CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 02: Slava Voynov #26 of the Los Angeles Kings checks Patrick Sharp #10 of the Chicago Blackhawks near the side boards in the first period of Game Two of the Western Conference Final during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center on June 2, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Kings aim to defend home vs ‘Hawks

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The Boston Bruins have crushed the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first two games. At the pace we’re going, we’re in for a Boston-Chicago finals, but of course, there’s still plenty of hockey left to play in the Conference finals and we might be in for some comebacks.

Los Angeles Kings host Chicago Blackhawks (9:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
Chicago leads 2-0

After narrowly winning Game 1, the Chicago Blackhawks took things a step further on Sunday by establishing a big lead early and forcing the Kings to yank goaltender Jonathan Quick.

“I haven’t done my job on the road,” Quick admitted.

The Kings will eventually need to deal with their road woes if they are going to make it to the Stanley Cup finals, but for now they have more urgent matters. Los Angeles is a perfect 7-0 at home in the postseason and the team can’t afford to let that streak end now.

“It’s a lot different playing away from the United Center,” Chicago’s Patrick Sharp told CSN Chicago. “I feel like we’ve been solid on the road the last couple years in the playoffs. The team gets home for that first game, the crowd’s into it, it kind of gives that extra push. We expect L.A. to be good at home. Obviously their record speaks for itself.”

From the Kings perspective, it helps that they’ve already proven that they can come back from a 2-0 deficit. They were in the same situation against the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 2013 playoffs and responded by winning their next four contests.

“The only difference is we’re in the Western Conference Finals now,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said, according to LA Kings Insider. “With each round there’s a little more pressure. It’s a matter of handling that individually and collectively. We’re back on home ice where we’ve played very well this year.”

The big question mark going into this game in Los Angeles forward Mike Richards. He was a late scratch in Game 2 because of “symptoms” after absorbing a huge hit from Dave Bolland. If Richards is out for any extended period of time, it’s obviously a serious blow, especially given how much trouble the Kings have had scoring goals in the playoffs.

Either way, the Kings have to win, or they’ll find themselves in a position where they’ll need to pull off a historic comeback to get to the Stanley Cup finals.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal