FILE – In this March 8, 2011, file photo, Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty hits his head on the glass partition between the benches on a hard check from Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara (33) during an NHL hockey game in Montreal. Montreal police say they intend to question Chara in the coming weeks and decide whether to press charges for the hit on Pacioretty. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson, File)
One of the more impressive things about the Nashville Predators’ ability to eliminate the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals was the way they won the last two games of the series without the services of their top two centers, Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher.
They will still be without Johansen in the Stanley Cup Final as his postseason has come to an end, but they could get Fisher back when the series begins on Monday night.
General manager David Poile said on Wednesday that he is hopeful Fisher can participate in practice on Thursday and that there is “a real good chance” he will be ready to play in Game 1 of the series. The Predators will play the winner of Thursday’s Game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators. The Predators will open the series on the road no matter who they play.
Fisher suffered an apparent head injury in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final but was able to be on the ice to take part in the trophy celebration following Game 6.
The Predators’ captain has yet to record a point in 14 games this postseason, but did score 18 goals and add 24 assists in 72 games during the regular season.
In other injury news, Craig Smith, who also missed Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, has seen his health improve and could also be getting closer to a return. Smith has only played in four games for the Predators this postseason and has not played since Game 6 in the second-round against the St. Louis Blues.
The Arizona Coyotes announced on Wednesday afternoon that former player Craig Cunningham has joined the team’s front office as a pro scout.
Cunningham’s playing career came to an end earlier this season when he suffered a medical emergency and collapsed on the ice before a game in the American Hockey League. He had CPR and other medical techniques administered on the ice and on the way to the hospital to help save his life. He has made a remarkable recovery since then.
“We’re thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said in a statement released by the team. “Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We’re confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club.”
A fourth-round draft pick by the Boston Bruins in 2010, the 26-year-old Cunningham spent parts of three seasons in the NHL with the Bruins and Coyotes, scoring three goals to go with five assists in 63 career games. He did not play for the big club in Arizona this season. He scored four goals and recorded nine assists in 11 games with the Tucson Roadrunners this season before having his career come to a premature end.
Suspect netminding has plagued Dallas for two straight years, and GM Jim Nill is switching things up accordingly.
On the heels of acquiring Ben Bishop and signing him to a long-term contract, Nill has reportedly hired veteran goalie coach Jim Bedard, per In Goal Magazine.
Bedard will replace longtime Dallas employee Mike Valley, who has been with the club since 2009 in a goalie coach/director of goaltending development role. In Goal reports that Valley told the club he wouldn’t be returning.
Bedard, 60, was with Detroit from the mid-90s to last summer, when he was relived of his duties. His unemployment didn’t last long. Within weeks of being dismissed, Bedard caught on as the goalie coach for OHL Windsor,
The connection to Dallas is quite obvious. Nill and Bedard worked together for years in Detroit, and won three Stanley Cups together.
Two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins played a Game 7 that the oddsmakers expected them to lose.
But the Penguins didn’t lose. They went into Washington and shut out the Capitals to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
Which brings us to tomorrow, and another Game 7.
This time, the game is in Pittsburgh. And this time, it’ll be the Penguins as favorites.
At online sportsbook Bovada, the Ottawa Senators are +170 underdogs, meaning a $100 bet on the Sens to win Game 7 would pay out $170. Conversely, to make $100 on a Penguins win, a bettor would have to risk $200.
This is not to suggest that betting on Ottawa is the savvy move. It might be, given the potential payout, combined with the fact hockey games are often decided by a lucky bounce or hot goalie.
But just remember: the Penguins beat Tampa Bay in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference Final. The defending champs have proven their worth in these winner-take-all games.
“It’s not something that’s new to them,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “These guys have been involved in these experiences on a number of occasions, and they have those experiences to draw on. You know, I think they know what to expect, and now it’s a matter of going out and earning it and controlling what they can and doing your very best to get the result that we’re looking for.”
Veteran forward Matt Cullen added, “We’ve been there before. We’ve gone through this. We know what to expect out of our group. We have a comfort level with our plan and the way that we need to play. These are the fun games to play. So as a group, we go into it with a lot of confidence, knowing that we’re going to need our best game and expecting that we’ll bring it.”
For the record, Sens coach Guy Boucher has also experienced a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. It came in 2011 when he was coaching the Lightning, who fell to the eventual champs from Boston by the score of 1-0.
Though it wasn’t the result he wanted, Boucher felt privileged to have had the experience.
“It was a tough game,” he said. “It was 0-0 with seven minutes left in the game. It was quite a game and a lot of pressure. What I remember most is the excitement of an opportunity that very few people get in their lives, and I’m part of that. I can’t be blessed more than that.”