NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 24: Scottie Upshall #19 of the Florida Panthers warms up against the New Jersey Devils in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on April 24, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Poll: Which Game 7 are you looking forward to the most?

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The Western Conference series were all pretty one-sided, but the east will provide us with three Game 7s over the next two days. Which begs the question: which one are you looking forward to the most? Here’s a quick preview of each game:

The New York Rangers vs the Ottawa Senators – This looked like the most lopsided series going into the playoffs. It was an accomplishment for the Senators to even make it to the first round and after Daniel Alfredsson suffered a concussion in Game 2, things looked even grimmer for Ottawa. Still, the Senators have matched the Rangers blow-for-blow in this series and it’s entirely possible that neither of the first seeds will survive the opening round.

The Boston Bruins vs the Washington Capitals – Goaltender Braden Holtby has really made himself the story of this series. He had almost no NHL experience going into the playoffs and was only starting because of injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. However, Holtby has risen to the occasion and has looked just as good or better than Tim Thomas. The question now is if he can steal one more game for the Capitals or if the defending champion Bruins will extend their season.

The Florida Panthers vs the New Jersey Devils – No matter what happens in Game 7, we’re going to see a team advance to the second round for the first time in years. Of course, for Florida the wait has been much longer. Until this season, the Panthers hadn’t even made the playoffs since 2000. Depending on the outcome of this game, we might be getting out last glimpse of Zach Parise in a Devils’ uniform and Martin Brodeur.

Darling, a pending UFA, ‘excited’ for starting goalie audition

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling deflects a shot during the second half of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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When most think of next summer’s potential free agent goalie class, names like Ben Bishop and Ryan Miller tend to top the list.

But there’s another pending UFA ‘tender that’s made a name for himself lately: Scott Darling.

Darling has been Chicago’s goalie of record in each of the last three games, as Corey Crawford recovers from an appendectomy. He’s fared very well, stopping 79 of 84 shots, and recorded his first shutout of the year in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Coyotes.

Needless to say, Darling is stoked about the opportunity at hand.

“I’m excited for the challenge,” he told the Chicago Tribune, when asked about his feelings on carrying a starter’s workload.

Darling is 5-2-1 on the year, with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage. Those are pretty good numbers to head into free agency with, and he’s got some other things going for him as well — specifically, his size (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) and age (turns 28 later this month).

One has to think an ideal situation for Darling would be the one Chad Johnson‘s found in Calgary. Signed this summer (a relatively modest $1.7M pact) to be Brian Elliott‘s backup, Johnson — a 30-year-old journeyman — had an opportunity to carry the No. 1 workload after Elliott got off to a horrendous start.

Now, Johnson is one of the NHL’s hottest goalies, and essentially the Flames’ starter.

As the situation in Calgary has shown, having two capable netminders is extremely important. Earlier this week, Brough highlighted five backup ‘tenders that aren’t getting the job done — suggesting there should be a healthy market for Darling’s services this summer.

Should he continue to play well, of course.

Two late goals allows Ducks to beat ‘Canes in shootout

Anaheim Ducks' Nick Ritchie, left, celebrates his goal as he skates past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, right, and Jay McClement during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. The Ducks won 6-5 in shootout. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Former Anaheim Ducks great Teemu Selanne had a philosophy about scoring goals. The Ducks are hoping his “ketchup bottle theory” applies to star winger Corey Perry.

Perry and Nick Ritchie scored late in the third period to tie it and rookie Ondrej Kase got the deciding goal in a shootout, lifting the Ducks over the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 on Wednesday night.

After Ritchie deflected in Cam Fowler‘s shot with 3:59 left in the third, Perry got his fifth goal of the season with 2:28 remaining to tie it at 5.

“It’s nice to see it hit the back of the net for once, and not the goalie,” Perry said.

Perry, who scored 34 goals last year and won the Hart Trophy with 50 in 2010-11, hadn’t scored since Oct. 25, but said he’s hoping this goal leads to more.

“There was a player that I coached before and his name was Teemu Selanne,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “He used to say that goal scoring was like pouring ketchup out of the ketchup bottle. Once it starts to flow, then it comes readily.”

It was the first non-regulation win for the Ducks this season and it was aided by Anaheim’s young core. Kase slickly deked to his backhand before lifting his shootout attempt over Cam Ward. Stefan Noesen, recalled from San Diego of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, got his first NHL goal, and Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Kesler also scored for Anaheim. John Gibson made 29 saves.

