James O'Brien

Avalanche takes on the Sharks

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks, Avs hope to keep distant playoff hopes alive

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The second game of that series will see the San Jose Sharks host the Colorado Avalanche at the SAP Center, starting at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Even in a best-case scenario, it’s difficult to imagine the Colorado Avalanche or San Jose Sharks storming to a playoff berth this season. Many members of each team seem to know that.

According to Sports Club Stats, the Avs boast a .1 percent chance to make the postseason while the Sharks have a 2.6 percent chance. You get the impression that mathematical elimination will just be a formality at some point.

Matt Duchene told the Denver Post that the Avalanche just want to make every game count, a sentiment that’s likely echoed by the Sharks.

“We’re both still fighting, and it’s not over until it’s over,” Duchene said. “We’re not done until we’re mathematically eliminated. If we go 6-0 in the last six games, we’re going to give ourselves a shot. We have to make these games count — all six of them.”

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Despite their current predicaments, the two teams boast some talent that could entertain on NBCSN tonight.

The Sharks employ a group of forwards that are talented enough that it’s tough to believe they’ll almost certainly be watching the playoffs on TV with the rest of us. For all the controversy surrounding Joe Thornton, he’s had a great season feeding Joe Pavelski while Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture also rank as big offensive threats. Don’t forget dragon-loving hybrid defenseman Brent Burns, either.

Colorado isn’t far behind.

It’s been a disappointing season for the likes of Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, yet the Avalanche are enjoying production from veterans (Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay) and guys deep in their primes (Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly).

Expect to see two desperate hockey teams on NBCSN tonight, then.

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers won’t fool with Penguins on Rivalry Night

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Consol Energy Center to kick off Wednesday’s doubleheader, with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Philadelphia Flyers are already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, yet the Pittsburgh Penguins probably know all too well not to take their local rivals lightly.

If the history between the two franchises wasn’t already enough, the Flyers won the two teams’ previous two games so far in 2014-15 and are currently riding a six-game winning streak against the Penguins stretching back to last season.

In a sports age where athletes are increasingly chummy with each other, the animosity feels pretty real between these two teams.

That seems most apparent when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin take on Flyers stars like Claude Giroux. You get the impression that Giroux “kicks it up a notch” against the Penguins, and it often makes for great hockey theater.

Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $25,000 league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $2,000. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Enter Now!

Both teams are dealing with some injury issues, particularly to their defensive groups.

Luke Schenn’s season is toast for the Flyers. It’s hard to imagine Kris Versteeg or Christian Ehrhoff getting in the Penguins’ lineup on Wednesday, so a forward might need to slide back to the Pittsburgh blueline to give the team three different pairings (otherwise, they might have to roll with five defensemen).

Pittsburgh hopes to build some breathing room against the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division, but they know all too well that the Flyers won’t make it easy.

PHT Morning Skate: Visual evidence of Drew Miller’s close call

scarymiller
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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.

It was a scary scene for Detroit Red Wings forward Drew Miller when he caught a skate to the eye last night, and it left a scary wound. What’s really scary is how much worse it could have been:

More on that situation in this post.

Japers’ Rink captures just how peerless Alex Ovechkin has been when it comes to putting the puck in the net. (Japers’ Rink)

Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $25,000 league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $2,000. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Enter Now!

The Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks seem to be in the same situation at this point in the season. (Denver Post)

Three top contenders who face serious “choking” risks. (The Hockey News)

Hey, it’s April Fools Day today. Read about one of the most foolish things an NHL official has ever done. Also: take a lot of things with a grain of salt on this Wednesday. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Sabres ‘win’ latest tank war against Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes v Buffalo Sabres
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The battle to battle ineffectively enough to end the season with the best draft odds will likely remain uncomfortable for fans of the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres, but at least those extra-awkward games between the two teams are over now.

Of course, it’s the clearest loss for those who enjoy the strange dissonance of it all. The Sabres ended up winning this round 4-1, which essentially means good news for the Coyotes.

It was a closer game than that score indicates, mind you, as Buffalo inflated the difference with two empty-net goals.

With this game out of the way, the Buffalo Sabres move to 50 standings points and six games remaining while the Coyotes stay at 54 points with five games left. The Edmonton Oilers are in third place, yet with 59 points and six games on the docket, they seem unlikely to sink any lower.

The Coyotes and Sabres are likely going toe-to-toe for the last spot, which made for a really odd week for observers. Now they can go back to a rather odd form of scoreboard watching, which seems a little more comfortable for most of us.

Immediate gains

This serves as a decent confidence-booster for two embattled goalies in Mike Smith and Anders Lindback, even if the improvements may be merely incremental.

(One would be hard pressed to find a stranger month than what Smith has experienced in March, by the way. He’s put up more-or-less elite individual stats, yet he’s languished with a 3-9-0 record this month. Weird.)

It was a nice game for Andrej Meszaros (two goals) and Rasmus Ristolainen, who hit eight goals in 2014-15 with an empty-netter. Sabres fans might groan at this result, but the players seem happy with a victory, at least:

Strange times.

Tarasenko left limping after Blues loss

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The St. Louis Blues must wait at least another night to clinch a playoff spot, but that was far from the most troubling news from a 4-1 loss against the Vancouver Canucks.

The severity of the injury is currently unclear, but fans are in high alert over the condition of Vladimir Tarasenko, who suffered a lower-body issue on Monday. We may not know more about the situation until Tuesday (or maybe later).

NHL.com’s Lou Korac noticed the Russian star walking with a limp:

Information from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford wasn’t much rosier:

It stands as a cause for concern, although walking with a limp is probably better than not walking at all.