For the Anaheim Ducks, it’s ‘time to step up’

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Just in case the Anaheim Ducks don’t get past the Winnipeg Jets, let’s go ahead and tuck away this quote from GM Bob Murray for later reference:

“This is our third year with this group making the playoffs where there’s some sort of expectations. I am going to watch very carefully not only the coaching staff, but how certain players play in the playoffs this year. This is the third year and it’s time.

“It’s not just [coach Bruce Boudreau]. The guys that have been here, it’s time for some of them to step to the plate. I’m watching everybody. There’s guys that haven’t had good playoffs. It’s time. They’ve got experience now. They’ve been there. It’s time to step up.”

That quote (warning?) came via the L.A. Times.

Remember that Murray has not been a passive GM, to say the least. In the summer, he acquired former Selke Trophy winner Ryan Kesler to give the Ducks the kind of second-line center Boudreau said he’s never had as an NHL coach. Murray also made a number of trades prior to the deadline, as he reportedly felt the Ducks’ success earlier in the season was a bit of a mirage. His team responded and finished the schedule playing arguably its best hockey of 2014-15, save for the odd hiccup.

Also consider that if the Ducks can get past Winnipeg, they’ll be pretty heavily favored to beat either Vancouver or Calgary, which would put them in the NHL’s final four for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

If they don’t get past Winnipeg, or if they do and then lose in the second round, it’ll be extremely interesting to see how Murray reacts.

Related: Pressing Playoff Question: Which coaches are coaching for their jobs?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoff TV schedule for tonight

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A quick look at what games will be on what channels in tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action…

Penguins at Rangers, 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Tonight’s action kicks off with a rematch of last spring’s Eastern Conference semifinals, which the Rangers won in seven games. Tonight marks the first time since Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin made their playoff debuts in 2007 that Pittsburgh is opening the playoffs on the road. Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire have the call.

Red Wings at Lightning, 7:30 p.m. on CNBC

A half hour later the series, which features the only two NHL organizations Steve Yzerman has ever been a part of gets going in Tampa Bay. It marks the first ever playoff meeting between the Red Wings and Lightning. Tampa is looking for its first playoff win since Game 6 of the 2011 Eastern Conference final. John Forslund and Andy Brickley will be on the call.

Wild at Blues, 9:30 p.m. on NBCSN

This marks the first playoff meeting between the Central Division foes. The two clubs split the regular season series with each team winning twice. Both teams enter the postseason on hot streaks. St. Louis used a 13-6-3 finish to overtake the Nashville Predators and win the Central Division. Minnesota was a league-best 26-8-2 after the All-Star break. Dave Strader and Brian Engblom have the call.

Jets at Ducks, 10:30 p.m. on CNBC

Thursday night’s action concludes in Orange County as the Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks meet for the first time in a playoff series. The Ducks won all three regular season meetings between the two clubs. The Jets franchise is in the playoffs for the first time since a four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers in 2007 when the club was still in Atlanta. Dave Randorf, Garry Galley and Cassie Campbell-Pascall will be on the call.

Playoff infirmary report: Who’s hurt, who’s coming back?

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Patrick Kane, Chicago (broken clavicle)

Originally thought to be out for 12 weeks, Kane cut his recovery time nearly in half and will suit up for Game 1 of Chicago’s series against Nashville. Kane hasn’t played since Feb. 24 but was lighting it up — as per usual — prior to getting hurt, with 64 points in 61 games.

Mark Giordano, Calgary (torn biceps)

There was some optimism earlier in the week when the Flames captain resumed skating and told reporters “I feel like hopefully the rehab is going better than expected.” That said, the injury and subsequent surgery came with a 4-5 month recovery period, so any possible Giordano comeback would come in much later playoff rounds.

Max Pacioretty, Montreal (upper-body)

Pacioretty, Montreal’s leading goalscorer with 37, has been out since getting knocked into the boards versus Florida in the third-final game of the season. He’s been ruled out of Game 1 against Ottawa and Habs head coach Michel Therrien is playing it coy about a potential return date.

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh (concussion)

Letang is unlikely to return this season following a hit from Arizona captain Shane Doan in late March.

Christian Ehrhoff, Pittsburgh (concussion)

Though he’s been cleared for contact, the Pens d-man won’t be available for Game 1. Neither will fellow blueliner Derrick Pouliot.

Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders (undisclosed)

Details on the d-man’s health are far and few between. Will the Isles say what his injury is? No. Have they given a timetable for return? No. All we really know is that Hamonic hasn’t been on the ice at all since taking a hipcheck from Pittsburgh’s Rob Scuderi last Friday, and his status is uncertain.

Kevin Klein, New York Rangers (broken arm)

Out since mid-March, the Rangers blueliner was originally expected to be ready for the playoffs — but now it sounds like his Game 1 status is in question. Klein also didn’t practice on Wednesday, casting further doubt on his ability to suit up for the opener against Pittsburgh.

Jason Garrison, Tampa Bay (upper-body)

When the Bolts d-man was hurt in late March, the club put a 3-4 week timetable on his return. As such, Garrison likely won’t be available for the early parts of the Detroit series; that said, the Lightning did get some good news as fellow blueliners Braydon Coburn and Andrej Sustr looked as though they’d be back in.

Mike Fisher, Nashville (lower-body)

The veteran Preds center missed the final two games of the year, but will draw in for Game 1 against Chicago.

John Gibson, Anaheim (upper-body)

After picking up a knock in practice, Gibson didn’t skate on Wednesday — which points to Frederik Andersen getting the start for Anaheim in Game 1 of its series against the Jets. At this point, it’s worth monitoring this situation to see if Gibson is even healthy enough to back up, as the Ducks have recalled veteran Jason LaBarbera from AHL Norfolk.

Mathieu Perreault, Winnipeg (lower body)

Injured in last Thursday’s shootout loss to Colorado, Perreault hasn’t been practicing or skating but, per Jets head coach Paul Maurice, he is getting better.

“We don’t want to turn it into a bigger problem than it is,” Maurice said, per the Free Press. “He’ll get back out on the ice. He may play based on how he feels after he skates. I expect him to go sooner rather than later.”

Justin Abdelkader, Detroit (hand)

Injured blocking a shot late in the season, Abdelkader is listed as questionable for Game 1 against Tampa Bay. His official status will be announced following the morning skate.

PHT Morning Skate: EA Sports predicts the Ducks will win the cup

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

EA Sports’ NHL 15 simulation engine predicts the Anaheim Ducks will win their second Stanley Cup in franchise history this spring defeating the New York Rangers in seven games. According to the simulator, Anaheim will require seven games in each round knocking off the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild before dispatching Rangers in the final. Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf will take home the Conn Smythe Trophy scoring nine goals and 26 points in 28 games.(EA Sports)

Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $20,000 league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $2,000. Starts tonight at 7:00pm ET. Play Now!

In attempt to reduce the number of Habs’ fans attending games in Ottawa during the first round of the playoffs, the Senators pulled a page out of the book of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators and restricted who could purchase tickets. However, the restrictions on billing addresses have created a huge secondary market online. (The Hockey News)

Another day, another Calgary Flames-themed parody song. This time a couple of Flames’ fans teamed up for a Flames-themed rendition of ‘It’s all about the Bass’.

This probably isn’t the Stanley Cup Canadiens fans are hoping for this spring, but a Montreal bar has made a replica of the trophy out of bacon.

PGA Tour member, and noted Calgary Flames fan, Graham DeLaet has added a sign of his allegiance to his clubs:

(Photo courtesy EA Sports)

Pressing Playoff Question: Which coaches are coaching for their jobs?

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Ken Hitchcock

Hitch has been on notice since last year’s opening-round exit — St. Louis’ second in as many years — and he confirmed it earlier this month, explaining that his future is tied to getting out of Round 1.

“There’s always going to be a question for players and coaches until we win a first round. But it’s a question I’m not afraid to answer,” Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know the answer right now but this team is built to go long in series, long in games. We’ve won a lot of games late. We’ve been at our best in the second and third periods. We know we can go the distance.

“Like everyone else I won’t know until it plays out but I’m looking forward to answering the questions.”

St. Louis is 8-13 over its last three playoffs, a record that gnaws at management. The Blues have spent plenty of money on its core group of players, and added high-priced free agent Paul Stastny following the Chicago ouster. The pieces are in place for a Cup run — now — which is why Hitchcok was delivered a message in the form of a one-year extension last May.

That message?

“Making the playoffs no longer is good enough,” Blues GM Armstrong said. “There’s some franchises that are losing in the first round that had good years. We’re not one of them.

“We’re a franchise that lost in the first round that did not meet its expectations.”

Mike Johnston

Consider, for a moment, what Johnston said upon getting hired in Pittsburgh:

“The bottom-line expectation for me is that, from training camp through the first part of the season, everything we do is setting the table for the playoffs. The score is relevant, but it’s not as relevant as the habits that we are going to have to make us successful in the playoffs.

“This is a group that wants to win. They’ve won the Stanley Cup, and I believe they want to do it again.”

The first-year bench boss set the bar with those remarks, and it remains to be seen what happens if he falls short.

We almost got a preview of it on the final day of the regular season, only for Pittsburgh to beat Buffalo and secure the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. While it was hardly the type of qualification many — including Johnston — envisioned, the Pens did make it to the dance (and there is something to be said for that, especially since L.A. and Boston didn’t.)

But as Johnston said, his job wasn’t about getting Pittsburgh into the playoffs. It was about doing something once they got there — and now, things get interesting.

Last week, Pens GM Jim Rutherford didn’t give Johnston a vote of confidence, though that was because Rutherford doesn’t like votes of confidence. Regarding the head coach’s job security, Rutherford said Johnston did “a good job under difficult circumstances.” CEO David Morehouse said much of the same, explaining that “we never even had discussions about people’s jobs,” adding, “we’re very happy to be where we are.”

Management is giving all the right answers, but it’s telling that people are asking the questions.

Bruce Boudreau

Boudreau has a great track record in the regular season, with 363 career wins and a Jack Adams trophy on his resume.

Boudreau does not, however, have the same track record in the playoffs.

His lifetime mark — 27-30, a .474 winning percentage — includes just three series wins and zero appearances beyond the second round.

What’s worrisome this year is that a recurring issue throughout Boudreau’s career — goaltending — is once again a factor. He’s yet to decide between John Gibson or Frederik Andersen as his postseason starter, carrying on a rich and colorful tradition:

• In 2009, his second playoff appearance with Washington, Boudreau yanked Jose Theodore in favor of Semyon Varlamov.

• In 2010, after vowing “there is no short leash” for Theodore, Boudreau yanked him in favor of Varlamov. Again.

• In 2014, he played three different netminders. Andersen started the Dallas series, only for Boudreau to shift to Jonas Hiller. Hiller then beat the Stars, started the L.A. series, only for Boudreau to go back to Andersen… and the Danish netminder promptly got hurt. But instead of going back to Hiller, Boudreau threw in Gibson, fresh off a recall from the AHL.

• The Ducks blew a 3-2 series lead, and lost to the Kings in Game 7.

History, as they say, has a way of repeating itself. Wonder what happens in Anaheim if it does.

Have to mention…

Mike Babcock, who isn’t so much coaching for his job as the Red Wings are playing for him to remain their coach… Jack Capuano, who could be feeling some heat if the Isles don’t show much in the opening playoff round.