Lightning forward Sean Bergenheim doubtful to return for Game 7

Tampa Bay was able to win Game 6 without one of their top contributors in the playoffs in Sean Bergenheim. The former Islanders prospect broke out in a big way in these playoffs scoring nine goals, a mark that puts him second in the playoffs behind David Krejci and Martin St. Louis. Considering that Bergenheim is a third line player, his offensive output is stunning and the sort of thing that playoff legends are made of. With him out of the lineup, the Lightning’s ability to score from three lines takes a hit.

This morning, Bergenheim took part in the team’s morning skate getting about 15 minutes of work in and doing some drills. Could we see another miraculous injury recovery out of Bergenheim? Coach Guy Boucher is tempering things just a bit.

CSN New England reports that Bergenheim will be doubtful for tonight’s Game 7.

Q. Sean Bergenheim looked a little bit better out there – at least to us – this morning. How optimistic are you that he’ll be available for you in Game 7 tonight?

COACH BOUCHER: I wouldn’t say optimistic for now. It’s better. He might try the warm-up. We’ll see. I’ve still got to talk to my therapists and doctors. There’s been some improvement. So to what extent, we’ll have to wait and see, but doubtful.

The Lightning did just fine scoring goals in Game 6 without Bergenheim as Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell, and Steve Stamkos all stepped up in a big way to provide the offense they needed to win. On the road for Game 7, however, it’s a different beast entirely and hoping that the Bruins will fail miserably on their power play for a second straight game while Tim Thomas struggles is asking for a lot. Chances are things will be tightened up on both sides of the puck and goals will be at a premium.

As for who takes Bergenheim’s spot should he not go, it’ll likely be Dana Tyrell once again. He played in Bergenheim’s place in Game 6 but played just over six minutes on the fourth line. Don’t expect much from him as Boucher is likely to ride the top three lines hard tonight. Then again, Tyrell could end up being the most unlikely of heroes or goats. Game 7’s have a funny way or playing out like that.

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.