San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings (-144, 5)
Series tied at 2-2.
The sixth-seeded San Jose Sharks were one goal away from being in a 3-0 hole in their Western Conference second-round series. Thanks to Logan Couture, they have a chance to take a 3-2 lead when they visit the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Kings for Game 5 Thursday. San Jose dropped the first two games of its matchup with its Pacific Division rival on the road and found itself in overtime in Game 3 at home Saturday.
Couture helped the Sharks avoid the nearly insurmountable series deficit by scoring a power-play goal at 1:29 of the extra session. The center came up big again in Game 4 Tuesday, deflecting defenseman Dan Boyle's slap shot past Jonathan Quick during a man advantage at 3:55 of the second period to give San Jose a 2-0 lead. The tally, Couture's fifth of the postseason to tie him with Patrick Marleau for the team lead, proved to be the game-winner as Los Angeles' Mike Richards converted a power-play opportunity midway through the third. The Kings have won 12 consecutive home games, including all five in the playoffs, while the Sharks are 2-2 on the road this postseason.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS
ABOUT THE SHARKS: Joe Thornton was instrumental in giving San Jose an early lead in Game 4. The captain chased down a dump-in and outwitted Los Angeles' Slava Voynov to gain possession behind the net by lifting the defenseman's stick. After feeding Brent Burns for a shot that was blocked, Thornton regained control and made another pass to Burns, who converted at 6:09 of the first period. "He was really good in the first period," Boyle told the San Jose Mercury News. "I think that was our team's best period, and he was dominant out there in the first. There's only so much other teams can do against a guy like that when he's playing that way." The Sharks have rallied three times in their history to tie a playoff series after losing the first two contests, but they have been eliminated in six games on all three occasions.
ABOUT THE KINGS: Defenseman Matt Greene made his postseason debut Tuesday, registering one shot and blocking two in 14:08 of ice time. Greene had not played since suffering a lower-body injury against Detroit on April 24 and appeared in only five regular-season contests due to back surgery. "I'm just trying to get back up to speed with the guys," Greene told the Los Angeles Times. Captain Dustin Brown believes Greene already is there. "He was probably, I think, our most physical defenseman," Brown told the Times after Game 4. Greene tied Drew Doughty for the team lead among defensemen with four hits Tuesday. Los Angeles is 6-4 this postseason after going 16-4 en route to its first Stanley Cup championship last year.
* Sharks are 3-12 in their last 15 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
* Under is 9-2-2 in Kings last 13 overall.
* Under is 6-1-3 in Sharks last 10 road games.
* Sharks are 0-4 in the last 4 meetings in Los Angeles.
1. All five of Couture's goals this postseason have come on the power play, a category in which he leads the NHL. He also is tied with Voynov for the league lead with three game-winning tallies.
2. The Kings were outshot 15-3 in the first period Tuesday and trailed 21-9 after 40 minutes before having a 14-2 advantage in the third session.
3. Five of San Jose's six all-time playoff victories over Los Angeles have been one-goal decisions.
Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings (+115, 5)
Detroit leads series 2-0.
After dispatching the eighth-seeded Minnesota Wild rather easily in the first round, the Chicago Blackhawks were expected to produce similar results against the Detroit Red Wings, who advanced after a hard-fought, seven-game battle with the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks. However, top-seeded Chicago is in danger of falling into a 3-1 hole as it visits seventh-seeded Detroit for Game 4 of their Western Conference second-round series on Thursday.
