Todd Bertuzzi, Pekka Rinne

Around the rink – February 9; Habs visit Boston, Preds and Wings clash

7:00 p.m.

Montreal @ Boston

These Original Six teams renew an age old rivalry and this time the Habs have a chance to get even with the Bruins for first in the Northeast Division with a win in regulation. The Bruins are slumping a bit of late and the Habs have been playing strong meaning that this game will be about as feisty as every other one involving these two. For the Canadiens, serving notice to Boston that they’ve got company in a race for the division title could be the sort of motivation they both need to play their best hockey. How the Bruins cope mentally with the loss of Marc Savard for the season will be important.

San Jose @ Columbus

The Sharks are on fire going 8-0-1 in their last nine games and going up a motivated Columbus team coming off a big win for them over a depleted Penguins squad. For the Jackets, it was their third win in a row and while their streak isn’t as impressive as San Jose’s, they’re playing good hockey of late. How the goaltending holds up in this game will be the real test as both teams are on the back end of back-to-back games.

7:30 p.m.

Nashville @ Detroit

An important battle in the race for supremacy in the Central Division. Detroit is hoping to keep Nashville at bay while the Predators would like to do what they did over the weekend in shutting out the Wings. One difference in this one should be that the Wings won’t have Joey MacDonald in goal this time around and Jimmy Howard will get a chance to play as strong as he did on Monday against the Rangers. Meanwhile, the Predators are looking to forget about being shutout by the Oilers 4-0 on Monday night. Detroit holds a seven point lead on Nashville for now. A Wings win would be a tough psychological blow to the Predators as they’ve been playing hard of late.

8:00 p.m.

Colorado @ Minnesota

And so they meet again. Last week saw the Wild edge the Avalanche 4-3 and the Wild will be hoping that home ice is good to them. These two teams have split their four games so far this season. The Wild have won six of their last eight games and have jumped three points ahead of the Avs in the standings. The Avs have lost six of their last seven games and are in the middle of a four game road swing. A win would give them a lift as they head to Nashville and Columbus after this game.

8:30 p.m.

Phoenix @ Dallas

It the Stars aren’t careful they’ll find their lead in the Pacific Division has totally disappeared after this game. The Coyotes are just two points behind Dallas in the division and the Stars are spiraling out of control of late losing five of their last six games. Phoenix has won their last two games heading into this one and the difference between these two of late is goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov earned shutouts in their last two games while the combination of Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft has been poor.

9:30 p.m.

Ottawa @ Calgary

The Flames hope to keep the good times rolling against Ottawa. The Senators are hoping the Flames from the start of the season show up for this one as they look to snap their 10-game losing streak. With the Flames playing tough hockey of late that makes for a tall order for the Sens. With both Brian Elliott and Robin Lehner unable to make the stops they need to win, expect Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla to shine.

Chicago @ Edmonton

With the Blackhawks being frustrated and slipping back in the West, you’d think that facing the worst team in the conference would be the way to go. You’d be wrong though as the Oilers have done well against the Hawks this year going 2-1-0 with them. Luckily for Chicago this is the last time they’ll have to see the Oilers. The Oilers will be hoping that Devan Dubnyk stays hot after shutting out Nashville on Monday. If the Blackhawks can’t put their inner squabbles behind them against the West’s worst team, perhaps things in the Windy City aren’t as peachy when defending a title.

10:00 p.m.

Anaheim @ Vancouver

The Canucks roll through the West has been something else to watch. Their ability to play top-level hockey and not showing the mental breakdowns of the past has been impressive. They take a six game win streak into tonight’s game with Anaheim which sees the Ducks come in winners of three of their last four games. Curtis McElhinney will have to do his part to hold off the Canucks and if he wanted to show Ducks management why he should stick around instead of bringing in Ray Emery, stuffing Vancouver on their ice would do the trick.

‘We love him’ — Bolts heap praise on Stamkos as uncertain future awaits

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 26, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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This may have been Steve Stamkos‘ last game in a Tampa Bay uniform.

If it was, it didn’t go according to script.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t special.

Stamkos stunned the hockey world on Friday night by making his playoff debut in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, returning from a two-month absence due to a blood clotting issue.

After undergoing vascular surgery and spending weeks on blood thinners, the captain was cleared to return for his team’s most crucial game of the season — one the Bolts lost, 2-1, the narrowest of margins.

The outcome didn’t take away from how Tampa’s players and coaches felt about Stamkos’ return

“He’s an extremely important player on our team, and we weren’t quite sure when this was going to happen, but a decision was made that he could play for Game 7,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “It was an emotional boost for all of us. The guys were really excited to have him back, and I thought he did a great job.”

