Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) is checked by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) and goalie Tuukka Rask (40) in front of the crease in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. The Red Wings won 3-2. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Red Wings challenge division-leading Bruins

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Boston Bruins will head to Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Red Wings are back home after a brief detour to Buffalo, but maybe it would have been better if they had stayed on the road.

They have struggled lately and a lot of that has taken place at The Joe. As a result, Detroit now has a 4-4-6 home record despite being 11-7-7 overall.

To make matters worse, Detroit will be without Pavel Datsyuk (head) and Todd Bertuzzi (shoulder) tonight. They also won’t lead with goaltender Jimmy Howard, although that’s for an entirely different reason.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $3,000 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Wednesday). It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $600. Starts at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Howard hasn’t won a game since Nov. 1 and has allowed at least three goals in six of his last eight contests.

“Let’s be clear, we’ll go as far as Howie takes us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News. “He’s an elite goalie who it hasn’t gone as good as he’d like to lately. We’ll give him a breather to work with Jimmy (Bedard, Red Wings goaltender coach).”

Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has been great lately and he’ll have to keep that up because the Boston Bruins aren’t likely to make many mistakes. The Red Wings rank in the bottom third of the league when it comes to goals per game while the Bruins lead the league with a team 1.83 GAA.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has been stunning and he’ll be backed up by one of the league’s deeper offenses. That’s nothing new for the Bruins, although the cast is different this season, including newcomers Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson, and Jarome Iginla. All of them have stepped up at various times, along with returning stars Milan Lucic and David Krejci, but this team still has another level if they can all come together.

“Chemistry on the ice develops with time and through adversity, through tough times, through good times,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said, according to CSN New England. He added, “So I think it’s an ongoing thing, and those guys will let that evolve throughout the whole year. You just hope it’s at its best always at the right time of the year.”

As it is, they are certainly a serious contender. With a 16-6-2 record, the Bruins lead the Atlantic Division, but the Red Wings are only five points behind despite their recent slump. Detroit has plenty to overcome, but they can keep the pressure on Boston with a win tonight.

Eaves to stick with Benn, Seguin on Dallas’ top line

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Patrick Eaves‘ cameo alongside the dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin looks like it’ll continue at least one more game.

Eaves, who along with Benn assisted on Seguin’s goal in Saturday’s loss to Chicago, practiced on Dallas’ top line today and should be there tomorrow when the Stars take on the Wild.

“Seguin, Benn and Eaves were in on 11 chances [Saturday against Chicago],” head coach Lindy Ruff explained, per the Stars’ website. They could have three or four [goals]. They should have had three or four. We missed too many good opportunities.”

This latest development is a positive in what’s been a tough year for Eaves. He was hurt early in the season after an awkward fall against the Oilers — a game in which he opened on the club’s top line, next to Benn and Seguin.

All told, he has just three goals and six points in 33 games.

Last year, Eaves was plagued with concussion issues but still managed to produce well, scoring 14 goals and 27 points in just 47 games.

After re-upping in Winnipeg, Byfuglien says leaving ‘never really crossed my mind’

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There was some speculation Dustin Byfuglien would be out of Winnipeg by the Feb. 29 trade deadline or, failing that, when free agency hit on July 1.

But according to him, leaving was never really an option.

“I’ve been here five years and from where we’ve started and where we’re at now, I don’t feel as an organization or a group that we’re far off,” Byfuglien told TSN 1290 on Monday, after inking a big five-year, $38 million extension with the Jets. “My family and I have found Winnipeg nice, and we’re very happy to stay here.

“It never really crossed my mind of going anywhere, and I’m excited to be a Jet.”

Prior to this extension, though, some thought leaving had definitely crossed Byfuglien’s mind.

Back in mid-December, the Free Press reported his initial ask was a whopping eight-year, $55 million deal. Some viewed that as his first potential step out the door.

It would’ve been big money and a lot of term for the Jets to commit, especially given 1) Byfuglien is 30, 2) the team still hasn’t signed captain Andrew Ladd, and 3) the club has some prized youngsters that need new deals this summer, specifically Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba. (In that same Free Press report, Trouba’s ask was $56 million over eight years.)

Then, there was Byfuglien at All-Star weekend.

When asked about his future — sign, trade or head to free agency? — Byfuglien said he had “no problem” with Winnipeg, adding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you.”

Some, like TSN’s Frank Seravalli, who was in attendance for the Byfuglien media scrum, noted the response “did not exactly sound like a ringing endorsement.”

Of course, Byfuglien later clarified his remarks following the All-Star Game.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” he told reporters when asked about re-signing in Winnipeg. “I’ve met a lot of good people and now some really good friends. I’ve been here for a long time. You never want to leave home. I’ve been here long enough; my family has been here and I’ve had two kids here.

“It’s somewhere you don’t want to leave.”

And now — well, for the next five years anyway — Byfuglien won’t have to.

Video: Jets’ Stafford suspended one game for ‘forceful, reckless’ high-stick

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The NHL has dinged Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford one game for his ugly high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden over the weekend.

“While we accept Stafford’s assertion that he did not intentionally strike Holden in the face, he is responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in such a forceful and reckless fashion,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

Stafford, who wasn’t penalized on the play, will now miss Winnipeg’s next game — tonight, in St. Louis — and will be eligible to return on Thursday when the Jets host the Bruins.

Stafford will also forfeit $23,387.10 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Big Buff, Big Bucks: Jets ink Byfuglien to five-year, $38 million extension

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One of the most prized trade deadline targets is no longer.

On Monday, Winnipeg locked in pending UFA d-man Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million extension, one that carries a $7.6M cap hit and makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

Byfuglien, 30, was in the last of a five-year, $26 million deal with a $5.2M average annual cap hit. One of the league’s most unique players — a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder that’s played forward and defense, and participated in this year’s fastest skater All-Star skills competition — his bio from the Jets’ release pretty much sums up how much he means to the club:

[Byfuglien] has recorded 32 points (15G, 17A) so far this season while appearing in all 52 games and sits in a tie for second amongst all NHL defencemen with his 15 goals.

Byfuglien leads the Jets so far this season in shots (163), penalty minutes (78) and ice time (24:14 per game).

The native of Roseau, MN, was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN where he recorded a goal and an assist for the Central Division team.

Byfuglien has been named to the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons that the game has taken place (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016).

The deal keeps Byfuglien in Winnipeg through 2022 and is the latest long-term deal on the blueline: Tobias Enstrom is at $5.75M per through 2018, and Tyler Myers is at $5.5M per through ’19. Byfuglien’s deal also comes after some questioned how badly he wanted to stay in Winnipeg — at All-Star weekend, he raised eyebrows by responding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you,” when asked about his playing future.

The five-year term is also down from Byfuglien’s reported original ask, which was $55 million over eight years.

With this move done, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can now turn his attention to another prized pending UFA: Andrew Ladd, the club’s captain and another player that’s believed to have high interest around the league as a trade deadline rental.