Tonight on NBCSN: No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha faces No. 16 Wisconsin in WCHA battle

The Mavericks are up and the Badgers are down in a wild WCHA race to the finish.

No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (18-12-2) vs. No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (14-11-7) – 7:30 p.m. ET

Things haven’t gone as planned for the Wisconsin Badgers. They had to spend the first part of the season without Nic Kerdiles thanks to a silly NCAA suspension and they started off abysmal going 1-7-2 in their first 10 games. Once the calendar flipped to December, they caught fire going 8-0-3 over their next 11.

Things have slowed down in the second half though and after splitting with No. 2 Minnesota, they split at home with D-I newcomers Penn State. Their overtime loss on Monday dropped them to 26 in the Pairwise. Facing off with WCHA front-runners Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State in the final two weekends isn’t their (or anyone else’s) idea of fun except for maybe Badgers haters.

For Nebraska-Omaha, it’s been a steady roll through the season for them. Ryan Walters’ season has been outstanding and he’ll surely be in the hunt for the Hobey Baker Award. His point scoring abilities have paced the Mavericks all year and the help he’s given his teammates has been huge even with some minor drama in goal.

That said, they’re in a bit of a funk now have lost three of their last five games and sit three points back of SCSU for first in the conference. If they want a better opponent in the first round of the WCHA tournament they’ll have to fight with Minnesota, North Dakota, and Minnesota State as well as St. Cloud to do it.

NHL prospects to watch

source: Getty ImagesIf you’ve seen UNO on NBCSN before, you know all about junior forward Ryan Walters. He’s undrafted but second in the country in points with 45, trailing only St. Lawrence’s Greg Carey. The guys Walters is hooking up include sophomore forward Josh Archibald (Pittsburgh) and undrafted junior Matt White. Their top line is dynamic and senior defenseman Bryce Aneloski (Ottawa) can score from the point.

Others: Brent Gwidt (F – SR – Washington), Nick Seeler (D – FR – Minnesota), Tanner Lane (F – FR – Winnipeg), Brent Cooper (D – FR – Anaheim)

Wisconsin doesn’t have the usual bevy of big talent, but who they do have is pretty good. Junior forward Michael Mersch (Los Angeles) leads the team in goals and points with 17-9-26. While freshman Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim – pictured) missed 10 games, he’s produced well with 6-11-17 in 22 games.

Sophomore forward Joe LaBate (Vancouver), sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe (Buffalo), and senior blue liner John Ramage (Calgary) have been solid contributors. McCabe was also key in the Team USA World Junior gold medal win this year.

Others: Brendan Woods (F – SO – Carolina), Brad Navin (F – SO – Buffalo), Joe Faust (D – SR – New Jersey), Eddie Whittchow (D – FR – Florida)

(Photo: WCHA.com)

Red Wings trade Andreas Athanasiou to Oilers

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When Connor McDavid returned to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup on Sunday night and opened the game between Sam Gagner and Alex Chiasson it was painfully obvious they needed to get another winger.

They got that winger on Monday when they acquired Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Gagner and two second-round draft picks.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland drafted Athanasiou during his time in Detroit, so there is that obvious connection here.

This seems like it has the potential to be a strong fit. Athanasiou is one of the few players in the league that actually has the speed to keep up with McDavid, and could create one of the fastest forward duos in the league. After scoring 30 goals a year ago for the Red Wings, Athanasiou has 10 goals in 46 games this season. Now he might get an opportunity to play next to the best offensive player in the world.

Athanasiou is a restricted free agent after this season.

The Oilers are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division, trailing only the Vegas Golden Knights. Edmonton still has two games in hand.

This is the second trade between the two teams in less than 12 hours after the Oilers also acquired Mike Green from the Red Wings on Sunday night.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Trade: Sabres get Wayne Simmonds from Devils

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Well, here is the most unexpected trade on deadline day (so far).

The Buffalo Sabres, who entered the day six points out of a playoff spot and with multiple teams ahead of them, sent a conditional fifth-round draft pick to the New Jersey Devils for veteran forward Wayne Simmonds.

That pick will become a fourth-round pick if the Sabres make the playoffs this season and Simmonds plays at least 10 games.

Simmonds is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

There is nothing wrong with the cost here for Simmonds. It’s probably about what his value should be in this market and given what he currently provides. Plus, a mid-round pick has very little chance of even turning into an NHL player, let alone an impactful one. But it’s still surprising to see a team in Buffalo’s position attempt to add something at the deadline.

Is it a last-minute effort for general manager Jason Botterill to try and do something to save his job? Or is it a team looking at what happened with St. Louis and Columbus a year ago and thinking, “hey, we can do that too!” If it’s the former, well, that’s understandable. The pressure is on to win in Buffalo and patience is running thin with everyone. If it’s the latter, that would simply be a gross misunderstanding of what happened with those teams (especially St. Louis).

The 31-year-old Simmonds has eight goals and 16 assists for the Devils this season. At his peak he was one of the best power forwards in the league and a true force as a net-front presence on the power play, but his production has rapidly fallen off the past two years.

Buffalo has played much better in February (7-3-1) but has only managed to gain four points in the standings during that stretch. They still have six points to make up and only 20 games to do it. They would not only need to maintain that similar level of play, but also get some help along the way.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers sign Chris Kreider to 7-year contract extension

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Some massive news from the New York Rangers on Monday as team president John Davidson announced a seven-year contract extension for winger Chris Kreider, removing one of the biggest names from the trade market just hours before the deadline.

Kreider re-signing with the Rangers was always a possibility, but the longer it went on without a new deal (or talks of any kind) the less likely it seemed to be. But this was clearly something the two sides wanted and they were able to find a common ground on a new deal.

It is reportedly worth around $6.5 million per season.

It is a pricey contract for sure, and with Kreider already being 28 years old there is some real long-term risk down the line. But in the short-term Kreider remains a significant part of a Rangers’ core that has made significant progress over the past couple of months. They may not be able to do enough to get in the playoffs this season, but they are certainly on track to be a serious factor in that race next season.

Kreider is in the middle of a career year for the Rangers and has always been a lock for around 20 goals and 50 points while bringing a ton of speed to the top of the lineup.

The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues were all thought to be potential suitors if he were to be traded.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers’ Shesterkin, Buchnevich injured in car accident

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Along with announcing a new contract extension for Chris Kreider on Monday, New York Rangers team president John Davidson said teammates Igor Shesterkin and Pavel Buchnevich were involved in a car accident in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

According to Davidson, Shesterkin was driving when a vehicle did a U-turn in front of them resulting in the collision.

Fortunately both players were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Buchnevich was “quite shaken up” according to Davidson, but will only be out of the lineup on a day-to-day basis.

Shesterkin has a non-displaced rib fracture and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Shesterkin has emerged as the Rangers’ starting goalie in recent weeks and has a 9-1-0 record with a .940 save percentage since his re-call. His performance has been one of the biggest factors in the Rangers’ recent hot streak that has seen them climb back to within striking distance of a playoff spot this season.

The Rangers are currently carrying three goaltenders, while Alexander Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist will take over the goaltending duties in Shesterkin’s absence.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.