Pre-game reading: Laine better than Matthews?

— Up top, Bob McKenzie talks NHL and the Olympics. The Board of Governors is meeting today in Palm Beach, but don’t expect any decision until January.

— TSN’s Gary Lawless believes Patrik Laine will end up being better than Auston Matthews. “Laine is the rarest of talents. Scoring goals is the most difficult thing to do in the NHL and he is well ahead of just about every player in the world right now at the age of 18.” Yep, it’s basically Alex Ovechkin versus Sidney Crosby all over again. One’s a winger, the other’s a center. The prevailing hockey wisdom says the center is more valuable, because a center can make more of an impact at both ends of the ice. And, of course, Crosby’s backers can say he’s won two Stanley Cups. But Ovechkin has scored 537 goals in just 864 games, and that’s incredible in this day and age. We’ll have to wait and see who wins a Cup first between Laine and Matthews, assuming one wins one at all. Connor McDavid will probably have something to say as well. (TSN)

— Here’s Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill on why some NHL owners are reluctant to send players to the Olympics: “February is one of our biggest months and it’s hard to shut down for three weeks. First of all, you are shutting down your business. Period. And there is the risk of injuries and everything that goes with it. So it’s a tough situation. And the other part of it is, we’re not competing against the NFL at that time. We’re not competing against baseball at that time. It’s really just us and the NBA. So it’s really kind of our time. February, it’s hockey time in these types of markets.” (Postmedia)

— Another impassioned plea to change the NHL’s points system and award three points for a win. “A three-point regulation win gives coaches and teams much greater incentive to win in regulation, and discourages teams sitting back in the third period of close games playing just to guarantee their point and hope for two in the extra frame. This would immediately improve the 60-minute NHL product, especially in the third period of tied and close games.” We couldn’t agree more, but the league has shown no appetite for such a change, so don’t hold your breath waiting for it. (Metro)

Matt Duchene remembers former Avalanche teammate Marek Svatos, who died last month of a drug overdose. “Svats, I hope people don’t judge him on that because he was an outstanding guy. He had a tough go — a lot of injuries, a lot of surgeries. As an athlete, it’s hard to not be a little depressed at times. For him, the amount he went through, it’s sad and all I can do is send my condolences to his family and hopefully they can stay strong. We’re all praying for them.” (Denver Post)

— Sean McIndoe has a list of 10 lies all hockey fans tell themselves. We particularly enjoyed Lie No. 5: “Our prospect pipeline is stacked.” Because general managers are guilty of this too. The way the NHL is set up, it’s basically impossible to have zero prospects. Writes McIndoe: “Every team has prospects. Some of those, by definition, will even be the team’s best prospects. But it doesn’t mean they’re any good. And just pointing out that they exist doesn’t mean the future is bright.” (Sportsnet)

Enjoy the games!

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    The Buzzer: Bergeron’s at it again, Nash’s resurgence continues

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    Players of the Night:

    Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: Bergeron did it again. The perennial Selke contender showed off his scoring prowess (again), scoring his second hat trick in 12 days. He now has nine goals and five assists in his past eight games. The Bruins have run up a 15-game point streak (11-0-4).

    Rick Nash, New York Rangers: Nash scored twice for the second consecutive game in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Nash now has four goals in this past two games after putting up a goose egg in his previous 12.

    Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: MacKinnon’s successes this season have been well documented, and he kept that narrative going with two more goals — his 21st and 22nd — and an assist in the Avs 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Bergeron’s hat trick came after some trickery by Brad Marchand:

    A Double Dustin:

    Robin Lehner made this dandy of a save. Unfortunately, he allowed a goal moments later. Still, this save.

    Bonehead play of the Night:

    Dustin Brown strikes again. This time in the wrong category. Someone’s getting suspended.

    Factoids of the Night:

    MISC:

    Scores:

    Devils 4, Capitals 3 (OT)

    Bruins 5, Islanders 2

    Blue Jackets 2, Stars 1 (SO)

    Rangers 4, Sabres 3

    Blues 4, Senators 1

    Golden Knights 4, Lightning 1

    Flyers 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)

    Predators 3, Coyotes 2 (SO)

    Avalanche 5, Sharks 3

    Penguins 3, Kings 1


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Hornqvist, DeSmith help lift the Penguins past the Kings 3-1

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins annual jaunt up the west coast didn’t start according to plan on Wednesday.

