SAN JOSE – Faced with the prospect of becoming just the sixth team in history to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final, the San Jose Sharks found out Saturday morning that the task will be that much more difficult after announcing Tomas Hertl will not be available for Game 3.
There is no sugar coating how much of a blow this is to the Sharks. As sub-par as they were in Games 1 and 2, Hertl was their best forward in both games and was one of the few Sharks who was an offensive threat. He twice hit the post in Game 2 and was tied with Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture with eight shot attempts over the two games. Hertl appeared to be injured after taking a hard hit from Patric Hornqvist of the Penguins in the third period of Game 2. He skated in a track suit and did not practice with the team Friday, so the Sharks were not unprepared for this possibility.
Alexander Steen has undergone shoulder surgery, and it sounds like Team Sweden will need to name at least one replacement player for the upcoming World Cup. There’s also a possibility the St. Louis Blues could be without one of their top-line wingers to start the 2016-17 season.
According to the Blues, Steen will be re-evaluated in sixteen weeks after the successful surgery, but the timeline for his return is anywhere from 4-6 months. That sets Steen’s earliest return date at Oct. 3, two days after the conclusion of the World Cup, and puts his return for the start of the upcoming campaign in jeopardy.
“Alexander suffered the original shoulder injury in Feb. 20 in Arizona,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in a release. “He rehabbed and worked hard to get back and be a big part in the team’s run to the Conference Final. Alex is one of the most dedicated players in the NHL when it comes to fitness and we’re thrilled things went well today.”
Following the initial injury, Steen, 32, missed 15 contests, but he was able to return with six games remaining in the season and played a major part during the Blues’ post-season run. Read more
PITTSBURGH – It bodes well for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup chances if the term “big line” applies to any number of their forward trios. Sidney Crosby between Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist? Sure, that’s a big line, by virtue of Sid playing on it. The ‘HBK’ line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel has been the talk of the playoffs.
But the line du jour giving opponents fits? Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust and Chris Kunitz. Rust has scored in three straight games dating back to the Eastern Conference final, including a breakaway dagger in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, both goals in a 2-1 Game 7 victory and the first tally of the night in Game 1 of the final against the San Jose Sharks. Each of those Rust goals was assisted by Malkin or Kunitz.
And this line could hold the key to the rest of the final – because its fate could go in so many different directions.
PITTSBURGH – In a Stanley Cup final where speed could end up being a determining factor, the San Jose Sharks got a lot faster for Game 2 when they announced winger Matt Nieto would be drawing back into the lineup after missing eight games with what is suspected to be a left shoulder injury.
Nieto has been out of the Sharks lineup since crashing into the net in Game 6 of their second-round series against the Nashville Predators. He was ready to go for Game 1 of the final, but the Sharks elected to sit him out. But after seeing how fast the Penguins are as a team and needed players who can keep up to that speed, Nieto gets the call for Game 2.
CRANBERRY, PA – More than an hour after the Pittsburgh Penguins completed their workout Tuesday afternoon, injured winger Bryan Rust went out on his own and worked with the Penguins coaches.
Wearing a Penguins track suit and ball cap, Rust took a number of reps with coach Mike Sullivan on the ice and didn’t seem to be hindered in terms of speed. He worked out for about 25 minutes and largely did skating and shooting drills. Rust was injured in the third period of Game 1 of the final when he took a hit from Patrick Marleau where there was contact with the head. Rust spent about seven minutes in the Quiet Room, then returned to the ice for one more shift and was hit into the boards by Marc-Edouard Vlasic before leaving the game for good.
PITTSBURGH – Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks waited 1,576 regular season and playoff games to play in his first Stanley Cup final game and he doesn’t think he should have to wait any time to play his second. He likely won’t.
Expect the NHL to take a long, hard look at his hit on Bryan Rust of the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the third period of Game 1, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the NHL to impose any supplementary discipline. Marleau took a minor for an illegal check to the head when he caught Rust in open ice. Rust went to the Quiet Room and was cleared to come back to the game, but played just one shift before calling it a night.
It’s been nearly a decade since Trevor Daley has been on a team that has gone this deep into the post-season, and with the Penguins having a shot at taking home the Stanley Cup, the 32-year-old defenseman doesn’t want to let his broken ankle keep him out of the series.
Daley’s injury was almost freak in nature. After an innocuous hit from Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ryan Callahan during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final, Daley went down in a heap before crawling to the front of the net on all fours to stay in the play. He was helped off the ice, didn’t return to the contest and coach Mike Sullivan said the following day that Daley’s injury was season-ending. Daley doesn’t feel that’s the case.
“I’m not going to rule myself out,” Daley said, via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “There’s no way. That’s keeping me going. I’m enjoying this and I’m not going to rule myself out.” Read more
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has not played an NHL game in 55 days, is in the lineup for his team’s most important game of the season tonight in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It should not come as a huge surprise that Stamkos is ready to play. When he was diagnosed with a blood clot near his right collarbone, it was expected he would be out of the Tampa lineup anywhere between one and three months. Playing on the second line between Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan, Stamkos gives the Lightning an enormous emotional lift.