2011 Playoffs: Teams try to maintain or reverse momentum in four Game 2 contests

Saturday’s four games include two opportunities for road teams to take threatening 2-0 leads and two home teams with a chance to hold serve by doing the same. Which teams will dig deep and which ones might look back in regret? Let’s take a look. All start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

Phoenix @ Detroit – 1 p.m. (NBC) Red Wings lead series 1-0

Our weekend playoff coverage begins with a rematch of the 2010 playoff series. While last year’s match was surprisingly competitive for casual fans, Game 1 began the way most would expect, with the Red Wings’ top-end talent overwhelming the star-starved Coyotes. It’s not panic time for Phoenix by any means, but if they want to win, they’re going to need some all-world performances from their stud goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

The Red Wings’ time as a true dynasty might be winding down considering the advanced age of its defense and limited amount of young players, while the Coyotes’ time in Arizona might be winding down as well. We’ll see which team could put distractions aside and alter the landscape of this series.

Buffalo @ Philadelphia – 5 p.m. Sabres lead series 1-0

Many people worried about the Flyers defense in Chris Pronger’s absence and their goaltending considering Sergei Bobrovsky’s rookie presence, yet their Game 1 issue was offense instead. Philly will be forced to go without Pronger in Game 2 as well, but will their firepower show up this time around?

Of course, it’s easy to get hysterical about the team’s lack of offense, but don’t forget that the 1-0 loss came against Ryan Miller. When he’s at his best, he can short-circuit some explosive attacking schemes. We’ll see if he can back up that opening performance or if he’ll struggle to produce an encore in Game 2.

Montreal @ Boston – 7 p.m. (Versus) Canadiens lead series 1-0

Carey Price and the Habs managed to shut down the Bruins in Game 1, effectively beating them at their own game. Perhaps a thirsty Zdeno Chara was part of the problem for Boston, as the huge defenseman needed to be hospitalized with dehydration last night. Chara’s status for this game is unclear, but since this is the playoffs, it wouldn’t be surprising if he suits up.

One underrated storyline is the shaky – or at least not very timely – play of vaunted goalie Tim Thomas. If he keeps losing playoff games, people might start to overreact about the disparity between his regular season and postseason success.

Los Angeles @ San Jose – 10 p.m. (Versus) Sharks lead series 1-0

The Sharks won Game 1, but a lot of people were surprised that the Kings were able to hang in there and even control much of the play. Joe Pavelski continued his big-game success, though, scoring a top shelf beauty to give San Jose the win in overtime.

The Kings are playing with house money while the Sharks seem to be in eternal favorite mode, but San Jose could take a 2-0 series lead with a win tonight. An impressive win wouldn’t hurt matters for them, either.

‘Many teams’ interested in Leafs prospect Toninato, who could go UFA

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Here’s a name to keep an eye on as this summer progresses: Dominic Toninato.

Toninato, 23, was Toronto’s fifth-round pick way back in 2012. From there, he went the collegiate route and put together a strong four years at Minnesota-Duluth. His NCAA career culminated with a senior season in which he served as team captain, set a personal high in points and led the Bulldogs to the Frozen Four final.

Though his rights are currently owned by the Leafs, Toninato would become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 16 if he and the club don’t reach an agreement. You’d think, based on his body of work, Toninato would be a major priority for GM Lou Lamoriello, but it’s not that simple. Thanks to years of stockpiling draft picks, Toronto has a ton of prospects — but can only have 50 players under contract at the NHL level.

Adding to the complexity? There are other teams lined up to make Toninato an offer.

“Dom’s a good player. Will teams be interested? Yes. There will be many teams interested in him,” agent Neil Sheehy told the Star. “The process right now is working with the Leafs. They hold his rights till Aug. 16.

“They have a lot of things that they’re trying to figure out.”

Reading between the lines, it doesn’t sound especially promising in Toronto. The club offered Toninato a deal last summer, which he turned down to return to school. They could offer him an AHL contract — there’s no limit on those — but Sheehy said his client isn’t interested in that.

Sheehy said he hopes to have more clarity in late June, following the expansion and entry drafts.

 

 

Expansion draft will force Ducks to make some big decisions

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Bob Murray managed to keep the Anaheim Ducks together for a shot at the Stanley Cup.

But after losing to Nashville in the Western Conference Final, Anaheim’s general manager will now have to make some big decisions — especially with the expansion draft looming.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, the blue line will definitely be worth watching. Hampus Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. And after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign. For that reason, it’s possible Murray may choose to shop Fowler instead. Or perhaps it’s Vatanen that goes on the block.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

In goal, the Ducks have John Gibson under club control for years to come, but they’ll need to choose a backup. Jonathan Bernier is an unrestricted free agent, and even though he played well during the regular season, his performance against the Predators wasn’t great. Murray may want to at least consider his options there.

Related: Fowler surprised he wasn’t traded

Carlyle says Ducks were dealt ‘tough hand’ by schedule-makers

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Call it sour grapes if you wish, but Randy Carlyle thinks the Anaheim Ducks got screwed by the NHL’s schedule-maker.

The head coach launched his complaint last night after his Ducks fell to the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

“I don’t think we played poorly in the series,” said Carlyle. “I think that the toughest part I have about the whole thing is that this was our seventh game in 13 days.

“Now, there’s various reasons for that, but I think there’s got to be some consideration in the scheduling in the future between series. We finished on a Wednesday and had to open again on Friday, whereas other teams had to open on Saturday. An extra day would have given us a chance to recover. And we know how tough these games are. And that was a tough hand that was dealt to us.”

The “other” team to which Carlyle was referring is Pittsburgh. The Penguins beat Washington in Game 7 of the second round on May 10, then opened against Ottawa on May 13.

The Ducks, on the other hand, knocked out Edmonton in Game 7, also on May 10, then had to start against Nashville on May 12.

Fatigue may, indeed, have been a factor early in the series against Nashville. In Game 1, the Ducks were badly outshot, 46-29, and lost, 3-2, in overtime.

Carlyle said afterwards that the extra rest had made a difference for the Preds, who’d eliminated the Blues in six and gone four days without a game.

Ducks forward Sorensen signs in Swedish League

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Nick Sorensen, the forward taken 45th overall by Anaheim in 2013, has opted to return to Europe and sign a two-year pact with SHL club Linkoping, the team announced on Tuesday.

Sorensen, 22, returned to North America this season after spending ’14-15 and ’15-16 in Sweden (the latter with Linkoping, so this is a homecoming of sorts).

A former Quebec League standout, Sorensen impressed during training camp and made the Ducks’ opening-night roster, appearing in five games before being dispatched to AHL San Diego.

“Every game, every practice, every day for me, it’s a look to try to stay here,” Sorensen said back in October, per the Daily News. “Even if I play zero, one, five or 20 games, I’m not going to get comfortable up here. It’s the best league in the world.

“I’m just going to try to prove to them every day I want to be here.”

With the Gulls, Sorensen had 10 goals and 22 points in 48 games. He also chipped in with another four in eight playoff contests, but did suffer an injury during the postseason.

Sorensen was a pending RFA, having just wrapped the last year of his entry-level deal.