Cross Checks: Minnesota Wild

#ESPNplayerNHL: Top Wild player?

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
5:37
PM ET
State of Hockey, huh? Well, not according to the results of our franchise player project. Turns out fans of the Minnesota Wild are behind the curve when it comes to voting for their favorite team player of all time.

And, I've got to tell you, it seems like you've got plenty of candidates, new and old, serious and not: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Manny Fernandez, Dwayne Roloson, Marian Gaborik, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Niklas Backstrom, Derek Boogaard, Brian Rolston, Nick Schultz, Matt Johnson, Brad Bombardir!

If one player could represent your team in the Hall of Fame, who would it be? C'mon, Wild fans, bring those votes.

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up from Twitter, use the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.
We ended up having a chat with Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher on the way out of the draft Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

He talked about free agency and the desire to keep any deals the Wild might be involved with on a short-term basis.

Sure. Sure.

How many times have NHL GMs pledged fiscal responsibility and not getting sucked into the free-agency abyss then gone willingly over the edge the moment the market opened?

Too many to count, that’s how many.

But credit to Fletcher, who surprised no one by inking talented free-agent winger Thomas Vanek on Tuesday afternoon but surprised many by getting Vanek to agree to a three-year deal worth $6.5 million annually.

No doubt it’s a lot of money if the Vanek who meandered his way through the playoffs with the Montreal Canadiens this spring shows up in Minnesota for the next three years.

Vanek was acquired by Montreal from the New York Islanders at the trade deadline after the Islanders had nabbed the Austrian native from the Buffalo Sabres earlier in the season. While he was productive enough during the regular season with 27 goals and 68 points in spite of all that moving around, he was a major disappointment to a Canadiens team that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

He scored in just three postseason games (five goals in total) and was without a goal in the Canadiens’ final seven games, including the entire Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers.

Clutch? Hardly.

Minnesota will need Vanek to shake off that disappointing playoff performance to make this deal work.

The Wild have gone quickly from playoff bubble team to a team where expectations are to win playoff series and in the next few years challenge for a Stanley Cup.

They took a big step along that path this spring with a stirring comeback in the first round against Colorado after falling behind 2-0 and 3-2. They then gave the Chicago Blackhawks all they could handle in a six-game second-round loss.

The Wild are loaded with veteran talent in Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville and have terrific youngsters emerging like Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin.

Vanek, who went to the University of Minnesota, whose wife is from the State of Hockey and who has long been rumored to want to play for the Wild, has a chance now to be part of something special in Minnesota.

One imagines his desire to, in a way, come home went into accepting a much shorter term than he could have gotten when last season began.

Perhaps coming home will help Vanek grow into being not just a top-end point producer, but a leader and key contributor -- something that has been lacking from his résumé thus far.

But if it doesn’t turn out that way, this deal means the Wild’s future hasn’t been jeopardized by an albatross of a contract the likes of which some of Fletcher’s colleagues were doling out Tuesday.
The NHL’s all-time winningest netminder was intrigued on the eve of free agency, wondering exactly where he’ll end up.

"I’m excited and intrigued to see some of the options [that] will be laid out in front of me," Martin Brodeur told ESPN.com on Monday. "It’s something that’s new to me; it’s going to be fun."

Technically, Brodeur did in fact enter free agency two years ago, but that was really just because it took Devils GM Lou Lamoriello some time to come around on the idea of a two-year deal.

This time, it’s for real. Brodeur is almost surely changing teams, something Devils fans probably never thought they would see in their lifetime. But Brodeur is eager for a new challenge before he wraps up an incredible career. He’s got one of the sport's big-time agents in Pat Brisson of CAA Sports.

[+] EnlargeMartin Brodeur
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsMartin Brodeur is ready to say goodbye to New Jersey and begin a new chapter in his career.
"We’ll see what noon [ET] tomorrow will bring," Brodeur said. "I’m just sitting back and letting Pat do his thing."

Brodeur is willing to look at different types of fits.

"It depends on the opportunity," Brodeur said. "I’m pretty open-minded about things. For me, this is a year that’s going to be a challenge for me regardless of where I land, first because it’ll be in a different organization, second because it’ll be a new [role]. It’s something where I think I’m just going to really enjoy the game and not worry about carrying a team. I’m just going to be a piece of the puzzle for a team, hopefully."

Whether that’s mentoring a young starting goalie or even helping a more established starter, Brodeur is ready to be that guy.

"It’ll be fun for me just to see what the opportunities are," he said. "But I’m open-minded, whether it’s a team with a good young goalie or being in a spot where I’ve got a chance to win a Stanley Cup again ... just look forward to seeing what’s out there."

Brodeur also knows it may not happen on Day 1 of free agency for him. He needs to patient as Brisson works out the market for him.

Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan publicly stated over the weekend Toronto had some interest, although I don’t think there’s much money to spend there. Not to mention James Reimer hasn’t been traded yet.

What about Tampa Bay? It needs a backup goalie. Just a thought.

What now for Tampa?
The Tampa Bay Lightning shed $5.65 million in cap space Sunday night with their three trades, fueling no end of speculation that the club was going to be quite active come Tuesday. Perhaps ... but this is about Tampa creating roster/payroll flexibility moving forward whether that’s for signing a player or two come Tuesday or for having that space to do something over the next few months.

"It gives us some options," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told ESPN.com on Monday. "Really, prior to yesterday, other than trying to sign a backup goaltender, we really weren’t in a position to do anything at all. And we may end up doing nothing [Tuesday] other than signing a backup goaltender, but we’d like to explore [the free-agent market]."

Yzerman pointed to possibilities both up front and on defense.

"We’d like to get potentially a center or maybe a winger," said Yzerman. "And then, we have seven defensemen signed and we’d like to carry eight. Depending on fit and contract, whether it’s a really expensive guy or a low-end one-way, we’ll try to add one more defenseman."

Yzerman said he'd prefer a right-handed defenseman. The Bolts GM would not discuss specific names, but sources have confirmed Tampa’s interest in UFA blueliner Matt Niskanen as well as veteran Dan Boyle, among others.

Tampa joins the likes of Detroit, Toronto, Montreal and the New York Rangers on the list of teams interested in Boyle, as well as places where he would be happy to sign, according to a source.

Niskanen, well, he’s wanted by nearly everyone. He could fetch north of $6 million a year on the open market Tuesday. I don’t believe Tampa will bid like crazy; the deal would have to make sense for them.

Around the market
  • Speaking of Niskanen, likely the most sought-after blueliner on the market Tuesday, his agent, Neil Sheehy, was busy Monday trying to pare down the long, long list of teams interested in signing his client.

    "We are narrowing the list to a workable number today. I can't say how many but rather a workable number," Sheehy said via email.
  • Brad Richards is set for free agency for the second time in his career. Bought out by the New York Rangers, the veteran center would be a valuable addition at the right price. His leadership was on full display during New York’s playoff run and his hands are still capable of helping any power play. Reached via text Monday, Richards didn't want to comment, saying he wanted to keep a low profile on the eve of the market opening.
  • Paul Stastny’s agent, Matt Keator, was working Monday to shorten the list of suitors. Some 15 teams showed interest since the speaking window opened. Keator said Monday morning it was time to work it down to a more workable list, planning to speak with Stastny to identify the top suitors, which another source suggested would include St. Louis. Colorado, of course, also would remain in the mix right to the end, either way.

    The Stastny situation continues to affect the Jason Spezza trade scenario to some degree, most notably with the Blues’ interest in both players. One source did suggest Monday that the Dallas Stars might renew their exploration of the Spezza situation. As I reported Saturday, the Stars have talked to San Jose about Joe Thornton, but either way would like to pick up another top-end center.
  • About eight to 10 teams have circled back to the Thomas Vanek camp with interest. Minnesota, of course, is one of those teams, although as we reported last week, the Wild have expressed to Vanek’s camp that they won't do a long-term deal. Despite that, Minnesota remains very much part of Vanek’s wish list, although where exactly he ends up Tuesday remains to be seen. Sounds like he’ll have to decide between a shorter-term deal in Minnesota (where he really wants to play) or a bigger offer elsewhere. Meanwhile, Vanek met with Wild coach Mike Yeo on Sunday, a source confirmed, to talk about his possible fit.
  • After Josh Gorges refused to accept a trade the Toronto, the Habs must either find a trading partner with one of the 15 teams on Gorges’ approved teams list or put him on waivers, my TSN colleague Bob McKenzie reported earlier today. Will the prospect of going on waivers convince Gorges to take the trade to the Leafs?
  • Jussi Jokinen hits the market Tuesday as it appears the Penguins won’t be re-signing him.

    A source told ESPN.com that Jokinen’s camp offered to re-sign for $4 million a year, a raise over the $3 million he made this past season, but the cap-challenged Penguins feel it’s too much money.

    Jokinen’s agent, Todd Diamond, wouldn't divulge those kinds of details, only to say he still hoped to hear back from Pittsburgh before the market opened Tuesday.

    "Our last conversation was that they would get back to us, but we haven’t heard back yet," Diamond said Monday morning.

    "We have three or four other teams that we’ve spoken to. But I think with these potential trades possibly happening [Jason Spezza, etc], that may also create more interest for Jussi and other players in his position. It’s a pretty fluid situation right now."

    Diamond also represents forward Leo Komarov, who wants to return to the NHL after a year in Russia. The former Maple Leafs forward played well in the Olympics for bronze-medal winner Finland, and there’s a lot of interest in him, according to Diamond.

    "I don’t have enough fingers to count how many teams have called," said Diamond. "He’s a very popular player right now. He’s 27 and brings lots to the table."
  • Speaking of interest, there's plenty as well apparently in Martin Havlat, who became an unrestricted free agent after the San Jose Sharks bought him out. A source told ESPN.com approximately 10 teams have called on him since he was bought out. The long list of injuries have minimized his impact over the past few years, but at the right price, there are teams that can’t help but wonder if getting him on the rebound would be a nice bargain and a solid gamble if he can stay healthy.
  • TSN's Darren Dreger reported Monday that the Maple Leafs would make one more push on pending UFA center David Bolland, but it wouldn’t be more than five years or above $5 million a year. Not sure that’s going to get it done.
  • Pending UFA winger Radim Vrbata has seven or eight teams on his trail, although the Coyotes remain in the mix. It was expected agent Rich Evans and the Coyotes would talk again Monday at some point.
UPDATED: 6:04 p.m. ET

The Ryan Kesler trade talks have taken an interesting twist on the eve of the NHL draft’s first round.

Sources around the NHL have told ESPN.com that the list of teams pursuing Kesler has grown over the past 24 hours.

We reporter earlier this week that Anaheim and Chicago were the two known front-runners on a short list. But it appears more teams have tried to jump into the race.

The question is, will Kesler allow them to? Armed with his no-trade clause, Kesler controls his destination and may not approve of some of these teams.

Stay tuned.

STASTNY UPDATE
The No. 1 center on the unrestricted free-agent market continued to generate a lot of interest on Day 2 of the window to talk to free agents, and as of late Thursday afternoon around 15 NHL teams had communicated in one way or another with Paul Stastny's camp led by agent Matt Keator.

We reported Wednesday that the St. Louis Blues were among the inquisitive teams, add the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks to the long list of teams that have checked in on the Stastny camp. The Jets could certainly use a top-six center and their interest in Stastny is said to be quite legitimate. The Blackhawks have spoken to Vancouver about Ryan Kesler in their search for a No. 2 center. Imagine Stastny centering Patrick Kane? Problem is, not really sure how the Hawks could afford Stastny under their cap when you consider that the Stastny camp is telling clubs they don’t intend on taking a pay cut from the $6.66 million a year the Team USA Olympian was making on his expiring contract.

For the Blackhawks, the more people you talk to around the league the past few days, the more you hear about Chicago making calls and looking at a number of different scenarios. They might very well be an active team here over the next seven to 10 days.

However this process plays out for Stastny -- likely going right to July 1 -- the Stastny camp will certainly circle back to the Colorado Avalanche to give them a chance to improve their offer and try to retain Stastny.

WILD IDEAS
A year ago the Minnesota Wild had so little cap room they had to essentially sit on the sidelines while the free-agent market played itself out.

Now with the cap going up plus Dany Heatley’s $7.5 million hit coming off the books, GM Chuck Fletcher can get back in the game.

"Yes, it’s nice to be able to get involved more, I spoke with several agents yesterday," Fletcher told ESPN.com on Thursday morning.

Fletcher would not say who he spoke to, but a separate source confirmed he had spoken with, among others, agent Steve Bartlett, who represents UFA winger Thomas Vanek. Whether or not that gets done -- as so many have been predicting for a year -- remains to be seen. I think it’s really going to depend on term, not sure the Wild want another super long-term deal on their books. If Vanek signs in Minnesota, it’s not for more than three or four years in my estimation.

As of late Thursday afternoon, we’re told eight to 10 teams had communicated some level of interest in Vanek, although at this point I’d rate about four teams with series interest.

While Fletcher would not comment on specific UFA targets, he did identify general needs.

"If we don’t re-sign [winger] Matt Moulson and [defenseman] Clayton Stoner, then we have to replace those players," Fletcher said of his two pending UFAs. "In an ideal world, we’re looking for a guy who can chip in offensively up front and a fifth/sixth defenseman. Obviously there’s options in both those areas where the price tag might vary a little bit."

It doesn’t sound very probable for Moulson to re-sign.

"I think he’s got to look at what the best fit for him is. We do, too," Fletcher said. "I think it’s fair to say both sides are looking at what’s out there."

Elsewhere:
  • Veteran agent Don Meehan and his Newport Sports team met Thursday with Montreal Canadiens management regarding RFA star blueliner P.K. Subban. There have been people speculating about a possible offer sheet but that appears to be a waste of time, a Habs source telling ESPN.com that the club would match it in no time.
  • The Edmonton Oilers acquired and signed defenseman Nikita Nikitin on Wednesday but they’re far from done. Or hope not to be. A source says the Oilers still want to acquire another established defenseman and also upgrade at center.
  • Matt Niskanen, one of the top UFA defensemen, informed the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday that he was going to the July 1 market to see what’s out there.

    "Matt has decided to see what the free-agent market is," Niskanen’s agent, Neil Sheehy, told ESPN.com on Thursday. "He’ll make a decision after he’s seen all the teams interested and decide what’s the right fit. Pittsburgh isn’t out by any means, but I think where the market is going to be and what they’ll be able to do is going to be a contrast. So we’ll see where this all leads."
  • Former Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. will be joining the Boston Bruins front office, a source told ESPN.com. Ferguson has been with the San Jose Sharks for a number of years.


W2W4: Key stats for Tuesday's games

May, 6, 2014
May 6
3:59
PM ET
Eastern Conference second round – Game 3
Bruins at Canadiens, 7 ET (Series tied 1-1)

* Patrice Bergeron (BOS): has points in 6 straight games (2 G, 6 A during streak)
* Bruins: 4-1 in last 5 road playoff games vs Canadiens (lost last)
* P.K. Subban (MTL): 9 points (2 G, 7 A) this postseason – tied for scoring lead among defensemen (with Chicago’s Brent Seabrook); 4 points (2 G, 2 A) in first 2 games of this series (had 4 points in 7 career playoff games vs BOS entering series)
* Canadiens: 2-0 at home this postseason; were 2-5 in previous 7 home playoff games entering 2014 postseasons (2 of 5 losses were to Bruins)

Western Conference second round – Game 3
Blackhawks at Wild, 9 ET (Blackhawks lead series 2-0)

* Blackhawks: won 6 straight playoff games since trailing 2-0 vs Blues in first round series (outscored opponents 23-9)
* Blackhawks: lead Stanley Cup Playoffs in penalty killing at 93.9 pct (31-33); have not allowed a PPG in last 4 games (12-12 during span)
* Jonathan Toews (CHI): has points in 6 straight games (4 G, 3 A during streak)
* Wild: 3-0 at home this postseason; split 2 home playoff games in only previous playoff series vs Blackhawks (2013 Western Conf. Quarterfinals)
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild trail 2-0 in their series against the Blackhawks, getting outscored 9-3 in the games in Chicago. And they know what they're up against.

"This game is huge," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We know that."

Yeo has made line adjustments, moving Matt Moulson to a third unit with Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine.

In other news, injured rookie goaltender Darcy Kuemper skated earlier on Tuesday but isn’t ready to join the full team for practice, Yeo said.

Playoff scoring leader Zach Parise acknowledged the start will be important for a Wild team that is 3-0 on home ice in the playoffs.

"This league is a lot easier when you're playing with the lead," Parise said. "It's tough to come from behind all the time. We've had some pretty good starts in this building. That's the plan. But it doesn't always go the way you want it to. Even if we don’t get a good start or the first goal, I think it’s important for us to not stray away from what we’re trying to accomplish, what we’re trying to do, and how we’re trying to play. But I expect us tonight to have a lot of energy and come out with a good start."

Across the ice, the Blackhawks will not have Andrew Shaw in the lineup for Game 3. Kris Versteeg or Jeremy Morin or Brandon Bollig will take that spot, and two of those three will play on the fourth line with Michal Handzus.

The Blackhawks, winners of four straight, will have defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in the lineup, but he cannot speak to the media for several weeks after taking a shot to the throat in Game 2. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville joked that players might be lining up to take a similar shot in order to avoid the media.

Line combinations and defense pairings for Game 3:

Minnesota Wild
Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Matt Moulson-Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine
Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cody McCormick

Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner-Keith Ballard

Ilya Bryzgalov

Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Sharp-Ben Smith-Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad-Marcus Kruger-Joakim Nordstrom
Kris Versteeg/Brandon Bollig-Michal Handzus-Jeremy Morin

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson-Johnny Oduya
Nick Leddy-Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford
CHICAGO - The Minesota Wild had three goalies on the ice for their morning skate on Friday, none of whom were rookie Darcy Kuemper, who remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury suffered in Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche.

Veteran Ilya Bryzgalov will get the start in Game 1 for the Wild against the Chicago Blackhawks, like he did in the first round against the Avalanche before getting swapped out for Kuemper as the Minnesota goalie rotation continues moving.

