Alexander Steen, Zach Parise

Get your game notes: Wild at Blues


Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the St. Louis Blues hosting the Minnesota Wild starting at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— The Blues are 7-0-1 vs. the other six teams in the Central Division, outscoring them by a combined 34-16 (not including shootout goals). The only other NHL teams that are unbeaten in regulation vs. divisional foes are Ottawa (6-0-1 vs. Atlantic teams) and Anaheim (5-0-0 vs. Pacific teams).

— Since the beginning of the 2008-09 season, the Blues are 7-0-2 vs. the Wild on home ice. Four of the past five meetings at Scottrade Center have gone past 60 minutes, with the Blues taking one game each in regulation, overtime and the shootout, while the Wild’s only two wins have come in the shootout.

— Since riding a 13-game point streak (the NHL’s longest this season) from Oct. 17-Nov. 16, the Blues’ Alexander Steen has only one assist in his last four games; after scoring at least one goal in 12 of his first 14 games from Oct. 3-Nov. 7, the Swedish sniper has gone without a goal in six of his last eight.

— Wild goaltender Josh Harding, who is questionable after suffering a leg injury in warmups on Saturday, is 6-3-1 lifetime vs. St. Louis, with a 1.92 GAA. The only other NHL team that he has beaten six times is Chicago (6-3-0, 2.53 GAA). Against the Blues, Niklas Backstrom is only 6-8-1, with a 2.86 GAA.

— Harding, who has eight wins in November (T-most in NHL, with Corey Crawford), has gone 22 games without allowing more than three goals. Only the Flyers’ Steve Mason (23) has a longer active streak.

— Since Mar. 24, 2011, the Blues are 44-0-1 at Scottrade Center when scoring three or more goals. (Their lone defeat came in a 6-5 shootout loss to Anaheim on Feb. 9, 2013.) Their 45-game point streak is exactly two-and-a-half times longer than the second-longest active home point streak (18), held by Washington (18-0-0), Minnesota (16-0-2) and Detroit (15-0-3). (Elias Sports Bureau)

— Of the 12 defensemen in the NHL who have at least 15 points this season, three play for the Blues: Alex Pietrangelo (18 points), Jay Bouwmeester (17) and Kevin Shattenkirk (16). Ryan Suter, the Wild’s points leader among blueliners, is also on that list (15 points, all assists).

— Suter leads the NHL in time on ice/game (29:33), almost two minutes more per game than the Senators’ Erik Karlsson (27:46, 2nd in the NHL). The last time a player averaged more than 29 minutes TOI/G over an entire season was 2002-03, when Nicklas Lidstrom (29:20) and Adrian Aucoin (29:00) did so.

— The Wild have allowed an NHL-low 25.3 shots per game. In the first three games of their current four-game road trip, however, they have allowed 104 shots (34.7 per game), including a season-high 39 vs. Winnipeg on Saturday.

— The Blues’ power play (20/78, 25.6%) tops the NHL. Their power-play efficiency at home is even better (13/44, 29.6%), although that statistic ranks only second in the league (Toronto, 32.4%).

— The Blues are coming off a 6-1 home win over Dallas (Nov. 23), in which six different players scored a goal. (13 different players registered at least one point.) Only eight times in 2013-14 has a team scored 6+ goals without a multi-goal scorer. (All of the teams that accomplished this feat reside in the Western Conference.) The Blues and Blackhawks are the only teams to do it twice. (Elias Sports Bureau)

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov

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The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.

Full Sparks: Leafs rookie posts shutout in NHL debut

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Exactly 366 days ago, Garret Sparks was tending goal for the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.

What a difference a year can make.

On Monday, Sparks — the 22-year-old netminder just recalled from the AHL Marlies — was the big story in Toronto, posting a 24-save shutout over Edmonton in his NHL debut.

Sparks’ debut came after the in-form James Reimer went down with injury and Jonathan Bernier struggled mightily to start the year. A seventh-round pick in 2011, Sparks was taken 189 spots behind the guy lined up across from him tonight — that’d be Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in ’11.

