Buffalo Sabres v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Two

2011 playoffs: Tonight’s two pivotal Game 5 matches

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Almost any playoff game can change the scope of a series considering the limited amount of contests involved, but Game 5’s are frequently pivotal. That should definitely be the case for tonight’s two games, as both series will end up 3-2 by the end of the evening. Let’s take a look at them now, with all start times being Eastern Standard Time (ET).

Buffalo @ Philadelphia – 7:30 p.m. (Versus); Series tied 2-2.

This is starting to seem like a feast or famine series for Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. In the team’s two wins, he looked like an absolute star by getting shutouts. Yet in the two losses, he’s been able to empathize with Roberto Luongo’s struggles by allowing eight goals. It’ll be interesting to see if this ends up being a tight or wide open game tonight.

One thing that seems certain is that the intensity will ratchet up. The two sides keep falling into wars of words, with the most recent exchange taking place between Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and Flyers captain Mike Richards. If you haven’t been able to see much of this series yet, you should absolutely take the chance to watch tonight’s game.

Nashville @ Anaheim – 10 p.m. (Versus); Series tied at 2-2

With Bobby Ryan’s two-game absence in mind, the Ducks probably feel pretty good about returning to Anaheim with their series tie intact. This is very much a seesaw series so far, with the Predators looking great in Games 1 and 3 and the Ducks winning impressively in Game 2 and 4.

Much like that Flyers-Sabres series, the angst level keeps rising as well. From Ryan’s suspension to Ducks GM Bob Murray’s diving complaints to the Jarkko Ruutu suspension, these teams are clearly getting to know each other. Expect some fireworks in what could be a decisive rubber match.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.