NHL on NBCSN: Bruins look to keep rolling against Wild

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

When the Bruins host the Wild tonight it’ll mark their first match-up of the season. We’re this late into the season and these interconference foes will go from not playing each other to facing off twice in the next three weeks (April 8 in St. Paul).

Boston has won eight straight games and lead the Eastern Conference by three points. Their control of the Atlantic Division is something to behold as they lead the Montreal Canadiens by 14 points. To say they’re on a roll would be an understatement.

The Bruins have had their line of Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci dominating opponents recently. Iginla has scored four goals and five points in the past four games while Lucic has two goals and six points in that span. Krejci, meanwhile, has 23 points in the past 21 games.

Throw in Tuukka Rask being one of the league’s top goalies and Zdeno Chara being one of the top defensemen and you’ve got a real buzzsaw of a team to get a handle of and that’s not even mentioning how good Patrice Bergeron has been this season as a two-way forward.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,200 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s late NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $275. Starts Monday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The Wild, meanwhile, are winless in four of the past five games. That run is discouraging when they’d won five in a row before running into some hard luck. If there’s a bonus in losing, three of those four losses have come in shootouts and the Wild are hanging onto the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Darcy Kuemper has jumped into the fire in goal and helped steady things. After losing Niklas Backstrom for the season to injury and Josh Harding’s struggles with illness, goaltending became a big question. With how Kuemper has played, that’s not the case so much anymore.

The Wild’s offense has been coming from the guys they’ve needed to pick things up to make a playoff push and a dominant top line of their own.

The unit made up of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Mikael Granlund have combined for 35 points since they were united on Jan. 30. Parise has a four-game point streak and has a scorching eight goals and nine assists in the past 13 games. Pominville has eight points in the past five games and Granlund has been electric since returning from Sochi with seven points in eight games.

The Wild could stand to see captain Mikko Koivu pick up his game. Since returning to action on March 3 from an ankle injury, he has just two assists. Ryan Suter is in a similar drought with just three assists since returning from Sochi.

As far as measuring stick games go, this is as big as it gets for the Wild. If they want to see where they’re at as a playoff contender, there’s

Andrew Hammond to start Game 5 for Avalanche

AP
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When the Colorado Avalanche hit the ice in Nashville on Friday night they will be facing elimination. They will also need to rely on their third-string goalie to help get them a win if they are going to extend their season.

The team announced on Thursday that Andrew Hammond will be getting the start, replacing Jonathan Bernier who had to leave Wednesday’s game after two periods with a lower body injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Bernier’s injury has been a nagging one and that he could still be available off the bench on Friday if needed.

The Avalanche had been starting Bernier because their regular starter, Semyon Varlamov, is out for the remainder of the season due to a lower body injury of his own.

Obviously, this puts the Avalanche in a pretty tough spot. Not only because they have to go on the road against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators, but also because they have to turn to a goalie that, including Wednesday’s brief relief appearance, has appeared in just eight NHL games over the past two years. He has faced only 127 shots in those appearances and managed only an .874 save percentage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

 Hammond’s career has been a fascinating one to this point.

Late in the 2014-15 season he came out of nowhere as a 25-year-old rookie to lead the Ottawa Senators on an improbable late season run (where Hammond put together a 20-1-2 record) to qualify for the playoffs. Nicknamed “the Hamburglar,” his initial run in Ottawa was highlighted by fans throwing hamburgers on the ice to celebrate his wins.  That run earned him a contract extension with the Senators and a bunch of free hamburgers from McDonalds. It was a crazy year.

After that, though, injuries and a decline in his production have limited him to just a handful of appearances in the NHL.

The Avalanche acquired him from the Senators earlier this season as part of the Matt Duchene trade.

Now he has to jump into the crease in an elimination game.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators’ Ryan Hartman to have hearing after illegal check to the head

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Ryan Hartman had a tough night at the office on Wednesday night and will have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety because of it.

Hartman’s hearing stems from a charging penalty he was assessed after lining up Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg‘s head with his shoulder at the 4:42 mark of the third period.

Soderberg was forced to leave the game after the play.

Earlier in the game, Hartman tried to line up Sven Andrighetto from a mile out in the second period but missed, prompting the latter to come and give Hartman some business, which included a stick below the belt to Hartman.

The Predators took Game 4 by a 3-2 margin, holding off a third-period comeback attempt from the Avalanche to take a 3-1 series lead.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Seinfeld’s Puddy attends Devils game to ‘support the team’

NJ Devils on Twitter
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The man known affectionately as Puddy (aka actor Patrick Warburton) was in New Jersey last night trying to rile up the Devils prior to Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You’ll remember Puddy, the face-painted Devils fan from the hit TV show Seinfeld, for such lines as, ‘We’re the Devils… The Devils’ and ‘Don’t mess with the Devils. We can beat anybody.’

That’s pretty much it, but he didn’t need to say much else to become an instant cult classic among Devils fans.

Warburton resurrected the character on Wednesdat night, doing his best to get the Devils and their fans amped up prior to the game.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the tactic didn’t pay off as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead on the back of a 3-1 win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks wake-up call; Crosby passes Lemieux

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.
• For Ducks, getting swept should be a wake-up call (Los Angeles Times)

• Takeaways: an unlikely hero emerges as Sharks sweep Ducks (San Jose Mercury News)

Sidney Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for Penguins’ playoff points lead (USA Today)

• The Penguins are still too much for the Flyers (SB Nation)

• Hey, Saint Patrick. It’s a sin you missed how Avs refused to quit in 3-2 loss against Nashville. (Denver Post)

• In defying odds, Golden Knights’ success is not so good for sports books (USA Today)

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs (NHL.com)

• Bodog: Golden Knights are Cup favourites (TSN.ca)

• Foligno brothers savouring first simultaneous NHL post-season (Toronto Star)

Blake Wheeler‘s path to being an elite player in the NHL took a winding road (Winnipeg Sun)

• How a financial advisor became the NHL’s only active black official (Sportsnet)

• Bill Peters has the inside track in Calgary, but there’s a lot of local blood to consider (The Hockey News)

• Von Miller just discovered hockey and he is WAY into it (The Loop)

• Humboldt Broncos tribute concert aims to bring in NHL players, alumni (Sportsnet)

• Town puts ‘giant hockey stick on our porch’ in Humboldt tribute (CBC)

• The case for each Vezina Trophy finalist — and a few snubs (The Hockey News)

• Why the Stanley Cup gets names removed every 13 years (Sportsnet)

• Up top, watch how the Penguins are coming alive in the postseason and the energy being displayed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be worrying their opponents.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck