Jason Brough


Penguins notes: Malkin needs to hold on to puck; HBK Line back together


It’s hard to criticize the guy who leads the NHL’s postseason scoring race with 17 points in 10 games.

Still, it’s fair to say that Evgeni Malkin didn’t have his best game Saturday in Washington. And if the Penguins are going to eliminate the Capitals tonight (or, if necessary, Wednesday), it would sure help if Malkin brought his best.  (Watch at 7:30 pm ET on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app)

“He can be a dangerous player when he hangs on to the puck and he forces our opponents to defend against him,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said this morning. “So we’re hopeful tonight that he’ll have the puck more, and he’ll hang on to the puck more. He’ll be more patient with it.”

At this morning’s skate, Malkin took rushes with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby was with Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist, and the HBK Line of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, and Carl Hagelin was back together.

“If we could find some of that scoring touch we had in the playoffs last year, we’d be happy,” Bonino said, per Pens Inside Scoop.

Pittsburgh’s fourth line had Chris Kunitz, Matt Cullen, and Tom Kuhnhackl.

On the back end, the Penguins will be without Trevor Daley (lower-body injury) tonight.

Related: Caps take page out of Penguins playbook with Ovechkin on third line

Game 6: Penguins won’t have Daley, who was run over by Wilson on Saturday


Trevor Daley, after getting run over by Tom Wilson on Saturday, will not be in the Penguins’ lineup tonight in Pittsburgh against the Capitals.  (Watch at 7:30 pm ET on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app)

Pens coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that Daley has a “lower-body injury.”

Sullivan did not say how the injury occurred, but Daley was leveled by Wilson in the first period of Game 5. The veteran defender managed to stay in the game, but his ice time was limited to just 11:09.

It’s expected that Daley will be replaced by Chad Ruhwedel, a right shot; however, Mark Streit is also a possibility.

“It’s nice to have the right-handed shot, for sure,” Sullivan said of the decision between Ruhwedel and Streit, a left shot.

“If we choose to put Mark in, he brings an element of experience. He can help us on the power play. … We know that regardless of which guy we put in our lineup, they both can help us win games.”

Another Penguins defenseman, Brian Dumoulin did not skate this morning, but Sullivan said Dumoulin will play tonight.

It’s Game 6 of the series tonight. The Penguins lead the Capitals, 3-2.

Steen’s status in question as Blues face elimination

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The St. Louis Blues are facing elimination tonight, and they may have to face it without one of their top forwards, Alex Steen.

At the very least, he won’t be 100 percent.

From NHL.com:

Steen did not participate in the morning skate and Blues coach Mike Yeo would not comment on his status for the game.

Steen has regularly missed practices throughout the playoffs but hasn’t missed a game. The forward has been dealing with a lower-body injury, left the arena Friday on crutches and has regularly worn a walking boot.

“We’ll see,” Yeo said. “I don’t know. I’m not going to talk about the lineup right now.”

Steen is tied with Jaden Schwartz for the Blues’ postseason scoring lead. They each have three goals and four assists in nine games.

The Blues trail their series with Nashville, 3-1. The Predators can advance to their first conference final with a win tonight in St. Louis.

Related: Blues shuffle lines after Game 4 loss

Preds can advance to first conference final tonight

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ST. LOUIS — Pekka Rinne was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the eighth round in 2004, back when the franchise was celebrating its first playoff appearance.

Thirteen years, 11 NHL seasons and 564 games later, Rinne and the team that drafted him in a round that no longer exists are a win away from reaching a place they’ve never been before.

If Nashville can eliminate the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal Friday night at Scottrade Center, it will earn its first conference final spot.

“It would be huge for the organization,” Rinne said Tuesday night after stopping 32 shots in a 2-1 Game 4 win that gave the Predators a 3-1 series lead. “Our fans, our players and the city are hungry for the next round. When you have a chance to close these things out, you really have to step on their throat.”

Nashville proved to be superb closers in the first round, sending the Chicago Blackhawks home in four straight games, including a 4-1 victory in Game 4. While it has been the better team in this round as well, evidence suggests this closeout game might not go as smoothly as the first one.

St. Louis played well for most of Game 4, doing most of what it pledged to do after a 3-1 defeat in Game 3 which wasn’t close. It played more physically, outshot the Predators for the first time in the series and won 53 percent of faceoffs.

But Rinne, Ryan Ellis and James Neal offset the Blues’ solid performance with their heroics. Rinne improved to 7-1 in the playoffs with a microscopic 1.33 goals-against average, upping his save percentage to .953.

Ellis scored in his seventh straight game, tying the franchise playoff record with his fourth goal of the playoffs early in the third period. Neal supplied the game-winner with a spinning wrist shot that beat Jake Allen over the stick side with just under seven minutes left.

It capped Neal’s best game of the postseason. The right winger fired 10 shots in Game 4 and could have scored another goal were it not for Allen’s terrific stop early in the third period.

“You’re fighting for every chance you get and every piece of ice,” Neal said. “It’s a tough game, so you try to get good looks. When you get good looks, you try to get them off good.”

St. Louis doesn’t plan to change a whole lot from Game 4, other than perhaps reducing its time in the penalty box. The Blues took seven minors Tuesday night after drawing six in Game 3.

Nashville has three power play markers in the series and two other goals that occurred less than 30 seconds after 5-on-4 time ended.

“I think we did a lot of things better tonight than we have in the previous games,” St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo said after Game 4. “We put a lot more emphasis on the small things shot blocks and communication being there.”

Should the Blues stave off elimination, Game 6 would occur Sunday in Nashville.

Eberle even more under microscope after bad turnover in Game 4


Todd McLellan wanted more from Jordan Eberle.

What he got was a brutal turnover that led to an Anaheim goal.

The turnover occurred Wednesday in the second minute of the second period of Game 4. The Oilers had a 2-0 lead, but the Ducks were pressing in Edmonton’s end.

It was then that Eberle got to a loose puck and had a chance to make a play along the boards — either get it out or get it to center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

And if those two options weren’t available, eat it.

Instead, Eberle cleared it weakly to the blue line where Anaheim’s Brandon Montour was waiting. Montour passed it to Ryan Getzlaf, who ripped it past Cam Talbot to make it 2-1.

Eberle was soon demoted to the fourth line. He finished with just 11:39 of ice time. The Ducks won, 4-3, in overtime, tying the series at two games apiece.

Afterwards, Eberle’s coach chose not to pile on.

“He’s not the only one who made mistakes,” said McLellan, per the Edmonton Sun.

But it was a bad mistake at a bad time. And it was made by a highly paid player who was already under the microscope.

Game 5 goes tonight in Anaheim, and it remains to be seen where, and with whom, Eberle will play. But the 26-year-old winger could sure use his first goal of the playoffs. He only has two assists in 10 games, and he’s a minus-5.

Safe to say, if his play doesn’t improve, and if the Oilers don’t get past the Ducks, expect to hear Eberle’s name resurface in trade rumors this offseason.