Cam Tucker

Video: Sharks take the lead in Game 7 courtesy their lethal power play

Of the teams remaining in these Stanley Cup playoffs, the San Jose Sharks have the best power play, operating at 28.2 per cent heading into Thursday’s Game 7 with the Nashville Predators.

Given the opportunity from a Viktor Arvidsson delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass, the Sharks used that power play to give them the lead just before the midway point of the first period, as Joe Pavelski scored his ninth goal of the post-season.

The Predators, after another emotional overtime winner to extend the series, were fortunate to escape the first period down only two goals. Joel Ward also scored for San Jose, which outshot Nashville 17-3 in the opening 20 minutes.

 

Stars sign ’15 first-round pick Gurianov to entry-level deal

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Denis Gurianov poses for a portrait after being selected 12th overall by the Dallas Stars during the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Just a day after a disastrous Game 7 home loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars began work for the 2016-17 season.

The Stars signed 2015 first-round pick and forward Denis Gurianov to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning next season. The deal was announced Thursday.

The Stars took Gurianov, 18, with the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft. He spent this season with Lada Togliatti in the KHL, appearing in 47 games with five points.

The Stars’ selection of Gurianov may have seemed like a surprise at the time, though Dallas management and hockey staff apparently had him ranked quite high in last year’s draft.

“There is a risk-reward involved,” Stars GM Jim Nill told the Dallas Morning News last summer. “When I talk to my staff, I want the best asset available, and right from the start they said he was a top three to five pick.”

WATCH LIVE: Predators at Sharks – Game 7

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 07:  Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators gets tangled with Justin Braun #61 and Matt Nieto #83 of the San Jose Sharks as they go for the puck in Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 07, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks clash in a decisive Game 7 at SAP Center. The winner advances to the Western Conference Final, where they will play the St. Louis Blues. You can catch tonight’s game on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

The Sharks have rediscovered home-ice advantage

Nieto’s injury could allow Wingels to return for Sharks

This series ‘should come down to Game 7,’ says Sharks coach after Game 6 loss

 

 

Playoff struggles, learning experience could help make Kuznetsov an ‘elite player,’ says Trotz

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 02:  Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals handles the puck in front of Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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At the age of 23 and in just his second full NHL season, Evgeny Kuznetsov emerged as one of the league’s top point producers. He possesses the skill and potential for even greater things in the seasons ahead.

But after 20 goals and 77 points this season, Kuznetsov’s point production dropped significantly in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. In 12 post-season games, he scored only once and added an assist.

Two days after his Washington Capitals were eliminated in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins, head coach Barry Trotz summed up Kuznetsov’s playoff struggles as another learning experience for a young player that, as skilled as he is, is still coming into his own.

“He’s a good player. He stepped up last year. I expected him to — I think he expected — to have a little more production,” Trotz told reporters.

“He’s a young player that’s growing. The way he emerged through the regular season, you expect that. Probably, there’s a lot that he learned through that series that will probably, going forward, make him a really elite player and we won’t ever be talking about this … him not having production in the playoffs.

“There’s certain things you have to go through — learning curves. This series may be a learning curve.”

Way back in the early portion of the regular season, Trotz lauded the growth of Kuznetsov as a young player with an expanded role, saying his young forward, “…wants to be one of the best guys in the game.” At the time, he was centering the top line with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie.

“He had a really good season, you know, first time really through it where he was a prime guy. Did he run out of gas? We’re asking all those questions,” Trotz continued.

“Mentally, it’s a big change going from part-time player to having good success.”

 

‘I don’t want to be ripping off a team’: Blues’ coach Hitchcock is just fine with taking one-year deals

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock talks to his team during a time out during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
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Last year, Ken Hitchcock’s future with the St. Louis Blues seemed very much up in the air following another first-round playoff exit.

Despite the disappointing end to last season, he signed a one-year contract extension to stay in St. Louis for the 2015-16 season.

Hitchcock is apparently just fine, however, with such short-term contracts for himself.

“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

“I don’t want to be sitting ripping off a team and taking money when I’m not doing anything. I just feel comfortable taking one-year deals to be honest with you.”

Interesting comments to make considering he’s helped the Blues finally get over the threshold into the Western Conference Final after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks, the defending champions, and high-scoring Dallas Stars, the top team in the West during the regular season, in back-to-back seven-game series wins.

It’s also interesting given a number of his peers around the league — like Bruce Boudreau and his four-year agreement with the Minnesota Wild — are locking in to longer-term deals. (It’s also just been reported Thursday that Darryl Sutter and the L.A. Kings have agreed to terms on an extension.)

After previous playoff disappointments, the Blues are now only four wins away from the Stanley Cup Final. You’d think he’d want to leverage that into something beyond just one year.