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2011 Playoffs: Redemption or desperation? Tonight’s Game 2’s dictate the future

With four Game 2’s on tap tonight, there are four teams that can do something about the instant hole they’re in. Some of them could also find themselves heading back home down 0-2 if they’re not careful. Here’s what’s on tap tonight across the NHL playoff landscape. All times are Eastern.

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh – 7 p.m. – Pittsburgh leads series 1-0

Tampa Bay got the sort of lackluster effort that any team in the playoffs would like to avoid. After going through two scoreless periods, the Penguins jumped out in the third and put the Lightning down. The Lightning need a lot more physicality tonight. Brooks Orpik welcomed Steve Stamkos to the playoffs rudely on his first shift and the hitting didn’t stop all game long. Tampa Bay could stand to fire back with some big shots of their own and get snapped into a higher gear. Of all the Game 1’s played, Tampa-Pittsburgh had the most reserved pace to it. Tampa might benefit from pressing a bit more.

NY Rangers @ Washington – 7:30 p.m. (Versus) – Washington leads series 1-0

The Rangers will change things up a little bit tonight as Mats Zuccarello will sit while Sean Avery and his special brand of annoyance and aggression will play tonight. Avery against Washington should help keep the Rangers on their toes and the Caps with their heads on a swivel. They might benefit the most from a set of earplugs though so Avery’s verbal barbs won’t make them do something foolish. Avery’s ability to get players to take bad penalities rivals Avery’s ability to take some of his own. In the playoffs, however, he’s been a very effective player and that’s something the Caps can remember from the 2009 playoffs. The Caps will be hoping that Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin can continue to be the offensive studs, just that they they could do it a bit sooner than the final minutes of the third and overtime.

Chicago @ Vancouver – 10 p.m. (Versus)Vancouver leads series 1-0

If Chicago’s going to give Vancouver nightmares in the playoffs, sending the series back to Chicago tied would be the right way to do it. If the Blackhawks allow the Canucks to come out flying and seize the game right away, fighting an uphill battle against the league’s best team is a losing proposition. While Vancouver got great goaltending from Roberto Luongo in his 2-0 shutout in Game 1, there were a lot of post hits as well. Good luck is part of the battle, but if some of those shots start missing posts and hit the back of the net, Vancouver’s got a fight on their hands.

Nashville @ Anaheim – 10:30 p.m.Nashville leads series 1-0

While goaltending was only part of the problem for the Ducks in Game 1, they might be testing out Ray Emery to be the starter tonight. Emery will be hoping his defense does a better job of withstanding the Predators pressure on both sides of the puck than they did on Wednesday losing 4-1. For Nashville they’ll want to do more of the same and if Mike Fisher continues to be a ridiculous sniper, the Ducks are looking at a world of hurt potentially heading to Nashville down 0-2. The Ducks will need more of that snarl and much better play from their best players tonight. If not, the Ducks may be looking at a very quick exit.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky
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Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?