Four potential surprise heroes for Game 7 between Boston and Tampa Bay

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It’s the day of Game 7 between Boston and Tampa Bay with a date in the Stanley Cup finals on the line. There’s been plenty of build up to this one already and while everyone will be busy zeroing in on guys like Tim Thomas, Dwayne Roloson, Zdeno Chara, and Martin St. Louis there’s a host of other players that will suit up for Game 7 that could cement their legacies as heroes if they can help their teams win.

It’s more than easy to break down how the big guns for each team match up against each other and why not it’s where both teams have made a killing in this series. Guys like St. Louis, Steve Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier have been the best players for Tampa Bay while David Krejci and Nathan Horton have been the top performers for Boston. Picking names off the top line makes picking heroes out a little easier. So who out there for each team could jump out as a potential unsung hero tonight? We’ve got a pair of guys from each team that could catch you off guard and lead their teams to victory.

Michael Ryder – Boston Bruins

Michael Ryder has gone from being the guy Bruins fans wanted benched all season long to being a relatively useful offensive threat in the playoffs and proving why Claude Julien enjoys keeping him in the lineup every game. Ryder has 11 points in the playoffs and six of them have come in this series. While forwards like David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Tyler Seguin are stealing the headlines in this series, Ryder’s been consistently hanging around and producing getting three goals and three assists against the Lightning. While the Bruins top line of Krejci, Horton, and Milan Lucic will get all the attention if Ryder and the rest of the third line can get things going against a Lightning team likely still going without Sean Bergenheim it can be Ryder’s time to shine once again and help his coach look like the smart guy all along.

Dominic Moore – Tampa Bay Lightning

Dominic Moore is one of those guys on the third line that’s found ways to be a killer in these playoffs. Against Pittsburgh he twice made unbelievable passes to Bergenheim for killer goals that changed the momentum of the game. Now without him to share the puck with, he’s having to play things a bit tougher. One thing he is doing is helping to win faceoffs to get the attack going and while he’s just a third

line guy, for the Lightning that doesn’t necessarily mean living life as a grinder. With a goal and two assists already against Boston, Moore is doing well enough on his own, but if the Bruins succeed in keeping Tampa Bay’s first two lines quiet look for Moore to be the guy to light the spark and raise his game.

Tomas Kaberle – Boston Bruins

No, we’re not joking here. While Kaberle still isn’t the defensive maven his position demands, he’s been contributing little by little offensively of late. He had two assists in both Games 2 and 6 and had an assist in Game 4. While he hasn’t gotten a lot of ice time throughout this series, in Game 6 he had over 19 minutes of time on the ice and it paid off. With that sort of confidence in his game back for at least one game and playing relatively well offensively, he could be the key point man to running the Bruins attack tonight. There’s sure to be more than enough attention paid to him regardless in Game 7 and it couldn’t hurt him to have a big game.

Ryan Malone – Tampa Bay Lightning

What’s remarkable about Malone’s series so far with Boston is that he’s played outstanding. He’s been physical, he hasn’t shied away from confrontations, and he’s helped spark the play of his line. When looking at his stats in this series you’d think he was a total dud as he’s got just one assist and is a -1 with 10 penalty minutes. The key stat for him that makes us think he’s due for a breakout? 12 shots on goal in the series. Malone was a major force with Pittsburgh during their 2008 Stanley Cup finals run and scored numerous clutch goals. He hasn’t yet punched one in in this series but with the way he’s played, he’s overdue to get one.

Josh Ho-Sang left quite an impression on Islanders coaching staff

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Josh Ho-Sang received his first taste of the NHL this past season, appearing in 21 games for the New York Islanders.

A first-round pick of the Islanders in 2014, Ho-Sang scored four times with 10 points in that span, but at the age of 21 and packed with skill, he was able to leave quite an impression on New York’s coaching staff heading into the summer.

With the Islanders going through mini camp, coach Doug Weight was highly complimentary about the play of Ho-Sang following his recall from the minors and his NHL debut on March 2.

“Josh was great,” Weight told NHL.com. “We were getting feedback from [Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson] about his attitude down there, and he was playing hard, learning the system and played with some passion. I think he showed that when he came up.

“He easily could have had better numbers than he had. He created a lot of opportunities in games that he was snakebit or the puck wasn’t going in. Ten points in 21 games, but he could have done a lot better than that, and I think his game was good. He had some blips, and he responded well, and I think that’s a key for a young guy, and especially Josh.”

Read more: Josh Ho-Sang scores first career NHL goal

Islanders general manager Garth Snow has been busy, last week acquiring scoring right winger Jordan Eberle from the Edmonton Oilers. New York now has 13 forwards under contract for next season, and more than $42 million committed.

The Islanders have done a nice job in the last few years stockpiling skilled young forwards like Mathew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle and Kieffer Bellows in their system. Ho-Sang has one year of professional hockey under his belt, putting up 36 points in 50 games as a rookie with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers this past season.

But after a strong showing late in the NHL season, Ho-Sang has set his sights on cracking the Islanders roster on a full-time basis next season.

“There’s still a lot of moves they can make, and for me, I just want to come in as strong and as fast as possible and kind of not make it a decision for them . . . just ‘Josh is ready,’” he told Newsday.

Methot confident he can compliment Stars’ offensive d-men

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Talk about a hectic few days for Marc Methot.

Methot started last week as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was left unprotected when Dion Phaneuf opted not to waive his no-movement clause. He was plucked during the expansion draft process by Vegas and then dealt to Dallas, as the Golden Knights recouped another draft pick and a prospect goalie.

For the Stars, their offseason plan was simple: Improve their goaltending and improve on defense.

Putting that plan into action is certainly easier said than done, but general manager Jim Nill has made the necessary moves to address those areas, acquiring and then signing Ben Bishop and most recently acquiring Methot. Their new head coach is Ken Hitchcock, who has gained a reputation across the league for defensive structure.

Methot will never be known for his offensive production. He didn’t score a goal in 68 regular season games during the 2016-17 campaign, though he changed that with a pair of goals and four points in the playoffs. What the Stars see in Methot is a “steady defenseman that can play well with an offensive-minded partner,” Nill said two days ago.

It remains to be seen exactly who Methot will be paired with to start next season. Of all the Stars’ defensemen, John Klingberg packs the most offensive punch. In three seasons with Dallas, he’s never gone below the 40-point plateau, hitting 58 points in 2015-16.

“I complement well an offensive-minded player,” Methot told NHL.com. “It allows whoever I’m playing with to roam around a little bit more and take more opportunities offensively. At the same time that doesn’t mean your partner can skate around all over the place at free will. I think you still as a tandem have to be fairly good in your own end.”

The Stars have struggled in that last department. But they’re also in a window to win right now, as their offseason moves have illustrated.

Report: Red Wings re-sign Lashoff to two-year, two-way deal

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The Detroit Red Wings are bringing back defenseman Brian Lashoff.

According to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, the Red Wings have re-signed Lashoff to a two-year, two-way contract worth $650,000 per season. He re-signed with Detroit last year for the same amount of money, only on a one-year contract.

Lashoff has been with the Red Wings organization since 2008, eventually joining its AHL team in Grand Rapids. He has since gone on to play 122 career NHL games, all with the Red Wings, with a total of two goals and 13 points.

This past season, Lashoff played five games in Detroit, while spending the majority of the year with the Griffins, who won the Calder Cup.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings still have interest in defenseman — and former first-round pick — Dylan McIlrath. (CapFriendly reported Wednesday evening that Detroit had re-signed him to a two-year, two-way deal.)

From the Detroit Free Press:

McIlrath towers at 6-foot-5, 236 pounds. He’s not a skill guy, but he’s great at keeping the waters calm for young defense prospects – and this coming season the Griffins’ fold will include Filip Hronek, the 53rd overall pick from 2016 and Vili Saarijarvi, the 73rd overall pick from 2015. McIlrath creates a lot of room because of his size, and that should help young defense partners adjust to pro hockey.

McIlrath was selected 10th overall by the New York Rangers in 2010. He was dealt to Detroit at this year’s trade deadline.

Report: Canucks meet with pending UFAs Gagner, Weal

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The Vancouver Canucks reportedly met with a pair of pending unrestricted free agent centers on Wednesday, as Sam Gagner and Jordan Weal were said to be in town.

That is according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli and Darren Dreger.

Vancouver’s top three centers for the 2017-18 campaign appear to be in place, with Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter. However, center is an area the Canucks especially need to improve going into next season and for the future.

Horvat’s development the past three years has provided hope he can eventually take over as the No. 1 center, and, as a pending restricted free agent, the Canucks need to get him under contract. Meanwhile, Henrik Sedin is 37 in September and in the final year of his contract, along with brother Daniel, following a difficult year for the brothers. Sutter has four more years remaining on his deal, but his time in Vancouver has been disrupted by injury.

Gagner and Weal could provide interesting options for the Canucks.

Playing this season on a one-year contract worth only $650,000, Gagner ended up having his most productive campaign with 18 goals and 50 points, despite the fact he averaged less than 14 minutes of ice time per game, and barely over 11 minutes at even strength under John Tortorella.

Read more: Gagner has been ‘a great story’ for surprising Blue Jackets

Where he made his mark was on the power play, with 18 points. That number would’ve led the Canucks, who were dismal on the power play with a 14.1 per cent efficiency rating, good enough for 29th overall. At 27 years of age, and nearing 700 career games played, almost 30 per cent of Gagner’s career points have come on the power play, so perhaps Canucks’ management may look to him as a possible remedy for that ailment when next season begins.

But after giving big money and term — and a no-movement clause — to Loui Eriksson last summer, it would be wise for the Canucks to be a little more sensible in their spending, especially during a rebuilding phase.

Weal is from the Vancouver area, and is hoping to turn a productive two-month stretch (12 points in 23 games) with the Flyers into a raise from the $650,000 he made at the NHL level last season. At last check, Weal and the Flyers appeared good on term but weren’t on the same page when it came to compensation, leading the 25-year-old forward to check out other possible opportunities across the league.

He’s had no problem putting up big numbers in the AHL, reaching 70 points in 76 games three years ago. And the Canucks could desperately use more offensively gifted players in their lineup, particularly if they have age and time on their side.

When it comes to the Canucks, there is another free agent forward with apparent interest. That would be former No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov.

NHL teams can now talk to pending unrestricted free agents to gauge potential interest, however no contracts can be signed until July 1.