Alex Steen

NHL on NBCSN: Hot Wild, Blues fight for edge in Central Division

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the St. Louis Blues host the Minnesota Wild at the Scottrade Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

In some ways, the Blues and Wild are similar stories. Both franchises are on the upswing and hungry for more after disappointing first round exits in 2013.

Neither team is one of the most popular picks to win the Stanley Cup, but both have a lot of promise. They have young forwards stepping up like Nino Niederreiter in Minnesota or Jaden Schwartz in St. Louis along with elite defensemen capable of leading a playoff team like the Wild’s Ryan Suter and Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $2,500 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Monday). It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $500. Starts at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the link.

Most importantly though, lately they have been able to do no wrong. Of the combined 23 games these two squads have participated in this month, they have only lost three in regulation. It’s no wonder that St. Louis and Minnesota have two of the best records in the league at 16-3-3 and 15-5-4 respectively.

Of course, there are plenty of differences between these two squads too.

In addition to playing a solid defensive game, the Blues have managed to crush their competition by overwhelming them offensively. That’s due in no small part to Alexander Steen’s remarkable start with 17 goals and 27 points in 22 games, but even as he starts shows signs of slowing down, St. Louis is far from vulnerable.

The Blues have six players that have recorded at least 16 points this season and 11 with a minimum of 10 points. Forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie are enjoying the best campaign of their careers and they’re still hot going into tonight’s contest.

They’ll run up against one of the best defenses in the league though. Minnesota has limited its competition to an NHL-best 25.3 shots per game. That’s helped them maintain a team 2.17 GAA, although that statistic comes with an asterisk tonight.

Goaltender Josh Harding has been a big part of the Minnesota Wild’s success, but he suffered a lower-body injury on Saturday. Harding has since gotten good news from an MRI, but the best case is that he serves as the backup tonight, according to NHL.com.

That puts the Wild’s fate in the hands of Niklas Backstrom, who was great in his recent contest against Winnipeg, but has struggled overall this season.

Combine that with the Blues’ home ice advantage and the fact that they’ve won their last five games against Minnesota and it seems fair to give them the edge. But given how good these teams have been, anything is possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.

 

Trade: Capitals go all in for Kevin Shattenkirk; Blues receive picks

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If there was any doubt about the Washington Capitals going “all-in” to win a Stanley Cup, they erased it on Monday. They sent a pick-heavy package to the St. Louis Blues to land defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, according to a slew of reports.

Yes, that’s right; the top team in the NHL standings landed the biggest trade deadline target. They also edged other contenders hoping to land Shattenkirk, including division rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

Do note that the teams haven’t made the deal official by the Blues or Capitals just yet, likely due to the complexity of some of the conditions.

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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports that Shattenkirk is headed to the Capitals, per “multiple league sources.” There are a “few conditions” to iron out, but it’s a go “barring a collapse,” according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

TSN’s Darren Dreger and Frank Seravalli both report that Shattenkirk is expected to play for the Capitals against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports possible elements of the deal: the Blues will receive a 2017 first-rounder, a conditional second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford as the “main parts” of the trade. LeBrun reports that the Blues likely retained some salary to make it all work, though he believes they retained less than 50 percent.

There could be more assets involved, though. Also, that second-rounder needs clarification:

Sanford, 22, was a second-round pick (61st overall) by the Caps in 2013. He has three points in 26 NHL games this season and also played 25 games (compiling 16 points) in the AHL.

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Almost exactly one year ago, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said that he believed the team has a two-year window to win a Cup, or at least as their best opportunity to win it all. He’s backing up those words with this bold move.

(And maybe he was playing coy by stating that he was only looking to improve his team “on the fringes.”)

Trade rumblings: Isles interested in Duchene, Caps ponder Shattenkirk

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 29:  Keven Shattenkirk #8 and Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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As has become a custom, NHL teams are being proactive and making big moves before the actual day of the trade deadline. So, what’s bubbling below the surface even with Ben Bishop and Martin Hanzal off the market?

Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

TSN’s Insider Trading segment from Monday night provides a bounty of interesting things to consider, even if it’s important to note that these rumblings don’t argue that anything is imminent. The full video is absolutely worth your time, in part because some bits aren’t covered here.

An especially interesting potential destination for Matt Duchene

OK, so the most important part to note is that Bob McKenzie reports that the Colorado Avalanche remain firm on what they want for Matt Duchene: three or four “high-end” pieces, preferably an NHL-ready defenseman. McKenzie reasonably notes that such a deal might be more feasible during the off-season instead of this week.

The segment does bring in a fascinating possibility, remote or not: what if the New York Islanders go in on Duchene, with Travis Hamonic maybe helping to make a deal possible?

It might be a long shot – the Islanders are labeled a “dark horse” for Duchene, a market that’s already seemingly shaky since Colorado wants a lot for the speedy forward – but it’s fun to imagine an Islanders center duo of Duchene and John Tavares.

Tavares was the first pick in 2009 while Duchene went third to Colorado, so this move would be a bit like the Sharks trading for Joe Thornton, who was drafted right before Patrick Marleau in 1997.

Anyway, that would be fun on the outside chance it could happen.

The battle for Shattenkirk

Some people might be tired of hearing about St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, especially since he’s allegedly nixed some deals. Still, there are plenty of interesting teams connected to the high-scoring blueliner.

TSN’s Darren Dreger notes the Washington Capitals interest in Insider Trading … though it’s possible that Washington is just as interested in driving up the price for other contenders as they might be in acquiring him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman makes the Blues – Capitals connection, too.

The Blues understandably want to drive the price up one way or another.

Puck Daddy acknowledges the possibility of the New York Rangers landing yet another blockbuster in Shattenkirk. Former GM Brian Lawton wonders if the Capitals are in a bidding war with the Pittsburgh Penguins for Shattenkirk.

There … are just a lot of things flying around.

Assorted bits

Overall, there’s a lot to take in. Enjoy pondering all the possibilities.

Mumps hit Wild as Parise, Pominville will not play vs. Kings

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 5: Johnny Oduya #27 of the Chicago Blackhawks falls onto the puck as Jason Pominville #29 and Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild attempt to get the puck during the first period in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 5, 2015 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Add the Minnesota Wild to the unsettling pattern of teams affected by mumps this season.

In their case, two significant players will at least miss Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (on NBCSN, by the way): Zach Parise and Jason Pominville have been sidelined with that condition.

It’s not clear how much time they might miss nor is it clear if anyone else on the team is dealing with symptoms. Here’s a release via the Wild:

Members of the organization that have symptoms are being tested immediately and placed in isolation for a five-day period. Team doctors recently provided players and staff an MMR vaccination and the organization will continue to work closely with the NHL, NHLPA and the Minnesota Department of Health to help prevent further infection. 

Uh oh.

Martin Hanzal and Ryan White are set to make their debuts tonight. Their presence could be especially welcome if this becomes a more widespread issue for Minnesota. (You may remember the Wild dealing with an outbreak in 2014, too.)

Tyler Graovac and Jordan Schroeder are expected to be in Minnesota’s lineup tonight, according to the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. Russo indicates that assistant coach Scott Stevens may also be dealing with mumps.