NHL on NBCSN: Flyers and Penguins clash on Rivalry Night

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Philadelphia Flyers head to CONSOL Energy Center to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Whenever the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers meet up, it seems to be a big deal. When they square off in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, it comes at a curious time for both teams.

The Penguins have lost two games in a row and, perhaps not coincidentally, Sidney Crosby hasn’t had a point in either game. He also hasn’t scored a goal in seven games. While Evgeni Malkin has been getting assists lately (four straight games to be exact), he too is in a goal funk having not potted one in 10 games.

With James Neal now back from an early injury, expect him and Malkin to find their stride soon.

Perhaps the best news of late for the Pens is that they’ll be back home after a three-game road trip in which their lone win came against a Columbus Blue Jackets team that’s got more than enough of their own problems winning games lately. On the upside, at least they haven’t had to worry about goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury is 10-4-0 this season with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. The Penguins will take that kind of action from him anytime.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $2,500 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Wednesday). It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $500. Starts at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the link.

The Flyers, meanwhile, head to Pittsburgh on a bit of a tear having won their last two games. More importantly, their offense has woken up.

Philly took down Edmonton 4-2 on Saturday and are coming off a 5-0 win against Ottawa on Tuesday night. Claude Giroux finally broke through and scored his first goal of the year against the Oilers. Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn have picked up the goal-scoring slack otherwise, with Lecavalier leading the team with seven.

Winger Jakub Voracek had his own breakout against Ottawa with two goals of his own. The best statistics the Flyers have seen this season, however, have been in goal where Steve Mason has been nothing short of brilliant.

Mason may only be 5-7-1 on the season, but he’s stopping pucks with a .931 save percentage and a 2.15 goals-against average. The guy who struggled as a Blue Jacket hasn’t been anywhere to be seen so far in Philly and that’s been the one bright spot through what’s been a rough start to the year.

If the Flyers have, indeed, found their offensive stroke, they’ll give the Penguins the kind of fight we’d expect between these two teams. When they met earlier this season, the Penguins won handily in Philadelphia 4-1. Expect things to be a bit more feisty tonight.

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.