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Get your game notes: Jackets at Penguins

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• This marks the first-ever postseason meeting of the Blue Jackets and Penguins, two teams separated by 185 miles. Columbus, which set franchise highs in wins (43) and points (93) in its first season in the Eastern Conference, is making only its second postseason appearance since joining the NHL in 2000-01. The Jackets were swept in four games by Detroit in the Western Conference Quarterfinals in their only other appearance, in 2008-09. The three players remaining from that playoff roster are forwards R.J. Umberger and Jared Boll, and defenseman Fedor Tyutin. Pittsburgh eventually hoisted the Stanley Cup that season, beating the Red Wings in seven games in the Final.

• This season, the Blue Jackets lost all five games vs. the Penguins in regulation and were outscored 16-7. The last time a team took zero points in a regular-season series (minimum: four games) and upset that team in the playoffs was Carolina vs. Boston in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. During the 2008-09 season, the Hurricanes did not earn a point in four regular-season matchups with the Bruins. However, they rebounded to turn away the Bruins in seven games. Elias Sports Bureau

• Penguins captain Sidney Crosby captured his second career (2006-07) Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s scoring champion, with 104 points in 80 games. Those were Crosby’s highest points and games-played totals since the 2009-10 season (109 points in 81 games). In the 60 games in which he registered points the Penguins went 47-8-5. In the 30 games in which he registered two or more points, they went 28-0-2.

• Crosby reached the 100-point milestone for the fifth time in his career and became the fourth player in Penguins history to earn multiple Art Ross Trophies, following Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux (6), Jaromir Jagr (5) and Evgeni Malkin (2). Malkin, who missed 22 games this season (including the last 11 with a foot injury), still managed to finish 15th in the NHL in scoring (23-49–72). After participating in his first full practice since the March 23 injury on Tuesday, the 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is expected to play in Game 1.

• From the first period of their game vs. Dallas on Mar. 4 through Mar. 23, the Blue Jackets endured a zero-for-37 (0.0%) power-play drought over eight+ games. However, from Mar. 25 until the end of the regular season, they went 13-for-36 (36.1%) with the man advantage. In those 11 games, nine different players scored a PPG, led by center Ryan Johansen (three).

• On Apr. 14, the Penguins recalled veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun from a conditioning assignment at their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Vokoun missed the entire 2013-14 regular season after undergoing emergency surgery to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis in September. Last season, the 37-year-old goalie replaced an ineffective Marc-Andre Fleury (2-2, 3.52 GAA, .883 save%) during the playoffs and went 6-5 with a 2.01 GAA and .933 save percentage, helping the Pens reach the Eastern Conference Final.

• This season, the Penguins lost an NHL-high 527 man-games to injury. (Only one player, forward Craig Adams, appeared in all 82 games.) Since 2009-10, five teams have reported 350 or more man-games lost during a season and made the playoffs. Two of them, Pittsburgh and Detroit, have come this year.

NBC and NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day in America

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With two games on NBC and then two more on NBCSN, your Sunday should be jam-packed with Hockey Day in America action. A look at the hockey hotbed of Warroad, Minnesota adds a delectable cherry on top, too.

If you need a guide to this party of pucks and patriotism, look no further than this post.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and the dominant Capitals take on Ryan McDonagh and the Blueshirts. The Metropolitan Division represents some of the NHL’s upper crust, so don’t be fooled by the Rangers being the first wild card while the Caps are tops in the East; both of these teams can go. Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher will be there to call the action.

MORE: For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will be in the booth for this battle between teams that met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009. Along with usual suspects like Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, these teams feature American scorers such as Dylan Larkin and, of course, Phil Kessel.

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres, 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The action shifts to NBCSN as Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks hope to teach Jack Eichel and the upstart Sabres a lesson or two. The Blackhawks are in playoff position, as usual, while Buffalo is rallying to try to make a push of its own. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti will be your guides.

MORE: Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s journey from Warroad to the NHL

Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Hockey Day in America’s coverage closes off with this matchup between David Backes‘ Bruins and Joe Pavelski‘s Sharks. Randy Hahn, Andy Brickley and Bret Hedican will take you through this match between the Pacific Division’s top team and a Bruins team fighting to stick in the East playoff picture.

Barkov’s beautiful goal pushes Panthers into playoff position

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers circles the net with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers just won’t be denied as they end the night in the East’s top eight.

It’s fitting, then, that Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be denied on his game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Barkov bursts beyond multiple Kings, fights off what would have been an obstruction penalty and then beats Peter Budaj by the narrowest of margins to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead 15 seconds into the third period. They would never relinquish that edge to Los Angeles, winning their fourth game in a row.

In the process, the Panthers – a team that seemed to be fledgling when it fired Gerard Gallant – now find themselves in the East’s top eight. Heck, they’re actually above the wild card fray by a hair.

Before we get to that … just bask in the glow of this Barkov goal:

Again, it was such a small window to beat Budaj, too:

(If the Panthers’ place in the standings doesn’t sway you into taking them seriously, maybe note plays like that and the fact that Barkov has 20 points in his last 17 games.)

OK, so with this win, the Panthers did some serious leapfrogging. They now rank third in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a game in hand on Boston) and have more points than Toronto as far as wild card concerns go, anyway.

Atlantic Division rankings

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games

Bruins – 64 in 58
Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Sabres – 62 in 59
Lightning – 58 in 57
Red Wings – 56 in 58

From a wild card perspective

Third in Atlantic – Panthers – 64 points in 57 games
Second wild card – Bruins – 64 in 58

Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58
Devils – 60 in 58
Lightning – 58 in 57
Hurricanes – 56 in 54
Red Wings – 56 in 58

Everything’s so close that the Panthers can’t pop champagne bottles, but they’re also very much in control over their hopes. While it never hurts to see your competitors stumble, the Panthers can take care of business. They “control their own destiny,” to use silly sports parlance.

And considering how they’ve been playing lately, they might be as tough to handle in the playoffs as Barkov was to stop on that outstanding 3-2 goal.

Stars made Dave Strader’s return to the booth special

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It was a special night as the Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime, but the most memorable moment wasn’t the win or Antoine Roussel‘s hat trick.

Instead, it was how the team embraced Dave Strader’s return to the broadcasting booth as he continues to fight cancer.

Don’t be ashamed if his comments to the Dallas Morning News leave you emotional:

“This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” Strader said after the game. “Maybe it was the adrenaline high, but I really, really feel great right now.”

Again, the team really did some great things to welcome him back, but the highlight was saluting him after the game. Incredible stuff.

“What a gesture by the boys … meant so much to me and my wife! Thank you.” Strader tweeted after the game.

As this post notes, Strader is expected to do play-by-play for four more Stars games.

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.