Jason Brough

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Boudreau predicts the Caps will get it done tonight

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Game 7 may be the most exciting phrase in sports to a lot of people. Probably not for the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks.

The Capitals have lost six of nine Game 7s in the Alex Ovechkin era, and the Ducks have lost five in a row with stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, including a heartbreaker in each of the last four years. Wednesday night is the chance for each team to confront its Game 7 demons as Washington hosts the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim hosts the Edmonton Oilers with spots in the conference finals at stake.

“I don’t know whether from coaching or playing whether you get into a mental block or not,” said Bruce Boudreau, who coached in Game 7 four times with the Capitals and four times with the Ducks. “I think Washington for sure is due to win. I’ve said it for four years in Anaheim we’re due to win, but in the end your best players have got to be your best players.”

For the Capitals, that means more production from Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, and strong goaltending from Braden Holtby when the puck drops for Game 7 against the Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). In those nine Game 7s, Ovechkin has three goals and three assists, and at the moment he is earning praise from teammates and coach Barry Trotz in this series for accepting a demotion to the third line.

Getzlaf and Perry have combined for only seven points in six chances in Game 7 going into another one at home against Edmonton (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Goaltender John Gibson was pulled from his only Game 7 start in 2014 after allowing four goals on 18 shots, and he’s coming off another hook after three goals on six shots in a 7-1 drubbing in Game 6 on Sunday.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle didn’t blame Gibson and said it’s about the entire team being better.

“Obviously there’s more at stake when it’s the final game,” said Carlyle, who won the Cup in 2007 but hasn’t won a Game 7 since 2006. “Now it boils down to one. … I’m sure that you could poll 100 people, and 99 of them would say they’d rather play at home. It’s our turn to serve, and holding serve means that we go on. If we don’t hold serve, then it’s not what we’re looking for.”

Boudreau, who is 1-7 in his NHL coaching career in Game 7 after success in that spot in the minors, thinks goaltending will be the difference. Trotz doesn’t think it’ll have anything to do with history.

“I don’t know if there’s any hump to get over,” said Trotz, who is 1-1 with the Capitals in two Game 7 opportunities in 2015. “I just think with this group that I’ve been with, our Game 7s have been pretty solid. You’re not going to win every one. But I thought our game was really, really quite good in both those Game 7s.”

Whether it was Marc-Andre Fleury stopping Ovechkin on a breakaway in 2009, Jaroslav Halak stopping 41 of 42 shots in 2010, losing by one goal to the New York Rangers in 2012, getting shut out by the Rangers in 2013 or losing in overtime at the Rangers in 2015, Game 7 just hasn’t been kind to the Capitals.

“At the end of the day they’re a different team,” said Adam Oates, who coached the Capitals’ 5-0 Game 7 loss in 2013. “I think they’re the better team right now, so hopefully they play that way. Based on (Monday) night I don’t see any reason why they won’t.”

Beating the Penguins emphatically 5-2 in Game 6 in Pittsburgh is why Boudreau believes the Capitals will win Game 7. Their last Game 7 victory at home came in the first round in 2009 with Boudreau behind the bench when Sergei Fedorov scored the OT winner to knock off the Rangers.

“I’ve got to believe that (the momentum from Game 6 is) going to roll over, that they’re finally sick and tired of hearing that they haven’t gone to the third round and will break through,” Boudreau said.

 

Stars acquire Bishop’s negotiating rights from Kings

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The Dallas Stars are taking a crack at signing Ben Bishop.

The Stars announced today that they’ve acquired Bishop from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Montreal’s fourth-round selection in the 2017 draft. The Stars will now have exclusive negotiating rights with Bishop until July 1, the day he can become an unrestricted free agent.

“Ben has proven that he is one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “This offers us the opportunity to negotiate with him before the free agency period begins.”

The Carolina Hurricanes took a similar route with Scott Darling just a few days ago, acquiring his negotiating rights from Chicago before signing him to a four-year deal.

Bishop, 30, split the regular season between the Lightning and Kings, finishing 18-15-5 with a .910 save percentage. His career NHL save percentage is .919.

There has been speculation that the Calgary Flames could be interested in Bishop as well.

But for now, his rights belong to Dallas, and everyone knows the story with the Stars’ goaltending.

Update: Sounds like the Stars have the inside track on getting Bishop signed.

