St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks Game 5

PHT Morning Skate: Hawks, Ducks need one more win

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The Boston Bruins became the second team to advance to the Conference Semifinals on Saturday, but once again the San Jose Sharks couldn’t seal the deal. Meanwhile, 18-year-old forward Nathan MacKinnon scored in overtime to give the Avalanche a 3-2 series lead over Minnesota.

This should be another eventful day of playoff hockey. We got three games and two of them are potential elimination contests.

Game 5: Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers [Series tied 2-2] (12:00 p.m. ET — NBC)

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Steve Mason missed the beginning of the series due to an upper-body injury, but he got his first start of the playoffs on Friday and stopped 37 of 38 shots en route to a 2-1 victory.

Mason gave the Rangers problems in the regular season too, holding them to six goals on 95 shots over three games. With this matchup now a best-of-three, the question is if New York can figure out Mason before its too late.

Listening to the Rangers after the game, it’s clear that they think they could have made life harder for Mason in Game 4. Rick Nash argued that they needed to put more traffic in front of Mason to generate juicier scoring chances.

Nash, by the way, hasn’t found the back of the net in the playoffs and now has just two goals in 20 career postseason games. For a guy that’s known as a sniper, now is the time for him to elevate his game.

Game 6: St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks [Blackhawks lead 3-2] (3:00 p.m. ET — NBC)

St. Louis won the first two games of the series, but the defending Stanley Cup champions aren’t ones to crumble when faced with adversity.

Both teams have had to fight for every inch as four of the five games have gone to overtime, but at the end of the day, Chicago has pushed St. Louis to the brink. The Blackhawks’ elite have once again excelled in clutch situations as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews scored the game-winning goal in overtime in back-to-back contests.

“Everybody is a little discouraged, a little down,” Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock admitted, “but (Sunday) we’ll get ourselves ready.”

St. Louis is still a team with plenty of offensive depth, a topnotch defensive core, and one of the best goaltenders in the game. Just as the Blackhawks couldn’t be dismissed when they were down, the Blues shouldn’t be written off now.

Game 6: Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars [Ducks lead 3-2] (8:00 p.m. ET – NBCSN)

Dallas rallied back from a 2-0 series deficit, but after finally tying the series, the Stars collapsed in the third period of Game 5. Anaheim netted three unanswered goals to earn a 6-2 victory.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have frustrated Dallas, combining for five goals and 12 points. Getzlaf and Perry ranked second and fifth in the NHL scoring race during the regular season, but the Stars have a duo that did nearly as well in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Unfortunately for the Stars, Seguin hasn’t managed to contribute much offensively in the first round.

Dallas needs more out of him to stay alive, but the team also has to hope that goalie Kari Lehtonen shrugs off his rough start. He was pulled in the third period after stopping just 16 of 21 shots. He now has a 2.97 GAA and .896 save percentage in the first round despite the fact that he posted a shutout in Game 3.

It’s worth adding that Anaheim has lost its last three playoff series. The Ducks had a 3-2 lead against Detroit in the first round last year, but lost its final two games, including Game 7 at home.

Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

Calgary Flames v Boston Bruins
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After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.

 

Ex-‘Hawks coach Suhonen takes Austrian national team job

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Thomas Raffl #5 of Austria celebrates with his teammates after Thomas Hundertpfund #27 scored a goal in the first period against Tuukka Rask #40 of Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Alpo Suhonen, who became the first European-born NHL coach in over 50 years upon taking the Chicago gig in 2000, has been named the new bench boss of the Austrian men’s national team, per IIHF.com.

Suhonen, 67, takes over from former NHL defenseman Dan Ratushny, who was splitting duties between Team Austria and Lausanne of the Swiss League.

Suhonen takes over the national team at a critical juncture. Austria finished a disappointing fourth at the 2016 World Hockey Championship Division 1 tournament — meaning the country finished 20th overall. As the IIHF websites notes, that’s the worst finish for Austria in 86 years of WHC competition.

Looking forward, Austria does have a chance to make amends this summer, when it will play a series of contests to prep for Olympic qualification.

Suhonen inherits a roster with decent NHL pedigree as Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl and Michael Grabner are all eligible to participate.

That said, Vanek was named to Team Europe’s initial 16-man roster for the World Cup of Hockey, and it remains to be seen how that will impact his national team commitments.

Datsyuk’s agent acknowledges offer from KHL’s SKA, but no deal yet

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) celebrates his empty net goal against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Monday, March 9, 2015. Detroit won 5-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Gennady Timchenko, the billionaire chairman of KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, reportedly believes there’s a “good chance” that Pavel Datsyuk will be playing for his team next season.

But according to Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, there’s only been an offer from SKA. Nothing has been signed yet. There could still be offers from other KHL teams for his client to consider.

And at any rate, Milstein insisted once again that Datysuk won’t be making any decisions until he speaks with the Detroit Red Wings in mid-June, after the 37-year-old returns from a family vacation.

Milstein passed along that update to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, plus a few other Wings reporters.

Related: Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options’