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Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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2018-19 NHL on NBC Schedule Features Most Games Since NBC Sports Acquired Rights Prior to 2005-06 Season

New “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN to Showcase Its Most Diverse Exclusive Schedule to Date and NHL’s Rising Stars 

2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Features Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 on NBC from Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.

NBC Sports Presents 2019 NHL All-Star Game from San Jose, Calif., Live in Primetime on Broadcast Television for First Time Since 1997 

NBC Sports is scheduled to present 109 NHL regular-season games during the 2018-19 season – its most since acquiring NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season. Coverage begins Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, when Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals raise their championship banner to the rafters and host the Boston Bruins. All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated users via TV Everywhere.

NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL schedule is highlighted by the debut of “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN, which will showcase the network’s most diverse schedule since it acquired NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season, as well as NHL’s current and rising stars. Highlights of NBC Sports’ “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule on NBCSN include: 

  • Doubleheaders – 17 of 25 “Wednesday Night Hockey” showcases on NBCSN will be doubleheaders, the most in the network’s history, with a nearly equal balance of Eastern and Western Conference teams;
  • Diverse schedule – “Wednesday Night Hockey” will feature NBCSN’s widest variety of teams to date on Wednesday nights, including multiple appearances by Tampa Bay, Colorado, Toronto, Vegas, Edmonton, Nashville, and Winnipeg. The defending champion Washington Capitals lead all teams with eight “Wednesday Night Hockey” appearances;
  • Earlier start times – While some games will begin at 8 p.m. ET, the majority of “Wednesday Night Hockey” games and doubleheaders will begin at either 7 p.m. ET or 7:30 p.m. ET. On many occasions, coverage of the second game of “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheaders begins at 9:30 p.m. ET, earlier than past years. 

“With the impressive growth of fan interest in non-traditional NHL markets combined with the emergence of a number of rising stars, we felt the time was right to broaden our Wednesday night schedule and evolve the brand,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “Fans will still see plenty of games between traditional powers, but our new approach to Wednesday nights – including a record number of doubleheaders – allows us to show more rising stars and more Western Conference and Canadian teams than ever before.”

Following are highlights of NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL regular-season schedule:

  • The season opens with a “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheader on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN as the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins, followed by the Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks at 10:30 p.m. ET;
  • NBC Sports will present the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks from iconic Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on Jan. 1, 2019, at 1 p.m. ET on NBC;
  • NBC Sports will present exclusive primetime coverage of the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers from Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC;
  • NBC will present coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., home of the San Jose Sharks, on Jan. 25-26, highlighted by live coverage of the All-Star Game on Saturday, Jan. 26, in primetime on NBC, the first time the All-Star Game will be televised live on a broadcast network since 1997;
  • NBC Sports will present 13 NHL games on NBC, beginning with the 2018 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown on Friday, Nov, 23, when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers;
  • 67 of 110 scheduled regular-season games on NBC and NBCSN – more than 60% – will feature at least one Western Conference team.

NHL WINTER CLASSIC AND NHL STADIUM SERIES

On Jan. 1, the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will feature the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks from Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Ind., on NBC. The NHL Winter Classic has produced the five most-watched regular-season games in NHL history. The 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will feature the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 23 in primetime on NBC at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOCKEY

NBCSN’s exclusive “Wednesday Night Hockey” coverage will feature the NHL’s established stars and young phenoms, and NBC Sports’ most diverse schedule to date. In addition, many “Wednesday Night Hockey” games and doubleheaders will feature earlier start times (7-7:30 p.m. ET). In many cases, Eastern Conference teams will be featured in the first game of the doubleheader, followed by a Western Conference matchup in the nightcap. Notable games on the “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule include:

  • October 10 – A 2018 Stanley Cup Final rematch between the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals;
  • October 24 – Two of the best young stars in the NHL will clash when Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets;
  • January 23 – Ovechkin and the Capitals host Matthews and the Maple Leafs, followed by a battle out west between P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators vs. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights;
  • February 13 – Three-time Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton’s only visit to Pittsburgh;
  • March 20 – A rematch of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, as Ovechkin and the Capitals host Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

NBCSN 2018-19 NHL “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule (subject to change):

Date Away Home Time (ET)
October 3* Boston Washington 7:30 p.m.
Anaheim San Jose 10:30 p.m.
October 10 Vegas Washington 8 p.m.
October 17 N.Y. Rangers Washington 7 p.m.
Boston Calgary 9:30 p.m.
October 24 Toronto Winnipeg 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Colorado 9:30 p.m.
November 7 Pittsburgh Washington 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Colorado 10 p.m.
November 14 St. Louis Chicago 8 p.m.
Anaheim Vegas 10:30 p.m.
November 28 St. Louis Detroit 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh Colorado 9:30 p.m.
December 5 Edmonton St. Louis 8 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim 10:30 p.m.
December 12 Pittsburgh Chicago 8 p.m.
December 19 Pittsburgh Washington 8 p.m.
January 2 Pittsburgh N.Y. Rangers 7 p.m.
San Jose Colorado 9:30 p.m.
January 9 Nashville Chicago 8 p.m.
January 16 Boston Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
San Jose Arizona 10 p.m.
January 23 Washington Toronto 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Vegas 10 p.m.
January 30 Tampa Bay Pittsburgh 8 p.m.
February 6 Boston N.Y. Rangers 8 p.m.
February 13 Edmonton Pittsburgh 8 p.m.
February 20 Chicago Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Boston Vegas 10 p.m.
February 27 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 6 Washington Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
St. Louis Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 13 Chicago Toronto 7 p.m.
New Jersey Edmonton 9:30 p.m.
March 20 Tampa Bay Washington 7:30 p.m.
Winnipeg Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 27 N.Y. Rangers Boston 7:30 p.m.
Vegas Colorado 10 p.m.
April 3 St. Louis Chicago 8 p.m.
Calgary Anaheim 10:30 p.m.

NBC SPORTS PRESENTS 2019 NHL ALL-STAR GAME LIVE IN PRIMETIME ON BROADCAST TELEVISION FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1997 

NBC and NBCSN will present extensive coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., home of the San Jose Sharks, highlighted by the NHL All-Star Game in primetime on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 26, marking the first time the NHL All-Star Game will be shown in primetime on broadcast television since 1997. NHL All-Star will take place January 25-26, 2019, and will include the NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ on Friday, Jan. 25, on NBCSN. Last year’s NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, Fla., was the third consecutive All-Star Game to feature the popular 3-on-3 tournament style format.

NHL ON NBC

NHL on NBC coverage begins on Friday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. ET, with the 2018 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown featuring the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, marking the first of 13 games scheduled to air on NBC during the regular season. Beginning on Jan. 20, and continuing through the end of the regular season, NBC will present the NHL Game of the Week, generally occurring on Sunday afternoons. Following is the 2018-19 NHL on NBC regular season schedule:

Date Away Home Time (ET)
Fri., Nov. 23# N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia 1 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 1* Boston Chicago 1 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 20 Washington Chicago 12:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Minnesota Chicago 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 3 Boston Washington 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 10 St. Louis Nashville 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 N.Y. Rangers Pittsburgh 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 St. Louis Minnesota 3 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 23^ Pittsburgh Philadelphia 8 p.m.
Sun., March 3 Washington N.Y. Rangers 12:30 p.m.
Sun., March 24 Philadelphia Washington 12:30 p.m.
Sun., March 31 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia 12:30 p.m.

#2018 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown; *2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic; ^2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series

NHL ON NBCSN

NBCSN will televise at least 96 NHL regular-season games this season, including the Opening Night doubleheader, 40 “Wednesday Night Hockey” games, and 21 doubleheaders, as well as NHL All-Star coverage from San Jose, Calif. In addition, NBC Sports has left the majority of the final week of the regular season on NBCSN open to allow for the biggest games with playoff implications to be added to the schedule.

