Author: James O'Brien

Jakub Voracek, Jonas Gustavsson, Niklas Kronwall

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers face Red Wings on Rivalry Night


NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Detroit Red Wings host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Madison Square Garden at 6:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Many of the trends indicate that the Philadelphia Flyers are moving downward (and could continue that path) while the Detroit Red Wings seem primed to keep climbing. It’s Philly’s job to deny that narrative on “Rivalry Night,” then.

The Red Wings have three of their last four, including a 4-3 decision against the Ottawa Senators on Monday. Meanwhile, the Flyers only have one win in their last six games and have only managed three standings points in that same span. Steve Mason’s 46-save shutout was impressive on Monday, yet it still resulted in a shootout defeat (and plenty of frustration).

There’s at least one obvious area that favors Philly: recent head-to-head matches. They beat the Red Wings 4-2 earlier this season and have won three of their last four meetings.

Health is still a factor for Detroit

Was a two-goal outburst by perpetually injured forward Stephen Weiss a sign of better things to come for the Red Wings or just a mere coincidence?

Whatever the case may be, Detroit isn’t quite 100 percent just yet. We’ll find out later today if Pavel Datsyuk is good to go, with surmising that Tomas Jurco would be bumped from the lineup if the star can play. It doesn’t sound like Brendan Smith will be ready to return, though.

Jimmy Howard’s likely to start. The Flyers could either reward Mason for his strong work on Monday or roll with Ray Emery, who won against Detroit in this season’s first matchup.


Again, the two teams’ schedules implies that one team could be headed up and the other will have to fight to avoid slippage.

Five of Detroit’s next six games are at home and that trend stretches through much of December; they only play three road games through Dec. 23. In other words, this a time in which the Red Wings hope to start stocking up standings points.

Survival is probably the goal for the Flyers, on the other hand. Including tonight’s game, six of their next seven contests are on the road. They only play five home games through Jan. 3.

Philly may also want to avoid a shootout tonight, as the Flyers have lost all three this season and eight in a row overall.


 It’s an interesting test for two historic franchises hoping to stay (or advance) in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Shaw returns to Blackhawks’ lineup tonight

Winnipeg Jets v Chicago Blackhawks

After missing three games with an upper-body injury, Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw is good to go on Wednesday, reports.

He’ll be there to pester the Colorado Avalanche and maybe even drop the mitts, at least when that sort of thing is necessary (like when he fought Antoine Roussel in a game against the Dallas Stars).

“Obviously I’ll bring it whenever we need it,” Shaw said. “I felt that was the perfect opportunity to do it, but I’m only 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. I can’t go out there and fight every night.”

The 23-year-old described the injury as something that was lingering, so Shaw and the team decided to let it heal up.

After scoring 20 goals and 39 points in 80 regular season games and eight in 12 postseason contests last season, his numbers (six points in 18 games) have been a little disappointing so far in 2014-15. Perhaps a little rest might help him up his productivity going forward?

With five wins in their last seven games, Chicago’s been playing well lately. That said, they have three more road games left on their six-game “circus trip” and play seven of nine away from home through Dec. 13, so they’ll probably welcome the spark Shaw can bring.

Are the Jets and Coyotes being too loyal to their starting goalies?

Arizona Coyotes v Vancouver Canucks

Loyalty is important in both sports and life. Still, there are times when you have to wonder if it can go too far.

The Arizona Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets should be asking themselves that question when it comes to how much they’re playing their starting goalies versus their backups. Sometimes, a guy’s resume and paycheck can only go so far, especially on teams that don’t have the luxury to suffer through prolonged slumps.

The situations are a little different in that Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec hasn’t been disastrous while Coyotes No. 1 Mike Smith kind of has been, but just take a look at their numbers versus the work of their second bananas:

Mike Smith (pictured): 4-11-2, .893 save percentage, 3.26 GAA, zero shutouts. He hasn’t won since Nov. 7 and only has two wins since Oct. 28.

Devan Dubnyk: 5-0-1, .926 save percentage, 2.34 GAA and one shutout. Only has four appearances in November.


Ondrej Pavelec: 7-8-2, .917 save percentage, 2.29 GAA, one shutout. Is currently on a four-game losing streak and hasn’t won in five appearances.

Michael Hutchinson: 4-1-1, .947 save percentage, 1.50 GAA, one shutout. Just eight goals allowed so far this season. Waited a week between his most recent and second-most recent starts. Played about two periods worth of hockey in October.


A lot of things can factor into a backup putting up better numbers than a No. 1 guy.

Sometimes a backup gets nothing but lesser competition to chew up. Many netminders are a little tougher to deal with when there’s less known about them (this could help Hutchinson). Furthering that last point, small sample sizes can mislead.

Still, when the results are this lopsided, shouldn’t teams like the Coyotes and Jets decide to put their urges to play their far more highly paid netminders aside for potential short-term gains? Rolling with a hot backup doesn’t necessarily condemn the starter, either; the Los Angeles Kings dealt with injuries and inconsistency from Jonathan Quick only to see him turn things around during the playoffs in recent seasons, as just one example.

(Quick’s been putting together a stellar regular season so far, too.)

Staying the course seems noble, but sometimes you need to take chances to improve. Neither franchise wants to miss the playoffs once again, yet it’s particularly unpleasant to imagine them doing it from self-inflicted wounds.

Ducks aren’t sure how severe Beauchemin’s upper-body injury is

Anaheim Ducks v Dallas Stars

From the mumps to plain old injuries, it’s been a bumpy time for the Anaheim Ducks. Francois Beauchemin dealt with that illness earlier this season and suffered an upper-body injury last night, so he’s had a taste of both.

It’s unclear how serious that issue is, but the team expects to provide an update soon.

The 34-year-old missed several games with the mumps, so again, it hasn’t been an easy start. The Ducks have found ways to win, as last night’s 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames brought their winning streak to three games. Still, they’re limping a bit right now, with Beauchemin added to a sick/injured list that includes Clayton Stone, Dany Heatley, John Gibson, Mark Fistric and Ben Lovejoy.

Beauchemin’s been logging about 23 minutes per game, so a prolonged setback could hurt the Ducks quite a bit.

PHT Morning Skate: Hockey insiders want fighting to stay


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The role of the hockey enforcers might be dwindling and fighting continues to decline in the NHL, yet The Hockey News’ poll of player agents, executives and other insiders indicates that those inside the sport are still in favor of fights remaining a part of the game. About the only thing they seemingly want out are “staged fights.” (The Hockey News)

Defector: The Alex Mogilny Story. (Sportsnet)

Down Goes Brown’s quarter-season awards. (Grantland)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $1,400. Starts Wednesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The coaching adjustments that helped the Sedin twins turn things around. (SB Nation)

Another look at Pat Quinn’s legacy. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Clever stuff from an Edmonton Oilers fan: