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.

More details emerge re: Isles’ arena plans

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 06:  A sign is seen at Belmont Park on June 6, 2014 in Elmont, New York.  On Saturday, June 7, California Chrome will attempt to win the triple crown with a win in the Belmont Stakes.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Big day for NHL arena news.

First came a report out of Arizona that the Coyotes’ public financing plans could be in trouble.

Now comes another report that the New York Islanders may have a solution to their Barclays Center problem.

From Bloomberg:

A supergroup of New York sports executives, including owners of the New York Rangers and the New York Mets, is lining up to invest in a new arena just outside of Queens for the National Hockey League’s Islanders, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The new arena proposal is a joint venture between the Islanders, Oak View Group and Sterling Project Development, said the people, who asked to be anonymous because the talks are private. James Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Co., which controls the Rangers, long the Islanders hated rivals, is an investor in Oak View Group, the private equity group run by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff. The Wilpon family, which owns the Mets, controls Sterling Project Development. 

Bloomberg notes that NHL owners are allowed to “have a stake in another club’s arena,” so Dolan’s involvement shouldn’t be an issue with the league.

Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed last month that the Isles’ owners were exploring their options beyond the team’s current home in Brooklyn.

“The owners are committed to the franchise, they’re committed to New York and the great fan base that has followed the Islanders,” said Bettman. “There are some issues about playing in Barclays that may be fundamental as to the ice system, and that’s not something that can be fixed in the short term. I think, as is prudent, Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are reviewing the situation and looking very seriously at what their options are.”

According to Bloomberg, the current focus is on a site at Belmont Park in Elmont. For more on that, read Newsday’s story from July.

Related: Tim Leiweke could play role in redevelopment of Seattle’s KeyArena

Neuvirth ‘scared’ Flyers will trade him at deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 24: Goalie Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Washington Capitals during the third period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Washington Capitals won, 1-0. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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At the 2014 trade deadline, Michal Neuvirth was traded from Washington to Buffalo.

One year later, the Sabres flipped him to the Isles.

So it’s understandable, then, that Neuvirth — a pending unrestricted free agent — is plenty worried the Flyers might ship him out by next Wednesday.

“For sure, I’m scared,” Neuvirth said, per the Courier-Post. “The last three deadlines I’ve been traded twice. For sure, I’m scared, yes.”

The 28-year-old is probably right to be frightened. With an affordable $1.625 million cap hit and a history of solid stretches — including last year, when he went 18-8-4 with a .924 save percentage and 2.27 GAA — Neuvirth is a classic “upgrade your backup” option.

Like in 2015, when Isles GM Garth Snow wanted an improvement on Chad Johnson.

“Chad played some very good games for us over the course of the season,” Snow said at the time, per the Daily News. “But seeing Michal Neuvirth performing, especially in the last 30 days playing at an extremely high level, obviously goaltenders are hard to get in the NHL and the Eastern Conference.

“It was an opportunity for us to make a move and get a little better at the position.”

For a playoff-bound team, Neuvirth is a tantalizing add. His career postseason numbers are excellent — .933 save percentage over 13 appearances, with a pair of shutouts. (Yes, it’s a relatively small sample size.)

He was also terrific in last year’s opening-round loss to Washington, stopping 103 of 105 shots faced.

As for the Flyers, they’re in a precarious situation, sitting five points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They’d need to leapfrog Florida, Boston and the Isles to get there, and GM Ron Hextall hasn’t publicly identified himself as a buyer or seller.

What’s more, Hextall doesn’t want to address his goalie situation until the offseason. Steve Mason‘s a pending UFA as well, and there’s some believe neither will be back with Philly next year.

As for landing spots, one has to wonder if Boston will kick tires on Neuvirth. GM Don Sweeney said the club could try to solve its longstanding backup goalie problem at the deadline.

Report: Coyotes arena financing plan in trouble

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 09:  Fans line up outside of Gila River Arena before the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Jets defeated the Coyotes 6-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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More bad news for the Arizona Coyotes in their quest to build a new arena and remain in the Phoenix area.

From the Arizona Republic:

A plan that would provide $225 million in public financing for a new $395 million Arizona Coyotes arena likely does not have the votes to pass the state Senate, key lawmakers told The Arizona Republic/azcentral Thursday.

Sens. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, and John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said they definitely were going to vote against the plan, while Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, said there is little support among the chamber’s 13 Democrats. Meanwhile, Senate President Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said he had “serious reservations” about the plan that would allow the National Hockey League team to build an arena in downtown Phoenix or the East Valley.

It would take at least 16 votes to pass Senate Bill 1149 in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Republicans have a 17-13 advantage. Statements from those lawmakers make it appear unlikely that there is enough support to move the plan to the House.

A vote before the full Senate could occur next week.

The financing plan is being championed by Sen. Bob Worsley, a Republican.

“I’m not a hockey fan but I’m a business guy and I want to save any business of this magnitude from leaving and impacting thousands of jobs,” Worsley said earlier this month, per Arizona Sports. “We would go out of our way in the Legislature to see what we could do if there was a company considering leaving so it’s appropriate to say, ‘what can we do to help?’”

In light of today’s news, Worsley’s words do not bode well for the Coyotes, who have no intention of remaining in Glendale long term.

The team, still holding out hope, told the Republic, “There are a lot of moving parts in this legislative process and everything is malleable and open for discussion until the very end. We will continue to educate lawmakers about a complex project that creates a true public-private partnership and offers the Coyotes an economically viable solution to remain in the Valley for the long term.”

Related: Coyotes still ‘pretty confident’ of finding an arena solution

Weather forecast looks good for Penguins-Flyers

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 01:  Fireworks go off before the start of the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field on January 1, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh set a new weather record today, with temperatures reaching a summer-like 76 degrees.

But it’s supposed to cool down considerably tomorrow, with only a chance of showers during the day — good news with the Penguins and Flyers set to play outdoors at Heinz Field.

Game time tomorrow is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET (on NBC).

“It’ll be fun, and what the weather is, because it’s unpredictable, is one of the great intriguing parts of putting on these games,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a radio interview, per the Post-Gazette.

The last time the Penguins played outdoors at Heinz Field, in the 2011 Winter Classic, the threat of rain forced the start time from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Tomorrow’s forecast from The Weather Network:

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Related: How to watch and stream Penguins-Flyers outdoor game