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Playoff Buzz: Looking at games Thursday

Maple Leafs-Capitals, Predators-Blackhawks and Flames-Ducks series begin

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Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. The playoffs began Wednesday with five games, four won by the road teams. There are three games on Thursday. NHL.com writers covering each of the eight series will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news from the rinks, right up to puck drop. Here is the playoff news for Thursday:

 

6:04 p.m.

The Edmonton Oilers practiced at Rogers Place on Thursday to regroup from a 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round on Wednesday.

The Oilers were outshot 34-9 over the final two periods and overtime combined. They talked about their lessons learned and ability to battle through adversity all season.

Sharks center Joe Thornton (knee) will once again be a game-time decision for Game 2 of the best-of-7 series Friday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports). Thornton skated again Thursday and said his recovery is progressing.

San Jose center Logan Couture played in Game 1 after missing the final seven games of the regular season because of a mouth injury. Couture didn't think he was very effective, an assessment disputed by Sharks coach Peter DeBoer.

 

5:30 p.m.

The New York Rangers are in the driver's seat of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens after a 2-0 win in Game 1 on Wednesday. But as happy as they were, some Rangers players felt they had more to give, NHL.com columnist Dave Stubbs discovered at practice Thursday.

The hero in Game 1 for the Rangers was Tanner Glass, who spent most of this season with Hartford of the American Hockey League before being recalled by the Rangers five weeks ago. To the surprise of many, Glass found himself in the Game 1 lineup. The fourth-line forward scored his second career Stanley Cup Playoff goal, which proved to be the game-winner.

In the suburbs of Brossard, just south of Montreal, the Canadiens gathered for practice and didn't seem the least bit bothered to find themselves down in the series. Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Friday at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG).

Canadiens coach Claude Julien wanted to impart a sense of calmness on his team, and he did that through his inaction, writes LNH.com Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu.

 

3:30 p.m.

Veteran Marc-Andre Fleury is once again the Pittsburgh Penguins No. 1 goalie -- at least for now. Fleury was announced as the starter for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, FS-O) with Matt Murray sidelined after sustaining a lower-body injury in warmups before Game 1 on Wednesday.

Fleury made 31 saves in a 3-1 win in Game 1. Murray didn't practice with the Penguins at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Thursday. NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen has the news on Murray and story on Fleury's new role, which was his old role.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets, who practiced at PPG Paints Arena the day after Game 1, are working on some things they know they need to do better to avoid the dreaded 2-0 hole before the series shifts to Columbus. NHL.com Correspondent Wes Crosby dissects one of the supremely important aspects of Columbus' game that went awry in Game 1.

No matter what the Blue Jackets try to do and whom the Penguins start in goal, none of it will be a surprise to either Penguins coach Mike Sullivan or Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella. They are close friends who worked together on coaching staffs in Tampa Bay, New York and Vancouver for six seasons from 2007-14. They probably know what each other is thinking when the other is thinking it. Rosen has the story of their relationship and why it's a big part of this series.

 

3:24 p.m.

Stanley Cup Playoff hockey has once again arrived in Chicago, an annual rite of spring likely only behind Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs.

The stage is set for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators at United Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, CSN-CHI, FS-TN). 

Chicago is healthy entering the best-of-7 series, but Nashville is unsure of the status of forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Colin Wilson, each of whom has a lower-body injury and will be a game-time decision, according to a report from NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke

NHL.com corespondent Brian Hedger has the five keys to Game 1.

Also, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had his pre-series press conference Thursday. Among the topics discussed was the play of Artemi Panarin and how the Blackhawks will accommodate the bonus overages accumulated by the left wing during his stellar sophomore season.

 

1:46 p.m.

The Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators are sifting through the fallout from Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round, as each team took a day off Thursday. The Bruins appear to be somewhat relieved with their win, given their injuries and the way they played. The Senators are angrier, knowing they let an opportunity slip away.

As Senators coach Guy Boucher said, "We looked like [we were] scared to lose instead of hungry to win." He bemoaned the self-inflicted nature of the loss, especially all the turnovers that led to goals on Wednesday, with nine total coming just before the two Bruins goals.

The Bruins, meanwhile, managed to overcome the in-game loss of defenseman Colin Miller (knee) to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Center David Krejci (upper body) and defensemen Torey Krug (lower body) and Brandon Carlo (upper body) did not play in Game 1. There was no update on the injured defensemen from Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, but he did say he hopes to have Krejci back for Game 2 at Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

The question going forward will be how the Bruins can manage a defense that has been decimated of late, and whether the Senators will do a better job of exploiting that.

 

11:20 a.m.

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (lower body) was not on the ice for an optional morning skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but indications are he will play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC).  

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he expects Carlson to take part in pre-game warm-ups as long as the defenseman has no setbacks.

None of Washington's top six defensemen skated Thursday morning. Goalie Braden Holtby, who's expected to start Game 1, was on the ice with backup Philipp Grubauer, defensemen Nate Schmidt and Taylor Chorney and forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly, Tom Wilson, Daniel Winnik and Paul Carey.

 

Looking ahead

Now that the dust has settled on the five opening-night games of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday, it's time to prepare for three more Game 1 matchups on Thursday.

