St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Six

Five options for Ryan Miller, now that St. Louis isn’t one

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Since we can cross the St. Louis Blues off Ryan Miller’s list, here are some other teams with which the 33-year-old goalie could sign as an unrestricted free agent this summer:

— Anaheim Ducks. Probably the favorite option. It’s been widely speculated that Miller wants to play in California in order to be closer to his actress wife, Noureen DeWulf. It’s also thought Miller is open to signing a shorter-term contract, which could allow John Gibson, 20, more time to develop before he becomes a full-time starter in the NHL. Anaheim could also fetch an asset by trading Frederik Andersen, if it does decide to bid adieu to Jonas Hiller and bring in another veteran stopper.

— San Jose Sharks. The next closest NHL market to Hollywood. And the way the playoffs went for Antti Niemi (.884 save percentage, didn’t even start Game 6 versus the Kings), nobody would be shocked if general manager Doug Wilson made a change in goal. Niemi, 30, is only signed through next season.

— Vancouver Canucks. The closest thing to Hollywood that Canada can offer. (We’re probably giving too much credence to this angle, but whatever, it still works.) At the moment, the Canucks have Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom penciled in as starter and back-up. But is the former really ready to take on that role? And couldn’t the latter use a season in the AHL to rediscover the form that once made him a blue-chip prospect? It all probably depends on which direction the new general manager, whoever that may be, takes with the Canucks. If it’s more of a rebuild, signing Miller doesn’t make much sense, and he probably wouldn’t have any interest anyhow.

— Minnesota Wild. It’s not Hollywood and Niklas Backstrom is signed for two more seasons. But Backstrom’s play underwhelmed this season, and he’s also 36 years old with a growing injury log. Meanwhile, Josh Harding’s health is a big question mark, and Darcy Kuemper is still somewhat in the unproven stage. The Wild showed a lot of promise in these playoffs. They can’t afford to take a step back next season.

— Pittsburgh Penguins. Have to include this option, what with a new GM coming aboard shortly and ownership’s frustration with the past five postseasons. Marc-Andre Fleury was good but not great in these playoffs. He wasn’t the reason they lost, but he could’ve been better. Put it this way: given all that’s happened the past few days, what are the chances Fleury signs an extension with the Pens past next season? Seems kinda low, no?

Honorary mention: Washington Capitals.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.