NHL on NBCSN: ‘Hawks host Sharks in Western battle

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the San Jose Sharks at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

You can’t ask for much more out of a Sunday night game than what Chicago and San Jose will bring tonight.

The Blackhawks have earned points in nine straight games going 6-0-3 over that stretch. Patrick Sharp has been the focus of their success of late as he tries to get Hockey Canada’s attention for a spot on their Olympic team. Sharp has two hat tricks in five games and has climbed to second in the NHL in goals with 25, trailing only Alex Ovechkin.

Don’t suppose he’d fit in nicely with Jonathan Toews in Sochi, would he?

With Sharp second in the league in goals and Patrick Kane second in points (behind Sidney Crosby), the Blackhawks’ offense is one to be feared. They’re tops in the league in goals and have four players with more than 40 points (Sharp, Kane, Toews, and Duncan Keith). When you mix in Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad and their 15 goals apiece, it’s a daunting task to slow them down.

If there’s a team that can hang with them offensively, it’s the Sharks.

San Jose is fourth in goals scored and they have one of the premiere playmakers in the game in Joe Thornton. His 42 assists are tops in the NHL and he comes into tonight’s game on a seven-game point streak in which he’s got no goals and 11 assists during.

Guys like Patrick Marleau (19 goals), Joe Pavelski (18 goals), and Logan Couture (14 goals) have been reaping the benefits of Thornton’s passing to lead the Sharks. You can throw rookie Tomas Hertl and his 15 goals into the mix as well, but he’s out with an injured knee.

All these prolific offenses do is put the onus on Chicago’s Corey Crawford and San Jose’s Antti Niemi to be at their best to try and slow things down. Crawford is still angling for a spot on Team Canada and Niemi will likely be on Team Finland for the Olympics, but you couldn’t ask for a better way to audition than to slow down each team’s high-powered offense.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.