So yeah, Sparks might not be high on pedigree. But he’s certainly full value for what he’s achieved.

The former OHL Guelph standout went 8-2-1 with the Marlies this year, with a .938 save percentage and 1.90 GAA. Those numbers impressed the club’s brass and afforded him the chance to get a spot start against the Oilers.

And needless to say, it went well.

Leo Komarkov provided two-thirds of the Toronto offense on the night, scoring both the opening goal and insurance marker (into an empty net) to put him on 10 goals for the year. Komarov’s offensive outburst is nearly as surprising as Sparks’ emergence; prior to this season, the gritty Finn had never scored more than eight goals in a single NHL campaign.

Nazem Kadri scored the other goal for the Leafs, who are now 8-11-5 on the year.

As for Edmonton… well, the scoreline says it all. The club has just six goals in its last five games and has been shut out twice (the other occurred last Monday, in a 1-0 loss to the Caps). The defeat dropped the Oilers to 8-15-2, putting them right in the Western Conference basement next to Calgary, with 18 points.

New York, New York: Rangers snap slump, Isles win second straight

Oscar Lindberg

It was a good night in NYC.

In Manhattan, the Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over the ‘Canes at MSG and, while that was going on, the Isles won their second straight with a victory over the Avs in Brooklyn.

Nice little Monday, that.

Let’s begin with the Rangers.

Heading into tonight’s action in arguably their worst slump of the season, the Blueshirts got goals from Mats Zuccarello, Oscar Lindberg, Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard to edge the ‘Canes. While it was hardly an oil painting — New York was out-shot 36-22 — the club will gladly take the win, and the positives that came with it.

Like the power play, that went 2-for-4 on the night with Zuccarello’s and Lindberg’s tallies. And the fact the club was able to withstand the loss of d-man Kevin Klein, who exited early in the first period — despite missing a steadying presence that plays over 21 minutes per night, the Rangers’ remaining five d-men (Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle, Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle and Marc Staal) all played at least 20 minutes save Yandle, who clocked in at 19:43.

The Rangers also got a solid outing from Henrik Lundqvist, who made 33 saves on 36 shots. Jordan Staal, Victor Rask and Chris Terry scored for Carolina.

Now, over to Barclays.

The Isles overcame Blake Comeau‘s game-opening tally in the first to win 5-3, thanks to a three-goal barrage in the final period.

Head coach Jack Capuano will no doubt be pleased with the balanced scoring across the board, as five different Isles found the back of the net: Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas and Mikhal Grabovski, with Cizikas’ goal proving to be the eventual game-winner.

The win was also sweet given it came with backup netminder Thomas Greiss in goal. The victory pushed him to an impressive 7-3-2 on the year, putting him in the conversation among the NHL’s top second-string goalies.

For the Avs, tonight’s loss will sting. It was another unremarkable outing from Semyon Varlamov (four goals on 27 shots, an .852 save percentage) and a forgettable night for three of Colorado’s best players. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene combined to go pointless on the night, with a minus-8 rating.

And yes, I just referenced plus-minus.

Update: As longtime and cherished PHT commenter bcislesman pointed out, I neglected to mention Wednesday’s Rivalry Night game on NBCSN — between the Rangers and Isles! Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty on it in the coming days. A reminder the game will be available on TV and via NBC Sports’ Live Extra at 8 p.m. ET.

Rangers’ Klein exits with muscle strain, won’t return

Kevin Klein

The New York Rangers lost versatile d-man Kevin Klein early in the first period of their game against Carolina and, shortly after, announced he was done for the night.

Klein played just 2:22 before leaving with a muscle strain. The injury forced the Blueshirts to use just five defensemen for the remainder of the evening — Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle and Dan Girardi.

While it’s unclear how the injury occurred or how significant it is, Klein’s absence could be costly if it’s long-term. The 30-year-old was having a good year, with six points in 24 games, and saw his ice time go up to 21:03 per game from 18:29 last year.

If Klein is out moving forward, it would present an opportunity for Dylan McIlrath to take up a bigger role on the New York defense.