Injury bug bites Toronto, again

The word “lost” came up a lot during Toronto’s game with Phoenix last night. The Leafs lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Coyotes and have now lost four of their last five. The Leafs also lost both Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur to injury during the game.

What’s ailing Grabovski is still unconfirmed, but this much we know: He’ll miss the next two weeks after colliding with Martin Hanzal and limping off with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. Grabovski had 5G-5A-10PTS in 18 games while averaging over 18 minutes a night.

As for MacArthur, the jury’s still out. Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun reports he’ll see a doctor (MacArthur, not Koshan) for further diagnosis. It’s believed to be an upper-body injury, for whatever that’s worth. Koshan also noted that MacArthur won’t play tomorrow night in Nashville.

Speaking of the Nashville game, Leafs head coach Ron Wilson confirmed Ben Scrivens would get the start — his fourth in a row. (That noise you heard was another bolt going through Jonas Gustavsson and into the bench.) All told, the Leafs will face the Predators without the services of Grabovski, MacArthur, James Reimer and Colby Armstrong.

Good news, though — Tim Connolly has declared himself fit and will return to the lineup on Thursday. I would joke about how the Leafs are keeping a spot on IR open for him, but I’m not sure it’s a joke.

Martin could be option for Vegas, but hopes to stick with Leafs

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With the expansion draft just weeks away, more and more questions are being asked of players about the possibility of relocating to Vegas.

One of those players? Maple Leafs tough guy Matt Martin.

“I haven’t thought too much about it,” Martin said over the weekend, per the Toronto Sun. “You go where life takes you. I think it’s going to be a good place to play hockey, whether I end up there or not.

“I hope I stay in Toronto. I love it there.”

Martin, 28, just wrapped the second of a four-year, $10 million deal with a $2.5 million cap hit. His role in Toronto, and the value of it, has often been a topic of debate. Martin backers point to his durability (played in all 82 games this year) and willingness to protect the kids (13 fights last season, tied for fourth-most in the league).

The anti-Martin camp see a guy that plays less than nine minutes a night, posts sub par possession metrics and finished the year with just nine points.

As it stands, Martin’s lumped into a group of Leafs forwards essentially vying for a few protected spots. Sportsnet has a good rundown of the situation.

The Leafs could take the risk of exposing Martin, hoping the aforementioned $2.5M cap hit would scare Vegas off. But the Golden Knights could be of the same mind as Toronto head coach Mike Babcock, who valued Martin’s ability to give the club’s young skaters extra breathing room on the ice.

“It’s huge,” Babcock told ESPN earlier this year, when asked about Martin’s impact. “I mean, we don’t get slapped around ever.

“Last year, we got abused. … Not only is he a good player, he’s a great man. He treats those kids with kindness, with a firm hand of accountability at the same time. He’s a good pro, he lives right, he acts right, treats his teammates right. So he’s got a huge fan in me, I can tell you that.”

It’s probably worth noting that Vegas GM George McPhee is familiar with Martin. McPhee was a special advisor to Isles GM Garth Snow during Martin’s final year with New York.

Pressure’s on for Guentzel to start scoring again

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PITTSBURGH — Not too long ago, every puck Jake Guentzel shot seemed to go in the net.

Heck, even the ones he didn’t shoot seemed to go in the net.

But tonight in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, there’s no assurance that Guentzel will even play. The 22-year-old forward hasn’t scored in his last eight games, and his Pittsburgh Penguins will have Patric Hornqvist back in the lineup to face the Nashville Predators.

This morning, head coach Mike Sullivan said that Guentzel and Carl Hagelin will be game-time decisions. There may only be room for one of them to play.

Chances are, Guentzel will be in and Hagelin will sit. The latter stayed on the ice late this morning with the rest of the Pens’ likely scratches.

But if Guentzel does play, he’d surely love to get back on the scoresheet. Yesterday after practice, Sullivan talked up the rookie’s game, even after Guentzel was a limited participant in line rushes.

“I think Jake’s game has been really good,” said Sullivan. “He didn’t score in (the Ottawa) series, but I think there’s more to his game than just that. He’s played some heavy minutes for us since he’s joined our team, in particular, in this playoff race. … He’s a very good player. I think he helps us win even on nights when he doesn’t score because he has a complete skill set. He’s pretty sound defensively. He has awareness away from the puck. He’s a play-maker. He has a high hockey IQ. He’s a competitive guy.”

Guentzel scored nine goals in the first two rounds combined, five against Columbus and four against Washington.

Here are PHT’s Stanley Cup Final predictions

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Here we go!

After three rounds of scintillating predictions — well, from me anyway — we’ve finally reached the apex: Nashville versus Pittsburgh in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

PHT’s conference final picks went reasonably well. I went 2-0, as did Cam Tucker and Adam Gretz. Everybody else went 1-1, humans and non-humans alike.

If you’ve been following along throughout the playoffs, you’ll know that we enlisted the services of The Random Thing Picker. It, as the name suggests, picks random things, and in doing so has compiled a 9-5 overall record these playoffs.

As for the sentient beings? I’m 11-3 (and moving to Vegas next week), Tucker’s 9-5, Alfieri’s 8-6, Gretz and Brough are 7-7, and O’Brien’s bringing up the rear at 6-8.

