When you look at the Islanders and Bruins facing off tonight (7 p.m. ET on Versus) you see one team looking to build on a dormant legacy while another looks to continue their season rolling in the right direction and shaking off a Stanley Cup hangover.
The Islanders have rolled through three goalies and rode the coattails of a man-child in John Tavares. Boston has sleepwalked through the first month of the year, but after two straight wins including a 7-0 stomping of Toronto, appear to have gotten it figured out.
For Boston, getting it figured out means working through line changes and new chemistry. Part of that new chemistry involves 2010 #2 overall pick Tyler Seguin settling in on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Seguin’s hat trick against Toronto certainly looked nice. While David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton get it back together, Seguin’s line has been stellar. Going with the old adage of “the youth shall lead them” is fitting in well for the Bruins.
It’s much the same on Long Island as John Tavares has been out-of-this-world good for New York. His great start is showing that the Islanders have someone special to lead the way offensively in New York, but for the Islanders to succeed they need more production from just about everyone else. If Tavares’ skills can rub off on guys not named Mark Streit (who has also been outstanding), they’ll be i better shape.
Instead, we have a pair of teams with the same number of points looking to get better. For the Islanders, getting a nice night in goal out of any of their troika of Rick DiPietro, Evgeni Nabokov, or Al Montoya would go a long way towards that. Tim Thomas and his Movember mustache and mask will hope to keep the Islanders at bay. If the Bruins can’t do that, it’ll feel like they need to go back to square one to get things going.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.
EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.
Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.
Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.