Minnesota Wild v Los Angeles Kings

Tonight on NBCSN: A doubleheader with lots of Western playoff implications

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With the trade deadline past us now, it’s time to get focused in on the hunt for the playoffs. While the race for the eighth spot in the East is a bit manic, the hunt in the West is just as tight and tonight’s doubleheader will highlight that madness.

First up at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, the Los Angeles Kings travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild. The Kings are two points out of eighth and are coming off yet another offensively tough loss, this time at the hands of the Nashville Predators 2-1. The Kings made their push for the postseason by acquiring Jeff Carter from Columbus and after seeing Dustin Brown blow up for a hat trick and four points in Carter’s first game, the snap judgment was that the deal was a success. The Kings hope to get a few more goals than the one they had last night this time around.

The Wild, meanwhile, are still hanging around in the West. After a rocket rise to the top to start the season, Minnesota has tumbled back to earth and sit five points out of the playoffs. With Mikko Koivu out of action, the Wild are in need of an offensive leader. Dany Heatley has helped provide that spark but for the Wild to make a run at the playoffs, it’ll take a village to do it. Well, a village with tougher defense and stingy goaltending anyhow.

source: Getty ImagesThe late game out west features the struggling San Jose Sharks hosting the Philadelphia Flyers (10:30 p.m. ET) and while the Sharks tried to tempt the Flyers into making a deal yesterday, they’ll do their part to keep giving Ilya Bryzgalov nightmares.

After the deal the Sharks made yesterday with Colorado, they’re trying to right the ship in a way that gives them more depth. With 71 points, the Sharks are seventh in the West. Unfortunately for them, the race in the Pacific Division is too tight to breathe easy. They’re just a point ahead of Dallas, three ahead of the Kings, and seven up on the Ducks all while trailing the Coyotes by two points. Throw in Colorado, Calgary, and Minnesota and you’ve got a fun jumble for the postseason. The Sharks will need their stars in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to step things up.

The Flyers, meanwhile, are sitting the prettiest of all the teams playing tonight but they’re not without issues themselves. They continue to get iffy goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov and despite his good humor in handling things (sometimes anyhow), jokes and one-liners aren’t going to stop pucks. Despite the great play from the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell, and Claude Giroux it comes down to keeping the opponent off the board. The Flyers hope this isn’t a humongous big task for Bryzgalov to conquer.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.