NHL on NBCSN: Rangers host hurting Penguins on Rivalry Night

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

There’s a good possibility fans might not recognize most of the guys taking the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they face the New York Rangers.

The Pens have nine players on injured reserve and will be without James Neal for one more game due to his suspension for kneeing Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head. Add in Evgeni Malkin missing their game on Monday against Toronto with a lower body injury after being injured last Saturday along with Deryk Engelland having his hearing for hitting Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader today — it’s a mess of a situation.

Even in spite of all that, the Penguins lead the Metropolitan Division by 10 points. Captain Sidney Crosby leads the league in points, Marc-Andre Fleury has been strong all season in goal, and Chris Kunitz gives Crosby a steady linemate to work with. Sure, playing without their top four defensemen is troublesome, but the Penguins keep rolling along.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $500 Fantasy Hockey league that includes Wednesday and Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $150. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

That’s bad news for the Rangers as they’ve continued to struggle under new coach Alain Vigneault. At 16-17-1 they’re fifth in the Metropolitan behind both Philadelphia and Carolina. A win over the Pens would vault them back into a tie with the Hurricanes points-wise, but their issues have been many.

Henrik Lundqvist has been off his game most of the season. Injuries have hampered their lineup, although not to the degree they have for the Penguins, and their defense has had its share of woes.

If there are bright spots to be found it’s in the play of forwards Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello. Those three are tops on the team in points. Rick Nash’s return from a concussion in mid-November has seen him pick up the pace with nine points in 14 games. More consistent play from him would do a world of good, but that could be said about the rest of the team as well.

With the current state of the Penguins and the Rangers’ need to get right, New York could (should?) be looking at tonight’s game as a must-win. As the Pens showed on Monday night against Toronto, it won’t be easy. If the Rangers come out flat, the grumbles in Manhattan from the fans could turn into full-blown growls.

Video: Crosby to Dan Patrick – Subban fight ‘wasn’t as bad as it looked’

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Listerine, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and a growing rivalry. Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban battled it out at the highest level not so long ago, but some of that action looked worse than it actually was.

At least, that’s the message Crosby sent on “The Dan Patrick Show,” as you can enjoy in the clip above.

As a bonus, Crosby also discussed his favorite Stanley Cup traditions – hey, there can be traditions when something happens three times – and how Mario Lemieux inspires some especially creative ideas:

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey: