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NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Rangers do battle in big Metropolitan Division clash

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

It wasn’t so long ago that people were worried about Henrik Lundqvist and his string of poor performances.

From Jan. 3-17, Lundqvist played in six games and he came away with just two wins. What was even more concerning, was that he allowed four goals or more in all but one of those games.

Now, after rattling off three straight wins, it looks like he’s finally back to his old self. He was solid in last Thursday’s win over Toronto, but he really started looking dominant in a shutout of the Red Wings on Sunday and a big win over the Kings on Monday.

“You know, I think especially in this town, you just have to take a step back sometimes,” Lundqvist said, per the New York Daily News. “I don’t think you’re that bad, but you’re also not that good. It goes both ways. You have a couple of tough games and right away you have a lot of people asking questions, and the same thing when things are going well. You just try to stay cool and confident and keep doing the same things you’ve always been doing, because you know it’s gonna turn around for you.”

At this point, Lundqvist is projected to get the start tonight, but that still hasn’t been confirmed by head coach Alain Vigneault. Even if the Rangers do opt to rest him, the fact that he’s playing at such a high level gives everyone on the roster that much more confidence.

Rangers forward Derek Stepan summed it up perfectly after Monday’s win over the Kings: “If we’re gonna be great, we need Hank.”

Even though they’ve won three in a row, New York has slipped in the standings. Heading into tonight’s game, they sit in the top Wild Card spot with 63 points. They trail the Penguins, who are third in the Metropolitan Division, by two points (Pittsburgh has a game in hand).

There’s still a lot of race track left in the 2016-17 season, but if the Flyers want to make a push for a playoff spot, they’re gonna have to wake up soon.

They find themselves one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final Wild Card spot in the East. The problem is that the Leafs have three games in hand.

Philly is coming off a 3-2 OT win over the Islanders on Sunday, but prior to that game things had not been going well (understatement). They had lost five of their previous six games, and had allowed four goals or more five times during that stretch.

One of the biggest issues with the Flyers is that they consistently fall behind early. They’ve given up the first goal in 10 of their last 11 games, which is a recipe for failure on most nights.

“Playing with the lead is huge. . . . For us, starting games behind the eight ball isn’t easy for anybody, including goaltenders,” Steve Mason said, per Philly.com. “From a team mindset, we definitely want to strike first and have a good start.”

Another reason the Flyers are slumping is because of the lack of production from captain Claude Giroux. Thankfully for them, he was able to snap his 13-game goalless drought on Sunday. Hopefully, the goal gets him going in the right direction.

DeBoer praises ‘courageous’ Thornton for playing with torn ACL, MCL (Updated)

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In a fairly stunning admission on Monday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Joe Thornton played in four of San Jose’s six playoff games versus Edmonton with a significant knee injury.

Thornton, who was hurt against Vancouver late in the regular season, suffered tears to both his left MCL and ACL.

“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton, 37, missed the first two games of the series to rest his knee, before suiting up for the final four. He averaged 18:50 TOI per night and finished with a pair of assists, numbers that are pretty remarkable given the severity of his ailment.

Jumbo wasn’t the only unhealthy Shark during the first-round playoff ouster. Logan Couture‘s face/mouth injury was well-documented and, today, DeBoer also revealed that Tomas Hertl was playing with a broken foot, and Patrick Marleau with a broken thumb.

Looking ahead, Thornton’s knee injury might cloud what’s an already murky future. He’s a pending UFA, and there have been no clear signals from the organization on how they’ll address his potential return. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp was looking for a three-year deal.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sharks GM Doug Wilson has time on his side. It’s understood the club probably wouldn’t act on an extension for Thornton until after the June expansion draft, which could give the Sharks enough time to better gauge his health.

Update:

Per NBC Sports California, Wilson confirmed Thornton is undergoing surgery today to repair the ligaments.

 

 

Online bookmaker: Caps are Stanley Cup favorites

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The Washington Capitals got a bit of a scare in the first round, but they’ll go into the second round as the Stanley Cup favorites.

Per online bookmaker Bovada, here is the full list of Stanley Cup odds for the eight remaining teams:

Washington Capitals   7/2
Pittsburgh Penguins    17/4
Anaheim Ducks             11/2
Edmonton Oilers          11/2
St. Louis Blues              13/2
Nashville Predators     7/1
New York Rangers       8/1
Ottawa Senators           10/1

The Chicago Blackhawks entered the postseason as 4/1 Cup favorites at Bovada. Of course, the ‘Hawks were then swept by the Preds, who’ve gone from 25/1 long shots to 7/1 heading into their series with the Blues.

The Caps’ odds actually dropped to 13/2 after they fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1. But three straight wins, two in overtime, clinched them a spot against the Penguins in the second round.

The Ottawa Senators are the long shots of the bunch now, despite having home-ice advantage over the Rangers in the second round.

Isles bring back Seidenberg — one year, $1.25 million

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The Islanders saw enough from Dennis Seidenberg this season to bring him back for another.

On Monday, the club announced it had signed the veteran defenseman to a one-year deal. Per Newsday, it’s for $1.25 million — a slight raise from the $1M he earned this season.

Seidenberg, 35, caught on with the Isles in late September, parlaying a good showing with Team Europe at the World Cup into a contract after going the entire summer unsigned.

For New York, it worked out very well.

Seidenberg was a regular lineup fixture, averaging 19:26 TOI over 73 games. He also provided some good production from the back end, scoring five goals and 22 points — his highest offensive output in five years.

Today’s deal also gives the Isles some flexibility when it comes to the upcoming expansion draft. The club now has six blueliners under contract for next season — Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield — and a seventh, pending RFA Calvin de Haan, will (presumably) be locked in as well. The same might be said of fellow RFA Adam Pelech.

Young d-man Ryan Pulock, who only appeared in one game this year, locked in through 2018.

Cassidy ‘absolutely’ wants to return as Bruins’ head coach

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To nobody’s surprise, Bruce Cassidy is on board with shedding his interim tag and becoming Boston’s full-time bench boss.

“Absolutely,” Cassidy said of coming back, following the Bruins’ opening-round playoff loss to Ottawa (per CBS Boston). “One hundred percent.”

One would think the 51-year-old did enough to warrant a longer look. After replacing Claude Julien in early February, Cassidy led a team on the fringes of the playoff picture to an 18-8-1 record down the stretch, and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.

Yes, the B’s fell short against the Sens, but were hamstrung by a depleted lineup missing the likes of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Top center David Krejci was also extremely limited, missing three of six games to injury.

When further asked about his future, Cassidy tapped the brakes on predicting what will happen, or what changes the team needed for next season.

“Well, now we’re making a lot of assumptions,” he said. “That will be determined going forward by management. It’s a tough question to answer.”

Cassidy’s time with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, and his history working with young players, may certainly help his cause. A few of his guys — Austin Czarnik, Frank Vatrano, Tommy Cross, Noel Acciari — forged out roles with the big club this season, while other youngsters certainly made an impact in the playoffs.

Prized d-man prospect Charlie McAvoy was a central figure on defense, and one of Cassidy’s more notable lineup moves — putting Sean Kuraly in for Games 5 and 6 — gave the club a boost of energy.

That said, the B’s do have options on the coaching front.

There are a number of experienced bench bosses available. Lindy Ruff, Darryl Sutter and Jack Capuano — a former teammate of Sweeney’s, it should be mentioned — are just a few of the higher profile free agents out there. It’s unclear if Boston is interested in going this route, however. Cassidy has been with the organization a long time, going on eight seasons, and has certainly paid his dues.