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Playoff Countdown: Kings, Blackhawks in rematch

Monday, 03.30.2015 / 11:48 AM / Expert Picks

Saturday, April 11, marks the conclusion to the 2014-15 regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues can clinch a berth in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday while the Los Angeles Kings continue their playoff push in a rematch of the 2014 Western Conference Final.

The Kings (37-24-14) face the Chicago Blackhawks (45-24-6), who they defeated in seven games last spring en route to their second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons.

While the Blackhawks are closing in on a seventh consecutive postseason berth, the Kings enter one point behind the Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific and two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the West. They have a game in hand on each of those teams.

Elliott, Allen aim to end Blues playoff struggles in goal

Monday, 03.30.2015 / 3:00 AM / Expert Picks

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- When St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock decided to start rookie goalie Jake Allen in a recent set of back-to-back games against the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, that looming question that seems to hover around the Gateway City came to light again.

"Is there a goalie controversy in St. Louis?"

The question is understandable, considering the events of the past couple of seasons involving Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and last season, when the Blues traded for Ryan Miller.

Elliott always seemed to be in the middle of those events, but Hitchcock made no mistake when asked: Elliott will be the guy going forward into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Allen will be right there as the capable backup to give the Blues a formidable 1-2 punch.

Gillies, Welman lead Providence to Frozen Four

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 11:42 PM / NCAA Update

Connor Mellas - Correspondent

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Less than 24 hours after giving up five goals to Miami, Providence goaltender Jon Gillies was back on his game.

Gillies, a third-round pick (No. 75) by the Calgary Flames in the 2012 NHL Draft, made 23 saves Sunday to lead the Friars to a 4-1 victory against Denver in the NCAA East Regional final, sending Providence to the Frozen Four for the first time in 30 years. Providence will face Nebraska-Omaha in one of two national semifinal games.

Gillies, a junior, leads all Hockey East goaltenders with a .929 save percentage and a 2.01 goals-against average. He had no trouble shaking off the wild ending to the semifinal game against Miami, in which the RedHawks nearly overcame a four-goal deficit in the third period.

Providence, Nebraska-Omaha win, make Frozen Four

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 11:02 PM / NCAA Update

Tom Parisi scored a tie-breaking power-play goal with 5:01 left and Providence College defeated Denver 4-1 on Sunday to win the NCAA East Regional final and advance to the Frozen Four.

Providence (23-13-3), of Hockey East, will face Nebraska-Omaha, which defeated Rochester Institute of Technology 4-0 in the Midwest Regional final later Sunday, on April 9 at TD Garden in Boston. North Dakota will play Boston University in the other semifinal.

Hanifin finishes freshman year at Boston College

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 10:27 AM / Prospects

Connor Mellas - Correspondent

PROVIDENCE -- Boston College’s offensive zone possession collapsed, and suddenly, Denver forward Daniel Doremus faced a stretch of wide-open ice. With a few seconds remaining in the second period, Doremus skated through the neutral zone and into Eagles territory, focusing his attention on the only player in front of the net, BC goaltender Thatcher Demko.

He should have been more worried about who was behind him.

BC freshman defenseman Noah Hanifin skated about 130 feet and caught Doremus before he could challenge Demko, defusing the threat with a sweeping poke check.

“The puck is transitioning, and he picked it up,” Hanifin said. “I saw the trail guy behind, so I didn’t know if it was going to be a 2-on-1 or not, so I was kind of pacing myself because I didn’t want to go to him and have him throw it across for an open guy. I looked back and [Michael Matheson] was there, so I told him to go to him, and I basically got stick on puck and luckily, the puck went into the corner.”

Playoff Countdown: Predators, Ducks, Canadiens in

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / Expert Picks

Saturday, April 11, marks the conclusion to the 2014-15 regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.

Three teams joined the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

The Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens assured themselves of playing beyond April 11 by clinching playoff berths.

Five reasons Canadiens clinched playoff berth

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / Expert Picks

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

The Montreal Canadiens clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs one game earlier than they did last season when they defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime Saturday.

The Canadiens have six games left; they had five remaining last season when they clinched following a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 1, 2014.

The season prior to that, coach Michel Therrien's first back behind the Montreal bench, the Canadiens clinched with eight games remaining.

For a franchise that had grown accustomed to scratching and clawing its way into the postseason, this has been a welcome change and one of many signs showing how successful Therrien's tenure has been in his second stint with the Canadiens.

Yet in each of those three seasons, there have been reasons to doubt the Canadiens were for real.

In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Montreal began to slip down the stretch after a surprising start coming off a season when they finished last in the Eastern Conference. There were many reasons to believe the Canadiens would fall back to the pack in a full season; their five-game exit in the first round of the 2013 playoffs did nothing to dispel that argument.

The past two seasons, the Canadiens have had poor underlying numbers that suggested they were a flawed team, but they have nonetheless maintained a lofty perch in the standings and comfortably qualified for postseason play.

The reasons they were able to do so this season closely mirror last season's, with the biggest, most glaring one topping the list each time.

Capitals' Fehr excels in new role as checking center

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Ben Raby - Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- More than 10 years have passed since defenseman Mike Green and forward Eric Fehr, now Washington Capitals teammates, played against each other in the Western Hockey League, but Green still has one regret.

"I wanted to drop the gloves with him; I really wanted to go," said Green, who was captain of the Saskatoon Blades. "But Eric, he was too busy scoring goals against us, two or three a game. He was a great goal-scorer, absolutely. We couldn't stop him."

Panthers face must-win games vs. Senators, Bruins

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 12:43 AM / Expert Picks

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL – The Florida Panthers have not played a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since losing Game 7 of the first round to the New Jersey Devils in 2012.

The game Sunday at the Ottawa Senators (5 p.m. ET; FS-F, RDS, TSN5) will be as close to one as Florida has played in three years, followed by a visit to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

The Panthers enter the game in Ottawa three points behind the Senators, who are one point behind the Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Florida lost 3-2 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday but got some unexpected help from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who rallied to defeat the Senators 4-3 in overtime at home. The Bruins defeated the New York Rangers 4-2 earlier in the day.

Five reasons Predators clinched playoff berth

Saturday, 03.28.2015 / 8:00 PM / Expert Picks

Robby Stanley - Correspondent

The Nashville Predators became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a berth in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

The Predators (47-21-8), who have 102 points and lead the Central Division, have been one of the most surprising teams in the NHL this season. Nashville missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons after making the postseason in seven of eight seasons.

Here are five reasons the Predators clinched:

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Quote of the Day

He's only 17 but he can see the ice so well and he moves the puck and goes to the open ice all the time, so I just think he's a player that is ready to play in the NHL. I'm really looking forward to coaching someone like this.

— U.S. National Junior Team coach Ron Wilson on Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft