Los Angeles Kings left wing Dwight King (74) and right wing Justin Williams (14) battle for the puck against Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy (8) during the first period in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

PHT Morning Skate: Blackhawks, Kings ready for historic Game 7

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Game 7: Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks [Series is tied at 3-3] (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The last series against the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks was a bit anticlimactic with Chicago taking out the then defending Stanley Cup champions in five games. When the Blackhawks claimed Game 1 of this series, it marked their eighth win over the Kings in nine meetings.

These are two of the best franchises in recent history, but it was so one-sided that it was hard to even call them rivals.

“A rivalry only exists when the other team wins,” Kings forward Justin Williams said following Game 1. “We haven’t beat them yet. We have that set for us and we need to rise to the challenge.”

Williams found the back of the net late in the second period of Game 2, starting a run of six unanswered Kings goals to even the series. Less than two weeks later, there’s no question that these teams are true rivals.

“I think this series deserves a Game 7,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said, per the Chicago Tribune. “I think that the crowd deserves it too. I think it’s going to be a great finish to a great series. Hopefully we’ll be the winner.”

It will be worth keeping an eye on Williams tonight. He already has six goals and 12 points in six career Game 7s. That’s one shy of the points record held by Doug Gilmour and a goal short of the Glenn Anderson’s Game 7 record, per NHL.com. The Kings can also lean on one of the best Game 7 coaches in the history of the league.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter is tied for the most career Game 7 victories (six in nine attempts) with legendary bench bosses Pat Burns and Scotty Bowman. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has plenty of success to draw on too. In fact, he has an opportunity tonight to become the fourth coach in history to record his 100th postseason victory.

Los Angeles would also become the first team to advance to the Stanley Cup Final after playing in the full 21 games through three rounds.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks are trying to become the first team to ever overcome 3-1 series deficits in back-to-back campaigns after pulling it off against the Detroit Red Wings last year. They’ll be led by Patrick Kane, who has pushed Chicago this far by scoring two goals and seven points in his last two contests. His counterpart, Jonathan Toews, is on a four-game point streak.

But most importantly, the winner tonight will go to face the New York Rangers with an opportunity to claim the Stanley Cup for either the third time in five years (Chicago) or second time in three campaigns (Los Angeles).

Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M

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Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.

Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.

Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.

But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.

Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon

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There’s just one piece of business left for Minnesota this summer — a new contract for RFA defenseman Matt Dumba.

And it sounds like that piece of business will soon be attended to.

From the Star-Tribune:

There have been ongoing talks between Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr and [Dumba’s] agent Craig Oster.

The two are expected to meet face to face in Calgary at the Hockey Canada camp.

Dumba, the former No. 7 overall pick, just wrapped his entry-level deal, coming off a campaign in which he set career highs in games played (81), goals (10) and points (26).

He also notched a pair of assists in the Wild’s six-game loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

Dumba, 22, did see his name surface in trade talks this season. There was a report in late January that he was the return piece in a potential swap for Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, and he’s been tied to teams looking for a blueline upgrade.

A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).

Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.

There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).

The Wild are in control of the Dumba situation and can slow play negotiations, possibly while re-exploring trade scenarios. Don’t forget the Bruins are still in search of the “transitional” defenseman they desperately want.

But should things go the expected way and Dumba re-signs in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune said a bridge deal is the “likeliest” outcome.

Journeyman enforcer Rosehill signs with Scottish team

Paul Bissonnette, Jay Rosehill
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Noted pugilist Jay Rosehill has followed in the footsteps of his fellow tough guys, and will try his hand overseas.

Specifically, in the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, the EIHL’s Scottish-based outfit in Braehead — the Clan — announced it had signed Rosehill for the upcoming campaign. The move comes after the 31-year-old spent each of the last two seasons with Philly’s AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.

Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.

Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:

As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.

 

 

Veteran d-man Foster retires, moves into coaching

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Kurtis Foster #26 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during their NHL game against the New York Islanders on December 13, 2005 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  The Wild defeated the Islanders 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Kurtis Foster, who appeared in over 400 games during a 10-year NHL career, is hanging up his skates to enter the next phase of his hockey life — coaching.

Foster, 34, has rejoined his former junior team in OHL Peterborough as an assistant coach, per the Examiner. The decision comes after Foster spent the last three years playing overseas in the KHL and, most recently, in the German League.

The 40th overall pick in 2000, Foster is often remembered for a horrific leg break while playing for Minnesota during the 2007-08 campaign, in which his femur was shattered by Torrey Mitchell after Mitchell tried to prevent an icing call.

The severity of the collision and Foster’s injury — he underwent emergency surgery, nearly bled out and almost lost his leg — prompted an immediate rule tweak from the NHL, and has since been viewed as a catalyst for the league’s adoption of no-touch icing.

Impressively, Foster recovered from the broken femur to post a career-high 42 points in 74 games with the Lightning in ’09-10.

In addition to the Wild and Bolts, Foster spent time with the Thrashers, Oilers, Ducks, Devils and Flyers.