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Players take note: Referees aren’t swallowing their whistles so far in the 2018 NHL playoffs.

Penalties are up more than 17 percent over the same time a year ago and are playing a substantial role in several series. Through 19 games in the first round Jaire Alexander Packers Jersey , there have been nearly 10 penalties per game. Last year, there was an average of eight penalties called through 20 games.

”The penalties that have been called in the series so far is an indication of how the referees are calling the game,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Monday. ”They’re calling it as they see it. I think discipline is of the utmost importance.”

While the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions haven’t been perfect in that regard against Philadelphia, they haven’t been derailed by a lack of discipline. Around the rest of the NHL, penalties and the ensuing power-play goals are making a big difference: There have been 38 power-play goals through Sunday’s games compared with just 21 in 2017.

The NHL wants officials to call playoffs at the same standard as the regular season, which is happening with penalties actually going up from the first period through the third. Each of the 10 pairings of referees working the playoffs has at least one who has worked the Cup Final, so the hope is having that experience helps maintain consistency.

The Washington Capitals blew two-goal leads in back-to-back overtime losses on home ice to Columbus because of ill-advised penalties and go into Game 3 on the road (7:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, NBCSN) knowing it’s a problem that needs immediate fixing.

”We need to be a little smarter,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. ”We need to play with better discipline – especially when we have the lead twice. … It’s obviously going to hurt you in the playoffs. That’s the way it is. It’s just fact.”

Nine of the 14 regulation goals in the Washington-Columbus series have come on the power play. The Blue Jackets, who surged into the playoffs by not taking a lot of penalties to tax one of the worst special teams units in the league, lead the playoffs in penalty minutes per game.

Coach John Tortorella said the Blue Jackets ”have to cure that” because it’s too dangerous to keep taking so many penalties. His players know it even if they’re unsure of the standard.

”We need to stay out of the box, but you never know what’s a call and what’s not anymore Brian O'Neill Youth Jersey ,” forward Cam Atkinson said. ”But that’s the game right now.”

In the West, where Winnipeg leads Minnesota 2-1, the teams realize how tight things are being called.

The Wild took five penalties in the first 31 minutes Sunday night and stymied the Jets’ power play in a 6-2 comeback win. The teams combined for 19 penalties – including some fights and misconducts – in the second game of their series.

”We’ve just got to watch taking penalties,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”Both teams were really emotional at the beginning and you’ve got to worry about taking penalties and getting behind the eight ball.”

It’s chippy between the Golden Knights and Kings, too, with Vegas up 3-0 going into Game 4 (10:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, NBCSN) in Los Angeles. All three games so far have been decided by a goal, L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty was suspended for an illegal check to the head of William Carrier and Kings coach John Stevens is none too happy about a missed call on Vegas forward Erik Haula for hitting Anze Kopitar in the face with the butt end of his stick Sunday night .

”We get a guy suspended for making a hockey play, and he butt-ends one of the best players in the world in the face,” Stevens said. ”That’s an intent-to-injure play.”

COMEBACK KINGS?

Los Angeles is the most recent team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, doing so in 2014 against the San Jose Sharks on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. Stevens, who was an assistant four years ago Josh Jackson Packers Jersey , said his team has ”had some resilience all year,” and the tightness of the games against Vegas combined with the excellence of goaltender Jonathan Quick certainly makes an turnaround possible.

INJURIES

The Jets lost Tyler Myers to a lower-body injury that coach Paul Maurice thought was avoidable, and the big defenseman’s status is uncertain going into Game 4 (8 p.m. EDT Tuesday, CNBC). Young Tucker Poolman could draw into the lineup in place of Myers if necessary.

The Capitals won’t have forward Andre Burakovsky for at least Games 3 and 4 in Columbus because of an upper-body injury. Coach Barry Trotz said Burakovsky is going to ”miss some time” after being crunched into the boards by Boone Jenner in Game 2. Speedy winger Jakub Vrana, a surprise scratch for Washington on Sunday, goes back in for Burakovsky.

WHO STARTS?

Trotz said he has decided who will start in goal for the Capitals in Game 3 but hadn’t yet told Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. After Grubauer allowed eight goals on 49 shots before being yanked at the second intermission of Game 2, the smart money is on Holtby, the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner.

BARTON OUT

Linesman Steve Barton, who was injured when he inadvertently clipped skates with Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson and had to be helped off the ice by trainers, dislocated his kneecap and tore a quadriceps muscle in his left leg. Barton will require surgery but didn’t tear ligaments in his knee, which doctors said is good news because they expect him to make a full recovery.

 

With three days left in the NBA regular season, the Western Conference playoff picture is as murky as a swamp. Five teams are battling for the last four seeds and the order after the top two is still uncertain.

Two of the teams P.J. Hall Youth Jersey , on different paths, clash Monday night in Denver. The Portland Trail Blazers (48-32) have clinched a spot and are clinging to the third seed but have lost three in a row. The Denver Nuggets (45-35) are sitting ninth but are streaking, having won five straight.

The game has big meaning for both teams. The Blazers are trying to hold off the Utah Jazz to stay in the third spot, but they have stumbled. Their postseason seed will likely be determined when they host the Jazz on Wednesday night, but they aren’t worried about their current losing streak.

“We’re good,” guard CJ McCollum said after Saturday night’s loss in San Antonio. “If you had told me that we have 48 wins and have two games left and a chance to finish in third place, I would have told you I’ll take it.

“Considering where we’re at, there’s no excuses for injuries and stuff like that, but I feel like we’re heading in the right direction heading to the playoffs. We should be fully healthy or close to fully healthy and I think that will make a difference.”

Damian Lillard scored 33 points in the loss after missing one game with a sprained left ankle, and he’ll be ready to go against Denver on Monday night.

He’ll need to be the way the Nuggets have played of late. After escaping with two overtime victories last week, Denver has racked up three more solid wins. The 134-115 victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon eliminated the Clippers and kept the Nuggets’ playoff hopes alive.

Denver probably must win its last two games — Monday and Wednesday in Minnesota — to make the postseason for the first time in five years, but they are a confident bunch.

“We’re playing get-it-done basketball Da'Ron Payne Redskins Jersey ,” Denver coach Michael Malone said after the win in L.A. “We’re finding ways to get the job done.”

The streak has been impressive because it has come without second leading scorer Gary Harris, who has missed 11 games with a sprained right knee. He isn’t expected back for the remaining two games of the regular season, but in his absence others have stepped up.

Lately it has been Will Barton, who had 31 points in Saturday’s win.

“I relish in those moments,” Barton said Saturday. “I’d rather have (Harris) there, of course, especially with what we’re trying to accomplish. But one man down, I just gotta take it upon myself to be better.”

The Nuggets as a whole have been better, and it has put them on the brink of a playoff berth. It won’t be easy. The Trail Blazers are trying to get back on track before the start of the postseason, so both teams will have something big to play for.

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