PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues skates past Nick Schultz #55 of the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Flyers won, 4-3. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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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.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.