Opening night roster choices in Vancouver, New Jersey, LA, and Philly cause a stir

With teams setting their final rosters for the start of the season, some of the teams with salary cap issues are making what appear to be curious moves but may ultimately prove to be nothing more than paper shuffling for the bookkeepers.

coryschneider1.jpgIn Vancouver, the Canucks recalled defenseman Lee Sweatt while sending goalie Cory Schneider and forwards Jeff Tambellini and Alexandre Bolduc to Manitoba in the AHL. In actuality, sending Schneider and keeping rookie Swedish goalie Eddie Lack on the roster helps give the Canucks a few more days to figure out their more-realistic salary cap situation since they won’t play their first game until Saturday.

While rookie Cody Hodgson is on the roster now, expect him to be headed to Manitoba by Saturday as well so the Canucks will have their actual game-ready crew set to go. It’s a fun dance to do when dealing with the cap.

In New Jersey, the Devils made a surprising move sending rookie defenseman Matt Taormina to Albany in the AHL while recalling rookie center Adam Henrique. Henrique didn’t play in any Devils preseason games and initially appeared to be an early cut in camp.

Instead, he’s back on the roster for the time being and making sure the Devils are $35,835 below the salary cap with Bryce Salvador and Anssi Salmela officially put on LTIR.You can get a pretty sweet car for that amount of money, but not another player as the Devils roster, as we talked about yesterday, is at 20 players.

Some Devils followers, like John Fischer of In Lou We Trust, braydenschenn3.jpggoalies.

As for the Los Angeles Kings, you might actually need a program on opening night to figure out who some of the players are. While the Kings didn’t have a lot of roster turnover to speak of in the off-season, training camp brought through a lot of new faces that will make their debuts with the team.

Among them, former first round pick centerman Brayden Schenn, defenseman Jake Muzzin, and forwards Kevin Westgarth, Andrei Loktionov, Trevor Lewis, and Kyle Clifford. If you’re a fan of the AHL Manchester Monarchs you’ll know a lot of those guys, but chances are the youth movement in Los Angeles will take you by surprise. The most surprising of this group are Muzzin and Clifford. Head coach Terry Murray will certainly have his options available to him to juggle things as the pressure to build off last year’s playoff appearance will certainly be high.

sergeibobrovsky1.jpgIn Philadelphia, Ian Laperriere’s potentially season-ending news about dealing with post-concussion syndrome is causing many hearts to sink, but through that a new name has emerged as a potential cult hero. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is already getting a lot of love from Philly fans for making the team in Michael Leighton’s absence. Given how tenuous the situation in goal can be in Philly, Bobrovsky could just end up being the starter at some point this season. Meanwhile, forward Andreas Nodl found himself being temporarily shuttled to Adirondack in the AHL while the Flyers get things better squared away concerning Laperriere and Leighton.

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    ‘Black Aces’ in bubble have toughest job in NHL playoffs

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    EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — When Joel Kiviranta capped a hat trick by scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime in his playoff debut in the second round, the young Finn had one real desire.

    ”I hope I get more games,” Kiviranta said.

    Kiviranta hasn’t come out of the Dallas Stars lineup since, and he’s emblematic of the impact a player can have in the fight for the Stanley Cup after practicing but not playing for weeks on end. They’re part of the taxi squad of extras called the ”Black Aces,” a 19th century poker term brought into hockey by Hall of Famer Eddie Shore 90 years ago.

    They’re woven into the fabric of the NHL playoffs, and these players have never had it tougher, given the confines of the bubble and no guarantee they’ll get into a game. They’ll gear up to get on the ice to join in the fun when the Cup is handed out, which could be as soon as Saturday night.

    ”They’re the guys that never get talked about and probably have the most difficult job in this bubble,” Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ”To be practicing and working and doing all the other things to stay ready and not getting in, it’s a mental grind.”

    Some have grinded it out and been rewarded with a chance to shine on the big stage. In the Cup final alone, the Lightning got defenseman Jan Rutta back for his first game since Aug. 5, and the Stars plugged in Nick Caamano to replaced injured forward Blake Comeau.

    Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos returning doesn’t really count, even though he hadn’t played since February and was practicing with his teammates. Dallas may have to dip into its extras for Game 5 on Saturday night after Roope Hintz was injured in Game 4 a night earlier.

    Caamano hadn’t played since March 11, and that game was in the minors. But he tried to stay as ready as he could.

    ”It was weird going through your game day routine and stuff, but we knew as ‘Black Aces,’ you’ve got to be ready to go if your name’s called,” Caamano said. ”A lot of guys in that room have battled hard all playoffs here and you don’t want to come in and disappoint them, so you want to give your best foot forward.”

    Before that opportunity arises, it’s a lot of thankless work practicing and biding time. Rutta watched a lot of hockey while rehabbing an injury, and tried to stay in shape and ”not go completely mad” inside the bubble.

    ”When you’re a black ace in a regular playoff year, you’re at least with friends and family and all those things you get to enjoy while the ride’s going on,” Cooper said. ”Here, it’s just different. And so you make sure that you have these guys feeling involved because it’s a really tough job.”

    Stars assistant coaches have tried to mix up practice routine to break up the monotony.

    It has worked. Kiviranta scored a big goal in the Western Conference clincher and then again in Game 1 of the final.

    ”Our coaches have done a great job keeping them fresh on the ice with different drills and games and doing everything we can to keep them as fresh as is possible mentally and physically,” Dallas interim coach Rick Bowness said. ”I give those kids credit, and we needed them. They were ready to go. Your hat to them and our coaches, who are doing a great job with them.”

    The other challenge is making extra players feel like part of the team, even if they’re not contributing to the results. Caamano said his teammates did a great job with that, involving him in card games and other activities.

    And these guys could also play a major role, either in these playoffs or the future.

    ”What I’ve told our players is, ‘You may not feel like you’re helping right this moment,”’ Cooper said. ”They are helping and they may be helping the organization in a depth way today, but tomorrow they might be in our lineup. And so getting this experience I think is great for them.”

    Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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    NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

    In by far the most competitive and only back-and-forth game this series, the Lightning came out on top in the first overtime game of this Cup Final. Tampa trailed 2-0 and 3-2 before taking its first lead of the game when Alex Killorn scored 6:41 into the third period to make the score 4-3. Joe Pavelski tied things back up with 8:25 left in regulation, forcing each club’s first overtime game since their respective Conference Finals series-clinchers. Offseason signee Kevin Shattenkirk, playing on his fifth team and in his first Cup Final, then netted the winner, 6:34 into the extra session to move the Lightning one win from their second-ever Stanley Cup (2004).

    Tampa can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (1967- present) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season, the Lightning tied the NHL regular-season record with 62 wins but lost four straight games to the Blue Jackets in the opening round for an early playoff exit. Over the last six years, no team has more playoff wins or Conference Finals appearances than Tampa, and now they’re one victory away from their first title in the Jon Cooper era.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Pat Maroon, who the Lightning signed in the offseason, is the only player on the team who has won a Cup and he can become the third player in the expansion era (since 1967) to win a title in consecutive seasons with different teams after helping the Blues win their first-ever championship last year (Cory Stillman 2004 with Tampa and 2006 with Carolina … Claude Lemieux 1995 with New Jersey and 1996 with Colorado).

    Historically, a 3-1 series lead in the Cup Final has almost guaranteed an eventual Cup victory, with teams converting 33 times in 34 total tries. The only time a team blew a 3-1 lead in the Cup Final was in 1942, when Detroit lost to Toronto after leading the series 3-0.

    WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
    WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
    WHEN: Saturday, September 26, 8 p.m. ET
    TV: NBC
    ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
    LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

    Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
    Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
    Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
    Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    Stars will not have Roope Hintz, Blake Comeau for Game 5

    Stars Game 5
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    The Dallas Stars will be without several key forwards for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream)  as they look to fight off elimination and extend their season.

    Coach Rick Bowness announced that forward Roope Hintz will not be available for Saturday’s game after he was injured in Game 4 on Friday night.

    Hintz logged just five minutes of ice-time in the Stars’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    That is a pretty significant blow to the Stars’ lineup, not only because Hintz finished the season as one of their leading goal-scorers (19 goals in only 60 games), but because they are already dealing with injuries to a couple of key depth players.

    In addition to Hintz, the Stars will again be without forwards Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau.

    Comeau has missed the past two games in the Stanley Cup Final, while Faksa has been sidelined since the middle of the Western Conference Final.

    What really makes this an issue for the Stars is Comeau and Faksa were two of their most used forwards on the penalty kill during the season, with Hintz also playing a minor role in that spot.

    Tampa Bay’s power play has caught fire in the Stanley Cup Final, scoring on six of its 15 opportunities. Taking those three out of the lineup is not going to help the Stars’ chances of containing the Lightning power play.

    More: Stars need one more improbable run to complete improbable season

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

    Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
    Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
    Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
    Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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    The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

    The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

    Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

    Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

    2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

    Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
    Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
    Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
    Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
    Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
    Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

    ***

    SECOND ROUND RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
    Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
    Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

    ***

    NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
    Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
    Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
    Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

    Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
    Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
    Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
    Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
    Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
    Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
    St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

    Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
    Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
    Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
    Flames beat Jets (3-1)

    ***

    FIRST ROUND RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
    Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
    Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
    Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
    Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
    Stars beat Flames (4-2)
    Canucks beat Blues (4-2)