Phil Kessel

Three (News) Stars of the Week: Kessel, Blue Jackets and Luongo

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“Three (News) Stars of the Week” will run every Friday. It’s our way of acknowledging the week’s big NHL stories that gave us lots of page views, thereby increasing PHT’s attractiveness to advertisers.

source: Getty Images

Third star: Phil Kessel is playing well

Toronto’s top sniper leads the NHL with seven goals and 12 points. Not coincidentally, the Maple Leafs are 4-1-1, second in the Northeast division – a good start for a team that hasn’t experienced the playoffs since 2004. Kessel was even a big story in Toronto’s 6-2 loss Thursday night in Boston. The TD Garden faithful chanted “Thank you, Kessel” following a goal by the Bruins’ Tyler Seguin, one of the players the Bruins drafted with the three picks Toronto sent Boston for Kessel. Predictably, this caused everyone to look back on the trade and debate it all over again.

source: AP

Second star: Columbus is bad

The Blue Jackets are the NHL’s biggest early disaster. Still winless after six games following a summer that saw the club jack up the payroll by millions and millions of dollars, the team president has already been forced to give a public vote of confidence to the general manager and the coach, and the general manager has been forced to give a public vote of confidence to the coach. The fans, meanwhile, have confidence in nobody. Now veteran forward Vinny Prospal is angry at how the young Blue Jackets are playing, and things don’t get any easier tonight when Columbus takes on the undefeated Red Wings in Detroit.

source: Getty Images

First star: Roberto Luongo is a polarizing figure among Canucks fans

Tuesday night at Rogers Arena, Vancouver’s all-star goalie surrendered four third-period goals in a 4-0 loss to the Rangers. The game featured a spectacular 40-save shutout by Henrik Lundqvist at the other end of ice, a contrast in goaltending success that didn’t sit well with a handful of Canucks fans who jeered and Bronx cheered Luongo. The fans’ discontent overshadowed the actual game and the next day Luongo was asked by the rabid media how it felt to be booed on home ice. He replied that it didn’t bother him because he was used to it by now. The Canucks, it should be noted, are one of the best teams in the NHL and came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup in June. Starting goalies don’t typically get used to being booed on teams like that. Then again, all-star goalies don’t typically have as many disastrous playoff games as Luongo has had with the Canucks. Then again, hockey is a team game. Then again, when you’re being paid like Luongo’s being paid, you have to bail your team out once in a while. Then again…you get the point.

VIDEO: Penguins honor Sidney Crosby for recording 1,000th career point

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This past week Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby became the 86th player in league history to record 1,000 points in the NHL when he assisted on a Chris Kunitz goal in a win over the Winnipeg Jets. He is the 11th youngest player to reach the milestone, doing so at age 29 and making an already massive accomplishment that much more impressive when you consider the low scoring era he has played in.

Before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins’ first home game since Crosby reached the 1,000 point mark on Thursday night, the team honored with a pre-game ceremony that included a golden stick and a plaque made out of the roof of the old Civic Arena, the building in Pittsburgh that Crosby played in for the first five years of his career.

Check out the ceremony in the video above.

This season Crosby is second in the NHL scoring race with 64 points in 51 games, trailing Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid by three points (McDavid has played in eight more games). Crosby also leads the league with 31 goals entering play on Sunday.

More: Sidney Crosby records 1,000th career point

Rangers keep rolling with win over Capitals

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The New York Rangers are on some kind of a roll right now.

They were winners for the seventh time in their past eight games thanks to their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon and have now won 10 of their past 13 games to put a pretty massive gap between them and the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (they are now 13 points ahead of Boston).

Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello provided the offense on Sunday afternoon, with Zuccarello’s third period goal — his 12th of the season — going in the books as the game-winner.

It was also another strong day for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he continues to regain his form after a tough first half of the season. With Sunday’s 29-save performance he has now won nine of his past 12 starts since Jan. 18. During that stretch he has allowed two goals or less in eight of those starts and has an overall save percentage of .936 during that stretch.

The crazy thing about this run for the Rangers is that for as good as they have been, and for as many wins as they have stacked up in recent weeks, they are still in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and relegated to a wild card spot because the three teams ahead of them (Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus) keep collecting points. The Rangers are still two points back of the Blue Jackets (and if Columbus wins on Sunday night, it would be back to four points).

Just for some perspective on that, if they were in the Atlantic Division they would have a seven point lead. They would have a one-point lead over San Jose. They would be in second place in the Central.

For the Capitals, Sunday’s game was their second loss in a row coming out of their bye week after they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Detroit on Saturday.

It is the first time the Capitals have dropped consecutive games since Dec. 27 and 29. It is only the sixth time it has happened all season. They have lost more than two games in a row just once this season and never more than three in a row.

Hand injury sidelines Senators’ Bobby Ryan indefinitely

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 10:  Bobby Ryan #6 of the Ottawa Senators waits for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on October 10, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Senators defeated the Leafs 5-4 in an overtime shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators have a chance to move into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division on Sunday evening if they can beat the Winnipeg Jets.

If they are going to do it they will have to do so without the services of forward Bobby Ryan.

The team announced on Sunday afternoon, less than three hours before puck drop against the Jets, that Ryan is going to be sidelined indefinitely due to a hand injury pending further evaluation.

The team says Ryan was injured in the third period of Saturday’s win over Toronto when he was hit in the hand by a puck.

In 50 games this season Ryan has 12 goals and 12 assists. He has been going through a bit of a scoring slump in recent weeks with only three points in his past eight games. He has also registered just 14 shots on goal during that stretch, including a pair of games where he failed to register even one.

The Senators enter play on Saturday just two points behind Montreal in the Atlantic Division. A win over the Jets would move them into a tie and, for the time being, give them the tiebreaker edge due to having played in fewer games.

WATCH LIVE: Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins

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The NBC Networks quadruple header of NHL action on Hockey Day In America continues on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh when the Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings.

The Penguins enter the game coming off of an overtime loss in Columbus on Friday night and continue to play through some injuries with Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz all sidelined at the moment.

They remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division and have not lost a game in regulation since Jan. 26. They have gone 6-0-3 since, collecting 15 of 19 points in the standings.

On Sunday afternoon they get a Red Wings team that was a 3-2 shootout winner over the Washington Capitals on Saturday. The Red Wings beat the Penguins in Detroit more than a month ago.

Game time is 3 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBC or on our Live Stream.

Click here for the Live Stream

Hockey Day In American Quadruple Header