Yes, this could be a ‘franchise-defining game’ for the Penguins

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“Dan, there’s been talk about this game being a franchise-defining game. Do you think about that at all?”

That was one of the questions Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma got this morning ahead of his Penguins’ Game 7 versus the New York Rangers.

Predictably, Bylsma said he doesn’t think about it — “Not really, no I don’t” — and that he’s not looking at a “bigger picture” than simply a game to advance to the conference finals.

And that may be true for him, since it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand, not the possible ramifications, which Bylsma can’t control anyway.

But make no mistake, this could be a franchise-defining game for the Penguins, because Game 7’s have a way of being exactly that.

Consider: What if the Bruins had lost Game 7 to the Canadiens in 2011. Instead of winning in overtime and going on to hoist their first Stanley Cup since 1972, it’s likely coach Claude Julien would’ve been fired. Remember, the B’s were only a year removed from choking on a 3-0 lead versus the Flyers.

And what if Washington had won Game 7 versus Montreal in 2010? Instead of a devastating first-round exit that made the Capitals rethink the run-and-gun style that made them the most exciting team in the NHL, maybe they’d have runned and gunned their way to a championship that year. We’ll never know, will we. But that was a good team. Not so much anymore.

Now imagine if the Maple Leafs hadn’t blown Game 7 versus the Bruins last year. And if the Canucks had won Game 7 versus the Bruins in 2011. Talk about franchise-defining games for Toronto and Vancouver, the latter of which is still dealing with the ramifications three years later.

Granted, it’s possible the Penguins win tonight and flame out in the conference finals, just like they did last year. In that case, tonight’s game will be a footnote.

But if they win and go on to the Cup Final?

Defining game.

Or a loss followed by the firing of Bylsma, which surely wouldn’t be the only big change?

Definitely a defining game.

“You’ve got to enjoy this moment,” said Bylsma. “This is what we all play for.

“You’ve got to get excited about it. It’s not just the overbearing, overriding sense that a bounce here, or a missed play here, or whatever, is going to decide this game. You’ve got to enjoy it, got to get ready for this. Again, this is what you all play for.

“You don’t remember Game 51. We’re going to all remember this Game 7.”

Paajarvi out, Barbashev in as Blues look for ‘physical element’

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After losing Game 1 — and with it, home ice advantage — of their series against Nashville, the Blues are making a lineup change for Friday’s Game 2.

Ivan Barbashev, who’s been a healthy scratch the last three games, will draw in, replacing Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi sits despite being a fairly productive player recently, notching a goal and three points in his last five games.

This, of course, includes the game-winning, series-clinching OT goal against Minnesota on Saturday:

“We like to give players a chance to respond and a chance to get back in there when they’re coming out of the lineup,” Blues head coach Mike Yeo said, per NHL.com. “We saw what that did for (Jori Lehtera). It’s in no way anything against Magnus. We’re very grateful and appreciative of what he’s done and what he can do for us, but ‘Barby’ has been a good player for us for a long time, too.

“Having him in the lineup, he’ll be energized and bring a physical element… When he gets the puck of the offensive zone, he has a chance to create something. We’ll see how he does tonight.”

The hope is that Barbashev can rediscover some of the form shown during the regular season. The Russian rookie made an impact, scoring five goals and 12 points in 30 games.

Sabres granted permission to speak with Futa

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Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Kings promoted Mike Futa to assistant general manager.

But Futa received that promotion before the Sabres cleaned house last week, and that timing is important to note.

Because it’s now being reported, via a Kings spokesman, that the Sabres have been granted permission to speak with Futa about their GM vacancy.

It’s no surprise that Buffalo has asked to interview Futa. He was a candidate for the Sabres’ GM job in 2013 — a job that eventually went to Tim Murray.

Futa was once thought to be heir apparent to Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles. But when Lombardi was fired, the Kings went with Rob Blake instead.

Some background on Futa, courtesy the Kings:

Futa most recently served as Kings Vice President, Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel. This upcoming season will be Futa’s 11th season with the Kings.

Futa recently concluded his 10th full season with the Kings, and third in his most recent position. He was named VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel in May of 2014 after serving as Director of Amateur Scouting, a position he assumed on June 5, 2007, when he originally joined the Kings.

Futa came to the Kings when he was appointed Co-Director of Amateur Scouting along with Mark Yannetti. Together, Futa and Yannetti rebuilt and retooled the entire Kings Amateur Scouting staff.

Related: Darryl Sutter wants to keep coaching

Habs sign Quebec League sniper Waked

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On Friday, Montreal agreed to a three-year, entry-level deal with QMHJL Rouyn-Noranda forward Antoine Waked.

Waked, 20, is coming off a strong season in which he racked up 80 points in 67 games. He finished tied for ninth in the league in goals, with 39, in what was something of a surprise. Previously, the Quebec native had never scored more than 15 goals in a campaign, suggesting Waked could be the prototypical late bloomer.

An undrafted free agent, Waked had been tied to the Habs earlier this season, with reports he’d receive an ELC at the end of his junior campaign.

With pressure on, Ken Holland is scouting more than ever

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The last time Detroit picked inside the top 10, the year was 1991. The selection was Martin Lapointe.

Suffice to say much has changed since then.

For a quarter century, the Red Wings didn’t need to put a ton of effort into the top end of the draft. They often picked in the mid-to-late 20s — if they were in the first round at all — and did most of their work in the late rounds.

Now, things have changed again.

Detroit finished 25th overall and has a 6.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall selection at the June draft in Chicago. If the Red Wings don’t land one of the top three selections, they will pick at No. 7, 8, 9 or 10.

And, accordingly, GM Ken Holland is prepping for all types of scenarios.

“It’s probably the most (Holland) has scouted since he’s been GM,” assistant GM Kris Draper said, per MLive. “I’ve done a lot of scouting this year. Being in Michigan, you’re in an ideal situation to see a lot of the top kids.

“It’s been a great opportunity to see a lot of high-end names in the draft.”

This is a hugely important draft for Holland. He’s come under fire in recent years for questionable free agent acquisitions — veterans like Stephen Weiss, Jordin Tootoo, Brad Richards, Carlo Colaiacovo — which, in turn, have tied into a larger criticism. The one in which Holland’s accused of torpedoing the club’s future by continually chasing the now-defunct playoff streak.

And that, in turns, ties into an even larger criticism.

That Holland won’t entertain the rebuild idea at all.

“We’re going to continue to try and be competitive, we’re going to continue to try and make the playoffs and our ultimate goal is to eventually be a Cup contender,” Holland said a few months ago. “To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding.”

Which brings us back to the draft.

The two days in Chicago will be profoundly important. Holland has an opportunity not just to get an impact player in the top-10, but also walk away with a large collection of talent.

In addition to their own selections, the Wings added three third-round picks by selling off Brendan Smith, Thomas Vanek, and Tomas Jurco at the deadline.

“Somebody told me it’s the most picks we’ve had in a draft since 2002,” said Holland. “Usually we go into these drafts with five or six picks, (because) we’ve traded picks away.”

The end goal? Stockpile options that can hopefully join a youth movement that includes Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Evgeny Svechnikov.

“These moves that we made for these draft picks will allow us to pick more players,” said Holland, “and hopefully some of them will end up as Red Wings down the road.”

Related: It’s going to be a very different draft for Detroit