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Penguins problems: Letang trade rumors, injuries abound

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Much like their division rivals in Brooklyn, injuries are really putting a damper on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Wednesday win, and health issues aren’t the only negative headlines plaguing the Penguins.

As he deals with his own injury issues, trade rumblings continue to swirl around struggling star defenseman Kris Letang.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos and Elliotte Friedman discussed the matter on Hockey Night in Canada recently, while Friedman backed up more of those rumblings in his latest “31 Thoughts” column, somewhat surprisingly discussing a possible move involving Montreal. DK Pittsburgh Sports’ Matt Gajtka backed them up, reporting that a source told him that Letang is “definitely” available on the trade market.

Yikes.

On one hand, Friedman lays out some of the Penguins’ concerns: Letang is costly both in salary and term ($7.25 million cap hit through 2021-22) and has had serious health issues, with not just concussion issues but even stroke symptoms.

Still, it’s not lost on observers that the Penguins would be “selling low” on Letang, a blueliner who’s struggled mightily at times in 2017-18.

Friedman rightly notes that Penguins GM Jim Rutherford isn’t afraid to make big moves, but run this exercise for a moment: try to picture a situation where Pittsburgh gets even close to equal value for Letang. Considering the team wants to take a few more swings at the fence rather than going into any sort of rebuild, it’s tough to imagine that working out well for anyone.

(Even a Letang for picks and prospects situation is very, very troubling.)

It’s all very unsettling, and it’s not the only bit of queasy information for Penguins fans who might just want to celebrate the team’s continued frustration of John Tortorella this afternoon.

The Penguins trotted out an array of injury updates on Thursday, and there’s a lot of bad. Along with Letang being out for Pittsburgh’s next game, Matt Murray won’t be available either, with the only good-ish news being that the goalie is only considered day-to-day. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel is considered week-to-week while forward Bryan Rust is out “longer term,” with both dealing with upper-body injuries.

Considering that Justin Schultz is also on the shelf, the Penguins are once again dealing with a slew of ailments.

Oh yeah, and the Penguins also face tough sledding to make the playoffs; as of today, they trail the Rangers and Islanders (44 points in 37 games) by three points, and the Penguins have played in 38 games. That’s not an insurmountable gap, yet it’s not the happiest situation, either.

You know what would add clouds to an already dour forecast? Making a terrible trade involving Kris Letang. Penguins fans must hope that those rumblings end up being a distant memory in a few months, much like these struggles and injuries.

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.

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

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday night, as the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 p.m. ET.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller – Vinni Lettieri
Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey
Michael Grabner – Peter Holland – Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden
Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk
Marc StaalSteven Kampfer

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

[Flyers look to push winning streak to five games against Rangers]

Flyers

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Michael RafflValtteri FilppulaJakub Voracek
Jordan WealNolan PatrickWayne Simmonds
Taylor LeierScott LaughtonJori Lehtera

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Startling goalie: Brian Elliott