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Stanley Cup Final 2016 TV schedule in limbo for Games 3 and 4

The Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cullen (7) is greeted

The Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cullen (7) is greeted by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, left, on the bench after scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference final, Monday, May 16, 2016, in Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: AP / Gene J. Puskar

This much we know: Games 1, 5, 6 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Final will be shown on NBC, and Game 2 will be on NBCSN.

This we do not know: What channel Games 3 and 4 will be shown on.

That will depend on what happens in Games 1 and 2.

If the series between the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins, which opens Monday night, is tied at 1-1, Game 3 will be on NBC on June 4 and Game 4 on NBCSN on June 6.

However, if one team leads, 2-0, Game 3 will be on NBCSN and Game 4 on NBC.

Huh?

“Although NBCSN is the home of hockey in the U.S., we want to ensure that the broadest audience possible can watch the Stanley Cup be awarded on NBC in the event of a sweep,” an NBC Sports spokesman said.

Makes sense.

So why not just show Games 2 and 3 on NBCSN and reserve Game 4 for NBC regardless, one of several broadcast/cable permutations employed in the past?

Likely because NBC’s entertainment arm is more open to having a low-rated hockey game take over on a low-rated Saturday night than it is to having hockey push out the Monday night prime time schedule.

By employing a flexible plan, which has not been used previously, the network can protect against the risk of having the Cup awarded on a cable channel and yet leave open the possibility of keeping hockey off of a weeknight on its broadcast arm.

The risk is viewer confusion.

In the decade NBC has televised the NHL, there have been several variations on the Cup Final schedule.

Games 1 and 2 have been shown on NBCSN (or Versus), then Games 3-7 on NBC. Games 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7 have been shown NBC, and Games 3-4 on NBCSN. Games 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 have been shown on NBC, and 2-3 on NBCSN.

Having some games on a cable channel is not unusual, though. A Cup Final never has been seen entirely on a broadcast network in the United States.

Game 1: at Pittsburgh, Monday, May 30, 8 p.m, NBC

Game 2: at Pittsburgh, Wednesday, June 1, 8 p.m., NBCSN

Game 3: at San Jose, Saturday, June 4, 8 p.m., TBA

Game 4: at San Jose, Monday, June 6, 8 p.m., TBA

*Game 5: at Pittsburgh, Thursday, June 9, 8 p.m., NBC

*Game 6: at San Jose, Sunday, June 12, 8 p.m., NBC

*Game 7: at Pittsburgh, Wednesday, June 15, 8 p.m., NBC

*if necessary

New York Sports