Tonight on NBCSN: Doubleheader action with Rangers-Devils and Sharks-Ducks

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You can’t ask for more when it comes to the excitement of playoff season and there’s a pair of games with postseason jockeying in mind tonight on NBCSN.

New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET)

The Rangers are in a bit of a funk and while they’ve finally got their lineup back in order after a few injury hiccups, they’re in need of some wins. Meanwhile, the Devils are looking to get into the hunt with the Penguins and Flyers for the fourth and fifth seeds.

The Rangers have dropped five of their last seven and sit just one point ahead of Pittsburgh. They’ve taken two tough losses in a row at the hands of the Pens and Avalanche but with Henrik Lundqvist back from a bout with the flu and Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto feeling healthy again, it should only be a matter of time before they’re all back into form. New York could stand to see a bit more out of Brad Richards as it’s been Marian Gaborik who’s done most of the offensive heavy lifting for them of late.

New Jersey, meanwhile, is seeing Martin Brodeur look more like the goalie we’ve been accustomed to seeing over the years. While he was lit up by the Penguins on Saturday in a 5-2 loss, he was New Jersey’s best player. That’s saying a lot considering how great Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have been this season but even Brodeur is giving Kovalchuk tips on how to score in the shootout. Opposite of the Rangers, New Jersey has won five of their last seven games and sit five points behind the Flyers for fifth. Finishing sixth wouldn’t be so bad seeing how you get to face the Southeast Division champion. Maybe the Devils want to cool it on that whole “winning” thing.

source: Getty ImagesSan Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET)

The Sharks are in a Mexican standoff of sorts with Los Angeles, Calgary, Dallas, Colorado and Phoenix for the final two spots in the Western Conference and getting hot at any time now means taking control of a playoff spot. As it is, San Jose is tied in ninth with the Kings at 82 points, one back of Pacific leading Dallas as well as Colorado and Phoenix who sit in seventh and eighth.

Perhaps the Sharks are rounding into form. Martin Havlat is back healthy and he got his goal scoring touch back against the Red Wings potting two goals including the overtime winner. With the amount of talent the Sharks have, there’s no reason for them to miss out on the playoffs.

The Ducks, meanwhile, are virtually toast in the playoff race but they would enjoy playing the spoiler for everyone. If Bruce Boudreau can keep his temper down when it comes to officiating, having their top players run roughshod on opponents can make anyone’s life hell. From Teemu Selanne to Bobby Ryan to Ryan Getzlaf to Corey Perry, that’s a lot of high-end talent to help make everyone else miserable. The Sharks are hoping they can accept their lot in life for at least one night.

Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine charged in fraud case

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine has been charged with fraud in a case involving former Ottawa Senators players Dany Heatley and Chris Phillips.

Winnipeg police said Wednesday that the 54-year-old McAlpine bilked Heatley and Phillips out of $12 million between January 2004 and June 2011. McAlpine is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, two counts of theft over $5,000 and laundering proceeds of crime.

Heatley and Phillips sued McAlpine and McAlpine’s parents, claiming money was being invested in unapproved real estate deals, including an Ottawa condominium. CTV Calgary has reported that Heatley was awarded more than $6 million by an Alberta court.

Rask hurt in Bruins practice; Spooner out 4-6 weeks

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Well, the good news regarding injuries and the Boston Bruins didn’t last very long.

Earlier this week, PHT noted that forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are expected to return in the near future, possibly as soon as Thursday. That’s great, but Wednesday turned out to be lousy thanks to one injury scare and one sure-thing that’s a negative.

The biggest concern is that of Tuukka Rask, and it’s something that might not clear up for a while. Rask was helped off the ice during practice today after being “bowled over” by young forward Anders Bjork.

The Bruins might dodge a bullet there, which would be huge if their backup work in anyway resembles the woes of 2016-17.

While we don’t know the severity of Rask’s issues just yet, there’s flat-out bad news for Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins estimate Spooner’s window of recovery at four-to-six weeks for a (cringe) “right groin adductor tear,” which he suffered on Oct. 15. Adam McQuaid suffered an injury in that same contest, so that could go down as a costly date for a Bruins team that has been fairly described as top-heavy.

Spooner, 25, was off to a slow start so far this season. He didn’t score a goal and managed one assist in five games, averaging 13:17 TOI per game. Even during that time, he was deployed in a very protected way, so the B’s can’t really claim that this is more than a body blow.

Even so, the Bruins might sport a patchwork lineup if Bergeron and/or Backes can’t play on Thursday. They’ll likely chalk it up as a win if Rask avoids anything significant, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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