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The Morning Skate from NBC: A TV primer

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For the first time in 68 years, the Stanley Cup champions from the four most recent seasons (Los Angeles Kings, 2012; Boston Bruins, 2011; Chicago Blackhawks, 2010; Pittsburgh Penguins, 2009) are the last four teams standing. Today, they will play Game 1 of their respective best-of-seven conference finals. (Which you can watch live online here.)

The last time the four most recent Stanley Cup champions (Montreal Canadiens, 1944; Detroit Red Wings, 1943; Toronto Maple Leafs, 1942; Boston Bruins, 1941) met in Game 1 of semifinal series, on March 20, 1945, Maurice Richard had just become the first NHL player to score 50 goals in 50 games, the Battle of Iwo Jima was being fought by American and Japanese armed forces, and the “Curse of the Billy Goat” lamenting the Chicago Cubs’ World Series title drought was six months from entering someone’s mind.

Game 1: #5 Los Angeles Kings at #1 Chicago Blackhawks, 5 p.m. ET (on NBCSN and live online)

Season series: Blackhawks 2-1-0

  • January 19 “Banner Raising”: Chicago 5, at Los Angeles 2 ( Marian Hossa, CHI, 2 goals, assist)
  • February 17: at Chicago 3, Los Angeles 2 ( Brent Seabrook, CHI, goal, assist, 2 hits)
  • March 25: Los Angeles 5, at Chicago 4 ( Dustin Brown, LAK, goal, 5 shots, 6 hits)

Coming off tense seven-game series, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Blackhawks and defending Stanley Cup champion Kings are back at it, as they meet in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at the United Center. Chicago rebounded from a three-games-to-one deficit, defeating their Original Six rivals, Detroit, 2-1 in overtime in Game 7, on a goal by defenseman Brent Seabrook. Meanwhile, Los Angeles maintained their perfect 7-0 home record this postseason by ousting San Jose, also 2-1, on two goals by winger Justin Williams.

The Blackhawks won the regular season series, 2-1-0, outscoring the Kings 12-9. All of the top Hawks players contributed, in particular Jonathan Toews (three goals, three assists), Patrick Kane (two goals, assist), and Marian Hossa (two goals, assist in season opener). Even Michael Frolik chipped in with three goals. On the flipside, three key Kings players compiled forgettable statistics: goaltender Jonathan Quick (1-2-0, 4.05 GAA, .857 save %) and second-line skaters Mike Richards (two goals, -7) and Jeff Carter (0 points, -3).

DID YOU KNOW?

11 of the Kings’ first 13 games this postseason have been decided by one goal. That’s as many one-goal playoff games as they had played in their previous 31, from Game 2 of the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals through their 2012 Cup run.

WHO ON EARTH IS … NIKLAS HJALMARSSON?

Stephen Walkom wasn’t really focused on it, but the rest of the hockey world was, when Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson [pronounced /YAHL-mahr-sohn/] rifled a slapshot past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard with 1:47 left in a deadlocked Game 7 on May 29. Not only did the controversial disallowing of the goal prevent Chicago from taking a 2-1 lead, and subsequently get Twitter chirping loudly from Madison Street to Hjalmarsson’s native Småland (Sweden) province; it also extended his personal postseason goal drought to 42 games (since April 24, 2010).

With veteran blueliners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the team, it’s easy for Hjalmarsson to get overlooked, even though he is an integral part of the Blackhawks’ top penalty-kill unit that is an NHL-best 40-for-41 (97.6%) this postseason. That’s efficiency that even IKEA can’t match.

Game 1: #4 Boston Bruins at #1 Pittsburgh Penguins, 8 p.m. ET (on NBC and live online)

Season series: Penguins 3-0-0 … Pens have won five straight meetings since Feb. 4, 2012

  • March 12: at Pittsburgh 3, Boston 2 ( Brandon Sutter, PIT: 2 goals, 3 shots)
  • March 17: at Pittsburgh 2, Boston 1 ( Tomas Vokoun, PIT: 31 saves)
  • April 20: Pittsburgh 3, at Boston 2 ( Tomas Vokoun, PIT: 38 saves)

The top-seeded Penguins and fourth-seeded Bruins will hit the ice for their first competitive games in a week when they meet in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh scored 13 of their league-leading 47 goals in Games 4 & 5 to close out the Senators in five games, while Boston played solidly on both ends of the ice to eliminate the Rangers, also in five.

The Penguins swept the season series, 3-0-0, and have won five consecutive meetings vs. the Bruins since February 4, 2012. This season, in the absence of second-line center Evgeni Malkin for all three games (upper-body injury), seven different Penguins skaters lit the lamp, led by Brandon Sutter (two goals on March 12). Tomas Vokoun, then the back-up behind Marc-Andre Fleury, won two starts, posting a 1.50 GAA and .958 save%. Three of the Bruins’ five goals came off the stick of Tyler Seguin, while the line of Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton combined for zero points. Although he lost two of the starts, Tuukka Rask (2.54 GAA) played fairly well against the NHL’s most-explosive attack.

