Predators face a great opportunity to steal an away game against Canucks tonight

Game 1: Nashville @ Vancouver (Versus) – 9 p.m. ET

There are a lot of reasons why the Vancouver Canucks should steamroll the Nashville Predators in their second round series. On paper, at least.

The biggest ones revolve around the Canucks’ superior firepower on offense. Chew on this nugget: Daniel Sedin has more points (104) than the Predators’ top two offensive scorers combined (Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat were tied for the team lead with 50 each).

Naturally, the Predators’ greatest strengths lie in their own end. Shea Weber would get my vote for the Norris Trophy (if I had one), Ryan Suter receives enough Nicklas Lidstrom comparisons that he must be doing something/a lot of things right and Pekka Rinne is quickly developing a reputation as one of the best goalies in the NHL. Combine those standouts with forwards who know their roles (usually checking) and Barry Trotz’s system and the series starts to look a lot less breezy for Vancouver.

When it comes to Game 1, the biggest question might not be about matchups or strategies but rather a simple question of fatigue. The Canucks won’t be a full 48 hours removed from their dramatic, high-tension Game 7 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. On the bright side, they didn’t have to travel, but one must worry about players a) being tired b) still having their heads in the clouds about a big win or c) both.

For their part, the Canucks are saying that the short turnaround won’t be a big problem.

“We’re fresh to go,” declared Canuck left winger and Hart Trophy finalist Daniel Sedin. “I think our goal has not been winning one playoff round, it’s been going the whole way. For us, it’s a new series with new challenges and we’ll be up for it.”

(snip)

Canuck overtime hero Alex Burrows could be more emotionally spent than the rest of his teammates after he became a first-time father Wednesday. His wife Nancy gave birth to a baby girl named Victoria. He also took time to answer 90 messages congratulating him on netting the Game 7 winner against the Blackhawks.

“I’m ready to go,” Burrows said. “It was nice to get by Chicago but now we have another fierce team playing against us. Nashville is a great defensive team with a balanced offence and a great goalie in Pekka Rinne.”

If there’s one lesson that comes from the NHL playoffs, it’s that a team must turn the page rather than bask in recently-earned glories. Both the Canucks and Predators will need to do exactly that starting tonight. Vancouver finally slayed that Chicago Blackhawks dragon while Nashville must avoid being wide-eyed at the notion of their first-ever second round series.

Considering the forechecking power of the Canucks and the rugged defensive mastery displayed by the Predators, this series could be a series hockey turf war. Will Vancouver have enough energy to engage in that battle?

Tonight might be Nashville’s best chance to land the first blow.

PHT Morning Skate: Zdeno Chara shot catches emergency goalie in a sensitive spot

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–Sean McIndoe looks at five players who became the unlikeliest first 50-goal scorers in their franchise’s history. McIndoe chose Rick MacLeish (Flyers), Rick Vaive (Maple Leafs), Vic Hadfield (Rangers), Guy Chouinard (Flames) and Mickey Redmond (Red Wings). (The Hockey News)

–A lot of people think hockey players are the toughest athletes, but Islanders forward Anders Lee is here to tell you that they aren’t tough at all. In his story for The Players’ Tribune, Lee writes about a tough, young friend, who is battling cancer. “In the seven years since he has been diagnosed, he has gone through multiple surgeries. He’s had countless radiation treatments. He’s gone through chemotherapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplants. And he does it all with a smile on his face. So when I hear people refer to me as tough because I play hockey, I think of Fenov and kids like him.” (The Players’ Tribune)

–The Boston Bruins needed an emergency goalie for their practice yesterday, and they settled on Massachusetts state trooper Kevin Segee. Surely, it was the experience of a lifetime for him, but it didn’t come without pain. Segee was clearly shaken up after getting a Zdeno Chara in the…well, you know. (CSN New England)

–Blackhawks forwards Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Tanner Kero each had multi-point games in Wednesday’s 5-1 thumping of the Pittsburgh Penguins. You can watch the highlights from the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–What was the world like the last time the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs? Thanks to Sports Illustrated, we don’t have to wonder. In 1990, J.K. Rowling had just started writing the Harry Potter series, Donald Trump walked out of an interview with CNN because they were asking tough questions about his casino, the first known webpage was written and much, much more. (Sports Illustrated)

–Edmonton Oilers players and their significant others came together to make 400-500 bowls of homemade soup for charity. It’s pretty cool to see most of the team be involved in such a nice event, even though the onion chopping station gave some of the guys a hard time. (Edmonton Oilers on Twitter)

–Sportsnet has assembled the top hits of the week for your viewing pleasure. Hits from that Toronto, Columbus game made the video a couple of times:

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.