While the Florida Panthers were sent golfing by the Tampa Bay Lightning last week, two former Panthers will get a chance to return the favor as the New York Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference final.
With a 6-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of their second-round series, Frank Vatrano, Gerard Gallant and the rest of the Blueshirts are headed back to Manhattan to take on the Lightning.
Gallant led the Rangers to the conference finals in the same building he coached his last game with the Panthers, as he was famously fired by Florida after a loss to the Hurricanes in 2016.
Vatrano, meanwhile, scored eight points through the first two rounds after the Panthers shipped him to New York for a fourth-round pick.
On the other side of the coin, the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers start the Western Conference final tonight at 8.
Here are some storylines to watch for heading into the third round:
Oilers v. Avalanche
After facing threats and racial slurs by St. Louis Blues fans during the Colorado‘s second-round series, Nazem Kadri is ready to move on as the Avs prepare for their matchup with the Edmonton Oilers.
Darcy Kuemper also keeps getting better as the playoffs go on…
— All eyes are on star Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid as two of the NHL’s best clash in one of the league’s biggest stages. MacKinnon downplayed the matchup and called McDavid ‘the best.’
— Andrew Brunette was not the only interim coach in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft led Edmonton to its first conference final appearance since 2006. He has certainly proved his worth.
Rangers v. Lightning
The Lightning have had a lot of time off since sweeping the Panthers last week. Will the rust get to them?
— Brayden Point missed the entirety of Tampa Bay’s second-round matchup with Florida with a lower-body injury he suffered in the Lightning’s Game 7 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. While there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding if or when he will be available, the Lightning are looking to play long enough to get him back.
— Barclay Goordow, who was a part of Tampa Bay’s back-to-back Stanley Cup victories, proved to be a good add for the Rangers this offseason. Will he help them keep his former team from being the first to win three straight since the 80s Islanders?
In case you missed Sunday’s story, the Panthers only have about $4 million under the salary cap so GM Bill Zito will be busy this offseason.
— Sergei Bobrovsky had himself one heck of a bounceback year with the Panthers — and it was not limited to the regular season, either.
— With the salary cap issues, think Claude Giroux returns to the Panthers?
— Video from Wednesday’s media sessions are up on the FloridaHockeyNow YouTube channel.
Panthers we spoke to: Zito, Andrew Brunette, Joe Thornton, Sasha Barkov, Bobrovsky, Sam Bennett, Anton Lundell and Giroux.
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Yeah… I understand why you guys posted those sleeping gifs under yesterday’s FHN Today.
The Marins took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning and lost 7-1 after the Rockies put up four runs in the sixth inning. They now sit 12 games behind the first-place Mets, who have a 9.5-game lead on the rest of the division.
But hey, the Miami Hurricanes snagged the No. 6 regional seed in the NCAA Baseball Tournament. Their regional opponents will be Canisius, Ole Miss, and Arizona.
National Hockey Now
— Washington Hockey Now: The Washington Capitals have a big decision to make with goaltenders Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek set to become RFAs in July. Will the Caps bring both of them back or will one of them get dealt?
— Pittsburgh Hockey Now: With two of their three core players set to become free agents, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of decisions to make this offseason. PHN’s Dan Kingerski makes his predictions on how the offseason will shake out for the Penguins, including the futures of Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.
— Detroit Hockey Now: Filip Zadina enters restricted free agency after putting up 24 points in 74 games. While the Detroit Red Wings may be disappointed by the 2018 sixth-overall pick’s development, are they willing to move him?