San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Two

Playoffs tonight: Detroit and San Jose look to change things up

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The second-round rolls on today with the Western Conference front and center for action today. One afternoon affair and another in the evening for all your viewing pleasure.

Please keep in mind that both games can be watched online in addition to the channels listed below.

Game 2: Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings — (1 p.m. ET, NBC)
Chicago leads series 1-0

It’s just the second game of this series, but you couldn’t help but feel things got away from Detroit in Game 1. A couple of late goals helped swing what was an even match-up into a relatively easy 4-1 win. For Detroit to try and steal one on the road, they’re going to need some help.

That assistance might come in the form of forward Drew Miller who might suit up today after missing 12 games with a broken hand. He was supposed to miss the rest of the season, so perhaps a little of inspiration could motivate the Red Wings. When it comes to trying to beat the Blackhawks, anything that can help you overcome the waves of talent they throw at you helps.

That said, outclassing Chicago’s depth players is where the challenge is. Sure, Detroit can match up Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa but it was goals from Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger that took Detroit out of Game 1. If they can do that the Wings might just get out of their own zone and we might just have a series to boot.

Game 3: San Jose Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings — (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Los Angeles leads series 2-0

You can call tonight’s Game 3 a must-win game for the Sharks. After a crushing 4-3 loss in Game 2, things seem stacked up against San Jose as they look to avoid another playoff disappointment.

The big question here is: How do the Sharks bounce back from it? Being back at home where they’ve dominated this season should do the trick. Counting the playoffs, the Sharks are 19-2-5 at HP Pavilion. They’ll need that home-ice help if they’re to overcome a Kings team that’s looking ever more like the team that won the Stanley Cup last season.

Making life harder for the Sharks, it’s possible forward Kyle Clifford returns to action for L.A. tonight. The rugged forward is the ideal sort of playoff player in that he hits a lot and can help push the offense. The Sharks could counter with some offensive help of their own as Martin Havlat could be ready to play as well.

Thing to look for: Can the Sharks keep their minds off the officials after how Game 2 finished up or will an iffy call early mentally derail them? They’d better hope so or else this series could be over in short order.

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 6: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Zach Parise #11 and Jason Pominville #29 of the Minnesota Wild during the first period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers

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It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.

Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.

Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.

On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:

It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.

Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?

The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.

Similar tweets might end up being relevant, however. Though betting against Price is also a dicey proposition.

Video: Laine hits 30 goals vs. Matthews and Leafs, Byfuglien battles Martin

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Patrik Laine might rub some people the wrong way with his matter-of-fact brand of swagger, but the Winnipeg Jets rookie can back up that talk.

Just look at how he performs against fellow Calder Trophy hopeful Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Back in October, Laine stole the show with a hat trick. He has a chance to do that again, but either way, with two goals in as many periods, Laine hit the 30-goal mark as a rookie. In February.

His 29th goal came less than five minutes into the game:

He then hit the big 3-0 in the dying seconds of the middle frame, though that was far from the only noteworthy moment of the clip above this post’s headline.

As you can see, there were bodies being thrown around, culminating with a brief bout between Dustin Byfuglien and Matt Martin. The earth may or may not have shook from such an altercation. It wasn’t the only example of violence between the two teams tonight.

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It’s been a nice milestone night for young Jets scorers, as Nikolaj Ehlers also scored his 20th goal of 2016-17.

That 30th goal came less than 30 seconds after Leo Komarov‘s second goal of the contest, putting Winnipeg up 4-3 heading into the third period. For all we know, the Jets might need even more from Laine tonight.