Jonathan Toews, Kevin Bieksa, Patrick Kane

Blackhawks face elimination while Kings hope to stay hot against Sharks


The playoff schedule can be a bit funky and that’s why tonight we’ve got a chance to see our first elimination of the playoffs as well as the last of the Game 3’s to drop the puck. With just two games to keep our eyes on, our attention won’t be spread all over the place. One at a time kids.  All eyes will be on Chicago tonight as the defending champion Blackhawks get to show what they’ve got left, if anything, against Vancouver at home.

Vancouver @ Chicago – 8 p.m. ET (Versus)Vancouver leads series 3-0

This is it for Chicago. After backing their way into the playoffs, it’s come down to this and they’re one more loss from being eliminated. Imagine that, being the last to get into the postseason and the first to be knocked out. It’d make for an ignominious defeat for the defending Stanley Cup champions but if we’re going to have the first repeat winner since the Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998 the Blackhawks had better get it right and stay right. At the very least it looks like they’ll get Dave Bolland back into the lineup. Every little bit helps.

The Canucks, however, are a team on a mission and they’d like to end Chicago’s season and exorcise their main postseason ghosts in the most humiliating way possible by sweeping them out. Of course, this game doesn’t come without its share of drama. With Raffi Torres escaping punishment for his hit on Brent Seabrook, we might see some sort of retaliation from Chicago for the hit. Seabrook will play in the game, but given how upset Chicago seems to be about it, if Torres plays we might see our share of fireworks in this game, especially with the Blackhawks backed into a corner.

San Jose @ Los Angeles – 10:30 p.m. ET (Versus)Series tied 1-1

It’s the series a lot of us didn’t expect to be competitive yet here we are with the Kings having earned a split on the road. Now that the series shifts to Los Angeles, the Sharks have a few things they need to get fixed. They have to not take bad penalties and then allow their suddenly poor penalty kill to get worked over by the Kings high-powered defensemen Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty. While the Kings seemed like they’d be pushovers without Anze Kopitar, they’ve been anything but that.

Frightening part of this series for both teams comes from the lack of scoring from some of the bigger names for both teams. Dustin Penner has been borderline terrible for L.A. while Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been more than notably absent on the scoresheet for San Jose. The playoffs are when big players must show up in a big way. The Sharks could use it from their stars because Kings goalie Jon Quick has looked strong in both games of this series.

Crosby returns, and so does Penguins’ balanced attack in win

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14: Sidney Crosby #87 and Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skate against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on November 14, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — With Sidney Crosby back in the lineup for the first time this season on Tuesday night the Pittsburgh Penguins roster is starting to resemble the one that lifted the Stanley Cup four months ago.

About half way through their 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers, they finally started to look like that team on the ice, too.

Entering the game having lost three out of four (while looking quite bad and being outscored 15-7 in the process) it looked like that early season slump was going to continue on Tuesday when they faced a 2-0 deficit midway through the second period.

They looked sluggish. They couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. The Panthers were completely shutting the game down and had just put on a penalty killing clinic where they played a 40-second game of keep-away, sparking a chorus of boos from the home crowd.

And then Sidney Crosby showed up.

It was at that point that Crosby found himself wide open in the middle of the ice to accept a pass from Evgeni Malkin and rip it past Panthers goalie Jamies Reimer for his first goal of the year.

In the end, it was a typical night at the office for Crosby.

He scored a goal, was a possession-driving machine (better than 63 percent of the shot attempts with Crosby on the ice belonged to Pittsburgh) and finished with a team-leading four shots on goal and seven attempts.

But for his good as he was in his 2016-17 debut, the biggest impact his return had is it made once again made their lineup a nightmare to match up against.

The Penguins’ calling card in last year’s playoffs was their ability to play fast, and their deep, balanced attack that had four lines that could all contribute. It was a matchup problem that nobody could really handle as they kept rotating lines with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel out one after another (not to mention a fourth line that has some scoring potential as well).

They obviously lose that a lot of advantage when Crosby is out of the lineup and teams only really have two big-time scoring threats to worry about.

On Tuesday, you could see it eventually start to become an issue for the Panthers as the Penguins received goals from three different lines in the win.

After Crosby scored to get the Penguins on the board, Carl Hagelin scored his first of the season to tie the game five minutes into the third period. Then fourth line provided the winner four minutes later when Eric Fehr finished a perfect pass from Tom Kuhnhackl.

Even with the win on Tuesday and a 4-2-1 start to the season it is still pretty clear the Penguins have some things to work through and are not quite where they need to be at this point. They have to cut down on the penalties. They really haven’t played a complete 60-minute game yet. The HBK line (which was broken up in the third period against Florida) has not really clicked the way it did in the playoffs. Kris Letang is still injured. But on Tuesday you started to see flashes of what made the team such a force in the playoffs.

With Crosby back on the ice and extending the lineup, you might start to see it happen a little more often.

Video: Flyers’ Konecny scores first NHL goal

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Through six games of the NHL season, Travis Konecny enjoyed a nice start to his rookie campaign with five assists. Just one thing was missing, though.

On Tuesday, he took care of that against the Buffalo Sabres.

Konecny, taken 24th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, deflected an Ivan Provorov point shot early in the third period, beating goalie Anders Nilsson on the glove side for his first NHL goal.  That goal also got the Flyers on the board.


Konecny and Provorov make Flyers, expected ‘to be here all year’

WATCH LIVE: Ducks at Sharks

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks and Paul Martin #7 of the San Jose Sharks defend against the shot of Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks during a game at Honda Center on December 4, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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California rivals clash tonight, as the Anaheim Ducks visit the San Jose Sharks. This marks the first meeting of the season between the two Pacific Division teams.

The Sharks have lost two games in a row, while the Ducks have won two straight.

You can catch tonight’s game on NBCSN or with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra (10 p.m. ET).


Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Brent Burns is on a beastly pace

Report: Ducks put Despres on long-term injured reserve

NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks

Video: Looks like Bishop lost some teeth after taking a shot to the mask

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Difficult night for some goalies across the NHL.

Frederik Andersen has had his struggles against Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning, although the players in front of him haven’t given their puck stopper much help, either.

And then there is Bolts goalie Ben Bishop, who took a Peter Holland wrist shot off the mask and appeared to lose some teeth as a result.

But this is hockey. Bishop, who even appeared to crack a smile while being examined on the ice, remained in the game.