Ryan Dadoun

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Wild will enter playoffs without Vanek

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The Minnesota Wild have an uphill battle ahead of them and they’ll have to start that climb without Thomas Vanek.

The 32-year-old forward has missed the Wild’s last two games with an upper-body injury and it will be “more than a week” before he’s ready to rejoin the team, Wild coach John Torchetti told the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.

In other words, Vanek has been ruled out for the Wild’s playoff opener and will likely miss more than just that one game.

If he does return before the end of Minnesota’s postseason run, it will be a chance for him to salvage what has been a disappointing campaign. Vanek will finish the regular season with 18 goals and 41 points in 74 games. That’s a long way from the offensive success he enjoyed prior to joining Minnesota and makes his three-year, $19.5 million contract look less desirable.

In addition to bouncing back from a less than ideal regular season, this is also a potential opportunity for Vanek to put his rough 2015 postseason behind him. He didn’t score a single goal during that run and finished with three assists and a minus-seven rating in 10 games.

So Vanek has plenty to prove and with the Wild set to play against Dallas or St. Louis, now would certainly be a good time to have a veteran forward like him step up. Unfortunately his injury has put that possibility on hold.

Rick Nash knows he needs to start scoring

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What can we expect from Rick Nash in the playoffs after one of the worst regular seasons of his career?

It’s not like he’s known for stepping up in the postseason as it is, but he also usually doesn’t set the bar this low. He’s on route to set new career-lows with 15 goals and 36 points and while it’s that he’s been limited to 59 games due to a leg injury, this has still been a particularly bad season for him.

“I know I have to be better,” Nash told the New York post. “I’m happy with my defensive game, but the offense isn’t where I know it has to be.

“I know I have to score to help this team in the playoffs.”

The Rangers could certainly use the help after the mediocre showing they’ve put forward since the trade deadline. At this point they’re looking at entering the playoffs in the first Wild Card seed and while an argument could be made that positioning is preferable as it means facing the Florida Panthers in the first round rather than their formidable Metropolitan Division adversaries, it’s still never ideal to stagger into the postseason.

New York looked significantly stronger at this point last season when they went all the way to the Eastern Conference Final. Back then the Rangers were able to dismiss the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the first two rounds even as Nash was limited to two goals and seven points in 12 games over that span. This time around they might need more from him out of the gate and while there’s certainly reason to be pessimistic about his chances of delivering, if he does it will provide quite the silver lining to what would otherwise be seen as an almost exclusively dreary campaign.

Islanders lose Anders Lee to broken fibula

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The New York Islanders may have won on Thursday, but that victory came with a cost.

They announced this morning that Anders Lee is out indefinitely with a broken left fibula. As previously reported, the 25-year-old forward absorbed a shot from teammate Johnny Boychuk.

Although the team didn’t put any kind of timetable on Lee’s return other than to call him out indefinitely, he isn’t expected to return even if the Islanders go deep into the playoffs, according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

Lee has had a decent campaign with 15 goals and 36 points in 80 contests and while he has been used regularly with the man advantage, Lee has seen more modest minutes in all other situations. However, this injury represents a blow to the Islanders’ depth, which was already being tested by injuries. The Islanders have been missing forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck, defensemen Travis Hamonic, Brian Strait, and Adam Pelech, and goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Jean-Francois Berube.

Goalie nods: NCAA standout Lindgren gets his first NHL start

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This has been a disheartening season for Canadiens fans and their goaltending has been a central part of that, but with the campaign drawing to a close, there is a potential silver lining on the horizon.

Charlie Lindgren is set to play between the pipes tonight in his NHL debut. The Canadiens netminder will be countered by Hurricanes veteran goalie Cam Ward.

At the age of 22, Lindgren only recently ended his tenure with St. Cloud State. He stood out in the NCAA this season with his 2.13 GAA and .925 save percentage in 40 games. That earned him a two-year, entry-level contract with Montreal on March 30.

“Lindgren was in our mind the best free agent goaltender available coming out of the US college level,” said Habs GM Marc Bergevin in a release at the time of signing.

In a best case scenario, he’ll develop into a strong alternative to Carey Price to both give Montreal a reliable backup and fill the void should Price ever deal with significant injuries again like he did this season. Of course, only time will tell if Lindgren will become that goaltender, but we’ll get our first glimpse into his future tonight.

Elsewhere…

Jimmy Howard will start for Detroit in a key contest against the Bruins. Boston will probably counter with Tuukka Rask, but that’s not confirmed.

Ben Bishop will face Keith Kinkaid as the Lightning take on the Devils.

— The battle of the Islanders and Rangers will feature Thomas Greiss and Henrik Lundqvist respectively.

Steve Mason will start for the Flyers for the second time in as many days. He’ll be up against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it’s not known who will play for them. Jonathan Bernier seems like a decent bet though, given that Garret Sparks started in the Maple Leafs’ 5-1 loss to Columbus last night.

— Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray will face Washington’s Braden Holtby tonight. A victory for Washington would tie Holtby for the single season wins record.

Al Montoya and Craig Anderson will play against each other in tonight’s contest between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators.

Mike Smith will get the nod for the Arizona Coyotes. Nashville’s goaltender isn’t confirmed, but it’s likely to be Pekka Rinne.

— Chicago will go with Scott Darling tonight. It’s not known who the St. Louis Blues will counter with, but with Jake Allen (lower body) out, Brian Elliott is probably a decent guess.

— No confirmations yet in the game between Colorado and Dallas, but Calvin Pickard and Kari Lehtonen are the likely goaltenders.

Joni Ortio will play between the pipes for Calgary. Vancouver will probably counter with Ryan Miller.

— It’s not clear who will start in tonight’s contest between Anaheim and Los Angeles, though it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if John Gibson and Jonathan Quick are between the pipes.

Ondrej Pavelec will start for Winnipeg while San Jose will counter with Martin Jones in tonight’s game.

Drouin ‘earned this callup’, gets top-six chance

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After wanting out of Lightning organization, could Jonathan Drouin play a key role in securing Tampa Bay the home-ice advantage in the playoffs?

His promotion this morning seemed like an improbable outcome back when Drouin was demanding a trade and suspended for refusing to play in the AHL, but times have changed. He’s not only been playing in the minors recently, but excelling at that level with nine goals in his last nine games.

His hard work seems to have turned heads. As Lightning coach Jon Cooper told Tampa Bay Times writer Joe Smith, “Drouin earned this callup.”

As it happens, he’s not only joining the Lightning, but being penciled in for an important role tonight against the New Jersey Devils. He’s set to serve on the second line with Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov, per Sportsnet. He’ll also get some power-play playing time.

It will be interesting to see if that ultimately leads to him getting meaningfully more ice time than the 14:06 minutes per game he was averaging with Tampa Bay earlier this season. The Lightning could certainly use his scoring touch now more than ever given Steven Stamkosabsence.