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2017 Calder Trophy finalists: Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, Zach Werenski

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The NHL has announced the finalists for the 2017 Calder Trophy, given to the league’s top rookie.

Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets were named finalists for the award.

Laine and Matthews were obvious choices given their exciting penchant for scoring, but there were several young players — William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Sebastian Aho to name a few — that could’ve easily been named the third finalist. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted their votes at the end of the regular season.

Matthews and Laine went No. 1 and No. 2 overall in last year’s draft, prompting incredible anticipation around the league for what they could accomplish this season. And they didn’t disappoint.

Matthews, 19, led all rookies in scoring, with 40 goals and 69 points, helping the Maple Leafs to a playoff position. His NHL career began with a record-setting debut and he continued to delight from there. He finished tied for second overall in goal scoring alongside Nikita Kucherov. Matthews ended the season only four goals behind Sidney Crosby, this year’s Rocket Richard Trophy winner.

Laine, who just turned 19 years old on Wednesday, finished fifth in overall goal scoring and second in rookie goal scoring. He tallied 36 goals, showing off an incredibly accurate and quick wrist shot. He also had 64 points, second behind Matthews in the rookie race.

Werenski, also 19 years old, had an impressive rookie season on defense for the Blue Jackets. He had 47 points in 78 games, averaging almost 21 minutes of ice time per game. His freshman campaign bodes well for the future in Columbus, especially since he plays such a difficult position for younger players in the league. Not only did he play, but he often excelled. Unfortunately, he suffered a facial fracture in Game 3 of the Blue Jackets’ first-round series with Pittsburgh, ending his season.

The winner will be announced June 21 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Carlyle: Injured d-men Vatanen, Fowler should be available for second round

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Reinforcements could be on the way for the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the playoffs.

The Ducks swept the Calgary Flames in the first round, which gives them some additional time off until the next round. And that time off could be beneficial for a pair of injured defensemen — Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler.

Vatanen played just over 22 minutes in the series opener versus Calgary but hasn’t played since then because of an upper-body injury. He was considered day-to-day as a result. Fowler hasn’t played since April 4 because of a knee injury — suffered against the Flames.

Both defensemen are productive offensively, but they also eat up valuable minutes for the Ducks. Fowler led the team in ice time during the regular season, playing nearly 25 minutes per game, while Vatanen was third in that category. Naturally, both are relied upon for the power play and penalty kill.

Although Anaheim awaits its next opponent, it would be a huge boost for the Ducks to get Vatanen and Fowler both as healthy as possible and back into the lineup.

As of Thursday, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said there is no specific timetable for either blue liner, however they should both be available for the second round.

Stanley Cup pressure on Ovechkin? ‘I’m sure he’s feeling it a little bit,’ says Kadri

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Barry Trotz is wondering aloud if Washington Capitals have been the victim of some bad bounces against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“They’ve got some strange goals, and that sometimes can play in your mind a little bit and we fought through that,” Trotz said Thursday. “We’re getting really mentally tough in this series because we’re working, and you create your own luck.”

With the series tied 2-2 going into Game 5 in Washington on Friday, the Capitals are facing a bigger test than anyone ever imagined. Morgan Rielly said the Maple Leafs have earned the right to feel confident, and players don’t believe they’re all even in this series because of luck.

Quite the opposite. Echoing their coach, who noted they weren’t at their best and still were within a goal in the Game 4 loss , defenseman Connor Carrick called Game 4 an “opportunity missed.”

“We didn’t play anywhere close to what we’re capable of,” goaltender Frederik Andersen said.

Had the Maple Leafs erased a 4-1 deficit to take command of the series, the pressure would have been squarely on the Presidents’ Trophy winners with the checkered playoff past.

Read more: Capitals flex muscles, tie series with Leafs, despite some Game 4 drama

Already the Capitals were looking tight and the expectation is still on them to win and advance.

“I think we got our heads on straight right now on how we want to play, and unfortunately it’s taken us a couple games to get there,” right winger T.J. Oshie said after the game. “So we want to improve on (Game 4) and get even better, but I think (Wednesday night) was a right step breathing-wise.

Breathing is essential for a team that hasn’t made it past the second round in the past decade with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and is facing major roster changes this summer no matter the result. This is Ovechkin’s best chance at the Stanley Cup, and everyone knows it.

“Yeah, I’m sure for him it’s hard not to think about that type of thing,” Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri said. “But I think he’s not the only desperate one that’s going to be out there. I think we’re going to be a desperate team fighting to bring the series back to Toronto up a game. It’s desperate for both groups, but yeah, I’m sure he’s feeling it a little bit.”

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs are at the start of their contending window. They’re playing with house money and sound like the more confident bunch.

“We’re capable of winning this series,” winger Matt Martin said. “We just have to stay the course.”

Washington defenseman Karl Alzner‘s status is unclear after missing the past two games with an upper-body injury. He skated with a handful of other players Thursday, and Trotz termed him “day to day.”

Braden Holtby, who has allowed 14 goals in four games and has a .902 save percentage, also skated. Trotz called it “a pinball machine out there” and said he wasn’t worried about Holtby but didn’t exactly give his reigning Vezina Trophy winning goaltender’s play in this series a ringing endorsement.

“It’s hard to gauge it because they’ve had a lot of strange stuff,” Trotz said, praising Holtby for being hard-nosed to handle bad bounces. “During the year, goalies, they do everything on predictability and there are a lot of things that aren’t very predictable right now and that’s what at times makes Braden look like he’s not there.”

Who’s actually not there are winger Brett Connolly, who played 4:26 in Game 4, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who saw 12:18 of ice time with just one power-play shift. Depth was considered one of the Capitals’ advantages, but Trotz shortening his bench bears watching.

WATCH LIVE: Four games on Thursday’s Stanley Cup playoff schedule

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It’s another busy night in the NHL playoffs, with four games on the schedule.

Two teams — the Pittsburgh Penguins and, most surprisingly, the Nashville Predators — will advance to the second round if they each win tonight, while the Canadiens, Rangers, Oilers and Sharks can put their respective opponents on the brink of elimination.

Here is all of the information you need for tonight’s games:

New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: USA Network (Stream online here)

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: NHL Network (Stream online here)

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

San Jose Sharks vs. Edmonton Oilers

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Nikita Tryamkin has apparently left the Canucks and returned to the KHL (Updated)

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After one full season in Vancouver, it appears towering defenseman Nikita Tryamkin is headed back to Russia.

The KHL reported Thursday morning that Tryamkin has returned to Yekaterinburg Automobilist, where he played prior to joining the Canucks toward the end of the 2015-16 season.

The Canucks selected the six-foot-seven-inch, 265-pound Tryamkin in the third round of the 2014 draft.

Given his size and at times ferocious play, he was becoming a fan favorite in Vancouver while showing potential he could perhaps one day be a top-four defenseman.

He was at the end of a two-year contract with an annual cap hit of $925,000. This season, he played in 66 games, scoring twice with nine points. He also averaged 16:44 of ice time, which was seventh among Canucks defensemen.

At this point, there are more questions than answers when it comes to why, exactly, Tryamkin made this decision. But it appears the ice time he received this past season — under former coach Willie Desjardins — is one of the reasons for his departure.

“Getting decent playing time. But not for 12 minutes in the game to come out. This I do not want,” said Tryamkin, according to a Google translation from The Province.

“I have experienced these feelings. When you do, I would not get pleasure from the game and (instead) just sit, look and realize that there’s nothing you can do.”

This news comes just hours after the Canucks revealed forward Brendan Gaunce will have shoulder surgery, with a potential recovery time reported to be four to six months.