Detroit Red Wings v New York Islanders

Get your game notes: Penguins at Isles

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the New York Islanders hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• The Penguins, 2-1-0 vs. the Islanders this season, will be looking to win the season series from the Isles for the seventh consecutive season. The Pens are 27-8-2 against the Isles since the start of the 2007-08 season, 11-5-2 at Nassau Coliseum.

• The Islanders’ top line of LW Thomas Vanek – C John Tavares – RW Kyle Okposo has combined for 28 goals and 70 points since Dec. 17. All three rank in the top four in the NHL in scoring during that span. (Elias Sports Bureau)

1. John Tavares (NYI): 10-15—25 in 17 GP
2. Thomas Vanek (NYI): 8-15—23 in 18 GP
3. Sidney Crosby (PIT): 7-15—22 in 15 GP
4. Kyle Okposo (NYI): 10-12—22 in 17 GP
5. Wayne Simmonds (PHI): 12-10—22 in 18 GP

• Since 2010-11, Penguins center Sidney Crosby (32 games, most in NHL) and Islanders center John Tavares (24 games, third-most) are among the top three, in terms of most regular-season, three-point games. (Steven Stamkos, 25) During that span, Crosby has two three-point games against the Isles (including a career-high five-assist game on Mar. 10, 2013), while Tavares has one against the Penguins.

• The Islanders have six wins since Dec. 29 when overcoming a deficit of two or more goals, including five in regulation. The four teams that have the most third-period, comeback wins this season all hail from the Metropolitan Division, including the Penguins and Islanders. (Elias Sports Bureau)

Philadelphia Flyers – 9
Washington Capitals – 9
Pittsburgh Penguins – 8
N.Y. Islanders – 7

• The Islanders are 8-9-7 at Nassau Coliseum this season, and are co-owners of the fewest home wins in the NHL. Only Calgary (8-14-3) and (Edmonton is 8-13-2) have as few home wins as the Isles. Since Jan. 1, however, the Isles are 3-1-0 at home.

• The Penguins lead the NHL in both special teams categories. They are 24.7% on the power play and 88.2% on the penalty kill. The Islanders are T-19th on the power play (18.9%), but rank last with a 76.0% penalty-kill percentage.

• The Islanders have won only 46.8% of their faceoffs this season (27th in the NHL). No Isles center with more than seven faceoffs taken this season has won more than 50% of his draws. John Tavares has lost 502 of 974 draws (48.5%), the sixth-most losses in the NHL. (Sidney Crosby has the most, with 572.)

• Crosby has 80 points (24 goals, 56 assists) in 44 career games against the Islanders, his highest total against any NHL opponent. He also had 3-6=9 in five games against the Islanders when the teams met in last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

• The Islanders’ rookie center Brock Nelson, who made his NHL debut in Game 6 of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series vs. Pittsburgh, has scored a goal in five of his past nine games. The Warroad, Minnesota native’s four goals since Jan. 10 lead the surging team.

‘I’ve got to be more aware’ on the ice, says Ekblad after recent injury

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 17: Aaron Ekblad #5  of the Florida Panthers leaves the ice following warmups prior to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 17, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As per multiple reports, Aaron Ekblad practiced with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday.

Good news. That marks another step in the progress he’s made from a neck injury — initially reported to be a concussion — suffered on a hit from Leo Komarov that ultimately ended the defenseman’s experience for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.

On Thursday, Ekblad told reporters the injury was actually whiplash.

The 20-year-old Ekblad has had a history of concussions, including one from a Hockey Canada camp in August, 2014 — almost two full months after the Panthers selected him first overall.

He was injured again in January of last season when Matt Hendricks caught him with a dangerous hit against the end boards, resulting in a suspension for Hendricks.

Despite supplemental discipline from the league on that specific incident involving Hendricks, Ekblad, a valuable part of a young Panthers team that has increased expectations surrounding it, put the onus on himself to be more aware on the ice.

“When I think about it in the Edmonton game last year, there were a couple of big hits on their guys. I should have expected to someone was going to come after me,” Ekblad told NHL.com.

“Obviously you don’t think that. You think there’s a little bit more respect among players out there. I turned, I saw him. I didn’t think he was going to drive my head into the glass. The Komarov hit there, he got me on the shoulder, not much on the head or anything like that. It was more of the whiplash effect. Again, I’ve got to be more aware. You train your body, you train your brain to do that kind of thing. I do a lot of eye exercises and stuff like that. We’re working on that right now and just trying to be a better hockey player that way.”

The Panthers have a preseason game with the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Ekblad is not in the lineup.

Stars sign WHL d-man Vala to entry-level deal

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The Dallas Stars have added another defenseman to their group of prospects.

On Thursday, the club signed 18-year-old Czech blue liner Ondrej Vala to a three-year entry-level contract. Vala is currently playing for the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League. He had four goals and 21 points in 72 games last season — his first with the Blazers.

Having represented the Czech Republic at U-17 and U-18 international events and played for the Stars prospects team at the Traverse City Tournament, Vala is also listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 209 pounds.

He certainly brings size on the blue line, which is a quality the Stars appear to value in him.

“Ondrej has shown a combination of size and physicality along with the ability to play a defensively responsible game at the junior hockey level,” said Stars GM Jim Nill in a statement.

Related:

Another — yes, another — blow for Dallas as Janmark spotted on crutches

Capitals send first-round pick Johansen back to junior

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Lucas Johansen poses for a portrait after being selected 28th overall by the Washington Capitals in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals have sent prospect defenseman Lucas Johansen, selected 28th overall in this year’s NHL Draft, back to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.

From the Kelowna Capital News:

The Kelowna Rockets have yet to play a regular season game with a full lineup.

That will change this weekend in Prince George when defenceman Lucas Johansen and forward Calvin Thurkauf rejoin their WHL club for a two-game set against the Cougars.

Johansen, a first-round NHL draft pick this summer, is back from the camp of the Washington Capitals, while Thurkauf returns from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Capitals confirmed the news via Twitter.

Johansen, the younger brother of NHL center Ryan Johansen, appeared in Monday’s exhibition game for the Capitals, apparently leaving a positive impression on the coaching staff.

Still, Johansen doesn’t turn 19 years old until the middle of November. He also has some growing left to do at six-foot-one-inch tall and just 174 pounds, so sending him back to junior is the logical step.

“For a first game, to have that kind of poise playing defense, you don’t see it very often,” Capitals’ associate coach Todd Reirden told the Washington Post.

“So, it’s fun to watch, how he goes about the game. Certainly, I think it’s helped growing up in the family that he has and being around some of the players he’s practiced with. I think he has some special tools, in terms of his ability to slow down the play and see some things that other players don’t. He’s looking like an outstanding draft pick for us and a real great prospect moving forward.”

Shaw suspended three preseason games for boarding Connor Hobbs

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 02:  Andrew Shaw #65 of the Chicago Blackhawks speaks during Media Day for the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 2, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The National Hockey League has suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw for three preseason games for boarding defenseman Connor Hobbs of the Washington Capitals in an exhibition game Tuesday.

The Habs have five more exhibition games remaining before the regular season begins Oct. 13.

Shaw was given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play, as he slammed Hobbs “through the numbers, with speed” from behind into the end glass, as per Thursday’s video from the NHL outlining the suspension.

From the video: “It is important to note that Hobbs is never eligible to be checked by Shaw on this play. From the moment Shaw arrives at the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Hobbs’ numbers. Hobbs makes no sudden movement just prior to contact that turns this hit from a legal hit into an illegal one.

“The onus is on Shaw to ensure that he can deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force, or avoid this hit completely. Instead, he hits forcefully through Hobbs from behind, driving him dangerously into the glass.”

In a bid to land a gritty forward to their lineup, the Habs acquired Shaw from the Blackhawks, who had been dealing with a cap crunch, during the NHL Draft. He later signed a six-year contract extension with Montreal.