Olympic playoff preview: Underdog Norway faces tall task in host Russia

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The game: No. 5 Russia versus No. 12 Norway. Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. ET at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

How they got here: Russia didn’t capitalize on the three-point regulation win in the group stage, going to shootouts against the U.S. (loss) and Slovakia (win). As such, Russia failed to earn a quarterfinal bye despite going undefeated in regulation and OT.

Norway, meanwhile, seemed to get worse as the tournament went along — after opening with a gritty 3-1 loss to Canada, the Norwegians were blown out by Finland and lost to Austria, finishing 12th out of 12 teams.

Who’s hot: Evgeni Malkin leads the Russians with three points through three games (along with Alexander Radulov), and Pavel Datsyuk deserves mention for his virtuoso performance in Saturday’s loss to the Americans. Despite being hampered by a suspected knee injury, Datsyuk scored both goals against the U.S., won 14 of 22 faceoffs and scored in the shootout while logging nearly 21 minutes.

For Norway, ex-NHL forward Patrick Thoresen has been solid, scoring 1G-1A during the group phase while putting a team-high 12 shots on goal.

Who’s not: In spite of good production, it’s been a tough tournament for Radulov, who came under great scrutiny after taking a pair of bad penalties against the U.S. Speaking through a translator, Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov singled out Radulov after the game and suggested that he should be scratched “among other things.” (He didn’t scratch Radulov vs. Slovakia, though.) It’s also worth noting that Alex Ovechkin scored 77 seconds into the opening game of the tournament… and hasn’t found the back of the net since.

As Norway’s lone NHL player, Mats Zuccarello was expected to produce. He hasn’t. “The Hobbit” went scoreless through the first three group games and hasn’t been much of a factor at all.

X-Factor: The Crowd. If Norway is going to pull off a stunner — and, let’s be honest, it’s extremely unlikely — it needs to keep this game tight for as long as possible. That’s going to be difficult, because Russia has been energized by partisan support at the Bolshoy all tournament long, often using it to generate quick starts (scoring twice in first four minutes versus Slovenia, outshooting the U.S. 13-10 in the first period). The Russians are going to look to bury the Norwegians early and snuff out any ideas of an upset.

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Flyers survive early Mason mistake to upset Wild

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Insert the ‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ cliche right here.

The Philadelphia Flyers fell behind the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, as Zach Parise was the beneficiary of a Steve Mason mistake just 2:07 into the first period.

Mason couldn’t control the deflection into the zone, coughing up a rebound in front. Eric Staal forced a loose puck to Parise and he buried it to open the scoring.

Yeah, not ideal for the Flyers, who are still clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.

Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games.

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.