PHT Morning Skate: Ducks fight to avoid falling 2-0 at home

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Chicago earned a 4-1 victory yesterday to become the first, and potentially only, squad to jump to a 2-0 lead in the second round.

Last year the final four teams in the playoffs were also the last four Stanley Cup winners — Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Boston. While the 2014 second round is still young, it’s entirely possible that we will see the same Conference Final matchups again this year.

It will still be a bit before we know if that’s going to happen, but we’ll be one step closer to finding out after NBCSN’s doubleheader tonight.

Game 3: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers [Series tied at 1-1] (7:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins and Rangers were given an uncommon series schedule in the sense that they have been asked to play three games in four days. Pittsburgh and New York fought last night, with the Penguins earning a 3-0 victory.

It was Pittsburgh’s first shutout of the postseason and they frustrated the Rangers by denying them on four power-play opportunities. The Rangers are now 0-for-25 with the man advantage in their last seven games.

The Penguins got a bit of a breather before this series started, but the Rangers’ first round matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers went to seven games. This will consequently be New York’s fifth contest in seven days. That’s brutal and while Rangers coach Alain Vigneault insists it shouldn’t be a factor, it’s hard to see how it’s not taking its toll on the Rangers.

This is a great opportunity for the Penguins to take the lead before this series’ schedule gets a little lighter.

Game 2: Los Angeles Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks [Los Angeles leads series 1-0] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

This might not be a must-win for the Anaheim Ducks, but it’s pretty close. Los Angeles is a tough team to win a series against under any circumstances, but if the Ducks drop their first two games at home, then it would take a substantial effort on their part to get back into this.

The good news for the Ducks is that winning Game 2 would not be a monumental task. They know they can beat the Kings after going 4-0-1 against them in the regular season and coming within a hair of beating them in the series opener. It took a historic effort by Kings forward Marian Gaborik to change the outcome of that game.

“It’s a 3-2 overtime game where both teams battle and no one dominated. Either team could have won,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau remarked after the game.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Ducks and Kings look fairly even tonight as well.

WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)

U.S. adds Bruins’ McAvoy, Blackhawks’ Trevor van Riemsdyk for Worlds

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After a whirlwind of an NHL debut suiting up for the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, defenseman Charlie McAvoy is staying busy this summer.

McAvoy and Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Trevor van Riemsdyk are the latest additions to the U.S. roster for the upcoming World Championship.

This comes a day after a tough day for USA Hockey, as both Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews were ruled out from the competition.

Neither of these young defensemen can match that star power, but tournaments like these can be interesting showcases, particularly for McAvoy (who’s already shown great promise at just 19).

The Bruins threw McAvoy right into the deep end against the Senators; only Zdeno Chara‘s average time on ice of 28:46 exceeded McAvoy’s 26:12.

It’s understandable that Matthews and others may opt for rest, particularly after a season made more hectic thanks to the World Cup. In McAvoy’s case, the Worlds represent another chance for him to get his feet wet against NHL-level competition.

MORE:McAvoy shines in debut.

Agent says Kucherov blasted Bolts out of frustration from missing playoffs

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Quite the situation developing in Tampa Bay.

Earlier today, the translation of Nikita Kucherov‘s interview with Sovietsky Sport hit social media and caught a number of people by surprise. In it, Kucherov said some of his Lightning teammates “got their money and stopped working” this season, then complained about a lack of consistent linemates.

And that’s not all. (See below).

When reached for comment, Kucherov’s agent — Dan Milstein — didn’t deny the remarks were made. Instead, Milstein told the Tampa Bay Times they came out of frustration after Kucherov and the Bolts failed to make the playoffs.

More:

Here’s the full text of Kucherov’s remarks to Sovietsky Sport (translation courtesy the Times):

“Some guys overstayed in team. They’ve got their money and stopped working. They knew there’s no competition for their positions and the organization is not going to take someone else. They played not really well this year. You can see it in their stats and way of play. When we played together and I made a pass, they even were not expecting this. That’s why this season was hard for me despite good stats.

“We had great chemistry with [Vladislav] Namestnikov and [Steve] Stamkos at the start of the season. We understood each other really really well. And then Stamkos was injured, I was very upset. I think those nine games were my best in the NHL. After that coaches started shuffling lines. Partners were changing like in a kaleidoscope. It was very hard to get used to it, because guys didn’t play at Stamkos level. It’s hard to explain how I played with them. We had a lack of understanding of each other and there were some problems. I was suffering torments all season, because I couldn’t find perfect chemistry with other partners after Stamkos injury. We played with Jonathan Drouin once, and it was good. But coach didn’t put us together again for some reason.”

It’s unclear who Kucherov is referring to in the opening graph. He had numerous linemates this year, as mentioned in the second graph. As for the money angle, the most recent Tampa Bay forwards to get lucrative paydays were Alex Killorn (seven years, $31.5 million) and Stamkos (eight years, $68 million), both of whom were signed last summer.

Kucherov, as mentioned above, signed a three-year bridge deal at $4.766 million annually in October, then went out and provided the Bolts with terrific value. He emerged as a Hart Trophy candidate down the stretch, finishing the year with 40 goals (second only to Sidney Crosby) and 85 points (fifth-most in the NHL).

But while Kucherov had a great individual effort, the same couldn’t be said for the Bolts. Injuries and inconsistency derailed what was supposed to be a promising campaign, given the club advanced to the Cup Final two years ago, and the Eastern Conference Final last season.

If there is a bright side to any of this, it’s that Milstein told the Times Kucherov wants to remain in Tampa Bay long term.

Related: Yzerman won’t blame injuries for Bolts’ playoff miss

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday, April 26

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

After disposing of the Calgary Flames in the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will look to take down another team from Alberta, while two red-hot goalies, Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne, go head-to-head.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)