Connor Hellebuyck

Back to Class: Where March Madness is already underway

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We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Friday night as Maine host No. 4 New Hampshire at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Hockey East and the WCHA will wrap up their final weekend of conference action this weekend while Atlantic Hockey, CCHA, and ECAC all start their conference playoffs. It’s a veritable full weekend of playoffs for everyone if you want to look at it that way as even those who aren’t yet in their postseason are still jockeying for position.

In Hockey East, the battle for the top spot is on between UMass-Lowell, Providence, New Hampshire, and Boston College. Any of those four teams could wind up in first, while Boston University and Merrimack are just outside the top four. Landing in the top four means getting home ice in the first round of the conference playoffs.

In the race for the No. 1 seed, the series to watch is between Lowell and Providence as they’ll have two games to see if they can figure things out. Lowell, thanks to freshman standout and Winnipeg Jets prospect goalie Connor Hellebuyck, lead Hockey East but Providence sits two points back. BC and New Hampshire are each one point out and they’ve got teams from the bottom end of the conference to deal with.

Boston College faces 7th place Vermont while UNH faces a Maine team trying to solidify their spot in the conference playoffs. Only the top eight move on and Maine is trying to keep UMass out. The Minutemen have a pair of games with Merrimack to contend with. Only Northeastern won’t be making the playoffs.

In the WCHA, there’s no threat of missing the playoffs as all 12 teams make it. Figuring out who wins the MacNaughton Cup (first place in the regular season) isn’t quite so easy. St. Cloud State could’ve wrapped it up last Saturday, but were humbled by Michigan Tech. Now, any one of five teams could win the regular season title.

SCSU has a two-point lead on Minnesota and North Dakota and are four up on Minnesota State and Wisconsin. The two weekend match-ups to watch here feature St. Cloud against Wisconsin and Minnesota St. facing North Dakota. Earning the top spot at the end of the season means getting to face a bad Alaska-Anchorage team in the opening round of the conference tourney.

If that’s not enough to get you juiced up, three conferences have their playoffs getting started on Friday night. Here’s how things shape up for them:

CCHA: The top-five teams here all get byes into the quarterfinals. Only difference being that No. 4 Ohio State gets No. 5 Ferris State there. Miami, Notre Dame, and Western Michigan are the top three teams here. Your first-round best of three matchups see the winners re-seeded. Alaska hosts Michigan State, Michigan hosts Northern Michigan, and Lake Superior State gets Bowling Green.

ECAC: All 12 teams make the playoffs and the top four get byes in the first round. Quinnipiac, Rensselaer, Yale, and Union can rest easy this weekend and wait to see what carnage is unleashed with the other eight teams in their best of three series. Dartmouth hosts Harvard, St. Lawrence faces Colgate, Brown hosts Clarkson, and Princeton takes on Cornell in New Jersey. Winning teams are reseeded for the second round. RPI blog Without A Peer shows off how the second round could play out.

Atlantic Hockey: Top four teams have byes (Niagara, Air Force, Holy Cross, UConn). Winners of the first round are re-seeded. The first-round best of three pairings are: Robert Morris-Sacred Heart, Mercyhurst-Army, Canisius-Bentley, and RIT-American International. Anyone on the NCAA tournament bubble (16th in Pairwise) is rooting for Niagara to steamroll through here without issue.

If, somehow, that’s not all enough for you the Division III NCAA tournament gets underway tonight and winds up on March 16 with the national championship game. St. Norbert will be looking for their third title in a row but this writer would like to see Oswego State take it all. That’s called an “alumni plug.”

(Photo: Lowell Sun)

‘Hawks send towering d-man Svedberg back to AHL

Justin Abdelkader, Corey Crawford, Viktor Svedberg
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Chicago sent blueliner Viktor Svedberg back to AHL Rockford on Sunday, the club announced.

Svedberg — who goes 6-foot-8, 234 pounds — was recalled from the IceHogs a few days ago with veteran d-man Michal Roszival dealing with an injury. The 24-year-old Swede has made an impact with the ‘Hawks this year, scoring three points in 16 games, but has struggled to stick consistently at the NHL level.

That said, he did make one appearance during this most recent recall. Svedberg played just under 14 minutes in a 2-1 win over Colorado last Tuesday, registering an assist.

Svedberg has appeared in 30 games for Rockford this season.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers at Caps (Also: No hearing for Simmonds, who will play)

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 22:  Wayne Simmonds #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his game winning goal in the shootout against the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center on March 22, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Capitals 2-1 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Today, the Philadelphia Flyers invade Verizon for a Super Bowl matinee against the Capitals. You can catch the game on NBC (12 p.m. ET), or you can watch live online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Some notes to pass your way:

— Per an NHL spokesman, there will be no disciplinary hearing for Wayne Simmonds after getting ejected from yesterday’s game against the Rangers for punching Ryan McDonagh.

Per the AP, the NHL has not rescinded Simmonds’ match penalty.

Steve Mason starts in goal for Philly, while the Caps counter with Braden Holtby.

Some relevant linkage for today’s affair:

‘A big loss’ — Couturier out four weeks with lower-body injury

Ovechkin beats Devils in shootout

Forsberg’s three points push Predators past Sharks, 6-2

at SAP Center on October 28, 2015 in San Jose, California.
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NASVHILLE, Tenn. (AP) Recent call-up Viktor Arvidsson scored twice, Filip Forsberg had a goal and two assists and the Nashville Predators beat the San Jose Sharks 6-2 on Saturday night.

Pekka Rinne made 28 saves and James Neal, Calle Jarnkrok and Shea Weber also scored to help Nashville end a three-game home losing streak.

Joe Thornton and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks. Their 17-8-2 road record is the best in the Western Conference, and the Sharks fell to 9-2-2 in their last 13 games.

Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, regained his form after allowing six goals in a loss Thursday night to Philadelphia.

Arvidsson was recalled from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Monday.

San Jose goalie Martin Jones allowed five goals on 29 shots. He was 8-1-1 in his previous 10 starts and has an NHL-best 15-5-2 road record.

The Sharks dominated early and took eight of the game’s first nine shots, but Rinne stopped them all.

Nashville scored on its third shot when Neal fired a slap shot from the low slot past Jones 13:12 in. Neal leads the Predators with 19 goals.

Jarnkrok’s wrist shot from the mid-slot bounced over Jones’ glove and in for a 2-0 lead at 6:26 of the second period.

Johansen assisted on the play, giving him 14 points in 13 games since arriving in a trade with Columbus on Jan. 6.

Jarnkrok also scored in a 6-3 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday, giving him nine goals on the season.

Thornton cut Nashville’s lead in half when he swatted a loose puck in the crease into the net at 15:41 of the second period.

Nashville responded quickly when Arvidsson roofed a wrist shot that beat Jones glove side at 17:01 of the second period.

Forsberg’s short-handed goal built Nashville’s lead to 4-1 at 6:51 of the third period. He beat Jones with a wrist shot to the far post. Forsberg now has 101 career points.

Arvidsson scored his second goal on a 2-on-1 breakaway, deking Jones before sliding a backhander past him to give the Predators a 5-1 lead at 8:44 of the third period.

Couture’s slap shot narrowed the deficit to 5-2 at 13:37 of the third period.

Weber got an empty-net goal with 4:37 left.

Notes: Predators center Mike Ribeiro played in his 1,000th career game, becoming the 22nd active NHL player and 300th ever to reach the milestone. He was Montreal’s second-round pick in the 1998 draft. … Nine of the Sharks’ first 11 games after the All-Star break are on the road. … San Jose RW Joel Ward, 35, played three seasons for Nashville from 2008-11 early in his career. … Sharks right wing Joe Pavelski entered with eight game-winning goals, tied with Chicago’s Jonathan Toews for the most in the NHL.

Hockey tough: Mark Stone shakes off skate to face, scores

Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone celebrates his game winning goal during overtime against the Boston Bruins during an NHL hockey game in Ottawa, Ontario, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016.  The Senators defeated the Bruins 2-1. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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You’d think the reaction to taking a skate to the face would be something like “Not coming back to that game, getting some ice and maybe do some soul-searching.”

Nope, not in the NHL, at least.

In this league, the real reaction is almost always to come back to the same game … and barely miss a beat.

Ottawa Senators Mark Stone provides the latest example of hockey toughness, as he bounced back almost immediately from this.

What did he do? He scored a nice goal in the Senators’ 6-1 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs.