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%.

Playoff injuries continue to pile up for Hurricanes

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As the Carolina Hurricanes hope to make it a long and successful Round 1 series against the Washington Capitals, and a deep run during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in general, they’re not just facing talented opponents. They’re also facing “themselves,” and not just in a mental sense — they have to overcome the limitations on their own bodies.

Injuries are one of the top hurdles you have to overcome alongside bad bounces and hot goalies.

The good news for Carolina so far in Game 4 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream) is that the Hurricanes went up 1-0 with a Warren Foegele goal just 17 seconds into the contest.

The bad news is that while that good trend of a hot streak continued, a negative trend of injuries also persists. Carolina already came into Game 4 without Andrei Svechnikov because of that ill-fated fight against Alex Ovechkin, and they were also missing beefy forward Micheal Ferland thanks to an upper-body injury.

It’s unclear if Jordan Martinook will end up missing significantly time, but he needed help off the ice after an awkward bump into the boards. Martinook briefly returned toward the end of the first period, yet was not seen on the Hurricanes bench to begin the second.

(You can see that unfortunate bump in the video above this post’s headline.)

Martinook isn’t a huge loss on his own, but when you consider that part of Carolina’s strength is depth and scoring by committee, the ice packs are really piling up. Consider that:

  • Martinook scored a career-high 15 goals and tied a career-high with 25 points this season, and had an assist coming into Game 4.
  • Ferland finished fourth in team scoring with 40 points, including 17 goals, and may have hit 20+ if he wasn’t limited to 71 games played.
  • Svechnikov’s been a fantastic rookie who’s flourished as he’s gained Rod Brind’Amour’s favor as the season went along. Svechnikov generated 20 goals and 37 points during the regular season, and had two goals and one assist for three points in his first three playoff games.

Those are three players who bring different abilities to the table, from grinding to having the sort of sniping skills that can break a tight postseason skirmish open – and the Hurricanes have to hope that most, if not all, of them can return to the lineup as they hope to push this Round 1 match longer.

See if the Hurricanes can tie this series at 2-2 by winning Game 4 against the Capitals, even with a shorthanded group, on NBCSN right now.

[WATCH LIVE]

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.

Barkov, Monahan, O’Reilly are 2019 Lady Byng Trophy finalists

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Next up in the NHL’s 2018-19 awards announcements is the Lady Byng Trophy, which is awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

The nominees, who are voted for by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the conclusion of the regular season, are Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames, and Ryan O'Reilly of the St. Louis Blues.

O’Reilly, who won the award in 2014 and was a finalist in 2018, was announced on Wednesday as one of the three Selke Trophy finalists.

Lady Byng, wife of Canada’s Governor General at the time, presented the Lady Byng Trophy during the 1924-25 season. After Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers won the award seven times in eight seasons, he was given the trophy to keep and Lady Byng donated another trophy in 1936. After Lady Byng’s death in 1949, the NHL presented a new trophy, changing the name to the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.

The winner will be announced on June 19 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Case For Aleksander Barkov: The Panthers forward, who was also a finalist in 2016 and 2018, recorded a career season with 35 goals and 96 points in 82 games. He received 1,833:01 of ice time and only wound up taking four minor penalties, the fewest among the NHL’s top 50 scorers this season.

The Case For Sean Monahan: Like Barkov, Monahan also registered a career season with 34 goals and 82 points in 78 games. In 1,486:16 of ice time, he recorded only six minors, the fifth time he’s finished a season with 20 or fewer penalty minutes. A victory for Monahan would make him the third Flames player to take home the award since 2015 (Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau).

The Case For Ryan O’Reilly: Another career season here as the Blues forward scored 28 goals and recorded 77 points in 82 games. He also played a career high in minutes with 1,702:13 and was only called for six minors. It was the 10th time in 10 seasons for O’Reilly that picked up fewer than 20 penalty minutes.

MORE 2019 NHL AWARD FINALISTS:
Selke Trophy

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Hurricanes try to even up; Golden Knights look to advance

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Game 4: Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (Capitals lead 2-1)
NBCSN

Call: Kenny Albert, Pierre McGuire
Series preview 
Stream here

Game 5: St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets, 8:30 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2)
USA Network
Call: Gord Miller, Ray Ferraro
Series preview
Stream here

Game 5: Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks, 10 p.m. ET (Golden Knights lead 3-1)
NBCSN
Call: Alex Faust, Mike Johnson
Series preview
Stream here

NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and Anson Carter, begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Paul Burmeister, Jeremy Roenick, and Patrick Sharp will anchor USA Network’s studio coverage during St. Louis at Winnipeg.

PHT’s 2019 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Capitals vs Hurricanes
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Predators vs. Stars
Blues vs. Jets
Flames vs. Avalanche
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Power Rankings: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

Flyers turn to winner Vigneault to snap championship drought

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VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning team that just flamed out in the first round of the playoffs is dotted with former New York Rangers who played in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final:

Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, J.T. Miller all helped the Rangers to get within three wins of their first championship since 1994. Five years later, a new team and a stunning elimination. They were used to deeper runs in New York with Alain Vigneault running the show. He led the Rangers to the Cup Final in his first season and bumped the win total by eight in his second.

After a year out of coaching, Vigneault takes over a fallen Philadelphia Flyers franchise. He seems to expect a similar quick fix.

”I was looking for was an opportunity to win; an opportunity in the short term to win a Stanley Cup,” Vigneault said Thursday.

Vigneault also led the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final, is a former NHL coach of the year and will spend the summer as the head coach for Team Canada at the world championships.

”It’s unusual and difficult to find coaches like Alain,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said.

Indeed, Vigneault has done it all on the bench except win the Stanley Cup and he joins a franchise mired in one of the longest championship droughts in the league. The Flyers haven’t won it all since 1975 or even played for the Stanley Cup since 2010. Even worse, they missed the playoffs this season and haven’t made it past the second round since 2012.

And he thinks the Flyers can win in the short term?

Maybe, because the talent is there: Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier all have some heavy miles on their skates but are still productive veterans. There’s still untapped potential in a group of promising 20-somethings that include Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom, Shayne Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick. All have shown flashes of stardom along with infuriating inconsistency.

”I can get them to be more consistent. The way that I prepare a team for games I believe permits a player to understand what he needs to do against that team to be successful,” Vigneault said.

Couturier will get an early peek at Vigneault’s system at next month’s world championships in Slovakia. So will Carter Hart, the 20-year-old rookie goalie who nearly carried the Flyers into the playoffs after his December call up. He won eight straight games and pushed the Flyers (37-37-8 for 82 points) to the verge of a wild card spot until they collapsed over the final two weeks.

The Flyers used a record eight goalies this season. Vigneault knows a true No. 1 should be enough to carry the load in a championship chase. Vigneault rode Henrik Lundqvist in New York to within three wins of a championship and Roberto Luongo had four playoff shutouts when the Canucks reached the Final in 2011.

”I was very fortunate to have maybe two Hall of Fame goaltenders,” Vigneault said. ”Maybe we have a young goaltender that’s got a tremendous amount of potential and might become one of the top goalies in the league.”

One thing Vigneault won’t do is ask former Flyers coach Dave Hakstol (fired in December) and former GM Ron Hextall (fired in November) for a scouting report on the team. Both men are part of his staff at worlds. Giroux, the Flyers captain, is the only player Vigneault has called.

Vigneault, who turns 58 in May, has coached 16 NHL seasons for the Montreal Canadiens, Canucks and Rangers. His teams made the playoffs 11 times and he was named NHL coach of the year in 2006-2007 with Vancouver.

”Players look for direction. If you give a player and a team a path and you do this, you do it this way, you put in the time, you’re going to have success,” Vigneault said. ”You do the same thing with your team, they’re going to follow you.”

History suggests players will follow Vigneault. He took two teams in major hockey markets to the Final and did it in large part because of a hot goalie and an overachieving roster. The Rangers wore down because almost every series went the distance (four Game 7s) and Vigneault took them way behind their talent level.

Vigneault has an offensive superstar in Giroux (82 points) but Patrick (a former No. 2 pick) and van Riemsdyk have more name value than skill. No matter, the coach always pays the price in Philly: Vigneault is the fifth coach since the start of the 2013 season, and he’d like this commitment to last.

”You know what we have to do? We have to win,” he said.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports