Series at a glance: Pittsburgh-Philadelphia playoff preview

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Schedule

All times are Eastern.

* – if necessary

Wednesday April 11 in Pittsburgh @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, TSN)
Friday April 13 in Pittsburgh @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, TSN)
Sunday April 15 in Philadelphia @ 3 p.m. (NBC, TSN)
Wednesday April 18 in Philadelphia @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, TSN)
*Friday April 20 in Pittsburgh @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, TSN)
*Sunday April 22 in Philadelphia @ TBD (TBD)
*Tuesday April 24 in Pittsburgh @ TBD (TBD)

Three (actually, four) storylines to follow

1. The health question. Oddly enough, after a season full of injury woes for the Penguins (Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Jordan Staal, and others), it’s Philly that’s banged up the worst. Ilya Bryzgalov has a sore foot. Danny Briere’s out indefinitely. Nicklas Grossman has a lower-body injury. JVR is on the shelf. Ditto for Andrej Meszaros. And of course we all know Chris Pronger is out with a concussion.

2. Deja vu in net? Speaking of Bryzgalov, are the Flyers really that committed to the possibly injured philosopher of the universe? Or will they have another humongous goaltending yo-yo nightmare on their hands? This might not be an easy tiger to wrestle with. (Sorry, re-watched 24/7 recently.)

3. Comfy Consol. The Penguins seem to have a case of “new building syndrome” when it comes to hosting the Flyers. It’s a modern sporting phenomenon, where a team gets a shiny new arena that’s inviting to all, including its opponents. (Just ask Scott Hartnell where he’d rather play.) Philly’s lost exactly one game in six at Consol Energy Center during its first two seasons, and that was Saturday’s meaningless contest.

4. Jagr’s revenge? – OK, cheating by adding a “bonus” storyline here, but one has to mention Jaromir Jagr taking on his former team in the playoffs after breaking a few hearts this summer. Sure, he played against Pittsburgh in his last run in the league with the New York Rangers, yet the (ultimately failed) courting process should make this another fun story to follow.

Records

Pittsburgh: 51-25-6, 108 points (2nd in Atlantic; 4th in Eastern Conference) | Philadelphia: 47-26-9, 103 points (3rd in Atlantic; 5th in Eastern Conference)

Leading scorers

Pittsburgh: Evgeni Malkin (50G-59A-109PTS) | Philadelphia: Claude Giroux (28G-65A-93PTS)

Starting goalies

Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury (42-17-4, 2.36 GAA) | Philadelphia: Ilya Bryzgalov (33-16-7, 2.48 GAA)

Head-to-head

Philadelphia won series 4-2
Dec. 8: At Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2
Dec. 29: Philadelphia 4, at Pittsburgh 2
Feb. 18: Pittsburgh 6, at Philadelphia 4
March 18: At Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2, OT
April 1: Philadelphia 6, at Pittsburgh 4
April 7: At Pittsburgh 4, Philadelphia 2

Last 10 games

Pittsburgh: 6-4-0 | Philadelphia: 5-4-1

Playoff history

Philadelphia leads 3-2
1989: Philadelphia 4-3 (Patrick Division finals)
1997: Philadelphia 4-1 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals)
2000: Philadelphia 4-0 (Eastern Conference semifinals)
2008: Pittsburgh 4-1 (Eastern Conference finals)
2009: Pittsburgh 4-2 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals)

2011 playoffs

Pittsburgh: Lost to Tampa 4-3 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals) | Philadelphia: Def. Buffalo 4-3 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals); lost to Boston 4-0 (Eastern Conference semifinals)

Stanley Cups

Pittsburgh: 3 (1991, 1992, 2009) | Philadelphia: 2 (1974, 1975)

Injuries

Pittsburgh: James Neal (lower-body), Matt Niskanen (upper-body), Steve Sullivan (lower-body) and Ben Lovejoy (knee).

Philadelphia: Danny Briere (back), Nicklas Grossmann (lower-body), James van Riemsdyk (foot), Tom Sestito (groin), Andrej Meszaros (lower-body), Chris Pronger (concussion) and Blair Betts (knee).

Sharks add assistant Barr as ‘eye in the sky’

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The San Jose Sharks added experienced assistant Dave Barr to Peter DeBoer’s coaching staff on Wednesday.

The team noted that Barr will serves as the Sharks’ “eye-in-the-sky” during the 2017-18 season.

DeBoer has experience with Barr, as he served as an assistant during the New Jersey Devils’ run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. Barr was also part of that mess with the Florida Panthers last season.

