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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.”

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.