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NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Lightning vs. Bruins; Oilers vs. Kings

The NHL on NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 season with a doubleheader on Tuesday. First, The Boston Bruins will host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00 p.m. ET. To watch that game online, click here

Well, regular-season games don’t get much bigger than this one. The Lightning are in must-win mode if they want a spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’ll enter tonight’s game trailing the Bruins by four points (the Bolts have a game in hand) for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. There’s no getting around it, this game is huge.

“It’s down to win or go home,” defenseman Anton Stralman said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s Game 7.

“We’ve still got a chance — that’s all we can ask for. We believe.”

Even if the Lightning win their last four games of the season, that doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. They’ll need a little help along the way because Boston, Ottawa (four points ahead) and Toronto (five points ahead) all have more regulation/overtime wins.

The good news, is that the Bolts will get a crack at Boston tonight and they’ll face Toronto on Thursday.

But beating either team, especially the Bruins, won’t be simple. Since dropping a 6-3 decision to the Lightning in late March, Boston has won five games in a row. If you think the winning streak has made the Bruins forget their terrible performance in that game, guess again.

“It was one of those games where we didn’t show up and they took advantage of that,” center Patrice Bergeron said, per the Boston Herald. “We definitely know how they play and how good they are offensively in their transition and whatnot. We have to build from what we’ve done this weekend.”

Bruce Cassidy’s team should be feeling pretty good about themselves. Not only are they four points up on the Bolts for the final Wild Card spot, but they’re inching closer to a top three spot in the Atlantic Division.

A regulation win over the Bolts would see the Bruins clinch a playoff spot. Pretty simple.

In the late game, it’ll be the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Edmonton Oilers at 10:30 p.m. ET. To watch that game online, click here

For the first time in 11 years, the Oilers will be heading to the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean their work this season is over.

Edmonton still has plenty to play for. Believe it or not, an Oilers will in regulation or overtime combined with a Ducks loss to Calgary in regulation would put Edmonton in first place in the Pacific Division.

Obviously, Connor McDavid is the biggest reason for Edmonton’s turnaround this season, but they’ve also received strong contributions from goalie Cam Talbot, Leon Draisaitl and quite a few others.

McDavid and Draisailt, in particular, have been terrific. Both players enter tonight’s game riding 10-game point streaks. It seems like stopping this duo is nearly impossible.

“There’s a camaraderie between the two, they’ve grown up in the organization and they look out for each other and I think they enjoy being with one another. That gives them extra time to communicate on the ice,” said head coach Todd McLellan, per the Edmonton Sun.

“Connor’s speed and Leon’s passing ability, you’ve got Leon who can slow the game down and Connor who speeds it up. That makes it tough for the opposition to judge what’s coming at them.”

Both players might not have any playoff experience, but facing them in the opening round won’t be a treat.

In the last three seasons, the Kings have made the post-season just once (they were bounced in the first round). Their lack of winning and inability to score goals has some people wondering if it’s time to give Darryl Sutter his walking papers this off-season.

Sure, the Kings had to deal with Jonathan Quick going down to injury in the first game of the season, but scoring goals was always an issue this season, and that didn’t change on Sunday, when a 2-1 loss to Arizona officially crushed their playoff hopes.

It’s also pretty clear that Anze Kopitar was one of the bigger disappointments this season. Through 72 games, the Kings captain has just 12 goals and 49 points.

“I can’t talk about that right now. It’s definitely too early,” Kopitar said of what his team was lacking this season, per LA Kings Insider. “You can really go down the list. It certainly didn’t help (Quick) going down the first game, and then we just had too many stretches of not playing remotely good enough, and obviously the losses kept piling on. I think coming back after the breaks we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. A lot of guys, I think, with me being on top of that list, I don’t think the production was there the way we expect from ourselves and from each other, and you can go on and on right now. But like I said, it’s a very empty feeling.”

Report: McDavid’s next cap hit will be in $13 million range

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The Edmonton Oilers continue to be busy this off-season. Not only are they looking to bring in new players to help improve their squad, they also have to look at re-signing their two best players.

Leon Draisaitl‘s contract comes to an end on July 1st, while Connor McDavid‘s entry-level deal expires next summer, but it sure sounds like both contracts will get done in the near future.

According to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, McDavid is about to become the highest paid player in the NHL by a wide margin.

Both are reporting that McDavid’s new deal is going to be for eight years and over $13 million per season.

Those are big numbers, but it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve that kind of salary.

The 20-year-old was the only player in the league to put up 100 points in 2016-17. His effort on the ice led him to his first Hart and Art Ross Trophies.

Edmonton currently has just over $17.1 million in cap space. Obviously, their two franchise centers will eat up that entire number, but McDavid still has one year left on his current deal, so a new contract would only kick in for the 2018-19 season.

PHT Morning Skate: Crosby would ‘love to’ be a goalie for a game

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Sidney Crosby has accomplished so much in his career, but there’s still one thing he wants to cross off his bucket list. In an interview with Dan Patrick, Crosby admitted that he’d like to be a goalie for a game. “I’d love to play one game in the NHL (as a goalie). We’ll see. There’s still some time left if it ever came down to it. I’d love to get that.” Just a hunch, but I don’t think the Pens would go for that. (Top)

–The Score looks at three 2017 draft prospects that will have the most long-term value to their respective teams. The first two picks of the draft are on the list, but the third name may surprise you. (The Score)

–As you may remember, Connor McDavid took an awkward looking picture with two strangers hugging him pretty tight. The picture, which took place at an airport, immediately went viral. Now, McDavid explained exactly how everything unfolded. Well, that story is pretty stupid. I was walking into the security line and I had actually walked past them. And then they say ‘hey Connor can we get a picture?’ and I say ‘sure’ and sure enough they come up to me and start hugging me. (Yahoo)

–Devils beat reporter Chris Ryan sat down for a Q&A with top pick Nico Hischier, who has a pretty busy summer ahead of him. “I’ll go back (o Switzerland) and practice and do my workouts every day, then I’ll come for Development Camp, and they’ll sit together and tell me what I still need, what I need to improve. Then I’ll go back again and work on those things.” (NJ.com)

–Speaking of Hischier, did you know that he didn’t start playing hockey full time until he was 12 years old? That’s only six years ago. “What you’re looking at is a guy who has a big upside and isn’t even close to reaching the ceiling,” Devils head coach John Hynes said. (New York Times)

 –Kyle Beach was selected 11th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2008. Unfortunately for Beach, he never made it to the NHL and he still isn’t over that. “Whenever you get as close as I did and don’t make it, there are going to be a lot of questions that never can be answered. I was a player growing up who never had to work that hard because I was always a top player. It was a rude awakening. Could I have been more prepared? Absolutely.” (Chicago Tribune)

Video: Crosby to Dan Patrick – Subban fight ‘wasn’t as bad as it looked’

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Listerine, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and a growing rivalry. Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban battled it out at the highest level not so long ago, but some of that action looked worse than it actually was.

At least, that’s the message Crosby sent on “The Dan Patrick Show,” as you can enjoy in the clip above.

As a bonus, Crosby also discussed his favorite Stanley Cup traditions – hey, there can be traditions when something happens three times – and how Mario Lemieux inspires some especially creative ideas:

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.