James O'Brien

St Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues know they’ll be in the playoffs once the regular season is over, but that doesn’t mean they lack incentive to beat each other tonight.

Even beyond the sheer joy of spiting a rival, the two teams continue to jockey for position as the Central Division’s top three spots are far from decided as of today. You can watch what could be a gnarly game between two very good teams on NBCSN and also online via NBC Sports Live Extra

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

For a detailed preview of this game, read this post.

NHL’s Daly: Ticket drive suggests that Vegas can support a team

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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It seems like some key NHL executives are convinced that the slogan “Vegas wants hockey” rings true enough to really push the expansion issue going forward.

Executive Bill Daly didn’t confirm that expansion will happen without a doubt, but he provided some enthusiastic details to the IMG World Congress of Sports on Wednesday, as The Post Game reports.

“The response in Las Vegas has been very impressive and certainly suggests that there is an ability to support a professional sports franchise and particularly an NHL franchise at this point in time,” Daly said. “We have a Board of Governors meeting coming up in June. We’ll obviously report on the results of the Las Vegas ticket drive and we’ll have a discussion with our ownership as to whether they want to entertain the concept of expansion; they haven’t made that decision yet. And if they want to entertain the concept of expansion, how they want to do it.”

Again, it’s clear that the league and The City of Sin are currently in the “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” stage.

Still, the fact that Daly is laying out some specifics is worth noting. He said that if expansion does happen, it would involve a new team rather than relocation. That’s probably not a shock to many, yet Daly discussing it seems to indicate there’s fire to go with all the smoke.

Just because Vegas currently seems to have Daly and Gary Bettman’s support doesn’t mean everyone’s convinced just yet.

Calgary Flames executive Brian Burke spoke of some of the hangups of putting an NHL team in Vegas,

noting the concern that “no one’s believed that transitory people become fans and buy tickets.” Even with those reservations, Burke also admitted that the ultimate call is “above his pay grade,” and those in that position seem pro-Vegas at the moment.

Again, these ownership situations can present some sudden and crucial twists, so don’t assume that a Vegas team will play host to sleep-deprived NHL opponents during the 2016-17 season just yet.

Remembering Bruins doing their part for ‘Boston Strong’

bostonstrong
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About two years ago, lives were lost and plenty others were shaken by the Boston Marathon Bombings. Eventually, people tried to return to some form of normalcy, which added special meaning to some Boston Bruins games.

Watch the video below for some emotional memories of that time in April 2013, including reflections from former Buffalo Sabres Ryan Miller and Steve Ott (who played for the road team on one especially memorable evening).

Stars thwart Ducks’ attempt to clinch West crown

Antoine Roussel, Frederik Andersen
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Much like the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Dallas Stars are red-hot even if their playoff hopes have already been scuttled. The difference is that the Stars dominated a team with at least something to lose.

(You know, beyond dignity, which seems to be beaten out of the Toronto Maple Leafs.)

The Anaheim Ducks came in with the mighty goal of locking up the top spot in the Western Conference on Wednesday, but the Stars instead handed them a 4-0 loss.

While Ryan Getzlaf sat out a second game – either to rest or to nurse an undisclosed injury – the Stars’ big names came through. Jamie Benn stood out in particular, grabbing three assists to finish the night tied atop the NHL scoring ranks with 83 points.

Jhonas Enroth grabbed his first shutout as a member of the Stars. To be honest, he wasn’t tested all that often, only needing 19 saves to accomplish that feat. It was a tough night at the other end of the ice, as Frederik Andersen didn’t exactly make a strong argument that he should be the go-to goalie instead of John Gibson. At least, he didn’t tonight.

With this, the Ducks must continue to jostle with the St. Louis Blues for the West’s top spot while Dallas keeps things going (while maybe wondering a bit about what could have been).

Breaking down the East bubble after Boston’s big loss

Boston Bruins v Ottawa Senators
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The Braden Holtby-powered Washington Capitals improved their home-ice odds and slapped a 3-0 loss on the Boston Bruins tonight. So, how much sad should Boston be and how much should the rest of the East rejoice?

To get to the bottom of that question, let’s look at the rest of the race as just about everyone has two games remaining.

First things first, let’s take a look at the updated standings via NHL.com:

source:

As you can see, the Bruins still hold the second wild card spot over Ottawa thanks to the ROW tiebreaker. In the interest of being comprehensive, let’s look at the final two games for every team that can still make the playoffs but hasn’t clinched a spot just yet.

Games against fellow bubble teams in italics.

Islanders (third in the Metro, 98 points, 39 ROW):
Sports Club Stats playoff odds: 99.8 percent
Friday: at Pittsburgh
Saturday: vs. Columbus

Red Wings (third in the Atlantic, 97 points, 38 ROW):
Sports Club Stats playoff odds: 97.1 percent
Thursday: at Montreal
Saturday: at Carolina

Penguins (first wild card, 96 points, 38 ROW):
Sports Club Stats playoff odds: 94.9 percent
Friday: vs. Islanders
Saturday: at Buffalo

Bruins (second wild card, 95 points, 37 ROW):
Sports Club Stats playoff odds: 66.4 percent – down 13.2 after Wednesday
Thursday: at Florida
Saturday: at Tampa Bay

Senators (outside playoffs, 95 points, 35 ROW):
Sports Club Stats playoff odds: 41.8 percent – up 10 percent thanks to Washington’s win
Thursday: at Rangers
Saturday: at Flyers

***

Some of these teams will probably sweat these final few days more than others – it almost feels weird to include the Islanders – but as the Senators and Penguins have shown in very different ways, it’s also foolish to assume too much in this wild race.