Happy Hockey Day in America! Be sure to check out PHT throughout the day as we bring you features and previews of all the events, including a nine-hour NHL block of programming across NBC and NBC Sports Network.
When the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks meet Sunday afternoon at the United Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), they’ll be doing so fresh off blowout victories — the Blackhawks routed the Blue Jackets 6-1 on Saturday while the Blues ripped the Wild, 4-0.
As such, the stage is set for a heated Central Division affair.
While St. Louis (79 points) has a healthy lead over Chicago (69), the Blackhawks come in with the upper hand having beaten the Blues last time out — a 5-2 win at the Scottrade Center, one of only three regulation losses the Blues have suffered at home this year. There’s also the not-so-tiny fact Chicago has rebounded from a season-high nine-game winless streak with back-to-back victories over the Rangers and Blue Jackets by a combined 10-3 score.
“We worked hard, stayed patient and we knew the chances were going to come,” ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews told CSN Chicago. “Consistently over 60 minutes we got those chances and those goals.”
As for the Blues, they put together a comprehensive effort in a shutout win over Minnesota, holding the Wild to just 13 shots while getting goals from unlikely sources (including Ryan Reaves and Barret Jackman, who hadn’t scored in 150 straight games.) The win was the Blues’ sixth in seven games, meaning they’ve now gained points in a franchise-record 21 straight home games.
— This game will mark St. Louis’ first national television appearance since Jan. 13, 2007.
— Toews had a goal and two assists against CBJ on Saturday. He now sits tied for fifth in league goalscoring (29) and tied for ninth in points (57).
— Jackman wasn’t the only Blue to break a long scoring slump on Saturday. Reaves scored for the first time since Jan. 13, 2011.
Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.
Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.
On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.
As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.
Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages
For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.
Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.
He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.
(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)
Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.
The Boston Bruins are back from their bye week, looking to continue a three-game winning streak since Bruce Cassidy took over as head coach from Claude Julien.
The Bruins can extend their streak Sunday, when they visit the San Jose Sharks (8:30 p.m. ET). You can check out the game on NBCSN or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
The NHL’s bye week experiment is still a work in progress
Pre-game reading: Are the Bruins and Avalanche on verge of trade?
Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions
Jacob Trouba could be getting a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit to the head of Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone.
The incident occurred during the third period of Sunday’s game, as Stone was passing the puck after he entered the zone. Trouba stepped up and delivered a high hit, resulting in only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.
Stone, who dealt with a concussion that was reported in September, remained down on the ice before eventually going to the dressing room.
As you can see from the video, Senators coach Guy Boucher was furious officials on the ice decided this was only worth a minor for Trouba.