Maxime Talbot, Ted Purcell

First round ends tonight with two Game 7 battles in the Eastern Conference

It doesn’t get any better than a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs and tonight we’ve got two of them. This is just proof that the hockey gods love us and want us to be happy. They also want us to have perpetual heart attacks all night long watching two games filled with enough intrigue to make the modern day soap opera get canceled.

Wait a minute. Oops.

Anyhow, here’s how things set up tonight. All times are Eastern.

Montreal @ Boston – 7 p.m. (Versus)Series tied 3-3

It’s been an angry and emotional series and it’s only fitting that these two ancient rivals face off in a Game 7 for the eighth time in playoff history. Boston has lost the last four Game 7s they’ve played in dating back to 2004. In 1994 though they did beat Montreal in a Game 7 to advance out of the first round. Montreal holds the historical edge on Boston in Game 7s at 5-2.

Of course, history means nothing for the present day and right now the Bruins are going to have to find a way to both shut down Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri as well as crack Carey Price. Montreal will hope that Milan Lucic stays quiet both physically and scoring-wise while finding ways to pepper Tim Thomas and get him running around out of position. The X-factors in this game: Nathan Horton for Boston and Andrei Kostitsyn for Montreal. If those guys get on the score sheet, things could swing in their team’s favor.

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh – 8 p.m. (NHL Network)Series tied 3-3

Speaking of snarling nasty series, the Lightning and Penguins have been bringing plenty of that through their first six games. For every bit of annoyance the Chris Kunitz and Brooks Orpik have provided to Tampa Bay, Ryan Malone and Steve Downie have done the same to Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay is heading into Game 7 with a bit of a jump in their step after winning two straight games and finding ways to crack through Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins defense.

If Pittsburgh wants to catch Tampa Bay off guard, scoring on the power play would be a good way to do it. With the Pens scoring on just 3.3% of their man advantages in this series it’s a change that would make a major difference in their fate.

Video: Borowiecki slams Toffoli from behind into the boards

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Tyler Toffoli reportedly went through the concussion protocol for a portion of Saturday’s game against the Senators, after Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki slammed the L.A. Kings forward from behind into the boards.

The incident occurred less than three minutes into the game.

Borowiecki was given a major penalty for boarding. He received another major, this time for fighting, later in the period after him and Matt Greene dropped the gloves. Now the question becomes: Will Borowiecki face supplemental discipline?

Toffoli missed the remainder of the first period, but returned for the second.

The Kings went on to win by a final score of 4-1.

Blackhawks ‘have to do what’s right’ for injured Toews, who will miss ninth straight game

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 28:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 28, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks will not have Jonathan Toews in their lineup Sunday, marking the ninth consecutive game their captain has missed because of injury.

There is the possibility of good news, however, for Chicago: Brent Seabrook, considered day-to-day at this point after an awkward fall Tuesday, could return to game action versus the Dallas Stars tomorrow.

The Blackhawks currently have a two-point lead on St. Louis in the Central Division but only four wins in their last 10 games.

Given their recent run of injuries and the results in the win-loss columns, you could understand why the Blackhawks would want Toews back, healthy, as soon as possible, with a three-game road trip coming up next week.

That trip ends Saturday in St. Louis.

But the organization also doesn’t want to just rush the 28-year-old Toews into game action until he’s ready.

From CSN Chicago:

As for Toews, Quenneville had hoped the captain would be skating by this weekend. He said following Saturday’s practice that Toews could skate on Sunday. Whether or not Toews accompanies the Blackhawks on their upcoming trip to New York depends on what happens on Sunday.

“If he skates tomorrow, we’ll have a better sense of that,” Quenneville said. “We have to do what’s right, long-term, and make sure he’s 100 percent and ready to go.”

In 21 games this season, Toews has four goals and 12 points, while playing on both the power play and penalty kill.

Related: Patrick Kane: Others have to ‘step up’ with Toews out of Blackhawks lineup

Schenn’s hat trick powers Flyers to eighth straight win

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 29:  Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers is congratulated by teammates Jakub Voracek #93 and Brayden Schenn #10 after Giroux scored in the first period against the Boston Bruins on November 29, 2016 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars were less than four minutes away from not only winning consecutive games for just the second time this season, but also snapping the Philadelphia Flyers’ winning streak on Saturday afternoon.

Then they started taking penalties, allowing Brayden Schenn and the Flyers’ power play to take over.

Schenn scored three power play goals, including two in the final four minutes to tie the game and then ultimately win it, to help lead the Flyers to a 4-2 win and extend their current winning streak to eight games.

Schenn had an eventful day on Saturday. Along with the hat trick, he also ended up in a fight with Stephen Johns in the first period.

The Flyers are now 17-10-3 on the season and have rapidly climbed the Eastern Conference standings over the past two weeks during this winning streak.

The Stars penalty kill has been a huge problem this season and it surfaced again on Saturday afternoon as they were unable to stay out of the penalty box late in the game. Jamie Oleksiak‘s cross-checking penalty on Jakub Voracek resulted in Schenn’s goal to tie the game. Less than a minute after that goal Tyler Seguin was sent off for high-sticking leading to Schenn’s third goal of the game just 40 seconds into the man advantage.

After Saturday the Stars’ penalty kill is now down to just 76 percent on the season and is near the bottom of the NHL.

That is just one of the many reasons the Stars are off to a disappointing 11-12-6 start through their first 29 games. Even worse, it was another missed opportunity to build on a win after a big 5-2 win in Nashville on Thursday.

The Stars have managed to win consecutive games just one time this season and have yet to win more than two games in a row.

They are now 1-7-3 in games following a win this season.

 

Goalie Nods: Penguins go back to Matt Murray against Lightning

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30: Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins tends goal against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on November 30, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 5-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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After sitting for three consecutive games earlier in the week, Matt Murray was back in the lineup on Thursday night for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Florida Panthers. After stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced in a 5-1 win (and nearly scoring an empty net goal), he gets the call again on Saturday night when the Penguins face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals.

At this point the Penguins’ goalie rotation seems to simply be “keep playing until you lose or get pulled.”

Marc-Andre Fleury, after winning back-to-back starts against Dallas and Detroit, was lifted midway through the second period against Ottawa on Monday night paving the way for Murray to return to the crease.

Since taking over for Fleury midway through Monday’s game Murray has stopped 45 of the 47 shots he has faced and has a .934 save percentage on the season. Including playoffs, Murray has a .928 save percentage in 45 appearances at the NHL level since making his debut during the 2015-16 season. That is one of the best marks in the NHL during that stretch.

The Lightning, who have lost seven of their past nine games, are going with Andrei Vasilevskiy after Ben Bishop was pulled for giving up four goals on 20 shots in a 5-1 loss to Vancouver on Thursday.

With a .929 save percentage in 10 starts this season Vasilevskiy has been the Lightning’s best goalie so far. He replaced Bishop on Thursday night after he surrendered four goals on only 20 shots in a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Elsewhere…

Steve Mason and Kari Lehtonen went for the Flyers and Stars respectively in their afternoon game, while Peter Budaj went against Mike Condon in the Kings-Senators game.

— With Ryan Miller sidelined due to a suspected lower body injury, Jacob Markstrom gets the call for Vancouver against his former team, the Florida Panthers. On the other end of the ice Roberto Luongo was also getting the start against his former team for the Panthers.

— The Islanders are trying to dig themselves out of an early deficit in the standings with a point in six straight games (5-0-1). They look to continue that strong play on Saturday against a Columbus team that has been the biggest surprise in the NHL this season. The Islanders go with Jaroslav Halak. The Blue Jackets, who have won five straight including a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, have not yet announced their starter. Sergei Bobrovsky will start again after getting the win on Friday.

Carey Price will be back in net for the Canadiens after he avoided discipline for punching Kyle Palmieri the other night with his blocker. He will go against Calvin Pickard in the Colorado net.

Frederik Andersen vs. Tuukka Rask is the goalie matchup in Boston when the Bruins host the Maple Leafs.

Mike Smith looks to snap a personal five-game winless streak when he gets the nod for the Arizona Coyotes against Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators.

— The Flames are going with Chad Johnson in net again when they host the Winnipeg Jets, and for good reason. Johnson has taken the No. 1 job in Calgary and now has a 10-2-0 record to go with a .947 save percentage in 12 starts since Nov. 15. No official word from the Jets on their starting goalie.

— The Sharks and Hurricanes have yet to announce their starters for the late game.