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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.”

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley

Predators sign Arvidsson to seven-year, $29.75 million deal

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Viktor Arvidsson has cashed in on his impressive, breakout 2016-17 campaign.

Playing in the final year of his entry-level contract — and making $640,000 in total salary, according to CapFriendly — the 5-foot-9 tall Arvidsson erupted for 31 goals and 61 points playing on the top line last season for a Nashville Predators team that eventually made its way to the Stanley Cup Final.

The two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday.

From The Tennessean:

Viktor Arvidsson received a new contract Saturday befitting a breakout star, with the Predators signing the energetic forward to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract, Arvidsson’s agent told The Tennessean. 

Few unheralded NHL players last season surprised more than Arvidsson. Expected to be a secondary contributor, Arvidsson erupted offensively with 31 goals and 61 points as part of Nashville’s top line, tying for the team lead in each category. 

Update: The Predators have since confirmed the deal, which pays Arvidsson an annual average value of $4.25 million per season, through the 2023-24 season.

Nashville’s general manager David Poile has work remaining this offseason. The Predators still have restricted free agents Ryan Johansen — another member of that vaunted top line in Nashville — and Austin Watson left to get under contract.

Watson and the Predators have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday. Watson is reportedly seeking $1.4 million in arbitration.

Flames re-sign RFA goalies Gillies and Rittich

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The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.

Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.

He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.

Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.

The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.