Five Q’s: Blackhawks-Kings preview


How important is home ice?

In this series? It’s massive. The Kings are a perfect 7-0 at Staples in the playoffs and, dating back to the regular season, are riding a 14-game winning streak at home.

(Fun fact: L.A. hasn’t lost at Staples since Mar. 28.)

Chicago’s been nearly as good — 6-1 at the United Center in the playoffs, 18-3-3 during the regular season — and hold the all-important home ice advantage by finishing first in the Western Conference.

The question will be: Can L.A. get a result on the road?

The Kings are just 1-5 away from Staples in the playoffs and their lone win came in overtime in the opening around against St. Louis.

Will L.A. shadow Jonathan Toews?

Detroit showed that a good way to slow down Chicago is by slowing down the captain.

Henrik Zetterberg drew the majority of that assignment in Round 2, holding Toews goalless through the first four games, in which Detroit built a 3-1 series lead. Frustrated, Toews finished that four-game stretch with more penalties (three) than points (one).

When Toews finally broke out, Chicago’s fortunes turned — he had three points over the final three games of the series, all wins.

Los Angeles has two options for the Toews shadow. One is Anze Kopitar, who teammates championed as a legit shut-down guy and potential Selke candidate; the other is Mike Richards, a Selke finalist from 2009.

(And yes, Toews himself is a Selke candidate this year.)

How can Chicago beat Jonathan Quick?

With traffic, according to Joel Quenneville.

“Traffic is something we talked about,” the ‘Hawks head coach said on Friday. “Pucks at the net, second opportunities are the ones you’re going to beat them with.”

Easier said than done, though.

Quick has been as good as he was during last year’s Conn Smythe-winning performance, posting a 1.50 GAA and .948 save percentage thus far.

“There’s certain situations where you go to do special things to beat him because he’s so effective in certain areas,” Quenneville admitted. “He’s had a special couple years in the playoffs. He’s a different kind of goalie the way he moves so quick in the crease, or even above it.”

Will Jarret Stoll return to the lineup?

The veteran missed nearly the entire San Jose series — he played just 10:25 in Game 1 before getting KOed by Raffi Torres — but practiced Friday on the third line with Dwight King and Trevor Lewis.

If he gets back in, it’s a significant addition of the Kings. Stoll’s a playoff veteran (62 career games, two Stanley Cup finals) that’s one of the best third-line centers in the game.

He won draws at a 56 percent clip during the regular season and gives L.A. tremendous depth down the middle behind Kopitar and Richards — a big reason why Sutter has said his centers were “the strongest part of our team.”

Can the ‘Hawks keep killing penalties?

One of the less ballyhooed parts of Chicago’s run has been its penalty kill — just one goal allowed in 41 attempts, a league-best 97.6 percent PK.

(That’s actually five percentage points better than L.A.’s PK of last postseason, which they rode to the first-ever Stanley Cup in franchise history.)

Killing penalties will be important against a Kings power play that got hot in Round 2.

L.A. went 5-for-17 against San Jose — 29.4 percent — with almost everybody chipping in, as 12 different Kings recorded at least one power-play point in the series.


Five Q’s: Penguins-Bruins preview

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.