Playoffs Tonight: It’s do or die for Sharks, Kings

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Both Western Conference series have been pushed to Game 7, so the participants in the Western Conference finals will be determined over the next two contests.

Los Angeles hosts San Jose (9:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
Series tied at 3-3

The Sharks and Kings were two of the most successful teams at home during the regular season and both of these squads have perfect records at their respective arenas during the 2013 playoffs.

That works in the Kings’ favor going into this contest, but there are exceptions to trends. After three failed attempts to beat the Kings at Staples Center, San Jose can still advance with just one road victory.

That’s not hard to envision happening. Most of the games in this series have been decided by just one goal and could have easily turned out differently.

Plus there might be a separate factor that negates Los Angeles’ home-ice advantage. Despite being the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Kings are largely inexperienced with Game 7s. As a franchise, Los Angeles hasn’t played in one since 2002 and overall the Sharks’ projected lineup has participated in 31 career Game 7s to the Kings’ 15.

“When you’re road hockey, you’re always playing in a Game 7, right?” Kings captain Dustin Brown, who is among those that will be playing in his first Game 7, told LA Kings Insider. “So I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I know a lot of other guys are looking forward to the opportunity of playing in a game like [tonight].”

On the other end of the spectrum, Sharks forward Scott Gomez is getting ready to participate in his 10th career Game 7.

“The main thing is, what I was told, is that you can’t change your game. Do what got you here,” Gomez told CSN Bay Area. “Obviously, emotions are going to be running high.”

That might be especially true for Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who seems to be getting frustrated with the Sharks rough play. So far that hasn’t been enough to give the Sharks much of a noticeable edge, but if Quick loses his cool in this contest, it might end up costing the Kings this series.

Of course, in a contest like this, anyone that steps onto the ice could end up being the hero and any mistake could prove fatal.

Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

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As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

“Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

More mouth pain: When David Backes felt like his face was falling off.

Athanasiou got hurt during that Lack collision, too (and he blames Rask’s hit)

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The Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings both exchanged signs of respect after Eddie Lack left last night’s game on a stretcher, but there’s a little controversy surrounding that situation … from the Red Wings’ perspective.

You see, Andreas Athanasiou may not have collided with Lack if not for a shove/cross-check by Hurricanes forward Victor Rask.

Athanasiou is out for the Red Wings tonight, and as the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James reports, he blames the Rask hit.

Here’s a screen grab of that moment via NBCSN/the Fox Sports broadcast:

Now, check it out in full motion:

It’s unfortunate that two injuries came of that overtime-clincher, though one may at least mildly defend Rask in noting that Athanasiou was really displaying his blazing speed on that play.

The Red Wings could very well be eliminated tonight, or soon, but Athanasiou has been a bright spot during a sometimes-glum season for Detroit. Hopefully, like Lack, this is merely a minor issue from an unfortunate collision.

More promising Eddie Lack news: Hurricanes label his injury a neck strain

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Yes, it feels a little weird to “cheer” a neck strain, but such injury news feels pretty fantastic for Eddie Lack.

The Carolina Hurricanes announced that he’s dealing with exactly that on Tuesday morning, not that long after Lack’s scare after being stretchered off the ice following a collision with Detroit Red Wings Andreas Athanasiou.

Lack ended up being hospitalized, but as it turns out, that was a pretty short-term situation.

With the positive news in mind, it’s already appropriate to wonder when Lack might be back, particularly since he’s been on quite a tear during Carolina’s unlikely push for a possible playoff spot. The Hurricanes didn’t provide a window of time for his recovery, and Lack himself was vague-if-positive:

In the mean time, the Hurricanes recalled Alex Nedeljkovic, who one would assume would primarily back up Cam Ward.

So, long story short: things seem very positive for Lack, though his rehab process remains cloudy.

Bruins recall McIntyre from AHL on emergency basis

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Update: As it turns out, Anton Khudobin might be the goalie dealing with an injury, according to the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy. So, tonight’s starter boils down to Tuukka Rask or Zane McIntyre.

(Rask it is.)

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Tuukka Rask was supposed to be back in goal for the Boston Bruins tonight.

But then, just a couple of hours before their game with the Nashville Predators, the B’s announced they’d recalled goalie Zane McIntyre from the AHL on an emergency basis.

It’s not yet clear why McIntyre was recalled. Rask missed Saturday’s game in Brooklyn with a lower-body injury, but coach Bruce Cassidy said earlier today that Rask was healthy and ready to go.

“Tuukka is healthy,” said Cassidy. “That’s what he indicated to me and that’s all I needed to hear. He’ll be our starter tonight.”

If Rask is unable to play, expect Anton Khudobin to get the nod.

Khudobin backstopped the B’s to a 2-1 victory over the Isles on Saturday.