Chicago Blackhawks v New Jersey Devils

NHL on NBCSN: Blackhawks host Rangers on Rivalry Night


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

The Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers haven’t faced each other since March 2012 in Chicago. For all the things that have changed since then, most of the faces on the ice are still the same.

The key difference this time around comes with the Rangers and their battle to be a playoff team in the Metropolitan Division. The one consistent thing about them of late is how inconsistent they’ve been. In their past 11 games, they’ve gone 6-3-2 with five shootouts mixed in with only one of those against a Western Conference team. That means they’re helping dole out extra standings points to foes in the East and that surely won’t help at the end of the season.

source: Getty ImagesFor the Rangers to get things turned around they’ll need their superstars to play the way they’re capable of. Henrik Lundqvist has had an off season posting career-worst numbers in save percentage and goals-against average. Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan have dealt with injuries which has hampered their numbers, but they still need to be better.

Having Mats Zuccarello and Brad Richards lead the team in scoring probably wasn’t something the Rangers counted on this season, but that’s how things are right now. If the star players can get things going, fortunes will change quickly in the Big Apple.

As for the Blackhawks, they’re 4-0-3 in their last seven games with losses to the Blues, Sharks, and Islanders. We’ve raved recently about their offense and none of that’s changed in the past two days. Patrick Kane is still dominant, Patrick Sharp is still piling up very handsome goals, and they’re still getting great play from Duncan Keith on the blue line.

What’s not to like lately? Average goaltending.

Over that seven-game stretch, they’ve allowed 17 goals. While they had a 1-0 shutout against the Los Angeles Kings mixed in, there’s no doubt coach Joel Quenneville would like to see Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta step their game up.

Of course, this is just a minor complaint considering how well the Blackhawks have played this season, but they’ve got competition atop the Central Division and Western Conference. The St. Louis Blues trail them by two points in the Central and they’re two points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot overall in the West.

Every point counts out West so they can’t afford to even slip up and lose in overtime or a shootout. No stress though, gang.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.