No, this is not a repeat, but it is a case of seeing the same two teams facing off in the Western Conference Final.
For the second year in a row, the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings face off against each other for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final. Unlike last season, both teams come into the series at full health which means we might be treated to a tremendous series.
Just like last season, Chicago has home ice advantage and while playing on the road has never seemed to bother the Kings, having to deal with the raucous crowd at United Center more often than not doesn’t sound like a recipe for fun.
Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings (3:00 p.m. ET — NBC)
You know what you’re going to get when these teams square off, but there’s something a little different about L.A. this time around.
Yes, they still play the same stifling brand of hockey coach Darryl Sutter loves, but the Kings’ offense has been in high gear in the postseason. Anze Kopitar is the leading scorer in the postseason with 19 points. Marian Gaborik is the leading goal scorer with nine. Justin Williams’ 11 points equals him with the Blackhawks’ top offensive performers (Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook).
A Kings team that can defend tightly and score should sound terrifying, but for Chicago they’ve been getting tremendous goaltending from Corey Crawford.
Crawford leads all goalies in the playoffs in save percentage (.931) and goals-against average (1.97). When you’re topping the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, and Tuukka Rask you’re doing something very right. It’s always said that great goaltending wins championships and the ‘Hawks have to hope Crawford can shut down the, as of now, high-flying Kings offense.
With the World Cup of Hockey approaching, Ben Bishop seems optimistic he’ll be ready to participate in the Team USA training camp prior to the event.
Bishop, the Tampa Bay Lightning goalie, was injured on a seemingly innocent play and had to be stretchered off the ice in the first period of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
There had been talk that he could perhaps return to game action, but in the end, he didn’t play another game in the series, as the Bolts were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.
“The leg is feeling better and it’s getting stronger every day,” Bishop told ESPN.
“I’m getting ready to start skating soon … and get back on the ice and doing that side of things. We have about a month until we go, so I’ll start off slow and pick it up in the next month and be ready for training camp for the World Cup.”
Good news for Team USA, which also called on Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider for their goaltending duties. The tournament begins Sept. 17.
In keeping with the optimistic mood about his status for the World Cup, Bishop last week revealed his new Team USA mask.
Related: Lightning lock up Vasilevskiy — what now for Bishop?
Surgery earlier this month to repair a core muscle has put Jamie Benn‘s status for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in question, however the Dallas Stars captain still aims to be ready to play for Team Canada.
It was announced on July 15 that the recovery timeline for this surgery was six weeks, which certainly makes it possible that Benn could be ready for the tournament, which begins Sept. 17.
“As of right now, yeah. I think this is a surgery that I’m able to come back a little quicker than double-hip surgery. That’s the main focus I’m training towards being able to make it for World Cup. We’ll just see what happens,” said Benn, as per Mark Stepneski of the Stars’ website on Saturday.
“Well, I think I’ll get on the ice later this week and just keep ramping it up a little more each time. I still think that’s a lot of time, enough time for me to be ready to jump into high-level hockey.”
Benn had 41 goals and 89 points last season with the Stars. He signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension on the same day his recent surgery was announced.
Benn’s teammate Tyler Seguin “should be ready for the World Cup,” said Stars GM Jim Nill earlier this month.
The Arizona Coyotes moved up the draft order to select defenseman Jakob Chychrun at 16th overall. And now, they have signed Chychrun to a three-year entry-level contract.
The Coyotes made the announcement on Saturday.
“We are very pleased to sign Jakob to an entry-level contract,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka in a statement. “Jakob is a highly-skilled player with an all-around game. He has a great work ethic and is very determined. We look forward to watching him continue to develop this season.”
When the 2015-16 season began, it was suggested Chychrun could potentially be a top-three pick in the draft in June. But he fell down the order, despite being the No. 4-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
He was the fifth defenseman taken in the draft.
Listed at six-foot-two-inches tall and 215 pounds, Chychrun brings size and strong skating ability to the blue line. He had 11 goals and 49 points last season with Sarnia in the Ontario Hockey League.
The Coyotes selected Chychrun after acquiring the remainder of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract from the Detroit Red Wings and moving up the order.
Chychrun’s fall — and what precipitated it in the first place — was discussed in great detail when the Coyotes held their development camp earlier this month.
“I think it was about being tense,” said Coyotes director of player development Steve Sullivan. “All the pressure of wanting to be second overall and maybe not having a great season; it snowballed the wrong way for him.
“Now he needs to understand he’s been drafted into the National Hockey League and we’re going to put him in a game plan to get him here as fast as we can. He can loosen up and play the way we think he can play. If that happens, there is no reason why he won’t be here sooner than later.”
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Don Henderson, the NHL linesman knocked to the ice by Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman, has undergone neck surgery to repair damage from the hit and there are fears his career may now be over, according to a report in the Boston Globe.
From Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe:
According to one of his friends in the officiating business, Henderson’s recent surgery was aimed at repairing two ruptured disks in his neck, the result of the hit. Felled in the second period, he dusted himself off and finished the game the night he was injured.
“I know a lot of people are saying stuff like, ‘Hey, Wideman’s not that type of guy . . . that’s not in his nature . . . he’s a good kid,’ ’’ said one of Henderson’s longtime pals in stripes. “And I say, ‘Yeah, so what?!’ That doesn’t make it any less egregious. He attacked him from behind, the puck was nowhere near the two of them, and now Henderson’s career may be finished. I don’t see much difference between what he did and Wayne Maki cracking his stick over Teddy Green’s head.’’
This is the latest development in a saga that has dominated headlines in the NHL since the incident occurred late in January.
Wideman apologized following the incident, saying the collision was ‘completely unintentional.’ The league later confirmed that Wideman had suffered a concussion from a hit just seconds before he checked Henderson to the ice near the bench.
He eventually received a 20-game suspension, but that was reduced to 10 games by a neutral arbitrator, although Wideman had already sat out 19 games when the decision was handed down following an appeal.
Report: NHL dismisses neutral arbitrator who reduced Wideman’s suspension
NHL sues NHLPA to reverse Wideman’s suspension reduction
NHL Officials’ Association ‘strongly disagrees’ with the decision to reduce Wideman’s suspension