NHL on NBCSN: Avs take on Flyers in what could be Duchene’s last game with Colorado

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

We’re just over a day away from the NHL trade deadline and the picture is becoming clearer when it comes to who the serious buyers are and who the serious sellers are.

When it comes to the Avalanche, there’s no doubt that they’re going to be looking to move veterans between now and Wednesday, but will the Flyers go in the same direction?

Philadelphia enters tonight’s game trailing the Maple Leafs by six points for the final Wild Card spot in the East. That’s not an insurmountable number of points, but they need to leap over four teams to get there, and let’s just say the Flyers aren’t exactly playing their best hockey right now.

They’re coming off a 4-2 loss to the Penguins in last Saturday’s outdoor game and they have just two wins in their last nine contests.

“Everybody’s a little frustrated right now, and we can’t be pointing fingers,” captain Claude Giroux said, per Philly.com. “Everybody needs to be a little bit better. Everybody needs to give a little more.

“We like our team. The locker room is great. It’s hard for me to tell you guys we like our team when the results aren’t there. But we like the way we play, and we like the way we play as a team, and I really think we can do great things.”

This will be Philadelphia’s final game before the deadline and you’d have to think GM Ron Hextall is leaning strongly towards selling, but would a win tonight change things?

With the amount of prospects they have coming through the pipeline and  with pending unrestricted free agents like Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth on the roster, there’s a good chance Hextall will look to move some bodies.

If there’s some doubt as to whether or not the Flyers will sell, there’s none when it comes to the Avalanche.

Colorado has put together a horrendous year, as they’ve accumulated just 17 wins and 37 points so far. Not many people expected them to be in the playoffs this year, but no one thought they’d be this bad either.

Like the Flyers, the Avs have some veterans they’d like to unload (Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell, Rene Bourque and Fedor Tyutin just to name a few), but it’s the names with term that are making headlines in Denver.

With time winding down before the deadline, will GM Joe Sakic be able to find a suitable offer for either Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog?

It appears unlikely that either of those guys will move before tomorrow. Those kind of trades are nearly impossible to make around deadline day. The reported asking price is high (three to four young assets, including a defenseman that could slot into Colorado’s lineup right away), but a team looking to make a splash could feel compelled to make it happen.

“I have no control over anything. Just whatever happens, happens,” Duchene said on Monday, per the Denver Post. “I don’t know what’s coming. But we’ll see. Obviously, I’m prepared for anything, but right now I’m just focusing on getting to Philly tonight and preparing for the game tomorrow.

“It’s hard to look past three days right now. I can’t really look past that because I just don’t know where I’m going to be. So we’ll see what happens.”

Things should get pretty interesting in Colorado over the next 30 hours.

Related:

Streit and Del Zotto could get Flyers something at deadline

Stadium Series loss to Pens could push Flyers to sell at deadline

Trade Rumblings: Isles interested in Matt Duchene

Okposo to fans: ‘Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye’

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In a lengthy and heartfelt letter, Kyle Okposo thanked the hockey community – especially but not only Buffalo Sabres fans and teammates – for their support after his hospitalization.

Okposo also shared some personal details about how a seemingly innocent hit affected his sleep and caused alarming weight loss, dropping him below 200 lbs. for the first time since he was 17. He said he checked into a hospital expecting to get help sleeping, only to go to ICU after a negative reaction to medication.

As scary as that experience was, it helped him put his career and life in perspective. Okposo also realized just how much fans, teammates, and people associated with the sport can help each other in times of need.

It’s a really great letter and worth reading in full (especially considering his praise for new Sabres management), but here’s one of the more inspiring excerpts:

When I turned my phone on, I had 500 messages waiting for me. Current players, former players, former coaches – everyone reached out. Even now, fans see me in Minnesota or Buffalo and say, ‘I’m just really glad you’re doing OK.’ It’s overwhelming, and it makes me proud to be a part of the hockey community. We’re a tight-knit group and we stick together. Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye.

The messages from my Sabres teammates meant a lot in particular. I’ve only played with those guys for one year, with Matt Moulson being the exception, and we didn’t have the type of season that we wanted. The fact that all of them were so supportive through this shows that the bond between teammates really does transcend what happens on the ice.

