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Playoff Countdown: Nine potential game-changers

Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 3:00 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The conclusion to 2013-14 NHL regular season is fast approaching. After game play Friday, the League is down to 72 games remaining on the schedule, with 11 to be played Saturday. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff qualification, playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the nine-day countdown to the end of the season April 13 and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.

In the fight for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, teams depend on their best players to step up and become their teams' best players.

However, it's awfully hard to do that from the trainers' table.

A number of impact players currently reside on their teams' injured list. However, a few of those key performers have been healing rapidly with the goal of getting back for the final days of the regular-season push for the playoffs, or at least at some point in the postseason.

Here are nine players who could have game-changing effects on the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


Tapped In: Philanthropy among Hartnell's muses

Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 3:00 AM / Tapped In

Kathryn Tappen - NHL.com Contributor

He's one of the most recognizable figures in the NHL and not just because of his trademark reddish-orange curly locks typically flowing from under his Flyers helmet. But rather, Hartnell's uncanny ability to never take himself too seriously is what endears him to his teammates, the fans in Philly, and opponents alike. His off-ice philanthropic work is highlighted by the 2012 creation of his own #hartnelldown Foundation, the proudest achievement of his personal and professional life.

Kathryn Tappen: Did you really think you'd get away with throwing the glove at Ryan Malone while he was on a breakaway in 2008?

Sccott Hartnell: [laughs] I thought people forgot about that already. I don't really know what I was thinking. I know Ryan, and he kicked the stick away from me when he got that breakaway so I had no stick. I was mad that he did that, and obviously went clueless and it was a desperation thing. I didn't think about what might happen. He got awarded the penalty shot. I laugh when I think about it now, but it wasn't really funny at the time.


Capitals left reaching after late loss to Devils

Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 12:04 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Here were the Washington Capitals, with fading Stanley Cup Playoff hopes, backing up in a tie game Friday at Prudential Center, the clock dipping under five minutes to play in the third period.

Mike Green was defending as the New Jersey Devils were charging. He saw the play developing right in front of him. He might see it in his nightmares now.

"He just got the puck in the middle, I came over, he pulled it and shot," Green said outside the visitors dressing room following Washington's 2-1 loss, his voice trailing off as he spoke quietly.

Green was hoping a pass by Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky, a nearly 2-foot beauty of a saucer, wouldn't make it to forward Ryan Carter, but it did. Green thought Carter might struggle to settle it down, but he didn't. Instead of moving far enough over to put his body in Carter's shooting lane, Green reached out his stick with his left hand, waving it, hoping Carter's shot would hit the shaft and the puck would go astray.

It went in the net, underneath goalie Jaroslav Halak's left pad with 4:54 remaining.

"You can't blame one guy, you can't blame one play," Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin said. "You can see we have a good game, but one break cost us two points, or a point."


Elias, Henrique injured; Devils finish with 8 forwards

Friday, 04.04.2014 / 11:45 PM / News

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forwards Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique left the game Friday against the Washington Capitals.

Van Massenhoven to officiate final game in Detroit

Friday, 04.04.2014 / 7:33 PM / NHL Insider


Longtime NHL referee Don Van Massenhoven will officiate his final game Friday when the Buffalo Sabres visit the Detroit Red Wings.

The game will draw to a close a career that includes 1,278 regular-season games; 87 Stanley Cup Playoff games; the 2006 Torino Olympics; the 2008 NHL Winter Classic in Buffalo; the 2004 World Cup of Hockey; and the 2002 NHL All-Star Game.

Given the choice where to officiate his final game after more than 20 years in the NHL, Van Massenhoven didn't have to think long before selecting Joe Louis Arena.

"Detroit is close to my home, which makes it easier for family and friends," the 53-year-old said. "A lot of the teams have great buildings, but it's cool to go to the Joe."


Kings defenseman Doughty could play Saturday

Friday, 04.04.2014 / 6:14 PM / News

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty's left shoulder injury isn't serious and he could play against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, according to coach Darryl Sutter.

Doughty left midway through the first period of a 2-1 loss against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday after delivering a hit on forward Tyler Kennedy and did not return.

Doughty did not take part in a brief optional practice here Friday afternoon and had his left shoulder wrapped in ice in the locker room.

"He might play tomorrow," Sutter said.


Henrik Sedin could be back for Canucks on Saturday

Friday, 04.04.2014 / 6:04 PM / News


Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin is expected back in the lineup Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings after missing four games with a leg injury, according to coach John Tortorella.

"Today was a big step in the right direction, so I am hopeful," Sedin said.

Sedin practiced Friday on a line with wings Chris Higgins and Nicklas Jensen. Sedin's playmaking ability would be a huge asset for a Canucks team scrambling to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"He practiced well today," Tortorella said. "We'll wait until tomorrow, but right now I think he'll be able to play, which is good."


Maple Leafs goalie Bernier out three weeks

Friday, 04.04.2014 / 12:33 PM / News


Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier will miss at least three weeks with an MCL strain.

If that timeline proves accurate, Bernier would miss the remainder of the regular season, which ends April 13, and more than likely at least the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the Maple Leafs qualify.


Positive outlook driving defenseman Hunt's career

Friday, 04.04.2014 / 11:05 AM / AHL Update

Alyssa Dombrowski - Special to NHL.com

Throughout the course of this season, Oklahoma City Barons defenseman Brad Hunt has gone from an occasional healthy scratch to one of the most offensively productive defensemen in the American Hockey League.

Despite being out of the Barons lineup for a handful of games in October and November, the 25-year-old Hunt has 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) in 60 games, ranking second on Oklahoma City's roster and fourth among all AHL defensemen.

Hunt's progression is due in large part to his infectious positive attitude, for which he has become well-known in the Barons locker room, according to coach Todd Nelson.


No clinching scenarios in Friday games

Friday, 04.04.2014 / 10:50 AM / Drive to the Playoffs


The Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens are the Eastern Conference teams that have clinched a postseason spot. The St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings are in from the Western Conference.

There are no clinching scenarios for games on Friday.

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Quote of the Day

I'm hoping Bob [Murray] didn't go out and get Dany Heatley just to get someone. I'm sure he's excited and motivated.

— Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on general manager Bob Murray's decision to sign Dany Heatley