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Injuries can tip the balance of some NHL first-round series

There was a 6 foot 4 and 220 pound hole in the Washington lineup in Game 2 against the Florida Panthers.

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

Washington and Florida are tied in Game 3 on Saturday (13:00 EDT, ESPN), although the first two were by opposites. Wilson scored a power-play goal early in the first game before coming off with a lower body injury and the Capitals took advantage of this and took advantage of the opportunities before the Panthers took over in Game 2 with the hard right-back side.

“When you lose a player like Tom, it’s hard,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “It would have been great if we could have gone from the first game to the second and had the same line-up, but that opportunity wasn’t there, it wasn’t present and so we have to move on.”

Announcement

Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette wondered if Wilson could play for the Capitals sooner rather than later. His likely replacement, rookie Brett Leason, is tough but Wilson has set his career highs with 24 goals, 28 assists and 42 points this season. He is also an enforcer.

“Definitely for them, losing it hurts,” Brunette said. “He personifies the type of pivot-wing playoff player… crew”.

RANGERS in PENGUINS, 1-1 draw (19:00, TNT)

Tristan Jarry was valuable to the Penguins before a lower body injury at the end of the regular season removed him and set up Casey DeSmith as the playoff starter. DeSmith was injured in the middle of the second overtime of the start of the series in New York and was replaced by Louis Domingue, who stopped the 17 shots he faced relieved.

Announcement

The Rangers beat Domingue and Pittsburgh to tie the game. After DeSmith underwent core muscle surgery and was ruled out for the rest of the playoffs and with Jarry not close to returning, it’s now Sunday’s show.

“He has experience, he’s a good goalkeeper,” striker Teddy Blueger said. “We’re all behind him. We know he can do the job. I think he played really well for us.”

AVALANCHE at PREDATORS, Colorado leads 2-0 (16:00, TNT)

Connor Ingram played very well in relief for Nashville on Thursday night, stopping 49 of 51 shots in a 2-1 loss to Colorado. With incumbent Juuse Saros out due to a lower body injury, Ingram received the call after the Avalanche illuminated David Rittich with five goals in 13 shots at the start of the series.

Announcement

Predators coach John Hynes ruled out Saros for Game 3 on Friday, so Ingram appears in line to regain assent. But the offense is a bigger problem now for Nashville after going 0-4 in the power play in Game 2 and getting 51-26.

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

FLAMES at STARS, 1-1 draw (21:30, TNT)

Pacific Division champion Calgary Flames also looks better now that they are tied with the Dallas Stars after a 2-0 loss. Each team is relatively healthy, and yet, the series had only two goals scored against a goalkeeper, far from the high-scoring trend in the entire league in the first round.

He credits Jacob Markstrom of Calgary and Jake Oettinger of Dallas for that, along with old-school training by Darryl Sutter and Rick Bowness.

Announcement

“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 for error for me is very small.”

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

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

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

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Injuries can tip the balance of some NHL first-round series

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