PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 4: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts to his goal with Martin St. Louis #26 in front of Marc-Andre Fleury #29 and Joe Vitale #46 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 4, 2013 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHL on NBCSN: Lightning’s Stamkos continues scoring race vs Penguins


NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Tampa Bay Times Forum at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Perhaps the scariest part about the Pittsburgh Penguins this season is that they’re still a threat to win even with some of their big names injured. James Neal and Sidney Crosby are out, but the Penguins still have Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla.

They played their previous five contests without defensemen Paul Martin or Kris Letang and they still won three of those matches.

At this point, Pittsburgh has already locked up its division and the only question is if it can claim the first seed.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is out of the playoff race, but that doesn’t mean this game is pointless. This will be a key test for goaltender Ben Bishop as the Lightning see if he can be just as successful with them as he was with Ottawa.

The Lightning traded away Calder Trophy candidate Cory Conacher to get Bishop and so far the move has paid off. However, Pittsburgh will arguably be his greatest challenge yet.

Bishop has only played against the Penguins once before and he was yanked halfway through that contest after allowing three goals on 20 shots.

This is also another key game in the Rocket Richard Trophy race. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos is tied with Alex Ovechkin at 26 goals each. Stamkos has played in one less game, but given how hot Ovechkin has been lately, he needs every advantage he can get.

With 50 points, Stamkos is also attempting to surpass the injured Crosby and potentially win his first Art Ross Trophy. His teammate Martin St. Louis is also a candidate for the Art Ross Trophy with 49 points. St. Louis hasn’t won the award since 2003–04, so it would be special to see the 37-year-old reclaim it after that long of a gap.

Beyond that, the Penguins are going to battle hard in this game. Even if they don’t have much left to compete for from a seeding perspective, they want to avoid a third consecutive first-round exit. They can help prevent that by building momentum that they can carry into the playoffs.

At that point, they might have all their big-name players back and the Penguins will look even more dangerous…

Probable goaltenders: PIT – Marc-Andre Fleury (20-6-0, 2.31 GAA, .917 SV%) | TBL – Bishop (10-7-0, 2.35 GAA, .928 SV%)

Top scorers: PIT – Crosby (15-41-56, 36 GP) | TBL – Stamkos (26-24-50, 39 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Pittsburgh – Forwards: Neal (concussion), Crosby (jaw) Defensemen: Martin (hand), Letang (toe/groin – might return tonight)
Tampa Bay – Defensemen: Victor Hedman (lower body), Mattias Ohlund (knee) Goaltenders: Anders Lindback (ankle)

Rangers’ Klein exits with muscle strain, won’t return

Kevin Klein

The New York Rangers lost versatile d-man Kevin Klein early in the first period of their game against Carolina and, shortly after, announced he was done for the night.

Klein played just 2:22 before leaving with a muscle strain. The injury forced the Blueshirts to use just five defensemen for the remainder of the evening — Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle and Dan Girardi.

While it’s unclear how the injury occurred or how significant it is, Klein’s absence could be costly if it’s long-term. The 30-year-old was having a good year, with six points in 24 games, and saw his ice time go up to 21:03 per game from 18:29 last year.

If Klein is out moving forward, it would present an opportunity for Dylan McIlrath to take up a bigger role on the New York defense.


‘It was a scary incident’: Colaiacovo returns to Sabres practice after dented trachea

Carlo Colaiacovo
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Carlo Colaiacovo‘s remarkably quick recovery from what appeared to be a serious injury continued on Monday, as he returned to practice roughly 48 hours after suffering a dented trachea.

Colaicovo, who was hospitalized after taking a Viktor Arvidsson cross-check to the throat on Saturday, skated with his Buffalo teammates on Monday in advance of tomorrow’s game against Detroit.

“I feel good,” Colaiacovo said, per the Sabres’ website. “Obviously it was a scary incident and at the time it was pretty painful but it is what it is.

“Right now, it’s not really stopping me from doing much.”

Though he said he’s still feeling pain in and around his throat, Colaiacovo is eligible to return to the Sabres’ lineup tomorrow.

The 32-year-old, who has appeared in 15 games this season, would no doubt like to play tomorrow. It’d put him up against the same Detroit team that employed him during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, only to buy out his contract at the end of the year.

Couture (fractured fibula) continues skating with Sharks, says return is on schedule

Logan Couture
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Some good news at Sharks practice today — Logan Couture continued to skate with teammates, just one week after returning to the ice from a broken leg suffered on Oct. 17.

What’s more, Couture says he’s on schedule to meet the 4-6 week timetable for return.

“[I’m] where I thought I would be at this point in time,” Couture said, per CSN Bay Area.

While the 26-year-old wouldn’t put an exact date on his return, it’s clear both he and the Sharks are anxious for him to get back in the lineup — especially with the club surging, and Couture having only played in three regular-season contests this year.

Looking ahead, there are some dates worth circling on the ol’ calendar.

The Sharks have a relatively light week. After beating Calgary 5-2 on Saturday, they play just once in five days — Tuesday’s home tilt against the Penguins — before a weekend back-to-back set against the Ducks on Friday and Lightning on Saturday.

The Ducks game is in Anaheim, but the following night’s contest against the Bolts is at the friendly confines of SAP. So that could be a potential date to watch for — but it is worth noting Couture said he’s still hesitant about getting into game action until his first step is back.

“Until then, I’m not going to force my way out there and put myself in a bad spot,” he explained.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler

It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks