National Hockey League
<    April    >
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                               Friday, April 18th
                              (All times Eastern)
 ( - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to even their Eastern
 Conference quarterfinal series at one game apiece when they host the Montreal
 Canadiens in Game 2 on Friday night.
 The Canadiens won the opening tilt of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday,
 claiming a 5-4 victory on Dale Weise's overtime tally. It's not surprising the
 game went beyond regulation considering the Atlantic Division foes saw three
 of their five regular-season meetings in 2013-14 enter OT.
 After dropping a wild one in the opener, the Lightning hope to even this set
 before it shifts to Montreal for Games 3 and 4. The third meeting is set for
 Sunday at the Bell Centre with Game 4 scheduled for Tuesday.
 Weise tallied with 1:52 remaining in overtime to give his club a leg up on
 Tampa in the series. An in-season trade acquisition for Montreal, Weise scored
 off a pretty backhand feed from linemate Daniel Briere to end the entertaining
 contest. The wrister from just below the right circle beat a hapless Anders
 Lindback on his stick side after Briere successfully held off Tampa Bay
 defenseman Eric Brewer behind the net to deliver a perfect pass.
 The goal marked the first postseason point for Weise, who was held off the
 scoresheet in each of his previous six playoff games with the Vancouver
 Canucks. Briere, meanwhile, notched his 110th career playoff point in his
 109th game with the assist.
 "It's not an easy thing, the roller coaster of emotion you're going to feel in
 playoff games," Briere said. "That's part of the experience factor, knowing to
 stay composed and stay focused"
 Brian Gionta and Lars Eller picked up a goal and assist each for the
 Canadiens, while Tomas Plekanec and Thomas Vanek also lit the lamp for the
 third-place team in the Atlantic Division.
 Carey Price earned the Game 1 victory despite stopping just 21-of-25 shots.
 "It's nice to come in and get one here but it's still a long series and they
 have a great team," said Gionta. "It was back-and-forth and it'll be no
 different the next game."
 Lightning star Steven Stamkos scored twice, including the game-tying goal with
 just over 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn
 also produced goals in the setback.
 Subbing for the injured Ben Bishop, Lindback's first career NHL playoff
 start went well despite the loss, as the rangy Swede came up with 39 saves.
 "We didn't get the win so it's tough to find positives," said Stamkos. "Five
 goals against is way too many in the playoffs. Hopefully now everyone has a
 taste of playoff hockey, they know what it's all about."
 Lindback will be back in net on Friday for his second career playoff start.
 Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said he is hopeful Bishop could return in this
 series, but can only see that happening if it extends past four games.
 Tampa could be without Ondrej Palat, who left Game 1 in the third period with
 an upper-body injury and did not return. Palat has 23 goals and 36 assists in
 81 games as a rookie this season and is one of the leading candidate for the
 Calder Trophy. On Thursday, Cooper said Palat will be a game-time decision
 for tonight.
 This is the second time the Canadiens and Lightning are meeting in the
 postseason, with the Tampa sweeping Montreal in four games in the Eastern
 Conference semifinals during its 2004 Stanley Cup championship season.
 ( - The Boston Bruins begin their Eastern Conference title
 defense against an Original Six rival, as they host Game 1 of a best-of-seven
 series Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.
 Considering the Bruins and Red Wings played in opposite conferences for
 decades, this playoff meeting is a rare treat for NHL fans. In fact, the last
 time these Original Six foes met in the postseason was in 1957 when neither
 club's current coaches were born yet.
 Boston and Detroit have met seven times in the playoffs with the Bruins taking
 four of those encounters, including the 1957 semifinal round matchup.
 The Red Wings, however, have won three straight in the regular season against
 Boston and seven of the previous eight encounters. Boston's only victory in
 the 2013-14 season series was a 4-1 home win back on Oct. 5, while Detroit
 beat the Bruins as recently as April 2, when it picked up a 3-2 regulation win
 in the Motor City.
 Still, heading into the opening round of the playoffs the Bruins are once
 again the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and perhaps the entire NHL.
 Boston, which in 2011 won its first Stanley Cup since the days of Bobby Orr,
 is not only the defending East champions, but it also enters this postseason
 as winners of the 2013-14 Presidents' Trophy. The club's 117 points were the
 most gained by the franchise since 1971-72 (119 pts) and Boston finished as
 the top team in the regular season for the first time since 1989-90.
 Despite heading into the postseason with a ton of confidence, the Bruins know
 they can't afford to look past their first-round opponent. Boston made it to
 the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in three seasons last spring, but
 before it fell in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Bruins nearly lost
 in the first round to Toronto.
