Tomas Tatar, Tuukka Rask

NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings, Coyotes fight for playoffs in doubleheader action

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The Detroit Red Wings host the Boston Bruinns from Joe Louis Arena at 8:00 p.m. ET followed by the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Phoenix Coyotes from Staples Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The season is winding down quickly and that means many games come with a little added pressure. Two of those come your way tonight on NBCSN.

It starts in Detroit where the Red Wings have a tenuous hold on the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wings have a one point lead on Columbus and are two points ahead of Toronto, three ahead of Washington, and four up on New Jersey. There are just enough games for everyone that any loss can be a playoff dream-killer and that puts the Bruins in a special sort of position.

The Bruins’ next two games are with the Red Wings tonight and the Maple Leafs tomorrow. As the top team in the Eastern Conference they’ll have a strong hand in helping shape who they’ll get to face in the first round of the playoffs. That means their choice of which game to start Tuukka Rask or Chad Johnson could have major ramifications.

The Red Wings have played a bit more consistent lately due to the play of Gustav Nyquist, they’ll be getting Pavel Datsyuk back from injury soon, and Jimmy Howard has been strong and steady. That sounds like the kind of team no one wants to face in the playoffs. The Bruins will hope Jarome Iginla will have flashbacks of facing the Wings in postseasons gone by and try to do his part to keep them down.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $200. Starts Wednesday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

Things are a bit dicier out West for the Phoenix Coyotes.

source: Getty ImagesThe Coyotes fell out of the second wild card spot last night after losing in a shootout to Winnipeg while the Dallas Stars blew out the Washington Capitals. The Coyotes and Stars each have 85 points, but the Stars have four more regulation/overtime wins. Making up ground in that category isn’t likely, so it’s up to the Coyotes to do it the old-fashioned way and just win.

Standing in their way tonight is a team that’s made life miserable for them in the Los Angeles Kings and the Coyotes are catching them at absolutely the wrong time. L.A. has won 14 of the past 18 but are coming off a loss to the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

Coyotes-Kings games bring out a lot of bad blood and perhaps that spark is what Shane Doan and Thomas Greiss need to close out strong. They’ll have to do their part to wrangle Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, and their hated nemesis Dustin Brown to make it happen. Even if they do that, Jonathan Quick is still back there to keep them off the board.

It might not be the playoffs yet, but these games are as close as it will get until then.

Rangers believe Zibanejad’s best is yet to come

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 5:  Mika Zibanejad #93 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on March 5,2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Senators defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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It’s plausible – yet not guaranteed – that Derick Brassard will be better next season than the player he was traded for, Mika Zibanejad.

Plenty of New York Rangers fans are justified in being excited about the long-term impact of the move, and not merely because of the second-round pick they received in the swap.

Zibanejad is a lot younger than Brassard. Even if Brassard ages well at 29, his Swedish trade counterpart is merely 23. The Rangers, quite reasonably, wonder if Zibanejad’s best days are still ahead of him.

“He’s a younger player that our scouting staff and our management all felt he was on the upswing,” Vigneault said to the Rangers’ website. “The speed is there. The skill is there. The youth is there. We believe he’s not fully developed yet and with the right environment teammate wise, coaching wise, we can get more from [him].”

Brassard provides a decent example of Vigneault & Co. bringing a prospect to the next level, actually.

After maintaining his level of play in his first season with the Rangers (45 points in 81 games with a 15:48 average time on ice), Brassard scored 60 and 58 points during his next two seasons with New York. He peaked at almost 18 minutes per game last season, which is right in line with the reps Zibanejad enjoyed with Ottawa in 2015-16.

Zibanejad believes he hasn’t peaked yet either, which is promising since he scored 21 goals and 51 points last season. It’s not outrageous to pencil him in for Brassard-like production in 2016-17.

DJ Z Bad lined up between Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich to start things off with the Rangers, making for quite the interesting mix of talent, speed and force.

The trade already looks promising for the Rangers, but depending upon how Zibanejad develops, the difference could be especially glaring.

More on DJ Z Bad

Poll: Who will win the trade?

Zibanejad wants to take the next step

He’s under pressure

Capitals pushed by ‘that hurt’ from playoff letdown

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his game winning overtime goal against the Washington Capitals in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) When Matt Niskanen contemplated skipping a trip to the gym over the summer, he remembered what happened in May.

As the offseason went on, Niskanen thought less and less about the Washington Capitals’ loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, he let the memory of the second-round playoff exit fuel him from time to time.

“That hurt, it lingers, and I think you can use that as motivation,” Niskanen said. “That kind of stuff creeps into your mind and it pushes you.”

Now several months removed from another painful playoff loss, the Capitals came to training camp ready to harness whatever energy they could from that while also preparing to move past it and focus on another run at the Cup this season. Almost the entire roster is back from the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team that ran roughshod over the NHL during the regular season, and with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby in their primes, there isn’t time to waste on reflection and hindsight.

“You need to see where things went awry and try to rectify it,” said veteran winger Justin Williams, one of several players with one year left on his contract. “We set a standard with having successful teams, a team every year fans can look at and say, `You know, we legitimately have a chance to win it again.’ As players we embrace that and we respect it and we know that these opportunities that we have in front of us aren’t forever.”

Along with Williams, winger T.J. Oshie and defenseman Karl Alzner could be unrestricted free agents July 1. Restricted free agent center Evgeny Kuznetsov will get a big raise on a new deal, and Washington’s salary cap picture will get more difficult as the years go on.

Ovechkin also just turned 31, and while he led the league in scoring last season, there’s no certainty as to how long his Hall of Fame-caliber production will keep up. After winning the division by 16 points and losing in the second round – again – general manager Brian MacLellan doesn’t think there’s a bigger burden on winning this year with so many unknowns on the horizon.

“I think there’s pressure every year,” MacLellan said. “Last year we were a contender, there’s pressure. Same pressure this year. We have a goal of winning a championship. We know we’re close and we need to pursue it and we’ll do everything we can to get there.”

Alzner was just starting to get over the early exit when pictures of the Penguins celebrating with the Cup filled up his social media feeds. The ironman whose groin injury forced him out of the deciding Game 6 and led to sports hernia surgery scoffed at the notion that Pittsburgh winning makes the loss easier to take.

“It’s worse, in my opinion, because then you really think, `OK if I could have got past that team then the Cup was ours,”‘ said Alzner, who’s still working his way back to 100 percent. “I think that all of us in the room thought that we were going to win that last year.”

Being great in the regular season and losing in the first or second round has become the Capitals’ reputation over the past decade. The 2015-16 team was perhaps the best on paper, which made the late stumble into summer that much more confounding.

As more top players continue to trickle back into town after playing in the World Cup of Hockey, associate coach Todd Reirden expects the staff to impart lessons about last season on the full group. Early in camp, the mood is light with players eager to make a fresh start and learn from losing to the Penguins.

Asked what the Capitals can do to improve, Williams deadpanned: “We can finish the season with a win. That’s it.”

That’s a challenge that can’t be accomplished until the spring. Players, coaches and fans may want to fast-forward until then, but Washington has to again get there first.

“You’ve got to be patient,” center Jay Beagle said. “The game has to develop. We’ve got new guys, so we want to go into this year making sure we’re playing our best going into the end of the year and in the playoffs.”

Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .

Plenty of betting options for World Cup final round

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 24:  Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins checks Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Bovada released a wide array of betting options for the best-of-three final round of the World Cup between Canada and Team Europe on Monday.

Naturally, there are the run of the mill matters like game lines:

Europe vs. Canada (World Cup of Hockey Finals)

Europe +575 (23/4)

Canada -1000 (1/10)

Total Goals Europe vs. Canada (World Cup of Hockey Finals)

Over/Under 6

Interesting over/under, huh?

Things get more fun as the prop bets get stranger/more specific. Personally, the head-to-head player bets rank among the most fascinating:

Who will record more points in the game?

Sidney Crosby (CAN) 2/3

Anze Kopitar (EUR) 11/4

Draw 5/2

Who will record more points in the game?

Patrice Bergeron (CAN) 1/1

Draw 2/1

Marian Hossa (EUR) 9/4

Who will record more points in the game?

Brad Marchand (CAN) 4/5

Draw 9/5

Mats Zuccarello (EUR) 3/1

Hmm, maybe Marchand wouldn’t be the greatest bet. He’s probably feeling pretty fat and happy after signing that $49 million contract extension, after all.

At least one outlet finds Europe to be an enticing gamble thanks to Jaroslav Halak‘s hot play, for what it’s worth.

Jacob Trouba’s agent expands on trade request

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 28: Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 2014 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jacob Trouba‘s agent Kurt Overhardt repeatedly shot down certain questions as “private” matters regarding a very public trade request from the Winnipeg Jets, yet his interview on TSN’s Hustler & Lawless spoke volumes about the impasse.

From the sound of things, it would be tough for the Jets to get Trouba to change course and sign a deal with the team.

Trouba seeks a spot as a top two defenseman, or at least one of a team’s top two options on the right side, something Overhardt firmly believes cannot happen in Winnipeg. He quickly deflected hypothetical scenarios regarding Dustin Byfuglien moving to the left or Tyler Myers getting bumped down the Jets’ depth chart.

“None of this is happening on a whim,” Overhardt said. ” … This has nothing to do with money.”

This excerpt from the Trouba press release hit a lot of the same points:

There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

You can read the team’s response in this post. Overhardt made it a point to mention that “several teams” would love to have Trouba’s rights, and would be able to give him the opportunity he craves.

Interestingly, he dodged a question about Trouba possibly sitting out the 2016-17 season, if it came down to it.

The full radio appearance is available here.