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NHL on NBCSN: Banged up Rangers look to take down red-hot Bruins

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Boston Bruins host the New York Rangers at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Boston Bruins were quiet for most of deadline day, but they managed to make a last-minute deal to bolster their forward group by acquiring Drew Stafford from the Winnipeg Jets.

A few weeks ago, it looked like the Bruins would be sellers, but since they made a coaching change and went from Claude Julien to Bruce Cassidy, things have really turned around.

Under Cassidy, the Bruins play quick, aggressive and it doesn’t hurt that they’ve started putting the puck in the net with a lot more regularity.

“Bruce has been there all year this year,” said Patrice Bergeron, per the Boston Herald. “He was in the organization for nine years. So the system, there are a lot of similarities to it. The change has been pretty smooth so far and the biggest change so far is he wants us to play with more tempo, more speed and go up the ice in a hurry. The practices are maybe a little different in that way. It’s lots of energy and you’re always moving your legs, which is a good thing. You kind of duplicate that in games.”

Boston comes into tonight’s game having won three in a row and seven of their last 10 outings. The improved play has resulted in them jumping up to third place in the Atlantic Division standings. Their 72 points are tied with Ottawa, who’s in second place, but the Sens have reached that number in two less games. Both teams are six points behind Montreal for top spot.

The Rangers weren’t willing to pony up the assets it took to acquire Kevin Shattenkirk from St. Louis, but they still managed to come away with reliable defenseman Brendan Smith from Detroit.

Smith, who took part in Wednesday’s practice, found himself on the first pairing with Ryan McDonagh.

“I’m excited to be on a good team that’s in the playoff hunt,” Smith told the New York Post. “I love playoff hockey, so it’s an exciting time to come to a good team like this.”

New York took a physical pounding in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Capitals. Chris Kreider left that game for a few minutes, but managed to return. He didn’t take part in yesterday’s practice, but it sounds like he avoided a serious injury.

The news wasn’t as good for Jesper Fast, who was crushed by Alex Ovechkin. Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault expects him to be out two-to-three weeks with an upper-body injury.

Michael Grabner was forced to leave practice early after taking a cross-check from teammate Adam Clendening. Grabner’s availability for tonight’s game is in question.

On the blue line, Dan Girardi missed the game against Washington because of an ankle injury and he’s expected to miss two more weeks, while Kevin Klein (back spasms) is supposed to skate in Boston today.

Yea, the Rangers are pretty banged up, but they have to find a way to get back on track. They’ve dropped back-to-back home games to Columbus and Washington and were outscored 9-3 in the process.

The schedule won’t be too kind to them either, as they’ll play five of their next six games on the road.

A quick side note: Happy Birthday to the king, Henrik Lundqvist, who turns 35 today.

Young Mitch Marner meme isn’t lost on Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs

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A couple of days ago, Mitch Marner was spotted at Pearson Airport in Toronto with a backwards baseball cap after flying back from a very impressive and productive run at the World Hockey Championship.

Hockey Twitter exploded with well-meaning laughter as the dazzlingly talented 20-year-old looked even younger than 20.

Even a few days later, it really is a sight to behold, whether you need a respite from politics or biting your nails about Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final:

As much as many of us deride this age of social media, it’s been a goldmine for self deprecating comedy from hockey players; as it turns out, Roberto Luongo doesn’t have that market completely cornered, either.

Not long ago, Auston Matthews jumped in on the Marner meme, and it was glorious:

To his credit, Marner himself joined in:

Is anyone else eager to see what these young stars come up with both on and off the ice during the next, oh, couple decades?

Johansen wishes he was there to shake Kesler’s hand after Predators won

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Ryan Johansen isn’t backing down about his criticisms of the way Ryan Kesler plays. Not after the Nashville Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks. Not as he recovers from emergency surgery.

That was the top bulletin-board material from a great interview Johansen participated in with TSN 1040 Vancouver on Wednesday, as the refreshingly candid forward discussed a wide array of topics.

