WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 04: Derick Brassard #16 of the New York Rangers shoots the puck in overtime against the Washington Capitals in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Rangers look to bounce back vs Capitals

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We have some critical games for you today. Three of these teams could end up just one game away from elimination before this night is done.

Please remember that in addition to the channels listed below, you can watch the Capitals-Rangers, Red Wings-Ducks, and Blues-Kings games online.

Game 3: Toronto Maple Leafs host Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m. ET)
Series tied at 1-1

For the first time since 2004, an NHL playoff hockey game will be played at the Air Canada Centre.

The Boston Bruins have an edge in experience, but the Toronto Maple Leafs made a statement in their 4-2 win on Saturday. The Leafs are capable of rising to the occasion in the playoffs, especially goaltender James Reimer, who stopped 39 shots.

This hasn’t been the most physical of the series, but there have been some controversial hits. Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is eligible to return after serving a one-game suspension for his hit on Mikhail Grabovski. Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf will also be available after the decision was made not to punish him for his hit on Paille.

Game 3: New York Rangers host Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Capitals lead series 2-0

After Game 1, Rangers coach John Tortorella said his team couldn’t afford to take as many penalties as they were and in Game 2 he talked about their “stagnant” power play.

The Capitals have dominated the special teams battle through two games, but it’s hard to put too much emphasis on that when the Rangers have scored just one goal overall. The Rangers quite simply need to figure out goaltender Braden Holtby and the Capitals’ defense soon, or they will be eliminated.

With that in mind, Rangers forward Rick Nash will be an interesting player to watch tonight. He has no points despite 11 shots on goal in this series and, at the age of 28, the superstar is still looking for his first playoff win.

Game 4: Detroit Red Wings host Anaheim Ducks (8:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Ducks lead series 2-1

The Ducks put the pressure on the Red Wings with their commanding 4-0 victory in Game 2.

“We feel we can be better,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said in a Detroit News report. “The whole thing with (playoff) series is about mental toughness, they’re battles of will.”

The Red Wings have lost a number of key veterans over the last couple of years and that might have taken its toll on them in that regard.

One player to watch is Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg. He played a huge role in Detroit’s final push for a playoff spot, but has just one assist in three playoff games.

Game 4: Los Angeles Kings host St. Louis Blues (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Blues lead series 2-1

The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings put themselves back in this series with a 1-0 victory on Saturday.

These have been goaltending and defensive battles, with the two teams combining for just seven goals over three games. All of the contests in this series have been decided by just one goal.

“I don’t think either team has had much momentum in this series,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter told LA Kings Insider. He added, “The players are confident on both teams, so you just kind of go shift-to-shift.”

It’s worth noting that in this defensive series, the Kings top goal scorer and points leaders, Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar respectively, have combined for just one point — an assist — through three playoff games.

Oilers’ Yakimov going back to KHL — this time, on loan

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Bogdan Yakimov #39 of the Edmonton Oilers looks on prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Bogdan Yakimov is on his way back to Russia.

On Wednesday, the Oilers announced they’ve loaned Yakimov to KHL club Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik, the same team he joined after leaving AHL Bakersfield last season.

The 83rd overall pick in 2013, Yakimov has appeared in one game for the Oilers since getting drafted. He’s spent almost all of his time in North America in the AHL, and didn’t impress the club last year when he bolted the farm team to return to his native land.

“He made a career decision to return to Russia and I’m not sure how he played or how many games he played,” Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said at the time, per the Edmonton Sun (McLellan was then informed Yakimov was away for 11 games).

“Well, that’s 11 games he didn’t spend with us. During his time away, there were a number of players recalled. I would have preferred to see him in an Oilers uniform and he was real close. Now he has to reset his Oiler clock and get playing again.”

All told, Yakimov played in 36 games with the Condors last season, scoring five goals and 15 points.

At 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, Yakimov has impressive size and is still only 21 years old, so he’s got some value. But it remains to be seen whether he wants to try and push for an NHL career, or opt to stay in the KHL.

 

Max is back: Lapierre to attend Rangers camp on PTO

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 01: Maxim Lapierre #40 talks with Craig Adams #27 of the Pittsburgh Penguins before a face-off during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Consol Energy Center on April 1, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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After a year abroad, Maxim Lapierre is getting a shot to rejoin the NHL.

Per TVA, Lapierre has agreed to join the Rangers in training camp on a professional tryout. The news comes after he split last season between Swiss League outfit Lugano and Swedish League side Modo, with midseason rumblings there were NHL teams interested in bringing him back.

In New York, Lapierre will be reunited with Alain Vigneault, his former head coach in Vancouver. Vigneault has brought in a few former Canucks during his time with the Rangers, including Tanner Glass, Nicklas Jensen and Michael Grabner.

