Jason Brough

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 03: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Ryan Callahan #24 of the Tampa Bay Lightning battle for the puck during Game One of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 3, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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‘Hawks-Bolts is ‘going to be a good one’

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of their longest winning streak in 12 years, though they’ve once again been outdone by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Last season’s Stanley Cup Final participants stand as the NHL’s two hottest teams entering Thursday night’s marquee matchup, with the Blackhawks on a franchise-record 12-game run and the resurgent Lightning vying for a seventh consecutive win.

No buildup was really necessary for the Blackhawks’ first visit to Tampa since their pivotal 2-1 victory in Game 5 of a finals series it won in six, but both teams’ stellar recent play has added to the hype.

Chicago (32-13-4) has outscored opponents 47-22 since last losing Dec. 27, with Tampa Bay (25-17-4) nearly as impressive in compiling a 24-13 margin over its best stretch of the season.

The Lightning can earn their longest streak since winning a club-record eight straight during their 2003-04 championship season by halting a four-game skid against Chicago including last year’s finals. The Blackhawks earned a 1-0 home win Oct. 24 on Jonathan Toews‘ goal 17 seconds into overtime.

“We turned the page on last year, but the storyline is going to read, ‘the Stanley Cup Finals a year later’,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “But they won (Tuesday) and their streak is at 12 and we’re at six so that’s 18 wins between us. It’s going to be a good one.”

The Blackhawks’ dominant stretch has been led by the same core that carried them to their third title in six years last spring. Patrick Kane has 21 of his league-leading 71 points during the streak, Toews has eight goals and five assists and Duncan Keith 12 points and a plus-11 rating.

Rookie Artemi Panarin has done his part as well by amassing six goals and eight assists, including two of the latter to support Corey Crawford‘s 38 saves in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Nashville that opened a three-game trip.

“We’re getting contributions from everybody, all four lines, all six (defensemen),” Keith said. “It’s one game at a time. I think we’re trying to be smart and playing a good team game.”

Crawford owns a 1.88 goals-against average in winning nine consecutive starts.

“He’s been amazing,” said Kane, who scored his 30th goal Tuesday to already match a career high. “He just seems like he’s got a whole new focus in the net, and some nights he looks unbeatable. It’s pretty fun to watch. I think he’s very underrated as far as goalies go around the league, but we feel we have the best kept secret with him.”

The Lightning are well aware of Crawford’s talents, as he held them to 10 goals in the finals and stopped 21 shots in this season’s previous meeting. The steady goaltender helped Chicago limit Steven Stamkos to one assist in the 2015 championship series.

Stamkos leads Tampa Bay with 20 goals but has taken a back seat of late to young Russians Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. Both had a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s 6-4 win over Edmonton, giving Namestnikov 10 points over the unbeaten run highlighted by a hat trick Friday against Pittsburgh.

Kucherov has five goals and four assists over a six-game point streak and 26 points in 20 games since Dec. 5, second only to Kane (30) over that span.

Ben Bishop figures to be back in goal after Andrei Vasilevskiy worked the Edmonton game. The All-Star has yielded three goals over a three-start winning streak to lower his GAA to 1.97, second in the NHL.

As Wild’s offense goes dry, Parise feeling the pressure to produce

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The Minnesota Wild didn’t play a terrible game last night in Anaheim — the entire contest was fairly evenly matched — but the bottom line was that they lost again, this time by a score of 3-1.

It was the fifth straight defeat for the Wild. They’ve scored just four goals in those five games.

Tonight, they play in Los Angeles; Saturday, in San Jose.

They’ll be underdogs in both.

“We’re pushing, but I think the execution just isn’t there,” coach Mike Yeo told reporters. “Whether we’re tight or we’re holding the sticks a little too tight. You can see there are opportunities for shots and pucks are bouncing over our sticks.”

This morning, the Wild announced they’d called up forward Jordan Schroeder from AHL Iowa. He’s expected to be in the lineup against the Kings, assuming there are no travel snafus.

Schroeder has appeared in 11 games for Minnesota this season. He’s only scored once, with no assists. So, no, not the most likely of saviors, though he does have 10 goals and 10 assists in the minors.

Minnesota’s only goal against the Ducks came courtesy Jarret Stoll, a fourth-liner.

Meanwhile, Zach Parise, the Wild’s leader in goals (16), managed just a single shot while skating on a line with Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund.

“Our line’s not scoring, and our job is to score, and we’re not,” said Parise, who couldn’t say why that was. All he knew was, “We need to shape up a little bit.”

Of course, it won’t be easy to break out tonight. The Kings have the second-lowest goals-against average in the NHL.

Therrien gets vote of confidence; Price recovery ‘slower than we expected’

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Michel Therrien isn’t getting fired. Marc Bergevin said so this morning.

The vote of confidence from Montreal’s general manager came after his head coach’s job security became a hot topic as the Canadiens’ slump extended into January.

Since starting the season 19-4-3, the Habs have won just four times in their last 21 games.

“I’m responsible for everything that happens with this team,” Bergevin told reporters.

Now that the coaching staff’s status has been assured, the big question becomes whether Bergevin will try to improve his roster prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

He doesn’t seem to be interested in any rentals:

Bergevin’s trade-deadline strategy may also depend on the status of injured netminder Carey Price, who won’t be back until February at the earliest.

“It’s slower than we expected,” Bergevin said of his star goalie’s recovery. “There hasn’t been a setback. I don’t know exactly the date, but I don’t think he will be back (before) three weeks or a month.”

The Canadiens are back in action Saturday in Toronto.

Related: Therrien was ‘disappointed’ by Habs fans who booed Markov

Flyers will be without Couturier for tonight’s game in Pittsburgh

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 13:  Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers gets the puck past Anton Khudobin #31 of the Carolina Hurricanes in the second period at Wells Fargo Center on April 13, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Sean Couturier has a lower-body injury and will not play tonight in Pittsburgh.

From philly.com:

The loss is huge because Couturier is the Flyers’ top defensive forward, and he usually shadows Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, the Penguins’ high-scoring stars. He also had 14 points in the last 14 games and has been arguably the Flyers’ best player in the last five-plus weeks.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol claimed he expected Couturier to be ready to play Thursday, but that after he received treatment, it was determined he couldn’t go.

With Couturier out, center Jordan Weal could make his Flyers debut. Weal was acquired in the trade that sent Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to Los Angeles.

Tonight is a big game for both teams, given the standings:

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The Flyers lost their last outing in painful fashion. On Tuesday, with just eight seconds remaining in regulation, they surrendered the game-deciding goal to the Maple Leafs.

Prior to that defeat, the Flyers had gone 5-0-1 in their last six.

Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made

ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 23: Jaden Schwartz #9 of the St. Louis Blues shoots the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Scottrade Center on February 23, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Before he makes a trade — if he makes a trade — Blues GM Doug Armstrong wants to see what his team looks like when healthy.

“Ultimately, you want to deal from knowledge from what your team is. Right now, we don’t have that knowledge,” Armstrong told ESPN yesterday. “One of the areas we liked about our team was going to be our balanced scoring, being a difficult team to check. Right now, because of the injuries, we’re not as difficult to check. We don’t have that second or third wave we thought we’d have.”

Currently, the big missing piece is 23-year-old Jaden Schwartz, out since October after fracturing his ankle.

But that’s expected to change soon. Schwartz practiced with his teammates yesterday. He’s not ready to go yet, but once the All-Star break is over, he could be back in the lineup.

“Certain things with the ankle feel better than others,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “The ones that don’t feel as good, I have to work on that. It’s a week to week thing. … (The ankle is) not quite normal yet. I have to do some things to get it back to speed.”

St. Louis has missed the goals that Schwartz provides. After 50 games, the Blues have the 17th-ranked offense (2.5 goals per game). Last year, they finished fifth (2.9), when Schwartz’s 28 goals were second on the team to only Vladimir Tarasenko‘s 37.