CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 17: Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings fight for the puck during the NHL game on February 17, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHL on NBCSN: Kings face tough test in Chicago

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET.

The Los Angeles Kings know better than any team in the league that as long as you make the playoffs, anything can happen. However, with roughly two-thirds of their season in the books, they still have a lot of work to do if they want to secure a postseason berth.

The Kings haven’t scored a goal in their last 126:14 minutes of playing time and that’s the setup for their upcoming five-game road trip that kicks off tonight in Chicago.

Los Angeles, like most teams, has been unable to beat the 24-3-3 Blackhawks this season. The fact that the Kings facing them in Chicago, where the Blackhawks have only suffered one regulation loss in 2013, just adds to the daunting task ahead of them.

After being shutout of back-to-back contests, it’s clear that the Kings as a team need to step up their game, but the heat has to be on Jeff Carter in particular. That might seem unfair, but when he’s hot, he’s been the difference for the Kings this season. They are 13-1-1 when he finds the back of the net and 4-11-1 when the opposition silences him.

Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the 28-year-old forward has gone cold lately with just two points in his last eight games and he didn’t even manage a single shot on goal on Saturday.

For Chicago, this game is principally about not allowing themselves to relax or lose confidence as they enter a dangerous part of the season. The Blackhawks don’t really have much left to play for until the playoffs, except the bragging rights that come with finishing the season with the top record in the NHL.

Even if Chicago plays mediocre hockey for the rest of the campaign, they’ll still probably end up with at least the second seed, but letting up now could bleed into the first round, so they need to find ways to stay motivated. They might not need this win in the same way that the Kings do, but they definitely want it and aren’t about to roll over and let the Kings take these two points without a fight.

Probable goaltenders: CHI – Corey Crawford (13-3-3, 1.86 GAA, .926 SV%) | LAK – Jonathan Quick (10-10-2, 2.47 GAA, .897 SV%)

Top scorers: CHI – Patrick Kane (16-22-38, 30 GP) | LAK – Anze Kopitar (9-19-28, 30 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Chicago – Forwards: Marian Hossa (upper body), Patrick Sharp (shoulder)
Los Angeles – Defensemen: Willie Mitchell (knee), Matt Greene (back)

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.