Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara

Five NHL on NBC weekends we’re already geeked out for this season


After getting plenty of time to look over the national TV schedule and taking a look at what we’ll have on future weekends on NBC, there’s a few days that stand out for us even before training camp has started. With the host of featured events that will be going on throughout the season, that helps make things easier to narrow down.

That said, we’re going to keep ourselves limited to just five games that we’ve got our interest piqued by the most.

1. November 25 – Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings, 1 p.m. ET

It’s the first of what is going to be an annual game on Black Friday. You spent the morning chasing bargains at the stores the day after Thanksgiving and you’ve still got a fantastic turkey hangover. What’s better to relax after a morning of fighting the crowds than settling in to watch the first NBC game of the year? Making it all the better is that it’s an original six match-up featuring the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at home against the Detroit Red Wings.

You’ll get anything and everything you could ask for in one game. Great goaltending? Sure, Tim Thomas is the man in Boston. Tremendous offensive firepower? Yup, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will be hoping to beat Thomas. Added to that, you’ll see two of the league’s best defensemen in Boston’s Zdeno Chara and 41 year-old future Hall Of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom for Detroit. Since you’ll be hurting for great sports to watch on Black Friday, getting this game as your afternoon headliner makes the day even better.

2. January 2 – Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers, 1 p.m. ET

Right now it’s inauspiciously listed as a regular afternoon game in Philadelphia, but at some point in the near future it’ll be announced as the 2012 Winter Classic from Citizens Bank Park in Philly. If you haven’t been thrilled by past Winter Classic games… What’s the matter with you? This time around, the Flyers get to host the event after playing in the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston. They’ll get to show off this summer’s pickups in Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, and Brayden Schenn to go along with Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux.

Having the Rangers make their first appearance in the Winter Classic means getting this summer’s top free agent pickup Brad Richards into the mix. Having him paired up with Marian Gaborik as well as Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky with superstar goalie Henrik Lundqvist in goal the Rangers have plenty of star power of their own. Perhaps the only other thing we’re anticipating more than the Winter Classic between these two rivals themselves is HBO’s 24/7 featuring both teams. Bryzgalov and his wild statements in Philly compared to Sean Avery and John Tortorella in New York? Sold.

3. January 22 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals or Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins, 3 p.m. ET

Which side of drama would you like with your mid-January afternoon tilt? When last we saw the Penguins and Capitals on NBC in January, it was the 2011 Winter Classic from Heinz Field. That’s also the last time we saw Sidney Crosby on the main stage in a nationally televised game. We can only hope that we’ll get to highlight a Crosby-Alex Ovechkin matchup in this one.

If that’s not the sort of story line you’re interested in, how about a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference playoff sweep between the Flyers and Bruins? Two seasons ago the Flyers came back from down 3-0 in their series with the Bruins to win in seven games. The Bruins would use that crushing defeat to motivate them to humiliate the Flyers in a 4-0 sweep last season on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. With the Flyers being differently loaded and the Bruins still running a bruising team with Tim Thomas in goal out there, it’s easy to say it’ll be a rough and tumble game.

4. February 19 – Hockey Day In America

Hockey Day In America is once again going to be a huge day. With a broadcast doubleheader featuring three regional games to kick off the afternoon (San Jose-Detroit, Pittsburgh-Buffalo, St. Louis-Chicago) followed up by a national broadcast featuring the Bruins going to Minnesota to take on Dany Heatley and the Wild it’ll make for a huge day of events.

While the Wild and Bruins get the main game that afternoon, seeing new rivalries like Sharks-Wings and Penguins-Sabres sharing the day along with an old school rivalry like Blues-Blackhawks gives us the kind of warm fuzzies you need on a mid-February day. With that much hockey to be watched in a day there’s no way you can lose.

5. March 18 – Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks vs. Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET

With this day being a flex schedule, there’s two potential games to make it to NBC that afternoon and either way, we’re going to wind up winners. Either we’ll be showing off Jaromir Jagr suiting up in Flyers orange at home against his first franchise and (hopefully) Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in a battle of Eastern super powers or we’ll see the new and likely improved Washington Capitals with Tomas Vokoun joining Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and the tougher Blackhawks.

While the Pens-Flyers game is sure to be oozing with drama as the teams hate each other and now have offseason heat thanks to Jagr and Maxime Talbot winding up in Philly, Caps-Hawks has enough talent out on the ice to make it look like the second All-Star Game of the year.

Making the choices easier for these two games is the fact that whichever game doesn’t end up on NBC that afternoon winds up on NBC Sports Network (currently Versus) later that night thanks to the flex scheduling arrangement.

Letang had a ‘good day’ at practice, Penguins hoping he can return soon

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 09: Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joonas Donskoi #27 of the San Jose Sharks battle for the puck during the third period in Game Five of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on June 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Yesterday, they got Sidney Crosby back.

Soon, the Pittsburgh Penguins should have another key player back in the lineup. Kris Letang, their top defenseman, participated in full-contact practice today, taking the same step Crosby took two days ago.

“He had a good day on the ice today, we’ll see where it goes from there,” head coach Mike Sullivan said of Letang, who’s missed three games with an upper-body injury. “We’re encouraged with his progress. We’re hoping to get him back soon.”

The Penguins host the Islanders tomorrow night. Don’t be surprised if Letang plays. He skated with Ian Cole at this morning’s practice.

If Letang isn’t ready to go against the Isles, his next opportunity to return will be Saturday in Philadelphia.