Beyond that, Barr is quite experienced, as you can see from the team’s summary of his recent coaching travels:

Barr has spent the past nine seasons coaching in various capacities in the NHL, serving most recently as an associate coach of the Florida Panthers during the 2016-17 season. Prior to his time in Florida, Barr served as an NHL assistant coach for eight seasons, with stops in Buffalo (2015-16), New Jersey (2011-15), Minnesota (2009-11) and Colorado (2008-09). Barr was a member of Peter DeBoer’s coaching staff during his four-year tenure with New Jersey, helping the team reach the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. 

The 56-year-old Barr spent four seasons as the head coach and general manager of the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) from 2004-08, where he was named the Matt Leyden Trophy winner as the OHL’s Coach of the Year in 2005-06. In addition, he was selected to coach Canada’s National Summer Under-18 Team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in 2007. 

Coyotes add MacLean and Allen to coaching staff

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John MacLean will, indeed, be an assistant coach on Rick Tocchet’s staff in Arizona, as reported yesterday.

So too will Scott Allen.

“We are very pleased to have John and Scott join the Coyotes organization,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka in a release. “Both individuals bring a wealth of hockey knowledge and coaching experience to our team and we are confident that they will be great additions to Head Coach Rick Tocchet’s staff.”

MacLean — who had a short, unsuccessful stint as head coach of the New Jersey Devils in 2010 — was last behind an NHL bench as an assistant on Kirk Muller’s staff in Carolina from 2011-14.

Allen spent last season as an assistant in Florida, before being let go to make way for Bob Boughner’s new staff.

The Coyotes also announced Mike Van Ryn as the new head coach of their AHL affiliate in Tucson. Van Ryn will be assisted by John Slaney and Steve Potvin.

Mark Lamb, last year’s head coach in Tucson, and Mark Hardy, Lamb’s assistant, will not be back.

Lamb was only hired a year ago; however, he got the job thanks in part to a previous working relationship with Dave Tippett. So it’s no surprise to hear Lamb won’t be back — especially after the Roadrunners missed the playoffs.

Related: John MacLean could reportedly join Tocchet’s coaching staff in Arizona

Welcome Nick Holden to the trade rumor mill

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Last summer, when Nick Holden was traded from Colorado to the Rangers, Patrick Roy called Alain Vigneault to say, “You just got one of my better defensemen.”

Now it seems that Holden may be on the trading block again.

From the New York Post, in the wake of Mika Zibanejad‘s contract extension:

The Blueshirts are projected to start the season with just $445,556 of cap space if they carry eight defensemen (including Alexei Bereglazov) and 14 forwards (including Andersson and Boo Nieves with Jesper Fast on IR). The Rangers are expected to attempt to deal defenseman Nick Holden ($1.65 million) in order to bulk up in the middle, if possible.

Holden played 80 games for the Rangers last season, scoring 11 goals with 23 assists. The 30-year-old is signed for one more year before he can become an unrestricted free agent.

If Holden is traded, the Rangers could go into next season with a top four of Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei. That would leave Marc Staal, Bereglazov, Anthony DeAngelo, and perhaps even Neal Pionk to fight for minutes on the bottom pairing.

What’s unclear is Holden’s value on the trade market. After all, the Rangers only gave up a fourth-round draft pick to get him from Colorado. Has his value risen significantly since?

Johnny Hockey: ‘I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong’

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Johnny Gaudreau made headlines last week when he went on Philadelphia radio and said it would be “sweet” to play for the Flyers one day.

Gaudreau — a South Jersey native who grew up cheering for the Flyers, but currently stars for the Calgary Flames — has now been offered a chance to clarify a few things about that interview.

“I think if you ask any player in the NHL if they’d like to play in their hometown at some point they’d all say it would be pretty sweet,” Gaudreau told the Courier-Post in a Q&A. “You’ve got friends, you’ve got family, you’ve got kids you went to school with, you’ve got teachers, you name it. You’ve got people that will be supporting you. The people support me down here, like it’s crazy down here. I’m just really fortunate they follow me up in Calgary.

“I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great city and they’re so passionate about our team. It’s a real hockey city. I really enjoy it up there, don’t get me wrong, but I think if you ask any player if he wants to play in his hometown they’d say it would be pretty cool to do that.

“I’ve still got five more years on my contract and who knows…if we’re playing well up here in Calgary I could end up staying another four or five years there because I love the city so much. It’s tough to have all those articles come out when it’s something so small, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

It’s certainly possible that Gaudreau opts to explore unrestricted free agency when his contract expires. But he doesn’t have that option until 2022.

For now, Gaudreau’s excited about the next few years in Calgary, where the Flames are trending the right way, possibly soon into legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Related: Stability, Stanley Cup aspirations ‘a breath of fresh air’ for Mike Smith