LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 16: Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings skates with the puck against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center on March 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHL on NBCSN: Kings, Sharks battle for home ice advantage

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the San Jose Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings at the HP Pavilion at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Just how important is home ice advance in the playoffs? Well, it would probably help these two teams, given that they’re a combined 30-5-6 at home this season and just 16-22-5 on the road.

That’s what’s at stake tonight as the Kings currently hold the fourth seed, but have a mere one-point lead over the Sharks. This is their second last game against each other and consequently one of their last opportunities to push down the other squad.

Naturally, given these teams’ disparity between their home and road records, the advantage would seem to be with San Jose tonight. However, the Sharks are at the end of a three games in four days stretch that included a contest in Phoenix last night.

San Jose won that match, but fatigue has to be a concern against the rested Kings.

For the Sharks, perhaps their biggest challenge tonight will be containing Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. When Carter’s hot, he’s one of the most dangerous scorers in the league and lately he has six goals in eight games. Meanwhile, Richards is taking a six-game point streak into this contest.

Although he played last night, the Sharks might counter with goaltender Antti Niemi. He earned a 35-save shutout against Phoenix on Monday and has traditionally been very good against the Kings in regular season games. He has a 9-4-2 record, 2.39 GAA, and .922 save percentage in 16 career non-playoffs starts against Los Angeles.

These two teams will also wrap up the season against each other on April 27 and at this rate, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them meet each other in the playoffs.

Probable goaltenders: LAK – Jonathan Quick (15-12-3, 2.50 GAA, .898 SV%) | SJS – Niemi (21-10-6, 2.13 GAA, .925 SV%)

Top scorers: LAK – Anze Kopitar (10-27-37, 41 GP) | SJS – Joe Thornton (7-30-37, 42 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Los Angeles – Defensemen: Willie Mitchell (knee), Matt Greene (back)
San Jose – Defensemen: Scott Hannan (upper body)

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.