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


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.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning

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Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.

Oilers GM doesn’t want to force a trade for the sake of a trade

Peter Chiarelli

It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.

You can see and hear his full comments below:

If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.

Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.

Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.

Is he right to take a relaxed approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.

Slump busters: Simmonds, Couturier end long scoring droughts in win over Rangers


It’s been a good few days to be a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, as their team delivered not once, but twice during Thanksgiving weekend.

The Flyers picked up a 3-2 OT win over the Predators on Friday before shutting out the New York Rangers, 3-0, on Saturday.

It was a good afternoon for three players in particular.

Both Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier ended long scoring slumps.

Simmonds’ two goals were his first in seven games, while Couturier scored for the first time in his last 13 contests.

Goaltender Steve Mason also had a solid outing against the Rangers.

The 27-year-old turned aside all 24 shots he faced including this great save on Dominic Moore:

The Flyers lost defenseman Nick Schultz to an upper-body injury in the first period after he took a big hit from Dylan McIlrath.

Luke Schenn defended his fallen teammate by dropping the gloves with McIlrath, which didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.

The Rangers are now on a season-high three-game losing streak. Their lack of effort has to be concerning for their head coach Alain Vigneault.

The Flyers outshot the Rangers 30-14 over the final 40 minutes.