“The light went on and I threw my hands up,” Noesen said. “It was all of the emotions from two long years coming through at once.”

Teuvo Teravainen scored twice for the Hurricanes, and Jay McClement, Sebastian Aho and Brett Pesce also had goals. Ward made 33 saves while Carolina matched a season high with five goals.

“There were a couple breakdowns,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “At times, I thought we did a real good job at controlling the tempo of the game. We had the puck lots. But we need to do a better job defensively and have a better awareness away from the puck.”

Pesce scored on a slap shot 4:46 into the third period to give the Hurricanes a 4-2 lead. Kesler scored about four minutes later to cut the deficit, but Teravainen’s second goal a minute later made it 5-3.

Noesen scored at 13:52 in the second period to make it 3-2. Joseph Cramarossa and Kase, Noesen’s former San Diego Gulls teammates and roommate, were credited with the assists.

“They’re both two of my pretty good friends,” Noesen said. “I think no matter what happens, it was special. Seeing Cram’ being the first one to come hug me and get the puck, that was awesome.”

     Read more: The Ducks have a youth movement of their own

Less than two minutes after McClement broke a 1-1 tie with a backhand around Gibson at 10:10 in the second period, Aho broke away, faked a shot and backhanded it over Gibson to make it 3-1.

With 38 seconds left in the first period, Teravainen tied it at 1 with a power-play goal. Jaccob Slavin couldn’t get a stick on a pass and instead used his skate to get it over to the right circle, where Teravainen found it and ripped a slap shot past Gibson.

Cogliano put the Ducks on the board with just over three minutes left in the first, when he went five-hole on Ward with his own rebound, his seventh of the season.

 

Erik Karlsson hit another impressive milestone

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Erik Karlsson‘s had a terrific career in the NHL so far and he’s still just 26 years old.

He already owns two Norris Trophies (2011-12, 2014-15) and his ability to move the puck and put up points from the blue line is second to none.

Last year, Karlsson played in all 82 games and he finished with an incredible 82 points.

He’s on pace to do exactly the same thing this year, as he’s scored 27 points in the first 27 games of the season. Only Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov and Evgeni Malkin have more points than the Sens defenseman in 2016-17.

So with that in mind, it’s not surprising that Karlsson’s crushing some important franchise records so early in his career.

In Wednesday’s game against San Jose, Karlsson became the team’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen with  412 points.

Wade Redden, who held the record before Karlsson, picked up 410 points as a Senator, but he accomplished that in 332 more games. That’s equivalent to four more seasons.

Predictably, he downplayed the accomplishment.

“Right now, not much,” Karlsson said of his new record, per the Ottawa Sun. “It’s fun in a way, but it’s something that you reflect back on when your career is over. Hopefully mine isn’t for a long time.”

Here’s something about Karlsson you might not have known: He currently leads the league in blocked shots with 78, which is eight more than Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, who’s second.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL’s concussion spotters are off to a rough start

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–The NHL now has concussion spotters watching every game from the league’s headquarters in New York. These spotters have the power to remove players from games if they think they’re concussed. In theory, it seems to be a good idea, but the spotters have had a tough time so far. (Associated Press)

–Sean McIndoe takes a look at five players that have been confusing to follow this season. Some are confusing because they’ve overachieved and others are confusing because they’ve flopped so far in 2016-17. (The Hockey News)

–The Penguins’ third pairing of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz have been solid this season because they’ve kept things simple. The duo wants more ice time, but they don’t want to stray away from what’s made them successful. “If we’re given more responsibility, we’re certainly very excited for that and are ready to run with that opportunity. I don’t think we should try to change anything,” said Cole. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

–The Boston Bruins were down 3-0 to the Washington Capitals last night, but they managed to fight back and force overtime. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Caps center Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winning goal in the extra frame. You can watch the highlights of the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews donated $1 million to a community center in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “From my earliest days playing hockey, Dakota Community Centre has always played a pivotal role in my upbringing and my career”, Toews said. (The Score)

–Nashville Predators teammates Mike Ribeiro and P.K. Subban go head-to-head in a game of pickup basketball. The matchup was pretty one-sided. Let’s just say they should both stick to hockey.

–Last Week, the ‘Hawks were forced to sign an emergency goalie after Corey Crawford was unable to play. They settled on Eric Semborski, who is an employee at the Flyers’ practice facility. Now, Topps decided to create a hockey card of Semborski.