Matt Duchene

NHL on NBCSN: Avs seek to change storyline versus Blues

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Colorado Avalanche host the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center at 10:00 p.m. ET.

The biggest stories for the Colorado Avalanche this season have been the messy situation with restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly that will probably end in a trade and captain Gabriel Landeskog’s efforts to return from a concussion.

If they want more people to associate them with something more positive, then the best way to do that would be to get on a winning streak.

The Avalanche are near the bottom of the pack this season with a 6-7-1 record. Part of that is due to injuries, but they’ve also forced goaltender Semyon Varlamov to face a staggering 93 shots over their last two contests and he has responded by surrendering 10 goals over that span.

They still managed to eek out a win against Nashville on Monday, although they got a break when Matt Duchene scored a critical goal following a blown offside call. A win’s still a win, but the big question is if they can build off of that momentum.

The visiting Blues are bound to be exhausted after playing in Vancouver on Sunday and at home on Tuesday, but they’ll also be hungry coming off of a 2-1 loss against the San Jose Sharks. On top of that, this will likely be goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s first start since suffering a groin injury.

Halak’s been one of the top netminders in the league in recent years and might prove to be the kryptonite for an Avalanche offense that’s started to click recently. That would just invite more talk about who the Avalanche don’t have playing for them right now. We’ll see if they can force a different headline.

Probable goaltenders: STL – Halak (3-0-0, 2.10 GAA, .889 SV%) | COL – Varlamov (4-7-1, 3.00 GAA, .905 SV%)

Top scorers: STL – Alexander Steen (4-11-15, 16 GP) | COL – Duchene (6-11-17, 14 GP)

Notable Injuries:
St. Louis – Forwards: Jamie Langenbrunner (hip)
Colorado – Forwards: Gabriel Landeskog (head), Steve Downie (knee) Defensemen: Erik Johnson (head), Ryan Wilson (leg)

Related:

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Flyers, Penguins enter next chapter of their clash

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.