NHL LIVE AND NHL OVERTIME

NHL Live and NHL Overtime, NBC Sports’ live pre- and post-game show with highlights and analysis of NHL matchups, will air before and after most games on NBCSN. A 60-minute edition of NHL Live will air prior to most games, while NHL Overtime will air immediately following most games.

STREAMING COVERAGE ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming platforms for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value for their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms. 

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox, and Chromecast.

NBC Sports Group 2018-19 NHL regular-season schedule (subject to change):

Date Away Home Network Time (ET)
Wed., Oct 3 Boston Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Anaheim San Jose NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Thur., Oct. 4 Nashville N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 9 San Jose Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 10 Vegas Washington NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 16 Arizona Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 17 N.Y. Rangers Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Boston Calgary NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 19 Minnesota Dallas NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 23 San Jose Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 24 Toronto Winnipeg NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 30 Vegas Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Thur., Nov. 1 Winnipeg Florida NBCSN 2 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 6 Edmonton Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 7 Pittsburgh Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Colorado NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 13 Tampa Bay Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 14 St. Louis Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Anaheim Vegas NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 20 Edmonton San Jose NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 21 Philadelphia Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 23 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia NBC 1 p.m.
Chicago Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 27 Vegas Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 28 St. Louis Detroit NBCSN 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 4 Toronto Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 5 Edmonton St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 11 Detroit Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 12 Pittsburgh Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 18 Nashville Chicago NBCSN 8:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 19 Pittsburgh Washington NBCSN 8 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 21 Buffalo Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Thur., Dec. 27 Philadelphia Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 1 Boston Chicago NBC 1 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 2 Pittsburgh N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
San Jose Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 3 Chicago N.Y. Islanders NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 6 Chicago Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 8 Philadelphia Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 9 Nashville Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 10 Winnipeg Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 14 Montreal Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 15 Los Angeles Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 16 Boston Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
San Jose Arizona NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 17 Chicago N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 20 Washington Chicago NBC 12:30 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 21 St. Louis Los Angeles NBCSN 4 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 22 Detroit Edmonton NBCSN 9 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 23 Washington Toronto NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 28 Winnipeg Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 29 Philadelphia N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 30 Tampa Bay Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers NBC 8 p.m.
Minnesota Chicago NBC 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 3 Boston Washington NBC 12:30 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 6 Boston N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 10 St. Louis Nashville NBC 12:30 p.m.
Toronto N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 11 Pittsburgh Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 12 Chicago Boston NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 13 Edmonton Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 N.Y. Rangers Pittsburgh NBC 12:30 p.m.
St. Louis Minnesota NBC 3 p.m.
Philadelphia Detroit NBCSN 6 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 18 Tampa Bay Columbus NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Boston San Jose NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 19 Toronto St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 20 Chicago Detroit NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Boston Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 21 Los Angeles Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 23 Pittsburgh Philadelphia NBC 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 24 St. Louis Minnesota NBCSN 7 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 25 Los Angeles Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 26 Buffalo Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 27 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 28 Tampa Bay Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., March 3 Washington N.Y. Rangers NBC 12:30 p.m.
Nashville Minnesota NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., March 5 Minnesota Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., March 6 Washington Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
St. Louis Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., March 7 Columbus Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Sun., March 10 Boston Pittsburgh NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Mon., March 11 San Jose Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., March 12 Washington Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 13 Chicago Toronto NBCSN 7 p.m.
New Jersey Edmonton NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Sun., March 17 Philadelphia Pittsburgh NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Edmonton Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., March 19 Washington New Jersey NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., March 20 Tampa Bay Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Winnipeg Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Sun., March 24 Philadelphia Washington NBC 12:30 p.m.
Colorado Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Mon., March 25 Nashville Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., March 26 Carolina Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 27 N.Y. Rangers Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Vegas Colorado NBCSN 10 p.m.
Sun., March 31 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia NBC 12:30 p.m.
Boston Detroit NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., April 3 St. Louis Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Calgary Anaheim NBCSN 10:30 p.m.

*Some games will be blacked out in local markets and televised in those markets by a regional carrier.

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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.

Previewing the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or Worse: Worse. The Ducks have been competitive for over a decade, so it wasn’t surprising to see them take a step back last year. Unfortunately for Anaheim, their core is getting older and they really didn’t improve their roster very much over the course of the summer. They lost Corey Perry and some other depth players, but they didn’t add any significant pieces. They hired Dallas Eakins as their new head coach, but it’ll be tough for him to make a significant difference. It’s tough to argue that this group is better.

Strengths: Their biggest strength is between the pipes. John Gibson put together an incredible season last year. His numbers may not jump off the page but make no mistake, he was the reason they weren’t out of it earlier than they were. The 26-year-old had a 26-22-8 record with a 2.84 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage last season. If the Ducks are going to improve this season, they’ll likely need their goalie to stand on his head on a nightly basis. Gibson is one of the top goalies in the league and that shouldn’t change in 2019-20.

Weaknesses: Their overall depth has taken a hit over the last few years. Sure, they still have good players like Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique down the middle, and Rickard Rakell, Ondrej Kase and Jakob Silfverberg on the wings. They also have Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and Cam Fowler on defense. The rest of the team has taken a bit of dip. Perry’s gone and Ryan Kesler is injured, and Patrick Eaves is likely retired. When you’ve been good for so long, these things will eventually happen.

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): 1. Let’s give Eakins some time. He’ll have plenty of challenges ahead with the edition of the Ducks. It’ll be important for him to assess the talent at his disposal quickly and he’ll need to figure out a way to get the most out of this group of players. Again, success probably won’t come as early as this season, but if the Ducks allow him to shape the roster how he sees fit, they could make strides in the near future. How much time he gets to build this program remains to be seen, but he can’t be on the hot seat yet!

[MORE: Three Questions | Under Pressure: Getzlaf | X-Factor]

Three Most Fascinating Players: It’ll be interesting to see how some of the young players perform this season. Daniel Sprong, Nick Ritchie and Brendan Guhle should all be part of this roster when training camp ends. How much will they contribute though?

Sprong was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. In 47 games with the Ducks, he put up 14 goals and 19 points, which isn’t terrible. Can he build on that season? We’ve mentioned that Anaheim’s depth may be a problem for them this year, so getting added contributions from talented youngsters like Sprong will be key. There’s no denying his ability on the ice, but the 22-year-old needs to put it all together now. 14 goals in 47 games works out to a 24-goal campaign over 82 contests. Can he flirt with 25 goals?

Ritchie is also a fascinating case. The 23-year-old was drafted 10th overall by the Ducks back in 2014, but he hasn’t had as big an impact as many expected him to since turning pro. Ritchie had nine goals and a career-high 31 points in 60 games in 2018-19. He needs to pick it up. He needs to lead the next waive of young players in the organization. He’s got size, he’s got skill and now he needs to make an impact on this Ducks roster. He can’t just be another depth player.

As for Guhle, he was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres last season. The former second-rounder played in just six games with Anaheim last season. The Ducks have Fowler, Manson and Lindholm on their blue line, but there are openings behind those three players. Guhle has to show that he’s capable of making this roster and eating up some important minutes for Anaheim this season. The 22-year-old needs to add stability to the Ducks on the back end.

Playoffs or Lottery: They’ll be in the lottery this year. Again, they have some talented players, but they don’t have enough of them. It’ll take some time for them to draft and develop the next generation of Ducks, but that re-tooling had to begin eventually. No playoffs for the Ducks this year.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Laine apologizes to Little; Can Isles keep having success?

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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.

