Tomas Vokun, Tyler Seguin

Playoffs tonight: Let the Conference finals begin


After a couple of days without any hockey, we can all rest easy now as both the Eastern and Western Conference finals begin today. Let the fun begin.

Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks host Los Angeles Kings (5 p.m. ET NBCSN/Live Extra)

Both teams had to sweat things out in a seven-game series in the previous round and now they’re ready to do it up in a conference finals match-up that sees a curious balance of power.

Last year’s Stanley Cup champions against this year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners. A tough, physical team with a red-hot Conn Smythe candidate goalie (Jonathan Quick) against a team oozing with offensive talent with a tricky defense to go with it. If there’s a place to look for how things will go, take a look at special teams.

Chicago will look to keep their game rolling as they were able to get their power play working against Detroit all while their penalty kill continued to be dominant (97.6% of penalties killed this postseason). The Kings, meanwhile, have a solid power play of their own (scoring on 20% of their opportunities). Provided the officials don’t put their whistles away, this could be a storyline to watch.

L.A. hasn’t been all that hot on the road in these playoffs. Of the six road games they’ve played in this postseason, they’ve only won one of them (Game 5 against St. Louis). After being road warriors last season losing just once away from Staples Center, things have evened out in a big way. Chicago will look to make sure they stay dreary on foreign ice tonight.

Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins host Boston Bruins (8 p.m. ET NBC/Live Extra)

It’s the series you almost knew had to happen after how things played out during the trade deadline. Both teams pursued the same players (Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla) and both chose to go to Pittsburgh. The Bruins countered by grabbing former Penguins legend Jaromir Jagr and now Jagr gets to try and help eliminate his former team for the second year in a row.

While those players will be contributors, all eyes are on the biggest players and how they’ll match up against each other. Sidney Crosby figures to see a lot of Patrice Bergeron while Evgeni Malkin and James Neal will have Zdeno Chara and his shadow stalking them around the ice.

If both teams come into tonight’s game feeling rusty, you can’t really blame them as they’ve had about a week to prepare for the start of this series. A big question here will be how the Bruins try to get Tomas Vokoun off his game. You have to think Milan Lucic will be a big factor here in crashing the net to try and make things uncomfortable.

Forbes: Rangers most valuable NHL franchise at $1.2 billion

Rick Nash
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NEW YORK (AP) The New York Rangers are the most valuable NHL franchise at $1.2 billion, taking the top spot on the Forbes list for the first time since 2004.

The magazine said Tuesday that Montreal is second at $1.18 billion, followed by Toronto at $1.15 billion. The Maple Leafs had been the most valuable team since 2005, but they’ve reached the playoffs only once since 2006 and their 13-year home sellout streak ended in March.

Chicago, winner of three of the last six Stanley Cups, is fourth at $925 million, with Boston next at $750 million. Completing the top 10 are Vancouver, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington.

The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014 and the conference finals in 2015. Madison Square Garden recently underwent a $1 billion renovation.


NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Flyers-Isles, ‘Hawks-Sharks

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Wednesday night is a busy one in the NHL — 13 games all told — and that’s reflected on NBCSN with a pair of games:

Philly taking on the Isles in Brooklyn, followed by the Blackhawks taking on the Sharks in San Jose.

Tonight’s games will be available online via NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

First up, Flyers-Isles.

Philly’s looking to win back-to-back games for the first time in a month, after beating the ‘Canes 3-2 on Monday. The club will, however, have to try and get that win without the services of forward Sam Gagner, who was injured on a Brad Malone hit the other night.

Former Islander Colin McDonald was called up to replace Gagner, and is likely to draw into the lineup at Barclays.

The Isles, meanwhile, haven’t played since a 4-2 loss to Montreal on Sunday. In that game, goals from Anders Lee and John Tavares were for naught as New York struggled mightily with special teams; Montreal scored three times on the power play and once shorthanded, sweeping its season series with the Isles in the process.

After Isles-Flyers, it’s onto Sharks-Blackhawks.

Wednesday’s game will be the first of four meetings between the two sides this season. Chicago comes in having lost 6-3 to Vancouver on Saturday, a game in which Daniel and Henrik Sedin torched the Blackhawks for nine combined points.

It looks as though head coach Joel Quenneville is making a lineup change against San Jose — Andrew Shaw appears ready for first-line duties next to Jonathan Toews and Ryan Garbutt. That would drop Marian Hossa down to the third unit.

As for the Sharks, the big (well, relatively speaking) news this week is that 37-year-old veteran Dainius Zubrus signed a one-year pact with the club. Zubrus, who spent time under San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer while the pair were together in New Jersey, hasn’t played this year but successfully converted a PTO with the Sharks into a new contract.

Sens match season-high for goals, beat Dallas 7-4

Bobby Ryan, Antti Niemi
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DALLAS (AP) Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored two third-period goals and the Ottawa Senators held off the Dallas Stars for a 7-4 victory Tuesday night.

Ottawa was outshot 37-20 but scored three unassisted goals after takeaways, one on the power play and another short-handed, by Pageau.

Craig Anderson made 33 saves in his third straight win, including two shutouts. He had his scoreless streak snapped at 147:04, when Patrick Sharp scored in the second period.

Pageau scored on two breakaways, including his league-leading third short-handed, and added an assist. He has six goals this season.

Dallas goalies Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen combined to make only 13 saves.

The Senators’ Mike Hoffman also had two goals, one into an empty net. Mark Stone had a goal and two assists. Bobby Ryan and Milan Michalek also had goals.

NHL leader Jamie Benn scored his 15th and 16th goals for Dallas. Benn assisted on Tyler Seguin‘s goal.

The Senators are 4-0-2 in their last six games. Dallas’ loss ended the Stars’ five-game winning streak.

Ottawa didn’t have a shot on goal for the first 7:10, but its attempt went in for a 1-0 lead. Ryan took away the puck in the left faceoff circle, skated in front of Niemi and tucked the puck into the right corner.

Michalek scored at 18:49 of the first period for a 2-0 lead. Stone won a battle along the left-wing boards, and the puck went to Pageau. He passed to Michalek in the center of the left circle, and Michalek sent a wrist shot past Niemi into the upper right corner.

Sharp finally got to Anderson at 7:04 of the second. Cody Eakin tapped a pass ahead to Sharp, who sent a slap shot past the goalie.

The Senators regained a two-goal lead, when Stone intercepted a pass from the Stars’ Patrick Eaves at the blue line, stepped to the top of the slot and scored on a wrist shot at 12:33.

Lehtonen then replaced Niemi, who had allowed three goals in nine shots. The first shot Lehtonen faced was Hoffman’s goal from the top of the left circle on the power play.

Niemi re-entered the game at 1:05 of the third period, after Lehtonen made two saves. On the first shot Niemi faced, he allowed a short-handed breakaway goal by Pageau on a shot that trickled between the goalie’s legs.

Benn scored on a short-handed breakaway at 6:07. Just 1:57 later, Seguin scored from the right circle.

NOTES: Ryan has at least one point in nine straight games (4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points). … Anderson came into the game with two shutouts in a row after an overtime loss. … Dallas D Jason Demers (lower-body injury) was scratched from the lineup, but D Jordie Benn returned after missing Saturday’s game because of illness. … The Stars’ John Klingberg took the NHL lead with his 20th assist on Sharp’s goal. He and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, who assisted on Hoffman’s goal, are 1-2 in scoring among the league’s defensemen. . Dallas had won the previous seven games against the Senators.

Coyotes GM ‘called right away’ on Hamonic

Don Maloney
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You can add Arizona to the list of teams that tried to get in on the Travis Hamonic sweepstakes.

“[He’s] a talented player,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said, per the Arizona Republic. “We certainly called right away, but we do not have a good fit for them right now.

“That’s the bottom line. They’re looking for a ready-made complement player.”

Hamonic, who requested a trade out of New York, is garnering plenty of interest across the league. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported five clubs — Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado and Minnesota — were in the mix, with Sportsnet floating potential trade chips like the Jets’ Jacob Trouba, and the Flames’ T.J. Brodie.

It’s unsurprising the Coyotes didn’t have a fit for Isles GM Garth Snow.

It’s hard to imagine — nearly impossible, really — to think Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be on the move, and the rest of the Arizona defense is comprised of unheralded youngsters (Michael Stone, Connor Murphy) or grizzled vets (Nicklas Grossmann, Zbynek Michalek).

But Maloney’s remarks are still noteworthy, because he more we hear about the Hamonic situation, the clearer the asking price gets.

Related: Hamonic willing to finish season with Isles