Florida vs. New Jersey (Panthers lead 2-1):
How long is Peter DeBoer's leash?
DeBoer yanked Martin Brodeur after the first Florida shot in the second period of Game 3, a Mike Weaver goal that tied it 3-3. (Brian Campbell scored the winner four minutes later.) Brodeur will start again tonight, and, if the Devils don't stop Florida's momentum, there is the possibility this is his final appearance in New Jersey. Earlier this season, he said in a Hockey Night in Canada interview that he wanted to return next season, but who knows?
Brodeur's pride was stung by his Tuesday night removal. You know this game means a lot to him. If you're a hard-core Devils fan, you're aware of all this, too. You want him to do well, but if it doesn't, DeBoer - like Vancouver Canucks bench boss Alain Vigneault a continent away - can't afford to be sentimental.
Boston vs. Washington (Bruins lead 2-1):
Will Tim Thomas be taking penalties tonight?
When the Capitals, angered with Nicklas Backstrom's one-game suspension, released a statement indicating they "disagreed" and "do not understand why a suspension was imposed in this case while other incidents in this series have not been reviewed," they were referring to two Thomas incidents. In Game 2, he hit Backstrom with his blocker (which can result in ejection) and kicked Troy Brouwer.
They've made certain to let the league and the series supervisors know about their distaste. Will Thomas, whose fiery personality is very much part of his success, get "official" attention tonight?
Phoenix vs. Chicago (Coyotes lead 2-1):
Can the Blackhawks keep control?
There is one thing you know about Dave Tippett -- he will keep his team focused. For two years, he's done an unbelievable job while all-sorts of off-ice craziness surrounds the team. Tonight, they're about to lose Raffi Torres to a lengthy suspension. Plus, there will be no Martin Hanzal and no Lauri Korpikoski, both out with injuries. Despite that, Phoenix will play its disciplined system and stay grounded. That's a guarantee.
The Blackhawks nearly imploded in Game 3, although the whole Marian Hossa situation made that somewhat understandable. He's a huge loss for their team, their most consistent top-line player all season. Before the series, one scout said the longer it went on, the harder it would be for Chicago to win, because the Coyotes are much more physical than the Blackhawks (although no one could have predicted Torres/Hossa).
When Phoenix plays them hard tonight, will Chicago stay cool?
St. Louis vs. San Jose (Blues lead 2-1):
What is the right combination for San Jose?
At even-strength this season, the San Jose Sharks trio to appear most often was Joe Thornton/Joe Pavelski/Patrick Marleau. Down 2-1 to St. Louis, the morning skate made it look like Todd McLellan is breaking up the band, putting Marleau at centre and moving Logan Couture with The Two Joes.
You can't always trust what a coach does in morning skates (or even pre-game line rushes). Sometimes, it's a total psyche job. But, San Jose has to try something to get things going against the defensively stiff Blues. Their two late goals in Game 3 made the final score a little more flattering, but couldn't totally hide the fact the St. Louis controlled things.
Marleau has no points in this series. If centre is where he'll be better, McLellan has to put him there.
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