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.
Things continue to snowball out of control for the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks lost their sixth consecutive game after yet another blowout defeat, this time by a final score of 7-2 versus the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Forward Logan Couture lost a tooth after taking a puck to the face in the second period.
And late in the game, Micheal Haley was given a match penalty for an incident involving Calle Jarnkrok.
The Sharks forward is now automatically suspended until commissioner Gary Bettman reviews the incident.
This incident occurred when Haley was hit into the boards by Jarnkrok. Haley then got up, sped right toward the Predators forward, dropped his gloves and delivered a punch to Jarnkrok as he tried to back away, knocking him to the ice.
Jarnkrok was given a minor penalty for boarding.
Haley was also involved in a fight with Cody McLeod early in the first period.
This has been a particularly shocking, if not embarrassing stretch for the Sharks. In a two-game trip to Dallas and Nashville, against teams below them in the standings, the Sharks were outscored 13-3.
Martin Jones allowed seven goals on 34 shots faced.
If Edmonton wins tonight, the Sharks, Ducks and Oilers will be in a three-way tie for first place in the Pacific Division.
Related: What is wrong with the Sharks?
More bad news for the San Jose Sharks.
After a slow start against the Nashville Predators during Saturday’s game, forward Logan Couture was hurt in the dying seconds of the middle period after taking a puck to the face while battling in front of the net.
Replays show Couture appeared to lose a tooth. He quickly skated off the ice and to the dressing room.
The Boston Bruins have been trending in the wrong direction of late — once again at the worst possible time with the end of the regular season in sight and a playoff spot on the line.
They entered a massive clash with the New York Islanders on Saturday having lost four straight, temporarily falling out of a playoff spot because of fewer games played.
They didn’t have Tuukka Rask in net because of a lower-body injury. They were on the road. They fell behind the Islanders early in the first period.
Despite that, the Bruins quickly came back on a goal from Riley Nash, who scored again in the third period to help his team to a 2-1 victory.
The four-game losing streak? Gone. With seven games remaining, Boston is back in the final wild card spot, two points ahead of the Islanders, who do still have a game in hand.
“We have a great mood in here this morning, everyone’s excited and pretty light and there’s no tense feel,” said Brad Marchand prior to facing the Islanders.
Back-up goaltending has been a concern in Boston this season, however Anton Khudobin shut the door after the Tavares goal, making 18 saves for the win.
The Bruins host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
Last night, we asked: What is wrong with the San Jose Sharks?
Well, a day later, with the Sharks looking to avoid a sixth straight loss, the struggle continues.
After a blowout loss last night against the Dallas Stars, the Sharks have fallen behind the Nashville Predators by a score of 2-0 after the opening period.
Colton Sissons opened the scoring for Nashville.
It didn’t get any better for the Sharks.
Roman Josi walked right around Brent Burns, hitting the cross bar with his shot. Cody McLeod was right there for the tap-in to increase Nashville’s lead.