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Get your game notes: Blackhawks at Blues

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

— The defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks open the playoffs on the road at St. Louis. Chicago is 1-6-1 in their last 8 away games. Going for their 3rd Cup in the last 5 seasons (2009-2010, 2012-2013), the Blackhawks are trying to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the Detroit Red Wings accomplished the feat in the 1996-‘97 & 1997-’98 seasons.

— The Blues come in having lost six straight games (all in regulation) with their last win coming on April 3rd at home against Buffalo. This is the longest such drought for St. Louis since they dropped 7 straight from Dec. 26, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010 (0-5-2) and the franchise’s longest point drought since a 7-game stretch from Jan. 4-17, 2006. The Blues have been outscored 22-5 during the six-game losing streak.

— Ryan Miller was acquired by St. Louis in a deal with the Buffalo Sabres on February 28:

First 8 Games: 7-0-1 record, 1.61 GAA, .933 SV%.

At least one point in each of first eight starts (franchise record)

Last 11 Games: 3-8-0, 3.13, .883, 9 of 11 games against playoff teams

*Last 5 Games: 0-5-0, 3.82 GAA, .856 SV% (3+ goals allowed in each game)

— This series is a matchup of the career wins leaders among active coaches, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville (first, 706) and St. Louis’ Ken Hitchcock (second, 657). Quenneville and Hitchcock are two of the elite group of 12 coaches with at least 600 career wins.

— This will be the 11th postseason meeting between the Blues & Blackhawks and the first since a 2001-2002 first-round series in which the then Quenneville led Blues won in 5 games (outscoring CHI 13-5). Quenneville is St. Louis’ all-time winningest coach (307 wins, 1997-2004) and the second-winningest coach in Blackhawks history (268 wins, 2008-present).

— Chicago has won 7 of the 10 playoff series overall but St. Louis won the two most recent (1992-1993 being the other, 4-0 series sweep).

— St. Louis won 3 of 5 meetings this season (two in shootouts), including both home meetings, but lost the two most recent matchups, including the last time meeting on April 6th by a score of 4-2.

— The Blues established a new franchise record with 52 wins on the season, passing the 51-mark set by the 1999-2000 team (coached by Quenneville) – that won the franchise’s only Presidents’ Trophy at 114 pts.

— St. Louis & Chicago gained 63 & 61 pts. respectively in their first 41 games – Anaheim (61 pts.) was the only other team to reach the 60-point mark in the first half of the season. The Blues & Blackhawks each finished the regular season 10-9-1 in their final 20 games.

— Chicago finished 2nd in goals/gm. (3.18); St. Louis finished 3rd in goals allowed/gm. (2.29). The ‘Hawks have 5 players who tallied 60+ points this season (t-1st in NHL: Patrick Sharp–78, Patrick Kane–69, Jonathan Toews–68, Duncan Keith–61, Marian Hossa–60), the Blues have 2 (Alexander Steen–62, T.J. Oshie–60).

— Chicago & St. Louis have been without key players of late, Vladimir Tarasenko (STL, 21-22—43 pts., hand surgery, out since Mar. 17) & Patrick Kane (CHI, 29-40—69 pts., leg injury, out since Mar. 21).

Sabres welcome back oft-injured Kulikov, who has missed 26 games

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Dmitry Kulikov‘s first year in Buffalo has largely been defined by his lingering back injury, but he’ll set about changing that narrative when he returns to the lineup tonight in Nashville.

Today, Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed Kulikov would play for the first time since Dec. 27, having missed nearly a month with his lingering ailment.

Kulikov also missed 13 games earlier in the year with the same back problem.

Acquired at last year’s draft in a deal that sent Mark Pysyk to Florida — along with picks being exchanged — Kulikov was expected to play a big role in Buffalo this season, and projected to play on the club’s top defensive pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen.

“You watch Florida when they go on the PK; he was the first guy on the ice, when they needed a goal on the playoffs he was on the ice, when they needed to protect a lead late in the game he was on the ice,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said at the time of the trade, per NHL.com. “So we certainly liked what we saw.”

All told, the 26-year-old Russian’s appeared in just 20 games this year, registering a single point. He has averaged over 22 minutes per, though — meaning head coach Dan Bylsma has used Kulikov quite a bit, when available.

