NHL Playoff TV Schedule 2012: Ranking Thursday's Best Games
Thursday is a big day for some of the top contenders in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Though no team stands to be eliminated from contention, some stand the chance of swinging the momentum in their favor, perhaps permanently. Every series played on Thursday stands at 2-1 and, obviously, the difference between 2-2 and 3-1 is huge.
Here's a look at each of Thursday's matchups, how you can tune in and which ones you absolutely can't miss.
4. Panthers at Devils
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: NHL Network
After winning Game 1 on the road, the Devils have dropped two in a row. The big story here is that legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur was benched in the second period of Game 3 after giving up a three-goal advantage.
By all indications, New Jersey appears to be a team that has lost its way. On Tuesday night at home, the Devils coughed up a big lead to a team that had never been able to rally from more than a one-goal deficit in its postseason history.
Furthermore, the Devils' penalty-kill unit—which entered the postseason as the best in the NHL—allowed the Panthers to score on the man advantage three times in Game 3.
Still, Brodeur is confident the Devils can rebound, and he's confident he can hold strong after surrendering a three-goal lead. He told the Associated Press:
Being a goalie, it's a mental game more than any other position...That's part of being who I am or what a goaltender has to go through over and over...When you go back in there, it's in your head. You just have to get your feet wet again and go at it. It's a game. I know how to play it. There are days I play well. I try every day. I try as hard as I can every day, but there are days it just doesn't work.
He'll need to be at his best to help the Devils avoid giving the Panthers a 3-1 series lead.
3. Blues at Sharks
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Much like the Devils, the Sharks started off this series on the right foot—with a 3-2 double-overtime win on the road—but have dropped the ensuing two to fall behind 2-1 in the series.
The Blues, the surprising Central Division champions, scored three times on the power play on Tuesday, giving the franchise its first postseason road win since 2003. Netminder Brian Elliott filled in admirably for the injured Jaroslav Halak, stopping 26 shots.
The Sharks, who have dropped six of seven games against St. Louis this season, can't seem to find an answer for this team. The Blues did everything they were supposed to do on Tuesday, keeping the crowd out of the game and matching San Jose's physical play. If they keep it up, they could send the Sharks packing pretty soon.
2. Bruins at Capitals
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
This series has been full of momentum swings. Both goaltenders are playing spectacularly, while both offenses are struggling to find the back of the net—until Game 3 on Monday.
Monday's game was the only one of the series that didn't go to at least one overtime, and it was the only game in which both teams scored more than one goal in regulation. After the Bruins won Game 1 at home in overtime, the Capitals seemed to seize back the momentum with a double-overtime victory in Game 2 to even the series.
But the Bruins prevented things from spiraling, marching into the Verizon Center on Monday and skating away with a 4-3 victory. They were down 1-0 after the first period, but scored twice in each of the final two frames to lock things up. Captain Zdeno Chara scored the game-winner on a four-on-four with less than two minutes remaining.
Washington rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, whose play has been admirable in his first-ever playoff series, made 25 saves on Monday, while reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas made 29.
Game 4 at the Verizon Center looks to be yet another defensive battle, and if the Bruins get a solid performance out of Thomas, they can head home with a 3-1 advantage.
1. Coyotes at Blackhawks
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
The most dramatic series of the playoffs returns on Thursday night, and the question of the night will be whether the Blackhawks will exact revenge for the vicious hit Marian Hossa received in Tuesday's Game 3.
The drama began in Game 2, when Chicago rookie winger Andrew Shaw knocked down Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith with a hit to the head behind the net. Smith was treated by team trainers, but didn't miss any time. After a few days of deliberation, Shaw was suspended for three games.
The Coyotes didn't waste any time before striking back. In the first period of Game 3, Raffi Torres delivered a vicious, leaping blow to the head of Chicago's Marian Hossa. Hossa was carted off the ice on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. While his status is unknown, it is possible he could miss the rest of the playoffs.
On Wednesday, the league handed down an indefinite suspension to Torres and scheduled a hearing for Friday, per ESPN.
Emotions are running very, very high between these two teams. Right now, the Coyotes have the momentum following their 2-1 overtime victory in Game 3. But the Blackhawks are fired up about the Hossa hit and are desperate to get revenge in the sweetest way possible—with a win in Game 4 to even the series.
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