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NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Capitals vs. Sabres; Kings vs. Ducks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Tuesday night. In the early game, the Buffalo Sabres host the Washington Capitals at 7:00 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

The Capitals will be playing their second game in as many nights. They’re coming off a 3-2 overtime game against the Arizona Coyotes that saw them trail 2-0 in the opening period.

But thanks to Alex Ovechkin‘s game-tying goal and John Carlson‘s game-winner in the extra frame, they were able to save the day on home ice, where things have been a little rocky for Washington.

After a slow start to the season, the Caps have now rattled off three straight wins over the Isles, Bruins and Coyotes. Things are starting to look up.

“I think we’re just kind of finding our way and figuring out what’s working for us,” Carlson said, per the Washington Post. “We’ve got to put a couple of these together. We didn’t start [the season] like we wanted to, so we’ve got a lot of work to do, but just keep finding ways to win.”

Things haven’t really been going as well for the Sabres, who are in the basement of the Eastern Conference. They also own the worst goal differential in the East and the second-worst goal differential in the league (ahead of Arizona) at minus-18.

“We think a couple little changes here and there and we’re going to be better, but we all have to demand more out of ourselves,” Ryan O'Reilly said, per the Buffalo News. “It feels like we are a little fragile right now. When things don’t go well, it’s tough to climb back.”

This is a really important stretch for the Sabres, as six of their next nine games will be played on home ice. If they’re going to salvage their season, it will have to come before the end of November.

In the late game, the Anaheim Ducks host the Los Angeles Kings at 10:00 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here

This will be one of the Kings’ few upcoming road games on their schedule, as they’ll begin a five-game homestand over the next couple of weeks.

Before they can start enjoying some home cooking though, they’ll need to take care of business against their state rivals, who are off to a rocky start in 2017-18.

“Yeah, it’s always fun,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said of playing the Ducks, per LAKingsinsider.com. “Good team. They’ve been probably better than us in the last three years or so. … I’m not sure what the head-to-head match has been, but they’re a division team, a division rival, they’re only just down the road there. Have a lot of support there from our fans in their building. I feel like we always show up to play there and play well.”

Unlike the Ducks, Los Angeles has enjoyed a terrific start to the year. They come into tonight’s game in top spot in the Pacific Division and they have a 4-1-1 record in their last six contests.

In fairness to Anaheim, their 6-6-2 record is a little deceiving. After all, they were without Ryan Kesler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm to start the year (Cam Fowler is also out of the lineup). Now, Lindholm and Vatanen are back, which should eventually help boost their record.

 “Obviously now you get a couple extra minutes because Cam is out,” said Lindholm, per the OC Register. “Even when he’s in the lineup, we usually get to play up to or close to 24, 25 (minutes). I think we both have proven we can handle it.

“Right now, we kind of have a couple of injuries. For me, I just feel that I want to bring as much as I can to the table and do as much good as I can out on the ice to help the team win some hockey games.”

Unforunately, Lindholm’s return hasn’t really sparked the Ducks into winning more games. Anaheim also has a ton of home dates this month, but they haven’t gotten off to a great start.

They opened November with a pair of home losses to Toronto and Nashville before dropping shootout decision in San Jose on Saturday night. Still, they have a great opportunity to get themselves back on track with seven of their next eight games coming at the Honda Center.

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.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

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: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson