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NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Flyers vs. Blackhawks; Predators vs. Sharks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Wednesday night. In the early game, the Chicago Blackhawks host the Philadelphia Flyers at 8:00 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here

Goals and victories have been a little tough to come by for the Blackhawks lately. They closed out the month of October with a three-game losing skid and only managed to win one (against the Coyotes) of their last six contests.

During that stretch, the ‘Haw’s managed to score more than twice in two games (once against Arizona, once against Colorado). One of the reasons they haven’t been able to fill the net is because their power play has cashed in on just one of their last 21 attempts.

“We got to stay confident in here,” winger Patrick Kane said, per the Chicago Tribune. “We’re 5-5-2 right now — obviously not the start we wanted, but we still have a lot of good players and a good team. Let’s not push the panic button just yet.”

The sluggish start to the year isn’t totally surprising considering the amount of players Chicago traded away or lost during the off-season. Still, it’s early enough for them to fix whatever it is that’s plaguing them.

As for the Flyers, they’ll head into tonight’s game having dropped three of their last four games, including a 4-3 overtime decision to the struggling Coyotes on Monday night.

“As a group, we were too far below the bar,” head coach Dave Hakstol said after the loss to Arizona, per NBC Sports Philly. “I think we had eight shot attempts in the first period. In our own end, we weren’t quick and hard defending through the entire period. I’m not taking anything away from our opponent, they played hard. We didn’t start the hockey game where we wanted to be and where we needed to be.”

Injuries have been a problem with Philadelphia so far this season, as they’ve been without second overall pick Nolan Patrick, Shayne Gostisbehere and Andrew MacDonald.

The Flyers will have an interesting test this week. After tonight’s game in Chicago they’ll head to St. Louis to take on the Blues tomorrow night.

With their defense a little depleted, it’ll be interesting to see how they stack up against those two opponents. This is a weird part of the schedule for Philadelphia. Monday’s game against Arizona was the first of 10 consecutive games against Western Conference opponents.

In the late game, the San Jose Sharks host the Nashville Predators at 10:30 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here

The Sharks are off to a decent start in 2017-18, but it’s nothing to write home about. They have a 6-5-0 record overall with a 3-3-0 showing at home.

They’ll have an opportunity to really take off at the Shark Tank this month, as their next four games and seven of their next eight will all be on home ice.

San Jose is coming off a big win over the Maple Leafs on Monday. Before that home date, they went a respectable 3-2-0 on an East Coast road trip that saw them travel to New Jersey, Brooklyn, New York, Boston and Buffalo.

Logan Couture has been a huge positive for the Sharks this season. He’s already up to eight goals and 12 points in 11 contests. But they sure could use more from defenseman Brent Burns, who has no goals this season, and forward Joe Pavelski, who has three goals and three assists in 11 games.

The Predators are about to embark on a difficult four-game road trip that will see them play in San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Columbus.

If they want to pile up wins in California and Ohio, they’ll need to start scoring with a little more regularity. Of the 31 teams in the NHL, only Edmonton has scored less than goals than Nashville’s 27 this season.

“I don’t think we’re shooting the puck enough,” forward Scott Hartnell said, per the team’s website. “When we shoot the puck, it seems like good things happen. You watch the goals scored around the League every night, it’s not always highlight-reel goals. They’re tips, screens, rebounds, goalies let in soft ones every now and again, so for us it’s simplifying our game, getting pucks to the net and getting bodies there. That’s one thing that’s been lacking I think, especially 5-on-5.”

Fun fact: Eight of their 27 goals (just under 30 percent) have been scored by winger Filip Forsberg.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Rick Nash scores twice as Rangers edge Sabres 4-3

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Prior to Tuesday’s win, New York Rangers forward Rick Nash had gone 12 games without a goal.

They had lost three straight and the man they needed to start scoring again simply couldn’t.

But on Tuesday in a 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Nash found his stride.

And on Thursday night he notched two more in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on NBCSN.

Nash opened the scoring for the Rangers 1:24 into the game, taking advantage of a defensive mishap by Jake McCabe, who couldn’t handle a puck as the last man back and allowed Nash in on a breakaway.

The Sabres would respond by periods’ end, starting their first of three comebacks on the night.

Kyle Okposo brought the game to level terms with 1:19 remaining in the first period, completing a tic-tac-toe play on the power play.

The Sabres came into the game with the 31st ranking on the man-advantage, but managed to score twice with it in Thursday’s game.

The Rangers regained the lead through J.T. Miller in the second period.

New York just went through a power play without registering a shot on goal, but Miller was able to grab the puck at the right circle moments after the Sabres’ penalty had expired and rifled a wrist shot bar down behind Lehner at 8:26.

The Sabres engineered their second comeback of the game, tying it 2-2 the game later in the period from an unlikely source.

