Mike Rupp, Jerome Samson

Tonight on NBCSN: Rangers look to roll on against Hurricanes

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The New York Rangers avoided a disastrous four-game losing streak on Sunday by beating their rival Islanders in overtime. Now they’ll look to put a stop on the Hurricanes tonight (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and take charge of the Eastern Conference with the Penguins roaring up behind them in the standings.

New York has had their share of adversity lately with injuries to captain Ryan Callahan, top-four defenseman Michael Del Zotto, and Brandon Dubinsky as well. While Dubinsky came back against the Isles, Callahan and Del Zotto both missed that game and did not participate in practice yesterday either.

Making up the difference for them was the return of a successful power play against the Isles. The Rangers scored three power play goals with two coming from Brad Richards and one from Marian Gaborik. The secret spark plug there? Mats Zuccarello whose presence on the man advantage has helped spice up the Rangers attack. Question now is whether it was a one-game flash in the pan or an actual solution to a glaring problem for New York.

The Rangers can always bank on Henrik Lundqvist being his usual fantastic self, but not having a power play that gets the job done is something that would present major issues for New York on their quest for the Stanley Cup.

source: Getty ImagesThe Hurricanes, meanwhile, are all but out of the playoffs (Dave Lozo of NHL.com points out they’ll need to finish 11-1-1 to get to 90 points) and it’s up to them to try and ruin other team’s plans for the playoffs. Recently they’ve been throwing wrenches in the plans of the Predators, Capitals, and Lightning and now they’d like to hurt New York’s plans of finishing on top of the Eastern Conference.

While Eric Staal has played well in the second half, youngster Jeff Skinner admitted that coming back from a concussion was trickier than he thought it’d be. In the 23 games he’s played since returning he has just seven goals and seven assists. Despite that lack of production and missing 16 games, he’s second on the team in scoring behind Staal. I think we’ve figured out what’s wrong with the Canes this season.

The guy who the lack of offense has been hardest on is goalie Cam Ward. Ward has faced a ton of rubber this season and while his save percentage isn’t wholly terrible, his goals against average is hurting at 2.80. He’ll need to buckle up for the Rangers attack as they’re feeling good after busting out on Sunday. This season against New York, Ward is 0-3-0 while allowing 13 goals in those three starts.

What to watch: Young defensemen are all the rage here. New York’s Ryan McDonagh (22) and Carolina’s Justin Faulk (19 – pictured) are a pair of names you’re going to hear a lot of in the years to come. McDonagh is quickly becoming one of the better straight up defenders on the Rangers while Faulk is shouldering the load as perhaps Carolina’s best blue liner.

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes
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Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury