Manny Malhotra takes part in morning skate, will be game-time decision for Game 2

While his spot on the roster is still in question, the chances of Vancouver Canucks two-way center Manny Malhotra completing his improbable comeback keep increasing. The latest signs of improvement came after the Canucks’ morning skate Saturday, as Malhotra upgraded his status from day-to-day to a game-time decision.

Dan Murphy points out that Malhotra skated with fourth-liners Victor Oreskovich and Jeff Tambellini in the early practice session, which implies that Alexandre Bolduc could be the odd man out if Malhotra does play in Game 2 tonight.

Malhotra’s faceoff winning skills and all-around defensive abilities could ease the burden on Selke Trophy candidate Ryan Kesler, whose two-way play was counted upon that much more in Malhotra’s absence. An already strong Canucks penalty kill would receive a boost if Malhotra can play, although it’s worth noting that the team would probably try to ease him back into the action.

Again, it’s not a sure thing that he’ll play tonight, though. Here is what he told reporters today, via NHL.com.

“I’m honestly not trying to send you guys on a wild goose chase. That’s just the nature of the situation right now,” Malhotra said. “I felt good yesterday skating. Felt good this morning. So, again, hopefully, I’ll continue throughout the day.”

The Mississauga native admitted it will be an emotional night for him if he can play in his first game in two-and-a-half months.

“It’s obviously an incredible position to be in,” Malhotra said. “I think everybody that’s on the ice tonight has dreamed about (the Stanley Cup Final) at some point or another in their career, growing up. I realize the significance of the moment.

“At the same time, once the puck’s dropped, I’m going to have to just, again, bring it back to basics. Just another game, got to do the things I’ve done my whole career.”

Malhotra plans on taking part in the team’s pre-game skate, so we might not know whether or not he’ll play until right around the time the first puck drops. You can follow the action tonight on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.

Lightning give Vasilevskiy the (brief) hook after very rare Jurco goal

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By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

Here’s the Jurco goal:

Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by Ondrej Palat:

Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.

Coach Q thinks Anisimov will be back by playoffs for Blackhawks

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The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.

The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:

The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.

Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.

Ducks demote Enroth, so Gibson’s close to a return

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The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.

(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)

While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.

Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?

Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.

He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.

(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.

While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.

With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.