Manny Malhotra

While Manny Malhotra practices, Dan Hamhuis sits out; Both listed as day-to-day

Right when you think you’ve got an idea of what the Canucks have got going on regarding the injuries to Manny Malhotra and Dan Hamhuis, they do some things to make sure you’re on your toes. Case in point, their practice today in Vancouver. Malhotra took to the ice and practiced with the fourth line while Hamhuis did not participate.

With Malhotra working on a line with Jeff Tambellini and Victor Oreskovich, the two guys who played in Game 1 on the fourth line, speculation is sky high that Malhotra will suit up for Game 2. During the post practice press conference, coach Alain Vigneault was decidedly coy about about how things will shake out for the lineup.

Q. Any sort of update on Manny?

COACH VIGNEAULT: Manny is day to day (laughter).

Q. How did he look to you today?

COACH VIGNEAULT: Skated well.

Er, well… Thanks coach. Vigneault did say that if Malhotra does draw into the lineup, he’ll have a specific purpose.

“If Manny does play, obviously he’s one of the best faceoff guys in the league, so he would be used a little bit more in our end without a doubt,” Vigneault said.

Malhotra said he didn’t just want to play for the sake of appearing in another game. Instead, he wants to make sure he can make a positive impact on the action.

“This is not about me wanting a sentimental shift,” said Malhotra, a faceoff specialist and standout defensive forward. “It’s about me feeling I can contribute.”

(snip)

“I wish I could put it into a percentage for you, but it’s going to be day-to-day,” Malhotra said. “I’ll see how I feel after the morning skate. We’ll make a decision at that point.”

While Malhotra playing over Alexandre Bolduc would be a massive improvement for the Canucks, having to potentially step away from Dan Hamhuis is a bit of a blow. While the Canucks have dealt with injuries along the blue line all season long and did well to fill ranks, they’re looking at potentially Andrew Alberts taking Hamhuis’ spot in the lineup. Alberts lined up with Christian Ehrhoff at practice today, a spot that Hamhuis would play.

Vigneault downplayed Alberts’ role in practice today and made it clear that Hamhuis, like Malhotra, is day-to-day.

Q. I noticed you had Andrew Alberts skating along Christian Ehrhoff.
COACH VIGNEAULT: Dan is day to day. Don’t put anything in the lines or the D pairs you saw today.

Q. Can I ask you about Andrew Alberts? What would you expect from him?
COACH VIGNEAULT: I’d expect him to play well. He’s a big body. He’s a physical presence. Every time we’ve used Andrew, he’s played extremely well for us and hard.

Whether he’s in the lineup or not, he’ll do a good job.

A coach never wants to give away all his tricks but there’s enough to read into things here. Malhotra getting worked out today means that the chances of seeing him play in Game 2 are there and if he’s ready to go, he’ll likely draw into the lineup.

As for Hamhuis’ day off, that’s a bit more cryptic. He could be more banged up with a “mid-body injury” as Vigneault put it after his hit on Milan Lucic in Game 1 or he could be just resting up whatever did happen more today to ensure he’s ready for tomorrow night’s Game 2. Read into things how you will. Either way, we’re sure that the Bruins don’t have much of an idea of who they’ll be dealing with in a pivotal Game 2 and perhaps that’s just the way Vancouver likes it.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.

Hemsky finds his groove on third line

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on April 11, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
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When the Dallas Stars inked Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million deal, the hope was that he would be a valuable secondary scorer and help round out their top-six. Things haven’t gone as predicted, but Hemsky has emerged as a significant player for Dallas lately.

Hemsky is now playing on the third line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and he’s gone on to record 15 points in his last 16 regular season games as well as another four points in seven playoff contests.

“We had hard conversations about how I felt the game needed to be played, where I felt his game needed to go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “Did it always go his way? No. But from his defensive responsibilities to really buying into shooting the puck a little bit more, I think he’s been a real good asset for us this year.”

The Morning News goes into much more detail about Hemsky and his resurgence, but taking a step back from that, having a third line that’s both impactful without the puck and capable of chipping in offensively is important, especially as we get deeper into the playoffs. There’s no question that the Stars have big time players on their roster, but that’s obviously not all you need in the playoffs.

A lot of the time when talking about the Stars’ areas of concern, their defense and goaltending come up and understandably so given that Dallas allowed more goals in the regular season than any other team that made the playoffs. But the value of a strong bottom-six shouldn’t be understated and perhaps Hemsky’s recent resurgence will play a role in the Stars having that going for them throughout the playoffs.

Dallas has taken a 1-0 lead over St. Louis in the second round and has an opportunity to build on that in Game 2 this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET).

NHL schedules hearing with Orpik over Maatta hit

Maatta
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Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.

At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.

The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.

You can see that hit below:

“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.

‘I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,’ Jets GM Cheveldayoff gets lucky with draft lottery

Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of Winnipeg Jets, speaks to members of the media after winning the second selection of the NHL hockey draft lottery in Toronto, Saturday, April 30, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
The Canadian Press via AP
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The Toronto Maple Leafs may have won the draft lottery, but an argument can be made that the luckiest team last night was the Winnipeg Jets.

After all, Toronto had the best odds to get the top pick, but Winnipeg jumped from sixth to second in the draft order.

“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun. “I was doing my scrum at the end (of the show) with the media that was here, I said at one point, ‘Moving from six to two…’ and I had to catch myself and go through the mental notes in my head that it had just really happened.”

It’s likely, though not guaranteed, that the Maple Leafs will take Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Assuming that’s the case, moving up to the second overall pick means that Winnipeg will have the option of choosing one of the two promising Finnish forwards available: Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.

That’s potentially a big break for Winnipeg, especially after this campaign where the Jets went from making the playoffs for the first time since relocating to posting a 35-39-8 record. Through five campaigns in Winnipeg, the Jets have missed the playoffs four times.

The last time this franchise drafted this high was back when the then Atlanta Thrashers took Kari Lehtonen with the second overall pick in 2002. That was the final year in a string of four straight drafts where the Thrashers always had the first or second selection. The previous three years they took Patrik Stefan (1999), Dany Heatley (2000), and Ilya Kovalchuk (2001).

Related: Shanahan: Leafs earned No. 1 pick ‘the hard way’