OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 22: Milan Michalek #9 of the Ottawa Senators attempts to get control of a rebound against Tomas Vokoun #92 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 22, 2013 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Senators will challenge Penguins

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The first round ended last night and we’re going to jump straight into the next round. If you want to see the full schedule, here it is.

Additionally, both of tonight’s series openers will be available online.

Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins host Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

With defenseman Erik Karlsson back due to his Wolverine-like healing abilities, the Senators made surprisingly quick work of the second seed Montreal Canadiens. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson also did more than his fair share, posting a 1.80 GAA and .950 save percentage in five games.

Who the Pittsburgh Penguins counter Anderson with remains to be seen. Tomas Vokoun was the better goaltender in the first round, but the Penguins declined to name their starter for Game 1. Either way, goaltending is one area where Ottawa seems to have the edge.

The main question is if Anderson and the Senators will be able to contain the Penguins’ explosive offense. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Pascal Dupuis, Paul Martin, and Kris Letang all averaged at least a point per game for Pittsburgh in the first round. Pittsburgh has legitimate threats to score on every line, which will make defending against them all the more difficult.

This will also Karlsson’s first game against Pittsburgh since the incident with Matt Cooke that threatened to end his season. Karlsson downplayed the reunion via Twitter, but there’s certainly some recent hard feelings between these two teams.

Game 1: Los Angeles Kings host San Jose Sharks (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

The defending Stanley Cup champions have made it past the first round and now they’ll take on the team that swept the Vancouver Canucks in four games.

Everyone on the Sharks seemed to click at the same time during the first round and when that happens, San Jose is very tough to beat. However, this will be the Sharks’ first game in a week and you have to wonder if that time off has killed their momentum.

Additionally, the Kings are likely going to be a lot more physical with the Sharks than the Canucks were.

“They’re a hard team,” Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart said. “They’re going to play hard, and every line is going to throw some physicality at you. They’re going to make it tough, and they don’t give you any ice for free, you’re going to have to work for it.”

One guy to keep an eye on from the Kings side is Dustin Brown. He was an offensive leader when the Kings won the Stanley Cup, but so far he has just a goal and an assist in six postseason games.

Red Wings re-sign Mrazek to two-year, $8 million deal

Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34) stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Valtteri Filppula (51) in the first period of Game 3 in a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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The Detroit Red Wings didn’t need Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing either.

The day after the Wings avoided the process by locking up defenseman Danny DeKeyser, they agreed on a two-year deal with Mrazek, with a reported cap hit of $4 million.

Mrazek, 24, went 27-16-6 last season with a .921 save percentage. Those numbers compared favorably to Jimmy Howard‘s (14-14-5, .906); however, GM Ken Holland has argued that keeping Howard could be best for Mrazek’s development.

“It could possibly be detrimental if we put Petr in a situation where we’re just going to throw him out and play 70 games and no matter how you play, we’re going to keep putting you out,” said Holland.

Granted, it may be that Howard is simply untradeable. He’s 32 years old, hasn’t put up solid numbers the past three seasons, and has three years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of just under $5.3 million.

If Howard remains, the Wings will have just under $9.3 million in cap space allocated to their goaltenders next season, one of the highest totals in the league.

Mrazek, by the way, will still be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires in the summer of 2018.

Tavares ‘would love’ to spend his entire career with Isles

John Tavares
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With new majority owners and now talk of a new arena, the future of the New York Islanders has been a popular topic lately.

Not surprisingly, it’s led to plenty of discussion about the future of captain John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.

Ownership has insisted that it won’t get that far, that Tavares will be re-signed. The Isles will have “no financial constraints,” owner Jon Ledecky promised.

But what about Tavares? What does he think?

“I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” the 25-year-old told Sportsnet 590 radio on Tuesday, per NHL.com. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position.”

As for the speculation he could sign in Toronto?

“I would not count on that,” he said.

So start the countdown to July 1, 2017. That’s when Tavares can officially start negotiating an extension with the Isles.

Perhaps by then we’ll even know where the team will be playing its future games. Will it be Brooklyn or somewhere else?

Sens re-sign Hoffman to four-year, $20.75 million deal

Mike Hoffman
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Only 18 NHLers have scored more goals than Mike Hoffman has over the last two seasons.

Today, the Ottawa Senators signed the 26-year-old sniper to a four-year contract with a reported cap hit of $5.1875 million.

Hoffman had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4. The breakdown of his new deal, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

His contract done, Hoffman can now focus fully on next season, which he’s excited about.

“New coach coming in, Guy Boucher, I had him in junior when I played in Drummondville of the Quebec League,” Hoffman said recently. “Very good relationship with him, we won a championship together. So definitely looking forward to working with him this year.”

As for Sens GM Pierre Dorion, he’s still got some offseason work to do. Defenseman Cody Cedi is a restricted free agent, and there’s no arbitration date to encourage a settlement in his case. While Dorion is confident that something that will get done with the 22-year-old, what remains to be seen is if it’s a short- or long-term deal.

Hurricanes extend contract of head coach Bill Peters

Bill Peters
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The Carolina Hurricanes may have missed the playoffs in each of Bill Peters’ two seasons behind the bench, but GM Ron Francis is clearly pleased with the job his head coach has done.

Today, the ‘Canes announced that Peters has been signed to a contract extension through the 2018-19 season.

“Bill is a talented, young coach in the National Hockey League,” said Francis in a release. “We are happy that he has made a commitment to the Hurricanes, and that he will be a major part of the team continuing to grow.”

The ‘Canes still won’t be a popular pick to make the playoffs in 2016-17, but with all the young talent that the organization has amassed, Peters will certainly be expected to get them there before his contract expires. (The ‘Canes were actually a pretty solid possession team last season, but were let down by their goaltending and inability to convert scoring chances.)

Carolina last made the playoffs in 2009.

Related: ‘Canes enjoying stronger ticket sales, but ‘fence-sitters’ still need convincing