Get your game notes: Rangers at Kings

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Tonight on NBC, it’s the Los Angeles Kings hosting the New York Rangers at 8 p.m. ET in the first game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• The Kings needed an NHL-record 21 games to reach the Stanley Cup Final, while the Rangers needed 20. The NHL record for games played in an entire postseason is 26 games, done by two teams, the Flyers in 1987 and Flames (coached by current Kings coach Darryl Sutter) in 2004. Both of those teams lost in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final, Philadelphia to Edmonton (coached by current Rangers GM Glen Sather) and Calgary to Tampa Bay (led by current Rangers Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards.)

• The Kings will have home-ice advantage for the first time in franchise history in the Stanley Cup Final (three series), and just the second time overall since the beginning of the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs (22 series). The only other time Los Angeles started a series at home during that span was in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals vs. San Jose, a series the Kings won in seven games.

• The Stanley Cup Final will feature two of the top goaltenders in the NHL: Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. In the last three postseasons (since 2012), Quick leads the NHL in playoff games played (59), wins (37) and shutouts (7), while posting a 2.05 GAA and .928 save%. During that span, Lundqvist is second in playoff games played (52) and shutouts (6), and third in wins (27), with a 1.98 GAA and .931 save%.

• In Game 1, Lundqvist will be making his 87th straight playoff start between the pipes. He has started every game for the Rangers since Game 3 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series vs. New Jersey. Lundqvist, who set the franchise record for career playoff wins (42) in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, ranks third all-time for most consecutive playoff starts by a goalie for one team. Elias Sports Bureau

Consecutive goalie starts, with one team (playoffs, before Game 1)

194 (active) – Martin Brodeur (NJ)
133 – Patrick Roy (COL)
86 (active) – Lundqvist (NYR)
79 – Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)
78 – Jacques Plante (MTL)

• The Rangers and Kings have the same number of goals from their top four centers this postseason, but the Kings have a substantial edge in points and faceoff percentage.

source:

• St. Louis (6-7—13), Stepan (5-8—13) and Ryan McDonagh (3-10—13) lead the Rangers in scoring this postseason. Five different Kings players have 16 or more points: Kopitar (5-19—24, leads playoffs), Carter (9-13—22), Marian Gaborik (12-7—19), Justin Williams (7-11—18) and Drew Doughty (4-12—16). During the Conference Finals, Carter (5-6-11) and McDonagh (2-8—10) led all players in points.

• The Rangers are 34/36 (94.4%) on the penalty kill in their last 11 games (five vs. Pittsburgh, six vs. Montreal). They will face a stiff challenge from a Kings team that has at least one power-play goal in seven of nine home games this postseason and is 9/30 (30.0%) overall on home ice.

• Since the Stanley Cup Final went to a best-of-7 format in 1939, Game 1 winners have won 57 of 74 series (77.0%). In their most recent Cup Final appearances, the Rangers (1994) lost Game 1 at home to Vancouver (3-2, OT), while the Kings (2012) won Game 1 away to New Jersey (2-1, OT); both teams later won those series. In the last five Cup Finals, the winner of Game 1 has lost two of those series: the Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh in 2009 and the Vancouver Canucks (coached by current Rangers coach Alain Vigneault) vs. Boston in 2011. This postseason, the Rangers are 3-0 in Game 1s, while the Kings are 1-2.

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”