Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Reacquired Gagne looks to lead Flyers past Capitals

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Washington Capitals will head to the Wells Fargo Center for a match against the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET.

After a devastating 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren made his first effort of the season to try and right the ship by acquiring a familiar face in Simon Gagne from the Los Angeles Kings.

“It’s going to be a special game,” Gagne said of tonight’s contest in a Philadelphia Inquirer report, “but I’ll try to take all that emotion and try to bring that energy to the game.”

For Gagne, this will be the start of a quest for redemption. Mere months after helping the Kings win the Stanley Cup, Gagne found himself being pushed out of the Kings’ lineup. Now that he’s got a chance to fill a hole on a battered squad, Philadelphia can only hope that he helps propel them out of mediocrity.

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The Washington Capitals won’t get any major reinforcements for this game, but lately they’ve gotten something better: Alex Ovechkin playing like Alex Ovechkin.

The superstar forward hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent years, but he has broken out lately with six goals and 12 points in his last 10 games. His efforts have helped the Capitals win five of their last seven games as Washington tries to dig itself out of a rather sizable hole.

Both teams desperately need points as they try and overcome their early season slumps. That should make for a heated contest.

Probable goaltenders: WAS – Braden Holtby (6-6-0, 3.07 GAA, .905 SV%) | PHI – Ilya Bryzgalov (9-9-1, 2.79 GAA, .900 SV%)

Top scorers: WAS – Mike Ribeiro (6-16-22, 18 GP) | PHI – Jakub Voracek (8-16-24, 21 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Washington – Forwards: Marcus Johansson (upper body), Brooks Laich (groin) Defensemen: Jack Hillen (shoulder)
Philadelphia – Forwards: Tye McGinn (eye), Matt Read (ribs), Jody Shelley (hip) Defensemen: Andrej Meszaros (shoulder), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion), Chris Pronger (concussion) Defensemen: Goaltenders: Michael Leighton (finger)

Related:

NHL on NBCSN: Kings, Red Wings look to stay hot

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.