Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere

NHL on NBC: Devils try to contain explosive Flyers in series opener

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The Philadelphia Flyers are good and rested after they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 22 in six games. What was projected to be a heated series between bitter rivals loaded with star talent didn’t disappoint, but the Flyers managed to come out on top with some tremendous offensive showings.

Thanks to their efforts, by the time the puck drops in Game 1 of their second round series on Sunday (3:00 pm ET, NBC), Philadelphia will have already had a week off.

By contrast, the New Jersey Devils only barely managed to defeat the Florida Panthers. The Devils did not look particularly impressive in the first round and if they thought the Panthers were tough with the man advantage, just wait until they see what Philadelphia can do.

Still, New Jersey can’t be ruled out. Although they lack the Penguins’ firepower, they do have plenty of offensive weapons and a stronger defense than Pittsburgh had. What worked against the Penguins won’t necessarily be as effective against the Devils.

Martin Brodeur will be the big X-factor in this one. With the exception of Game 3, when he was pulled, Brodeur was terrific in the first round. He still has what it takes to compete in the playoffs, even as he approaches his 40th birthday. That said, Philadelphia should present him with a much tougher challenge than Florida could offer.

At the other end of the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov still has to prove that he can lead the Flyers in the playoffs. He did much better in the first round than his 3.89 GAA and .870 save percentage imply, but it’s still fair to say that he left something to be desired. If this turns into a more defensive series, then Philadelphia will have to lean heavily on Bryzgalov and he might not be up for the task.

Game 1 Notes:

— New Jersey outscored Florida 8-3 in the first periods of their first round series. However, the Devils netted just 10 goals after the first intermission compared to the Panthers’ 14.
— Philadelphia leads the league with a stunning 30 goals in just six games. New Jersey ranks third with 18 goals in seven contests.
— Four of the Devils’ seven playoff games have been decided by just one goal and New Jersey won three of those contests. Only two of the Flyers’ six contests were decided by a single goal and they had a 1-1 record in those games.
— No team accumulated more penalty minutes in the first round than the Philadelphia Flyers. They had a total of 165 PIM compared to the Devils’ 78.

Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.