Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a third period save on Matt Cullen #7 of the Minnesota Wild at Joe Louis Arena on January 25, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 5-3.
(January 24, 2013 - Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America)

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Can Red Wings’ Howard continue dominance of Wild?

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Minnesota Wild will head to Joe Louis Arena for a match against the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Red Wings looked like they had a shot in the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter sweepstakes last summer, but of course, that didn’t come to pass. Instead, a new era has started in Minnesota while Detroit struggles to keep its remarkable 21-season playoff streak alive.

Detroit hasn’t faded since Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, nor have the Wild looked like Stanley Cup favorites just yet. Both franchises have demonstrated highs and lows this season, exposed areas of great concern and have made optimists out of many during other stretches.

As we start to power towards the end of the season though, both the Red Wings and the Wild are in the heart of the pack that will battle for everything from fourth to last place in the Western Conference. For Minnesota, there’s also a chance that they’ll come out on top in the relatively weak Northwest Division and secure the third seed.

The Red Wings’ greatest task tonight will likely be containing Suter and forward Devin Setoguchi. Both players have been superb lately, with Setoguchi in particular shaking off a cold start to the 2013 campaign by scoring six goals and 12 points in his last 11 games.

Detroit is expected to counter with goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has a 9-2-22 record, 1.96 GAA, and .917 save percentage in 13 career starts against Minnesota.

Both teams are on winning streak and this is one of those matches that could go either way. With the two teams so close in the standings, this might also end up serving as a first-round playoff preview.

Probable goaltenders: DET – Howard (12-7-4, 2.42 GAA, .917 SV%) | MIN – Niklas Backstrom (14-7-2, 2.34 GAA, .915 SV%)

Top scorers: DET – Pavel Datsyuk (9-21-30, 28 GP) and Henrik Zetterberg (8-22-30, 29 GP) | MIN – Mikko Koivu (6-17-23, 28 GP) and Suter (2-21-23, 28 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Detroit – Forwards: Patrick Eaves (jaw), Mikael Samuelsson (finger), Todd Bertuzzi (back), Darren Helm (back) Defensemen: Kyle Quincey (face), Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder)
Minnesota – Forwards: Michael Rupp (lower body) Defensemen: Tom Gilbert (undisclosed) Goaltending: Josh Harding (symptoms related to multiple sclerosis)

Former NHLer LaCouture pleads not guilty to assaulting woman

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 19: Dan LaCouture #28 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 19, 2006 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bruins won 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) A former NHL player has pleaded not guilty to charges he assaulted a woman in Massachusetts over the weekend.

The Cape Cod Times reports Daniel LaCouture appeared Tuesday in Barnstable District Court on charges of assault and battery and vandalizing property.

Police responded just after 6 p.m. Saturday to a house in Centerville, where they say the 39-year-old LaCouture hid underneath a vehicle in the home’s driveway before confronting the victim and striking her in the collarbone.

LaCouture is due back in court July 15.

A phone number listed for LaCouture in online public records was disconnected.

LaCouture made his NHL debut with Edmonton in 1999. The forward had 20 goals and 25 assists in 337 career games with six NHL teams.

He is one of dozens of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the NHL over concussion-related injuries.

A better start is key for Sharks in Game 2

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It’s easy to suggest that perhaps the San Jose Sharks got caught up with some nerves during the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After all, this is a franchise that, after well-documented playoff shortfalls, is playing in the championship series for the first time. The Pittsburgh Penguins, on the other hand, well they’ve been here before — seven years ago.

Sharks’ defenseman Brent Burns conceded that his team may have been overwhelmed at first, outshot 15-4 in the opening 20 minutes, before eventually getting back on track in the middle of the game.

The result was a two-goal deficit, as the Penguins jumped into the lead. San Jose fought back, but ultimately lost on a late Nick Bonino goal.

The Sharks, of course, have stressed getting out to a better start, and that what happened Monday can be a learning experience, as they look to even the series in Game 2 on Wednesday.

“We were excited to play. We felt we were ready. Then at the start, we didn’t execute the way we needed to. We try to take that lesson and learn from it,” Joe Pavelski told reporters on Tuesday.

“Hopefully we can have a better start. Obviously it’s exciting to be here. I don’t know if it’s your first time or your fifth time, I’m sure it’s exciting every time. So we’ll learn from that game and hopefully have a better start.”

 

Bears face Monsters for the AHL’s Calder Cup

MILWAUKEE - JUNE 15:  Chris Bourque #17 of the Hershey Bears kisses the Calder Cup after the Hershey Bears defeated the Milwaukee Admirals in game six of the AHL Calder Cup Finals on June 15, 2006 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Admirals 5-1 in game six to win the AHL Calder Cup. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Hershey Bears and Lake Erie Monsters will play for the 2016 Calder Cup, as the American Hockey League’s championship series begins Wednesday.

The Bears, who start with home ice advantage, enter the series having won the Calder Cup 11 times — the most of any franchise in the league’s history. They also enter the final having dispatched the Toronto Marlies — Canada’s remaining hope for an AHL championship, right…? — in the third round.

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Meanwhile, the Monsters have been on a torrid run in the playoffs, losing only twice in 13 games so far. They’ve earned the sweep in two of three series, making quick work of the Rockford IceHogs and Ontario Reign.

Bears forward Carter Camper, a journeyman in the minors with three games of NHL experience with Boston in 2011-12, is second in AHL playoff scoring with 15 points in 17 games.

For the Monsters, Blue Jackets prospect Lukas Sedlak has been on a roll, offensively, and now has 13 points in 13 post-season games this year.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Sedlak was regarded as a smart two-way forward, but his offensive production was minimal, almost non-existent. Players like that tend to drift away after a few seasons, pushed aside by the next wave of young talent and high draft picks.

“I’d say right around Christmas I started wondering what was going to happen,” Sedlak said. “I was asking my agent what Columbus thought of me, and I was prepared for everything — maybe even going back to Europe.

“I knew my contract was up after the season. I thought I was playing pretty well … but you just don’t know.”

 

Stars sign Dowling, Ranford to one-year deals

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The Dallas Stars made a pair of depth moves on Tuesday, announcing the signings of forwards Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford to one-year contracts.

Both players have put up good numbers in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars.

This past season, the 24-year-old Ranford scored 19 goals and 59 points in 76 games — all career highs for him in the minors. He played once for Dallas last season, but didn’t register a point.

Initially undrafted and a Stars’ free agent signing from two years ago, the 25-year-old Dowling was also productive with 11 goals and 46 points in 52 games.