• Bruins forward Karson Kuhlman will get an opportunity to break camp as a second-line winger. (Boston Globe)

Shea Weber still has a desire to improve every day. (Montreal Gazette)

• The Dream Gap Tour is trying to find a way to build a sustainable women’s hockey league. (TSN)

• Who will serve as the Washington Capitals’ backup goalie this season? (NBC Sports Washington)

• The Tampa Bay Lightning have more openings on their roster than ever before, according to head coach Jon Cooper. (Tampa Times)

• Can the Islanders sustain what they did last year under head coach Barry Trotz? (Light House Hockey)

• Will the Panthers make the playoffs this season? The Rat Trick makes five predictions for Florida’s 2019-20 season. (The Rat Trick)

• Sabres defenseman Matt Gilmour took a different path to get to the NHL. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Alex Nylander has produced during the preseason, but will that be enough to get him a spot on the Hawks roster? (NBC Sports Chicago)

Klim Kostin may finally be ready to make the jump to the NHL with the Blues. (St. Louis Game-Time)

Patrik Laine apologized to Bryan Little for the comments he made to a Finnish reporter. (NHL.com)

• Speaking of Little, he deserves to play with better players. (Jets Nation)

• 2019 first-round pick Thomas Harley has been impressing during Dallas Stars training camp. (Defending Big D)

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.

NBC Sports NHL Player Survey: Change or keep current playoff format?

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The topic of the Stanley Cup playoff format has bubbled up over the last few seasons which makes you wonder if we’ll see a change in the near future. After switching to the 1 vs. 8 conference format in 1993-94, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to bring back the divisional concept beginning with the 2014 postseason. While the emphasis on bringing back rivalries has worked in some areas, there has been plenty of opinions out there about moving away from the current setup.

During the NHL Player Media Tour earlier this month in Chicago we asked a number of players their thoughts on the current playoff format and whether they’d keep what we’ve got or make a change. Here’s what they said.

John Klingberg, Dallas Stars: “I’d probably keep it. Maybe the top seed should play the eighth, but this creates a lot of rivalries between team, so I kind of like it as it is.”

Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights: “The wild card is perfect like that, but I would do whoever has the most points play against [team with fewer] points.”

Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers: “I think it works right now. I’d keep it.”

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: “I don’t think it’s beneficial for our division because our division is so tough. In my opinion I would like it to be [1 vs. 8, re-seed after Round 1]. First round you play Tampa Bay, best team in the league, and third round you might play Carolina who was number whatever. I don’t think that’s fair.”

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks: “I prefer the conference [1 vs. 8] because you have the chance to play different teams every year instead of having to go through the same division team in the first or second round every single year.”

Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames: “I would keep it. I don’t have any issues with it.”

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild: “I’d change it. I think majority of the guys are on that side. I do understand the rivalries and what it creates and it has created some great rivalries. I think from our perspective you want to earn that rank and that position you have in the playoffs, 1-8. I’m probably just a little biased, that’s what I grew up with.”

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: “It is what it is at this point. I do think it should be the top eight teams from each conference. To me, it kind of seems to make the most sense. You’re going to have 32 teams in the league, you want the top 16 teams in the playoffs, right? It’s kind of the way it works. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it.”

Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators: “Maybe go back to the old way [1 vs. 8].”

Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes: “I like it. I don’t have a problem with it. I think once you get to the playoffs you’re going to have to win out anyways. Whether you beat the best team in the first round or in the Stanley Cup, they’re the best team, right? You’re going to have to win it all anyway. I don’t mind it.”

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks: “I would keep it, I don’t mind it. For me, it doesn’t matter. If you want to win the Cup you have to beat anybody, so I’m good with that.”

Matt Duchene, Nashville Predators: “I’d change it. It should be No. 1-8 in the conference, doesn’t matter your division, anything. It should just be the top eight teams ranked 1-8.”

Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets: “I say change it. Either 1 vs. 16 or 1 vs. 8.”

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars: “I like the current playoff format. I’d also like to see some type of wild card, maybe a three-game play-in series to get a couple more teams. From a business side of it, looking on the other side, you can have a great season and miss the playoffs by a couple of points. Now with adding teams in the league and still being a 16-team format, when you’re the ninth seed and miss the playoffs by two spots, from a fan’s perspective it’s an unsuccessful season not making the playoffs when you were really so close. I think it kind of adds something to support those teams that just missed the playoffs to have some type of play-in series like baseball has now so those market can feel like they accomplished more when they just missed out by a little and the next season the teams a little more ammo when they go and try to sell tickets.”

MORE NHL PLAYER SURVEYS:
Commissioner for the day
Most underrated player
2019-20 sleeper team

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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.

Previewing the 2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or Worse: Worse, but things could have been much worse considering their cap crunch — and also the rather obvious need for Nazem Kadri to get a change of scenery.

Ultimately, it’s still a step back to replace Kadri, Patrick Marleau, Jake Gardiner, Connor Brown, Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev, etc. with Alexander Kerfoot, Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, Jason Spezza, and so on. That doesn’t mean that the end result has to be a step backward, but it’s a minor stumble on paper.

Strengths: Yes, the Maple Leafs are paying top dollar for Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and now Mitch Marner. It just so happens that they’re more or less worth that money; fans of NHL teams have just become conditioned to see these types of guys making less than they should, thanks to the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sidney Crosby.

With Morgan Rielly and now Barrie, the Maple Leafs have some pretty potent options as far defensive scoring goes, although things get sketchy once you reach beyond the best options.

Frederik Andersen is also one of the best goalies in the NHL, and can sometimes will the Maple Leafs into games when their defense is cratering and their offense is cold.

Weaknesses: If Andersen gets hurt or struggles, the Maple Leafs’ backup options sure seem pretty dicey. Such a thought might prompt the team to wear Andersen out even if he plays well and stays healthy.

Depth on defense is a bit of a challenge, too.

Frankly, it’s tough to ignore Mike Babcock as someone who might be holding the Maple Leafs back. It’s not always huge decisions, but the conservative leaning can be a death by a thousand cuts. Not giving Auston Matthews enough minutes. Falling in love with old-school defensemen who, frankly, aren’t very good. It all adds up to a Maple Leafs setup that sometimes doesn’t feel fully optimized. I’m not convinced Babcock is a “bad” coach, yet like a lot of others, he has some bad habits.

[MORE: X-factor | Three Questions | Under Pressure]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): It’s usually not the best sign when you end a season needing a vote of confidence from your GM. Babcock came to Toronto with a big reputation and an even bigger contract, making it slightly awkward to fire him, but despite all of the personnel improvements the Maple Leafs have made, they still haven’t won a playoff series since 2003-04. Some of that comes down to facing tough opponents, including being tormented by the Boston Bruins, but patience is wearing thin. Put Babcock at a 9.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Tyson Barrie.

Marner got his wish with a contract that carries close to an $11 million cap hit; now it’s time for him to silence his doubters by showing that he’s worth that asking price. Fair or not, any cold streak will be magnified.

Nylander’s near-$7M AAV looks a whole lot better months later, but that doesn’t mean that Maple Leafs fans have totally “forgiven” him for a bumpy 2018-19 season once he actually signed. His hair choices will also be fascinating to watch.

Barrie brings a lot of skill to the table, and should have plenty of motivation in a contract year. That said, he also has his warts on defense; Maple Leafs fans and media tend to fixate on such mistakes, and it remains to be seen if Barrie will finish 2019-20 with a high standing among hockey folk.

Playoffs or Lottery: Playoffs, and another Round 1 exit won’t be acceptable. That might mean finally scaling the mountain that is the Boston Bruins. Even if Toronto draws someone like the Lightning or revamped Panthers, chances are it won’t be an easy challenge, yet people won’t be very interested in excuses — even good ones — if this season ends just like the last few.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.