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PHT Morning Skate: Comparing McDavid’s first 80 games to other NHL greats

Auston Matthews is all set to play his first NHL game in his hometown of Arizona, and his childhood rink is ready for his return. If ever you visit Arcadia Ice Arena, you’ll quickly realize that Matthews once played there. During a trip to the rink last summer, an arena worker made him sign the Zamboni. (Sportsnet)

–Union College senior Mike Vecchione is having at terrific season. He’s the leader in most offensive categories in NCAA Division I hockey this season and he’s hoping that his success will lead to him having a solid NHL career one day. “I’ve grown up playing hockey every single day of my life, and it’s the one thing that i truly love. I hope it’s going to take me a long way in life, but at the end of the day it’s gonna be that degree I’m going to have to fall back on. If I’m lucky I can play so many years in professional hockey, but one day it’s gonna come to an end.” (Sports Illustrated)

–Calgary Flames coaches recount some of their Christmas memories from when they were kids. Each one of them remembered asking for some kind of hockey-related gift instead of regular toys. Martin Gelinas remembers getting a table hockey game, Jordan Sigalet got his first painted mask and Glen Gulutzan recalls getting his first hockey net. (CalgaryFlames.com)

–Caps forward Alex Ovechkin skated with 50 youth hockey players from the Fort Dupont Cannons Ice Hockey Club, which is the oldest youth minority hockey program in North America. Founder and coach Neal Henderson had this to say about the experience: “Kids get a great kick out of working with him. They get on a friendly basis with him. I tell them all, ‘This is how the pros get started.’ Hockey players are different from a lot of other sports. They’ll put their skates on and come over to the rink and skate with the guys. Very seldom do you see a basketball player go to a park and start working with kids.” (NHL)

–Lightning forward J.T. Brown and his wife are helping with the “Guide the Thunder” hockey program, which gives kids who wouldn’t normally be able to play hockey a chance to skate every Monday night. Ice time for the kids is dependent on their grades and behavior. If they aren’t pulling their weight, they won’t skate. “We want to use hockey as a means to teach life lessons to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have those kinds of opportunities,” said Jay Feaster, who’s now in charge of the Lightning’s community outreach programs. (ESPN)

–Because of the broken collarbone he suffered last season, Connor McDavid only hit the 80-game mark of his career this season. How do his numbers stack up against some other NHL superstars over the last 20 years? Take a look:

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    Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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    This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

    On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

    William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

    Hnnngmgghh indeed.

    That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

    Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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    Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

    So far, it shows, too.

    The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

    There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

    Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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    The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

    Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

    There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

    With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

    Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

    WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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    A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

    As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

    While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

    Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

    It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

    Click here for the livestream.