Author: James O'Brien

Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos

NHL on NBCSN: East’s elite meet as Penguins host Lightning

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Consol Energy Center at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Even with Sidney Crosby swollen and sidelined, hockey fans should be in for a treat when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

Plenty of star power, plenty of players fans should get to know better

Including Crosby, there are 13 players in the NHL with at least 30 points, and four of them play for these two teams: Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson.

Some casual fans probably look at the Lightning as Stamkos, maybe Victor Hedman and quite a few anonymous players, but the truth is that Tampa Bay is one of the deepest team in the East (if not the NHL).

Johnson quietly has 30 points in 31 contests as he has enjoyed great chemistry on a fantastic line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. The Lightning might have to go without Palat today, however, so both teams will be missing a noteworthy forward.

In other words, there should be no shortage of star wattage tonight, even with key injuries in mind.

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

Cream of the conference crop

Each team currently stands on top of its respective division; the Penguins are 19-6-4 for 42 standings points while the Bolts are 19-9-3 for 41.

The Lightning have been stumbling a bit lately, as they’ve dropped four of six games, including a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday. This represents thes second contest of a five-game road trip.

The Penguins have been trading wins and losses lately, most recently dropping a 4-3 shootout decision in a thriller against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There’s a solid chance we’ll see a showdown between Marc-Andre Fleury and Ben Bishop, two clear No. 1 goalies who have enjoyed strong starts to their 2014-15 campaigns. Whatever the case may be, the men in net are likely to be tested often tonight.

Last season, the Penguins went 3-0-0 against the Lightning. Will Tampa Bay make something of a statement by beating one of the East’s best? We’ll see on NBCSN.

Chara says he needs to improve ‘every part’ of his game

Zdeno Chara

The Boston Bruins haven’t been able to win in the two games since Zdeno Chara returned from injury, and the big captain told that he isn’t happy with his own play.

“The first guy, I’m looking at myself. I’ve got to be better and I have to work to be at the top of my game. When you’re not scoring, that means defensively you just have to be better to defend games like this,” Chara said. “Every part of my game [needs improvement]. There are no excuses. Like I said after my first game, I missed whatever time, but I have to work very hard to get where I want to be and I will get there.”

While the 37-year-old’s possession stats look fine from those two losses, he’s shown rust in certain areas, as discusses:

Chara has had a few good moments where he looks like the prime defensive stopper that he is, but the four penalties over two games against Chicago and Ottawa clearly also reveal a player that’s behind the speed of the play right now. He’s cheating rather than moving his feet and anticipating the play, and that’s pretty indicative of a player that’s waiting for things to slow down around.

This week presents an interesting test for Chara and the Bruins, who’ve lost two in a row and seven of their last nine games. They face three road games: Tuesday at Nashville, Wednesday at Minnesota and Friday at Winnipeg.

If that run goes poorly, it might be time to get a little concerned.

PHT Morning Skate: Ugly Christmas sweaters and Ovechkin’s heart of gold


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.

Plenty of NHL players do great work for charities and other organizations, but Alex Ovechkin has really made waves in particular with some heartwarming stuff lately. His latest act of kindness falls in line with some great actions from the Washington Capitals star. (

So, uh, this is odd.

Speaking of odd, will Christmas sweaters/holiday celebrations essentially furnish us with Halloween-level goofy photos of hockey players? This photo of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Demers makes a strong argument in that regard:

So much to take in.

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

The evolution of Zdeno Chara’s scariness. (The Hockey News)

The Colorado Avalanche understand why Paul Stastny left. (The Denver Post)