News and notes: Do-or-die time for Bruins

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Game 6: Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (watch on NBC and live online) – Blackhawks lead series, 3-2

Tonight in Game 6 at TD Garden, the Blackhawks will try to win their fifth Stanley Cup title in their 87th NHL season, while the Bruins will try to avoid elimination and force a Game 7 in Chicago on Wednesday evening.

Patrice Bergeron, who leads the Bruins with four goals this series and is tied for the team lead with David Krejci with nine goals this postseason, will likely be a game-time decision after suffering an undisclosed “body” injury in Game 5. Bergeron left the game after playing only 49 seconds in the second period and was taken to a local hospital for observation. He was released Saturday night and traveled home with the team Sunday morning. If Bergeron is unable to play in Game 6, head coach Claude Julien may have a difficult challenge putting together his forward lines. Carl Soderberg, who made his NHL postseason debut on the fourth line with Rich Peverley and Shawn Thornton in Game 5, could be slotted on the second line alongside Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr. Another leading candidate would be Tyler Seguin, who centered the line with Marchand and Jagr when Bergeron missed six games with a concussion in early April.

The Hawks also face a possible injury dilemma. Jonathan Toews, who edged Bergeron for the Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward this season, missed the entire third period after absorbing a hard hit to the shoulder region – one of 53 hits registered by the Bruins in Game 5 – by defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the attacking zone. The team is optimistic that Toews’ “upper-body injury” will not force him out of Game 6, but if he is unable to play, former Junior Bruin and Boston College Eagle Ben Smith may be reinserted into the lineup. Smith replaced the injured Marian Hossa in Game 3, but had zero points in 10:23 of ice time.

The Blackhawks, who are 18-4 overall (8-2 on the road) in Games 5-7 under Joel Quenneville since he took over as the head coach during the 2007-08 season, clinched their two most-recent Stanley Cup titles – 1961 and 2010 – on the road. The Bruins, however, have recently been in this situation before in the Cup Final. The B’s were down three-games-to-two to the Canucks in 2011, won Game 6 at home (5-2), then captured the Cup in Vancouver two nights later.

SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE

  • The Blackhawks have won five straight postseason Game 6s on the road, including a 4-3 defeat of the Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinal series on May 27 (last loss: May 1995 at TOR).
  • The Bruins have won four straight postseason Game 6s at home (last loss: May 1998 vs. WSH).

DID YOU KNOW?

On Jan. 19, the Chicago Blackhawks opened their regular season with a 5-2 defeat of the Los Angeles Kings. With a win tonight or in Game 7, the Hawks could become only the second team since the NHL gained control of the Cup in 1927 to open their season against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and finish it by raising the Cup themselves. The Detroit Red Wings began their 2007-08 season by defeating the reigning Cup champs, the Anaheim Ducks, 3-2 in a shootout. (It was the Ducks’ third game of the season.)

Note: The 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes began their winning campaign by knocking off the most recent (2004) Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2. However, the title was considered vacant due to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.

LINKS

  • Injury to Patrice Bergeron hurts all of hockey [Boston Herald]
  • Bruins radar having trouble locating Blackhawks [National Post]
  • Blackhawks finding an answer for Zdeno Chara [New York Times]
  • Hawks know final victory will be toughest one to get [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • With or without Toews or Bergeron, it’s been an epic series [Globe & Mail]
  • Words take on special meaning at Stanley Cup Final [ESPN]

Fisher also contacted by Canada for Olympics along with Doan, Iginla

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Add Mike Fisher to the list of veteran free agents who’ve at least been contacted to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Hockey Canada VP of hockey operations Scott Salmond revealed as much to TSN 1040 on Thursday while also noting their interest in Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla.

“As Hockey Canada we have tremendous respect for all of those players,” Salmond said. “There’s no question that their leadership and their experience could be invaluable to our team.”

(Read more about Canada contacting Doan and Iginla specifically in this post.)

Fisher, 37, shares certain similarities with Doan and Iginla. All three players have captained NHL teams, each brings a mixture of scoring ability and grit to the table, and they all obviously have plenty of experience.

Pending talks with Nashville

On the other hand, there are a few potential differences that make Fisher’s case interesting.

For one thing, Fisher hasn’t decided – or hasn’t shared his decision – regarding a return to the Nashville Predators just yet. That choice is expected to come sometime next week.

The thing is, Fisher at least has some say in that matter, as he might make the choice not to come back. In the cases of Doan and Iginla, they might struggle to find suitors in free agency (or at least find suitors willing to give them the specific deals they seek).

A first for Fisher?

While that might hurt Canada’s chances, there’s another wrinkle: Fisher hasn’t really gotten “the call” quite like Doan or Iginla have. Fisher hasn’t ever suited up for Canada in the Olympics and, according to Hockey Reference, hasn’t suited up for Canada since the 2009 World Championships.

Perhaps that rare opportunity might trump playing another season in the NHL? A few weeks of international hockey wouldn’t represent the same wear-and-tear as playing through an 82-game season.

(There’s also at least the concept of playing in the Olympics and then trying to find a deal with the Predators, however unlikely that might be.)

While Doan and especially Iginla stand as bigger names, you could make a very reasonable argument that Fisher actually has more left in the tank. He’s also a center, which Canada might deem a lacking position heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics.

For all we know, none of these three forwards will bite at the opportunity. This seems like one of those creative ideas that might not work out.

It’s easy to see why Canada’s reps would at least get the conversation going, and Fisher might just be the best target to aim for.

Hurricanes give Di Giuseppe a two-way deal for 2017-18

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The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, two-way contract on Thursday.

The team announced that Di Giuseppe’s deal is worth $725K at the NHL level and $125K in the AHL in 2017-18.

Di Giuseppe, 23, was the 38th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s been getting some looks at the NHL level with Carolina:

2015-16: 17 points in 41 games
2016-17: seven points in 36 games

He’s also been splitting time between the AHL and NHL lately, so a two-way deal works well enough.

Carolina doesn’t have much more to do on the free agent front, but that doesn’t mean that their off-season is wrapped up, as there’s still that whole ownership situation to settle.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eichel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least develop into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.