WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks visit Rangers on NBCSN

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

Last season was the first since 2003-04 in which both the Blackhawks and Rangers failed to make the postseason. The Blackhawks had made nine straight postseason appearances prior to last season, while the Rangers had made the postseason in 11 of the previous 12 seasons prior to last year. However, both teams continue to struggle this season.

The Blackhawks have lost six of their seven games in the new year (1-3-3), including four straight losses (0-2-2). Since Jeremy Colliton took charge on November 6, Chicago has lost 23 of their 33 games under their new head coach (10-17-6) after going 6-6-3 in 15 games under former head coach Joel Quenneville. The Hawks are coming off a disappointing 8-5 loss at New Jersey on Monday, which included an eight-goal second period in which Chicago was outscored 5-3.

Chicago has won four of their last six on the road (4-1-1) after winning just four of their first 18 away games this season (4-12-2). Recent notable road wins have come at Colorado (Dec 29) and at Pittsburgh (Jan 6). The Blackhawks will look to continue this good away run, with four of their next six games coming on the road.

After losing six of seven games, the Rangers were called out by head coach David Quinn, who called the team’s performance in a 7-5 loss against Columbus “a freaking joke,” saying the team “failed miserably.” They responded with a 6-2 win vs Carolina on Tuesday, led by a four-point night from Mika Zibanejad (2G-2A). It was the Rangers’ most goals scored this season and their biggest win since November 21.

Mats Zuccarello has seven points in his last five games (3G-4A), after having just six points in his previous 19 games. The forward is currently on a three-game point streak (3G-3A), and is coming off a three-assist performance against Carolina, which included this no-look through-the-legs pass for Zibanejad’s second goal. Zuccarello has been the Rangers’ top scorer each of the past three seasons, but has been rumored with a trade away from New York as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

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

What: Chicago Blackhawks at New York Rangers
Where: Madison Square Garden
When: Thursday, Jan. 17, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blackhawks-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsAlex DeBrincat
Drake CaggiulaDylan StromePatrick Kane
Chris KunitzArtem AnisimovBrendan Perlini
David KampfMarcus KrugerDominik Kahun

Duncan KeithErik Gustafsson
Henri Jokiharju – Brent Seabrook
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Collin Delia

RANGERS
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Mats Zuccarello
Filip ChytilRyan StromeJesper Fast
Jimmy VeseyBoo NievesVladislav Namestnikov
Cody McLeodBrett HowdenPavel Buchnevich

Marc StaalTony DeAngelo
Brady SkjeiAdam McQuaid
Ryan Lindgren – Kevin Shattenkirk

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

John Walton (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher will have the call from Madison Square Garden.

Milbury, Jones share funny fight stories

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Hockey players have a knack for putting on brave faces, when most of us would shiver like scared dogs if forced to fight with the sport’s most fearsome enforcers.

(Seriously, kudos to Adam McQuaid in the face of Ryan Reaves.)

During Wednesday’s NBCSN telecast, Keith Jones and Mike Milbury shared some amusing stories about their memories of especially wonky fights, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

To summarize:

Keith Jones: Really wishes he didn’t face Rich (“Richie”) Pilon. As former GM of the Islanders, Milbury backed up the talk of Pilon being a very tough guy.

Mike Milbury: Milbury reminded us that he provided “moral support” as John Wensink emphatically challenged (and then waved-off) the Minnesota North Stars’ bench. Milbury explained that, while Wensink was tossed from the game, Milbury and others ended up being the ones to actually answer for that flamboyant display.

As Kathryn Tappen notes, it seemed like Milbury did pretty well for himself in the ensuing brawls.

These anecdotes got me thinking: how often did Jones and Milbury exchange in rounds of fisticuffs?

By Hockey Fights’ count, Milbury got into 64 fights during his career. Milbury scored 49 goals and 238 points over 754 regular-season games, ending up with 1,552 penalty minutes. (In the playoffs: 28 points and 219 PIM over 86 games.)

Jones played in 491 regular-season games, compiling 258 points and 765 PIM. In 63 playoff games, Jones generated 24 points and 120 PIM.

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.

Fight: Ryan Reaves trades bombs with Adam McQuaid

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Ryan Reaves has joked about getting a new set of hands after scoring more goals than usual since the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he can still do staggering damage with his knuckles.

Reaves reminded his few remaining would-be opponents of as much during the Vegas Golden Knights’ 4-2 win against the New York Rangers on Tuesday, as he engaged in a spirited bout with Adam McQuaid.

It’s an entertaining affair, beginning with a Reaves head-fake. McQuaid holds his own reasonably well early on, but eventually gets in trouble once Reaves starts to exert his will after the two traded haymakers.

This isn’t a marathon bout (see the video above this post’s headline), but would you expect anyone to last long throwing hard punches with the NHL’s most feared presence?

Judging by Hockey Fights’ listings, this was Reaves’ third fight of 2018-19, while McQuaid got in his first bout since March 2018.

After the game, Reaves admitted that his knuckles felt “sore but alright,” according to Jesse Granger of The Athletic.

The Golden Knights extended their winning streak to an impressive seven games in this one.

MORE: Your 2018-19 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.

WATCH LIVE: Rangers host Penguins on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Both of these teams are headed in the right direction after rough stretches earlier this season. For Pittsburgh, a 1-7-2 mark from late October into November dropped its record to 7-8-4 and they sat last in the Metro. They’ve since turned things around and their current win streak has catapulted them into the top-3 in the division on the strength of both a strong offensive and defensive showing.

New York, meanwhile, and first-year head coach David Quinn, began the season 0-3-0 and lost 11 of 14 (3-6-5) since Thanksgiving before going on the road and winning its last two games at Nashville and St. Louis. The Rangers return home now, but only briefly as they are in the midst of a period that takes them on the road (see schedule below) after they ended 2018 with a majority of home games.

Pittsburgh’s “Big 3” is leading the way once again as Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin are the top three on the team in points. Crosby has 48 points (18G-30A) in 36 games this season, a 1.33 points per game clip. He hasn’t had a scoring rate that high in a full season since 2009-10 (1.35 ppg).

Perhaps the best story on the Rangers this season has been the play of Chris Kreider, who leads the team with 20 goals (2nd-best is Mika Zibanejad w/ 11). You’ll remember he missed 24 games last season with a blood clot. Kreider has an active 5-game point streak (5G-3A)

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

What: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
Where: Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Penguins-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PENGUINS
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Dominik Simon – Evgeni Malkin – Patric Hornqvist
Tanner PearsonDerick Brassard – Phil Kessel
Zach Aston-ReeseMatt CullenRiley Sheahan

Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJack Johnson
Olli MaattaJuuso Riikola

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

RANGERS
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Jesper Fast
Vladislav NamestnikovKevin HayesMats Zuccarello
Boo NievesBrett HowdenPavel Buchnevich
Cody McLeodRyan StromeFilip Chytil

Marc StaalNeal Pionk
Brady SkjeiAdam McQuaid
Fredrik ClaessonKevin Shattenkirk

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

Kenny Albert (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Penguins-Rangers from Madison Square Garden.

NHL on NBC: Slumping Flyers take on red-hot Rangers in Friday matinee

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Friday’s NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at 1 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Last year, the Rangers openly admitted that they were going to be rebuilding. So when the team started the season 3-7-1, no one was particularly surprised with the poor results. Heck, they didn’t collect their first regulation win until Oct. 23 against Florida (ninth game of the year). They looked like they were dead in the water. But what’s transpired over the last little while has been remarkable.

Since they dropped a decision on the road in Los Angeles on Oct. 28 to fall to 3-7-1, the Rangers have gone 9-1-1. Their only losses came against a red-hot Detroit team and the Islanders (they ended up beating the Isles 5-0 less than a week later). That’s it. The rest are all victories.

“We were 3-7-1 at one point, and I don’t think the feeling in this room was that (bad),” said forward Kevin Hayes. “We felt we had a chance to win a lot of those games. We stuck with it. We’re a hard-working team. Our coach preaches hard work, and I feel like we do that all year and now we’re stringing together some wins.”

One of the most impressive parts of this streak, is that they’ve had to play without Mats Zuccarello, Pavel Buchnevich and Adam McQuaid.

Chris Kreider has been rolling, as he’s picked up 11 points in his last eight contests. Mika Zibanejad has accumulated 17 points in his last 16 outings and Neal Pionk has eight points in his last nine games. The contributions have come from all over. They even got a shutout from Alexandar Georgiev on Wednesday night, but Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes against Philly.

Let’s just say things haven’t been as rosy for the Flyers, who enter this afternoon’s game on a four-game losing skid (0-3-1). The month of November got off to a great start, as they had a six-game point streak dating back to the final game in October. But things have fallen apart in a hurry.

Goaltending has continued to be an issue for Philadelphia. Alex Lyon, who started their last game against Buffalo, was pulled after giving up eight goals on just 12 shots in the first period.

“We didn’t give our goaltender a chance to get into this hockey game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said after the loss to the Sabres. “And on the flip side, he didn’t give us a save early on either. The two go hand in hand.”

With Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott on the shelf, the Flyers will have to continue rolling with Lyon or Calvin Pickard. Neither one is a fantastic option, but they’ll have to find a way to stop the bleeding.

“We’ll roll with the best that’s out there, whether it’s what we have or something else,” GM Ron Hextall said. “Same as always. We’re always looking to upgrade our team if we can. We picked Calvin up because we believe in him and we also believe that Alex is pretty close. They’re gonna have a chance here and we’ll see how it goes.”

One way the Flyers could help their goalies is by executing on the man-advantage. Philadelphia’s 25th ranked power play has gone six-for-49 over their last 17 games, and three of those goals came in a 6-5 overtime loss to Tampa last weekend. They’ve got to get it done on special teams.

Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

MORE: Your 2018-19 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.