Minnesota Wild v Pittsburgh Penguins

Renovation Watch: Running Wild

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Every now and then, PHT will glance at the teams who changed the most during the 2011 off-season in Renovation Watch.

A lot has changed since the first edition of Renovation Watch. For the most part, the dramatically altered teams have been smash successes, but there are a couple who have been let downs. Let’s get to it, then, in order of the best to worst records.

Minnesota sits atop the league

Record: 20-8-4 for 44 points

The Wild won their only game of the first weekend to start things off, but most of us didn’t expect the good times to roll like this. Minnesota currently leads the league with 44 points thanks to their suffocating defense, fantastic goaltending and timely offense. They’ve fought off injuries admirably, although losing Mikko Koivu looks to be their biggest test yet.

Flyers flex their muscles

Record: 20-7-3 for 43 points

The Wild have one more point, but considering the fact that Philly has two games in hand, some would argue that the Flyers are a bigger success. They lead the NHL with a staggering 110 goals, which averages out to 3.67 per game. Much like Minny, they face a serious challenge with Chris Pronger out the rest of the season (and maybe the playoffs?) and Claude Giroux in concussion limbo.

Florida flabbergasts us all

Record: 17-9-6 for 40 points

It’s likely that even the most fervent Panthers pom-pom wavers didn’t see this coming. The Rats are seven points ahead of the disappointing Washington Capitals for the Southeast Division lead. That’s not an insurmountable deficit, but the Panthers seem primed to break their playoff hex.

Sabres disappoint

Record: 16-12-3 for 35 points

Buffalo came storming out of the gate in Europe and sustained it a bit to begin, then hit a big brick wall. Now they’re up and down, although newcomers Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff haven’t delivered. Their scoring margin captures the mixed results: 86 goals for and 86 goals against.

Columbus collapses, then crawls

Record: 9-18-4 for 22 points

It’s strange to give the worst team in the league a little leeway, but considering how terribly things started, the Blue Jackets are at least saving face lately. A big reason why is Curtis Sanford, although Jeff Carter is gradually getting his game together. A month ago, you’d give Scott Howson an “F.” Now it’s more like a “D” with a “C-” hovering in the horizon. (Small victories.)

Florida: 17-9-6 for 40 points

VIDEO: Jamie Benn and David Backes fight right off opening faceoff

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Sunday’s game between the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars gave us an opportunity to check in on the relationship between Jamie Benn and David Backes, and it seems that they still do not like each other very much.

Their on-ice feud continued literally as soon as Sunday’s game started, when they dropped the gloves right off the opening faceoff, which you can see in the video up above. It was clear right from the very beginning that fight was going to happen given the way they were discussing things before the puck was even dropped.

These guys have been going at one another for years, dating back to Backes’ days with the St. Louis Blues, and their fight (it was mostly a lot of jersey pulling at the start) on Sunday is already the third time they have dropped the gloves with one another in their careers.

Not much went right for the Stars following the fight as quick goals from Brad Marchand and David Krejci gave the Bruins an early 2-0 lead.

 

WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Dallas Stars

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 20:  Patrick Sharp #10 of the Dallas Stars scores a goal against Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins in the first period at American Airlines Center on February 20, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins are starting to get on a little bit of a roll and they look to keep it going on Sunday afternoon when they visit their old friend Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars.

The game will be shown live on NBC with a 12:30 p.m. ET faceoff and also be available on our Live Stream.

It’s a Star Sunday with the focus falling on Seguin and David Pastrnak, while the game will also have Dave Strader calling the play-by-play action on NBC. Strader recently returned to the Stars’ broadcast booth as he continues to battle cancer.

Click Here for the Live Stream

Preview: Bruins look to stay hot against desperate Stars

 

Ryan Carter is back with Wild after signing one-year deal

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 29: Ryan Carter #18 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 29, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Ryan Carter’s comeback attempt with the Minnesota Wild is just about complete.

After skating with the team in practices this month and getting a tryout contract with their AHL team, the Wild announced on Sunday morning that Carter has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the team for the remainder of the season.

According to Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune, Carter contract carries a prorated salary of $525,000 if he plays in the NHL and $250,000 when he is with Iowa.

He had been recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. An unrestricted free agent, Carter really had no interest in signing with any other team outside of the Wild. He spent the past two seasons with the team, including 60 games during the 2015-16 season where he scored seven goals and added five assists while also playing a role on the team’s penalty killing unit.

Minnesota is currently the top team in the Western Conference with 84 points.

NHL On NBCSN: Blues look to slow down Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 24: Jori Lehtera #12 of the St. Louis Blues controls the puck between Artem Anisimov #15 (L) and Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 2-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The second game on the NBC Networks today features a Central Division rivalry when the St. Louis Blues pay a visit to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or on our Live Stream.

It will also be the second Star Sunday broadcast of the day, with this one featuring Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko and Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews.

From the minute he arrived in the NHL Tarasenko has been one of the league’s most electrifying players and is currently on pace for what would be his third consecutive season with at least 37 goals with an outside shot at his second consecutive 40-goal season.

Toews, meanwhile, is doing his part to erase a miserable first half of the season offensively by completely taking over for the Blackhawks in recent weeks. Entering Sunday’s game Toews is on a scoring surge that has seen him record 23 points in the past 15 games. That is more offense than he created in his first 37 games of the season.

As a team, the Blackhawks are simply crushing any opponent that gets in their way right now with wins in eight of their past nine games thanks to an offense that is scoring at least four goals every game during that stretch.

It’s a big game for both teams when it comes to the playoff picture.

For the Blues, winners of seven out of 10 under new coach Mike Yeo, they have a chance to put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the pack in Western Conference wild card race if they can pick up a win. They enter the game three points up on the Los Angeles Kings.

The Blackhawks are still trying to keep pace with the Minnesota Wild for the top spot in the Central Division, entering the day three points back.

Chicago will be without a pretty significant member of its defense on Sunday night when Niklas Hjalmarsson misses the game due to an upper body injury. He had to exit their game against Arizona on Thursday night in the first period. He is currently listed as day-to-day. With Hjalmarsson out Michal Rozsival will draw back in to the lineup after scoring his first goal of the season on Thursday.