Hurricanes vs. Rangers: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview

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The NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers kick off the Return to Play plan on August 1. This week, PHT will be previewing each series with a look at storylines and end with our predictions for the eight matchups.

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers — TV schedule, start times, channels

Saturday, Aug. 1: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

Hurricanes-Rangers preview: Top storylines for Stanley Cup Qualifiers series

Goalie decisions loom

Igor Shesterkin or Henrik Lundqvist? James Reimer or Petr Mrazek? The Rangers and Hurricanes arrived in Toronto this week without tipping their hands as to who will start Game 1.

Reimer (24 starts) didn’t play as much as Mrazek (38 starts), but he did post the better even strength save percentage (.920 vs. .912), per Natural Stat Trick. Same goes for the Rangers rookie who came on late in the season making 12 starts and posting a .931 ESSV% vs. Lundqvist’s .917. But in a best-of-five series, how much will Rod Brind’Amour and David Quinn weigh regular season success against experience?

This could be Lundqvist’s last run with the Rangers. One stat on his side to be the Game 1 starter is his regular season success against the Hurricanes. He won all three starts against Carolina, stopping at least 39 shots in each game and recorded a .947 save percentage.

Mrazek was the guy in net as the Hurricanes marched to the Eastern Conference Final a year ago. His experience and regular-season workload gives him the edge over Reimer. Whatever Brind’Amour’s choice, the Carolina defense will certainly help in the shot suppressing department (23 shots allowed/game at 5-on-5).

Quality vs. quantity shots

The Hurricanes not only move the puck well via their talented blue line, they also love to shoot it. Since Brind’Amour took over as head coach in 2018-19, only three NHL teams have more shots (3,970) on goal at even strength. They are the best possession team (55% Corsi) over that time as well, were third (54%) this season, and were third in high-danger scoring chances in 2019-20 (663).

New York didn’t shoot as much as Carolina, but capitalized more at even strength. They were just ahead of the Canes in high-danger goals for (90-87) and 5-on-5 goals (150-141). Leading the way were Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, who combined for 40 EV goals this season.

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Depth stepping up

The Rangers’ dynamic duo were unstoppable during the regular season. Panarin, a worthy finalist for the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, put up 95 points in his first season in New York. Zibanejad was limited to just 57 games but still scored 41 times. There is some secondary scoring that can be provided by Chris Kreider, Ryan Strome, and Pavel Buchnevich. Beyond that? A pair of 10-plus goal scorers, including rookie Kaapo Kakko. It’s hard to rely on two lines to provide the bulk of your production.

It was at the trade deadline that the Hurricanes bulked up adding not only to their defense with Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen, but also Vincent Trocheck up front. Factor in the January return of Justin Williams and there’s enough balance up front to lead this team.

Who’s out? Who might return?

Hurricanes: Dougie Hamilton was injured during Phase 3 and he has joined the team in Toronto. There is no update on how much time he might miss. The defenseman was out for 21 games during the regular season after breaking his left fibula. Forward Martin Necas has missed the last few days after, according to Brind’Amour, he “did something while he was skating around.”

Rangers: K’Andre Miller signed his entry-level contract and participated in Phase 3, but is ineligible to play and will not be with the team in Toronto. Brendan Lemieux‘s suspension was finally announced this month and he’ll sit for the first two games of the series.

Mixing in the newbies

Trocheck and Skjei only played seven games following their trades from Florida and the Rangers, respectively. That’s not much time to settle in and learn a new system and familiarize yourself with new teammates. That’s what made Phase 3 so important. Incorporating the new guys into the fold, especially when this training camp leads into meaningful games and not early-season sleepers, was vital.

Skjei has certainly provided as much intel as he can to the Hurricanes’ coaching staff. He’s already said he has “a ton of motivation and a chip on my shoulder” going into the series. He may have friends on the other side of the ice, but those relationships will disappear when puck drops for real.

