Claude Giroux

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers seek encore vs. red hot Capitals

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Washington Capitals host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Verizon Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

With a little under half the season left to go, the Flyers are a long shot to make the playoffs, but if they keep playing like they have lately, anything is possible. Philadelphia went 3-1-0 on their recent homestand, including a commanding 7-3 victory over the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.

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“The home fans get behind us and we like playing here,” Flyers forward Brayden Schenn told CSN Philly. “I’m not sure how much home games we have left this year, but we have to make them count.

“We’re going to go on the road here in Washington. We have to be ready for another hard-fought game. They have great players and the team is playing real well right now. That is a team we are trying to catch.”

Washington will be a big test for the Flyers as they try to build off of their successful four-game stint. The Capitals have been playing like an elite team lately with a 13-1-4 record over their last 18 contests. They didn’t hold a playoff spot when that hot streak started but they now have a five-point cushion in the battle for a postseason berth.

Braden Holtby has been a huge part of the Capitals’ recent success, posting a 1.98 GAA and .935 save percentage over the course of their run. He struggled last season, but rather than change course or at least hedge their bets by getting a netminder that would compete for the starting gig, Washington signed a clear understudy in Justin Peters. At the time Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said it was about sending the right message to Holtby about his role with the team.

Now Holtby’s paying MacLellan back for his trust, although the netminder quick to spread the credit around.

“There hasn’t been a guy in this locker room who hasn’t deserved it on any given night,” Holtby said, per CSN Washington. “We truly believe we have the most depth in the National Hockey League and guys are really defining their roles in how they’re going to help the team win. When you do that, we pass that hat around a lot.”

There certainly will be a lot of other capable talent on the ice and not just on Washington’s side. Between Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek with Philadelphia and Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom with Washington, this contest has no shortage of heavy hitters or potential heroes.

Although Washington has a substantially better record, this is anyone’s game. After all, the Flyers are the only squad that’s managed to beat Washington so far this month and they desperately need another two points tonight.

Get your game notes: Wild at Penguins

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Minnesota Wild at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Matchup between one team in need of a win (MIN) and another team looking to keep pace in their conference (PIT) and potentially overtake their division leader (NYI).

• MIN fading: Since Dec. 16, MIN has lost 11 of its last 13 (2-7-4) and is 0-4-1 in its last 5.

• During this 13-game stretch, MIN has lost all 4 games that have reached OT (and lost them all in OT).

• MIN: Outscored by 2.80 goals/game in last 5 games – tied (with BUF) for worst margin in the NHL among any team’s last 5 games. (Elias)

• The Wild’s rough patch can be attributed to the quality of opponents they have faced including league-leading NSH and CHI (twice) – a team only 2 points back of the Preds – in their last 3 games.

• The road ahead looks a bit less formidable with upcoming matchups against BUF, AZ & CBJ before the All-Star break.

• This is the worst 13-game stretch (8 points) for MIN since: Dec. 6-Jan. 2 last season (8 points: 4-9-0)

• MIN last lost 11 of 13 games: Dec. 20-Jan. 19, 2012 (2-9-2)

• This is the worst 5-game stretch (1 point) for MIN since: Dec. 19-Dec. 31 last season (0-6-0)

• Mike Yeo, rumored to be on the coaching hot seat, received this vote of confidence from MIN GM Chuck Fletcher on Thursday, “Not even factored into the equation – he‟s our coach. We do not have a coaching issue.”

• Yeo served as an Assistant Coach for the Penguins (2005-10) after being an assistant on their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from 2000-05.

• The funeral for J.P. Parise, former NHLer and father of MIN F Zach Parise, who died of lung cancer last Wednesday at the age of 73, will be Friday – an off day for the Wild – in Edina, MN.

• Zach missed 2 games last week to be with his family and returned to play in the Wild‟s last two games.

• PIT slumping: 3 wins in last 9 games (3-4-2) after 22-6-4 start – this is their worst stretch all season.

• With a loss, PIT will have lost 7 of 10 games for the first time since Feb. 20-Mar. 12, 2011 (3-3-4).

• PIT lost 2 straight at home (first time this season) after starting season 15-5-1 at CONSOL.

• MIN lost 3 straight on the road – tonight is 2nd of 3-gm road trip & stretch of 7 road games in next 9 games.

• Before the first head-to-head meeting this season (4-1 PIT win at MIN on Nov. 4):

• MIN was 7-3-0 (14 points)…since they are 11-15-5 (27 points)

• PIT was 7-2-1 (15 points)…since they are 18-8-5 (41 points)

WILD TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Zach Parise is t-2nd on the team in goals (14 – with Nino Niederreiter; 1 behind Jason Zucker) and 2nd in points (30). Parise is the only player on the Wild with double figures in goals and assists (16).

• Parise: 0 points, -2 rating since returning to team on Saturday (missed 2 games – father’s death)

• Parise career vs. PIT: 37 points (15G-22A) in 46 GP.

• Jason Pominville leads the team in points (32) and assists (23).

• Pominville: led team in goals (30) & points (60) last season.

• Pominville career vs. PIT: 23 points (10G-13A) in 32 GP.

• Ryan Suter leads the league in time on ice/game (29:35) after leading the league in this category the past two seasons…Suter is the lone representative from MIN to be selected to this season’s All-Star Game.

• Suter: 4th on team in points (22).

• Suter: 2nd on team in assists (21 – t-10th among d-men).

• Suter has gone without a point in his last 9 games and scored his only goal in MIN‟s season opener against COL on Oct. 9.

• Nino Niederreiter is tied for 2nd on the team in goals (14) but has gone the last 12 games without one.

• Niederreiter this season – first 29 games: 14G-3A, last 12 games: 0G-3A

• Niklas Backstrom is expected to make his 4th straight start in net: 0-4-2, 3.71 GAA, .878 SV% in last 7 games (5 starts).

PENGUINS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Evgeni Malkin: leads team in goals (19 – t-8th in NHL) & points (47 – t-4th in NHL).

• Malkin: 1 goal, 1 assist in consecutive games.

• Malkin is one of just 3 Pens to have played in all 41 games this season (Nick Spaling, Rob Scuderi).

• Malkin & Sidney Crosby were the PIT selections to this season’s All-Star Game.

• Malkin (47 points) & Crosby (44) are the 2nd-highest scoring duo in the NHL this season behind Jakub Voracek (52) & Claude Giroux (48) of the Flyers.

• Sidney Crosby leads team in assists (32 – t-3rd in NHL); 2nd in points (44 – t-8th in NHL).

• Crosby: scored in last game (1G-5A in last 4 games).

• Crosby career vs. MIN: 10 points (3G-7A) in 8 GP

• Marc-Andre Fleury 2 wins in his last 8 starts (2-3-2, 2.80 GAA, .904 SV%)…but is still having a strong first half of the season:

• 6 shutouts through 33 games lead the NHL – already his career-best for a season.

• 2.16 GAA and .926 SV% this season would be his best season averages in his 11-season career (current bests: 2.32 GAA in 2010-11, .921 SV% in 2007-08).

• Career vs. MIN: 0-5-0, 3.76 GAA, .853 SV%

• Minnesota is the only team (other than Pittsburgh) that Fleury has not defeated in his career.

Three reasons to wonder if Babcock might pick the Flyers

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We’re not sure if TSN/NBC insiders Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger are just speculating, or if they’ve been told something, but it’s worth mentioning that both have gone on the radio recently and raised the possibility of the Philadelphia Flyers trying to hire current Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who, of course, has no contract with any team past this season.

Some may look at where the Flyers are in the standings and snicker at this suggestion. But here are three reasons to wonder if maybe, just possibly, Babcock could pick Philly over staying in Detroit:

1. The Red Wings’ two core forwards, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, are both well into their 30s. The Flyers’ two core forwards, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, are still in their 20s. While it’s true the Wings have some excellent young wingers on the roster (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar) and in the system (Anthony Mantha), their long-term future at the all-important center position is less certain. In Philadelphia, the future down the middle could be Giroux, Scott Laughton, and Sean Couturier. That’s pretty promising. Plus, the Flyers also have some good young wingers on the roster (Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn).

2. When Babcock won his only Stanley Cup in 2007-08, he had a blue line that featured Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, and Niklas Kronwall. Only the latter is still around, and he’s 34 now. While the Flyers’ blue line is arguably its biggest current weakness, there are promising pieces on the way, including Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim. Those three won’t be NHL-ready overnight, but would there be a better coach than Babcock to guide their development? And, more importantly, might he see more promise in the future of the Flyers’ blue line than Detroit’s?

3. Money. The Flyers aren’t afraid to spend it. As McKenzie noted on TSN 1050, per Nichols on Hockey, “they’ve got an owner who’s not going to worry about putting a 5 in front of anybody’s salary, and a lot of zeroes after it for a coach.” Not saying Babcock is all about the money, and Detroit should at the very least be willing to make him the highest-paid coach in the NHL. But if Ed Snider sets his sights on Babcock, you just know he’s going to open his checkbook in a big way.

Now, having said all that, the consensus is that Babcock will stay in Detroit. Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Red Wings, including their long-term future. But until he picks a team, the speculation will continue. For now, we’ll keep the Flyers on the list of possibilities.

So, who was the biggest All-Star snub?

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The remainder of the 2015 NHL All-Star Game rosters were announced on Saturday.

While some “snubs” are probably quite happy about getting a break (especially Joe Thornton, who’s taking a nice trip to Cabo), you can bet plenty of fan bases will gripe about players who didn’t make it, even if they might not realize that all 30 NHL teams must be represented in some form.

Well, if you’re going to gripe about it, why not do it in the comfy confines of PHT? Before you vote for the biggest snub of them all, however, let’s take a look at who’s on the roster:

Fan voted: Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards: 
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Defensemen: 
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets

Goalies: 
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Rookies: 
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

OK, did you get a chance to scan the list? Good. Pick the biggest nub in the poll below. If your guy was double-snubbed (gasp), then write him in.

Crosby, Ovechkin headline 2015 All-Star Game roster

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We already know that Zemgus Girgensons was voted into the 2015 All-Star Game alongside Chicago Blackhawks players Corey Crawford, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews. The NHL trotted out the rest of the best today:

36 Additional All-Stars

Forwards
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Defensemen
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets

Goaltenders
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

6 Rookies

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

The “fantasy draft” will take place on Jan. 23, with the captains for each team being announced sometime next week.