The Morning Skate: ‘HuLK Line’ thriving for Bruins

A quick look at the Eastern Conference finals and notes from Los Angeles’ big Game 3 victory vs. Chicago.

Game 3: #1 Pittsburgh Penguins at #4 Boston Bruins, 8 ET (NBCSN) – Bruins lead series, 2-0

Having outscored the top-seeded Penguins 9-1 so far this series, the Bruins will look to take a three-games-to-none lead tonight at TD Garden.

The Bruins have exhibited incredible balance this entire postseason, but it is the top line of Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton that has led the way. The “HuLK Line” has combined for five goals and 10 points this series, adding to its league lead in goals (18) and points (49) by a line. In Game 2, a 6-1 Boston win, each member of the second line (Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jaromir Jagr) had two points, and Johnny Boychuk scored his fifth goal of the postseason, tied with the Kings’ Slava Voynov for the most by a defenseman. With his team playing “the best hockey we’ve played so far this year,” B’s coach Claude Julien is not expected to mess with success by making any roster moves.

Although reiterating during his off-day press conference that his team’s “mental focus” and “mindset” are the areas that need the most improvement, Pens coach Dan Bylsma promised some lineup and combination changes for Game 3. (Those changes have not been confirmed at time of press.) However, those changes will not likely involve goaltenders Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury. In Game 2, Vokoun allowed three goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Fleury, who was not any better, allowing three goals on 17 shots. For Fleury, it was his first action since May 7, when he gave up six goals to the Islanders in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

PENGUINS GOALIES in BOSTON (career)

  • Tomas Vokoun (w/NSH, FLA, WSH, PIT): 5-5-1, 2.58 GAA, .924 save %, shutout
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: 5-1-1, 1.94 GAA, .939 save %

DID YOU KNOW?

Jaromir Jagr is 11th all-time in career postseason goals (78) and assists (117). Three goals and six assists came in the 1991 and 1992 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Boston, as a member of the Penguins (10 games). Two assists have come in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final vs. Pittsburgh, as a member of the Bruins (two games).

WHO ON EARTH IS … JUSSI JOKINEN?

Only one player who has suited up for the Penguins in both games this series vs. the Bruins has not been on the ice for any of Boston’s nine goals: Jussi Jokinen. The fourth-line center, who came over from Carolina as the Pens’ fourth and final trade acquisition during a busy period before the trade deadline, had a hand in all three goals (goal, two assists) the last time Pittsburgh visited Boston, a 3-2 win on April 20.

Since his first NHL season, the 30-year-old Finn, who was born on April 1, has made a name for himself by making opposing goaltenders “look like fools” on shootouts. He started out a perfect nine-for-nine when the game-deciding one-on-one was instituted before his rookie year (2005-06), and his 31 shootout goals (in 67 attempts) are tied for third all-time with Brad Boyes, behind Pavel Datsyuk (33) and Zach Parise (32). His 46.3% success rate is fourth all-time among players with 25 or more goals, behind Frans Nielsen (55.6%), Jonathan Toews (49.1%) and Parise (46.4%).

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Los Angeles 3, Chicago 1 – Blackhawks lead series, 2-1

Team

Shots (goals)

Even-strength shots (goals)

Series, Game Opponent Result
Kings

16 (2)

16 (2)

WCQF, Game 6 vs. Blues W, 2-1
Kings

18 (2)

15 (1)

WCSF, Game 7 vs. Sharks W, 2-1
Maple Leafs

20 (1)

16 (0)

ECQF, Game 1 at Bruins L, 4-1
Blackhawks

20 (1)

17 (1)

WCF, Game 3 at Kings L, 3-1
Blackhawks

20 (1)

18 (0)

WCSF, Game 2 vs. Red Wings L, 4-1
Kings

20 (2)

20 (2)

WCSF, Game 1 vs. Sharks W, 2-0

WCQF = Western Conference Quarterfinals   ECQF = Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

WCSF = Western Conference Semifinals   WCF = Western Conference Final

 LINKS

  • Five reasons the Bruins are dominating the Penguins [Boston Globe]
  • Penguins hope to draw from 2009 Stanley Cup run [CBC]
  • Sidney Crosby at center of any potential Penguins comeback [Globe and Mail]
  • Goal may have been fluke, but Slava Voynov isn’t [L.A. Times]

Stars’ Stephen Johns activated after missing almost 22 months

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Dallas Stars activated Stephen Johns before their game Saturday night in Minnesota, clearing the way for the defenseman’s first game in almost 22 months.

Forward Radek Faksa was placed on injured reserve to make room for Johns on the active roster.

Johns has been out since late in the 2017-18 season because of post-traumatic headaches. The Stars have said the condition isn’t related to concussions.

The 27-year-old Johns hasn’t played since March 29, 2018, at the Wild. It was the last of a career-high 75 games in his third NHL season. Johns missed the last five games that year before sitting out all of last season as headaches persisted.

He played two games on a conditioning assignment with the Texas Stars of the AHL before rejoining Dallas on Thursday.

The return of Johns could coincide with the Stars’ first game without defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The 20-year-old standout left Thursday’s loss to Buffalo with an upper-body injury.

Johns made his debut for Dallas late in the 2014-15 season and played in all 13 of the team’s playoff games as a rookie. He has 13 goals, 15 assists and 306 blocked shots in 150 career regular-season games.

Panthers down another goalie, injured Driedger to miss weeks

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida goalie Chris Driedger will miss several weeks with what’s believed to be a groin injury, the latest health issue at that position for the Panthers.

The Panthers announced the diagnosis Saturday, calling it a lower-body injury.

Driedger was hurt midway through the first period of the Panthers’ 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. He is 5-2-0 in nine appearances for Florida this season, with a 2.48 GAA.

The Panthers have also been without goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for much of January while he recovers from an upper-body injury.

Florida begins a stretch of six consecutive road games Saturday in Detroit. That six-game run also includes the All-Star break and the Panthers’ bye week.

The Buzzer: Cirelli, Lightning cruise past Jets; Crosby tallies OT winner

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
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Three Stars

1) Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning

Cirelli recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Lightning steamrolled the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening. The 22-year-old scored twice in the opening period as the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Cirelli hammered a feed from Ondrej Palat 9:27 into the game and then converted a nifty forehand-backhand maneuver to close out the first 20 minutes. Cirelli would complete the hat trick midway through the third period.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin recorded two power-play assists to set up Pittsburgh’s two goals in its 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings. Sidney Crosby has received a lot of attention since returning from a 28-game absence earlier this week and added the game-winning goal Friday. However, it was Malkin who looked off the defender and delivered a perfect pass to set up the Penguins captain. Malkin has recorded 10 points in the previous six games.

3) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 26-year-old winger scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win. Cirelli and Kucherov alternated goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead, including three in the opening period. Kucherov buried two tap-in opportunities to record goals 21 and 22 on the season. The Russian winger has five goals in his previous three games and the Lightning improved to 12-2-0 in the previous 14 games.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to three games when he buried a pretty feed from Malkin to propel the Penguins in overtime.

Sam Steel fired the OT winner after Andrei Svechnikov‘s costly turnover.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Winnipeg Jets 1

NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
• All-Star Game rosters
• Rosters for Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Revealed
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

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

Predators’ Arvidsson fined $2,000 under NHL diving policy

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment.

NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

League officials said Arvidsson received a warning following an incident Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh. His second citation occurred during an incident in the first period of a Jan. 7 game with Boston that resulted in coincidental minor penalties on Arvidsson and Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Fine proceeds go to the players’ emergency assistance fund.