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Goalie nods: Carey Price looks to break out of his slump

Carey Price had his worst game of the season on Thursday night when he voluntarily remained in the game to allow seven goals in a blowout loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Perhaps even more surprising than that individual game is the fact that Price has been going through a bit of a slump for quite a few weeks now.

It is one thing to have an off night and get lit up for a bunch of goals. It happens to even the best goalies in the league, including Price. But the Canadiens are not used to Price going through the type of extended slump he has been experiencing recently.

Going back to Dec. 22 Price has managed only an .881 save percentage in his past seven starts, winning only two of them.

If you look at his numbers all the way back to the start of December, he is at .891 over a stretch of 15 starts that has easily been his worst stretch of play over the past three seasons.

It is a testament to the way the Canadiens have played in front of Price during that stretch that they have managed to win as many games as they have. If you want to be an optimist in Montreal, it might also be a very good sign. Price has been elevating the Canadiens on his own going all the way back to the start of the 2014-15 season and if they were ever going to become serious contenders they needed the team in front of him to play better to be able to win games when Price isn’t necessarily at his best. They are doing that right now. You also have to assume that Price is going to play his way out of this funk and get back to the level we are used to seeing from him. That, plus the improved play of the team in front of him, could make the Canadiens an extremely difficult team to beat.

Maybe that clunker against Minnesota was the rock bottom moment for Price and this recent slump. He gets a chance to get things going back in the right direction on Saturday night against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers have not announced their starter but after Henrik Lundqvist played on Friday, it could be an Antti Raanta night.

Elsewhere…

— In the afternoon games it was Tuukka Rask and Michal Neuvirth for the Bruins and Flyers, and Pekka Rinne vs. Semyon Varlamov in the Predators-Avalanche game.

— Joonas Korpisalo is the likely starter for the Blue Jackets again on Saturday when they take on the Florida Panthers. It will be just one night after stopping 31 out of 32 shots in his season debut.  No word yet on the Panthers’ starter.

Curtis McElhinney is expected to make his Maple Leafs debut on Saturday, but there was some concern he might miss it after Garrett Sparks was called up from the AHL on an emergency basis. At this point McElhinney is still expected to go. The Senators will counter with Mike Condon who is looking to win his third straight in a row. He stopped 29 out of 30 shots against the Penguins on Thursday night.

Marc-Andre Fleury goes for the Penguins in their final visit to Joe Louis Arena. Fleury, of course, was the winning goalie of Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final in that building. The Red Wings counter with rookie Jared Coreau who will be making his first start at home.

Thomas Greiss continues his new role as the New York Islanders’ starting goalie when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes. No announcement yet from the Hurricanes, but Cam Ward started on Friday and stopped 36 of 38 shots in the win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Louis Domingue goes for the Coyotes against the Anaheim Ducks. He has taken the loss in five of his past six decisions. The Ducks have not yet announced their starter.

Devan Dubnyk is expected to get the night off for Minnesota before its big game with Chicago on Sunday, which means you should look for Darcy Kuemper to go for the Wild against the Dallas Stars. The Stars are going with Antti Niemi.

Peter Budaj will be in net again for the Los Angeles Kings when they host the Winnipeg Jets. No word yet from the Jets.

— In the Battle of Alberta it is Brian Elliott going for Calgary and, of course, Cam Talbot for Edmonton. This will be Talbot’s league-leading 40th appearance of the season.

— The Blues are giving the start to Carter Hutton in San Jose in a rematch of the most recent Western Conference Final. The Sharks are going with their regular starter, Martin Jones as he looks to increase his personal winning streak to three consecutive games.

Adam Larsson has become an ‘anchor’ for the Oilers

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Last summer’s Taylor Hall-for-Adam Larsson swap wasn’t popular in Edmonton, and it probably still isn’t now, but it likely stings a lot less today.

Larsson came up huge in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series against the Anaheim Ducks, as he scored a pair of goals and an assist in the 5-3 victory.

The 24-year-old’s first goal extended Edmonton’s lead to 3-1 in the third period, while his second tally gave them a 4-3 lead (it proved to be the game-winner) with under five minutes remaining in regulation.

Larsson finished Game 1 with a plus-2 rating, two shots on goal, three hits and two blocked shots in 18:47 of ice time (it’s the first time he’s played less than 21 minutes this postseason).

