PHT Morning Skate: Rangers fight to keep campaign alive

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For the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks, a loss last night would have put them on the brink of elimination. Both teams managed to prevent that with one-goal victories over the Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings respectively.

Teemu Selanne, 43, came up big for the Ducks with a power-play goal late in the second period while Matt Fraser, two decades Selanne’s junior, was the hero in Boston. Fraser netted the overtime winner in an otherwise scoreless contest.

Boston is now tied with the Canadiens at 2-2 while Anaheim remains a game behind the Kings. Neither of those series will end until Monday at the earliest, but the first member of the Conference Finals might be established tonight.

Game 5: New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [Pittsburgh leads series 3-1] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Rangers took Game 1 of this series and since then, almost nothing has worked out for them. They were shutout in two straight contests and weren’t able to manage a sustained effort in their 4-2 loss to the Penguins on Wednesday.

New York isn’t lacking in top-end talent, but for the most part the team’s best guys haven’t been able to step up. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, in coach Alain Vigenault’s words, “obviously … hasn’t played very well.”

He has just one point in the 2014 playoffs while Rick Nash is still searching for his first goal. Rangers fans let their frustration out on the 29-year-old forward by booing him during Game 4.

“We may not look it, but we’re trying our guts off here,” Vigneault insisted.

Perhaps fatigue has gotten the better to them. They only recently completed a stretch of five games in seven days. It’s moot now though. One more loss and they’ll get all the rest they need – and they certainly won’t want the breather then.

Game 4: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild [Chicago leads series 2-1] (9:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Blackhawks cruised to victory in the first two games of this series to extend their winning streak to six games. Despite Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville warning that the Wild couldn’t be taken lightly, it looked like Chicago would cruise to the Western Conference Final.

Then Minnesota scored four unanswered goals in the third period of Tuesday’s contest to make this a series again. Chicago forward Patrick Kane suggested that his team might have gotten overconfident and that loss served as a “wake up call.” The Wild will try to prove it was more than that tonight.

As has been the case for Minnesota all season though, it won’t be that simple. The Wild are expected to once again adjust to a major injury as forward Matt Moulson is doubtful with a lower-body injury. Matt Cooke is eligible to return after serving his seven-game suspension and will almost certainly be in the lineup if Moulson can’t play.

Minnesota was 26-10-5 at home in the regular season and hasn’t lost a game at the Xcel Energy Center in the 2014 postseason. If the Wild can maintain their dominance at home, then they still have a shot in this series.

Oilers re-sign Pakarinen for one year

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The Edmonton Oilers have given winger Iiro Pakarinen a one-year contract extension.

From the release:

Pakarinen just finished his third season with the Oilers organization, appearing in 14 regular season games in 2016-17, posting four points (2 goals, 2 assists).  The 25 year old forward missed 53 games due to an injury suffered during the pre-season. He appeared in one playoff game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Oilers brought Pakarinen over from Finland in 2014. Since then, he’s split his North American career between the AHL and NHL while drawing praise for his versatility and hard-nosed style.

Per CapFriendly, Pakarinen’s cap hit will be $750,000 in 2017-18. It’s a one-way deal.

Market heating up for prized Czech d-man Rutta

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Coming off an impressive performance for the Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, Jan Rutta is now being courted by a number of NHL clubs.

Per The Athletic, the Blackhawks are in contention for securing Rutta’s services. That comes on the heels of earlier reports from TSN’s Darren Dreger, who said there are “multiple” offers for the 26-year-old, including ones from Edmonton and Calgary.

“He’s a steady defenseman with size, and he had a strong finish of the season,” an NHL scout told The Athletic. “He was very good in the playoffs and played his best at the Worlds.”

Rutta, who was never drafted by an NHL club, has spent his professional career with Czech League outfit Pirati Chomutov. He’s blossomed into a talented offensive defenseman — finishing second among Czech League d-men with 32 points in 46 games this year — and, as mentioned above, has good size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds.

Last week, Rutta’s agent — longtime Octagon Hockey representative Allan Walsh — tweeted that his client would make a decision on NHL offers soon.

 

Sharks keep stockpiling European free agents, land Sandberg

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Doug Wilson is at it again.

On Thursday, the Sharks GM confirmed yesterday’s news — the signing of Czech d-man Radim Simek — and announced that Swedish forward Filip Sandberg had agreed to a two-year deal.

“Filip is a very creative player who sees the ice well and can create offense in limited space,” Wilson said in a release. “He plays a high-pressure, puck-pursuit game and his battle level is something we have been impressed with, especially against older players.

“We are excited for him to join our organization.”

Sandberg, 22, is fresh off a Swedish League title with HV71. The club announced Sandberg would be headed overseas last week, but didn’t divulge what team had signed him.

It wasn’t surprising NHL clubs had interest. Sandberg had a good offensive campaign in Sweden, scoring 25 points in 52 regular season games, then broke out for six goals and 14 points in 16 playoff contests.

Prior to this year, Sandberg twice represented Sweden at the World Juniors, including the 2013 tournament where the country won silver. He finished with two goals in six games playing alongside the likes of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

As for Simek, he inked a one-year deal.

“Radim is a quick transition defenseman who drives the play offensively and plays with a physical edge,” said Wilson. “We like his offensive instincts especially on special teams and think his game will translate well in North America.”

Simek just finished representing his native Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, where he had two points in eight games.

According to a report from Radio Praha, the Sharks beat out the Rangers to acquire Simek. Passed over in his draft year, the 24-year-old has spent his entire pro career with Liberec Bili Tygri.

As mentioned above, Wilson has done well finding European skaters in their early-to-mid-20s, ones that can contribute right away at the NHL level: Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, most specifically.

The hope now is that Simek and Sandberg will continue that trend.

Avs dismiss three from coaching staff, but Bednar remains

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Colorado GM Joe Sakic said there would be turnover this offseason, but that head coach Jared Bednar was safe.

On Tuesday, Sakic followed through.

The Avs have parted ways with two of Bednar’s assistants — Tim Army and Dave Farrish — and also relieved goalie coach Francois Allaire of his duties.

Army, 54, has been with the club for the last six years, having previously served as the head coach at Providence. He served under three different head coaches in Colorado — Bednar, Patrick Roy and Joe Sacco — and was largely tasked with running the team’s power play (which finished 30th in the NHL this year).

Farrish, 60, just wrapped his second year on the job with the Avs after coming over from Toronto. A veteran of nearly 30 years in coaching, Farrish was brought aboard by Roy, and brought “a wealth of experience and hockey knowledge to our organization.” A journeyman blueliner who playecd 430 games at the NHL level, Farrish ran the club’s defense last season.

Allaire, 57, has been coaching goalies at the NHL level for over 25 years, with previous stops in Montreal, Anaheim and Toronto. His ties to Roy ran deep — he mentored the former Avs coach with the Canadiens, and the pair won two Stanley Cups together (in 1986 and ’93). Allaire has been with the Avs for the last four years, on the heels of an acrimonious departure from Toronto.

Today’s shakeup is a significant one, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Bednar was essentially forced into retaining all of Roy’s staff following the latter’s shock resignation last August, and probably wants to bring in some of his own guys.

Sakic, meanwhile, had to make some sort of changes after the worst regular season in franchise history — and today’s could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Related: Avs president gives Sakic vote of confidence