The bright side to no NHL players at 2018 Olympics

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Look, there’s no denying it. The lack of NHL players at the 2018 Winter Olympics is a bummer. The World Cup was great at times, but still not a match for the best-on-best tournament for Olympic gold.

One player’s loss is another player’s gain, and looking over the rosters for Canada and the U.S., you might not see great talent, but it’s easy to spot the potential for some wonderful stories.

Last hurrahs

Even with Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla deciding not to give it one more shot, there are some opportunities for players to enjoy one more moment in the spotlight.

Brian Gionta, team USA captain, ranks as one of the best examples of former NHLers who are going for one more moment of glory. As this NBC Olympics profile reminds us, Gionta represented the U.S. in 2006, so he likely also wants to redeem a run that sputtered without a medal.

[USA Hockey announces 2018 Olympic men’s roster]

He’s not the only name you might remember, especially if you follow the game closely. Wojtek Wolski is one of the stories of the men’s hockey tournament, as he goes from broken neck to a chance at Olympic glory. Plenty of former teammates are happy for these guys, like Brad Marchand with Chris Kelly:

Chances for redemption

Gilbert Brule may never shake the label of first-round bust.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made him the sixth pick of the 2005 NHL Draft, one choice after Carey Price and five before the Kings selected Anze Kopitar. Brule ended up generating just 95 points in 299 NHL regular-season games before continuing his career overseas. He last played in the NHL in 2013-14, and barely: he failed to score a point in three games with the then-Phoenix Coyotes.

[Check out Canada’s men’s roster here.]

Not every prospect pans out, and Brule’s been able to ply his trade as a productive KHL scorer.

Even so, how great would it be for him to shed that bust label – at least in the eyes of some – by generating a rollicking run for Canada? These are some of the fascinating, maybe even heartwarming stories that could come from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Be honest: that kind of beats “Sidney Crosby padding his Hall of Fame resume,” doesn’t it?

That one moment

Speaking of heartwarming stories, it’s tough to top Bobby Butler sharing the Olympic good news with his dad:

There are players who were once prominent and are chasing another glory run. There are the Brules of the world: prospects who didn’t quite make it in the NHL. And then there are guys who maybe got a cup of coffee at the NHL level, yet were never expected to do much.

[USA Hockey, Hockey Canada reveal 2018 Olympic jerseys]

This tournament won’t just feature “dream come true” moments. In most cases, they’ll also literally be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

As much as Olympic competition is about finding out who’s the best of the best, there’s also an amateur spirit, at least in its roots. Some of that carries over in sports that only seem to get mainstream attention during the Winter or Summer Olympics.

In the grand scheme of things, most of us still hope that NHL players return to the mix, preferably as early as 2022.

That said, hockey is still wonderful, especially when it’s played with emotion and spirit. In that regard, the 2018 Winter Olympics will be tough to beat, and the stories may very well end up being unforgettable.

MORE: Full Olympic hockey schedule

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