Get your game notes: Blackhawks at Penguins

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

TOP STORYLINES

• Hawks look to enter break on a roll: Chicago entered last night’s game vs. Arizona having dropped 3 of its last 4 games, but the Hawks put up 51 shots in a 6-goal outburst to beat AZ 6-1 at United Center.

• Coach Joel Quenneville split up the normal All-Star pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on defense (Keith played w/ David Rundblad, and Seabrook w/ Niklas Hjalmarsson). He was pleased with the results: “I thought we had more balance, more consistency. It made the minutes more manageable across the board.”

• The Hawks also got important performances offensively:

• Andrew Shaw broke out of a 1-goal-in-22 games skid with 2 goals last night.

• Patrick Kane scored his 200th career goal and added 2 assists; he is now t-3rd in the NHL with 51 pts.

• Jonathan Toews snapped an 11-game goal drought.

• Rookie Teuvo Teravainen scored his 2nd NHL goal and added an assist – his 1st ever multi-point game.

• Penguins heading in the wrong direction: PIT is coming off a 3-2 (OT) loss in Philly last night, and the Pens have now dropped 3 straight (0-2-1 record) and 9 of their last 13 games (4-6-3 record).

• This skid over the last month has turned a 2-pt lead in the Metro Division to a 2nd-place standing, with a much tighter race:

• PIT’s fight-filled game with PHI: Defenseman Kris Letang – the team’s leader in TOI/G and 3rd-leading scorer – was checked from behind in the 1st period last night by PHI F Zac Rinaldo. Letang left the game and did not return, while Rinaldo was given a boarding major and a game misconduct.

• There were 4 fights in the 2nd period, and 93 combined PIM in the game.

• Letang underwent a concussion test, but the results were not divulged. His status for tonight is unknown.

• Rinaldo was offered an in-person hearing by the NHL for the hit, a CBA requirement if a potential suspension is to exceed 5 games. Rinaldo said after the game: “I changed the whole game, man. Who knows what woulda happened if I didn’t do what I did?”

CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Patrick Kane has 9 points (3G-6A) in his last 6 games after 1 goal, 2 assists last night.

• With 51 points this season, Kane is t-3rd in the NHL in scoring, 5 points behind league-leader Jakub Voracek. The highest Kane has ever finished in the scoring race is 5th (lockout-shortened 2012-13 season).

• Kane is one of 4 players this season with 20+ goals and 20+ assists (T. Seguin, V. Tarasenko, J. Tavares).

• Jonathan Toews opened the scoring last night vs. AZ, extending his point streak to 6 games (1G-7A).

• He will be one of the two All-Star Captains this weekend, along with CBJ’s Nick Foligno.

• Career vs. PIT: 8 points (6G-2A) in 6 career games.

• Corey Crawford got the night off vs. AZ, and is likely starting tonight. He has lost two straight starts (8 goals against), and has played below his normal standard since injuring his foot at a concert at the start of December.

PITTSBURGH TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Chris Kunitz scored shorthanded last night for his 500th career point.

• Kunitz career vs. CHI: 14 points (7G-7A) in 18 career games

• Evgeni Malkin had an assist last night, and now has 10 points (3G-7A) in last 8 games.\

• Sidney Crosby saw his 4-game point streak snapped last night, but he has 8 points (4G-4A), in his last 5 games.

• David Perron also had his 3-game point streak snapped last night, but he has 7 points (5G-2A) in 7 games with the team since being traded from EDM.

• Marc-Andre Fleury was given the night off last night. In his last action, he was pulled from the Penguins 5-2 loss vs. NYR on Sunday early in the 2nd period after allowing 4 goals on 17 shots.

• Fleury’s slump mirrors that of the team; since Dec. 22, he has won just 3 of 11 starts.

• Even though Fleury is on pace for over 65 starts, coach Mike Johnston denied that fatigue or overuse was a serious cause for his All-Star goaltender’s dip in performance: “It hasn’t been a concern for me. I watch him in practice and I watch him in games. Our games have been fairly spread out. There was a string there at Christmas where we had a lot and [backup Thomas Greiss] was out with the mumps. We probably played [Fleury] just a touch more, maybe one game more than we would have at that time.”

• Fleury is still on pace for a career year statistically, and has played especially well this season against the Western Conference in those 8 starts (7-1-0 record, 1.60 GAA, .947 SV%, 3 SO).

Panthers sign Brian Boyle to one-year deal

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The Florida Panthers added to their center depth on Sunday afternoon by announcing a one-year deal with 34-year-old Brian Boyle.

Financial terms of the deal were not released by the team, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports it will pay Boyle $940,000 this season.

“With over 700 games played in the NHL and over 100 more in the playoffs, Brian brings a wealth of experience to our club,” general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement released by the team. “He adds versatility and character to our lineup.”

Boyle spent the 2018-19 season split between the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators, scoring 18 goals in 78 games. That performance came just one year after he won the Masterton Trophy after coming back from chronic myelogenous leukemia, a type of blood and bone cancer. In October of 2018 he announced that his leukemia was in full remission.

Boyle’s addition to the lineup comes one day after Aleksander Barkov, the team’s No. 1 center and best all-around player, had to exit Saturday’s shootout win over the Nashville Predators with an apparent injury.

The Panthers were one of the busiest teams of the offseason adding Sergei Bobrovsky, Brett Connolly, Anton Stralman and now Boyle to their lineup, along with the addition of Joel Quenneville as the team’s new coach. They are trying to snap a three-year playoff drought. Through eight games they have a 3-2-3 record this season.

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.

What will Mathew Barzal’s next contract look like for Islanders?

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After the way the RFA situation unfolded this past summer, with almost every top player remaining unsigned until well into training camp, teams seem to be a little more proactive for this year’s upcoming group with several already signing new deals.

Alex DeBrincat (Chicago), Clayton Keller (Arizona), and Nico Hischier (New Jersey) have all recently signed new deals to avoid restricted free agency this summer, and according to Chris Johnston on Saturday’s headlines segment on Sportsnet. the New York Islanders would like to get Mathew Barzal, their top player, signed before the summer as well.

Barzal was asked about his contract situation before Saturday’s game in Columbus by Newsday‘s Andrew Gross and insisted it is not something on his mind at the moment.

From Newsday:

“At this point, it’s really just between my agent and Lou [Lamoriello] right now,” Barzal told Newsday on Saturday before the Islanders concluded a two-game road trip against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. “I don’t talk to Lou about contract stuff. If it happens in the next two months or if it happens in June, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just focused on the season right now.

“It’s something that eventually is going to happen,” Barzal added. “I’m pretty good at just kind of pushing that stuff aside and just worrying about what’s going on right now.”

Barzal and Columbus’ Pierre-Luc Dubois are two of the bigger name players still unsigned beyond this season that are set to hit restricted free agency this summer.

If the Islanders are able to accomplish that goal they could be looking at a significant contract for Barzal.

First, let’s take a quick a look at the three recent contracts signed by potential RFAs Keller, DeBrincat, and Hischier simply because they are at the same experience levels and signed their new deals with still one year remaining on their entry-level contracts.

  • Keller’s deal in Arizona was an eight-year, $57.2 million deal with a $7.1 million cap hit.
  • DeBrincat signed a shorter, bridge deal that is worth $19.2 million over three years with a salary cap hit of $6.4 million.
  • The Devils signed Hischier to a seven-year, $50.7 million contract with a salary cap hit of $7.2 million per season.

You can bet that Barzal’s salary cap hit will be higher than all three.

He has already proven to be more impactful — especially offensively — than everyone in that group, and if you compare what he has done through his first two full years in the league he is probably going to be closer to the Mikko Rantanen and Mitch Marner pay scale than the Hischier, Keller, DeBrincat group.

Through two years he has outproduced what Marner, Rantanen, and even Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point did through their first two years in the league — and significantly so at even-strength, and with less talent around him — and has arguably been more impactful as a two-way player. Remember, it wasn’t until year three that Marner, Rantanen, and Point really had their breakout seasons offensively to become superstars.

Barzal pretty much had his breakout moment in year one, and while his offense regressed just a bit in year two he was still very good and seemed to take even more strides forward defensively.

This doesn’t seem like a potential bridge contract situation (like Point in Tampa Bay, or DeBrincat in Chicago, or even Patrik Laine in Winnipeg) and seems far more likely to end in a long-term deal. Barzal is clearly the team’s best player, and while they are not swimming in extra salary cap space, it is not exactly facing a salary cap crunch, either. Given what he has already proven, his importance to the Islanders, and his long-term potential there is no reason to think that a seven-or eight-year deal at around $8 or $9 million is out of the question. And he would probably be worth every penny of it.

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.

The Buzzer: Fleury shuts out Penguins; hats off to Jost

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Three Stars

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights. The Pittsburgh Penguins did everything they could on Saturday night, and probably even had the better of the play against the Golden Knights, but Fleury stopped all 29 shots he faced — including a couple of highlight reel saves — to get the shutout against his former team. Fleury is off to a great start this season and now has a .934 save percentage in his first six starts.

2. Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche improved to 7-0-1 by rolling over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night thanks in large part to a hat trick from Jost. Expectations were sky high for the Avalanche at the start of the season and they have done nothing but justify them so far. They have the best top line in hockey, an exciting young defense, and strengthened their secondary scoring during the offseason. It is now really difficult to find a clear weakness on this team.

3. Corey Perry, Dallas Stars. Style points don’t matter for the Stars right now. They were not particularly strong on Saturday night in Philadelphia, but they still managed to snap a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win to get two points that they desperately needed. The star of the game was offseason Perry, scoring his first goal as a member of the Stars and recording two assists. How bad as the Stars offense been this season? Entering play on Saturday the Stars only had five players on the team record more than three points for the entire season (over nine games!).

Other notable performances on Saturday

Highlights of the Night

This is some vintage Anze Kopitar hockey here, turning defense into offense and scoring a slick shorthanded goal to help the Kings roll.

Look at the patience from Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck to wait for Pekka Rinne to make the first move and then beat him with a slick backhander.

Here it is again, the first NHL goal for the 2019 No. 1 overall pick, Jack Hughes. The only goal in a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

Blooper of the Night

Jost ended up getting a splash of water to the face in celebration of his first NHL hat trick.

Factoids

  • The Vegas Golden Knights won the 100th game in franchise history on Saturday, needing just 173 games to reach it. That is the second fewest games needed to reach 100, trailing only the 165 games the original Ottawa Senators franchise needed back in 1917. [NHL PR]
  • Jack Hughes became the ninth player in league history to score their first NHL goal in a game against their brother. [NHL PR]
  • Morgan Rielly‘s overtime goal on Saturday night was the fourth of his career. Only Tomas Kaberle has more among Maple Leafs defenders in franchise history. [NHL PR]

Scores

New Jersey Devils 1, Vancouver Canucks 0
Montreal Canadiens 5, St. Louis Blues 2
Arizona Coyotes 5, Ottawa Senators 2
Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Boston Bruins 3 (OT)
Colorado Avalanche 6, Tampa Bay Lightning 2
Dallas Stars 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1
Vegas Golden Knights 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 0
New York Islanders 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2 (OT)
Florida Panthers 3, Nashville Predators 2 (SO)
Los Angeles Kings 4, Calgary Flames 1
Buffalo Sabres 4, San Jose Sharks 3

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.

Drew Doughty, Matthew Tkachuk have another chaotic encounter (Video)

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The Los Angeles Kings put together their best game of the season on Saturday night, defeating the Calgary Flames 4-1 to pick up their third win.

A lot of good things happened for the Kings in this game, starting with the fact that they actually scored a few goals after being shutout for more than 130 consecutive minutes of hockey (including back-to-back shutout losses) entering the night. Then there was starting goalie Jonathan Quick, stuck in a miserable slump to open the season that has seen him allow 19 goals in his first three games, stopping 23 of 24 shots for his first win of the season. The only goal he surrendered was a late penalty shot goal to Mikael Backlund.

If we are being honest, though, the biggest reason anyone outside of the Kings and Flames fanbases would be keeping an eye on this game would be to see if Matthew Tkachuk and Drew Doughty would continue their ongoing feud.

To the surprise of no one, they did.

Midway through the third period Doughty managed to take out Tkachuk with a low hit that set off a chain reaction pile-up that also included Flames defenseman Mark Giordano flying in from the top rope and taking out Kyle Clifford.

Tkachuk ended up getting two minutes for tripping, two minutes for roughing, and a 10-minute misconduct, while Clifford picked up two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. No other penalties came out of that sequence.

This feud has been ongoing for three years now starting with Tkachuk — during his rookie season — earning a two-game suspension for elbowing Doughty in the face. Since then they have gone back and forth through the media and constantly been involved in on-ice incidents.

In their first meeting this season Tkachuk scored a late game-tying goal against the Kings to send it to overtime where Doughty would win it and then taunt the Flames’ crowd.

So far this season Doughty and the Kings have managed to get the best of Tkachuk and the Flames.

They will have to wait until Dec. 7 to face each other again.

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.