Series at a glance: St. Louis-Los Angeles playoff preview

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Schedule

All times Eastern; *if necessary

Game 1: Saturday, April 28 at St. Louis, 7:30 p.m (NBCSN, TSN)
Game 2: Monday, April 30 at St. Louis, 9 p.m. (CNBC, TSN)
Game 3: Thursday, May 3 at Los Angeles, 10 p.m. (NBCSN, TSN)
Game 4: Sunday, May 6 at Los Angeles, 3 p.m. (NBC, TSN)
Game 5: *Tuesday, May 8 at St. Louis, TBD
Game 6: *Thursday, May 10 at Los Angeles, TBD
Game 7: *Saturday, May 12 at St. Louis, TBD

Three storylines to follow

1. The goaltending. Based on what happened in Round 1, this series promises to be a low-scoring affair — Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick (a Vezina nominee) allowed just eight goals in a five-game romp over Vancouver and St. Louis’ Brian Elliott allowed five in four games against San Jose.

Both Quick and Elliott finished top-five in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts during the regular season, and both represented the Western Conference at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.

So yeah, pretty solid ‘tenders.

2. Striking similarities. The Blues and Kings are quite alike. Both underwent a in-season coaching change (Ken Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne, Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray), both are outstanding defensively (St. Louis led the NHL with 1.89 goals allowed per game; L.A. was second at 2.07) and both broke long playoff slumps in Round 1. The Kings won their first playoff series since 2001, the Blues their first since 2002.

3. Captains America. The series will feature an all-American battle between two of the league’s most physical forwards: Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown vs. St. Louis captain David Backes. Brown was the Kings’ driving force in Round 1, scoring four times (twice shorthanded) while averaging a point a game against. Backes was less of an offensive force — he only scored a single goal against the Sharks — but compensated by leading the team in takeaways and winning 58 percent of his faceoffs.

Records (reg. season)

No. 2 St. Louis: 49-22-11, 109 points (1st in Central) | No. 8 Los Angeles: 40-27-15, 95 points (3rd in Pacific)

Leading playoff scorers

St. Louis: Andy McDonald (4G-4A-8PTS) | Los Angeles: Dustin Brown (4G-1A-5PTS)

Starting goalies

St. Louis: Brian Elliott (3-0, 1.37 GAA)  | Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick (4-1, 1.59 GAA)

Head-to-head

Los Angeles won season series 3-1

Oct. 18: At Los Angeles 5, St. Louis 0
Nov. 22: Los Angeles 3, at St. Louis 2
Feb. 3: At St. Louis 1, Los Angeles 0
Mar. 22: At Los Angeles 1, St. Louis 0, SO

Playoff history

St. Louis leads 2-0
1969: St. Louis 4-0 (West Division Semifinals)
1998: St. Louis 4-0 (Western Conference Quarterfinals)

2012 playoffs

St. Louis: Def. San Jose 4-1 (WC quarters) | L.A.: Def. Vancouver 4-1 (WC quarters)

2011 playoffs

St. Louis: Did not qualify | L.A.: Def. Lost to San Jose 4-2 (WC quarters)

Stanley Cups

St. Louis: None | Los Angeles: None

Injuries

St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak (ankle) | Los Angeles: Scott Parse (hip), Kevin Westgarth (hand), Simon Gagne (concussion)

Poll

Fisher also contacted by Canada for Olympics along with Doan, Iginla

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Add Mike Fisher to the list of veteran free agents who’ve at least been contacted to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Hockey Canada VP of hockey operations Scott Salmond revealed as much to TSN 1040 on Thursday while also noting their interest in Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla.

“As Hockey Canada we have tremendous respect for all of those players,” Salmond said. “There’s no question that their leadership and their experience could be invaluable to our team.”

(Read more about Canada contacting Doan and Iginla specifically in this post.)

Fisher, 37, shares certain similarities with Doan and Iginla. All three players have captained NHL teams, each brings a mixture of scoring ability and grit to the table, and they all obviously have plenty of experience.

Pending talks with Nashville

On the other hand, there are a few potential differences that make Fisher’s case interesting.

For one thing, Fisher hasn’t decided – or hasn’t shared his decision – regarding a return to the Nashville Predators just yet. That choice is expected to come sometime next week.

The thing is, Fisher at least has some say in that matter, as he might make the choice not to come back. In the cases of Doan and Iginla, they might struggle to find suitors in free agency (or at least find suitors willing to give them the specific deals they seek).

A first for Fisher?

While that might hurt Canada’s chances, there’s another wrinkle: Fisher hasn’t really gotten “the call” quite like Doan or Iginla have. Fisher hasn’t ever suited up for Canada in the Olympics and, according to Hockey Reference, hasn’t suited up for Canada since the 2009 World Championships.

Perhaps that rare opportunity might trump playing another season in the NHL? A few weeks of international hockey wouldn’t represent the same wear-and-tear as playing through an 82-game season.

(There’s also at least the concept of playing in the Olympics and then trying to find a deal with the Predators, however unlikely that might be.)

While Doan and especially Iginla stand as bigger names, you could make a very reasonable argument that Fisher actually has more left in the tank. He’s also a center, which Canada might deem a lacking position heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics.

For all we know, none of these three forwards will bite at the opportunity. This seems like one of those creative ideas that might not work out.

It’s easy to see why Canada’s reps would at least get the conversation going, and Fisher might just be the best target to aim for.

Hurricanes give Di Giuseppe a two-way deal for 2017-18

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The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, two-way contract on Thursday.

The team announced that Di Giuseppe’s deal is worth $725K at the NHL level and $125K in the AHL in 2017-18.

Di Giuseppe, 23, was the 38th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s been getting some looks at the NHL level with Carolina:

2015-16: 17 points in 41 games
2016-17: seven points in 36 games

He’s also been splitting time between the AHL and NHL lately, so a two-way deal works well enough.

Carolina doesn’t have much more to do on the free agent front, but that doesn’t mean that their off-season is wrapped up, as there’s still that whole ownership situation to settle.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eichel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least develop into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.