Goalie nods: After Subban’s rough outing, B’s turn to McIntyre

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Zane McIntyre #50 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the second period at TD Garden on September 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Crazy start to the year in Boston.

On Wednesday night, the B’s will start their fourth different goalie of the season — a season that’s just six games old, remember — as Zane McIntyre gets the nod at MSG against the Rangers.

McIntyre made his NHL debut in last night’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota, coming on in relief of Malcolm Subban, who was making his second-ever start. Subban allowed three goals on 16 shots before getting hooked midway through the second period, and McIntyre made 15 saves on 17 shots to close things out.

Needless to say, these are tough times in Boston’s crease.

The club’s No. 1 netminder, Tuukka Rask, is still sidelined with injury (though head coach Claude Julien said Rask may be available for Saturday’s game against Detroit). Anton Khudobin, the club’s No. 2, is out three weeks with an upper-body ailment.

Unsurprisingly, the Bruins have struggled with all the flip-flopping in goal. They’ve allowed nine goals over their last two games — both losses — and that came after Rask stopped 62 of 64 shots in back-to-back wins over the Jets and Devils.

For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist gets the start in goal.


— Battle of the Backups in Brooklyn, as Al Montoya and the Canadiens take on Thomas Greiss and the Isles.

Cam Talbot, fresh off a shutout win over Winnipeg in the Heritage Classic, goes for the Oilers. Braden Holtby is expected to play for Washington.

— Some uncertainty in Anaheim: John Gibson, who came on in relief for the injured Jonathan Bernier in last night’s OT loss to San Jose, would (presumably) be the guy tonight against Nashville. That said, Gibson has played quite a bit lately — three games in the last six nights — and the club did recall Dustin Tokarski from AHL San Diego today. Tokarski has a fair bit of NHL experience, with 33 regular season and five playoff games on his resume.

No word yet on a Preds starter.

Alain Vigneault got an interesting call from Patrick Roy this past summer

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29:  Nick Holden #22 of the New York Rangers in action against the New Jersey Devils  during their pre season game at Madison Square Garden on September 29, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Patrick Roy quit the Colorado Avalanche due to “philosophical differences” with GM Joe Sakic. That much we know for sure.

And while those differences were never explained in full detail, it sure sounds like one of them — and let’s face it, there were probably a bunch of them — was the assessment of defenseman Nick Holden.

To refresh your memory, Sakic traded Holden to the Rangers in June, and all the Avs got in return was a fourth-round draft pick in 2017.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault remembers the trade well.

“It was funny, we were coming back from (the draft in) Buffalo, I got a call as I got off the plane in Ottawa from Patrick Roy saying to me, ‘You just got one of my better defensemen,'” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“And I don’t know why Pat called me out of the blue.”

Yeah, funny.

For the record, we’re not suggesting that the Holden trade tore the Colorado Avalanche apart. At the end of the day, it was a minor trade. But it may have been illustrative of the philosophical differences between Roy and Sakic. The former was clearly a Holden fan. The latter thought he was worth a fourth-round pick.

According to Vigneault, Holden has been a good early fit with the Rangers (4-2-0). The 29-year-old, whose cap hit is just $1.65 million, has logged over 20 minutes a game while skating mostly on the top pairing with Ryan McDonagh, who’s been excellent to start the season.

It remains to be seen if Holden and McDonagh, both left shots, will remain together all year. McDonagh spent most of last year with right-shooting Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein, but those two are currently paired with Brady Skjei and Marc Staal, respectively. The healthy scratches last game were both rights shots, Adam Clendening and Dylan McIlrath, the latter of whom is reportedly on the trading block.

So a lot could still change with this Rangers defense, which came into the season under a powerful microscope. The early returns have been encouraging, though. (Or, at the very least, not as poor as many had expected.)

Meanwhile, the Avs’ back end remains a work in progress. Sakic said the Holden trade would open up opportunities for youngsters Nikita ZadorovChris Bigras, and Duncan Siemens; however, the latter two didn’t make the team out of camp and Zadorov has averaged just 16:25 of ice time so far.

In Colorado’s first five games, new coach Jared Bednar has leaned heavily on Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Francois Beauchemin, with support from Zadorov, Eric Gelinas and free-agent additions Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch.

Bernier out, Ducks recall Tokarski as rash of goalie injuries continues

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender Jonathan Bernier #1 of the Anaheim Ducks during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

One of the prominent storylines early in this NHL campaign — the health, or lack thereof, of various netminders — has played out again, this time in Anaheim.

Last night, backup Jonathan Bernier exited just his second start of the year with an upper-body injury, forcing John Gibson to come on in relief for an eventual 2-1 OT loss to the Sharks.

Today, the Ducks announced Bernier is day-to-day with his ailment, and recalled Dustin Tokarski from AHL San Diego.

Bernier had been solid for the Ducks in limited action this year, stopping 52 of 56 shots over his two appearances for a .929 save percentage. Tokarski has been less successful with the Gulls, allowing seven goals over two appearances (both wins, mind you) for a .885 save percentage.

The bigger story, obviously, is Bernier joining a laundry list of injured netminders.

A quick rundown:

— Arizona is without Mike Smith
— L.A. is without Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff
— Boston is without Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin
— Buffalo is without Robin Lehner (illness)

The Ducks are back in action tonight, hosting Nashville, and it’s likely they’ll go with Gibson again, rather than throw Tokarski right into action fresh off a recall.