Around the rink – March 8; Habs-Bruins, Sabres-Pens highlight busy night

All times Eastern

7:00 p.m.

Buffalo @ Pittsburgh

Playoff position jockeying begins in earnest as the Sabres can jump to seventh in the East with a win over the Penguins. Meanwhile, a Penguins win paired with a Flyers regulation loss puts them in a tie with Philly for the lead in the Atlantic Division. And some people say regular season hockey doesn’t have any bite to it. Silly people. Making life tougher for the Sabres is they’ll be without Mike Grier and Patrick Kaleta tonight. Mark Parrish and Luke Adam get the call from the minors to help out. We’re figuring the Penguins won’t really miss dealing with Kaleta.

Ottawa @ New Jersey

Seems almost unfair that the Devils get to try and continue their winning ways against a Senators team decimated by injuries. Hey, at least they’ve got Craig Anderson in goal which means it’ll probably just be another 2-1 game. The Devils are just seven points out of eighth place and going up against the NHL’s worst team figures to be a good way to keep the good times rolling.

Toronto @ NY Islanders

The Leafs would like to keep up with the slumping Jones’ at the bottom of the Eastern playoff race and finding a way to beat the much improved Islanders would go a long way towards that. Having these two teams playing better hockey late in the season makes us nostalgic for the early part of the 2000s when these teams would play some legendary-ish games in the spring. Having some nostalgia break out on the ice tonight would make us feel at home. The Leafs are four points back of Carolina for the eighth spot in the East.

Edmonton @ Philadelphia

All right so the Flyers have lost four in a row and they’ve got what would appear to be an easy game with one of the NHL’s worst teams in Edmonton. The Stanley Cup finals from the 1980s these are not. Of course, the Oilers are winners of seven of their last ten games. We’re not going to call this a trap game, but we’re thinking that if Peter Laviolette’s reasoning for the Flyers recent slump is just a matter of fatigue, then things should return to normal for Philly.

7:30 p.m.

Boston @ Montreal

When last we left these two teams, they were putting on the foil in Boston in a big, old fashioned way in an 8-6 Bruins win featuring line brawls all over the place all night long. If we see more of that tonight in Montreal, we’d be surprised. We don’t think the Habs will be seeking revenge with their fists but would rather try to narrow the gap in the standings between themselves and the Bruins. Montreal trails Boston by five points and if they want to win the division wins are more important than payback. A Boston win and a Philly loss in regulation moves the Bruins to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Chicago @ Florida

Panthers GM Dale Tallon gets to meet up with his former team in Sunrise tonight. With how hot the Blackhawks have been of late, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll have a tough time dealing with the trade reduced Panthers, especially with a motivated Michal Frolik looking to beat his former team. Chicago could pull within four points of Detroit for the Central Division lead with a win.

8:00 p.m.

Colorado @ Minnesota

If the Wild are hoping to get in the mix for the playoffs, beating a downtrodden Avalanche team would go a long way towards that. Andrew Brunette may be out with illness and Guillaume Latendresse might suit up tonight. So much intrigue for the Wild! As for the Avs, they’ve lost 17 of their last 19 games including their last five. That’s stunningly awful. No pressure here Minnesota, but if you want to be taken serious as a potential playoff team you’d better beat the Avs.

9:00 p.m.

Vancouver @ Phoenix

A game with some bite to it out West as the Canucks look to keep flexing their muscles on the rest of the conference. After winning against L.A. and Anaheim the Canucks appear to have turned things around after going mild for a stretch just winning and losing on alternating nights. Phoenix may have turned around their fortunes with their comeback win in the shootout over Detroit on Saturday night. They had lost five in a row up until that point. The Coyotes could use a rally for a few different reasons and knocking off the front running Canucks would be another feather in their cap.

10:30 p.m.

Nashville @ San Jose

San Jose continues to be on fire while the Predators have slipped up of late. The Sharks did lose their last time out against Dallas, but they’d won eight in a row prior to that. Nashville’s lost six of their last eight and have fallen out of the top eight for the playoffs for the moment. They need to get consistent again and getting their offense together would go a long way toward that. Meanwhile, San Jose has a three point lead on the resurgent Stars in the Pacific Division. Keeping distance on them should be a priority for the Sharks.

