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NHL on NBCSN: Blues and Flyers continue to fight for their playoff lives

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers  host the St. Louis Blues at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The St. Louis Blues have been falling apart for over a month now. GM Doug Armstrong’s answer to the mounting losses was to fire Ken Hitchcock and replace him with associate coach Mike Yeo.

Yeo was able to win his first game as head coach on Thursday, when the Blues defeated the Maple Leafs 5-1, but they went back to their old ways on Saturday, as they were dropped 4-1 by the Penguins. As if the loss to Pittsburgh wasn’t enough, the Blues also lost forward Robby Fabbri to a torn ACL in that. He’s done for the year.

“I know it’s been a long emotional week for everybody,” Yeo said after the loss, per the St. Louis Dispatch “We had a good game (on Thursday) and this was not a good game. What I’ve said all along is, we need to continue to build our game. It has to be our focus. We’ll take out of this what did well enough and push forward.”

Things won’t get any easier for St. Louis. Tonight is their first game of a five-game road trip, which will see them travel to Philly, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Detroit. The first four games will be played over the next six days.

Despite their struggles, the Blues are still in a decent spot. They’re currently two points behind Calgary for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but they have three games in hand. A solid road trip could put them right back in playoff position.

The Flyers are in a similar boat. They need to go on a run if they want to secure a position in the postseason. Philadelphia has racked up 59 points in 53 games, which puts them in the final Wild Card spot in the East…for now.

They’re two points ahead of Toronto, three points ahead of Florida and four points ahead of Carolina, but those teams have three, one and two games in hand respectively.

This will be Philadelphia’s third game of a five-game homestand that has see them take down Montreal on Thursday and lose in OT to Los Angeles on Saturday night.

One of the positives for the Flyers has been the play of goalie Michal Neuvirth, who was especially outstanding in the 1-0 loss to the Kings. In his last three outings, Neuvirth owns a 0.99 goals-against-average and a .958 save percentage. Those numbers are obviously on a small scale, but no one can argue that those are impressive stats.

The Flyers typically split the workload between Neuvirth and Steve Mason when both are healthy, but playing multiple games in a row is something every goalie appreciates.

“It’s definitely huge,” Neuvirth said, per CSN Philly. “Like I said so many times, the more I play the better I play, I felt really good out there.

“I am seeing the puck well, I was battling through traffic, penalty kill was really good once again.  It would have been nice if we could win that game but, it didn’t happen.”

If they want to hold down that playoff spot, they’ll need one of their two goalies to continue stepping up and keeping them in games.

Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

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It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

And now he’s out again.

Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

“We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

Stars’ Janmark won’t play this season, and there’s a ‘question mark’ about next year

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In a season filled with injuries, one of the biggest Dallas suffered this season was Mattias Janmark‘s knee issue.

The 24-year-old Swede has missed the entire season thus far, but recently resumed skating and practicing with the club. That said, Janmark confirmed he won’t play this year — meaning he’ll miss the entire 82-game campaign.

And what’s more, he might miss games next season as well.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” GM Jim Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.

Losing his services was a big blow for Dallas. After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Janmark’s contract situation complicates things. He’s a pending RFA, currently in the last of a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an $733,750 cap hit. The Stars would (presumably) like to keep him, but the uncertainty regarding his health might made negotiations difficult.

Fehr injures hand, spotted in cast following Leafs debut

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Eric Fehr finally played his first game as a Maple Leaf on Wednesday night, suiting up for the first time since being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

It didn’t go especially well.

Fehr, who logged 10:44 TOI in a 5-2 win over Columbus, suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot in the third period and was seen afterward wearing a cast, per TSN.

According to the Toronto Sun, the 31-year-old forward confirmed he spent the night in hospital.

While a break or fracture might rule him out for the remainder of the season, it’s worth noting Fehr won’t be done entirely in Toronto. He’s in the second of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit. Prior to joining the Leafs he appeared in 52 games for the Pens, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.

He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.

Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He is a good PK contributor, and can play both center and wing. Those were some of the attributes the Leafs were hoping Fehr could bring down the stretch and, should they make it, into the postseason.

He’s back: With 10 games left, Isles recall Halak

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The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.

Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.

It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.

With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.

Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.

As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.