Mike Halford

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 08:  Referee Wes McCauley #4 handles the game between the New York Islanders and the Florida Panthers at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 8, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Your Chicago-St. Louis Game 7 officials are…

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The first Game 7 of this year’s playoffs will be worked by referees Wes McCauley and Francis Charron — those two zebras have been chosen to officiate tonight’s highly-anticipated series finale between the Blackhawks and Blues.

(Assignments courtesy the NHL’s media site and Scouting the Refs. All assignments are subject to change.)

McCauley, perhaps best known for his dramatic chipmunk goal call, is the veteran of the two — he’s been refereeing games since 2003, Charron since 2010.

The two have worked in tandem on several occasions this postseason, doing games in the Panthers-Islanders, Penguins-Rangers and Capitals-Flyers series.

On the lines, Scott “Wild” Cherrey and Jay “I Have Been Doing This Forever” Sharrers get the plum gig. Sharrers, 48, has been in the league for 26 years and has over 1,500 games on his resume.

To say officiating has been a story in the St. Louis-Chicago series would be an understatement.

Game 2 featured a pair of coach’s challenges — including Joel Quenneville’s successful overturn of Vladimir Tarasenko’s go-ahead marker — and, in Game 4, a late penalty call on Andrew Shaw led to Shaw losing his cool, which resulted in his one-game suspension for using a homophobic slur, and $5,000 fine for “directing an inappropriate gesture at the on-ice officials.”

Tonight’s game is at 8:30 p.m. ET from Scottrade. You can catch the game on NBCSN, or stream it live using the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

Here are the Kraft Hockeyville Top 2

The ballots have been cast, the votes are in — and it’s Lakeview Arena (Marquette, MI) and the Rushmore Thunderdome (Rapid City, SD) that’ve emerged from the East and West to make the Kraft Hockeyville Top 2.

To check out both rinks, click the video above.

To vote on who will emerge as the Kraft Hockeyville winner for 2016, visit the website.

 

 

WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action

Washington Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov (92), tries to keep the puck away from Philadelphia Flyers' Shayne Gostisbehere (53) and Brandon Manning (23) during Game 3 in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs, Monday, April 18, 2016, in Philadelphia. Washington won 6-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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Philadelphia at Washington (7:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 5 will be on NBCSN, with Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin on the call. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

NY Islanders at Florida (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 5 will be on CNBC. Chris Cuthbert and Pierre McGuire have play-by-play and color duties. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Minnesota at Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 5 will be on NBCSN, with Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro on the call. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

San Jose at Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 5 will be on CNBC. Randy Hahn and Jamie Baker have play-by-play and color duties. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affairs…

Trocheck might play tonight (but don’t bet the farm on it)

Stars to stick with Niemi tonight, Ruff ‘tired of explaining our two goalie thing’

Caps rule out Orpik again, Trotz won’t answer concussion questions

Report: Datsyuk to play for Russia at Worlds

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk acknowledges the crowd after an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Detroit Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Where Pavel Datsyuk plays next year remains a mystery.

Where he plays next month, though, appears to be set in stone.

Per Sport Express — by way of MLive — Datsyuk will represent Russia at the 2016 World Hockey Championships which, not coincidentally, will be held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Over the last month, various reports have linked Datsyuk to a return to his native country next season, even though he has one year remaining on his contract with the Red Wings. The 37-year-old told The Free Press’ Mitch Albom “I think I am done playing in NHL,” but said he might not be done playing hockey.

It’s believed Datsyuk would latch on with a KHL club if he leaves Detroit,. in order to spend more time with his 13-year-old daughter, who lives in Russia.

Following last night’s season-ending loss, the “Magic Man” said he was still undecided about what he’s going to do.

“I’m not thinking about two days or how many days,” Datsyuk explained. “I need a little bit cool down and emotions go out and start thinking about it more.”

At first glance, the situation looks sticky because Datsyuk’s final year — in which he’s owed $5.5 million in salary, and carries a $7.5M cap hit — could be problematic for Detroit’s finances.

But, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli, the issue might not be that complicated:

If Datsyuk does not report for training camp, the Red Wings (or any team which acquires him) can suspend him for breach of contract, two NHL cap managers confirmed on Friday. That team would then not be responsible for paying him any of the $5.5 million due to him in actual cash.

No team, including the Red Wings, would owe him a dollar. Datsyuk’s $7.5 million salary-cap hit, a paper penalty in theory, could prove valuable to a small-market team struggling to hit the cap floor or spending minimum.

Related: Datsyuk’s agent basically gives non-answer about Russia rumors

‘Canes stay busy, ink Nordstrom to two-year, $2.55M extension

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 27:  Joakim Nordstrom #42 of the Carolina Hurricanes advances the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on December 27, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Hurricanes defeated the Blackhawks 2-1.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Shortly after inking Jake Chelios — yes, the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios — the Carolina Hurricanes announced they signed forward Joakim Nordstrom to a two-year, $2.55 million extension, one that carries a $1.275M average annual cap hit.

“Joakim took a major step forward in his career last season,” said GM Ron Francis in a release. “We expect him to continue to grow as both a player and a leader on our team.”

Nordstrom, acquired along with Kris Versteeg from Chicago in September, enjoyed his greatest NHL success in 2015-16. The 24-year-old posted career highs in games played (71), goals (10), assists (14) and points (24) and was a valuable member of Bill Peters’ penalty killing unit, which finished sixth in the league.

Very quietly, Francis has done a nice job of scooping these types of players away from other organizations, getting them to produce, then signing them to reasonable, low-cost extensions.

Andrej Nestrasil, claimed off waivers from Detroit, signed a two-year, $1.825 million extension last summer.

Eddie Lack, acquired from Vancouver for a third- and seventh-round pick, inked a two-year, $5.5M extension just prior to the start of the regular season.