Get your game notes: Bruins at Leafs

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the Boston Bruins at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• BOS has won its last five games – the last four of those at home – despite missing two star players during that span. D Zdeno Chara (knee) has not played since Oct. 23, and C David Krejci (lower-body) has missed 3 of the last 5 games.

• During the win streak, the line of LW Brad Marchand, RW Reilly Smith and C Patrice Bergeron has combined for 8G-11A.

• In the last four games, Bergeron has stepped up offensively with 2G-4A. In his first 12 games of the season, he had just 1G-5A.

• This is the Bruins’ longest win streak since March 2-22 of last season, when they won 12 straight games.

• 20-year-old C Seth Griffith had a backwards, between-the-legs goal in the Bruins’ last game, a 4-2 win vs. NJ on Monday.

• Chara, who suffered a knee injury vs. NYI on Oct. 23, has not played since and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks from that time.

• Krejci will not make the trip to Toronto. He played in just 2 of the 5 games during the Bruins’ win streak (Oct. 30 and Nov. 6). He has a suspected hip problem, according to the Boston Herald.

• TOR is 5-1-1 since losing to BOS, 4-1, in the teams’ first meeting this season on Oct. 25. The Maple Leafs have scored 5 goals in each of their last two games and have just 2 regulation losses in their past 10 games, in which they are 6-2-2.

• RW Phil Kessel (8G-11A) is tied for third in the NHL with 19 points this season. The 5-time 30-goal scorer was a fifth overall draft pick by BOS in 2006 and spent the first three seasons of his career playing with the Bruins before being traded to the Maple Leafs on Sept. 19, 2009. He’s now in his 6th season with TOR.

• TOR traded two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick to BOS for Kessel. Those first-round picks ended up being D Dougie Hamilton – who has 3G-7A this season with the Bruins – and C Tyler Seguin, who is now with DAL and is tied for the NHL lead with 12 goals this season. The second-round pick, C Jared Knight, has yet to play an NHL game.

• TOR is 7-1-1 when Kessel has a point this season and 1-4-1 when he does not have a point.

• In his first game vs. BOS this season, Kessel was held to 0 points and a -2 rating. In that same game, the first for the Bruins this season without D Zdeno Chara (knee), D Dougie Hamilton had 1G-2A and C Patrice Bergeron had 2A.

STANDOUT STATS

• BOS: Five of D Dougie Hamilton’s 10 points this season have come on game-winning goals. He scored the game-winning goal on Oct. 18 vs. BUF and assisted on deciding goals on Oct. 25 at TOR, on Oct. 30 at BUF, on Nov. 4 vs. FLA and on Nov. 6 vs. EDM.

• TOR: The Maple Leafs are 5-0-0 when scoring first this season and 3-5-2 when their opponent scores first.

NOTABLE INJURIES

• BOS: D David Krejci (lower-body) and C Zdeno Chara (knee) will not play tonight. D Kevan Miller (shoulder) practiced on Monday and is day-to-day.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

• BOS: C Patrice Bergeron has 16G-29A in 45 career GP vs. TOR, including 3 game-winning goals. Bergeron had 5G-3A in 4 games vs. TOR last season (2 points in each game).

• BOS: G Tuukka Rask is 10-2-0 in 12 career starts vs. TOR with a 1.59 GAA.

• TOR: C Tyler Bozak has 3G-2A in his last 3 games vs. BOS.

• TOR: RW Phil Kessel had 5A in 4 games vs. BOS last season and has 3G-11A in 27 career GP vs. BOS.

BOSTON TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• C Carl Soderberg (5G-8A) leads the Bruins with 13 points this season, and he’s had 2G-4A during the team’s current 5-game winning streak.

• The Swedish forward is in just his second full NHL season, having come from the Swedish Elite League, which he led in scoring with 31 goals and 60 points in the 2012-13 season. But he was left off the Swedish roster at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

• C Patrice Bergeron is second on the Bruins with 12 points this season, and he has an NHL-leading 207 faceoff wins and ranks second in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 63.1%.

• Bergeron scored the tying and game-winning goals against TOR in Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to give the Bruins a 5-4 (OT) victory after trailing by 3 goals in the third period.

• D Torey Krug returned to the Bruins’ lineup on Monday for the first time since breaking his finger in a game vs. MIN on Oct. 28. He had one shot on goal and a +1 rating in 21:16 on the ice on Monday vs. NJ.

• G Tuukka Rask was taken 21st overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2005 draft. But he was traded to the Bruins for goaltender Andrew Raycroft before playing even a single game with the Maple Leafs. Raycroft, meanwhile, retired at the end of last season.

• Rask is 8-4-0 this season with a 2.44 GAA and .909 SV%. He has allowed just 7 goals in his last 4 games.

• In 2013-14, Rask won the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) after winning a career-high 36 games. He finished the season with a 2.04 GAA, .930 SV% and an NHL-leading 7 shutouts.