For viewers – live or on television – it will be a challenge distinguishing “oohs” from boos throughout this series. For all the cheering fans at Consol and TD Garden will do in support of their goalies – Vokoun and [Tuukka] Rask, respectively – there will be equal parts jeering when Jaromir Jagr returns to Pittsburgh as a Bruin, and Matt Cooke or Jarome Iginla suit up for the Pens in Boston. Jagr won Stanley Cups in his first two of 11 seasons in the “Steel City” (1991 & 1992), but after leaving the NHL for three seasons, chose to sign with the archrival Philadelphia Flyers in 2011. Cooke became a Boston antagonist after (likely) ending the career of Bruins forward Marc Savard after a hit to the head in 2010. Iginla went from potential Bruins fan favorite to enemy after a trade from Calgary to Boston fell through and he joined Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.

DID YOU KNOW?

The streak of nine distinct Stanley Cup champions (2003-12) will end this season. In North American professional sports, MLB has the record for the longest stint of distinct champions, at 10 (1978-1987).

BREAKING: Ben Bishop reportedly traded to L.A. Kings

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning tends net against the New York Islanders during the second period at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The L.A. Kings have reportedly acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That is according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie and TSN on Sunday.

The news comes one day after Jonathan Quick returned to the Kings crease after a 59-game absence due to a groin injury and was solid in a winning effort versus the Anaheim Ducks.

The Kings are three points out of the final wild card spot in the West.

More to come.

Video: More evidence Connor McDavid is really good at hockey

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his first career NHL goal against the Dallas Stars in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 13, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Connor McDavid once again had that blazing speed of his on display. The latest victims? The Nashville Predators on Sunday.

The sophomore star scored his 21st goal of the season and league-leading 70th point thanks to a beautiful individual effort, putting his Oilers back into a tie game at the time.

McDavid picked up the puck just outside his blue line, accelerated to beat Roman Josi in the neutral zone, beat Ryan Ellis with a move and immediately snapped his shot home for the goal.

Two more Canucks players showing symptoms of the mumps

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11: Ben Hutton #27 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at TD Garden on February 11, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Canucks 4-3. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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There was good news and bad news for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, as the club deals with an outbreak of the mumps.

First, the bad news: Head coach Willie Desjardins confirmed that forward Anton Rodin, defenseman Ben Hutton and trainer Brian Hamilton are now experiencing symptoms of the mumps.

Initially, five players — Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund — had been affected.

The good news? Stecher, who had the first confirmed case of the mumps, was back on the ice Sunday for an optional practice, per the Canucks.

The Canucks, nine points out of a playoff spot in the West, host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

The following day is the trade deadline, and the Canucks could be busy, with at least three players — Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller — all mentioned as possible targets for other teams.

Speaking to TSN 1040 radio on Friday, GM Jim Benning didn’t believe the mumps outbreak would impact his plans leading up to the deadline.

Goalie Nods: James Reimer starts again for Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 7: Goaltender James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers stops a shot by Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins during third period action at the BB&T Center on January 7, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Huge game in the Atlantic Division on Sunday night when the Florida Panthers host the Ottawa Senators in a classic four-point game.

The Senators enter the night tied with Boston for second place in the division with 70 points and four points ahead of the Panthers. Florida will be turning back to James Reimer for the start as he gets the call for the third time in the past four games as Roberto Luongo takes a back seat for the moment.

On Sunday, Luongo told George Richards of the Miami Herald that is the way it should be at the moment.

“Right now I don’t deserve to be playing,” Luongo told Richards. “That’s the bottom line. For me, everything is about the team and us winning games. James Reimer gives us a better chance to win every night than I am. Until I figure my [game] out this is the way it should go I think.”

Luongo has surrendered at least three goals in eight of his past 10 appearances, while Reimer is carrying a .927 save percentage in the month of February.

The Senators will go with Craig Anderson on Sunday night.

Elsewhere on Sunday…

— In the early games it was Tuukka Rask vs. Kari Lehtonen in the Boston Bruins-Dallas Stars, while Brian Elliott went against Eddie Lack in the Calgary Flames vs. Carolina Hurricanes game.

Cam Talbot makes his league-leading 56th start of the season for the Edmonton Oilers when they take on the Nashville Predators. No word yet from the Predators on their starter.

— Big game in the Metropolitan Division when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the New York Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky goes against Henrik Lundqvist in one heck of a goaltending matchup.

— With Corey Crawford under the weather Scott Darling will start for the Chicago Blackhawks when they host the St. Louis Blues on NBCSN. Jake Allen will go start the Blues.

Louis Domingue will start for the Arizona Coyotes when they host the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starting goalie, but the team did call up Linus Ullmark from the AHL before the game.