The Presidents' Trophy-winning Blackhawks erupted for three third-period goals to post a 4-1 victory in the opener, but allowed four unanswered tallies en route to an identical 4-1 loss at home in Game 2. Chicago then dropped a 3-1 decision at Joe Louis Arena on Monday to fall behind in the series. Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller scored 31 seconds apart in the second period and Pavel Datsyuk answered Patrick Kane's tally early in the third as the Red Wings posted their second straight victory over Chicago after dropping eight meetings in a row.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS: Chicago converted its first power play of the series but has failed to score on its next eight opportunities. The lack of success prompted coach Joel Quenneville to mix up the team's units during practice on Wednesday, breaking up the No. 1 group by putting Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell with Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and defenseman Duncan Keith while keeping Kane and captain Jonathan Toews together with a variety of different players. "We're just looking for more balance on the units," Quenneville said. "And hopefully, we get some production." Toews has struggled in the playoffs, recording just three assists in eight games. He has scored only three goals in 21 contests over the last three postseasons. "He's been working," Bickell said. "His chances just haven't been hitting the back of the net, but I know if he gets one, then the floodgates whill open." Quenneville is seeking his first playoff series victory over Detroit. He is 0-5 all-time against the Red Wings in the postseason, losing three times as coach of the St. Louis Blues and once while guiding the Colorado Avalanche before falling with Chicago in the 2009 conference finals.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS: Detroit also may change things up on the power play. After going 6-for-25 with the man advantage against Anaheim, the Red Wings are 0-for-12 over the first three games versus Chicago. Coach Mike Babcock may give Justin Abdelkader a chance in Game 4 as he spent time on the power play during Tuesday's practice. "If I get the opportunity, I'm just going to do what I do, go to the net, retrieve pucks and be hard on the puck," the left wing said. Abdelkader has not recorded a point with the man advantage in 257 career regular-season games. The Red Wings are being careful in their approach to the rest of the series, taking stock in the wise words of their former long-time captain. "Halfway through a series is also halfway not there," defenseman Jonathan Ericsson told the Detroit Free Press. "We don't want to get too high or too low, that's what Nicklas Lidstrom always used to say. That's what we can't do. We just have to stay the course."
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings in Detroit.
* Blackhawks are 9-2 in the last 11 meetings in Detroit.
* Blackhawks are 8-2 in the last 10 meetings.
* Under is 18-5-3 in the last 26 meetings.
1. Kane has scored Chicago's lone goal in each of the last two games after failing to tally in the Blackhawks' first six postseason contests.
2. Detroit has won seven consecutive home playoff games against Chicago.
3. The Red Wings have captured 10 straight postseason contests in which they have scored at least three goals.
Boston Bruins at New York Rangers (-108, 5)
Boston leads series 3-0.
After needing a historic comeback to win their first-round series, the fourth-seeded Boston Bruins can sweep the New York Rangers and advance to the Eastern Conference final with a victory at Madison Square Garden Thursday. Fourth-liner Daniel Paille set up defenseman Johnny Boychuk to tie Tuesday's contest before scoring the go-ahead goal with 3:31 remaining in the third period in Boston's 2-1 triumph in Game 3. Sixth-seeded New York has been hampered by a punchless power play, which is 0-for-10 in the series and 2-for-38 in the playoffs.
While a 3-0 series lead is certainly advantageous, Boston can attest that it's not a death sentence. After dominating the first three contests of their 2010 second-round series with Philadelphia, the Bruins unceremoniously dropped the final four games to write an ugly chapter in the team's history. "You learn from the past, but you live in the moment. You don't live in the past," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "So right now, we're living in the moment and I like where our team is."
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN, RDS
ABOUT THE BRUINS: Boychuk has scored in back-to-back contests to double his playoff total. That's not too shabby considering the defenseman registered just one goal in 44 games during the regular season. Speaking of blue-liners, Dennis Seidenberg skated during the team's optional practice Wednesday while Andrew Ference remained off the ice. Both are dealing with lower-body injuries while fellow defenseman Wade Redden - who skated Wednesday - is nursing an undisclosed ailment.
ABOUT THE RANGERS: New York was doing its best to look at the smaller picture when addressing its situation. "It's a tall task, but you can't look at the big picture," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said of the team's 0-3 hole. Adding to the Rangers' problems is the expected loss of fellow blue-liner Anton Stralman, who isn't likely to play in Game 4 after he absorbed a brutal hit from Milan Lucic Tuesday. "Losing Stralsy is a big blow," coach John Tortorella said. "To a defense that is lacking a little depth right now, it hurts us. ... We're down 0-3, (but) there's no sense in feeling pressure."
* Rangers are 9-1 in their last 10 home games.
* Bruins are 4-0 in their last 4 overall.
* Under is 5-1 in Rangers last 6 vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Bruins are 5-2 in the last 7 meetings.
1. New York is trying to avoid being swept in a series for the first time since its 2006 first-round loss to New Jersey.
2. The Bruins have received 11 goals in the playoffs from their blue-liners.
3. Rangers RWs Darroll Powe and Arron Asham played with Philadelphia during that fateful 2010 series against Boston.