San Jose Sharks v Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago’s big guns best San Jose’s stars in 6-3 victory

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I’m not a statistician, but your team’s odds for a victory must skyrocket when one player produces four assists during a single period. Normally, Patrick Sharp plays the role of sniper for the Chicago Blackhawks, but tonight he was the one making the precise passes. The 2011 All-Star Game MVP earned four helpers during a wild second period, as the Hawks out-scored the San Jose Sharks 5-1 in that middle frame and ultimately earned a 6-3 win.

Chicago 6, San Jose 3

Sharp wasn’t the only big-name Blackhawks forward to come through in what some might call a “statement game.” Marian Hossa began that wild second period with two power-play goals, Jonathan Toews continued his torrid run with a goal and an assist and Patrick Kane reached a career milestone with his 100th goal. Kane became the third youngest Blackhawk to reach 100 goals, behind two nobodies named Jeremy Roenick and Bobby Hull.

The Sharks’ big guns contributed, albeit in a losing effort. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture scored one goal each for San Jose.

Antti Niemi performed outstandingly well against his old team in their first three meetings this season, but his former teammates gained a measure of revenge by chasing him from the Sharks’ net tonight. Niemi’s 25th consecutive start ended early, as he was yanked from the game in favor of former starter Antero Niittymaki about seven minutes into that wacky second. Niemi allowed four goals on 18 shots while Niittymaki was beaten twice on 14.

Corey Crawford has been a workhorse for Chicago in his own right, as he was the Hawks starter for the 15th time in a row. The surprisingly effective rookie won his 27th game of the 2010-11 season – one more than Niemi, by the way – after he made 33 out of 36 saves.

This win places Chicago in fourth place with 84 points, even if such a spot is typically tenuous. For the most part, the Blackhawks have been red-hot lately, as they even earned two points during their recent three-game skid. They’ve been especially stout at the United Center, winning five games in a row in the Windy City.

Every time it seems like the Sharks are going to run away with the Pacific Division, they seem to hit a speed bump. After producing an eight-game winning streak, San Jose went 1-2-2 in their last five games. They still have a three-point lead in the division, although the Los Angeles Kings have a game in hand.

In other words, this game didn’t solve anything for either team, but there shouldn’t be much of a question about how much of a threat Chicago will be if they actually make the playoffs.

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)
Associated Press
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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.