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It’s official: Rangers, Capitals will meet in first round

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It’ll be Washington against New York in the playoffs.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

For the third straight year, the Rangers and Caps will meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs after the Rangers clinched sixth in the East on Saturday night.

The Blueshirts beat the Devils 4-0, then watched as Ottawa lost 2-1 to the Flyers, ensuring New York would finish as the No. 6 seed.

(Washington beat Boston 3-2 in overtime, but the game had no bearing on the Caps’ playoff positioning.)

As mentioned above, the pending first-round matchup will be the third time in as many years we’ve seen Caps-Rangers battle in the postseason.

Last year, New York toppled Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals, a grueling seven-game series that included an epic triple-OT Game 3 — the 20th-longest overtime game in playoff history.

In 2010-11, the top-seeded Capitals dispatched¬† the No. 8 Rangers in five games in the opening playoff round. That series was highlighted by New York’s anemic offense, which could only muster eight total goals.

One interesting wrinkle here from the Washington side of things — three series vs. New York, three different head coaches.

Bruce Boudreau was behind the bench in 2011, and Dale Hunter was the head coach last year.

This season, it’s rookie head coach Adam Oates, who engineered a stunning in-season turnaround that resulted in Washington winning its fifth Southeast Division title in the last six years.

It’s going to be a very different draft for the Red Wings

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23: Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland (L) and Detroit Red Wings Senior Vice President Jim Devellano speak during day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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If the Detroit Red Wings finally miss the playoffs this year — and it’s a near certainty they will — their general manager, Ken Holland, will work hard this summer to make sure it doesn’t become a habit.

“We don’t want to miss two years in a row,” Holland told TSN today.

That being said, the GM is excited he’ll be going to this summers’ draft with so many selections. In the past few days, the Wings have acquired three third-round picks by selling off Brendan Smith, Thomas Vanek, and Tomas Jurco.

“Somebody told me it’s the most picks we’ve had in a draft since 2002,” said Holland. “Usually we go into these drafts with five or six picks, (because) we’ve traded picks away.”

The Wings may also draft in the top 10 for the first time since — amazingly — 1991. That was the year they took Martin Lapointe, who’s long since retired.

Holland has also been encouraged by a number of youngsters who’ve taken steps in their development, referencing Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Petr Mrazek, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Evgeny Svechnikov.

The GM didn’t have to mention Dylan Larkin, who’s still only 20. Larkin’s endured a tough sophomore season, but still has great promise.

The key for the Wings will be to add more and more young talent — especially down the middle and on the back end, which was once a great strength but is now a significant weakness.

“These moves that we made for these draft picks will allow us to pick more players,” said Holland, “and hopefully some of them will end up as Red Wings down the road.”

Related: Don’t expect a full-scale rebuild in Detroit

Flyers sign Michal Neuvirth to two-year, $5 million extension

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 12: Goalie Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Florida Panthers at Wells Fargo Center on October 12, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The goaltending situation in Philadelphia has become a lot more clear today, as they’ve signed Michal Neuvirth to a contract extension.

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, it’s a two-year deal worth a total of $5 million ($2.5 million cap hit).

Neuvirth was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

The 28-year-old has been between the pipes for nine of his team’s last 11 games, but he’s dropped four of his last five decisions. He has a 10-9-1 record with a 2.90 goals-against-average and a .887 save percentage in 24 games.

The duo of Neuvirth and Steve Mason hasn’t worked out too well in Philadelphia. Both players have struggled to find consistency in their game, which has been problematic for the Flyers.

Even though Neuvirth will be back, they can still shake things up by moving on from Mason, who is also scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st.

The Flyers also re-signed forward Pierre Edouard Bellemare earlier today.

Report: Flyers extend Bellemare — two years, $2.9 million

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 24: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare #78 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Washington Capitals during the third period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Washington Capitals won, 1-0. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Philadelphia has re-upped with checking forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on a two-year extension, per Sportsnet.

It’s believed to be a $2.9 million pact, one that carries a $1.45M average annual cap hit. That’s a nice raise for the 31-year-old, who’s in the last of a two-year pact at $712,500 per.

Bellemare joined the Flyers for the ’14-15 campaign, following a lengthy career in Europe that included stops in his native France, and a lengthy spell in Sweden. He’s emerged as a good energy guy in the bottom-six forward group, one that can kill penalties and chip in with a bit of offense.

Today’s news might come as a bit of a surprise for Flyers fans, however. Bellemare was a pending UFA and, given he’s on the wrong side of 30, there was speculation he’d be sold at the deadline in the hopes of recouping some assets.

Report: Jesper Fast out indefinitely after suffering shoulder injury

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30:  Jesper Fast #19 of the New York Rangers skates against the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 30, 2015 in New York City.  Capitals defeated the Rangers 2-1.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Some tough news if you’re a fan of the New York Rangers.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Jesper Fast will miss some time with what’s believed to be a separated shoulder.

Fast suffered the injury after being flattened by Alex Ovechkin in last night’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

The 25-year-old has been a key contributor for New York this season. He’s up to five goals and 15 assists in 59 games. He’s also second in shorthanded ice time and in hits among all Rangers forwards.

The Rangers went into last night’s game without Mika Zibanejad and they also lost Chris Kreider momentarily yesterday, but he was able to return.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is expected to provide an update on Fast’s status after today’s practice, but don’t expect the news to be good.