Rene Bourque, Brian Gionta, Matthew Carle,

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.

Report: Leafs win arbitration case with Cowen

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 21: Jared Cowen #2 of the Ottawa Senators prepares for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on January 21, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have won their arbitration case with Jared Cowen, who will remain bought out.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported the news today. It is a significant loss for Cowen, the 25-year-old defenseman who came to the Leafs in February as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade.

From Sportsnet’s story before the ruling:

At issue is whether Cowen was healthy enough to have the final year of his contract bought out by the Leafs last summer. A lengthy section of the CBA is devoted to “procedures for determining fitness to play,” and they include a player’s right to pursue a second medical opinion beyond what is provided by the team.

That information, plus witness testimony and other evidence, will be taken into account by the arbitrator while rendering a decision.

For Cowen, there is $3-million in salary at stake. That represents somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25 per cent of his career NHL earnings to date – a huge amount given his injury history and diminished future earning potential.

For the Leafs, it’s significant win. They’ll actually get a $650,000 cap credit this season. Next season, they’ll take a $750,000 hit, and after that their obligations are over.

If they’d lost, they would’ve lost the credit and assumed a $3.1-million cap hit this season, the final year of Cowen’s contract.

Sportsnet explains why the Leafs didn’t want to lose:

That’s a $3.75-million cap swing in total and would almost certainly result in the Leafs invoking long-term injury relief on one of three players – Nathan Horton, Stephane Robidas or Joffrey Lupul – to remain compliant.

Even though the LTI maneuver would offer immediate relief, it’s something the Leafs hope to avoid since it would increase the size of the cap overage penalty they’ll carry into next season because of performance bonuses expected to be earned by as many as five rookies in their current lineup.

Cowen had hip surgery after he was bought out. It’s been reported he may not be ready to play until February, assuming he can find a team. He played 37 games for the Senators last season, registering no goals and four assists.

Related: Lupul to start season on injured reserve, still aims to play again

No hearing for Taylor Hall after Larsen hit

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 06:  Taylor Hall #9 of the New Jersey Devils hits Philip Larsen #63 of the Vancouver Canucks in the second period on December 6, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Devils forward Taylor Hall will avoid supplemental discipline for his big hit on Vancouver’s Philip Larsen, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.

Midway through New Jersey’s eventual 3-2 win over the Canucks, Hall caught Larsen behind the Vancouver goal with a massive bodycheck, knocking Larsen unconscious. The Danish blueliner was prone on the ice for several seconds before receiving medical attention, and was eventually stretchered off.

Hall wasn’t penalized on the play.

Larsen spent the night in a New Jersey-area hospital, per Sportsnet, and is flying to Vancouver today to meet with team doctors.

Hall said he didn’t regret throwing the hit, but felt awful about the result. He and Larsen do have a history, having briefly played together in Edmonton.

“I’m looking to make contact there, but I never want to see a guy laying on the ice there like that,” Hall said, per NJ.com. “I only know how to play the game one way, and you’ve got to play it hard. But like I said, I feel terrible.

“When you see him laying on the ice like that, he’s a former teammate of mine, and I just would have loved to make a hit there and continue the play. I hope he’s OK.”

Related: The Devils are hanging around, thanks to a great home record

The Devils are hanging around, thanks to a great home record

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 9: Cory Schneider #35 of the New Jersey Devils and teammates salute their fans after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center on April 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Maple Leafs 5-1. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Last night’s game in Newark was mostly notable for the scary situation involving Vancouver’s Philip Larsen, who had to be stretchered off the ice following a devastating hit by Taylor Hall.

But the players played on, and the Devils eventually defeated the Canucks, 3-2.

The victory improved New Jersey’s record at Prudential Center to 8-0-2. The Devils are the only team in the NHL that has yet to lose in regulation at home. They’ve struggled on the road, going 4-7-4.

A quarter of the way through the season, the jury remains out on New Jersey as a legitimate playoff contender. The Devils have just six regulation wins, with four of their victories coming in overtime and two more in the shootout. Only the Panthers (5), Coyotes (4), and Canucks (4) have won fewer games in regulation.

But keeping games close has served the Devils well. Twelve times they’ve been tied after 60 minutes, guaranteeing them at least a point. Heading into tonight’s action, they sit just one point back of Washington for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re in a playoff race,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz told reporters this morning ahead of his team’s game with the Bruins (on NBCSN).

The Devils don’t play again until Thursday in Montreal, where a tough stretch starts for John Hynes’ crew. New Jersey returns home to face St. Louis Friday, then it’s back on the road for games at the Rangers, Blues, Senators, and Rangers again.

Wings activate Howard off IR following six-game absence

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 12:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on November 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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The Red Wings have played pretty well lately — 5-1-2 in their last eight — and got some good news on Wednesday, as veteran netminder Jimmy Howard was activated off injured reserve.

Howard has been out since Nov. 25 with a groin injury, suffered early in a game against the Devils. He’s missed the last six games as a result, but will — per NHL.com — take part in Thursday’s practice and presumably be ready to dress in time for Friday’s game against the Blue Jackets.

Howard was playing very well prior to getting hurt, posting a 1.82 GAA and .940 save percentage in 12 appearances, 11 of those being starts.

His return means it’s back to AHL Grand Rapids for Jared Coreau, who was recalled a couple weeks ago and made his NHL debut against the Penguins last Saturday, stopping 32 shots in a 5-3 loss. That game was the only one in the last eight in which Detroit failed to secure at least a point.

A big reason for that run was the play of Petr Mrazek. With Howard out, the Czech ‘tender has performed admirably, especially over his last five games — Mrazek has stopped 147 of 158 shots for a .930 save percentage, posting a record of 3-0-2.