Get your game notes: Kings at Avalanche

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

TOP STORYLINES

• Champs still on the outside: The Kings played well over the past month, posting a 10-3-1 record since February 7th, the date their season-high 8-game win streak began (but they are just 2-3-1 since the streak ended). However, LA is still outside the playoff picture because the 4 teams ahead of them in the race (VAN/CGY in the Pacific, and MIN/WPG in the Wild Card) have also performed well in that span of time:

• Since the 1967-68 expansion, only 3 teams have missed the playoffs the season
after winning the Cup, with Carolina in 2006-07 being the most recent to do so (also 1969-70 Canadiens, 1995-96 Devils).

• What does Vegas think? Entering the season, LA had 10-1 odds to repeat as Cup champions. Now, with 17 games remaining, LA isn’t even in the playoff picture, but the Kings’ odds to win the Stanley Cup remain unchanged at 10-1 (per Vegas Insider and Bovada).

• The Kings are familiar with having an uncertain playoff standing entering the stretch run. In each of the past 3 seasons, they have not clinched a playoff spot until the very end of the season.

• LA’s schedule: Though LA has many games remaining against the teams they are chasing (3 vs. VAN, 1 vs. CGY, 1 vs. MIN), its schedule is road-heavy to close the season (11 away/6 home, including tonight). The Kings have only won one-third of their road games this season (10-14-6 record).

• Semyon’s status: Avs starting goalie Semyon Varlamov is expected to participate in the morning skate today after exiting late in the 3rd period with a lower-body injury in the Avs’ 3-2 win over the Wild on Sunday. Coach Patrick Roy said he might have suffered from cramping. He is questionable for tonight’s game.

• Varlamov had been on a tear for COL, earning the NHL’s Second Star of the Week yesterday following his 3-0-0, 0.69 GAA, .981 SV% total in wins vs. PIT, at CBJ, and at MIN.

• He has also made 22 consecutive starts dating back to Jan. 15, the longest stretch of his career and the 2nd longest active streak in the NHL (Devan Dubnyk has made 24 straight starts for MIN).

• As a precaution, Calvin Pickard was recalled yesterday from Lake Erie (AHL), and would start should Varlamov not be fit to play. Pickard is coming off a 34-save shutout in the minors on Sunday, and set a club record with his 52nd career victory in a Lake Erie uniform.

• Pickard filled in earlier in the season when Varlamov was sidelined with a groin injury, going 6-6-3 with a 2.18 GAA and .936 SV% in his 15 games.

• Colorado staying alive: After a loss to the Rangers on Feb. 12, the Avs had dropped 4 straight in regulation and found themselves nearing playoff irrelevance. Roy set a goal for the team, saying: “We don’t have to look at the standings…it’s 95 [points]” (now would need 24 pts in the final 16 gms)

• The Avs have gone 8-3-0 since that losing streak, including 3 straight wins entering tonight, but are still 7 pts out of the 2nd Wild Card (WPG). They must also pass 3 teams if they want to play past early April.

KINGS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• LA has struggled to get consistent goal-scoring from key veteran forwards of late.

• Captain Dustin Brown has seen his goal production decline in every season since scoring 28 goals in 2010-11. He has just 10 in 65 games this season (on pace for his lowest total since his rookie season in 2003-04), including 8 straight without a goal. Brown has addressed the urgency of the Kings’ current position: “I mean, given the situation we’re in, we have to get better…This group over the years have proven when we need to play really well, we can. Unfortunately, we need to figure out a way to not put ourselves in these situations.”

• Conn Smythe-winner Justin Williams ranks 4th on the team with 16 goals, but he only has 1 goal and 3 points in his last 13 games.

• Anze Kopitar, who has led the Kings in scoring 7 years in a row, only has 2 goals in his last 20 games (though he does have 12 assists in that span).

• Trade deadline acquisition Andrej Sekera has played in 5 gms for LA. He has 0 pts while averaging 18:54 TOI.

• Alec Martinez (concussion) remains out indefinitely after taking a hard hit from Cedric Paquette on Feb. 7 in Tampa Bay. He has missed the last 13 games and has been skating in a no-contact jersey.

• Jonathan Quick ranks 3rd in the NHL with 55 starts this season. He was in net for the 1-0 OTL to PIT on Saturday, stopping 17 of 18 shots in the game.

• In the first Kings-Avs meeting this season (Feb. 18 at COL), Quick stopped 42 shots in a 4-1 LA win.

• Career vs. COL: Quick is 10-4-1 with a 2.43 GAA.

AVS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Captain Gabriel Landeskog has helped keep the Avs playoff hopes alive. After 2 points, including the game-winning goal, on Sunday vs. MIN, Landeskog now has 9 goals and 6 assists in his last 12 games, a significant improvement on his play before this stretch:

• He was the 2nd overall pick in 2011, and became the youngest captain in NHL history (19 years, 286 days) when the Avs gave him the “C” in the 2012 offseason.

