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Playoff Buzz: Nikita Zaitsev out for Maple Leafs

Defenseman won't play against Capitals in Game 2 on Saturday

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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 continued Friday with four games. NHL.com writers covering each of the eight series will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news from the rinks, including the sites of the four games Saturday.

Here is the playoff news for Saturday: 

 

5:00 p.m.
Nick Ritchie returns for Ducks

The return of Nick Ritchie will give the Anaheim Ducks even more of a physical presence for Game 2 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Calgary Flames. To make room, Anaheim reassigned rookie left wing Ondrej Kase to the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League on Saturday.

NHL.com correspondent Dan Arritt noted that Ritchie was eighth in the NHL in hits during the regular season. He is returning from a two-game suspension, missing the final game of the regular season and Game 1 of the playoffs. Ritchie's suspension was for roughing Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival on April 6.

NHL.com's Lisa Dillman caught up with two generations of the Eaves family: Ducks forward Patrick Eaves and his father, former NHL player Mike Eaves, who finished his career with the Calgary Flames. Patrick, acquired from the Dallas Stars on Feb. 24, has given the Ducks more options with their lineup and significant scoring punch with 11 goals and three assists in 20 games with Anaheim after the trade.

 

 

4:50 p.m.
Rangers not questioning strategy

The New York Rangers headed home Saturday having done what they initially set out to do, but left thinking about what might have been.

The Rangers split the first two games, as road teams hope to do, in their Eastern Conference First Round Series, but nearly took a 2-0 lead in the series, except Tomas Plekanec scored the tying goal with 18 seconds left in the third period and Alexander Radulov scored 18:34 into overtime to give the Montreal Canadiens a 4-3 win.

The series is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 of the best-of-7 series Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, MSG). 

The Rangers say their strategy was not necessarily at fault in Game 2, just their execution, explains LNH.com Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu.

 

3:43 p.m.
Nashville, Chicago promise even more intensity in Game 2

The Chicago Blackhawks say they will bring their best game in Game 2 at United Center to avoid going down 0-2 to the Nashville Predators in the best-of-7 Western Conference First series.

The Predators, who won Game 1 on Thursday, 1-0, hope to spend more time in the attacking zone to take some of the pressure off of their defense.

NHL.com correspondent Brian Hedger has the 5 Keys to Game 2 including some tinkering of the Chicago lineup. Forward John Hayden will be scratched, replaced by Dennis Rasmussen, who will center the fourth line. Forward Nick Schmaltz will move to the third line, replaced by fellow rookie Ryan Hartman.

Viktor Arvidsson, who scored in Game 1, had a breakout season with 31 goals in the regular season, which has been the product of years of hard work, as detailed by NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke.  

 

1:17 p.m.
DeBoer wants desperate hockey from Sharks

San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wants more intensity in Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers at SAP Center on Sunday. A healthy Joe Thornton would also be nice.

Before he and his players flew to San Jose on Saturday, NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell writes, DeBoer said he wasn't unhappy with a split of the first two games in Edmonton, but that the Sharks have to step it up at home.

"This is playoff hockey," he said. "We would have definitely taken 1-1 coming out of two games in Edmonton, and we'll regroup and go home and get ready and make sure Game 3 is our best game."

San Jose is 1-for-12 on the power play through two games and allowed two shorthanded goals Friday in the Oilers' 2-0 win in Game 2. DeBoer admitted that Thornton's return from a knee injury would help, but doesn't know if he'll be able to play in this series.

DeBoer would love to have Thornton available but is prepared to play without him. 

"Joe Thornton would help us in a lot of different areas, including that, but we don't have him and we've got to find a way with the group we do have," DeBoer said. "We did in Game 1 and we didn't in Game 2 so we'll get back to it in Game 3."

The Oilers told NHL.com Correspondent Derek Van Diest that they want to play more disciplinedin Game 3.

 

12:30 p.m.
Zaitsev out for Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev skated on his own in the morning, but coach Mike Babcock said he would not play against the Washington Capitals in Game 2. Zaitsev did not play in the Maple Leafs' 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1 on Thursday because of an upper-body injury.

"He's going through medical protocol, so whatever that means," Babcock said. "I saw him out there today. I got very excited. They shut me down fast, though."

 

12:27 p.m.
No changes for Capitals

The Washington Capitals will go with the same lineup for Game 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs with defensemen Nate Schmidt and Taylor Chorney and forward Paul Carey healthy scratches. Braden Holtby will start in net again.

There was some intrigue when defenseman Karl Alzner left the morning skate for about five minutes, but it turned out Alzner had an issue with his skate and he returned later. Alzner hasn't missed a game since Game 6 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens on April 26, 2010.

The Capitals want to get off to a better start in Game 2 after falling behind 2-0 in the opening 9:44 before rallying for a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1.

"I thought the last part of the game when we settled the game down we started taking the game over," coach Barry Trotz said. "You look at the zone time, possession time, the chances, all that, we did a really good job. We've just got to get off to a better start."

 

Here is a look at the playoff schedule for Saturday:

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports) -The Bruins look to take a 2-0 series lead but will be without forward David Krejci and could be without defenseman Colin Miller as well. The Senators hope to get defenseman Marc Methot back.

Video: Sens Army deploys the garrison for the First Round

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC) - The Maple Leafs had an early 2-0 lead but were unable to hold on in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1 on Thursday. After many of the young Maple Leafs experienced a Stanley Cup Playoff game for the first time, they hope to be more poised and tie the series in Game 2.

Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2) -The Blackhawks were one of the highest scoring teams in the regular season but were unable to solve Pekka Rinne, who made 29 saves in Game 1 on Thursday. Chicago, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference hopes to avoid going down 2-0 in the series before it shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4.

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-W) -Anaheim continued its dominance over Calgary at home, winning for the 28th straight time (including playoffs) at Honda Center, with a 3-2 win in Game 1 on Thursday and will look to extend that streak in Game 2.

 

Wild Wednesday 

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

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 1 

Sidney Crosby scored a goal and had two assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 39 saves to give the defending Stanley Cup champions a 2-0 series lead.

Montreal Canadiens 4, New York Rangers 3 (OT) 

Alexander Radulov scored at 18:34 of overtime to help Montreal, which tied the game with 18 seconds left in regulation, even the series. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made a career playoff-high 54 saves, but couldn't stop Radulov from poking home a loose puck. 

St. Louis Blues 2, Minnesota Wild 1 

Jaden Schwartz's goal with 2:27 left in the third period gave Minnesota a 2-0 series lead. Blues goalie Jake Allen, who made 51 saves in Game 1, needed just 23 to get the win on Friday. Defenseman Joel Edmundson, who scored in overtime for the Blues in Game 1, scored again.

Edmonton Oilers 2, San Jose Sharks 0 

Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid each scored a shorthanded goal to help Edmonton get even with San Jose. Oilers goalie Cam Talbot made 16 saves for his first career playoff shutout. 

 

What we learned on Day 3

Crosby's line will not be held down 

Crosby's line, with Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary, was dynamic in Game 2 after being relatively quiet in Game 1. The three combined for six points (two goals, four assists) and 10 shots on goal. Crosby scored his 50th career playoff goal and had two assists. Guentzel scored a goal and had an assist and Sheary had an assist. Pittsburgh won Game 1 without a contribution from its best line. It wasn't going to be quiet two games in a row. 

Columbus can't take penalties 

Pittsburgh is too dangerous on the power play for the Blue Jackets to spend time in the penalty box. Although the Penguins technically didn't score on either of their two power plays in Game 2, Crosby did set up Evgeni Malkin for a goal at 2:01 of the third period, one second after Brandon Dubinsky came out of the penalty box. The Penguins' other power play came at 19:25 of the third period, when they had already put the game out of reach and were just playing out the final seconds. 

Safe is death 

The Rangers took a 3-2 lead when Mats Zuccarello scored at 14:47 of the second period. From that point on, the Rangers appeared content to play without the puck and defend that lead. The Canadiens came at them in waves and the Rangers held on for dear life until Tomas Plekanec tied the game with 17.3 seconds left in the third period. That momentum carried over into overtime, eventually resulting in Alexander Radulov's series-tying goal. If the Rangers find themselves up a goal in Game 3 on Sunday, they might want to choose a different strategy. 

Brendan Gallagher is Brendan Gallagher again 

Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher had a difficult regular season, one derailed by a broken hand that cost him 18 games, but he looked like his old self on Friday. Gallagher drove the net, won board battles and was a general thorn in the Rangers' side all night, much of which was spent parked right next to Lundqvist's crease. The Rangers' defensemen were clearly annoyed by his presence after two games, so this is something that bears monitoring as the series goes along. 

Edmundson is a gamer 

The second-year Blues defenseman, who had three goals in 69 games during the regular season, scored his second goal in as many games to help St. Louis take the 2-0 lead. 

Wild need a big goal 

Minnesota opened its series with back-to-back 2-1 losses to the Blues. In Game 1, Edmundson scored in overtime. On Friday, Jaden Schwartz broke a 1-1 tie with 2:27 left in the third period. The Wild say each game could have gone their way, but that didn't happen because the Blues got the clutch goal each time. 

Oilers not just all talk 

After a fading effort in Game 1 of this series, Edmonton talked about lessons learned. The Oilers backed up that talk by playing confidently from start to finish in Game 2. They initiated contact, outhitting San Jose 41-21, and limited the Sharks to 16 shots on goal. 

Sharks weren't special 

Not only did San Jose go 0-for-6 on the power play, it allowed two shorthanded goals. The Sharks, who had the sixth worst power-play percentage (16.7) during the regular season, are 1-for-12 with the man-advantage in the first two games of the series. Joe Thornton can't come back soon enough.

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