Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux

NHL on NBC: Penguins, Flyers renew acquaintances

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There will be no love lost on Saturday when the Flyers and Penguins meet at the Wells Fargo Center (3 p.m. ET, NBC.)

The two teams will renew what’s become the NHL’s fiercest rivalry, setting the tone for a condensed regular season in which they’ll meet four times over the next 65 days.

Highlighting the rivalry will be the head-to-head grudge match between Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby and Philadephia’s newly-anointed captain, Claude Giroux.

Giroux’s breakout 2011-12 campaign put him in both the star category and conversation with Crosby for the best player in the game.

Giroux heightened the debate in the playoffs, scoring 14 points in the series win over Pittsburgh, punctuating the victory with this sequence in Game 6:

And…

Afterward, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette called Giroux “the best player in the world” while Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik admitted he was “the best player on the ice.”

The wild and emotional series hasn’t been forgotten by either party.

During the summer, Giroux told a reporter his surgically repaired wrists were a result of Crosby hacking and slashing him during the playoffs.

Crosby responded by saying he didn’t recall injuring Giroux but that if he did, he wasn’t sorry about it.

As for the impact the loss had on No. 87 — well, it’s still fresh in his mind.

“I remember at different points, just kind of being in shock,” Crosby told the Post-Gazette recently. “A lot of different flashes go through my mind when I think about the series.

“Basically, what it came down to was, we didn’t deserve to win. We didn’t play well enough, all the way through.”

Tale of the Tape

Pittsburgh Penguins (2011-12) Philadelphia Flyers (2011-12)
Record: 51-25-6, 108 PTS (2nd in Atlantic; 4th in Eastern Conference) Record: 47-26-9, 103 PTS (3rd in Atlantic; 5th in Eastern Conference)
Leading Scorer: Evgeni Malkin (50G-59A-109 PTS) Leading Scorer: Claude Giroux (28G-65A-93 PTS)
Goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (42-17-4, 2.36 GAA) Goalie: Ilya Bryzgalov: (33-16-7, 2.48 GAA)

Projected Lines

Philadelphia:

Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Brayden Schenn
Max Talbot- Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Wayne Simmonds-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Ruslan Fedotenko-Eric Wellwood-Zac Rinaldo

Braydon Coburn-Nicklas Grossman
Kimmo Timonen-Luke Schenn
Andrej Meszaros-Kurtis Foster

Pittsburgh:

Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal
Matt Cooke-Brandon Sutter-Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass-Joe Vitale-Craig Adams

Matt Niskanen-Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik-Paul Martin
Simon Despres-Deryk Engelland

Reminder: If you’re unable to watch on TV, download NBC Sports Live Extra here or here.

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes
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Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
AP
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury