Get your game notes: Kings at Blackhawks

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Los Angeles Kings at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— Fueled by three goals in a span of 6:56 in the first period of Game 4, the Kings jumped out to a 4-0 lead and held on to to win Game 4, 5-2. Now one win away from reaching their second Stanley Cup Final in the last three years, the Kings lead a best-of-seven series three-games-to-one for the fifth time in franchise history. They have won all of the previous four series, three of which came in 2012 en route to the team capturing its first Stanley Cup. In those four series, Los Angeles was 2-2 in Game 5 and 2-0 in Game 6. Chicago is facing a three-games-to-one deficit in a best-of-seven series for the 13th time in franchise history. The Blackhawks have won just one of the previous 12 series, but their lone win came in their most recent such series: the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Detroit.

— Since the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings have won eight of 13 games in which they’ve had a chance to clinch a series, including both such games this postseason. Since the start of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chicago is 7-3 when facing elimination, but has not been in that situation since Games 5, 6 and 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Detroit.

— Through the first 13 games of the postseason, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford posted a 9-4 record, with a 1.90 GAA and .933 save%. But in the last three games, Crawford has lost all three games, with a 4.46 GAA and .841 save%. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick lost his first three games of the postseason, with a 5.78 GAA and .852 save%, but has rebounded in his last 15 games, winning 11 contests, with a 2.08 GAA and .927 save%.

— The Kings converted two of their three power play opportunities in Game 4 and are now 5-for-12 in the series (41.7%). They rank third in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and first among remaining clubs, with a 26.7% overall PP conversion rate (16-for-60). The Kings have allowed two power play goals in their last five games, both to the Blackhawks in Game 1 and 2, but were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill in Game 3 and 3-for-3 in Game 4. After going 44-for-48 (91.7%) on the PK in their first 13 games this postseason, the Blackhawks have yielded five PPG in 10 times shorthanded (50.0%) over their last three outings.

— The Blackhawks tinkered with their lines somewhat in Game 4, moving Patrick Kane, who has three points (one goal) in his last nine games, to the top line alongside Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell. The trio played together on 18 shifts (Toews had 26 total shifts, Kane had 26 and Bickell had 23), combining for a goal, two assists, and five shots. Afterwards, head coach Joel Quenneville said, ―I thought they were good. They were alright. They generated enough. They were fine.‖

— The Kings have the top four active scorers in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Anze Kopitar (5-17—22), Jeff Carter (8-12—20), Marian Gaborik (10-6—16) and Justin Williams (6-9—15) – Williams is tied for fourth with Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf. Kopitar has registered at least one point in 15 of the team’s 18 playoff games and has been held without a point in consecutive games only once since December 21, a span of 64 regular season and playoff games. Only Wayne Gretzky (15-25—40 in 24 GP in 1993) and Tomas Sandstrom (8-17—25 in 24 GP in 1993) have collected more points in a single postseason in Kings history (two others tied with 22). Elias Sports Bureau

— The Kings’ second line of Tanner Pearson, Carter and Tyler Toffoli are each riding five-game point streaks, combining for 22 points and a +16 rating in that span (Pearson: 2-4—6, +6; Carter: 5-6—11, +6; Toffoli: 3-2—5, +4).

Two days after elimination, Montreal’s focus turns to Price extension

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On Saturday, Carey Price‘s season came to an abrupt end with a Game 6 loss to the Rangers.

On Monday, Price’s offseason got underway.

During his end-of-year media availability, Montreal’s prized netminder was faced with questions about his contract status, foreshadowing what Price will likely be dealing with until pen is put to paper.

Here’s an excerpt of part of the exchange, from Hockey 360:

Q: What are your expectations about your contract situation?

Price: I don’t have any worries about it. I’m sure it’ll all take care of itself.

Q: Would you be open to talk about an extension for July 1?

Price: Yeah, of course. I love playing here. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

Price, who turns 30 this August, is heading into the last of a six-year, $39 million deal with a $6.5M average annual cap hit. As mentioned, he’s eligible to sign an extension on the first of July, and there’s already been speculation as to what that deal would look like.

Armed with leverage at negotiating table — the 2015 Hart Trophy, nominated for the Vezina in two of the last three years — it’s feasible Price could command similar money to Henrik Lundqvist, currently the NHL’s highest-paid netminder (a seven-year, $59.5 million deal with an $8.5M cap hit).

But there are factors to consider.

The first, of course, is that Habs GM Marc Bergevin has other significant spending to do this summer. Alex Radulov, who finished second on the team in scoring during the regular season and led the Habs in the playoffs, is an unrestricted free agent. Per reports, he’s looking to cash in.

Alex Galchenyuk, the former 30-goal scorer and at one point the club’s No. 1 center of the future, is a pending RFA. That negotiation alone will be fascinating.

Price was asked about his negotiations, and how they might reflect the club’s need to be cost-effective in order to remain competitive. He dodged it artfully — “that’s a tough question to be asking me right now,” he said — but later acknowledged he understood the business side of things, and that the club is currently in its Stanley Cup window.

“I want to stay here,” he explained. “[I want to] figure out a way to make all the pieces fit, and bring a championship here.”

Five impressive stats from the first round

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.976Pekka Rinne‘s save percentage in four games against Chicago, all of them victories, two of them shutouts. Rinne only allowed three goals on 126 shots by the Blackhawks, who had all sorts of trouble generating quality scoring chances against the tight-checking Predators. Though Rinne may not have had the toughest saves to make, he kept the mistakes to a minimum, and he was a big reason for the sweep.

11 — Points for Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, who had two goals and nine assists in five games against Columbus. Malkin is now just seven points shy of the 18 he registered in last year’s playoffs, and that took 23 games. His career high in the postseason is 36 points, which earned him the 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy.

29.4% — Washington’s power play in six games against the Maple Leafs. That’s not the highest success rate in these playoffs — Calgary’s was 37.5 percent, Pittsburgh’s 33.3 percent — but in a series that saw five games go to overtime, the Caps could’ve easily been eliminated if they hadn’t converted five times with the man advantage. Alex Ovechkin scored twice on the PP, while T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, and John Carlson got the other three.

9 — Different goal-scorers for the Edmonton Oilers, who showed they can be more than just Connor McDavid in defeating the Sharks in six. True, McDavid led the Oilers with four points (2G, 2A). But it was bottom-six winger Zack Kassian who played the hero early on, with back-to-back winning goals in Games 2 and 3. Then David Desharnais notched the winner in Game 5, followed by Anton Slepyshev in Game 6.

5 — Points for Ducks rookie defenseman Shea Theodore (2G, 3A) in four games against the Flames. Only Erik Karlsson has more points (6) among d-men in these playoffs, and Karlsson played six games against the Bruins. Theodore downplayed his postseason production, telling reporters, “You get good bounces every once in a while.” But the 21-year-old put up piles of points in junior, and he did the same in the AHL. So really, we shouldn’t be all that surprised that he’s doing it in the NHL now.

Wild owner confirms Fletcher safe as GM

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After a disappointing first-round playoff exit, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold has given GM Chuck Fletcher a vote of confidence.

Per the Star-Tribune, Leipold confirmed on Sunday that Fletcher’s job was safe, potentially to quiet speculation about the longtime GM’s job security in the wake of a disappointing finish.

But Leipold’s vote of confidence also provides an interesting backdrop for when Fletcher meets with the media this week.

There’s no denying that, after a 49-win and 106-point campaign, crashing out in five games to St. Louis — and former head coach Mike Yeo — is unacceptable. But how Fletcher positions this will be telling. There’s a chance he could pin the Wild’s lack of success on the tremendous goaltending of Jake Allen, much like head coach Bruce Boudreau did. He could also argue Minnesota was, by nearly every metric, the better of the two teams over the course of the series, and chalk up the loss to a lack of puck luck.

But that won’t be easy.

This marks Minnesota’s second consecutive first-round exit, having been bounced in six games by Dallas last year. And it comes after Fletcher went big at the trade deadline, acquiring Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from Arizona in exchange for a bevy of draft picks.

“We’re just putting our chips in the middle of the table for this year,” Fletcher said at the time, per NHL.com. “We like our group and we think our players deserve the best chance possible to compete [and want to] see what we can do. Again, nothing’s promised and we know it will be tough, but I think our thought is we may as well take a swing and see how far we can go.”

More: Fletcher went all-in at the deadline, and now… this

At this stage, the GM has some serious questions to ask of his team. How much longer can things revolve around the aging core of captain Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter? All have been quality players during their time with the Wild, but two facts cannot be ignored: 1) Koivu just turned 34, while Parise and Suter turn 33 later this year, and 2) the trio has never made it past the second playoff round.

Interestingly, Leipold has suggested the current group might not be championship caliber. “I don’t know, they could surprise me,” he said in January. “But I don’t think we’ve got that type of team. We haven’t built it yet.”

And to be fair, the Wild do have building blocks in place for the future.

Four of Fletcher’s draftees starred on the international stage at the 2017 World Juniors — Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson-Ek, Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin — and it has to be exciting that a pair of young skaters, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, took significant leaps forward this season.

Granlund, 25, led the team in scoring with 69 points and emerged as one of the club’s most important players. Niederreiter, 24, posted career highs in points (57) and goals (25), suggesting he’s also ready to embrace a bigger role with more responsibility.

And to that end, Fletcher has huge decisions to make on both players, who are pending RFAs. The Wild don’t have a ton of financial flexibility, and it’s fair to suggest Granlund (who made $3M last season) and Niederreiter ($2.66M) will both need significant raises.

There’s a lot of work for Fletcher to do this summer.

But at least he’ll get a chance to do it.

Pending free agents, Radulov and Zaitsev won’t play for Russia at Worlds

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Montreal’s Alexander Radulov and Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev will not play for Russia at the upcoming World Championship, even though the Canadiens and Maple Leafs have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Both Radulov and Zaitsev are pending free agents, and it would be a risk to play ahead of contract negotiations.

Zaitsev just recovered from an upper-body injury, possibly a concussion. It may, in fact, have been the Leafs who refused to let him go.

Radulov, 30, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Zaitsev, 25, will be of the restricted variety, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension first. 

Read more: Radulov denies he wants eight-year extension

They aren’t the only players skipping the Worlds due to their contract situations. Chicago’s Richard Panik and Vancouver’s Bo Horvat will not be taking the risk either.