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NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Bruins vs. Rangers; Lightning vs. Sharks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Wednesday night. In the early game, the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins at 8:00 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

The Bruins are coming off a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night. The victory was their second in three games. It appears as though they’re starting to get the ball rolling in the right direction despite being without some key pieces.

They’ve been forced to deal with a significant amount of injuries to key veterans, including David Krejci, David Backes and Brad Marchand. Starting goaltender Tuukka Rask and top center Patrice Bergeron have also missed games at different times in 2017-18.

“Guys are stepping up. They see their chance, they’re getting more ice time, getting more looks,” defenseman Zdeno Chara said after the win over the Wild, per the Boston Herald. “It’s great to see that guys are taking advantage of those chances, and they want to play and earn their ice time.”

Boston currently sits in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve only skated in 13 games this season (no team has played in less games).

After getting off to a sluggish start, the Rangers have put together some positive momentum, as they’ve won four in a row and five of their last six contests.

Alain Vigneault’s hot seat seems to have cooled down (at least a little bit) now that the team has strung together a few wins.

One of the big reasons New York has been successful over the last week or so, is because their power play has starting cashing in on their opportunities. On Monday night, they scored three power play goals against Columbus. In their last five contests, they’ve gone 7-for-19 on the power play.

“We all have to be shooters first, and I think that’s the first thing that we tell each other,” Kevin Shattenkirk said, per the New York Post.

“I’m getting very clear lanes because everyone is shielding over to Mika (Zibanejad) because he is such a threat. So it’s important that I’m chipping in and getting my shots through, because at that time they’re going to have to pick someone.”

Despite being between the pipes for all four of the victories, Henrik Lundqvist‘s individual numbers are still lacking. He’s given up three goals or more in three of the four wins. He has a 3.07 goals-against-average and a .900 save percentage.

In the late game, the San Jose Sharks host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 10:30 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning will kick off their three-game California road trip with a visit to the Shark Tank. It’s never easy for an Eastern Conference team to head out to the West Coast, but the Lightning are well equipped to do on-ice damage in any city.

The Bolts are off to an incredible 11-2-2 start. A lot of the credit will be given to forwards like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who have 25 and 23 points respectively in 15 games. But you can’t ignore the contributions they’ve received from Brayden Point, Vladislav Namestnikov, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Andrei Vasilevskiy and many others.

This team may have missed the playoffs last year, but they’re healthy and clearly on a mission. They’ve dropped just one decision in regulation since Oct. 9, and they’ve showed absolutely no signs of slowing down.

Tonight’s contest should provide us with an interesting special teams battle, as Tampa has the second ranked power play in the league, while the Sharks own the second best penalty killing unit.

San Jose has been a whole lot better on the kill this year than they were last year. To learn more about their remarkable improvement, check out this story by NBC Sports Bay Area‘s Marcus White.

The Sharks’ biggest problem is that they can’t find the back of the net with any kind of regularity. Their 36 goals rank 29th in NHL behind only Carolina and Edmonton.

On a positive note, they’ll come into this game having won four in a row. They scored just one goal in regulation during their 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim on Saturday night, but they scored four times against the Predators last Wednesday night.

Is the offense starting to come around? We’ll find out tonight.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Bruins’ David Backes out 8 weeks after surgery to remove part of colon

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David Backes missed the start of the 2017-18 NHL season after undergoing treatment for diverticulitis. He returned to play five games for the Boston Bruins but will now miss an another eight weeks, the team announced on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Backes will have surgery to remove a portion of his colon to help manage his diverticulitis.

From Bruins Team Internist Dr. David Finn:

“The decision to have surgery was made in consultation with team physicians as well as outside specialists in the management of diverticulitis. David’s episode of diverticulitis at the beginning of the season was his second episode in two months and was complicated with an abscess (collection of infection adjacent to the colon) that required drainage. Repeated episodes, like what David experienced, have a very high likelihood of recurrence in the near term, which is why he was advised to have surgery to remove the area of colon causing the problem. It was determined that attempting to delay the surgery until after the season was an unacceptable risk to his health.

“David was cleared to play in the team’s games on October 19 while waiting for his colon to properly heal from the most recent episode of diverticulitis which sidelined him for the first five games of the 2017-18 season. David was at no additional risk while playing during this period, and he is having the surgery as soon as the medical team felt comfortable moving forward with the operation.”

While this may put a big bump into the 33-year-old Backes’ season, this is certainly the best direction to take for his long-term health.

Given that Backes, who has three years left on a deal signed last summer, will be sidelined for a couple of months, does this mean more yardwork ahead for Charlie McAvoy?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Video: Toffoli’s incredible buzzer-beater OT goal defeats Bruins

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Well, that was sudden.

Less than a full second remained on the game clock when the Kings lined up for an offensive zone faceoff in overtime against the Bruins.

In the end, that didn’t matter, though. With Jonathan Quick on the bench for the extra attacker during the three-on-three session, Anze Kopitar won a clean draw back to Tyler Toffoli, who wasted no time ripping his shot by Tuukka Rask, giving the Kings an incredible buzzer-beater overtime victory.

It was a faceoff executed to perfection, without a single flaw, as the Kings improved their record to 9-1-1 atop the Pacific Division.

“How long does it take to score a goal? Less than a second!” — Ted Orion, D3: The Mighty Ducks.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

Controversial decision goes Bruins’ way in win over Sharks

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The Boston Bruins came away with a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, but it wasn’t without controversy.

With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, the Sharks were pressing for the tying goal when Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin and defenseman Zdeno Chara dislodged the net.

By rule, a penalty is supposed to be imposed on the Bruins, but because there was under two minutes remaining in regulation (no time to serve the whole penalty), San Jose should have been awarded a penalty shot with a chance to tie the game.

Here’s the exact wording of the rule via the NHL:

63.5 Penalty Shot – If the goal post is deliberately displaced by a
goalkeeper or player during the course of a “breakaway,” a penalty
shot will be awarded to the non-offending team, which shot shall be
taken by the player last in possession of the puck.
If by reason of insufficient time in the regular playing time or by
reason of penalties already imposed, the minor penalty assessed to a
player for deliberately displacing his own goal post cannot be served
in its entirety within the regular playing time of the game or at any time
in overtime, a penalty shot shall be awarded against the offending
team.

The call was not made and the Bruins ended up winning the game. As you’d imagine, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer wasn’t pleased with the non-call.

“It looked pretty clear,” DeBoer said after the game, per WEEI.com. “I didn’t get an explanation why. So, I didn’t get an explanation for a lot of things tonight. So it didn’t surprise me.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Video: Joe Thornton scores milestone goal against the Bruins

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Playing career game No. 1,455, Joe Thornton moved into the top 20 in all-time NHL scoring with a goal against the team that selected him first overall way back in 1997.

That is career point No. 1,398, which ties him with Jari Kurri and into the top 20. Next up on the list is Dale Hawerchuk at 1,409 points, so it’s a good bet Thornton moves up another spot within the next several weeks.

Seems like appropriate timing given the opponent.

The Bruins selected Thornton with the first pick in the 1997 NHL Draft. He played more than seven seasons in Boston before getting dealt to San Jose during the 2005-06 campaign.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.