2011 playoffs: Coyotes face possible last game in Phoenix, five Game 4’s tonight

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After two wide-open games on Tuesday, the NHL features five Game 4 matches tonight. Four of the games are turning point moments as series can move to 2-2 ties or leading teams could earn 3-1 series leads. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Coyotes fight for their playoff lives. As always, start time are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

Washington @ NY Rangers – 7 p.m. (Versus); Capitals lead series 2-1

Bruce Boudreau’s comments about Madison Square Garden might stir the pot and make for a raucous crowd, but his diversionary tactics probably won’t keep the Rangers from noticing that Mike Knuble won’t be out there for Washington.

There really hasn’t been much shame to go around in this low-scoring series, just a lot of tough defense. This game should be just as intense – maybe more – as the Capitals could get a stranglehold on the series or it could be tied up going back to Washington.

Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay – 7 p.m.; Penguins lead series 2-1

The Penguins will play this game without tenacious forechecker Chris Kunitz while the Lightning will miss the rugged play of Steve Downie, as both players were suspended one game for their actions in Game 3.

Both teams will miss those players, but the Penguins might hurt the most considering their already scant amount of scoring ability. Then again, Pittsburgh keeps making it happen, so don’t be surprised if they put Tampa Bay on the brink tonight.

Philadelphia @ Buffalo – 7:30 p.m.; Flyers lead series 2-1

For all the attention focused on Philadelphia’s supposed goaltending issues, the Flyers won the last two games and could have the Sabres on the ropes with a victory. That being said, Philly knows that the Sabres are going to be a desperate team in this one.

One thing to watch for: are the Flyers getting to Ryan Miller? The all-world goalie has been yapping at former teammate Danny Briere, but maybe he’s really mad at himself. After earning a 35-save shutout in Game 1, Miller has allowed eight goals on 59 shots in the last two games. He needs to bounce back against Philly’s varied attack or Buffalo is in big-time danger.

Anaheim @ Nashville – 8:30 p.m.; Predators lead series 2-1

Doesn’t it just feel like this is the year the Predators finally make it to the second round? The Ducks are a pesky lot, but that was actually a pretty dominant Game 3 win, even if Nashville only won by one goal. Want proof? Just look at how much they’re getting under the skin of hot-tempered Ducks GM Bob Murray.

Yet if Anaheim wins this game, the Preds might go back to the Pond feeling like they didn’t take enough advantage of Bobby Ryan’s suspension.

Detroit @ Phoenix – 10:30 p.m. (Versus); Red Wings lead series 3-0

There’s a very real possibility that this might be the last game the Coyotes ever play in Phoenix. It’s far from a done deal yet, but things haven’t been looking great for the City of Glendale. If the ‘Yotes play like have been in this series, the franchise will leave the desert with a whimper.

The Red Wings have some incentive to win, even if they lack some urgency. After all, this is an aging team with plenty of mileage on their veteran players’ legs. Maybe they’d get slightly rusty with the layoff related to a sweep, but overall, they would benefit greatly from the rest.

Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

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It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

And now he’s out again.

Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

“We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

Stars’ Janmark won’t play this season, and there’s a ‘question mark’ about next year

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In a season filled with injuries, one of the biggest Dallas suffered this season was Mattias Janmark‘s knee issue.

The 24-year-old Swede has missed the entire season thus far, but recently resumed skating and practicing with the club. That said, Janmark confirmed he won’t play this year — meaning he’ll miss the entire 82-game campaign.

And what’s more, he might miss games next season as well.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” GM Jim Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.

Losing his services was a big blow for Dallas. After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Janmark’s contract situation complicates things. He’s a pending RFA, currently in the last of a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an $733,750 cap hit. The Stars would (presumably) like to keep him, but the uncertainty regarding his health might made negotiations difficult.

Fehr injures hand, spotted in cast following Leafs debut

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Eric Fehr finally played his first game as a Maple Leaf on Wednesday night, suiting up for the first time since being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

It didn’t go especially well.

Fehr, who logged 10:44 TOI in a 5-2 win over Columbus, suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot in the third period and was seen afterward wearing a cast, per TSN.

According to the Toronto Sun, the 31-year-old forward confirmed he spent the night in hospital.

While a break or fracture might rule him out for the remainder of the season, it’s worth noting Fehr won’t be done entirely in Toronto. He’s in the second of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit. Prior to joining the Leafs he appeared in 52 games for the Pens, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.

He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.

Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He is a good PK contributor, and can play both center and wing. Those were some of the attributes the Leafs were hoping Fehr could bring down the stretch and, should they make it, into the postseason.

He’s back: With 10 games left, Isles recall Halak

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The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.

Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.

It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.

With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.

Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.

As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.