Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Hornqvist, Bennett to play Game 1 for Panthers


Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz! With the 2021 postseason set to begin Saturday, has you covered with all the latest news, analysis and results. 


Florida Panthers

Forwards Patric Hornqvist and Sam Bennett practiced Friday and are expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round when the Panthers host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, BSFL, BSSUN).

Hornqvist missed the last seven games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. Bennett missed two of the past three games with an upper-body injury.

A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016, 2017), Hornqvist skated on the third line with Alex Wennberg and Frank Vatrano at practice. He scored 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 44 games this season.

“He’s more than ready to go,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s been flying in practice. He wants to start in the worst way. … He knows what playoffs are all about. He brings that experience, the intangibles of what winning in the playoffs is all about as well.”

Bennett centered the Panthers’ second line between Jonathan Huberdeau and Owen Tippett. He scored 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 10 games with the Panthers after they acquired him in a trade with the Calgary Flames on April 12.

“I feel great,” Bennett said. “Playoff hockey is my favorite time of year. It’s faster. It’s more intense. Every play is magnified. That’s how hockey should be played. I can’t wait to get going.”

Quenneville said Sergei Bobrovsky will be the Panthers starting goalie in Game 1. He was 19-8-2 with a 2.91 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in 31 games (30 starts). — Dan Rosen


Pittsburgh Penguins

Tristan Jarry is expected to start for the Penguins when they host Game 1 of their best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round series against the New York Islanders on Sunday (12 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS). 

The goalie did not play in the Penguins’ regular-season finale, a 1-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres on May 8, because of an upper-body injury. Jarry was 25-9-3 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .909 save percentage this season. 

“I feel good,” Jarry said. “I feel like I’m ready to go, ready to play.” 

Goalie Casey DeSmith left practice Friday with an apparent injury. After making a save, he went down in the crease before leaving the ice and slamming his stick as he walked to the locker room. 

“He’s being evaluated right now,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ll probably have more information moving forward.” 

DeSmith missed the final three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury sustained in a 7-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on May 3. He was 11-7-0 with a 2.54 GAA and .912 save percentage in 20 games (17 starts) this season. 

Maxime Lagace, who made 29 saves in the finale against Buffalo, would likely back up Jarry if DeSmith is unavailable. — Wes Crosby


About last night 

There were three games on the NHL schedule Thursday, one with playoff implications

Colorado Avalanche 5, Los Angeles Kings 1: The Avalanche won the Presidents’ Trophy and clinched the No. 1 seed in the Honda West Division with the victory. Colorado finished tied in points with the Vegas Golden Knights but won the division and the top spot in the NHL because it had more regulation wins (35-30), the first tiebreaker. The Avalanche, who won the Presidents’ Trophy for the third time (1996-97, 2000-01), will play the No. 4 seed St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup First Round. The No 2 Golden Knights will play the No. 3 seed Minnesota Wild.


Playoffs matchups 

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round. Click here for complete first-round schedule.

North Division 

1. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 4. Montreal Canadiens
2. Edmonton Oilers vs. 3. Winnipeg Jets

East Division 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 4. New York Islanders
2. Washington Capitals vs. 3. Boston Bruins 

Central Division  

1. Carolina Hurricanes vs. 4. Nashville Predators  
2. Florida Panthers vs. 3. Tampa Bay Lightning

West Division  

1. Colorado Avalanche vs. 4. St. Louis Blues
2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. 3. Minnesota Wild 


Playoff news

The schedule for the Stanley Cup First Round is set. staff members have made their predictions for the first round and the playoffs.

Senior writer Dan Rosen provides the top storylines in the first round of the playoffs. 

Columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika answers many of the most frequently asked questions ahead of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Senior Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke has goalie power rankings for each team in the playoffs. 

Nicholas J. Cotsonika reports that the NHL expects a “fantastic” Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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