Get your game notes: Wild at Blackhawks

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Minnesota Wild at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

  • This will be the 3rd of 5 meetings this season for these Central Division teams – and 2nd in the last 4 days, having met in Minnesota on Thursday, a 4-2 win by Chicago (CHI has won both meetings this season, both by 2 goals). o Thursday‘s game was the first meeting in Minnesota since Game 6 of their Second-Round playoff matchup, a game won by the Blackhawks (2-1 OT), to finish the series.
  •  This second half of a home-and-home series saw each team squeeze in a game between these meetings, with Chicago stopping over in Edmonton on Friday night (5-2 loss – to the team with the fewest points in the league), before returning home, and Minnesota hosting Nashville on Saturday afternoon (3-1 loss) before hitting the road to CHI-town.
  • “We gave up a couple of funny goals tonight…We were pressing in the third, but they were checking better with the lead than what we had seen prior. That’s what happens. We had enough chances tonight. The timing of the goals they scored was tough” – Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on the Edmonton loss.
  • Starting with that 5-3 loss at Chicago on Dec. 16, Minnesota started what is now its worst stretch this season having lost 10 of its last 12 (2-6-4).
  • The Wild have lost 4 straight (0-3-1) and have been outscored 18-7, allowing an average of 4.50 goals/game (allowed 3+ goals in each) and scoring an average of 1.75 goals/game.
  • Chicago has traded wins and losses through much of the last 4 weeks having gone 7-5-1 since Dec. 13 after having an 8-game win streak from Nov. 26-Dec. 11. The Blackhawks have lost 3 of their last 5 (2-3-0) but return home where they have won 10 of their last 12 (10-2-0).
  • Despite winning 10 of their last 12 at home, Chicago has split their last 4 home contests including losing to Colorado, 2-0, in their last game at United Center.
  • Chicago last lost consecutive games on Nov. 1 & 2, losses at TOR then at home to WPG.
  • The Blackhawks return home to Chicago after splitting a 2-game road trip with the Wild and Oilers. In their last home game back on Tuesday, Chicago set a record, but one they would like to forget, by putting the most shots on goal in a regular-season home game without scoring a goal since the league officially began tracking shots on goal nearly 60 years ago. The Blackhawks outshot the Avalanche 54-24 but lost 2-0 to Semyon Varlamov and Colorado.
  • MIN coach Mike Yeo left Wednesday‘s practice early after he became visibly agitated and verbally scolded his team. By all accounts, Yeo was frustrated with his team‘s recent performance and went on a profanity laced tirade – including breaking a hockey stick over the boards – before exciting the ice surface.
  • “We weren’t good enough. And we’re not in a position where we can come in and be, let alone decent in practice, bad at practice. I’m not going to accept that,” Yeo said.
  • Yeo added, ―”I’m not worried about that. I told you I’m not going to accept that (kind of practice)…We lost the (last) game. We come to the rink today and, what, are we going to have a practice like that? That’s not good enough….I know one thing: we can hang our heads, we can feel sorry for ourselves, we can point fingers, we can do whatever we want. But those types of things are not the types of things that winners do, and those types of things do not help you get out of something like this. I know what I’m going to control, and I’m going to make sure that I bring it.”

HEAD TO HEAD

  • Chicago has won both meetings thus far this season…
  • Dec. 16 at CHI: CHI def. MIN 5-3
  • CHI – Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews & Brent Seabrook each had one goal and 2 assists.
  • Jan. 8 at MIN: CHI def. MIN 4-2
  • CHI – Patrick Kane 1 goals, 2 assists…Bryan Bickell 2 goals…Brad Richards 3 assists.  MIN outshot CHI 44-20.
  • Central Division Matchup: Chicago sits 2nd in the division, while Minnesota is currently 7th (last)…
  • With 56 points, Chicago is 4 points behind division/NHL-leading NSH.
  • The Wild (41 points) are currently in the cellar of the Central – 14 back of 3rd-place STL in the division – and 7 behind LA for the 2nd Wild Card spot in the West…at this point last season (through 40 games), MIN had 45 points and trailed PHX for the 2nd Wild Card spot by 2 points.
  • The Wild made a second consecutive trip to the playoffs last season after the previous 4 seasons without a playoff appearance.

