Habs to healthy scratch Diaz, Emelin vs. Pens


The Montreal Canadiens are shaking things up on defense — in a major way — for tonight’s game against Pittsburgh.

Alexei Emelin and Raphael “player 61” Diaz will be healthy scratches, the club announced on Wednesday. That will open the door for veteran Douglas Murray (who sat out Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Toronto) and recently-recalled Nathan Beaulieu to draw into the lineup.

Diaz will be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row, having sat out the Leafs loss after playing just 14:21 in a 5-4 OT win over Ottawa last week. The Swiss rearguard has been a pretty regular feature in the lineup this year, scoring 11 points in 46 games while averaging close to 19 minutes per night.

Emelin, who has also been a healthy scratch this season, had a rough game against Toronto over the weekend and finished with a minus-2 rating and just one hit.

This isn’t the first time Habs head coach Michel Therrien has parked one of his regulars this season in the hopes of sparking the team. He’s pulled similar moves with Daniel Briere, David Desharnais and Rene Bourque — not coincidentally, the Emelin/Diaz benchings come with Montreal having lost six of its last 10.

Update: Courtesy Sean Gentille of the Sporting News, here’s some insight into Therrien’s thoughts about his club’s defensive breakdowns…


Kopitar doesn’t want to obsess about future with Kings

Anze Kopitar
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If you’re a Los Angeles Kings fan or fantasy hockey player, the Milan LucicAnze KopitarMarian Gaborik line is intriguing beyond its blend of skill and size.

Specifically, the group is especially fun to monitor because both Lucic and Kopitar might be gearing up for big paydays if they can manage strong contract years.

That may be true, but Kopitar when it comes to negotiations, the center relayed to media including the OC Register that he wants “to be involved as little as possible, really.”

Maybe most interestingly, he didn’t totally dismiss the notion of leaving the Kings after the 2015-16 season.

”That’s still a long ways away,’’ Kopitar said. ”My mind is on hockey right now. Would it be ideal to get it done now and not think about it? Yes. But if it’s not (done), it’s just not. I’ve just got to start here (Wednesday) and just play the way I can. It doesn’t matter if it’s my last year or not. I’ve got to play and do my thing.’’

Granted, Kopitar leaving Los Angeles seems far-fetched; the OC Register points out that he bought two homes in the area just last December.

Either way, it’s clear that the Slovenia native has a lot of money running on this season, so opponents – and maybe the Kings’ money managers – better watch out.

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.