Get your game notes: Sharks at Wild

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Today on NBC, it’s the Minnesota Wild hosting the San Jose Sharks at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Despite the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul being located more than 2,000 miles away from the SAP Center in San Jose, the Sharks were essentially born from the Minnesota North Stars franchise. Original owners George and Gordon Gund sold the North Stars in exchange for rights to an NHL expansion team in the Bay Area.

• San Jose is in the middle of a 3-game road trip, having played last night at WPG (3-2 win) and closing out the stretch at St. Louis on Thursday.

• Last night, Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored the game winner with 4.5 seconds left in the 3rd.

• This goal at 19:55 was the 2nd-latest regulation game-winning goal in Sharks history. (Jonathan Cheechoo scored at 19:56 in a 5-4 win vs. LA in 2005).

• SJ has gone 3-3-0 in the 2nd half of back-to-back games this season but has never swept both games of its back-to-backs.

• SJ has won 2 of its last 3 since dropping 3 straight before that.

• Minnesota is also a team in search of collecting wins. The Wild, despite splitting their last 4 games (2-2-0), have lost 7 of their last 9 (2-4-3), giving up an average of 4.00 goals per game during this stretch.

• MIN is coming off a 7-1 defeat in Dallas against the Stars on Saturday, by most accounts their worst loss all season:

• The 7 goals was the most given up by MIN all season.

• The 6-goal loss was the largest margin of defeat for MIN all season and the biggest lost since Mar. 6, 2012 at Colorado (also a 7-1 loss).

• Darcy Kuemper gave up 4 goals on 21 shots before being pulled in the middle of the 2nd…Niklas Backstrom allowed 3 goals on 14 shots the rest of the way.

SHARKS WITHOUT JUMBO JOE:

• Sharks captain Joe Thornton will miss his 3rd straight game tonight with an upper-body injury. Thornton was placed on IR on Sunday after he was injured on a hit at ANA on Wednesday. His status is day-to-day.

• Since joining the Sharks in the middle of the 2005-06 season, Thornton has missed only 7 games, having played in SJ’s other 713 regular-season games since then and also all of the Sharks’ 97 playoff games since 2005-06.

• Thornton’s streak of 319 consecutive GP was snapped when he missed Saturday’s game vs. STL.

• Thornton is t-2nd on the team with 33 points (Joe Pavelski – 35) and leads the team with 24 assists… Thornton had played well lately, boasting 5 points (1G-4A) during a personal 5-game point streak and 11 points (2G-9A) in his last 9 games.

• Thornton has fared well against MIN in his career: 36 points (11G-25A) in 38 GP – more points than any other player on the Sharks roster – including 34 points in 33 GP against MIN as a member of the SJ.

HEAD TO HEAD

• Teams have split thus far, with the home team winning each game…

• Oct. 30 at MIN: MIN def. SJ 4-3 (SO).

• Kyle Brodziak scored twice for the Wild

• MIN outshot SJ 46-28

• Jason Pominville netted the shootout winner in the 3rd roun

• Dec. 11 at SJ: SJ def. MIN 2-1.

• Christian Folin scored 1:03 into the 3rd to tie the game at 1 for MIN…but Joe Pavelski scored the game-winner 45 seconds later to give SJ the win.

• MIN Home Winning Streak vs. SJ: MIN is riding a 7-game home win streak vs. SJ dating back to the 2010-11 season.

• MIN last lost at home to SJ on Apr. 2, 2010, a 3-2 win by the Sharks.

SHARKS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Joe Pavelski leads the team in goals (20 – 5th in NHL) and points (35). He tallied 2 assists last night and has 3G-2A during a 3-game point streak. He also has 15 points (10G-5A) in his last 14 games.

• Pavelski’s 10 power-play goals lead the NHL.

• The 9-year vet, who has spent his entire career with SJ, is coming off a career year in which he set personal highs in goals (41) and points (79).

• Patrick Marleau, despite being one of 6 Shark skaters with 20+ points this season (28), has been in a 12-game goal slump and has just 4 assists during this stretch – although he did record a helper last night.

• Marleau ranks 2nd on the team in assists with 21.

• Marleau has faced MIN 52 times in his career, tallying 35 points (18G-17A) in those games.

• Defenseman Brent Burns is one of 3 Sharks with 10+ goals this season and leads all Shark d-men in goals (11 – 3rd on team) and assists (20 – 3rd on team).

• Burns totaled 1G-1A last night and now has 1G-3A during a 3-game point streak.

• Burns ranks 3rd among NHL d-men in points (31) and leads the league lead among d-men in goals (11).

