NHL on NBCSN: Will the depleted Avs stay above water vs Stars?


NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Colorado Avalanche host the Dallas Stars at the Pepsi Center at 9:00 p.m. ET.

If the difference between a bubble team and a serious playoff contender is the ability to scrape together wins even when major players are sidelined, then we’re going to learn a lot about the Colorado Avalanche over the coming days and weeks.

For the Avalanche, it’s not the quantity of players in the sickbay that’s noteworthy, but the quality of them. Forward Steve Downie brought a unique blend of toughness and offensive ability and he’s gone for the season, forward Gabriel Landeskog is their captain and reigning Calder Trophy winner and he’s dealing with a head injury.

Now defenseman Ryan Wilson, who ranks fourth on the Avalanche in playing time, is out indefinitely due to a knee injury, according to the Denver Post. That’s all on top of the absence of 21-year-old restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly, who is regarded as a great young two-way forward and broke out with 55 points last season.

The Dallas Stars will counter with a team that’s relatively healthy despite their own notable string of injuries and absences. Although the excepted return of Derek Roy will not bring their core of forwards back to full strength now that Ray Whitney is on the injured reserve list.

For Dallas the big x-factor is forward Jamie Benn, who missed training camp and the start of the season as a restricted free agent. The negotiations are well behind him, but he has no goals, one assist, and a minus-two rating in four games this season. Dallas needs him to be an offensive leader, but so far that hasn’t been the case.

Probable goaltenders: DAL – Kari Lehtonen (3-2-1, 2.62 GAA, .924 SV%) | COL – Semyon Varlamov (2-1-0, 2.41 GAA, .919 SV%)

Top scorers: DAL – Whitney (2-4-6, 8 GP) | COL – Matt Duchene (2-7-9, 8 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Dallas – Forwards: Whitney (foot) Goaltenders: Cristopher Nilstorp (groin)
Colorado – Forwards: David Jones (knee), Landeskog (head), Downie (knee) Defensemen: Wilson (leg)

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
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If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning


Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.

Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.

Oilers GM doesn’t want to force a trade for the sake of a trade

Peter Chiarelli

It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.

You can see and hear his full comments below:

If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.

Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.

Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.

Is he right to take a relaxed approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.