NHL on NBC: Capitals and Red Wings clash in Washington

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign this afternoon when the Washington Capitals host the Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center at 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

The Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals meet yet again, this time in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee in D.C.

These two teams just met in Detroit on Friday night in a wild affair that saw Joel Ward score the game-tying goal in the closing seconds. The game rolled on to the shootout where Jimmy Howard stole the show stopping all seven Capitals as Patrick Eaves eventually beat Michal Neuvirth in the seventh round to get the win.

As it was, Neuvirth made 42 saves to keep the Caps in the game in the first place, but both teams have bigger problems to worry about. Both the Caps and Wings are sitting on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Wings are one point back of Philadelphia for the final Wild Card spot while the Caps are three back.

Detroit has been making do without Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) since Jan. 7 and Johan Franzen with a concussion since Dec. 15. Franzen did attempt to return on Jan. 26 against Florida, but wound up out of the lineup again after suffering a setback.

Going without two players picked to their countries’ Olympic teams makes life hard on Detroit’s offense which has been miserable lately, especially on the road. Detroit has been shut out three straight games away from Joe Louis Arena and have never been shut out in four straight.

The Caps have problems of their own, of course. They’re winless in nine of the past 11 games and are without Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) and could be without Mike Green (upper body) and Brooks Laich (groin) as well.

It’s not all negative for the Caps, however. Alex Ovechkin is two goals shy of having his sixth 40-goal season. Joel Ward has a goal in each of the past two games and has 15 this season, good for second on the team. One thing to watch is how the Caps do on the power play. They’ve been quiet lately going 4-for-its-last-44 but they’ve been one of the better teams on the man-advantage this season.

If you’re wondering if the Red Wings road scoring problems could come into play in Washington, know this: The last time the Capitals shut out the Red Wings at home was Dec. 9, 1984 and the Capitals don’t have a shutout at home yet this season.

With all that said, both teams need a win desperately to get in better shape for a playoff run following the Olympic break. Desperation sometimes makes for a great game.

PHT’s second-round playoff predictions, featuring the red-hot Random Thing Picker

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It was a tough first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for many of the so-called experts of the world.

Upsets included the Predators over the Blackhawks and the Blues over the Wild. The Rangers over the Canadiens was a quasi-upset, too.

Here at PHT, it was a mixed bag. Mike Halford and Cam Tucker each went an impressive 6-2. And so too did the Random Thing Picker, which as its name suggests, picks random things. (And picks them rather well, apparently.)

Of note, the Random Thing Picker and James O’Brien were the only ones to pick the Preds over the ‘Hawks. So congratulations to both robotic lifeforms on that bit of soothsaying.

Rounding out the rest of the first-round results, Adam Gretz and Joey Alfieri went 4-4, while at 3-5, O’Brien and yours truly couldn’t even crack .500. (Stupid Jake Allen.)

On to the second round!

Washington versus Pittsburgh (Stream Capitals-Penguins)

Brough: Capitals in 7
Halford: Penguins in 6
O’Brien: Capitals in 7
Gretz: Capitals in 7
Tucker: Capitals in 6
Alfieri: Capitals in 7
Random Thing Picker: Capitals

New York versus Ottawa (Stream Rangers-Senators)

Brough: Senators in 6
Halford: Senators in 7
O’Brien: Rangers in 7
Gretz: Rangers in 6
Tucker: Rangers in 6
Alfieri: Senators in 6
Random Thing Picker: Senators

St. Louis versus Nashville (Stream Blues-Predators)

Brough: Predators in 6
Halford: Blues in 7
O’Brien: Predators in 6
Gretz: Predators in 6
Tucker: Predators in 7
Alfieri: Predators in 6
Random Thing Picker: Blues

Anaheim versus Edmonton (Stream Ducks-Oilers)

Brough: Ducks in 7
Halford: Ducks in 6
O’Brien: Ducks in 6
Gretz: Oilers in 7
Tucker: Oilers in 6
Alfieri: Ducks in 6
Random Thing Picker: Ducks

Feel free to add your picks below…

Auston Matthews to skip Worlds

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Auston Matthews is going to take some time off.

As such, the 19-year-old star forward won’t be heading overseas to represent the United States in the upcoming World Championship.

You can hardly blame him. Matthews just finished his rookie season in the NHL, playing all 82 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, plus six more in the playoffs.

Oh, and he also played in the World Cup for Team North America.

Matthews did participate in last year’s Worlds. He had six goals and three assists in 10 games on the way to a fourth-place finish.

Related: Gaudreau, Eichel commit to USA Worlds roster

Blackhawks fire their AHL head coach

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Yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks fired longtime assistant coach Mike Kitchen.

Today, it was longtime AHL coach Ted Dent who got the ax.

Dent has been the head coach of the Rockford IceHogs the past six seasons, and he was an assistant coach for Chicago’s AHL affiliate the previous five seasons.

“The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization,” GM Stan Bowman said. “He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best.”

The IceHogs missed the playoffs this season, finishing last in the AHL’s Central Division with a record of 25-39-12.

Related: A furious Bowman addressed the Blackhawks’ postseason failure

Report: Canucks close to naming Travis Green head coach

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The Vancouver Canucks are reportedly set to announce Travis Green as their next head coach.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the announcement will be made in the next couple of days.

Green, who played over 1,000 games in the NHL including the playoffs, has been the head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Utica the past four seasons. Under his watch, the Comets have played mostly winning hockey in spite of some rather depleted lineups.

Ever since Willie Desjardins was fired at the end of the season, Green has been the leading candidate to take over in Vancouver. The only question, really, was whether he’d be a candidate for another NHL head-coaching vacancy, perhaps with the Florida Panthers.

Assuming no last-minute hiccups, Green will take over a transitioning Canucks team that has finished 28th and 29th overall in its last two seasons, respectively.

“We’re going to be young,” president of hockey ops Trevor Linden said. “Young players make mistakes. There’s going to be some growing pains. We need a coach that understands exactly where we are.”

Related: In farewell to Vancouver, Desjardins defends his approach to young players