• Burns leads the team in TOI/game (23:42) but does have a -7 rating on the season (t-worst on the team).

• Burns was drafted by MIN back in 2003 (1st round – 20th overall) and played from 2003-2011 with the Wild (183 points in 453 games) before being traded to SJ in June 2011.

• Logan Couture is one of 3 Sharks (along with Thornton and Pavelski) with 30+ points this season, boasting 14G-19A (33 poitns). Couture registered his 10th multi-point game of the season last night (2 assists)

• SJ is 8-2-0 this season when Couture has 2+ points.

• Couture’s 14 goals are 2nd on the team.

• John Scott returned from suspension last night (0 points in 4:48 TOI) after missing the last 4 games for punching Tim Jackman of ANA on Dec. 22.

WILD TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Zach Parise leads the Wild in points (30) and is tied for the team lead in goals (14 – with Nino Niederreiter).

• Parise had an assist against DAL in MIN’s last game and has 7 points (3G-4A) in his last 7 games.

• Jason Pominville is 2nd on the team in points (28) and assists (20)…Pominville has 8 points (2G-6A) in his last 8 games.

• Pominville led the team in goals (30) and points (60) last season.

• Thomas Vanek is 3rd on the team in points (24) and now has 7 goals after finding the back of the net against DAL. Vanek has 10 points (5G-5A) in his last 12 games. Vanek is in his first season in Minnesota (signed in the offseason) has scored 20+ goals and totaled 40+ points in each of his 9 seasons in the league.

• Ryan Suter leads the league in time on ice/game (29:29) after leading the league in this category the past two seasons. Suter is 4th on the team in points (22) and 1st in assists (21 – t-5th in NHL among d-men).

• Suter has gone without a point in his last 5 games and scored his only goal in MIN’s season opener against COL on Oct. 9.

• Nino Niederreiter is tied for the team lead in goals (14) but has gone the last 8 games without one and has 0 points in 5 career games against the Sharks.

• Niederreiter has 18 points this season (played in all 37 games) – halfway to his career high of 36 set last season (in 81 GP) – and has already tied his goal total from a season ago in 44 fewer games.

• Darcy Kuemper is coming off a 4-goals-allowed-on-21-shots outing in Saturday’s loss at Dallas. The Wild goaltender had a strong start to the season but has struggled in net since Nov. 22.

• Kuemper started both games against SJ this season, allowing 3 goals in the October-win and 2 goals in the December-loss.

Schwartz, Tarasenko have Blues close to Cup Final

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jaden Schwartz is on a scoring run that has the St. Louis Blues dreaming big.

Schwartz’s hat trick in Game 5 on Sunday helped give the Blues a 3-2 series lead against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference final and set the single-season franchise record for playoff wins.

The Blues could advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 when they host Game 6 Tuesday night.

”It’s probably tough to put into words,” Schwartz said. ”It’s something that everyone’s worked for and dreamed about. You don’t want to look too far ahead. We all know how important and how hard that last win’s going to be. It would be a dream come true.”

Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko have played huge roles in the Blues’ playoff success. Just not necessarily in the way that was expected.

Tarasenko has come up with more big assists than goals against the Sharks.

Meanwhile, Schwartz has found a scoring touch that eluded him during the regular season. After scoring 11 goals in 69 regular-season games, Schwartz has 12 goals in 18 playoff games.

”He’s obviously a tenacious player, a hard-working player,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. ”I know, goal-wise, he didn’t have a good regular season, but the work ethic was there and other things besides not producing with the goals.

”He’s a 200-foot player for us and he’s around the net for us, that’s where he scores. His hard work, being relentless and staying with it is paying off.”

Schwartz’s scoring run began on a quick pass from Tyler Bozak with 15 seconds left in regulation to snap a 2-2 tie in Game 5 in the first round against Winnipeg. He followed that up with a hat trick in Game 6 to send the Blues to the second round.

Schwartz is the first player to have two hat tricks in the same playoffs since Johan Franzen did it for Detroit in 2008 and he is the first to do it for the Blues.

Not bad for a guy who went 23 games without a goal during the regular season.

”He’s obviously been kind of our engine and a guy that’s scored huge goals for us throughout every series,” Bozak said.

”Pucks weren’t going in as much as he probably wanted in the regular season, but he was still playing really good hockey I thought and getting a lot of chances. And obviously what he’s done in this playoffs so far has been incredible. We’re pretty lucky to have him and we know he’s just going to keep getting better and keep doing those things for us.”

Tarasenko is the only player to get a point in every game of the Western Conference Final. But just two of his seven points in the series are goals.

Instead he has become a potent playmaker, setting up Bozak’s eventual game-winning goal in Game 4 and assisting on two of Schwartz’s goals in Game 5.

”Every time he gets the puck he puts them on edge,” Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. ”Having such a shot like he does, teams are scared when he gets the puck and obviously they maybe will overcompensate for that and other things come available. Having played with him throughout the year, you see how dangerous he is whether it’s taking that shot or just being that threat that opens so much up.”

Tarasenko’s unselfish play was evident on Schwartz’s third goal. Carrying the puck on the power play, he could have taken a shot. But with San Jose playing the shot, he found Schwartz cutting towards the net for a one-timer into a wide-open net.

”Vlady is a good passer, he makes plays,” Berube said. ”He’s got his head up a lot, sees the ice well. His hard work is paying off. He’s working hard without the puck, and he’s a powerful guy.”

Tarasenko has led the Blues in goals in each of the past five seasons. Though he has taken a back seat to Schwartz in goal-scoring, the Blues are thriving in the postseason as never before from his playmaking ability.

And they are one win away from playing for the Stanley Cup, which many thought would have been impossible on Jan. 3 when the Blues were at the bottom of the NHL standings.

”Everyone knows we have a lot of work to do and we’re going to get their best game,” Schwartz said. ”They’re going to have the most desperation they’ve had in this series. We’ll enjoy it tonight, but we know there’s a lot of work yet.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Bruins’ Chara says he’s on track for Stanley Cup Final

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BOSTON (AP) — Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara returned to practice and worked out with the full squad Monday, his first such workout since sitting out Boston’s Eastern Conference-clinching victory over Carolina with an undisclosed injury.

Chara had skated prior to practices over the weekend but didn’t participate in any full sessions. He said he felt good after the Bruins’ 45-minute workout on Monday and is on track to play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on May 27.

Chara was the first player on the ice Monday. Forward David Krejci also returned to practice. Coach Bruce Cassidy said Krejci was given a ”maintenance day” on Sunday.

Being a spectator for a series-clinching victory was difficult for the 42-year-old Chara. He was a member of the Bruins, who defeated Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost to Chicago in the Cup Final in 2013.

”It was, I’m not gonna lie,” Chara said. ”Watching games are not fun. You want to play them, you want to be involved in them. It was that feeling of an anxiousness to play. But the guys did a great job.”

But Chara was easy to spot following the Game 4 win over the Hurricanes, when he suited up to shake hands with Carolina and celebrate on the ice with his teammates.

He has one goal and two assists in 16 games this postseason.

Patrice Bergeron said having Chara paired back up with Charlie McAvoy provides a major boost to the blue line.

”I think they complement each other really well,” Bergeron said. ”Obviously the experience that ‘Z’ has is something that he shares. And Chuck is the type of young guy that wants to learn and listen to everything that ‘Z’ has to share.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tarasenko getting hot at right time for Blues

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It was only a matter of time until Vladimir Tarasenko started to get on a roll for the St. Louis Blues.

Not only has he been the team’s best and most impactful player for the past five years, he has been one of the most dangerous postseason goal-scorers the league has ever seen. As we wrote at the start of the series, he was going to be one of the biggest keys for the Blues in the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks, especially if his puck luck started to change a little bit.

It has definitely changed for the better, and the Blues are greatly benefitting from it.

First, just a reminder as to how good Tarasenko has been in the playoffs during his career. Before this season his 0.50 goals per game average in the playoffs was second among all players that had appeared in at least 40 playoff games since 2010-11 (trailing only Jake Guentzel), and was among the top-20 in NHL history. The only other players in the top-20 that played in the NHL after 2002 are Alex Ovechkin and Mike Cammallerri.

If you want to call him “clutch,” or a “big-game player” that is entirely up to you, but even more than any of that it is really just a matter of him being an outstanding talent that has always been a great finisher. Get him the puck and enough chances, and he is going to score a lot of goals no matter what the situation is.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

That is what made his production through the first two rounds of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs a little surprising. He was definitely not playing poorly, but his overall numbers were down a little bit, he was relying almost entirely on the power play to score goals (four of his first five goals in the first two rounds were power play goals), and he had yet to record a single assist. Obviously power play goals are worth the same as any other goal, but with penalties and power plays not always being available come playoff time due to the “let them play” mindset that takes over at this time of year, even-strength scoring becomes even more important.

Despite all of that were still plenty of signs that Tarasenko was due to break out. He had 47 shots on goal in 13 games (more than 3.5 per game) and the Blues were dominating the shot attempt and scoring chance numbers at even-strength. He was doing everything right except consistently putting the puck in the back of the net. But when you have an all-world talent like Tarasenko does, it is only a matter of time until those attempts, shots, and chances start to turn into goals.

You might limit players like him for a little bit, but you are not going to be able to shut them down forever.

Starting with Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, Tarasenko’s luck started to turn a bit.

After his three-point effort on Sunday in the Blues’ 5-0 win, a performance that included his nearly unstoppable penalty shot goal in the second period to help put the game away, he is now riding a five-game point streak and has at least one point in every game of the series.

He was probably the Blues’ best player in their Game 2 win when he finished with a game-high six shots on goal and set up Jaden Schwartz‘s goal early in the first period, and then assisted on Tyler Bozak‘s game-winning goal in Game 4 to even the series. He followed that up by playing his best game of the playoffs on Sunday with three points (his second multi-point game of these playoffs) in the win that brought the Blues one game closer to the Stanley Cup Final.

His seven points in the series are two more than any other player on the team while he has been on the ice for nine of the Blues’ 18 goals (literally half of them) in the series.

If the Blues were going to put themselves in a position to win this series — which they have if they can win just one of the next two games — they were going to need Tarasenko to be one of their best and most productive players.

He has been with what has been his best five-game stretch of these playoffs.

The timing could not have been better for the Blues.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

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.

‘Canes surge into summer with confidence after playoff run

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes enter the offseason confident of one thing: They shouldn’t have to wait another decade to return to the playoffs.

They hope their nucleus will make postseason appearances an every-year thing.

The Hurricanes made their first playoff berth since 2009 last much longer than most expected, advancing to the Eastern Conference final before they were swept by the Boston Bruins.

After getting a taste of postseason hockey, this largely young team wants to do it again.

”I think we all know now what it takes first of all to get to the playoffs, and to go through those tough series,” forward Sebastian Aho said Monday. ”Now we’re even more hungry.”

There’s reason to believe this group has staying power.

The entire defensive corps – including young stars Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce – is under team control for next season, with six of them signed and Haydn Fleury a pending restricted free agent.

Key winger Teuvo Teravainen is locked up through 2023-24. Promising forward Andrei Svechnikov oozed with promise during his rookie season. Aho, who also will be a restricted free agent, looks to be a candidate to receive a long-term deal. He declined to discuss his contract status.

This core was responsible for turning the franchise around and bringing entertainment – both during and after games – to the rink.

They brought back those beloved Hartford Whalers uniforms for a couple of games. They broke out the ”Storm Surge” celebrations, those choreographed on-ice parties after regular-season victories at home. They wore the jabs from curmudgeonly commentator Don Cherry as badges of honor – plastering his ”Bunch of Jerks” insult onto T-shirts that sold for $32 at the team shop. They welcomed a live pig named Hamilton into the building for home playoff games.

And, of course, they played winning hockey – especially after the calendar flipped to January. Their record of 31-12-2 was third-best in the league and propelled them from last place in the division to the top wild-card berth.

”As the year went on, as the record shows, it was a lot of good results, and coming to the rink was a lot of fun,” defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said.

A few things to watch entering the offseason:

THE CAPTAIN’S FUTURE

The big question is whether 37-year-old Justin Williams will return for a second season as team captain with his two-year contract expiring this offseason. The three-time Stanley Cup winner known around the league as ”Mr. Game 7” for his exploits in those final games brought credibility and leadership to the dressing room and helped steer the young team’s midseason turnaround. ”I put everything I had into it this year, and if I have everything again, then I’ll be here,” Williams said. ”I haven’t gotten that far yet.”

THE GOALIES

The Hurricanes have some decisions to make with both goalies – Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney – facing free agency. Mrazek accepted a one-year, $1.5 million deal last offseason to prove he’s worthy of a starter’s job, and the team snatched the 35-year-old McElhinney off the waiver wire when Scott Darling was hurt. They both played well enough to make Darling an afterthought, and now the question is whether either or both will wind up sticking around.

FREE AGENCY

The only other unrestricted free agents on the roster are forwards Micheal Ferland and Greg McKegg. Ferland provided a strong physical presence on the ice, but he didn’t score any goals after February and had a single assist in the playoffs. The Hurricanes should have some money to spend when July 1 rolls around. According to salary tracking website CapFriendly.com, Carolina had the most room under the salary cap ($16.2 million) of any team in the league.

SPECIAL TEAMS FIX

Carolina has plenty of work to do on its power play, which led to the team’s undoing against Boston. The Hurricanes scored on less than 10% of their postseason chances with the man advantage – the worst rate of any team that reached the second round – and went stretches of 24 and 13 consecutive power plays without scoring. During the regular season, they scored on nearly 18% of their chances to rank 20th in the league.

More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/NHL and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports