Tomas Vokun, Tyler Seguin

Playoffs tonight: Let the Conference finals begin

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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.

Injuries adding up for Senators as Stone, Hoffman out tonight; Ryan to miss month

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 15: Mark Stone #61 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on November 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators, currently making a serious run at the top spot in the Atlantic Division, have been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL.

Unfortunately some major injuries are starting to hit them at the wrong time as they will be without several top forwards on Tuesday night when they take on the New Jersey Devils.

We already knew Bobby Ryan was going to be sidelined due to a hand injury, but coach Guy Boucher confirmed on Tuesday that the veteran winger is going to miss 4-6 weeks due to a broken finger. Adding to the injury issues on Tuesday is the fact forwards Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone will also be sidelined.

Stone, who was injured on Sunday night when he was on the receiving end of a Jacob Trouba hit that resulted in a two-game suspension, is going to miss the game due to a neck injury and there remains no timetable for his return.

Hoffman was also injured in that game against the Jets and will not play on Tuesday due to a groin injury.

These are some pretty significant injuries to the Senators, especially when it comes to Hoffman and Stone, two of the top-four scorers on the team and two of their most dangerous offensive players. The injury to Stone couldn’t have come at a worse time for him, either, as he has been on a roll over the past month, recording 13 points in the team’s past 13 games, including a five-point game against Toronto on Saturday night.

Entering play on Tuesday the Senators are just two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. A Senators win in New Jersey, combined with a Montreal loss in regulation to the Rangers, would move the Senators into a first-place tie and for the time being give them the edge on tiebreakers (fewer games played).

Maple Leafs place Brooks Laich on waivers

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 29:  Brooks Laich #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 29, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Just one day after saying that he wants another shot in the NHL to win a Stanley Cup and that his best hockey might be ahead of him, the Toronto Maple Leafs have placed veteran forward Brooks Laich on waivers.

The 33-year-old Laich has been with the Maple Leafs organization since the middle of last season but has spent this entire season playing for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

He has just one goal and five assists in 22 games this season at that level.

Given Laich’s comments yesterday it is pretty clear that he still believes he has something to offer a Stanley Cup contender. Unfortunately for him there does not seem to be anything to suggest that when taking an objective look at his current position and recent performance. The Maple Leafs already placed him on waivers at the start of the season (he cleared), and his overall production has steadily dropped for several years now.

In 81 games last season between the Capitals and Maple Leafs he had just two goals, 12 assists, and was only 40 percent in the face-off circle. Another year older, combined with only six points in 22 games in the AHL, isn’t likely to inspire many teams to jump at him.

With a salary cap number of $4.5 million ($1.2 million for the rest of the season for any team that claims him) he would not be a cheap addition, either.

Flames see a ‘style fit’ with Stone

Michael Stone #26 of the Arizona Coyotes passes the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on February 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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The Calgary Flames wanted to add depth to their defense, and they didn’t want to wait until the last minute to get it done.

So, after signing Matt Bartkowski last week, they added Michael Stone yesterday in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes.

The trade deadline isn’t until next Wednesday.

“We have five games before the deadline, so we tried to get out ahead of it a bit,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said, per the Calgary Herald. “We’re deeper than we were a week ago, so we’re happy with it.”

Stone, a right shot, is expected to skate on the Flames’ second or third pairing with T.J. Brodie or Bartkowski, respectively. He may replace Dennis Wideman, who logged just 13:35 in Saturday’s OT loss at Vancouver.

“T.J. has some tempo to him so that could be a good fit. Whether it’s him or Bartkowski, we feel there’s a style fit,” Treliving said, per Arizona Sports. “We have some left-side guys who can skate and when Stony is at his best he’s playing with a partner who can skate and retrieve pucks so he can stabilize.”

The Flames play tonight in Nashville.

Stamkos resumes skating, but still no date for return

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the New York Rangers during the first period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 29, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Pleasant sight for the Bolts this week, as captain Steve Stamkos returned to the ice.

Stamkos, who has been out since undergoing major knee surgery in mid-November, took to the ice ahead of the team skate this morning, per the Times. He did stickhandling, shooting and fired some one-timers with assistant coach Brad Lauer but, according to GM Steve Yzerman, there’s still no set date for Stamkos’ return.

The 27-year-old was initially put on a 4-6 month timetable. If Stamkos’ recovery is closer to the four month estimate, there’s a chance he returns this season. If it’s closer to six, he could be done for the year.

Tampa Bay has struggled without Stamkos in the lineup, going just 16-18-7 since he got hurt. The team has experience a bit of an upswing lately, however, and head into tonight’s action just six points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.