Sean Bergenheim

Playoff hero Sean Bergenheim questionable to play for Tampa Bay in Game 6

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One of the missing elements from Tampa Bay’s Game 5 loss to Boston was that of playoff hero Sean Bergenheim. Bergenheim leads everyone in the playoffs with nine goals and when he was knocked out of Game 5 with an injury, the loss of his production and depth on the Lightning’s third line was obvious.

With Game 6 coming up tonight and Bergenheim’s health still in question, you have to wonder if perhaps his potential loss from the lineup is the one that helps sway their Eastern Conference finals series with Boston. Will he play tonight though? Lightning coach Guy Boucher says it’s a game time decision tonight.

Q. Bergenheim was able to skate a little bit this morning. How optimistic are you that he’ll be available for Game 6?

COACH BOUCHER: We have to wait. The doctors are looking at him now, and we have to wait until tonight. And then make a game-time decision.

Q. If Sean can’t go, what are your plans? And what are the implications if he can’t go in terms of what you need from other players?

COACH BOUCHER: Well, obviously when you take somebody out that’s been a big part of our Playoffs, it does take some chemistry out. And I gotta find that. I had to struggle with that in the second period of the last game, and the third period I kind of found what I wanted.
So if he is not playing, we’ll go with the chemistry that we planned on, and we’ve got the choice between putting Tyrell in the lineup and to fill the forward spot or we put in a seventh defenseman with Randy Jones. So that’s still something that we’re oscillating between, yeah.

No offense to either Dana Tyrell or Randy Jones, but we’re not exactly overflowing with confidence that they’ll be able to help contribute the same way Bergenheim has in these playoffs for the Lightning.

If Bergenheim is out the Lightning are going to have to rely even harder upon their top players like Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Steve Stamkos, and Simon Gagne. While Gagne has had a great series, the other players are having a hard time handling the pressure the Bruins defense has put on them. The play of Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference has been outstanding in this series and then there’s the whole issue of trying to find ways to beat goalie Tim Thomas.

If Bergenheim plays tonight, don’t expect him to be at the top of his game. The question here is whether or not it’s worth it for the sacrifice and the possibility that Bergenheim injures himself further. Players will always want to push things more when their team is in need (see: Joe Thornton) but if he can’t go, that’s it. Either way, both Boston and Tampa Bay will need to be prepared for tonight’s elimination game.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.