The NHL and NBA have their playoffs at roughly the same time. When it comes to nail-biters, it’s no contest in terms of volume.
The Anaheim Ducks will host the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night (10 p.m. EDT, NBCSN) as they close out the first round with a Game 7 — the 40th in the league since 2009. Over the last seven-plus postseasons, the NHL has had 35 Game 6s, 24 Game 5s and just 14 sweeps.
In that same time, the NBA has had 21 Game 7s along with 21 sweeps, according to STATS, while 27 series have gone to Game 5s and 39 have been pushed to a Game 6.
The Ducks are desperately hoping to fare much better against Nashville than the previous three times they were in a 3-3 series: Anaheim lost to eventual champion Chicago in Game 7 of the 2015 Western Conference finals, lost Game 7 to eventual champion Los Angeles in the second round two years ago and got knocked out by Detroit in Game 7 of the first round in 2013.
“There’s no big speech or anything when it comes to Game 7,” Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said.
The Ducks are 2-5 in Game 7s in franchise history and winless in the decisive games since 2006, when Getzlaf was a rookie and helped them get past Calgary in the opening round. The Predators, who have reached the second round just twice in team history, forced the big game by beating the Ducks 3-1 on Monday night.
“Even my time in Milwaukee (in the AHL), we never went to a Game 7,” Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “So, I’m really excited about that.”
The winner will advance to play the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.
For the first time since 1983, a round of the NHL playoffs will start before the previous round ends. And for the first time in league history, the final eight teams in the playoffs do not include a Canadian team or an Original Six franchise.
The New York Islanders, in the second round for first time in 23 years, open their series Wednesday night in Tampa Bay (7 p.m. EDT, NBCSN) before the puck drops in Anaheim.
Tampa Bay got nearly a week off without travel since eliminating the Red Wings in Game 5 last week. The Islanders were pushed to double overtime on Sunday by Florida in Game 6.
“I don’t think we’re going to dwell on it too much,” New York center John Tavares said. “Looking forward obviously to playing Tampa and getting started. We’re looking to start off on the right foot and shift our focus to what we go to do to win the series.”
Tavares has scored five goals in the playoffs, tied with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and San Jose’s Joe Pavelski for the most in the league.
“He hasn’t snuck up on anybody in the league,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
The Islanders beat Tampa Bay two of the three times they played during the season. The goalies in the series, Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop and Thomas Greiss of the Islanders, rank among NHL leaders by giving up fewer than two goals a game in the postseason.
Even though the Lightning have had a long break, star Steven Stamkos is still not close to being cleared to play anytime soon. He was, however, on the ice Tuesday for the first time since having surgery nearly a month ago to address a blood clot near his right collarbone. Stamkos was expected to be out for up to three months.
“Obviously you can’t play on the blood thinners that I’m on right now,” he said. “Any contact, any bruising, anything like that can lead to complications. We have to be careful in that regard, even on the ice in practice.”
AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker, Greg Beacham, Vinay Cherwoo and Fred Goodall contributed to this report.
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