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Report: Daley could return to Penguins lineup for Game 3

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A reinforcement could be on the way for the Penguins’ blue line during the Eastern Conference Final.

According to a report from Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet during Game 1 of the series between the Penguins and Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh defenseman Trevor Daley could potentially return by Game 3.

Daley has missed the last three games for Pittsburgh, after he was hurt last round on a hit from Tom Wilson.

“There might be some help for that depleted blue line on Pittsburgh,” said Kypreos on Saturday. “It’s believed his lower-body injury has rebounded a little better in the last week and he is possible to reappear for Game 3.

“The perception is the production has been down for Pittsburgh, but actually guys it’s probably equal to where it was a year ago, which speaks volumes for guys like Schultz, Hainsey and Cole and their contributions so far in these playoffs.”

That the Penguins got by the Capitals without the injured Kris Letang on the blue line is impressive, even though Pittsburgh’s group of defenders did struggle in Games 5 and 6 against Washington. Instead, they’ve relied upon the likes of Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin and 36-year-old Ron Hainsey to play heavy minutes.

Hainsey, playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in his career, had a key role in setting up Evgeni Malkin‘s tying goal Saturday, before the Penguins lost in overtime and the Sens took the series lead.

“Some guys, we’ve asked them to play more significant roles,” said coach Mike Sullivan prior to Game 1. “I think these guys are giving us everything they have back there. They’re blocking shots, they’re defending hard, they’re helping us come out of our zone.”

Senators frustrate Penguins with overtime win to take series lead

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A work of art, that was not.

But the Ottawa Senators and coach Guy Boucher probably won’t really care about your judgments. The Stanley Cup playoffs remain all about winning and that’s what the Sens did Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the favored Pittsburgh Penguins.

After giving up a late tying goal to Evgeni Malkin, the Senators regrouped in overtime, winning by a final score of 2-1 on a goal from Bobby Ryan, who beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a move to the backhand.

They frustrated the Penguins at just about every turn, neutralizing a speedy Pittsburgh team, keeping its power play at bay, disrupting passes, blocking shots and ultimately quieting the crowd throughout long portions of this game.

In fact, the Penguins power play went 0-for-5 and that includes an unsuccessful five-on-three opportunity early in the first period. Pittsburgh couldn’t capitalize and a few minutes later, the Senators opened the scoring.

Erik Karlsson was prominent throughout the entire game. But Ryan had the winner and he had a helper on Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s opening goal of the game.

Craig Anderson backed the entire effort with an impressive 27 saves. Arguably his best of the night was a reactionary glove stop on Patric Hornqvist on a deflection in the second period.

There were a few possible injury concerns in the third period for Ottawa.

Mark Stone went to the dressing room in the third period, but he did return. Ryan was hit hard into the boards and was slow to make his way off the ice to the bench, and Cody Ceci was reportedly seen limping down the tunnel to the dressing room. He, too, stayed in the game.

Another reason for Predators’ playoff success? A red hot penalty kill

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The Nashville Predators have broken new ground in franchise history. In their first ever Western Conference Final, Nashville has a 1-0 series lead over the Anaheim Ducks.

There have been a few different reasons for Nashville’s success this post-season. You know all about these two:

— The goaltending they have received from Pekka Rinne has been dynamite. He made 27 saves in Friday’s series opener and now carries a save percentage of .950. No big deal.

— Talk of the production from the blue line — most notably Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban — has been constant since the first couple of games against the St. Louis Blues in the second round, and the trend continued versus the Ducks.

What may not be getting enough credit in this playoff run so far is the play of Nashville’s penalty kill.

Read more: Neal believes Predators can ‘play any type of game’

During the regular season, the Predators were 15th in the league short handed. Yeah, nothing to write home about. It’s been a totally different story in the playoffs.

“Well, I think Pekka’s the biggest reason, goaltenders are always your best penalty killer and he’s done a great job,” said Josi of Nashville’s penalty killing success.

Since the beginning of the second round — a span now of seven games — the Predators have given up just one power play goal against in 19 opportunities. On Friday, they successfully killed off four Anaheim power plays and allowed only four shots when short handed.

Of the remaining teams in the playoffs, Nashville’s penalty kill is the best, almost two percentage points better than Ottawa. As noted earlier, their top defenders have received plenty of accolades for their production, and rightfully so, but they’ve all been key members of this thriving penalty kill.

Josi leads the team in short-handed ice time and Ellis is right behind him. On Friday, those two, as well as Subban and Mattias Ekholm were all relied upon heavily in that situation. (As was captain Mike Fisher, who doesn’t have a point in the playoffs but remains Peter Laviolette’s top penalty killing forward.)

Again, not only were the Ducks shut out on the score board while on the power play, they didn’t generate many shots on Rinne.

“When you’re in the Final Four … every team’s got a pretty good power play and got players that can break open a game, so you’re not always going to be able to shut them down,” said Subban.

“But you can just try to take away their time and space, and try to disrupt and deter as much as you can.”

In the playoffs, special teams can determine the difference between winning and losing a game or a series. The penalty kill is just another reason why the Predators have continued their winning ways this spring.

Meanwhile, the Ducks power play continues to endure its own struggles. They have just two power play goals in 27 opportunities in their last eight games.

“Our power play has been a little bit touch and go. We have had a lot of looks that we liked but we’re just not getting them in the net,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

WATCH LIVE: Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 1

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The Ottawa Senators have surprised many by making it this far in the playoffs. On Saturday, they’ll face the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

This series features plenty of star power, including two of the best players in the game in Sidney Crosby and Erik Karlsson, who finished the second round versus the New York Rangers with five points in the final two games. NBC has you covered for Saturday’s series opener.

Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream online here)

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

Dzingel, Wingels return for Senators; Neil and Stalberg out for Game 1

Penguins have to do what nobody else could this postseason: Stop Erik Karlsson

It looks like Carl Hagelin could miss another game for Penguins

Oilers disappointed after series loss to Ducks, but future looks bright in Edmonton

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After all the miserable, bordering on embarrassing, regular seasons they went through over a 10-year stretch, the Edmonton Oilers served notice this season they have the potential to be a force in the Western Conference.

With Connor McDavid leading the way, the Oilers went from a team that could perhaps make the jump into the playoffs this season to a team one win away from the Western Conference Final.

This 2016-17 season came to an end for the Oilers with a 2-1 loss in Game 7 versus the Anaheim Ducks, concluding a series that included a number of massive lead changes and wild swings in momentum.

“We weren’t afraid of the (playoff) stage. We were willing to come out on it and perform. That’s a good sign for us,” said coach Todd McLellan. “The overall feeling right now is disappointment … but we basically got a college degree in a month.”

Of course, now the expectations will rise for next season. After winning the draft lottery again and having the magnificent fortune of selecting McDavid first overall, the Oilers emerged as the second best team in the Pacific Division during the regular season with 103 points, making the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

McDavid, at just 20 years of age, is a finalist for the Hart Trophy. Leon Draisaitl, taken third overall in 2014, put together a 77-point season in just his second full campaign in the NHL and was ridiculously productive in this series versus Anaheim with the exception of Game 7.

Yes, it helps he played alongside McDavid. This year, they played together for 670 minutes at five-on-five. But Draisaitl had 51 points a year ago, when he didn’t even play five minutes of even strength with McDavid, and is another top young talent in Edmonton. Cam Talbot provided a substantial upgrade in goaltending, both in the regular season and playoffs.

The list of improved performances this season doesn’t end there.

“You could see how much we grew as a group, but individually we’ve grown just as much,” said Talbot.

It’s been a long time since anyone could say that about the Edmonton Oilers.