Tonight on NBCSN: No. 4 Notre Dame hosts Michigan State

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A bevy of NHL prospects for Notre Dame against struggling Michigan State as the Irish look to extend their three-game win streak.

No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-4-0) vs. Michigan State Spartans (4-8-2) — 7:30 p.m. ET

The Fighting Irish football team isn’t the only one on a roll right now. Notre Dame heads into their tw0-game weekend battle with Michigan State riding a three-game winning streak and winners of five of their last six. Meanwhile, the Spartans have lost three straight and are winless in their last four.

Notre Dame comes roaring into Friday night’s game after sweeping Lake Superior State last weekend and splitting with North Dakota two weeks ago. The Irish have been steady so far through the start of the season just dropping four games and jumping to fourth in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll. Coach Jeff Jackson has his team playing tough defense while getting outstanding goaltending from junior Steven Summerhays.

Michigan State, on the other hand, has been the polar opposite of their CCHA rivals. While they were able to get a 7-2 blowout win over rival Michigan on November 10, they’ve gone winless since then and have seen their offense come up short in the process. In their last four games, the Spartans have just three goals.

NHL prospects to watch:

If you want to see a load of talent, you’ll have your eyes peeled on Notre Dame. They’re led by Islanders prospect Anders Lee (pictured) who’s leading the Irish with 10 goals and 15 points. Fellow forwards Jeff Costello (Ottawa) and Bryan Rust (Pittsburgh) have also been piling up the points up front with 12 a piece. Freshman forward Mario Lucia (Minnesota) is healthy and scoring. He’s also on the Team USA WJC preliminary roster.

Defenseman Robbie Russo (Islanders) is a guy to watch on the blue line while Blue Jackets fans will be watching junior forward T.J. Tynan intently. If it’s big hits you’re after, Blackhawks prospect junior Stephen Johns is the guy to watch. Undrafted junior goalie Steven Summerhays has had an outstanding year for the Fighting Irish and is worth watching.

For Michigan State, the pickings are a bit slimmer with Flames prospect Matt DeBlouw getting most of the attention this year being second on the team in points with 11. Freshman defenseman John Draeger (Minnesota) has gotten off to a nice start leading the team’s blue liners with a goal and four assists.

Freshman goalie Jake Hildebrand, should he get the call to start, is the guy to watch for the Spartans. Meanwhile, undrafted sophomore Matt Berry is the team’s leading point man and goal scorer and a guy Notre Dame should track intently.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: