It’s another doubleheader night on NBCSN and you could view tonight as a spoiler special as there are two teams that will be stuck on the outside of the playoff picture looking to mess things up for a pair of teams.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET)
These two just met on Monday in Detroit and things… Didn’t go very well for the Jackets as Detroit spanked them 7-2 putting four goals up in the first period. Jackets goalie Steve Mason, who thought it he figured out his bad play was thanks to not wearing the right pads, has shown lately that it’s not the pads’ fault he’s giving up oodles of goals. The Jackets will hope that their cannon blasts at home will be able to throw the Wings off their game.
The big news for Detroit is that they’re getting healthy, which means they’re getting more frightening to deal with. We’ve seen Jakub Kindl and Nicklas Lidstrom return and Johan Franzen appears ready to come back tonight. With Jonathan Ericsson also potentially back tonight and Jimmy Howard returning on Friday, the Wings are officially geared up for the postseason.
While coach Mike Babcock is resigned to the fact they’re likely to open the playoffs against Nashville, continuing to win would mean they have home ice advantage for that series. Columbus wouldn’t mind helping make sure Detroit stays on the road in the postseason.
Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks (10:00 p.m. ET)
The Sharks are today’s leader in the Pacific Division and that means they’re always either a win from seizing control of the situation or a loss away from giving someone else the lead and a lock on a playoff spot. With 88 points the Sharks are one point ahead of the Stars and Coyotes and two up on the Kings. It’s an uncomfortable place to be in, but for the Sharks to really enjoy the moment as Joe Thornton says they should, they’ll have to keep winning, something they’ve done three times in a row now.
The Ducks, meanwhile, want nothing more than to spoil things for their California rivals and if we can keep coach Bruce Boudreau from freaking out on the officials again, they might just be able to do that. The Ducks are just playing out the string at this point, but at least they’ve still got a host of superstar talent to threaten the Sharks with. Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Bobby Ryan, and Ryan Getzlaf are all still there and capable of putting a monster game together. That crew might just all stick around next season too if Selanne decides to play one more year. Considering they’ve lost six of their last 10 games, you’re never quite sure what you’ll get from Anaheim.
The last time we saw the Lightning and Bruins meet up two weeks ago, the Bolts were busy smacking Tim Thomas and Marty Turco around to the tune of 6-1 while the B’s were in the middle of what would be a four-game losing streak.
When they meet tonight in Boston (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), the Bruins have turned things around winning four of their last six since then while the Lightning have fallen out of the playoff hunt. For Boston, getting right in time for the postseason is what it’s all about and for them, that means seeing injured players getting back.
Forward Rich Peverley returned against Anaheim and while he’s not a huge name, his importance up front is huge. With the likes of David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Tyler Seguin in need of that pick-me-up, Peverley’s veteran presence and abilities are needed for balance along their lines.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was happy to throw a wrench in the Flyers’ plans last night and they’ll be looking to do the same to the Bruins yet again. With Steve Stamkos being a force of nature on the ice, breaking the team record for goals in a season last night, it’s the Bolts’ top line that will try to make life miserable for Boston.
While Dwayne Roloson has been red hot of late winning his last three starts, don’t be surprised if you see newcomer Sebastian Caron in goal tonight. Caron is recently back from playing in Germany and the former Penguins/Flyers netminder is looking for his first action of the year. Since Roloson got the call in beating Philly last night, Caron figures to get a hell of a first test against Boston.
It’s another night loaded with action as NBCSN will have two games oozing over with playoff implications, especially concerning what’s going on in the Western Conference. Getting a double dose to help prep for the playoffs is never a bad things.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
While the Lightning are virtually out of the playoffs (nine points back of Washington with eight games to play), the Flyers have all the reason in the world to keep winning themselves. The Flyers sit fifth in the East and while they’ve already locked down their spot in the postseason, they still have a shot at landing home ice in the first round. With the Penguins in fourth one point back of the Rangers, should the Flyers keep winning, perhaps they can catch up to whoever loses out on the Atlantic Division battle.
Working in their favor is Claude Giroux who, in spite of the attention both Evgeni Malkin and Steve Stamkos are getting for scoring tons of goals and generally being incredible, is right there in the points race with both of them. Giroux’s consistent play along with Ilya Bryzgalov looking like a superstar in goal the last couple weeks have helped Philly into the postseason. So long as the Flyers can keep Stamkos at bay tonight, they can continue their pursuit of the Pens and Rangers.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings (10:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
For Vancouver, their spot in the postseason is secure having clinched the Northwest Division on Saturday and while they’ll shift their attention to chasing the Blues for first in the conference, the Kings have a lot more at stake themselves.
Los Angeles sits in eighth place in the West but, as always, in a precarious position. While they’re one point back of Dallas for the top spot in the Pacific and the third seed as well as Phoenix for seventh. They’re also one point ahead of San Jose and Colorado who are in hot pursuit of them to make the playoffs. Any slip-ups from now until the end of the season could be disastrous.
The key to staying on top of things for the Kings is Jonathan Quick. Quick has been the team’s MVP this season but having to deal with a Canucks attack that will be without Daniel Sedin, thanks to a discourteous elbow to the head from Duncan Keith, won’t be easy. L.A. will need to counter what Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler bring to the table by hoping to see Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown continue their red hot play and get a little extra from Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. That’s not asking too much now is it?
Funny how things change over time. The last time the Predators and Blackhawks met back in mid-February, it turned out to be the low point of the season for Chicago according to CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers. When they get together tonight at United Center (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), both teams are in a more familiar situation jockeying for playoff position.
Chicago comes into tonight’s game two points back of Nashville for fifth place in the West while the Predators are one point behind Detroit for fourth. To say that Chicago and Nashville could wind up dancing with each other in the first round in the playoffs is true. Both teams have seven games left, but the Blackhawks will have to do things tonight without Jonathan Toews (concussion) and Duncan Keith (suspension).
While Keith is sitting at home keeping himself in shape during his time off, Toews is getting closer to returning. After participating in his first practice in two weeks yesterday, things are looking up for the Blackhawks’ captain. Patrick Kane is making sure Chicago keeps winning by scoring seven goals over the last 12 games. The Blackhawks are hoping to make it six straight wins tonight.
Nashville, meanwhile, is in a slight funk. Although they dispatched of Winnipeg last night, the Predators have lost four of their last six games. The losses have prevented Nashville from capitalizing on Detroit’s struggles of late and they’ve been unable to leap frog them in the standings.
Oddly enough, the source of their recent struggles has been all-world goalie Pekka Rinne. Rinne’s woes against Edmonton and Pittsburgh may have been bothersome to fans, but not so much for coach Barry Trotz. Rinne rebounded nicely against the Jets stopping all but one shot in a 3-1 win. Meanwhile, new-old guy Alexander Radulov is showing that his belated arrival was worth waiting on as he’s got a goal and an assist in two games.
If tonight’s game is to be a true playoff preview, expect to see a no holds barred throwdown as both teams would love to get to fourth and earn home ice in the first round.
Both the New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings come into tonight’s game at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with plenty to play for. The Rangers want to keep the red hot Penguins off their back in the race for the top spot in the East while the Red Wings would like to get back to winning games and stay ahead of the Nashville Predators.
The slide the Red Wings are in right now is their worst of the season. Detroit has lost five in a row and 10 of their last 13 games. While the Blues have taken control of the Central Division, somehow the Wings haven’t fallen out of fourth in the West with both Nashville and Chicago chasing them thanks to both of those teams dealing with struggles of their own. Don’t let that fool you, things are bad for Detroit right now.
Jimmy Howard tweaked his nagging groin injury again and is out of tonight’s game. Add to that that Joey MacDonald has a back problem and Ty Conklin is on re-entry waivers to try and start tonight, things are bad in goal. With Nicklas Lidstrom skating but not ready to return to action as well as other injuries to Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jakub Kindl it’s no wonder the Wings are losing. That’s not stopping coach Mike Babcock from demanding better of his defense as they’ll need to be at their best to beat New York.
The Rangers are in paradise compared to where the Red Wings are at. New York has already clinched their berth in the playoffs and while coach John Tortorella is busy in his war of words with the Devils, the team is rounding back into form after recent struggles. Getting a win over the Devils was the Rangers third in their last five games. New York too has been dealing with some nagging injuries to Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto but have seen those two come back and play well of late.
With Henrik Lundqvist in goal, however, the Rangers have a distinct advantage over either Conklin or Jordan Pearce for Detroit. Lundqvist will still have his hands full dealing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, however. Falling asleep on those guys could help give Detroit the boost they desperately need.