Evgeni Malkin

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers fight to keep campaign alive


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.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.