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.

Lehner (forearm contusion) to miss preseason game versus Maple Leafs

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The Buffalo Sabres will not have goalie Robin Lehner in their lineup Friday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As per the Sabres, Lehner is dealing with a forearm contusion and will not dress for this preseason game. Jason Kasdorf will start in net for Buffalo.

Members of the media in Buffalo have noted that if this were a regular season game, Lehner would be able to play.

Lehner had ankle surgery in March, ending his 2015-16 season. His ankle issues dated even further back, to the beginning of last season when he suffered a high-ankle sprain.

The Sabres have some exciting young players on their roster, especially up front, but they need Lehner to be healthy if they are to take a run at a playoff spot this season.

Behind him sit Linus Ullmark, Anders Nilsson and Kasdorf, who have a combined 73 games of NHL experience between them all.

Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

He left the game and didn’t return.

Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine