Sidney Crosby

NHL on NBCSN: Red-hot Penguins host red-hot Avalanche


NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Colorado Avalanche at CONSOL Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

If fans in Nova Scotia seem to be a bit more interested in Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche, there’s good reason. A pair of Cole Harbour’s favorite sons will face each other for the first time in the NHL.

One you already know all about in Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. He leads the NHL in points, he’s tied with four others for the league lead in goals. He’s an all-world talent and perhaps the best player in the game today. Like you needed to be told all that already.

The other is Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon. As a kid growing up in Cole Harbour, Crosby was his role model and now he’s one of a handful of Avs centers helping lead the team to a surprising 7-1-0 start. His seven points to start the year is strong, tying him for second on the team with P.A. Parenteau.

source: Getty ImagesOf course, Crosby’s Penguins are also 7-1-0 which makes Monday night’s game all the more interesting.

Pittsburgh’s only loss came on the road against Florida with backup Jeff Zatkoff in goal. Colorado’s lone defeat came at home against the veteran Detroit Red Wings, a loss that was overshadowed by Cody McLeod’s hit on Niklas Kronwall.

For the Penguins, the usual cast of characters are getting it done for them. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, and Jussi Jokinen are off to strong starts as well.

Editor’s Note: ProHockeyTalk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Monday). It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the link.

In Colorado, the play of Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly has had coach Patrick Roy gushing over them. It’s been a team effort for the Avalanche, however, as they have nine players with five points or more and play a speed game that puts pressure on opponents to make decisions quickly.

For the Penguins, they might feel like they’re looking in the mirror if the Avalanche offense gets rolling.

Canucks spoil Ducks’ home opener via shootout

Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks have already found a groove just three games into the regular season. The Anaheim Ducks are still looking for a way to get their offense going.

Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows scored in the shootout, and the Canucks spoiled Anaheim’s home opener with a 2-1 victory Monday night.

Miller made 28 saves and Adam Cracknell scored in regulation for Vancouver, which beat the Ducks for just the third time in their last 12 meetings.

Vancouver improved to 2-0 on the road in the young season, with Miller yielding just one goal in each game. That’s encouraging to the veteran, who played in only four games after Feb. 22 last season while dealing with a knee injury.

“I’m just trying to go out there and battle and compete,” said Miller, who stopped a third-period redirection by Carl Hagelin with his mask. “That was my mindset coming off an injury. That’s what it really comes down to, getting back the focus early on. I didn’t play hockey for a while. The technical stuff I worked on this summer and I pay attention to in practice.”

Even with twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin combining for just one shot, the Canucks won the new season’s first meeting between the Pacific Division’s top two teams last year. Anaheim won its third straight division title, while Vancouver finished a surprising second before losing in the opening round of the playoffs.

Sami Vatanen scored and Frederik Andersen stopped 24 shots for the Ducks, who have scored just one goal while going winless in the first two games of a season that begins with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Anaheim was shut out in San Jose on Saturday in its opener before returning to Honda Center for its first real game on home ice since Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, when Chicago advanced to win the Stanley Cup.

Kevin Bieksa played nearly 24 1/2 minutes in his second game with the Ducks. Anaheim acquired the veteran defenseman from Vancouver last summer after he played 10 years with the Canucks, who drafted him in 2001. Bieksa was reunited with Ryan Kesler, the longtime Vancouver forward who moved to Anaheim before last season.

“We fought back a lot better than we did in San Jose,” Bieksa said. “So we need to keep building on this in the rest of this homestand here. If we do that, we’re going to be all right.”

After the Ducks failed to score on a power play during their first official taste of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, Vrbata and Burrows got stuttering, halting shots past Andersen, who stopped Burrows’ shot before watching it trickle under him.

“I’ve done that move a few times against a few goalies, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it against Freddie,” Burrows said. “So I tried it, and I’m lucky it went in tonight. It hit his stick and trickled in.”

Jakob Silfverberg scored in the shootout for the Ducks, who lost their home opener for just the second time in six seasons. Anaheim’s talented offensive players aren’t clicking so far, but nobody is panicking yet.

“I think we’re doing things the right way now,” Vatanen said. “We battled hard. We got some good chances. The season is long, so we’re going the right way.”

Both teams opened at a furious pace, with end-to-end chances throughout. After a scoreless first period, Vatanen got the Ducks’ first goal of the season when his long, low shot went through Mike Santorelli‘s screen.

Cracknell evened it later in the period with a sharp-angled shot that somehow deflected off Andersen’s shoulder or stick and landed behind the goalie. The journeyman got his first regular-season NHL goal since April 4, 2013, and just the seventh of his 85-game NHL career.

“Pretty fortunate goal on their part,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

NOTES: A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center to call for the suspension of Ducks D Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada related to a 2013 grizzly bear hunt. … Cracknell hadn’t scored a goal in his last 49 regular-season games, although he got a postseason goal in 2014 for St. Louis.

Coming Tuesday: Dan Boyle, $4.5M healthy scratch

Brad Marchand, Dan Boyle

Few things say “Oops, bad signing” quite like putting a really expensive player in street clothes (without an injury being involved).

The Philadelphia Flyers set quite the high bar in that regard, but the New York Rangers can’t laugh too much. Not with Dan Boyle expected to be a healthy scratch against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

The word from the Bergen Record is that Dylan McIlrath will draw into the Rangers lineup in Boyle’s space, although Kevin Klein will take over Boyle’s role on the power play.

Let’s face the facts. At 39, Boyle may still boast some zip on offense, but maybe not enough to justify an everyday role.

It’s not the first time the Rangers have decided to make the difficult, awkward season to phase a big name out as he approaches age 40.

Even if it’s just a momentary situation, one cannot help but wonder if Boyle’s career is screeching to halt much like Martin St. Louis’ did in 2014-15 (though the latter’s decline was more sudden).

On the bright side, it sounds like Boyle has a side job lined up with Faith No More.