CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 12: Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings approaches the puck as Michal Handzus #26 of the Chicago Blackhawks follows along side during the NHL game on April 12, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Blackhawks open series vs Red Wings


There were plenty of upsets in round one, but yesterday was devoid of major surprises as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings comfortably beat the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks respectively.

Will that trend continue or will a low seed make it to the Conference Finals? Let’s take a look at tonight’s action:

Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks host Detroit Red Wings (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)

The Detroit Red Wings will head to the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 campaign, so this was their last chance to meet Chicago in the playoffs as division rivals.

The Blackhawks swept their season series, but the Red Wings managed to push them to overtime in three of their four meetings. That naturally suggests that we might be in for some close playoff contests, but so much of that depends on Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and captain Henrik Zetterberg.

Those two players are huge to this team and when they’re playing at their best, Detroit is capable of stealing games from a team like the Blackhawks. Aside from them, Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula is the x-factor in this series. He’s coming off of a disappointing season, but he started to heat up towards the end of the first round and played a role in Detroit advancing.

It seems almost inaccurate to label any player on the Blackhawks as an x-factor, simply because the team is so deep. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane didn’t score a single goal in the first round (although they did combine for seven assists), but Chicago still had no problem dispatching the Minnesota Wild.

Only three Chicago players participated in all five games and didn’t end up with at least a point and all of them – Brent Seabrook, Michal Rozsival, and Brandon Bollig – made defensive contributions. The Red Wings might be able to match the Blackhawks in terms of top-end talent, but it’s Chicago’s depth that makes them the heavy favorites in this series.

Animal activists protest Ducks’ Stoner over grizzly bear hunt

Keith Fialcowitz

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center on Monday night to call for the suspension of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada of illegally obtaining a license to shoot a grizzly bear.

While Ducks fans entered the rink for their home opener against Vancouver, about 20 protesters held signs and shouted slogans condemning Stoner. He faces five charges related to the 2013 hunt on British Columbia’s central coast.

“Killing is not a sport! Play a real sport!” the protesters shouted in unison. “Shame on the Ducks!”

Judie Mancuso, the president of Social Compassion in Legislation, compared Stoner to quarterback Michael Vick and Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, whose killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe sparked an international outcry.

“The entire globe is against trophy hunting right now,” Mancuso said. “If most of these hockey fans understood that was the issue, I think most of them would be on our side.”

Wildlife groups and First Nations leaders have been outraged by Stoner’s killing of the bear, named Cheeky. Stoner defended his actions at the time when graphic photos of the kill were publicized, but he hasn’t commented recently.

The protesters were serenaded by chants of Stoner’s name by many fans, while others stopped to look at the signs. Mancuso said her group hopes to raise awareness of Stoner’s legal troubles.

“If people didn’t have outrage with the NFL, Michael Vick would have gotten away with it,” Mancuso said. “The only way that anything is going to happen is if we do this. If there’s not public outcry, nothing is going to happen, so we’ve got to try.”

Stoner grew up on Vancouver Island, but hasn’t lived in the province full-time for several years, which authorities say made him ineligible for the hunting license used to take the bear. He played for the Minnesota Wild at the time of the shooting.

Stoner faces two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting license and one count apiece of hunting without a license, hunting out of season and unlawful possession of dead wildlife. His case is set for Nov. 13 in Vancouver.

The 30-year-old Stoner was in the Ducks’ lineup for their home opener, and he fought Brandon Prust in the opening minutes. Stoner is beginning his sixth full NHL season and his second with Anaheim after signing a four-year, $13 million deal as a free agent before last season.

Related: Ducks d-man Stoner charged with unlawful grizzly bear hunt

NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings face Lightning in ’15 playoff rematch

Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg
AP Photo

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.

The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.

Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.

After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.

Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.

As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.

The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.