Zac Rinaldo #36 of the Philadelphia Flyers and B.J. Crombeen #19 of the Tampa Bay Lightning fight in the first period on February 5, 2013 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(February 4, 2013 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

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)

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes
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Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury