PHT Morning Skate: Sharks go for the sweep

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If you missed it, there was plenty of drama last night.

The Blue Jackets and Stars overcame big deficits to tie their respective series against Columbus and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Chicago and St. Louis went to overtime for the third time in four games and this time it was the defending champion Blackhawks that came out on top.

As a result we now have three series that stand at 2-2. We might have two more series tied before the end of the night…

Game 4: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings [Boston leads series 2-1] (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Detroit won the first game thanks to a strong performance by goaltender Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk’s — as San Jose’s Logan Couture put it — filthy move late in the contest. Since then though, it’s been all Boston.

The Bruins outscored Detroit 7-1 over Games 2 and 3. The Red Wings have been to the playoffs for 23 straight campaigns, but they were led there this season by a young and largely inexperienced core, and lately that’s shined through in a bad way. Conversely the Bruins have played like they belong.

Henrik Zetterberg might return for Game 4 and that would certainly be a huge boost to the Red Wings. Either way though, Detroit needs more out of its young core before time runs out.

Game 4: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild [Colorado leads series 2-1] (9:30 p.m. ET, CNBC)

The Avalanche absolutely overwhelmed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the first two games, but they haven’t figured out his replacement, Darcy Kuemper, yet. That resulted in Colorado losing Game 3 because the Wild were given the time to bombard Semyon Varlamov until they finally beat him on their 46th shot on goal.

Colorado has a strong offense and Minnesota can’t count on Kuemper posting another shutout. At the same time, the Avalanche are in a tough spot after the Wild’s Matt Cooke took out defenseman Tyson Barrie with a knee-on-knee hit. Both players have now been taken out of the series — Barrie because of a MCL injury; Cooke due to a suspension — but Colorado’s loss will likely sting more.

Cooke was serving as a third line forward while Barrie logged over 20 minutes in each of the Avalanche’s first two playoff games. Barrie was also a key contributor offensively during the regular season with 38 points in 64 games.

The loss has forced the Avalanche to make adjustments, but one surprise change was the call up of 2010 first-rounder Joey Hishon, who will make his NHL debut tonight.

Game 4: San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings [San Jose leads series 3-0] (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

San Jose didn’t dominate Game 3 like it did in the first two contests of this series, but the Sharks still came away with an overtime win. Kings coach Darryl Sutter pledged that his squad “won’t go away quietly,” but can they really hope to come back?

Only three teams have ever bounced back from a 3-0 deficit, but it helps that Los Angeles has two players — Mike Richards and Jeff Carter — that previously pulled it off when they were members of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers. The two are living reminders for the Kings that this series is still winnable.

Meanwhile, the Sharks will go for the sweep. They have four chances obviously, but they’re worried about what might happen if they let the Kings retake any ground.

Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine charged in fraud case

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine has been charged with fraud in a case involving former Ottawa Senators players Dany Heatley and Chris Phillips.

Winnipeg police said Wednesday that the 54-year-old McAlpine bilked Heatley and Phillips out of $12 million between January 2004 and June 2011. McAlpine is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, two counts of theft over $5,000 and laundering proceeds of crime.

Heatley and Phillips sued McAlpine and McAlpine’s parents, claiming money was being invested in unapproved real estate deals, including an Ottawa condominium. CTV Calgary has reported that Heatley was awarded more than $6 million by an Alberta court.

Rask hurt in Bruins practice; Spooner out 4-6 weeks

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Well, the good news regarding injuries and the Boston Bruins didn’t last very long.

Earlier this week, PHT noted that forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are expected to return in the near future, possibly as soon as Thursday. That’s great, but Wednesday turned out to be lousy thanks to one injury scare and one sure-thing that’s a negative.

The biggest concern is that of Tuukka Rask, and it’s something that might not clear up for a while. Rask was helped off the ice during practice today after being “bowled over” by young forward Anders Bjork.

The Bruins might dodge a bullet there, which would be huge if their backup work in anyway resembles the woes of 2016-17.

While we don’t know the severity of Rask’s issues just yet, there’s flat-out bad news for Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins estimate Spooner’s window of recovery at four-to-six weeks for a (cringe) “right groin adductor tear,” which he suffered on Oct. 15. Adam McQuaid suffered an injury in that same contest, so that could go down as a costly date for a Bruins team that has been fairly described as top-heavy.

Spooner, 25, was off to a slow start so far this season. He didn’t score a goal and managed one assist in five games, averaging 13:17 TOI per game. Even during that time, he was deployed in a very protected way, so the B’s can’t really claim that this is more than a body blow.

Even so, the Bruins might sport a patchwork lineup if Bergeron and/or Backes can’t play on Thursday. They’ll likely chalk it up as a win if Rask avoids anything significant, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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