Get your game notes: Predators at Wild

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A couple of Central Division rivals meet tonight in Minnesota when the Wild host the Nashville Predators. The game can be seen on NBCSN (TSN in Canada) starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Entering the tenth game of the season, Wild forward Dany Heatley is still searching for his first goal of the season (0-2=2). Heatley, with 360 goals in 796 NHL games, had never previously gone more than five games without scoring a goal to begin a season. Heatley had 24 points (14g, 10a) in his first 18 career games vs. NSH but has gone scoreless in his last 3 games vs. NSH.

• The Predators are 8-2-1 in their last 11 meetings with the Wild. Since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, seven of eight games have been decided by one goal (the eighth by two goals), with one ending in overtime and three decided in a shootout.

• This game pits the league’s No. 1 and No. 2-ranked faceoff teams, with Nashville winning 55.8% of its draws and Minnesota 55.7%. The Predators’ Paul Gaustad is the NHL leader in faceoff win percentage at 61.1% (110/180), while Kyle Brodziak leads the Wild at 57.7% (75/130), 6th-best in the league. Wild captain Mikko Koivu (56.7%) and Preds veteran David Legwand (56.4%) also are among the top 15. Gaustad has finished among the league’s top 10 in faceoffs in each of the last 4 seasons.

• Predators head coach Barry Trotz is the longest-tenured bench boss in the NHL (hire date: Oct. 6, 1997). Since he coached his – and the Nashville franchise’s – first game (Oct. 10, 1998), there have been 124 other head coaches in the NHL (regular or interim), including NHL on NBC’s Mike Milbury and Ed Olczyk.

Zach Parise ranks 2nd in the NHL with 51 shots on goal – but none of his last 21 have gone in the net, a goal drought spanning four games after the Minnesota top-line left winger had scored four times in the season’s first five games. (Parise has six goals in 10 career games vs. NSH.)

• Parise’s drought reflects his team’s own: the Wild have been held to one goal in each of their last three games, all losses (0-2-1), and have scored two or fewer in seven of their nine games this season. Tonight, they meet a Predators team that has allowed only one non-shootout goal in each of their last three games (2-0-1). Minnesota and Nashville are tied for 25th in the league in goals per game (2.11).

• Wild defenseman, Ryan Suter, the NHL leader in average ice time (29:22), is slated to play in his 600th NHL game tonight. He played his first 542 games in a Predators sweater (2005-12), 2nd among defensemen in franchise history (Kimmo Timonen, 573, 1998-2007). Nashville captain Shea Weber is next in line, with 537 games played.

• Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is 9-3-2, with a 2.08 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 15 career games vs. the Wild, including Nashville’s 3-2 win at home on Oct. 8. His countryman, Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (who might start his first game since suffering a strained knee in Nashville on Oct. 8), is 9-5-1 vs. the Preds, with a 2.66 GAA and .908 save %. Backstrom’s first NHL win came at Xcel Energy Center vs. Nashville, on Oct. 7, 2006.

• After allowing six goals in its first 17 times shorthanded this season, the Predators have killed off 16 straight penalties over their last five games (4-0-1), their longest successful PK stretch since killing off 18 in a row between Jan. 10-24, 2012.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson