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


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)

It’s official: Crosby makes season debut for Penguins

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 18, 2015 in New York City. The Penguins defeated the Rangers 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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All signs pointed to it happening earlier in the day, but it is now official: Sidney Crosby is making his 2016-17 debut on Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Florida Panthers.

Crosby, the captain of the Penguins and the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, missed the first six games of the season due to a concussion. He was injured during practice following the World Cup of Hockey where he led Canada to a championship. Given how much time he missed a few years ago with a concussion only missing six games a positive development for both him and the Penguins.

Crosby will open the game skating on the Penguins’ top line alongside wingers Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson.

Along with Crosby return to the lineup, goaltender Matt Murray is also in uniform for the Penguins for the first time this season and will serve as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup.

Murray, who took over the starting job in the playoffs last year when Fleury was sidelined at the start of the first round, was injured at the World Cup while playing for Team North America and has been sidelined since.

Even with the return of Crosby and Murray on Tuesday the Penguins are still missing a pretty significant player as defenseman Kris Letang remains sidelined with an upper body injury.

WATCH LIVE: Sabres at Flyers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 11: Radko Gudas #3 of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jake McCabe #29 of the Buffalo Sabres fight in the third period at Wells Fargo Center on February 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers won 5-1.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Buffalo Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. This match-up features two teams off to slow starts and looking to work their way up the standings in their respective divisions.

You can check out the action on NBCSN or the NBC Sports’ Live Extra (7:30 pm ET).


Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR

NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks

Bylsma: ‘We need to get more’ out of Reinhart

Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR

Philadelphia Flyers left wing Michael Raffl (12) maintains control of the puck against New York Rangers center Derick Brassard (16) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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After missing the last week with an upper-body ailment, Flyers forward Michael Raffl has been placed on injured reserve.

To fill his spot, the Flyers recalled Taylor Leier from AHL Lehigh Valley.

Raffl, 27, has appeared in three games this season, scoring once while averaging 12:21 TOI per night. He hasn’t suited up since a 7-4 loss to Chicago on Oct. 18, failing to suit up for Thursday’s loss to Anaheim, Saturday’s win over Carolina and yesterday’s 3-1 defeat in Montreal.

The Flyers are taking on Buffalo tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Philly could make this IR designation retroactive to last Tuesday, which is when Raffl last played. It’s unclear how GM Ron Hextall will handle Raffl’s $2.35 million cap hit with regards to IR, but he’ll need to do some adjusting soon once injured defenseman Michael Del Zotto and forward Scott Laughton get back in the mix.

Five NHL team stats you may find interesting

Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher, right, celebrates after scoring against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, center, and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4), of Sweden, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

14 — The number of shorthanded goals surrendered by the Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, this topic has been beaten to death already, but for good reason. The next highest number in the NHL is eight, courtesy the Calgary Flames. It’s just very unlike the ‘Hawks. Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, two of the best defenders in the game, have been on the ice for nine PP goals against! Jonathan Toews, one of the best defensive forwards ever, hasn’t fared much better; he’s been on for seven.

9 — The number of power-play goals scored by the Nashville Predators. A pretty remarkable stat, especially considering the Preds have just two wins in their first five games. That kind of PP production can’t be counted on to continue, so they’d better improve at five-on-five. Also, avoid the soup in Detroit. It’ll getcha every time.

17 — The total number of goals scored in all five New Jersey Devils games. And in case you thought that was low, two of those goals came in overtime. So far, the highest-scoring game the Devils have experienced was a 3-2 loss in Tampa Bay, with each of the other four finishing with a score of 2-1. Average number of goals per game this season? Just 3.4.

7.4 — The average number of goals scored in an Ottawa Senators game. In other words, the Sens have a new coach, but not much has changed. Ottawa has played five games and has yet to give up fewer than three goals. Fun to watch, though.

-7.6 — The average shot differential for the Colorado Avalanche, who’ve still managed to win three of their first five. The Avs have only outshot one opponent so far, by just two shots in their season-opener against Dallas. In their last three games, they’ve been outshot by a combined margin of 105-62. To be fair, all three of those were on the road against tough teams, but lots of work left for Jared Bednar, too.