Get your game notes: Rangers at Penguins

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the New York Rangers starting at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• The Penguins entered this series having won all four previous playoff series vs. the Rangers (1989, 1992, 1996, 2008). Tonight, the Pens (who have won 19 of 24 playoff games vs. NYR) could become only the second team in Stanley Cup playoffs history with at least five series wins vs. one team without a series loss. Only Edmonton, which won all six series vs. Winnipeg from 1983-90, has done that. The Oilers won 22 of 26 vs. the Jets during that span. (Elias Sports Bureau)

• In Game 4, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury saw his shutout streak end at 145:30 on a second-period goal by Carl Hagelin. His 13 saves and 15 shots faced were both tied for the second-fewest in any complete-game win in his 10-year NHL career, regular season or playoffs. (He stopped 12 of 14 shots vs. New Jersey on Mar. 17, 2012.) He improved to 7-2 vs. the Rangers in his postseason career, with a 1.75 GAA, .934 save% and three shutouts.

• Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will be making his 78th consecutive postseason start, and face a daunting task in coming back from a three-games-to-one deficit in this series. Game 5 will mark the 15th time that Lundqvist mans the net with his team facing playoff elimination. Although his overall numbers in elimination games (7-7, 2.05 GAA, .930 save percentage) have been solid, five of the seven losses have come on the road.

• Although the Rangers scored twice in Game 4, their power play came up empty again. New York is now 0-for-15 with the man advantage in the series and 0-for-36 since Benoit Pouliot scored in the first period of Game 2 in their first-round series vs. Philadelphia. After going 18.2% during the regular season (15th in the NHL), they are 3/44 (6.8%, worst in the playoffs) this postseason while registering 55 shots on goal. The Rangers have five players among the top eight in power-play ice time this postseason, led by Brad Richards.

• The Penguins have played 10 games this postseason without a regulation loss. All three losses – in Games 2 and 4 vs. Columbus and Game 1 vs. the Rangers – came in overtime. Since the Expansion Era (1968-present), only two teams have advanced past two postseason rounds without a regulation loss in a best-of-seven series: the 1969 Blues (8 wins, 0 losses) and 1972 Bruins (8 wins, 1 OT loss). (Elias Sports Bureau)

• Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen, who is tied for the playoffs lead in goals (six) and game-winning goals (three) extended his points streak to a career postseason high eight games (5-3–8) with his goal in Game 4. Only three other players in Stanley Cup playoffs history have recorded a point streak of eight or more games with exactly one point in each contest: Bryan Trottier and John Tonelli (both eight games) of the 1981 N.Y. Islanders and Eric Staal (nine) of the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes. Both of those teams won the Cup that season. (Elias Sports Bureau)

Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

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— Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

— Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

— The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

— Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

— Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

— Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

Enjoy the games!

PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”