NHL on NBCSN: Kings and Blues renew hostilities in St. Louis

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the St. Louis Blues host the Los Angeles Kings at Scottrade Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Anytime the St. Louis Blues face the Los Angeles Kings it’s anything but nice.

By now we’re familiar with their meetings the past two seasons in the playoffs with the Kings knocking out the Blues in four games in 2012 and six games in 2013. This season has done nothing to quiet things down.

Each team has beaten the other this season with the Kings taking a 3-2 win at home on Dec. 2 and the Blues getting a blowout 5-0 win in St. Louis on Jan. 5. The game tonight in St. Louis is their final meeting of the regular season and should help set the table in case they meet again in the postseason.

The Blues enter the game on a tear having won 10 of their last 12 games. Goaltending has been a big part of that success lately with Brian Elliott doing most of the work instead of Jaroslav Halak. Elliott’s play has helped us remember how strong he was for the Blues two seasons ago.

More impressively, it’s been the offense that’s stood out for the Blues. During that 12 game stretch, St. Louis is averaging exactly four goals per game. T.J. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz, David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, and Kevin Shattenkirk have had big seasons already and guys like Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and Vladimir Tarasenko are bringing plentiful scoring depth that brings a smile to coach Ken Hitchcock’s face.

The Blues’ issues against L.A. in the past were always centered around scoring goals. If this kind of output persists, they’ll be terrifying to deal with in the playoffs.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $5,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Thursday’s NHL games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $1,200. Starts Thursday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Things in Los Angeles aren’t as pleasant lately. The Kings have dropped seven of their last 10 games and about the only good news there has been the return of Jonathan Quick in goal.

Since coming back on Jan. 4, Quick is 3-1-1 and has allowed seven goals in five games. He shutout Vancouver on Monday night making 28 saves. While the solid goaltending is all well and good, the offense has struggled.

Over their 10 game stretch, they’ve scored 16 goals. Scoring less than two goals per game is a recipe for frustration and that’s just what Darryl Sutter’s crew is dealing with now.

The offensive talent is there with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, and Justin Williams they just have to find ways to produce more. That frustration likely isn’t anything new in L.A. but sending Tyler Toffoli (17 points in 33 games) back to the AHL didn’t do much to instill confidence in what they’re doing

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.