Tonight on NBCSN: Hockey East semifinals — UMass-Lowell vs. Providence; BC vs. BU

No. 1 UMass-Lowell Riverhawks vs. No. 4 Providence Friars – 5:00 p.m. ET

UML won season series 2-1-0

It’s been a special year so far for UMass-Lowell, but if they want to avenge losing the Hockey East title last year, they’ll have to get through a hot Providence team first. This match-up is all about freshman goaltending. For UML, it’s Connor Hellebuyck who took the job from junior incumbent Doug Carr. Hellebuyck earned honors as the conference’s top goalie and a spot on the conference rookie team.  When you put up a 1.44 GAA and stop shots at a .944 pace, you’re going to win some awards.

The same can be said of Calgary Flames prospect and Team USA WJC gold medalist netminder Jon Gillies. He also earned a spot on the conference rookie team and put up some flashy numbers of his own (2.08 GAA, .931 SV%). Where he’s hurt is he doesn’t have the same kind of offensive support Hellebuyck does. PC’s has three players with over 20 points this season while UML has two 30+ point guys and five others with 20 or more. If the Friars are going to make the finals, they’re going to need Gillies to stand on his head and hope they can sneak a few past Hellebuyck themselves.

No. 2 Boston College Eagles vs. No. 3 Boston University Terriers – 8:00 p.m. ET

BC won season series 2-1-0

These two rivals have seen enough of each other in the past, but both have a lot to play for here. BC would love nothing more than to send Jack Parker into retirement without a berth in the NCAA tournament. Should BU lose tonight, they’re likely out of the NCAAs.

The Eagles will have to do it without their own legendary coach, Jerry York, behind the bench as he’s still recovering from surgery. Luckily for them they’ve got Hockey East player of the year and Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau as well as defensive defenseman of the year Patrick Wey to take charge. When you add in Walter Brown Award winner Steven Whitney and fellow big scorer Pat Mullane, a beaten down BU defense will have their hands full.

All that said, BU still comes in with a solid squad and one motivated by trying to take Coach Parker out on top. Freshman Danny O’Regan (San Jose) leads the way in points while senior Wade Megan (Florida) and junior Matt Nieto (San Jose) can fill the net with goals. BU is going to need their defense to stand up huge if they’re going to take home a conference title, however, and that’s one aspect of their game that’s had trouble. If they let BC get their chances, it could be a long, tough night for BU.

Oilers re-sign Pakarinen for one year

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The Edmonton Oilers have given winger Iiro Pakarinen a one-year contract extension.

From the release:

Pakarinen just finished his third season with the Oilers organization, appearing in 14 regular season games in 2016-17, posting four points (2 goals, 2 assists).  The 25 year old forward missed 53 games due to an injury suffered during the pre-season. He appeared in one playoff game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Oilers brought Pakarinen over from Finland in 2014. Since then, he’s split his North American career between the AHL and NHL while drawing praise for his versatility and hard-nosed style.

Per CapFriendly, Pakarinen’s cap hit will be $750,000 in 2017-18. It’s a one-way deal.

Market heating up for prized Czech d-man Rutta

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Coming off an impressive performance for the Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, Jan Rutta is now being courted by a number of NHL clubs.

Per The Athletic, the Blackhawks are in contention for securing Rutta’s services. That comes on the heels of earlier reports from TSN’s Darren Dreger, who said there are “multiple” offers for the 26-year-old, including ones from Edmonton and Calgary.

“He’s a steady defenseman with size, and he had a strong finish of the season,” an NHL scout told The Athletic. “He was very good in the playoffs and played his best at the Worlds.”

Rutta, who was never drafted by an NHL club, has spent his professional career with Czech League outfit Pirati Chomutov. He’s blossomed into a talented offensive defenseman — finishing second among Czech League d-men with 32 points in 46 games this year — and, as mentioned above, has good size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds.

Last week, Rutta’s agent — longtime Octagon Hockey representative Allan Walsh — tweeted that his client would make a decision on NHL offers soon.

 

Sharks keep stockpiling European free agents, land Sandberg

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Doug Wilson is at it again.

On Thursday, the Sharks GM confirmed yesterday’s news — the signing of Czech d-man Radim Simek — and announced that Swedish forward Filip Sandberg had agreed to a two-year deal.

“Filip is a very creative player who sees the ice well and can create offense in limited space,” Wilson said in a release. “He plays a high-pressure, puck-pursuit game and his battle level is something we have been impressed with, especially against older players.

“We are excited for him to join our organization.”

Sandberg, 22, is fresh off a Swedish League title with HV71. The club announced Sandberg would be headed overseas last week, but didn’t divulge what team had signed him.

It wasn’t surprising NHL clubs had interest. Sandberg had a good offensive campaign in Sweden, scoring 25 points in 52 regular season games, then broke out for six goals and 14 points in 16 playoff contests.

Prior to this year, Sandberg twice represented Sweden at the World Juniors, including the 2013 tournament where the country won silver. He finished with two goals in six games playing alongside the likes of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

As for Simek, he inked a one-year deal.

“Radim is a quick transition defenseman who drives the play offensively and plays with a physical edge,” said Wilson. “We like his offensive instincts especially on special teams and think his game will translate well in North America.”

Simek just finished representing his native Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, where he had two points in eight games.

According to a report from Radio Praha, the Sharks beat out the Rangers to acquire Simek. Passed over in his draft year, the 24-year-old has spent his entire pro career with Liberec Bili Tygri.

As mentioned above, Wilson has done well finding European skaters in their early-to-mid-20s, ones that can contribute right away at the NHL level: Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, most specifically.

The hope now is that Simek and Sandberg will continue that trend.

Avs dismiss three from coaching staff, but Bednar remains

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Colorado GM Joe Sakic said there would be turnover this offseason, but that head coach Jared Bednar was safe.

On Tuesday, Sakic followed through.

The Avs have parted ways with two of Bednar’s assistants — Tim Army and Dave Farrish — and also relieved goalie coach Francois Allaire of his duties.

Army, 54, has been with the club for the last six years, having previously served as the head coach at Providence. He served under three different head coaches in Colorado — Bednar, Patrick Roy and Joe Sacco — and was largely tasked with running the team’s power play (which finished 30th in the NHL this year).

Farrish, 60, just wrapped his second year on the job with the Avs after coming over from Toronto. A veteran of nearly 30 years in coaching, Farrish was brought aboard by Roy, and brought “a wealth of experience and hockey knowledge to our organization.” A journeyman blueliner who playecd 430 games at the NHL level, Farrish ran the club’s defense last season.

Allaire, 57, has been coaching goalies at the NHL level for over 25 years, with previous stops in Montreal, Anaheim and Toronto. His ties to Roy ran deep — he mentored the former Avs coach with the Canadiens, and the pair won two Stanley Cups together (in 1986 and ’93). Allaire has been with the Avs for the last four years, on the heels of an acrimonious departure from Toronto.

Today’s shakeup is a significant one, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Bednar was essentially forced into retaining all of Roy’s staff following the latter’s shock resignation last August, and probably wants to bring in some of his own guys.

Sakic, meanwhile, had to make some sort of changes after the worst regular season in franchise history — and today’s could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Related: Avs president gives Sakic vote of confidence