Crosby says he was cleared by Penguins medical staff after crashing into boards

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Sidney Crosby did not go through the league’s formal concussion protocol after crashing into the boards last night in Pittsburgh; however, the Penguins captain insisted today that he was checked out and cleared to play by the team’s medical staff.

“As far as being checked by a doctor, yes, absolutely,” Crosby said, per the Tribune-Review. “Any guy who goes into the boards like that, the first thing is trainer and then the doctor.”

Head coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Crosby was not evaluated for a concussion. But what he meant to say, apparently, is that Crosby did not go through the protocol.

“The medical staff and (concussion) spotters are responsible for identifying players to go through protocol,” Sullivan clarified, per USA Today. “If they go through protocol, I usually get notified by our medical staff. I did not. That’s the process. It’s completely out of our control as coaches.”

According to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, crashing into the boards and getting up slowly is not grounds to be forced into the protocol by concussion spotters — even though Crosby was recently diagnosed with a concussion.

IIHF president still hopeful Bettman will change mind on Olympics

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PARIS (AP) The NHL still has a couple more months to reverse its decision and opt to participate in next year’s Olympics in South Korea.

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel said Tuesday his organization was in contact with the National Hockey League Players’ Association two or three times per week, hoping to work out a solution that will bring the sport’s biggest stars to Pyeongchang.

“I would say the latest we can do is end of June, beginning of July, for calendars, schedules, arenas,” Fasel said at a news conference during the hockey worlds. “We will see.”

Fasel, who is Swiss, also said he plans to call NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, but he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about his chances.

“I have a very good relation with Gary. But what can I say? I have nothing to give him,” Fasel said. “I can say `Hello, how are you? Great playoffs.’ Just social talk. Maybe I come to New York, we have a steak and go back. This is the way it is.

“The puck is for sure on the stick of the NHL Players’ Association and we will see.”

Last month, the NHL announced that it will not stop its season to allow players to compete at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics for the first time in 20 years.

“I’m a very positive person so I never give up, and there is still some time where maybe we can convince Gary Bettman to change his opinion,” Fasel said.

The NHL has not decided whether to allow teams to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. It was not immediately clear how the United States, Canada and other countries will fill Olympic rosters, though national federations have already begun planning.

“We played before without the NHL, we will have anyway a great tournament. But it would be so much better with the best players in the world,” Fasel said. “The players want to go, so I really don’t understand.

“But if Gary decides not to go to the Olympics, the fans will not be happy, the players will not be happy, I hope (the) media won’t be happy. The whole world will not be happy.”

Skipping the Olympics in Pyeongchang would be a huge mistake, Fasel said, in terms of growing hockey in Asia.

“There is a unique opportunity for our sport to show up there, a unique opportunity for the NHL to be there,” said Fasel, who is also a long-standing IOC member. “We are in discussion with the IOC. We have internally our discussion and we try and make a snowball, a package that maybe we can go to Gary (with) and say `Listen, Gary: Yes or no?’

“There is nothing bigger and more important. We don’t have a better platform for our sport than the Olympic Winter Games. Three billion people watching.”

Read more: Bettman wants the sponsor treatment from IOC

NHL stars like Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist have all spoken out strongly in favor of taking part.

The NHL’s stance, if unchanged, would put Russia in a dominant position.

Russia is home to the Kontinental Hockey League, widely regarded as the strongest outside North America. Taking a schedule break for the Olympics is easier for the KHL, which already shapes its season to accommodate the world championships and national-team warmups.

“What we will do for sure if the NHL isn’t coming is that we will work in China, in the KHL,” Fasel said. “That will give the space to the Russian and the non-Russian clubs to be present in Asia.”

New lines for the Penguins, again

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New lines didn’t work for the Penguins last night in Pittsburgh.

So today at practice, the Penguins had … new lines.

Per NHL.com’s Wes Crosby, Bryan Rust has been bumped up to the top line to skate with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. On the second line, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel were back together, along with Chris Kunitz. The third line had Conor Sheary, Nick Bonino, and Patric Hornqvist, and the fourth Carl Hagelin, Matt Cullen, and Carter Rowney.

The Pens were dominated by the Washington Capitals in Game 6, a 5-2 decision that forced Game 7 tomorrow in D.C.

It remains to be seen if the new forward combinations will have any effect. Pittsburgh’s biggest issue is probably its defense, which has missed Kris Letang for the entire postseason then lost Trevor Daley in Game 5 against the Caps.

Daley did not practice today.

Read more: The Penguins are going to need Marc-Andre Fleury to steal one more game