Young Ducks scorers providing a spark, but perhaps too late

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Ducks-Kings stream coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Ducks are back just six points from the Colorado Avalanche and a playoff spot in the West Division.

That, of course, does not paint a complete picture. Losers of nine straight until Saturday, the Ducks have played at least three more games in the West than every playoff team except the Blues, who lead them by 10 points in second place. They are 2-5-3 in their last 10, and that’s after two consecutive wins.

It’s too early to say the Ducks have no shot, but, realistically a team on the rebuild is going to look to sell at the April NHL Trade Deadline. A playoff spot would be a happy accident.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some really fun trends to watch, especially with the young Ducks.

Max Comtois leads the squad with nine goals and has been the biggest positive to emerge from what might be a lost season. Trevor Zegras, one of the top prospects in the game, has dazzled when he’s been out there since being called up two weeks ago.

Scoring has been Anaheim’s downfall all season. They’ve dropped a bunch of tight games without the ability to extend their lead; in a league-high 18 one-goal games, they are just 5-7-6.

Despite scoring picking up lately — notably in the win over the Avs over the weekend and Monday’s six-goal performance to beat the Kings — the Ducks still rank 30th out of the league’s 31 clubs in goals per game at 21.16.

They are also 28th on the power play, something they’ve hoped might pick up with more Zegras minutes on the man advantage. He’s still a 19-year-old rookie, though, and not going to solve every issue over night.

[COVERAGE OF DUCKS-KINGS BEGINS AT 9:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

When the scoring picks up, though, like it has in recent games, the young players have excelled. Zegras’ pass in overtime on Adam Henrique‘s game winner on Monday looked a lot like what Ducks fans are hoping he can bring, for example. Comtois had three assists, and has already passed his career-high season points total from a year ago.

The 23-year-old Troy Terry already matched his four goals from last season in just 21 games. He’ll likely exceed his 15 points from a season ago. Isac Lundeström netted a hat trick last week as well.

So the pieces are there for a long-term offensive plan. It might just not come together this year.

“I’m not going to sugar-coat anything,” general manager Bob Murray said to reporters earlier this week. “Our record is not good enough. I expected to be better and we’re not. There’s no sugar-coating it.”

Even in Monday’s win, they blew a two-goal lead in the third period to force overtime, which the Ducks won, but it’s still playing with fire. All six goals on Monday were tallied by players 27 or older, but the Comtois and Zegras of the world were setting them up. Perhaps it was a bit less pressure than has already been put on them, too.

The Ducks are 26 games in and time is running out to turn things around quickly this season. That might be fine; this is a long-term project. Zegras is going to be there for a while, and so is Comtois and Steel and Isac Lundeström. In net, John Gibson, their backbone, turns 28 in July and is under contract long term.

There’s room to keep growing. The first step is eeking out more of those one-goal games, not surrendering leads and letting the offense extend when they have them.

Easier said than done, but this is a learning experience type of year.

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.