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Tomas Tatar gets his chance as Golden Knights make changes for Game 4

WASHINGTON — After losing the past two games of the Stanley Cup Final and facing a huge Game 4 Monday night, the Vegas Golden Knights are making at least one lineup change as Tomas Tatar will draw back in after being a healthy scratch for the past five games.

Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant refused to announce who was coming out of the lineup in place of Tatar, but the easy speculation here is David Perron, whose locker stall was empty following the morning skate.

Gallant also suggested there could be one other addition into the lineup but again refused to say who that could potentially involve.

“He’s a goal-scorer,” said Gallant when asked about the decision to put Tatar back in the lineup. “We wanted to change our lineup a little bit after losing two games a in a row and give us a little more offense.

“He brings offense, he can shoot a puck, he is good for our power play, he is going to play his game and play it the way we play our systems.”

Tatar said he was informed that he would be entering the lineup on Sunday night.

“It’s not always easy to jump in the lineup, but that’s what everybody waits for,” said Tatar. “That is what I’ve been waiting for. To get that chance. That chance came.”

Tatar was Vegas’ big trade deadline addition after getting him from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for three draft picks. A lock for at least 20 goals since he has been a full-time player NHLer, he was expected to add a little more offense to a lineup that was already one of the higher scoring teams in the league. It has not always worked out that way and has resulted in him spending most of the playoffs as a healthy scratch. In the Western Conference Final, he drew back into the lineup in Game 2 against the Winnipeg Jets after sitting out three games and immediately made an impact by scoring the opening goal, helping the Golden Knights even the series on their way to winning four in a row to eliminate the Jets.

“It’s not easy to come into a group that’s already somehow — even if you are a young group, you are really solidified quite quick,” said Golden Knights forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

“He came in, and he had a chance to play right away, and then he didn’t play and he just kept working. Great attitude to help us when we were in tough, in the locker room, behind the scene. I always like him in the lineup. It’s always fun. He did it against Winnipeg and he helped us big time so it’s always fun to see a guy who is patient, keeps working and then suddenly it pays off.”

Gallant echoed Bellemare’s sentiments when it comes to Tatar’s attitude and how he has handled being a scratch, a role he has not been accustomed to throughout his NHL career.

“He’s been very positive, unless he’s saying something different to somebody else he’s been A-1 positive with our group of guys,” said Gallant. “The guys respond to it. Is it a tough situation? It definitely is. He’s a first class guy, I know that he wants to play, obviously he is a veteran guy, but when a coach puts a lineup in we are putting the best lineup we think is available for that series or that game and that’s what you do. You are trying to win every game.”

“There’s no egos,” Gallant added when asked about how players have been able to go in and out of the lineup all season for his team. “I don’t expect guys to be happy when they are sitting out, but it’s part of the NHL, it’s part of our game. We’re having a chance to win the Stanley Cup. We’ve had a great run here. As coaches we do the best we can. Are the decisions always right? No, they are not, but we do the best we can to try to win.”

Perron, again, is the obvious call to come out of the lineup given his production in the playoffs. In 14 games this postseason he has yet to score a goal (he does have eight assists) and has managed just 12 shots on goal. He has failed to record a shot on goal in the past two games — both games Vegas dropped in the series so far — and had a particularly tough game on Saturday night having been on the ice for all three Capitals goals.

He has failed to record a shot on goal or a point in four of the past six games.

The Golden Knights desperately need some depth scoring from their second and third lines in this series and just as they talked about before Game 3 have to cut down on the turnovers that the Capitals have been able to turn into offense.

“Just from watching we have to get back on our game, put pucks deep,” said Tatar. “Washington is capitalizing on our turnovers right now so we know we have to put it deep, have a good forecheck.

“It’s the playoffs, every game is big, so I’m trying to put aside what the series is now and we are just going to go from game-to-game.”

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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: Toews powers Blackhawks, Petterson’s return, first place Isles

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Three Stars

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks. The Chicago Blackhawks are having an awful season, which has to be even more frustrating for them when you consider their superstars up front have been great all year. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane continued that on Sunday as both had five points in an 8-5 win over the Washington Capitals, continuing what has been one of the best individual seasons for Toews offensively in his career. Those five points for Toews included a hat trick. Just a shame for the Blackhawks it all happening during a season when everything around the top players has gone away.

2. Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks. Elias Pettersson has been a franchise-changing player for the Vancouver Canucks and has been one of the biggest reasons they are still in the Western Conference playoff race. He returned from injury on Sunday after missing more than two weeks and tallied two points, including his 23rd goal of the season early in the first period to open the scoring. He also assisted on the game-tying goal mid-way through the third period.  He is rolling toward the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and nobody is even close him in this rookie class.

3. Cal Clutterbuck, New York Islanders. The New York Islanders remained in first place thanks to their win over the Anaheim Ducks and the Washington Capitals’ loss to the Blackhawks on Sunday. They are not only in first place, but they actually have a three-point lead over the rest of the pack and are top-five team in the league in total points in the standings. They have now won five games in a row and 15 of their past 18. Cal Clutterbuck had the big game for the Islanders on Sunday with a pair of first period goals.

Highlights of the Night

It took Nino Niederreiter just 30 seconds to score his first goal as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night. Then he scored another later in the period as the Hurricanes went on to rout the Edmonton Oilers.

It was not a great game for goalies in Chicago on Sunday afternoon, but we do need to give some love to these two saves by Blackhawks goalie Collin Delia.

Robin Lehner stopped all 19 shots he faced for the now first-place New York Islanders.

Factoids

  • Darcy Kuemper is one of four goalies without a regular loss since the start of the new calendar year. He improved to 5-0-2 since Jan. 1 with the Arizona Coyotes’ win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday evening. [NHL PR]
  • Nino Niederreiter’s two goals on Sunday were more than Victor Rask, the player he was traded for this past week, scored for the Carolina Hurricanes all season. [@SaraCivian]
  • Andrei Svechnikov recorded his 20th point of the season on Sunday night, making him one of four players from the 2018 NHL draft class to have already hit that mark this season. [NHL PR]

Chicago Blackhawks 8, Washington Capitals 5

New York Islanders 3, Anaheim Ducks 2

Vancouver Canucks 3, Detroit Red Wings 2

Arizona Coyotes 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

Carolina Hurricanes 7, Edmonton Oilers 4

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.

Canucks’ Pettersson returns Sunday after five-game absence

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The man who will likely be crowned as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year is back in the lineup for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.

Elias Pettersson will suit up for the Canucks against the Detroit Red Wings after missing five games with a knee injury. Pettersson sprained his MCL after getting tangled up with Montreal Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi back on Jan. 3.

After Saturday’s practice, Pettersson told the assembled media that there was a good chance he would play on Sunday. And with the team activating him off injured reserve today, that chance turned into a confirmation.

“I don’t like to watch hockey, I like to play it,” Pettersson said.

He’s pretty good at the latter.

Pettersson’s start to the season, despite missing two now because of a concussion and the aforementioned knee injury, has been nothing short of sensational.

Pettersson led all rookies with 22 goals and 42 points prior to his latest injury and will return still leading all rookies.

And his absence from the Canucks, who are battling for a playoff spot, has been notable:

Still, they were 2-1-2, picking up points in four-of-five.

The Canucks are one point behind the Minnesota Wild for the final wild card in the west.

UPDATE: He’s already scored. 


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

Toews hat trick, five-point afternoon leads Blackhawks past Capitals

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Stout defense and solid goaltending, two traits that Sunday’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and visiting Washington Capitals had neither of.

But goal scoring? Yeah, there was a metric tonne of that in an 8-5 win for the Blackhawks on NBC.

Jonathan Toews scored a hat trick and added two assists for a five-point afternoon. Patrick Kane had a five-point game of his own, notching two goals and adding three helpers to push his point streak to eight games. Dylan Strome had a goal and two apples.

For the Capitals, they didn’t get one goal from their forwards. John Carlson led the way with two goals. All five of their goals came care of their defenseman — six if you include Dmitry Orlov’s own goal (he also scored one on the right net, too).

It was a game that reeked of two teams desperate to end their respective losing streaks. Chicago owned the longest of the two, coming into the game winless in five. The Capitals’ streak, meanwhile, extended to five, which extended their season-long drought.

The Caps came into the game outscored 14-4 in that time. You’d think scoring one more than they had in their previous four would be enough, but when Braden Holtby gets pulled after 22:30, allowing four goals on 11 shots, it’s probably not going to end well.

Goaltending wasn’t of particular importance in the game.

Collin Delia got the start for the Blackhawks and did enough in the end, despite allowing a few ugly ones. There weren’t a lot of notable saves in this one, but Delia made the save of the game with this effort in the second period.

Alex DeBrincat also found the back of the net, notable because he now has seven goals in his past seven games and 25 on the year.

DeBrincat is now three shy of the 28 he threw up in his rookie season last year and still has 32 games to get there. He’s likely going to crush that record in his sophomore season.

None of that is surprising given he can do things like this:

While Washington seems secure for the moment in terms of a playoff spot, their stock in Metropolitan Division is plummeting.

The New York Islanders leapfrogged them already with their four-game winning streak and could buy themselves some breathing room now with a win over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

The win for Chicago moves them out of the Western Conference basement, one point up on the lowly Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks are in a different battle down the stretch here, with the best lottery odds on the line for June’s NHL Draft.


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

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks meet Capitals on NBC

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Capitals have hit their biggest road block in their title defense after going 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, including four straight losses (0-3-1). The last time Washington lost four straight games was in March of 2017. During this four-game losing streak, the Caps have been outscored 12-1 in 5-on-5 play, and the lone goal in that scenario came against Nashville with the team trailing 7-1 late in the third period.

The last time the Capitals lost five straight games was Oct. 26 to Nov. 4 2014.

Alex Ovechkin enters this game tied with Dave Andreychuk for 14th place on the all-time goals (640) list. He is also only five points away from tying Hockey Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov for the most in League history by a Russian player (1,179).

The Blackhawks have lost seven of their eight games in the new year (1-4-3), including five straight losses (0-3-2) and are once again last in the NHL. Since Jeremy Colliton took charge on November 6, Chicago has lost 24 of their 34 games under their new head coach (10-18-6) after going 6-6-3 in 15 games under Joel Quenneville. The Hawks are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Thursday.

A bright spot for Chicago has been its power play which has now scored in seven consecutive games (9-for-21, 42.9 percent). That hot streak has put them in the middle of the pack in the NHL at 18.9 percent for the season.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

What: Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Sunday, Jan. 20, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Capitals-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Drake CaggiulaJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatDylan StromeDominik Kahun
Brandon SaadDavid KampfMarcus Kruger
John HaydenArtem AnisimovChris Kunitz

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy
Slater KoekkoekErik Gustafsson

Starting goalie: Collin Delia

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaLars EllerTom Wilson
Andre BurakovskyEvgeny KuznetsovBrett Connolly
Chandler StephensonNic DowdDevante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry OrlovJohn Carlson
Michal KempnyMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikMadison Bowey

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from United Center.