Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Sinking Blues return to Detroit

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the St. Louis Blues will head to the Joe Louis Arena for a match against the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Red Wings and Blues have been very familiar opponents this season. This with be their fourth meeting together, meaning that both teams have dedicated roughly a third of their early schedule to playing together. However, after this match, they won’t face each other again until April 7.

When the two sides met on opening night, St. Louis embarrassed the Detroit Red Wings and earned a 6-0 victory.

“It was one of those games where nothing worked for us,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall told the Detroit News. “We didn’t do anything right. We were two steps behind and taking penalties. Our penalty kill was horrible and power play was dreadful.”

That fueled the fears of fans that the Red Wings’ dynasty ended with the retirement of blueliner Nicklas Lidstrom, but that contest didn’t start a trend. Detroit was able to bounce back in a big way and beat the Blues in their following two contests.

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Meanwhile, St. Louis is in a free fall. After a great start to the season, the Blues have lost five straight games and that’s largely corresponded with the absence of starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak (groin).

Brian Elliott, who was brilliant last season as St. Louis’ backup netminder, has a terrible 3.57 GAA and .849 save percentage in nine games this season. With that in mind, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has suggested that 22-year-old Jake Allen might get his first NHL start on Wednesday.

“Before he came up to back up, Jake was playing the best hockey he’s ever played in his life, so we can’t discount that,” Hitchcock said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report. “We’ve got to be cognizant of that, and Brian’s struggled. So sometimes a mental break for Brian might work too. We just have to discuss it and see what’s best for the goalie and the team.”

Regardless of who starts, you can expect the Blues to battle hard as they attempt to right their ship.

Probable goaltenders: STL – Allen (0-0-0, 3.87 GAA, .750 SV%) | DET – Jimmy Howard (6-4-1, 2.78 GAA, .906 SV%)

Top scorers: STL – Kevin Shattenkirk (1-12-13, 12 GP) | DET – Henrik Zetterberg (5-13-18, 12 GP)

Notable Injuries:
St. Louis – Forwards: Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) Goaltenders: Halak (groin)
Detroit – Forwards: Todd Bertuzzi (back), Darren Helm (back), Mikael Samuelsson (groin), Jan Mursak (shoulder) Defensemen: Brendan Smith (shoulder), Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) Goaltenders: Jonas Gustavsson (groin)

‘Dialed in’ Hurricanes could add more drama to playoff race

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At first glance, Carolina’s potential playoff push seems like a longshot.

The ‘Canes head into tonight’s action five points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and would need to leapfrog both the Bolts and Isles just to get there.

BUT!

The ‘Canes have a game in hand on both New York and Tampa Bay, and two on Boston. They also get to play six of their last nine at home, and are currently riding a terrific streak in which they’ve collected 17 of a possible 20 points (7-0-3 in their last 10).

“Guys are playing well, guys are dialed in,” head coach Bill Peters said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “You’ve got to continue to keep pace. Around the league everyone seems to find a way to win, so you’ve got to keep pace and then hopefully somebody falters.”

Looking ahead, the next 48 hours will decide if this dream becomes a reality. Carolina begins a crucial back-to-back set against the Red Wings tonight, with both games to be played at PNC.

Tonight’s game, you may recall, is the makeup date for the Dec. 19 postponement due to unplayable ice.

As such, the ‘Canes now get a Red Wings team playing its third game in four nights, following Friday’s 2-1 OT loss to Tampa Bay and yesterday’s 3-2 OT win over Minnesota. Veteran Detroit d-man Niklas Kronwall isn’t expected to face Carolina, and the club is unsure if Darren Helm (lower body) can go.

The ‘Canes, meanwhile, are pretty healthy and firing away. Jeff Skinner has a five-game goalscoring streak, Elias Lindholm has points in each of his last 10 contests and Sebastian Aho in each of his last six. The club has also received terrific netminding from Eddie Lack, who has gone 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage.

If they can get a result tonight, attention will be turned to the out-of-town scoreboard. The Isles are at home to the streaking Nashville Predators (6-1-0 in their last seven), and the Bolts host the Blackhawks, who are coming off an embarrassing 7-0 loss in Florida.

The Bruins aren’t back in action until Tuesday, when they host the Preds.

Report: Coyotes majority owner has a ‘potential new partner’

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The Arizona Coyotes’ ownership group may be getting a new member.

According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, Randy Frankel is a “potential new partner” for majority owner Andrew Barroway.

Frankel, who made his money on Wall Street, is already a part owner of MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Shannon also reported that the Coyotes required a mid-season cash call, to the tune of $20 million, from their ownership group. Arizona has averaged just 13,020 fans at home games this season; hence, the revenue shortfall.

The Coyotes, of course, are trying to get a new arena built in the greater Phoenix area. So far, their efforts have been for naught.

Related: Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

Report: Rangers land Gophers standout Lettieri

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University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri has agreed to join the Ranger organization, per the Star-Tribune.

Lettieri, 22, finished second on the club in goals this year, with 19, and third in scoring with 37 points in 38 games. The Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo reports Lettieri is joining New York’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, and that he and the Blueshirts are closing in on a two-year, entry-level contract.

Lettieri has some interesting bloodlines. His grandfather is former Minnesota North Stars player/head coach/GM Lou Nanne, and his father is former professional soccer netminder Tino Lettieri, who represented Canada at the 1986 World Cup.

The younger Lettieri went undrafted, and was a free agent following Minnesota’s NCAA championship loss to Notre Dame.

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.