Chris Wagner

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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

Devils, Ducks fill needs with Henrique-Vatanen swap

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The Anaheim Ducks need some help offensively and the New Jersey Devils were looking to boost their blue line, so it makes sense that the two consummated a deal Thursday morning, especially considering the trade history between Ray Shero and Bob Murray.

Heading to Anaheim is Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi and a 2018 third-round pick, while the Devils acquired defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional third-round pick in 2019 or 2020. Here are those conditions:

“In acquiring Sami, we bring on a right shot, top-four defenseman who can play in all situations,” said Devils general manager Ray Shero. “This move also gives us contract certainty on the back end for the next two-plus years. When acquiring a defenseman like Vatanen, you have to give back quality assets or players in return. That is the case in this situation with Adam and Joe. Adam has been a key member of our organization for nearly ten years since he was drafted. His contributions both on and off the ice will always be appreciated by our organization and fans. For Joe, this is a great opportunity with a quality organization like Anaheim and I am happy for him.”

Vatanen, who is signed for two more seasons and is averaging 21:06 per game, is a great pickup to a fill a need in New Jersey’s top-four. After missing out on Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency, Shero gets his highly-touted, puck-moving right shot defenseman. The 26-year-old’s possession numbers are down this season, but I think we can attribute a big part of that due to his pairing with Kevin Bieksa on the back end.

Look at the New Jersey blue line now and it’s one that can get the puck up ice fast and contribute offensively. The emergence up front of Nico Hischier, Brian Gibbons, Jesper Bratt and Miles Wood made Henrique expendable and allowed Shero to deal from an area of strength.

Given their injury woes, the Ducks have been sending Chris Wagner and Derek Grant over the boards to be their top two centers. A change was needed. Henrique’s addition is certainly an upgrade when you look at his 50 goals and 90 points over the last two season. If and when Anaheim gets back to full health, head coach Randy Caryle will have some decent depth to work with and this trade could help keep them afloat as they struggle to get back into playoff contention in the Western Conference.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Ducks facing tough road trip as injuries continue to pile up

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The Anaheim Ducks begin a five-game road trip tonight that could end with a big increase in the separation between where they currently reside in the Western Conference standings and a playoff spot.

Currently two points out of a wild card spot and three points behind the Calgary Flames for the third seed in the Pacific Division, the Ducks will face the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights before returning home to Honda Center next Wednesday. They’ll do so with a lineup that’s battered and missing Patrick Eaves, Ryan Getzlaf, Ondrej Kase, Ryan Kesler and now Rickard Rakell, who combined for over 80 goals last season.

How dinged up have the Ducks been? They’re by far the NHL leaders in the man-games lost category, as ManGamesLost.com shows:

ManGamesLost.com

The already offensively-challenged Ducks will see Derek Grant and Chris Wagner as their top two centermen as the roster heals.  The pair have 17 career goals. That will put some added pressure on a blue line that’s provided 15 of their 62 goals this season.

“We know we’ve stressed our lineup to our bare bones here,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said over the weekend via the LA Times. “The compete level and the structure and our work ethic and our track, our forecheck, all those were positives for our hockey club. And now we have to find a way to maintain that as we play more games on this road trip.”

Carlyle isn’t using injuries as an excuse for his team’s sluggish start — all teams miss key players at points during an 82-game schedule. But certainly the specific personnel missing from the Ducks’ lineup explains how the first 23 games have gone. John Gibson (.936 even strength save percentage in November) and Ryan Miller (.953 ESSV in November) have done their part in helping Anaheim take points from 7 of their 12 games this month and they’ll need to continue to be backbones for this team to survive a road trip against teams currently sitting in playoff spots.

Points collected now will be huge once the Ducks return to full health.

“It’s tight right now, as you can see, really tight,” said defenseman Kevin Bieksa. “You keep dropping, you’re right at the very bottom. A few points and a win or two and you’re right at the top. So you want to be in the thick of things. You don’t want to be swaying too far down. It’s important to get points.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Nolan Patrick is missing Flyers games, after all

Overall, it might be still true that Nolan Patrick and the Philadelphia Flyers dodged a bullet. Considering how shaken up he was thanks to a hit by Chris Wagner of the Anaheim Ducks, early – and ultimately hasty – optimism still strikes as a plus in the bigger picture.

Patrick thought he might play on Thursday, but that didn’t work out, and it appears as though the second pick of the 2017 NHL Draft will miss Saturday’s contest (at the Toronto Maple Leafs), too.

As NBC Sports Philadelphia notes, Patrick indicates that some of the delay may come down to concussion protocols.

“It’s my first time that I’ve ever had any kind of injury like this before,” Patrick said Friday. “It’s a lot of protocol things you have to go through. I think the league is pretty big on that kind of stuff. There’s a few things I’ve got to do first. I’m feeling good though.”

Considering how different these issues are from his hernia/lower-body ailments from 2016-17, it’s probably not fair to worry about Patrick’s overall sturdiness.

You can’t blame Patrick if he’s feeling a little frustrated with his recent luck, though. Overall, it would be foolish to rush things, even if it inspires a little antsiness in Patrick.

Tonight serves as an intriguing test for the Flyers, who go into Toronto with a 5-5-0 mark so far in 2017-18. They’ve lost two in a row, allowing 11 goals during that span. Philly’s also lost three of four, so you can probably label the Flyers as a “work in progress,” much like Patrick himself.

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.

Flyers dodge a bullet? Nolan Patrick available for Thursday

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Last night was rough for the Philadelphia Flyers even beyond losing 6-2 to the Anaheim Ducks, as Nolan Patrick left the ice clearly shaken up by a Chris Wagner hit.

To some surprise, Patrick practiced this morning, and Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the second pick of the 2017 NHL Draft is available to play against the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday.

Again, considering how Patrick reacted, this is quite the promising development. Here’s the hit in GIF form, too:

Since we’re here, let’s ponder how the 19-year-old is faring so far.

Burning that first year?

Interestingly, this hiccup happens after Patrick appeared in his ninth regular-season game for the Flyers. As a prominent prospect once expected to be the first pick before Nico Hischier‘s climb and an injury-ravaged season bumped him down a spot, it probably won’t shock many to see him stay.

Still, one could understand if the Flyers wanted to take a moment or two to ponder such a scenario.

Patrick really isn’t getting a ton of reps, at least not yet. He’s only averaging 12:29 TOI per game so far, and while an abbreviated contest last night lowers that number a touch, his highest number for a single game was 14:20.

Being that he isn’t the flashiest forward, it’s probably not surprising that he has a modest scoring total of one goal and two assists for three points so far. His underlying numbers are quite underwhelming, though, with poor possession stats and a meager 13 shots on goal.

None of this is anything to be overly concerned about in the grand scheme of things, and the Flyers don’t necessarily lose all that much even if he struggles as a rookie. It’s at least worth mentioning that he’s going through some growing pains, however, so Philly could be excused if they at least ponder some caution.

It becomes almost a no-brainer if there are even mild concerns about his health, but we’ll see.

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.