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!

Markov, Habs officially part ways

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Andrei Markov‘s run of 17 consecutive seasons in Montreal is over.

On Thursday, the Habs announced that Markov — who’s played all 990 of his career NHL contests with the Canadiens — wouldn’t be brought back for the 2017-18 campaign.

The news comes after months of rumblings about Markov’s contractual status. It was initially believed the 38-year-old UFA was looking for $12 million over two years, and there was a brief flirtation with the Flyers (which, it later turned out, was simply Markov’s interest in going to Philly, not the Flyers actively pursuing him).

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin stated on several occasions he wanted to bring Markov back, but only at the right price and term. That’s because Bergevin knew Markov still played an important role — despite appearing in just 62 games last year, the Russian rearguard was offensively productive, with six goals and 36 points, and averaged nearly 22 minutes per night.

That said, Bergevin also knew the financial realities. He dished out big bucks this offseason — a combined $154.8 million for Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk and Karl Alzner — and just didn’t have the money left to give Markov a big ticket.

Instead, Bergevin played it conservative in rounding out his defense, which included Tuesday’s one-year, $700,000 deal for Mark Streit. Some saw that deal as the writing on the wall for Markov in Montreal.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where Markov ends up. If he lowers his asking price, there’s no doubt an NHL team would be interested. If he doesn’t, he could angle for a KHL deal and the opportunity to represent Russia in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Malkin wants to see Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup

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Evgeni Malkin‘s career is far from over, but he’s already accomplished so much.

The 30-year-old has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies and a Calder Trophy.

Fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin has also won a number of individual awards, but he hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes team awards and playoff success.

There always seemed to be a rivalry between the two Russian forwards, but that doesn’t mean Malkin isn’t rooting for Ovechkin to take home a championship before his career is over.

“I was a bit luckier than (Ovechkin), that’s why I won those cups,” Malkin said, per Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko. “He has everything ahead of him. I wish him to win the cup.”

How do Penguins fans feel about that?

Malkin was also one of the more controversial omissions on the NHL’s “Top 100 Players” list. The Pens forward was disappointed about being left off the list, but hoisting Lord Stanley again seems to have erased that sting.

“I was a little bit disappointed when I wasn’t included in the list of 100 greatest players,” added Malkin. “But I won the cup and am happy.”

PHT Morning Skate: 9 rookies that could win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18

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–This year’s offseason is a lot more quiet than last year’s offseason (P.K. Subban for Shea Weber and Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson were two major stories last summer). So Sean McIndoe dug up seven storylines that still need sorting out. Somehow, the Avs have failed to trade Matt Duchene, John Tavares hasn’t signed an extension with the Islanders, and the Golden Knights still have a lot of defensemen. (Sportsnet)

–Sam McCaig of The Hockey News put together his free agent All-Star team, and there were some pretty big names to chose from. Mike Fisher, Jaromir Jagr and Thomas Vanek were all on McCaig’s first line, while Andrei Markov and Fedor Tyutin were on the top pairing. (The Hockey News)

–The San Jose Sharks lost Patrick Marleau to the Maple Leafs this offseason which means that they’ll need to replace his production. Don’t be surprised if players like Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen and Tomas Hertl are asked to do more in 2017-18. (NHL.com)

–Devils rookie Nico Hischier has to be considered one of the front runners to win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18, so NJ.com came up with a list of eight other players that will push him for that crown. Fellow 2017 draft pick Nolan Patrick could be a legitimate contender for top rookie too, but so can Coyote prospects Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome. (NJ.com)

–The person running the Golden Knights’ Twitter account has been incredibly funny throughout the summer, and that didn’t stop yesterday. The account took a nice little jab at some Canadian friends:

–Here are some interesting numbers from last season regarding scoring by defensemen. Obviously, Brent Burns played a big part in San Jose being at the top of list:

Penguins’ Letang gains more than just funny videos from Terrell Owens

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Off-season training is probably tedious at times … maybe even more tedious than the hockey-free months of the summer. Perhaps that explains why athletes love to mix things up, even if it means bringing in stars from other sports (and even if that calls for an embarrassing moment or two).

Kris Letang provided some background information surrounding that “ankle breaking” moment with former NFL star receive Terrell Owens during an NHL Network interview, which was transcribed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Josh Mackey. Letang also noted that others were faked out to an even greater degree.

The most important stuff, really, comes from what he looks to gain from these workouts … and also how close Letang might be to full-strength.

“I’m trying to get better all the time,” Letang said. “I think I found that I can improve my footwork.

“We have that at the gym twice a week. We have a sprinting coach. ‘TO’ has been working out with us. He’s an unbelievable guy to be around. He’s teaching us a lot of little things.”

Later on, Letang stated that ‘we’re on the path to starting training camp and being fully healthy,” according to Mackey’s transcription.

That sounds great, though that doesn’t sound like an outright guarantee that he’ll be ready by September. If nothing else, the Penguins and their star defenseman are used to this kind of thing.

Now, in case you missed it in the Morning Skate, here’s that bit of schooling from Owens:

And here’s “the proof” that Letang wasn’t alone in getting beat:

Now to solve the mystery of the other fakee