 The Bruins blew a 3-1 series' lead against the Maple Leafs and needed to
 overcome a 4-1 third-period deficit in Game 7 to get past Toronto. It marked
 fourth straight  Boston was
 a fourth seed in last spring's matchup with Toronto, but the B's shouldn't
 expect their No. 1 standing in the East to instill fear in the Detroit Red
 Wings this time around.
 It marked the third straight spring Boston went seven games in the first
 round. The Bruins beat Montreal four games to three in 2011 en route to its
 Stanley Cup title, but lost in seven the following season against Washington.
 "I don't know, it just seems to be the biggest battle for us and the hardest
 one to get through," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said of his club's tendency to
 play long opening-round series. "I don't think it's going to be any different
 heading into this series. So we've got to be prepared to bring our best
 because you talk about the last three years, you know the other team hasn't
 taken us lightly at all and they've given us their best."
 Boston is known best as a big, physical team that is really tough to score
 against, but the club made considerable strides in the offensive end in
 2013-14. The Bruins averaged just 2.62 goals per game during the lockout-
 shortened season before upping that scoring rate to 2.96 gpg in the 2013
 playoffs. This season, Boston is third in the NHL with 3.15 gpg through 82
 games and hopes to maintain that goal-scoring clip in the upcoming playoffs.
 Six Boston forwards finished the season with over 50 points this season.
 Leading the way on offense were David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, the club's
 top two centermen. Krejci dished out a club-best 50 assists to help him pace
 the B's with 69 points, while Bergeron had 62 points and tied winger Jarome
 Iginla for the club lead with 30 goals.
 While Boston's forwards contribute to their club's overall stinginess on
 defense, immense blueliner Zdeno Chara and steady goaltender Tuukka Rask get
 most of the credit.
 Rask is coming off a Vezina-caliber season, going 36-15-6 with a 2.04 goals
 against average and .930 save percentage. The 27-year-old Finn is looking to
 follow up his award-worthy campaign with another strong postseason. Rask was
 the anchor for Boston's run to the Cup Finals last spring, recording a 1.88
 GAA and .940 save percentage in 22 playoff games.
 The 6-foot-9 Chara is a unique talent who combines size and skill to create
 havoc at both ends of the ice. The 2008-09 Norris Trophy winner has a booming
 slap shot and recorded 17 goals and 40 points over 77 games this season and
 Boston's captain has racked up 54 points (13 goals, 41 assists) over 129
 career playoff games.
 The Red Wings may have moved from the Western Conference to the East prior to
 the 2013-14 campaign, but the end result was the same as Detroit qualified for
 the playoffs for a 23rd straight season.
 On paper, Detroit doesn't match up well with the mighty Bruins but the club
 doesn't figure to be an easy out so long as Mike Babcock is behind the bench.
 Babcock has been to the Cup Finals three times as a coach, winning it with
 Detroit in 2008, and also has led Team Canada to Olympic gold medals at the
 last two Winter Games.
 Last spring, the coach helped the seventh-seeded Red Wings eliminate the
 Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round. He also had the
 eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes in Round 2, but
 the Hawks won three straight to oust Detroit in seven games.
 This season, Babcock guided his club to the playoffs despite the club dealing
 with considerable injury problems all along the way. Detroit enters the
 playoffs reasonably healthy compared to other points of the season, but the
 club will begin the first round without captain Henrik Zetterberg (back
 surgery), fellow forwards Dan Cleary (sprained knee) Stephen Weiss (sports
 hernia surgery) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery).
 Star forward Pavel Datsyuk also was limited to only 45 games this season, but
 he returned to the lineup earlier this month and is ready to go for Round 1.
 The Russian has amassed 103 points (36g, 67a) over 140 career playoff games.
 Faced with injuries to numerous key veterans, young forwards Gustav Nyquist
 and Tomas Tatar stepped up for the Red Wings in a big way down the stretch.
 That was particularly true of the 24-year-old Nyquist, who led Detroit with 28
 goals this season in just 57 games.
 Nyquist has two goals and three assists over 18 career playoff games, but he
 could be ready for a breakout postseason after showing Babcock and the hockey
 world what he can do with increased playing time.
 Tatar, 23, added 19 goals and 20 assists in 73 games for the Red Wings this
 season. However, the young Slovakian winger has never skated in an NHL playoff
 As a whole, Detroit's offense ranked 16th in the league this season with just
 2.65 gpg. Niklas Kronwall is the clear No. 1 defenseman for Detroit in front
 of No. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard.
 Kronwall has done a superb job of replacing fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom in
 that role. Lidstrom, of course, retired following the 2011-12 season, leaving
 seven Norris Trophy wins and a Hall of Fame legacy behind him. Kronwall led
 Detroit in average ice time with 24 minutes, 18 seconds of action a game. His
 49 points (8g, 41a) more than doubled the offensive output of the club's next-
 best defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who had 23 points on four goals and 19
 Howard, meanwhile, is coming off a mediocre regular season that saw him go
 21-19-11 with a 2.66 GAA and .910 save percentage. The 30-year-old American
 had posted a 2.13 GAA in each of the previous two seasons and his save
 percentage was .920 or better in both campaigns.
 Over 42 career playoff games, Howard has compiled a 2.57 GAA and .918 save
 The injured Zetterberg led the Red Wings with three goals during the season
 series, while Tatar had two goals and two assists. Nyquist added two goals and
 a helper, while Howard was 1-1-0 with a 3.00 GAA.
 Rask struggled to a 1-3-0 record and 3.29 GAA in four games versus Detroit,
 while no Boston player had more than one goal in the series. Reilly Smith led
 the Bruins with four points -- all assists -- in four games.
 Boston, which also will host Detroit in Game 2 on Sunday, was an impressive
 31-7-3 as the home team this season. The Red Wings were 21-15-5 on the road.
 ( - The top-seeded Anaheim Ducks will aim for a 2-0 lead in
 the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals Friday when they host the
 Dallas Stars at the Honda Center.
 The Ducks led the West with 116 points -- 25 more than Dallas -- and their
 supremacy showed in the early portion of Wednesday's Game 1 victory. However,
 after jumping out to a four-goal lead, Anaheim was forced to hang on for a 4-3
 decision in the opener.
 Anaheim held a 4-0 lead just over nine minutes into the second period, but
 Minnesota cut the deficit to two goals by the end of 40 minutes and made it a
 4-3 game when Tyler Seguin scored with a little over six minutes remaining in
 the third period.
 However, rookie goaltender Frederik Andersen, who got the start in net for
 Anaheim over Jonas Hiller, turned away all comers over the final six minutes
 to help the Ducks grab the early edge.
 Andersen finished with 32 saves in his postseason debut for the Ducks, who
 used a 54-20-8 regular-season record -- the best in franchise history -- to
 secure the conference's top spot.
 "We let up a little bit in the third after our fourth goal, so this is a good
 lesson for us," said Andersen, who became the first rookie goaltender in club
 history to win his playoff debut. "Hopefully we can prevent that from
 happening again."
 Anaheim plans on sticking with Andersen in Game 2. Hiller led Anaheim with 50
 appearances in net this season, but the veteran did not play in seven of
 Anaheim's final eight regular-season games.
 Ryan Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey each supplied a goal and an assist for the
 Ducks, with Kyle Palmieri and Mathieu Perreault supplying a goal apiece.
 Getzlaf didn't leave the victory unscathed, however, as he
 was hit flush in the face by a puck shot off the stick of Seguin in the
 closing seconds of the game. The club revealed on Thursday that Getzlaf
 suffered a deep facial laceration and required multiple stitches to close the
 cut, but that x-rays were negative and he is good to go for Game 2.
 "He has no one to impress. He has a wife and kids. I think he looks good. This
 is playoff hockey," quipped Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
 Getzlaf, a Stanley Cup winner in 2007 with the franchise, has 22 goals and 39
 assists in 70 postseason appearances.
 Beleskey also suffered a lower-body injury in Game 1 and is questionable for
 Anaheim's Teemu Selanne notched an assist for his 83rd career postseason point
 (42 goals, 41 assists) in 119 games. The 43-year-old future Hall of Famer
 plans on retiring at the end of the season.
 Jamie Benn and Colton Sceviour scored 1:33 apart late in the second to kick
 off Dallas' valiant comeback effort. Sceviour added an assist on Benn's goal
 while Kari Lehtonen allowed four goals on 35 shots for the Stars, who claimed
 the West's second wild card spot to reach the playoffs for the first time
 since 2008.
 "We had a tough start," Benn admitted. "They came out hot in their building.
 They are really good in this rink. I thought we battled back pretty good there
 but it just wasn't enough."
 Benn and Sceviour were both making their playoff debuts, while the 22-year-old
 Seguin, a former Boston Bruin, now has 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) over 43
 postseason contests.
 This series marks the third all-time playoff meeting between these clubs and
 first since the Stars bested the Ducks in six games during the 2008 Western
 Conference quarterfinals.
 After Game 2, the series will shift to Dallas for the next two meetings. The
 Stars will host Game 3 on Monday with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday.
 04/18 11:09:20 ET