NHL on NBCSN: Penguins look to avoid bad habits vs Devils

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the New Jersey Devils host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Penguins got Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang back on Tuesday and they assisted on a Jarome Iginla power-play goal. All the same, Pittsburgh suffered a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

That defeat won’t change the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins will enter the playoffs with the number one seed, but how they played was a bit troubling.

“I don’t think … we played our best,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Especially the first half of the game, the way we managed the puck.

“There were a lot of turnovers, a lot of opportunities for their team to go the other way with speed, and we saw them do that.

“That’s not characteristic of how we want to play, how we want to get into a game.”

Obviously it’s just one game, but the last thing the Penguins want to do right now is develop bad habits going into the playoffs. With that in mind, they’ll be looking to bounce back tonight against the Devils.

Of course, the Penguins would also like to get healthy for the start of the postseason. With that in mind, it must have been particularly frustrating on Tuesday when they lost Brooks Orpik to a lower-body injury.

The good news is that the Pittsburgh Penguins should get Paul Martin back soon.

“He’s continuing to progress,” said Bylsma in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report. “He returned to full team practice. … Hopefully, he’ll be able to do that a few more times remaining this week, and it’s a potential he could return to play in one of these games.”

Getting Martin back would be huge, but regardless the Penguins will be looking to play better tonight against a Devils team that wants to finish on a high note before beginning their long offseason.

Probable goaltenders: PIT – Marc-Andre Fleury (22-7-0, 2.35 GAA, .917 SV%) | NJD – Johan Hedberg (5-9-3, 2.73 GAA, .886 SV%)

Top scorers: PIT – Sidney Crosby (15-41-56, 36 GP) | NJD – Patrik Elias (14-20-34, 46 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Pittsburgh – Forwards: James Neal (concussion), Crosby (jaw) Defensemen: Orpik (lower body), Martin (thumb)
New Jersey – Defensemen: Bryce Salvador (wrist)

PHT Morning Skate: Joel Armia scored an amazing shorthanded goal you’ll have to see to believe

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Joel Armia has developed into a very useful player for the Winnipeg Jets, and on Tuesday night, he scored an incredible end-to-end goal that you won’t want to miss. He fought off one New Jersey Devil then got around two others before scoring this beautiful shorthanded goal. (Top)

–The Score breaks down the best “bang for your buck” contracts on each Canadian team. It’s not shocking to see Senators goalie Mike Condon on this list. The second-year netminder has been with three teams this season, but he’s come through in a big way for the Senators, and he only makes $575,000. (The Score)

–The ESPN Hockey writers put together a list of what they think the Vegas Golden Knights roster is going to look like after the expansion draft. Some well-known names like Andrew Cogliano, Jonas Brodin, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Plekanec, Jonathan Marchessault, Carl Hagelin and Jakob Silfverberg all made the list. (ESPN)

–Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” blog touched on some advice David Poile had for the Golden Knights now that the Oakland Raiders will be moving to Vegas. “You have to do your own thing. We created our ‘Predator Way.’ The Smashville idea and name. In-game entertainment fitting the market. Those things worked.” Friedman also wrote about Ken Hitchcock possibly returning to Dallas, and much more. (Sportsnet)

–Brampton Thunder forward Laura Stacey is the great-granddaughter of hall-of-fame defenseman King Clancy. Recently, Stacey decided she wanted to do a little digging into her great-grandfather’s career, and it really allowed her to get an appreciation for everything he accomplished. “Now I understand how hard he worked, how passionate and determined he was to be the best. Yes, it was a different era, but I can only imagine how hard he had to work to get where he was. As I get older, it makes it more special in that I know more the kind of guy he was.” (Canadian Press)

–The Montreal Canadiens have had some incredible defensemen come through their organization, but last night, Andrei Markov was able to reach an impressive milestone. By picking up an assist in a 4-1 win over Dallas, he tied Guy Lapointe for second in points by a defenseman in franchise history. Larry Robinson’s mark is pretty safe.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch when they failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong regular seasons, even as memories of their Cup win start to fade into the distance. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to defend Craig Anderson following his blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.