Get your game notes: Blue Jackets at Penguins

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— Despite being the closest mutual rivals for both Columbus and Pittsburgh, in terms of geography (the two cities are separated by only 189 miles), the Blue Jackets and Penguins are playing in the same NHL division (Metropolitan) for the first time in 2013-14. The Pens won the first two divisional games of this season’s five-game set, sweeping a home-and-home on Nov. 1 and 2.

— Since the Consol Energy Center opened before the 2010-11 season, the Penguins have won 84 regular-season home games, most in the NHL. During that span, the Blue Jackets have won only 44 road games, T-3rd fewest in the league (Edmonton, Florida – 42).

— The Blue Jackets have yet to allow a goal in December, having posted shutouts in their two games this month (1-0 vs. Tampa Bay, 4-0 vs. Minnesota). These were their first back-to-back shutouts since Nov. 20-22, 2010. Only once have the Jackets pitched three clean sheets in a row (Dec. 27-31, 2008), when they set a franchise-record shutout streak of 199:19. Their current streak is 137:45.

— The Penguins have seven players on their active roster with 100+ career NHL goals, the second-most in the NHL, after Detroit (Sidney Crosby – 253, Evgeni Malkin – 224, Chris Kunitz – 189, Pascal Dupuis – 179, James Neal – 144, Jussi Jokinen – 137, Chuck Kobasew – 110). On the flipside, the Blue Jackets are one of two teams (Colorado) with only one (R.J. Umberger – 158). (Elias Sports Bureau)

— The Blue Jackets are a perfect 35-0-0 (an NHL-best 1.000) when leading after two periods since Todd Richards took over as head coach on Jan. 9, 2012. The Penguins, which lost 3-2 in regulation at Boston after holding a 2-1 lead after two periods, have the fifth-best record during that span (52-3-1, .938).

— Penguins winger Chris Kunitz enters tonight’s game with a seven-game point streak (six goals, four assists), tying his career high. Only Evgeni Malkin (nine games, active) and Sidney Crosby (eight) have longer point streaks this season among the Pens.

— Crosby ranks second in the NHL in faceoffs won, with 390 (Antoine Vermette, Phoenix, 393).

— The Blue Jackets’ top line of LW Nick Foligno – C Ryan Johansen – RW R.J. Umberger has combined for nine goals, 19 points and 41 shots on goal in their past six games.

— The Blue Jackets have lost five of their last six meetings (1-4-1) against the Penguins. The only win in those games came in Pittsburgh on Feb. 8, 2011. Only five players from that night’s roster remain with Columbus: Jared Boll (injured), Matt Calvert, Derek MacKenzie, Fedor Tyutin and R.J. Umberger.

DeBoer praises ‘courageous’ Thornton for playing with torn ACL, MCL (Updated)

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In a fairly stunning admission on Monday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Joe Thornton played in four of San Jose’s six playoff games versus Edmonton with a significant knee injury.

Thornton, who was hurt against Vancouver late in the regular season, suffered tears to both his left MCL and ACL.

“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton, 37, missed the first two games of the series to rest his knee, before suiting up for the final four. He averaged 18:50 TOI per night and finished with a pair of assists, numbers that are pretty remarkable given the severity of his ailment.

Jumbo wasn’t the only unhealthy Shark during the first-round playoff ouster. Logan Couture‘s face/mouth injury was well-documented and, today, DeBoer also revealed that Tomas Hertl was playing with a broken foot, and Patrick Marleau with a broken thumb.

Looking ahead, Thornton’s knee injury might cloud what’s an already murky future. He’s a pending UFA, and there have been no clear signals from the organization on how they’ll address his potential return. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp was looking for a three-year deal.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sharks GM Doug Wilson has time on his side. It’s understood the club probably wouldn’t act on an extension for Thornton until after the June expansion draft, which could give the Sharks enough time to better gauge his health.

Update:

Per NBC Sports California, Wilson confirmed Thornton is undergoing surgery today to repair the ligaments.

 

 

Online bookmaker: Caps are Stanley Cup favorites

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The Washington Capitals got a bit of a scare in the first round, but they’ll go into the second round as the Stanley Cup favorites.

Per online bookmaker Bovada, here is the full list of Stanley Cup odds for the eight remaining teams:

Washington Capitals   7/2
Pittsburgh Penguins    17/4
Anaheim Ducks             11/2
Edmonton Oilers          11/2
St. Louis Blues              13/2
Nashville Predators     7/1
New York Rangers       8/1
Ottawa Senators           10/1

The Chicago Blackhawks entered the postseason as 4/1 Cup favorites at Bovada. Of course, the ‘Hawks were then swept by the Preds, who’ve gone from 25/1 long shots to 7/1 heading into their series with the Blues.

The Caps’ odds actually dropped to 13/2 after they fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1. But three straight wins, two in overtime, clinched them a spot against the Penguins in the second round.

The Ottawa Senators are the long shots of the bunch now, despite having home-ice advantage over the Rangers in the second round.

Isles bring back Seidenberg — one year, $1.25 million

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The Islanders saw enough from Dennis Seidenberg this season to bring him back for another.

On Monday, the club announced it had signed the veteran defenseman to a one-year deal. Per Newsday, it’s for $1.25 million — a slight raise from the $1M he earned this season.

Seidenberg, 35, caught on with the Isles in late September, parlaying a good showing with Team Europe at the World Cup into a contract after going the entire summer unsigned.

For New York, it worked out very well.

Seidenberg was a regular lineup fixture, averaging 19:26 TOI over 73 games. He also provided some good production from the back end, scoring five goals and 22 points — his highest offensive output in five years.

Today’s deal also gives the Isles some flexibility when it comes to the upcoming expansion draft. The club now has six blueliners under contract for next season — Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield — and a seventh, pending RFA Calvin de Haan, will (presumably) be locked in as well. The same might be said of fellow RFA Adam Pelech.

Young d-man Ryan Pulock, who only appeared in one game this year, locked in through 2018.

Cassidy ‘absolutely’ wants to return as Bruins’ head coach

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To nobody’s surprise, Bruce Cassidy is on board with shedding his interim tag and becoming Boston’s full-time bench boss.

“Absolutely,” Cassidy said of coming back, following the Bruins’ opening-round playoff loss to Ottawa (per CBS Boston). “One hundred percent.”

One would think the 51-year-old did enough to warrant a longer look. After replacing Claude Julien in early February, Cassidy led a team on the fringes of the playoff picture to an 18-8-1 record down the stretch, and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.

Yes, the B’s fell short against the Sens, but were hamstrung by a depleted lineup missing the likes of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Top center David Krejci was also extremely limited, missing three of six games to injury.

When further asked about his future, Cassidy tapped the brakes on predicting what will happen, or what changes the team needed for next season.

“Well, now we’re making a lot of assumptions,” he said. “That will be determined going forward by management. It’s a tough question to answer.”

Cassidy’s time with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, and his history working with young players, may certainly help his cause. A few of his guys — Austin Czarnik, Frank Vatrano, Tommy Cross, Noel Acciari — forged out roles with the big club this season, while other youngsters certainly made an impact in the playoffs.

Prized d-man prospect Charlie McAvoy was a central figure on defense, and one of Cassidy’s more notable lineup moves — putting Sean Kuraly in for Games 5 and 6 — gave the club a boost of energy.

That said, the B’s do have options on the coaching front.

There are a number of experienced bench bosses available. Lindy Ruff, Darryl Sutter and Jack Capuano — a former teammate of Sweeney’s, it should be mentioned — are just a few of the higher profile free agents out there. It’s unclear if Boston is interested in going this route, however. Cassidy has been with the organization a long time, going on eight seasons, and has certainly paid his dues.