Saku Koivu, Shane O'Brien

Tonight on NBCSN: Ducks look to play postseason spoiler for Avalanche

With the number of games running out in the regular season, you might say that tonight’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche in Denver (9:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN) is a must-win game for the Ducks.

The Ducks sit 12th in the Western Conference, eight points behind a trio of teams all tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. While the odds are stacked against the Ducks for making the postseason with 13 games left to play, don’t think that will keep the Ducks from going for it as one of those three teams in eighth is the Avalanche.

If the Ducks are going to make the impossible happen, seeing their host of superstars step up and play like men possessed would be a good way to do it. Corey Perry has been having another huge second half and Teemu Selanne continues to be as steady as ever. Getting more from Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan would go a long way to helping out as the Ducks offense has slumped lately getting shutout twice in their last six games. With Saku Koivu playing in his 1,000th career game tonight, he’s got that much more to play for himself.

Of course, coach Bruce Boudreau is seeing the stress of trying to rally his team build up on him as well as he takes it out on officials. What he could use is seeing his blue line play a little tighter and Jonas Hiller playing the part of Superman.

Doing all of that against a feisty Avalanche team will be hard though. The Avs have been reinvigorated since acquiring Steve Downie going 7-3-0 since he’s arrived from Tampa Bay. Whether that’s coincidental or a sign that the Avs needed more sandpaper to their game is up to you to decide, but Colorado has played with a lot more conviction lately.

One guy who has sharpened his game in that time is goalie Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov was treading water playing average in goal, but he’s had two shutouts and allowed one goal three times in the last ten games, including a 4-1 win over the Ducks just two weeks ago. Varlamov has stepped up big when the team has needed him most and you can’t ask for more than that.

The Avs are going to have to do without Matt Duchene for the next few weeks as he’s out with an ankle injury. Fortunately for them, Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog have been their dynamic forward duo. Throw Paul Stastny into the mix and the Avs have guys that can score. They’ll need to bring it big against a Ducks team that’s desperate and dangerous.

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.