Three of the four teams fighting to make the Northern Conference finals have won Game 7s already this season. They hope that experience will serve them well Thursday morning, when both Northern Conference finalists will be decided. The Edinburgh Capitals will play in Copenhagen, while Moscow Spartak will be in St. Petersburg for the Battle of Russia’s deciding game.
Of the four teams, only Spartak hasn’t been in a Game 7 yet this playoff season. They beat Oslo in six games in the first round, but will be playing Thursday minus two of its regular starters. Defenseman Duncan Keith went down earlier in the series with arm injury, while David Jones, who has 6 points in 12 playoff games, injured his knee during the second period of Wednesday’s 3-1 win over St. Petersburg. In that game, Jaroslav Halak was the best player on the ice, making 25 saves and outperforming Pekka Rinne in the Red Stars’ goal. Moscow led 2-0 in the first period on goals by Aleksey Morozov (his 5th of the playoffs) and Kevin Dallman (3rd). James Van Riemsdyk’s first of the playoffs made it 3-0 Moscow in the third period before Blake Wheeler scored his 5th of the playoffs to spoil Halak’s shutout bid. St. Petersburg’s powerplay was 0 for 8, while Moscow cashed in twice in 6 PP opportunities. Brent Burns has had a good playoffs for St. Petersburg and he played well Wednesday, blocking 6 shots and registering 3 hits. Moscow has one RW on the roster who could replace Jones on the third line. Rene Bourque hasn’t played a game for Spartak this season, but in Season 1, he played 78 games and scored 11 goals and 26 points. Travis Moen, currently the right wing on the fourth line, is another option. Moen has no playoff points, but had 10 goals and 23 points during the regular season.
In the conference’s other Game 7, the pesky, enigmatic Caps from Edinburgh will try to ruin what has been a dream season so far for the Copenhagen Tridents. Edinburgh was on the brink of elimination for two games in their first-round series against Dublin and the last 3 games of the current series but has won each time, including Wednesday’s 4-1 win which was not even close. In that contest, the Caps outshot Copenhagen 42-23 and John Tavares was spectacular. He had 10 shots on goal, two goals and one assist. Again he played with James Neal on his right and Daniel Winnick on his left, with regular linemate Jamie Benn sitting in the press box despite being declared healthy enough to play by the team physician. Neal had a goal and an assist while Winnick did not record a point. Capitals defensemen Francois Beauchemin and Oliver Ekman-Larsson played well, and Edinburgh’s Andrei Kostitsyn was the second star, scoring a goal and adding 2 assists. Edinburgh has outscored Copenhagen 18-16 in the series thus far. Copenhagen will rely on the home fans, goalie Roberto Luongo and anyone else who wants to help in Game 7, which they will probably play without injured wingers Ville Peltonen and Benn Ferriero.