Playoffs Tonight: Kings look for ‘killer instinct’ against Sharks

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After losing defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski to retirement in back-to-back summers, the big question for the Detroit Red Wings entering this season was if their over two decade long playoff streak would come to an end.

That wasn’t an unfair question to ask and in fact they were barely able to squeeze into the playoffs. At the same time, Detroit has demonstrated once again that what makes them a truly special organization can’t be summed up in the presence of individual superstars.

The Red Wings are more than holding their own in the second round and are doing so with a blend of veterans and youngsters that are doing an admirable job taking the torch.

You can read more about Detroit’s win yesterday here, but let’s turn our attention to tonight’s actions.

Please keep in mind that both games can be watched online in addition to what’s listed below.

New York Rangers host Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Boston leads series 2-0

The Rangers managed to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the Washington Capitals in the first round, but Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will need to lead the charge in order for them to do that again.

That might be a problem as Lundqvist’s left shoulder is an area of concern after he was stung by a Daniel Paille shot. He later said that the situation was “under control” and he’s expected to play, but it’s not clear if he’s truly 100%.

After allowing five goals on 32 shots in the latest Rangers loss, Lundqvist said that he needed to be better, but he would also need the guys in front of him to step up.

The Rangers have averaged just 2.22 goals per game in the playoffs. They have skilled forwards capable of stepping up, but they haven’t been reliable. Brad Richards in particular has been a disappointment and has logged 12:57 minutes or less in each of the Rangers’ last four games.

On top of that, New York still has a horrid 5.6% power-play success rate. With all that in mind, it seems unlikely that the Rangers will be able to keep up with the Bruins if Game 3 becomes a high-scoring contest.

San Jose Sharks host Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Los Angeles leads 2-1

Sharks forward Logan Couture came back from an injury to score the overtime game-winner on Saturday and keep San Jose in this series, but as Sharks coach Todd McLellan said, “We haven’t accomplished anything.” Not yet at least.

“If our intensity or urgency drops because we’ve won a single game, I would be disappointed in our group,” McLellan told ESPN.

Meanwhile Kings captain Dustin Brown pointed out that over the last two years, the Kings have both been down in a series 2-0 only to come back and have taken a 2-0 lead in series before.

“We know what they’re thinking,” Brown said. He added, “It’s a matter of having the killer instinct.”

There’s a lot of very talented players on both of these squads and both have a nice blend of young stars and veteran leadership. Couture was the hero in Game 3, but there’s a long list of players capable of stepping up and making the difference tonight.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.

After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

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One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

Report: Dwight King could be KHL-bound

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Dwight King, the burly forward that won a pair of Stanley Cups in Los Angeles, may be on his way to Russia.

Per News 1130 in Vancouver, King is set to sign in the KHL after failing to land a contract this summer. The 28-year-old finished last season in Montreal after spending the first seven years of his NHL career in Los Angeles.

For a time, King was an effective skater for L.A. He posted a career-high 15 goals and 30 points during the ’13-14 campaign, and followed that up with a 13-goal, 26-point effort the year following. He also had a nice showing during the Kings’ 2014 Cup run, finishing with 11 points in 26 games.

King’s biggest issue is his skating ability. At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, he was never the fleetest of foot, but had been working on his speed this offseason.

More, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

King is still looking for work after finishing the season in Montreal. There are a few Western Conference teams poking around.

“I’m just looking for an opportunity at this point. I’m going to be on the ice more this year, doing a little more skills and skating. Any bit of improvement I can find.”

King is going to try a couple new teachers, then decide which route to take. One also works with former teammate (and new Golden Knight) Brayden McNabb. King is quite the physical specimen, but will take a new approach. He regularly played at 230–231 pounds, but is going to go to 225–226. And he believes the Western Conference is better for him.

News 1130 reported that Vancouver had shown “mild interest” in King, who just wrapped a three-year $5.85 million deal with a $1.95M cap hit.

King appeared in 17 games for the Habs after being picked up at the deadline last season, scoring once. He went pointless in six playoff games.

McLellan excited about addition of ‘utility player’ Strome

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To hear Todd McLellan explain it, Ryan Strome could be wearing many hats next season.

That’s what the Oilers head coach said on Wednesday of the former Isles forward, acquired earlier this summer in the Jordan Eberle trade. McLellan expressed excitement over Strome’s ability to play both center and wing.

“He (Strome) is a utility player,” McLellan said, per the Sun. “He has the ability to play center and has in the past. He’s been able to win faceoffs and he’s comfortable on the wing. We have the luxury of moving players around, and as the fans here know, we like to do that.”

That last sentence is clearly a reference to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has flipped back and forth between playing as Edmonton’s No. 2 center and as a winger on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. The talented German’s had success at both, which is why Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is still unsure if Draisaitl is a center or a winger.

More: Strome pumped at prospect of playing with Draisaitl, McDavid

As for Strome, he certainly gives Edmonton some flexibility — on the ice, and on the books.

With a $2.5 million cap hit (compared to Eberle’s $6M), he’s provided Chiarelli with more cap space to get the Draisaitl contract done. And there’s also the potential for him to be a real bargain. Remember, Strome is only two years removed from a sophomore campaign in which he scored 17 goals and 50 points in 81 contests. His subsequent two years with the Isles were a disappointment, but the talent is still there.

The wildcard in all this is the fact that Strome’s heading into a contract year. He’ll be a restricted free agent next July, so the ’17-18 campaign will go a long way in determining his value… and, potentially, his future in Edmonton.