Jon Merrill

Tonight on NBCSN: Notre Dame hosts Michigan in top ten showdown

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In the college sports world, you won’t find two programs that draw your attention more than Michigan and Notre Dame and the same applies when it comes to college hockey.

Michigan’s legacy as one of the top programs led by a legendary coach in Red Berenson is well known through all levels of hockey. The Wolverines, ranked 10th by USCHO, take on the relative new kids on the dominating block in coach Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is ranked 7th in the nation and this coaching battle helps make tonight’s match-up (7:30 p.m. ET) the must-see game on the NCAA schedule.

Michigan heads into South Bend unbeaten in their last nine games (7-0-2) and have just gotten New Jersey Devils prospect Jon Merrill back from a team-imposed suspension. In four games the defenseman has four assists. That’ll do, kid.

Leading the way for the Wolverines is Coyotes prospect (and former Team USA World Junior gold medalist) junior Chris Brown, freshman and Stars prospect Alex Guptill, and senior Devils prospect David Wohlberg. Brown leads in points while Guptill and Wohlberg are tops in goals scored and now they all play on a line together.

The man to watch in goal for Michigan is Shawn Hunwick, brother of Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick. Hunwick led Michigan to the National Championship game last year before falling in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth and he’s been rock solid again this season.

Notre Dame is looking to right the ship after being swept last weekend by Western Michigan. Having to deal with the Wolverines won’t be easy, but they have the weapons to counterattack.

source:  The Fighting Irish are led by Blue Jackets third round pick and sophomore T.J. Tynan with 31 points. Tynan’s performance this season should have Columbus heads turning as he’s been huge all year long. He along with Isles prospect, and fellow sophomore, Anders Lee have been Notre Dame’s best players this season as Lee leads the team with 14 goals. Having Red Wings prospect Riley Sheahan and undrafted senior Billy Maday give the Irish a fearsome foursome to watch offensively. Unfortunately the Irish will be without Sheahan tonight as he’s serving a suspension for delivering a head shot last weekend.

In goal is where things get a bit nervous for Notre Dame as starter Mike Johnson has had his ups and downs. When he’s good, he’s very good, but when he’s off the Irish offense has to step up big to help out. Considering that Johnson faces just barely over 20 shots per game, staying sharp behind a tough Irish defense can be difficult.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.