Sidney Crosby, Steve Mason, Nicklas Grossmann

NHL on NBC: Pens host Flyers in possible playoff preview


NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign today when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers at CONSOL Energy Center at 3:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC, you can watch the game online.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a curious position this afternoon when they host the Philadelphia Flyers because, depending on the outcome, they can have a hand in helping determine who they’ll play in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Penguins pull off a win, it’s possible they could face the Flyers in the opening round of the postseason. Working against them is how they’ve handled the Flyers this season. Philly is 3-1-0 against Pittsburgh this season and after sweeping a home-and-home set last month, many believe the Flyers are in the Penguins’ heads.

It’s a double-edged sword for the Penguins. If Philly moves to 4-1-0 against them this season, the Flyers will face the New York Rangers in the first round leaving the Pens to either deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets or Detroit Red Wings in the postseason. With Nathan Horton out of action for the next six weeks for the Jackets, the Pens may have their fingers crossed they can deal with them.

The Pens have won two in a row, both via shootout, so they’ve got that going for them. Jussi Jokinen has points in three straight and has the shootout winner in the last two games. Maybe Steve Mason and Ray Emery have done a little studying to prepare.

The Flyers, meanwhile, head into the game coming off a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sean Couturier has goals in back-to-back games and instead of his usual job of trying to frustrate Evgeni Malkin (out with a foot injury), he may get to step up another level and shadow Sidney Crosby.

While that’s the match-up to watch there, seeing how the suddenly healthy Penguins defense tries to get a handle on Claude Giroux is worth keeping an eye on.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.