Reunited on same line, Sullivan, Elias come full circle

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On Wednesday the New Jersey Devils acquired their former draft pick Steve Sullivan from the Phoenix Coyotes.

The 38-year-old forward only ended up playing in 49 contests with the New Jersey Devils before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1997. However, before Sullivan was forced to change organizations, he had already spent parts of three seasons with the Devils’ AHL-affiliates, the Albany River Rats.

In 1995-96, Sullivan spent the better part of the season skating with an AHL rookie and fellow 1994 Devils draft pick: Patrik Elias.

“That’s where it started. Those were great times we had,” Elias, 36, told the Star-Ledger. “It was a lot of fun, although not the first few weeks and months for me coming from a totally different environment and not speaking the language.

“The boys made it easier and I had a tremendous time my first year there playing with Sully and Scotty Pellerin. It was enjoyable. Having Robbie Ftorek as a coach, he made it fun for us. A lot of good memories.”

Now Sullivan will be playing in his first Devils game in roughly 16 years when the Devils face, appropriately enough, the Maple Leafs tonight. And when he faces the team that first separated him from the Devils, he’ll be back to playing on a line with Elias.

“It’s been a long time but it’s exciting to be able to play with a player of his skill,” Sullivan said of Elias. “I’m very excited about the opportunity to play with him again.”

NHL Return to Play: Round-robin standings, scenarios

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While the 16 teams in the qualifying round play for the right to move on, the No. 1 seeds in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference are still up for grabs in the round-robin format of the NHL’s return to play.

The round-robin schedule resumes on Saturday with a pair of games (Lightning vs. Flyers and Golden Knights vs. Avalanche) and here we take a look at the impact those games can have on the standings.

Below is a look at the current round-robin standings and everything at stake on Saturday.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Current standings (tiebreaker is regular-season points percentage)

Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (0-1-1, 1 point)
Boston Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3
:
Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5:
Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6:
Flyers 3, Capitals 1 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8:
Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9:
Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD

• Winner of TB/PHI will be #1 seed; the loser will be #2
• Winner of BOS/WSH will be #3 seed; the loser will be #4

• Carolina will face either Boston or Washington in First Round.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Standings (tiebreaker is regular-season points percentage)

Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
Vegas Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-0, 0 points)
Dallas Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 4, Stars 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues, TBD

• Winner of COL/VGK will be #1 seed; the loser will be #2
• Winner of STL/DAL will be #3 seed; the loser will be #4

MORE:
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule


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.

The Wraparound: Six NHL teams face elimination on Friday

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 NHL Return to Play. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• The NHL Bubble Wrap has your nightly roundup of all the postseason action.

• Sheldon Keefe was not pleased with the way the Maple Leafs played Thursday night.

• The Jets joined the Rangers in heading home from their bubble after losing to Calgary in Game 4.

There are six games on the NHL slate Friday, and all of them could end with handshakes … or fist/elbow bumps in this age of coronavirus. Beginning at 12 p.m. ET with Islanders-Panthers and ending at 10:45 p.m. ET with Canucks-Wild, the First Round picture could become much clearer if some of these series conclude.

According to the NHL, only one day in league history has featured more than six elimination games. On April 13, 1985, the Rangers, Blues, Red Wings, and Kings all saw their seasons end, while the Sabres, Islanders, and Flames kept their playoff hopes alive in the best-of-five format. (The Islanders won the first of three straight to complete a comeback from 0-2 down in the series against Washington.)

One year later, the Nordiques, Bruins, Islanders, Blackhawks, Canucks, and Jets were part of a record-setting day. On April 12, 1986 those six teams were eliminated, the highest number of series to end in a single day in NHL history.

Today, two series that would have a quick turnaround for a Game 5 are Canadiens-Penguins and Blackhawks-Oilers, who would finish out their matchups on Saturday should the Penguins and Oilers win. The other four series would finish up Sunday if the Panthers, Predators, Maple Leafs, and Wild win.

NHL GAMES TODAY

Game 4: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (NYI lead 2-1): The Panthers scored two goals in the third period and fought off a late push by the Islanders to avoid elimination and force a Game 4. After receiving just four power plays through the first two games of the series, the Panthers earned five in Game 3. Florida capitalized on their opportunities by converting twice with the man- advantage (2/5). The Panthers were successful on the PK as well, killing off all three of the Islanders power plays. Florida has not won a playoff series since 1996 – the longest active drought in the NHL.

Game 4: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; live look-in stream – (ARZ leads 2-1): Will we see Pekka Rinne with the Predators’ season on the line? Perhaps. “It’s going to be tough decision,” said John Hynes. “The good part is you can’t go wrong with either guy. Both of them give us a chance to win. … It’s not a decision you take lightly.” Darcy Kuemper, meanwhile, has been solid in net for Arizona, posting a .923 even strength save percentage through three games.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Game 4: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (MTL leads 2-1): Jeff Petry scored from a sharp angle by banking it off Matt Murray’s helmet early in the third period, which proved to be the game-winner once again in this series for the Habs. The Penguins has now lost eight of their last nine playoff games dating back to the 2018 Second Round.

Game 4: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 6:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (CHI leads 2-1): Trailing 3-2 with under six minutes to go in regulation, the Blackhawks tied the game on rookie Matthew Highmore’s goal and then captain Jonathan Toews scored his second goal of the game with 1:16 remaining in the third period which gave Chicago the comeback win. Mikko Koskinen got the nod in Game 3 for the second straight outing, letting in four goals on 25 shots. Game 2 was Koskinen’s first career postseason start after his relief effort of Mike Smith in Game 1 was Koskinen’s playoff debut. Dave Tippett has not announced who will start Game 4.

Game 4: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN; live look-in stream – (CBJ leads 2-1): Pierre-Luc Dubois completed Columbus’ comeback with an overtime goal to finish off his hat trick. The win pushed the Blue Jackets to the verge of a second straight postseason with a series victory. Prior to the 2019 playoffs, the franchise had not won a series.

Game 4: Canucks vs. Wild, 10:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (VAN leads 2-1): Vancouver could end its playoff series win drought with one more victory over Minnesota. Having not closed out a series since 2011, the Canucks shutout the Wild 3-0 on Thursday to inch closer to the First Round.

[2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule]

SATURDAY‘S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Round-robin: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, TBD – NBCSN
Round-robin: Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD – NBCSN
Game 5: Canadiens vs. Penguins, TBD* – NBCSN
Game 5: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, TBD* – NBCSN
*if necessary

Round-robin standings (ties broken by regular-season points percentage)

EAST
Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
Flyers (2-0-0, 4 points)
Capitals (0-1-1, 1 point)
Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)

WEST
Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)
Blues (0-2-0, 0 points)
Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)

PHT’s 2020 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Eastern Conference top seed round-robin preview
Penguins vs. Canadiens
Islanders vs. Panthers
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

Western Conference top seed round-robin preview
Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Predators vs. Coyotes
Wild vs. Canucks

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers in league’s Return to Play

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It’s time to focus on the NHL games, including the 2020 NHL playoffs schedule. The 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers began on Saturday, Aug. 1 in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto.

The top four teams in both conference will play a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The Stanley Cup Qualifiers will be best-of-5 series with the losing teams being entered into Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery.

Below is a full 2020 NHL playoffs schedule of both the round-robin and the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

EASTERN CONFERENCE (Scotiabank Arena)

Round-robin [Standings, scenarios]

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3
:
Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5:
Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6:
Flyers 3, Capitals 1(recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8:
Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9:
Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (MTL leads series 2-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins*

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (CAR won series 3-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 (recap)

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (NYI lead series 2-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (CBJ leads series 2-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, 9 p.m. ET – (live look-in coverage on NBCSN)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs*, TBD

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WESTERN CONFERENCE (Rogers Place)

Round-robin [Standings, scenarios]

Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 4, Stars 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues, TBD

(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks (CHI leads series 2-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Blackhawks 4, Oilers 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 6:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*, TBD

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (ARZ leads series 2-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – (live look-in coverage on NBCSN)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*, TBD

(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild (VAN leads series 2-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Canucks 4, Wild 3 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks 3, Wild 0 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild, 10:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*, TBD

(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets (CGY won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Jets 3, Flames 2 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames 6, Jets 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames 4, Jets 0 (recap)

* – if necessary

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL Bubble Wrap: Flames advance, Maple Leafs collapse, top seed battles set

NHL Bubble Wrap Leafs collapse Jets eliminated Game 3 NHL scores
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  • The Flames eliminated the Jets from the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
  • Another shocking collapse happened as the Blue Jackets rallied against the Maple Leafs.
  • The stage is set for a wild Friday of possible eliminations.
  • Also, Saturday will serve as games where the top seeds in the East and West will be determined with round-robin games.

NHL Scores from Thursday

Canucks 3, Wild 0 (Vancouver leads series 2-1)

After dropping Game 1 to Minnesota, the Canucks won the last two games in a row. In Game 3, Vancouver stayed focused during a physical game, enjoying a 27-save shutout from Jacob Markstrom. Big name players also scored for the Canucks, while Antoine Roussel also found the net and Alex Stalock‘s ire.

Flyers 3, Capitals 1 — East Round Robin

Once again, the Flyers remain on fire. They ended the regular season very hot, won their exhibition game, and now won two of three round-robin contests. Their excellence keeps things pretty simple: it will be Flyers vs. Lightning for the East’s top seed on Saturday. While those two joust for No. 1 (with the loser getting second), the Capitals must face the Bruins to see which team will rank third or fourth. Yes, the two division leaders will finish third and fourth. The Round Robin, and 2020, are both very odd.

Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 — West Round Robin

If the round-robin games are any indication, few leads will be safe against the Golden Knights. Vegas rallied to beat the Stars in their first contest, then did similar things against the Blues. In Thursday’s case, the Golden Knights scored three third-period goals to run away with this one. The Golden Knights face the Avalanche on Saturday to determine the West’s top seed, while the Blues and Stars battle for third.

Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3 [OT] (CBJ leads series 2-1)

Like the Penguins and Oilers, the Maple Leafs coughed up a Game 3 lead and lost in a stunning fashion. Also like the Penguins and Oilers, the Maple Leafs rank among the teams who can get eliminated during Friday’s NHL games. The Maple Leafs built a 3-0 lead, only for Pierre-Luc Dubois, Elvis Merzlikins, and the rest of the Blue Jackets to roar back and force overtime. Dubois capped his hat trick by scoring the overtime game-winner. For better or worse, there’s a short turnaround for both teams to battle it out again in Game 4 on Friday.

Flames 4, Jets 0 (CGY wins series 3-1)

It sure seems like the Jets just ran out of gas or, erm, fuel. If there was going to be a big push, the Flames’ 2-0 first period likely deflated that. Then again, it might have just come down to Cam Talbot being on point. Talbot pitched a 31-save shutout, frustrating what remaining stars the Jets still had healthy. Calgary became the first West team to punch its ticket to the final 16, aka the formal start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They don’t have any clue who they’ll face yet, though.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Round-robin standings (ties broken by regular-season points percentage)

EAST
Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
Flyers (2-0-0, 4 points)
Capitals (0-1-1, 1 point)
Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)

WEST
Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)
Blues (0-2-0, 0 points)
Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)

NHL Three Stars for Wednesday, and the highlight of the night

1. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blue Jackets

Pierre-Luc Dubois didn’t just score the first Blue Jackets hat trick, and he didn’t just do so in a huge way, completing it with that stunning overtime game-winner. PLD also pulled it off with style, even throwing a bit of a Michael Jordan tongue-wag in during one of his goals. The Maple Leafs couldn’t seem to stop him as he barreled to the net and scored huge goals. They won’t have much time to find a better plan vs. PLD, either.

We might as well get the highlight of the night over with, too, because Pierre-Luc Dubois provided that. Consider his hat trick as the overall highlight of the night.

2. Cam Talbot, Flames

Circling back, it’s easy to look at the Flames winning 4-0 and thinking Game 4 was a cakewalk. Especially if you ignore the two empty-net goals clouding such perceptions.

But was it that easy even beyond that, or did the Flames eliminate the Jets in such a tidy fashion in large part because of Cam (sometimes Cameron) Talbot? Talbot pitched a 31-save shutout to close out one heck of a four-game performance. Talbot generated a strong .945 save percentage during the series, putting up the sort of gaudy numbers we were expecting from Connor Hellebuyck.

If Talbot can stay on his game, then the Flames are the team the top four seeds might wish to avoid.

3. Quinn Hughes, Canucks

Let’s give the tiebreaker for some three-point games to one that factored into a 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier with higher stakes than a round-robin game, shall we? Hughes figured into all three Canucks goals with two primary and one secondary assist in Game 3. Hughes gave the Canucks another beyond-his-years game, as the rookie logged 22:47 TOI in Game 3.

Now, you might prefer Jacob Markstrom’s 27-save shutout from that game. That’s fine, too.

Factoids

  • Pierre-Luc Dubois wasn’t just the first Blue Jackets player to score a postseason hat trick. He also became just the 10th player in the last 27 years to complete a playoff hat trick in OT, via NHL PR. Statscentre provides even more on PLD’s hat trick.
  • Nicholas Robertson became the third Maple Leafs player to score a playoff goal before turning 19.
  • Elliotte Friedman notes that this was the first time this season that the Blue Jackets came back from down three goals to tie a game, let alone win it. Ouch.

FRIDAY‘S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 4: Panthers vs. Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN (NYI leads 2-1)
Game 4: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2:30 p.m. ET – live look-in NBCSN (ARI leads 2-1)
Game 4: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN (MTL leads 2-1)
Game 4: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 6:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (CHI leads 2-1)
Game 4: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. ET – live look-in NBCSN (CBJ leads 2-1)
Game 4: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (VAN leads 2-1)

MORE:
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.