NHL on NBCSN: Rangers look to push win streak to seven games against ‘Hawks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday night, as the Chicago Blackhawks host the New York Rangers at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

Things have been going (really, really) well for the Rangers of late. They’ll head into tonight’s game against the Blackhawks having won each of their last six games. During the streak, they’ve taken down the Golden Knights, Lightning, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Bruins and Oilers.

Veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who struggled out of the gate, has been between the pipes for each of the six victories.

“We’ve had a great run here, but because of our start we’re not in a great position,” Lundqvist said, per the New York Post. “So it’s important that we understand the importance of the next six games and the games after that. I’m happy that we put this streak together because we were putting ourselves in the race, but we’re still not in a great spot.

“But we are doing a lot of good things and that brings a lot of confidence to the group.When you have that, it’s easier to make good decisions under pressure and make better reads. Guys are coming up with big plays at the right time.”

On the other side, things haven’t been going as well for the ‘Hawks, who have dropped three of their last four games, including an ugly 7-5 loss to the New Jersey Devils (Chicago had a 4-1 lead in that one).

Scoring has been an issue for for them this season. They’ve scored 53 goals so far (ranked 16th in the league), but 10 of those came in the first game of the year against Pittsburgh and five came in the second game against Columbus. From the third game of the season until  this point, they’ve only found the back of the net 38 times in 16 games.

“We’ve never been in this spot,’’ head coach Joel Quenneville said, per the Chicago Tribune. “Finding that consistency and putting ourselves at the top of the division has always been there. Now that we’re not there, how we’re handling it is a good test for us.’’

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.