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)

Florida Panthers aren’t afraid to change, but will they actually improve?

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Change is often a necessary thing in sports, and the results can be swift and brutal. There’s a fine line between rolling with the punches and blindly swinging, however.

The Florida Panthers’ history as a franchise makes you wonder if they’ll ever find the right balance between stability and innovation. Amid all these years of flip-flopping and regime tweaks, there may only be one unsettling constant: the on-ice product being middling-to-terrible.

Just look at the way they burn through coaches.

Six of their 14 head coaches were behind the bench for fewer than 82 games, including Tom Rowe, who was seemingly thrown out with the analytical approach last season.

Their GMs haven’t fared much better. Dale Tallon’s probably received the longest leash of them all, and this past year or so made a mess of that situation. And it’s arguable that things have only degraded as Tallon aims to clean up supposed “messes.”

The Panthers didn’t just lose cheap 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas; they also shipped Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights. Smith was a golden boy of sorts to the more stats-leaning members of the franchise, and while he struggled last season, it sure seemed like the Panthers were eager to get rid of him.

The same could be said about Jason Demers.

MORE: Welcome Demers to the trade rumor mill

As abrupt as the Gerard Gallant firing felt, the Panthers didn’t necessarily give the analytical approach much time. At least from an “optics” standpoint.

Now, parting ways with Marchessault, Smith, and possibly Demers may end up being reasonable in hindsight. Still, there’s no denying that Tallon made some mistakes in his stead; the “computer boys” didn’t sign an atrocious Dave Bolland contract and didn’t pick Erik Gudbranson over superior talent.

The bottom line is that the Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since John Vanbiesbrouck led them to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. There’s legitimate concern that this franchise will keep making the same mistakes – and keep changing the cooks in the kitchen – while the results leave much to be desired.

Will Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau share the same frustrating path as Jay Bouwmeester and others before them?

This summer could serve as a serious fork in the road, as Tallon has some building blocks in place and an estimated $20 million in cap space. Even if the Panthers remain a budget team, they’re likely to have some room to work with.

Perhaps they’ll finally make the right changes?

Related

Panthers look to be aggressive in adding scoring

Devils will give top pick Hischier a chance to make team right away

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There’s at least some question regarding whether Nico Hischier is ready to jump straight from being the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft to becoming an immediate part of the New Jersey Devils’ roster.

If he went back to junior, it would break a lengthy trend of No. 1 choices going to the big time right away.

Devils GM Ray Shero seems pretty optimistic that he can handle that jump, though, as you can see from this presser via MSG:

MORE: Devils pick Hischier over Patrick

As one would expect, Shero said that the Devils won’t rush him if it’s “apparent” that the Swiss-born forward isn’t ready. Still, Shero seems convinced that Hischier has the size, skill, and smarts to earn a spot.

Much like Nolan Patrick with the Philadelphia Flyers, Hischier didn’t deny that he wants to make the big time right off the bat.

“Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s my goal, so it is important for sure,” Hischier said on draft night. “I really want to achieve my goal, but I still know I have to prove a lot of things to play there.”

Hey, maybe Taylor Hall could even ease his adjustment?

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.

Hjalmarsson shocked by Blackhawks trade, but Coyotes could improve soon

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Who could blame Niklas Hjalmarsson for being surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks traded him? The move blindsided … well, just about everyone outside of the Blackhawks organization, after all.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought,” Hjalmarsson said, according to the Arizona Republic. “At the same time, I’m trying to always be a positive guy.”

Indeed, the 30-year-old defenseman did his best to say all the right things about the Arizona Coyotes, praising a roster that includes “a lot of young and promising players.”

MORE on the trade here

Described by some as the NHL’s best pure defensive defenseman, Hjalmarsson also gives the Coyotes good reason to be excited by a blueline that’s suddenly quite competitive. Consider the quartet that GM John Chayka helped assemble:

Hjalmarsson: An often-underrated part of the Blackhawks’ run. Consider some of the praise he received even before this move was made.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson: One of the league’s best-kept secrets, “OEL” ranks as one of the most dangerous scoring defensemen. At 25, he’s still deep in his prime.

Alex Goligoski: When you consider the Dallas Stars’ lost 2016-17 season, don’t dismiss the absence of “Gogo.” He might not be perfect, but the 31-year-old is the sort of puck-mover you need to excel in the modern game.

Jakob Chychrun: At 19, he’s already getting reps at the NHL level. The Coyotes could pair him with a veteran and watch him grow.

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When you look at those four, in particular, it’s easier to see Hjalmarsson’s excitement as more than just lip service. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes also added Derek Stepan, another sign that this franchise is taking the next step after absorbing other franchises’ problem contracts in the likes of Dave Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk’s last year.

Granted, it will still be an adjustment, as the Coyotes are likely aiming for “respectable” while anything less that a deep run was unacceptable for the Blackhawks.

Still, Hjalmarsson has plenty of power to make this move more palatable than it may have initially seemed.

And, hey, who would blame him for circling Oct. 21 on his calendar?