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NHL on NBCSN: Lightning look to keep rolling against first-place Wild

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

The Minnesota Wild are coming off an overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, but they’re still in a good spot when it comes to maintaining the lead in the Central Division. The Wild enter tonight’s game with a five-point advantage over the ‘Hawks and they still own two games in hand.

The Wild have been one of the top teams all season, and they’ve been especially dominant against teams in the East and specifically the Atlantic Division. Minnesota has 13 wins in 19 games against the Eastern Conference and they’re an incredible 9-1 against the Atlantic.

Like every team, the schedule has been tough for the Wild recently. They just came back from a Western Canadian road trip that saw them win in Edmonton, lose in Calgary, win in Vancouver and win in Winnipeg. After the game against the Jets on Tuesday, they flew back home right away and were forced to play the next night against Chicago, which is why Bruce Boudreau gave his team a day off yesterday.

The Wild have received countless stellar performances from Devan Dubnyk throughout the season, but their ability to generate offense throughout their lineup has also been really impressive. In Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg, they were led by Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville (he had four points in that one). On Wednesday, it was Erik Haula who scored a late goal to send the game to overtime after Jared Spurgeon and Zach Parise had already scored.

It’s nearly impossible for the opposition to figure out which line will be rolling on a night-to-night basis because each one can contribute. It’ll be up to the Tampa Bay Lightning to figure out who to stop in tonight’s game.

Even though the Bolts are in a three-way tie in the basement of the Eastern Conference, they have to be feeling better about their game. For the first time since mid-December, the Bolts have won back-to-back games, which is an encouraging sign for their playoff hopes.

“What’s the cliche? Every game is a playoff game,” head coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times after Tuesday’s win over the Kings. “We’ve got to keep building each game and I truly believe we have. And I truly believe now guys are getting rewarded.”

The Lightning are a manageable six points behind Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the East and they even have two games in hand on the Bruins. The problem, is that they have to leap over six other teams to get there.

Tonight’s game won’t be an easy one, as the Wild have been the most consistent team in the league in 2016-17. To make matters worse, the Lightning aren’t even sure they’ll have center Tyler Johnson in their lineup. He missed Thursday’s practice because of an undisclosed injury. If he can’t go, it’ll make the task that much more difficult.

Video: Crosby to Dan Patrick – Subban fight ‘wasn’t as bad as it looked’

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Listerine, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and a growing rivalry. Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban battled it out at the highest level not so long ago, but some of that action looked worse than it actually was.

At least, that’s the message Crosby sent on “The Dan Patrick Show,” as you can enjoy in the clip above.

As a bonus, Crosby also discussed his favorite Stanley Cup traditions – hey, there can be traditions when something happens three times – and how Mario Lemieux inspires some especially creative ideas:

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey: