NHL playoffs: Best of Wednesday

For nearly two decades the Detroit Red Wings have built some of the NHL’s best teams with a roster chock full of Swedes.

In Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, the Chicago Blackhawks’ more unheralded countrymen one-upped their bigger-name Detroit counterparts to help Chicago earn a 4-1 victory at the United Center.

First it was third-pair defenseman Johnny Oduya, born in Stockholm, scoring the eventual game-winner and looking more like recently retired Red Wings great Nicklas Lidstrom than a player with 26 career goals in 511 regular-season games. With three Red Wings committed near the left wing boards, Patrick Sharp shoveled the puck to a wide-open Oduya. He took a step and rifled a wrist shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard at 8:02 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie.

Then 3:21 later, Marcus Kruger, 22, a player with 13 goals to his name in 125 career regular-season games, lifted a backhander high into the net following a scrum in from of Detroit’s net. Like Oduya, Kruger also was born in Stockholm.

Meanwhile, on the Detroit side, the more high-profile Swedes – captain Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, defenseman Niklas Kronwall – failed to land on the scoresheet.

Patrick Sharp, with a three-point night, added an empty-net goal to finalize the score. For good measure, the Blackhawks’ Swedish defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson picked up the assist on that goal.

Meanwhile, Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was brilliant with 38 saves in a losing effort. Corey Crawford had to stop only 20 to pick up the win for Chicago, which has won all four games at home during this playoff season.

Maybe in Game 2 on Saturday, Howard will get a little more help from his Swedes.

Hossa still cool with his Hockeytown homies

Clearly, Marian Hossa means what he says.

A member of the Detroit Red Wings for the 2008-09 season – when they lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins – Hossa told the Detroit Free Press that he still maintains friendships with a number of his former Detroit teammates.

The Blackhawks right wing mentioned Tomas Holmstrom, who retired from Detroit after last season, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forward Henrik Zetterberg. (Somehow, Hossa, a Slovak, appears to have an affinity for the Wings’ Swedes.)

Check out the video below:

However, Hossa said once the puck drops, those friendships would not mean anything. He stayed true to his word, scoring the game’s first goal on Wednesday, a slick one-timer from Jonathan Toews at 9:03 of the first period.

Gustav Nyquist (yet another in the Red Wings’ endless litany of Swedes) was in the penalty box for hooking Andrew Shaw. The Red Wings had an opportunity to clear the puck from their zone, but Toews kept the puck in, fed Hossa with a short pass and he ripped it in from the high slot for his fourth goal of the playoffs.

Guess it was time for a Raffi Torres relapse

It seems a foregone conclusion that the San Jose Sharks will be without rugged wing Raffi Torres on Thursday for Game 2 of their series with the Los Angeles Kings.

And it looks like the Kings, who lead the series 1-0, will most likely not have forward Jarret Stoll in the lineup. Stoll was the victim of yet another hit by Torres that could result in supplementary discipline.

In Game 1, Torres came in from the side and delivered a hit with his shoulder that appeared to strike Stoll in the head. Stoll did not return to the game.

Check out the hit below:

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It was reported that Torres is traveling all the way across the country for an in-person hearing at the NHL league offices in New York. In-person hearings normally result when the offender could face a suspension of five games or longer.

Torres’ status as a repeat offender no doubt will not help him. Last April the league suspended Torres during the playoffs for 25 games for a vicious hit on Chicago’s Marian Hossa when Torres was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Yankee Stadium will be busy in January

When one conjures images of frigid conditions at Yankee Stadium, Sam Huff and Alan Ameche and the NFL’s “Greatest Game Ever Played” — 55 years ago — come to mind.

On Wednesday, the NHL announced that it will add to that legacy. The league added two more games to its Stadium Series for next season, both at Yankee Stadium – the new one, not the House that Ruth Built.

Still, it will represent the first time the NHL will have played an outdoor game in the home of baseball’s most iconic team.

The New York Rangers have played in one of the five Winter Classics but it came as a visitor in 2012 in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. On Jan. 26, 2014, the Rangers will play the New Jersey Devils at 12:30 p.m. Three days later, the Rangers will play the New York Islanders at 7:30 p.m.

Coming out of the lost season of 2004-05, the NHL rebounded to be able to grow its revenues at a considerable pace. Coming off this lockout-shortened season, the league is preparing to grow the game in 2013-14 with a vengeance and the outdoor games – especially ones in three of its largest and wealthiest markets – will help that cause immeasurably.