NHL on NBCSN: After a ‘highly earned shutout’ against the Pens, Blues go back to Hutton vs. Wild

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the St. Louis Blues at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Raise your hand if you expected the Blues to shut out the high-flying Penguins on Tuesday night (no one should have their hands raised). But that’s exactly what they did, as Carter Hutton kept Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and company off the board.

Prior to their last game, the Blues said Jake Allen would return to the net for tonight’s tilt against the Wild. Now, it’s a little difficult to envision them going away from Hutton after he stopped all 34 shots the Pens fired at him the other night.

“The last game changed that … based on play,” Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I mean there’s shutouts and then there’s shutouts that are highly earned. That was a highly earned shutout and you have to reward that. Any coach has to reward that. He had a lot of work, he made big saves, made big saves when it was 1-0, so to me that’s an earned shutout and we’ve got to reward that.”

The Blues told Allen to stay home so he could “reset” after his recent struggles. He didn’t accompany the team to Winnipeg or Pittsburgh, but that will change tonight. Yesterday, St. Louis assigned Pheonix Copley back to the minors, which opens the door for Allen’s return…as the backup.

Not only did the win over Pittsburgh snap their three-game losing streak, but it was also the first time they held an opponent to under five goals since Jan. 15.

The Blues still find themselves in the top Wild Card spot in the West, but unfortunately for them, the teams in the rear-view mirror are very close.

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Regardless what happens tonight, the Wild will be satisfied with their overall play from the start of the season to the All-Star break.

After all, they’re two points clear of Chicago for top spot in the Central Division and they have three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

“It’s one thing to be here right now and to get to this spot,’’ forward Charlie Coyle said, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “But it’s another thing to stay there, and to be there come playoff time and get that home ice. That’s something we want to do, and something we’re capable of.

“We want to get as many points as we can. It will be good for us to get a mental and physical break. But we’ve got to take care of [tonight’s] game, and that’s our focus right now.’’

Unlike St. Louis’ shaky goaltending, the Wild have received incredible performances between the pipes from Devan Dubnyk this season. The Wild goaltender would arguably be the favorite to land the Vezina Trophy if the season ended today and he’d likely receive some Hart Trophy votes too.

Dubnyk currently owns the best save percentage (.935) and goals-against-average (1.91) in the league, and he’s second in wins (26) and second in shutouts (5).

This should be a good one!

Streit and Del Zotto could get Flyers something at deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 09:  Mark Streit #32 of the Philadelphia Flyers completes a pass against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 9, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
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With just three wins in their last 10 games, the Philadelphia Flyers are going to need one heck of a finish to make the playoffs.

In fact, according to Sports Club Stats, they’ll need to go around 14-5-3 in their remaining 22 games to grab the second wild-card spot in the East.

Oh, and by the way, the second wild-card team is probably going to match up with the Washington Capitals in the first round, so even if the Flyers do somehow make it, their postseason appearance would likely be a quick one.

Looking ahead to the March 1 deadline, the Flyers have a couple of pending unrestricted free agents that GM Ron Hextall could turn into draft picks or prospects. D-man Mark Streit can still run a power play, and Michael Del Zotto could add depth to a good back end. Veteran Nick Schultz is unlikely to bring much of a return, but he’s a pending UFA too.

Up front, only fourth-liners Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare would be pure rentals. The Flyers also have a couple of goalies on expiring contracts in Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth; however, neither netminder is enjoying a strong season, and that’s an understatement.

Philadelphia plays twice more before the deadline, Saturday in Pittsburgh and Tuesday at home to Colorado.

“I believe 100 percent we’re capable of making the playoffs,” Streit said, per the Courier-Post. “In saying that, it’s out of our control. It’s up to Hexy. We have such a great group. I know it’s going to be a huge challenge, but I think we’re up to the task.”

Trade: Pens acquire d-man help, get Hainsey from Carolina

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 29: Ron Hainsey #65 of the Carolina Hurricanes yells at the referee after receiving two minor penalties in the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 29, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Hurricanes 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh has added another veteran presence on the blueline in advance of a second consecutive Stanley Cup.

Ron Hainsey, the 35-year-old ‘Canes rearguard, has been acquired in exchange for a second-round pick and AHLer Danny Kristo, per TVA. Hainsey, a pending UFA, is in the last of a three-year, $8.5 million deal with a $2.83M average annual cap hit. Per Sportsnet, Carolina will retain 50 percent of his salary.

The Hainsey acquisition comes with the Pens down several key d-men. Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz are sidelined with a hand injury and concussion, while Trevor Daley suffered a lower-body injury on Tuesday night.

UPDATE:

And that makes the trade all the more important.

Hainsey — who holds the current active record for most regular-season games played (891) without appearing in the playoffs — makes a lot of sense for the Pens.

He played under GM Jim Rutherford in Carolina, has decent offensive capabilities (14 points in 56 games) and can log some significant minutes. Hainsey played over 22 per night this year for the ‘Canes, a carryover from last year when he averaged 22:19.

Schultz and Daley, you’ll recall, were two of Rutherford’s key defensive upgrades last year that helped put Pittsburgh over the top. The season prior, Ian Cole was acquired from St. Louis and turned into an important blueline piece.

So the hope, obviously, is that Hainsey can replicate some of that success.

For the ‘Canes, this deal allows them to further stockpile picks for the ’17 draft. The club now has 10 selections overall, including six in the first three rounds. Kristo, 26, was at one time considered a prospect but now is pretty much a career AHLer. He scored 11 points in 32 games this year for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

 

NHL on NBCSN: Jonathan Toews looks to stay hot against Coyotes

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 07:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates with the puck against the Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes in the second period at Jobing.com Arena on February 7, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes at 8:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

From an offensive perspective, October through December was a relative quiet time for ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. But when the calendar turned to 2017, something changed in his game.

He’s coming off an incredible five-point effort (three goals and two assists) in a win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night and he’s now up to 24 points in 20 games since Jan. 5.

“I think for me the biggest change in my approach to the game is just my expectations,” Toews said, per the Chicago Tribune. “Just try to go into every game with no expectation, focus on the process, focus on playing well, playing the right way, staying in the moment, especially if things don’t go in or things don’t go your way. You’re just building one game after another to try and follow up good efforts and put weeks together, multiple games back to back.”

Toews has had the opportunity to play with guys like Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, but believe it or not, he’s doing all this damage with Richard Panik and Nick Schmaltz on his wings.

The Blackhawks dropped their first game out of the bye (a 3-1 loss to Edmonton), but they’ve been able to rattle off impressive wins over Buffalo and now Minnesota.

Despite the win over their division rival, Chicago is still five points behind Minnesota for the Central Division crown. If the ‘Hawks are going to make a push up the standings, it’ll have to be sooner than later.

Arizona is in a completely different situation. They’re 15 points out of a Wild Card spot, so expect this team to look significantly different by next week’s trade deadline.

Pending unrestricted free agent Michael Stone was the first player to be moved, but Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata might all find themselves on new teams by the start of next month.

On the ice, the Coyotes have actually been much better of late. They come into tonight’s game having won five of their last six contests.

Their latest victory came on Monday night, when they took down the Ducks 3-2.

The Coyotes had to overcome adversity in that one, as they lost goalie Mike Smith, who blasted the NHL’s concussion protocol after that game, to injury.

Arizona might not have anything to play for, but that’s what often makes teams more dangerous down the final stretch of the season. We’ll find out if Chicago and their red-hot captain can overcome the team trying to play spoiler.

PHT Morning Skate: Flames play hoops with the Harlem Globetrotters

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–The Calgary Flames are currently in Florida for upcoming games against the Lightning and Panthers. During their off-day on Wednesday, some of their players got to play basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters. It’s safe to say that Calgary’s players should stick to hockey. (BarDown)

Jarome Iginla is running out of time to win the Stanley Cup. The 39-year-old definitely won’t be winning it all if he stays with Colorado this year, so his current teammates are rooting for him to be traded before the March 1st trade deadline. “Iggy wants one last shot at the playoffs. Everybody in this dressing room, around the league, feels the same way,” Gabriel Landeskog said. “We’d love to see somebody like that win.” (ESPN)

–The Washington Capitals dropped their first two games after their five-day break, but they were able to get back in the win column by beating the Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night. You can watch the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Ever wonder what NHL coaches do during intermissions? Barry Trotz explains that he addresses his team and tells them what they need to clean up before he heads into the video room. Trotz says he gets information on his team’s zone exits, zone entries and special teams. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–You’ve got to see SKA Saint Petersburg’s promotional video for the upcoming KHL playoffs. It includes some nice goals, a few big hits, a long-haired fan playing the electric guitar, a motorcycle and even a horse. You really need to see it to believe it. (Sportsnet)

–Eight NHLers have had the privilege of playing for 10 teams or more throughout their career. Lee Stempniak is one of those guys. Instead of letting it get to him, the ‘Canes forward embraces the fact that he’s moved so much. “It’s something I take a lot of pride in. Some guys go somewhere, they go somewhere else, and if it doesn’t work out they flush out of the league. I feel like I’m pretty adaptable and I take pride of that.” Michel Petit, J.J. Daigneault, Jim Dowd, Mathieu Schneider, Olli Jokinen, Mike Sillinger and Dominic Moore are the other seven. (Sports Illustrated)

–Coyotes GM John Chayka already made one trade this week, as he sent pending UFA Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames for a pair of draft picks. Expect to see the young general manager to make more moves before the trade deadline. The Coyotes have a few other potential free agents to deal, but don’t be surprised if they also trade guys with term. “I don’t deal with ‘untouchables’. Practically speaking, there are players who are difficult to move because then you have to find someone to replace them for a role. I’d move anyone for the right deal.” (The Hockey News)