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The Wraparound: Rask out for Bruins opener vs. Flyers

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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.

UPDATE: While Cassidy said Rask is feeling better, Jaroslav Halak will start Sunday. Dan Vladar will serve as the backup. “He’s not going to play today. Hopefully he gets back on the ice as early as tomorrow.”

The Bruins may be without Tuukka Rask for their opening round-robin game against the Flyers on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream).

Head coach Bruce Cassidy said that the netminder felt ill and did not join the team for practice on Saturday.

“He wasn’t feeling well, so unfit to participate today,” said Cassidy. “As an afternoon question tomorrow, the natural next question is ‘will he start?’ I’ll have to talk to Tuukka later and see where he’s at. If [he cannot play] then Jaro [Halak] will be ready to go.”

A fractured finger during summer training camp forces Rask to missed a handful of practices. Fortunately for the Bruins, they have Halak to fall back on in case their No. 1 can’t go. The two netminders combined to win the 2019-20 Williams Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed since they both played at least 25 games.

Because the Bruins have three round-robin games before the First Round begins, Halak was expected to get at least one start. Both goaltenders split time during Thursday’s exhibition game against Columbus. Boston’s next game will be Wednesday against the Lightning (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

As far as definite absences go with the Bruins, Ondrej Kase finally arrived in the Toronto bubble and will not be ready. Same goes for Nick Ritchie, who has been “unfit to participate.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

NHL GAMES TODAY

Game 1: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2 p.m. ET (USA Network; livestream): The Predators are in the playoffs for the sixth straight season – the longest active streak in the West and behind only Pittsburgh in the entire league. Arizona making the 24-team tournament is also notable as the Coyotes snapped what was the second-longest active postseason drought in the NHL. The Coyotes sat four points out of the final wild card spot when the season paused.

Round-robin: Blues vs. Avalanche, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN; livestream): The defending champs will benefit from the return of forward Vladimir Tarasenko. The 28-year-old underwent left shoulder surgery in late October and was on pace to return for the playoffs even before the season was paused. He played just 10 games this season. The Avalanche were a banged up team before the pause, missing Mikko Rantanen, Andrew Burakovsky, Philipp Grubauer, Matt Calvert and Nazem Kadri. But the long break has allowed the club to heal up, and now the only forward missing is Colin Wilson, who’s been out since October.

Game 1: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, (joined-in-progress) 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN; livestream): Toronto is the only Eastern Conference team in the Qualifying Round to switch coaches mid-season as they hope the move will produce similar results to the Blues last season, winning the Cup after Craig Berube took over in November. Last summer, the Blue Jackets lost four of their top players in free agency, with Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Sergei Bobrovsky all leaving Columbus. Despite losing those players, the Blue Jackets had the exact same point total through 70 games (81 points) as last season.

Game 1: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN; livestream): Minnesota is back in the postseason after falling short last year following six straight playoff appearances from 2013-2018, while Vancouver is in the tournament for the first time since 2015. Neither of these teams have had much playoff success in recent years as the Wild have been bounced in the opening round in each of their last three postseason series. Likewise for the Canucks, who have lost three straight opening-round series since losing in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final to Boston.

MONDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 2: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 2: Jets vs. Flames, 2:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Round-robin: Capitals vs. Lightning, 4 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Round-robin: Stars-Golden Knights, 6:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Game 2: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 2: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

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

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

Predictions for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers
Why your team won’t (and will) win the Stanley Cup this season
NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup-less veterans to root for
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers vs. Bruins, 3 p.m. ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 3:
Capitals vs. Lightning, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5:
Lightning vs. Bruins, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6:
Capitals vs. Flyers, TBD
Saturday, Aug. 8: Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9:
Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 3: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins*

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers

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*

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers

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

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, TBD
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs*, TBD

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WESTERN CONFERENCE (Rogers Place)

Round-robin

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blues vs. Avalanche, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 3: Stars vs. Golden Knights, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche vs. Stars, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights vs. Blues, TBD
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues, TBD

(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks

Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 3 p.m. ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 3: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks*, TBD
Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*, TBD

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2 p.m. ET – USA Network
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*, TBD

(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild

Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:45 p.m. ET – USA Network
Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks vs. Wild, TBD
Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*, TBD

(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets

Saturday, Aug. 1: Jets vs. Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 3: Jets vs. Flames, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
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

* – 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.

Stanley Cup 2020 Qualifiers TV schedule, start date for NHL Return to Play

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NBC Sports will present up to 120 hours of coverage for the NHL’s 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule on NBC, NBCSN and USA Network beginning August 1.

Beginning Saturday, August 1, through Wednesday, August 5, NBC Sports will present coverage from at least four games each day across NBC, NBCSN and USA Network, including some games that will be joined in progress.

Qualifying Round series are best-of-five and will be contested between the teams seeded 5th through 12th in each conference. The winners of those series will join the top four teams from each conference, who will play round robin games to determine seeding, in the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs format.

Games airing on NBC are exclusive. All games on NBCSN and USA Network will be blacked out in the local markets as they will be available on viewers’ local RSNs. Blackout rules apply to streaming coverage on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Some games will be joined in progress.

[2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule]

Following is NBC Sports’ telecast schedule for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers through August 5:

Sun., August 2

Game 1 – Arizona vs. Nashville – USA Network – 2 p.m. ET
Round Robin – Boston vs. Philadelphia – NBC – 3 p.m. ET
Round Robin – St. Louis vs. Colorado – NBCSN – 6:30 p.m. ET
Game 1 – Columbus vs. Toronto – NBCSN – 8 p.m. ET
Game 1 – Minnesota vs. Vancouver – NBCSN – 10:30 p.m. ET

Mon., August 3

Game 2 – Carolina vs. N.Y. Rangers – NBCSN – 12 p.m. ET
Game 2 – Winnipeg vs. Calgary – NBCSN – 2:30 p.m. ET
Round Robin – Washington vs. Tampa Bay – NBCSN – 4 p.m. ET
Round Robin – Dallas vs. Vegas – NBCSN – 6:30 p.m. ET
Game 2 – Montreal vs. Pittsburgh – NBCSN – 8 p.m. ET
Game 2 – Chicago vs. Edmonton – NBCSN – 10:30 p.m. ET

Tues., August 4

Game 2 – Florida vs. N.Y. Islanders – NBCSN – 12 p.m. ET
Game 2 – Arizona vs. Nashville – NBCSN – 2:30 p.m. ET
Game 2 – Columbus vs. Toronto – NBCSN – 4 p.m. ET
Game 3 – Winnipeg vs. Calgary – NBCSN – 6:30 p.m. ET
Game 3 – Carolina vs. N.Y. Rangers – NBCSN – 8 p.m. ET
Game 2 – Minnesota vs. Vancouver – USA Network – 10:30 p.m. ET

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Wed., August 5

Game 3 – Florida vs. N.Y. Islanders – NBCSN – 12 p.m. ET
Game 3 – Arizona vs. Nashville – NBCSN – 2:30 p.m. ET
Round Robin – Tampa Bay vs. Boston – NBCSN – 4 p.m. ET
Round Robin – Colorado vs. Dallas – NBCSN – 6:30 p.m. ET
Game 3 – Montreal vs. Pittsburgh – NBCSN – 8 p.m. ET
Game 3 – Chicago vs. Edmonton – NBCSN – 10:30 p.m. ET

Previously played games

Sat., August 1

Game 1 – Carolina vs. N.Y. Rangers – NBCSN – 12 p.m. ET
Game 1 – Chicago vs. Edmonton – NBC – 3 p.m ET
Game 1 – Florida vs. N.Y. Islanders – NBCSN – 4 pm. ET
Game 1 – Montreal vs. Pittsburgh – NBC – 8 p.m. ET
Game 1 – Winnipeg vs. Calgary – NBCSN – 10:30 p.m. ET

MORE:
NHL, NHLPA ratify CBA, return to play agreement
A look at the Eastern Conference matchups
Final standings for 2019-20 NHL season, NHL draft lottery results
A look at the Western Conference matchups

————

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.

Game On: NHL restart a small step toward return to normalcy

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TORONTO — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took a short break from watching the final few exhibition games Thursday to ponder the significance of awarding the Stanley Cup some two months from now – should all go as planned.

The magnitude of the task it took to simply reach the cusp of resuming play following a four-and-a-half month pause certainly suggests this year’s celebration has the potential of being a shared experience.

”That’s a very profound question, and I think the answer is extraordinary times present extraordinary challenges. And it takes an extraordinary group of people with an extraordinary effort to get the result you want,” Bettman told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

”If you look at the NHL family as a whole, starting with our fans, our players, our people at the league office and our club, the focus, the determination, the desire and the effort – assuming we’re able to get to that goal – will have been the ultimate collaboration,” he added. ”I believe whoever ultimately hoists the Stanley Cup will deserve it in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and probably still can’t.”

The first step towards closing the NHL’s most unique season begins Saturday, with the start of the expanded 24-team playoffs in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta.

A nine-day slate of a potentially 52 games — depending on the results of the eight best-of-five series — will begin with the Carolina Hurricanes facing the New York Rangers at noon (Eastern) in Toronto. The top four teams in each conference, meanwhile, will play a round-robin series to determine seeding for the first round to begin Aug. 11.

Rust will certainly play a factor, given how the exhibition games over the past three days featured a mix of sloppy and surreal.

The crispness might take some time to develop after months with no action, and the ice conditions will need to be monitored in the summer heat – even in empty arenas – with as many as three games a day.

With players eager to hit opponents after weeks of practices and scrimmages, New York rivals Johnny Boychuk and Brendan Lemieux dropped the gloves for an old-time hockey tussle.

So much for self-isolation.

Keep in mind, too, what might spill over with teams quarantining in a ”bubble” in the same hotels – though staying on separate floors.

”The chance for weirdness is probably inevitable,” New York Islanders veteran Cal Clutterbuck said.

”I’m sure there’ll be a lot of head down, walk right by, maybe just give a quick nod if you run into somebody,” he added, before breaking into a laugh. ”I’m sure it’ll be civil but strange, although you never know.”

Little seems normal in the age of COVID-19.

Not the mostly empty streets of downtown Toronto, where the hustle and bustle of the business-suited crowd and tourists is down to a trickle.

The entrances of the Royal York Hotel, where some teams are staying, were completely fenced off and covered in black tarp featuring NHL and NHL playoff logo, with a notable security presence at each entry point.

Though hockey was being played inside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, there was no hint of it outside the building.

Maple Leaf Square, usually packed with throngs of fans, was instead fenced off, and the benches used by a handful of NHL and arena staff enjoying a late lunch.

Even the Hockey Hall of Fame was essentially empty. It’s averaging about 100 visitors a day since it opened two weeks ago, as opposed to the usual 1,000.

”This is steady by comparison to a month ago,” an employee at the Hall of Fame’s gift store cracked, pointing to the two customers inside.

For Maple Leafs and Oilers players, there’s no such thing as home-ice advantage. They’ll be getting changed in the visitors’ locker room when called for and certainly won’t be sleeping in their own beds.

”I think the reality definitely set in yesterday,” Oilers goalie Mike Smith said Monday, a day after teams moved into their respective bubbles. ”You bring your luggage into a hotel room after you drive to the rink 10 minutes from your house.”

In Toronto, the city in early August would be buzzing if not for the coronavirus.

The long-standing Caribbean Carnival two-week long street fest was supposed to open this weekend. The Toronto Blue Jays are spending their entire season south of the border. And the Canadian National Exhibition, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors, would be gearing up to open in a few weeks.

Chosen as one the NHL’s two hubs is a point of pride for Toronto Mayor John Tory, even if it means fans can’t attend.

”We consider ourselves over others – like it or not – to be the hockey capital of the world, and so this kind of reinforces that,” Tory said. And he doesn’t mind Edmonton being chosen to host the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final, even if it means the Maple Leafs win their first championship since 1967 in Alberta.

Tory has already made initial plans for the Cup celebration.

”If it needs to be a one-car parade with no spectators on Bay Street, we will have such a parade,” Tory said. ”So long as the one car has the Stanley Cup in it, I won’t care beyond that.”

Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault hopes the return of hockey can represent one small step in a return to normalcy.

Vigneault has good reason to hope after spending part of the NHL break in his native Quebec. His first stop was visiting his parents at a senior care residence, where his 87-year-old mother is battling dementia.

Both came out on their second-floor balcony, from where he enjoyed a brief chat.

”It was a cold day in May, but it was a good day for my mom. She recognized me,” Vigneault said. ”This moment was no doubt the highlight of my quarantine.”

The Wraparound: Hockey is back as NHL Return to Play begins

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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 Hurricanes will definitely be without a defenseman. The Rangers could potentially not have their top-scoring blue liner Saturday afternoon.

Rod Brind’Amour said that Dougie Hamilton will not play in Game 1 (12 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream). He’s missed practices this week but did skate after the team did on Friday. He’s “getting better for sure,” said the Carolina head coach. The defenseman broke his leg in January and did not return before the league pause in March.

Tony DeAngelo, meanwhile, could get into Game 1 for the Rangers. Head coach David Quinn said he will be a game-time decision. That could open to the door for Libor Hajek to take his spot.

One mystery for both teams is who will start in goal for both teams. Brind’Amour will be choosing between Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, while Quinn has the Igor Shesterkin vs. Henrik Lundqvist decision.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

NHL GAMES TODAY

Game 1: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 3 p.m. ET (NBC; live stream): Edmonton won exactly half of its home games this season (17-11-6, .588 pts%) and went 20-14-3 (.581) on the road. Their home record was tied for 17th in the league in terms of points percentage but they did boast the best power play at home this season (31.7%) – although not surprising considering the Oilers had the best overall power play in the NHL this season (29.5%). Chicago, after finishing last in the Central Division and six points back of the second wild card spot when play was halted in March, is one of the beneficiaries of the 24-team format – now competing for another Cup.

Game 1: Panthers vs. Islanders, 4 p.m. ET (NBCSN; live stream): After winning two Vezina Trophies with Columbus, Sergei Bobrovsky signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Panthers last summer. However, he struggled in his first year in Florida, going 23-19-6 with a .900 save percentage. This matchup pits two teams with opposite styles against each other. The Panthers were one of the highest-scoring teams in the league but were leaky in defense, while the Islanders were a top-10 defense but struggled to find the back of the net.

Game 1: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. ET (NBC; live stream): Pittsburgh has been one of the many teams to benefit a bit on the injury front thanks to the long break. The biggest addition to their lineup will be a healthy Jake Guentzel, who suffered a scary shoulder injury after scoring a goal on Dec. 30 vs. Ottawa. He was given a 4-6 month timeline after surgery. The Canadiens will undoubtedly be relying on goalie Carey Price to give them a fighting shot against one of the most talented teams in the Eastern Conference. Price, the last goalie to win the Hart Trophy in 2015, started an NHL-high 58 games in the regular season and posted a .909 save percentage.

Game 1: Jets vs. Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN; live stream): The only all-Canadian matchup in the Qualifying Round will be the first-ever postseason meeting between Winnipeg and Calgary and just the second game between these clubs this season as the final two games of the season series were cancelled due to play being halted in March. Out of all the 24 teams returning to play, Winnipeg has the longest active winning streak having ended the regular season with four straight wins. They are the only playoff team that has not lost since February – with their last defeat coming in the building they’ll play this entire postseason in, having lost at Edmonton on Feb. 29.

SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 1: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2 p.m. ET (USA Network)
Round-robin: Flyers vs. Bruins, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Round-robin: Blues vs. Avalanche, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 1: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Game 1: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

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

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

Predictions for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers
Why your team won’t (and will) win the Stanley Cup this season
NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup-less veterans to root for
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule