Cam Tucker

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21), of Slovakia, checks Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown (23) into the boards during the third period of Game 1 in a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 3-2. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
AP Photo

Brown returns to Bolts lineup for Game 1 versus Penguins

J.T. Brown, who hasn’t played since Game 2 of the opening round back on April 15, has returned to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The 25-year-old Brown had been out of the lineup for the last eight games with an upper-body injury. The Bolts are still without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman for the series opener versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In 78 regular season games, Brown scored eight goals and 22 points.



WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Penguins – Game 1

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 5: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save against Carl Hagelin #62 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the Amalie Arena on February 5, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins clash in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center. You can catch tonight’s contest on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.


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

Penguins are 9/5 favorites to win Stanley Cup: online bookmaker

Here are PHT’s conference final predictions

No Stamkos, Stralman for Bolts in Game 1

Sullivan lauds Murray’s ‘ability to stay in the moment’


Islanders GM knows trying to keep pending UFAs Okposo, Nielsen and Martin will be a ‘challenge’

BETHPAGE, NY - SEPTEMBER 09:  General Manager of the New York Islanders Garth Snow addresses the media during a press conference naming John Tavares the New York Islanders team captain at Carlyle on the Green on September 9, 2013 in Bethpage, New York.  (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
Getty Images

New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow has his work cut out for him this summer.

After his team made it to the second round of the playoffs only to lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the offseason ahead presents a number of challenges. One item was seemingly crossed off the list when Travos Hamonic rescinded his earlier trade request.

However, the Islanders have three key players that are pending unrestricted free agents and could hit the open market. Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin are all on expiring contracts.

Snow, given the step forward his team seems to have taken this year, sounds keen on having all three players return to the Islanders. The big issue is trying to make that a reality.

“That’s the challenge for us,” Snow said, as per Newsday. “We need to devise a way to keep all three. Whether that can happen, I can’t answer that right now. We want to maintain the positive strides we’ve made in the recent past and take that step to the next level.”

The other day, Okposo confirmed that he and his agent haven’t yet had contract talks with the Islanders.

He is likely in line for a substantial raise.

Here’s a look at the three aforementioned pending UFAs:

— Kyle Okposo, 28, wraps up his current five-year, $14 million deal that came with a $2.8 million cap hit. He scored 22 goals and 64 points in 79 games during the 2015-16 regular season and is two years removed from a single-season career-high 27 goals.

— Frans Nielsen, 32, is at the end of a four-year, $11 million deal with a cap hit of $2.75 million. He scored 20 goals and 52 points in 81 regular season games and is two years removed from a single-season career-high in goals (25) and points (58). He said in March it would be his “first choice” to re-sign with the Islanders.

— Matt Martin, 27, is at the end of his four-year, $4 million deal with a $1 million cap hit. He’s known more for his physical presence than his scoring, but he did record a single-season career-high 10 goals and 19 points during the 2015-16 campaign.

“Whether a winger for John (Tavares), the addition of a goalie, upgrading our defense, we leave no stone unturned to improve our club,” Snow continued.

“I’m not going to get into specific positions, those opportunities will unfold here, especially leading up to the draft.”

‘It’s disappointing for us,’ says Predators coach after blowout Game 7 loss


The Nashville Predators’ playoff run included a seven-game first-round win over the Anaheim Ducks, a team favored to perhaps win it all. They then took the San Jose Sharks to seven games in the second round.

That’s where it ended, in a frustrating 5-0 loss Thursday. Nashville’s best opportunity, at least so far, to qualify for the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history suddenly fizzled in San Jose. From start to finish, the Sharks dominated the deciding contest.

Shea Weber had a dreadful night. So, too, did Roman Josi. So, too, did Pekka Rinne. Filip Forsberg finished the series with one point in seven games. Basically, the entire Predators team had a dreadful night, while the Sharks were flying from the start and didn’t leave any doubt about this one.

The Sharks are off to the conference final for the first time since 2011. They’ll face the St. Louis Blues, with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

“They were better than us tonight,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters.

“They played a game, I thought, that had them on their toes. They were on the forecheck, they were hounding pucks. They were better than us. You’ve got to give them credit for the way they played. It’s disappointing for us.”

Weber and Josi were on the ice for all five San Jose goals. Rinne was finally pulled after giving up San Jose’s fifth goal — Patrick Marleau converting on a two-on-one. Rinne smashed his stick twice against the post and threw it to the boards as he left the net.

Offensively, the Predators managed just eight shots on goal through 40 minutes, and 20 in the entire game.


Sharks crush listless Predators to advance to Western Conference Final


The San Jose Sharks are off to the Western Conference Final.

The Nashville Predators are left to reflect on a run into the second round of the playoffs that provided numerous magical moments — think back to their (controversial) triple overtime classic earlier in this series and seven-game series win over the Anaheim Ducks — but ended in utter misery.

For the second time in as many nights, a deciding seventh game in the West turned into a blowout.

On Thursday, the Sharks used their deadly power play to open the scoring and they continued to pile on from there. They crushed the Predators 5-0 in Game 7, and will now play the St. Louis Blues in the conference final.

In their biggest game of the season, the Predators couldn’t do anything right. It started with their top defensemen, Shea Weber and Roman Josi, who both had a night to forget. They were on the ice for every San Jose goal.

Pekka Rinne was pulled, mercifully, in the third period after allowing five goals on 26 shots. Both goals he allowed in the third period — from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau — came off odd-man rushes.

As he left the crease, giving way to Carter Hutton, Rinne smashed his stick against the post, breaking it on the second try and chucking it into the corner in anger.

The players in front of Rinne had no answer for a relentless Sharks team in the finale.