MINNESOTA TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

  • Despite missing the last 2 games, Zach Parise is t-2nd on the team in goals (14 – with Nino Niederreiter) and 2nd in points (30). Parise is the only player on the Wild with double figures in goals and assists (16). In his first game back on Saturday, he had 0 points and has 3G-4A in his last 8 games.
  • Jason Pominville leads the team in points (32) and assists (23)…Pominville has 4 points (1G-3A) in his last 3 games. Pominville led the team in goals (30) and points (60) last season.
  • Ryan Suter leads the league in time on ice/game (29:35) after leading the league in this category the past two seasons. Suter is 4th on the team in points (22) and 2nd in assists (21). Suter has gone without a point in his last 8 games and scored his only goal in MIN‘s season opener against COL on Oct. 9.
  • Nino Niederreiter is tied for 2nd on the team in goals (14) but has gone the last 11 games without one. He has an assist in back-to- back games but has only 3 points (0G-3A) in his last 11 games. Niederreiter has 20 points this season (played in all 40 games) – more than halfway to his career high of 36 set last season (in 81 GP) – and has already tied his goal total from a season ago in 41 fewer games.
  • Niklas Backstrom is expected to start in net for the Wild. In his 9th season, all with MIN, the Finn started in both meetings vs. CHI this season: 4 GA on 38 shots on Dec. 16; 3 GA on 19 shots on Jan. 8…In his career, he is: 6-11-1, 2.90 GAA vs. CHI. Starting with that Dec. 16 loss at CHI, Backstrom is: 0-3-2, 3.66 GAA, .876 SV% in his last 4 starts.
  • Jason Zucker leads the team in goals (15) in his 4th season in the league (all with MIN). He already has set career highs in goals and assists (5). He has 4 points (3G-1A) in his last 3 games.

CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

  • Patrick Kane was named the NHL‘s 2nd Star for the month of December (behind Ryan Getzlaf – ANA) after he tied for second in the league with 17 points (8G-9A) in 13 GP. CHI went 10-2-1 in December. Kane leads the team in goals (20 – 7th in NHL) and assists (25). His 45 points are 9 more than Jonathan Toews’ 36 (2nd on the team). Kane has scored a goal and had 2 assists in each meeting vs. MIN this season…He has 9 points (4G-5A) in his last 7 games.  Kane has now reached 20 goals in each of his eight NHL seasons; he is the first U.S.-born player in NHL history to post at least 20 goals in each of his first eight seasons. Kane is just the second player in Blackhawks history to tally at least 20 goals in each of his first eight NHL seasons joining Denis Savard, who posted 10 straight 20-goal campaigns for Chicago to begin his career (1980-81 through 1989-90; then added two more w/ MTL).
  • Brad Richards has 24 points (8G-16A) in his first season with Chicago. The 14-year vet had 51 points with the Rangers last season. Richards had 3 assists vs. MIN on Thursday and has 6 points (2G-4A) in his last 6 games. o Richards has 25 points (7G-18A) in 22 career games vs. MIN.
  • Jonathan Toews is right behind Kane – 2nd on the team in goals (13) and points (36). ―Captain Serious‖ has not scored a goal since Dec. 21 (8 games without one) but has 7 assists in that span. Toews has 23 points (7G-16A) in 24 career games vs. MIN including 1G-3A in 2 meetings this season.
  • Bryan Bickell scored twice on Thursday at MIN, his 2nd career multi-goal game and first since March 5, 2013 – also vs. MIN. Since 2012-13, Bickell has 6 goals in 9 regular-season meetings vs. MIN.
  • Patrick Sharp, who led the team in goals (34) and points (78) last season, has only 21 points (9G-12A) this season in 28 games (missed 14 games in Nov./Dec. with a lower-body injury). Sharp did score at MIN on Thursday and has 6 points (4G-2A) in his last 7 games.
  • Corey Crawford has made 8 starts since missing nearly a month after he injured his foot leaving a concert. He is 4-3-1 in those games. In his last start, Crawford made a season-high 42 saves on 44 shots at MIN on Thursday (Antti Raanta started at EDM). Overall this season, Crawford is 16-8-2 with a 2.19 GAA and .921 SV%. o Career vs. MIN: 6-3-2, 2.35 GAA, .913 SV%.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.