Here's a look at the schedule:

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; CBC, USA, TVA Sports) -- Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock announced after practice Wednesday that his team will be without defenseman Nikita Zaitsev for Game 1 because of an upper-body injury. That's a pretty significant loss against a team that ranked third in the League with a 3.18 goals-per game average. NHL.com correspondent Dave McCarthy reported that Zaitsev, who was hurt in a 3-2 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 9, will be replaced in the lineup by Martin Marincin .

Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak, who sustained a lower-body injury against the Blue Jackets, returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out Tuesday and will be in the lineup.

For more on the series, check out NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti's feature on why the Capitals will not overlook the young and energetic scorers for the Maple Leafs.

Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, FS-TN) -- The good news out of Blackhawks camp is that center Artem Anisimov should be ready for Game 1. According to NHL.com correspondent Brian Hedger, Anisimov practiced Tuesday for the first time since he injured his leg against the Montreal Canadiens on March 14. He missed the final 13 games of the regular season.

Expect Anisimov to return to his normal role at center between Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.

NHL.com correspondent Robby Stanley reminds us that the Predators are seeking their first playoff series win in three tries against the Blackhawks.

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; CBC, NBCSN, TVA Sports, PRIME) -- In order for the Flames to pull off the upset, they'll need to end a long losing streak at Honda Center. The Ducks have won 27 straight regular-season and playoff games against the Flames on home ice.

NHL.com correspondent Dan Arritt reported that Ducks coach Randy Carlyle has no explanation for the streak.

 

Wild Wednesday

Goalies were the story on Day 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here's a look:

New York Rangers 2, Montreal Canadiens 0

Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves for his 10th career playoff shutout to give the Rangers a Game 1 win in Montreal.

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 1

Marc-Andre Fleury stepped in after scheduled starter Matt Murray was injured during warmups to lead the defending champions at home.

St. Louis Blues 2, Minnesota Wild 1 (OT)

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen made 51 saves and Joel Edmundson scored at 17:48 of overtime in a thriller at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild forced overtime when Zach Parise scored with 22 seconds left in regulation.

Boston Bruins 2, Ottawa Senators 1

At Canadian Tire Center, Brad Marchand scored with 2:33 left in regulation to lift Boston, which didn't have a shot on goal in the second period.

San Jose Sharks 3, Edmonton Oilers 2 (OT)

Melker Karlsson scored 3:22 into overtime for the Sharks, who rallied at Rogers Place after falling behind 2-0 in the first period.

Video: Karlsson's OT winner propels Sharks to Game 1 victory

 

Here are some things we learned on Day 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

 

The King still reigns

Lundqvist had a bit of a shaky start, but still got the shutout. His troubles against the Montreal Canadiens, more specifically at Bell Centre, was a major storyline entering the series, as was the case in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final. But again, just as he did three years ago, Lundqvist showed that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a different animal from the regular season.

 

Glass earned his spot

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault took a fair amount of heat for dressing Tanner Glass and sitting forward Pavel Buchnevich. Glass spent most of the season in the American Hockey League, and his game is one that generally doesn't translate to the playoffs. Vigneault dressed him anyway and Glass rewarded his coach by scoring the game-winning goal, a pretty backhand off a faceoff that beat Canadiens goalie Carey Price high to the glove side.

 

Fleury was ready

Fleury found out minutes before puck drop that he was starting and made 31 saves for his 54th career playoff win in his 101st career appearance, all with the Penguins. Fleury tied Tom Barrasso's record for most playoff appearances by a Penguins goalie.

 

Malkin wasn't rusty

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who missed the last 13 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, had two assists and played 17:43 in his first game since March 15. He also had three shots on goal.

 

McAvoy can play

For a 19-year-old rookie seeing his first-ever NHL action -- and in a Stanley Cup Playoff game, no less -- Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy looked like he belonged. He played 24:11, second to Zdeno Chara, demonstrated his maturity and sharp passing skills, and didn't shrink from the bright lights. That's good news for a Bruins team getting thin on defense.

 

Ryan was on top of his game

Senators forward Bobby Ryan hasn't had a great season and has felt the pressure and the wrath of Ottawa fans at times, but in Game 1, he played well. He beat Adam McQuaid and then stayed on the puck for the second effort needed to put his team ahead. In 12:27 of ice time, he scored a goal and led the Senators with six shots on goal. It could be a good sign for Ottawa.

Video: BOS@OTT, Gm1: Ryan forces a turnover to open scoring

 

Allen can be difference

If Allen continues to give the Blues the kind of goaltending he did in Game 1, they have a great chance to defeat the Wild.

 

Talbot is real deal

Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, who made 73 starts this season, showed no signs of fatigue in the series opener against the Sharks, battling to the very end. He was huge in the third period, when San Jose outshot the Oilers 18-3. He finished with 41 saves.

 

Sharks still have bite

Written off by some as banged-up or out of gas after losing nine of their last 13 regular-season games, the Sharks showed they still have plenty in the tank. San Jose looked a little wobbly at times in the first period, but began a push that brought them back from a 2-0 deficit to get the game to overtime.

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