PHT Morning Skate: Canadiens aiming to sweep Lightning

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Four games hit the ice tonight and there’s a chance we see one series come to an end. The Montreal Canadiens have a 3-0 lead on the Tampa Bay Lightning and have a chance to finish off the series on home ice.

Out west, the San Jose Sharks have the opportunity to take a commanding 3-0 lead as that series shifts to Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Kings have owned the Sharks on their turf, however, and will need to do the same to get back into the series. The two series that are knotted at 1-1 also move to new locations for Game 3 with the Red Wings hosting the Bruins and the Flyers hosting the Rangers.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday night’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Tuesday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

Game 4: Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning [Montreal leads series 3-0] (7:00 p.m. ET — NHL Network)

It’s now or never again this season for the Lightning as they must win to stay alive. At the very least they’ll have captain Steven Stamkos available to them, but with the way the Canadiens have put the full-on blitz on the Lightning he hasn’t been able to carry the whole team.

Instead, the Habs have brought attacks from P.K. Subban and Rene Bourque all while Carey Price has stood tall in goal. Look for Montreal to continue bringing the pressure and force the Lightning back on their heels and the raucous crowd at Bell Centre to try and turn the tide once again.

Game 3: Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins [Series tied 1-1] (7:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The first two games of this series saw each team get under the other’s skin by just going about things they way they usually do. The Wings used high pressure and puck possession to frustrate the Bruins, where in Game 2 the Bruins stepped up the physical play and got the Red Wings to play into their games.

So just how does it go in Game 3? Jimmy Howard will have to bear down after getting a full-scale blitz by the B’s in Game 2 and Detroit will have to find ways to slow down the Bruins top line of Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla. Steering clear of Zdeno Chara might be a good idea as well. Look for Mike Babcock to find ways to get Pavel Datsyuk away from him.

source: Getty ImagesGame 3: Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers [Series tied 1-1] (8:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)

Perhaps the most interesting player for the Flyers in this series is Ray Emery. He wasn’t supposed to be the starter in the postseason, but after Steve Mason’s injury, here he is playing very well and perhaps the reason the Flyers took Game 2. Sure Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux are doing their thing, but it’s Emery with the stability in goal.

The trick for the Rangers in Game 3 is finding an effective way to crack through Emery. The early part of Game 2 seemed to show they’d found their niche, but after a couple of early goals the offense disappeared and Emery got hot. New York will need a classic big road game out of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, and Martin St. Louis while Henrik Lundqvist reasserts himself as the King.

Game 3: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks [San Jose leads series 2-0] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

It’s been a bad series for Jonathan Quick. He’s allowed more goals in two games in these playoffs than he allowed to the Sharks in seven games last season. Poor play from him and the rest of the Kings defense has them down 2-0, but with how they’ve owned the Sharks in L.A., you get the feeling this series is far from over.

That said, the Kings have to find some way to slow down the Sharks. Speed is killing L.A. and guys like Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture are taking full advantage of that. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty were getting talked up for NHL Awards this season and they’re going to need to prove why starting tonight.

NCAA standout Foo leaving school, will sign NHL deal this summer

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Spencer Foo, who racked up a whopping 62 points in 38 games this year for Union College, is forgoing his senior season to achieve his “life long dream of playing in the NHL.”

Where that dream takes place remains to be seen.

Foo, 22, won’t be back at Union in the fall, but will complete his spring term at Union and not sign with a pro organization until summer, per the Daily Gazette. The decision comes after a banner three seasons in school, capped off with a junior campaign in which he was nominated for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and shortlisted for the Hobey Baker.

Foo has reportedly drawn interest from the Flyers. There have also been rumblings of the Oilers being in the mix — Foo is an Edmonton native — but it appears nearly every team has some level of interest. Consider this, from LA Kings Insider:

The Kings are among the teams involved in [Foo’s] courtship, and asked where the stiffest competition was coming from, I was told, “about 29 other teams.”

Foo is an undrafted free agent, so there’s no real rush for him to make a decision. Sounds like NHL teams are more than willing to wait it out.

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy