The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks are meeting on Sunday night in a battle for first place in the Central Division in what is the first of four meetings between the two teams over the second half of the season.
If the Wild are going secure their spot on top of the division they are probably going to have to take care of business in at least a few of those head-to-head meetings. If they are going to do that on Sunday their No. 1 priority has to be something they really haven’t been able to do very much in recent seasons: slowing down the Blackhawks’ leading scorer, Patrick Kane.
Not only because he is coming into Sunday’s game with 18 points in his past 16 games — including five multi-point games — to jump back into the NHL’s scoring race, but also because he has made a habit out of scoring a lot of goals — big goals, too — against the Wild. Sunday’s game is the latest Star Sunday showdown on NBCSN, and the focus from a Chicago perspective will be on Kane.
If there is a team in the NHL that has experienced what he can do on the ice over the past few seasons it has absolutely been the Wild.
Just consider that since the start of the 2012-13 season alone, including playoffs, Kane has recorded 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 31 games against the Wild, with many of those goals coming either in highlight reel fashion or in a key moment, including this overtime series clinching goal back in 2014
Even though he isn’t scoring at quite the same pace he did a year ago when he took home the Art Ross Trophy with 106 points (one of the highest point totals in the league over the past five years), he has still been the forward driving Chicago’s offense this season with a hand in more than 37 percent of the team’s goals.
Neuvirth was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
The 28-year-old has been between the pipes for nine of his team’s last 11 games, but he’s dropped four of his last five decisions. He has a 10-9-1 record with a 2.90 goals-against-average and a .887 save percentage in 24 games.
The duo of Neuvirth and Steve Mason hasn’t worked out too well in Philadelphia. Both players have struggled to find consistency in their game, which has been problematic for the Flyers.
Even though Neuvirth will be back, they can still shake things up by moving on from Mason, who is also scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st.
The Flyers also re-signed forward Pierre Edouard Bellemare earlier today.
Report: Flyers extend Bellemare — two years, $2.9 million
It’s believed to be a $2.9 million pact, one that carries a $1.45M average annual cap hit. That’s a nice raise for the 31-year-old, who’s in the last of a two-year pact at $712,500 per.
Bellemare joined the Flyers for the ’14-15 campaign, following a lengthy career in Europe that included stops in his native France, and a lengthy spell in Sweden. He’s emerged as a good energy guy in the bottom-six forward group, one that can kill penalties and chip in with a bit of offense.
Today’s news might come as a bit of a surprise for Flyers fans, however. Bellemare was a pending UFA and, given he’s on the wrong side of 30, there was speculation he’d be sold at the deadline in the hopes of recouping some assets.
Report: Jesper Fast out indefinitely after suffering shoulder injury
Just one day after acquiring Steve Ott from the Detroit Red Wings and Brendan Davidson from the Edmonton Oilers in separate deals, general manager Marc Bergevin completed another trade before the deadline when he acquired forward Dwight King from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional 2018 fourth-round draft pick.
It will become a third-round pick if he re-signs with the Canadiens this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
In 63 games this season King has eight goals and seven assists.
He also adds to the Canadiens’ apparent season-long attempt to become a grittier and tougher team, now joining a roster that now has seen Ott, Shea Weber, and Andrew Shaw join it over the past eight months.