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NHL on NBCSN Doubleheader: Penguins vs. Flyers; Blues vs. Ducks

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 NHL season with a doubleheader of action of Wednesday night. It starts with the battle of Pennsylvania, as the Penguins travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here

Last week, the Flyers were very much in the playoff hunt, but three straight losses later and their postseason odds have taken a significant hit.

Coming into tonight’s game against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Flyers seven points behind the Islanders for the last Wild Card spot (yikes). Never say never, but making up that much ground and having to leap over four teams to do it is almost impossible.

They’ve had a few issues throughout the season, but their disappointing power play has been the biggest one of late. In Monday’s 5-3 loss to Columbus, they managed to go just 1-for-8 on the man-advantage.

“It could have been a lot different story if the power play had buckled down,” Brayden Schenn told CSN Philly after the loss to the Blue Jackets. “Not good enough. How many chances we get? Seven, eight, nine?

“I don’t know. That could have won us the game. When you have that many chances, you have to capitalize and we haven’t.”

With 14 games remaining, you have to think that the Flyers need at least 11 or 12 wins to have a shot at making the playoffs.

The Penguins are in a different kind of battle. They know they’ll be playing playoff games, but they just don’t know who their opponent is going to be and if they’ll have home ice advantage.

At one point, it looked like the Capitals were going to pull away from the pack in the Metropolitan Division. Thanks to a four-game losing skid (they snapped it by beating Minnesota last night), the Pens have been able to catch up.

Pittsburgh is just two points behind the Caps with a game in hand. On the flip side, the Blue Jackets are just one point behind the Pens. Oh and the Rangers, who are in the top Wild Card spot, are five points behind, but they’ve played two more games.

A good streak could easily propel Pittsburgh into first place, while a couple of losses in a row could have them sitting in third place.

This will be the fifth game of a five-game road trip that has seen them collect seven of a possible eight points.

In the late game, the St. Louis Blues head to Anaheim to take on the Ducks at 10:00 p.m. ET. To watch that one online, click here

To say that the Blues have been streaky is a bit of an understatement. After dropping five consecutive games between Feb. 18-Mar. 3, St. Louis has now rattled off five straight victories over the Avalanche, Wild, Ducks, Islanders and Kings.

Those 10 points have given them a four-point cushion over the Kings in the race for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The fact that Los Angeles dropped a 3-2 decision to the Coyotes last night definitely doesn’t hurt St. Louis’ chances.

Goalie Jake Allen has been as inconsistent as anyone on the Blues roster. He’s gone through some really ugly stretches but he’s come up huge during this winning streak, and that includes their last win over LA.

“Every game is huge, I think both teams understood the significance of this game tonight and it showed in the desperation from both teams,” head coach Mike Yeo said after the win over the Kings, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Obviously Jake (Allen) was outstanding tonight. From top to bottom we had a really strong team effort.”

The Ducks, like the Penguins, are battling for playoff positioning within their own division.

Currently, the Ducks find themselves in third place in the Pacific Division. There’s plenty of room to move up or down though. Anaheim is tied with Calgary for second place, but the Flames have more regulation/overtime wins. Edmonton, who are in the first Wild Card spot, are just a single point behind the Ducks.

Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf have gone through some difficult stretches this season, but it appears like they’re starting to get hot at the right time. They each had a three-point night in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals.

If that trio can stay hot to close out the year, watch out for the Ducks.

Another positive for the Anaheim has been the play of goalie Jonathan Bernier. While starter John Gibson has been out with a lower-body injury, Bernier has been lights out. He’s been so good, that he was selected as the NHL’s second star for his performances last week.

“Goaltending in the league is based upon everybody wants to have two that they can rely on,” Randy Carlyle said, per the OC Register. “And we have two that we can rely on. He’s just further deepened our trust in what he brings to the game night in and night out.

“He’s a professional. Not a real flashy guy but he comes in and he works. And he’s a great teammate.”

PHT Morning Skate: Joel Armia scored an amazing shorthanded goal you’ll have to see to believe

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Joel Armia has developed into a very useful player for the Winnipeg Jets, and on Tuesday night, he scored an incredible end-to-end goal that you won’t want to miss. He fought off one New Jersey Devil then got around two others before scoring this beautiful shorthanded goal. (Top)

–The Score breaks down the best “bang for your buck” contracts on each Canadian team. It’s not shocking to see Senators goalie Mike Condon on this list. The second-year netminder has been with three teams this season, but he’s come through in a big way for the Senators, and he only makes $575,000. (The Score)

–The ESPN Hockey writers put together a list of what they think the Vegas Golden Knights roster is going to look like after the expansion draft. Some well-known names like Andrew Cogliano, Jonas Brodin, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Plekanec, Jonathan Marchessault, Carl Hagelin and Jakob Silfverberg all made the list. (ESPN)

–Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” blog touched on some advice David Poile had for the Golden Knights now that the Oakland Raiders will be moving to Vegas. “You have to do your own thing. We created our ‘Predator Way.’ The Smashville idea and name. In-game entertainment fitting the market. Those things worked.” Friedman also wrote about Ken Hitchcock possibly returning to Dallas, and much more. (Sportsnet)

–Brampton Thunder forward Laura Stacey is the great-granddaughter of hall-of-fame defenseman King Clancy. Recently, Stacey decided she wanted to do a little digging into her great-grandfather’s career, and it really allowed her to get an appreciation for everything he accomplished. “Now I understand how hard he worked, how passionate and determined he was to be the best. Yes, it was a different era, but I can only imagine how hard he had to work to get where he was. As I get older, it makes it more special in that I know more the kind of guy he was.” (Canadian Press)

–The Montreal Canadiens have had some incredible defensemen come through their organization, but last night, Andrei Markov was able to reach an impressive milestone. By picking up an assist in a 4-1 win over Dallas, he tied Guy Lapointe for second in points by a defenseman in franchise history. Larry Robinson’s mark is pretty safe.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch when they failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong regular seasons, even as memories of their Cup win start to fade into the distance. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to defend Craig Anderson following his blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.