Brad Marchand, P.K. Subban

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins-Canadiens tangle in Montreal on Rivalry Night

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Montreal Canadiens host the Boston Bruins at Bell Centre at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Boston Bruins have rolled through the Eastern Conference this season, but one team they’ve yet to figure out are their historic rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs have won both meetings this season and five in a row going back to last year. Playing hockey isn’t easy, and while wins have been plentiful for the B’s, you’d better believe their rivals getting the best of them sticks in their collective craws.

The Bruins come into tonight’s game on a five-game winning streak that has seen their offense dominate. They have 21 goals over that span and even came away with a shootout victory against Tampa Bay last Saturday.

Jarome Iginla has been on fire lately with three goals and two assists during the win streak. He cracked the 20-goal barrier for the 15th time in his career and has 49 points this season. Patrice Bergeron had a goal and two helpers against Florida on Sunday and Boston has nine players in double-figures in goals with Brad Marchand leading the way with 21.

When you factor all of that in with the tremendous defense led by Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask’s stellar goaltending, it makes for a more-than formidable lineup. These things bother not the Habs, however.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $3,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday night’s NHL games. It’s just $25 to join and first prize is $800. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Montreal geared up for what could turn out to be an eventual playoff battle with the Bruins by acquiring Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders. Vanek has scored 30 of his 271 career goals against Boston, the most against any opponent. His years with the Buffalo Sabres helped make that possible, but it’s built him a résumé that attracted the Habs.

The Habs offense is a funky brand of attack that’s led from the back end by P.K. Subban and up front by Max Pacioretty. Subban’s 45 points are tops on the team, but it’s Pacioretty and his 30 goals that will make him a focus of Boston’s defense. Alex Galchenyuk’s return from injury as well as Vanek’s arrival have given a lift to Montreal’s offense, although lately times have been tougher.

Montreal comes into the game having lost three of the past four games and Carey Price’s absence due to injury hasn’t helped. Instead, Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski have had to take the reins to make sure they don’t slip too far back into a muddled Eastern Conference playoff race.

If Montreal comes away with a win tonight they’ll jump over the Toronto Maple Leafs into second place behind Boston. The Bruins aren’t in real danger of losing their Atlantic Division lead, but if they can help keep the Habs down and turn their fortune against their hated rivals, they’ll be more than happy to do it on their turf.

Report: Bruins’ Khokhlachev to sign in KHL

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins
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Alexander Khokhlachev’s time with the Boston Bruins is up, according to a report out of Russia that has the 22-year-old forward signing with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

The deal reportedly won’t be announced until after June 30; Khokhlachev is under contract with the B’s until then. But the fact he’s apparently decided to depart for the KHL should come as no surprise.

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine NHL games.

Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

SKA acquired Khokhlachev’s KHL rights last summer.

Related: Khokhlachev just wants a chance

Jackets not expected to sign Quebec league prospect Pelletier

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Julien Pelletier meets his team after being drafted #107 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Julien Pelletier, the QMJHL Sherbrooke forward taken in the fourth round of the ’14 draft, is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract from the Blue Jackets, per the Columbus Dispatch.

The move would mean Pelletier could re-enter this year’s draft. The Blue Jackets have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sign him, or trade his rights to another team.

Taken five spots ahead of Viktor Arvidsson — who’s become a nice young player for Nashville — Pelletier had a solid season in Sherbrooke, finishing second on the team in goals (with 27).

This year, he was in training camp with the Jackets but sent home early.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets are also unlikely to sign another ’14 draftee — Olivier Leblanc, who was taken in the seventh round.

‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs for one final year in St. Louis

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Ken Hitchcock is taking one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

The club announced today a one-year contract extension for the 64-year-old head coach. Hitchcock then confirmed during a press conference that 2016-17 will be his final year. He plans to retire from coaching once it’s over.

“I just feel like I’ve got this really good year in me,” Hitchcock said. “This season has invigorated me like no season before.”

The Blues, of course, made it all the way to the Western Conference Final this year. The previous four postseasons under Hitchcock, they made it to the second round once, then lost three straight times in the first round.

“This group of players, their dynamic has changed, and it’s really exciting right now,” he said.

There will be at least one change to the coaching staff. GM Doug Armstrong said today that associate coach Brad Shaw will not be back. The rest of the staff has been offered one-year extensions to match Hitchcock’s.

Now that the decision has been made on the head coach, Armstrong can turn his full attention to the roster. Getting Jaden Schwartz, a pending restricted free agent, signed to a long-term deal will be his initial focus.

As for the captain, pending unrestricted free agent David Backes, there’s interest in bringing him back, but the numbers have to make sense. Forwards Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall are also UFAs.

On the back end, Kevin Shattenkirk is probably the biggest wild card. He can become unrestricted next summer, and there has been speculation he could be traded this summer. But as of right now, Armstrong expects him to be back.

Armstrong also said there’s a chance Vladimir Sobotka could return to the Blues next season. Sobotka has spent the last two years in the KHL.

However the roster looks next season, it will be interesting to see what Hitchcock can get out of it. The Blues got over a big hump in 2016, but they only got halfway to winning it all.

One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s this:

Related: Parayko’s ‘memorable’ season has extended into the playoffs

NHL explains no suspension for Marleau, says he didn’t ‘pick’ Rust’s head

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PITTSBURGH — Shortly after reports surfaced that San Jose’s Patrick Marleau wouldn’t face supplemental discipline for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Bryan Rust in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a series of tweets explaining their decision.

Following last night’s game, Marleau said he didn’t think he’d be suspended for the hit, explaining that he “kind of let [Rust] skate into me.”

“I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

Marleau’s assessment was in direct contrast with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

As for Rust, Sullivan listed him as day-to-day with an upper-body injury following the contest. The hit knocked Rust out of last night’s game, and the Penguins haven’t began their off-day practice yet.

More to follow…