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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.

No hearing scheduled for Abdelkader after Barkov hit

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There’s no disciplinary hearing scheduled for Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader following his big check on Florida’s Aleksander Barkov last night, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.

The incident, which occurred early in the second period, left Barkov woozy and forced him from the game entirely. Abdelkader wasn’t penalized on the play — that, along with the hit itself, infuriated the Panthers and head coach Gerard Gallant.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald.

“I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way,” Gallant added, noting that Abdelkader “left his feet a little and got [Barkov] in the jaw.”

Abdelkader has run afoul of the Department of Player Safety before. He was suspended two games during the ’13 playoffs for a hit on then-Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman.

The Panthers are back in action tonight, as they take on the Sabres in Buffalo.

Detroit doesn’t play again until Wednesday, when it hosts the Sens at Joe Louis.

Dion Phaneuf traded to Senators

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 07:  Jordan Nolan #71 of the Los Angeles Kings is knocked off balance by Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at Staples Center on January 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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And this is why we listen when Bob McKenzie says something.

The Ottawa Senators have acquired defenseman Dion Phaneuf, forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, and Ryan Rupert and undrafted defensive prospect Cody Donaghey from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Jared Cowen, forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg, plus Ottawa’s second-round pick in the 2017 draft.

No salary will be retained by either team.

From the Leafs’ perspective, the trade provides even more cap flexibility for their rebuild. Phaneuf is signed through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $7 million; he’s entirely on Ottawa’s books now. As for the guys coming to Toronto, Michalek, Cowen, and Greening are only under contract through next season, for a combined cap hit of around $10 million. And according to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, both Cowen and Greening could be bought out by the Leafs this offseason.

The Sens, meanwhile, get to add a workhorse defenseman to a blue line that already includes Erik Karlsson. Plus, they rid themselves of some onerous contracts.

Report: ‘Lots of Dion Phaneuf trade chatter’

Dion Phaneuf
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This isn’t the first time Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf has come up in trade rumors — far from it — but since it’s TSN’s Bob McKenzie putting it out there, we should probably listen.

“Hearing lots of Dion Phaneuf trade chatter,” McKenzie tweeted this morning. “Starting to think he could actually be dealt before the deadline.”

Phaneuf has three goals and 21 assists in 51 games this season, while logging an average of 22:02 in ice time. The big factor in trading the 30-year-old is his contract — he’s signed through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $7 million. 

Responding to McKenzie on Twitter, TSN’s Darren Dreger seemed to suggest Ottawa as a potential landing spot. The Sens, as we’ve noted recently, have had all sorts of defensive issues this season.

In the past, Detroit has come up as a potential destination for Phaneuf, though the Wings reportedly withdrew their interest in June.

NHL on NBCSN: Slumping Wild look to get back on track against Stars

Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel (21), from France, scores a goal past Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in St. Paul, Minn. The Stars won 6-3. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Dallas Stars at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

If you’re a fan of the Minnesota Wild, the last few weeks probably haven’t been pleasant.

The team has been slumping badly since the beginning of the new year, and late January/early February has been no different.

The Wild come into tonight’s game having dropped five straight decisions to the Sharks, Coyotes, Islanders, Rangers and Blues.

Minnesota has just 10 goals during the losing streak, which means their top offensive players aren’t producing.

Head coach Mike Yeo tried to shake things up on Saturday night by scratching Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker, but that didn’t work. The Wild were thumped, 4-1, by the St. Louis Blues.

After playing their last three games on the road, Minnesota hopes to get a boost from their home crowd.

“One thing for sure, [there are] mixed feelings about coming back home,” Yeo said on Monday, per the Star-Tribune. “Right now, obviously, a little home cooking would be nice for us. But I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little nervous for tomorrow. Certainly I think our fan base is a little restless — more than a little restless right now. And they expect more from us. And they deserve more of us.”

Things haven’t been as bad in Dallas, but the Stars are coming off an embarrassing 5-1 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“It was a huge game,” forward Vernon Fiddler said, per the Morning News. “We talked about it before the game, what it means, and then we lay an egg. It’s unacceptable. There’s a lot of disappointed guys in here.

“After a big loss like that, you want to respond. We all have to be better and take a look in the mirror and expect more of ourselves.”

Prior to Saturday’s loss, the Stars had won three straight games.

Could this be a trap game for Dallas?

They won’t have to wait long to get another crack at the Blackhawks, as they’ll be shipping out to the United Center on Thursday, but they have to take care of business in Minnesota first.

The Stars are five points behind Chicago for top spot in the Central Division. Dallas has three games in hand.