NHL On NBCSN Doubleheader: Penguins vs. Islanders, Sharks vs. Kings

The NHL on NBCSN is back with another doubleheader on Wednesday night. Things get started at 8 p.m. ET with a Metropolitan Division showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. In the late game, the San Jose Sharks visit the Los Angeles Kings for their second meeting of the season. 

To watch Penguins vs. Islanders, click here

Just a few months ago the New York Islanders were in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But after losing Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen to free agency, and then getting only three points through the first 21 games from Andrew Ladd, their big-ticket free agent acquisition, the Islanders enter play on Wednesday night with the worst record (7-10-4, 18 points) in the NHL.

Now they have the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town.

To say the Islanders need this one would be quite the understatement. They are just 3-5-4 in the month of November, have been outscored 37-24, and have had several late third period meltdowns that have seen them either lose leads to force overtime, or give up game-winning goals in the final minutes. It’s all been enough to put coach Jack Capuano on the hot seat. Even though he has managed to remain behind the bench, you have to wonder how many more losses the Islanders can take at this point.

The Penguins, meanwhile, are coming off of a three-day break and looking to find some consistency on the season. Overall, their record (13-6-3) has been enough to keep them in contention for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but their actual play on the ice has not always matched the story the standings are telling.

Their defensive zone play has been problematic at times and resulted in a handful of blowout losses over the past couple of weeks, while they are still struggling to figure out just what to do with their goaltending situation that has not been as smooth as general Jim Rutherford had hoped it would be.

Just about the only consistent thing about them this season has been their captain, Sidney Crosby, as he enters play on Wednesday with a league-leading 15 goals in only 16 games. It is one of the best goal-scoring runs of his career, and he continued it in their most recent game when he scored with less than 30 seconds to play to force overtime against the New Jersey Devils.

He has dominated the Islanders throughout his career, and already has four points (two goals, two assists) in two games against them this season.

To watch Sharks vs. Kings, click here

It is usually fun when the Sharks and Kings get together.

These two teams met in the playoffs back in April for the third time in four years, and the Sharks were finally able to knock out their rivals after some heartbreaking defeats over the years. The Sharks were 2-1 winners over the Kings in the season opener.

More recently, the Sharks are coming off of a big overtime win on Tuesday night against Arizona thanks to a Brent Burns overtime goal that helped him maintain his scoring lead among NHL defensemen. He has been the driving force behind the Sharks’ offense this season and is not only the top scoring defenseman in the league, but one of the top scoring players at any position. He enters play on Wednesday ninth in the NHL scoring race.

The Sharks’ win on Tuesday, combined with an Edmonton loss, helped move the Sharks into first place in the Pacific Division.

Like their Stanley Cup final opponents in Pittsburgh, the Sharks are also trying to find some consistency this season and have spent the past month alternating between three-game winning streaks (two of them) and three-game losing streaks (two of them).

The Kings have had to deal with a little bit of that streakiness as well this season and are currently on the positive side of it, carrying a five-game winning streak into play on Wednesday. With a regulation win, they would move into a tie for first place with the Sharks and (for the time being) claim the top spot because they have played one fewer game.

They have managed to stay close in the Pacific Division race even though they have had to rely on their third-and fourth-string goalies for most of the season and only have seven combined goals from Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli.

Jeff Carter, with a team-leading 10 goals and 19 points, has been the big story in Los Angeles and recently he has been playing some of his best hockey of the season. During the Kings’ current winning streak he has been the focal point of the offense, scoring five goals and adding three assists.

Rangers recall Jensen from AHL

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 04: Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders checsk Nicklas Jensen #39 of the New York Rangers during the first period at the Barclays Center on October 4, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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In the wake of injuries to Rick Nash (groin) and Matt Puempel (concussion), the New York Rangers have recalled winger Nicklas Jensen from AHL Hartford.

Jensen, 23, has yet to play a regular-season game for the Rangers since coming to the organization in a trade with Vancouver. The former first-round draft pick has eight goals and seven assists in 21 games for the Wolf Pack this season.

The Rangers’ next game is Thursday in Winnipeg. They’re expected to have Michael Grabner back by then, after he traveled to Austria for his grandmother’s funeral and missed last night’s loss to the Islanders.

     Read more: Jensen feeling good about his game

It remains to be seen if Jensen will be in the lineup tomorrow. But with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich also out injured, this may be an opportunity for Jensen to show he can score in the NHL.

The 29th overall pick in 2011, Jensen played 24 games for the Canucks but managed just three goals and three assists before he was traded last season for Emerson Etem.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said last night that he’d know more today about Nash’s status.

The Rangers also play Friday in Chicago.

Related: Despite winning record, Rangers ‘very aware’ they must be better

Fare thee well, John Scott

Pacific Division forward John Scott (28) is lifted up by teammates Mark Giordano (5), of the Calgary Flames, Joe Pavelski (8), and Brent Burns (88), of the San Jose Sharks after they defeated the Atlantic Division team 1-0 at an NHL hockey All-Star championship game, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Pacific Division won 1-0. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
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For John Scott, the ride is officially over.

Scott, the longtime NHL enforcer that became a folk hero by capturing MVP honors at last year’s All-Star Game, officially announced his retirement from pro hockey on Wednesday.

From his piece in The Players’ Tribune:

It has been a hell of a ride. But I’m done. I am officially retired, as of today.

I scored five goals. I had four kids. And I had one hell of a good time over the years. By my count, I only had 43 fights in the NHL. I only really lost one clean, in my humble opinion. Congratulations, Justin Johnson. You caught me with the left hook. What can I say? Good job.

Can I just make a final confession, though? I don’t care what people remember about me as a hockey player, but please remember this one thing: I didn’t love to fight. The actual 30 seconds of fighting was fine. Your adrenaline takes over and the competition of battling at such a high level is actually enjoyable. The problem is all the anticipation of having to drop the gloves with another very skilled individual who can hurt you.

The waiting is what drives you crazy. It’s not very easy on your psyche, especially once you have a family.

PHT covered Scott fairly extensively at the 2016 ASG in Nashville.

If I had one significant takeaway, it was this:

Scott was a really bright guy. (Note: considering he’s a mechanical engineering alumnus from Michigan Tech, this might not be a “significant takeaway.” But bear with me.)

He was bright enough to realize how lucky he was to play in the All-Star Game, but he was also bright enough to realize the platform it provided. Everybody got to see the side of Scott that went well beyond the punching and grappling — he was a quick-witted, introspective, genuine person that was unbelievably appreciative of the opportunities he’d been provided.

Yes, he knew he spent the better part of 10 professional hockey campaigns beating up opponents, or intimidating them into thinking he might.

But that’s what he had to do to get to the sport’s highest apex. And he wanted to make it clear — that didn’t define him as a person. He didn’t love it, but he loved playing in the NHL, and never took a second of his time in the league for granted.

It’s a complex narrative to weave, though. Which is why John Scott wanted to write his own story.

So he did.

He’s now forever be a part of NHL history, which is great. The stats might not reflect an unforgettable player — 286 games, 11 points, 544 PIM — but there he is, etched in the record books alongside a list of All-Star MVPs that includes the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux.

That’s pretty cool.

Happy trails, John Scott.

NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin will look to stay out of the box against Bruins

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals collides with Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on October 21, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Bruins defeated the Capitals 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Capitals put an end to their three-game losing streak by defeating the Buffalo Sabres in overtime on Monday night, but the biggest thing that came out of that game was coach Barry Trotz’s criticism of Alex Ovechkin.

“If it’s going on again, then there’s not going to be a lot of power play and playing time,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “If my message is not getting through, then the only thing I have is really ice time.”

On Tuesday, Ovechkin, who has five minor penalties in his last three games, had a chance to respond to his coach’s comments.

“Obviously, I have to be on the ice and not in the penalty box,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a good thing we talk. It’s my mistakes, and I just have to handle it and don’t take those penalties.”

Washington’s captain seems to have taken the criticism in stride, and we’ll see if Trotz’s message gets through to him right away.

Beyond the Ovechkin story line, the Capitals have surprisingly had a difficult time scoring goals.

With names like Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and company, you’d think that they’d be willing to fill the net with ease. Instead, Washington currently sits 23rd in goals for with 61.

They’ll be going head-to-head with the team that’s scored the same amount of goals, the Boston Bruins.

Boston’s inability to score with regularity was a little easier to predict than Washington’s, but they’re hoping that their latest 4-3 OT win over the Panthers will give them a spark.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said David Backes, per CSN New England. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.”

One Bruin who isn’t struggling, is David Pastrnak. The 20-year-old has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2016-17 season.

He’s already scored 15 goals in 21 games, which puts him on pace to find the back of the net an incredible 55 times.

This should be a great one!

PHT Morning Skate: A beer named after Shayne Gostisbehere

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–Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere took the league by storm last year and obviously, people noticed. Starting on Friday, he’ll have a beer named after him. The Conshohocken Brewery is coming out with the “Ghost Bear Golden Ale”. (Bardown)

–No one expected rookie Brandon Carlo to make the Bruins out of camp, but he’s been terrific in his first NHL season. Thanks to his reach and wingspan, he’s been able to be effective in his own zone. “The one thing is that he’s so long and his stick is so long, it gives him time to recover because as a young kid in the league you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. He has the ability to come back and recover,” said teammate Torey Krug. (CSN New England)

–The Pittsburgh Penguins have an interesting dilemma with the upcoming expansion draft. First, they need to figure out if they’ll keep eight skaters and one goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. Once that’s settled, the team will need to figure what to do with Marc-Andre Fleury and a youngster like Derrick Pouliot. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun takes a closer look at their situation. (ESPN)

–Through 24 games, Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon has yet to pick up a single penalty minute. Some people might see that as a positive thing, but others might feel he’s too soft. So, which one is it? We know what MacKinnon thinks: “I’m being aggressive. I’m playing regularly, just not taking any minors. I think it’s a good thing. Usually I’m good for some roughing penalties and I’ve asked a couple guys to fight this year. I’m not trying to have zero penalty minutes,” said MacKinnon. (Denver Post)

–Injuries have hit the Tampa Bay Lightning pretty hard this year, but they have a bargaining chip named Ben Bishop. Is it time for them to trade him? Here are five reasons why they should.  (The Hockey News)

–The San Jose Sharks are having some fun on social media. Their latest hilarious video involves players guessing which teammate of theirs is depicted in a young fan’s drawing. It’s pretty funny: