Marc-Andre Fleury, Robert Bortuzzo, Derick Brassard

PHT Morning Skate: Penguins look to even series vs. Rangers

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Saturday’s action continued two trends that have shaped the 2014 playoffs: Overtime action and blown two-goal leads.

Montreal came very close to winning back-to-back games at Boston’s TD Garden and improving to 6-0 in the playoffs, but they coughed up a 3-1 lead with less than 10 minutes left in regulation en route to a 5-3 loss.

In the opener of the Ducks-Kings series, Anaheim forward Teemu Selanne scored his first goal of the postseason at 8:08 of the third period. That marker stood as the potential winner until Marian Gaborik tied the game in the dying seconds of regulation time and then cemented his place as the contest’s hero by netting his second goal of the night 12:07 minutes into overtime.

While those teams rest up, the other remaining four squads will play today.

Game 2: Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks [Chicago leads series 1-0] (3:00 p.m. ET — NBC)

With goaltenders Darcy Kuemper, Niklas Backstrom, and Josh Harding unavailable, the Wild will once again put their faith in Ilya Bryzgalov. Wild coach Mike Yeo has publicly backed Bryzgalov, but as long as he’s between the pipes, he’s definitely Minnesota’s primary X-Factor.

Which isn’t to suggest that Bryzgalov deserves the blame for Chicago’s 5-2 victory in Game 1. The Blackhawks did a great job of outmaneuvering the Wild’s defense to set up some prime scoring opportunities. Patrick Kane’s game-winning goal in particular was a thing of beauty.

Minnesota got this far by squeaking by a young, enthusiastic, but still raw and largely inexperienced Colorado Avalanche team. There’s no question the Avalanche were also very talented, but Chicago is a whole different story. They’re a deep team that knows how to win together when the stakes are raised.

The Wild have their work cut out for them if they want to claw their way to the Western Conference Final, but a win today would rob the Blackhawks of home-ice advantage before Minnesota returns to the Xcel Energy Center, where they were 26-10-5 in the regular season and 3-0 in the first round.

Game 2: New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [New York leads 1-0] (7:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins overcame a 2-0 deficit in Game 1 to force the contest to overtime, but still ended up losing courtesy of a strange sequence that technically involved two Rangers goals.

Although Pittsburgh had the better record in the regular season and has no shortage of talent, it’s debatable whether or not they were actually the favorites going into this series. They certainly have an uphill battle ahead of them now that they’ve lost home-ice advantage.

Whatever you want to label them as though, the Penguins are up to the task of winning this series. If Sidney Crosby enjoys a breakout game like Evgeni Malkin did in Game 6 of the first round, then that alone could tip the scales in favor of Pittsburgh. Even without that though, the Penguins have so many offensive options that even a goaltender as skilled as Henrik Lundqvist should be consistently challenged.

Tonight’s match is a continuation of a rough start to the series for these teams. They played in Game 1 on Friday and Game 3 will be in New York tomorrow.

‘There’s still lots of room for growth’: Stars GM preaches patience with Nichushkin

Valeri Nichushkin
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Valeri Nichushkin has the tools — listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 205 pounds with devastating speed. He has the skill.

However, now at the end of his entry-level contract, the 10th overall draft pick for the Dallas Stars in 2013 has endured the highs and lows associated with a young player trying to make his mark in the National Hockey League after a promising rookie campaign.

For starters, his sophomore 2014-15 season was essentially wiped out — he played only eight games for the Stars — by a hip injury that required surgery. He also didn’t get off to the greatest start this season, and coming back from surgery likely played a factor as to why, as he found his way into Lindy Ruff’s doghouse early on.

As a result, was made a healthy scratch.

His bottom line offensive numbers included nine goals and 29 points in 79 games played, and one assist in 10 playoff games for the Stars, as they were eliminated in the second round.

Still, he’s just 21 years old. When playing with top players like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, he was able to get on a bit of a roll offensively.

Stars GM Jim Nill, speaking on SiriusXMNHL, referenced the difficulty for a young player coming back off surgery, but remains confident in Nichushkin.

“We’re happy with Val,” he said (at around the 5:30 mark).

“Came back this year, got off to a slow start because of that. We thought the last five games of the playoffs, he really started to look like himself. He started to dominate down low and in the corners.

“He is only 21. I know there’s still lots of room for growth, so we’re going to be patient with him. We think he’s a big part of our future.”

 

Coyotes hire new COO

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 09:  Fans line up outside of Gila River Arena before the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Jets defeated the Coyotes 6-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes have hired Anaheim Ducks executive Ari Segal as chief operating officer.

The move was announced by the team on Wednesday.

Segal previously served as a special assistant to Anaheim CEO Michael Schulman and as president of business operations for the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in San Diego.

Segal helped with preparations for the new AHL club and recently worked with the NHL in the league’s broadcast media strategy group, evaluating league and team broadcast rights and distribution deals.

Segal previously worked as an associate in the sports practice at McKinsey & Company, a New York-based management consulting firm.

Related: The Coyotes are going in a ‘new direction,’ and that’s an understatement

Jackets re-sign Sedlak, AHL affiliate’s leading playoff scorer

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lukas Sedlak #85 of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for the pass during the game against the Winnipeg Jets on September 20, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Jets 5-1.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Columbus farmhand Lukas Sedlak, who currently sits tied atop AHL Lake Erie’s playoff scoring leaderboard, has signed a one-year, two-way deal, the Jackets announced on Wednesday.

Sedlak, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2011 that’s spent the last three years in the American League. This season was by far his most successful — in addition to potting a career-best 14 goals, he’s become close to a point-a-game producer in the playoffs, with 11 through 12 games.

“Sedlak has been on a run for us with goal-scoring,” Lake Erie head coach Jared Bednar said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s not a guy who does it for us every night. But he works so hard in all the other areas.”

Sedlak has yet to make his NHL debut, but could be in the mix for a recall next season.

Despite Canadian dollar, Bettman still expects ‘revenue increase’

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman answers a question during a news conference before the NHL All-Star hockey game skills competition, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Canadian dollar is trading at around $0.77 USD today. While that’s up considerably from where it was a few months ago, the damage has already been done to NHL revenues.

“If the Canadian dollar was still at par, we would be $100 or 200 million higher perhaps than we may find ourselves,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Bloomberg Television today.

Having said that, Bettman still expects there will be a “revenue increase” compared to last year, adding that “we continue to grow year after year and set new records.”

More from Bloomberg:

Bettman said that while the NHL’s revenue growth has come across the entire business, the league has seen its biggest boon in its digital platform. The league last year signed a six-year, $1.2 billion contract with Major League Baseball’s interactive media and Internet arm, or BAM, to operate the its digital operations, streaming services and TV network. The NHL got a 10 percent stake as part the deal.

The NHL playoffs are currently in the middle of the conference finals. The NHL’s fiscal year ends June 30.

League revenues, of course, have a direct impact on the salary cap, and let’s face it, that’s the only thing most fans care about.

As of March, the cap was expected to grow from $71.4 million in 2015-16 to $74 million next season.

However, that projection assumed the NHLPA would accept the CBA’s standard five percent growth factor, and with escrow topping the list of player concerns, that’s no given.

The players’ association will discuss and make a decision on the growth factor at some point before July 1.

Related: Bowman noncommittal on Shaw and Bickell, needs to know salary cap first