Steven Stamkos will not play in Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final

Stamkos Game 5
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If the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to win the Stanley Cup on Saturday night they are going to have to win one more game without Steven Stamkos.

Coach Jon Cooper announced on Saturday that the Lightning captain will not be available for Game 5 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream) against the Dallas Stars.

Stamkos has played in just one game this postseason for the Lightning as he continues to recover from a lower-body injury and a core muscle injury that sidelined him in late February.

His lone appearance this postseason was the Lightning’s Game 3 win when he played just a little under three minutes, scoring a goal on his only shot of the game.

He spent the final 47 minutes of the Lightning’s 5-2 win seated on the bench.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

On Friday, Cooper announced that Stamkos would not play in Game 4 (which the Lightning won in overtime, 5-4) but that they were not ruling him out for the rest of the series.

If the Lightning win on Saturday night, they will win the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history and for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

The Lightning’s top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat has helped drive the offense in Stamkos’ absence, while they have also received massive contributions from their newly formed second line and their defense.

They are 17-6 in the Return To Play, with 16 of those wins coming without Stamkos in the lineup.

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)

The Wraparound: Lightning a win away from capturing Stanley Cup

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final game with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• Lightning captain Steven Stamkos did not play in Game 4, but hasn’t been ruled out for the series.

• The Senators have placed Bobby Ryan on waivers for the purposes of buying out his contract.

SATURDAY’S STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME

Game 5: Lightning vs. Stars (TB leads 3-1) – 8 p.m. ET, NBC (livestream): Kevin Shattenkirk‘s goal 6:34 into overtime helped the Lightning top the Stars 5-4 in Game 4 Friday night. Tampa is now one win away from capturing the franchise’s second Stanley Cup title.

The power play winner came after a controversial tripping penalty call on Stars captain Jamie Benn.

“I don’t have a ton of time for a play where Tyler Johnson steps in front of Jamie Benn and it has no real effect in the play, and Jamie breathes on him and the guy falls over,” said Joe Pavelski. “Whether that’s the case or not, there’s a little battle going on there, but it’s playoffs, it’s overtime. We expect 5-on-5. We expect to battle it out.”

”It’s two guys going for a loose puck. That’s a hockey play, that’s what I saw,” said interim head coach Rick Bowness. ”They’re hooking us and we’re fighting through the hook.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Lightning are now 7-1 in overtime this postseason. Only the 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens (10), 2002-03 Anaheim Ducks (7), and 2001-02 Carolina Hurricanes (7) have won as many OT games in a single playoff.

According to the NHL, this is the 35th time that a team has held a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven Cup Final. Only one team facing such a deficit has come back to win the series — the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost the first three games.

The question for Bowness is what to do in goal with a back-to-back. Anton Khudobin has allowed 13 goals on his last 95 shots faced. If Ben Bishop is healthy to play, do you throw him in with your season on the line?

“We’ll bounce back. I have full faith in our hockey club. It’s an unfortunate way to lose that game the way we battled back,” he said. “We’re going to play tomorrow like we did tonight.”

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

Like in 2009, back-to-back could tilt this Stanley Cup Final

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Dan Bylsma sees some parallels between this Stanley Cup Final that features games on back-to-back nights and the last time it happened in 2009 when he was the winning coach.

After the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars in overtime Friday night, it’s right back for Game 5 on Saturday night in just the second final with a back-to-back since the mid-1950s. While it was Games 1 and 2 for Bylsma’s Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings, the scheduling could mark a turning point this year because the banged-up Lightning might need to close this out fast.

Penguins players told Bylsma leaving old Joe Louis Arena down 2-0, ”We’re going to win.” It was all about extending the series as long as possible because Detroit was the more tired team from playing three games in four days dating to their Western Conference clincher.

The Lightning are far from fully healthy, so their goal is not to let the Stars hang around.

”They’re going to want to drop the puck as quickly as possible in Game 5 to get this thing over with,” Bylsma said by phone Friday.

Tampa Bay and Dallas players and coaches said all the right things about focusing entirely on Game 4 before worrying about Game 5 on the second half of the back to back. Even when it was over, Cooper said, ”Let’s digest this” about an emotional overtime victory before shifting the focus forward.

Tampa Bay’s top two centers, Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli, are playing through pain, and they’re certainly not alone in that.

That’s a hallmark of playoff hockey. Back to backs usually are not this deep in the postseason, but don’t expect any complaints after two months in the bubble and the NHL nearing the finish line to complete the season.

”When we saw it on the schedule, we were a little bit surprised being that it was the Stanley Cup finals,” said Lightning forward Alex Killorn, who scored in Game 4. ”But as a team we’ve been in these situations plenty of times. It’s more of a mental battle than anything. I think we’ll be ready. We look forward to it.”

A major difference between 2009 and now is not needing to fly between cities after Games 2, 4, 5 and, if necessary, 6.

”When it’s the same for both teams and there’s no travel involved, it’s a little better physically,” Bowness said. ”The grind that both teams have been through since July is certainly a factor – both physically and mentally.”

And Bylsma believes the quick turnaround typically benefits the winner of the first half of this back to back. His Penguins in ’09 got two days off to regroup after a blowout loss in Game 5 and then two more after a Game 6 victory to survive.

These teams don’t get that luxury, so the pressure is real. Bylsma likens Tampa Bay’s spot to the 2003 Anaheim Ducks when he was a player and they took a 3-0 lead over the powerful Red Wings in the first round.

”I’ve never seen 22 guys more nervous for a Game 4 when you’re up 3-0 because we felt like we had to win,” he said, comparing it to when Los Angeles erased a 3-0 series deficit against San Jose in 2014. ”We were so nervous and felt like we needed to win Game 4 to finish them off.”

Anaheim did. Now, it’s Tampa Bay’s turn.

NO STAMKOS

Steven Stamkos made a lasting mark on the final with an iconic goal, though that could be the last time he takes this ice in the series.

Out for Game 4, Stamkos has not been ruled out for the series, but it’s certainly possible after he played just 2:37 before tweaking something in Game 3.

”He felt he did a big part in helping us win that game,” Cooper said. ”You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt, and so far the hand’s been a pretty good one. It’s just unfortunate he hasn’t been able to be a part of it, but when he was able to, obviously he had a huge impact for us.”

Stamkos scored on his only shot Wednesday night, capping an emotional return almost seven months in the making and helping Tampa Bay take a 2-1 series lead. He hadn’t played since Feb. 25, had core muscle surgery in early March and aggravated the injury in voluntary workouts over the summer.

DICKINSON PRODUCES

Fourth-liner Jason Dickinson has been one of the Stars’ best players in the final based on his usual defensive stinginess and some offensive production. After no goals in his first 21 postseason games, Dickinson has scored twice in this series.

Dickinson also draws the tough assignment of matching up against Tampa Bay’s top line of Point, Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.

”He’s a hard-working guy who doesn’t get a lot of credit sometimes,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin, who took a career playoff worst 12-game goal drought into Friday’s game. ”(Given) all the other things he does right, you don’t even talk about the goal-scoring and he’s getting rewarded now, so that’s great.”

INJURED STARS

After running down Dallas’ injured players, Bowness paused for a second and quipped, ”There’s a lot of them.” The Stars may still be the healthier team given the Lightning’s woes, but the injuries are piling up.

Center Radek Faksa, defenseman Stephen Johns and goaltender Ben Bishop remain unfit to play. Forward Blake Comeau also missed Game 4 with an apparent right shoulder injury.

Bishop, who hasn’t played since Game 5 of the second round when he was pulled after allowing four goals on 19 shots in under 14 minutes, joined the optional Friday morning skate toward the end to get some work in. Faksa, who was seen with his left wrist taped earlier in the playoffs, did not take part and Bowness wouldn’t bite on a question about whether he or Bishop were close.

”They’re unfit to play,” he said. ”Good try, though.”