Henrik Sedin, Kent Huskins, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Kevin Bieksa

Your San Jose Sharks-Vancouver Canucks Game 5 primer

After winning on special teams and on the scoreboard in Game 3, the San Jose Sharks experienced a disturbing role reversal in their 4-2 Game 4 loss. The only way they can make their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in franchise history is to beat the Presidents Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks three times in a row. The Sharks hope to begin that journey in Vancouver tonight.

San Jose @ Vancouver (Versus) – 9 p.m. ET; Canucks lead series 3-1

Of all the Sharks worries, something tells me that they’re not too concerned about their “playoff demons.” Instead, they’ll hope that their team will rally around their injured star Joe Thornton, who will fight through a shoulder injury in Game 5. Simply put, the Sharks need more from forwards such as Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski if they hope to bring the series back to the Shark Tank.

Meanwhile, the Canucks hope to put away an opponent on their first chance for once. It took them four tries to finish off the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1 and two tries to end the Nashville Predators’ season in the semifinals. It’s not a do-or-die game for them, but they don’t want to be weary in their first Stanley Cup finals appearance since 1994. (If they make it, obviously.)

With the Joe Thornton question out of the way, the biggest lineup questions revolve around the teams’ defenses. Hip check virtuoso Keith Ballard is expected to play again in Game 5 for the Canucks, but Christian Ehrhoff seems like a toss-up after missing Game 4. The Sharks face a question about their blueline as well since it sounds like young offensive defenseman Jason Demers is ready to go. Will Todd McLellan decide to put him back in the lineup? It sounds like both teams won’t tip their hands until game time.

If the Sharks lose tonight, they’ll face another year’s worth of inane questions about demons and choking. On the other hand, if the Canucks lose, people will wonder about their killer instinct and energy going forward. For more on Game 5, let’s take a look at the additional PHT content.

Minnesota waives Pulkkinen, just 17 days after claiming him

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23:  Teemu Pulkkinen #17 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on October 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Wild 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Teemu Pulkkinen era in Minnesota could soon be over.

Before it ever got started, really.

After scoring just once for the Wild since being claimed off waivers, Pulkkinen was placed back on the wire on Friday, per TVA.

The 24-year-old, originally a fourth-round pick by Detroit in 2010, bounced around the Wild lineup during his brief stint with the club, averaging just over nine minutes per night.

His productivity was minimal, to put it mildly — widely regarded for his cannon of a shot, which saw him post two 30-goal seasons with AHL Grand Rapids, Pulkkinen only mustered four shots on goal in eight games with Minnesota, who acquired him on Oct. 11 from Detroit.

He’ll be an interesting figure to watch moving forward.

Though some of his luster has undoubtedly worn off after getting waived twice in a month, he’s still a reasonably young player with a proven goalscoring record (in the minors, granted) on a reasonably cheap contract — one year, at $812,500.

Here’s wondering if Detroit would be interested in re-acquiring his services.

“I have an unreal amount of respect for him as a player and as a person,” head coach Jeff Blashill said of Pulkkinen earlier this month, per MLive. “Teemu has to score goals. You hate to be results-orientated, but when you’re not big and you’re not fast and your weapon is your shot you have to score goals.

“That’s what made him a difference-maker at the American League level and I still think he can be a difference-maker at this level. That time isn’t right now.”

They ‘don’t have superstars,’ but the Wild are off to a hot start

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 25:  Jonas Brodin #25 of the Minnesota Wild, Jason Zucker #16 and Joel Eriksson Ek #14 congratulate Chris Stewart #7 after he scored against Boston Bruins during the second period at TD Garden on October 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Eight games into the season, nobody on the Minnesota Wild has more than three goals, but nine players have scored at least twice, and seven more have done it once.

Indeed, it’s been a very balanced attack that’s helped the Wild to a 5-2-1 start. They smoked the Sabres, 4-0, last night in Buffalo. Four different players got goals, including defenseman Ryan Suter.

“That’s how we have to win,” Suter told reporters. “We don’t have the superstars. We need everybody on the team participating.”

It’s interesting that Suter would mention the lack of superstars, because that’s the exact same message head coach Bruce Boudreau was pushing when he took the job in May.

“As much as I like Ovechkin and Getzlaf and Perry, you don’t need those guys to win,” Boudreau said. “You can do it the old-fashioned way. You do it as a team.”

It’s only been eight games, so the Wild still have a lot to prove. They were outshot, 38-22, last night, and their possession stats propose the possibility that an unsustainably high shooting percentage and great goaltending from Devan Dubnyk (4-1-1, .944) have been the real keys to their winning start.

“He’s carrying us right now,” d-man Matt Dumba said of Dubnyk, “so we’ll ride that wave.”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting great goaltending, and the Wild shouldn’t have to apologize for burying their scoring chances either. Puck possession isn’t everything in hockey, and at any rate, possession stats don’t have the greatest predictive power so early in the season.

For now, Boudreau’s superstar-less group gets the benefit of the doubt.

The Wild host Dallas Saturday and Buffalo Tuesday before hitting the road for games in Denver, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Ottawa.

‘It’s outstanding to be at home’ — ‘Canes to play their opener, finally

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 22:  Fans welcome the players to the ice before a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes during play at PNC Arena on January 22, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes will get to do what every other NHL team has already done this season — play a game at home.

And they’re pretty stoked about it.

“Outstanding,” head coach Bill Peters said about finally getting to their home opener, per the Raleigh News & Obsever. “It’s outstanding to be at home.”

The ‘Canes opened the year with a six-game road trip, in which they went 1-3-2 (culminating with Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Detroit.) At first glance, that might seem like a disappointment — securing just four of a possible 12 points — but there were some positives.

For one, Carolina knows it could’ve, and should’ve, snagged a few more points. The club had 3-0 leads on Winnipeg and Vancouver to start the trip but blew both, and ended up losing in overtime.

In Philly on Saturday, the ‘Canes had a 2-0 lead early in the second period before the Flyers scored four unanswered goals, and went on to a 6-3 win.

Offensively, the club has looked good, paced by the trio of Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner and Lee Stempniak. Those three often played on the club’s top line during the trip, and Rask emerged as the club’s leader with seven points through the first six games.

Of course, the club does have its issues. The ‘Canes currently sit 29th in the NHL in goals against, with neither netminder — Cam Ward or Eddie Lack — having shown consistent form early in the year.

The hope for Peters and company is that the return to PNC Arena will change the negatives around. Tonight’s game against the Rangers is the first in a stretch where Carolina will play eight of 11 at home.

After Vancouver release, Tuomo Ruutu signs in Switzerland

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 21:  Tuomo Ruutu #15 of the New Jersey Devils prepares to play against the Ottawa Senators at the Prudential Center on January 21, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Senators 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Tuomo Ruutu has found work.

After spending training camp and the exhibition campaign in Vancouver on a professional tryout, the veteran Finn has agreed to join Swiss National League A side HC Davos, the team announced on Friday.

Ruutu, 33, caught on with the Canucks after a 13-year career in which he played 735 games for three different teams — Chicago, Carolina and New Jersey. Injuries limited him to just 33 games for the Devils last season and, to be fair, several seasons prior as well.

Ruutu had only appeared in 186  of a possible 246 games over the last three years.

In his prime, Ruutu was an energetic winger that could bang and crash, as well as score goals. He netted a career-high 26 with the ‘Canes in ’08-09, and scored 15 or more five times in his career.

Though he lasted nearly the entire preseason with the Canucks, Ruutu was dropped just prior to the start of the regular season. Another veteran forward that attended camp on a PTO — Jack Skille — did manage to score a one-way deal from the Canucks, however.