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So close: Sidney Crosby remains on the verge of 1,000 points

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Sidney Crosby will have to wait another day.

The Pittsburgh Penguins star and captain is up to 999 points in his NHL career, but he just couldn’t reach the 1,000-point mark in Tuesday’s game against the Canucks. It certainly wasn’t from a lack of chances. No. 87 was all over the Canucks, it seemed, whenever he touched the ice.

Crosby entered the game with 998 points, before adding an assist on Jake Guentzel‘s goal, which gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead in the third period.

The only thing standing between Crosby and reaching the milestone tonight was the play of goalie Ryan Miller.

Crosby had a plus-11 Corsi For rating in all situations. He had six shots on goal and was denied on a breakaway in the third period. Miller also robbed Guentzel with a spectacular arm save that denied Crosby of an assist in the first period.

The next chance for Crosby to achieve the feat is Thursday on home ice against the Winnipeg Jets.

Meanwhile, welcome back to the lineup, Evgeni Malkin.

After missing the last seven games with a lower-body injury, Malkin returned to the Penguins lineup and was immediately productive with a goal and an assist in Pittsburgh’s thorough 4-0 victory over the Canucks.

His night included this set-up on Phil Kessel‘s goal, which essentially put this game completely out of reach for Vancouver as Pittsburgh completely took over in the final period. Malkin showed incredible patience, letting Luca Sbisa slide by on the backcheck before calmly dishing the puck to Kessel for an easy goal.

It was noted this morning that Pittsburgh had gone 4-1-2 without Malkin, as injuries have tested the depth of the Penguins, particularly with their group of forwards.

“I think that getting him back just makes us that much more dangerous,” said Crosby of Malkin.

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.