New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61), Nashville Predators forward Mike Fisher (12), and Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59), of Switzerland, go down after colliding in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mike Strasinger)

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers, Preds aim to prove they’re more than talk

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

If there’s one thing these two teams have in common, it’s that their mediocre play this season is frustrating their coaches.

The stuck in neutral Rangers held a players’ only meeting after suffering a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday. What was said? Here’s a better question: Does that even matter?

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

“That’s just talk,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the Bergen Record. “You can talk all you want. You need to have those words become actions on the ice.”

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz coach seems to be of a similar mindset when it comes to his team’s anemic offensive efforts.

“You can demand work ethic, you can demand execution in terms of structure. But when it comes down to it, it has to be (the player),” Trotz said, according to the Tennessean. “They have to find a way to score a goal, they have to go to the hard areas to score.”

Maybe Vigneault can recycle that quote, given that the Rangers’ have matched Nashville’s average of 2.23 goals per contest.

Where these teams diverge is in the expectations put upon them at the beginning of the season. The Predators entered the 2013-14 campaign with a decent shot of making the playoffs given the presence of the talented, and currently injured, Pekka Rinne. They also have a promising defense led by Shea Weber and complimented by highly-touted rookie Seth Jones.

At the same time, the fact that they have been unable to consistently find the back of the net is not a huge shock and the unexpected rise of the Colorado Avalanche would have made their task of reaching the playoffs difficult under the best of circumstances.

By contrast, the Rangers made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in 2012 and got to the second round last season. They have an even more highly regarded netminder than Rinne in Henrik Lundqvist, a solid defense, and – at least going into the 2013-14 campaign – a strong offense.

If Nashville falls short of the playoffs, it will be seen as a disappointment. If the Rangers do the same, especially in the comparatively weaker East, it will be a disaster.

First thing’s first though, both of these teams need to end their respective losing streaks. One of these coaches might end the night at least temporarily pacified while the other will continue to wish his team could do more than just talk a good game.

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

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Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury