James O'Brien

Kris Letang, Dylan Larkin
AP

Letang is out, but Maatta’s in for Penguins

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It’s a good news/bad news situation for two key Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen who struggle to stay healthy.

The bad: Kris Letang cannot play against the Los Angeles Kings this late afternoon.

The good: Olli Maatta is back in the lineup, however.

This situation may require some tinkering.

The Penguins didn’t reveal what, exactly, is ailing Letang. It sounds like it’s a little touch-and-go at the moment.

The odd (but noteworthy) rise of the Red Wings

Jonathan Ericsson, Dylan Larkin, Danny DeKeyser
AP
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Remember how the Detroit Red Wings carried some dark horse potential into the season, then sagged and everyone assumed they were dead weight without Mike Babcock?

It turns out that might not be true.

It’s OK if that slipped under your radar, though.

That’s because the Red Wings’ red-hot run has lacked in a certain amount of “style points,” with Thursday’s 5-1 clubbing of the Arizona Coyotes being a rare exception. Just look at the small margin of error during this still fairly promising few weeks:

Nov. 16: 4-3 OT win at Ottawa
Nov. 18: 2-1 OT loss vs. Washington
Nov. 20: 3-2 win vs. Los Angeles
Nov. 21: 4-3 OT win at St. Louis
Nov. 25: 3-2 OT loss vs. Boston
Nov. 27: 4-3 OT win vs. Edmonton
Nov. 29: 2-1 OT loss vs. Florida
Dec. 1: 5-4 shootout win vs. Buffalo
Thursday night: 5-1 win vs. Arizona

Heading into that victory against Ottawa, the Red Wings were the definition of average at 8-8-1. Now they’re 14-8-4, a distant second in the Atlantic division … but above the wild card rabble.

Kinda sneaks up on some of us, right?

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Red Wings are free-and-clear. That was a fairly home-heavy schedule, and they’re not exactly blowing non-Coyotes opponents out.

Still, considering all the naysayers burying the post-Babs Red Wings mere weeks ago, this is an awfully interesting stretch.

Hoffman’s hot streak bests Kane’s red-hot line, at least for one night

Mike Hoffman
AP
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It’s tough to deny the notion that the trio of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane is the hottest line in the NHL, especially considering Kane’s exploits.

Sometimes it’s not so bad to be on almost as much of a hot streak, though.

Mike Hoffman already made an impression with a great goal on Thursday, yet that was not the extent of his exploits. In fact, it wasn’t even the most important goal the red-hot winger scored tonight, as he collected the 4-3 overtime winner as the Ottawa Senators beat the Chicago Blackhawks.

You can watch Kane’s point streak clincher here, although it certainly wasn’t the only one that extended his run to 21 points. He also collected two assists as Anisimov and Panarin managed goals of their own. (Anisimov had a two-point night while Panarin collected three).

Hoffman finished with those two goals plus an assist, Bobby Ryan had a goal and two helpers while Erik Karlsson piled on three assists of his own.

It was a tough night for goalies and a great night for players on hot streaks.

Oh, and as an aside, if you’re really looking for on-fire scorers, Matt Duchene‘s also killing it for Colorado right now …

Holtby carries Caps to sixth straight win as they edge Canadiens

Braden Holtby, Sven Andrighetto,
AP
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Some nights, the Montreal Canadiens will get by without Carey Price. Nights like Thursday probably make his absence more glaring, however.

That’s because the guy in the other team’s net was lights-out; Braden Holtby was the main reason why the Washington Capitals contained the Canadiens in a 3-2 win.

This gives the Capitals a six-game winning streak and quite the run. They’re now 10-2-1 in their last 13 games.

Washington now has the tiebreaker edge on the New York Rangers, who fell 2-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on this same evening.

This is a pretty convincing difference, too, as the Capitals own one more win (18 to New York’s 17) with three games in hand.

Really, the bigger debate may be: did Washington just make an argument that they are the East’s top team instead of Montreal?

Bat that one around in the comments, even if it’s ultimately a ponderous debate for December.

It’s tough for anyone to assemble any kind of argument that Holtby was the best goalie on the ice in Montreal, though.

Erik Johnson is tough, shakes off Rick Nash’s skate to his face

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Hockey players are so tough that a good chunk of hockey (and other sports) fans are tired of hearing about it.

For the rest, Erik Johnson provides the latest jaw-dropping moment of resilience, as he somehow seemingly only suffered a cut lip after Rick Nash‘s skate caught him in the face in a freak accident.

(Do note that these situations can change, and if things are actually worse for Johnson, it will be noted.)

Want a few GIFs/additional angles of that scary moment? Here you go.

Wild stuff.

Update: The Avalanche ended up beating the Rangers 2-1, so that might make the soreness feel justified.