If the Kings make the playoffs, scheduling and travel should be fun

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Intriguing note here from CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:

Conventional wisdom is that the Western Conference matchup to avoid is the No. 4 / No. 5 fight between two of Detroit, Nashville and Chicago. After all, the thinking is, you’d rather finish sixth and face the Pacific Division winner. Here’s the flaw: travel. Since 2000, nine Central Division teams have won a first-round series against a team at least two time zones away. How many went on to reach the Cup Final? One. (That’s Detroit, which captured the crown in 2002.)

Be careful what you wish for, especially if it’s the Kings. Get a look at that Staples Center schedule.

On it.

The NHL playoffs begin on Wednesday, Apr. 11. According to the Staples Center schedule, there are Lakers/Clippers games booked for Friday (7:30pm), Saturday (12:30pm), Sunday (12:30pm), Monday (7:30pm) and Tuesday (7:30pm).

The arena is vacant for Wednesday the 18th, then booked for the evenings of the 19th and 20th for Mexican pop rock outfit Mana.

NHL playoff series are 2-2-1-1-1 affairs with the higher seed opening at home. Should the Kings win the Pacific Division and finish third overall, they’ll hold home-ice advantage over the No. 6 seed…and that’s where things could get interesting.

The series could open at Staples on the 11th, but would then be forced into either a back-to-back (on the 12th) or having two off days before resuming on the 14th — after the Clippers-Warriors game, when they transition from hardwood to ice. (Which always makes for great ice.)

The series could also open on the 12th, then play the evening of the 14th. But the later the series starts, the more likely a potential Game 5 return date falls into the Staples gauntlet (when the evenings of the 17th, 19th and 20th are booked.)

That said, it is possible for NHL teams to flex muscle and move preexisting events out. A good example of this occurred last postseason, when the Vancouver Canucks bumped a Supertramp concert from Rogers Arena because it conflicted with Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.

Rangers lock up Zibanejad for next five years

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The New York Rangers have locked up a key piece of their future, signing center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5.35 million.

Zibanejad had an arbitration hearing scheduled for today, but that won’t be required anymore.

The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. It was his first year in New York after getting traded from Ottawa for Derick Brassard.

With Derek Stepan in Arizona now, Zibanejad is arguably the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Kevin Hayes is in that conversation as well, and perhaps Lias Andersson will be soon.

But getting Zibanejad signed long term was a top priority for GM Jeff Gorton this offseason. Hayes can become a restricted free agent next summer, but that’s a bridge to cross at a later date.

Related: Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.