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

A look at the Western Conference matchups
Previewing the Eastern Conference

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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 announces zero positive COVID-19 tests during first week in bubbles

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The NHL announced on Monday afternoon that it has had zero positive COVID-19 test results since its 24 playoff teams reported to their bubble cities of Toronto and Edmonton.

There were more than 7,000 tests administered since fourth phase of the league’s restart plan began on July 26 through August 1, when play resumed with the start of the qualifying round.

The league is testing all 52 members of each team’s traveling parties (including players, coaches, front office, team staff) on a daily basis and will continue to do so as long as the teams remain in their hub cities.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Previously, the NHL had announced that there were 43 positive tests results during the Phase 2 portion of the league’s return (which involved small groups of individual players skating at team facilities), and two positive tests that it was aware of during the first week of training camp. The league announced zero positive results during the second week of training camp and zero positive results when the teams arrived in their bubbles.

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.

Flames-Jets stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Monday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Flames and Jets. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Flames-Jets Game 2 stream at 2:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Flames jumped out to a 1-0 series lead, defeating the Jets 4-1 on Saturday. Andrew Copp opened the scoring for Winnipeg before the Flames scored four unanswered goals.

Calgary outshot Winnipeg 33-18 and went 2-for-4 on the power play and 7-for-7 on the penalty kill.

Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine both left Game 1 early with injuries. Scheifele suffered a leg injury and Laine left after a collision with Mark Giordano.

Scheifele went down awkwardly near the boards after a hit from Matthew Tkachuk. While Tkachuk contends there was nothing malicious about the contact, Jets coach Paul Maurice saw it differently: “It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg. He went after the back of the leg. He could have cut his Achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”

It was reported late Sunday night that Scheifele’s injury was not long term, but that he and Laine were doubtful for Game 2

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Monday, August 3, 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN (live look-in)
ON THE CALL: Chris Cuthbert, Louie DeBrusk
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Flames-Jets stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets (Flames lead series 1-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Jets vs. Flames, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames vs. Jets, 4:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames vs. Jets*, TBD
Saturday, Aug. 8: Jets vs. Flames*, TBD

You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

Canucks’ Ferland, Wild’s Kunin fined for Game 1 altercation

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The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Monday that Minnesota Wild forward Luke Kunin and Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland were fined for an incident that took place in the third period of Sunday’s game. The Wild won the game 3-0.

Kunin was fined $1,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct, while Ferland was given a $5,000 fine for spearing Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman on the bench.

“I could see it from Ferland’s standpoint,” Hartman said Monday. “He’s the kind of guy that runs on emotion. Stuff happens.”

The incident took place in front of the team benches just after Ferland finished a check on Minnesota’s Marcus Foligno.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

You can see the entire sequence in the video above.

Ferland started the game by fighting Foligno just two minutes into the first period.

Game 2 of the best-of-five series will take place on Tuesday night (10:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

MORE:
Wild vs. Canucks series preview
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.

Hurricanes-Rangers stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Monday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Hurricanes and Rangers. Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Hurricanes-Rangers Game 2 stream at 12 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

In the first shot of the game, Jaccob Slavin scored 61 seconds in for the first NHL goal in an official game in almost five months. Sebastian Aho, who led Carolina in goals (38) and points (66) during the regular season, then scored in the second period to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead. The Rangers kept things close but ultimately could not overcome an 0-for-7 showing on the power play as Carolina defeated New York for the first time in five tries this season.

Perhaps the biggest development from Game 1 was the fact that the Rangers all-time winningest goalie was actually the one in net – as many expected newcomer Igor Shesterkin in that position. With Shesterkin, who watched Game 1 from the stands, deemed “unfit to play” – Henrik Lundqvist started his 128th consecutive postseason game with the Rangers – a single-team streak only bettered by Martin Brodeur (194 with New Jersey) and Patrick Roy (133 with Colorado).

Lundqvist will get the Game 2 start as Shesterkin remains out. Alexandar Georgiev will again serve as the backup.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Monday, August 3, 12 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Gord Miller, Anson Carter
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Hurricanes-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule