Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown, right, checks Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

NHL on NBCSN: Kings eager to start fresh vs. Avs


NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Colorado Avalanche host the Los Angeles Kings at the Pepsi Center at 10:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Few teams needed the Olympic break more than the Kings. They’ve been in a free fall for a while now, posting a 6-14-2 record since winning their last game against the Avalanche on Dec. 21.

The Kings’ offense has fizzled out as they’ve scored two or fewer goals in nine of their last 11 contests. At this point they rank 29th in goals per game, ahead of only the last place Buffalo Sabres.

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Despite all that, they’re still third in the Pacific Division and have a four-point cushion in the battle for a playoff spot. So if they use the break as an opportunity to start fresh, there’s still a good chance that they’ll reach the postseason and, as we’ve seen with them in the past, anything’s possible after that.

Colorado certainly won’t make that an easy task for them though. Dating back to the shortened campaign, the last three games these squads played against each other weren’t decided in 60 minutes.

One difference this time around is that the Kings won’t face Semyon Varlamov. The Avalanche goaltender, fresh off his Olympic stint with Russia, will be benched in favor of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Los Angeles is in a similar position as its options are starting netminder Jonathan Quick just days after losing the bronze medal game in Sochi with the United States, or go with backup Martin Jones. Fortunately for both of these squads, these understudies are more than capable of stealing the show.

Of course, the Avalanche and Kings sent more than their top goaltenders to the Olympics. One guy in particular worth keeping an eye on after his Sochi stint is Kings forward Dustin Brown. His playing time fell quickly in the United States’ last two contests and head coach Dan Bylsma suggested it was because he was going with players he thought could score.

Brown has seen his role with the Kings diminish this season as well and it will be interesting to see if the benching combined with America’s fourth place finish light a fire under him and perhaps lead to a run similar to the one he had towards the end of the 2011-12 campaign after TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that he was being shopped.

It might be a stretch for the Kings to hope for that, but they need someone to start scoring.

Measure of revenge? Red Wings bottle Lightning

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In some ways, it really felt like their first-round series.

For all the talent on both ends of the rink with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, each squad can really smother opponents defensively when things go that way.

Through two periods, the two teams were very quiet. Things really picked up when Justin Abdelkader unleashed a big hit, a moment that injected enough life into the proceedings for the Red Wings to eventually build a 3-1 win.

Maybe they’re slipping under the radar a bit compared to previous iterations of the team, but it’s interesting that the Red Wings are now undefeated in three games.

They’ve been impressive at times, too, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 11-4.

Call it a refreshing time after Mike Babcock or merely carryover from a subtly solid run last season, but either way, the Red Wings may just be able to keep up their end of a brewing rivalry.

Hands of gold: Connor McDavid scores his first NHL goal


Taking three games to score your first NHL goal isn’t a big deal, unless you’re someone like Connor McDavid.

The mega-hyped wunderkind must feel relieved to finally find the net, as he tied tonight’s Edmonton Oilers – Dallas Stars skirmish with a 2-2 deflection goal, which you can watch above this post’s headline.

To no surprise, there were plenty of reactions, including Pierre LeBrun’s tweet (which inspired part of this headline).

Of course, there were the inevitable Wayne Gretzky comparisons:

Interesting thing you might not consider: Stars fans will have to stomach this one even more frequently than that time Patrik Stefan biffed that empty-netter (also against the Oilers):

McDavid may have also delivered his first questionable check, too: