Jonathan Toews #19 and Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks talk in a break from Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on April 21, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blackhawks defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime.
(April 20, 2012 - Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

High-powered ‘Hawks, Pens look to cure power play woes


Pittsburgh and Chicago finished 1st and 10th in the NHL in power play efficiency during the regular season but, through three games of their respective opening-round series, both have had problems scoring with the man advantage.

The Pens have just three power play goals versus Columbus despite having the most opportunities (17) in the playoffs thus far — the Blue Jackets have scored twice shorthanded, too — while the ‘Hawks have gone a measly 1-for-14 against St. Louis with the man advantage.

“Certainly the power play was not very good,” Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times. “You don’t want to lose the momentum off it during a game and those offensive guys feed off that and get more comfortable with the puck as you progress in the game. We need that to be something to trigger our offense.”

It’s hard to know exactly where to start with Chicago’s anemic PP. The ‘Hawks have struggled to put shots on goal — just four in four man advantage opportunities during the Game 3 win — but there’s also the Blues’ penalty kill to consider. It finished second in the league during the regular season, working at an impressive 85.7 percent clip. Quenneville acknowledged the Blues “move really well as a team and are well coached” on the penalty kill… but that doesn’t escape the fact Chicago had good success against St. Louis during the regular season, going 5-for-14 over six games.

Pittsburgh also seems to have a multitude of issues to correct. Surrendering shorthanded goals is an issue, as is the lack of shots — just 24 on 17 opportunities — and one has to mention the power play is scoreless in its last 12 opportunities. The Pens scored three times on their first five chances, but have been silent ever since.

The key to solving the problem, according to James Neal, is to get back to the shoot-first mentality.

“The most important thing you need is an attacking mindset,” he said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You’ve got to be shooting pucks and pressuring. When you do that, it puts the penalty-kill back on their heels. That’s something we’ve done all year.”

Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”