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The Buzzer: Lightning back in first, Varlamov hurt, Ducks gain ground

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Players of the Night:

Cedric Paquette, Tampa Bay Lightning: Paquette scored twice and added an assist as the Lightning thumped the New York Rangers 7-3 on Friday. Paquette had five shots on goal and the Lightning threw 50 at Ondrej Pavelec to regain first place in the Atlantic Division. Tampa matched its regular-season record for points with 108.

Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche: The duo (but mostly Varlamov) combined for the first combined shutout in Avs history on Friday. Varlamov made 30 saves in 53:31 before he was injured in a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Tomas Jurco. Bernier finished the game, making three more saves to complete the blanking.

Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks: Double R scored the OT winner to give the Ducks a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings, putting the Ducks into the first wildcard in the Western Conference, one point back of L.A. The Ducks have a game in-hand on their California counterparts.

Highlights of the Night:

Domingue’d

Hello, Andrighetto:

MacKinnon saves:

Juke and jive:

Rakell’s OT winner was special:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Hurricanes 4, Capitals 1

Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 4

Lightning 7, Rangers 3

Avalanche 5, Blackhawks 0

Ducks 3, King 2 (OT)

Golden Knights 4, Blues 3 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Adam Henrique finding new life on West Coast

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Remember when Adam Henrique scored 30 goals one season?

He does. His fans do. And the Anaheim Ducks would love for that to be a memory of their own in the near future.

The good news Henrique, who was traded to the Ducks from the New Jersey Devils for Sami Vatanen 10 days ago — and all involved for that matter — is that he’s rekindled that penchant for putting pucks past goalies in his new threads.

Henrique scored for the third time in five games on Friday since joining the Ducks and now has six points in that span. That puts him one goal shy of the four he scored in the first 24 games of the season with the Devils. Prior to joining the Ducks, Henrique had one goal in his previous 15 games.

Evidently, the change of pace has helped.

(Perhaps Matt Duchene in Ottawa should take a few notes.)

Indeed, Henrique, 27, has found new life on a line with Corey Perry and Rickard Rakell. The battered Ducks envisioned some adding scoring when they slotted Henrique on the top line in Anaheim and he’s since delivered.

The move has had added benefits as well, including getting Perry going.

Perry has missed a playmaker like Ryan Getzlaf in the middle. Getzlaf has been limited to six games this season due to two separate injuries.

Perry has found some good chemistry with Henrique, managing to score twice in as many games last week, with Henrique playing a part in both tallies. Perry has also returned the favour, assisting on two of Henrique’s three markers.

It’s a good sign for the Ducks, who might be getting healthy soon to boot.

God knows they need it. Even with the offensive boost, the Ducks have still only managed two wins out of their past 10 games.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

It’s Anaheim Ducks Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Anaheim Ducks.

It’s becoming an all too familiar story for fans of the Anaheim Ducks: solid regular season followed by disappointment in the playoffs.

For a third consecutive season, Anaheim finished the regular season as the top seed in the Pacific Division. And for a second consecutive year, the Ducks owned the best record in the Western Conference (51-24-7).

However, just like they did during the 2014 playoffs, the Ducks fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, losing in seven games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Ducks did make some strides – they hadn’t been to the conference final since winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in 2007.

Newcomer Ryan Kesler gave the Ducks a nice 1-2 punch down the middle. The 30-year-old finished third in team scoring behind Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry with 20 goals and 47 points in 81 games.

Anaheim also got career years out of forwards Jakob Silfverberg, Patrick Maroon and defenseman Sami Vatanen.

Matt Beleskey, who has since signed with the Boston Bruins, added a career-high 22 goals for a Ducks team, which finished 11th in the league in goals-for per-game (2.78).

In goal, Frederik Andersen shouldered the load going 35-12-5 with a 2.38 G.A.A and a .914 save percentage while making 54 appearances in his second NHL season. His 35 wins were good for eighth in the league.

John Gibson also made 23 appearances in the Ducks’ crease going 13-8-0 to go along with a 2.60 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage. The 22-year-old struggled last season battling with injuries and inconsistencies.

Off-season recap

The Ducks are clearly in a win-now mode.

GM Bob Murray added a veteran presence on the team’s blue line by acquiring Kevin Bieksa from the Vancouver Canucks.

Up front, the Ducks acquired Carl Hagelin and signed free agents Shawn Horcoff and Chris Stewart.

In goal, Murray acquired Anton Khudobin in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes to challenge Andersen and Gibson.

With the likes of Jiri Sekac, Rickard Rakell and Chris Wagner up front, and Simon Despres, Hampus Lindholm and Vatanen on the blue line all due contract extensions after next season it’s unlikely Murray can keep his young nucleus together.

Both Andersen and Gibson will also require new deals as well while Khudobin is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Anaheim’s time to win is now before Murray and his staff begins the process of creatively re-tooling the club next summer.

Ducks juggle lines ahead of Game 7

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The Anaheim Ducks did a bit of line juggling during the team’s morning skate at the Honda Center on Saturday.

After sitting out Game 6, it appears Tomas Fleischmann will enter the Ducks’ lineup tonight in place of Emerson Etem. The 31-year-old practiced on the team’s fourth line with Kyle Palmieri and Rickard Rakell.

Ducks’ coach Bruce Boudreau has a history with Fleischmann, which dates back to when the two were with the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

“There’s a real good chance that he’s in,” said Boudreau. “I just think an experienced guy, he’s been through these wars, he’s played in Game 7s, he’s been in championship games.

“When I was with Hershey, it was a while ago, but he was the MVP in the playoffs. So he knows what to do in these situations.”

Fleischmann played 10:19 in Game 5 after sitting out four games as a healthy scratch.

In five playoff games this spring, Fleischmann has one assist.

With Palmieri on the fourth line, Jiri Sekac moves up to the Ducks’ third line along side Nate Thompson and Andrew Cogliano. Sekac has a plus-1 rating and two penalty minutes while averaging 11:14 in ice time in six games this spring.

Puck drop tonight is at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Boudreau mulls line changes ahead of Game 7

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Though he wouldn’t commit to anything, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau is contemplaing mixing up his bottom-six forward group for tomorrow’s Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against Chicago.

Right winger Kyle Palmieri — who has spent most of this series on a line with Andrew Cogliano and Nate Thompson — was replaced by Jiri Sekac on the third line, moving Palmieri onto the fourth with Rickard Rakell and Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann had taken the place of Emerson Etem on the bottom line, which has happened on a few occasions this postseason (including Game 5 of this series).

The moves were a chemistry test, according to Boudreau, who suggested he might use these new units as Anaheim looks to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in eight years.

“I wanted to see it in practice today,” Boudreau said, per NHL.com. “We tried that a little bit. I wanted to make sure that if that’s the route we’re going to go, then I wanted to see if they at least had sort of some good chemistry together. We talked about it and we’ll talk about it again [Saturday] morning.

“By no means are those set in stone, those lines today.”