Pre-game reading: Are the Bruins and Avalanche on verge of trade?

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— Up top, Jeremy Roenick deemed Gustav Nyquist‘s attack on Jared Spurgeon “one of the worst stick infractions” he’s seen in a long time. Nyquist is facing a lengthy suspension for the inexplicable infraction. He’s been offered an in-person hearing with the league, which could mean a ban of six games or more.

— Don Sweeney and Joe Sakic had a lengthy chat Sunday in Boston, and once again the speculation is heating up that the Bruins and Avalanche could be close to making a trade. The B’s are known to like Gabriel Landeskog, but would they give up young d-man Brandon Carlo to get him? The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa analyzes the situation in Beantown. (Boston Globe)

Read more: Sweeney says Bruins’ core deserves chance to ‘win now’

— Speaking of the Bruins’ defense, it’s sure been a big part of the offense since Bruce Cassidy took over from Claude Julien. Zdeno Chara notched his fifth goal of the season in Sunday’s win over Montreal. Adam McQuaidKevan Miller, and Colin Miller also scored this weekend, which began with a win over Vancouver. One of Cassidy’s objectives has been to get more scoring from everybody — i.e. not just Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak — and so far, so good in his short tenure. (CSN New England)

— Speaking of the Avalanche’s defense, there’s a reason they have to fix it. The Avs have enjoyed very little success at drafting blue-liners, and that’s when they even bothered to try. The Denver Post delves into Colorado’s “failure to land an elite defensemen,” and why it’s such a major challenge facing GM Joe Sakic. (Denver Post)

Wayne Simmonds thinks the NHL has a rat problem. “You’ve got guys running around doing stupid stuff and then guys don’t want to answer the bell. They’ll two-hand (slash) you, they’ll butt-end you, they’ll knee you and then you go to confront them and they don’t want to do anything about it. They try to draw a penalty (for retaliation). I don’t think that’s the way the game’s played or should be played. If you’re going to do something dirty … back it up. If you’re gonna do something that’s going to warrant a fight, back it up.” (Courier-Post)

— On Saturday, Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat notched his 300th career point with OHL Erie. The 19-year-old forward had 104 points in his first season with the Otters (when Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome were teammates), 101 in his second (with Stome still there), and currently has 97 points in just 47 games this season. “It’s pretty crazy. I never thought it would be like this. But with the team we’ve had the past three years, they helped me out a lot. A lot of credit to them.” (GoErie.com)

Enjoy the games!

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.

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 59 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

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.

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.

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

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 6: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Zach Parise #11 and Jason Pominville #29 of the Minnesota Wild during the first period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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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.

Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers

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It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.

Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.

Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.

On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:

It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.

Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?

The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.

Similar tweets might end up being relevant, however. Though betting against Price is also a dicey proposition.