NHL on NBCSN: Pacific-leading Ducks take on Stars

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Dallas Stars host the Anaheim Ducks at American Airlines Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

By now we know the Western Conference is beastly to deal with. That hasn’t stopped the Anaheim Ducks from picking up where they ended last season, however.

The Ducks are on top of the Pacific Division and head into Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Stars having won two in a row. Before that, they dropped five straight. Despite numerous injuries throughout the year, the Ducks haven’t let that get them down and that’s mostly thanks to the play of captain Ryan Getzlaf and 2011 MVP Corey Perry.

Getzlaf leads the team in scoring with 27 points and Perry is right behind him with 25. Getzlaf’s point total puts him in the top-five in the NHL. They’re each tied for the team lead in goals with 13, a total that also puts them in the top-five in the league. Their play has also brought the best out of new-old Ducks forward Dustin Penner.

With six goals and 11 assists, Penner is third on the team in points. After last season with the Los Angeles Kings was a big letdown, he’s been outstanding in his return to Anaheim.

One thing the Ducks have had to stress about of late is goaltending. Jonas Hiller has had some struggles recently and Viktor Fasth’s injuries have held him back. Frederik Andersen has been outstanding when he’s played, however, and if he continues to do that, Hiller may need to break in his baseball cap on a more regular basis.

Things haven’t quite gone as they’d hoped in Dallas this season. They’re currently last in the Central Division and have had their struggles at home going just 3-3-2 there. The bright spots are easy to pick out.

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have been all they could’ve hoped for and they lead the team in scoring with 24 and 23 points respectively. Their play has been strong enough to get them talked about for being on Team Canada for the Olympics after neither was invited to their camp this summer.

Rookie forward Alex Chiasson got off to a quick start but has cooled off recently. Still, his six goals and 13 points are good for third on the team in both categories. A groin injury to Ray Whitney has kept him out of action of late and that has hurt their offensive production.

If there’s one person you can’t blame for their struggles, however, it’s goalie Kari Lehtonen. The Finnish netminder has been rock solid for the Stars this season and his numbers bear that out (.924 SV%, 2.28 GAA). If coach Lindy Ruff can get the defense figured out, they can climb back into the mix in the Central.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.