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Tonight on NBCSN: No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha hosts No. 7 North Dakota

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Two top coaches have their programs neck-and-neck in the WCHA race.

No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (16-10-2) vs. No. 7 University of North Dakota (14-8-6) — 8:30 p.m. ET

The battle to earn the top spot in the WCHA is raging on and tonight’s game features two teams trying to keep pace with St. Cloud State to earn the crown. For homestanding Nebraska-Omaha, it’s been a good run of late. They’ve won five of their last eight and only have losses to Michigan Tech and Denver in that span.

We’ve seen UNO a couple times this season and we’ve seen all shades of what they can do. From steamrolling the likes of Army and Colorado College, losing a nailbiter to Notre Dame and getting blown away by Denver. They’ve been tough in conference but handling North Dakota presents one huge line of issues for coach Dean Blais’ team to contend with.

For the former Fighting Sioux, they have a dynamic duo of scorers in Danny Kristo and Corban Knight (pictured) for the UNO defense to contend with. They’ve been getting points aplenty over the last couple months, but lately wins have escaped them. In their past eight games, North Dakota is just 2-3-3.  On the upside, they’re 1-0-2 in their last three. Hey, a tie is better than a loss… Right? By the way, North Dakota has 14 NHL-drafted players on their roster. Not a bad job of recruiting there by Dave Hakstol.

NHL prospects to watch

UND has a veritable army of players to keep an eye on. The big two are both seniors in Knight (Florida) and Kristo (Montreal). They’re supported by a few others that you may have heard of. Freshman forward and Team USA WJC gold medalist Rocco Grimaldi (Florida) and sophomore forward Mark MacMillan (Montreal) have provided them with a solid secondary attack. There’s a lot to work with here for North Dakota including undrafted guys like senior forward Carter Rowney and junior goalie Clarke Saunders.

Others: Dillon Simpson (JR – D – Edmonton), Joe Gleason (SR – D – Chicago), Derek Forbort (JR – D – Los Angeles), Nick Mattson (SO – D – Chicago), Jordan Schmaltz (FR – D – St. Louis), Michael Parks (SO – F – Philadelphia), Brendan O’Donnell (SO – F – Tampa Bay), Andrew MacWilliam (SR – D – Toronto), Derek Rodwell (JR – F – New Jersey), Zane Gothberg (G – FR – Boston)

UNO’s top players are more or less undrafted players. Senior forward Ryan Walters leads the team in points and is a likely free agent signing after his season is over. Sophomore forward Josh Archibald (Pittsburgh) is Walters’ go-to guy on the attack. Sophomore Dominic Zombo and junior Matt White follow up as other undrafted players leading the charge.

Others: Bryce Aneloski (SR – D – Ottawa), Brent Gwidt (SR – F – Washington), Nick Seeler (FR – D – Minnesota), Tanner Lane (FR – F – Winnipeg), Brian Cooper (FR – D – Anaheim)

(Picture: UND Sports)

Mike Smith is out will illness that is not the mumps, Coyotes say

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 07:  Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Arizona Coyotes during the preseason NHL game against San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-1  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that she was told Mike Smith is missing tonight’s game because of an illness that is not the mumps.

You may recognize “not the mumps” as the NHL’s version of letting out a barrage of coughs and then insisting the issue is not contagious.

Anyway, Smith is out tonight as the Arizona Coyotes visit the Stars in Dallas. With that, Louis Domingue gets the start while the team made an emergency recall of Adin Hill to be his backup.

A quick 411 on Hill: the 20-year-old goalie was the 76th pick in 2015 by the Coyotes. He’s put together some solid work after being promoted from the ECHL to the AHL this season, managing a respectable .916 save percentage in 26 games with the Tucson Roadrunners.

It’s been a tough season for Domingue (5-13-1, .895 save percentage, 3.29 GAA), so you almost wonder if the Coyotes are tempted to see how Hill would handle a little relief work.

Rare wave of injuries for Capitals as Oshie, Orpik are also out

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02: Matt Niskanen #2 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammate T.J. Oshie #77 after scoring a third period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals have been outright dominant this season, but there’s one opponent they haven’t faced very often: injuries.

They’ve been healthier than everyone else to an almost spooky extent in 2016-17, yet it seems like they’re dealing with a rash of ailments for the first time in a while.

The injury list for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers appears to be: Matt Niskanen, Andre Burakovsky, Brooks Orpik and T.J. Oshie.

We already knew that Burakovsky will miss some time and that Niskanen was injured after colliding knee-to-knee with Radko Gudas. Oshie and Orpik are bigger surprises as far as their lineup goes. It seemed like Oshie took some significant hits against the Flyers in that same game that injured Niskanen, so maybe that’s the issue there?

Here’s what the Capitals lineup will look like, via the team itself:

The team labels Oshie’s injury as upper-body related while Orpik and Niskanen have lower-body issues. On the bright side, those three are all considered day-to-day.

Riley Barber makes his debut with all of these injury absences.

Predators are a wild card in more ways than one

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 21:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by teammates after scoring a hat trick against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on February 21, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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The Nashville Predators have really earned the “wild card” moniker lately, even beyond holding the West’s first wild card spot.

Such a label could describe their up-and-down 2016-17 in general, and it might only intensify over the next few weeks.

Trade deadline players?

Nashville boasts Filip Forsberg, a guy with rare back-to-back hat tricks, not to mention other quality scorers such as James Neal, Ryan Johansen and diamond in the rough Viktor Arvidsson. (Their defensemen can produce points in buckets, too.)

But perhaps they can go from sporadically good to regular contender with that extra boost?

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes that the Predators could be in on talks to acquire Matt Duchene or “somebody big” at forward. Duchene, himself, might be tough to get:

That schedule, though

Honestly, the way their schedule looks, the Predators might need a shot in the arm.

Check out what they’re dealing with during the next few weeks:

Saturday: vs. Capitals
Sunday: vs. Oilers
Tuesday, Feb. 28: at Sabres
Thursday, March 2: at Canadiens
Saturday, March 4: vs. Blackhawks
Tuesday, March 7: at Ducks
Thursday, March 9: at Kings
Saturday, March 11: at Sharks
Monday, March 13: vs. Jets
Thursday, March 16: at Capitals
Saturday, March 18: at Hurricanes

That’s a rough mixture of tough opponents and road games, with even games against non-playoff teams being less than layups (the Hurricanes can beat you when they’re on point, for instance).

The Predators are in the first wild card spot. They’re also not far behind for the third seed in the Central, as the Blues hold a tiebreaker advantage over Nashville right now with both teams at 67 standings points.

That schedule could be an issue, however, for a team that’s been vulnerable to hitting highs and lows.

On the other hand, we’ve also seen hints of the dominant squad many penciled in as a possible contender in 2016-17. In a weakened West, the Predators remain a fascinating team to watch. That could be especially true in the near future.

‘Hawks nab Jurco in trade with Red Wings

Tomas Jurco
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The Chicago Blackhawks picked up some forward depth today, adding winger Tomas Jurco in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings.

In return, the ‘Hawks sent the Wings a third-round draft pick in 2017.

Jurco has only appeared in 16 games this season. He has no goals and no assists.

The 24-year-old was forced to undergo back surgery this past offseason.

“I could still play with it but the worst for me was sitting on the bench all the time,” Jurco said in November, per NHL.com. “Sometimes I’d have to get up and walk. Sometimes I’d stretch it. It was bad and I’ve been sitting a lot for the last couple of years on the bench. It was really tough but I’m glad it’s gone and I’m excited for a fresh start.”

A pending restricted free agent, Jurco’s cap hit is just $900,000.

In a corresponding move, the ‘Hawks assigned rookie forward Vinnie Hinostroza to the AHL.