The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers seem poised for a first-round playoff matchup, but Sunday’s game (12:30 pm ET, NBC) is more than just a preview of what’s to come. Only three points separate the Penguins and Flyers and they’re scheduled to play each other twice in their final four games. Ultimately, they’re fighting for home ice advantage in the first round, which is a big deal considering that both teams have been dominant while playing at home.
Philadelphia has been one of the most offensively gifted teams in the league this season. Claude Giroux has not only proven that his 2010-11 breakout campaign wasn’t a fluke, he’s managed to set new career-highs in goals, assists and points. Meanwhile, Scott Hartnell is having one of the best seasons of his career and has been one of the league’s top all-around forwards this season — no one else has at least 35 goals, 100 penalty minutes, and 100 hits.
Beyond their top two scorers, Philly has a terrific supporting cast led by Jaromir Jagr, who has proven he still has what it takes to play in the NHL after spending three seasons in the KHL.
Still, for as many offensive weapons as the Flyers have, the Penguins outdo them in that department. Sidney Crosby is a huge threat now that he’s healthy, but he just represents the tip of the iceberg. The Penguins have five players with at least 20 goals, including two of the top-four leading goal scorers in Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. In fact, starting with their game against Boston on March 11, Pittsburgh has found the back of the net at least three times in 10 of their last 11 games. The one exception was on March 18 when the Penguins ran into the only goaltender that has been able to stand up to them lately: Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov.
The problem is that Bryzgalov has a chip fracture in his foot, so he’ll either be playing through the pain on Sunday or, more likely, sitting out of the contest. In either scenario, the Flyers defenders will need to do their part if they want to beat the Penguins and give themselves a legitimate shot at the fourth seed.
The L.A. Kings have reportedly acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That is according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie and TSN on Sunday.
The news comes one day after Jonathan Quick returned to the Kings crease after a 59-game absence due to a groin injury and was solid in a winning effort versus the Anaheim Ducks.
The Kings are three points out of the final wild card spot in the West.
More to come.
Connor McDavid once again had that blazing speed of his on display. The latest victims? The Nashville Predators on Sunday.
The sophomore star scored his 21st goal of the season and league-leading 70th point thanks to a beautiful individual effort, putting his Oilers back into a tie game at the time.
McDavid picked up the puck just outside his blue line, accelerated to beat Roman Josi in the neutral zone, beat Ryan Ellis with a move and immediately snapped his shot home for the goal.
There was good news and bad news for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, as the club deals with an outbreak of the mumps.
First, the bad news: Head coach Willie Desjardins confirmed that forward Anton Rodin, defenseman Ben Hutton and trainer Brian Hamilton are now experiencing symptoms of the mumps.
Initially, five players — Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund — had been affected.
The good news? Stecher, who had the first confirmed case of the mumps, was back on the ice Sunday for an optional practice, per the Canucks.
The Canucks, nine points out of a playoff spot in the West, host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
The following day is the trade deadline, and the Canucks could be busy, with at least three players — Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller — all mentioned as possible targets for other teams.
Speaking to TSN 1040 radio on Friday, GM Jim Benning didn’t believe the mumps outbreak would impact his plans leading up to the deadline.
Huge game in the Atlantic Division on Sunday night when the Florida Panthers host the Ottawa Senators in a classic four-point game.
The Senators enter the night tied with Boston for second place in the division with 70 points and four points ahead of the Panthers. Florida will be turning back to James Reimer for the start as he gets the call for the third time in the past four games as Roberto Luongo takes a back seat for the moment.
On Sunday, Luongo told George Richards of the Miami Herald that is the way it should be at the moment.
“Right now I don’t deserve to be playing,” Luongo told Richards. “That’s the bottom line. For me, everything is about the team and us winning games. James Reimer gives us a better chance to win every night than I am. Until I figure my [game] out this is the way it should go I think.”
Luongo has surrendered at least three goals in eight of his past 10 appearances, while Reimer is carrying a .927 save percentage in the month of February.
The Senators will go with Craig Anderson on Sunday night.
Elsewhere on Sunday…
— In the early games it was Tuukka Rask vs. Kari Lehtonen in the Boston Bruins-Dallas Stars, while Brian Elliott went against Eddie Lack in the Calgary Flames vs. Carolina Hurricanes game.
— Cam Talbot makes his league-leading 56th start of the season for the Edmonton Oilers when they take on the Nashville Predators. No word yet from the Predators on their starter.
— Big game in the Metropolitan Division when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the New York Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky goes against Henrik Lundqvist in one heck of a goaltending matchup.
— With Corey Crawford under the weather Scott Darling will start for the Chicago Blackhawks when they host the St. Louis Blues on NBCSN. Jake Allen will go start the Blues.
— Louis Domingue will start for the Arizona Coyotes when they host the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starting goalie, but the team did call up Linus Ullmark from the AHL before the game.