Justin Falk had gone 101 games without putting a puck in the back of the net. Not since March 6, 2015 had Falk seen his name in that category on the scoresheet.

But he shed that monkey off his back on a point shot low along the ice that beat Lundqvist through the five-hole with 2:50 remaining in the frame.

Nash scored his second at the 6:49 mark of the third period, following by Buffalo’s third successful comeback attempt at 14:59 when Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot found its way through a crowd and behind Lundqvist for a 3-3 tie.

Pavel Buchnevich scored the winner 1:03 later, finishing off a nice feed from Mika Zibanejad for his 12th and the Rangers second straight win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Los Angeles Kings

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

Los Angeles Kings

Adrian KempeAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonTrevor LewisTyler Toffoli

Alex IafalloNick ShoreMarian Gaborik

Kyle Clifford — Michael Amadio — Jonny Brodzinski

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinAlec Martinez

Kevin Gravel — Christian Folin

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

Eric Lindros’ famed No. 88 retired in Philadelphia

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No. 88 has always hung from the rafters in the minds of Philadelphia Flyers fans.

The organization seemed to revere it as well. No one but Eric Lindros has ever worn the number.

And on Thursday night in the City of Brotherly Love, those fans could finally see it with their own eyes.

The Big E’s famous No. 88 in Flyers orange and black was retired at Wells Fargo Center, raised to hang next to the names of Bernie Parent, Mark Howe, Barry Ashbee, Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke.

“Without any doubt, this is the highest honor the organization can bestow on one of its members,” said Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who addressed the packed house. “Take a look at the rafters, only five players out of 600 to have ever worn the orange and black, and now that number will be six.

“When we raise your number in a few moments, know you’re back where you belong, and this time, it’s forever.”

Moments earlier, Lindros stood at center ice, waving at the standing ovation that engulfed the arena that encircled him.

“Wow. Haha. This is crazy,” Lindros said, peering out into the sea of orange and black as he followed Holmgren at the center-ice podium. 

“It’s no secret that when I left Philadelphia, it was under less than ideal circumstances,” Lindros said, crediting Holmgren and his wife Kina with helping him move.

Lindros sat out the entire 2000-01 season due to a contract dispute with Clarke and the organization.

Lindros was crushed by Scott Stevens in the playoffs in the previous season and was only cleared to play the following December. The Flyers had offered, and Lindros refused a two-way qualifying offer. Lindros, instead, wanted to be traded, with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs the preferred destination after his once-strong relationship with Clarke had deteriorated. Clarke refused to trade him at first, but finally did so in the following offseason, not to Toronto, but to the New York Rangers in the summer of 2001.

“Both, in their own ways, have taught me to move on, put in the past any differences of opinion, any hard feelings,” Lindros said. “It was time to remember the great moments I experienced here in Philadelphia, the friendships I’ve built in this great city and the respect I have for the fans of this team.”

Lindros was a member of the ‘Legion of Doom,’ a line that consisted of John LeClair and Mikael Renberg that dominated opponents and altered the game of hockey in the 1990s. Lindros acknowledged several people, including former general manager Russ Farwell, who brought Lindros, Mark Recchi and Rob Brind’Amour into the team and drafted Mikael Renberg.

Lindros also thanked Clarke, and said LeClair should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Lindros was one of the most physically gifted and dominating players to ever play in the NHL, a man who towered over most, skated better than most and score better than most.

Lindros won the Hart Trophy during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. He played 486 games in Flyers threads, scoring 290 goals and amassing 659 points.

In 2016, Lindros was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Roberto Luongo could return to practice soon

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The mandatory off week for the Florida Panthers appears to have done wonders for injured goaltender Roberto Luongo.

The Panthers No. 1 netminder has “turned a corner” as he continues to rehab a lower-body injury, Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said on Thursday.

The Panthers practiced for the first time since their mandatory break on Thursday, and although Luongo is still on pace for a return early next month, the news was good to hear for a team nine points adrift of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I think he’s turned a corner a little bit,” Boughner told reporters after the team’s practice. “He’s showing some good improvement here in the last few days. We’re excited to hopefully get him back out on the ice during a practice at some upcoming point.”

Luongo hasn’t played since Dec. 4, when he was injured in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

The news of Luongo’s pending return was probably a little music to the ears of James Reimer.

Reimer has started Florida’s past 16 games, posting an 8-6-2 record with .924 save percentage during that span, but ran into the break losing four of his previous five starts.

Still, Reimer has performed admirably in Luongo’s absence, as he bounced back from an unfavorable start to the season that saw Luongo regain the starter’s reins.

The Panthers will have five games in-hand on Pittsburgh Penguins, who entered Thursday occupying the final spot. They play the Los Angeles Kings live on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET.

The Panthers return to action on Friday when they host the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.

Reimer is expected to start No. 17.