is still some very important seeding to be figured, on top of
the battle for the bottom two playoff spots. The New Jersey Devils and
Pittsburgh Penguins are locked in a fight for the Atlantic division
title, and while the Canadians, Flyers, Rangers and Bruins all want to
just get into the playoffs, finishing anywhere other than 8th in the
conference would be ideal as well.

After the jump, remaining games and seeding possibilities for the
Eastern teams.

1. Washington Capitals (120 points)

Remaining
game:
vs. Boston Bruins, Sunday @ 12:30 p.m. EDT

Seeding
possibilities:
None.

2. New Jersey Devils (99 points)

Remaining
games:
vs. NY Islanders, tonight @ 7 p.m. EDT; vs. Buffalo Sabres,
Sunday @ 3 p.m. EDT

Seeding possibilites: The Devils are
deadlocked with the Penguins in points and record, but hold the
tiebreakers over Pittsburgh. Win out, and New Jersey is assured of the
division title and the #2 seed.

3. Buffalo Sabres (98
points)

Remaining games: @Ottawa Senators, tonight @
7 p.m. EDT; @New Jersey Devils, Sunday @ 3 p.m. EDT

Seeding
possibilities:
The Sabres can finish no lower than 3rd in the East,
and could be playing for the 2nd seed tomorrow afternoon against the
Devils.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (99 points)

Remaining
games:
@Atlanta Thrashers, tonight @ 7 p.m. EDT; @NY Islanders,
Sunday @ 5 p.m. EDT

Seeding possibilities: The Penguins
need the New Jersey Devils to lose of their remaining games, since if
both teams win out then New Jersey will win the division title. The
Penguins can finish no lower than 4th in the East.

5. Ottawa
Senators: (94 points)

Remaining game: vs. Buffalo
Sabres, tonight @ 7 p.m. EDT

Seeding possibilities: None.
The Senators are locked in the 5th seed.

6. Boston Bruins:
(89 points)

Remaining game: @Washington Capitals,
Sunday @ 12:30 p.m. EDT

Seeding possibilities: The Bruins
are assured a playoff spot, but could finish either in 6th or 7th.
Tomorrow’s game against the Capitals will not be a first-round preview,
as neither the Flyers nor the Rangers can overtake the Bruins. One point
against the Caps, and the Bruins get the 6th seed.

7.
Montreal Canadiens (87 points)

Remaining game: vs.
Toronto Maple Leafs, tonight @ 7 p.m. EDT

Playoff implications:
The Canadiens desperately need just one point, and they are assured
a playoff spot. They can finish no higher than 7th, but lose tonight
and the Habs face the possibility of missing the playoffs. How? If the
Rangers win over the Flyers in overtime or the shootout, with a Habs
regulation loss, then the Habs will be the odd team out with 87 points
and losing on tiebreakers.

8. Philadelphia Flyers (86
points)

Remaining game: vs. NY Rangers, Sunday @ 3
p.m. EDT

Playoff implications: Simple, win and the Rangers
are in the playoffs. As stated above, the Flyers could back into the
playoffs with an overtime or shootout loss if the Habs lose tonight. If
Montreal gets just one point against Toronto, then tomorrow’s game
becomes a win-and-in scenario.

9. NY Rangers (86 points)

Remaining
game:
@Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday @ 3 p.m. EDT

Playoff
implications:
Win and the Rangers are in the playoffs. Even an
overtime or shootout loss does them no favors.

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    Fisher returns to Preds practice, but still not cleared

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    Given the injuries Nashville’s sustained at center this postseason, Mike Fisher‘s presence at today’s practice was a welcome sight — regardless of his availability for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

    “I feel pretty good,” Fisher told NHL.com after practicing for the first time since May 18. “I skated a few days here. Still not cleared, but it felt good to get out there with the guys.”

    Fisher was knocked out of the Western Conference Final in Game 4, after taking a Josh Manson knee to the head. That, combined with the loss of Ryan Johansen to season-ending thigh surgery, whittled Nashville’s center depth down to Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissions, Vern Fiddler and Frederick Gaudreau.

    Even though Fisher is pointless through 14 playoff games, his return would still be massive. In addition to serving as team captain, he was averaging just under 17 minutes per night prior to getting hurt, while winning 52 percent of his faceoffs.

    He said his undisclosed injury feels “a lot better than it was a few days ago,” adding that his goal is to return for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.

    Fisher took minimal contact at today’s skate, and worked on a line with James Neal and Harry Zolnierczyk.

    Swedes have shown well in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Filip Forsberg is having quite the spring for the Nashville Predators, setting franchise records with his eight goals and 15 points. He’s tied the team mark with at least a point in seven straight games.

    Pontus Aberg scored the game-winning goal to put Nashville up 3-2 in the Western Conference finals, while defenseman Mattias Ekholm, has been smothering top lines all postseason. Viktor Arvidsson has 10 points, and his plus-13 rating ties him with Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell for second-best this postseason — behind Forsberg (plus-17).

    All five of these players are Swedish. It has been a sweet postseason for players from a nation whose players once were derided for being soft and not able to handle the rigors of the NHL. In all, general manager David Poile has six Swedes on Nashville’s playoff roster as the Predators reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their 19-year history.

    “I must admit we haven’t gone out of the way necessarily to get them to this point, but I’m thinking maybe we should,” Poile said. “They’ve certainly been key parts of our team.”

    The Predators have lots of company in mining Sweden for talent. Defenseman Erik Karlsson is one of four Swedes playing for Ottawa in the Eastern Conference finals, while former Nashville forward Patric Hornqvist is one of three for the Pittsburgh Penguins. A check of NHL rosters shows 79 skaters and 10 goalies from Sweden played during the regular season, with 40 appearing in at least one playoff game.

    Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said Sweden has become a hockey power for a small country. Teammates with Borje Salming and Inge Hammarstrom in 1976 in Toronto, Carlyle saw the abuse directed at both.

    “That was a little bit more barbaric or archaic times of hockey,” Carlyle said. “But that’s how much the game has grown, and it has become a world-class game. And these players are world-class players and now you’re looking at their contribution and the numbers that are in the NHL, it’s all a tribute back to those two players.”

    Because of the time zone difference, Rakell said, it was pretty tough to watch NHL games when he was growing up. The best chance to watch hockey stars came during national team tournaments in Europe. Rakell, now 24, started watching more of the NHL when he got to junior hockey, though he also had a favorite.

    “I was growing up in the same hometown as Mats Sundin, and he was pretty big in that small town I grew up in,” Rakell said of the 13-year NHL center. “So he was one of the guys I was looking up to and watching highlight videos.”

    Pittsburgh forward Carl Hagelin said Thursday that it’s a very good time to be a Swedish hockey player, noting Sweden beat Canada 2-1 in a shootout Monday for the world hockey championship . Each NHL team seems have two or three Swedes on the roster.

    Yes, they do keep track of their countrymen during the regular season. In the playoffs, all friendships are put aside.

    “In the playoffs, you just play to win games,” Hagelin said.

    Hagelin estimated a third of Sweden watched the world championship. Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s much easier to watch the NHL these days.

    “There’s a lot of people watching us back home,” Aberg said.

    Penguins forward Oskar Sundqvist agreed: “I know a lot of my friends stay up basically the whole night and watch games. I think it’s growing every day in Sweden, and it’s just getting bigger and bigger.”

    Swedish hockey has become so strong that Carlyle said NHL scouts are visiting the country regularly. Making the jump to playing in North America has its challenges for young players. Pittsburgh drafted Sundqvist in 2012 when he was 19, and he stayed in Sweden for two full seasons before making his NHL debut last season. He spent much of this season at the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and now is 23.

    “It’s not like you’ve got a one-hour car drive and get home with mom and dad,” Sundqvist said. “I have a lot to thank Pittsburgh for letting me stay in Sweden one more year and prepare to get ready for everything that is over here.”

    A Swedish teammate means being able to relax and talk with each other in the same language. It’s also a little easier to get tips on what to do and not do to ensure a long stay in the NHL.

    “Everybody wants to play here and everybody wants to make the best out of it if you ever get the chance,” Rakell said.

    Blue Jackets sign USHL’s goalie of the year

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed goalie Matiss Kivlenieks to a three-year entry-level contract.

    Kivlenieks was an undrafted free agent that a number of NHL teams were hoping to sign after his sterling season in the USHL.

    The 20-year-old was originally planning to attend Minnesota State University next season, but he’s a professional now so that plan has changed.

    From the press release:

    Kivlenieks, 20, went 36-7-4-2 with a 1.85 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and five shutouts in 49 games to help the Sioux City Musketeers capture the 2016-17 Anderson Cup as the league’s regular season champions. He was named the USHL’s Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year and to the First All-Star Team after leading the league in wins, GAA, SV%, shutouts (tied) and finishing second in minutes played (2,991).  

    Next season, Sergei Bobrovsky will be the starter for Columbus, likely backed up by either Anton Forsberg or Joonas Korpisalo.

    But Kivlenieks may get the chance to be other goalie in the AHL, behind either Forsberg or Korpisalo.

    The Blue Jackets also have 23-year-old goalie Oscar Dansk in the system; however, he struggled last year (.903) in the Swedish league.

    Related: Jackets loan Dansk to Swedish club

    Your Pittsburgh-Ottawa Game 7 officials are…

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    The men in stripes for tonight’s huge Eastern Conference final clash at PPG Paints have been unveiled.

    Per Scouting The Refs, referees Wes McCauley (No. 4) and Dan O’Halloran (No. 13) will work the game, along with linesmen Brad Kovachik (No. 71) and Brian Murphy (No. 93).

    It’s the first time McCauley and O’Halloran have worked together this postseason.

    McCauley last worked this series in Game 5, Pittsburgh’s 7-0 blowout win over the Sens at home. O’Halloran worked the game prior.

    McCauley is perhaps best remembered this postseason for his work in Game 3 of the Western Conference final, a 2-1 Nashville win in which three goals were called back — one Ducks marker because the net had been dislodged prior to the puck crossing the line, and two Preds tallies in the third period due to goalie interference.

    O’Halloran was also involved in a controversial goal call (to be fair, almost every referee has this postseason). He and Kevin Pollack opted not to overturn Corey Perry‘s goal on Cam Talbot in Game 4 of the Ducks-Oilers series. You can read more on that, and see video, here.