Ottawa Senators v New York Rangers

Series at a glance: NY Rangers-Ottawa playoff preview

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Schedule

All times are Eastern.

* – if necessary

Thursday April 12 in New York @ 7 p.m. (NHL Network, CBC)
Saturday April 14 in New York @ 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
Monday April 16 in Ottawa @ 7:30 p.m. (CNBC, CBC)
Wednesday April 18 in Ottawa @ 7:30 p.m. (CNBC, CBC)
*Saturday April 21 in New York @ 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
*Monday April 23 in Ottawa @ TBD (TBD)
*Thursday April 26 in New York @ TBD (TBD)

Three storylines to follow

1. Is Henrik Lundqvist going to be his Vezina-caliber self? For years, Lundqvist carried an inferior team to playoff berths and then wore down once the postseason rolled around. There’s a much better team in front of him and he’s as well-rested as he’s ever been in April, but his late-season injury and shaky tune-up game against Washington could be cause for concern.

2. Ottawa’s kiddie corps. Jared Cowen, Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Nick Foligno, Colin Greening and Erik Condra are all 25 or younger and have almost no playoff experience to speak of (Foligno leads all, with 10 games.) How will they stack up against a well-coached, experienced and hard-nosed No. 1 seed?

3. Strength vs. strength: The Rangers are better than they’ve been in a long time on offense, but their identity still revolves around stout defense, all-world goaltending and relentless effort. Could an explosive Ottawa offense create just enough havoc to throw a balanced Rangers team … out of balance?

Records

NY Rangers: 51-24-7, 109 points (1st in Atlantic; 1st in Eastern Conference) | Ottawa: 41-31-10, 92 points (2nd in Northeast; 8th in Eastern Conference)

Leading scorers

NY Rangers: Marian Gaborik (41G-35A-76PTS) | Ottawa: Jason Spezza (34G-50A-84PTS)

Starting goalies

NY Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist (39-18-5, 1.97 GAA) | Ottawa: Craig Anderson (33-22-6, 2.83 GAA)

Head-to-head

Ottawa won series 3-1
Oct. 29: Ottawa 5, at NY Rangers 4, SO
Nov. 9: NY Rangers 3, at Ottawa 2
Jan. 12: Ottawa 3, at NY Rangers 0
March 8: At Ottawa 4, NY Rangers 1

Last 10 games

NY Rangers: 6-4-0 | Ottawa: 4-6-0

Playoff history

First meeting

2011 playoffs

NY Rangers: Lost to Washington 4-1 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals) | Ottawa: Did not qualify

Stanley Cups

NY Rangers: 4 (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994) | Ottawa: None

Injuries

NY Rangers: Mats Zuccarello (wrist), Steve Eminger (ankle) and Michael Sauer (concussion). (Maybe Lundqvist’s arm, too?)

Ottawa: Chris Neil (upper body) and Peter Regin (shoulder).

PHT Morning Skate: Stevens sees similarities between the Wild and those great Devils teams

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–In a Q & A with NHL.com, Minnesota assistant coach Scott Stevens says this year’s edition of the Wild reminds him of the stingy Devils teams he played on. “It reminds me very much of the Devils in how we play. We definitely love to protect the middle of the ice. We might give up a few more shots, but we give up a lot of those perimeter shots and hopefully our goaltenders know where the shots are coming from,” said Stevens. (NHL.com)

–Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has shown that he’s got the hockey thing down, but his “Call of Duty” game has come a long way, according to teammate Mitch Marner. (BarDown)

–Many expect the Canadiens to try to land a top two center between now and the trade deadline, but in an interview with TSN 690 radio, GM Marc Bergevin says “you can never have too many defensemen.” If you listen to Bergevin, it sure sounds like he wants to add a mobile defender to play with Shea Weber. (TSN 690)

–The Chicago Blackhawks got some solid production from Vinne Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero in last night’s win over the Avalanche. You can watch the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–How much would you pay for a young NHL superstar’s game worn jersey? The jersey Auston Matthews wore during the first period of the Centennial Classic sold for an incredible amount of money. (Yahoo)

–Will we see Patrik Elias return to the New Jersey Devils this season? The 40-year-old underwent cartilage replacement surgery on his knee during the off-season, but he doesn’t seem willing to close the door on his NHL career just yet. Elias wants to make a final decision on his playing career by next month. (USA Today)

–Going through a scoring slump is never fun, but going through a scoring slump when you’re the captain of the Montreal Canadiens might be one of the more unbearable things in professional hockey. Max Pacioretty was able to overcome a slow start thanks to some big-picture thinking. “At the end of the day, look at the life we have, look where we’re playing. I love playing here so much, and the fact I’m able to be the captain here, it sounds cheesy, but what’s better in life right now? I’ve got a family, I’ve got an awesome team, I’m the captain of the best franchise in the world,” said Pacioretty. (NHL.com)

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.