He now has four points in seven games during these playoffs, and he’s averaging 22:41 of ice time.

“We needed to improve our blue line and we needed to have an anchor back there and Larsson has become that,” said head coach Todd McLellan after his team’s win in Game 1, per the Edmonton Sun. “We could have kept floundering without fixing that hole and I think Peter Chiarelli and his staff did a tremendous job of addressing that issue. What he did to change the complexion of our team took a lot of courage. That’s not an easy thing to do when you are trading a player of Taylor’s caliber and popularity.”

Of course, we’ll never know if the Oilers would’ve made it this far had they not made that blockbuster deal last off-season, but it’s a good sign that Larsson has turned into a solid option for a team that was clearly lacking talent on defense.

Game 2 of the series will take place in Anaheim on Friday night at 10:30 p.m. ET. Don’t forget, you can stream the game via the NBC Sports app, which you can find right here.

Related:

Todd McLellan named finalist for 2017 Jack Adams Award

Oilers showed off their depth beyond McDavid in beating Sharks

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Thursday, April 27

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Last night, the Western Conference kicked off the second round of 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and tonight, it’ll be the Eastern Conference teams going head-to-head in a pair of great matchups.

Here’s what you need to know:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

PHT Morning Skate: The top 5 second-round matchups since 1980

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–Yesterday was the start of second-round action in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so Sean McIndoe breaks down his top five second-round matchups since 1980. The most recent series on the list was the clash between the Blackhawks and Canucks in 2010, while the oldest series on the list 1988 battle between the Oilers and Flames. (The Hockey News)

–Rod Stewart was incredibly proud of his own, Liam, when he scored his first international goal for Great Britain during the Division 1 Group B World Hockey Championship. Stewart took to instagram to show just how thrilled he was about his son’s accomplishment. (Sportsnet)

–The Nashville Predators took down the St. Louis Blues, 4-3, in Game 1 of their second-round series thanks to a phenomenal effort from P.K. Subban. You can watch the highlights from Game 1 by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Speaking of Subban, he sat down with NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire after last night’s win. Subban talked about overcoming St. Louis’ strong third-period push, the scary injury to Kevin Fiala and what it means to be a leader on a championship team. But on a lighter note, Subban also complimented McGuire on “getting better looking every day”. (NBC Sports)

Jarome Iginla will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 39-year-old still searching for his first Stanley Cup, which could be a big factor in his potential decision to hold off retirement. But here’s an interesting bit of information. Iginla, who suited up for the Bruins a couple of years ago, has reportedly purchased a $4.5 million home in the Boston area. Could he be headed back there? (WEEI.com)

–We’ve heard this story before, but it sounds like Ilya Kovalchuk is interested in coming back to the NHL. If he’s serious about returning to North America, there will be no shortage of suitors vying for his services. The Hockey News looks at some perfect landing spots for the the 34-year-old sniper. (The Hockey News)

–Unfortunately, Pierre LeBrun was let go by ESPN on Wednesday, but one of his final stories was a really good one. LeBrun mentions the possibility of some fireworks going off during the off-season thanks to the expansion draft and a lack of increase in the salary cap. LeBrun writes: “So much of it comes back to what decisions the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild make leading up to the expansion draft. The Ducks and Wild can’t protect all of their depth on defense, but there’s no way they’re just going to let the new Vegas Knights take a good blueliner for free in the expansion draft, either. I think they will either made a side deal with Vegas or simply trade whichever defenseman they can’t protect in the draft to another NHL team.” (ESPN)

Video: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler lose cool in scuffle with Kassian, Oilers

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In the first round, Zack Kassian reminded the hockey world why he came into the league with considerable hype as a first-rounder, as he scored some big goals for the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course, there’s a reason why Kassian has 522 penalty minutes in 313 career regular-season games. He can be a nasty presence who straddles the line.

He did as much late in Game 1, getting into it with Ryan Kesler, and then things really got out of hand. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and others were involved in “histrionics.”

(Who wants to start a Patreon to find out what Getzlaf and Andrej Sekera were saying to each other, by the way?)

It looks like the players involved were only whistled for roughing minors rather than fighting majors. This caps a tough night for Anaheim, who lost 5-3 and saw Kevin Bieksa suffer a troubling lower-body injury.