Florida Panthers

Get your game notes: Rangers at Caps

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Washington Capitals hosting the New York Rangers on Rivalry Night at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• At a glance in the Metro: No division has less separation between its top 4 teams than the Metropolitan. After the Rangers 2-1 win at NYI last night, NYR can take sole possession of the division – and Eastern Conference – lead tonight with a win. In addition, with a win AND an ANA regulation loss, the Rangers would become 1st in the NHL. WSH has a 4-point lead on #2WC BOS, but PIT is also within reach for 3rd in the division.

• In addition, WSH and NYR have 3 matchups remaining this season (including tonight).

• Winning with Cam: When Henrik Lundqvist began to miss time starting on Feb. 4 (though injured initially on Jan. 31), the Rangers’ 2 goalies had a combined 32 games of NHL experience– all from backup Cam Talbot. After last night’s win vs. NYI, the team is now 12-2-3 in King Henrik’s absence.

• Talbot has started 16 of those 17 total Ranger games, including his current run of 8 straight, putting up very impressive numbers in that stretch:

• Talbot stopped 29 of 30 shots last night. He has only started games on back-to-back days once in this stretch with Lundqvist out. He allowed 3 goals each against NSH and DAL last month, posting an 0-1-1 record in those games.

• There is still no concrete update on Lundqvist’s status other than him
continuing to skate and work out on his own.

• Caps coming off big win: This is the 3rd of a 5 game home stand for WSH (1-1-0 record), though the Caps enter tonight after a 3-day break between games. WSH is coming off its most lopsided victory of the season – a 6-1 defeat of BUF on Sat. They have now won 3 of their 4 gms in March after closing out Feb. with 3 straight losses.

• The Caps set season-bests for shots on goal (45), shots against (17), and margin of victory (5) while going 2-for-3 on the PP and a perfect 3-for-3 on the PK against the Sabres. Coach Barry Trotz gave the team two days off following the win. He also indicated that the break could help the Caps gear up for the stretch run and improve their position in the Metro: “There’s teams that are chasing us a little bit…so we’re not out of the woods there…But our focus has to be, when we come back, let’s look at the teams that we could catch now and see if we can jump over a couple of them. I think there’s enough time and I think we’re a good enough team to do that.” – Trotz, following the win vs. BUF

• Ovechkin and Nash: This game will feature the top 2 goal scorers in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin (44 goals) is the 2-time defending Rocket Richard Trophy winner (4-time winner overall), while Rick Nash (39 goals) took home his only goal-scoring title in 2003-04 (scored a career-high 41 goals, shared award w/ 2 others).

• In the only prior meeting this season between WSH and NYR (at MSG), Nash had a hat trick and Ovechkin scored a PPG in NYR’s 4-2 win.

RANGERS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Rick Nash scored the game-winning goal vs. NYI last night (also assisted on NYR’s first goal). He leads the NHL in even-strength goals (30), is t-1st in short-handed goals (4), and is t-2nd in game-winning goals (8).

• Nash is 1 goal away from his 3rd career 40-goal season. His previous 2 were both w/ CBJ: 40 in 2008-09 and a career-high 41 in 2003-04 when he won the Rocket Richard Trophy (shared w/ Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla).

• Derick Brassard (also a CBJ 1st-round pick – 6th overall in 2006) centers Rick Nash on the top line. Since the beginning of February, Brassard has made in impact with 17 points (2G-15A) in 18 games.

• Trade deadline acquisition Keith Yandle was Arizona’s leading scorer (41 pts) before the trade. In four games for the Rangers, Yandle has 0 points in 19:03 TOI.

• Yandle has not yet sparked the Rangers 14th-ranked power play (18.3%) as hoped. Since the trade, the team is 1-for-10 on the PP.

• Mats Zuccarello has responded well since agreeing to a 4-yr/18M extension last week. He has assists in all 4 games since (5 total), including the primary helper on Kevin Hayes’ game-tying goal last night.

• On Sunday, Hayes played at United Center for the first time. The 22-year-old was a 1st-round pick (24th overall) by Chicago in 2010, but he did not sign with the Hawks and instead played 4 years at Boston College. Hayes signed with the Rangers over the summer. Then, yesterday, Hayes continued his strong rookie season with an impressive individual effort to tie the game at 1 – his 13th goal of the season.

CAPITALS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• The Caps have at least 1 power play goal in all 4 March games so far (5-for-8 overall). The team ranks 2nd in the NHL overall with a 24.9% success rate. Alex Ovechkin leads the league with 20 power play goals.

• The Capitals acquired Curtis Glencross from Calgary for a 2015 2nd and 3rd-round pick at the trade deadline. Glencross has been an immediate fit on a line with Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer, in addition to getting time on the PP.

• Glencross had 3 points (1G-2A) vs. BUF, his first 3-point game since March 22 of last season.

• He now has 4 points (2G-2A) in the 3 games since being traded.

• “I was excited for the new challenge.” – Glencross, on coming to WSH

• Alex Ovechkin (44 goals) & Nicklas Backstrom (51 assists) lead the league in those respective categories. They are also t-2nd in the league with 69 points (John Tavares leads w/ 72).

• With 2 assists vs. BUF, Backstrom tied Michal Pivonka on the franchise’s all-time assists list with 418. Ovi is 3rd (417).

• No two teammates have more points this season than Ovechkin & Backstrom (138).

• The last time two teammates finished 1-2 in the scoring race in a full season was in 1995-96, when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr (PIT), accomplished the feat (Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis were 1-2 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season for TB).

• Ovi is the frontrunner for a 5th Rocket Richard Trophy – and 3rd straight. 6 players have won the NHL’s goal-scoring title 5+ times. 6 players have also won 3+ consecutive titles (most recent: Brett Hull 1990-92).

