NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Bruins vs. Penguins; Flyers vs. Avalanche

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2016-17 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Wednesday night. It all gets going at 7:30 p.m. ET when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Boston Bruins. You can watch the game online by clicking here

The Boston Bruins came into this week having lost three straight games, but they managed to put together a solid effort in Monday’s 2-1 overtime win in Montreal.

Despite the low goal total, that was arguably one of the most physical and entertaining games of the season so far.

“As a team, it was a good response (given) what our trend had been, losing three straight and knowing we were up against a tough opponent,” David Backes said, per the Boston Herald. “The guys were engaged, battling for each other, standing up for each other. You like to see that character come out.”

It took a total team effort to knock off the Habs, and the Bruins will need more of the same tonight.

The Penguins are the top team in what is looking like the best division in hockey. Pittsburgh’s won six straight games and they’re currently sitting atop the Metropolitan with a 19-7-3 record (12-2-1 at home).

By now, you may have heard about this guy, Sidney Crosby, who’s lighting the lamp at a crazy pace.

The Pens captain missed the first six games of the year because of a concussion, but since coming back, he’s put the puck in the net 21 times in 23 games.

“He creates offense so many different ways,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune. “He can beat you with a speed game. He can beat you with a power game. He can beat you with a finesse game.”

Of course, this isn’t just a one-man team. The Penguins have also benefited from balanced scoring, some solid production from the blue line and they have a pair of goalies that can win them games on any given night.

The late game gets going at 10:00 p.m. ET, as the Philadelphia Flyers travel to Colorado to take on the Avalanche. To watch that game online, click here.

The Pens might be the top team in the Metro, but the Flyers are the hottest team. Philadelphia has put together a nine-game winning streak, and they trail Pittsburgh by just two points in the standings.

“I think it’s definitely pretty cool for us,” Shayne Gostisbehere said of his team’s winning streak, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But right now the coolest thing is to look at the standings. We’re sitting pretty good. It’s a good thing for our team, and it’s a good thing for us to not get complacent. Just because you rattle off some wins in a row doesn’t mean you can’t lose that many, too.”

When you win nine games in a row, it likely means that you’ve received contributions from different players. That holds true for the Flyers, but the work Jakub Voracek has put in this season is undeniable.

After a disappointing 2015-16 that saw him score just 11 goals and 55 points, the Flyers forward has clearly taken the necessary steps to bounce back in a big way. He currently has 11 goals and 32 points in 31 games, which is pretty crazy.

“I’ve been here six seasons. Five years, I’ve been great,” Voracek said. “Last season was a fluke. I look at it that way.”

The Avalanche are a hard team to figure out because they have plenty of young, speedy talent, but they just can’t win with any regularity.

The Avs are 2-4-0 in the month of December. No loss was uglier than that 10-1 decision in Montreal last Saturday night. To their credit, they bounced back the very next night by beating Toronto.

One of the issues with Colorado, is their abysmal home record (4-8-1). No team in the league has won less games at home than the Avs.

“I don’t know why our road record’s so much better,” forward Matt Duchene said, per the Denver Post. “That’s got to change a little bit, obviously. We have to be a lot better. But we’ve had some bad games on the road too, games where we haven’t shown up. When we lose, we’re doing the same things, and it’s not a home versus road thing. When we win, we’re doing the same things. It’s not a home versus road thing there, either.”

Scoring goals has also been an issue for them. Through 27 games, no team has found the back of the net less than the Avs (60 goals).

Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Rene Bourque have scored 10, 8 and 8 goals respectively, but the rest of the roster isn’t pulling their weight in that department.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog has missed some time this year, but he only has four goals in 17 contests. Carl Soderberg has four in 27, Jarome Iginla has three in 27, Mikko Rantanen has four in 22 and Blake Comeau has five in 23.

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    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

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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.