By the boxscore, Stamkos’ impact on the game was minimal. He received less than 12 minutes of ice time and finished minus-1. But he did have two shots on net — one of them showing just how dangerous, even in a limited capacity, No. 91 can be:

“I thought I beat him,” Stamkos told NHL.com. “It just went through him and out the other side.”

The focus for Stamkos and the Bolts now shifts to his contract situation. Slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the former 60-goal scorer projects to be the biggest star to hit the market since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter became UFAs in 2012.

Those two, you may recall, cashed in quite nicely, signing identical 13-year, $98 million deals.

So you can see why Stamkos’ future is of great interest across the league.

Of course, nobody has officially ruled out the 26-year-old’s return to Tampa Bay, and tonight’s drama probably strengthened some pretty serious emotional ties. Remember, this is the only team he’s ever known. The Lightning made Stamkos the first overall pick in 2008 and, six years later, the 10th captain in franchise history. He won two Rocket Richard trophies with the Bolts, and played in a pair of Eastern Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final.

He’s the team’s leader and face of the franchise. That’s not small stuff.

But in the end, it might not matter. It’s important to remember the Lightning got to this point without Stamkos because they’ve got incredible depth and some really good young players. Those young players will need to be paid too, and there might not be enough money under the cap for GM Steve Yzerman to make Stamkos an offer he can’t refuse.

Which is why it was hard not to listen to comments the Bolts made tonight, and wonder if they’re aware of what the future probably holds.

“We hope we can stick together, but you just never know,” Boyle said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Thought we were destined for some pretty special things.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup Final TV schedule

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks skates on the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on November 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

The National Hockey League announced today the schedule for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which begins Monday, May 30, in Pittsburgh.

Based on their superior regular-season point total, the Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins will host Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final, as well as Games 5 and 7, if necessary.

The Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks will host Games 3 and 4, as well as Game 6, if necessary.

In the U.S., NBC will televise Game 1 and, if necessary, Games 5-7. NBCSN will broadcast Game 2. Television information for Games 3 and 4 will be announced at a later date.

Game 1 Monday, May 30 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC
Game 2 Wednesday, June 1 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBCSN
Game 3 Saturday, June 4 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose TBD
Game 4 Monday, June 6 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose TBD
Game 5* Thursday, June 9 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC
Game 6* Sunday, June 12 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose NBC
Game 7* Wednesday, June 15 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC

Media day will be on Sunday, May 29, time TBD. PHT will be on location for the entirety of the final, and a reminder that all games will also be broadcast on NBC Sports Radio.

PHT’s Mike Halford (that’s me) and Jason Brough will be providing analysis for both pre- and post-game shows.

Pens edge Bolts, advance to first Stanley Cup Final in seven years

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For one night, anyway, the Steel City loved it some Rust.

In a thrilling and drama-filled affair, the unlikeliest of heroes — Pens rookie Bryan Rust — stole the show, scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Rust’s heroics sent Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009.

Seven years ago against the Red Wings, it was depth forward Max Talbot that etched himself into Penguins lore, scoring both goals in the decisive Game 7.

Rust pretty much did the same on Friday.

The former Notre Dame standout opened the scoring in the second period, then took all of 30 seconds to wipe out Jonathan Drouin‘s equalizer. It was a performance that’ll long be remembered in Pittsburgh, as it was the organization’s first Game 7 victory since — you guessed it — 2009, when Talbot led the Pens to victory over Detroit.

As mentioned above, this contest was filled with drama. The theatrics actually began prior to puck drop, when Bolts captain Steve Stamkos was added to the lineup — his first game since being diagnosed with a blood clotting issue on Mar. 31.

Stamkos’ playoff debut was somewhat muted. He finished minus-1 with just 11:55 of ice time, though it’s tough to suggest much more could’ve been expected from a guy that hadn’t played in two months.

At times tonight, it seemed nothing, not even Stamkos’ presence, was going to slow Pittsburgh down. The Pens out-shot the Lightning 39-17 and had it not been for some terrific netminding from Andrei Vasilevskiy, the score could’ve been much worse.

That said, Tampa Bay did have its chances in the third period, and finished with a frantic flurry around Pens goalie Matt Murray (who wasn’t busy, but finished with 16 saves).

In the end, the Lightning will undoubtedly regret the missed opportunity to finish this series off in Game 6 at home.

The Penguins, meanwhile, have to be thrilled with the form shown over the final two games of this series. They’re playing some terrific hockey, getting contributions across the board and now staring at a Stanley Cup Final matchup with San Jose — which promises to be a fast, offensive and compelling series.

Game 1 gets underway at Consol on Monday. Have to imagine Pittsburgh can’t wait.

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

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Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?