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Sidney Crosby, Carey Price and Dustin Byfuglien named November’s three stars

With December beginning today, the NHL decided to name its three stars for the month of November: Sidney Crosby, Carey Price and Dustin Byfuglien. It’s pretty difficult to argue with those three choices, but let’s take a look at the kind of month enjoyed by each player. Here are some of our observations along with some lines from the league’s press release

(You have to enjoy the symmetry that comes from naming one forward, one defenseman and a goalie, by the way.)

First star: Crosby

Say what you will about Crosby; it’s understandable to get slightly annoyed by the hype. (A Canadian magazine naming him “Newsmaker of the Year” does seem to be a bit strong.) Yet you cannot deny that the young star delivers about as much as one can ask him to.

In the case of November, he scored almost two points per game.

Crosby led all players last month with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 14 games, taking first place in the NHL scoring race and lifting the Penguins (16-8-2) to a first-place tie with the Philadelphia Flyers in the Atlantic Division. Crosby finished the month with an active 13-game point streak, the longest in the NHL this season and the third-longest of his career, helping the Penguins reel off seven consecutive victories.

Second star: Price

A lot of goalies had great runs during November, but the league chose Price because of his overall body of work. Marc-Andre Fleury and Ondrej Pavelec (among others) put together great two week spans here and there, but Price made the biggest impact over the entire month.

Price posted an 8-4-0 record, 1.59 goals-against average, .952 save percentage and three shutouts in 12 games, backstopping the Canadiens (15-8-1) to a five-point lead atop the Northeast Division. Price faced more shots than any goaltender in November (392) and allowed one goal or fewer in six of his final nine starts of the month, highlighted by a 41-save performance in a 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Nov. 16.

Third star: Byfuglien

After attracting criticism from many corners of the hockey world for moving the beefy former Blackhawk back to his original spot on the blueline, Byfuglien and the Atlanta Thrashers look like they might get the last laugh. His 10 goals and 27 points lead NHL defensemen, but check out his productivity in terms of November.

Byfuglien led all defensemen in scoring with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 14 games and posted a +9 rating, helping the Thrashers (13-9-3) climb to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Two of his goals were game-winners, bringing his season total to a League-leading five. Byfuglien closed the month with a flourish, scoring the game-winning goal plus three assists and a +2 rating in a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins Nov. 28 and notching the game-tying goal late in the third period and drawing an assist on Anthony Stewart’s overtime goal in a 4-3 win at Colorado Nov. 30, extending the Thrashers’ winning streak to six games.

2016 Lady Byng finalists: Barkov, Eriksson and Kopitar

Slovenia forward Anze Kopitar, left, and Sweden forward Loui Eriksson battle for the puck in the second period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The low penalty minutes and high point totals are in, and thus we have the 2016 NHL Awards’ three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy: Aleksander Barkov, Loui Eriksson and Anze Kopitar.

OK, the actual definition for the award is that it goes “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

Same difference, eh?

Barkov really made a breakthrough this season with the Florida Panthers, scoring 59 points versus just eight penalty minutes. He only has 34 PIM in 191 career regular season contests.

You can see Eriksson and Kopitar representing their respective countries in this post’s main image. Eriksson enjoyed his best (and maybe last?) season with the Boston Bruins while Kopitar hopes to win the 2016 Selke as the Los Angeles Kings’ defensively adept – yet apparently courteous – forward.

It’s unclear who wins this “fight,” but one would assume it wouldn’t be a dirty one.

WATCH LIVE: Game 2 of Islanders – Lightning, Penguins – Capitals

Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) starts to celebrate his goal against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) and Kris Letang (58) during the second period of Game 1 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday, April 28, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Can Sidney Crosby and the Penguins even things up against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals? Will the Lightning avoid dropping both games at home against the Islanders? We’ll find out on NBC.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media(reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win

With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2

Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43) takes control of the puck in front of St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 3-0. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Patrick Eaves won’t be able to play for the Dallas Stars against the St. Louis Blues in their upcoming Game 2.

The last time we saw Eaves, he was leaving the ice by gliding on one foot after being hit by a teammate’s shot. He needed help to the locker room and was seen on crutches according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.

The bad news is that Eaves cannot go. The good news is that the Stars can replace him with a player who boasts considerable offensive skill, as Valeri Nichushkin will take Eaves’ place.

Nichushkin wasn’t very effective in five postseason games so far, failing to score a point and only managed three shots on goal.

Still, if the frenetic pace of Game 1 carries on through this series, Nichushkin could very well make an impact.

Update: the Stars have other options at forward after making recalls:

Sheary’s in for Penguins in Game 2; Kunitz is a game-time decision

Pittsburgh Penguins' Conor Sheary (43) is greeted by teammates Brian Dumoulin (8) and Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring his first NHL goal, in the first period of the Penguins' hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Pittsburgh. Bruins' Brad Marchand is at lower right. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might look a little different in Game 2 on Saturday after that blistering Game 1.

As the team down 1-0, it’s not too surprising that the Penguins boast the more significant lineup questions, although they lean toward health concerns rather than performance tweaks.

Conor Sheary was able to return during Game 1 after Tom Wilson‘s controversial knee-to-knee hit, and he appears to be in for tonight’s contest as well. Chris Kunitz isn’t quite a guarantee, as he’s currently labeled a game-time decision.

For what it’s worth, Kunitz himself believes he’ll be in. Whether he plays on Saturday or not, it sounds like Kunitz is taking extra safety measures going forward.

The Penguins stayed vague with Marc-Andre Fleury, merely claiming that he’s making “progress.”

Generally speaking, Matt Murray has been playing well for the Penguins. Of course, the scrutiny will rise if Pittsburgh loses Game 2 on Saturday.

The Capitals are also considering a tweak. CSN Mid-Atlantic reports that Barry Trotz is pondering replacing Dmitry Orlov with Taylor Chorney.

“They told me to be prepared as if I’m going to be playing,” Chorney said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

As you may notice, Chorney isn’t the only one in wait-and-see mode heading into Game 2, which you can watch on NBC.