Get your game notes: Red Wings at Avalanche

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Colorado Avalanche hosting the Detroit Red Wings at 9 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Matchup between two teams making a strong push to position themselves for postseason hockey.

• Last game: DET beat NYI 4-1 on Saturday…COL won at DAL 3-2 SO (11th round) on Tuesday.

• Hottest team in the East…Detroit’s 24 points over its last 16 games is the most in the conference.

• The Wings stretch of strong play starts with a 6-3 win over BUF on December 23rd which snapped a 6-game losing streak at the time…since then, DET has won 12 of its last 16 games (12-4-0).

• DET sits 3rd in the Atlantic – tied in points with MTL at 67 but currently loses the tiebreaker to the Habs having lost both meetings against them this season (although they play each other twice more this season).

• DET trails division/conference leading TB by 2 points but has 2 games in hand on the Lightning.

• DET has made the postseason 23 consecutive seasons – the longest active streak in the league.

• DET G Jimmy Howard injured his groin on Jan. 10 and was expected to miss 2-4 weeks from the time of injury. The All-Star selection is still day-to-day and is hoping to return next week…22-year-old Petr Mrazek has started all 8 games in net since Howard’s injury.

• DET: 7-1-0 in last 8 games.

• 3.88 goals/game during this stretch (3+ goals scored in all 7 wins.)

• Mrazek: 6-1-0 record, 3.12 GAA, .897 SV% in last 8 starts.

• Stopped 22 of 23 shots in the Red Wings’ most recent game on Saturday vs. NYI.

• This season: 11-4-1, 2.66 GAA, .907 SV%.

• Started in net in the first meeting vs. COL this season: 22 saves on 23 shots in the 2-1 SO loss back on Dec. 21 in DET.

• Colorado is also a team playing much better than at the start of its season…it took the Avs until Dec. 23 to reach as many wins on the season as regulation losses (13-13-8 at the time) and until Jan. 8 to surpass their regulation loss total with wins (17-16-8 then)…

• Since Jan. 6, the Avs have earned at least a point in 10 of 12 games (7-2-3) and are allowing only 2.00 goals/game during this stretch.

• 4 of those 5 losses have been by 1-goal (including OT/SO games).

• Central Division scope: The Central has 3 of the top 4 teams in the West, and is the only division in the NHL in which every team is above .500 in points percentage.

• The Avs are 9 points back of Chicago for 3rd in the division but only 4 points behind VAN for the 2nd WC. COL is currently 9th – with 55 points – in a crowded race with 10-12th all at 54 points (MIN, DAL, LA).

DETROIT TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• DET ranks first in the league on the power-play (25.6%) & went 2-4 with the man advantage in its last game.

• DET is 7-for-its-last-15 (46.7%) on the PP in its last 6 games.

• Henrik Zetterberg recorded an assist on Saturday vs. NYI and now has 10 points (5G-5A) in his last 6 games.

• Zetterberg leads the team in both assists (31) & points (46) this season.

• Career vs. COL: 28 points (8G-20A) in 36 games.

• Gustav Nyquist leads the team in PPG (12) – 3rd overall in NHL (behind Alex Ovechkin/Joe Pavelski – 14).

• Nyquist scored against NYI & has 15 points (5G-10A) in his last 13 games including 5 goals in his last 8.

• Nyquist led the team in goals last season (28 in 57 GP) – 9 more than Tatar 2nd on the team.

• Nyquist has 43 goals in his last 84 regular-season games.

• Pavel Datsyuk has an assist in back-to-back games and 9 points (2G-7A) in his last 11 games.

• Career vs. COL: 44 points (18G-26A) in 41 games.

• Tomas Tatar scored vs. NYI and has 10 points (7G-3A) in the new year (12 GP). He has already set a new career high in goals with 22 (besting 19 from last season) and is on pace to surpass his career-high 39-point mark from last season with 35 points in 50 GP this season.

COLORADO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• COL ranks 29th in the league on the PP (13.0%) and is 0-19 in its last 6 games with the man advantage.

• Two of the oldest members of the Avalanche – 35-year-old Alex Tanguay and 37-year-old Jarome Iginla – are the leading scorers on the team this season.

• Tanguay had his 3-game assist streak snapped at DAL (3A in his last 4 games).

• Career vs. DET: 35 points (12G-23A) in 40 games.

• Iginla leads the team in goals (16) but had his 3-game goal streak snapped at DAL (3G in his last 4 games).

• Career vs. DET: 56 points (22G-34A) in 66 games.

• The Avs have had a top-3 overall pick 3 times in the past 6 seasons. Those 3 players – Matt Duchene (3rd overall in 2009), captain Gabriel Landeskog (2nd overall in 2011), and Nathan MacKinnon (1st overall in 2013) are all performing below their 2013-14 season results but are coming on of late.

• Duchene had 70 pts in 71 games last season.

• He has 31 pts (13G-18A) in 51 games this season but 4 points in his last 5 games.

• Landeskog set career-highs last season in goals (26) and assists (39).

• He has 10 goals and 21 assists in 51 games this season but is riding a 3-game point streak (1G-2A).

• MacKinnon was last season’s Calder Trophy winner (top rookie) with 63 points.

• He had 2 assists vs. NSH two games ago but was held without a point at DAL…and has 29 points (9G-20A) in 51 games overall this season.

• Semyon Varlamov – a Vezina Trophy nominee last season – has started 16 of the 18 Avalanche games since returning from a groin injury; sustained Dec. 8 (missed 6 games).

• 16 gms since return: 10-4-2, 2.03 GAA, .936 SV%, 3 SO.

PHT Morning Skate: Stamkos best of an era; Russian Rangers revival

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

Steven Stamkos is the best shooter of the salary cap era. (Raw Charge)

• What active NHLers are Hall of Fame worthy? Here they are, ranked. (Yardbarker)

• Pittsburgh has players who rank among the best, worst at converting shots into goals. Who are they? (Pensburgh)

• Russian invasion fueling Rangers revival. (Featurd)

• Why the folding of the National Women’s Hockey League could be best thing for the sport. (AZ Central)

• Panthers view Bobrovsky signing as needed element for return to playoffs. (NHL.com)

• It’s time to move on from Jon Gillies. (Matchsticks & Gasoline)

• Competition aplenty as under-the-radar depth piece Nicolas Aube-Kubel re-signs with Flyers. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• NHL stands out when strengths of major pro leagues are pondered. (StarTribune)

• The latest on the changes and improvements coming to NHL 20. (Operation Sports)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Seattle close to naming Ron Francis as GM

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SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s NHL expansion team is close to an agreement with Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis to become its first general manager, a person with direct knowledge tells The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the team had not made an announcement.

The expansion Seattle franchise is set to begin play in the 2021-22 season as the NHL’s 32nd team.

After longtime Detroit GM Ken Holland went to Edmonton, adviser Dave Tippett left Seattle Hockey Partners LLC to become Oilers coach and Vegas’ Kelly McCrimmon and Columbus’ Bill Zito got promotions, there was a limited pool of experienced NHL executives to choose from for this job. Francis fits that bill.

The 56-year-old has been in hockey operations since shortly after the end of his Hall of Fame playing career. All of that time has come with the Carolina Hurricanes, including four seasons as their GM.

Carolina didn’t make the playoffs with Francis in charge of decision-making, though his moves put the foundation in place for the team that reached the Eastern Conference final this past season.

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed.

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

Provorov’s next contract presents big challenge for Flyers

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Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher has been busy overhauling his roster this summer and still has two big jobs ahead of him when it comes to re-signing restricted free agents Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov.

With close to $14 million in salary cap space remaining, he should have no problem in getting them signed and keeping the team under the salary cap.

Konecny’s situation seems like it should be pretty simple: He is a top-six forward that has been incredibly consistent throughout the first three years of his career. The Flyers know what they have right now, and they should have a pretty good idea as to what he is going to be in the future. There is not much risk in projecting what he should be able to do for them.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Provorov, on the other hand, presents a far more interesting challenge because he is still somewhat of a mystery whose career seems like it can go in either direction.

Along with Shayne Gostisbehere, Provorov is supposed to be the foundation of the Flyers’ defense for the next decade and entered the league with much fanfare at the start of the 2016-17 season. From the moment he arrived the Flyers have treated him like a top-pairing defender and pretty much thrown him in the deep end of the pool.

At times, he has flashed the potential that made him a top-10 pick in the draft and such a prized piece in the Flyers’ organization.

During his first three years in the league he has not missed a single game, has played more than 20 minutes per game every year, and over the past two seasons has played the fourth most total minutes in the NHL and the third most even-strength minutes. The Flyers have also not gone out of their way to shelter him in terms of where he starts his shifts and who he plays against, regularly sending him over the boards for defensive zone faceoffs and playing against other team’s top players.

In their view, based on his usage, he is their top defender.

Or at least was their top defender over the past two seasons.

Given the performance of the Flyers defensively during those seasons, that may not be much of a statement.

The concern that has to be addressed is that so far in his career Provorov has not always performed like a top-pairing defender in those top-pairing minutes that he has been given.

Just because a player gets a lot of playing time and the toughest assignments does not necessarily mean they are going to handle those minutes or succeed within them. That has been the case at times with Provorov in Philadelphia. This is not like the situation Columbus and Boston are facing with Zach Werenski and Charlie McAvoy this summer where both young players have already demonstrated an ability to play like top-pairing defenders and have already earned what should be significant, long-term commitments from their respective teams.

This is a situation where a young, talented, and still very promising player has been given a huge role, but has not always performed enough to justify that much trust.

He is also coming off of what can probably be described as a down season where his performance regressed from what it was in 2017-18. He not only saw a steep drop in his production offensively, but the Flyers were outshot, outchanced, and outscored by a pretty significant margin when Provorov was on the ice no matter who his partner was.

He struggled alongside Shayne Gostisbehere. He also struggled alongside Travis Sanheim, while Sanheim saw his performance increase dramatically when he was away from Provorov.

The dilemma the Flyers have to face here is how they handle a new contract for him this summer.

On one hand, he does not turn 23 until January and clearly has the talent to be an impact defender. But he has also played three full seasons in the NHL, and even when looked at within the context of his own team, has not yet shown a consistent ability to be that player. Every player develops at a different pace, and just because McAvoy and Werenski have already emerged as stars doesn’t mean every player at the same age has to follow the same rapid path. Because they most certainly will not.

It just makes it difficult for teams like the Flyers when they have to juggle a new contract.

They were in a similar position with Gostisbehere a couple of years ago when they signed him to a six-year, $27 million contract when he came off of his entry-level deal. But while Gostisbehere had regressed offensively, he still posted strong underlying numbers and at least showed the ability to be more of a possession-driving player. His goal-scoring and point production dropped, but there were at least positive signs it might bounce back. That is not necessarily the case with Provorov.

Even though Provorov has played a ton of minutes, put up some decent goal numbers at times, and been one of the biggest minute-eating defenders in the league, this just seems like a situation that screams for a bridge contract to allow the player to continue to develop, while also giving the team an opportunity to figure out what they have.

Provorov still has the potential to be a star and a bonafide top-pairing defender.

He just has not played like one yet or consistently shown any sign that he definitely will be one, despite being given the role.

Related: Werenski, McAvoy should be in line for huge contracts

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.

Capitals re-sign Vrana for two years, $6.7 million

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Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan took care of his biggest remaining offseason task on Tuesday afternoon when he re-signed restricted free agent forward Jakub Vrana to a two-year contract.

The deal will pay Vrana $6.7 million and carry an average annual salary cap hit of $3.35 million per season.

“Jakub is a highly skilled player with a tremendous upside and is a big part of our future,” said MacLellan in a statement released by the team. “We are pleased with his development the past two seasons and are looking forward for him to continue to develop and reach his full potential with our organization.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Vrana was the Capitals’ first-round pick in 2014 and has already shown top-line potential in the NHL. He took a huge step forward in his development during the 2018-19 season, scoring 24 goals to go with 23 assists while also posting strong underlying numbers. He is one of the Capitals’ best young players and quickly starting to become one of their core players moving forward.

It is obviously a bridge contract that will keep him as a restricted free agent when it expires following the 2020-21 season. If he continues on his current path he would be in line for a significant long-term contract that summer.

With Vrana signed the Capitals have under $1 million in salary cap space remaining. They still have to work out new contracts with restricted free agents Christian Djoos and Chandler Stephenson. Both players filed for salary arbitration. Djoos’ hearing is scheduled for July 22, while Stephenson has his scheduled for August 1. If the Capitals want to keep both on the NHL roster on opening night they may have to make another minor move at some point before the start of the regular 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.