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NHL on NBCSN: Detroit Red Wings visit the Minnesota Wild

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a Sunday meeting between the Detroit Red Wings, who visit the Minnesota Wild at 7 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here

In terms of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings’ chances of earning a postseason berth tucked nicely between incredibly slim and nil.

With 18 games left coming into Sunday’s action, the Red Wings sit seven points behind the surging Carolina Hurricanes in the battle for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, and there are four other teams in front of them vying for that same spot, with two of those on lengthy winning streaks.

They’re, of course, not mathematically eliminated, but if they lose their third straight game on Sunday in Minnesota against the Wild, mathematics may just become a formality in what’s been a disappointing season for Detroit.

The Wings have been involved on the wrong end of a pile of one-goal games this season, and their latest — a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets — produced some frustration after the game.

“It’s another one-goal loss here,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We can say that we were close and that we battled hard in the third but there’s no reason for us to be in that situation.”

Asked if losing tight affairs is getting old, defenseman Niklas Kronwall didn’t shy away from an honest answer.

“Yeah. To say the least,” Kronwall said. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s been said before. It’s one of the reasons why we are where we’re at.”

The Wild, meanwhile, enter the game sporting the same two-game losing streak as the Red Wings, but with much more on the line.

Minnesota got beat by the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday and then followed that up with getting rocked 7-1 by the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.

Both losses, including Friday’s embarrassment, came on the road, where the Wild have been far from productive. Sunday’s game brings Minnesota back to Xcel Energy Center, where they sport one of the best home records in the league.

A lengthy losing streak in the Central Division can spell disaster for postseason hopes (just ask the St. Louis Blues), and with the Anaheim Ducks and the Colorado Avalanche vying alongside the Wild for one of the two wildcard spots, Minnesota is well aware the bleeding needs to stop.

“That’s the way this game goes,” Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau said, per Sarah McLellan. “It’s tough to watch it. That’s why when it’s your turn, you gotta win.”

It has all the markings of a proverbial trap game for the Wild, and one they’d best avoid if they’re to keep their three-point cushion for the first wildcard spot in the West.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL on NBCSN: Wednesday Night Rivalry pits Red Wings against Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with Wednesday Night Rivalry as the St. Louis Blues play host to the Detroit Red Wings at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here’

Given Tuesday’s 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, it’s probably safe to assume St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong saw the writing on the wall.

While his former center Paul Stastny was debuting for the Winnipeg Jets, scoring a goal and adding an assist, Armstrong’s Blues were getting decimated for the third consecutive game. The Blues got shutout twice on the weekend, two 4-0 losses to the Jets and the Nashville Predators. Then Tuesday happened. And tonight, they’ll have to figure out a way to bounce back in the second half of a back-to-back against a Red Wings team that’s picked up a little bit of steam lately.

“You know what? It’s a matter of pride as far as I’m concerned,” Yeo told the St. Louis Dispatch, calling out a number of his players after the game. “You give up eight goals, c’mon. We’ve given up 16 in the last three games. We’ve always been one of the top defensive teams. The turnovers that we have and the lack of respect that we have for our goaltenders and for the game of hockey — that’s ridiculous.”

A loss to Detroit on Wednesday could turn the slump into a full-blown implosion. The Blues head off on a four-game road swing that will take them to Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim following their game with Detroit.

The Blues are still just two points out of a playoff spot, despite trading one of their top centers and plummeting over the past week. But that ship needs to be turned around now if they have any hope.

The Red Wings’ hopes of making the playoffs sit comfortably between impossible and not going to happen. They’re seven points adrift of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who’ve found their winning ways once again and bolstered their lineup at the trade deadline. Detroit, meanwhile, traded away one of their best players in Tomas Tatar and goaltender Petr Mrazek.

“That’s a message to everyone,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall told the Detroit Free Press. “Had we played up to our potential, (Tatar would) still be here and we’d in a completely different (mode). We’d be buyers instead.”

But the Red Wings have strung together back-to-back wins and should be heading into St. Louis licking their collective chops given recent results in the Midwest. It may be their last good chance to get a win given an upcoming schedule that includes Winnipeg, Minnesota, Boston, Vegas and Columbus, just to name a few.

“We’ve just got to keep plugging away here,” Kronwall said. “We’ve been playing some decent hockey but it’s about winning. We’ve been on and off. We can’t be on and off. We’ve got to be on every game.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Datsyuk: Olympic gold medal means more than Stanley Cup

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Seconds after the Russians won their first Olympic hockey gold medal since 1992, Pavel Datsyuk couldn’t contain his joy at what he considers the peak of his career.

Even though Datsyuk won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and 2008, the 39-year-old said capturing gold at the Olympics in his fifth try was his greatest accomplishment, even in a tournament without NHL players and even when called “Team Olympic Athlete From Russia” because of sanctions over state-sponsored doping.

“When you play for your country and I win this medal, this special time, it’s more important,” Datsyuk said. “I have accomplished my dream. Now I have no dream.”

Datsyuk, who took home a bronze medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, had six assists to help the Russians capture Pyeongchang gold as captain and one of their best players.

“There are a lot of nice feelings now in my heart, but at the same time I can’t believe it yet.”

Datsyuk went home to Russia in the summer of 2016 citing family reasons after putting up 314 goals and 604 assists for 918 points in 953 regular-season games over 14 seasons with the Red Wings. Datsyuk, who was the oldest men’s hockey player in the Olympics, still hasn’t decided whether to retire after this season.

He accomplished his dream with the help of Ilya Kovalchuk, who went back to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League despite being just three seasons into a $100 million, 15-year contract with the New Jersey Devils. Kovalchuk had five goals and two assists and was voted tournament MVP.

Kovalchuk and Nikita Gusev, who led Russia and the tournament with 12 points including two goals in the gold-medal game, were great. Datsyuk was Russia’s captain and leader.

“Our hearts almost stopped beating,” Datsyuk said of the back-and-forth final, “but we recovered and the team showed character.”

Red Wings ‘open for business’ as GM Ken Holland eyes the future

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

This is unique ground for the Detroit Red Wings. They are on the verge of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season, something they haven’t experienced since 1983. It’s a new experience for general manager Ken Holland, who is looking toward the future and selling assets, as opposed to bolstering his lineup for the postseason.

Monday’s trade of Petr Mrazek for draft picks isn’t the start of Holland’s overhaul of the roster — he said he doesn’t believe in “massive rebuilds” — it’s just the continuation of a process that he hopes will make the Red Wings contenders again.

Mrazek’s the first to go, and next will likely be Mike Green, an unrestricted free agent on July 1, before Monday’s NHL trade deadline. The Red Wings have a number of players set to become restricted free agents this summer like Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha, among others, so there could also be some salary shedding in the next six days (Hi, Luke Glendening!)

“I want us to be a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup,” Holland said as he met the media on Tuesday morning. “I want us to be a better team. We’re competitive. We’re not quite where we need to be. In order to be where we want to be, I’ve got to acquire draft picks, and we need to hit on those draft picks. The more draft picks that I can acquire or young players through trades is a better chance that we’re going to wake up three, four, five years from now, two years from now, and start to see the young players coming onto the team and having an impact on the team.”

The Red Wings currently have seven picks in the first four rounds of June’s entry draft and four in the opening three rounds of the 2019 draft. There will likely be more added before Monday, which will help Holland’s plan.

Hitting on draft picks was a huge reason why the Red Wings became a model franchise beginning in the late 1990s. Scout Hakan Andersson is credited with finding franchise pillars like Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, all of whom played big roles in their Cup victories over the last 20 years.

Hitting on draft picks is also very difficult, which is why the Red Wings were so fortunate that many of their draftees turned into backbones of those Cup winning teams. That’s why Holland says he’s open for business and wants more and more draft choices in his possession so his scouting staff can uncover those gems to lead future teams.

“It’s going to happen at the draft table,” he said.

While there’s an eye on the future, Holland says he’s not looking to tear it all down. He also isn’t putting all of his eggs in the draft lottery basket, noting that just because your odds are high doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to have one of the first few choices; and even then, no team is guaranteed a homerun.

If the Red Wings are to be back to the level they once were, fans can expect what Mike Babcock said when he took over the Toronto Maple Leafs’ job: “pain.” Holland noted that, and while he’s trying to accumulate futures, he still wants to have veterans around to guide those young players. And if you look at their salary cap picture and some of the long-term deals he’s handed out, he won’t have to worry about older guys not being around. Some will be there for quite a while still.

But the one thing hanging over all of this is whether Holland is going to be the guy to see this retooling through. His contract reportedly expires after this season and there are those Seattle rumors, plus the Illitch family may decide it’s finally time to have someone else in the GM’s chair.

Maybe Holland gets kicked upstairs after the season and bides his time before connecting with Seattle whenever they enter the league. But for now his focus is the tough job ahead of turning the Red Wings back into a consistent winner.

“We’re not good enough quite right now,” he said. “For me, it’s about trying to acquire pieces that I think can have an impact on this team three, four years down the road in order to build a team that’s a playoff team, that’s got a young foundation.

“That’s the goal. Those are the decisions that I’m making.”

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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.

Mrazek, Mantha help Red Wings down Blackhawks

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You kind of get the feeling that teams heading onto their mandatory week off would like to start forgoing that last game before the break.

The Winnipeg Jets lost 4-1 in the game they failed to show up to on Saturday. On Friday, the Columbus Blue Jackets got trounced 5-2 in the game before they got a break.

And on Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks seemed checked out in a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, a team who played 24 hours earlier and lost handily 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hell, even Jeff Glass couldn’t save the Blackhawks, who got outworked from what seemed like the opening puck drop.

Dylan Larkin gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead just over four minutes into the first period.

Andreas Athanasiou showed his speed as he worked past Blackhawks’ defenders down low, before sliding a pass out to Larkin, who was perched in the slot.

Larkin made no mistake, given the opportunity, as he notched his seventh of the season.

Mike Green showed why he was named an NHL all-star this past week for the Red Wings second goal, which doubled their advantage just over two minutes later.

Gustav Nyquist gained the Blackhawks’ zone and dropped a pass to Anthony Mantha, who took one look to Green and fed him a cross-ice pass that Green one-timed past and outstretched Glass.

It was Green’s 25th point of the season, and couple with his all-star nod, Green, who is set to become a free agent in the offseason, keeps building a case for himself to be traded to a contender when the deadline comes around.

Mantha grabbed his second point of the game in the third period as he joined the rush off the bench.

Mantha let Henrik Zetterberg know he was flying into the zone starting from the time he jumped onto the ice, and Zetterberg dropped the puck to Mantha, allowing for a nice wrist shot that beat Glass high for a 3-0 lead.

Tyler Bertuzzi, the nephew of Todd who came into the game without his first-career NHL goal, checked that item off his to-do list later in the period.

Bertuzzi parked himself in front of Glass’s doorstep and whacked home a rebound after Nick Jensen‘s shot from the slot was saved.

Meanwhile, Petr Mrazek kept things tidy in the crease for the Red Wings, stopping all 27 shots he faced.

The Blackhawks didn’t test him all that much, but Mrazek, who has struggled this season, turned aside 12 third-period shots en route to the win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck