Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Niskanen, Kris Letang

NHL on NBCSN: Hurting Penguins host shorthanded Blue Jackets


NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Columbus Blue Jackets at CONSOL Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

One thing realignment is helping to do is create new rivalries. Such could be the case between the Penguins and Blue Jackets as geography is doing its part.

Columbus and Pittsburgh are separated by less than 200 miles and now that they’re foes in the Metropolitan Division, locality is helping breed contempt. When the two face off tonight in Pittsburgh, it’ll be their third of five meetings this season.

For the Blue Jackets, things haven’t gone quite how they’ve hoped dropping the first two games in October. Now they head into tonight’s game with a few key injuries. Defenseman James Wisniewski is out of action and they’ve recalled Tim Erixon from the AHL to help fill things in.

Forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Matt Calvert are banged up but traveling with the team and that doesn’t even dig into the long-term injuries to Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton.

Oh yeah, starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is on the shelf for a few weeks as well. That means it’s up to Curtis McElhinney to try and hold back the Penguins attack and in just a handful of games this season, he’s been strong. The Blue Jackets head into the game tonight having won two in a row, both via shutout. They’ll need more of that to deal with the Pens.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Monday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

If there’s an upside for the Jackets it’s that the Penguins are hurting badly on their own.

Superstar Evgeni Malkin has missed the past two games with a lower body ailment. Their defense is going without Rob Scuderi (IR – broken ankle), Paul Martin (IR – broken leg) , and now Brooks Orpik following his mugging by Bruins forward Shawn Thornton.

Toss in guys like Beau Bennett, Chuck Kobasew, Tanner Glass, and Tomas Vokoun who were already out and the Pens resemble a M.A.S.H. unit more than they do a hockey team.

Despite all the issues, they’ve won eight of their last 11 and should’ve come away with a win against the Bruins on Saturday had they not got run over in the final minutes and overtime. Apparently having Sidney Crosby at your disposal helps smooth over a lot of ills. He’ll need to stand tall to help get his team back on the winning track, especially with so many guys out of action.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.