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The 100-point scorer is trying to make a comeback this season

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Even though the overall numbers have started to decline a little bit from where they were earlier in the season, the NHL has still seen an increase in goal-scoring this season. Whether it’s because of the crackdown on slashing, better power plays, or any other combination of factors it has been a pleasant change from what we have seen over the past decade.

That rise in scoring also means individual scoring numbers are improving as well, and it could lead to the return of something that has been rapidly disappearing in recent years: The 100-point scorer.

Since the start of the 2010-11 season the 100-point mark has been eclipsed just five times in a season.

Daniel Sedin did it in 2010-11, Evgeni Malkin did it in 2011-12, Sidney Crosby in 2013-14, Patrick Kane in 2015-16 and Connor McDavid this past season. The highest point total during that stretch was Malkin’s 109 points in 2011-12. It is not just the century mark that seemed unreachable because even hitting 90 points seemed impossible. Only 11 players were able to hit that mark over the aforementioned stretch.

Once during those years (not counting the lockout shortened 2012-13 season) the Art Ross Trophy was won by a player that came in under the 90-point mark, something that had not happened (in a non-lockout season) since 1967-68.

That brings us to this season where things have changed dramatically for the top scorers in the league.

Heading into the holiday weekend there are currently five players in the NHL this season on pace for at least 100 points.

Nikita Kucherov is leading the way with a 120-point pace, a number that would be the highest point total in the league since Crosby hit it during the 2006-07 season. His teammate, Steven Stamkos, is on pace for 108, New York Islanders teammates John Tavares and Josh Bailey are both on pace for 105, while Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek is on pace for 101.

There are also 12 players in the NHL on pace to hit the 90-point mark this season. That would be more than the previous six seasons … combined.

Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid are both on pace for more than 95, and it would not be a stretch to think that McDavid could get white hot again at some point and get back on to a 100-point pace.

At this point all of these are just projections at nearly the NHL’s halfway point, and it is possible that a few of these players will cool off and not maintain their current pace.

But at this same point in time last season there were currently zero players on a 100-point pace and only four that were on a 90-point pace. Only McDavid topped 90 points for the season (he finished with 100 exactly) while Crosby and Kane finished with 89. Nicklas Backstrom, Brad Marchand, and Kucherov all finished with 85.

In the end they’re just arbitrary numbers, but the decline in overall offense over the past two decades has really limited what the best players in the league can do. There is a ton of high-level skill in the NHL right now and some truly generational talents (both the old guard of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, as well as the next wave represented by Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews) and it was not a great look for the league when those players were no longer able to hit even the 90-point mark every year. We want to see the best players dominate and put up numbers that clearly separate them from the pack. This season, for the first time in a while, that seems to be happening.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Spezza bounces back after healthy scratch; another injury for Predators

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Player Of The Night: Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars

On Monday night the Dallas Star made veteran forward Jason Spezza a healthy scratch as he was mired in a lengthy goal-scoring drought. The Stars wanted to see more from him, and they knew he could provide more.

When he stepped back into the lineup on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings he did exactly that by scoring a pair of goals in the Stars’ 4-2 win.

Even though Spezza had been struggling to put points on the board he was still doing an excellent job when it came to driving possession and generating shots, as well as the fact the team was outscoring its opponents when he was on the ice. His ice-time has been cut significantly this season, but he was doing enough to suggest that it was only a matter of time until he got back into the goal column.

He snapped out of it in a big way on Tuesday.

Another big injury for Nashville

The Nashville Predators are already playing without two of their top forwards with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson sidelined.

They lost another one on Tuesday night in their 1-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights when Ryan Johanson had to leave the game after taking a high hit from William Carrier.

Johanson left the game and did not return. There was no penalty called on the play.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette had no update on Johansen after the game and said they were given an explanation that it was a clean hit.

The Predators ended up winning the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Kevin Fiala and 43 saves from Jusse Saros.

Highlight Of The Night

Not much in the way of highlight reel plays tonight, but here is a big goal from Vince Dunn to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Factoid Of The Night

A big milestone for New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he picks up his 20th win of the season.

Scores

New Jersey Devils 4, New York Islanders 1

New York Rangers 5, Philadelphia Flyers 1

Dallas Stars 4, Detroit Red Wings 2

St. Louis Blues 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

Nashville Predators 1, Vegas Golden Knights 0

San Jose Sharks 3, Arizona Coyotes 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Blackhawks concerned Crawford could miss remainder of season

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Here is some less than encouraging news for the Chicago Blackhawks.

According to a report from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times on Tuesday night, there is some growing concern within the Blackhawks organization that starting goaltender Corey Crawford could miss the remainder of the season due to experiencing vertigo-like symptoms for the second time in his career.

Crawford has been sidelined since before Christmas due to an upper-body injury, but the team has been quiet on specifics other than to say publicly that they expect him to return this season.

Over the past few years Crawford has become one of the NHL’s top goalies and when he has been on the ice this season has been absolutely stellar for the Blackhawks. Given the current state of their defense and the rate that they give up shots he has become one of the team’s most important players and the one that seems to drive their success more than any other.

[Related: Corey Crawford has become the Blackhawks’ most important player]

In his absence the team has leaned on Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. Both have played about as well as could have been expected, but they aren’t Crawford and there is a noticeable drop in play at the position when he is not in there.

In 26 games this season Crawford is 16-9-2 with a .929 save percentage.

As of Tuesday night the Blackhawks are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting three points back of the Minnesota Wild. They also have the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche sitting between them.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rick Nash snaps out of slump, powers Rangers to huge win

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The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the teams in the middle of the free-for-all that is the Eastern Conference playoff race that had five teams separated by just three points heading into Tuesday night.

Both teams had been rolling in opposite directions over the past week with the Flyers having won four in a row and five of their past six, while the Rangers were riding a three-game losing skid and had lost four out of five.

Their past two losses coming out of the bye week were especially ugly, losing to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (two other teams they are competing with) by a combined score of 12-4.

Both the Rangers’ and Flyers’ streaks came to an end in their game on Tuesday with the Rangers picking up a huge 5-1 win.

Rick Nash was the big star for the Rangers on Tuesday with a pair of goals, including a breakaway goal in the first period to tie the game at one after the Rangers gave up an early goal. It was a big performance for Nash because he had been mired in a brutal slump that had seen him go 12 consecutive games without a goal. He also had just one assist during that stretch. That slump has contributed to a down year offensively that has him on track for one of the least productive seasons of his career.

But he came through in a big way on Tuesday to help give the Rangers two huge points and move them three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers still have one game in hand while the two teams will still play three more games the rest of the season.

The Rangers’ win on Tuesday, combined with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, moves the Rangers back into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators place forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators have placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Predators made the move Tuesday afternoon.

Arvidsson was helped off the ice Monday during practice, and The Tennessean reports he tested himself during Tuesday morning’s skate.

The forward ranks third on the Predators with 13 goals and fourth with 27 points. The Predators already have Filip Forsberg on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Gaudreau has played 18 games with the Predators with three assists. He had 14 points in 21 games with the Admirals this season.

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