PHT Morning Skate: Three teams face elimination in Game 6s

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Sunday’s Game 6 action wound up being suddenly dramatic with the Blues and Stars sent packing, the latter in stunning fashion. Tonight could wind up being similar with three Game 6s involving three teams on the brink of elimination.

While the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets seem to be more up against the wall, the Los Angeles Kings seem to be sitting prettier after convincing wins in the past two games. There may not be any panic with the Pittsburgh Penguins or Colorado Avalanche, but the San Jose Sharks might be feeling the heat. Having to try and settle down on the road might prove tricky.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,250 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $250. Starts Monday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

Game 6: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [Pittsburgh leads series 3-2] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins sure looked a bit more like the team we thought they’d be in winning Game 5. It wasn’t a blowout win, but their 3-1 victory saw them dominate the Blue Jackets in shots and scoring chances. Game 6 sets up to be a bit trickier at Nationwide Arena and perhaps the question is how Marc-Andre Fleury will handle being back at the scene of a tremendous letdown in Game 4.

Fleury will need to be sharp if how Sergei Bobrovsky’s play in Game 5 is any indication. Bobrovsky stopped 48 shots in the loss and looked every bit the guy who won the Vezina Trophy last season. While Bob has been able to keep Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby from scoring goals, it’ll be up to his team to figure out their own offensive attack in Game 6. If Columbus can’t figure that out, a handshake line may appear later tonight.

Game 6: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche [Colorado leads series 3-2] (9:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)

Minnesota’s Game 5 loss had to be an especially bitter pill to swallow. Giving up the lead late and then losing in overtime, albeit in controversial fashion, would stick in the craw of a lot of teams. Expect that to be the case for the Wild back home as they’ll use that as motivation to force a Game 7.

The Avs continue to get stellar play from Semyon Varlamov in goal and Nathan MacKinnon up front. MacKinnon is up to 10 points in this series and has been a full-blown menace to the Wild. Add in that there’s a chance Matt Duchene comes back, and suddenly Minnesota’s situation looks more dire.

After Zach Parise found the net in Game 5, it’s time for Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu to do the same. Crazy to think after Ilya Bryzgalov’s rocky start in the series, Darcy Kuemper has been the rock they can lean on. They’ll need him to outduel Varlamov the rest of the way.

Game 6: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks [San Jose leads series 3-2] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

After being up 3-0 in the series, the Sharks suddenly don’t look quite like the powerhouse they were. The Kings have taken it to the Sharks in the past two games and suddenly this series has all the markings of one destine to go seven games and provide for either a massive sigh of relief in San Jose or an incredible collapse.

If the Sharks are to avoid the latter, it may be on Alex Stalock to steady things in Game 6. Starting San Jose’s backup goalie may be coach Todd McLellan’s one play to make to get his team to focus. Antti Niemi didn’t look very good in Game 5 and Stalock settled things down.

McLellan might have other problems if Marc-Edouard Vlasic is unable to play. The Sharks top defenseman left Game 5 and the Kings were able to take full advantage of his absence. Jeff Carter’s highlight reel power play goal was evidence enough of that.

With how the Kings are clicking and how Jonathan Quick has settled down after a terrible start to the series, it feels like a must-win game for both teams.

Patrick thinks he can make immediate NHL jump with Flyers

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The New Jersey Devils opted for Nico Hischier over Nolan Patrick, but time will be the ultimate judge in that debate. The Philadelphia Flyers also might see their guy make a more immediate jump to the NHL.

Patrick made it clear: he wants to go straight from the 2017 NHL Draft to training camp to opening night in 2017-18.

“Yeah, I think after a good summer of training, that’s my goal,” Patrick said.

The second pick of the draft noted not just his size, but also his two-way acumen when explaining why he believes he’s ready for the immediate turnaround. Patrick also brings up an interesting point: he’s already experienced three years of junior. He didn’t come out and say it, but the implication would be that his development might stagnate against lesser competition.

MORE: Check out all 31 first-round picks here

CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio got that same sense from Patrick in a one-on-one interview, and noted that the consensus is that he’ll make a difference from Game 1.

Scouts are unanimous in predicting Patrick will play this season in the NHL. He turns 19 during training camp.

One might read the decision to trade Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues as the Flyers’ way of agreeing that Patrick is probably ready, yet GM Ron Hextall wouldn’t just come out and say it. While praising Patrick, Hextall noted that he’ll need to “get to work” and earn a spot.

The odds seem to be in Patrick’s favor, but perhaps it’s better to see him battle for it.

Either way, don’t expect a long wait.

After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

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CHICAGO — Stan Bowman received a lot of kudos for getting the old Blackhawks defense together for another kick at the can.

But the way it played out, bringing back two aging veterans in Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya was a mistake by the general manager. The magic just couldn’t be recreated, and Chicago was swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators.

Then came the offseason changes. Not just on the blue line, either. Brandon Saad is back, while Artemi Panarin is gone. Marian Hossa is gone, too — a huge loss for the ‘Hawks, even if he can be put on LTIR.

So the forward group is going to look quite different next season.

The blue line could look very different, though. Oduya and Campbell are both unrestricted free agents and may not be back. Trevor van Riemsdyk was lost in the expansion draft. And last but not least, Niklas Hjalmarsson is a Coyote now, traded to Arizona for d-man Connor Murphy.

In other words, of the six defensemen who lost to the Predators, only Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are still under contract in Chicago.

“A lot of stuff going on,” Bowman said Friday at United Center. “Sometimes, change is good. You have to make some tough decisions. But at the same time, we’re really excited about our team next year.”

Much will be expected of Murphy, a 24-year-old who’s been toiling in Arizona anonymity since being drafted 20th overall in 2011.

“Connor’s a little bit of a different player (than Hjalmarsson),” said Bowman. “Obviously, he’s a bit bigger, he plays probably a more physical game. But he’s a good skater and he’s six years younger. It’s really hard to find young defensemen like that. He’s got a great contract, too. He’s a guy we’re going to have for a long time.”

Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling will also be expected to take on bigger roles in 2017-18.

“It’s up to them to take hold of it, but I think the opportunity is going to be there for them,” said Bowman. “It’s time to give these guys a chance to grow and take on bigger responsibilities.”

Speaking of young defensemen, the Blackhawks added another to their stable Friday, drafting Henri Jokiharju with the 29th overall pick.

“Henri’s a player we’ve been high on all year,” said Bowman. “A right-shot defenseman. Those are a commodity in today’s game. It’s hard to find them. He plays a modern style of hockey. Great skill-set, good skater, can handle the puck, make plays. I guess what you would term the modern-day defenseman.”

As for Bowman, he believes his big moves have been made. He promised changes, and changes he delivered.

“I think we’re in a good spot,” he said.

Related: Blackhawks sign Czech defenseman Jan Rutta

Penguins spend big to get bigger, land Reaves from Blues

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Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said he wanted to add some snarl to protect stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. You won’t find many – if any – forces more intimidating than Ryan Reaves.

That’s who the Penguins reportedly acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Blues, who suddenly became very busy toward the end of the 2017 NHL Draft’s first round on Friday.

MORE: Blues acquire Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera, picks

Moments ago, Gary Bettman announced the details of the move.

Penguins receive: Reaves, 51st pick of 2017

Blues receive: Oskar Sundqvist, 31st pick of 2017

Penguins’ perspective

Rutherford believed that the NHL was allowing teams to take liberties with star players, particularly Crosby and Malkin. Even after winning consecutive Stanley Cups, it was clearly something important to him.

Rutherford reiterated that thought after the move.

One can debate how much an enforcer such as Reaves really “deters” such behavior, especially since he won’t be on the ice with star players in most close situations. There’s little denying that he’s a fearsome fighter, with six in 2016-17 and as many as 10 in a single season.

Reaves carries a $1.125 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

A busy night for Doug Armstrong

Moments ago, the Blues drafted Kim Klostin with the 31st pick, grabbing a player some expected to go much earlier in the first round.

They also acquired Oskar Sundqvist, the 81st pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. The 23-year-old was unable to score a point in 10 games with the Penguins last season, but he was productive in the AHL, scoring 20 goals and 46 points.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong absorbed some serious criticism for protecting Reaves instead of David Perron, but now both players are gone. One would assume that’s likely by design, although it’s also possible that the Penguins simply provided an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Armstrong made another big splash by sending Jori Lehtera and draft picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for Brayden Schenn. Getting the 31st pick was helpful for the Blues after they sent the 27th choice to Philly.

Flyers send Schenn to Blues, take on Lehtera’s contract

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Flyers GM Ron Hextall made a big splash at the end of the draft’s first round on Friday night, sending forward Brayden Schenn to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera, the 27th overall pick and a conditional first-round pick in 2018.

Schenn, 25, is coming off two pretty productive years with the Flyers, in which he scored 26 and 25 goals. He just wrapped the first of a four-year, $20.5 million deal — one that carries a $5.125M cap hit.

It’s a big get for the Blues, who now boast Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny and Alex Steen at forward.

That hit is largely why Lehtera is on his way to Philly. Coming off a “bad” season in which he struggled with injury and healthy scratches, there was speculation he’d be made available at the expansion draft — which he was — and when he wasn’t selected by Vegas, the likelihood of a trade was high.

Lehtera makes $4.7 million annually, through 2019.

With the 27th overall selection, the Flyers took Sault Ste. Marie center Morgan Frost. Frost finished fourth on the Greyhounds in scoring this year and had a strong playoff, with five goals and 11 points in 11 games. It was the second center Philly scored in the first round, having previously selected Nolan Patrick with the No. 2 overall selection.

And here are the conditions around that ’18 pick: