Television ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals are off to their best start since 2002.

NBC said yesterday that Games 1 and 2 averaged a 2.8 rating and 5 share. That's up 17 percent from last year, when the first games on the network were Games 3 and 4. Versus showed Games 1 and 2 in 2008; the cable channel is broadcasting Games 3 and 4 this year.

NHL on TV (2)

Comcast, which owns the Flyers and Versus, said it will place the NHL Network on its Digital Classic service starting with the 2009-10 season. That would push the NHL Network from 2 million homes to about 10.8 million. The NHL Network, like the NFL Network (because of a new agreement), can be seen if subscribers of basic digital cable (Digital Starter) move up to Digital Classic or buy the Sports and Entertainment package.

On to Russia

Center Marek Zagrapan will play in Russia next season whether the Buffalo Sabres like it or not. The Sabres' 2005 first-round draft pick has signed a three-year deal to play for Severstal Cherepovets of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.

Zagrapan's agent, Petr Svoboda, said the deal was reached even though the Sabres still have an opportunity to retain Zagrapan's rights by making him a qualifying contract offer by June 15.

Svoboda said the Slovakian-born Zagrapan elected to play in Russia because he was not happy with his progress after spending the last three seasons in the minors. He has yet to play in the NHL.