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.
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks
A statement from Raffi Torres:
“I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”
A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:
“The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”
Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.