Sean Avery, Sidney Crosby

Tonight on Versus: Crosby goes to Broadway to face streaking Rangers


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.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.