Five Q’s: Red Wings-Ducks series preview

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1. How much will the Wings miss Nicklas Lidstrom?

The question they’ve been asking all season. In the past, the Red Wings have been able to find ways to overcome the retirement or departure of a superstar player, but the salary cap era is making that increasingly difficult. Granted, there is no replacement for Lidstrom, but that doesn’t change the fact that Detroit’s defense remains one of its big question marks heading into this series. Coach Mike Babcock has liked what he’s seen lately from his blue-liners, but playoff pressure can produce a different story.

2. Are the Ducks for real?

It was never a question of top-end talent for Anaheim; it was one of depth. Forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan largely lived up to expectations this season, but they were complimented by forwards like Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Palmieri, and Saku Koivu. In 2011-12, the Ducks’ top three goal-scorers (Perry, Ryan, and Teemu Selanne) accounted for nearly half of the team’s total goals. This season, the offense has been spread around more. But is Anaheim’s success sustainable? Early on, they were getting great goaltending and scoring on a high percentage of their shots. Lately, they haven’t been so lucky, finishing the season with an 8-9-2 record in their last 19 games.

3. Can Johan Franzen stay hot?

After Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings’ biggest offensive weapon is the 33-year-old Franzen. When Detroit needed him most this season, he stepped up, scoring seven goals and 13 points in his last 13 games. If Franzen can carry that hot streak into the postseason, the Ducks’ Cinderella story might come to an abrupt end. To an extent, history is on Detroit’s side in this regard. Franzen first made a name for himself thanks to his breakout performance during the Red Wings’ 2008 Stanley Cup-winning run. He then averaged more than a point-per-game over the 2009 and 2010 playoffs. However, Franzen was largely a non-factor in 2011 and 2012 and, due in part to that, Detroit didn’t last long either of those years.

4. Hiller or Fasth?

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has been dancing around the question of who will start in Game 1. Goaltenders Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth both had superb seasons. While Fasth has the marginally superior numbers, Hiller has far more NHL experience. How much Hiller’s experience counts for is perhaps a tad debatable, especially seeing as he hasn’t played in a postseason game since 2009; but still, it was just a year ago that Fasth was playing in the Swedish Elite League. Regardless of who Boudreau picks, that netminder will likely be on a tight leash. If either one falters, his counterpart will likely be given an opportunity.

5. Can Babcock pull it off again?

In 2003, the Detroit Red Wings were a superpower, fresh off of a dominant regular season, as well as a Stanley Cup title in 2002. Then they ran into the seventh-seed Anaheim Ducks in the first round and lost. In four games. Now recall that Mike Babcock was the rookie bench boss leading the Ducks past their mighty foe. We’re not sure if the Wings are quite the underdogs the Ducks were back then, but Babcock’s certainly faced his share of challenges this season. If he can get his team to the second round, it will be another job well done for one of the league’s best head coaches.

For all the first-round playoff previews, click here.

Video: Weise records Gordie Howe hat trick after spirited scrap with Hamonic

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Thursday’s game between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers wasn’t even nine minutes old by the time Dale Weise had recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Already with the opening goal and an assist on Radko Gudas‘ goal, giving Philly a 3-0 lead, Weise dropped the gloves with Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic for a spirited fight off a faceoff.

Not many, if any, positives for the Islanders after a disastrous start. Needing a win to close the gap on the Boston Bruins in the wild card race, New York fell behind 5-0 by the time the first period was over.

There is perhaps even more bad news for the Islanders: Hamonic wasn’t on the bench to begin the second period.

The Islanders have since provided an update: Hamonic will not return to this game due to an upper-body injury.

 

 

The Islanders are off to a disastrous start in Philly, Flyers chase Greiss

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Talk about the worst possible start for the New York Islanders.

Trailing the Boston Bruins by four points for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders lived through a nightmare to begin Thursday’s game, falling behind the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 4-0 — before the midway point of the first period.

Dale Weise started the scoring at 4:30 of the first period. By the 9:19 mark, the Flyers opened up a four-goal lead and had already chased Islanders starting goalieThomas Greiss, who allowed three goals on eight shots.

Jaroslav Halak was brought into the game and promptly surrendered a goal to Jordan Weal.

It continued to get worse for the Islanders, who finished the first period trailing by five goals. Shots? They were 19-10 in favor of Philly. Yup. It was bad.

With Josh Ho-Sang in the box serving a double-minor for high sticking, Wayne Simmonds gave Philly a 5-0 lead with his 30th goal of the year.

Shaping up to be a long night for the Islanders.

Karlsson’s ironman streak comes to an end as Sens visit Wild

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For the first time since the lockout-shortened season, the Ottawa Senators will not have star defenseman Erik Karlsson in their lineup.

With the Sens four points back of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead, Karlsson will not play tonight versus the Minnesota Wild, which ends his ironman streak at 324 consecutive games played.

Karlsson trails Brent Burns by only five points for the lead in that category among NHL defenseman. He also logs close to 27 minutes of ice time per game. Only three blue liners in the entire league — Dustin Byfuglien, Drew Doughty and Ryan Suter — play more on average per game.

The injury reportedly occurred when Karlsson blocked a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Trade deadline acquisition Jyrki Jokipakka is expected to make his debut for Ottawa, per the Citizen.

“If we miss him for a game or two, we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” forward Mark Stone told the Ottawa Citizen. “He’s the best defenceman in the world. If you take him out of your lineup, it’s obviously a huge blow.”

WATCH LIVE: Stars at Bruins

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The Boston Bruins hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and they will look to continue their push for the playoffs when they host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

You can catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET) or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins continue push for playoff spot against Stars

Stars go deeper than rock bottom in Ruff’s ‘worst game’ with team