Okposo noted that he appreciated playing in “Da Beauty League” last week, even though his team got “whacked.”

Read more about him being involved in that here, and how happy Zach Parise and others were to see him play in this article. Okposo also reaffirms the belief that he’ll be ready to go for Sabres training camp in that letter.

No surgery for Dumoulin, who broke hand during Penguins’ Cup run

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If you’re feeling jealous of Brian Dumoulin for signing a robust (if fair) contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, take heart: at least he earned it. He even checked the “Hockey players are insanely tough” box during the Penguins’ latest Stanley Cup run.

MORE: Dumoulin signs for six years, with a $4.1 million cap hit.

The 25-year-old revealed that a David Savard slapper broke (or “damaged?) his right hand in Game 5 of that first-round matchup. After that, his hand would heal up, only “I’d do a cross-check then it would break again,” as he told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Dumoulin seemed to deal with that as the postseason went along, but the good news – at least as he claims – is that it’s all healed and he won’t require surgery.

“It was tough to play with it, but obviously everybody had injuries,” Dumoulin said, via Mackey. “It’s all healed up now. They were deciding on surgery or not at the end of the season, but doctors saw a little bit of healing. We gave it about three weeks, and I kind of have been testing it out the last week. I’ve skated, and there have been no problems. I’m happy about it.”

With any “no surgery needed” story, there are us hand-wringers who wonder if that will merely increase the odds of future re-breaks.

That, not to mention years of taxing schooling, is why doctors are doctors, though, so this seems like a mostly positive bit of information regarding another Penguins player who fought through injuries during the playoffs.

Considering how many Penguins players were sidelined, especially on defense, it makes Dumoulin’s toughness that much easier to appreciate. For all we know, losing him might have been the last straw for that thinned out group.

Instead, the Penguins are repeat champions, and Dumoulin enjoys long-term security.

If his play on the ice didn’t already convince you that he earned that extension, perhaps this detail did.

Islanders’ D getting crowded with four-year deal for Adam Pelech

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If nothing else, quantity probably won’t be much of an issue for the New York Islanders’ defense in 2017-18.

GM Garth Snow locked down another blueliner on Monday, as he signed Adam Pelech to a four-year contract. The deal is worth $1.6 million per season ($6.4M overall), according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

Pelech, 22, played 44 games at the NHL level in 2016-17, collecting 10 points and struggling from an analytics standpoint. He also appeared in nine games with the Islanders in 2015-16.

Staple notes that this could make for a logjam – or, to put a positive spin on it, make for a lot of competition – particularly if the Isles can strike a deal with Calvin de Haan soon. If that pans out, they’d have eight defensemen who would need to go through waivers.

On the bright side, the Islanders’ defense looks respectable on paper, and that’s assuming that Pelech doesn’t take a step forward. If he does, this could be another respectable, under-the-radar move by Snow.

At the moment, it mainly seems like adding depth and flexibility, which isn’t the worst thing, either.

Plenty of opportunity on revamped Blackhawks defense

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For almost a decade, Niklas Hjalmarsson was a mainstay on the Blackhawks’ back end, quietly providing some of the most effective defense in the league.

But with Hjalmarsson in Arizona now, traded to the Coyotes for the younger-though-less-proven Connor Murphy, it remains to be seen how Chicago’s blue line will roll out next season.

In addition to Hjalmarsson, the ‘Hawks also bid adieu to Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, and Trevor van Riemsdyk this offseason.

Add up all the good-byes, and that’s a lot of minutes to replace.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we’re going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

The way it looks right now, the top four will be comprised of Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, and Michal Kempny. That’s two left shots — Keith and Kempny — and two righties — Seabrook and Murphy.

Read more: After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

The bottom pairing, though, is anyone’s guess. Newly signed Czech defenseman Jan Rutta is in the mix. But so too are Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and possibly even Luc Snuggerud.

Once training camp starts, it’ll be up to those young players to prove themselves.

“Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more,” said Oesterle, whom the ‘Hawks signed July 1. “I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Veteran Michal Rozsival is also under contract for next season. However, he turns 39 in September, and with all that youth champing at the bit, the Blackhawks will be hoping they won’t need him much, if at all.

Chicago’s defense in 2016-17, ranked by total time on ice