NHL on NBCSN: Streaking Islanders look to take down Blackhawks

7 Comments

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Islanders have been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season. After losing John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency, expectations around the Isles were fairly low. But through 38 games, New York is only one point out of a Wild Card spot (they have two games in hand on Montreal) and three points behind Columbus for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Not bad, not bad at all.

They’re coming into this game red-hot, as they’ve won four games in a row and seven of their last eight. So, how have they done this? There’s a few reasons, but it’s tough to ignore the job that new head coach Barry Trotz has done this season. Trotz is coming off his first Stanley Cup Championship with the Washington Capitals, but he decided to jump ship for the Isles. He was able to pass legendary Islanders coach Al Arbour for career wins (783) in his team’s latest victory.

“You get into coaching, you talk about certain names that you have respect for,” said Trotz. “When you hear someone say, ‘Hey, you and Al Arbour,’ I feel a little out of place. It’s a total honor to be even mentioned.”

Another newcomer, Robin Lehner, has been a huge difference-maker, as well. The 27-year-old has a 9-6-3 record with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage this season. Lehner’s battle with addictions has been well-documented, so everyone in the hockey world is happy to see him succeed.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

“I’ve had some players who have had situations where they were in a bad place and [now] they’ve got their life around them,” said Trotz. “I know how difficult it is for players who have to make life changes and if they don’t they die. It ruins their life [if they don’t] … to me, when you get the player in a good place, the player can have success, but more importantly a real productive life and that’s why I’m real proud of Robin. From the situation he was in to where he is now is a game changer, not only for him, but for us.”

As for the ‘Hawks, they’re coming off a loss to the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic. It’s been a disappointing year for an aging Chicago team. They have just 36 points through 42 games, which puts them in 13th in the Western Conference. They’re nine points out of the final Wild Card spot and 10 points away from third in the Central Division.

“We have our compass set right, as far as what works for us and what our team game’s supposed to look like, and we’re building on that consistency,” captain Jonathan Toews said after the Winter-Classic loss. “That’s huge for us. And some nights, pucks aren’t going to go in, or you’re not going to get the two points or the results you want. But if we keep doing things right, we just keep upping the odds of (winning) every night.”

24-year-old netminder Collin Delia has been one of the bright spots for Chicago of late. He’s won each of his three starts this season and he’s given up two goals or fewer in those outings.

And here’s a fun fact for you: Nobody enjoys playing the Islanders more than Patrick Kane. The 30-year-old has 10 goals and 10 assists in 14 career games against the Islanders.

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.

Devils, Hischier agree to seven-year, $50.75 million extension

Getty Images
2 Comments

While the Devils don’t know yet if Taylor Hall will sign an extension to remain in New Jersey or find a new home next summer in free agency, GM Ray Shero has young locked down one of the team’s core pieces.

On Friday, Nico Hischier agreed to a seven-year, $50.75 million extension that carries a $7.25 million cap hit through the 2026-27 NHL season. The deal buys three unrestricted free agent years since the Devils forward has been playing since he was 18, per Cap Friendly.

“Nico is a special person who possess a team-first mentality combined with an inner drive to succeed,” said Shero in a statement. The entire organization is thankful to him and his family for believing in our future. We are excited that he will continue to play a prominent role with us for many years to come.”

According to the Devils, here’s the year-by-year breakdown:

2020-21: $7,000,000 (includes $3 million signing bonus)
2021-22: $7,250,000
2022-23:  $4,500,000
2023-24:  $7,750,000
2024-25:  $7,750,000
2025-26:  $8,000,000
2026-27:  $8,500,000

The extension also features a modified no-trade clause in the final three years.

In 157 NHL games, Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has 37 goals and 101 points while averaging over 17 minutes a night. His offense has been just fine with a 20 and 17 goals in his first two seasons, but his two-way game is what’s really boosted his talent.

The 20-year-old center joins the list of NHLers who passed on restricted free agency in 2020 to put pen to paper on a new deal, joining the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Clayton Keller, Thomas Chabot, and Sam Girard.

Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Dylan Strome, and Mikhail Sergachev are some of the other potential 2020 RFAs who will be looking for extensions before next season.

————

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.

Helm fined $5K for slash on Flames’ Lindholm

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Darren Helm and Elias Lindholm had a little battle in the third period of Thursday’s 5-1 Flames win and it has resulted in a $5,000 fine for the Red Wings forward.

It all began during a face-off when Lindholm got taken down by Helm. The Flames forward took exception and skated after Helm as the puck entered the Calgary zone. The tiff continued on with Lindholm throwing an elbow at Helm, who responded by getting up off the ice and slashing Lindholm in the back of the leg.

“Their guy comes with an elbow that should have probably been called right away,” said Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill. “Then Darren reacts to that as most guys would, you get an elbow to the face for no reason you’re going to react. We got to be more disciplined in those situations, but he slashed him. I don’t think the slash was that super-hard, but it sure looked hard the way he went down.”

The fine is the maximum amount allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Helm was given a major for slashing and a game misconduct, while Lindholm got off with just an interference minor. Lindholm was helped to the dressing room and there’s been no update yet on his condition.

————

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.

LA Kings set Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Laser Show’

Los Angeles Kings/Juan Ocampo
3 Comments

The Los Angeles Kings may have dropped their third in a row Thursday night and fell to 2-5-0 on the season, but they set a world record during the first intermission.

The Kings’ game presentation department used 642 lasers as part of the Guinness Book of World Records “Largest Laser Show” at STAPLES Center. So, yeah, they were shutout, but they made history.

For the record, the first-period goals by Casey Mittelstadt and Conor Sheary did not, in fact, count toward the final laser total.

With Thursday being the 20th anniversary of the opening of the arena, which featured a Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band concert back in 1999, the Kings wanted to do something special, so they went and shattered the previous record of 342, per the team.

Now, if only one of those lasers could have destroyed the “cursed” Taylor Swift banner

————

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.

Kempny returns to Capitals’ blue line for first time since March

Leave a comment

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer doing the ceremonial puck drop honors won’t be the only thing Capitals fans can look forward to Friday night. Defenseman Michal Kempny will make his long-awaited return to the ice against the Rangers after tearing his hamstring in March.

Kempny, who was paired with Radko Gudas during Friday’s morning skate, was given a four-to-six month timeline after undergoing surgery right before the end of last season.

“Yeah, I’m playing tonight. It’s been a long time. I’m very excited,” Kempny said. “There was a lot of hard days, especially from the beginning of the rehab, small steps make me happy. I think it’s part of rehab and all the bad is behind me and I’m just focusing now [on] today’s game.”

Kempny knows he won’t be logging heavy minutes just yet and wants to focus on getting back into the normal routine of a regular player. How his ice time is managed will be something his head coach has to worry about.

“We have a range we’d like to have him in and we’ll see how the game goes,” said Todd Reirden. “Obviously he’s fresh, he’s skating really well, he’s in unbelievable condition, so now it’s just to see how it transfers into game action and how his wind is and his conditioning.”

Braden Holtby is back between the pipes are being given a one game “reset,” as Reirden put it. How he fares against the Rangers will either pause the goalie controversy talk with Ilya Samsonov for now or only add more fuel to the fire.

————

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.