Playoffs tonight: Spezza’s Game 3 return, Bruins-Rangers highlight your Sunday

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Business picks up a bit for your Sunday pleasure with a pair of Eastern Conference games taking the stage. You can get locked into all your playoff action starting this afternoon and roll through the evening.

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

Game 2: Boston Bruins host the New York Rangers — (3 p.m. ET, NBC)
Boston leads series 1-0

Game 1 of this series seemed to be a bit too familiar for the Rangers. They were outshot badly, they didn’t score nearly enough goals, and Henrik Lundqvist had to stand on his head for the team to have a chance before eventually losing in overtime. If there’s anything the Rangers want to avoid it’s overtime.

New York is 0-3 in overtime games this year and Lundqvist has a 3-11 playoff OT record himself. That means it’s up to the erratic Rangers offense to find a way to beat the Bruins’ defense. With half their starters injured in Game 1, the Bruins held strong defensively. Now they’re looking at Wade Redden possibly returning to action today and Dennis Seidenberg is skating again.

These are all bad news for New York who could really use a big game (or two, or three) from Brad Richards and Rick Nash. It’s too bad Carl Hagelin supposedly “stinks” on the power play, the Rangers could use a boost there as they’re just 2-31 on the man advantage in the playoffs.

Game 3: Ottawa Senators host the Pittsburgh Penguins — (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Pittsburgh leads series 2-0

It’s tough not to focus on Jason Spezza’s return to the lineup for Ottawa in this game. Pittsburgh’s been so incredibly efficient against Ottawa, including chasing Craig Anderson in Game 2, that it’s almost not dramatic. Enter Spezza into the mix to provide some kind of spark and the Senators could use it.

While guys like Kyle Turris and Zach Smith have played strong to this point in the postseason, Spezza is on another level both offensively and defensively. While the Sens could use the goals, it’s the latter part of that they could really use a lift in when it comes to defending against Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

Malkin ate Ottawa up in Game 1 while Crosby was the man in Game 2 netting a hat trick. Trying to control those two is like herding rabid feral cats. No pressure though Spezza, your team just needs you to be the difference maker into turning this series around. Dropping Game 3 could mean this fun run by the Sens may end by Wednesday night.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.