For instance, Johansen:

  • Praised the hockey acumen of Nashville fans, backing up P.K. Subban‘s praise of the market.
  • Went into detail about his harrowing injury. Johansen explained that, at first, the seemingly innocent hit by Josh Manson would just be one of those “that’s going to leave a bad bruise” moments. Toward the end of the game, he was a shift or two from telling Peter Laviolette that he’d be a liability to his team. After the contest, he couldn’t even walk out of the shower, and that’s when medical staff determined that a painful injury required emergency surgery.
  • The bittersweet feelings of seeing his team advance to a Stanley Cup Final without him.
  • He spoke about how confident he felt during a postseason run that’s drawn rave reviews.

Still, the juicy stuff was about Kesler. That comes at around the 10:50 mark of an interview worth listening to in its entirety.

Nice. That’s basically the opposite of Detroit Red Wings players regretting shaking Claude Lemieux’s hand and maybe the other extreme of Martin Brodeur snubbing Sean Avery, right?

(It feels necessary to discuss Milan Lucic getting weird during the handshake lines, too. Ah, memories.)

Johansen admits that he was a Vancouver Canucks fan growing up, and while Kesler wasn’t one of his favorite players, he certainly cheered his endeavors. That … won’t happen again anytime soon, as you can note.

Johansen expects a full recovery from that surgery, so yes, we can all pencil in the rematch between those two Ryans in 2017-18.

Hot take: there won’t be handshakes.

Blues add Darryl Sydor as assistant coach

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The St. Louis Blues continued to assemble the coaching staff for Mike Yeo on Wednesday when they announced the hiring of former NHL defenseman Darryl Sydor.

Sydor previously served as an assistant on Yeo’s staff for several years when he was the head coach of the Minnesota Wild. Before joining the Blues, Sydor was an assistant coach for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves this past season.

“I am excited to have Darryl back on my staff,” Yeo said in a statement released by the team. “He was an outstanding teacher during our time in Minnesota and will add a wealth of experience and knowledge to our team.”

Before joining the coaching ranks Sydor was a defenseman in the NHL for 18 seasons, playing 1,291 games for the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets and Blues. The Blues were his final stop in the NHL, playing 47 games for the team during the 2009-10 season. He was a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams, winning it with the Stars in 1998-99 and then with the Lightning in 2003-04.

The Blues hired Yeo to be their coach-in-waiting to work alongside Ken Hitchcock before the start of the 2016-17 season, but when Hitchcock was fired in the middle of the season Yeo was promoted a few months earlier than expected.

The Blues eliminated the Wild in the first-round of the playoffs this season but were defeated by the Nashville Predators in the second round.

For fourth time in five years Sergei Mozyakin is the KHL’s MVP

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The KHL handed out its awards for the 2016-17 season on Wednesday and it was Magnitogorsk Metallurg forward Sergei Mozyakin taking home the Golden Stick Trophy as the league MVP.

Given the season he had, and the career he has had in the KHL, this should not really be much of a surprise.

Mozyakin turned in one of the greatest performances in the history of the league this season by scoring 48 goals and recording 85 total points (both league records) in only 60 games.

Since the KHL formed in 2008-09 only three different players have won the Golden Stick award. Danis Zaripov won it during the inaugural season, while Alexander Radulov won it four times (three years in a row between 2009-10 and 2011-12, then again in 2014-15).

Mozyakin won it in 2012-13 and 2014-15, then in each of the past two seasons.

The 36-year-old forward was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the ninth-round (No. 262 overall) of the 2002 draft by never played a game in the NHL. He has spent his entire professional career playing in Russia where he has consistently been one of the best, most productive players in the league.

Among the KHL’s other award winners, Vasily Koshechkin was named the league’s top goalie, Oleg Znarok was the coach of the year, while Vladimir Tkachyov is the rookie of the year.