Jonathan Toews, Kevin Bieksa, Patrick Kane

Blackhawks face elimination while Kings hope to stay hot against Sharks

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The playoff schedule can be a bit funky and that’s why tonight we’ve got a chance to see our first elimination of the playoffs as well as the last of the Game 3’s to drop the puck. With just two games to keep our eyes on, our attention won’t be spread all over the place. One at a time kids.  All eyes will be on Chicago tonight as the defending champion Blackhawks get to show what they’ve got left, if anything, against Vancouver at home.

Vancouver @ Chicago – 8 p.m. ET (Versus)Vancouver leads series 3-0

This is it for Chicago. After backing their way into the playoffs, it’s come down to this and they’re one more loss from being eliminated. Imagine that, being the last to get into the postseason and the first to be knocked out. It’d make for an ignominious defeat for the defending Stanley Cup champions but if we’re going to have the first repeat winner since the Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998 the Blackhawks had better get it right and stay right. At the very least it looks like they’ll get Dave Bolland back into the lineup. Every little bit helps.

The Canucks, however, are a team on a mission and they’d like to end Chicago’s season and exorcise their main postseason ghosts in the most humiliating way possible by sweeping them out. Of course, this game doesn’t come without its share of drama. With Raffi Torres escaping punishment for his hit on Brent Seabrook, we might see some sort of retaliation from Chicago for the hit. Seabrook will play in the game, but given how upset Chicago seems to be about it, if Torres plays we might see our share of fireworks in this game, especially with the Blackhawks backed into a corner.

San Jose @ Los Angeles – 10:30 p.m. ET (Versus)Series tied 1-1

It’s the series a lot of us didn’t expect to be competitive yet here we are with the Kings having earned a split on the road. Now that the series shifts to Los Angeles, the Sharks have a few things they need to get fixed. They have to not take bad penalties and then allow their suddenly poor penalty kill to get worked over by the Kings high-powered defensemen Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty. While the Kings seemed like they’d be pushovers without Anze Kopitar, they’ve been anything but that.

Frightening part of this series for both teams comes from the lack of scoring from some of the bigger names for both teams. Dustin Penner has been borderline terrible for L.A. while Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been more than notably absent on the scoresheet for San Jose. The playoffs are when big players must show up in a big way. The Sharks could use it from their stars because Kings goalie Jon Quick has looked strong in both games of this series.

Jackets re-sign Sedlak, AHL affiliate’s leading playoff scorer

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lukas Sedlak #85 of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for the pass during the game against the Winnipeg Jets on September 20, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Jets 5-1.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Columbus farmhand Lukas Sedlak, who currently sits tied atop AHL Lake Erie’s playoff scoring leaderboard, has signed a one-year, two-way deal, the Jackets announced on Wednesday.

Sedlak, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2011 that’s spent the last three years in the American League. This season was by far his most successful — in addition to potting a career-best 14 goals, he’s become close to a point-a-game producer in the playoffs, with 11 through 12 games.

“Sedlak has been on a run for us with goal-scoring,” Lake Erie head coach Jared Bednar said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s not a guy who does it for us every night. But he works so hard in all the other areas.”

Sedlak has yet to make his NHL debut, but could be in the mix for a recall next season.

Despite Canadian dollar, Bettman still expects ‘revenue increase’

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman answers a question during a news conference before the NHL All-Star hockey game skills competition, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Canadian dollar is trading at around $0.77 USD today. While that’s up considerably from where it was a few months ago, the damage has already been done to NHL revenues.

“If the Canadian dollar was still at par, we would be $100 or 200 million higher perhaps than we may find ourselves,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Bloomberg Television today.

Having said that, Bettman still expects there will be a “revenue increase” compared to last year, adding that “we continue to grow year after year and set new records.”

More from Bloomberg:

Bettman said that while the NHL’s revenue growth has come across the entire business, the league has seen its biggest boon in its digital platform. The league last year signed a six-year, $1.2 billion contract with Major League Baseball’s interactive media and Internet arm, or BAM, to operate the its digital operations, streaming services and TV network. The NHL got a 10 percent stake as part the deal.

The NHL playoffs are currently in the middle of the conference finals. The NHL’s fiscal year ends June 30.

League revenues, of course, have a direct impact on the salary cap, and let’s face it, that’s the only thing most fans care about.

As of March, the cap was expected to grow from $71.4 million in 2015-16 to $74 million next season.

However, that projection assumed the NHLPA would accept the CBA’s standard five percent growth factor, and with escrow topping the list of player concerns, that’s no given.

The players’ association will discuss and make a decision on the growth factor at some point before July 1.

Related: Bowman noncommittal on Shaw and Bickell, needs to know salary cap first

Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

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After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.