Chicago Blackhawks v Los Angeles Kings

TGIF: Four NHL games to watch this weekend, and the Super Bowl

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Halford note: This is usually Brough’s bag, but he’s en route to Sochi so you’re stuck with me. Let’s do this.

Saturday: Philadelphia at Los Angeles (4 p.m. ET)

Dry Island reunion party! Though to be fair, only a handful of Flyers remain from the team Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were dealt from three years go, so it’s more like a get-together luncheon than full-on reunion. Probably still be open bar though. Anyway, I mentioned this on Twitter last night but it bears repeating: Claude Giroux’s back-check (sorry, “back-check”) on Daniel Winnik’s shorthanded goal wasn’t the best:

Saturday: Ottawa at Toronto (7 p.m. ET)

Battle of Ontario! Still fun to watch, but this rivalry has lost its edge in recent years. There used to be a time when Sens-Leafs would guarantee either a bench brawl, spitting allegation or a Toronto player taking out one of Ottawa’s Swedes (be it Tie Domi on Magnus Arvedsson, or Mark Bell on Daniel Alfredsson.)

Of course, Ottawa’s Swedes also had a history of taking out Toronto players. *cough* Alfredsson on Darcy Tucker *cough*

(BTW, the fact Tie’s Domi hit on Martin Havlat is basically footnote here illustrates how dirty this rivalry used to be.)

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

I should stop writing every intro this way! But in this instance, the exclamation point is warranted — ‘Hawks-Sharks is a really good matchup. The ‘Hawks skunked the Sharks 5-1 in San Jose in the first meeting this year but the Sharks returned the favor three weeks ago, winning 3-2 (in a shootout) at the United Center for their first victory in Chicago in three years.

There is an issue at hand for San Jose, however. With Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture out of the lineup, the team is struggling to score:

source:

For you math majors, that’s seven regulation goals in six games. Yeah, the Sharks ran into a brick wall named Ben Scrivens in Edmonton, but they failed to do much against Calgary (the NHL’s third-worst defensive team) or the Jets, who allow 2.87 goals per game.

Sunday: Detroit at Washington (12:30 p.m. ET)

NBC’s Game of the Week! (Can’t stop, on a roll.)

Here’s a question: Could any team be less enthused about NHLers participating in the Olympics than Detroit? I know the Blues and ‘Hawks are sending 10 players to Sochi compared to Detroit’s nine (now that Johan Franzen is out), but the Blues and ‘Hawks are somewhat healthy whereas Detroit is like one big human bruise. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are banged up, Jimmy Howard’s knee has been an issue and Alfredsson turned 41 in December. If there’s one team that could use a break to recharge the ol’ batteries and gear up for a playoff push, it’s the Wings. Instead, they’re sending over 39 percent of their active roster to Russia for two weeks.

Sunday: Super Bowl XLVIII — Seattle vs. Denver (3:30 p.m. ET)

Football predictions on a hockey blog! After very little deliberation, I’m taking Seattle by a score of 24-20. In a somewhat related story, my hometown of Vancouver has become a Seahawks mecca in recent weeks. Heck, even the New York Times wrote about it. It’s gotten to the point where people that previously had zero interest in football are getting curious. Like my wife, who yesterday asked me “what’s up with that Richard Sherbert guy?”

Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.