    The Pens dropped a 5-3 decision to the Anaheim Ducks and had to quickly rest and recover for a date with the Los Angeles Kings 24 hours later.

    The odds weren’t favoring them, but the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions pulled one out of their hats in a 3-1 win in the City of Angels on Thursday, handing the Kings their fifth straight loss.

    The Penguins handed Casey DeSmith his first NHL start and the New Hampshire native stepped up in the absence of Matt Murray, who missed his first game after the passing of his father on Tuesday.

    DeSmith filled in admirably making 28 saves in his first NHL win, and he got some timely goal support, including two markers from Patric Hornqvist.

    Hornqvist alleviated some of the first-start jitters on DeSmith as he opened the scoring 43 seconds into the first period.

    The lead lasted until the 14:10 mark of the second period when Adrian Kempe made a slick deke on DeSmith to tie the game 1-1.

    Evgeni Malkin broke the deadlock with another early period goal for the Penguins.

    Pittsburgh went on the offensive off the opening faceoff, and after a point shot was blocked in front, Malkin grabbed the rebound in the slot and fired his 21st home on a wrist shot past Jonathan Quick.

    Malkin finished the game with a goal and an assist.

    Hornqvist added some insurance just after the midway point of the third, making it 3-1 on the power play with his second of the night.

    Meanwhile, Dustin Brown was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct after boarding Justin Schultz in the third period.

    Schultz had to leave the game and did not return.

    Schultz said he was fine after the game and that he did not suffer a concussion on the play.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck-

    Rick Nash scores twice as Rangers edge Sabres 4-3

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    Prior to Tuesday’s win, New York Rangers forward Rick Nash had gone 12 games without a goal.

    They had lost three straight and the man they needed to start scoring again simply couldn’t.

    But on Tuesday in a 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Nash found his stride.

    And on Thursday night he notched two more in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on NBCSN.

    Nash opened the scoring for the Rangers 1:24 into the game, taking advantage of a defensive mishap by Jake McCabe, who couldn’t handle a puck as the last man back and allowed Nash in on a breakaway.

    The Sabres would respond by periods’ end, starting their first of three comebacks on the night.

    Kyle Okposo brought the game to level terms with 1:19 remaining in the first period, completing a tic-tac-toe play on the power play.

    The Sabres came into the game with the 31st ranking on the man-advantage, but managed to score twice with it in Thursday’s game.

    The Rangers regained the lead through J.T. Miller in the second period.

    New York just went through a power play without registering a shot on goal, but Miller was able to grab the puck at the right circle moments after the Sabres’ penalty had expired and rifled a wrist shot bar down behind Lehner at 8:26.

    The Sabres engineered their second comeback of the game, tying it 2-2 the game later in the period from an unlikely source.

    Justin Falk had gone 101 games without putting a puck in the back of the net. Not since March 6, 2015 had Falk seen his name in that category on the scoresheet.

    But he shed that monkey off his back on a point shot low along the ice that beat Lundqvist through the five-hole with 2:50 remaining in the frame.

    Nash scored his second at the 6:49 mark of the third period, following by Buffalo’s third successful comeback attempt at 14:59 when Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot found its way through a crowd and behind Lundqvist for a 3-3 tie.

    Pavel Buchnevich scored the winner 1:03 later, finishing off a nice feed from Mika Zibanejad for his 12th and the Rangers second straight win.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Los Angeles Kings

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    PROJECTED LINES

    Pittsburgh Penguins

    Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

    Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

    Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

    Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

    Brian DumoulinKris Letang

    Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

    Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

    Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

    [NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

    Los Angeles Kings

    Adrian KempeAnze KopitarDustin Brown

    Tanner PearsonTrevor LewisTyler Toffoli

    Alex IafalloNick ShoreMarian Gaborik

    Kyle Clifford — Michael Amadio — Jonny Brodzinski

    Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

    Jake MuzzinAlec Martinez

    Kevin Gravel — Christian Folin

    Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick