Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Will Avs end Blackhawks streak?

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Colorado Avalanche will head to the United Center for a match against the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET.

This is a game Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has been looking forward to for over a month.

Back when Chicago’s points streak was still in his infancy, Landeskog turned to Paul Stastny and asked him, “When do we play Chicago?”

“Now there is only one more game in between and then it’s up to us and we could have a chance to end that streak,” Landeskog told NHL.com before Chicago’s 5-3 victory against Chicago on Tuesday. “To be honest, I want them to win Tuesday night and we want to be the team that goes in there and puts an end to that.”

Well, Landeskog got his wish.

Chicago’s point streak is not only by far the longest that anyone has ever mustered to start a season, it’s the second longest of all-time at 29 consecutive games (dating back to last season). On top of that, if the Blackhawks beat the Avalanche tonight, it will mean that they powered through the entire first half of their schedule without a single regulation loss.

The Colorado Avalanche seem like an unlikely group to end Chicago’s historic run given their 8-9-4 record, but there are reasons for the Blackhawks to be worried.

First off, Landeskog is back from a head injury and has had five games to shake off the rust. Ryan O’Reilly has also gotten two games under his belt after finally re-signing as a restricted free agent.

Starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been inconsistent lately, but he held the Blackhawks to just six goals in three starts last season.

It would still be impossible to paint the Avalanche as anything other than huge underdogs, but sooner or later one of these underdogs will get the better of Chicago in regulation. After all, Chicago can’t earn a point in all 48 of their games this season…can they?

Probable goaltenders: CHI – Ray Emery (9-0-0, 2.02 GAA, .926 SV%) | COL – Varlamov (6-8-3, 2.79 GAA, .910 SV%)

Top scorers: CHI – Patrick Kane (12-15-27, 23 GP) | COL – PA Parenteau (9-10-19, 21 GP) and Matt Duchene (7-12-19, 20 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Chicago – Forwards: Michael Frolik (illness) Defensemen: Steve Montador (concussion)
Colorado – Forwards: Milan Hejduk (upper body), Steve Downie (knee) Defensemen: Erik Johnson (concussion), Ryan Wilson (ankle)

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”