Three things to watch for on tonight’s episode of 24/7

It’s become the must-see TV of December and HBO’s 24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road to the Winter Classic has the second episode coming at us tonight at 10 pm ET. Since the games and situations have already happened we’ve got a general idea for what direction this episode could take.  If you missed the first episode of the show, don’t worry we’ve got it for you here so you can get caught up.

So what can we keep our eyes peeled for?  There’s a few things. If you think we’re spoiling anything for you… Well, sorry, I guess. That or we ask that you pay better attention to how your teams are doing.

A change of fortunes

Episode one showed how high the Penguins were riding in the middle of their 12 game win streak while the Caps were floundering during their eight game losing streak. Tonight, we’ll get to see how the Penguins handle losing. The Pens dropped two in a row to divisional rivals the Flyers and Rangers. Things seemed very positive for the Pens throughout the first episode and getting to see how they turn it around should prove interesting. The roller coaster of those losses followed by the thumping they put on Phoenix could provide an opportunity to show coach Dan Bylsma as a genius of sorts. It could also show that having a healthy Evgeni Malkin back on the ice makes a big difference.

As for the Caps, we’ll see them snap their losing streak with a win over Ottawa. We’ll get to see how Bruce Boudreau handles his team after well played but tough losses to Anaheim and Boston and then turning it into a gutsy win over the Senators. Do we see the swear meter go off the charts as we see the Caps losing streak both get extended and end in one episode? Who knows, but seeing how Boudreau handles the team throughout this episode should prove to be fascinating analytical theater.

Semin and Ovechkin

HBO promised us at the end of the first episode to show how Washington’s two Alexes, Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin, get along and do things in D.C. We didn’t see very much of anything having to do with the two biggest offensive stars the Caps have and getting this first real major look at how they do things should make for good fodder. It also might give us the opportunity to learn some fun new colorful Russian words if we listen carefully.

Ovechkin, and especially Semin, are viewed as being “mysterious” stars in the NHL in that they aren’t seen as warm and approachable as Sidney Crosby is viewed to be. How these two come off could alter the way many fans look at these young stars in the league. Some fans may have a good idea about Ovechkin thanks to his DVD that came out last month but many fans really don’t know how well they can relate to him. Giving these two the face time to show off around D.C. could be great.

Perceptions changing?

What we gathered from the first episode is that the Penguins were a fun loving bunch with a coach in Dan Bylsma that knows how to push the right buttons and keep the team moving all while under the watch of a tough-grading general manager in Ray Shero. Meanwhile, the Caps came off as a sullen and downtrodden group of players with a nice guy coach that’s got a foul mouth lead by an owner in Ted Leonsis who looks virtually diabolical in talking about his desire to win the Stanley Cup immediately.

Will we get a peek at the other side of things? There’s another side of Ted Leonsis that’s great with the fans and working as an icon in the Washington community. There’s also an owner in Pittsburgh who used to play for the team whose desire to win is as rabid as anyone imaginable. Getting a peek inside the Penguins front office might help show that off. We know that how things are going with the teams help reflect how things appear to be, but will the way HBO framed the first episode hold up throughout the series? We’ll find out tonight.

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.