injuries could tip the scales of some NHL first-round series | Sports News

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By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Hockey Writer

There was a 6-foot-4, 220-pound hole in Washington’s lineup in Game 2 against the Florida Panthers.

Tom Wilson’s injury is one of many around the NHL playoffs that could tip the balance of a series. The Pittsburgh Penguins are down to their third goaltender against the New York Rangers, while the Nashville Predators will be without their starter again in Game 3 against the heavily favored Colorado Avalanche who lead. 2-0.

Washington and Florida are tied heading into Game 3 on Saturday (1 p.m. EDT, ESPN), though the top two were polar opposites. Wilson scored a power-play goal early in Game 1 before leaving with a lower-body injury and the Capitals built on that and jumped at chances before the Panthers took over in Game 2 with the rugged right winger sidelined.

“When you lose a player like Tom, it’s tough,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “It would have been great if we could just go from Game 1 to Game 2 and have the same formation, but that opportunity wasn’t there, it wasn’t present and so we have to move on.”

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Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette wondered if Wilson could play for the Capitals sooner rather than later. His likely replacement, rookie Brett Leason, is brave, but Wilson has set career highs with 24 goals, 28 assists and 52 points this season. He is also a performer.

“Certainly for them losing it hurts,” Brunette said. “He embodies the kind of playoff player. … He brings that element to the game and he brings an edge and he brings a toughness that you have to be very aware of, and he has skill. He is a very valuable player for their team.

RANGERS at PENGUINS, series tied 1-1 (7 p.m., TNT)

Tristan Jarry was invaluable for the Penguins before a lower-body injury late in the regular season knocked him out and landed Casey DeSmith as a playoff starter. DeSmith was injured midway through the second overtime of the series opener in New York and was replaced by Louis Domingue, who stopped all 17 shots he faced in relief.

Rangers beat Domingo and Pittsburgh to even the series. After DeSmith underwent core muscle surgery and was ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs and Jarry is nowhere near returning, now is Domingo’s show.

“He’s got experience — he’s a really good goaltender,” forward Teddy Blueger said. “We are all behind him. We know he can do the job. I think he played very well for us.”

AVALANCHE at PREDATORS, Colorado leads 2-0 (4 p.m., TNT)

Connor Ingram played great relief for Nashville on Thursday night, stopping 49 of 51 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to Colorado. With starter Juuse Saros injured in the lower body, Ingram got the call after the Avalanche turned on David Rittich for five goals on 13 shots in Game 1 of the series.

Predators coach John Hynes ruled out Saros for Game 3 on Friday, so Ingram is lining up to get the nod again. But offense is a bigger problem now for Nashville after going 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 2 and being beaten 51-26.

“We still have to find a way to get closer to them, not give them so much time,” Predators defenseman Alexander Carrier said. “We all know in this room that we have to be better.”

FLAMES at STARS, series tied 1-1 (9:30 p.m., TNT)

The Pacific Division champions Calgary Flames also expect better now that they are tied with the Dallas Stars after a 2-0 shutout loss. Each team is relatively healthy, and yet the series has only featured two goals scored against a goaltender – a far cry from the trend of top scores across the league in the first round.

Credit Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom and Dallas’ Jake Oettinger for that, plus old-school coaches in Darryl Sutter and Rick Bowness.

“The only thing that matters is the wins,” Oettinger said. “They have a great goalkeeper on the other side and we know it’s going to be tight so the margin of error for me is very slim.”

AP sportswriters Will Graves in Pittsburgh, Pat Graham in Denver and Teresa M. Walker in Nashville contributed.

Follow AP Hockey writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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