• Caps injuries: D Mike Green (upper-body) was held out of practice Tuesday. He is day-to-day and will be evaluated after the morning skate. WSH recalled D Nate Schmidt from Hershey (AHL) on an emergency basis.

• D Brooks Orpik (lower-body) left practice early yesterday and will also be a game-time decision.

• Braden Holtby made 16 saves on 17 shots against Buffalo. Overall, he is ranked near the top of 5 major goaltending categories:

• He has started the Caps’ last 10 games.

• vs. NYR: Holtby allowed 4 goals in the December meeting vs. the Rangers (4-2 loss).

Luongo to miss third straight as Panthers cling to playoff hopes

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Florida starter Roberto Luongo will sit again on Thursday when the Panthers take on the Jets in Sunrise, head coach Gerard Gallant confirmed today.

Luongo (23-16-11, 2.37 GAA, .921 save percentage), who suffered a shoulder injury during a wild game against Toronto last week — the same game in which second-stringer Al Montoya hurt his groin — will watch as journeyman Dan Ellis makes his third consecutive start for the Panthers, with ECHL recall Sam Brittain backing up.

It’s a tough blow for the Panthers.

Following a 4-3 shootout win over the Isles on Saturday, the Panthers were just two points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. But since then, Florida hasn’t played — Boston has, however, scoring big wins against Detroit and Ottawa to boost its lead to six points (the Bruins and Panthers are also now even in games played, with 66 each.)

If there is a silver lining for the Panthers, it’s that they still have three more cracks at the Bruins this season, the first of which comes in two weeks time at the BB&T Center (on Saturday, Mar. 21).

From there, the two will face each other two more times: in Boston on Mar. 31, and then back in Florida on Apr. 9.

Knee ‘definitely not anywhere near 100 percent,’ says Seguin

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Tyler Seguin will play his second game tonight after missing three weeks with a knee injury.

In his first game back, Saturday’s 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay, Seguin scored a pair of goals — impressive, especially given where he’s at in terms of recovery.

“It’s definitely not anywhere near 100 percent,” Seguin said prior to Tuesday’s tilt versus the Flyers, per NHL.com. “But you do what you can. … It’s pretty much do or die every night.”

Dallas heads into tonight’s contest all but out of playoff contention, sitting 10 points back of Winnipeg for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. While the Stars are still mathematically alive, they’d need to go on some kind of insane winning streak to really get back in the mix, and that could prove difficult given they play six of their next 10 on the road, and three of their four home dates are against top-flight teams in St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Despite that, Seguin said he wanted to return to the team as quickly as possible — even if he’s not fully recovered from a MCL sprain following a low hit from Panthers d-man Dmitry Kulikov.

“I think a lot of guys at this point in the year in the league are playing through stuff; mine is just a little bit more publicly known, you can see it [knee brace],” he explained. “Try to do what you can to help the team.

“I think I can be more helpful in the lineup at 60, 70 percent than sitting in the stands not playing at all.”

Luongo (shoulder) skates, aims for Thursday return versus Jets

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Roberto Luongo returned to the ice on Monday for the first time since injuring his shoulder, and sounded hopeful he’d be back in goal when the Panthers host the Jets three days from now.

“I would love to [play Thursday] but right now it’s too early to tell,” Luongo said, per NHL.com. “There’s been some improvement over the past 24 hours but the next two days will be key to see if I’m able to play on Thursday.

“It’s not comfortable but it has gotten better over the past 24 hours so that’s encouraging.”

Luongo was hurt during a crazy game against Toronto last week, during which backup netminder Al Montoya was also lost to a groin injury (that will sideline him for the next few weeks). The situation forced Luongo to return to the game while still smarting from a Leo Komarov shot — “it caught me in a spot at a weird angle,” he explained — and, since then, goaltending duties have been turned over to veteran Dan Ellis, who’s up from AHL San Antonio.

Ellis, 34, has fared reasonably well in his two-game stint, helping Florida gain three of a possible four points. But it’s clear the club needs Luongo (23-16-11, 2.37 GAA, .921 save percentage) back in goal, especially with the playoff chase alive and well — Florida sits just four points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s no more than day-to-day,” Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said of Luongo’s injury. “[Thursday] is the goal and the hope but we’ll see how he gets along.”

NHL on NBC: Boston looks for a third straight win against Detroit

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Boston Bruins host the Detroit Red Wings at the TD Garden this afternoon at 12:30 pm ET. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

The Boston Bruins will look for a third straight win over the Detroit Red Wings this season when the two teams meet at the TD Garden this afternoon.

The Bruins have points in four straight including the first three games of their four-game home stand.

Boston (32-22-10) won in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon maintaining space between themselves and the Florida Panthers for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Trailing 2-1, Brad Marchand scored with 14.1 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. The Bruins’ forward then netted the overtime winner as Boston edged Philly 3-2.

The Bruins have a two point lead on the Panthers for the second wild card spot and have two games in hand.

Detroit (36-16-11) will look to avoid its first back-to-back regulation losses this season. Jimmy Howard allowed four goals on 23 shots as the Red Wings lost 5-2 to the Calgary Flames on Friday night.

Detroit has not dropped back-to-back in regulation since March 25-27 of last year.

The Wings, who are currently the third seed in the Atlantic Division, have a nine-point lead and a game in hand on the Bruins.

Jonas Gustavsson, who is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA in his last two meetings with Boston, gets the start for Detroit.

Tuukka Rask has a 1.97 goals-against average in his last five starts, but has appeared in 21 of Boston’s last 22 games and could get the day off Sunday in favor of backup Niklas Svedberg.

Detroit won its season opener against Boston 2-1 on Oct. 9, but has since dropped two straight while being out-scored 8-4.

The two teams meet for a fifth and final time on April 2 at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.