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.

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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.

Crosby: Penguins ‘probably deserved better’ vs. Senators in Game 6

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If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.

The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.

Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?

Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.

” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.

That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.

Anderson puzzles Penguins as Senators force Game 7

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Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?

The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.

The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.

The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.

Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.

With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.

Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.

You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.

Report: Avalanche get permission to speak with Leafs assistant GM Dubas

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Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?

It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?

One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.

This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.

Video: Senators score twice to take 2-1 lead in Game 6

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The Ottawa Senators have defied odds during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’ve done so with what’s often been an ice-cold power play.

They finally struck gold on the man advantage on Tuesday, and at a key moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating much of the game and pressing for an even bigger edge after Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0.

Maybe the Penguins got overzealous, or maybe officials … finally started making some calls. Either way, the Senators ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for almost a minute-and-a-half. With that opportunity, Bobby Ryan scored a huge goal for Ottawa on a shot that was both oddly and perfectly placed.

Moments later, Kyle Turris narrowly missed a golden opportunity, so the contest remained tied 1-1.

Despite a late push by the Penguins to finish the second, Game 6 will enter the third period with a 1-1 score.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE COVERAGE FOR GAME 6

Update: Mike Hoffman‘s booming shot gave the Senators a 2-1 lead in the third. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can tie it up.