Jakub Voracek #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes a shot as Michael Del Zotto #4 of the New York Rangers defends on March 5, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.The New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2.
(March 4, 2013 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Rangers battle in ‘huge’ game

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. ET.

After back-to-back losses, the Philadelphia Flyers have slipped to 13th place in the Eastern Conference and are five points behind their opponents, the eighth place Rangers.

At this point, it’s hard to look at the Flyers’ playoff chances as anything other than slim, but if they are to start a comeback, it needs to happen now.

“This week coming up is huge for us,” Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said in a CSN Philly report. “And it starts tomorrow with the Rangers in the eighth spot. That is a huge game.”

The Rangers need every point they can get too. Their hold on the eighth seed is a thin one and after two straight defeats, they need to turn things around quickly or it will be lost. As it is, the ninth place Carolina Hurricanes are just one point behind despite the fact that the Rangers have a game on them.

For the Rangers, offense has been a big problem all season long. They are the second worst team in the NHL with an average of 2.26 goals scored per game.

That’s a massive step backwards from how they did offensively in 2011-12 when they won the Eastern Conference and the decline came in spite of the fact that they went out and got Rick Nash in the off-season.

The Rangers are close to getting back forward Mats Zuccarello to help in that regard, but he won’t be available for this contest.

Despite the Rangers’ struggles, Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will still be a key factor in this game. He turned aside 33 of 35 shots in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 overtime win against Philadelphia on Sunday.

“Bryz was unbelievable. … If he plays like that, we’re going to be hard to beat,” Timonen said.

Conversely, if he struggles against the Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers will likely find themselves seven points out of eighth place with just 16 contests to go.

Probable goaltenders: PHI – Bryzgalov (13-13-2, 2.75 GAA, .900 SV%) | NYR – Henrik Lundqvist (13-12-2, 2.21 GAA, .921 SV%)

Top scorers: PHI – Jakub Voracek (13-19-32, 31 GP) | NYR – Nash (10-15-25, 27 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Philadelphia – Forwards: Daniel Briere (concussion), Jody Shelley (hip) Defensemen: Nicklas Grossmann (upper body), Chris Pronger (concussion), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion)
New York – Forwards: J.T. Miller (wrist) Defensemen: Marc Staal (eye), Michael Sauer (concussion)

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.