Sidney Crosby’s return to action has been pretty impressive. Understatement of the day, we know, but with eight points in his first four games he’s gotten right back into the saddle of being the best scorers in the league. The spark he’s brought to guys like Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, and Jordan Staal has been noticeable as well.
The Penguins have cruised along but now they’ll get perhaps their biggest test since Crosby’s return tonight in their divisional rivals the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m. ET). The Rangers have won 9 of their last 11 games including two in a row. Keying the Rangers attack is offseason acquisition Brad Richards. Richards has 16 points in 20 games this season and is paying off immediate dividends for the Blueshirts. Marian Gaborik and his 10 goals are doing their part as well to give New York a useful offense.
Where this game could be decided depends on how Dan Girardi can do in containing Crosby. Girardi has been earning the hardest minutes in New York and he’s consistently being lined up against the opponents’ best players. If Girardi wants to help improve his write-in candidacy for the All-Star Game, holding Crosby in check would go a long way towards that.
Of course, scoring might be at a premium as it is with Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury expected to go head-to-head in goal. Lundqvist is again proving why he’s the best goalie to hit New York since Mike Richter while Fleury is showing that all the superstars in Pittsburgh aren’t just big scoring forwards.
If there’s one side story to keep an eye on it’s how the Pens handle the tenacity of the Rangers’ forecheck led by pesky Sean Avery. Avery since coming back to New York has reveled in his role as a pressure checking forward and eliminating a lot of the silly antics. The feisty Penguins should provide him with enough sandpaper to potentially spark fury through the game.
The L.A. Kings have reportedly acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That is according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie and TSN on Sunday.
The news comes one day after Jonathan Quick returned to the Kings crease after a 59-game absence due to a groin injury and was solid in a winning effort versus the Anaheim Ducks.
The Kings are three points out of the final wild card spot in the West.
More to come.
Connor McDavid once again had that blazing speed of his on display. The latest victims? The Nashville Predators on Sunday.
The sophomore star scored his 21st goal of the season and league-leading 70th point thanks to a beautiful individual effort, putting his Oilers back into a tie game at the time.
McDavid picked up the puck just outside his blue line, accelerated to beat Roman Josi in the neutral zone, beat Ryan Ellis with a move and immediately snapped his shot home for the goal.
There was good news and bad news for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, as the club deals with an outbreak of the mumps.
First, the bad news: Head coach Willie Desjardins confirmed that forward Anton Rodin, defenseman Ben Hutton and trainer Brian Hamilton are now experiencing symptoms of the mumps.
Initially, five players — Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund — had been affected.
The good news? Stecher, who had the first confirmed case of the mumps, was back on the ice Sunday for an optional practice, per the Canucks.
The Canucks, nine points out of a playoff spot in the West, host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
The following day is the trade deadline, and the Canucks could be busy, with at least three players — Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller — all mentioned as possible targets for other teams.
Speaking to TSN 1040 radio on Friday, GM Jim Benning didn’t believe the mumps outbreak would impact his plans leading up to the deadline.
Huge game in the Atlantic Division on Sunday night when the Florida Panthers host the Ottawa Senators in a classic four-point game.
The Senators enter the night tied with Boston for second place in the division with 70 points and four points ahead of the Panthers. Florida will be turning back to James Reimer for the start as he gets the call for the third time in the past four games as Roberto Luongo takes a back seat for the moment.
On Sunday, Luongo told George Richards of the Miami Herald that is the way it should be at the moment.
“Right now I don’t deserve to be playing,” Luongo told Richards. “That’s the bottom line. For me, everything is about the team and us winning games. James Reimer gives us a better chance to win every night than I am. Until I figure my [game] out this is the way it should go I think.”
Luongo has surrendered at least three goals in eight of his past 10 appearances, while Reimer is carrying a .927 save percentage in the month of February.
The Senators will go with Craig Anderson on Sunday night.
Elsewhere on Sunday…
— In the early games it was Tuukka Rask vs. Kari Lehtonen in the Boston Bruins-Dallas Stars, while Brian Elliott went against Eddie Lack in the Calgary Flames vs. Carolina Hurricanes game.
— Cam Talbot makes his league-leading 56th start of the season for the Edmonton Oilers when they take on the Nashville Predators. No word yet from the Predators on their starter.
— Big game in the Metropolitan Division when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the New York Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky goes against Henrik Lundqvist in one heck of a goaltending matchup.
— With Corey Crawford under the weather Scott Darling will start for the Chicago Blackhawks when they host the St. Louis Blues on NBCSN. Jake Allen will go start the Blues.
— Louis Domingue will start for the Arizona Coyotes when they host the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starting goalie, but the team did call up Linus Ullmark from the AHL before the game.