• 23-year-old Tyson Barrie (2009 3rd-round pick by COL) leads the team in assists (33) and is 3rd on the team in points (43) – both are career-highs.

• Though he went without a point against MIN, Barrie still has 12 points (4G-8A) in his last 10 games.

• The oldest member of the Avalanche – 37-year-old Jarome Iginla – shares the team lead in scoring with Landeskog (46 pts) after a 2 assist game vs. MIN. That performance extended his point streak to 3 games (2G-2A).

• The Avs announced Friday that 2013 1st overall pick (and last season’s rookie of the year) Nathan MacKinnon had a fractured foot and would miss 6-8 weeks, making him out for at least the rest of the regular season.

• The Avs acquired Jordan Caron and a draft pick at the deadline for Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey. Caron was the 25th overall pick in 2009 by the B’s. The 24-year-old has 0 points in his 3 games with COL, playing on the 2nd line with Iginla and Matt Duchene.

Petr Cech marks hockey debut with winning shootout save

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Legendary soccer goalkeeper Petr Cech traded in soccer cleats for ice skates this week after joining up with the Guildford Phoenix of the United Kingdom’s National Ice Hockey League.

The 37-year-old made his debut on Sunday, leading the Phoenix to a 3-2 win over the Swindon Wildcats after a shootout. Sporting a mask designed by the great Dave Gunnarsson which featured a tribute to fellow Czech Dominik Hasek and the logos of Arsenal and Chelsea, the two Premier League soccer teams he played for (and in Chelsea’s case, his current employer).

With the score tied at two, the Phoenix and Wildcats entered the shootout and Cech made two stops, including the final one of the game.

For his part, Cech was named man of the match.

“After 20 years of professional football this is going to be a wonderful experience for me to play the game I loved to watch and play as a kid,” Cech said in a statement last week after signing with the Phoenix.

Now, it’s back to work for Cech at Chelsea as the club’s technical and performance advisor until his next appearance in net for the Phoenix.

MORE: Petr Cech trades soccer goal for hockey net, signs with Guildford Phoenix

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

The Buzzer: Namestnikov’s revenge game; Crosby keeps dominating

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Three Stars

1. Vladislav Namestnikov, Ottawa Senators. Two years ago Namestnikov was skating on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top line alongside Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. After boosting his value, he was then used as a trade chip for the team to land defender Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers before the 2017-18 trade deadline. After a mostly disappointing stay on Broadway, he was traded to Ottawa this past week for another fresh start. So far, so good, and it came at the Lightning’s expense. Namestnikov scored two goals — including the game-winner — for the Senators on Saturday to help his new team get its first win of the season. On paper, this game should have been a mismatch, but the Senators drastically outplayed the Lightning in what was probably the biggest surprise of the day.

2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. After scoring 50 goals and 100 points a year ago and finishing in the top-four of the league in both categories, Draisaitl is picking up where he left and is once again looking like a superstar. He finished with three points on Saturday afternoon — including two goals — to help the Oilers improve to 5-0 on the season. He and Connor McDavid (two more points on Saturday) are carrying the offense again.

3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Penguins’ forward lineup dealing with a ton of injuries they are going to need their captain and his line to dominate for them to have a chance to win. Right now, they are dominating. Crosby was great once again on Saturday night, picking up two more points in a 7-4 win over the Minnesota Wild, including a highlight reel backhand goal off the rush. He has recorded at least one point in every game this season and already has eight in the Penguins’ first five games. The Penguins also received some surprising production from their recent call-ups with Adam Johnson and Sam Lafferty both recording their first NHL goals.

Other notable performances on Saturday

  • Brendan Gallagher finished with three points for the Montreal Canadiens as they handed the St. Louis Blues their first regulation loss of the season.
  • Rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov was amazing again for the Washington Capitals as they defeated the Dallas Stars. In his first two NHL starts Samsonov has allowed a total of two goals. He is the future of the position in The District.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk continued his strong start with another goal in the Kings’ 7-4 win over the Nashville Predators.
  • The Winnipeg Jets overcame an early 2-0 deficit against the Chicago Blackhawks to win in overtime on Mark Scheifele‘s second goal of the season. The Blackhawks remain winless.
  • Mark Stone, Will Carrier, and Max Pacioretty all had two points for the Vegas Golden Knights in their big 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames.
  • Semyon Varlamov picked up his first win as a member of the New York Islanders by stopping all three shootout shots against the Florida Panthers. He also made 35 saves through regulation and overtime.
  • Tanner Pearson scored a goal in regulation and then added the game-winning goal in the shootout for the Vancouver Canucks in their win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • The Boston Bruins’ top line was once again dominant as Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron both scored goals in a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils to keep them winless. Tuukka Rask was also brilliant again and has stopped 90 of the first 94 shots he has faced this season.

Highlights of the Night

It may have come in a losing effort but Kaapo Kakko‘s first NHL goal for the New York Rangers was a beautiful play.

Jacob De La Rose had one of the few highlights of the night for the Detroit Red Wings with this nice looking goal.

The Columbus Blue Jackets handed the Carolina Hurricanes their first loss of the season thanks to this great effort from Pierre-Luc Dubois.

The Colorado Avalanche improved to 4-0-0 on the season and it was new addition Andre Burakovsky scoring the game-winning goal for the second game in a row.

Blooper of the Night

There is really no other choice here, it has to be Jimmy Howard‘s gamble in Detroit that turned into a rather easy goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Rest in Peace

Factoids

  • The Capitals’ win against the Stars was their first regulation win in Dallas since the 1995 season. [NHL PR]
  • Phil Kessel played in his 1,000th NHL game on Saturday night, making him the third youngest active player to play in 1,000 games. [NHL PR]
  • Penguins goalie Matt Murray recorded his 100th career win on Saturday night, making him just the eight goalie since the 1966-67 season record 100 wins in 166 games or less. [NHL PR]
  • The Los Angeles Kings set a franchise record for fasted three goals, scoring three goals in 30 seconds during their win over the Nashville Predators. [NHL PR]
  • The Oilers are the first team in NHL history to come-from-behind to win each of their first five games of the season. [NHL PR]

Scores
Edmonton Oilers 4, New York Rangers 1
Ottawa Senators 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 2
Los Angeles Kings 7, Nashville Predators 4
Winnipeg Jets 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2 (OT)
Boston Bruins 3, New Jersey Devils 0
Montreal Canadiens 6, St. Louis Blues 3
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Detroit Red Wings 2
New York Islanders 3, Florida Panthers 2 (SO)
Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2
Washington Capitals 4, Dallas Stars 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 7, Minnesota Wild 4
Colorado Avalanche 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT)
Vegas Golden Knights 6, Calgary Flames 2
Vancouver Canucks 3, Philadelphia Flyers 2 (SO)

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Jimmy Howard’s gamble goes poorly, results in easy Maple Leafs goal (Video)

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Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard had a great start to Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He was giving his team a chance to hang around against one of the best offensive teams in the league and keeping them in it when they were not at their best. But with 30 seconds to play in the second period of what was a tie game, he decided to gamble and charged out of his net to try and win a race to a loose puck so he could knock it away from Maple Leafs forward Ilya Mikheyev.

His gamble did not work.

That is unfortunate.

It was all downhill for Howard and the Red Wings from there as they surrendered three more goals to the Maple Leafs in the third period to drop a 5-2 decision.

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Devils lose again, remain winless: 3 takeaways on slow start

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The New Jersey Devils were one of the biggest stories of the offseason thanks to some aggressive roster moves by general manager Ray Shero.

Along with the return of a healthy Taylor Hall, the Devils won the NHL’s draft lottery and selected Jack Hughes No. 1 overall to add to a young core that already included the No. 1 overall pick from the 2017 class (Nico Hischier). They surrounded their newly formed core with the big summer acquisitions of P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, and Wayne Simmonds.

Expectations immediately skyrocketed and there was a ton of optimism around the team.

That optimism might be starting to quickly disappear.

Following Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Devils remain winless (0-3-2) through the first five games of the season and you have to wonder how much longer it is going to be until head coach John Hynes’ seat starts to get a little warmer.

What has gone wrong for the Devils so far? Here are three key factors.

1. It has been a slow start for the new faces

Out of all the big offseason acquisitions, Gusev is the only that has found the back of the net through the first five games (he has two goals). Other than that, it has been a giant goose egg for everyone else that was expected to make a difference.  Simmonds and Subban have combined for just two assists, while Hughes is going through some early growing pains with zero points and only 10 shots on goal through the first five games.

When it comes to Hughes you had to expect some struggles at times. He is 18 years old and making a massive jump to the NHL. Not everyone is going to step in and immediately be Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, or Connor McDavid. And while Subban is off to a slow start and might be starting to slow down a little, he has enough of a track record and is still good enough that you have to think he is going to shake off this slow start.

Adding to the problems offensively is that Hall, Hischier, and Kyle Palmieri have combined for just two goals so far (both belonging to Palmieri). If you wanted to put a positive spin on this for the Devils it’s that their best players haven’t yet played anything close to their best hockey. They are not going to struggle this much forever.

But as long as they do, goals — and wins — are going to be few and far between.

2. The power play has been awful

Calling it awful might actually be an understatement. After their 0-for-4 performance against Boston on Saturday night the Devils are now 0-for-15 on the season. That is zero goals in 30 minutes of power play time, and it is not like they have been unlucky. Entering play on Sunday their power play unit was one of the worst in the league when it comes to generating shot attempts and getting shots on goal.

3. Goaltending is still an issue 

It is not the biggest issue, but it is still an issue and it was the single biggest question mark the team had entering the season. Through five games the Devils have allowed at least three goals in every game, with Saturday’s game in Boston being the first one where they did not allow at least four. While the team in front of them has not been particularly good on any given night, the duo of Cory Schneider and Mackenzie Blackwood has an .863 save percentage after Saturday. No matter what is happening around them, your team has no chance with that sort of production from your goalies.

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.