Valeri Nichushkin might not be in the lineup for Game 2 on Saturday, and that says more about the Dallas Stars’ depth than the 21-year-old forward’s play.
After a commanding 4-0 victory over Minnesota Thursday night, the Stars might get Tyler Seguin back on Saturday. That’s not confirmed, but after missing roughly a month because of a cut to his Achilles, he feels “pretty ready,” per Mark Stepneski of the Stars’ official website. Obviously if he comes in, someone needs to be pulled.
Nichushkin is very highly regarded, but for all his potential, he hasn’t broken out yet. He finished the regular season with nine goals and 29 points in 79 contests. Still, to have a player of his caliber in reverse would be a luxury.
As Heika noted in the Dallas Morning News:
Look, Minnesota is struggling right now. … But the thing is Faksa has been playing this way for 20 games. Same with Hemsky. Roussel and Eaves and Sceviour and Vernon Fiddler and Mattias Janmark help give Dallas maybe the best forward depth in the NHL.
And that’s to say nothing of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp.
Dallas still has its question marks. For example, it remains to be seen if its goaltending will hold up over the course of the playoffs and in that regard, Game 1 against Minnesota minus Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek wasn’t a particularly good test. But there’s a reason why the Stars finished with the top record in the Western Conference.
The New York Rangers’ practice on Friday brought some good and bad news.
On the positive side, goalie Henrik Lundqvist was on the ice, which keeps the door open to him returning on Saturday. They will be missing defenseman Dan Girardi though.
The Rangers ruled Girardi out for that contest after he missed Friday’s practice. As is to be expected of a playoff issue, most of the details haven’t been revealed. When asked if it was an upper or lower-body injury, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said, “It’s the whole thing,” per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
Girardi missed the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, but logged 17:17 minutes in Game 1.
His absence raises the possibility of 23-year-old blueliner Dylan McIlrath playing in his first postseason contest. He had four points and 64 penalty minutes in 34 contests in the regular season.
Related: Already? Penguins might get Malkin back Saturday
If only the St. Louis Blues had listened.
“(Vladimir Tarasenko) told us the day he got here about (Artemi) Panarin,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. “At least once a month. … We all look a little dumb right now.”
Tarasenko made the leap from SKA St. Petersburg to the St. Louis Blues in 2013. At the time Panarin was already established in the KHL, but he hadn’t broken out offensively yet. He had 18 points in 43 KHL contests in 2012-13 compared to 26 goals and 54 points in 54 games in 2014-15. Then the Chicago Blackhawks signed him.
Given how well that’s worked out for the Blackhawks, the Blues obviously wish they would have followed Tarasenko’s recommendation.
“Instead of paying him $8 million we should have hired him as a scout,” Hitchcock joked, per CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.
Of course, St. Louis still managed to silence Chicago in Game 1, but the Blackhawks are far from done. The defending Stanley Cup champions will have an opportunity to even the series on Friday before they head to Chicago.
Just a day after the possibility of him returning before the end of the first round was discussed, it now looks like Evgeni Malkin (upper body) might play in Game 2 on Saturday.
Malkin not only took part in Friday’s practice, but he skated on a line with Conor Sheary Bryan Rust and the top power-play unit during drills. Afterwards he described himself as a game-time decision, per NHL.com’s Wes Crosby.
If the Penguins forward does return on Saturday it will be just five weeks into his original six-to-eight week timetable. Of course, it’s worth emphasizing that nothing is set in stone, especially in the playoffs.
Either way, the fact that Malkin returning on Saturday even seems to be a possibility is a great sign for the Penguins. They already claimed an early lead in the series with a 5-2 victory on Wednesday. Getting Malkin back now would put further pressure on the New York Rangers.
Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) took part in Friday’s practice as well and continues to make progress. He’s also a possibility to return on Saturday.
After suffering a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders in the series opener, it seems the Florida Panthers are tweaking their lineup for Game 2 on Friday.
Defenseman Jakub Kindl is on course to be a healthy scratch based on this morning’s practice, per the Miami Herald’s George Richards. It looks like Michael Matheson will take his place.
Kindl logged just 12:30 minutes of ice time in Game 1 and didn’t look good in the sequence that led to Ryan Strome‘s game-winning goal, as you can see below:
At the age of 22, Matheson has three regular season games under his belt and has never participated in an NHL playoff contest. That being said, he’s one of the Panthers’ top defensive prospects after being taken with the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
In other news, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant put to rest any doubt about the team’s goaltending situation. Not that it will come as a surprise, but goaltender Roberto Luongo will start in his second game in as many days, as reported by George Richards.