NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Lightning battle to get back in playoff hunt

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Tampa Bay Times Forum at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Philadelphia might not meet goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s definition of done after its 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday, but the team is still on the edge.

The Flyers are in 11th place right now and four points out of a playoff spot, but they’ve also played in two more games than the eighth place Carolina Hurricanes.

After tonight’s contest, the Flyers will take a five day break to prepare for the stretch run. During that time, they’ll watch the gap between them and the eighth seed grow, so picking up another two points before that happens could be huge mentally.

“I think any time you’ve got a break coming up, you always want to end on a win,” Scott Hartnell said in a CSN Philly report. “It makes practices a lot easier. Makes the media a lot easier, to answer questions about what we could have done better, you’re leaving on a high.

“We’ll welcome the rest when it comes, but we’ve got one good day of work ahead of us.”

Of course, the Tampa Bay Lightning are equally, if not more, desperate going into this match.

The Lightning sit in 12th place and are just two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers. Tampa Bay’s disastrous play has put head coach Guy Boucher’s leadership into question and might led to the trade of Martin St. Louis.

Tampa Bay managed to beat Carolina on Saturday, but they still look vulnerable. They lost their last meeting against the Flyers, are 3-7-0 in their last 10 contests, and will be without the services of their captain, Vincent Lecavalier.

At the same time, the Flyers have had a lot of trouble building any sort of momentum this season, so it wouldn’t be out of character for them to stumble after their 2-1 shootout victory over the Devils.

“If you look at the standings, the way we’ve been going, we win one game and maybe lose one or two after that,” Kimmo Timonen said, who will be playing in his 1000th game on his 38th birthday. “That’s not going to work out. We’ve got to start putting some wins together, and that means three or four games together and go from there.

“But the bottom line is, we need wins.”

That’s something both teams can say.

Probable goaltenders: PHI – Bryzgalov (13-12-1, 2.78 GAA, .899 SV%) | TBL – Anders Lindback (9-7-1, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV%)

Top scorers: PHI – Jakub Voracek (13-18-31, 29 GP) | TBL – Steven Stamkos (20-18-38, 28 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Philadelphia – Forwards: Jody Shelley (hip) Defensemen: Chris Pronger (concussion), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion)
Tampa Bay Lightning – Forwards: Vincent Lecavalier (lower body), Benoit Pouliot (shoulder) Defensemen: Mattias Ohlund (knee)

Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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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.

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.