All posts by Sean O'Leary

Trotz in favor of permanent 24-team playoff

Barry Trotz is a fan of the chaos.

The New York Islanders head coach thinks the NHL should implement this year's 24-team playoff format permanently.

"I think the league is so tight and the league has grown over my time in the league with the number of teams, it should be a heavy consideration," Trotz said Thursday, per Newsday's Andrew Gross.

"There’s too much parity in the NHL," Trotz added. "I think it’s something the league will consider for sure and I’d be in favor of it."

The NHL has used a 16-team playoff format since the 1979-80 campaign when there were only 21 franchises. After this past season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league opted to stage a 24-team tournament featuring a best-of-five qualifying round for seeds five through 12 in each conference.

Trotz's Islanders entered the expanded playoff field as the seventh seed in the East, and they hold a 2-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers.

The qualifying round has been a dream for hockey fans, with six different playoff games on the schedule nearly every day. It's also provided plenty of early drama, as both No. 12 seeds - the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks - hold 2-1 advantages in their respective series.

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Ennis out indefinitely after suffering injury in Game 3

Edmonton Oilers forward Tyler Ennis is out indefinitely after suffering an injury Wednesday night in Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks, head coach Dave Tippett announced.

Ennis collided with Kirby Dach in the second period and was helped off the ice. He didn't return to the game - a 4-3 loss for the Oilers.

>#yeg pic.twitter.com/QYfDmiGNyR

— Courtney Theriault (@cspotweet) August 6, 2020

Ennis was acquired by the Oilers from the Ottawa Senators prior to the 2020 trade deadline in exchange for a fifth-round pick next year. The pending unrestricted free agent posted 37 points this season, including four in nine games after arriving in Edmonton.

The Oilers trail their best-of-five series 2-1 with Game 4 scheduled for Friday.

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Tortorella blunt in Game 2 assessment: ‘Toronto was really good, we sucked’

Following a 3-0 loss in Game 2 at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella wasn't interested in dissecting what went wrong.

"I'm not going to break the game down, at all," Tortorella told reporters in the first answer of his post-game presser. "Toronto played a really good game, we sucked. I'm not interested. It doesn't help our club at all right now to break it down with you guys. I hope you can understand that."

When asked another performance-related question later, Tortorella doubled down.

"Toronto was really good, we sucked," he repeated.

Columbus suffocated Toronto's offense in Game 1 with an impeccable defensive performance but was unable to do it again on Tuesday. The Maple Leafs were in control for most of the contest, owning a 56-36 advantage in even-strength shot attempts, and a 19-12 edge in scoring chances, according to data provided by SPORTLOGIQ.

The best-of-five series is now tied 1-1. Game 3 takes place Thursday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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Rangers turn to Shesterkin for must-win Game 3 vs. Hurricanes

The New York Rangers will start rookie Igor Shesterkin between the pipes for their must-win contest Tuesday night versus the Carolina Hurricanes, the team announced.

Henrik Lundqvist started and lost the first two games (3-2 and 4-1) of the series, with Shesterkin deemed unfit to play.

Shesterkin, 24, made his NHL debut in January and played a massive role in the Rangers' second-half surge up the Eastern Conference standings. Shesterkin went 10-2 in 12 starts with a .932 save percentage and 2.52 goals against average.

Puck drop for the critical contest is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.

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Reaves, Seguin among players kneeling for national anthems

Members of the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars made a statement prior to their round-robin tilt on Monday, as Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner of Vegas and Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson of Dallas knelt for both the American and Canadian national anthems.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba became the first NHL player to kneel when he did so for the U.S. national anthem on Saturday. Dumba stood and raised his fist for the anthem on Sunday.

More to come.

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Laine, Scheifele out for Game 2 vs. Flames

The Winnipeg Jets will be severely shorthanded as they look to even their qualifying-round series with the Calgary Flames on Monday.

Superstars Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele, who both suffered injuries in Game 1, are unavailable to play, according to Sportsnet's Ken Wiebe.

Here's a look at the Jets' lines for the pivotal contest.

Scheifele, normally the first-line center, was injured in the opening period of Game 1 after a collision with Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. The Jets sniper was helped off the ice and didn't return, but he reportedly didn't suffer major damage after he was nicked by an errant skate blade.

Laine was slashed in the wrist area later in the contest. The specifics of his injury and when he may return are unclear.

The Jets lost the opener of the best-of-five series 4-1.

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Blackhawks’ Caggiula suspended 1 game for hit to head of Ennis

Chicago Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula has been suspended one game for a hit to the head of Edmonton Oilers forward Tyler Ennis on Saturday, the NHL's Department of Player Safety announced.

More to come.

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Korpisalo to start Game 1 vs. Maple Leafs

The Columbus Blue Jackets will start netminder Joonas Korpisalo for Game 1 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night, head coach John Tortorella announced.

When asked why he chose Korpisalo, Tortorella wasn't keen on showing his hand.

"I'm not explaining it," he said, according to Mike Zeisberger of the NHL.com.

The team's decision on a starter was one of the biggest storylines tied to the club heading into the playoffs, as there are two viable Blue Jackets goaltending options between Korpisalo and rookie sensation Elvis Merzlikins.

They split time in 2019-20, with Korpisalo posting a 19-12-5 record and a .911 save percentage. The 26-year-old has never made a playoff start, and he's 5-3 lifetime versus the Maple Leafs.

Merzlikins was sensational this season while Korpisalo missed time with an injury. The Latvian registered a .923 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.35 in 35 appearances, playing a large role while helping the Blue Jackets stay in the playoff picture.

Game 1 begins at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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Murray to start for Penguins in Game 1

Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Matt Murray will start in goal Saturday for Game 1 versus the Montreal Canadiens, the team announced.

Murray and Tristan Jarry shared starts all season long, and although Jarry posted better stats, Pittsburgh is turning to Murray due to his playoff resume.

"Matt has shown an ability to be at his best when the stakes are high, and that should provide some confidence going into a playoff environment like this. We'll take each game as it comes but we feel good about the goaltending tandem we have," head coach Mike Sullivan said.

Murray backstopped the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, and owns a .921 save percentage across 48 postseason appearances. The Penguins are hopeful he can rekindle his vintage playoff form, as Murray struggled with an .899 save percentage in 38 games over the regular season.

Jarry, on the other hand, posted a .921 save percentage in 33 starts in 2019-20, but has never appeared in a playoff game.

The Penguins-Canadiens best-of-five series begins at 8:00 p.m ET.

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