James O'Brien

Johnny Oduya

Oduya in for Game 4, no Drouin tonight

While you shake off the shock of Ben Bishop not even playing in Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, here are some other interesting lineup notes.

The Chicago Blackhawks see the most changes. Johnny Oduya and Kimmo Timonen are in the mix, while Kris Versteeg shuffles Bryan Bickell back into the press box. Timonen’s Cup Final appearance should feel quite different from his last one:

Joel Quenneville also might be mixing up the lines tonight:

On the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end, Jonathan Drouin is not getting in the lineup, as Nikita Nesterov keeps the Bolts in their 11-forward, seven-defensemen alignment. Other than that, nothing significant, right?

Bishop isn’t even dressing for Game 4; Vasilevskiy starts

Ben Bishop

So much for Ben Bishop moving slowly merely because he’s super-tall.

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper has been prone to swerves in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, but this is the biggest one, as Bishop isn’t even dressing for Game 4. Instead, the Bolts will go with the young and difficult-to-spell pairing of Andrei Vasilevskiy as the starter and Kristers Gudlevskis as the backup.

The Lightning will only say that Bishop is day-to-day, not specifying his injury. If you’ve followed the postseason, you know injury updates only become transparent after a team’s run is over (if that).

Talk about a “no pressure, kid” situation. Vasilevskiy’s first career postseason start comes in a championship-round game against a Chicago Blackhawks team in an urgent situation.

On the bright side, he at least got his feet wet in this series in Game 2, nursing the Lightning to a win while we wondered if Bishop’s issues were toilet or injury-related. It sure looks like the latter; we’ll see if Tampa Bay provides any more information about Bishop going forward.

(Don’t hold your breath.)

It’s a scary situation for the Lightning, yet note that Vasilevskiy certainly has the pedigree to believe that he could provide pleasant surprises.

Here’s video of Cooper denying Bishop’s injury issues during an on-the-bench interview during Game 3, an explanation that remarkably becomes less convincing as time goes on:

Report: Todd Nelson in talks to coach Red Wings’ AHL affiliate

Todd Nelson
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Todd Nelson is expected to meet with Detroit Red Wings executives about the vacant Grand Rapids Griffins head coaching job on Thursday, TSN’s Darren Dreger reports.

Nelson served as interim head coach of the Edmonton Oilers this past season. The team went 17-25-9 in 42 games with Nelson behind the bench.

Before that, he spent four full seasons and part of 2014-15 as head coach of the Oilers’ (now-defunct) affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons. In other words, the Red Wings organization would be getting a seasoned head coach at the AHL level after promoting Jeff Blashill (assuming Nelson is the one who sticks).

Dreger also reports that Mike Sullivan is in the running. He was assistant coach of the New York Rangers for four seasons but spent 2014-15 with the Vancouver Canucks.

WATCH LIVE: Game 4 of Stanley Cup Final – Lightning at Blackhawks

Ondrej Palat, Corey Crawford

Many of the same storylines from Game 3 seep into Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

How healthy is Ben Bishop, really? Will Jonathan Drouin get in the lineup? How much of a fatigue factor will there be for Chicago?

The stakes are obviously different, however. On one side, the Tampa Bay Lightning could take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. On the other, the Chicago Blackhawks hope to tie it up 2-2. Obviously, tonight’s game is bigger for the ‘Hawks, whether the Bolts aim to be greedy or not.

The last two contests have been batty at times, so we’ll see if the zaniness carries into Game 4. Either way, you can enjoy the action on NBCSN and also stream it via NBC Sports Live Extra (starting with pregame coverage).


Wild GM on Dubnyk talks: ‘The dialogue has been good’

Marco Scandella, Devan Dubnyk

Both the Minnesota Wild and Devan Dubnyk’s reps admit the obvious: contract talks won’t be easy. On the bright side, it sounds like each side hopes to get something done.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and Dubnyk’s agent Mike Liut spoke to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun about the beginning of the give-and-take.

“That’s the goal on both sides, we’ve started the process,” Fletcher said. “I’m certainly hopeful, but it takes a little bit of time to get everything in place, there’s a lot of moving pieces. But the dialogue has been good, we’ll see what transpires.”

As PHT pointed out before, this could be a fascinating situation, especially if Dubnyk indeed costs “well north of $3 million.”

It seems pretty obvious that Dubnyk would like to stay in Minnesota, even beyond comments that may be construed as positive PR. That said, assessing Dubnyk’s market value is a subjective process, to say the least.

The biggest factor is the Wild’s cap situation, though, really. LeBrun points out that the Wild hope to figure out a solution for Niklas Backstrom and his $3.42 million cap hit, whether that comes down to a trade (good luck) or a buyout.

Consider these two points about Minnesota’s cap situation, though:

  • Even if they’re stuck with Backstrom, his contract expires after 2015-16. They also get rid of some shaky deals, such as Keith Ballard’s contract. The Wild’s situation isn’t all bad, in other words.
  • General Fanager pegs Minnesota’s upcoming cap space at about $7.8 million. They have some fish to fry (especially deals for Mikael Granlund and maybe Kyle Brodziak), but you get the impression that they have a good chance to retain Dubnyk … if the price is right.

It would be a bit surprising to see Dubnyk leave Minnesota, yet a lot can happen before (and after) July 1.