“It’s been crazy,” said Wild forward Dany Heatley. “But everybody who has gone in has played well.”

Bryzgalov picked up the Game 7 win in relief of Kuemper to improve his postseason stats to 1-2 with an .826 save percentage. In 41 career playoff games with the Ducks, Coyotes and Wild, Bryzgalov is 18-21 with a .905 save percentage.

He’ll be backed up by John Curry, the 30-year-old Minnesota native who has played in six career NHL games. According to Mike Yeo, Kuemper isn’t in Chicago and continues to get checked out by team doctors.

The wildcard in this series could be Josh Harding, who is practicing with the team but is considered by Yeo a longshot to get playing time in this series. Harding hasn’t played since December 31 while battling multiple sclerosis.

“[It’s] get him on the ice and get him back to being part of the group and helping out a little bit with practice,” Yeo said. “I have to figure out exactly what the rules are, to be honest with you. I don’t even know. For me, I’m not even considering it right now. If there’s an absolute emergency or there’s a desperate situation we find ourselves in we’ll be prepared for that.”

As for Heatley, he practiced with the first power play unit, his role continuing to expand after being a healthy scratch early on this postseason. His ice time grew from 10:41 in his playoff debut in Game 3 against the Avalanche to 16:58 in the overtime finale. He had five points in the last three games of that series.

“For me, this is the most Dany Heatley that we’ve seen all year,” Yeo said. “He’s just handled things so well all year. It’s been real impressive to watch.”

Bryzgalov makes his one moment count

May, 1, 2014
May 1
3:34
AM ET


DENVER, Colo. -- You didn’t need the plus-minus stat or the "Three Stars" awards to tell which guy in the visiting locker room felt the best after the Minnesota Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 in overtime in a back-and-forth, back-and-forth Game 7 at the Pepsi Center.

Jared Spurgeon, a defenseman, dropped jaws when he tied the game in the waning minutes of the third period on a nifty goal that skipped over Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov's shoulder. But it wasn’t him.

Nino Niederreiter, who scored twice Wednesday, was almost as stunned as the Mile High crowd when he scored the game-winning goal 5:02 into overtime on a 2-on-1 chance. But it wasn’t him, either, on this night.

The biggest smile in room belonged to goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. His stat line on Wednesday: one save on one attempt.

After the 33-year-old was benched during Game 2 after inconsistent play, Bryzgalov returned to the ice midway through the third period in relief of injured starter Darcy Kuemper and helped the Wild grab their first playoff series win since 2003.

In 13 minutes, 15 seconds in net, Bryzgalov faced just one chance from the Avalanche, who struggled to create shots all series -- but to their credit, it was a good one. The much-beleaguered goalie, however, made a sliding save, stopping the shot with his left shoulder in the opening minutes of overtime to extend the game.

Bryzgalov became the only goalie to record one save and earn a Game 7 victory.

“It doesn’t sound like much but that [save] was huge for us,” said Niederreiter, who finished off the game minutes later with a patient shot that beat Varlamov. “That was our season there.”

Bryzgalov has had a rough going the past couple of seasons. Following playoff success with the Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes in the first decade of his career, the netminder’s reputation went downhill fast after he didn’t live up to his bloated contract with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2011-2013.

He was bought out during the 2013 offseason, but returned to the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers this season, before the Wild took a chance on him at the trade deadline.

Wednesday, for 13-some-odd minutes, Bryzgalov was perfect.

“[Tonight] felt good,” Bryzgalov said, “just wanted to help the team.”

After the game, Wild coach Mike Yeo showed confidence in Bryzgalov for the first time this series -- perhaps knowing he has no choice as the severity of Kuemper’s injury is still unknown -- saying the Wild would be in good shape with whoever started in goal in the second round.

“If only we had any experience dealing with this," Yeo said with a smirk. "We're fortunate we have good depth at that position."

The Wild face the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, a rematch of a first-round series that the Blackhawks won in five games last season.

Game 1 is Friday in Chicago.

2014 playoffs: Second-round schedule

May, 1, 2014
May 1
1:23
AM ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Boston vs. Montreal
Thursday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Boston (NBCSN, CBC, RDS)
Saturday, May 3 at 12:30 p.m. at Boston (NBC, CBC, RDS)
Tuesday, May 6 at 7 p.m. at Montreal (CBC, RDS, NBCSN)
Thursday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Montreal (CBC, RDS, NBCSN)
*Saturday, May 10 at TBD at Boston (CBC, RDS)
*Monday, May 12 at TBD at Montreal (CBC, RDS)
*Wednesday, May 14 at TBD at Boston (CBC, RDS)

Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers
Friday, May 2 at 7 p.m. at Pittsburgh (NBCSN, CBC, RDS)
Sunday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Pittsburgh (NBCSN, CBC, RDS)
Monday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m. at NY Rangers (NBCSN, CBC, RDS)
Wednesday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at NY Rangers (NBCSN, CBC, RDS)
*Friday, May 9 at TBD at Pittsburgh (CBC)
*Sunday, May 11 at TBD at NY Rangers (CBC)
*Tuesday, May 13 at TBD at Pittsburgh (CBC)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Chicago vs. Minnesota
Friday, May 2 at 9:30 p.m. at Chicago (NBCSN, TSN, RDS)
Sunday, May 4 at 3 p.m. at Chicago (NBC, TSN, RDS)
Tuesday, May 6 at 9 p.m. at Minnesota (CNBC, TSN, RDS2)
Friday, May 9 at TBD at Minnesota (TSN)
*Sunday, May 11 at TBD at Chicago (TSN)
*Tuesday, May 13 at TBD at Minnesota (TSN)
*Thursday, May 15 at TBD at Chicago (TSN)

Anaheim vs. Los Angeles
Saturday, May 3 at 8 p.m. at Anaheim (NBCSN, TSN, RDS)
Monday, May 5 at 10 p.m. at Anaheim (NBCSN, TSN, RDS)
Thursday, May 8 at 10 p.m. at Los Angeles (NBCSN, TSN, RDS)
Saturday, May 10 at TBD at Los Angeles (TSN)
*Monday, May 12 at TBD at Anaheim (TSN)
*Wednesday, May 14 at TBD at Los Angeles (TSN)
*Friday, May 16 at TBD at Anaheim (TSN)

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

Rapid Reaction: Wild 5, Avs 4 (OT)

May, 1, 2014
May 1
1:13
AM ET
DENVER, Colo. -- The Minnesota Wild did it to Hall of Famer Patrick Roy during his playing days. Then, they did it again to him as the first-year coach of the Colorado Avalanche.

Eleven years after Roy gave up the final goal of his career, an overtime goal against the Wild in a Game 7 at home, the visiting Wild shocked the highly-passionate 48-year-old along with the ruckus Pepsi Center fans with a 5-4 overtime win Wednesday night.

How it happened: Well, a controversial goal happened. The Avs continued to regain the lead throughout regulation, but in the end, Wild winger Nino Niederreiter's goal 5:02 into overtime was all that mattered. It was the Wild’s first lead of the game. Niederreiter scored twice and added an assist on Jared Spurgeon's game-tying goal with 2:27 remaining to help the Wild into the second round of the playoffs. After a shaky second period by the Avs, Paul Stastny provided some much needed energy with his fifth goal of the postseason to give the Avs a 3-2 lead early in the third period. Then Minnesota-native Erik Johnson scored his first goal in 22 days 11:16 into the third to give the Avs the 4-3 lead, after Niederreiter had tied the game. Minnesota answered all night and answered late, just like the Avs had most of the series.

What it means: Somebody finally won on the road. And this time it wasn't the Avs tying the game late and scoring in overtime.

Player of the game: Stastny scored his series-high fifth goal when he flung the puck past Darcy Kuemper from just inside the blue line. After trade rumors swirled around the the USA Olympian for much of the season, he gave the Avs’ offense a big lift after the team had only five shots on net in the second period. But Niederreiter scored the biggest goal of the series when he beat Semyon Varlamov 5:02 into overtime.

Stat of the game: The Wild outshot the Avs in six of the series’ seven games. Wednesday's final tally was 35-22 in favor of Minnesota.

What’s next: The Minnesota Wild will travel to Chicago to face the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the playoffs.

W2W4: Key stats for Game 7s

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
2:16
PM ET
Game 7 Bonanza: The NHL features three Game 7s Wednesday night and the Flyers-Rangers start things off at 7 ET. Something has to give. The Rangers have never lost a Game 7 at home (5-0), but the Flyers own the best Game 7 record (9-6) of any team in NHL history (min. 10 games played).

Stanley Cup Playoffs – Game 7s
Flyers at Rangers, 7 ET

* This is the 2nd time the Flyers and Rangers have played a Game 7 against each other. In the 1974 Semifinals, the Flyers beat the Rangers, 4-3.
* Teams have alternated wins and losses throughout series (last game was won by Flyers).
* Flyers: best record in Game 7s (9-6) of any team with at least 10 games played.
* Flyers: 9-6 in Game 7s (3-3 on road)
* Flyers: won each of their last 2 series vs Eastern Conference teams when trailing 3-2
* Rangers: looking for first playoff series win vs Flyers since 1986 Patrick Division Semifinal (have lost last 3 series vs Flyers)
* Rangers: won 6 of their last 7 Game 7s (including their last 3), after losing their first 4 Game 7s
* Rangers: 6-5 all-time in Game 7s (5-0 at home)

Wild at Avalanche, 9:30 ET
* There have been 25 teams to overcome a 3-1 series deficit in NHL playoff history.
* Home team has won every game this series
* Wild: defeated Avalanche in Game 7 of 2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals
* Wild: 2-0 all-time in Game 7s (both on road)
* Avalanche: 6-6 all-time in Game 7s (4-2 in Game 7s at home)

Kings at Sharks, 10 ET
* Kings: 9th team to force Game 7 when trailing 3-0
* Sharks: 2nd time being pushed to Game 7 after taking 3-0 series lead (2011 vs Red Wings ... SJ won Game 7)
* Only 3 NHL teams have won a series when trailing 3-0 (1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders, 2010 Flyers)
* Each team has scored 21 goals this series
* Kings: eliminated Sharks in Game 7 of Western Conference semifinals last year
* Kings: 4-4 in Game 7s (2-3 on road)
* Sharks: 5-3 in Game 7s (2-0 at home)

Forced Game 7 After Trailing Series 3-0
Stanley Cup Playoff History
Opponent
2014 Kings Sharks
2011 Red Wings Sharks
2011 Blackhawks Canucks
2010 Flyers << Bruins
1975 Islanders Flyers
1975 Islanders << Penguins
1945 Red Wings Maple Leafs
1942 Maple Leafs << Red Wings
1939 Rangers Bruins
>> Won game

W2W4: Key stats for Monday's games

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
3:07
PM ET
Penguins at Blue Jackets, 7 ET (Penguins lead series 3-2)
* Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin (PIT): 0 goals on 32 combined shots in series
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): 0 goals in last 10 postseason games (longest streak of his career)
* Team to score 1st has lost each game in series
* Blue Jackets: 27.3% (6-22) on power play in series (19.3% in regular season)

Avalanche at Wild, 9 ET (Avalanche lead series 3-2)
* Home team has won each game of series
* Nathan MacKinnon (COL): leads all players with 10 points this postseason
* Nathan MacKinnon (COL): 10 points in series are the most ever by a rookie under age 20 in his first playoff series
* Teams are a combined 3-33 on power play in series

Sharks at Kings, 10 ET (Sharks lead series 3-2)
* Kings: won last 2 games in series after losing 1st 3; looking to become 4th team in NHL history to come back from 3-0 series deficit
* Kings: outscored Sharks 9-3 in last 2 games (wins); were outscored 17-8 in 1st 3 games of series (losses)
* Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJ): questionable for Game 6 (upper body); has never missed a playoff game in his career (88 straight)

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Matt Duchene took part in his second full morning skate in three days and will be a game-time decision for Monday night.

Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said he would meet with the team doctor later Monday to get more information and will also see how Duchene feels after warm-ups Monday night before deciding if the star center returns.

Duchene, on Monday morning, skated with Ryan O'Reilly and P.A. Parenteau, although it should be noted Jamie McGinn didn't partake in the skate.

Roy was vague about where Duchene would fit in if he does play, saying only that he would find a spot for him among his four lines.

But it seems hard to believe that Duchene and O'Reilly, a pairing all season long, wouldn't find each other at some point Monday night if the star center does play.

The Avs' leading scorer in the regular season, Duchene has missed 13 games with a knee injury. His return, even if he's rusty, would add all-world speed to an Avs lineup that struggled to produce any offense here in Minnesota in Games 3-4.

While the Avs’ lineup is in flux because of the Duchene situation and their lines are a bit of an unknown, the Wild are expected to dress the same four forward lines:
Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Moulson-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter-Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine
Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cody McCormick

Roy a trend-setter?
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, in the aftermath of his team's crazy, come-from-behind win to eliminate the Stars on Sunday night, credited Patrick Roy for giving him the gumption to pull his goalie for an extra attacker with more than two minutes left in the game.

Traditionally, coaches over the years have pulled their goalies with about a minute left, but Roy's yearlong decision to pull his netminder for an extra attacker with well over two minutes to go, sometimes more, might have started a trend, judging by Boudreau’s comments.

Told Monday morning of what Boudreau said, Roy refused to take any credit.

"You might start to see it more and more, but I'm not going to take any credit for that," Roy said after the morning skate. "I'm going to give the credit to my players. Because imagine if we get scored on pulling the goalie with three minutes left in the game, everyone is going to say: 'Look at that stupid idiot, he pulled his goalie with three minutes and got scored on.' Our players deserve credit. The players are creating the trend here. Yeah, it's a decision by the coach to do it, but it’s the players that do the work and they’re the ones who should receive the credit for that."

Avs players say one of the effects of pulling the goalie earlier is that they don’t press as much with the extra attacker because they know they've got more time than usual. So they don’t feel like their next shot on goal is their last one. It shows on the ice, as the Avs look very much comfortable in that situation, scoring with the goalie pulled late in Game 1 and late in Game 5.
DENVER -- Matt Duchene had his first full skate with the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday morning, but he still wasn't cleared to return.

Avs head coach Patrick Roy said Duchene would not play in Game 5 Saturday night.

"It was his first day skating with the team," Roy said after the morning skate. "We'll see after how it was [for him]. I'll tell you more tomorrow."

Duchene has missed the last 12 games recovering from a knee injury suffered March 29 versus the San Jose Sharks. As per Avalanche team policy with injured players, Duchene wasn't available to speak Saturday.

The Avs' offense can certainly use him back in the lineup, with Colorado limited to one goal in the last two games in Minnesota and generating very little shot-wise or chance-wise.

If there aren't any setbacks, I'd bet Game 6 in Minnesota would be a possibility for Duchene, who led the Avs in scoring with 70 points (23-47) in 71 games this season.

Meanwhile, Roy said the only lineup decision he has to make is whether he'll dress Paul Carey or Joey Hishon for Game 5. Hishon played in Game 4 on the fourth line.

The big focus for Colorado is getting out of its own end, where the Avs were bottled up by an aggressive Wild forecheck in those two losses.

"Yeah, definitely, they come hard on the forecheck," Avs blueliner Nate Guenin said Saturday morning. "It's something we have to do a better job, both D and forwards, it's working together and make strong, hard plays."

Colorado's transition game has been a strength all season, so it's certainly been surprising to the Avs to get bottled up like that.

"We didn't generate much speed in those two games and that’s the name of our game, playing with the puck and attacking with speed," said Guenin. "They did a heck of a job on us in those two games. Now, we’re back at home and it's time to play our game."

Wild head coach Mike Yeo said there would not be any lineup changes for Game 5.

Neither team really showed lines at their morning skates, but here’s what is most likely for combos for Game 5:

Wild:
Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Moulson-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter-Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine
Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cody McCormick

Avalanche:
Gabriel Landeskog-Paul Stastny-Nathan MacKinnon
Jamie McGinn-Ryan O’Reilly-P.A. Parenteau
Max Talbot-Marc-Andre Cliche-Cody McLeod
Patrick Bordeleau-(Joey Hishon/Paul Carey)-Brad Malone

W2W4: Key stats for Thursday's games

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
1:07
PM ET
Bruins at Red Wings, 8 ET (Bruins lead 2-1)
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): 2-1, 0.67 GAA (2 GA in 178:01 played) in this series (1-3, 3.29 GAA vs DET during regular season)
* Bruins: 3-7 on power play (42.9 pct) in last 2 games; 3-17 (17.6 pct) on power play in first 5 games vs DET this season (regular season and playoffs)
* Red Wings: 0-13 on power play in last 4 games (0-9 in this series) (Last PPG: April 11 vs CAR by Riley Sheahan)
* Red Wings: 1-5 in last 6 playoff games dating back to last season (outscored 17-7 in those 6 games)

Avalanche at Wild, 9:30 ET (Avalanche leads 2-1)
* Nathan McKinnon (COL): leads all rookies in playoff scoring with 7 points (1 G, 6 A); trails Paul Martin by 1 point for overall playoff scoring lead
* Avalanche: 1-11 (9.1 pct) on power play in this series; 1-22 (4.5 pct) on power play in 8 total games vs Wild this season (20.7 pct on power play vs all other opponents this season)
* Darcy Kuemper (MIN): 0 goals allowed on 36 shots against in 90:46 played in series (3.27 GAA, .879 save pct in 2 career playoff appearances entering this series)
* Charlie Coyle (MIN): 2 goals in this series (leads Wild); had 2 goals in 8 career regular season games vs COL entering this series

Sharks at Kings, 10:30 ET (Sharks lead 3-0)
* Sharks: seeking 2nd playoff series sweep in franchise history (swept VAN in 2013 Western Conference quarterfinals)
* Sharks: scored 17 goals in this series (had 8 goals in 5 regular season meetings vs LA in 2013-14)
* Kings: have not been swept in a playoff series since 2000 (swept by DET in Western Conference quarterfinals)
* Only 3 teams in Stanley Cup Playoff history have comeback from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series (1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders, 2010 Flyers)

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