Get your game notes: Caps at Blues

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the St. Louis Blues hosting the Washington Capitals starting at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• With only four goals in four games in April, the Blues are tied with Phoenix for the fewest goals among all 30 NHL teams this month (1.00 goals/game). The Capitals have the same number of goals (four) as the Blues, in one fewer game, which ranks them 28th this month (1.33 goals/game). The Caps are the only team that has not won a game (0-25-6) this season when scoring two or fewer goals. (No other team has fewer than three wins in those scenarios.) The Caps’ last regular-season win when scoring two or fewer was Apr. 4, 2013, when they defeated the N.Y. Islanders 2-1 in a shootout.

• Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who has an NHL-high 420 goals since entering the league before the 2005-06 season (110 more than the second-highest scorer during that span, Boston’s Jarome Iginla – 310), has scored at least one goal in all but two current NHL arenas: Staples Center in Los Angeles (no goals in five games) and Scottrade Center in St. Louis (no goals in three games).

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• The Capitals (23.0%, 2nd in the NHL) and Blues (20.3%, 6th) have two of the top power play units in the league, but both have struggled recently. St. Louis is 1/13 in its last 4 four games, while Washington is 0/13 in its last three. The Caps’ latest downturn aside, trends since the Olympic break show that the two clubs have been heading in opposite directions in terms of power play efficiency.

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• Two of this season’s power-play point leaders, Capitals teammates Nicklas Backstrom (42 PPP, 1st in the NHL) and Alex Ovechkin (36 PPP, 3rd), have combined for nine power-play goals since the Olympic break (19 games). However, even-strength scoring suffered. Ovechkin scored his first even-strength goal in 17 games on Apr. 4 vs N.J., and Backstrom scored his first in 18 games on Apr. 5 vs. NYI.

• Blues top linemates David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen (questionable, upper-body injury) are enjoying career years. The trio are the Blues’ top three scorers this season, combining for 81 of the team’s 236 goals this season (34.3%), including 11 of the club’s last 17 goals.

• This season, the Blues offense has been more effective at home than away. In 39 home games, they have 134 goals (an NHL-high 3.44 goals/game at home), while in 39 road games, they have only 102 (2.62 goals/game). Their +32 home-road goal differential ranks second in the NHL, behind Columbus (+34).

• On Saturday, the Capitals tied an NHL record with their 20th shootout of the season (a record co-held by the 2009-10 Coyotes and 2011-12 Wild). The Caps, who have a 10-10 record this season in the shootout, have needed the one-on-one session to decide five of their last eight games (2-3 record). They have not won a game in regulation since Mar. 18, when they won in Anaheim, 3-2.

• The Blues have gone 12 games without a goal by a defenseman (last goal: Alex Pietrangelo, Mar. 13 vs. Edmonton), and the Capitals have gone ten games without one (last goal: Mike Green, Mar. 14 vs. Vancouver). Those goal droughts are the two longest active d-man goal droughts in the NHL. Elias

Brock Boeser will make NHL debut for Canucks today after signing entry level deal

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After a deal appeared imminent on Friday night the Vancouver Canucks made it official on Saturday morning and announced the signing of 2015 first-round draft pick Brock Boeser to an entry level contract.

Not only is he under contract with the Canucks, but he will also make his NHL debut on Saturday afternoon against his hometown team when the Canucks visit the Minnesota Wild.

The Canucks selected Boeser with the No. 23 overall pick in 2015.

He played his collegiate hockey at North Dakota where he put up some massive numbers, recording 94 points in 74 games over two seasons. That includes 16 goals and 18 assists in 32 games this season.

His addition to the Canucks lineup over the remaining nine games of the 2016-17 season will burn one of those years of his entry level contract, but it will give Canucks fans a glimpse of their future and maybe a reason for optimism in what has become a lost season. The Canucks enter the game having lost seven of their past eight.

 

Nikita Kucherov is trying to carry the Lightning to the playoffs

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Every time you think the Tampa Bay Lightning’s playoff chances might be finished this season, they always find a way to keep them alive and stay in the race.

Thanks to their 2-1 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, the Lightning were able to keep pace with the New York Islanders and move to within a single point of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as we prepare to enter the final weeks of the regular season. It is still pretty amazing to think about them being this close to a playoff spot when you consider the injuries the team has dealt with this season. Steven Stamkos, their best player, has not played since November. Their center depth has been decimated in recent weeks with Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov all missing significant time in the month of March. They traded Ben Bishop, Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula at the trade deadline for nothing that will help this current team.

And yet, here they are, still right in the thick of the playoff race.

If they are able to pull this off and get one of the eight spots in the Eastern Conference is going to be because Nikita Kucherov has pretty much put the team on his back over the past month and single handedly carried it to one.

Kucherov scored another massive goal on Friday night when he scored the overtime winner in Detroit, and is currently in the middle of a four-game stretch where he has scored a goal in every game (for a total of seven) and recorded multiple points in each one (for a total of nine). If you go back over the past month, a stretch where the Lightning have managed to go 10-5-1 over a 16-game stretch to remain in the race, Kucherov has been the best offensive player in the league by a wide margin.

Since that stretch began on Feb. 20, Kucherov has scored 17 goals (four more than any other player in the league) and recorded 29 total points (eight more than any other player) to be the single biggest driving force behind the Lightning offense. His 29 points during that stretch mean he has had a hand (scoring or assisting) in 66 percent of the team’s goals (they have 44 during that stretch). He has scored close to 40 percent of them himself.

It is all part of an incredible season that has seen Kucherov climb to the top-five in the league in scoring even though he has missed seven games.

His 1.16 point per game average is third in the league among players that have played at least 60 games, trailing only Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, and he is only 0.02 points off of McDavid’s pace. He is doing that while owning a 56 percent Corsi percentage that is in the top-25 of the entire league.

He has been one of the most dominant players in the league this season, and has taken his game to an entirely new level in the past month just when the Lightning have needed it most. If they get in, it’s going to be because of him.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.