NHL on NBCSN: Sharks hope to keep playoff dream alive by beating Penguins

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the San Jose Sharks host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the SAP Center at 10:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

With just 16 games left, the San Jose Sharks’ situation is desperate. They’re five points behind the Calgary Flames and third place in the Pacific Division and six points shy of the Winnipeg Jets and the second Wild Card spot.

Making up the gap necessary to get into the playoffs will be difficult enough in the time remaining, but they’re also trailing the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings among teams that don’t currently occupy a playoff spot. Given Los Angeles’ history of stepping up in clutch situations and its 10-3-1 record over its last 13 contests, the Kings could certainly end up making San Jose’s monumental task even more difficult.

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If the Sharks are to make the playoffs under these circumstances, they’ll need to crush their competitors over the last five weeks of the season. Even a 11-4-1 or 10-3-3 run to end the season would only bring them up to 95 points, which is the bare minimum they need to have a better than even chance of advancing to the postseason, per Sports Club Stats.

So they really do need a win tonight to kick off this final stretch on the right note, which is unfortunate because Pittsburgh isn’t a team you want to face right now if you’re desperate for two points. The Penguins have been strong all season, but they’ve been particularly good lately with six wins in their last seven contests. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is coming off of the ninth shutout of the campaign while forward Patric Hornqvist could also prove to be a thorn in the Sharks side after scoring seven goals and nine points in his last seven contests. That’s on top of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who have the potential to be the difference in any given game.

The Sharks will counter with Patrick Marleau (four goals and six points in his last seven contests) and Joe Thornton (a goal and five points in his last three games). After the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead to the Kings in the 2014 playoffs, there was rampant speculation about the possibility of one or both of them being dealt as the team looked to focus on their younger players going forward. Now that duo might be the Sharks best chance of staying alive in the playoff race this year.

Sharks’ Irwin sidelined, Fedun recalled

The San Jose Sharks will be without Matt Irwin tonight when they play host to the Vancouver Canucks.

Irwin was injured during practice Friday and coach Todd McLellan is hoping its just a day-to-day situation with the defenseman.

“Until we get to tomorrow, we don’t know if that’s the time,” McLellan said per CSNBayArea.com.

The 27-year-old, who was frequently a healthy scratch during the first half of the season, had been playing some of his best hockey of the season prior to the injury. Irwin had at least a point in six of his last eight games, including a four-game streak.

“He’s been really good since he got back into the lineup,” McLellan said. “He worked so hard when he was out of the lineup to improve his footspeed and get quicker. Offensively, he’s contributing in a lot of areas.

“His confidence is at an all-time high. It’s unfortunate for him as an individual to not be able to continue on, but hopefully he’s very short tern and has the opportunity to get back in before he loses anything that he’s gained.”

Taylor Fedun, who was recalled Saturday, will not play against the Canucks. Scott Hannan is expected to take Irwin’s spot in the lineup. Hannan has been a healthy scratch the last two games.

Fedun had five goals and 24 assists to go along with a plus-1 rating in In 56 AHL games with the Worcester Sharks.

Saturday is the first recall of the season for the 26-year-old.

Goalie Nods: Hutchinson gets a sixth straight start

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Michael Hutchinson gets the nod in Nashville

Michael Hutchinson will look to right the ship tonight in Nashville. The Jets’ goaltender allowed three goals on 17 shots in a loss to the Senators on Wednesday. Hutchinson has lost three of his last five games while posting a 2.57 GAA and .906 save percentage. The Jets have not won in Nashville this season and will look to avoid a third straight loss to the Preds.

Pekka Rinne, who has lost four in a row, gets the nod for Nashville.

Elsewhere…

Blues at Leafs: Brian Elliott vs. Jonathan Bernier

Stars at Lightning: Jhonas Enroth vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Islanders at Panthers: Michal Neuvirth vs. Dan Ellis

Sabres at Capitals: Anders Lindback (unconfirmed) vs. Braden Holtby

Avalanche at Blue Jackets: Semyon Varlamov vs. Curtis McElhinney

Canadiens at Coyotes: Carey Price vs. Mike Smith

Penguins at Kings: Marc-Andre Fleury (unconfirmed) vs. Jonathan Quick (unconfirmed).

Canucks at Sharks: Eddie Lack vs. Antti Niemi

PHT Morning Skate: Former Leafs coach expects 7-8 year rebuild

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

It seems like former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson has a part-time job in which he says negative things about his old team. The Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno presents the latest it of grim commentary, as Wilson told Fan 590 that their rebuild could take seven-to-eight years. (Whyno’s tweet)

The NHL’s top 10 rising prospects. (The Hockey News)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $3,000. Starts Thursday at 7:00pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

It looks like Vancouver is indeed going forward with naming a street Pat Quinn Way. Great stuff. (Metro News)

Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Gary Agnew thought the team looked “lethargic” in their 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche (Penguins website)

A commercial involving Bobby Ryan and Brent Burns seems random – especially since it isn’t for a pizza company – but it turns brilliant here:

See any resemblance?

NHL on NBCSN: Reloaded Red Wings, Rangers set to battle tonight

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Detroit Red Wings host the New York Rangers at Joe Louis Arena at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

At this stage of the season, the Red Wings and Rangers have all-but secured a postseason berth and have their eyes on the playoffs. They were both active buyers in the lead up to the trade deadline with the Rangers adding defenseman Keith Yandle and forward James Sheppard while the Red Wings have welcomed blueliner Marek Zidlicky and winger Erik Cole to their ranks. Part of these final weeks of the regular season will be about integrating their new talent and getting into a playoff mindset, but they also have more immediate goals in mind.

Thanks to the parity in the conference, just about any team that makes the playoffs in the east will have a legitimate shot of going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. With the competition that tight, every little edge counts and both the Red Wings and Rangers have a chance to make life much easier for themselves in April and beyond by successfully securing the Atlantic and Metropolitan Division titles respectively.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $30,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $3,000. Starts Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The Rangers are in a far better position to take their division going into this game. They’re just one point behind the leading Islanders despite having played in three fewer games. At the same time, the Rangers have to look over their shoulder as Pittsburgh has been surging lately and is just three points shy of overtaking them, making it still entirely conceivable that New York will not only miss out on first place, but also fail to secure the home ice advantage in the first round.

By getting Yandle, the Rangers arguably made the biggest splash in the trade market, so that gives them an advantage over their competition. Coming from Arizona, Yandle is thrilled to be part of a winning team.

“If you just look at the back end out, the Rangers are as strong as any team,” Yandle, who has been paired with Kevin Klein, said. “They are fast up front, have tons of speed and skill, and the goaltending is best in the league. I can’t find a weak flaw in the lineup so it’s pretty cool to be a part of it.”

Detroit’s in a more difficult position as it currently ranks third with 81 points behind Tampa Bay (84) and Montreal (87) in the Atlantic. However, the Red Wings have played in four less games than the Lightning and two fewer than the Canadiens, so they’re not entirely out of the race yet.

Cole and Zidlicky are projected to make their Red Wings’ debut tonight, but the big news out of Detroit is that Henrik Zetterberg (concussion) might be ready to return after skating with the team on Tuesday, per the team’s website. If the practice lines yesterday prove to be accurate, then Zetterberg will play alongside Cole and Justin Abdelkader, while Tomas Jurco, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar will form the other top-two line. Cole’s addition has also given the Red Wings the luxury of moving Gustav Nyquist to the third line. That provides them the depth needed to compete in a lengthy playoff run or, more immediately, take on New York tonight.