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WATCH LIVE: Ducks host Blues on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blues remarkable turnaround since mid-January has them positioned to make the playoffs despite finding themselves in last place in the league on the morning of Jan. 3. St. Louis has struggled more recently, however, coming off back-to-back regulation losses to Carolina and Dallas.

Since the NHL’s Expansion Era (1967-68), only six teams have made the playoffs after ranking last in the entire League at any point after Jan. 1 (min. 20 GP). The only teams to accomplish the feat in that era: the 1976-77 North Stars, 1979-80 Oilers, 1982-83 Maple Leafs, 1987-88 Kings, 1987-88 Maple Leafs and 1996-97 Senators.

The Blues have one of the easiest upcoming schedules in the league in terms of lowest cumulative points percentage for remaining opponents and only have two remaining divisional games on the schedule (April 1 against COL and April 3 in Chicago).

It is highly unlikely that Anaheim will make the playoffs, thus ending their streak of six consecutive years in the postseason.

Cam Fowler (57G-206A—263 points in 605 GP) needs one point and three goals to tie Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer (60G-204A—264 points in 371 GP) for the most ever by a Ducks defenseman. Earlier this season Ryan Miller became the all-time leader in wins by a U.S.- born goaltender, passing John Vanbiesbrouck (374).

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: St. Louis Blues at Anaheim Ducks
Where: Honda Center
When: Wednesday, March 6, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blues-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUES
Brayden SchennRyan O'ReillyVladimir Tarasenko
Patrick MaroonTyler BozakRobert Thomas
Jaden SchwartzOskar SundqvistAlex Steen
Mackenzie MacEachernIvan Barbashev – Samuel Blais

Joel EdmundsonAlex Pietrangelo
Jay BouwmeesterColton Parayko
Vince DunnMichael Del Zotto

Starting goalie: Jordan Binnington

DUCKS
Kevin Roy – Ryan GetzlafCorey Perry
Rickard Rakell – Sam Steel – Jakob Silfverberg
Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueTroy Terry
Max JonesRyan KeslerCarter Rowney

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Jacob Larsson – Cam Fowler
Jaycob Megna – Korbinian Holzer

Starting goalie: John Gibson

Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play) and Brian Hayward (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Oilers go head-to-head with banged up Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Oilers are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night, but they played that game without superstar Connor McDavid (illness). It was the first time that McDavid missed time since he broke his collarbone during his rookie season. The good news for Edmonton, is that he was able to hit the ice for practice yesterday, so it appears as though he’ll be able to go against the Blues.

“We were either above the bar with a lot of guys or below the bar, nothing in between…really, you have to be able to win games if you’re missing one (premier) guy. It’s not the end of the world,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said after the loss to Dallas.

As you’d imagine, McDavid has been a huge part of the Oilers this season. Before missing Monday’s game, he had accumulated 14 goals and 35 points in just 26 games. Unfortunately for Edmonton, the lack of support for McDavid has translated into the team being outside of the playoff picture right now (they’re five points behind Minnesota for the last Wild Card spot).

On a positive note, they’ve been getting better results since Hitchcock took over behind the bench. With Hitchcock, the Oilers have gone 4-2-1. Sure, it’s a small sample, but they’ll take what they can get at this point.

Like the Oilers, the Blues also made a coaching change earlier this season, as they replaced Mike Yeo with Craig Berube. Not much has changed for St. Louis since Berube took over. With him, they’re 2-4-0, including an ugly 6-1 loss in Arizona on Saturday night.

[WATCH LIVE – 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

The fact that the injury bug has taken such a huge bite out of the Blues definitely won’t make things easier for them. St. Louis will be without Alex Pietrangelo (hand) and Robby Fabbri (shoulder) for the next little while. Both players will be re-evaluated around Christmas time. Alex Steen (concussion), Jaden Schwartz (upper body) and Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) are all day-to-day.

“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to realize that it’s time to step up for everybody,” defenseman Colton Parayko said. “It’s something that someone else has got to jump into different roles, maybe take on a different role and just bring something different each and every night and be prepared. Obviously at this point, we know where we’re at and we want to continue to get better and we want to climb the standings and that’s going to take a lot of commitment from everybody. Everyone’s got to play together and it’s not just going to happen in one game. It’s going to be a step up for everybody.”

The Blues need to go on a run if they want to salvage their season. They’re currently 11 points out of a playoff spot.

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.

Erik Johnson tossed after apparent elbow to the head

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A night with just fives games on the docket has produced two ejections on questionable hits.

The first — a Tom Wilson special — has already been well documented.

The second came during one of the night’s late games between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues.

Alex Steen leveled Nathan MacKinnon at the Avs blue line, grabbed the puck and took it in for a scoring chance. After he got the shot off, Erik Johnson came over and appeared to drive his elbow into Steen’s face.

Let’s roll the tape:

Steen’s hit was a clean, solid shot that separated MacKinnon from the puck.

Johnson’s certainly looked the exact opposite. He was penalized for elbowing on the play plus the game misconduct.

Steen, meanwhile, was forced out the game. The Blues announced he would miss the rest of the game with an upper-body injury,

The ensuing scrum spilled over after Johnson was heading to the box. Alex Pietrangelo came and got in Johnson’s face, prompting Gabriel Landeskog to shove Pietrangelo, which didn’t sit well for Joel Edmundson, who tried to get at Landeskog.

Johnson was handed a two-game suspension last December for shoving Vladislav Namestnikov into the boards after giving him a vicious two-handed slash.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety was going to be busy on Saturday due to the Wilson situation. Now, they’ve got more work to do.


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

As losses pile up, seat gets hotter for Blues’ Mike Yeo

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Take a gander at the Western Conference standings right now and you have to scroll a bit to find the St. Louis Blues, who currently reside next-to-last with a 2-4-3 record and seven points, two better than the last place Los Angeles Kings.

Thursday night’s 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets was not an ideal way to kick off a seven-game homestand, especially when there’s plenty to fix. Head coach Mike Yeo was probably already on the hot seat heading into this season and if this keeps up, he’s possibly in his final days as Blues head coach. 

“Heck my job should be in question right now,” Yeo said Thursday night. “Of course that comes with the trade. But I’m not going to coach to try to save my job. I’m going to coach to try to win a Stanley Cup. I believe in this group, so whatever we need every single day, I’m going to try to do that.”

It wasn’t that long ago that Yeo found himself in a similar situation behind the bench. 

Through the first half of the 2014-15 NHL season Yeo’s Minnesota Wild team were struggling mightily. Mired near the bottom of the West standings and last in the Central Division, he went ballistic during an early January practice. Numerous expletives were hurled and there was some angry stick smashing on the ice. 

Who knows how much the tirade helped in the team’s turnaround since there was a bigger factor involved. Seven days after Yeo went bonkers the Wild acquired Devan Dubnyk. They would finish with the second-best record in the league from Jan. 7, 2015 on and Dubnyk saved his career and ended up a Vezina Trophy finalist that June.

Unless the second coming of Jan. 2015 – May 2015 Dubnyk is going to be available, there’s no savior coming in for the Blues.

The Blues are in Year 3 with Yeo, which has featured a second-round loss in 2017 and watching the entirety of the 2018 playoffs last spring. Now after a summer where general manager Doug Armstrong brought in Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron, Patrick Maroon, the pressure is on to win.

And while the Blues are scoring fine (3.22 goals per game) and the power play is clicking (28.2 percent), everything else is a sub-par.

• 4 goals against per game (second-most)
• 24 goals allowed at 5-on-5 (tied for second-most)
• 47 percent Corsi, per Natural Stat Trick
• 18 third period goals allowed (most in NHL)
Jake Allen‘s .896 even strength save percentage is 15th out of 16 goalies with 300 minutes played, per Corsica

A closed-door meeting was held after the loss to the Blue Jackets, a meeting that also included Yeo. The message of needing to be better was reinforced but talking will only do so much as the losses pile up.

“We sign great players and maybe think like goals and chances will come right away because we have such a good roster on paper,” said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo via the Post-Dispatch. “Now things don’t go our way, so this may be a little bit different expectations (from) what everybody expects. But like I said, there are two ways: Stay here or try to find a way to get out.”

The Blues players were all pointing fingers at themselves following the game and supporting their head coach and Allen, who’s been left out to dry on a number of occasions this season but can still be much better. They’re not a confident team right now and Saturday will be another chance to right the ship as they host the Chicago Blackhawks. After that, it’s four full days off to continue working on fixes — or making big changes — before the Vegas Golden Knights visit.

“I don’t know ‘fragile’ is the right word. We’re not mentally strong enough right now to consistently play the type of game that we want to,” said Alex Steen. “We can sit here and talk about everything, X’s and O’s. It’s not about that, it’s about work and doing it for 60 minutes and we’ve done that only once, maybe twice so far this year and our record shows it.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Wednesday night as the St. Louis Blues host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

St. Louis Blues
Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennVladimir Tarasenko
Patrik BerglundKyle BrodziakAlex Steen
Dmitrij JaskinVladimir SobotkaTage Thompson
Ivan BarbashevOskar SundqvistChris Thorburn

Joel EdmundsonAlex Pietrangelo
Vince DunnColton Parayko
Chris Butler – Roberto Bortuzzo

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

[NHL on NBCSN: Blues need to pick up valuable points against Blackhawks]

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET]

Chicago Blackhawks
Brandon SaadNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane
Dylan SikuraVictor EjdsellAlex DeBrincat
Tomas JurcoArtem AnisimovAndreas Martinsen
Patrick SharpDavid KampfVincent Hinostroza

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook
Erik GustafssonConnor Murphy
Jordan Oesterle – Blake Hillman

Starting goalie: J.F. Berube

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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.