Lapierre, 31, last played in the NHL during the ’14-15 campaign, splitting time between Pittsburgh and St. Louis. A known agitator, he finished the year with 11 points in 80 games, and appeared in all five games of the Pens’ opening-round playoff loss to the Rangers.

Prior to his time in Pittsburgh and St. Louis, “Yappy Lappy” played in Montreal, Anaheim and Vancouver. His best season came in 2008-09, when he scored a career-high 15 goals and 28 points, earning a handful of Selke votes.

Ready for No. 1 duties, Elliott wants to be ‘backbone’ for Flames

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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At 31, Brian Elliott will be one of most experienced guys on the Calgary roster next season.

But he’s also ready to embark on something unique.

Elliott will have the chance to be a clear-cut, unquestioned, No. 1 starting netminder for the first time in his career when the Flames open play in October — an opportunity he’s ready to embrace.

“As a goalie you want to be wanted. You want to have that opportunity,” Elliott said on Wednesday during his introduction to the Calgary media. “I’m going to do my best to be the backbone of the team and try to be a leader and just do whatever I can to be the rock for the guys on the back end and let the guys do the rest of the work.”

There’s little doubt about Elliott’s role in Calgary for next season. He was stellar in ’15-16, posting a .930 save percentage and 2.07 GAA, helping the Blues advance to the Western Conference Final. And the Flames further anointed Elliott as the No. 1 by signing career backup Chad Johnson to fill the No. 2 role.

So, next year is sorted.

But what about after that?

Elliott is a UFA after this season, and so is Johnson. Flames GM Brad Treliving did say at the draft that Elliott’s contractual status and cap hit played a role in the acquisition, adding that discussions about a new deal could be in the works.

“As part of this deal, Doug [Armstrong, Blues GM] allowed me to talk to [Elliot’s] representative, so there may be the opportunity to look at an extension,” Treliving said at the time. “We’ll look at that. There’s no need to rush, but maybe there is a need to look at something.”

It’s been long rumored that Calgary wasn’t looking for a long-term solution in goal, but rather a “transitional guy.” That’s why Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, currently under contract for two more years, had been tied to the Flames.

Looking down the road, it’s clear Calgary is anticipating one of their draftees pans out in goal. The club took Providence standout Jon Gillies 75th overall in 2012, Mason McDonald 34th overall in ’14, and Tyler Parsons 54th overall this  year — but none of them are close to being NHL ready.

Which brings us back to Elliott.

Given how erratic things were in Calgary’s net last year both performance- and contractual-wise, one would assume Treliving would like to keep “Moose” around for more than just this season.

With ‘no expectations’ for Franzen or Vitale to play, Wings aren’t worried about cap situation

Detroit Red Wings v Edmonton Oilers
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At first glance, Detroit’s current financial situation isn’t good. Petr Mrazek’s recent two-year, $8 million extension pushed the payroll to nearly $78 million, well over the $73M ceiling for next season.

But there is a catch.

“Certainly we have no expectations that [Johan] Franzen and [Joe] Vitale are playing hockey this year,” GM Ken Holland said Wednesday, per MLive. “I talked to Vitale after we traded (for) him. He’s having on-going issues with concussion.

“He certainly not expecting to be in camp. I’m not expecting to see Johan Franzen on the ice.”

Vitale, acquired from Arizona as part of the Pavel Datsyuk deal at the draft, carries at $1.16 million cap hit. Franzen, who played in just two games last year while dealing with concussion issues of his own, carries a $3.95M hit.

Putting those two on long-term injured reserve would almost get Detroit right back into cap compliance. Holland can also exercise a similar option with Teemu Pulkkinen, who underwent shoulder surgery this offseason (and makes $812,500).

Thing is, cap compliance isn’t all Holland wants to accomplish.

Though he re-signed Danny DeKeyser to a big six-year, $30 million contract earlier this week, Holland still wants to add to his blue line. The Wings have a surplus of forwards, and Holland has said he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” prior to the start of next season.

A top-three defenseman will undoubtedly cost a fair bit of money. Which means a fair bit of money would need to go the other way in return.

Detroit has reportedly spoken to Anaheim about acquiring Cam Fowler. Fowler, 24, would be a good fit — he’s got a very reasonable contract ($4 million annually through 2018), the type of money the Wings could bring aboard if they were to part with the likes of, say, Gustav Nyquist ($4.75 million through 2019).

The catch, of course, is that the asking price for defensemen is sky high. It cost the Oilers Taylor Hall to get Adam Larsson out of New Jersey, and there are teams like Boston — still desperately searching for a “transitional” defenseman — that have publicly stated the acquisition cost is steep.

So while Detroit might not be worried about its cap situation for next season, it has to be concerned about having what it takes to upgrade the defense.

Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Kevin Shattenkirk