Red Wings hold significant Game 7 experience advantage over Sharks

All that really matters is what happens tonight – not what happened in the previous six games, not anymore, at least – but there’s no denying that the Detroit Red Wings hold some advantages over the San Jose Sharks.

One is the looseness that comes with not having to worry about being on the wrong side of history. The other is another kind of history: Red Wings players have almost twice as much Game 7 experience as the Sharks. In fact, according to an NHL.com report, every Red Wings player has some Game 7 experience.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, really, considering Detroit’s 20-year run of playoff appearances (with many of them running deep). While 11 Sharks players have played in a Game 7 before, 21 Red Wings have been in this situation.* Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is 2-2 in his coaching career in Game 7s while Sharks coach Todd McLellan is 0-0.

Perhaps most telling is the Game 7 scoring statistics. Nicklas Lidstrom leads Detroit with seven points in Game 7 situations with two goals and five assists while Niclas Wallin is the Sharks’ most experienced player in Game 7s, having played in four in his career. San Jose’s Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi managed to accomplish that feat without playing a single Game 7.

Here’s a bit more from NHL.com.

Scoring in Game 7s is no different. The Red Wings have scored 17 goals and 39 points in their plethora of Game 7s, while the Sharks have tallied just 3 goals and 4 points in their 11. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard also has one Game 7 to his credit, beating the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round last season, while neither San Jose goalie — Antti Niemi or backup Antero Niittymaki — has played in an NHL Game 7.

This will be Mike Modano’s first Game 7 with Detroit, but he’s played in plenty of them during his lengthy and impressive career with the Dallas Stars.

“The nerves are very high, obviously,” he said. “You just want to be quick, you want to be precise in what you do, you want to be very direct in your play as far as with the puck and without it. Ultimately you want to skate, you want to relax and take the plays that are there and not force the issue, especially on the road. I’ve never been in one on the road, so it’s just about playing smart.”

It’s also about enjoying the moment and the nail-biting that comes with it.

“Those Game 7s have a lot of drama,” Modano said. “Every shot, every save and everything that happens out there is magnified.”

Almost every playoff game brings its unique excitements, but few things match the scale and suspense of Game 7. We’ll keep you informed and entertained right up until the first nail-biting puck drop (and beyond).

* – Well, not this exact situation, since the Red Wings have never come back from a 3-0 deficit before.

Canucks could really use Patrick or Hischier

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The Vancouver Canucks are hoping for better luck in tomorrow’s draft lottery. If they receive it, they may get a player who can step right into their lineup, and stay there for years to come.

The top two picks in the 2017 draft are expected to be centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

It remains to be seen who will go first overall. Patrick was the consensus pick for a while, but Hischier started to gain ground with an impressive showing for Switzerland at the World Juniors.

“I think the top two players in this draft have the potential to maybe step in and play next year and be productive players at the NHL level,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “But I think the next three players, whether you’re looking at a play-making center, or potentially a power-play defenseman, there’s good choices there too.”

Gabe Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt, and Cody Glass are centers the Canucks could select if they fall out of the top two. Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, and Timothy Liljegren are options on defense.

But getting Patrick or Hischier would be a huge win for a team that will soon have to replace Henrik Sedin, who turns 37 in September.

Benning says Patrick offers a combination of size (6-3, 198), skill and hockey sense, with “no real weakness in his game.”

As for Hischier, it’s his speed that really stands out.

“He’s built for today’s game,” said Benning. “His speed going through the neutral zone is fun to watch.”

The Canucks have the second-best odds to win the draft lottery. The furthest they can fall is to fifth.

Last year, Vancouver fell two spots from third to fifth, with Winnipeg and Columbus moving up. The Canucks drafted Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi with their selection.

Draft lottery odds

Colorado Avalanche 18.0%
Vancouver Canucks 12.1%
Vegas Golden Knights* 10.3%
Arizona Coyotes 10.3%
New Jersey Devils 8.5%
Buffalo Sabres 7.6%
Detroit Red Wings 6.7%
Dallas Stars 5.8%
Florida Panthers 5.4%
Los Angeles Kings 4.5%
Carolina Hurricanes 3.2%
Winnipeg Jets 2.7%
Philadelphia Flyers 2.2%
Tampa Bay Lightning 1.8%

Paajarvi out, Barbashev in as Blues look for ‘physical element’

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After losing Game 1 — and with it, home ice advantage — of their series against Nashville, the Blues are making a lineup change for Friday’s Game 2.

Ivan Barbashev, who’s been a healthy scratch the last three games, will draw in, replacing Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi sits despite being a fairly productive player recently, notching a goal and three points in his last five games.

This, of course, includes the game-winning, series-clinching OT goal against Minnesota on Saturday:

“We like to give players a chance to respond and a chance to get back in there when they’re coming out of the lineup,” Blues head coach Mike Yeo said, per NHL.com. “We saw what that did for (Jori Lehtera). It’s in no way anything against Magnus. We’re very grateful and appreciative of what he’s done and what he can do for us, but ‘Barby’ has been a good player for us for a long time, too.

“Having him in the lineup, he’ll be energized and bring a physical element… When he gets the puck of the offensive zone, he has a chance to create something. We’ll see how he does tonight.”

The hope is that Barbashev can rediscover some of the form shown during the regular season. The Russian rookie made an impact, scoring five goals and 12 points in 30 games.

Sabres granted permission to speak with Futa

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Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Kings promoted Mike Futa to assistant general manager.

But Futa received that promotion before the Sabres cleaned house last week, and that timing is important to note.

Because it’s now being reported, via a Kings spokesman, that the Sabres have been granted permission to speak with Futa about their GM vacancy.

It’s no surprise that Buffalo has asked to interview Futa. He was a candidate for the Sabres’ GM job in 2013 — a job that eventually went to Tim Murray.

Futa was once thought to be heir apparent to Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles. But when Lombardi was fired, the Kings went with Rob Blake instead.

Some background on Futa, courtesy the Kings:

Futa most recently served as Kings Vice President, Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel. This upcoming season will be Futa’s 11th season with the Kings.

Futa recently concluded his 10th full season with the Kings, and third in his most recent position. He was named VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel in May of 2014 after serving as Director of Amateur Scouting, a position he assumed on June 5, 2007, when he originally joined the Kings.

Futa came to the Kings when he was appointed Co-Director of Amateur Scouting along with Mark Yannetti. Together, Futa and Yannetti rebuilt and retooled the entire Kings Amateur Scouting staff.

Related: Darryl Sutter wants to keep coaching

Habs sign Quebec League sniper Waked

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On Friday, Montreal agreed to a three-year, entry-level deal with QMHJL Rouyn-Noranda forward Antoine Waked.

Waked, 20, is coming off a strong season in which he racked up 80 points in 67 games. He finished tied for ninth in the league in goals, with 39, in what was something of a surprise. Previously, the Quebec native had never scored more than 15 goals in a campaign, suggesting Waked could be the prototypical late bloomer.

An undrafted free agent, Waked had been tied to the Habs earlier this season, with reports he’d receive an ELC at the end of his junior campaign.