NHL on NBC: Rangers, Caps continue battle after 3OT marathon

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After their 114:41 minute game on Wednesday, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals were probably grateful for a couple days off. However, on Saturday (12:30 pm ET, NBC) their series will resume with Game 4.

For the Washington Capitals, this game will be about putting the devastating setback behind them and erasing the Rangers’ one-game edge. This will also be the latest in a long series of big tests for Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who successfully bounced back from two overtime losses in the first round. In fact, Holtby hasn’t lost back-to-back games so far in the 2012 playoffs.

“What really impresses me most about him in the playoffs is his resiliency,” Former Washington goaltender Olie Kolzig said. “Whether he gives up a bad goal or has a bad game, he’ll come back and make that next big save or he’ll come back and win the next game.”

Of course, Holtby can’t win this series by himself. Other Capitals need to step up too, like Alex Ovechkin did in Game 2. Ovechkin couldn’t find the back of the net on Wednesday, but he did record nine hits in 35:14 minutes of ice time. Capitals coach Dale Hunter has typically used Ovechkin conservatively, but after his work in Games 2 and 3, he might get big minutes on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Rangers have an opportunity to take a commanding lead in the series by winning another game in Washington. All eyes will be on Marian Gaborik, who snapped an eight-game goal scoring drought on Wednesday with his triple-overtime winner. If he can turn that goal into the start of a hot streak, then it will be very hard to contain the Rangers.

Ryan McDonagh will be another New York player to watch. Even after two days off, how will he respond after logging an incredible 53:17 minutes on Wednesday?

Game 3 was important and dramatic, but the bigger test for both teams will be to put that marathon game behind them and focus solely on Saturday’s contest.

Game 4 Notes:

— Washington and New York are still the top two playoff teams when it comes to blocked shots.
— New York’s Stu Bickel logged just 3:24 minutes in the triple-overtime contest.
— The Rangers and Capitals are both 3-0 when leading after 40 minutes.
— Henrik Lundqvist has been arguably the best goaltender of the playoffs with a 1.55 GAA and .944 save percentage in 10 starts.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Penguins – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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The latest edition of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry presents quite the treat: the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both teams are at 103 standings points and each squad already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Even so, they’re dealing with mini-slumps that they’d like to work out tonight.

For all we know, this could be a preview of what would be one extremely fun, high-profile 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Either way, it’s a showcase of two premiere franchises brimming with star power.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Yes, NHL will share protected, available player lists for expansion draft

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We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)

Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.

The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.

Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone.

(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)

Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process:

Goalie nods: Blues give Hutton first start in two weeks

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Even though Jake Allen has played extremely well of late, Carter Hutton will get the call when the Blues take on the Coyotes in Arizona tonight.

Some of this could have to do with the opponent. The Coyotes are playing out the string on a forgettable campaign, and have lost six of their last seven. That includes a 4-1 defeat in St. Louis on Monday (in which Allen stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win).

As mentioned above, Allen has been great in March and deserves huge praise for turning his season around. He’s gone 8-1-1 this month with a remarkable .951 save percentage, allowing a mere 14 goals over his 10 appearances.

Hutton, though, has played equally well when called upon. He’s gone 4-1-0 over his last five starts, posting a .962 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his last outing, on Mar. 16, he allowed just one goal in a victory in San Jose.

For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— A good matchup in Pittsburgh tonight, as the two defending Stanley Cup champions go head-to-head. Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, while Corey Crawford goes for the Blackhawks.

— Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight so, unsurprisingly, it’ll go with No. 1 Brian Elliott. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, though it could be Ben Bishop after Jonathan Quick lost last night in Edmonton.

Philipp Grubauer gets the call for Washington, after Braden Holtby led the Caps to victory in Minnesota on Tuesday. Grubauer will take on Calvin Pickard, who starts for the Avs.

Vegas wants ‘progressive’ head coach, says McPhee

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Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.

“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”

So, time to connect the dots.

Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.

Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.

It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.