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NHL releases national TV schedule for 2011-2012; We’re going to be a little busy

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It’s the mid-summer version of Christmas morning for fans that are champing at the bit to get to a new hockey season. Much like Steve Martin in “The Jerk” we’re shouting about the arrival of this year’s national television broadcast schedule. Over here at PHT we’re extra excited because of all the added games we’ll have on Versus/NBC Sports Network this season as well as an earlier start to the NHL on NBC broadcast schedule.

On the NBC side of things, we’ll be kicking off our coverage the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday November 25, with an original six pairing between the Detroit Red Wings and defending champion Boston Bruins at 1 p.m. ET. It’s only fitting that the defending champs get to debut what will become an annual tradition on Black Friday with the NHL dropping the puck in the afternoon after fans have either shopped their faces off that morning of they’re still sleeping off the turkey hangover.

January 2 will be the date of the NHL Winter Classic and while the NHL has yet to confirm that the game will be between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers from Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, they’re set to square off on NBC that Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. All the dots are connected here.

February 19 will be Hockey Day In America and once again it’ll be a regional broadcast day with four games this time around. St. Louis will be in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks, San Jose in Detroit to face the Red Wings, and the Penguins visiting Buffalo to face the Sabres. Meanwhile the Bruins hit the road to play the Wild in Minnesota.

As for the full schedule, here’s how it plays out for NHL on NBC.

Fri., Nov. 25 Detroit at Boston 1 p.m.

Sun. Jan. 2 New York Rangers @ Philadelphia 1 p.m.

Sat., Jan. 14 Chicago at Detroit 12:30 p.m.

Sun., Jan. 22 Was at Pit or Bos @ Phi 12:30 p.m.

Sun., Feb. 12 TBD 12:30 p.m.

Sun., Feb. 19 Pit @ Buff / SJ @ Det / STL @ Chi 12 p.m.

Boston at Minnesota 3 p.m.

Sun., March 4 Bos @ NYR or Phi @ Wash 12:30 p.m.

Sun., March 11 LA @ Chi or Bos @ Pit 12:30 p.m.

Sun., March 18 Pit @ Phi or Was @ Chi 12:30 p.m.

Sun., April 1 Bos @ NYR or Phi @ Pit 12:30 p.m.

Sat., April 7 Was @ NYR or Phi @ Pit or Chi @ Det or Buf @ Bos TBD

Days with the flex schedule that feature more than one game that could be played on NBC will see the game that isn’t aired on NBC instead played on NBC Sports Network (Versus) that night instead.

Speaking of NBC Sport Network (Versus) our schedule there is a monster one and it all kicks off on October 6 with a doubleheader featuring the new look Philadelphia Flyers opening the season in Boston against the Bruins as they’ll raise their championship banner at TD Garden at 7 p.m. ET. That game will be followed up with the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks facing off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Rogers Arena in Vancouver at 10 p.m. ET.

Come late January, NBC Sports Network will carry the All-Star Game from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on Sunday January 29 as well as the skills competition on the 28th and fantasy all-star draft on the 27th.

You can check out the Versus/NBC Sports Network schedule here. It’s a whopper. (All times Eastern)

October
Thurs., Oct. 6 Philadelphia at Boston 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh at Vancouver 10 p.m.
Fri., October 7 New York Rangers/Los Angeles* 1 p.m.
Sat., October 8 New York Rangers/Anaheim* 1 p.m.
Mon., October 10 Tampa Bay at Washington 7 p.m.
Tues., October 11 Florida at Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m.
Wed., October 12 Boston at Carolina 7:30 p.m.
Mon., October 17 Colorado at Toronto 7 p.m.
Tues., October 18 Pittsburgh at Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Tues., October 25 Tampa Bay at Buffalo 7:30 p.m.
Mon., October 31 San Jose at New York Rangers 7 p.m.

November
Tues., November 1 Anaheim at Washington 7:30 p.m.
Wed., November 2 Philadelphia at Buffalo 7:30 p.m.
Mon., November 7 New York Islanders at Boston 7 p.m.
Tues., November 8 Carolina at New Jersey 7:30 p.m.
Wed., November 9 Philadelphia at Tampa Bay 7:30 p.m.
Mon., November 14 Buffalo at Montreal 7 p.m.
Tues., November 15 Colorado at Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m.
Wed., November 16 New Jersey at Buffalo 7:30 p.m.
Mon., November 21 Boston at Montreal 7:30 p.m.
Tues., November 22 Los Angeles at St. Louis 7:30 p.m.
Mon., November 28 Tampa Bay at Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Tues., November 29 Pittsburgh at New York Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Wed., November 30 Tampa Bay at Detroit 7:30 p.m.

December
Mon., December 5 Phoenix at Chicago 8 p.m.
Tues., December 6 Detroit at St. Louis 7:30 p.m.
Wed., December 7 Philadelphia at Buffalo 7:30 p.m.
Mon., December 12 New Jersey at Tampa Bay 7 p.m.
Tues., December 13 San Jose at Colorado 9 p.m.
Wed., December 14 Chicago at Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Mon., December 19 Anaheim at Dallas 8 p.m.
Tues., December 20 Chicago at Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m.
Wed., December 21 Philadelphia at Dallas 7:30 p.m.
Mon., December 26 Dallas at St. Louis 7:30 p.m.
Tues., December 27 St. Louis at Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Wed., December 28 New York Rangers at Washington 7:30 p.m.

January
Mon., January 2 San Jose at Vancouver 8 p.m.
Tues., January 3 Detroit at Dallas 8 p.m.
Wed., January 4 Boston at New Jersey 7:30 p.m.
Sun., January 8 Detroit at Chicago 7:30p.m.
Tues., January 10 San Jose at Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Wed., January 11 Pittsburgh at Washington 7:30 p.m.
Sun., January 15 New York Rangers at Montreal 7 p.m.
Mon., January 16 Dallas at St. Louis 7:30 p.m.
Tues., January 17 Nashville at New York Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Wed., January 18 Buffalo at Chicago 7:30 p.m.
Mon., January 23 St. Louis at Detroit** 7:30 p.m.
Tues., January 24 Minnesota at Colorado 9 p.m.
Wed., January 25 Detroit at Montreal 7:30 p.m.
Fri., January 27 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft TBD
Sat., January 28 NHL Skills Competition TBD
Sun., January 29 NHL All-Star Game TBD
Tues., January 31 Washington at Tampa Bay 7:30 p.m.

February
Wed., February 1 New York Rangers at Buffalo 7:30 p.m.
Sun., February 5 Boston at Washington 12:30 p.m.
Mon., February 6 Detroit at Phoenix 8 p.m.
Tues., February 7 Los Angeles at Tampa Bay 7:30 p.m.
Wed., February 8 Boston at Buffalo 7:30 p.m.
Sun., February 12 Philadelphia at Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Mon., February 13 San Jose at Washington 7:30 p.m.
Tues., February 14 Anaheim at Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Wed., February 15 Boston at Montreal 7:30 p.m.
Sun., February 19 New Jersey at Montreal 6 p.m.
Mon., February 20 Washington at Carolina 7:30 p.m.
Tues., February 21 Detroit at Chicago 8 p.m.
Wed., February 22 Los Angeles at Colorado 9 p.m.
Sun., February 26 Chicago at Anaheim 7 p.m.
Mon., February 27 New Jersey at New York Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Tues., February 28 Los Angeles at Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Wed., February 29 Pittsburgh at Dallas 7:30 p.m.

March
Sun., March 4 Bos @ NYR or Phi @ Wash 7 p.m.
Mon., March 5 Buffalo at Winnipeg 8 p.m.
Tues., March 6 Minnesota at Colorado 9 p.m.
Wed., March 7 Toronto at Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m.
Sun., March 11 LA @ Chi or Bos @ Pit 7:30 p.m.
Mon., March 12 Anaheim at Colorado 9 p.m.
Tues., March 13 Carolina at New York Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Wed., March 14 Colorado at Buffalo 7:30 p.m.
Sun., March 18 Pit @ Phi or Was @ Chi 7 p.m.
Mon., March 19 New Jersey at New York Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Tues., March 20 Phoenix at Dallas 8 p.m.
Wed., March 21 Detroit at New York Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Sun., March 25 Minnesota at Washington 5 p.m.
Nashville at Chicago 7:30 p.m.
Mon., March 26 Tampa Bay at Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
Tues., March 27 Tampa Bay at Boston 7:30 p.m.
Wed., March 28 Detroit at Columbus 7:30 p.m.

April
Sun., April 1 Bos @ NYR or Phi @ Pit 7:30 p.m.
Mon., April 2 Washington at Tampa Bay 7 p.m.
Tues., April 3 Pittsburgh at Boston 7:30 p.m.
Wed., April 4 Detroit at St. Louis 7:30 p.m.
Thurs., April 5 Columbus at Colorado 9 p.m.
Fri., April 6 Phoenix at St. Louis 7:30 p.m.
Sat., April 7 (Two Games, TBD) TBD

* NHL Premiere™ Games in Europe

We weren’t kidding when we said we’d be busier around here. Apart from all the games you’ll be able to see here on the NBC family of networks, the NHL Network will also have their fair share of games to show as well and they’ve got an extensive schedule as well.

The season isn’t too far away now and getting to look over what we’ll have in store for TV purposes should all keep us busy until training camp starts… Right?

Video: Frustrations boil over as Stars lose again

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The Dallas Stars just cannot get it together. And this afternoon in Buffalo, where the Stars dropped a 4-1 decision to the Sabres, captain Jamie Benn‘s frustrations boiled over.

As you can see in the video above, Benn snapped three sticks in total — one on the ice, two while on the bench.

It’s worth noting that Benn committed a bad giveaway on the Sabres’ winning goal in the first period. With the Stars on the penalty kill, Benn had a chance to clear the puck. Instead, he put it right on the stick of Jake McCabe, who beat Antti Niemi to make it 2-0 Buffalo.

With the loss, the Stars’ record fell to 18-19-8. And after 45 games, last year’s Central Division champs find themselves four points back of Los Angeles for the second wild-card spot in the West, with the Kings holding two games in hand.

Credit to the Sabres, who improved to 17-17-9 with today’s well-earned victory. But this one will be remembered for Benn’s very public display of frustration. The Stars get right back at it tomorrow in Manhattan against the Rangers.

Pre-game reading: On Willie O’Ree, who ‘broke so many barriers’ for black hockey players

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— Up top, enjoy Rick Jeanneret’s call after Tyler Ennis opened the scoring this afternoon in Buffalo. Ennis was making his first appearance for the Sabres since Nov. 7. He missed 30 games with a groin injury.

— Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. To honor it, Willie O’Ree will drop the puck in a ceremonial faceoff prior to this afternoon’s Kings-Lightning game in Los Angeles. O’Ree was the NHL’s first black player and has served as an inspiration for present-day players like Tampa Bay’s J.T. Brown. “He broke so many barriers, made it possible for me to play the game that I love. Anything I can do to keep growing the game, keep doing the things he did to help, that’s something I’m willing to do.” (Tampa Bay Times)

— The Detroit Red Wings are probably going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and that could turn them into sellers at the trade deadline. Might Thomas Vanek draw interest? The 32-year-old winger is a pending unrestricted free agent with a cap hit of $2.6 million. He’s also the Wings’ co-leading goal-scorer with 11 tallies in 32 games. (The Detroit News)

— Speaking of the trade deadline, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox has written a “Who’s Buying and Who’s Selling” post. Halfway through the season, only Colorado and Arizona are totally out of the race, but teams like the Wings, Devils, Sabres, Islanders and Canucks need to be realistic about their chances of making the playoffs. At the very least, a Plan B should be put in place now, because March 1 isn’t all that far away. (Sportsnet)

— Derek Boogaard’s father, Len, wants fighting banned from all levels of hockey. And he’s not just passing the buck — he fully accepts responsibility for allowing, or even encouraging, his late son to become an NHL enforcer. “You’re supposed to be looking after your kids. In hindsight it is always, ‘Well, maybe I should have done this, maybe I should have done that.’ When I was taking him to Saskatoon for boxing lessons at 15, it’s like, ‘What was I thinking?'” It’s a compelling read, even if you still think there’s a place for fighting in the game. (Globe and Mail)

— Edmonton used to have the best ice in the league. But that’s not the case anymore at their new downtown rink, Rogers Place. Milan Lucic gives the ice a 6.5 out of 10, which is at least better than the 3 he gave it back in October. “I don’t think there is a 10 out there, but I definitely do feel that they’re going to eventually get it to be an eight and a half or nine.” (Edmonton Sun)

Enjoy the games!

Waived at start of year, Watson’s become ‘a real force’ for Preds

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 12:  Austin Watson #51 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on January 12, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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Seven years ago, hopes were high for Austin Watson.

A big-bodied forward from the OHL, Watson was selected 18th overall by Nashville at the 2010 draft — ahead of the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Charlie Coyle, among others.

“We were really happy to get Austin. He’s certainly a Predator- type player, doing all the little things to help your team win,” GM David Poile said at the time, per the Peterborough Examiner. “He’s got leadership qualities, and he’s been compared to Ryan Kesler in Vancouver.

“If he’s anything close to that, we’ll have had a very good day at the draft.”

Needless to say, expectations were high.

Yet expectations couldn’t have been much lower at the start of this campaign when Watson, who’d only played 63 games for the Preds over four seasons, was placed on waivers after training camp.

He’d failed to establish himself at the big-league level and was off to AHL Milwaukee, where he’d already spent a good part of his professional life.

That, it seems, was the motivation Watson needed.

Since being recalled in late October, the 25-year-old has been impressive, scoring a career-high 11 points through just 39 games. He’s averaging over 12 minutes per game and has earned not just the trust of head coach Peter Laviolette, but praise as well.

“He’s been doing everything right,” Laviolette said, per the Preds website. “His physicality, his defensive play, his offensive play, he’s been a real force for our team.”

Watson’s been on a tear lately, with three goals and four points in his last four games. Poile said he’s starting to play like the power forward the Preds envisioned back in 2010, and Watson has certainly acquitted himself physically, sitting second among all Nashville forwards with 76 hits.

That’s key for a team that doesn’t boast a ton of physicality. With Watson and the newly-acquired Cody McLeod in the lineup, the Preds feel they’re a tougher team to play against — and they are playing some of their best hockey of the year at the moment, with five wins in their last eight.

Isles chase Rask with three goals on just 15 shots (Updated)

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 1: Goaltender Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins watches a replay during first period action against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on November 1, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 2-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Boston’s maddening inconsistency was on display once again Monday.

Fresh off a 6-3 win against the Flyers on Saturday, spirits were high. The B’s felt like their offense was finally starting to connect, and there was hope the club could string together victories for the first time this calendar year.

Then the opening 40 minutes of today’s game transpired.

After a nondescript first period, Boston came out flat in the second and were smacked by an Islanders team down the services of Andrew Ladd and Cal Clutterbuck. By the time the middle frame ended, Tuukka Rask had been beaten three times in just over five minutes — two of those goals courtesy Nikolai Kulemin — and was hooked at the intermission, with Zane McIntyre coming out to start the third.

The B’s did out-shoot the Isles 24-15 through two periods, but that hardly impressed the TD Garden faithful:

If the Bruins can’t turn things around in the third, they’ll head into a tough stretch on a rather sour note. Four of Boston’s next seven games are on the road — in Detroit, Tampa, Pittsburgh and Washington — and their home dates include tough matchups against the Blackhawks and Penguins.

Update: Well, that was ugly. Jason Chimera added a shorthanded marker in the third to make the final score Isles 4, Bruins 0.

“Whether it was fatigue or not, I don’t know,” head coach Claude Julien said postgame, per CSNNE. “But we were flat today. It’s very disappointing.”