Kulikov didn’t take this morning’s skate, so no clear indication on who he’ll pair with this evening.

Coyotes’ Holland fined for punching Palat

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Arizona’s Peter Holland has been fined $3,611.11, the maximum allowable under CBA, for punching Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat during Saturday’s Coyotes-Lightning game in Glendale.

Holland threw the punch halfway through the second period after getting taken out along the boards by Palat. Holland didn’t like the hit, so he got up, dropped his gloves, and leveled the unsuspecting Palat with a bare fist to the face.

Holland received four minutes for roughing, but the Lightning failed to capitalize with the man advantage.

The Coyotes would go on to win, 5-3.

Ladd back for Isles, who are playing well lately

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26:  Andrew Ladd #16 of the New York Islanders skates against the Montreal Canadiens at the Barclays Center on October 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Canadiens defeated the Islanders 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The streaking New York Islanders will get a key piece back on Tuesday, as Andrew Ladd returns from a four-game absence to face the visiting Blue Jackets.

Ladd has been out of the lineup since Jan. 16 with an upper-body injury.

“I just wanted to be a part of the way we’ve been playing the last little bit, last five games and have put ourselves back in the position where we can get into the playoff race,” Ladd said, per the Isles’ website. “You try to inject some energy, some emotion into getting back in the lineup and just want to be a part of winning some hockey games. I’m excited to get back in there.”

As mentioned, the Isles are on a bit of a roll. They’re 4-1-1 in their last six and have points in four straight games, all of which came under interim bench boss Doug Weight. Weight, of course, took over from Jack Capuano after the longtime head coach was fired from his post last week.

Ladd’s largely been a disappointment this season after signing a monster seven-year, $38.5 million deal in free agency. He has just eight goals and 12 points through 41 games, but did have a decent stretch of production prior to getting hurt.

The biggest reason for New York’s improved play lately has been Thomas Greiss. Now firmly locked into the starting gig — after Jaroslav Halak cleared waivers and sent to the minors — Greiss has gone 2-0-1 in his last three starts with a 0.98 GAA, and .971 save percentage.

Unsurprisingly, Greiss will get the nod against Columbus this evening.

If the Isles can get another result tonight, they could draw closer to the idle Flyers in the wild card chase. New York currently sits just five back of Philly for the final spot, but needs to leapfrog five teams — Boston, Florida, Carolina, New Jersey and Detroit — to get there.

 

 

Elliott has cooled off, and so have the Flames

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Goalie Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames covers up the puck while playing against the Edmonton Oilers on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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It looked for a while like Brian Elliott had regained his form. From Dec. 14 to Jan. 5, he went 5-0-0 with a .922 save percentage.

Alas, things have gone sideways again. From Jan. 6 onward, Elliott has gone 0-3-1 with an .872 save percentage. Last night, he allowed four goals on 28 shots as his Calgary Flames fell, 4-0, in Toronto.

“I think the difference tonight was they capitalized on some chances that they had and we had some really good looks that we didn’t capitalize,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano, per the Calgary Herald. “That’s the end of the story — it’s a 4-0 game. You have to score at least a few goals to win games in this league.”

Indeed, it’s hard to blame the goalie when he doesn’t get a single goal of support. The Leafs’ first goal, the winning goal, certainly wasn’t Elliott’s fault.

But the second goal could’ve been stopped…

…and the third was the back-breaker, coming with his team on the power play.

The Flames didn’t put up much of a fight after that. The loss was their third in a row, and tonight they have to play in Montreal.

Expect Chad Johnson to get the nod against the Canadiens. He hasn’t been too good lately either. In fact, he only lasted 5:58 of his last start, before he was pulled after allowing three goals on four shots in an eventual 7-3 loss to Edmonton.

Read more: ‘It’s embarrassing,’ says Gulutzan after lopsided loss to Oilers

The Flames are still in a playoff spot, thanks in large part to the struggles of the Kings and Jets. But for a team that thought its goaltending problems had been solved by the addition of Elliott, it has to be frustrating that the position remains a weak spot.

Both Elliott and Johnson are pending unrestricted free agents.

Related: An interesting goalie market awaits in the summer