Onto the picks…

Halford: Penguins in 7

I’ve analyzed this series 15 different ways now, and I keep coming back to one thing — the center position. Under any other circumstance, I think Nashville has enough strengths in goal and on defense and on the wing to overcome the loss of Ryan Johansen. But that’s under any other circumstance. Under this one, its a nightmare. The Pens have the league’s best one-two combo down the middle in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and a quality No. 3 in Nick Bonino. With all due respect to Colton Sissons, Calle Jarnkrok, Vern Fiddler and a banged-up Mike Fisher, the disparity in talent at center between the teams is just too much.

More: Minus Johansen, the Preds have ‘some big shoes’ to fill

Brough: Penguins in 6

In the preseason, I picked the Pens to become the first repeat champs of the salary-cap era. And I felt great about my prediction, right until Kris Letang was lost for the playoffs. Then, I totally bailed on them. I was convinced the Caps would beat them in the second round. To me, it seemed like Washington’s time had finally come. How wrong I was. So now I’ve come crawling back to Pittsburgh. To be sure, this is not quite the dominant team that rolled through last year’s postseason and took out the Sharks in a series that wasn’t nearly as close as the six games suggested. But all things being equal, I like the Pens minus Letang more than I like the Predators minus Johansen.

More: For Penguins’ defense, it’s been a group effort to replace Letang

O’Brien: Penguins in 6

Months ago, these teams deployed the elements you’d expect from a contender. At this point, Nashville forwards are either done for the playoffs (Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala) or missing games. Meanwhile, the Penguins came into the playoffs with the glaring loss of Kris Letang on defense and have dealt with a ton of attrition in their own right. We’re left with a star-studded Penguins offense taking on a dauntingly deep Predators defense, and both goalies are playing great hockey. So, this isn’t an easy choice even by the standards of a postseason that’s been tough to crack. When in doubt, go with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not to mention Matt Murray and Mike Sullivan. But do note there is doubt.

Tucker: Penguins in 6

Despite missing Ryan Johansen for the latter part of the Western Conference Final, the Predators got by Anaheim without their top center, which is testament to how that roster is built in Nashville. I know the Predators have been propelled by great goaltending from Pekka Rinne and a very good, very productive group of defensemen, but I can’t see Nashville winning the championship without Johansen in this series. The Penguins are just way too talented and deep up the middle. It’s scary when you can go with Sidney Crosby and then Evgeni Malkin at center. The Penguins have been without Kris Letang for the entire playoffs — a huge loss. But they’ve managed to get by, and with Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz back, that’s quite a boost to their blue line and lineup at this point in the playoffs. The Predators deserve a tremendous amount of praise for their playoff run. Don’t think many had them to beat the Blackhawks, never mind sweep them. It’s been a historical spring for that franchise. But I feel not having Ryan Johansen in this series will eventually catch up to them.

Alfieri: Penguins in 6

Coming into the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, I didn’t think the Penguins would make it this far because of the amount of hockey their top players have played (last year’s long playoff run and the World Cup) over the last year. Not only have they been able to go on a great run, they overcame two Game 7s to do it. I realize that Nashville is clearly better on defense, but Pittsburgh’s group of blue liners have stepped up in Kris Letang’s absence. In my mind, the biggest thing separating these two teams is their depth down the middle. Even if Ryan Johansen was healthy, they’d still have their hands full with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen. No team has won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years in the salary cap era, but I think the Pens get it done.

Gretz: Penguins in 6

The Predators were my preseason pick to win it all, and if they had a healthy Ryan Johansen I might stick with them at this point. But the loss of Johansen just seems like a pretty devastating blow because you need a No. 1 center to win the Stanley Cup. Nashville has the huge edge on defense at this point, and Pittsburgh is missing an essential Stanley Cup ingredient of its own with Kris Letang out, but that center matchup just seems like a major issue for the Predators. While the Penguins can roll with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Nashville will be countering with Mike Fisher, Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons. Between them that trio has six goals and seven assists (combined) this postseason. That seems like a problem.

Random Thing Picker: Predators

You humans are weak and simple-minded. This is why we will one day rule the planet, beginning with this sorry website.

Report: Panthers will indeed ask for permission to speak with Housley after Stanley Cup Final

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When it comes to finding a new head coach, the Florida Panthers continue to wait for the dust to settle in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That’s because Phil Housley is still working behind the bench as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, who face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final, with Game 1 going tonight.

According to Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel on Sunday, citing an interview on NBC Sports Final, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon will indeed wait until after the championship series is decided to ask the Predators for permission to speak with Housley.

There had been conflicting reports earlier this month about whether the Panthers were done waiting for the playoffs to end before they advanced their search for a new coach.

Read more: Report: Panthers to interview Reirden for head coaching gig

Housley has emerged this spring as a strong candidate to potentially become a head coach next season.

There are currently two vacancies left in the league — in Buffalo and Florida. Housley began his NHL career with the Sabres in 1982, and played with that franchise until 1990.

Housley’s prime responsibilities in Nashville are working with its defensemen and the power play.

There have been many factors contributing to the Predators’ playoff run. At or near the top of the list has been the play and production from their blue liners, particularly Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm.

Related: Panthers looking for ‘modern day guy’ as next head coach