TORONTO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• RW Phil Kessel has led the Maple Leafs in points in every season since 2009-10. He has skated in 379 consecutive games. The last time he missed a game was Oct. 31, 2009 against Montreal.

• The two-time Olympian led the U.S. in scoring with 8 points at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

• C Tyler Bozak (5G-7A), a Ukrainian-Canadian, is second on the Maple Leafs with 12 points this season and leads the team with 4 power-play goals.

• LW James van Riemsdyk, second behind Kessel with 7 points for the U.S. at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, is also second behind Kessel on the Maple Leafs this season with 6 goals.

• RW Carter Ashton was suspended 20 games without pay on Thursday for violating the terms of the NHL/NHL Players’ Association Performance Enhancing Substances Program. He is eligible to return Dec. 20. In a statement, Ashton said he used another athlete’s inhaler during training to relieve himself from an asthma attack.

• C Daniel Winnik returned to practice on Tuesday after being held out for two games because of concussion protocol. Winnik left TOR’s game at COL last Thursday after falling head first.

• G James Reimer (6 starts) and Jonathan Bernier (9 starts) have split time in TOR’s net this season. Reimer has a 1.75 GAA in his last six games against the Bruins, while Bernier has a 4.46 career GAA against the Bruins and was pulled in the third period of their last meeting after allowing four goals. Bernier is expected to start tonight.

Seven hockey players suspended in Belarus match-fixing case

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ZURICH — Seven ice hockey players have been suspended during an investigation into match-fixing in the Belarus league.

The players — five from Belarus and two from Russia — told a domestic investigation they were paid to help arrange the outcome of a game in November, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Friday.

“During the investigation, each of the players also admitted that they had agreed to exert an unlawful influence on the outcome of the game in exchange for illegal remuneration,” the governing body said in a statement.

The IIHF said its disciplinary board had taken over the case “for further review and sanctioning.”

The case involves Dynamo Molodechno’ losing to Mogilyov 6-5 in a Belarus Extraliga game.

The players have been suspended from taking part in any competition organized by the IIHF or its member federations.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL vs. viruses; Flat salary cap pain = Avs’ gain?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Lafreniere, COVID-19 hockey concerns, and how Avs may benefit from a flat salary cap

• Rank Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen among those expressing some misgivings about playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [TSN]

• Breaking: Alexis Lafreniere is not a defenseman. In all seriousness, a look at some Maple Leafs possibilities … which might be complicated at No. 1 because of that positional point. Maybe? [Pension Plan Puppets]

• Speaking of those Maple Leafs, Buds fans are not pleased about the idea of a possible flat, $81.5M salary cap. There are teams who might take advantage of this situation, though. Here’s why the Avalanche could be one of those teams. [Mile High Hockey]

• A look back at the NHL’s “rivalries” with viruses. Does the history of the NHL’s dealing with such issues — even the Mumps — be a cause for concern amid COVID-19 outbreaks? [Arctic Ice Hockey]

• Earlier this week, PHT selected the best landing spots for Alexis Lafreniere. What about getting even more specific? Andrew Berkshire shared his picks for some of the lines that would benefit most from adding the consensus No. 1 pick to their left side. [Sportsnet]

Other hockey links

• Sean Gentille put together an oral history for the Jean Claude Van Damme masterpiece “Sudden Death.” If you haven’t heard of the candidate for “so-bad-it’s-good” designation, how about the elevator pitch: “Die Hard at a hockey game.” [The Athletic (sub required)]

• On face value, this article focuses most on Rudy Gobert and Novak Djokovic and athletes feeling invulnerable to COVID-19. But it’s a really good read for hockey fans, players, and executives as cautionary tales with a return-to-play picking up steam. [The Score]

• Joe Pelletier of Greatest Hockey Legends wonders why the bar is set so high for goalies to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Not an awful point when you consider that they play the most important position in the sport, and all. I wouldn’t mind Ron Hextall making a future cut, to name just one worthy goalie. [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• Five crossovers between hockey and Todd McFarlane. Yes, the “Spawn” guy. [PuckJunk]

• Taking a run at putting together the Sabres’ roster during the upcoming offseason. It gets elaborate, including potential trades. Yes, this scenario includes trading away Rasmus Ristolainen. Don’t they all? [Die by the Blade]

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Our Line Starts podcast: NHL, NHLPA nearing agreement; hub cities, Olympics, CBA

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Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and Patrick Sharp react to the reports that the NHL and NHLPA are nearing the completion of a massive agreement that would not only cover this year’s Return to Play protocols, but also serve as an extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The guys discuss Edmonton and Toronto emerging as hub city favorites, as well as what it would mean for the NHL to return to the Olympics. Plus, a breakdown of the Qualifying Round series in both conferences.

Start-4:45 Edmonton, Toronto new hub city frontrunners
4:45-8:45 NHL, NHLPA nearing CBA extension, including Olympic participation
8:45-13:00 Other return to play details
14:00-23:00 Eastern Conference Qualifying Round preview
23:50-End Western Conference Qualifying Round preview

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Mrazek vs. Reimer and other Hurricanes lineup questions readying for Rangers

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Beyond obvious outliers like the Penguins, the Hurricanes rank among the most legitimate of the NHL’s Qualifying Round teams. Yet as stable as the Hurricanes are compared to a field full of erratic teams, Carolina faces many of the same lineup questions as the Rangers, the team they’d face in a best-of-five series.

Some might argue that the Hurricanes face tougher questions than the Rangers. (Though, the Rangers aren’t off the hook in that regard.)

In particular, the Hurricanes may need training camp to find answers in net and on defense. For all we know, Hurricanes lineup questions could even persist beyond “Phase 3.”

Let’s glance at both the goalie and defense questions for the Hurricanes.

Who should start in Hurricanes playoff lineup: Mrazek or Reimer?

Reimer, Mrazek, Hurricanes Rangers lineup questions NHL playoffs
(Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With Henrik Lundqvist jousting with two young upstarts, some might wonder if the Rangers have too much of a good thing in net. The Hurricanes don’t enjoy quite the abundance of options.

Even so, coach Rod Brind’Amour faces a decision, as they lack a clear No. 1. Should the Hurricanes go with Petr Mrazek — who helped them during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs — or James Reimer (who boasts superior numbers this season)?

If Brind’Amour knows, he’s putting on a poker face.

“It’s easy to say right now, ‘OK, I’m going to go with Petr,’ but I don’t know,” Brind’Amour said in a recent interview, via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “He may be in rough shape. I don’t know until I get to see them and see what they’re like.”

It’s unclear if that last playoff run explains why Mrazek would be the “easy” choice, or if that came down to Reimer entering the pandemic pause with injury issues. (The Hurricanes may also be concerned about Reimer’s rather lengthy run of injury hiccups, too.)

Because, again, Reimer performed at a higher level than Mrazek in 2019-20. Reimer boasts a better save percentage than Mrazek this season (.914 to Mrazek’s .905) and over their careers (.914 to Mrazek’s .910). Reimer takes most/all goalie “advanced stats” between the two this season, as well. Generally speaking, we’ve seen more from Reimer over the past few seasons than Mrazek, whose career was teetering on the edge here and there.

(But, to be fair, Reimer’s had his issues, too.)

Regardless, just about every team should take a long look at how their goalies are performing during training camps. Even teams with clearer No. 1 options.

Honestly, with the NHL not expected to limit the number of goalies at training camps, maybe the Hurricanes should even look at options like Anton Forsberg or Alex Nedeljkovic?

An unexpectedly crowded defense

Dougie Hamilton Hurricanes Rangers lineup decisions playoffs
(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

During the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, the Hurricanes acquired Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen. As you may remember, those moves hinged at least partially on injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce. After the twists of those bad-luck injuries, the pandemic threw off Carolina’s rhythm once more.

The best news is that it sounds like Hamilton will be available. Don’t let the museum talk fool you. If Hamilton maintained his hot pace and didn’t get injured, he would have been a go-to choice for those making arguments against John Carlson‘s Norris credentials. Either way, Hamilton provides an enormous boost to the Hurricanes lineup — one they weren’t expecting during the deadline.

On the other hand, Brind’Amour told NHL.com’s Rosen that Pesce remains unlikely to return. However …

“It’s going to be a long shot, but the longer this goes the shot gets a little shorter,” Brind’Amour said.

(Anyone else visualizing that after that rather literal description from Brind’Amour? No? OK.)

So, Hamilton stands as probable while Pesce looks unlikely. Beyond that, the Hurricanes have two still-new faces in Skjei (just seven not particularly impressive games played) and Vatanen (who was injured and didn’t even get to suit up). Let’s say that represents three defensemen for the Hurricanes. Here are the other contenders for spots in the Hurricanes defensive lineup:

  • Jaccob Slavin, a lock.
  • Jake Gardiner, who dealt with a tough season, averaging only 16:40 TOI. Still, Gardiner is experienced, played in 68 games this season, and may have benefited from the break.
  • Joel Edmundson (68 GP like Slavin and Gardiner, averaged more TOI than Gardiner with 18:27 per contest).
  • Trevor van Riemsdyk (49 GP, less than 15 minutes per night; still, Hurricanes are very familiar with TVR).
  • Haydn Fleury (45 GP, averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game).

Realistically, Brind’Amour could have eight options on defense, and possibly nine if Pesce makes unexpectedly rapid progress. Being that some of those options are quite good, there are worse problems to have.

But it still adds to the notion that training camp could be quite important for Hurricanes lineup decisions. With both goalies and defense, Brind’Amour emphasized a wait-and-see approach. So … we’ll see?

More on the Hurricanes, Rangers, return to play, and similar subjects:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.