Tonight on NBCSN: Predators and Blackhawks meet in possible playoff preview

Funny how things change over time. The last time the Predators and Blackhawks met back in mid-February, it turned out to be the low point of the season for Chicago according to CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers. When they get together tonight at United Center (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), both teams are in a more familiar situation jockeying for playoff position.

Chicago comes into tonight’s game two points back of Nashville for fifth place in the West while the Predators are one point behind Detroit for fourth. To say that Chicago and Nashville could wind up dancing with each other in the first round in the playoffs is true. Both teams have seven games left, but the Blackhawks will have to do things tonight without Jonathan Toews (concussion) and Duncan Keith (suspension).

While Keith is sitting at home keeping himself in shape during his time off, Toews is getting closer to returning. After participating in his first practice in two weeks yesterday, things are looking up for the Blackhawks’ captain. Patrick Kane is making sure Chicago keeps winning by scoring seven goals over the last 12 games. The Blackhawks are hoping to make it six straight wins tonight.

Nashville, meanwhile, is in a slight funk. Although they dispatched of Winnipeg last night, the Predators have lost four of their last six games. The losses have prevented Nashville from capitalizing on Detroit’s struggles of late and they’ve been unable to leap frog them in the standings.

Oddly enough, the source of their recent struggles has been all-world goalie Pekka Rinne. Rinne’s woes against Edmonton and Pittsburgh may have been bothersome to fans, but not so much for coach Barry Trotz. Rinne rebounded nicely against the Jets stopping all but one shot in a 3-1 win. Meanwhile, new-old guy Alexander Radulov is showing that his belated arrival was worth waiting on as he’s got a goal and an assist in two games.

If tonight’s game is to be a true playoff preview, expect to see a no holds barred throwdown as both teams would love to get to fourth and earn home ice in the first round.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Penguins – Wednesday Night Rivalry

Getty
Leave a comment

The latest edition of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry presents quite the treat: the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both teams are at 103 standings points and each squad already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Even so, they’re dealing with mini-slumps that they’d like to work out tonight.

For all we know, this could be a preview of what would be one extremely fun, high-profile 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Either way, it’s a showcase of two premiere franchises brimming with star power.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Yes, NHL will share protected, available player lists for expansion draft

Getty
Leave a comment

We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)

Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.

The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.

Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone.

(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)

Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process:

Goalie nods: Blues give Hutton first start in two weeks

Getty
Leave a comment

Even though Jake Allen has played extremely well of late, Carter Hutton will get the call when the Blues take on the Coyotes in Arizona tonight.

Some of this could have to do with the opponent. The Coyotes are playing out the string on a forgettable campaign, and have lost six of their last seven. That includes a 4-1 defeat in St. Louis on Monday (in which Allen stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win).

As mentioned above, Allen has been great in March and deserves huge praise for turning his season around. He’s gone 8-1-1 this month with a remarkable .951 save percentage, allowing a mere 14 goals over his 10 appearances.

Hutton, though, has played equally well when called upon. He’s gone 4-1-0 over his last five starts, posting a .962 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his last outing, on Mar. 16, he allowed just one goal in a victory in San Jose.

For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— A good matchup in Pittsburgh tonight, as the two defending Stanley Cup champions go head-to-head. Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, while Corey Crawford goes for the Blackhawks.

— Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight so, unsurprisingly, it’ll go with No. 1 Brian Elliott. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, though it could be Ben Bishop after Jonathan Quick lost last night in Edmonton.

Philipp Grubauer gets the call for Washington, after Braden Holtby led the Caps to victory in Minnesota on Tuesday. Grubauer will take on Calvin Pickard, who starts for the Avs.

Vegas wants ‘progressive’ head coach, says McPhee

Getty
5 Comments

Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.

“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”

So, time to connect the dots.

Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.

Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.

It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.