‘The talent was always there’ in Florida, says Luongo

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The Panthers haven’t fared very well over the last two seasons — finishing 29th and 30th overall in consecutive years — but, according to veteran goalie Roberto Luongo, that lack of success wasn’t due to a lack of talent.

“I like it — the talent was always there,” Luongo said in previewing the upcoming campaign, per Vancouver’s Team 1040 radio. “We had a lot of good talent in the young kids, but we needed to surround them with some good veterans.”

Florida has been stockpiling talent for quite some time now, and should (theoretically) reap some of the rewards this season… even though all that talent is still remarkably young. Former Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau, 21, is entering his third professional campaign, while Finnish center Aleksander Barkov — who is still just 18 years old — will embark on his sophomore year.

Big things are expected from another 18-year-old, Aaron Ekblad, the first overall pick at this year’s draft and it’s also worth noting that Nick Bjugstad, last year’s leading scorer, just turned 22 last week.

But as Luongo mentioned, veterans were in big demand to help these kids along. That’s partly why Florida GM Dale Tallon went on a summer spending spree, dropping more than $53 million to bring in the likes of Dave Bolland, Shawn Thornton, Jussi Jokinen and Luongo’s former teammate in Vancouver, Willie Mitchell. In Bolland, Thornton and Mitchell the Panthers inherited five Stanley Cup championships; they also brought aboard a veteran NHL coach in Gerard Gallant with the aim of providing stability after going through two coaches (Kevin Dineen and Peter Horachek) last season.

“I’ve heard a lot of great things about our new coach,” Luongo explained. “I think for our team, honestly, it’s a matter of making sure everything comes together at the beginning of the season with the new coaching staff.

“If we can stay healthy, I think we’ll be in the mix.”

WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.

In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.

This tweet explains it in additional detail.

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)

Video: Austin Watson takes a shot at Vladimir Tarasenko

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The St. Louis Blues and their fans showed class in how they reacted to Kevin Fiala‘s very, very scary injury during Game 1.

Still, these are two physical Central Division rivals, so you expect to see some nastiness here and there between the Blues and Nashville Predators.

One moment that will likely divide onlookers came when Predators tough guy Austin Watson got a shot in on Vladimir Tarasenko, at least briefly hurting the world-class sniper.

It’s unlikely to be a big deal since Tarasenko seems to be OK, but there may be some debate here. On one hand, there are those who believe Watson got away with a cheap shot; on the other, some seem to imply that there was some embellishment. Maybe it’s even a combination of the two?

Either way, the Predators enter the third period up 3-1, so St. Louis will likely ask Tarasenko to focus on getting revenge by scoring goals.

Blues just have no answer for P.K. Subban right now

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In the first round, P.K. Subban was dominant against the Chicago Blackhawks, but mainly if you look at “fancy stats.” There’s nothing wrong with two assists in that sweep, but those aren’t jaw-dropping numbers.

You don’t need to dig deep to see his impact on Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. A mere glance at the box score – or a chance to see his blistering shot – and you’ll realize that the Nashville Predators defenseman has been a nightmare for Jake Allen & Co. so far on Wednesday.

Subban seemingly scored his first postseason goal with the Predators to make it 1-0, but Colin Wilson was actually credited with the tally.

No bother there. Subban gave the Predators a crucial lift shortly after player resumed following Kevin Fiala‘s horrifying injury, getting that first Predators playoff goal with another booming shot.

Subban managed to draw a slashing penalty on Scottie Upshall and also sent another huge shot to set up a James Neal goal. There’s no mistaking that P.K. has played a huge role in Nashville going up 3-1 so far; the Blues need to find some answers, and fast.

Video: Predators’ Kevin Fiala leaves on stretcher, hospitalized after scary fall

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The crowd in St. Louis was sent to stunned silence at the scary sight of Nashville Predators rookie Kevin Fiala crashing feet-first into boards during the first period of Game 1.

Fiala was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he awkwardly hit the boards following a hit by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. An arena announcement indicated that Fiala will be taken to a nearby hospital.

The Predators announced that Fiala is alert and stable in an update.

It’s a cruel twist for the 20-year-old forward, whose high-end speed stands out most when you first see him. A bit longer than a week ago, he scored the biggest goal of his career as he ended Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks with the overtime-clincher. Now one has to wonder about his bigger-picture health.

Members of the Blues and Predators both escorted Fiala off the ice during a stunning moment for all involved.