Links, stories and previews for tonight’s three playoff games

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If you’re looking for a one-stop source for PHT stories on tonight’s three games (plus a mini-preview for each), then you’re in the right place. As always, start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

For more general previews, check out the Versus video preview for the two Game 7 matches and Joe Yerdon’s Five Thoughts from this morning.

Boston @ Montreal (NHL Network) – 7 p.m.; Bruins lead series 3-2

The Bruins lost four straight elimination games while the Canadiens went 5-1 in elimination games in the 2010 playoffs, so Boston hopes that they can write a new script in 2011. Tim Thomas beat Carey Price in an amazing goaltending duel in Game 5; will both goalies find a way to match their last efforts or will this be a higher scoring game?

It would be tough for Boston to win three straight games in Montreal and four consecutive contests in this series, but that’s exactly what they’re going for. That journey will be marginally easier since David Dasharnais won’t suit up for the Habs.

Buffalo @ Philadelphia (Versus) – 7:30 p.m.; Series tied 3-3

Going with Brian Boucher in Game 7 will be a more comfortable proposition if Chris Pronger can be more effective than Game 6 (he only played four minutes – all on the power play – in that contest). It’s not even a guarantee he will play in this game, but knowing him, it would be surprising if he sat out. One player who won’t sit out is Mike Richards, even though the Flyers captain delivered a highly questionable hit on Tim Connolly.

History is simultaneously for and against the Flyers in this game. On the negative side, the last team that started three different goalies in one series lost that series. On the bright side, the Flyers are 8-6 in Game 7’s while the Sabres are a troubling 1-5.

Ryan Miller could make the difference, though, as he’s a strong performer in elimination games. The Sabres’ odds might be improved if Derek Roy can play at a reasonably high level in his first game since December. The rest of Buffalo’s injured players can be filed under “gametime decisions” so Philly isn’t the only team providing some questions going into this game. Connolly’s out, Jason Pominville is likely to miss the game and Jochen Hecht is a toss-up … but this is a Game 7, so do you ever truly know until the puck drops?

Chicago @ Vancouver (Versus) – 10 p.m.; Series tied 3-3

Obviously, the Canucks go into this game with the most pressure. They’re trying to avoid the dubious distinction of becoming the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead. Even with GM Mike Gillis distracting some of the issue with a reasonable (but whiny?) complaint about officiating, the spotlight shines so brightly on Roberto Luongo that his psyche might burn. Let’s not forget the serious late-series slide by the Sedin twins and mostly negligible play by Ryan Kesler, either. Every player is under pressure in this game.

Even though they don’t have the same weight on their shoulders, the Blackhawks are still the defending Stanley Cup champions so there would be some disappointment if they came up short. Interestingly enough, this young team hasn’t been in a Game 7 before. In fact, the Blackhawks franchise hasn’t seen a Game 7 playoff game since 1995.

They’ll have to win tonight’s game – and whatever playoff contests that would follow – without Bryan Bickell, though.

NHL suspends Tom Wilson two preseason games for interference

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Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been suspended for two preseason games for interference, after his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas during Friday’s exhibition game.

The incident occurred early in the third period, as Wilson caught Thomas with a heavy and late hit along the boards at the Blues bench.

“Over a full second after Thomas loses control of the puck, well past the point where Thomas is eligible to be checked, Wilson comes in from the side and delivers a forceful body check, knocking Thomas to the ice,” stated a member of the NHL Department of Player Safety in a video explanation of the suspension.

“In addition to the lateness of the hit, what elevates this hit to the level of supplemental discipline is the predatory nature and force of the hit. Wilson tracks Thomas for some time and alters his course to ensure he is able to finish his hit. Then, with the puck long gone from Thomas’ control, Wilson finishes the check with force.”

The Capitals continue their preseason schedule Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. They also play the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

Letang set to return to Penguins lineup vs. Blues on Sunday

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For the first time since February, Kris Letang is expected to be in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup when they face the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 21. He underwent neck surgery in April and missed the entire Stanley Cup playoffs as a result. Despite the absence of their best defenseman, which is a huge loss in Letang, the Penguins were able to overcome that and emerge as champions over Nashville.

According to Pens Inside Scoop on Saturday, head coach Mike Sullivan said Letang will play in Sunday’s Kraft Hockeyville game between the Penguins and St. Louis Blues.

That wasn’t the only Letang news Saturday:

Getting Letang back into the lineup will provide a huge boost to an already strong Penguins team, with his ability to log heavy minutes and act as a catalyst in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack.

“I want to be the same player I was before. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Letang. “Hopefully everything goes well and I go back to the old way, playing over 25 minutes and in all situations.”

But what is most critical is having Letang healthy, and Sullivan this offseason has stressed to the star defenseman to recognize situations when he should make a simple play rather than risk taking an unnecessary hit.

“When people try to dissect all of that, they make assumptions that they understand, but they don’t,” Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Mike and I have a clear understanding of what he wants me to do. I think I’m tired of hearing people around it because I had a talk with Mike and Jim. It’s just a way of avoiding those unnecessary hits. It’s not going to be reducing ice time or anything like that. It’s taking a different approach on certain plays.”

Related: Letang isn’t interested in getting less ice time now that he’s healthy

Canucks’ Horvat out a week with upper-body injury

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The Canucks will resume their preseason schedule on Thursday, although it appears right now that Bo Horvat will likely not be in the lineup.

Just prior to puck drop against the L.A. Kings on Saturday, the Canucks announced that Horvat is expected to be out a week with an upper-body injury.

Per Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, the injury occurred on a hit from Drew Doughty during the first game of the two-game exhibition series between the Canucks and Kings in China.

The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.

Related: Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’

Report: NHL has already made adjustment on slashing, faceoff calls

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The NHL preseason began with the league trying to crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations.

The early results were a lot of confusion, a ton of penalties, and a lot of griping from players, former referees and media about the confusion and the number of penalties.

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart griped on Twitter that it was taking away from the officials ability to call a game by feel and hockey sense. The Winnipeg Jets brought in retired referee Paul Devorski to work with their players in an effort to help them gain an understanding of what the league was looking for and to cut down on penalties.

It was obvious that something was going to have to give.

Either the players would have to adjust to the new standard implemented by the league, or the league would make its own adjustment and scale things back a bit.

In most matters like this in the NHL, it usually tends to be the latter.

That also seems to be the case here as Sportsnet’s John Shannon Tweeted on Saturday morning that the league has already sent a note to its officials to “dial it back” a bit when it comes slashing and faceoff violation calls.

Well, that was fast.

The enforcement of the faceoff rule seemed like a minor thing that really wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but the emphasis on slashing is one that needs to be kept (and extended to interference, holding, hooking or any other sort of obstruction), especially given the way some of the league’s star players are defended where slashing down on their hands or stick seems to be the preferred way of playing them. Not only from a player safety standpoint to help reduce injuries (getting hit with a stick can break bones … or fingers) but because the drop in power plays over the past decade (the “let them play” mindset) has been one of the many factors in the continued decline in goal scoring across the league.

If the NHL is serious about changing this stuff the onus needs to be on the players to adjust, not the officials. Set the standard. Call it consistently. The players will figure out what they can and can not do.

Anything less than that basically just amounts to the league saying, “hey guys, we would really like you to cut down on the slashes” and hoping that the players listen. But as long as they can get away with it, they will not listen.