NHL on NBC: Blues, Red Wings renew Central Division rivalry

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The Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues will head into Sunday’s game (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) as the seventh- and eighth-place teams in the Western Conference.

As if they needed anther reason to make the battle heated.

These two long-time rivals will renew acquaintances and fight for postseason positioning at Joe Louis Arena in their fifth and final meeting of the year — and, if the previous four matchups have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

It will also be the last time the two teams will meet as division rivals thanks to realignment – at least in the regular season.

The Blues won the opening meeting of the season in dominant fashion, bombing the Wings 6-0.

In Game No. 2, Detroit gained a measure of revenge by winning 5-3 on the strength of a Henrik Zetterberg hat-trick.

The third game saw the Wings make full amends for the 6-0 blowout, as they crushed the Blues 5-1.

And, in the most recent game (Feb. 13), the Blues beat the Wings 4-3 in overtime, rallying from an early 2-0 deficit to win it on Alex Steen’s OT winner.

As for current form, Detroit comes into Sunday’s game on a roll, having won two of their last three. That includes Friday’s wild 3-2 overtime win over Colorado, in which Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-winner with 15 seconds remaining — giving the Wings a win despite being out-shot 35-31.

The Blues, meanwhile, have won three straight, including a crucial 3-1 victory over Columbus on Friday. Captain David Backes scored the game winner, and rookie netminder Jake Allen stopped 26 of 27 shots as the Blues held off the hard-charging Blue Jackets, who now sit tied for ninth in the West.

As mentioned above, the game will be on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET, and also available for live streaming at NBCSports.com.

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?