ST PAUL, MN - JANUARY 23: Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Matt Cooke #24 of the Minnesota Wild during the game on January 23, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 2-1.

NHL on NBCSN: Hungry Wild challenge battered Hawks

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The defending Stanley Cup champions have already secured a playoff berth, but they want to do more than just limp into their probable first-round series against the hot Colorado Avalanche. That’s exactly what they’re doing right now though.

Chicago just returned from a three-game road trip where they were outscored 12-4 and didn’t earn a single point. On top of that they lost captain Jonathan Toews, who will join Patrick Kane on the sidelines for the rest of the regular season.

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As deep as the Blackhawks’ offense is, that’s a ton of firepower sitting out of tonight’s game, which is music to the Wild’s ears. The duo has been a thorn in Minnesota’s side this season with a combined three goals and seven points in four games. Even with them though, Chicago is still down 1-3-0 in the season series.

So as much as the Blackhawks would like to avoid losing four straight contests in regulation for the first time since Feb. 2012, this will be a tough one for them.

It doesn’t help that this game means more to the Wild in the first place. Minnesota is in a good spot in the battle to secure a Wild Card spot, but every point remains critical.

That’s especially true given how hard the rest of Minnesota’s schedule is. On top of playing Chicago, the Wild will also play against Pittsburgh, Boston, and St. Louis in the last week and a half of the season. If they aren’t careful, the losses could still pile on and deny them a playoff spot.

The Wild aren’t completely health either. In fact, Ilya Bryzgalov is projected to start partially because goaltenders Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, and Darcy Kuemper are all hurt. They are also likely to be without forward Mikael Granlund, who is dealing with a possible head injury.

Unlike Chicago though, they have their top two forwards in Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. The duo has been hot lately with a combined six goals and 14 points in their last five games. The Wild will be looking for them to be the difference tonight and add to Chicago’s slump.

Frustrated by disallowed winner, Sharks coach calls goalie interference rule ‘clear as mud’

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The San Jose Sharks would’ve had a 3-1 series lead, if not for the referees’s decision to disallow Joe Pavelski‘s overtime goal last night in Nashville.

Instead, the Sharks are headed back to San Jose tied, 2-2, after Mike Fisher won Game 4 for the Predators in triple OT.

Not surprisingly, what happened last night didn’t sit too well with Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer, who offered a rather sardonic opinion of the referee’s decision — a decision that was upheld upon review — to disallow Pavelski’s goal due to “incidental contact” with Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.

“I don’t understand. I guess incidental contact is you’re cross-checked from behind while you are in the air and you have the opportunity to stop. I guess that’s what it is,” DeBoer said, per Sportsnet.

“You know what? That rule has been clear as mud to every coach in the league all year, so why should it be different tonight?”

DeBoer is not wrong that there’s been confusion. What actually constitutes goalie interference has been a hot topic since the league allowed coaches to challenge it.

For the record, here’s what would’ve been reviewed last night:

 

b) Scoring Plays Involving Potential “Interference on the Goalkeeper”

(ii) A play that results in a “NO GOAL” call on the ice despite the puck having entered the net, where the on-ice Officials have determined that the attacking team was guilty of “Interference on the Goalkeeper” but where the attacking team asserts: (i) there was no actual contact of any kind initiated by an attacking Player with the goalkeeper; or (ii) the attacking Player was pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper; or (iii) the attacking Player’s positioning within the goal crease did not impair the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal and, in fact, had no discernible impact on the play.

So, based on that, it was decided that Pavelski was not “pushed” or “shoved” into Rinne by Nashville’s Paul Gaustad. Or, at the very least, it was decided that Pavelski, after he was pushed, failed to make a “reasonable effort” to avoid contact with the goalie.

 

Obviously, that’s not how DeBoer saw it. He didn’t think Pavelski had a chance to avoid crashing into Rinne.

Regardless, the Sharks will need to put last night behind them and get focused on Saturday’s Game 5. It’s a best-of-three to get to the Western Conference Final now, whether they like it or not. 

Avs lose another to Europe, as Everberg signs in Sweden

Dennis Everberg, Jason Pominville
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Just four days after Joey Hishon signed with KHL club Jokerit, another Colorado player has inked overseas — on Friday, SHL club Vaxjo announced it had agreed to terms with Dennis Everberg.

Everberg, 24, appeared in 70 games over the last two seasons with the Avs. His best effort came during the ’14-15 campaign, when he scored three goals and 12 points in 55 games.

Last year, he was largely phased out of the Avalanche lineup — appearing in just 15 contests — and spent most of his time in AHL San Antonio (where, to his credit, he played well, scoring 40 points in 54 games.)

Signed as an undrafted free agent two years ago, Everberg will now return to the same league in which he first made a name for himself. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder had played for SHL club Rogle prior to coming to North America.

Both Everberg and Hishon were set to become RFAs on July 1, and neither seemed as though they had a long-term future with the club.

As such, these departures can’t come as a big shock.

Pens want Cullen to return next season

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 14: Matt Cullen #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on November 14, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils shut out the Penguins 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Matt Cullen is oldest active player in this year’s playoffs, an achievement unto itself.

But the 39-year-old seemingly isn’t content with just being the resident greybeard. He’s playing at a pretty high level.

He’s racked up five points through nine games, averaging 15:22 TOI per night, and has become a real thorn in Washington’s side.

How thorny? To the point where, after Game 4, Caps head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged Cullen’s “having a hell of a series against us,” per Sportsnet.

Cullen will have a chance to extend his postseason on Saturday, when the Pens look to eliminate the Caps — but his GM is thinking about extending things well beyond these playoffs.

More, from Sportsnet:

[Cullen] has his own three sons running around the Penguins dressing room after games, and they’re old enough to experience and enjoy this playoff run, too.

The natural question is what happens next? [Pens GM Jim] Rutherford believes he’ll still be good at age 40 – “I do want him to return, but we’ll deal with that at the appropriate time” – although Cullen seems somewhat less certain about his future.

As good as he’s played and is playing, it’s not out of the question we’re watching his final games.

Cullen played this season on a one-year, $800,000 deal, which ranks among Rutherford’s best moves of the campaign. He appeared in all 82 games, scoring 16 goals and 32 points, and finished second to Sidney Crosby in faceoffs won.

Looking ahead, though, it’s fair to suggest this could be his swan song, as Pittsburgh is pretty loaded at center. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino are all fairly entrenched — and under contract — and it looks like young Oscar Sundqvist is ready to push for a spot as well.

There’s always the possibility of going to free agency, though that seems the least likely route for Cullen.

Report: It ‘looks like’ Sens prospect White will return to Boston College

Colin White, center, poses with Ottawa Senators executives after being chosen 21st overall by the Senators, during the first round of the NHL hockey draft, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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Since losing to Quinnipiac in the Frozen Four, the Boston College Eagles have also lost a bunch of their best players.

Those who made the decision to turn pro include Alex Tuch (Wild), Adam Gilmour (Wild), Miles Wood (Devils), Steve Santini (Devils), and Hobey Baker finalist Thatcher Demko (Canucks).

The good news for B.C. is that Colin White probably won’t be part of the exodus. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, it “looks like” White will return for his sophomore season after scoring 43 points in 37 games as a freshman.

White, 19, was drafted 21st overall by the Ottawa Senators last summer. He said last month that turning pro had “definitely” crossed his mind, but then he also said, “Definitely, B.C. is a great place.”