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Sidney Crosby takes points lead, gives Pittsburgh sixth straight win with hat trick performance

All of a sudden, the Pittsburgh Penguins are only two points – both overtime or shootout loss related – behind the Atlantic Division leading Philadelphia Flyers (more on them later).

If you can attribute the six game winning streak to two players, it would be Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury, the latter player getting this afternoon’s game off in favor of efficient backup Brent Johnson. Crosby scored a hat trick in today’s game against the Calgary Flames, which moves his 2010-11 goal total to 18 and gives him the league lead in points with 40. (Steve Stamkos is now in second with 38, but he plays tonight against the Florida Panthers and also has two games in hand.)

Pittsburgh 4, Calgary 1

Crosby is currently on one of the best runs of his already impressive six year career. He scored at least a single point in the last 12 games, scoring 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in that amazing span.

Fleury and Crosby aren’t the only stars who are shining in Pittsburgh, though. Kris Letang ranks among the highest scoring defenseman in the league as he added three assists to bring his season total to 22 points (four goals, 18 assists). That’s nearly identical to Evgeni Malkin’s season so far (eight goals, 14 assists).

Johnson also had a nice game in relief of Fleury. He stopped 30 out of 31 shots for his seventh win in 10 games played. He’s only allowed 20 goals in 10 appearances this season.

Meanwhile, the best player on the ice for the Flames was probably Miikka Kiprusoff. He didn’t get to sweep his Pennsylvania opponents this weekend, but he did stop 39 out of 42 shots against the Penguins.

Rene Bourque is another strong performer this season for Calgary, as he scored the lone Flames goal to push his season total to 11.

So the Penguins find themselves only two points behind the Flyers in the Atlantic while the Flames are the second worst team in the West, only in front of the lowly Edmonton Oilers.

Coyotes’ defensive makeover continues with Luke Schenn signing

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 20:  Luke Schenn #52 of the Los Angeles Kings in action against the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the NHL 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 20, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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While Brayden Schenn hopes to hammer out a favorable deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, his brother Luke Schenn inked a two-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Arizona didn’t confirm these details, but the cap hit looks to be $1.25 million, according to reporters including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

“We are very pleased to sign Luke to a two-year contract,” New Coyotes GM John Chayka said. “He’s a good, young defenseman and we feel we can optimize his performance here. He will be a solid addition to our blue line.”

Chayka is making some significant changes to the Coyotes’ blueline, even if Oliver Ekman-Larsson is still the star of that group.

The Coyotes traded for and then signed Alex Goligoski. They possibly grabbed a falling star in the draft, too, as they selected Jacob Chychrun. Adding Schenn might not be the last move, either.

Schenn isn’t necessarily an analytics darling, but a two-year, $2.5 million deal is reasonable even with some flaws. This contract seems even more reasonable when you consider the five-year, $18 million deal that just expired.

Report: Maple Leafs, Holland are about $1M apart

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 11: Peter Holland #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre April 11, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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Peter Holland‘s submitted salary request for arbitration is reportedly more than double what the Toronto Maple Leafs proposed.

With that in mind, Monday’s pending hearing serves as a challenging deadline.

Holland’s asking for $2.1 million in 2016-17 while Toronto is offering $900K, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

This comes a day after the Maple Leafs placed Holland on waivers, advancing the argument that he’d be worthy of a two-way deal. He cleared waivers today.

Granted, the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle wonders if Holland would clear waivers under normal circumstances:

Holland is a solid player, generating 27 points in 65 games with Toronto last season. He’s a nice enough piece, but with the Maple Leafs in rebuild mode, they’re not exactly anxious to pay supporting cast members more than necessary.

With such a context in mind, it should be intriguing to see how much either side will budge.

At the moment, the Maple Leafs seem to hold the advantage.

Report: Flyers, Schenn disagree on money, term with arbitration looming

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal in the second period against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It sounds like the Philadelphia Flyers have some work to do if they hope to avoid an arbitration hearing with Brayden Schenn.

The session would take place on Monday, so the clock is ticking.

While the differences in opinion aren’t outright enormous, the Flyers still need to clean up their cap situation, so every $1 million counts. That – plus the length of a deal – seem to be the issue for the 24-year-old forward and the Flyers, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

With the Flyers aiming for a two-year agreement while Schenn just wants one, it’s not quite as simple as merely saying “split the difference.”

Then again, that general logic could prove helpful. Perhaps the best path to a deal would be for the Flyers to edge closer to $5.5 million while convincing Schenn to sign for two years rather than one?

Of course, the Flyers could also offer Schenn more security in exchange for giving up some UFA years:

The physical forward really started to show why he was the fifth pick of the 2009 NHL Draft last season, setting career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59).

He’s coming off of a two-year, $5 million contract, so Schenn can take heart in realizing he’s heading toward a healthy raise even if he doesn’t get everything he’s asking for.

Wild, Schroeder settle on two-way deal

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 24: Jordan Schroeder #10 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 24, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The Wild defeated teh Islanders 2-1 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jordan Schroeder might be a depth player for the Minnesota Wild – at least when he’s with the big club – yet his situation provided a decent dollop of drama.

The two sides avoided salary arbitration by settling on a deal on Saturday, but not before the Wild “sent a message” by putting him on waivers.

That message was received, as Schroeder’s one-year contract is a two-way deal.

CBC’s Tim Wharnsby has the details regarding how the salary works out:

Schroeder has 107 regular season games under his belt, yet he’s played more games with the Iowa Wild than the Minnesota Wild since joining the organization.

He might not like it, but a two-way deal makes sense considering his standing with the team.

Granted, there’s the outside chance he’ll flourish under Bruce Boudreau; Schroeder is still just 25 and was the 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft.

If he unexpectedly blossoms, he’d have a lot more leverage next time around.