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.

‘It’s all my fault’: Mike Babcock takes responsibility for penalty box blunder

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Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock is often regarded as the best coach in hockey, but even the best make silly mistakes sometimes.

During last night’s game between the Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, Babcock’s error forced his team to play an extra 1:54 shorthanded.

Early in the third frame, Roman Polak was given a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for boarding Oliver Bjorkstrand (Polak is scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday morning). Instead of sending someone to the penalty box to serve the major infraction, Babcock decided to leave the box empty.

Coaches aren’t obliged to send someone to the sin bin right away. During any stoppage in play before the end of penalty, they can send someone to finish serving the infraction. Unfortunately for the Leafs, Babcock never did.

So when Polak’s five-minute major expired, the Leafs couldn’t simply throw someone onto the ice from their bench, they had to wait for a stoppage in play.

Toronto players tried to ice the puck a couple of times, but that didn’t work. So finally, Brian Boyle flipped the puck into the Columbus bench to get a whistle, but not before his team spent nearly seven straight minutes shorthanded.

They ended up winning 5-2, but they held a slim 3-2 lead at the time.

Luckily for Babcock, his penalty killers did an incredible job, as they only allowed one shot on goal throughout the kill.

After the game, he took full responsibility for what happened.

“I’m doing better now, but can you imagine?,” said the Leafs bench boss, per the Toronto Sun. “It’s all my fault, me, the two assistants on the bench, two in the video room and 15 players on the bench. And we can’t get that done right? Often it happens and you just fire a guy in the box. It could have cost you. It will never happen in my lifetime again, I will never wait to put a guy in. But our penalty kill was really good.”

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).