TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

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Saturday: Tampa Bay at Philadelphia (1 p.m. ET)

The resurgent Flyers have now won 10 straight at home, a streak that’s improved their record at Wells Fargo Center to 12-7-0. “I think they’re confident guys right now and they believe they can win,” head coach Craig Berube said after Philly’s latest conquest, 3-1 over the Habs on Wednesday. That being said, it’s still hard to feel 100-percent comfortable that the Flyers have finally figured it out. I’m not denying they’ve shown serious progress, but this team’s had a way of showing improvement, only to regress against better competition. Let’s see how they look later this month when they have to deal with this…

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Saturday: Colorado at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET)

If the only thing that matters is the final score, the Wild have been flawless in their last four games, all of them wins. But PHT readers are smart enough to know that’s a simple-minded way of looking at things. Given this is a team that lost six straight prior to its current streak, the fact Minnesota has been outshot 110-57 in its last three games combined suggests there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The biggest difference in the Wild’s last four games has been the play of Niklas Backstrom and, on Tuesday in Los Angeles, Darcy Kuemper. Great goaltending gives you a chance every night. Average goaltending is only good enough when you control the puck, and that’s something the Wild still aren’t doing enough.

Saturday: Detroit at Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET)

A Stanley Cup Final preview, according to my pre-season prediction. Yeah, I’m not feeling so good about that Red Wings pick right now. Though it should be noted that I included the caveat that “Stephen Weiss can’t be a free-agent bust.” Does that get me off the hook? Whatever, I’m standing by my pick. Detroit’s better than its record; a 1-7 mark in the “gimmick” is a big reason the Wings are barely hanging on to a wild-card spot. Besides, one team out of two wouldn’t be so bad, and the Kings are very much in the Cup conversation. “We’re playing good,” says coach Darryl Sutter, with no regard for the English language. “We’ve played good for six or seven games.”

Saturday: Boston at San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET)

Without getting too technical, the Sharks have been kinda meh the last month or so. After starting the season 19-3-5, San Jose is just 9-8-1 in its last 18 games, with only five of those wins coming in regulation. Yeah, there have been some injuries, like the one to Logan Couture’s hand, but the Sharks are far from the only team that’s dealing with key absences. Meanwhile, the Bruins should be motivated for this one after dropping the first two of their three-game California trip, drawing some stern words from their coach.

Sunday: Philadelphia at NY Rangers (7 p.m. ET)

On NBCSN. Streaming live, too. Some of you may disagree, but as I wrote here, I really like the way the Rangers are playing lately. They hammered the Leafs, 7-1, on Saturday. The first few minutes of the third period they had against Columbus on Monday at MSG were absolutely dominant. And, of course, they beat the Blackhawks in Chicago two days later. If Henrik Lundqvist can play like the guy who earned that massive contract extension, they could go on a serious run before the Olympic break, with 10 of their 14 games at MSG and two at Yankee Stadium.

Paul Carey replaces Brett Connolly for Capitals in Game 2

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After dropping Game 1 of their second-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night, the Washington Capitals are making a minor lineup change on Saturday for Game 2 of the series when Paul Carey replaces Brett Connolly on the team’s fourth line.

Carey, 28, appeared in only six games for the Capitals this season and did not record a point. He has one goal and one assist in 32 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche and Capitals, and appeared in three playoff games for the Avalanche back in 2014.

Given how Connolly’s ice time has been decreasing over the past few games this postseason it probably should not be too much of a surprise that he is now being removed from the lineup. After logging at least 10 minutes of ice time in each of the Capitals’ first three playoff games, he has not played more than 6:12 in each of the past four.

Coach Barry Trotz said on Saturday that he likes Carey’s speed in the lineup against the faster Penguins.

Connolly scored 15 goals in 66 regular season games for the Capitals this season.

In other Capitals lineup news, there is no change in the status of defenseman Karl Alzner as he will remain out of the lineup. He has been sidelined since Game 3 of their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury. Nate Schmidt will continue to take his place.

Scott Darling trade ‘worth the risk’ for Hurricanes

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The Carolina Hurricanes made a somewhat surprising move on Friday night when they acquired goaltender Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round draft pick in 2017.

On the surface it looks like a good move for both the team and the player. Goaltending has been a major thorn in the Hurricanes’ side for several years now, while Darling has probably earned the opportunity to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL after performing extremely well as Corey Crawford‘s backup in Chicago.

The risk for the Hurricanes is that Darling will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and they will have to get him signed to a new contract before then to avoid potentially losing him (and the third-round pick they sent to Chicago) for nothing.

Shortly after the trade on Friday, Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said all of that was worth the risk because the team has accumulated so many draft picks in this year’s class.

“This is a bit of a gamble but one we believed was worth taking,” Francis told Chip Alexander of the News & Observer. “This is why we accumulated these picks and we still have 10 left. It was worth the risk.”

He added that they would “like to get something done sooner rather than later.”

The duo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack finished the 2016-17 season with a .901 save percentage, 26th in the NHL. The Hurricanes have finished higher than 25th just once in the past five years. The Hurricanes have solid young core of talent in place and a defense that allowed the fifth fewest shots on goal in the entire league this season. Solidifying the goaltending position would go a long way toward ending the team’s current eight year playoff drought.

 

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Saturday, April 29

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoff continues on Saturday with a pair of games on NBC.

All of the action starts at 3 p.m. ET when the New York Rangers try to even their series against the Ottawa Senators. Later, the Pittsburgh Penguins look to take a 2-0 series lead against the Washington Capitals at 8 p.m. ET.

Here is all of the information you need for today’s games.

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Announcers: John Forslund, Brian Boucher

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Announcers: Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk, Pierre McGuire

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.